Our monthly wrap-up of what’s been happening in the world.
There’s wateron the Moon
Yes, you’ve read the title correctly – NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory forInfrared Astronomy (SOFIA) confirmed water on the sunlit surface of the Moon.That’s actual, legitimate water molecules we’re talking about here, not justice.
There have beenmurmurings of water on the Moon for ages. Various orbital and impactor missionsover the past couple of decades confirmed ice in shadowed craters around itspoles, while NASA’s ground-based Infrared Telescope Facility alongside severalspacecraft discovered evidence of hydration in sunnier regions.
“Prior to theSOFIA observations, we knew there was some kind of hydration,” said CaseyHonniball, NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellow. “But we didn’t know how much, ifany, was actually water molecules – like we drink every day – or something morelike drain cleaner.”
SOFIA offers anadvanced way of looking at the Moon. A modified Boeing 747SP jetliner with a106-inch diameter telescope, SOFIA uses its Faint Object infrared Camera topick up wavelengths which are unique to water molecules, and was able topinpoint a concentration in the sunny Calvius Crater.
Water is our key to life, which basically makes it our key to deep space exploration. While we’re not certain on how accessible the water actually is, this is an important discovery ahead of NASA’s Artemis program, which plans on sending the first woman and next man to the Moon in 2024, and hopefully establishing human presence there by the end of 2030.
Finally, a bit of good news about our Great Barrier Reef. The world’s largest coral reef, home to more than 1500 species of fish, 411 species of hard corals and dozens of other species, is facing an extinction crisis. Recent findings have shown that it has lost 50 per cent of its coral populations in the past three decades, with climate change being the key driver of reef disturbance.
Hold on, that’s not the good news.
The good news is that, for the firsttime in more than 120 years, a nearly-500-metre-high, 1.5-kilometre-wide newreef has been discovered along the Great Barrier Reef. To help put that intoperspective, that’s taller than some of the world’s highest skyscrapers – theSydney Tower is only about 305 metres tall.
The reef was discovered on October20 by a team of scientists who completed an underwater mapping of the GreatBarrier Reef’s seafloor. Using an underwater robot named SuBastian, the teamwas able to explore the reef and create a detailed 3D map of the reef.
“This unexpected discovery affirms that we continue to find unknown structures and new species in our ocean,” says Wendy Schmidt, co-founder of Schmidt Ocean Institute. “The state of our knowledge about what’s in the ocean has long been so limited. Thanks to new technologies that work as our eyes, ears and hands in the deep ocean, we have the capacity to explore like never before. New oceanscapes are opening to us, revealing the ecosystems and diverse life forms that share the planet with us.”
There’s war between Armenia andAzerbaijan
Not long after the US StateDepartment announced they had brokered a ceasefire between Armenia andAzerbaijan, the two former Soviet territories were back at it again, accusingeach other of breaking the new agreements.
Armenia’s defence ministry blamed the Azerbaijani forces of violating the ceasefire with artillery fire along parts of the frontline, while Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry accused the Armenian forces of shelling the town Terter and nearby villages. The ceasefire was one of three attempts by world powers to put an end to the conflict, with the previous two attempts by Russia and France quickly falling apart as well.
There is a lot of history behind this conflict which muddies the waters. Modern-day Armenia and Azerbaijan were both part of the Soviet Union. While Nagorno-Karabakh was an ethnic-majority Armenian region, the Soviets handed the territory to Azerbaijan. As the USSR began to collapse, Nagorno-Karabakh’s parliament officially voted to become part of Armenia – which backed the separatist movement while Azerbaijan sought to suppress it, eventually leading to a full-scale war after the two nations declared independence from Moscow in the 90s.
Simply put, Nagorno-Karabakh ispopulated and controlled by Armenians, but internationally recognised asAzerbaijan territory – a very tricky situation to be in!
Armenian Prime Minister NikolPashinyan has been openly dubious about American intentions. He tweeted “Theefforts of the international community, this time brokered by the#UnitedStates, to establish a ceasefire, have failed” and said in a followingspeech, “In the case of the United States, the issue is getting more urgent dueto the election campaign there, and it is actually about President Trump’sability to influence the international situation.”