The sky (no) is the limit | What's going on in science and astronomy (12/08/2020)

The sky (no) is the limit | What's going on in science and astronomy (12/08/2020)

If you are not able to keep up with the scientific news of the last few days, thanks to a busy routine, even though you are probably in the home office, it's time to be well informed!

In this weekly column, we summarize the main news from astronomy and health, in particular. This way, you know everything that is going on, without having to spend a lot of time to keep yourself informed.

Blaneta? Hi?

Have you ever heard of a "blaneta"? Probably not, because we are talking about a spatial object that still exists only in the field of possibilities. It is a world that can form around a black hole, at least according to the recent conclusion of a group of scientists. They understood that planets can indeed form around these somewhat mysterious objects, whose gravitational attraction is so intense that even light is not able to escape. The team showed that there is a safe zone around each supermassive black hole, in which thousands of planets could be orbiting – without being able to see them, of course.

Starship prototype really flies for the 1st time

The Starship's SN5 prototype, the powerful new space vehicle being developed by SpaceX, took off for the first time – with great success. The spacecraft is designed to take up to 100 people to destinations like the Moon and Mars, and the project is now moving on to the next prototype, even bigger and more capable. Its final version will be 50 meters high, and Elon Musk's company has already said that the first missions of this ship can start as early as 2021, launching commercial satellites.

Pulsating glow on Mars

NASA's MAVEN probe recorded images showing large areas of the Martian night sky emitting a pulsating glow at certain times in ultraviolet light. The discovery could help scientists develop computational models of the dynamics of the Red Planet's atmosphere.

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Ceres, geologically active dwarf planet with groundwater

Occator Crater in Ceres (Image: NASA / JPL-Caltech / UCLA / MPS / DLR / IDA)

Ceres, located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, is a dwarf planet of great interest when it comes to mining space objects. We just found out that it is a geologically active world, and possibly has water below its surface. In 2015, the Dawn probe detected formations with reflective material over there, and it took us all this time to confirm that this has a great chance of being a sign of the presence of underground ice. And if this story of mining Ceres doesn't seem strange to you, just remember that this is exactly the initial plot of the science fiction series The Expanse!

12 billion-year-old galaxy much calmer than expected

Reconstitution of the approximate real shape of the galaxy SPT0418-47 (Image: ALMA / ESO / NAOJ / NRAO / Rizzo)

The newly discovered galaxy SPT0418-47 is challenging what we know about the early universe. It is that the most accepted theories today indicate that galaxies formed at the beginning of the universe must be turbulent and unstable, but this one, 12 billion years old, is relatively calm. It was discovered by researchers using the ALMA radio observatory, and to the surprise of many people, it is somewhat similar to the Milky Way. The new galaxy may provide information about the early universe, which will lead to a better understanding of the formation of the first galaxies in the cosmos – something that is still shrouded in mystery.

Perseid meteor shower peak

Composition with about 400 Perseid meteors photographed over several nights (Image: Petr Horálek)

In the early hours of Tuesday (11) to Wednesday (12), the biggest Perseid meteor shower peak occurred – but this night, from Wednesday (12) to Thursday (13), it is still possible to see several "shooting stars". Far from being stars at all, what we see in a meteor shower like this is actually small debris left behind by a comet, which burns when it enters the atmosphere and appears in the night sky as luminous trails. In the case of Perseidas, these are bits of comet 109P / Swift-Tuttle.

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Read too:

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  • Learn more about the Sputnik space program, which became a vaccine name in Russia
  • NASA Highlights: Astronomical Photos of the Week (8/1 to 8/8/2020)

From now on, we summarize the most important events related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Common cold giving immunity to COVID-19?

(Image: Polina Tankilevitch / Pexels)

A new study suggests that people who have contracted other types of coronavirus, including those that cause common colds, may have gained immunity against the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. Some of the first hints of pre-existing immunity came from T cells, the white blood cells that destroy infected cells in the body or help other parts of the immune system to target an invading pathogen. Those responsible for the work point out that the immune "memory" generated by certain cells may help to explain why the impact of COVID-19 varies even among patients of the same age and profile, and argue that the variety of T cell memories of coronaviruses that cause the common cold may be behind at least part of the heterogeneity observed in COVID-19.

15 million vaccinated against COVID-19 in Brazil by January

(Image: Reproduction / Freepik)

At least that is the forecast of the Ministry of Health, which expects until the end of December to see 15.2 million doses of the Oxford vaccine distributed in Brazil. The first 30.4 million doses of the immunizer should arrive in two batches, the first of which with 15.2 million in December and the same amount in January.

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According to the body, the risk groups for COVID-19 (the elderly and people with comorbidities, such as heart disease and obesity) will be among the first at the time of immunization. Health professionals will also be prioritized in the first months of vaccination against the new coronavirus and, after the distribution of the first two batches, another 70 million units of the Oxford vaccine will be made available, gradually, from March 2021.

Russian vaccine will be manufactured in Brazil (specifically in Paraná)

(Image: Playback / Unsplash)

According to the Russian government, its first vaccine against COVID-19, released this week under controversy, will be manufactured in Brazil, as well as in at least 20 other countries. Soon after, the state government of Paraná announced that it intends to sign an agreement with the Russian state company to produce the vaccine, which was called Sputnik V, in such a state. If the research on the Russian immunizer is approved as expected, the national distribution of this vaccine against COVID-19 should not occur before the second half of 2021.

Vaccination in São Paulo starts in January

(Image: Playback / Unsplash)

We are talking about the Oxford vaccine and that of Russia, but what about the Chinese vaccine, which has partnered with the state of São Paulo through the Butantan Institute? Well, according to the director of the institute, the Sinovac vaccine will begin to be applied to the population of this state in January 2021. The director of Butantan said that this Chinese study is currently the most advanced in the world, and that the vaccine depends on results efficacy and safety benefits to obtain registration with Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency).

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