Massive Asteroid Vesta May Host Buried Water Ice

The giant asteroid Vesta may possess ice buried under its surface, a new study finds.

Vesta is the second-largest asteroid in the solar system, a 330-mile-wide titan in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that is sometimes visible to the naked eye on Earth.

The only larger asteroid is Ceres, which is also classified as a dwarf planet.NASA's Dawn spacecraft orbited Vesta from 2011 to 2012 to learn more about the asteroid and, potentially, the composition of the solar system.

  • Among the findings was evidence that Vesta has an onion-like structure like Earth's, split into an outer crust, a central core and a mantle layer between the two.
  • There are signs that Vesta once had a magnetic field.

"Buried ice could have been brought to the surface after an impact, which caused heated ice to melt and travel up through the fractures to the surface."

Oher data from Dawn suggested that ice might exist on Vesta. For example, a 2015 study identified gullies on the asteroid potentially carved by short-lived flows of water on Vesta's surface.

These findings suggest that ice could be present at larger scales "and could have played a more significant role in the evolution of Vesta than previously thought," Heggy said.The scientists would like to analyze Ceres for similar findings.

Source: Titanic Asteroid Vesta May Host Buried Ice

A hidden oasis for life in Antarctica's volcanic ice caves

Researchers find secret, warm oasis beneath Antarctica's ice that could be home to undiscovered species

Deep within Antarctica’s ice caves, a group of scientists may have discovered a secret ecosystem of plants and animals being supported by the warmth of an active volcano.

  • Average year-long temperatures on Ross Island hover around -17C, including six months between April and September where they don’t rise above -20C.
  • But the temperature in cave systems beneath the glaciers can reach 25C.
  • “You could wear a T-shirt in there and be pretty comfortable,” lead researcher Ceridwen Fraser said. “There’s light near the cave mouths, and light filters deeper into some caves where the overlying ice is thin.”

Located around and beneath Mount Erebus, an active volcano, the caves have been hollowed out after years of steam travelling through their passages.

Side note: Erebus means "deep darkness, shadow." In Greek mythology, Erebus was often conceived as a primordial deity, representing the personification of darkness, one of the first five beings in existence, born of Chaos.

The study of the caves, led by the Australian National University, evolved into an analysis of the soil within. Fraser revealed that it contained traces of DNA from algae, mosses and even small animals that could be living in the underground oasis.

This undated hand out picture released by the Australian National University on September 8, 2017 and taken by Joel Bensing shows inside view of an ice cave on the Erebus Glacier tongue, Ross Land, Antartica near McMurdo Station and Scott Base. A secret world of animals and plants may live in warm caves under Antarctica's glaciers, including new species, scientists said on September 8, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY / JOEL BENSING / ------EDITORS NOTE ----RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE MANDATORY CREDIT " AFP PHOTO / HO / JOEL BENSING / NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - NO ARCHIVEJOEL BENSING/AFP/Getty Images

Most of the DNA is similar to that of species living on the surface.

However, not all the sequences studied could be linked to a particular animal or plant group, meaning Fraser may be on the cusp of discovering new lifeforms as well. “Our study gives us a really exciting, tantalizing glimpse of the sorts of plants and animals that might live beneath the ice in Antarctica,” she said. “Some of the DNA evidence that we found suggests that maybe there are things living in these caves that we know nothing about. “There could even be new species.”

There are another 15 volcanoes in Antarctica that are currently active or suggest signs of recent activity.

Co-author Laurie Connell, a professor from the University of Maine, shared her colleagues’ excitement but said the DNA evidence doesn’t prove anything — especially that plants and animals are still living there.

The next step is to explore the caves themselves, hoping to find the living proof the team needs.“If they exist, it opens the door to an exciting new world.”

Source: Researchers find secret, warm oasis beneath Antarctica’s ice that could be home to undiscovered species | National Post

Mars Tibet

China is recreating "Mars on Earth" on a remote Tibet plateau


China has unveiled plans to build a replica of Mars on a spectacular, sandswept corner of the Tibetan plateau.

The 95,000 square-kilometre “simulated Mars station” will be built in Qinghai province’s Haixi Mongolian and Tibetan autonomous prefecture, not far from the westernmost tip of the Great Wall.

One section of the “hyper-arid” high-altitude camp will be used to train Chinese astronauts, state broadcaster CCTV reported earlier this summer.

Another part will receive tourists hungering for a taste of life on Mars. “People dream about migrating to Mars, so what we want to do is give people a high-end experience of what it would actually be like to live in outer space,” Liu said, according to the South China Morning Post.

Despite its isolated location, the campsite is likely to be rather more hospitable than Mars, which has an unbreathable atmosphere that contains only 0.2% oxygen.


Beijing hopes to have a permanent manned space station operating by 2022 and to send a probe to the real Mars in 2019. In 2013 China became the first country to soft land on the moon in almost four decades as part of efforts to send the first Chinese astronaut there.

Source: China brings Mars a little closer with replica on Tibet plateau | World news | The Guardian

A rare and powerful geomagnetic solar storm is headed our way

The Space Weather Prediction Center has upgraded a geomagnetic storm watch for September 6 and 7 to a level only occasionally seen, but scientists say it's nothing to be too alarmed about.

They do recommend looking for an unusual display of the aurora -- the northern lights caused by a disturbance of the magnetosphere -- in areas of the U.S. not used to seeing them: "really in the upper tier of the United States," says Robert Rutledge, lead of operations at the center, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The storm could pose an "elevated radiation risk to passengers and crew in high-flying aircraft at far north or south latitudes," a NOAA warning says, and intermittently impact high frequency RF communications, which may require some transpolar flight routes to divert to lower geomagnetic latitudes (a shift that would cost the airlines more).

There's a slim chance of isolated interfere with high-precision GPS readings, but those issues usually only tend to arise with stronger storms.

The so-called G3 level storm is the result of what's called a coronal mass ejection, where magnetic interactions on the sun launch part of its outer atmosphere of superheated plasma into space. When that burst of radiation gets near earth -- barreling toward us at a million miles per hour, it takes about two days to make the journey -- its magnetic field interacts with Earth's, Rutledge says.

Northern U.S. and Canadian residents hoping to catch a glimpse of the aurora will get their best shot on Wednesday night and early Thursday, and the Space Weather Prediction Center posts 30-minute forecasts of the colorful sky phenomenon's intensity.

Source: A powerful solar storm is headed toward us, bringing hazards and rare light shows

Mount Pinatubo

When a typhoon saved Earth from an ozone-destroying volcanic eruption

In June 1991 Mount Pinatubo blew its top in spectacular fashion, producing one of the greatest volcanic eruptions in the 20th Century.

The eruption killed  800 people and left 10,000 homeless, and ejected so much dust into the atmosphere that it had a major effect on climate, depressing global temperatures by around 0.5°C for a couple of years.

But if Typhoon Yunya hadn’t coincided with the eruption, the impact could have been significantly worse.

Along with magma and ash, vast quantities of hydrogen chloride pumped out of Pinatubo. Had this hydrogen chloride reached the stratosphere it would have initiated chemical reactions with chlorine (which is increased thanks to all chlorofluorocarbons – CFCs – we have pumped out) and massively thinned Earth’s ozone layer.

But Typhoon Yunya powered its way through the eruption plume and washed most of the hydrogen chloride out before it got anywhere near the stratosphere.

But new research suggests that future Pinatubo-esque eruptions would likely cause serious thinning of the ozone layer, having a significant impact on skin cancer rates, livestock mortality and crop yields.

"The implications for surface life on Earth from such a future eruption could be profound,” the scientists write in Geophysical Research Letters. The study showed that short-lived bromine (produced by marine plankton and micro-algae) will still facilitate this dramatic ozone thinning reaction in the stratosphere for decades to come.

Source: When two disasters saved Earth from a worse one | Science | The Guardian

Memories Of

Over my long life I’ve gratefully forgotten many things. Tedious jobs, rivalries, illnesses. Boring commutes, long meetings, calls on hold, blowhard bosses.

It’s funny how memory works. For decades I hated my wife’s cooking. But looking back, I can hardly remember what was so bad about any of those meals. They all blend together. Thousands of bad dinners.

And as for my wife, all I can say is thank God I’ve forgotten a lot about her too.

Yes, losing those memories is a blessing in disguise. But now I’m starting to forget other things. Things I want to remember. Things I never want to forget.

A couple years ago, when I had to admit my memory wasn’t what it once was, I went out and got a neural implant. Nothing crazy - a basic model. I’ll admit - and it’s kind of gross - I saved a little and bought it used.

I had it installed right here, behind my right ear.

I didn’t get it for any of the fancy stuff. Never downloaded a new language, or maps, or job skills, or anything like that. I only wanted it to save my memory. But it isn’t working.

I mean, it is working perfectly for capturing new things. I recall every single detail since I had the implant installed, seemingly right down to the atom.

But it hasn’t brought back any of the old memories. They’re still lost in there, somewhere.

So when I read your ad for VR cognitive training experiments, I thought hey - maybe a good idea. Maybe a bunch of tests will make my brain take to the implant. And then I’ll get my memories back.

For that, it’s worth being a lab rat for a few weeks. It’s even worth running around in VR like a fool.

I will say, I'm curious about the world you’re going to drop me in. And don’t worry - my body is old but healthy. I’m up for anything. Put me on a treadmill. You’ll see.

It would be amazing to get those memories back.

STORY INSPIRATION: Could a Videogame Strengthen Your Aging Brain? via Wired Magazine


Introducing Antimatter Magazine

ANTIMATTER is a new digital magazine for story experiments and flash fiction inspired by the latest science news and discoveries.

“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of the imagination.” — John Dewey


Antimatter Magazine publishes scientific flash fiction and story experiments linked to current science headlines and discoveries.

Antimatter stories are sparked by every type of science — exploring the cosmic to subatomic, living cells to the frontiers of AI.

It’s science fiction of the moment, on a platform that welcomes deep imagining and narrative experimentation.


A recent Guardian Lab Notes summary was titled “Teleportation, encoding film into DNA and Jupiter’s great red spot.”

All of these headlines came from a single week of news stories. They read like plots of science fiction stories, but they all really happened.

Today, buses drive themselves. The DNA of human embryos is edited to remove disease in the lab. AI experiments are shut down because they’re communicating in a secret language.

Through all these advancements and discoveries, story remains our most powerful tool for comprehending change and understanding our universe. And story, in turn, fuels our drive to keep exploring.


Science fiction (and speculative fiction in general) is rightly regarded as a powerful tool for imagining our future.

For example, in Smithsonian Magazine, Eileen Gunn writes “The task of science fiction is not to predict the future. Rather, it contemplates possible futures.”

But fiction on Antimatter isn’t simply predictive. It interprets and imagines the implications of science through a condensed narrative lens.

“Science fiction encourages us to explore… all the futures, good and bad, that the human mind can envision.” — Marion Zimmer Bradley


Also known as sudden fiction, micro fiction, short-short stories, and quick fiction, flash fiction has several definitions.

For our purposes, we’re defining it as a story with a plot written with fewer than 500 words. They can be read aloud in less than five minutes.

As a reader, flash fiction is compelling and fun to read. It’s also perfect for this era of short attention spans and screen-based reading.

As a writer, crafting flash fiction is challenging and highly satisfying.

Here are three links to get you started writing flash fiction:


To write a piece of scientific flash fiction for ANTIMATTER, first find a recent scientific news article or discovery that sparks your imagination.

Then, weave a very short story around the ideas or themes from that article.

Potential story ideas based on recent science headlines:

From the Scientific American article “Wandering in the Void, Billions of Rogue Planets without a Home,” a story about a civilization eking out an existence on a dark planet, far from any sun, under a dome constructed by forgotten beings far in the ancient past.

From the LiveScience article “Scientists Use CRISPR to Edit Human Embryos,” a story about a scientist pushing ahead with research at the edge of ethics to save her own future baby.

From the MIT Technology Review article “AI Shouldn’t Believe Everything It Hears,” a story about a prosecutor who has to save her client by proving an algorithm was spoofed and its evidence can’t be admitted to court.

You can find a selection of science headlines updated daily at


If what we are doing is not seen by some people as science fiction, it’s probably not transformative enough. — Sergey Brin

China launches massive brain-imaging factory 

Neuroscientists who painstakingly map the twists and turns of neural circuitry through the brain are about to see their field expand to an industrial scale.

A huge facility set to open in Suzhou, China, next month should transform high-resolution brain mapping, its developers say.

Where typical laboratories might use one or two brain-imaging systems, the new facility boasts 50 automated machines that can rapidly slice up a mouse brain, snap high-definition pictures of each slice and reconstruct those into a 3D picture.

This factory-like scale will “dramatically accelerate progress"

The institute, which will also image human brains, aims to be an international hub that will help researchers to map neural connectivity for everything from studies of Alzheimer’s disease to brain-inspired artificial-intelligence projects.

Source: China launches brain-imaging factory : Nature News & Comment