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In ocean’s twilight zone, Maldivian aquanauts witness incredible scenes

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Scientist Shafiya Naeem – the current Director General of Maldives Marine Research Institute is all about marine life. She worked at the Ministry of Fisheries since 2000 and researched marine life from 150 meters below. But one thing she never got the chance to do was travel to the deep sea.

On Sunday, September 11, Shafiya finally made it, entering history books with the deep descent into the twilight zone as part of an international science mission, among the first people from the world’s lowest-lying nation to make the journey.

In the expedition which is a joint initiative by UK-based Nekton and the Maldivian government, Shafiya along with research assistant colleague Farah Amjad led an all-female crew of aquanauts on the maiden dive of the Nekton Maldives Mission.

As part of the expedition, they will map, sample, and gather data on ocean health which can inform policymakers both in the Maldives and beyond, as the climate crisis deepens.

During the descend on September 11, 2022, the scientists explored 250 meters below surface level along the east coast of Laamu Atoll. (Photo / Nekton)

Nekton stated that there are almost no images of Maldivian waters below 30 meters, hence travelling to that depth itself was historical.

Speaking to Sun after the dive, Shafiya said that she was incredibly proud of getting this opportunity. She added that more than a self-accomplishment, she sees this as a boost to the knowledge of Maldives and Maldivian waters.

“Being a Maldivian, I am very proud to be one of the people to take part [in such an expedition]. To be able to see areas never seen before in Maldives is just the beginning of a bigger task.”

Shafiya noted that discussions with Nekton on researching deeper waters of Maldives began in 2019. She further said that gathering information on marine life was important for tourism as well.

“While the Maldivian waters are soon deep, we don’t actually know what lives there. We don’t know the connection between surface and deeper waters. Isn’t it important to know what lies in different parts of the ocean, even in managing resorts now?”

In the dive, the researchers explored 250 meters below surface level along the east coast of Laamu Atoll.

Shafiya revealed that they were able to see soft corals and sea urchins from this depth.

The aquanauts kept the submersible at 150 and 60 meters and gathered information. She stated that at those levels they were able to see schools of various fishes.

While there are a total of 40 partners in the expedition, this includes 16 Maldivians. Moreover, there are 10 Maldivian marine scientists on the team that will be descending underwater.

The research will conclude on October 7, and in that duration the scientists will travel from Laamu atoll to the southernmost regions, working on gathering samples from different areas.

Participants hope to get a look at 1,000 meters below the Maldivian waters as well.

Speaking further on their process, Shafiya detailed that once all the work underwater is completed, they will be analyzing all the samples. She added that Maldivian scientists will be part of this as well.

All the data gathered from this research will be shared with Maldives and used to understand the conditions of the Maldivian waters, as well as for conservation work.

Shafiya expressed hope that the information they will gather would enable them to understand the steps to take in maintaining the marine life of Maldives.

“Looking at it that way, for me rather than this being a personal thing, it is an opportunity to gain important information for Maldives, that would increase the capabilities of Maldivians.”

Source: Nafaahath Ibrahim, Sun.mv

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Small unknown asteroid accidentally detected by Webb telescope

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European astronomers using the James Webb Space Telescope have detected a previously unknown asteroid about the size of Rome’s Colosseum in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The asteroid measuring between 100 and 200 meters in length is suspected to be the smallest object observed to date using the telescope, the U.S. space agency NASA said Monday.

The European astronomers “serendipitously detected” the asteroid, NASA said in a statement, adding that more observations would be needed to better characterize its nature and properties.

“We – completely unexpectedly – detected a small asteroid,” said Thomas Muller, an astronomer at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany.

It was detected during calibration of the telescope’s Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), which operates in mid-infrared wavelengths.

“Webb’s incredible sensitivity made it possible to see this roughly 100-meter object at a distance of more than 100 million kilometers,” Muller said.

Webb, which has been operational since July, is mainly built to study the life cycle of stars. Another main research focus is on exoplanets, planets outside Earth’s solar system.

Webb was not designed to look for small objects such as the newly discovered asteroid, but Muller said its discovery “suggests that many new objects will be detected with this instrument.”

Source(s): AFP & CGTN

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U.S. and EU to launch first-of-its-kind AI agreement

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The U.S. and European Union on Friday announced an agreement to speed up and enhance the use of artificial intelligence to improve agriculture, healthcare, emergency response, climate forecasting and the electric grid.

A senior U.S. administration official, discussing the initiative shortly before the official announcement, called it the first sweeping AI agreement between the U.S. and Europe. Previously, agreements on the issue had been limited to specific areas such as enhancing privacy, the official said.

AI modeling, which refers to machine-learning algorithms that use data to make logical decisions, could be used to improve the speed and efficiency of government operations and services.

“The magic here is in building joint models (while) leaving data where it is,” the senior administration official said. “The U.S. data stays in the U.S. and European data stays there, but we can build a model that talks to the European and the U.S. data because the more data and the more diverse data, the better the model.”

The initiative will give governments greater access to more detailed and data-rich AI models, leading to more efficient emergency responses and electric grid management, and other benefits, the administration official said.

Pointing to the electric grid, the official said the U.S. collects data on how electricity is being used, where it is generated, and how to balance the grid’s load so that weather changes do not knock it offline.

Many European countries have similar data points they gather relating to their own grids, the official said. Under the new partnership all of that data would be harnessed into a common AI model that would produce better results for emergency managers, grid operators and others relying on AI to improve systems.

The partnership is currently between just the White House and the European Commission, the executive arm of the 27-member European Union. The senior administration official said other countries will be invited to join in the coming months.

Source(s): CGTN

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China’s Deep Space Exploration Lab eyes top global talents

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China’s Deep Space Exploration Lab (DSEL) said Monday that it is inviting top global talents to apply for the 2023 Overseas Outstanding Young Talents Program, to promote the development of deep-space exploration.

According to the DSEL, the program, funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China, aims to attract outstanding young scholars from overseas, who have made achievements in the natural sciences, engineering and technology, to come and work in China.

Applicants are invited to take part in research on aerospace science and technology, space science and technology, planetary science, physics, astronomy, nuclear science and technology, biology, chemistry and materials science, electronic information and technology, mechanical engineering, artificial intelligence and other fields related to deep-space exploration, said the DSEL.

Co-established by the China National Space Administration, Anhui Province, and the University of Science and Technology of China, the DSEL is headquartered in Hefei, the capital city of Anhui, and has a branch in Beijing. Since its establishment, the laboratory has conducted science and technology research focusing on major national projects in deep-space exploration.

The DSEL aims to promote the long-term development of deep-space exploration regarding the moon, planets, asteroids and the edge of the solar system.

Source(s): Xinhua & CGTN

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