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Boffins get first measurements of Jupiter’s stratospheric storms that show ‘unique beast’ dwarfing Earth’s issues • The Register

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Terrifying winds rip across Jupiter’s poles reaching speeds of up to 400 metres per second, or 900 miles an hour, three times faster than the most powerful tornadoes on Earth, according to the first direct measurements of the gas giant’s turbulent stratosphere.

Astronomers refer to these particularly powerful bursts as jets. “Our detection indicates that these jets could behave like a giant vortex with a diameter of up to four times that of Earth, and some 900 kilometres in height,” said Bilal Benmahi, a researcher at the University of Bordeaux and co-author of a paper [PDF] published in Astronomy & Astrophysics detailing the findings.

“A vortex of this size would be a unique meteorological beast in our Solar System,” Thibault Cavalié, a research scientist at Bordeaux Observatory and co-author of the paper, added this week.

Volatile gusts of winds are a well-known feature on the gas giant; massive cyclones like its Great Red Spot are visible. Scientists have previously studied Jupiter’s upper atmosphere, though the latest observations made using Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array focused on its middle atmosphere.

The polar bursts are faster at 400 metres per second, and the gales around its equator are slower at about 167 metres per second (600 kilometres per hour, 370 miles per hour.)

The wind speeds were measured by tracking hydrogen cyanide molecules generated by the impact of Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 in 1994. Using the telescope’s spectrometers, the team of researchers could detect tiny changes in the frequency of radiation the molecules emitted. These changes were the result of the winds.

Just like how you can calculate how fast, say, an ambulance is speeding from the pitch of its siren, thanks to the Doppler effect, scientists can calculate the speed of Jupiter’s gusts from the frequency of light emitted from hydrogen cyanide molecules.

Measuring Jupiter’s winds accurately is important for understanding the planet and its moons as a whole, Vincent Hue, a research scientist at the Southwest Research Institute and co-author of the paper, explained to The Register. “Jupiter and its [satellites] constantly exchange materials, like dust, molecules, and charged particles. [It] has an important influence over the system because of its important magnetic field, it is important to characterize it as best as we can.”

Studying its storms and cyclones also give astronomers a better idea of the planet’s magnetic field. “The winds we detected near Jupiter’s aurora are caused by the interaction between Jupiter’s magnetosphere and its ionosphere through a complex coupling. Initially, Jupiter and its magnetosphere exchange angular momentum which creates these very high altitude polar jets. At lower altitudes, in the stratosphere, the winds we have detected are actually a signature of these high altitude polar jets,” he added.

The next step is trying to figure out how these winds moderate the planet’s overall climate and how they might impact the chemical composition of its atmosphere.

What has been happening to the Great Red Spot?

Jupiter’s most famous storm, the Great Red Spot, has been shrinking, though a new study suggests it’ll be around for a while yet.

Us Earthlings have been observing the Red Spot for more than 150 years, and it is certainly shrinking, down from 40,000 kilometres (24,850 miles) in 1879 to about 15,000 kilometres (9,320 miles) according to today’s estimates. A study, published in the American Geophysical Union journal, however, reckons the storm will prevail.

The gas-giant sky watchers believe a series of smaller storms crashing into its most iconic feature has caused bits of its red clouds to disperse, making the spot look smaller. But although these opposing winds, or anticyclones, chip away at its clouds, the larger storm powering the spot swallows up these anticyclones and actually gains energy from them.

“The intense vorticity of the [Great Red Spot], together with its larger size and depth compared to the interacting vortices, guarantees its long lifetime,” said Agustín Sánchez-Lavega, lead author of the paper and a professor of applied physics at the Basque Country University. The rotational power of the cyclone might drop, but the overall energy of the storm increases.

The disruptions in the Great Red Spot are superficial, the researchers argued. On the surface, the storm may appear to be getting weaker yet the depth of the winds hasn’t decreased. ®



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2021 iPhone photography awards – in pictures | Technology

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The 14th annual iPhone photography awards offer glimpses of beauty, hope and the endurance of the human spirit. Out of thousands of submissions, photojournalist Istvan Kerekes of Hungary was named the grand prize winner for his image Transylvanian Shepherds. In it, two rugged shepherds traverse an equally rugged industrial landscape, bearing a pair of lambs in their arms.

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With Alphabet’s legendary commitment to products, we can’t wait to see what its robotics biz Intrinsic achieves • The Register

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Alphabet today launched its latest tech startup, Intrinsic, which aims to build commercial software that will power industrial robots.

Intrinsic will focus on developing software control tools for industrial robots used in manufacturing, we’re told. Its pitch is that the days of humans having to manually program and adjust a robot’s every move are over, and that mechanical bots should be more autonomous and smart, thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and leaps in training techniques.

This could make robots easier to direct – give them a task, and they’ll figure out the specifics – and more efficient – the AI can work out the best way to achieve its goal.

“Over the last few years, our team has been exploring how to give industrial robots the ability to sense, learn, and automatically make adjustments as they’re completing tasks, so they work in a wider range of settings and applications,” said CEO Wendy Tan White.

“Working in collaboration with teams across Alphabet, and with our partners in real-world manufacturing settings, we’ve been testing software that uses techniques like automated perception, deep learning, reinforcement learning, motion planning, simulation, and force control.”

Tan White – a British entrepreneur and investor who was made an MBE by the Queen in 2016 for her services to the tech industry – will leave her role as vice president of X, Alphabet’s moonshot R&D lab, to concentrate on Intrinsic.

She earlier co-founded and was CEO of website-building biz Moonfruit, and helped multiple early-stage companies get up and running as a general partner at Entrepreneur First, a tech accelerator. She is also a board trustee of the UK’s Alan Turing Institute, and member of Blighty’s Digital Economic Council.

“I loved the role I played in creating platforms that inspired the imagination and entrepreneurship of people all over the world, and I’ve recently stepped into a similar opportunity: I’m delighted to share that I’m now leading Intrinsic, a new Alphabet company,” she said.

The new outfit is another venture to emerge from Google-parent Alphabet’s X labs, along with Waymo, the self-driving car startup; and Verily, a biotech biz. ®

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Charles River to create 90 new jobs at Ballina biologics site

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Charles River is expanding its testing capabilities in Ballina as part of its partnership with Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.

Contract research organisation Charles River Laboratories is planning an €8m site expansion in Ballina to facilitate batch release testing for Covid-19 vaccines from AstraZeneca.

The expansion at the Mayo site will create an additional 1,500 sq m of lab space and 90 highly skilled jobs in the area over the next three years.

Click here to check out the top sci-tech employers hiring right now.

The company provides longstanding partners AstraZeneca with outsourced regulated safety and development support on a range of treatments and vaccines, including testing and facilitating the deployment of Vaxzevria for Covid-19 and Fluenz for seasonal infleunza.

The latest investment follows earlier expansions at the Ballina site and Charles River recently announced plans to establish a dedicated laboratory space to handle testing of SARS-CoV-2 and other similar pathogens that cause human disease.

“We are incredibly proud of the transformational changes we have implemented on site and the role that Charles River has played in supporting the safe and timely roll-out of AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine,” said Liam McHale, site director for Charles River Ballina.

“Throughout the pandemic, our site remained fully operational while keeping our employees safe and having a positive impact on human health. Our expanded facility will provide us with the increased capacity needed to continue the essential services we provide to our clients.”

Charles River acquired the Ballina facility, which focuses on biologics testing, in 2002. The company employs 230 people at its two facilities in Ireland, including the Mayo site and a site in Dublin, established in 2017, which serves as the EMEA and APAC headquarters for the company’s microbial solutions division.

IDA Ireland is supporting the expansion. Mary Buckley, executive director of the agency, said Charles River is an “employer of long standing” in Co Mayo.

“The enhancement of its product lines and the development of additional capability at the Ballina facility is most welcome,” she added. “Today’s announcement is strongly aligned to IDA Ireland’s regional pillar and its continued commitment to winning jobs and investment in regional locations.”

Dan Wygal, country president for AstraZeneca Ireland, added: “Our Covid-19 vaccine, Vaxzevria, undergoes extremely robust safety and quality testing prior to becoming available for patients. We are committed to bringing safe, effective vaccines to Ireland and other markets as quickly as possible, and Charles River will continue to be an important partner in this regard.”

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