Last updated: December 2, 2020
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Stellar Flare-Associated Radio Burst Detected from Proxima Centauri
Astronomers have noticed that the nearest star to the sun, Proxima Centauri, is emitting brilliant, long-duration optical flare followed by forceful radio bursts.
These observations are a major development in the progression towards applying radio signals from far away stars to generate space weather reports.
Proxima Centauri is a M.5.5 star 4.244 light years off and also the smallest one in the Alpha Centaury system. It is found within the Centaurus southern constellation.
With a radius 14% smaller than that of the sun, a mass 12% that of the sun, Proxima Centauri has a temperature of 2,777 degrees Celsius, or 5,031 degrees Fahrenheit which translates to 3,050 K.
The rotation of this star is slow at only 83 days and it has an activity cycle of 7 years which is relatively long. The habitable zone on the low-mass star is at a distance of between 0.05 to 0.1 AU.
“Astronomers have recently found there are two Earth-like rocky planets around Proxima Centauri, one within the habitable zone where any water could be in liquid form,” explained Dr. Andrew Zic, the lead author and astronomer at the University of Sidney’s School of Physics as well as the CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.
“But given Proxima Centauri is a cool, small red-dwarf star, it means this habitable zone is very close to the star; much closer in than Mercury is to our Sun.”
“What our research shows is that this makes the planets very vulnerable to dangerous ionizing radiation that could effectively sterilize the planets.”
The astronomers were working with CSIRO’s Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP), Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite from NASA, and the Zadko Telescope to monitor the low-mass star Proxima Centauri at radio wavelengths and optical wavelengths.
The astronomers discovered an optical flare that was long-duration as well as bright which was accompanied by strong and clear radio bursts.
These discoveries are the first occurrence of a stellar radio burst at the same time as a flare which indicates that the two events might have a causal relationship.
“Our own Sun regularly emits hot clouds of ionized particles during what we call coronal mass ejections,” Dr. Zic said.
“But given the Sun is much hotter than Proxima Centauri and other red-dwarf stars, our habitable zone is far from the Sun’s surface, meaning the Earth is a relatively long way from these events.”
“Further, the Earth has a very powerful planetary magnetic field that shields us from these intense blasts of solar plasma.”
“M-dwarf radio bursts might happen for different reasons than on the Sun, where they are usually associated with coronal mass ejections.”
“But it’s highly likely that there are similar events associated with the stellar flares and radio bursts we have seen in this study.”
“Our research helps understand the dramatic effects of space weather on solar systems beyond our own,” explained Dr, Bruce Gendre, the co-author and astronomer at the University of Western Australia and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery (OzGrav).
“Understanding space weather is critical for understanding how our own planet biosphere evolved — but also for what the future is.”
“This is an exciting result from ASKAP,” co-author Professor Tara Murphy explained. Murphy serves as Deputy Head in charge of the School of Physics at the University of Sydney as well as an OzGrav astronomer.
“The incredible data quality allowed us to view the stellar flare from Proxima Centauri over its full evolution in amazing detail.”
“Most importantly, we can see polarized light, which is a signature of these events. It’s a bit like looking at the star with sunglasses on.”
The findings of their study were published in the Astrophysical Journal.
Four-Week Memory Test that could predict the Risk of Alzheimer’s
Scientists now believe that it may be possible to identify people who have a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by testing their memory over a four-week period.
Trials have shown that zeroing in on the ability to retain a memory over a longer period could yield potentially more accurate predictors than the traditional memory tests. Traditional memory tests assess people’s memory over a period of half an hour.
University of Bristol researchers led the study which they published in the Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy journal in which they wanted to test using a word list to test people’s memory over four weeks. People were tested for their memory of the list four weeks after hearing it initially.
Those whose memory of the list after four weeks was better off, registered less cognitive decline over the year after. This was true even for those who did not have any problems with cognitive function or memory at the start.
Forty six older people participated in the study. All of them were healthy and their average age was 70.7. The study participants had to perform three memory tasks. Researchers tested t heir delayed recall 30 minutes later and then four weeks later.
They also did the Addenbrooke’s Cognitive Examination III or ACE-III test. ACE-III test is conventionally used to detect cognitive impairments, as well as a brain MRI. One year later, the participants repeated the same ACE-III test to measure their cognitive abilities.
At the end of the study, researchers found that 15 out of 46 participants had experienced a decline in their cognitive abilities, and that the verbal memory tests conducted over the initial period of four weeks would have yielded a better prediction of this decline than the standard memory tests.
After combining the scores from the four-week memory tests together with the results of the MRI brain scan, the researchers found that it was possible to make even more accurate prediction s of cognitive decline.
The MRI brain scans showed that there was a size reduction in the section of the brain that governs memory. This is the part of the brain that gets affected by Alzheimer’s Disease.
By testing long-term memory recall, the researchers found that they could detect Alzheimer’s disease much earlier and achieve better treatment outcomes. Treatments to stop Alzheimer’s disease or slow down its progression are much more effective when given during the early stages of the disease. This is the best time because patients are yet to develop significant problems with their memory.
In the words of Dr. Alfie Wearn, a Research Associate at the Bristol Medical School: Translational Health Sciences: “Our study shows evidence for a low-cost and quick to administer screening tool that could be used to identify the very earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease. It could also directly speed up the development of effective Alzheimer’s disease therapies, and enable earlier treatment when such therapies are available.”
Dr. Liz Coulthard who is an Associate Professor in Dementia Neurology with the University of Bristol as well as a neurologist with the North Bristol NHS Trust also said this: “It is important to note the participants were healthy older people who did not develop Alzheimer’s during the trial, but some people did show the type of change over the course of a year in memory and thinking that can precede Alzheimer’s disease. Future work will establish whether this test predicts full-blown Alzheimer’s dementia.”
Researchers will now be testing the ability of these tests to detect Alzheimer’s disease in comparison with other cognitive deteriorating diseases. The researchers will be drawing comparisons between long-term memory test results of people who have evidence of Alzheimer’s disease and those without. The evidence is derived from analyzing their cerebrospinal fluid. Even though this method of detecting Alzheimer’s is the most effective, it is also too invasive, and researchers are working on less invasive methods.
The study was conducted with funding from a Wellcome Trust PhD study scholarship award received by Dr. Wearn who is in the Neural Dynamics PhD Programme. It was also funded by the Alzheimer’s Research UK as well as Brace, which is a dementia charity at Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
New Fitness Service for Apple Users
Apple users can now access their own exclusive workout videos available through the Apple Watch and accessible on iPhones, Apple TVs, and iPads.
Apple Fitness+ was announced at the company’s 2020 event, along with new offerings like the watchOS 7, Apple Watch SE, and the Apple Watch 6, all of which feature premium health tracking.
Apple Fitness+ allows users to choose their preferred workout by their preferred time, trainer, or music. All workouts come pre-recorded.
Is Apple Fitness Plus Already Out?
December 14th 2020 was the release date for Apple Fitness + in Australia, the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand. Users who opt in will pay a monthly fee of $9.99 or an annual fee of $79.9.
Apple users who are on Apple One’s premium service will get Apple Fitness+ as a bonus, along with News Plus, Apple Arcade, Apple TV Plus, Apple Music as well as iCloud storage for the fee of $29.95 monthly.
Apple Watches will also come with a free three-month subscription to Apple Fitness+. Users of the new fitness service will access interactive and multidisciplinary fitness content. Everything from treadmill workouts to core workouts is covered.
Any Apple user with an iPhone, Apple TV, or Apple Tablet will be able to play the videos. Apple Watches will not only run the content on Apple Fitness+ but also show users metrics like how many calories they burn, lengths and times of workouts, and their heart rates.
The service will highlight any metric that the instructor wants users to focus on, for example the heart rate. Trainers will be in a position to stress any metrics they feel need special attention.
The downside of the Apple Fitness+ is that users cannot integrate their workouts with those of their friends and family members. They cannot create challenges together with fellow users.
Users can motivate themselves using the Burn Bar which shows their progress within a workout. Burn bars are equalized by weight and height to reflect the desired fitness metrics for the individual.
Apple Fitness+ helps users to have balanced workout programs by suggesting videos that may be missing from their routine. For example, individuals who favor HIIT workouts may be nudged towards cross-training.
Apple Fitness+ trainers come from a wide range of disciplines. They offer their expertise in multiple videos which allows users to have balanced and cohesive workout routines. Users can also select their preferred trainers.
To enjoy the Apple Fitness+ experience, you would need an Apple Watch and a subscription to the Fitness Plus service as well as an iPhone, Apple TV, or iPad which runs on iOS14 or iPadOS14 or tvOS14 respectively. Your Apple Watch has to run on the most recent watchOS7 software or be compatible with GymKit.
The Apple Fitness+ is a great product for fitness lovers who want to exercise regularly to keep themselves fit.
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