Science Wrap: Climate Bomb in Svalbard, huge spot on Sun, and Mackenzie river releasing CO2

Debodinna Chakraborty
Debodinna ChakrabortyDec 22, 2023 | 17:49

Science Wrap: Climate Bomb in Svalbard, huge spot on Sun, and Mackenzie river releasing CO2

This week’s science news ranges from a serious climate issue in the far-off Arctic archipelago of Svalbard to numerous astonishing findings in space.

Here are the top science news of the week.

America's Mackenzie River releasing CO2

  • The Arctic Ocean, which absorbs about 180 million metric tons of carbon yearly, is facing a new issue.

  • Recent research shows that North America's Mackenzie River is releasing a significant amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere in the Beaufort Sea region.

Mackenzie river seen from space. (Photo: NASA)
  • A study, using computer modeling, looked at how the Mackenzie River affects the Arctic Ocean's carbon cycle.

  • Starting in Alberta and passing through Canada's Northwest Territories, the river brings nutrients and organic matter to its delta, causing outgassing in the Beaufort Sea and releasing CO2.

  • While the southeastern Beaufort Sea was thought to be a moderate CO2 sink, a lack of data created uncertainty.

The study

  • The study used ocean observations over two decades to simulate the river's discharge and effects from 2000 to 2019.

  • The findings were surprising: the Mackenzie River's discharge caused intense CO2 outgassing, resulting in a net release of 0.13 million metric tons of CO2 per year—similar to emissions from about 28,000 gasoline-powered vehicles annually.

  • This release was more significant in warmer months with increased river discharge and less sea ice.


 AstroSat’s concerning discovery 

  • India's first space observatory, AstroSat, found something important: bursts of energy from deep space.

  • The probe spotted 67 quick pulses, lasting 33 milliseconds each, from a new kind of neutron star called a magnetar.

Magnetar, (Photo: Getty)
  • This discovery helps us learn more about the extreme conditions around these celestial bodies. Magnetars, a special type of neutron star, have incredibly strong magnetic fields—over one quadrillion times stronger than Earth's. Magnetars release powerful electromagnetic radiation as their magnetic fields decay.

  • These unique objects have features like slow rotation, fast spin-down, and short bursts that can last for months. Researchers from Raman Research Institute (RRI) and the University of Delhi conducted a thorough study of this magnetar.

  • They used AstroSat's instruments, including the Large Area X-Ray Proportional Counter (LAXPC) and Soft X-Ray telescope (SXT), to analyze its timing and spectral properties.


Scientist find ticking time bomb in Svalbard

  • In the far-off Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, scientists have found a concerning climate issue.
  • Massive amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, are moving beneath the permafrost, which could worsen global warming.
Svalbard has a serious climate issue waiting to happen. (Photo: Getty Images)
  • Dr Thomas Birchall's study at the University Center in Svalbard reveals that while the lowlands have ice-rich permafrost as a seal, the highlands, with less ice, are more permeable, allowing the gas to move.
  • Studying data from commercial and scientific boreholes, the research shows that methane deposits are not limited to Svalbard but are likely found across the Arctic region.
  • The study looked closely at wellbore data and found that there are more gas deposits under the permafrost than we originally thought.

Huge spot on the Sun

  • As the Earth goes around the Sun, astronomers and space experts are intrigued by a huge sunspot called AR3529.

  • In just two days, this sunspot has grown four times its size, as shown in a cool video from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). The video reveals two dark centers in the sunspot, each twice as big as our planet.

  • This makes AR3529 stand out, and even amateur astronomers with solar-filtered telescopes can easily see it. AR3529's growth is not just visually stunning; it's also a potential concern.

  • The sunspot has a tricky 'delta-class' magnetic field, with positive and negative magnetic poles close together, creating an unstable environment.

  • This instability could lead to magnetic reconnection, causing an X-class solar flare, the most powerful kind. X-class flares are known for disrupting satellite communications, affecting GPS, and even causing power grid failures on Earth.

Last updated: December 22, 2023 | 17:57
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