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NASA proposes to build mushroom houses on Mars and the Moon

In science fiction, human settlements on Mars and other planets are often presented as futuristic buildings made of metal and glass. However, in reality, the habitat of future colonists may be more “green”, NASA experts believe.

They are developing a technology for growing various structures from fungi, or rather, from mycelium. This is a vegetative body of mushrooms, consisting of thin branched threads.

The principal investigator of the project, astrobiologist Lynn Rothschild notes that for the existing, proposed design solutions for future colonists, transportation of building materials and necessary equipment from Earth will require fabulous costs.

Mushroom houses grown right on the spot are a promising and low-cost alternative.

According to experts, under certain conditions, “colonies” of the thinnest filaments of mycelium are able to be combined into larger structures and create complex structures. For example, fruit bodies of mushrooms or … building blocks .

Petri dish with mycelium growing on artificial soil imitating Martian soil.Photo by NASA / Ames Research Center / Lynn Rothschild.

During a space flight, the mycelium will be “inactive”, and upon arrival to the moon or Mars, it will be possible to literally grow houses, as well as furniture and other necessary items, from it. To do this, mushroom preparations will just need to be filled with water.

Bricks made from mycelium with the addition of wood chips.Photo 2018 Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM Team.

By the way, back in 2018, the authors of the project demonstrated one of the first prototypes – a mushroom stool. It was grown from mycelium for two weeks, after which it was baked to make a dry and durable piece of furniture.

A stool grown from mycelium in two weeks.Photo 2018 Stanford-Brown-RISD iGEM Team.

As Lynn Rothschild explains, the key to the success of this project was the use of cyanobacteria , which in the process of photosynthesis release oxygen and substances necessary for the growth of mycelium.

According to the researchers, future homes will have a three-layer structure. The outer layer will consist of water ice, which can be mined on the Moon or Mars . It will protect against radiation.

The second layer – from cyanobacteria – will absorb the light passing through the ice. Microorganisms will produce oxygen for humans and nutrients for the last layer – mycelium.

This inner layer will serve as a framework for the “living house”. First, the mycelium will need to be activated for growth in a closed environment (inside the frame), and then bake building blocks.

At the same time, even if some strands of mycelium somehow “escape”, they will not be able to grow. To prevent this, there will be genetic changes introduced by the creators. That is, the mycelium will be viable only in certain conditions created by people.

It is important to note that mycelium can also be used to filter water, extract minerals from wastewater, regulate humidity and even bioluminescent lighting . In addition, houses that can self-heal in case of damage can be created from it.

So far, however, these possibilities are only theoretical: scientists intend to study them in future works.

Also, the authors of the project do not exclude the possibility that one day “mushroom” houses may appear on Earth. This approach will reduce the carbon emissions generated by the construction industry.

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Space

The Most Dangerous Magnet In The Universe: 20 Km Diameter

Illustration of an artist showing a magnetar in a very rich and young star cluster. Credit & Copyright: ESO / L. Calçada

The most powerful magnet in the universe, with a truly colossal level of radiation, Magnetar!

Perhaps you think the universe is ideal for life. However, it is not. Almost the entire Universe is a terrible and hostile place, and we were just lucky to be born on an almost harmless planet in a remote region of the Milky Way.

Here on Earth you can live a long and happy life, but in the Universe there are places where you will not last even a couple of seconds. Nothing is more deadly than objects that supernovae leave behind: neutron stars.

However, approximately one in ten neutron stars becomes something really very strange. It becomes a magnetar – the most mysterious and terrible object in the universe. You’ve probably heard the word, but what is it?

Over the past 50 years, mankind has come across several times with phenomenal radiation coming from outer space. As often happens, astrophysicists could not immediately identify the source.

1979 year. Three American Vella satellites monitoring nuclear tests on Earth record an unusual gamma-ray burst.

1992 year. Astrophysicists suggest the existence of a celestial body unknown to science with a huge coefficient of electromagnetic radiation.

1998 year. The outbreak in the constellation ” Eagle “. Many measuring instruments record an inexplicable anomaly, the source of which is located tens of thousands of light years from us.

2004 year. All world telescopes are temporarily blinded. In less than a second, a wave of gamma radiation passes through every square centimeter in the solar system . The largest outbreak in the history of observations.

Today we are as close as possible to finally explain the nature of this discovery.

Magnetar or Magnitar  is a poorly studied neutrona star with an exceptionally strong magnetic field of about 10 to the 13th degree of Tesla . Almost a trillion times more electromagnetic radiation from the Earth .

When the lifetime of a supermassive star comes to an end, a supernova explosion occurs and among the many options for events there is only one in which the star can become a Magnitar. The disputes of scientists that this option represents do not stop to this day.

The diameter of Magnetars reaches only 20-30 km. For comparison, the diameter of the moon is 3474 km, that is, about 173 times more than the average Magnitar . However, with the mass, everything is arranged a little differently. Magnitar with a radius of 15 km, despite its size, will be heavier than our Sun, a radius of 696,340 km.

Theoretically, if Magnitar would be within the limits of the Solar system , we would not have time to notice the threat. The ozone layer of the Earth, along with all forms of organic life, would be wiped out within seconds.

Fortunately, the closest to us Magnitar is at a fairly safe distance from us, 12,000 light-years.

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Space

A colossal flash has occurred on a tiny star

A celestial body, which barely has enough mass to be called a star, suddenly erupted in a flash of incredible power. Astronomers wonder how this is possible.

The discovery is described in a scientific article published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Star J0331-27 is located 783 light years from Earth. It belongs to the spectral class L – the class of very small and very cold luminaries, which barely had enough mass to start thermonuclear reactions in their depths. The mass of J0331-27 is only 8% of the sun, and the surface temperature is only 1800 degrees Celsius (compared to 5500 degrees on the Sun).

There is a rule: the smaller the star, the more powerful the outbreaks occurring on it. So, the red dwarfs of class M can boast of real cosmic cataclysms that call into question the suitability of their planets for life. But astronomers did not expect that this pattern applies even to extremely cold L-stars.

According to experts, the flare is due to a sharp restructuring of the magnetic field structure in a small area of ​​the star’s surface. In this case, the energy stored in the magnetic lines is released and heats the surrounding substance. The magnetic field itself is created by plasma – a hot gas consisting of charged particles. Previously, experts believed that the surface plasma of L-dwarfs is too cold to generate a field capable of powerful “fireworks”.

Processing the data of the XMM-Newton space x-ray telescope, the authors found a flash recorded on July 5, 2008. It lasted a few minutes. During this time, 2 ”” 1033 erg of energy was released in the X-ray range alone. This is ten times the energy of the largest flares on the Sun and only half the total energy released by our star in a second (!).

Scientists call events of this magnitude superflares. They are common with the hotter M class red dwarfs, but not with the cooler L stars.

“This is the most interesting scientific part of the discovery, because we did not expect the stars [from the class] of L-dwarfs to store enough energy in their magnetic fields to cause such flashes,” admits Beate Stelzer of the University of Tübingen .

The discovery was made thanks to the XMM-Newton X-ray telescope.
Illustration from esa.int

Prior to this, superflares in L-dwarfs were detected several times in visible light. However, for the first time such an event was recorded in x-rays. Moreover, J0331-27 in general became just the second L-dwarf, from which terrestrial telescopes generally caught x-ray radiation.

After analyzing the data of other observatories, the authors found the optical radiation of this outbreak. But observing it in the x-ray range is extremely important. The fact is that visible light comes from the surface of the body, and x-rays from its atmosphere. This will help astronomers figure out how such a phenomenon nevertheless became possible.

“This is a good question,” says Stelzer. “We just don’t know [the answer]. Nobody knows.”

Riddles don’t end there. The fact is that in all known stars faint flashes occur much more often than strong ones. However, XMM-Newton observed J0331-27 for a total of about 40 days and during this time did not detect any other flashes, although the sensitivity of the instrument made it possible to notice them.

It seems that the magnetic field of the L-dwarf gradually accumulates energy and at once releases it in one powerful cataclysm. This behavior is completely unusual for stars, and now astrophysicists have to deal with new facts.

New X-ray flares on L stars can help with this if they are detected. Stelzer and colleagues made their discovery by processing the XMM-Newton observation archive. It includes information on 400 thousand variable sources discovered by the telescope in 13 years. Not all data has been processed yet, so new surprises may well await scientists.

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Space

Unusual signals come from the GJ 1151 system

Most likely, radio emission is created by the interaction of a planet the size of the Earth with the strong magnetic fields of its star.

Using the LOFAR low-frequency radio telescope, astronomers recorded unusual radio emission coming from the red dwarf GJ 1151, which is located at a distance of about 28 light-years from Earth, these signals, according to scientists, contain evidence of the auroras created by the interaction of the planet with the strongest magnetic fields of the star. The results of the study are presented in the journal Nature Astronomy.

“Radio emission from the interaction of a star and a planet was predicted more than thirty years ago, but only now we were able to identify its signature in the data. Success achieved paves the way for a new way to detect exoplanets in the habitable zone and study their surroundings, ”the authors of the study say.

Red dwarfs are the most common type of star in the Milky Way. They are much smaller and colder than the Sun and have extremely strong magnetic fields. This means that any potentially inhabited planet in the system of such a star, due to its proximity to it, is subjected to intense magnetic activity, which can heat it and even destroy the atmosphere. The radio emission associated with this process is one of the few tools available to evaluate this effect.

“The movement of the planet through the strong magnetic field of the red dwarf acts like an electric motor. This process generates a huge current that provokes radiance and creates radio emission, ”explained Harish Vedantam, lead author of the study from the Netherlands Institute of Radio Astronomy.

In the solar system, similar currents are not generated due to the weak magnetic field of the sun and the large distance to the planets. However, the interaction of the Io satellite with the magnetic field of Jupiter also creates a fairly bright radio emission, at low frequencies superior to the sun.

“We adapted our knowledge from decades of radio observations of Jupiter to the data on the star GJ 1151. For many years it was predicted that the Jupiter-Io system should exist in a larger version of the star-planet, and the radiation recorded by us from GJ 1151 is very well consistent with theory. Today we know that almost every red dwarf contains terrestrial planets, so there must be other stars showing such radiation,” Joe Cullingham added, the co-author of a study from the Netherlands Institute of Radio Astronomy.

Astronomers note that the sensitivity of modern instruments should allow them to find about a hundred more of such systems in the solar vicinity, and, more importantly, assess the conditions in which exoplanets reside in them.

“The main goal is to determine what effect the magnetic activity of a star has on the habitability of an exoplanet, and radio emission is the most important link in this puzzle,” Harish Vedantam concluded.

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