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Astronomers find methanol around Saturn moon Enceladus

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London, July 5 : Using a ground-based telescope, astronomers have detected large quantities of methanol around Saturn moon Enceladus – a finding that may have implications in the search for alien life.

Enceladus’s plumes are thought to originate in water escaping from a subsurface ocean through cracks in the moon’s icy surface. Eventually these plumes feed into Saturn’s second-outermost ring, the E-ring.

“Recent discoveries that icy moons in our outer Solar System could host oceans of liquid water and ingredients for life have sparked exciting possibilities for their habitability,” said Emily Drabek-Maunder of Cardiff University in Britain.

“But in this case, our findings suggest that methanol is being created by further chemical reactions once the plume is ejected into space, making it unlikely it is an indication for life on Enceladus,” Drabek-Maunder said.

The findings, presented at the National Astronomy meeting at the University of Hull in Britain, suggest that material spewed from Enceladus undertakes a complex chemical journey once vented into space.

Past studies of Enceladus have involved the NASA/ESA Cassini spacecraft, which has detected molecules like methanol by directly flying into the plumes.

Recent work has found similar amounts of methanol in the Earth’s oceans and Enceladus’s plumes.

In this study, the researchers detected the bright methanol signature using the IRAM 30-metre radio telescope in the Spanish Sierra Nevada.

“This observation was very surprising since it was not the main molecule we were originally looking for in Enceladus’s plumes,” Jane Greaves of Cardiff University said.

The team suggests the unexpectedly large quantity of methanol may have two possible origins: either a cloud of gas expelled from Enceladus has been trapped by Saturn’s magnetic field, or gas has spread further out into Saturn’s E-ring.

In either case, the methanol has been greatly enhanced compared with detections in the plumes.

“To interpret our results, we needed the wealth of information Cassini gave us about Enceladus’s environment. This study suggests a degree of caution needs to be taken when reporting on the presence of molecules that could be interpreted as evidence for life,” team member Dave Clements of Imperial College, pointed out.

Cassini will end its journey later this year, leaving remote observations through ground and space-based telescopes as the only possibility for exploring Saturn and its moons – at least for now.

“This finding shows that detections of molecules at Enceladus are possible using ground-based facilities. However, to understand the complex chemistry in these subsurface oceans, we will need further direct observations by future spacecraft flying through Enceladus’s plumes,” Drabek-Maunder said.

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US shutdown over, new deadline looms

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Donald Trump

Washington, Jan 23: US President Donald Trump has signed a temporary funding bill ending a nearly three-day government shutdown, capping off deadlock and reinstating funds for a fortnight, a senior official said.

The federal government is expected to be back in business on Tuesday. Thousands of federal employees who had been placed on temporary, unpaid leave since Saturday, breathed a sigh of relief, the BBC reported.

Late on Monday, the Democratic leadership agreed to back the bill after accepting promises from Republicans for a debate later “on the future of young illegal immigrants”. This stopgap funding will expire on February 8.

The House and the Senate voted Monday to end the government shutdown, extending funding for three weeks, following a deal reached between Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

The House passed the continuing resolution 266-159, with 36 more yes votes than the four-week resolution they passed last week, after the Senate earlier passed the bill by an 81-18 margin.

However, key issues remained unresolved, the CNN said.

This so-called continuing resolution keeps the government funded until the second week of February in the hope that the Congress could reach a longer-term budget agreement in the meantime.

Trump took a swipe at the Democrats as he signed the bill: “I am pleased that the Democrats in the Congress have come to their senses. We will make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for our country.”

McConnell said his party had “come to an arrangement” to negotiate on their calls for an immigration deal. Democrats want protections from deportation for so-called Dreamers — more than 700,000 young immigrants brought to the US as children.

But Republicans had insisted no agreement was possible while the federal government services were closed.

This was the fourth temporary measure since October 2017, because Capitol Hill cannot agree on a longer-term budget, the media said.

The Democrats would still want something tangible on DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program) but it was problematic because it could run into the February 8 funding deadline, Republican Senator Jeffry Lane Flake said.

Democrats voiced scepticism and some liberal groups were infuriated by the agreement to reopen the government.

Possible Democratic 2020 presidential candidates in the Senate – Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris – all voted against Monday’s bill.

On Twitter, “Democrats CAVED” was trending on Monday evening.

Schumer accused Trump of failing to help reach a deal. “The great deal-making President sat on the sidelines,” he said.

But many have expressed dissatisfaction with Schumer’s handling of the shutdown, which began on midnight on Friday.

IANS

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Modi meets CEOs at WEF, IMF reaffirms India’s growth story

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The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi with the President of the Swiss Confederation, Mr. Alain Berset, in Davos.

Davos, Jan 23: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday held a round table meeting with the CEOs of top global companies before his keynote address at the plenary session of the World Economic Forum (WEF) here on Tuesday morning.

India also got a thumbs up from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday, which reaffirmed that India’s economy is projected to grow by 7.4 per cent in the next fiscal year.

“Narrating India’s growth story and presenting exciting opportunities for global business in India at #Davos, PM @narendramodi hosted a roundtable meeting with CEOs of top global companies,” Ministry of External Affairs said in a tweet.

Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra, who had also participated at the meet, tweeted: “Let me add my compliments to you all. You did us proud with your world-beating organizational skills. Every global CEO was floored by the personal touches in your hospitality. I am proud to be on the board of Invest India.”

“In addition to listening to PM keynote address at the plenary session, participating and speaking in several sessions I look forward to joining the Yoga classes on the Alps early morning ! India’s soft power is on full display at World Economic Forum,” Amitabh Kant, CEO, NITI Aayog tweeted.

The IMF reaffirmed that India’s economy is projected to grow by 7.4 per cent in the next fiscal year, regaining the rank of the world’s fastest-growing large economy as China slows down.

Like India’s improving economic performance, the global economy was also on the uptick, estimated to have grown by 3.7 per cent last year and forecast to grow this year and the next by 3.9 per cent, according to the Fund’s World Economic Outlook Update.

At the release of the Update in Davos, IMF head Christine Lagarde said that for the world economy, “all signs point to a further strengthening both this year and next,” but cautioned that “complacency would be a mistake.”

Earlier on Monday, Modi held a bilateral meeting with Swiss President Alain Berset who greeted the prime minister with a warm handshake in this town in the Swiss Alps before leading the Indian leader to the meeting.

“On reaching Davos, held talks with the President of the Swiss Confederation, Alain Berset. We reviewed the scope of our bilateral cooperation and discussed ways to deepen it even further,” Modi tweeted.

This is Modi’s second visit to Switzerland in nearly two years after his visit in June 2016.

Modi is the first Prime Minister from India to participate in a forum meeting in two decades after the then Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda in 1997.

He will interact with 120 members of the International Business Council, which is a part of the WEF.

Modi, in the course of his 24-hour visit to Davos, is also scheduled to hold a bilateral meeting with Sweden Prime Minister Stefan Lofven on Tuesday.

IANS

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S.Koreans burn Kim Jong-un’s photo over North’s participation at Olympics

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North Korea
(PC- Associated Press)

Seoul, Jan 22: Demonstrators on Monday burned a photo of the North Korean leader during a rally in Seoul against North Korea’s participation in the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang in South Korea.

The rally, at which the North Korean flag was also burned, was led by the far-right Korean Patriots Party in front of Seoul’s central train station, according to Yonhap news agency, reports Efe.

The protesters chose the train station because a North Korean delegation visiting South Korea to coordinate the North’s participation in the Games which begin on February 9 plans to arrive at the station from the eastern city of Gangneung.

Strong security measures have been put in place ahead of the group’s visit.

The activists read a statement in which they denounced that the PyeongChang Winter Olympics were turning into “Kim Jong-un’s Pyongyang Olympics” that they claim legitimise its nuclear weapons programme, before setting North’s national flag and so-called unification flag on fire.

As well as agreeing on North Korea’s participation at the PyeongChang Games, the two countries, which have been technically at war for more than 65 years, also decided to form a joint women’s ice hockey team and agreed on a joint march at the opening ceremony with the unification flag.

IANS

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