Thursday 16 July 2015

New Horizons spacecraft survives encounter with Pluto

A signal received from the New Horizons spacecraft shows that it survived its historic
encounter with Pluto.

Data in its first call home since Tuesday's flyby suggest the spacecraft experienced no upsets
as it hurtled past the icy world at 14km/s (31,000mph).

The signal came through a giant dish in Madrid, Spain - part of a Nasa network of
communications antennas.

The message took four hours 25 minutes to traverse 4.7 billion km of space.

Pluto has mountains made of ice that are as high as those in the Rockies, images from the New Horizons probe reveal.They also show signs of geological activity on Pluto and its moon Charon

Mission scientist John Spencer told journalists that the first close-up image of Pluto's surface showed a terrain that had been resurfaced by some geological process - such as volcanism - within the last 100 million years.

"We have not found a single impact crater on this image. This means it must be a very young surface," he said.

A true explorer - now set to wander the Galaxy for a long time to come.

Pine Martens back in England

The first confirmed sighting of a wild pine marten in England for over a century has been
recorded in a Shropshire woodland.

An amateur photographer spotted the mammal, thought to be extinct, in early July, and passed
photos to the Shropshire Wildlife Trust.

There have been numerous reports in the county, but trust mammal expert Stuart Edmunds was able
to verify the image.

He said the animals may have been living in the area for years.

Great news. Lets hope they spread.

Insect farming in Democratic Republic of Congo

Experts hope that the love of edible insects in the Democratic Republic of Congo may hold the key to tackling widespread hunger among its approximately 65 million people by scaling up a millennia-old consumption habit.

Six and a half million people live in food insecurity in the country. Edible insects have always been popular in the  Congo. Often served as bar food or on special occasions, they are grilled and commonly served with hot pepper, lemon and onions.

“This is the main food of the Congolese,” said Marie-Colette Bena, who sells clothing at the market. “I’m proud to eat that food.”

The average household in the capital, Kinshasa, consumes about 300g of caterpillars a week, but the supplies are seasonal and expensive. In Kinshasa, a kilogramme of crickets costs more than twice the price of beef.

Congo’s environment ministry and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are introducing a new programme to promote insect cultivation; in the hope that prices will come down.

The project, due to begin in October, will train two hundred people – most of them women – in western Congo to cultivate caterpillars and crickets. Laurent Kikeba, who oversees the project for the FAO, said it would be the first of its kind in the world. Insects are easily raised in confined spaces and need little capital investment.

“For the fight against malnutrition, this is an ideal food,” said Paul Monzambe, a professor of agronomy at the National Pedagogic University (UPN) in Kinshasa, who is collaborating on the project. “The crisis is such that we must think now of all possible approaches.”

In a 2013 report, the FAO hailed insect cultivation as a practical and environmentally-friendly tool to boost food production as supply struggles to keep pace with global population growth.

The report notes insects are bountiful, widely consumed and contain high levels of protein, fat, vitamins, fibre and minerals. They tend to require less feed and yield more meat per kilogram than traditional protein sources.

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