Largest asteroid in a century to whiz by Sept 1

This NASA handout illustration obtained on August 30, 2017 shows Asteroid Florence, a large near-Earth asteroid, that will pass safely by Earth on September 1, 2017, at a distance of about 4.4 million miles. The largest asteroid in more than a century will whiz safely past Earth on September 1 at a safe but unusually close distance of about 4.4 million miles (7 million kilometers), NASA said. (AFP)
Updated 30 August 2017
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Largest asteroid in a century to whiz by Sept 1

MIAMI: The largest asteroid in more than a century will whiz safely past Earth on Sept. 1 at a safe but unusually close distance of about 7 million km, NASA said.
The asteroid was discovered in 1981, and is named Florence after the famed 19th century founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale.
“Florence is the largest asteroid to pass this close to our planet since the first near-Earth asteroid was discovered over a century ago,” said a US space agency statement.
It is one of the biggest asteroids in the Earth’s vicinity, and measures about 4.4 km wide — or about the size of 30 Egyptian pyramids stuck together.
“While many known asteroids have passed by closer to Earth than Florence will on Sept. 1, all of those were estimated to be smaller,” said Paul Chodas, manager of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies.
Scientists plan to study the asteroid up close when it passes, using ground-based radar imaging in California and Puerto Rico.
“The resulting radar images will show the real size of Florence and also could reveal surface details as small as about 30 feet,” said NASA.
This pass will be Florence’s closest “since 1890 and the closest it will ever be until after 2500,” added the US space agency.
Asteroids are small, natural rocky bodies that orbit the Sun.
Large asteroid collisions with Earth are rare.
A car-sized asteroid hits Earth’s atmosphere about once a year and burns up before reaching the surface.
“About every 2,000 years or so, a meteoroid the size of a football field hits Earth and causes significant damage to the area,” said NASA.
“Finally, only once every few million years, an object large enough to threaten Earth’s civilization comes along.”
Scientists are confident that Florence will not be one of them.


Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university

Updated 21 January 2019
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Chinese scientist who gene-edited babies fired by university

  • Hundreds of Chinese and international scientists condemned He Jiankui
  • Chinese authorities also denounced He and issued a temporary halt to research activities involving the editing of human genes

SHENZHEN, China: A Chinese scientist responsible for what he said were the world’s first “gene-edited” babies evaded oversight and broke guidelines in a quest for fame and fortune, state media said on Monday, as the university where he worked announced his dismissal.
He Jiankui said in November that he used a gene-editing technology known as CRISPR-Cas9 to alter the embryonic genes of twin girls born that month, sparking an international outcry about the ethics and safety of such research.
Hundreds of Chinese and international scientists condemned He and said any application of gene editing on human embryos for reproductive purposes was unethical.
Chinese authorities also denounced He and issued a temporary halt to research activities involving the editing of human genes.
He had “deliberately evaded oversight” with the intent of creating a gene-edited baby “for the purpose of reproduction,” according to the initial findings of an investigating team set up by the Health Commission of China in southern Guangdong province, Xinhua news agency reported.
He had raised funds himself and privately organized a team of people to carry out the procedure in order to “seek personal fame and profit,” Xinhua said, adding that he had forged ethical review papers in order to enlist volunteers for the procedure.
The safety and efficacy of the technologies He used are unreliable and creating gene-edited babies for reproduction is banned by national decree, the report said.
The Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) in the city of Shenzhen, said in a statement on its website that He had been fired.
“Effective immediately, SUSTech will rescind the work contract with Dr. Jiankui He and terminate any of his teaching and research activities at SUSTech,” the statement said.
The university added the decision came after a preliminary investigation by the Guangdong Province Investigation Task Force.
Neither He nor a representative could be reached for comment on Monday.
He defended his actions at a conference in Hong Kong in November, saying that he was “proud” of what he had done and that gene editing would help protect the girls from being infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
He’s announcement sparked a debate among Chinese legal scholars over which laws He had technically broken by carrying out the procedure, as well as whether he could be held criminally responsible or not.
Many scholars pointed to a 2003 guideline that bans altered human embryos from being implanted for the purpose of reproduction, and says altered embryos cannot be developed for more than 14 days.
The case files of those involved who are suspected of committing crimes had been sent to the ministry of public security, an unnamed spokesperson for the investigation team was quoted by Xinhua as saying.