Ten-year old Chilean teaches star gazing to classmates

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Ricardo Barriga, 10, speaks and teaches astronomy to adults and younger in hopes of raising money for his own astronaut suit, in Pirque, Chile January 16, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Ricardo Barriga, 10, speaks and teaches astronomy to younger in hopes of raising money for his own astronaut suit, Pirque, Chile January 16, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Ricardo Barriga, 10, poses for a photo during an interview with Reuters in Pirque, Chile January 16, 2019. (REUTERS)
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Ricardo Barriga, 10, poses for a picture during an interview with Reuters in Pirque, Chile January 16, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 January 2019
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Ten-year old Chilean teaches star gazing to classmates

  • Barriga’s parents have promised him a trip to Orlando, Florida in the United States, where he hopes to visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Station in nearby Cape Canaveral

SANTIAGO: Ten-year old Ricardo Barriga’s backyard in Pirque, Chile is strewn with a blow-up unicorn, pool toys, a soccer ball and a $3,000 telescope that his parents mail-ordered from Germany.
The budding young astronaut can identify constellations in the austral sky, little-known features of the moon, planets and black holes. He recently started giving $4 lessons to classmates to help them do the same, with hopes of raising enough money to buy himself a space suit, he said.
Barriga counts himself lucky to have been born in Chile, a South American nation known as star-gazer’s paradise, with clear skies, a desert-dry climate and little light pollution.
The Chilean elementary school student came upon astronomy while flipping through the “A-section” of his parents’ encyclopedia and has been hooked ever since, he said.
“It was an encyclopedia with all kinds of information in it,” Barriga said. “My dream is to be an astronaut and also, to have a space suit.”
Barriga’s parents have promised him a trip to Orlando, Florida in the United States, where he hopes to visit NASA’s Kennedy Space Station in nearby Cape Canaveral.
“I thought that if I could become an astronaut I could work for NASA,” he said.
Chile is home to 70 percent of global astronomy investment, thanks to the cloudless skies above its northern Atacama desert, the driest on earth. Within five years, the South American country will host three of the world’s four next-generation, billion-dollar telescopes.


Kakapow! Rare world’s fattest parrot has record breeding season

Updated 18 April 2019
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Kakapow! Rare world’s fattest parrot has record breeding season

  • Females control the breeding process and only mate every two to four years when New Zealand’s native rimu trees are full of fruit
  • The surviving kakapo — whose name means ‘night parrot’ in Maori — are kept on four predator-free islands

WELLINGTON: The world’s fattest parrot, the critically endangered kakapo, has enjoyed a record-breaking breeding season, New Zealand scientists said Thursday, with climate change possibly aiding the species’ unique mating spree.
Less than 50 years after the flightless nocturnal bird was thought to have been extinct, at least 75 chicks are expected to survive this year, Andrew Digby, a science adviser to New Zealand’s kakapo recovery, operation said.
Digby oversees a breeding program so precisely monitored that scientists can state the last of 249 eggs laid will hatch on Friday.
It will significantly boost the population which has grown to 147 adults since a small number of the plump green, yellow and black birds was discovered in 1970.
Digby described the kakapo as an “unusual” parrot as the females control the breeding process and only mate every two to four years when New Zealand’s native rimu trees are full of fruit.
“We don’t quite know what the trigger is but one of the things we are looking at is that the rimu berry is really high in vitamin D, a super food basically, which is associated with fertility and health,” he said.
The rimu trees have produced a bumper crop this year with Digby saying one theory was that climate change and temperature fluctuations could be behind the berry bonanza.
The surviving kakapo — whose name means “night parrot” in Maori — are kept on four predator-free islands off the New Zealand coast.
At the start of the breeding season, the males which weigh about 4 kilograms (nine pounds), put themselves on display while the females choose a partner.
They mate and then end the relationship, shutting the male out of the incubation and rearing processes.
The kakapo recovery program is so tightly monitored that although they remain in the wild, each one has a radio transmitter attached to its body and there are monitoring systems embedded in their nests.
Digby knew that of the 50 adult females, 49 produced 249 eggs, of which 89 have so far hatched and 75 were expected to make it to adulthood.
That is more than double the success rate from the last breeding season three years ago.
“It’s probably one of the most intensively managed species in the world,” said Digby, who wants at least 500 birds before any thought is given to easing up the intensity of the recovery operation.