Astronomers using a CSIRO radio telescope have taken the Universe’s temperature, and have found that it has cooled down just the way the Big Bang theory predicts.
Using the CSIRO Australia Telescope Compact Array near Narrabri, NSW, an international team from Sweden, France, Germany and Australia has measured how warm the Universe was when it was half its current age.
“This is the most precise measurement ever made of how the Universe has cooled down during its 13.77 billion year history,” said Dr Robert Braun, Chief Scientist at CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science.
Because light takes time to travel, when we look out into space we see the Universe as it was in the past — as it was when light left the galaxies we are looking at. So to look back half-way into the Universe’s history, we need to look half-way across the Universe.
How can we measure a temperature at such a great distance?
The astronomers studied gas in an unnamed galaxy 7.2 billion light-years away [a redshift of 0.89].
The only thing keeping this gas warm is the cosmic background radiation — the glow left over from the Big Bang.
By chance, there is another powerful galaxy, a quasar (called PKS 1830-211), lying behind the unnamed galaxy.
Radio waves from this quasar come through the gas of the foreground galaxy. As they do so, the gas molecules absorb some of the energy of the radio waves. This leaves a distinctive “fingerprint” on the radio waves.
From this “fingerprint” the astronomers calculated the gas’s temperature. They found it to be 5.08 Kelvin (-268.07 degrees Celsius): extremely cold, but still warmer than today’s Universe, which is at 2.73 Kelvin (-270.42 degrees Celsius).
According to the Big Bang theory, the temperature of the cosmic background radiation drops smoothly as the Universe expands. “That’s just what we see in our measurements. The Universe of a few billion years ago was a few degrees warmer than it is now, exactly as the Big Bang Theory predicts,” said research team leader Dr Sebastien Muller of Onsala Space Observatory at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden.
“A precise and accurate determination of the cosmic microwave background temperature at z=0.89″, by S. Muller et al. Accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics; online at http://arxiv.org/abs/1212.5456
MEDIA: Helen Sim Ph: +61 2 9372 4251 E: email@example.com
By Andrea Wild
No, the problem is not ghost ships on the high seas, but ghostnets. Lost and abandoned fishing gear drifts around the world’s oceans and can continue fishing for decades.
With around 640,000 tonnes of fishing gear lost or discarded each year, ghostnets are a huge problem worldwide. Originating mainly from fisheries and Asia and Australia, ghostnets in Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria are among the highest concentration in the world and are threatening our marine turtles. During a recent cleanup of ghostnets on beaches in the Gulf, 80 per cent of animals found trapped in nets were marine turtles, including Olive Ridley, Hawksbill, Green and Flatback turtles.
Using a model of ocean currents and data collected by Indigenous rangers on the number of ghostnets found during beach cleanups, the scientists simulated the likely paths ghostnets take to get to their landing spots on beaches in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Combining this with information about the occurrence of turtles in the area, they found that entanglement risk for turtles is concentrated in an area along the eastern margin of the Gulf and in a wide section in the southwest extending up the west coast.
The research pinpoints where prevention and clean-ups can really make a difference to protecting our biodiversity.
Ghostnets, originating mainly from fisheries in Asia and Australia, are a particular problem in Australia’s Gulf of Carpentaria, where they can reach densities of up to three tonnes/km, among the highest recorded worldwide.
“Our research goes beyond discovering where ghostnet fishing is taking place, to actually estimating its impact on biodiversity, in particular on threatened marine turtles,” Dr Denise Hardesty of CSIRO said.
“Using a model of ocean currents and data collected by Indigenous rangers on the number of ghostnets found during beach cleanups, we simulated the likely paths ghostnets take to get to their landing spots on beaches in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
“Combining this with information about the occurrence of turtles in the area, we found that entanglement risk for turtles is concentrated in an area along the eastern margin of the Gulf and in a wide section in the southwest extending up the west coast.
“Most ghostnets enter the Gulf from the northwest and move clockwise along its shore. This means we can help protect biodiversity in the region by intercepting nets as they enter the Gulf, before they reach the high density turtle areas along south and east coastlines.”
Ghostnets are a global problem, capturing seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles worldwide. Lost or abandoned fishing gear makes up only 20 per cent of marine debris but has a disproportionate effect because it is designed to capture wildlife.
“Our research shows that combining models of marine debris with species occurrence data could identify global hot spots for impact, helping pinpoint where prevention and clean-ups could really make a difference to biodiversity,” Dr Hardesty said.
This research used information on ocean currents generated by the BLUElink Ocean Data Assimilation System to simulate the paths of ghostnets.
Media: Andrea Wild. Ph: +61 2 6246 4087 Mb: 0415 199 434 E: firstname.lastname@example.org
In today's Newcastle Herald newspaper our blogger Dr Greg Wilson appeared in an article about our cool next generation solar cells made from dyes. We've previously shown you how they are made. Greg's also holding one in the picture below.
We are developing dye-sensitised solar cells (DSC) that can be integrated into the walls, windows and roof top materials of buildings.
Leaning toward a Banded Sweep but not really sure. Anyway, sweeps are grey, often with a tinge of blue, green, or sometimes brown. They both like to get together in schools and are found from the southern coast of New South Wales, around the south of the country and north to the central coast of Western Australia.
The Sea Sweep can grow to about 61cm in length (the one above is just a bit shy of that….) while the Banded Sweep is a bit smaller.
They are found on rocky reefs in coastal waters. Young sweeps hang out in small schools inshore, and the larger adults school in small groups in open waters, often in turbulent areas on coastal reefs to 25m deep.
They’re big, powerful and fast. Top to bottom, they measure about half the Galaxy’s diameter. They contain as much energy as a million exploding stars. And they are roaring along at 1000 kilometres a second (yes, a second).
Revealed by our Parkes radio telescope (aka The Dish): they are giant geysers of charged particles shooting out from the centre of our Galaxy.
The finding is reported in today’s issue of Nature.
“These outflows contain an extraordinary amount of energy — about a million times the energy of an exploding star,” said the research team’s leader, CSIRO’s Dr Ettore Carretti.
But the outflows pose no danger to Earth or the Solar System.
The speed of the outflow is supersonic, about 1000 kilometres a second. “That’s fast, even for astronomers,” Dr Carretti said.
“They are not coming in our direction, but go up and down from the Galactic Plane. We are 30,000 light-years away from the Galactic Centre, in the Plane. They are no danger to us.”
From top to bottom the outflows extend 50,000 light-years [five hundred thousand million million kilometres] out of the Galactic Plane.
That’s equal to half the diameter of our Galaxy (which is 100,000 light-years — a million million million kilometres — across).
Seen from Earth, the outflows stretch about two-thirds across the sky from horizon to horizon.
So how could we have missed them before?
A couple of reasons. The particles are glowing with radio waves, rather than visible light, so seeing the geysers depends on having a telescope tuned to the right frequency (which happens to be 2.3 GHz). And the Galactic Centre is a messy, confusing place where a lot is going on.
VIDEO: Ettore Carretti talks about how the telescope makes maps of the sky.
Our Galaxy has a black hole at its centre, but it’s not that which is powering the geysers. Instead it’s star-power: “winds” from young stars, and massive stars exploding.
About half of all the star-formation that goes on in our Galaxy happens in and near the Galactic Centre. That’s a lot of stars, and a lot of energy.
VIDEO: The Parkes telescope observing as night falls and stars come out and the Milky Way appears overhead. Credit: Alex Cherney / terrastro.com
MEDIA: Helen Sim. Mb: 0419 635 905. E: email@example.com
Southern RockLobster: I know its not a fish but it is getting close to Christmas and a lot of people will be eating one of these in between slinging insults across the lunch table. Who knows? Maybe some small, retained facts from this post can calm the situation before the flaming brandy is tossed toward Uncle Phil from Newcastle.
They are a species of spiny lobster found throughout coastal waters of southern Australia and New Zealand including the Chatham Islands.
They resemble lobsters (look HERE for difference), but lack the large characteristic pincers on the first pair of walking legs. They are carnivorous and like to feed during the night. They live in and around reefs at depths ranging from 5m to 200m.
Adults are sexually mature at between seven and 11 years. Eggs develop on females, which carry between 100,000 and 500,000 eggs which are fertilised and held below the tail on hairs on the female’s abdomen. The eggs develop there for up to five months. The eggs then metamorphose into larva which leave the female and are free swimming plankton which migrate towards the surface.
Not sure if there will be FFT next week – will see how I am going before heading off for small holiday. Anyway, thanks for reading FFT and have a good Christmas.
An innovative global observing system based on drifting sensors cycling from the surface to the ocean mid-depths is being celebrated by scientists today after reaching a major milestone – one million incredibly valuable ocean observations.
From 10 drifting robotic sensors deployed by Australia in the Indian Ocean in late 1999, the international research program has been quietly building up a global array which is now enabling new insights into the ocean’s central influence on global climate and marine ecosystems.
The initial objective was to maintain a network of 3000 sensors, in ice-free open ocean areas, providing both real-time data and higher quality delayed mode data and analyses to underpin a new generation of ocean and climate services. The program is called Argo.
“We’re still about 50 years behind the space community and its mission to reach the moon,” says Argo co-Chair and CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship scientist, Dr Susan Wijffels.
“The world’s deep ocean environment is as hostile as that in space, but because it holds so many clues to our climate future exploring it with the Argo observing network is a real turning point for science.
“In its short life the Argo data set has become an essential mainstay of climate and ocean researchers complementing information from earth observing satellites and uniquely providing subsurface information giving new insights into changes in the earth’s hydrological warming rates and opening the possibility of longer term climate forecasting,” Dr Wijffels said.
Although the one millionth profile of the upper ocean, measured from the surface to a depth of two kilometres, was achieved in early November, oceanographers around the world are today celebrating this critical benchmark in ocean monitoring which delivers data to a scientist’s desk within 24 hours of sampling.
Celebrations included a series of high-level international presentations by senior scientists involving Dr Wijffels, her Argo co-Chair Prof Dean Roemmich from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, oceanographer Dr Josh Willis from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Dr Jim Cummings from the US Naval Research Laboratory.
The Argo array has risen to now number more than 3500 sensors, the largest there has ever been. The average lifetime of the floats has improved in the past decade greatly increasing the efficiency of the operation.
Presently 28 countries contribute to the annual A$25M cost of operating the program. The US is the largest provider of sensors to the network, with Australia, led by CSIRO with the Integrated Marine Observing System and the Bureau of Meteorology, maintaining more than 300 profilers for deployment mainly in the Indian and Southern Oceans, and Tasman Sea.
The 1.5 metre tall robotic sensors cycle vertically every 10 days, sampling temperature and salinity. At the surface, the sensors despatches its data via satellite to national centres across the globe, where analysts then check it, package it and send it to synchronous assembly centres in France and the US. The sensor’s ascent and descent is regulated by a hydraulic pump, powered with lithium batteries. Their life expectancy is between 4-9 years, averaging more than 200 profiles per sensor as they drift with the currents and eddies.
Data are collected at the impressive rate of one profile approximately every four minutes, (360 profiles per day or 11000 per month) and on 4 November 2012 Argo passed the symbolic milestone of collecting its one millionth profile. To put this achievement in context, since the start of deep sea oceanography in the late 19th century, ships have collected just over half a million temperature and salinity profiles to a depth of 1km and only 200000 to 2km. At the present rate of data collection Argo will take only eight years to collect its next million profiles.
Dr Wijffels said almost 1200 scientific papers based on or incorporating Argo data have been generated since the start of the program. Prominent findings include:
- Analysis of ocean salinity patterns that suggests a substantial (16 to 24%) intensification of the global water cycle will occur in a future 2° to 3° warmer world.
- A more detailed view of the world’s largest ocean current, the Antarctic Circumpolar Current.
- An insight into changing bodies of water in the Southern Ocean and the way in which carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere.
- Isolating the effect of ocean warming and thermal expansion on the global energy and sea level budget.
Dr Wijffels said Argo data is now also being widely used in operational services for the community, including weather and climate prediction and ocean forecasting for environmental emergency response, shipping, defence, and safety at sea.
Media: Craig Macaulay Ph: +61 3 6232 5219 Mb: 04199 966 465 E: Craig.Macaulay@csiro.au
(Disclaimer – These are the words of others and I will not be held responsible for any offense.)
Old Wife: It has a deep and compressed body and concave forehead. The name – old wife – refers to the sound caused by it grinding its teeth when caught (or the Old Man comes home from the pub smelling of grog and cheap perfume).
It has the same features as other butterfly fish but the old wife is easily distinguished by its silver-and-black, vertical zebra-striped coloration, and by its two large dorsal fins. The dorsal fins have bony, knife-like spines. These have no obvious venom groove nor gland but the spines are widely considered to inflict a painful venom.
The fish grows up to 50 cm long and is found in the temperate waters around Australia.
It is one of the earliest fish described in Australian. In 1790, John White in his Journal of a Voyage to New South Wales originally named it the long-spined chaetodon.
In 1836, closely related fossils were found in Europe. The well preserved fossils show the basic body plan and even the zebra pattern of colouring have not changed significantly over the past 50 million years.
A small team of oceanographers from CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship is using a suite of sensors, radar and video cameras, to monitor beach change at Secret Harbour.
The project is part of Australia’s ocean forecasting system, BLUElink, a joint initiative of CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and the Royal Australian Navy, that aims to provide forecasts of ocean currents and eddies, and surface and subsurface ocean properties.
“Ultimately, we are trying to build a capability to forecast changes in surf zone sand bars and gutters as sea, wind and wave conditions change,” says CSIRO’s Dr Graham Symonds.
Dr Symonds said Australia’s beaches and shorelines are continually changing with varying wave conditions and sea level.
He said regular beach goers would be familiar with changes in beach shape and shoreline position, for example erosion following storms, or rocky sections exposed during winter and covered with sand during summer. Long term residents may be aware of progressive changes in their local beach over periods of many years.
“In the face of changing sea level, the effects of potential inundation and coastal erosion will continue to be a focus of coastal councils and communities for the foreseeable future.
“Our intention is to harness the data we are acquiring here at Secret Harbour and construct a computer model capable of predicting beach shape and shoreline position under the full range of wave conditions.”
“There’s an immediate application for this research by the Royal Australian Navy with amphibious landings, however it can also be applied to improve beach safety, monitoring coastal erosion and understanding of how beaches might respond to climate change,” said Dr Symonds.
Secret Harbour beach was chosen because it is a relatively straight beach that is typical of some of the Perth metropolitan beaches. In an experiment running since May 2011, the CSIRO science team has constructed a beach tower, installed a radar system, in-water current meters and pressure sensors, and a video camera system, focussing on an area of beach about 1 km long and extending offshore about 500m.
“Waves break over shallow sandbars so video and radar observations of breaking waves provide a measure of the underlying bathymetry. Gaps in the surf zone are associated with deeper water where the waves don’t break and often indicate the location of rip currents.”
Dr Symonds said the laptop-based ocean modelling system for the surf-zone will provide wave and current forecasts several times a day for use by the Royal Australian Navy, and will also be relevant for rescue agencies, environmental protection and recreational marine activities such as fishing and surfing.
The project will help develop a core capacity in wave and near-shore dynamics comparable with that available in ocean and atmosphere dynamics in Australia.
MEDIA: Craig Macaulay. Ph: +61 3 6232 5219. Mb: 0419 996 6465. E: Craig.Macaulay@csiro.au
Carbon dioxide emission reductions required to limit global warming to 2°C are becoming a receding goal based on new figures reported today in the latest Global Carbon Project (GCP) calculations published today in the advanced online edition of Nature Climate Change.
“A shift to a 2°C pathway requires an immediate, large, and sustained global mitigation effort,” GCP executive-director and CSIRO co-author of the paper, Dr Pep Canadell said.
Global CO2 emissions have increased by 58 per cent since 1990, rising 3 per cent in 2011, and 2.6 per cent in 2012. The most recent figure is estimated from a 3.3 per cent growth in global gross domestic product and a 0.7 per cent improvement in the carbon intensity of the economy.
Dr Canadell said the latest carbon dioxide emissions continue to track at the high end of a range of emission scenarios, expanding the gap between current trends and the course of mitigation needed to keep global warming below 2°C.
He said on-going international climate negotiations need to recognise and act upon the growing gap between the current pathway of global greenhouse emissions and the likely chance of holding the increase in global average temperature below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
The research, led by Dr Glen Peters from CICERO, Norway, compared recent carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, cement production, and gas flaring with emission scenarios used to project climate change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
“We need a sustained global CO2 mitigation rate of at least 3 per cent if global emissions are to peak before 2020 and follow an emission pathway that can keep the temperature increase below 2˚C,” Dr Peters said.
“Mitigation requires energy transition led by the largest emitters of China, the US, the European Union and India”.
He said that remaining below a 2°C rise above pre-industrial levels will require a commitment to technological, social and political innovations and an increasing need to rely on net negative emissions in future.
The Global Carbon Project, supported by CSIRO and the Australian Climate Change Science Program, generates annual emission summaries contributing to a process of informing policies and decisions on adaptation, mitigation, and their associated costs. The summaries are linked to long-term emission scenarios based on the degree of action taken to limit emissions.
Media: Craig Macaulay Ph: +61 3 6232 5219 Alt Ph: +61 4 1996 6465 E: Craig.Macaulay@csiro.au
Orange Roughy: Can’t believe it has taken FFT over a year to come to this important fish of the sea. Mind you, I still use a typewriter and a Teledex.
Anyway, they are also know as the slimehead or deep sea perch and, as the last name suggests, are found in deep waters between 180m and about 1800m. They are found around Australia and New Zealand, in the Western Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, and in the Eastern Pacific off Chile.
The orange roughy is slow growing and long lived – usually about 145 year but apparently there is one in the Australian National Fish Collection in Hobart that is about 160 years old.
The orange roughy grows to about 75cm and a maximum weight of 7kg.
Because it is so slow growing and late to mature, the species is extremely susceptible to overfishing and stocks especially those off New Zealand and Australia collapsed in the 1980s and there is debate if they have recovered.
The information below is from Wikipedia and I think is another reason (to go along with the fact the fish have had a bloody hard time over the years) to exclude them from your diet.
Due to its longevity, the Orange Roughy accumulates large amounts of mercury in its tissues, having a range of 0.30 – 0.86 ppm compared with an average mercury level of 0.086 ppm for other edible fish. Based on average consumption and the recommendations of a National Marine Fisheries Service study, in 1976, the FDA set the maximum safe mercury level for fish at 1 ppm. Regular consumption of Orange Roughy can have adverse effects on health.
Scientists believe that fish ear bones and their distinctive growth rings can offer clues to the likely impacts of climate change in aquatic environments.
The earbones, or ‘otoliths’, help fish detect movement and orient themselves in the water. Otoliths set down annual growth rings that can be measured and counted to estimate the age and growth rates of fish.
“Otoliths can form the basis of new techniques for modelling fish growth, productivity and distribution in future environments,” said Dr John Morrongiello of CSIRO’s Wealth from Oceans Flagship, lead author of a paper published online in Nature Climate Change.
“They are widely used to support fishery stock assessments, and are beginning to be used to measure and predict ecological responses to ocean warming and climate change.
“Millions of otoliths are archived in research laboratories and museums worldwide, and many fish species live for decades and some, such as orange roughy, live for up to 150 years.
“Their otoliths record variations in growth rates that reflect environmental conditions. Longer-lived fish and older samples take us back as far as the 1800s.”
The paper, co-authored by Dr Ron Thresher and Dr David Smith of CSIRO, builds on earlier research by Dr Thresher that identified the potential of using fish ‘hard parts’ (such as otoliths) and deep ocean corals to understand environmental change. It outlines a framework in which Australian research institutions can analyse hard parts and assess past and future impacts on a range of species.
In the next research phase, scientists at CSIRO, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the University of Adelaide will study selected species of commercial interest, including tiger flathead, black bream, blue gropers, barramundi and tropical snappers.
“We will use otoliths to investigate the environmental drivers of fish growth for many species around Australia,” Dr Morrongiello said.
“This will allow us to generate a continental-scale evaluation of climate change impacts on Australia’s fishes and help to guide the conservation and management of our aquatic environments into the future.”
Dr Thresher said there had already been extensive use of hard part archives from corals to reflect on climate variability, such as El Niño events, and to reconstruct environmental histories.
“Any change identified in growth and age maturity, especially of commercially-important species, clearly has implications for forecasting future stock states and the sustainable management of fisheries,” Dr Thresher said.
“A better ability to predict such change will greatly enhance our ability to forecast, manage and adapt to the impacts of climate change in marine and freshwater systems.”
Media: Bryony Bennett. Phone: +61 3 6232 5261 Alt Phone: +61 3 6232 5222 Email: Bryony.Bennett@csiro.au
Common Galaxias: Found from Chile to Eastern Australia, Tasmania, West Australia and New Caledonia. It is a small narrow fish growing to about 120mm but can “reach” 180mm. While Whitebait is the most common name, other names include cowfish, jollytail, common jollytail, eel gudgeon, lananga, native trout, pulangi, slippery tarki and spotted minnow.
Unless they are trapped in a landlocked lake, the fish spawn downstream in rivers and creeks in the vegetation on banks of the estuary regions during a spring tide in autumn. (Note: when the range – between high and low – of a tide is at its maximum it is know as a spring tide. This has nothing to do with the season.) The eggs stay on the banks out of the water until the next spring tide when they hatch and are swept out to sea. For about six months the larvae live in the sea and develop into juvenile fish, often referred to as whitebait.
When they are about 30 mm in length and 3–4 mm in width they swim up a river on the incoming tide until they reach a suitable habitat where they develop into the adult form.
They only live for about a year and usually die after spawning.
Freshwater Sawfish: Apart from the visually obvious, the Freshwater Sawfish is a really interesting FFT subject. It is actually a ray, having five pairs of gill-openings on the ventral surface of the head wh8ich is a feature of rays. It grows up to about 7 m in length and can live up to over 40 years of age.
In Australia it is listed as Vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
The Freshwater Sawfish can “potentially” occur in all large rivers of northern Australia from the Fitzroy River, Western Australia, to the western side of Cape York Peninsula, Queensland. It is mainly found in the main channels of large rivers.
It spends its first three–four years in freshwater growing to about half its adult size then moves to coastal and offshore waters up to 25m deep and up to 400km offshore.
They prefer the mud bottoms of river mouths and estuaries, but can be found occasionally well upstream. They are usually found in turbid channels of large rivers over soft mud bottoms.
The sawfish can’t see very well as they have undeveloped eyes due to their muddy habitat. The saw is the main sensory device. The saw is used to stun fish, such as mullet, and for digging out molluscs and small crustaceans from the mud. The saw is covered with pores which allow the sawfish to detect movement of prey hiding in the mud. The “teeth” of the saw are not real teeth, but modified tooth-like structures called denticles.
By Kylie Williams
Do you like your gadgets? Your car? Your stainless steel dishwasher? Do you recycle what you can and try to have shorter showers? Turn lights off when you’re not in the room?
Most of us have a green edge. Sure, we know that ‘if it isn’t grown it must be mined’ but we’d still like to see a more environmentally friendly industry to extract the resources that make our lives easier.
We’re working with industry to grow the sustainability and energy efficiency in the mining process.
In this video we take a tour of our award-winning ore sorting sensor. It’s a game-changer for the mining industry as it saves time, energy and water, and reduces carbon dioxide emissions. Here’s how…