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Huge quantities of microplastics can be found in the twilight zone depths of the ocean, where sunlight does not penetrate, a new study conducted in Monterey Bay finds.
Why it matters: The research, published Thursday in Scientific Reports, indicates that microplastics — tiny plastic particles less than 5 millimeters across — are entering the deep sea and being consumed as part of the marine food web. It's thought that these particles may be harming ocean life, but the details on that are just emerging.
What they did: A team of researchers used remotely operated vehicles outfitted with specialized sampling devices to capture and analyze microplastics at various depths.
They also studied the presence of microplastics in two filter-feeding species: giant larvaceans and pelagic red crabs.
Scientists also analyzed the chemical composition of the microplastics.
What they found: The levels of microplastic pollution in the gastrointestinal systems of the creatures studied indicates that there is as much, if not greater, plastic pollution at some depths as there is in the well-known Great Pacific Garbage Patch, researchers tell Axios.
Surprisingly, they found about 4 times the concentrations of microplastic particles in the midwater range, from about 600 feet down to about 2,000 feet, compared to surface waters. “We may be missing the largest reservoir of microplastics in the ocean,” Choy said of studies to date that have focused mostly on the ocean surface.
What they're saying: Kyle S. Van Houtan, chief scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and a study co-author, tells Axios the study contains many concerning findings, but he is optimistic since much of the plastic in the deep sea can be reduced by phasing out single-use plastics on land.
“This is something we can make a big difference on by making changes in our lives," he says.
Image from the SPHERE instrument on ESO's Very Large Telescope shows the first clear image of a planet caught in the very act of formation around the dwarf star PDS 70. Image: ESO/A. Müller et al.
For the first time, scientists have caught sight of a ring of dust and debris around a planet as it forms, Axios’ Miriam Kramer reports.
Why it matters: The disk surrounding the planet — named PDS 70 b — is viewed as a sign that moons could form around it, which is estimated to be about 4–17 times more massive than Jupiter.
What they did: The scientists used the Very Large Telescope in Chile to stare at the planet and spot the disc surrounding it.
Background: Another planet — named PDS 70 c — was also spotted orbiting the star recently.
What’s next: By studying this solar system so far from our own, scientists will be able to piece together more about how planets, moons and stars form.
The World Health Organization said Thursday there are signs the numbers of confirmed Ebola cases and the outbreak's geographical footprint have lessened over the past couple of weeks in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly writes.
The other side: This is in sharp contrast to what other experts and organizations have been saying, with the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warning at a hearing that he anticipates the deadly virus will spread outside the DRC, and multiple international health officials calling for a "reset" in containment efforts.
Yes, but: Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO's health emergencies program, says, "This outbreak doesn't have a reset button. Unfortunately, we don't get choices like that. ... We get to learn and adapt [instead]."
By the numbers: Total cases since the outbreak started Aug. 1 breached 2,000 this week, and Ryan cautioned at Thursday's press briefing that the outbreak still could intensify — including a "worst case scenario" of lasting up to another 2 years — but he stressed there are now some "hopeful" changes in trajectories.
Between the lines: Jennifer Nuzzo of Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, tells Axios that despite the lower recent numbers, there's "cause for concern" due to the large number of cases that were not known disease contacts, violence targeting Ebola treatment centers, and fears of an upcoming shortage of the Ebola vaccine.
Go deeper: Follow Axios' Ebola coverage here.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
Endurance athletes have a set energy limit (Eileen Drage O'Reilly)
Scientists are concerned with Trump's fetal tissue ban (Caitlin Owens)
Big delays mean trouble for NASA's Artemis (Miriam Kramer)
Space companies fight for cash with rockets on the line (Miriam Kramer)
The 2020 campaigns aren't ready for deepfakes (Kaveh Waddell)
A beachgoer looks at a dead juvenile Gray Whale on Limantour Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore on May 25 in Point Reyes Station, California. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Edward O. Wilson: In Ecology Studies and Selfless Ants, He Finds Hope for the Future (Claudia Dreifus, Quanta)
Gray whale deaths could reach record levels this year; NOAA opens investigation (Elizabeth Weise, USA Today)
Can the Paris Climate Goals Save Lives? Yes, a Lot of Them, Researchers Say (Kendra Pierre-Louis, New York Times)
Redefining normal: Study shows mutations even in healthy tissues throughout the body (Brittany Flaherty, Stat News)
An image of the whole sky showing 22 months of X-ray data from NASA's Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer payload aboard the International Space Station during its nighttime slews between targets. Image: NASA/NICER
This image, which at first might strike you as a visualization of global flights or shipping traffic, is actually far more otherworldly.
In fact, this is a map of the entire sky in X-rays, as recorded by NASA's Neutron star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER), aboard the International Space Station.
Why it matters: NICER's imagery could one day result in a navigation system that would allow spacecraft to navigate autonomously using an X-ray-based map of the solar system.
Details: The map includes data from the first 22 months of NICER’s science operations. Each arc traces X-rays, as well as occasional strikes from energetic particles, captured after sunset.
Context: NICER mainly aims to measure the dense remains of stars, known as neutron stars, with extraordinary precision.
The monthly peak amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere in 2019 jumped by a near-record amount to reach 414.8 parts per million (ppm) in May, which is the highest level in human history and likely the highest level in the past 3 million years. (The post-1958 portion is known as the Keeling Curve, after Charles David Keeling, who began the observations.)
Why it matters: Carbon dioxide is the most important long-lived greenhouse gas, with a single molecule lasting in the air for hundreds to around 1,000 years. The buildup of carbon dioxide due to human activities, such as burning fossil fuels for energy, is driving global temperatures up and instigating harmful impacts worldwide.
Background: The highest monthly mean carbon dioxide value typically occurs in May, before plants take in large amounts of greenhouse gases during the Northern Hemisphere growing season.
Thanks so much for reading, and see you back here next week.