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ICYMI: Science and technology updates from February 15 to February 21, 2021.

Pinoy-made nanosatellite Maya-2 successfully launched into space

On February 21, 2021 at 1:36 A.M. (PHT), the Philippines’ second cube satellite (CubeSat), Maya-2, was launched to the International Space Station (ISS). Maya-2 and two other nanosatellites (from Japan and Paraguay, respectively) left the planet via the S.S. Katherine Johnson Cynus spacecraft. This is the last step before Maya-2’s deployment to Low Earth Orbit, at a date that has yet to be announced. Similar to its now-decommissioned predecessor Maya-1, Maya-2 is a “technology demonstration and educational platform.” It has a camera for image and video capture, as well as other features for data collection. Read the full story.

NASA’s Perseverance rover lands safely on Mars, takes new images of Red Planet

After a 203-day, 293-million-mile (472-million-km) journey, NASA’s Perseverance rover has finally landed safely on Mars. This car-sized “robotic geologist and astrobiologist” is the largest and most advanced rover NASA has sent to a different planet. Over the next two years, it will investigate the Red Planet’s Jezero crater, while searching for signs of ancient life. Read the full story.

DNA extracted from 1.2-million-year-old Siberian mammoth teeth

The recent collection of preserved DNA from the remains of mammoths that lived 1.1 to 1.2 million years old has changed not just our knowledge of how long DNA can last, but also our understanding of how these prehistoric elephant relatives evolved. Aside from revealing that North American mammoths were the product of a hybridization event between two distinct mammoth groups found in Siberia, the findings also suggest that woolly mammoths didn’t actually develop thick coats as protection from the Ice Age’s harsh cold, as these were already present in earlier mammoth populations. Read the full story.

Elizabeth Ann the ferret is first successfully cloned endangered U.S. animal

For the first time, scientists have cloned an endangered native animal: Elizabeth Ann, a black-footed ferret that came from the frozen cells of an animal that lived more than three decades ago. As black-footed ferrets are among the most endangered species in North America (to the point that they were briefly thought to be extinct from 1979-1981), researchers hope that she can eventually help save her species from being wiped off the planet. Read the full story.

New coronavirus variant B.1.525 detected in U.S., U.K., and 11 other countries

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh confirmed that a new coronavirus variant, B.1.125, was detected in the U.K., U.S., Nigeria, and 10 other countries. B.1.125 contains a mutation in the virus’s spike protein called E484K that allows it to bind to and enter human cells. Though experts fear that this mutation may make current vaccines less effective against the variant, more studies are needed to say for sure. Read the full story.

Ancient tree yields 42,000-year-old clues to Earth’s mass extinction history

When Earth’s magnetic poles briefly reversed between 42,000 and 41,000 years ago, it may have led to a series of environmental crises that brought about a mass extinction. After applying carbon dating techniques to the rings of preserved kauri trees in New Zealand’s Ngawha swampland, researchers noted that this magnetic flip from thousands of years ago may have been the trigger for massive climate change and the subsequent extinction of certain species. This is said to be the first study to establish a direct link between large-scale environmental shifts and changes in Earth’s magnetic poles. Read the full story.

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