HAMNET Report 30 June 2019

The Sun is the largest source of energy in the solar system. This sphere of hot plasma occasionally sends out charged particles that can create havoc to electronics orbiting our planet, and are fatal for astronauts in space.

In order to get a closer look at such solar events, NASA has previously launched solar missions like ‘Parker’, designed to touch the star. The latest in line to map the Sun and its effects on space weather is ‘Punch,’ set to launch in August 2022.

PUNCH stands for the “Polarimeter to Unify the Corona and Heliosphere”. The aim of the mission will be to study the complex relationships between the Sun’s blistering outer layer, the corona, and the heliosphere, the Sun’s range of influence that extends up to Pluto. The mission will orbit very close to the Earth, only 350 miles up and will track and image solar wind leaving the Sun. The spacecraft is composed of four separate probes, each one no larger than a suitcase.

As the solar particles interact with Earth’s magnetic field, the impacted space weather can have a significant effect on radio communications and the Global Positioning System (GPS). With PUNCH, scientists hope to unravel these dynamics and also other solar weather events such as coronal mass ejections, which can find their way into the Earth’s path, hindering satellites and disrupting the power system.

According to NASA, PUNCH is a small mission, as per the space agency’s standards, not priced more than $165 million. One of the probes of the spacecraft will carry a narrow-field imager looking at the polarized light from the Sun. PUNCH will be the first mission with the sensitivity and polarization capability to routinely track solar wind in 3D.

NASA scientists believe that by studying this phenomenon, they will be able better to predict solar wind and prevent damage to technology and astronauts in space.

Along with PUNCH, NASA is also gearing up for a second mission “Tandem Reconnection and Cusp Electrodynamics Reconnaissance Satellites”, or TRACERS which will explore Earth’s northern magnetic cusp region and how it interacts with Sun’s magnetic fields.

Southgate Amateur Radio News reports that 14,300 people attended the Ham Radio 2019 event in Friedrichshafen, down from the 15,460 in 2018 and the 17,400 in 2009. A translation of the DARC post reads:

The 44th HAM RADIO event together with the 70th Lake Constance meeting ended on Sunday [June 23] with the conclusion of 14300 visitors. “That’s a very good value,” summarizes Petra Rathgeber of the exhibition project management. Anyway, this results in a generally positive picture of the weekend. We talked to many exhibitors, volunteers and visitors during the Sunday tour and consistently heard the statement “satisfied”.

The date for the 45th HAM RADIO and the 71st Lake Constance meeting has already been decided:  June 26-28, 2020, again at the Friedrichshafen Exhibition Centre. With that, Europe’s biggest amateur radio show returns to its traditional last weekend in June. We look forward to seeing you again on Lake Constance!

Reporting in Univadis Medical News, researchers say they have developed a new tool to monitor people for cardiac arrest contactlessly, by detecting agonal, or gasping, breathing using a smart speaker such as a smartphone or a device such as Amazon Alexa.

Using real-world audio of agonal breathing heard on emergency calls for cardiac arrests, researchers trained a support vector machine (SVM) to accurately classify agonal breathing instances. The researchers also trained the SVM to detect interfering sounds such as air conditioning as well as instances of abnormal breathing captured during sleep studies.

On average, the proof-of-concept tool detected agonal breathing events 97 per cent of the time over the phone from up to 6 metres away.

The team envisions the algorithm could function like an app, or a skill for Alexa that runs passively on a smart speaker or smartphone while people sleep. And they now plan to commercialise the tool.

Writing in npj Digital  Medicine, the authors said the increasing adoption of commodity smart speakers in private residences and hospital environments may provide a wide-reaching means to realise the potential of a contactless cardiac arrest detection system.

The website phys.org reports that scientists have finally found malaria’s Achilles’ heel, namely a neurotoxin that isn’t harmful to any living thing except Anopheles mosquitoes that spread malaria.

Progress fighting the disease is threatened, as Anopheles develop resistance to chemical insecticides used to control them. There is also great concern about toxic side effects of the chemicals.

An international team led by Sarjeet Gill, distinguished professor of molecular, cell and systems biology at UC Riverside, has identified a neurotoxin produced by a bacteria, and determined how it kills Anopheles. Their work is detailed in a paper published in Nature Communications.

“Identifying the mechanisms by which the bacteria targets Anopheles has not been easy,” Gill said. “We were excited not only to find the neurotoxin, called PMP1, but also several proteins that likely protect PMP1 as it’s being absorbed in the mosquito’s gut.

Clearly, the next problem is going to be finding a way to get the neurotoxin into every female Anopheles mosquito. Stand by with bated breath for the next episode in this developing story!

Another report from Keith Lowes, ZS5WFD, says that HAMNET KZN has been invited to a “Breakfast Session” being held on Monday 01 July 2019 to showcase the current technology and services provided by the Emergency Mobilising and Communication Centre, which is a 24/7 operation positioned within the Disaster Management Centre for eThekwini Municipality.

The Emergency Centre handles incoming calls and Despatch/Mobilisation in the various regions for the Fire Services, Metro Police unit and Disaster Management branch. Internal and external stakeholders have been invited to participate in this session that will involve presentations and a question and answer session.

HAMNET KZN will also have a display of Amateur Radio equipment in their dedicated radio room within the Disaster Management Operations Centre.

Thanks for that news, Keith, and good luck with the presentation.

This Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.