HAMNET Report 29th December 2019

For all you post-Christmas couch-potatoes out there, I have bad news for you. Writing in Medical X-press, the American Cancer Society provides fairly hard evidence that recommended levels of physical activity can lower your risk of 7 different types of cancer.

A pooled analysis of nine prospective studies involving more than 750 000 adults finds that recommended amounts of leisure-time physical activity were linked to a lower risk for seven cancers. The study was led by investigators at the National Cancer Institute, the American Cancer Society, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and appears in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

While it’s long been known that physical activity is associated with a lower risk of several cancers, less clear has been the shape of the relationship and whether recommended amounts of physical activity are associated with lower risk. Updated guidelines for activity now state that people should aim for 2.5 to 5 hours/week of moderate-intensity activity or 1.25 to 2.5 hours/week of vigorous activity.

The investigators found engaging in recommended amounts of activity was associated with a statistically significant lower risk of seven of the 15 cancer types studied, with the reduction increasing with more exercise hours. Physical activity was associated with a lower risk of colon cancer in men, breast cancer and  endometrial cancer in women, kidney cancer, myeloma, liver cancer, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (particularly in women).

The analysis had some limitations. However, the authors conclude: “These findings provide direct quantitative support for the levels of activity recommended for cancer prevention and provide actionable evidence for ongoing and future cancer prevention efforts.”

“Physical activity guidelines have largely been based on their impact on chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes,” said Alpa Patel, Ph.D., senior scientific director of epidemiology research at the American Cancer Society. “These data provide strong support that these recommended levels are important to cancer prevention, as well.”

So, folks, it’s time to put the remote down, put on your exercise outfit, and take your beloved dog out for a run. Both of you need it!

Phys.Org notes that sky watchers from Saudi Arabia and Oman to India and Singapore were treated to a rare “ring of fire” solar eclipse on Thursday (Boxing Day).

Annular eclipses occur when the Moon is not close enough to the Earth to completely obscure the Sun, leaving a thin ring of the solar disc visible.

While these types of eclipses occur every year or two, they are only visible from a narrow band of Earth each time and it can be decades before the same pattern is repeated.

Depending on weather conditions, this year’s astronomical phenomenon was set to be visible from the Middle East across southern India and Southeast Asia before ending over the northern Pacific.

Hundreds of amateur astronomers and photographers set up by Singapore’s harbour for what some described as a “once in a lifetime” event.

“The next one will happen in about 40 years I think,” said Jason Teng, 37, who took the day off work to photograph the eclipse.

In southern India, people gathered on the beaches in Tamil Nadu to watch the event.

The eclipse even affected cricket, with play delayed by two hours in a first-class match between Mumbai and Rajkot.

The eastern state of Odisha declared a public holiday, with all government offices, courts, schools and colleges closed.

The next annular eclipse in June 2020 will be visible to a narrow band from Africa to northern Asia, and the following one in June 2021 will only be seen in the Arctic and parts of Canada, Greenland and the remote far-east of Russia.

Writing in Science News, Christopher Crockett reports that a new satellite devoted to gazing at planets orbiting other stars has just launched into space.

At 3:54 a.m. Eastern time on December 18, the European Space Agency’s CHEOPS satellite lifted off from Kourou, French Guiana. CHEOPS — an abbreviation of “Characterizing Exoplanet Satellite” — is the first ESA-led mission dedicated solely to the study of planets outside the solar system. The launch was originally scheduled for December 17 but was called off shortly before take-off due to a glitch with the rocket.

Unlike many other exoplanet missions, CHEOPS is not setting out to look for new planets. Rather, it will gather data on exoplanets already found, helping researchers figure out how these worlds were built.

While orbiting Earth, CHEOPS will spend 3½ years looking beyond our solar system for exoplanetary transits: subtle dips in starlight that occur when a planet crosses in front of its sun. The bigger the planet, the more starlight it blocks. By measuring how much the star darkens, researchers will be able to deduce the planet’s girth.

The focus will be to measure precisely the sizes of roughly 500 planets orbiting relatively bright stars. By combining the sizes with measurements of mass — obtained by ground-based telescopes that record how fast a host star gets whipped around by a planet’s gravity — astronomers will be able to calculate each planet’s density, a key metric for figuring out what these planets are made of. Astronomers will also look for hints of atmospheres by tracking how quickly the starlight dims just before and after a transit.

And there’s always the chance that some unexpected planets will wander in front of their stars while CHEOPS is watching.

Transit-hunting is the same technique used by the now-defunct Kepler spacecraft, and the ongoing TESS mission, though CHEOPS has the advantage of knowing exactly when to look for a transit. While the worlds found by Kepler orbit stars that are too faint for CHEOPS to follow up, many planets discovered by TESS are just right, and the two teams are partnering up.

Finally, this is the season to be merry, but it is also the season to do silly things, and so the pleasure resorts, safe bathing beaches, hiking routes, and mountains to be climbed are full to overflowing with holidaymakers. Most of the people holidaying don’t know the areas they are in very well, and accidents abound, waiting to happen. The country is full of volunteer rescuers, from lifeguards, to search and rescue teams, to sea rescue institute crews, as well as all the governmental agencies, who are rushed off their feet at this time of year, saving people from themselves.

HAMNET heartily encourages you, Mr Man or Woman-in-the-street, to volunteer your help in responding to local needs, becoming part of the solution, and not part of the problem. And if you can’t find a cause to support, create one yourself, by cleaning out the local vlei, or trimming vegetation along your road that obstructs vision, or making contact with your local animal rescue agency, and offering to walk the dogs, or brush the cats, or asking at your local supermarket for scrap cardboard or newsprint which can be used to line the kennels of the sick animals. Above all, have a meaningful and productive 2020.

From all of us in HAMNET, this is Dave Reece ZS1DFR wishing you a happy and healthy New Year.

HAMNET Report 22nd December 2019

We start with two rather dramatic HAMNET reports from HAMNET Gauteng South, and via Anette Jacobs, ZR6D. She tells me that, at 18:12 on the evening of 13th December 2019, a call went out on the HAMNET Gauteng South Emergency Telegram group that Deon ZS6DAB had been shot close to the East Rand Branch highsite in Brakpan. Deon ZS6DAB, Leon ZS6LMG and Neil ZS6CKC had been working at the highsite sorting out a problem with the repeater. Deon having left the high site on his way home was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and landed in the middle of a cash-in-transit heist on Springs Road, close to the intersection with Ergo Road. Deon managed to turn his car around to escape, but one of the robbers managed to empty an AK-47 magazine in Deon’s direction. Deon realised that he had been shot and managed to drive back to the ERB highsite where Leon ZS6LMG and Neil ZS6CKC were still closing up the site. Leon and Neil immediately rushed Deon to the closest hospital with shrapnel in his lower back.

A number of the HAMNET Gauteng South members assisted on scene to close off the roads for the SAPS and preserve the scene. Some members who had been trained in helicopter operations assisted with preparing a landing zone for a Netcare helicopter to land and to airlift another unfortunate person also at the wrong place at the wrong time with a bullet in the chest to the Union Hospital in Alberton.

We are pleased to be able to report that Deon is now making a full recovery at home and that the other victim of this senseless crime is also expected to make a full recovery.

Thanks to the HAMNET members, who through their training were able to respond fast and effectively and prevented the loss of lives with this incident.

Deon, we sincerely hope you are already in a good state of health.

In the other report received on Friday, I read that, at around 16:00 on 16th December a report was received that there were two boys in difficulty in the Blesbok Spruit on the outskirts of Springs. Three HAMNET members Neels ZS6NR, Diederich ZS6DVL and Theo ZS6JFW, who is also qualified as a Basic Ambulance Assistant, responded.  They assisted the SAPS getting ropes ready while waiting for the SAPS Dive Unit to arrive. The SAPS Dive Unit succeeded in rescuing the two young men who were holding onto the reeds to keep them being swept away by the current. They could however not find a third missing person. HAMNET also assisted in contacting Chaplains to provide counselling to the friends who were also present at the scene. The search was called off due to fading light and continued the next morning where Neels ZS6NR and Leon ZS6LMG assisted the SAPS divers by providing them with waterproof radios to use on the water. A K9 dog quickly identified the spot where the divers recovered the body of the missing swimmer. Thanks to the Hamnet members who assisted with this incident and our condolences go out to the family and friends of the drowned swimmer.

Certainly high drama in HAMNET Gauteng South! Thanks for the reports, Anette.

And while the Overberg area in the Western Cape seems finally to have gained control of the huge bushfire, which  started in the Greyton Nature Reserve last weekend, Australia continues to fight equivalent fires, but in temperatures which have been quoted to break national records for two days in a row. The Bureau of Meteorology released figures there on Friday showing the hottest day recorded from 700 weather stations across the country being Wednesday, at 41.9C, up from the previous day’s record of 40.9C. Now remember to get an average of 41.9, you need some stations measuring higher than that, say 45 or 46, and others lower than that, say 37 or 38, to get your average of nearly 42, for the whole country! Astonishing stuff!

Here’s good news from the world of Ebola. The first Ebola vaccine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is a single-dose injection called Ervebo. The vaccine from Merck & Co. is approved to protect against the Zaire ebolavirus in people ages 18 years and older.

In the United States, Ebola infections are rare. Confirmed cases have involved people in other countries who became infected and then travelled to the United States or health care workers who were infected while treating Ebola patients, according to the FDA.

“While the risk of Ebola virus disease in the U.S. remains low, the U.S. government remains deeply committed to fighting devastating Ebola outbreaks in Africa, including the current outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Anna Abram, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for policy, legislation, and international affairs, said in a statement. “Today’s approval is an important step in our continuing efforts to fight Ebola in close coordination with our partners across the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, as well as our international partners, such as the World Health Organization.”

The world’s second-largest Ebola outbreak is ongoing in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The largest outbreak occurred from 2014 to 2016 in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. More than 28,000 people were infected and more than 11,000 died. The FDA said Ervebo’s approval is supported by a study done in Guinea during that outbreak, as well as studies in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Canada, Spain, and the United States. Ervebo was shown to be highly effective in preventing infection in people exposed to the virus there. Thanks to Medical Xpress for this report.

Writing on the IARU-Region 1 website, Monty OE3VVU, and Lisa PA2LS, tell us that last week, 12-15 December, Winter YOTA with the theme “Let’s go PA” took place. The 4th sub-regional Youngsters On The Air event of 2019. 35 Youngsters from 10 different countries took part in the event, held in Oosterhout, The Netherlands. In 3 days, the youngsters learned a lot about the amateur radio hobby. Many of them discovered new things to delve into, like satellite communications. Many had the opportunity to have their first QSO’s on HF, VHF or via QO-100 using the special event callsign PA6YOTA. This week was also about learning activities and skills which the youngsters can take home to their countries and use to get more youngsters fascinated by the hobby. Combining amateur radio with fun activities with like-minded youngsters is the key to spreading the hobby amongst young people.

And on that encouraging note, may I take this opportunity on behalf of all of HAMNET, to wish you all a happy and safe holiday. This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 15th December 2019

Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, of Gift of the Givers, writing in the Maverick Citizen, says that they are receiving cries of desperation, long early-morning queues, and frantic calls from communities in the Eastern Cape. Communities are at a loss what to do as dam after dam, river after river and borehole after borehole shuts down. Added to that comes load shedding.

Small town economies dependent on festive season tourists are at their wits’ end as water is simply not available to service paying guests. This challenging scenario is about to become a nightmare as thousands of economically active citizens return home to the Eastern Cape in the coming holidays. Water demands are going to increase exponentially, amplifying the expanding crisis.

Gift of the Givers’ rapid response teams are battling to keep up with the demands. Frantically drilling more boreholes, adding a third water tanker (Isuzu gave them three water tankers and three bakkies), more tankers from AECI are expected, increasing the number of JoJo tanks to store water overnight (JoJo Tank company gave them 200 JoJo tanks), more pumps to be installed in the coming days in Adelaide, Bedford, Graaff-Reinet and Middelburg as all their lab tests for water come back “suitable for consumption”. Butterworth, Queenstown, Bolotwa, Cala, Willowvale are all crying out for immediate intervention. Government funding is no more a priority; it is way beyond the urgency and emergency phase.

Water is not the only requirement. There is a huge need for fodder, and food parcels for farm workers and farmers. Communities have banded together to produce woollen and ceramic items, bake cookies and distribute to markets nationwide. There is an intense urgency, a heart-rending desperation that needs collective united action to save both the Northern and Eastern Cape and their agricultural, labour-intensive economy.

As HAMNET readers, please attempt to assist where you can.

And while the Eastern Cape is getting no rain, KZN is getting too much!

Reporting in IOL on Wednesday the 11th, Mercury Reporters said that Disaster Management Teams have been placed on standby in the wake of yet another alert of heavy rains scheduled for KwaZulu-Natal this week.

The South African Weather Service has issued a warning of heavy rains that can lead to localised flooding and reduced visibility over parts of Ilembe and the northern parts of eThekwini on Wednesday.

Acting KZN Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC, Peggy Nkonyeni, has urged residents to be cautious as inclement weather conditions continue to pose a serious threat.

“We have placed our teams on alert and they are monitoring areas and routes that are prone to localised flooding so that they can provide adequate support to residents,” said Nkonyeni.

The department is appealing to residents who reside in low lying areas to exercise caution as the risk of localised flooding is real. So far no incidents have been reported as a result of the continuing heavy rains.

The South African Weather Service said there is a 60% chance of rain in the early morning and afternoon for much of the week.

ReliefWeb says that the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster (ETC), led by the World Food Programme (WFP), carried out swift assessments in Cyclone Idai’s wake this year, and set up communications services for humanitarians and looked for ways to enable the affected population to access information. Amid the devastation caused by Cyclone Idai, the cruciality of radio in daily Mozambican life was evident and the ETC identified six community stations needing urgent rehabilitation. Now, with new communications towers, antennas and electronic equipment initiated by the ETC, community radio transmissions are active again.

In Mozambique, community radio stations play an essential role as amplifiers of public service information and they are also instrumental in reaching the most vulnerable groups including women, children and people with disabilities.

Radio messages can be broadcast about how to prepare for future cyclones, alert the population of an impending storm, spread knowledge about how to avoid cholera and malaria in the aftermath of a cyclone, and be used to locate loved ones.

The quick response of the ETC is to be applauded.

Southgate Amateur Radio News advises you musical amateurs to look for German special event station, DL250BTHVN, to be active between December 16th, 2019 and December 17th, 2020.

This monster call sign celebrates the Beethoven anniversary year and will take place under the auspices of the German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The aims of this anniversary are to convey Beethoven’s work, to strengthen and promote innovative projects, and to increase Bonn’s reputation as a Beethoven city. Ludwig van Beethoven was born in December 1770 in Bonn and lived there for the first 22 years.

Actually, thinking about it, I realise that he was the instigator of the whole Morse code thing with his letter V – dit dit dit dah. Perhaps the entire Morse alphabet is buried in his 5th Symphony, and we don’t have Samuel Morse to thank, after all!

Now for the Anti-Vaxxers in our midst, you’ll be concerned to hear that health authorities have sounded a warning over rising numbers of measles cases, with new data showing more than 140,000 people died from measles in 2018.

New estimates published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) this week show that in 2018, there were 9,769,400 estimated measles cases and 142,300 related deaths around the world that year, up from 7,585,900 estimated cases and 124,000 estimated deaths in 2017.

The data show Sub-Saharan Africa, where many children have persistently missed out on vaccination, was the region worst affected. The most affected countries were Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia, Madagascar, Somalia and Ukraine, which together accounted for almost half of all measles cases worldwide. The United States also reported its highest number of cases in 25 years. Four countries in Europe – Albania, Czechia, Greece and the United Kingdom – lost their measles elimination status in 2018 following protracted outbreaks of the disease.

“This latest data show that we are unfortunately backsliding in our progress against an easily-preventable disease: measles,” said Kathy Calvin, President and CEO of the United Nations Foundation. “But we can turn the tide against these outbreaks through collective action.”

“Ah”, I hear you say, “The asserted but untrue risk of autism from measles vaccine is far worse than the risk of dying from measles!”

Thank you to Univadis Medical News for those statistics.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 8th December 2019

Climate-fuelled disasters are forcing 20 million people to flee their homes each year, which is equivalent to one person every two seconds, a new report finds. The analysis found that floods, cyclones and wildfires are more likely to displace humans when compared to geophysical disasters or conflict.

While no one is immune to a changing world, the report discovered it is poor countries that are most at risk – even though they contribute the least amount to global carbon pollution.

The shocking report was released on Monday by Oxfam International, a charitable organization that focuses on the alleviation of global poverty.

The document, called ‘Forced from Home’, highlights statistics of climate related weather disasters that are pushing people out of their homes, which have increased five-fold over the last decade.

The group is now calling for ‘more urgent and ambitious emissions reductions to minimize the impact of the crisis on people’s lives, and the establishment of a new ‘Loss and Damage’ finance facility to help communities recover and rebuild.’

The report notes that people are seven times more likely to be displaced by cyclones, floods and wildfires than they are by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and three times more likely than by conflict.

Approximately 95 percent of people were forced to move due to tropical cyclones and storms from 2008 through 2018.  While no one is immune, people in poor countries are most at risk, the report warns,

‘People in low and lower-middle income countries such as India, Nigeria and Bolivia are over four times more likely to be displaced by extreme weather disasters than people in rich countries such as the United States,’ reads the document.

Chema Vera, Acting Executive Director of Oxfam International said:

‘Our governments are fuelling a crisis that is driving millions of women, men and children from their homes and the poorest people in the poorest countries are paying the heaviest price.’

The report notes that wealthy countries are burdening the poor ones with the cost of these disasters. The Oxfam analysis shows that economic losses from extreme weather disasters over the last decade were, on average, equivalent to two percent of affected countries’ national income.

Thank you to MailOnLine for this excerpt from their report.

Since Tuesday of this week, the Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) has been reporting daily on the progress of Tropical Cyclone Kammuri-19 from East to West across the central parts of the Philippines. Wind speeds of 120 kph were expected to affect 4.7 million people, since the path of the cyclone was more predictable.

Greg Mossop G0DUB reported that he had been informed on Tuesday by Dani YB2TJV that the frequencies of 7090, 7095 and 7110 kHz were being used for emergency communications there. Dani requested all regions to be aware of these uses, and please to steer clear of the frequencies.

By Friday, Dani had informed Greg that Kammuri had crossed the Philippines, leaving behind severe flooding in the northernmost parts of Luzon (call area DU2), and that only 7095 kHz was being monitored by the HERO Net. Presumably, reports of damage and destruction will start coming in over this weekend.

Upon the request of the African Telecommunications Union (ATU), the IARU tasked Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ and Leon Lessing ZS6LMG to attend the African Telecoms/ ICT Day 2019 commemorative workshop in Maputo, Mozambique from 5 to 7 December 2019.

The theme of the workshop was “Using Technology to Save Lives: Emergency Communications for Disaster Risk Reductions and Management”.

The aim of the workshop was to identify ways technology can be used to mitigate future disasters like Cyclone Idai and Kenneth,  that struck Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi earlier in the year. Some of these countries were without communications of any sort for up to 10 days, which is a major catastrophe.

Brian and Leon provided two presentations at the workshop that were prepared under the leadership of Don Beattie G3BJ the IARU Region 1 President and Hans Welens-Vrijdaghs ON6WQ the Region 1 STARS Working Group Chairman.

The first presentation presented by Brian discussed what amateur radio is, the role and value of amateur radio in an emergency, and where all other communications systems have failed.

This presentation was so well received, that the Mozambiquan regulator overnight initiated contact with the Mozambique Amateur Radio Society that had stopped functioning, and will now assist them to get on their feet again and to be in a position to assist the Republic of Mozambique with emergency communications.

Leon introduced the IARU STARS program to assist the ATU member states in re-initiating amateur radio or establishing amateur radio within their respective countries. Again this was very well received and after this presentation the Ugandan delegation requested information about their member society so that they could make contact with them and ensure that amateur radio takes its rightful place in the Ugandan emergency communications plans.

The Member of Parliament leading the delegation from Sierre Leone also requested information about their amateur radio society as they saw the value that amateur radio offers the country in times of emergency.

The workshop resulted in a strategy document with definite goals, outcomes and time lines for the ATU and Member States to develop cooperative and harmonised communications solutions encompassing all forms of telecommunications across all the African Regions.

These include the following technical areas:

  • Disaster and emergency telecommunications capacity and strengthening.
  • Radio Spectrum Management (emergency/universal) frequency harmonisation for Public Protection Disaster Response (PPDR), including free of cost allocation for the foregoing.
  • Regional equipment type specification and approval and licensing.
  • Cross-border customs and immigration arrangements and protocols for disaster personnel and emergency equipment.
  • A Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).
  • Regional Early Warning Systems (EWS).
  • A National Emergency Telecommunications Plan (NETP).
  • The Tampere Convention, including ATU Member States ratification, and the application of the relevant parts of the agreement.

The contribution from the IARU/SARL/HAMNET team was very well received and gave the ATU Member States a new positive perspective on amateur radio and their role in emergency communications/ ICT.

Thanks Brian for this comprehensive report.

Finally, here is an advance warning of Tropical Cyclone BELNA-19, tracking South West down the Western shores of Madagascar, and due to hit land tomorrow (Monday). If you hear any emergency traffic on 40 or 80, please respond if appropriate, or keep the frequencies clear. Thanks very much.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.

HAMNET Report 1st December 2019


Let me start the bulletin this week, by congratulating Grant Southey ZS1GS on his recent appointment as temporary National Director of HAMNET, after the retirement by Glynn Chamberlain due to pressure of work. Grant is a worthy successor to Glynn, and we hope he fits in so well, that his appointment becomes permanent.

At the same time, may I welcome Michael Taylor ZS1MJT as newly appointed Regional Director for HAMNET in the Western Cape? Michael comes with a lot of experience in organizational skills, particularly in motor sports events, and also a very practical approach to all situations. His skills in “making a plan” are phenomenal, so we trust he will guide HAMNET WCP to greater heights, as we respond to the requests for assistance in the Western Cape.

Now for some bad news. I’m sorry to have to tell you that Lewis, the Koala, badly burned in an Australian bush fire, did not recover from his burns. He had been taken to an animal hospital last week after a woman plucked him from a tree in burning bushland in New South Wales.

Video of the rescue, which shows Toni Doherty using her shirt to wrap up the koala, was viewed globally. Vets said the marsupial was sadly put down because his burns were not improving.

“[Our] number one goal is animal welfare, so it was on those grounds that this decision was made,” said Port Macquarie Koala Hospital.

The 14-year-old Koala had significant burns to its chest, feet and other parts of its body, vets said.

The hospital has treated dozens of koalas injured from the bushfires which have burnt through more than a million hectares in New South Wales alone.

Our respects go to Lewis, and to the vets who tried their best to save him.

The Global Disaster Alert and Coordination System (GDACS) has reported a red alert for a Tropical Cyclone, named KAMMURI-19, about 2 days due East of the central parts of the Philippines, expected to hit the East Coast at about 02h00 our time on Tuesday. There is a fairly wide range of uncertainty over precisely where it will hit the mainland, but some 28 million people are within that trajectory of the 120 kph wind zone. The path calls for it to cross directly from East to West across the Central parts of the country, hopefully losing strength as it crosses the land.

Please be mindful of emergency comms traffic on 20, 40 and 80 metres, if you are working these frequencies.

ScienceNews reports that Ultima Thule is no more. The remote solar system body visited in January by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft now has a proper name: Arrokoth.

The word means “sky” in the language of the Powhatan people, a Native American tribe indigenous to Maryland. The state is home to New Horizons mission control at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel.

NASA announced the name change on November 12, with the consent of Powhatan tribal elders and the International Astronomical Union, the organization of astronomers who, in part, oversee celestial naming conventions.

Arrokoth (pronounced AR-uh-koth), a flattened two-lobed body in the Kuiper Belt of icy worlds beyond Neptune, has been through a couple of names already. Up until now, its official designation had been 2014 MU69. In March 2018, the team landed on the nickname Ultima Thule, a Latin phrase that signifies a place beyond the known world.

“[Ultima Thule] was, as we said, always a placeholder we would discard once we did the flyby,” Stern says. The New Horizons spacecraft — originally sent to check out Pluto and its retinue of moons — is still transmitting data from its January 1 flyby of Arrokoth and will continue to do so for at least another year, Stern says. By then, the team will have begun hunting for a possible third target, a search they can’t start until Earth gets to the other side of the sun next summer and New Horizons once again becomes visible at night to telescopes.

ScienceNews also notes that, for the first time, a chemical potentially responsible for widespread vaping-related lung injuries and deaths in the United States has been found in lung fluid from patients.

Researchers detected vitamin E acetate, widely used as a dietary supplement, in every sample of lung fluid collected from 29 patients suffering from the severe illness, health officials announced in a news briefing and a report. Vitamin E acetate is also an ingredient in some skin care products but could be toxic when inhaled.

“We are in a better place than we were two weeks ago, in terms of having one very strong culprit of concern,” said Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. “We still have more to learn.”

CDC researchers obtained broncho-alveolar lavage fluid, a sample that contains fluid from the lining of the lungs, from health care workers caring for patients with the injuries, called e-cigarette or vaping-associated lung injury, or EVALI. Twenty-nine patients from 10 states provided the specimens. Vitamin E acetate was the only chemical detected in all of the fluid samples, CDC researchers reported online November 8 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Vitamin E acetate was previously identified by health officials in some vaping products used by patients

Vitamin E acetate is used as a diluting and thickening ingredient in vaping products that contain tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. Most EVALI patients have reported using vaping products containing THC; some also used nicotine-containing products. Although vitamin E acetate is considered safe when used in skin creams and as a dietary supplement, research indicates that it could be harmful when inhaled.

The researchers also tested for, but did not detect, other chemical additives that are used as diluting ingredients, such as plant and mineral oils.

Schuchat called the findings a “breakthrough,” but said that more work needs to be done to understand how vitamin E acetate is harming the lungs. And it’s still possible that more than one ingredient could be responsible, she said.

By the 5th November, 2,051 patients with EVALI had been reported in all states except Alaska, and 39 people had died.

Thanks to ScienceNews for these reports.

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.