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Stars’ ‘DNA’ could help scientists find Sun’s lost siblings

Unfortunately, astronomers cannot collect the DNA of a star with a mouth swab but instead use the starlight, with a technique called spectroscopy

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Countless galaxies exist in the universe, each hiding secrets that humankind is yet to unearth. Pixabay
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With the aim to find the lost siblings of the Sun, now scattered across the sky, a team of astronomers has collected the “DNA” of more than 340,000 stars in the Milky Way.

The “DNA” can help trace the ancestry of stars, showing astronomers how the universe went from having only hydrogen and helium — just after the Big Bang — to being filled today with all the elements we have here on Earth that are necessary for life.

Little Cub galaxy
Scientists to find sun’s lost siblings. Wikimedia Commons

The research, detailed in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is based on the Galactic Archaeology survey, called GALAH, launched in late 2013 as part of a quest to uncover the formulation and evolution of galaxies. When complete, GALAH will investigate more than a million stars.

The GALAH survey used the HERMES spectrograph at the Australian Astronomical Observatory’s (AAO) 3.9-metre Anglo-Australian Telescope near Coonabarabran in New South Wales to collect spectra for the 340,000 stars. “No other survey has been able to measure as many elements for as many stars as GALAH,” said Gayandhi De Silva of the University of Sydney and AAO.

Also Read: Next Planet-Hunting Mission Of NASA Postponed

“This data will enable such discoveries as the original star clusters of the Galaxy, including the Sun’s birth cluster and solar siblings — there is no other dataset like this ever collected anywhere else in the world,” De Silva said.

The Sun, like all stars, was born in a group or cluster of thousands of stars, explained Sarah Martell from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney who leads the GALAH survey observations. “Every star in that cluster will have the same chemical composition, or DNA – these clusters are quickly pulled apart by our Milky Way Galaxy and are now scattered across the sky,” Martell said.

Black hole in milky way
Scientists are collecting DNA of stars. VOA

“The GALAH team’s aim is to make DNA matches between stars to find their long-lost sisters and brothers,” she added. For each star, this DNA is the amount they contain of each of nearly two dozen chemical elements such as oxygen, aluminium and iron.

Unfortunately, astronomers cannot collect the DNA of a star with a mouth swab but instead use the starlight, with a technique called spectroscopy. The light from the star is collected by the telescope and then passed through an instrument called a spectrograph, which splits the light into detailed rainbows, or spectra. IANS

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Novel Synthetic DNA Vaccines Safe To Use Against Ebola: Scientists

While there are no licensed treatments available for Ebola virus disease yet, multiple experimental therapies are being developed.

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Ebola, UNICEF. congo, DNA
A Congolese health worker administers Ebola vaccine to a woman who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have found that the novel synthetic DNA vaccine is safe against Ebola virus and offers a long-term alternative to traditional vaccines.

The team, from The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, US, optimised a shorter, dose-sparing, immunisation regimen and simplified vaccine that can be directly administered into the skin. They targeted a virus surface protein called glycoprotein.

This new approach induced rapid and protective immunity from virus challenges.

Importantly, the approach showed strong immune responses one year after the last dose, supporting the long-term immunogenicity of the vaccine — a particularly challenging area for Ebola vaccines.

Ebola, UNICEF. congo, DNA
A boy runs past a dispenser containing water mixed with disinfectant, east of Mbandaka, DRC. VOA

“Synthetic non-viral based DNA technology allows for rapid vaccine development by delivery directly into the skin, resulting in consistent, potent and rapid immunity compared to traditional vaccine approaches,” said lead researcher David B. Weiner, Director of Wistar’s Vaccine and Immunotherapy Center.

“An anti-Ebola virus DNA vaccine like this may provide an important new tool for protection, and we are excited to see what future studies will unveil,” he added.

In the study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the team detected antibody levels were equal or higher to those reported for other vaccines currently being evaluated in the clinic.

“The success of intradermal delivery of a low-dose regimen is very encouraging,” said Ami Patel, Ph.D., associate staff scientist in the Weiner Lab. “The ultimate goal of our work is to create effective and safe vaccines that are optimised for field use in at-risk areas.”

Ebola, UNICEF. congo, DNA
Photo taken Sept 9, 2018, shows health workers walking with a boy suspected of having the Ebola virus at an Ebola treatment centre in Beni, Eastern Congo. VOA

Ebola virus disease is a serious and often fatal illness that can cause fever, headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhoea, vomiting, stomach pain and haemorrhage (severe bleeding).

First discovered in humans in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the largest outbreak occurred in West Africa from 2014 to 2016, which claimed more than 11,000 lives, according to the World Health Organization.

Also Read: Ebola Increases The Number of Orphans in DRC: UNICEF

The death rate is about 50 per cent and the virus is spread by contact with contaminated body fluids, including blood and semen.

While there are no licensed treatments available for Ebola virus disease yet, multiple experimental therapies are being developed. (IANS)