The Northern Territory’s space industry: Ready for take-off or pie in the sky?

Less than three months ago, the Australian Space Agency was launched, bringing the nation up to speed with almost every other developed country.

A key piece of legislation governing space activities has also been overhauled, to better accommodate the private sector companies that now make up 76 per cent of the global industry.

At the same time, the Northern Territory Government is working to facilitate space industry businesses, with one company in the process of building the nation’s first launch site in Arnhem Land.

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Aboriginal traditions describe the complex motions of planets, the ‘wandering stars’ of the sky

The five planets we can see by naked eye were known to the ancient Greeks as “asteres planetai”, meaning “wandering stars”, due to their wandering journey across the sky relative to the fixed stars. This is where we get the word “planet”. But knowledge of the planets and their movements goes back much further, being prominent in the traditions of the oldest continuing cultures in the world.

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Five things to consider about glitter this Christmas

Claire Gwinnett, Staffordshire University

Does glitter bring to mind the prospect of shiny, sparkly, Christmassy, harmless fun? I’m afraid it is a bit more complicated than that. The popularity of glitter and the sheer volume used at Christmas presents us with a growing problem. Here are five reasons to rethink your glitter habit.

1. All that glitters is … plastic

Millions of items are adorned with glitter, from baubles to wrapping paper. Christmas is not Christmas without sparkly accessories and flamboyant decorations, but is it really? Modern glitter originated in 1934, when an American farmer named Henry Ruschmann created a way of cutting mylar and plastic sheets into tiny shapes. He formed Meadowbrook Inventions, which today is still one of the main global suppliers of glitter.

The majority of commercial products that contain glitter, whether these are single use items, such as Christmas cards, or more permanent items such as Christmas tree decorations, use inorganic glitter – chiefly plastics such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and also polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Glitter is usually layered with other materials, such as aluminium to provide extra sparkle. Underneath the microscope, it is possible to see the huge variation of glitter shapes and sizes: hexagons, squares, rectangles and even hearts and stars ranging from 6.25mm to a truly tiny 0.05mm.

2. Glitter is not fabulous (for marine life)

Most people now understand that microplastics, such as fibres from clothes or microbeads in facial scrubs, are dangerous to sea life. Glitter is a microplastic too, classed as a primary type of microplastic as the particles are less than 5mm in size and have been purposely manufactured to be of microscopic size.

Glitter can enter seas and oceans from rivers, via wastewater from our homes and via run-off from landfill sites. Although many microplastics are removed at wastewater treatment plants, a huge amount of microplastics still find their way through to the oceans. The size of these particles means they are easily consumed by small marine organisms, who cannot discriminate between particles of food and plastic.

Microplastic particles attract inorganic and organic chemicals to adhere to them, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s, which have been banned since 1979) and toxic heavy metals. A big risk to wildlife comes from the bioaccumulation of these toxins in the food chain – as recently highlighted in the final episode of the BBC’s Blue Planet II television programme on Earth’s oceans, which showed how young dolphins have been found dead, possibly killed by toxins accumulated in their mother’s milk.

Microplastics are a menace to the planet’s ocean life.
oregonstateuniversity, CC BY-SA

3. Glitter is not just for Christmas

Microplastics break down under UV light which changes the structure of the plastic, by the mechanical action of water and by microbes. Some plastics such as PVC contain plasticisers, which can extend the degradation time of plastic. Given that plastics already may take hundreds, possibly even thousands of years to decompose, this is a concern. Glitter, like any other plastic, will degrade in the marine environment into further smaller pieces, called secondary sources of microplastic, but while it may grace your Christmas card only for a few weeks, it will hang around for much longer.

4. Glitter is hard to dispose of

Knowing the problems posed by glitter, you may be wondering what now to do with it all. This is a difficult question to answer, as whichever way you dispose of it there is a chance it will end up in the oceans. Most importantly, do not wash glitter down the sink. Instead, try reusing the glitter (or item adorned with it) for a future festive project. This still does not eliminate the risk, merely potentially prolonging the moment it enters the ocean. So what to do?

Where possible try not to buy cards or paper that features glitter, or make-up containing glitter particles. Nurseries in Dorset have already banned the use of glitter – could you do without it too? Ultimately, the only way to prevent this type of plastic adding to the global microplastic problem is to get rid of it completely, and opt for an eco-friendly alternative.

Google Trends data shows growing interest in searches for ‘biodegradable glitter’.
Google

5. There are guilt-free glitter alternatives

In line with the 2017 ban on microbeads in toiletries, there have recently been calls to ban glitter.. This has been met with some resistance and accusations that this represents scientists “wanting to take the sparkle out of life”. But we don’t have to go all the way from bling to bland.

Just as manufacturers of facial scrubs are looking at using natural exfoliating materials, such as apricot or walnut husks, glitter manufacturers have now started producing biodegradable glitter, available from many online stores (such as Glitterevolution and Ecoglitterfun). Biodegradable glitter is made from the cellulose of plants, such as the eucalyptus tree, grown on land unsuitable for food crops using sustainable forestry initiatives that require little water. On top of that, it is also compostable – truly an eco-glitter.

The ConversationEven the company where modern glitter was born is getting environmentally friendly: Meadowbrook Inventions also now supplies biodegradable glitter, which means that with such a major supplier on board, there is hope for sparkly yet environmentally friendly Christmases in the future.

Claire Gwinnett, Associate Professor in Forensic and Crime Science, Staffordshire University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Gold, water and platinum: Australians lead the way towards asteroid mining boom

Australia will have asteroid mining before we have people living on Mars, according to leading Australian scientists.

And Australian National University astrophysicist Brad Tucker says the incentive is simple.

“You know why? Because there is money involved.”

Based at Mount Stromlo Observatory, Dr Tucker is part of a national research team developing a model for future Australian mining operation on asteroids.

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NLC Grant Lease for Rocket Launch Facility

AUSTRALIA’S first civilian spaceport is another step closer with Northern Territory traditional owners preparing to lease land to a company that wants to blast off small rockets.

The Northern Land Council has granted a 275ha lease in northeast Arnhem Land to the Gumatj clan for use as a commercial rocket launching facility. That’ll pave the way for Gumatj Aboriginal Corporation to sublease the site to Equatorial Launch Australia, a firm whose $236 million space base proposal is being considered by federal and NT infrastructure funds.

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NT could be launching within a year

Australia has the potential to capture a greater slice of the $330 billion space industry, and NT’s chief minister says the Top End must be front and centre.

Rockets could be blasting off into space from the Northern Territory within a year, chief minister Michael Gunner says.

During a speech in Darwin on Wednesday, the NT Labor leader is expected to reveal his plans to make the Top End a national security and space exploration hub.

“We could be launching rockets into space from Arnhem Land within a year,” he is expected to tell the Northern Australia Defence Summit.

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mary-magdalene

Is this Mary Magdalene?

Is this Mary Magdalene? Forensic reconstruction of a holy relic puts a face to the skull of a Saint

WAS she a prostitute? Was she Jesus’ wife? Mary Magdalene has generated fascination and controversy for more than 2000 years. Now we may know what she looked like.

THE relic is one of the most precious in all Christendom.

It’s a blackened skull. A scattering of bones. A bundle of human hair.

But these human remains have been kept as holy relics in a crypt beneath a basilica of a medieval town in the south of France for more than 1800 years.

Now, scientists have been able to put a face to the skull many believe belongs to one of the most controversial players of the New Testament.

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nibiru-apocalypse

Is the world going to end on September 23?

IN WHAT is sure to be bad news for NRL and AFL fans, conspiracy theorists say the world is meant to end in six days.

DOOMSDAY could be sooner than you think if you are to believe conspiracy theorists claiming a planet will collide with Earth on September 23.

That’s this coming Saturday in case you had any last minute things to get done.

Bible passages apparently supporting a centuries’ old prediction of the end of the world have intrigued many around the world — but what’s it all about?

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