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Mars might have salty ponds next to its underground lake

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(CNN) Two years ago, scientists detected what looked like a salty lake under the surface of Mars’ southern ice cap.

Now, new research has found more evidence of the lake, and also revealed a number of smaller salty “ponds” nearby — raising the possibility there may be life on the Red Planet

In the new study, Italian scientists used the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding (MARSIS) instrument on the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft. The radar covered a larger area of the Martian surface and gathered additional data, allowing the scientists to “confirm the liquid nature of the previously observed lake,” the research team said in a statement.

The scientists were able to gather more specific details about the lake — for instance, they estimate it’s about 30 by 20 kilometers (18.6 by 12.4 miles) in area.

“The presence of a subglacial lake could have important consequences for astrobiology and the presence of habitable niches on Mars,” the statement added.

The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, also said the detection of “several other smaller patches of water” was particularly exciting. The ponds — which the study describes as “patchy water pools or wet areas of smaller extent” — are different sizes, and separated from the main lake by strips of dry land.

The discovery is significant because it gives us a better idea of the Mars climate, and chemical makeup. For instance, the fact the lake and its surrounding ponds are still liquid suggest they are “hypersaline,” the study said — meaning they contain lots of salts. This lowers the melting point, preventing the water from freezing despite the cold environment, and may have allowed them to “survive for an extended period of time on a geological scale.”

And, of course, there’s the question of extraterrestrial life.A study last year suggested that 3 to 4 billion years ago, Mars — now cold and inhospitable — may have been warm enough to host pouring rainstorms and flowing water, which would have created an environment that could support simple life. As temperatures dropped later on, the water would freeze. The latest research posits that life on Mars might not just be a thing of the past.

“The possibility of extended hypersaline water bodies on Mars is particularly exciting because of the potential for the existence of microbial life,” the study said. If there really is life in these salty waters, it could take different forms. The scientists speculated there could be anaerobes — tiny organisms that don’t need oxygen — or extremophiles, which can survive in extreme cold or heat.

There could even be aerobes — organisms that require oxygen. Salty brines like the lakes or ponds hold six times the minimal amount of oxygen needed for microbes to breathe, the study said.

“The water bodies at the base of the (south polar layered deposits) therefore represent areas of potential astrobiological interest and planetary protection concern,” the study concluded, urging future Mars missions to target the polar lake region to gather additional data.

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COPE meets online for first time in its history

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by Saman Indrajith

The Parliamentary watchdog committee – COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises) created a history by meeting online for the first time ever on Thursday.

The COPE had Secretaries of three Ministries joining in with its committee meeting through online (ZOOM) becoming the second parliamentary committee holding an online meeting in the country.

Thursday evening’s COPE meeting chaired by its chairman Prof. Charitha Herath connected online with Secretary to the Ministry of Health (Dr) H. S. Munasinghe, Secretary to the Ministry of Industries W. A. Chulananda Perera and, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Services, Provincial Councils and Local Government J. J. Ratnasiri via zoom technology.

The Environmental Audit Report on water pollution of the Kelani River was brought before the committee and the meeting held between the Chairman Prof. Herath, Ministers and Members of Parliament and secretaries and other officials continued without any technical hitches.

Secretary General of Parliament Dhammika Dasanayake said that facilities have been provided to hold meetings and discussions using online technology in two committee rooms in Parliament.

He said that Parliamentary officials had been working relentlessly for months to install the requisite technological tools and that the efforts have borne fruit and future Parliamentary meetings could be held online as a result.

The Committee on High Posts under the chairmanship of Speaker of Parliament Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena also held a discussion with the new Ambassador of Sri Lanka to Kenya, who was living in Kampala, using online technology recently.

 

 

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Legatum Prosperity Index highlights SL’s development of education and healthcare sectors

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During the past decade

One of the key highlights of this year’s Legatum Prosperity Index was the improvement in Sri Lanka’s education and healthcare sectors over the past decade. These improvements were key to increase in prosperity within Sri Lanka, it was noted.

The London-based think-tank Legatum Institute launched the 14th Legatum Prosperity Index on November 17 2020.

The event commenced with the welcome address by the Chair of the Legatum Institute, Alan McCormick. 

Addressing the audience, the Chief Executive Officer of the Legatum Institute, The Baroness Stroud said that according to the Legatum Index, the global prosperity was at its highest level ever with 147 countries seeing their prosperity rise over the last decade.

Speaking at the launch, the High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in the UK, Saroja Sirisena said that the end of the terrorist conflict in 2009 and the ensuing peace dividend, led Sri Lanka to achieve steady progress within the last decade.

She highlighted that the universal free education and healthcare policies of the country over seven decades are the pillars on which prosperity is built.

Director of Policy of the Legatum Institute, Dr. Stephen Brien explained to the audience as to how the Legatum Index is used to measure prosperity across the world.

The event was also addressed by the Founder of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation in Africa, Dr. Mo Ibrahim, Biologist and Writer, Matt Ridley and Ambassador of Georgia in the UK Sophie Katsarava.

Legatum Prosperity Index is a global index that analyses the performance of 167 nations across 65 policy-focused elements, measured by almost 300 country level indicators and it is the only global index that measures national prosperity based on institutional, economic and social wellbeing.

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Quick Snacks and Party Recipes from North India with Sapna Mehra

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The Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre (SVCC), High Commission of India, Colombo, will be holding an online cookery demonstration on ‘Snack Time: Quick Snacks and Party Recipes from North India’ on December 5 at 11.00 am on its FACEBOOK page https://www.facebook.com/ICCRSriLanka.

This festival season, the Cultural Centre will present a virtual cookery demonstration by Sapna Mehra. Cooking has been a passionate hobby of Sapna since her childhood days. Growing up in a large family of 17 members, she was very keen on bringing variety to the dining table, and that’s when her cooking journey began, preparing simple wraps, and snacks.

She now specializes in cooking dishes from a variety of cuisines. Originally from Bangalore, she has lived in many cities across India and Sri Lanka, and at present resides in Delhi.

She has a Postgraduate degree in Marketing and has over 12 years work experience in the professional field.

All are cordially invited to attend. For more details, contact the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre on telephone No: 2684698 or Email: iccrcolombo2@gmail.com

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