China’s Moon Probe

The Chinese space program recently achieved another milestone as its Chang’e-6 probe landed on the Moon’s far side, specifically in the South Pole-Aitken Basin. This mission aims to drill into the lunar soil, known as regolith, to collect samples.

This mission follows five successful lunar missions, including Chang’e-4, which established a weather station on the Moon’s far side, and Chang’e-5, which brought back lunar samples from the polar region—the first since the Apollo missions.

The Apollo Crater, where Chang’e-6 landed, contains some of the Moon’s oldest regolith, estimated to be around 4 billion years old.

Chang’e-6 includes an orbiter, lander, ascent vehicle, and re-entry module. The lander’s mechanical drill arm will collect samples, which will be sent back to Earth via the ascent vehicle, orbiter, and re-entry module. Communication with the probe will be managed through the Queqiao-2 satellite, as direct communication with the Moon’s far side is not possible. If successful, China will be the first nation to land and sample on the far side of the Moon.

Chang’e-6 is the final sample-return mission in the Chang’e series. Future missions, Chang’e-7 and 8, will focus on in-situ experiments to support a permanent Chinese robotic base on the Moon.

The Chinese space program has made significant progress in the last six years. Chang’e-4 and 5 were complete successes, and the CNSA also successfully sent its first orbiter, lander, and rover to Mars on the first attempt. It is hoped that the study of these samples could help scientists solve mysteries about the hemisphere of the moon that permanently faces out into space.

Astounding Lightening Strikes Active Volcano

Observers watching the eruption of Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala last month witnessed a spectacular event when lightning appeared to strike the active volcano. Videos of the scene have been circulating online this week, with one captioned: “What are the odds?”

Surprisingly, the odds are quite favorable. Any erupting volcano can produce its own lightning. When volcanoes erupt, they eject gases, lava, rocks, and ash into the air. The ash particles collide with each other, generating static electricity that can lead to lightning.

As the ash particles rub against one another, their atoms either shed or gain electrons, creating positively and negatively charged areas within the ash plume, according to the Center for the Study of Active Volcanoes at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo. To maintain a neutral charge, the excess electrons in the negatively charged part of the plume jump across to the positively charged area, temporarily restoring balance and producing lightning.

The most severe lightening storm ever recorded was caused by the eruption of the Tonga volcano. At its peak, the storm produced 2,600 flashes per minute.

Volcanoes that produce lightning are sometimes referred to as “dirty thunderstorms.” Lightning can also be produced by intense wildfires, hurricanes, snowstorms, and surface nuclear detonations, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory.

Check this Instagram post on this one!

Here are some videos of the breathtaking sight:

Canada’s 1st Free Grocery Store

Saskatchewan is opening Canada’s first free grocery store, thanks to the Regina Food Bank’s ongoing efforts to support the community.

Located at 1881 Broad St. in Regina, the Food Hub will resemble a regular grocery store with a produce section, display fridges, and extended hours, unlike other food aid projects that often operate out of churches or community centers.

The Regina Food Bank aims to restore agency to those who rely on their services by allowing them to shop like at a regular store, which can also help reduce waste and feed more people.

“When you give choices, you give dignity and can feed about 25% more people,” said Regina Food Bank vice-president David Froh.

People sometimes run into difficulty with standard food banks that use pre-packaged crates of canned or boxed goods because they can’t cater to dietary restrictions, allergies, proper nutrition, or taste preferences.

“Normally, I barter with neighbors, but many people can’t do that, so a lot of food goes to waste,” said customer Jon White.

The Regina Food Bank serves not just the homeless or those in severe need but also working individuals and students. About 18% of its customers are full-time workers, and 2,000 students receive snacks and meals through their programs. One goal of the Food Hub is to reduce the stigma associated with using a food bank.

Without government subsidies, the Food Bank raised the CAD$3.7 million needed for the Food Hub through private donations, including CAD$1 million from The Mosaic Company. Much of the food is locally produced, supporting the Food Bank’s mission to improve the sustainability and nutritional quality of its offerings.

Grandmother’s 29-Mile Swim

A 55 year-old grandmother, who describes herself as overweight, became the first woman to swim from San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to the Farallon Islands, a distance of nearly 30 miles.

Amy Appelhans Gubser, a former collegiate swimmer, hadn’t attempted such a feat in 24 years. She faced cold waters, sharks, and jellyfish—all without a wetsuit.

Gubser started her swim at 3:27 a.m., plunging into the waters near her support vessel, and swam for 17 hours, reaching the Farallons after nightfall. An agent from the Marathon Swimmers Federation observed her swim, which is pending verification. If confirmed, she will be the first woman to complete this swim and the first person to do it from the bridge to the islands.

Despite the shark-infested waters, Gubser entered a “meditative state,” interrupted only by snack breaks every thirty minutes.

She chose not to wear a wetsuit to comply with MSF rules, despite the warmth and buoyancy it would have provided. “When you wear a wetsuit, your skin rubs against the material, and I didn’t want my skin to bleed near a shark island,” she said.

Gubser was stung twice by jellyfish during the swim.

She hopes her achievement inspires others and shows that athletic excellence is possible regardless of age and body weight.

Majestic Sei Whales Reappears After A Century

News from Argentina indicates that the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling continues to yield benefits, as sei whales have returned to the country’s coastal waters for the first time in nearly a decade.

Overhunting in the 1920s and 1930s forced these whales to leave Argentina’s waters.

“After nearly a century of being hunted to near extinction, sei whale populations are now recovering and returning to their former habitats,” said Mariano Coscarella, a biologist and marine ecosystem researcher at Argentina’s CONICET scientific agency. He noted that sei whales reproduce every two to three years, so it took almost 100 years for their population to become noticeable again.

The sei whale, the third largest whale in the world, can grow up to 64 feet (20 meters) long and weigh up to 31 tons (28 tonnes). It is also one of the fastest whales, capable of swimming 31 mph over short distances.

Despite being listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List, the global sei whale population is estimated at 50,000 and is increasing.

In other whale-related news, a recent survey in the Seychelles observed 10 groups of blue whales, the first such sightings since 1966. Additionally, a New England Aquarium aerial survey team sighted a gray whale off the New England coast in March, a species extinct in the Atlantic for over 200 years. Blue whales have been returning to coastal Californian waters in significant numbers, and surveys have found around 8,000 Southern fin whales in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean between 2018 and 2019.