HIV & SpaceView | SciByte 72

HIV & SpaceView | SciByte 72

We take a look at HIV treatment, public help watching the skies, Space Station, Curiosity updates, and as always take a peek back into history and up in the sky this week.

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Show Notes:

New combination of HIV–1 antiretroviral drugs

  • The low down
  • Michel Nussenzweig’s Laboratory of Molecular Immunology found that a combination of five different antibodies that effectively suppressed HIV–1 replication and kept the virus at bay for a 60 day period after termination of therapy
  • In addition this new combination has a longer half-life than current antiretroviral drugs that require daily intake.
  • Significance
  • These especially potent antibodies were only recently discovered
  • They were identified and cloned from HIV-infected patients whose immune systems showed an unusually high ability to neutralize HIV
  • The antibodies had been written off as a treatment for HIV/AIDS because previous studies showed only a limited effect on controlling the virus before these more potent antibodies were discovered
  • HIV–1 is notorious for evading the immune system’s attacks by constantly mutating
  • Antibodies target HIV–1’s surface protein gp160, a large molecule that forms a spike that seeks out host cells and attaches to them
    One antibody alone wasn’t enough to quell the virus; neither was a mix of three, five of them in unison proved too complicated for gp160 to mutate its way out of.
  • Of Note
  • Although HIV–1 infection in humanized mice differs in many important aspects from infection in humans, the results are encouraging to investigate these antibodies in clinical trials
  • It also may be that a combination of antibodies and the already established antiretroviral therapy is more efficacious than either alone
  • These antibodies could be used as a treatment one day, it is conceivable that patients would only need to take traditional drugs until the virus is controlled then receive antibodies every two to three months to maintain that control
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Potent antibodies neutralize HIV and could offer new therapy, study finds |


DARAPA’s SpaceView Program

  • The U.S. military is launching a far-out neighborhood watch. But instead of warding off burglars, these amateur watchdogs are tracking orbital debris and possible satellite collisions in Earth orbit.
  • Significance
  • The sky-monitoring project, called SpaceView, is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program that enrolls the talents of amateur astronomers
  • SpaceView should provide more diverse data from different geographic locations
  • It is envisioned as a long-term partnership. that could potentially include time-sharing on telescopes, upgraded hardware at the astronomer’s site or financial compensation
  • Of Note
  • SpaceView hopes to engage amateur astronomers by purchasing remote access to an already in-use telescope or by providing a telescope to selected astronomers
  • Telescopes used for astrophotography, asteroid hunting or simply high-quality astronomy are well suited for SpaceView’s needs
  • This new program provides the means to upgrade a skywatcher’s site to a state-of-the-art fully automated observer in late 2013, the process will start to select the first dozen members of the project
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • DARPA’s SpaceView project
  • DARPA Wants Amateur Help Tracking Space Junk |
  • DARPA unveils SpaceView program to engage amateur astronomers in helping to protect satellites |


  • Planetary Alignment
  • Mercury, Venus and Saturn will be aligned over the Giza Pyramids on Dec 3
  • While this is true they will not be perfectly aligned over the pyramids, they will be more vertically aligned in fact
  • These three planets formed a similar alignment in 2007

— Updates —


  • Of Note
  • This information is from a blog on the Scientific American website
  • The Low Down
  • New data from the LHC continues to show promising results for Higgs-Boson particle
  • Further data is also following the Standard Model of particle physics limiting potential extensions
  • Including the concept of supersymmetry, the proposal that every elementary particle has a heavier, as-yet-unseen cousin
  • The LHC has yet to find any evidence for supersymmetric particles of any kind, although is has not been ruled out by our measurement, but it is strongly constrained
  • Only certain flavors of supersymmetry jibe with the new data, failure to find one variant of a theory is not evidence against other variants,”
  • The reigning theory of subatomic particles and forces, the Standard Model of particle physics, predicts just how often the effect should occur
  • The LHCb data match up well with the Standard Model predictions
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • LHC Experiment Yields No Insight into Post-Higgs Physics |


Kepler gets mission extension

  • NASA is marking two milestones in the search for planets like Earth; the successful completion of the Kepler Space Telescope’s three-and-a-half-year prime mission and the beginning of an extended mission that could last as long as four years.
  • Highlights from the prime mission
  • Kepler was help identify more than 2,300 planet candidates and confirm more than 100 planets
  • Hundreds of Earth-size planet candidates have been found
  • confirmed the discovery of the first planetary system with more than one planet transiting the same star
  • the discovery of the first unquestionably rocky planet outside the solar system, 1.4 times the size of Earth in September 2011
  • Confirmed the existence of a world with a double sunset
  • Discoveries of six additional worlds orbiting double stars further demonstrated planets can form and persist in the environs of a double-star system
  • In December 2011 first planet in a habitable zone
  • In February 2012 transiting planet candidates totaled of 2,321
  • Recently the joint effort of amateur astronomers and scientists led to the first reported case of a planet orbiting a double star
  • Social Media
  • NASA Kepler | @NASAKepler
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Kepler wraps prime mission, begins extension |

Space Station Expedition 32/33 crew Returns Home


  • Wind and Radiation
  • Radiation levels at the Martian surface appear to be roughly similar to those experienced by astronauts in low-Earth orbit and about half as high as the levels Curiosity experienced during its nine-month cruise through deep space
  • This add more support that astronauts can indeed function on the Red Planet for limited stretches of time.
  • These findings demonstrate that Mars’ atmosphere, though just 1 percent as thick as that of Earth, does provide a significant amount of shielding
  • Mars however lacks a magnetic field, which gives our planet another layer of protection.
  • Although these findings are preliminary, as Curiosity is just three months into a planned two-year prime mission
  • American Geophysical conference
  • Hard numbers on Martian surface radiation levels are planned to be released at the conference Dec 3
  • In a Nov 20 NPR radio interview Curiosity rover’s Principal Investigator, John Grotzinger, said that the team will soon make an announcement “for history books”
  • Organic molecules typically consists of carbon atoms in rings or long chains, where other atoms (e.g. hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen) are attached
  • While organics are a prerequisite to life. Life requires finding much more complex molecules, like amino acids and far more beyond that.
  • Hypotheses on the Announcement
  • They have already published preliminary surface radiation readings and there is evidence that they will be announcing the exact radiation reading on the surface on Mars.
  • The fact that surface levels of radiation do not preclude life will be part of the announcement, although they are still awaiting surface radiation readings from a CME
  • The SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) instrument was the last used before moving on and they retained some of the sample they could repeat the analysis. It looks for looks for and measure the abundances of light elements, such as hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen
  • In addition they have said they are analyzing data from the instrument and are not yet ready to discuss the results
  • There is a chance that they will announce evidence of organic compounds if they do it will most likely be a simple hydrocarbon. Neither of which means life on Mars
  • I believe a much less likely chance would be the announcement of nitrogen in the soil
  • Check back over the next two SciBytes for the actual announcements
  • They have already published preliminary surface radiation readings and there is evidence + Multimedia
  • YouTube Curiosity Rover Report (Nov. 15, 2012): Wind and Radiation on | JPLNews
  • Animation of Curiosity Rover’s First ‘Touch and Go’ | NASAJPL
  • Image Galleries at JPL and Curiosity Mulimedia
  • Social Media
  • Curiosity Rover @MarsCuriosity
  • Further Reading / In the News
  • Astronauts Could Survive Mars Radiation, Curiosity Rover Finds |
  • Mars Science Laboratory: Curiosity Rover Preparing for Thanksgiving Activities |
  • [Mars Science Laboratory: NASA Rover Providing New Weather And Radiation Data About Mars | ](](
  • Curiosity providing new weather and radiation data about Mars |
  • Digging deep into Martian soil | Atom & Cosmos | Science News
  • Is Historic Discovery imminent concerning Martian Organic Chemistry? |


Looking back

+ Dec 01 1997 : 15 years ago : Planetary Lineup : Eight planets from our Solar System lined up from West to East beginning with Pluto, followed by Mercury, Mars, Venus, Neptune, Uranus, Jupiter, and Saturn, with a crescent moon alongside, in a rare alignment visible from Earth that lasted until Dec 8. Mercury, Mars, Venus, Jupiter and Saturn are visible to the naked eye, with Venus and Jupiter by far the brightest. A good pair of binoculars is needed to see the small blue dots that are Uranus and Neptune. Pluto is visible only by telescope. The planets also aligned in May 2000, but too close to the sun to be visible from Earth. It will be at least another 100 years before so many planets will be so close and so visible

Looking up this week

  • Sunspots
  • VIDEO of Sunspot AR1620 doubling in size, it is now almost 10 times a wide as Earth
  • Although it has been relatively quiet the magnetic fields are now changing, leading forecasters to believe there is a 35% chance of it producing an M-class flare
  • M-class flares are medium-sized; they can cause brief radio blackouts that affect Earth’s polar regions
  • Keep an eye out for …
  • Wed, Nov 28 | Early evening | Jupiter is close and to the upper left of the Moon and the star Aldebaran, the “eye” of Taurus, the bull, to the right of the Moon.
  • Fri, Nov 30 | ~ hour after end of twilight | The waning Moon rises look right of it, by a bit more than a fist-width at arm’s length, for orange-red Betelgeuse sparkling in Orion’s shoulder.
  • Venus / Saturn | Before Dawn | Are together in the SESaturn to the lower left
  • Mars | Evening Twilight | Low in the SW
  • Further Reading and Resources
  • 1* = pinky finger
  • 5* = three middle fingers
  • 10* = closed fist
  • 15* = pointer and pinky spread \m/
  • 25* = pinky to thumb spread
  • Sky&Telescope
  • For the Southern hemisphere:
  • Constellations of the Southern Hemisphere :
  • Royal Astronomical Society of New Zealand :
  • AstronomyNow
  • HeavensAbove

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