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11 October 2012

Thursday October 11

Chile’s ALMA telescope makes unexpected discovery, Mexico to launch a satellite, and a protest suspends construction of Brazil’s Belo Monte dam project

BRAZIL

Brazil’s Belo Monte hydroelectric project has been put on hold thanks to a new protest by indigenous activists and fishermen who interrupted construction by taking control of trucks and other vehicles, according to the NGO Amazon Watch. The $13 billion dam project was suspended in the past by Brazil’s Supreme Court, but is now back on track to flood 500 square kilometers and displace tens of thousands of people, say environmental activists.

    Scientists using Chile’s ALMA telescope have discovered a new and unexpected spiral structure around a red giant star. Credit: ESO/NAOJ/NRAO.

CHILE

Scientists using the ALMA telescope in Chile’s Atacama desert have discovered an unexpected spiral structure around a red giant star 1,500 light years away, the first time such a structure has been found. “This is the first time we’ve ever seen a spiral of material coming out from a star, together with a surrounding shell,” said Matthias Maercker, lead author of the study to be published in Nature this week.

COSTA RICA

Costa Rica has tightened controls on the import of shark fins. A new decree, signed into law by Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla, prohibits the import of shark fins without special customs certification. Though the country has a law banning shark finning, imports of the fins have been largely overlooked, according to marine turtle protection and environmental organization Pretoma.

ECUADOR

Ecuador’s government has announced it’s planning an internal strategy to confront climate change. Carola Borja, the sub-secretary of climate change at Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment, said the government has an action plan that includes informing Ecuadorian citizens about the challenges the country will face with climate change.

GUATEMALA

Flora and fauna in northern Guatemala’s Maya Biosphere Reserve are being threatened by deforestation at the hands of drug cartels, Chinese logging companies, and cattle ranchers, in addition to fires and commercial hunting. The reserve is home to 513 bird species, 122 mammal species, and 95 reptile species, according to a report from Yale’s environment 360.

MEXICO

Mexico plans to launch its ‘Esperanza I’ satellite before mid-2014, announced Mexican congressman and space enthusiast Andres Eloy Martinez. The recently formed Mexican Space Agency intends to launch the American-made satellite for educational purposes. It will “undoubtedly be sufficient to include experiments of great creativity from students or others with an interesting project,” said Martinez.