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Wuhan: The London-sized city where the virus began

The Yangtze (brown) and Han rivers (blue) merge in WuhanImage copyright
Getty Images

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The Yangtze (brown) and Han rivers (blue) merge in Wuhan

Wuhan may not be a well-known Chinese mega-city like Beijing or Shanghai.

But the place where the coronavirus outbreak emerged is, in fact, a teeming metropolis with connections to every part of the globe.

According to UN data from 2018, 8.1 million people live in the central Chinese city – making it slightly smaller than London, but much bigger than Washington DC.

One estimate makes it the 42nd biggest city in the world, and the seventh biggest in China.

And it’s the size – and economic clout – of Wuhan that explains why the virus has travelled quickly across Asia, and even to the US.

In short, the virus has spread so widely because lots of people visit Wuhan and take the virus home with them.

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Getty Images

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Wuhan was a host city for the 2019 Basketball World Cup – including this match between Argentina and Nigeria

Wuhan international airport handled 20 million passengers in 2016, and offers direct flights to London, Paris, Dubai, and other cities around the world.

The city is built along the Yangtze river and, according to its website, it is a “foundation of in both hi-tech manufacturing and traditional manufacturing”.

It has a series of industrial zones, 52 “institutions of higher learning”, and claims more than 700,000 students – including, reportedly, the largest number of undergraduates in the country.

Some 230 of the world’s 500 biggest companies (as measured by the Fortune Global list) have invested there.

There is also notable investment from France – which had a foreign concession in Hankou, in today’s Wuhan, between 1886 and 1943. More than 100 French firms have invested in the city and Peugeot-Citroen has a Chinese joint-venture plant there.

Wuhan can also serve as a gateway to the Three Gorges – a tourist region and home to a huge hydroelectric dam.

So, although the coronavirus originated in a local seafood market, the flow of people in and out of Wuhan has ensured its spread.

The US patient, for example, had recently visited Wuhan, as had both Japanese patients. The Korean patient lived there. The case in Thailand is a Chinese tourist from Wuhan.

The huge flow of people in and out of Wuhan will only increase as Chinese New Year approaches, and millions of people return home to celebrate.

China’s National Health Commission said travellers should avoid Wuhan, and that Wuhan residents should not leave the city.

But Wuhan’s status as one of the biggest – and most connected – places in the world means international cases will almost certainly continue to emerge.

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Media captionChina health officials: “Don’t go to Wuhan, don’t leave Wuhan”
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Jeff Bezos hack: Saudi Arabia calls claim ‘absurd’

Crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammad bin Salman Al Saud and the founder Amazon Jeff Bezos.Image copyright
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The relationship between Jeff Bezos and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman soured after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder

Saudi Arabia has denied that its crown prince was responsible for hacking Amazon boss Jeff Bezos’ phone.

A message from a phone number used by the prince has been implicated in the data breach, according to reports.

The kingdom’s US embassy said the stories were “absurd” and called for an investigation into them.

It was previously claimed the alleged hack was linked to the murder of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

As well as being the founder of online retail giant Amazon, Mr Bezos owns the Washington Post.

Mr Bezos’ phone was hacked after receiving a WhatsApp message sent from Mohammed bin Salman’s personal account, according to the UK’s Guardian newspaper.

The Financial Times reported that an investigation into the data breach found the billionaire’s phone started secretly sharing huge amounts of data after he received an encrypted video file from the prince.

The Twitter account of the kingdom’s US embassy issued an outright denial and called for the claims to be investigated.

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the BBC.

The reports come after private information about Mr Bezos was leaked to the American tabloid the National Enquirer.

In February 2019 Mr Bezos accused the National Enquirer of “extortion and blackmail” after it published text messages between him and his girlfriend, former Fox television presenter Lauren Sanchez.

A month earlier he and MacKenzie Bezos, his wife of 25 years, announced that they planned to divorce having been separated for a “long period”.

This is not the first time the kingdom has been linked to the hacking of Mr Bezos’ phone.

In March last year an investigator for the Amazon founder said Saudi Arabia was behind the hack and it had accessed his data.

Gavin de Becker was hired by Mr Bezos to find out how his private messages had been leaked to the National Enquirer.

Mr de Becker linked the hack to the Washington Post’s coverage of the murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

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Football’s best away day? Barca head to Ibiza in Spanish Cup

UD Ibiza’s Estadi Municipal de Can Misses is in on the outskirts of Ibiza city

Sandy beaches, sunsets and of course a wild party scene.

Ibiza is better known for superstar DJs and nightclubs than football, but on Wednesday night that could all change – at least for one night.

Barcelona are in town to face UD Ibiza in the last 32 of the Copa del Rey.

When the draw was made, many envious football fans had the same thought on social media – “best away game ever”.

The match will be held at the Estadi Municipal de Can Misses, which is increasing its capacity from 4,500 to a sell-out 6,445 especially for the game.

In true Ibiza style the club has booked one of the island’s top DJs, Manu Gonzalez, to “provide the pre-match and half-time beats” on the side of the pitch.

“When I was a kid the Ibiza football club was not that big – most people supported Barcelona,” the Ibiza native told BBC Sport. “Now all these years later I will be DJing on a pitch where Barcelona and Ibiza will be playing together in an official competition. It will be a very special thing for the island.”

His manager Danny Whittle, a Stoke expat living on the island, adds: “This is the biggest game in the history of Ibiza. There has never been a team like this play here.”

Meanwhile, in his pre-match news conference, UD Ibiza manager Pablo Alfaro declared: “This party is a party for the whole island and its people. Obviously Barcelona are favourites, but we will compete with them as we have the means to do so.”

This may be a party island, but they take their football seriously.

Manu Gonzalez (left) and Danny Whittle at UD Ibiza’s stadium

Since the club was formed in 2015, replacing UD Ibiza-Eivissa and backed financially by president Amadeo Salvo, they have won promotion twice in three seasons to sit third in their Segunda Division B group as they chase promotion to Spain’s second division.

Former Italy striker Marco Borriello has even turned out for the team and retains close links to the club in a non-playing role.

However, despite their achievements, the club have evidently been unable to shake off perceptions, with Salvo criticising a Spanish TV program for a “lack of respect” after it replaced the club’s badge with the unmistakable cherry logo of Pacha nightclub when discussing the upcoming match.

“We’re a serious club, we’re not a nightclub,” he responded.

Coached by ex-Barcelona and Sevilla defender Alfaro, the third-tier underdogs invited more than 500 children from the island’s football schools to witness their dramatic penalty shootout victory over second-tier Albacete in the previous round.

They could not have hoped for a greater reward.

“It is a gift that football has given us. Deserved because the merit belongs to everyone, to the players, to the club, and it is something that, above all, we have to enjoy – you have to enjoy it very, very much,” boss Alfaro said following the draw.

“We are going to give an image that Ibiza is alive in winter, not only in summer,” added Alfaro, who played alongside new Barcelona manager Quique Setien at Racing Santander from 1993-1996.

Setien, in only his second game in charge, has rested star player Lionel Messi for the match, which is in a new one-game format rather than a two-legged tie, while Alfaro has his eyes on an upset.

“Barcelona already have their Liga and the ‘glamour’ of world football with the Champions League, but the Copa levels it out and there’s space to humble them here,” the 50-year-old told Marca.

“Man, we’ve got some weapons. We’re going to go out with humility and ambition. We’re going to give them energy, passion and football; this is our magic formula.

“Without limitations, we’re going to compete and I’m sure that we’ll bring a war. A football war.”

An Ibiza win on Wednesday might just trigger one almighty Mediterranean party, on an island that knows how to party like no other.

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Meng Wanzhou ‘irreplaceable’ to company, says Huawei executive

Meng Wanzhou leaves her Vancouver home on MondayImage copyright
AFP

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Meng Wanzhou was arrested during a layover in Vancouver in 2018

Huawei’s chief security officer has told the BBC the firm’s chief financial officer is “irreplaceable”.

Meng Wanzhou is fighting extradition from Canada to the US – where she is wanted on charges of fraud and sanctions violations.

But the chief security officer, Andy Purdy, told the BBC that – although Ms Meng was crucial to the firm – there was a “succession plan” in place.

Prior to her arrest, Ms Meng was a key figure in the Huawei’s 5G efforts.

The latest iteration of high-speed wireless technology, known as 5G, will increase mobile connectivity and data speeds around the world.

The start of her hearing comes as Huawei battles US efforts to block it from participating in the development of 5G.

The US has labelled the company a security risk and banned the sale of its products. US politicians are also pushing allies including the UK, Germany and South Korea to block Huawei from their markets.

The conversation with Mr Purdy took place outside the courthouse in Vancouver, Canada, where Ms Meng’s hearing is taking place.

The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

How do you feel Meng Wenzhou’s hearing is going so far?

We believe the lawyers for Ms Meng have been able to make the very strong case that there are no grounds for extradition.

Hopefully soon, neither while Ms Meng nor Canada will be in the middle of this kind of trade war between the US and China.

Meng Wanzhou was a key player in Huawei’s efforts to build a global 5G network. If she is extradited and if she is convicted – how will Huawei deal with the loss?

Ms Meng is very important to the leadership and the conduct of our business globally…on one level, she’s irreplaceable.

But we always have to have a succession plan, we have to have the ability to proceed if something happens. So if we have to proceed without her, it’s going to really be a shame.

The substantive work on 5G continues… and we’re making tremendous progress. We’re about 18 to 24 months ahead of the competition [on 5G] and everybody recognises that.

In 2019 the US labelled Huawei a security risk – barring US suppliers from selling to it. How has Huawei been coping without having access to these suppliers?

We have nearly 300 American suppliers that would like to continue to sell to Huawei.

That amounts to about 40 to 50,000 American jobs directly and indirectly impacted… and it’s going to be a challenge as we move forward. But our revenues for 2019 were strong – up over 18%.

This year [2020] is going to be a difficult year. But the fact is, none of our executives are going to lose their jobs.

We’re going to continue to grow our business and we’re going to continue to succeed.

Where does Huawei see the best opportunities for growing its presence in 5G?

The whole world is a big opportunity for 5G. Some of the most promising countries around the world are places like South Korea, obviously, China. We’ve just gotten approval in India to proceed.

We see some of the European countries are really moving forward quite quickly with 5G.

And in fact, the UK parliamentary committee report said the UK will be less secure if Huawei is not part of the network… because a diverse system of suppliers helps ensure that despite potential major attacks, the systems are kept up and running.

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Media captionHuawei founder Ren Zhengfei on the arrest of his daughter

How confident is Huawei that it will give approval for it to be part of the 5G network in the UK?

Well, I wouldn’t say we’re confident that the UK is going to include Huawei – although a number of statements by senior government officials seem to be pointing in a positive direction.

So we have our fingers crossed, we hope and expect that they’ll make a decision that’s for the best for the people of the United Kingdom.

What kind of impact has all of this had on Huawei’s relationship with the United Kingdom?

We’ve been working very closely with the four major carriers in the UK, and with the UK government.

It’s a very strong relationship over many years. We are having substantive discussions – that aren’t mired in politics – around transparency and cyber security.

Because this technology really matters, it has to be provided in a secure way to citizens and organisations of the country – and it’s possible so that we could all take advantage of these technologies.

Meng Wanzhou’s extradition fight

Ms Meng was arrested in December 2018 during a layover in Vancouver. She is accused by US authorities of lying to banks in order to avoid American sanctions on Iran. She denies the charges.

Huawei has said it has trust in Canada’s judicial system “which will prove Ms Meng’s innocence”.

Her lawyers argue extradition would mean Canada was in effect upholding US sanctions on Iran.

Lawyers for Canada’s attorney general have focused their arguments on the accusations of bank fraud.

The extradition hearing is expected to run 20-24 January. But a decision by the presiding judge is expected to take several more weeks.

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Djokovic eases through & Tsitsipas advances without hitting a ball

Novak Djokovic is seeded second at this year’s Australian Open
2020 Australian Open
Venue: Melbourne Park Dates: 20 January to 2 February
Coverage: Listen on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra and online; Live text on selected matches on the BBC Sport website and app.

Defending champion Novak Djokovic made short work of Japanese wildcard Tatsuma Ito as he progressed to the Australian Open third round on Wednesday.

The 32-year-old, chasing a 17th Grand Slam and eighth Australian Open, won 6-1 6-4 6-2 in one hour and 35 minutes.

The Serb now faces Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka after he knocked out British number one Dan Evans in straight sets.

Italian eighth seed Matteo Berrettini became the highest-ranked player to exit, losing to Tennys Sandgren.

After losing the first two sets, it had looked like a comeback was on the cards when Berrettini took the match to a fifth set. But American world number 100 Sandgren went on to win 7-6 (9-7) 6-4 4-6 2-6 7-5.

Meanwhile, sixth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas did not even have to hit a ball as he reached the last 32 after opponent Philipp Kohlschreiber withdrew injured.

Organisers said the 36-year-old German had a muscle strain.

Greece’s Tsitsipas, 21, will face Canadian Milos Raonic or Cristian Garin of Chile in the third round.

Among the other men playing second-round matches on Wednesday are 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer and Spanish ninth seed Roberto Bautista Agut.

You can listen to live commentary on some of the day’s action from 07:00 GMT on Tennis Breakfast on BBC 5 Live Sports Extra and follow live text commentary.

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Venezuela crisis: Secret service raids offices of opposition leader Guaidó

Members of the Sebin intelligence service stand outside the building housing the office of Venezuela's opposition leader Juan Guaidó in Caracas, 21 January 2019Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

Officers from the Sebin intelligence service surrounded the building in Caracas

Venezuelan secret service agents have raided the offices of opposition leader Juan Guaidó while he is on a visit to the UK.

Footage showed hooded and armed officers from the Sebin service outside the building in Caracas.

“Cowardly dictatorship!” tweeted Mr Guaidó, who held talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London.

Mr Guaidó is recognised by more than 50 countries, including the UK and the US, as the legitimate leader of Venezuela.

However, President Nicolás Maduro, who enjoys the support of the Venezuelan military, has managed to remain in power.

Opposition MPs said they had been prevented from entering the offices by Sebin agents.

Lawmaker Angel Torres said the black-clad officers “abruptly entered” the building. He said there were fears that they would plant false evidence against Mr Guaidó.

The opposition Popular Will party also accused police of detaining MP Ismael Leon on a main road in Caracas.

Image copyright
EPA

Image caption

People were kept out of the offices by Sebin agents

“As we are travelling… they kidnap @leon_ismael and raid our office,” Mr Guaidó tweeted.

“The world receives and supports us! We stand firm, we will achieve freedom,” he added.

Venezuela’s government has not commented on the reports.

Guaidó seeks EU pressure on Maduro

Analysis by Hugo Bachega, BBC News

It is no coincidence that this raid happened while Mr Guaidó was abroad looking for a much needed new push to his year-long effort to oust President Maduro. While agents searched his offices in Caracas, he was telling cheering supporters in London that he would “win very soon”.

Not everybody shares the optimism. Backed by Russia, Turkey and the powerful Venezuelan army, Mr Maduro has managed to resist growing international pressure and sweeping US sanctions, including on the crucial oil sector. Mr Guaidó acknowledged to me that he and his supporters, in Venezuela and outside, had underestimated the president’s ability to stay in power.

Next, his team will try to convince the EU to impose new restrictions, targeting, for example, the country’s gold trade. But many criticise these measures, saying they exacerbate the suffering of people who are already in desperate need. Mr Guaidó, however, dismissed this, saying Mr Maduro was the only one to blame.

By leaving the country, Mr Guaidó defied, for a second time, a court-imposed travel ban. He declined to say if he feared being arrested upon his return, saying he knew the “risks of challenging the dictatorship”, as he refers to the government. His team, though, said they had plans “A, B, C, D and E” ready.

During his trip to Europe Mr Guaidó is expected to visit the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

On Monday, he travelled to Colombia to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the sidelines of a regional conference.

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EPA

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Mr Guaidó (r) met UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during his visit to London

He was received by Colombian President Iván Duque with full presidential honours.

Mr Pompeo called on other countries to co-operate in efforts to remove President Maduro from office.

Mr Maduro accuses the US of orchestrating a coup to oust him.

The rivalry between Mr Guaidó and Mr Maduro flared recently when Mr Guaidó stood for re-election as National Assembly Speaker, the position on which his claim to the post of acting president rests.

He was prevented by the National Guard from entering the National Assembly building, forcing him to move the session to another location where about 100 lawmakers re-elected him.

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Media captionJuan Guaidó tried to climb over a fence to enter the National Assembly building

Years of turmoil have left Venezuela in the grip of a crippling economic and political crisis.

According to the UN, 4.8 million Venezuelans have left their country since 2016, with 1.6 million arriving in neighbouring Colombia.

Almost a quarter of Venezuela’s 30 million people are in need of aid, the UN says.

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Australia PM ‘misled public’ on fires

Scott Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull in Canberra's parliament in 2017Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Scott Morrison (left) succeeded Malcolm Turnbull as PM in 2018

Australian PM Scott Morrison has been accused of lacking leadership during the bushfire crisis – by the man he replaced after a party room coup.

Malcolm Turnbull, who was deposed in 2018, told the BBC that Mr Morrison had misled the country by “downplaying” the influence of global warming.

Mr Morrison apologised last month for taking a US holiday amid the fires. He has insisted his policies are adequate.

But Mr Turnbull said he “cannot explain” his successor’s approach.

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Turnbull also said US President Donald Trump was the world’s “leading climate denier” and that America’s lack of leadership was “extremely damaging”.

Mr Turnbull said “everybody knew we were in a very dry time” before the fire season, and that it “was likely to be very bad”.

“Rather than doing what a leader should do… [Mr Morrison] downplayed it, and at times discounted the influence of climate change, which is just nonsense from a scientific point of view. So that’s misleading people,” said Mr Turnbull.

“Then of course [he] chose to go away on holiday in Hawaii at the peak of the crisis. So I can’t explain any of that.

“It’s just not consistent with the way in which a prime minister would or should act in a national crisis like this.”

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Media captionCan Australia’s PM Scott Morrison recover from the fires?

Since September, bushfires have scarred Australia. At least 30 people have died, livelihoods have been lost along with thousands of homes, while the catastrophic impact on wildlife may never be known.

Mr Morrison has conceded he caused “great anxiety in Australia” by taking his family to the US as record-breaking heat exacerbated fires.

“I know there are some who’ve tried to make political points and score points in the midst of these disasters, and that’s disappointing,” he said before Christmas.

He asserted that climate change was “one of many factors” responsible for the blazes.

As the fires have raged, so has the debate about climate change and its part in Australia’s destructive summer.

Mr Turnbull took aim at former colleagues in the governing Liberal Party, accusing another ex-prime minister, Tony Abbott, of being “probably the most prominent climate denier in Australian politics, but there are plenty of others” who were engaged in a “war against science”.

“It is an extraordinarily irrational and self-destructive approach,” Mr Turnbull said.

Mr Turnbull’s prime ministership began in 2015 when he removed Mr Abbott, a long-time rival. He was in power for three years before being ousted in similar fashion.

It was a fevered period in Australian politics, and Mr Turnbull was castigated by a senior minister as being spiteful and indecisive. He also faced criticism externally for not doing more while in power.

But the University of Oxford graduate, and former barrister and banker told the BBC he was the victim of a ruthless political insurgency.

“The right [wing] in the Liberal Party essentially operate like terrorists,” he said.

“Now I’m not suggesting that they use guns and bombs or anything like that, but their approach is one of intimidation.

“And they basically say to the rest of the party…if you don’t do what we want, we will blow the show up. Famously one of the coup leaders said to me, ‘you have to give in to the terrorists’.”

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Media captionFootage shows bushfire “crowning” across treetops

In his offices overlooking Sydney’s harbour are small-framed photographs of Mr Turnbull with world leaders: former US president Barack Obama, Indian PM Narendra Modi and Indonesian president Joko Widodo.

There is also a picture with Mr Trump. Not so much a happy snap – the pair famously clashed over a refugee swap deal and there’s hostility, too, over the environment.

“Trump is playing a very destructive role in terms of climate action. Trump makes no bones about it. He says global warming is rubbish,” Mr Turnbull said.

“Trump is trying to put a brake on global action to reduce emissions. The lack of American leadership is extremely damaging.”

He added: “How many more coral reefs have to be bleached? How many more million hectares of forest have to be burned?

“How many more lives and homes have to be lost before the climate change deniers acknowledge they are wrong?”

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New China virus: Officials warn it ‘could mutate and spread further’

A Chinese boy hugs a relative as she leaves to board a train at Beijing Railway station before the annual Spring FestivalImage copyright
Kevin Frayer

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Authorities confirmed that human-to-human transmission of the virus took place

A new virus that has killed nine people could mutate and spread further, Chinese health officials have warned, as they step up containment measures.

There are now 440 confirmed cases of the outbreak that originated from a market with illegal wildlife in Wuhan.

It has now spread to several Chinese provinces as well as overseas including to the US, Thailand and South Korea.

Authorities admitted that the country was now at the “most critical stage” of prevention and control.

On Tuesday, it was confirmed that human-to-human transmission of the virus had taken place.

‘Increased risk’

In one of the first public briefings since the beginning of the outbreak, National Health Commission vice-minister Li Bin said there was evidence that the disease was “mainly transmitted through the respiratory tract”.

But China has still not been able to confirm the exact source of the virus.

“Though the transmission route of the virus is yet to be fully understood, there is a possibility of virus mutation and a risk of further spread of the epidemic,” said Mr Li.

The warning comes as millions of people across China are travelling within the country for the Lunar New Year week-long holiday. Thousands are also travelling abroad.

Mr Li added that the festival would “increase the risk of the disease spreading and the difficulty of prevention and control”.

He said strict measures to control the disease would be put in place.

He also called for those in Wuhan to “avoid crowds and minimise public gatherings”. A ban on the trade of live poultry and wild animals has also been implemented in the city.

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Earth’s oldest asteroid impact ‘may have ended ice age’

An image of the Yarrabubba area taken from the International Space StationImage copyright
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

Image caption

An image of the Yarrabubba area taken from the International Space Station

Scientists have identified the world’s oldest asteroid crater in Australia, adding it may explain how the planet was lifted from an ice age.

The asteroid hit Yarrabubba in Western Australia about 2.2 billion years ago – making the crater about half the age of Earth, researchers say.

Their conclusion was reached by testing minerals found in rocks at the site.

The scientists say the find is exciting because it could account for a warming event during that era.

The Curtin University research was published in the journal Nature Communications on Wednesday.

How did they date it?

The crater was discovered in the dry outback in 1979, but geologists had not previously tested how old it was.

Due to billions of years of erosion, the crater is not visible to the eye. Scientists mapped scars in the area’s magnetic field to determine its 70km (43 miles) diameter.

Image copyright
CURTIN UNIVERSITY

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Yarrabubba is located about 600km north-east of the city of Perth

“The landscape is actually very flat because it’s so old, but the rocks there are distinctive,” researcher Prof Chris Kirkland told the BBC.

To determine when the asteroid hit Earth, the team examined tiny zircon and monazite crystals in the rocks. They were “shocked” in the strike and now can be read like “tree rings”, Prof Kirkland said.

These crystals hold tiny amounts of uranium. Because uranium decays into lead at a consistent pace, the researchers were able to calculate how much time had passed.

Image copyright
CURTIN UNIVERSITY

Image caption

A zircon crystal used to date the impact Yarrabubba

It is at least 200 million years older than the next most ancient impact structure – the Vredefort Dome in South Africa.

“We were interested in the area because the Western Australian landscape is very old but we didn’t expected [the crater] to be as old as this,” Prof Kirkland said.

“It’s absolutely possible that there’s an older crater out there just waiting to be discovered, but the difficulty is in finding the crust before it erodes and you lose that early Earth history”.

Could it have ended an ice age?

The timing of the impact could also explain why the world warmed around this time, according to the researchers.

Scientists believe the planet was previously in one of its “Snowball Earth” periods, when it was largely covered in ice. At some point, the ice sheets melted and the planet began to rapidly warm.

“The age of the [crater] corresponds pretty precisely with the end of a potential global glacial period,” Prof Kirkland said.

“So the impact may have had significant changes to our planetary climate.”

Using computer modelling, the team calculated that the asteroid struck a kilometres-thick ice sheet covering the Earth. The event would have released huge volumes of water vapour, a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.

This could have helped the planet’s warming during the Proterozoic era – a stage when oxygen had just appeared in the atmosphere and complex life had not yet formed.

Image copyright
TIMMONS ERICKSON

Image caption

The crater as seen from Barlangi Rock, with an outcrop in its centre

“Obviously we were very excited just with the age itself,” Prof Kirkland said. “But placing that right with the context of Earth’s other events makes it become really very interesting.”

There is not enough modelling from the time to comprehensively test the theory, but “the rocks tell a story about the massive impact into the planet”.

Another theory for the warming event is that volcanic eruptions may have pushed carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

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GM’s Cruise unveils its first driverless vehicle

Cruise Origin self-driving vehicle at launch event.Image copyright
Cruise

Cruise, the self-driving car start-up, majority owned by General Motors, has unveiled its first vehicle designed to be driverless.

The electric-powered Cruise Origin was developed by Honda, which also has a stake in the company.

The launch of the vehicle, which has no steering wheel or pedals, had been delayed from last year.

Cruise said it was designed for shared ownership: “It’s not a product you buy, it’s an experience you share.”

Chief executive Dan Ammann wants drivers to move away from individual ownership to a sharing model, to help reduce emissions, accidents and congestion.

Speaking at the launch in San Francisco, he also said the Cruise Origin was not a concept vehicle: “It is self-driven. It is all electric. It is shared. It is a production vehicle.”

Artificial eyes: How robots will see in the future

Russian car with no driver at wheel tours Vegas

UK’s first full-size ‘driverless’ bus tested in Glasgow

This is not Cruise’s first foray into driverless cars. For years it has been testing modified Chevrolet Bolt electric cars with test drivers at the wheel.

General Motors had aimed to launch a commercial, self-driving vehicle service in San Francisco last year but delayed the plan saying the vehicles needed more testing.

The Cruise Origin faced unexpected technical challenges due to difficulties in identifying whether objects were in motion.

Honda took a 5.7% stake in Cruise for $2.75 billion (£2.1bn) in 2018. As part of that deal General Motors announced plans to develop a self-driving vehicle in October 2018. Japan’s SoftBank’s Vision Fund has also invested in the company.

Other car makers are in a race to launch self-driving cars using the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies although they are being held back by safety concerns and regulations. A number of fatalities involving autonomous vehicles have led to greater government intervention and calls for more development.

German car maker Volkswagen has been struggling with the development of self-driving cars and has complained about the ”huge complexities that we are facing”.