Science Scanner: Sun Unleashes Spectacular Solar Storm

Posted June 8th, 2011 at 8:08 pm (UTC-4)
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A massive solar storm on the sun was observed by NASA scientists on Tuesday.

The US National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center says that an M-2, or medium-sized, solar flare was seen by a NASA space observatory. The storm could cause disruptions to a variety of communications systems and electrical power over the next day or so.

According to the scientists,  this blast of energy from the sun released solar radiation on a level possibly not witnessed since 2006.

They were able to make their observations through high-definition pictures and video taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which launched last year.

The solar eruption was described as spectacular but the Space Weather Prediction Center says that, since it was not pointed directly at Earth, the effects should remain “fairly small.”   >>> Read more…

Periodic Table Gets an Update

Chemists and other scientists throughout the world are all abuzz over the latest discovery of two new elements recently added to the periodic table of elements.

The new elements are called Ununquadium, with the atomic weight of 114 and Ununhexium, carrying the atomic weight of 116.

The periodic table is a graphic table that lists the chemical elements.

Among the information included within the table are the scientific symbols for the elements, along with their full names, and atomic numbers (the number of protons found in the nucleus of an element’s atom).

Until recently there were 112 natural or synthetic elements listed in the periodic table.

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry announced the new elements that were the result of collaborative work between scientists from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia and from Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in California.

There are a couple of interesting aspects of these new elements.

Element 116 (Ununhexium)lasts for only milliseconds before it decays then becomes element 114 (Ununquadium).

This element also has a brief lifespan, lasting for about half a second before it too makes a transformation and turns into element 112 (Copernicium), which was added to the table in 2009.

>>> Read more…

Hot Hot Hot

Last summer was said to be one of hottest summers ever and, according to researchers at Stanford University, that might not be a fluke but rather a sign of what could lie ahead.

A new climate study based on this research suggests the tropics and much of the Northern Hemisphere are likely to experience an irreversible rise in summer temperatures within the next 20 to 60 years  – if atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase.

In the study, the Stanford team concluded that many tropical regions in Africa, Asia and South America could see “the permanent emergence of unprecedented summer heat” within the next two decades.

Middle latitudes of Europe, China and North America – including the United States – are likely to undergo extreme summer temperature shifts within 60 years.

Results of this study, authored by Noah Diffenbaugh, an assistant professor of environmental Earth system science and fellow at the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford and Stanford research assistant Martin Scherer, will be published later this month in the journal Climatic Change Letters.

>>> Read more…

Quicker Diagnosis of Degenerative Eye Disease Possible

Employing the same technology used to study distant stars and galaxies, scientists say they’ve been able to see through the murky distortion of the outer eye to examine the eye’s cellular structure in unprecedented detail.

Rods and cones are two types of photoreceptor cells in the eye which are key to our ability to see.

The scientists – from the University of Rochester in New York, Marquette University, and the Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW), both  in Milwaukee – reported today that they have been able to clearly and directly image rods in the living eye for the first time.

The researchers say that this innovation will help doctors diagnose degenerative eye disorders sooner, leading to quicker intervention and more effective treatments.

The results of this research appears in two papers in the Optical Society’s (OSA) open access journal Biomedical Optics Express.

>>> Read more…

Rick Pantaleo
Rick Pantaleo maintains the Science World blog and writes stories for VOA’s web and radio on a variety of science, technology and health topics. He also occasionally appears on various VOA programs to talk about the latest scientific news. Rick joined VOA in 1992 after a 20 year career in commercial broadcasting.

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