After NASA’s Dawn spacecraft had passed by the asteroid Vesta, on its way to rendezvous with Ceres, mission scientists noticed that its surface was banged up with a lot of very large craters. Its biggest impact crater is Rheasilvia, which measures 505 km in diameter.
They expected that Ceres would also be seriously pitted with giant impact basins too.
According to computer simulations of the geological history of Ceres, created by the Dawn scientists, the largest object in the asteroid belt, was supposed to have between 10 to 15 craters that were more than 400 km across and at least 40 craters at least 100 km wide.
After all, reasoned the scientists, it had to be hit a number of times by large asteroids over its some 4.5-billion-year history.
But after Dawn arrived at its destination back in March, 2015 the scientists were surprised to see that, unlike Vesta, Ceres didn’t have as many large craters as they expected.
The Dawn spacecraft revealed that Ceres has only 16 craters bigger than 97 km across and none were as large as its Kerwan basin, which is about 285 km wide.
Scientists used data gathered by Dawn to create more computer simulations.
According to a new study published in the journal Nature, these models are proposing that Ceres’ geology has undergone a significant evolutionary process, which could have rubbed out its big craters.
“We concluded that a significant population of large craters on Ceres has been obliterated beyond recognition over geological time scales, which is likely the result of Ceres’ peculiar composition and internal evolution,” said team leader Simone Marchi of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado in a press release.
While Ceres may not have the number of giant craters that was expected, the scientists did find, after continued study, that it has three huge “planitiae” or ground indentations that measure nearly 800 km across.
They suspect that the depressions may actually be the remains of big asteroid impacts.
“If Ceres were highly rocky, we’d expect impact craters of all sizes to be preserved. Remote sensing from Earth, however, told us even before Dawn arrived that the crust of Ceres holds a significant fraction of ice in some form,” explained Williams.
He suggests that the crust of Ceres would become weak if it once held a good amount of ice which perhaps also mixed with salts.
This weakening of the crust then would allow the structure of a large impact basin to relax to a point where it would become smooth and maybe even disappear.
Another way the large craters could have flattened or vanished may be due to heat that may have been generated beneath the dwarf planet’s surface soon after its formation by the decay of radioactive elements.
“Plus we do see evidence of cryovolcanism — icy volcanism — in the bright spots found scattered over Ceres, especially in Occator Crater,” adds Williams Cryovolcanism behaves like the rocky kind, only at much lower temperatures, where “molten ice” — water or brine — substitutes for molten rock.
Dawn’s scientists will continue to keep an eye on the dwarf planet when it when it makes its closest approach to the Sun in April 2018.
As it travels closer to the Sun, the Dawn science team wants to see if solar heat generates any odd behavior on Ceres or produces any noticeable changes to its surface.
Despite being surrounded by the world’s largest supply of fresh water, the South Pole is driest place on earth. Not a drop of liquid H2O exists—not for hundreds of miles in any direction. Temperatures, which never climb above freezing even on the warmest days of summer, keep our fresh water supply frozen—locked away in plain sight.
Of course, without access to water, Amundsen-Scott Station wouldn’t be here. Water is essential to our everyday living, from cooking meals and mopping floors, to doing the occasional load of laundry and flushing toilets. During an average winter day, the South Pole station uses over 4500 liters (1200 gallons) of fresh water. In the summer, this number can quadruple.
So where does all this water—the cure for our parched mouths, cracked lips, and dry tongues, the source of our most prized luxuries, warm showers and hot coffee—come from? How do we meet our never-ending demand for the elixir of life?
In short, we melt it and pump it into the station.
Though basic in concept—apply heat to ice to make fresh water—the process has evolved greatly, especially in the last 20 years. Originally, the station used a massive water maker that had to be manually filled with snow, and heated using warm glycol. This was an energy-intensive set-up and the heavy equipment took a beating, especially during the colder winter months.
In the 1990s, the station switched from the above-ground water maker, to a specially designed “Rodriguez Well,” named for Army engineer Raul Rodriguez, who originally came up with the idea.
The rodwell, as it’s known, is “dug” using a hot water sprayer to melt through the top 30 meters (100 feet) of the ice-cap—an uncompressed layer of snow and air, known as the firn—and burrow into the more dense ice layers below. A pump is lowered into the hole, and hot water warmed by exhaust in the power plant is flushed into the well. That melts more ice, which is then pumped back to the station.
A dizzying trip from the depths of the rodwell up to the surface of the icecap.
Unlike more traditional wells, the rodwell’s effective lifespan is fairly limited. As the well produces more and more water, it becomes deeper and wider. When it reaches a depth of 150 meters (500 feet), it’s no longer efficient to continue pumping water to the surface, and typically a new well is drilled.
We are currently on the station’s fourth rodwell. This one is about 30 meters (100 feet) below the firn and holds more than 700,000 liters (190,000 gallons) of water. By the end of its life span, it will have produced more than five times that.
As you can imagine, the water we get at the South Pole is some of the purest available on the planet. In fact, there are so few dissolved minerals in it that we end up having to run it through a limestone matrix to increase its mineral content. If we didn’t, it would strip the solder from our pipes and be unhealthy to drink.
Even so, if you are eager to try the fresh “unadulterated” liquid goodness, straight from the depths of the icy continent’s frozen ocean, you can, at a spigot found in our water treatment plant. Bizarrely, the water doesn’t taste much different than the water anywhere else. It’s flavorless, cold and thirst-quenching.
Like the rings on a tree, you can tell the age of any layer of ice by measuring the number of rings above it. With the bottom of our rodwell 60 meters (200 feet) below the surface of the ice-cap, we are melting water from the 15th century. Every time I lean over the water fountain, I’m drinking water that was frozen by the time the Incas built Machu Picchu, and Christopher Columbus set out on his journey across the Atlantic. It’s a bizarre feeling—poor man’s time travel at the bottom of the world.
Back in 1933, Caltech astronomer and astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky was observing the Coma cluster, a large group of galaxies located some 321 million light years away in the Coma Berenices constellation.
He noticed the speed of the galaxies rotating within the cluster was much faster than the quantity of its mass he had calculated.
According to Isaac Newton’s theory of gravity, Zwicky thought this difference should have caused the galaxies to spin-off from the cluster.
So, he then figured that for all his observational information to add up with Newton’s theory, along with matter that could be seen, the cluster also had to contain a good amount of some kind of material that couldn’t be seen.
He called this invisible substance “dark matter.”
In the years since Fritz Zwicky’s finding, researchers have been trying feverishly to make an actual detection of dark matter.
Most are quite sure of its existence because of the gravitation influence it has on various cosmic objects, such as what Zwicky found with the Coma cluster in 1933.
The way light bends as it makes it way through space is another clue scientists say also points to dark matter.
NASA says this mystery material makes up roughly 27 percent of the known or observable universe. Dark energy, the force said to be responsible for the expansion of the universe, is thought to make up nearly 68 percent while normal matter, the things we can see and touch, makes up the remaining 5 percent.
Now, some 83 years after Zwicky’s discovery, a group of scientists say that despite searching for twenty months, with what is said to be the world’s most sensitive dark matter detector, they still have not been able to directly detect even a trace of the mysterious stuff .
Scientists with the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) dark matter experiment, presented findings of their experiment’s final run at the Identification of Dark Matter 2016 conference (IDM 2016), held this past week in Sheffield, England.
The scientific consortium found that the sensitivity of their detector, a 370 kg liquid xenon time-projection chamber, was four times greater than they expected. They contend that if any dark matter particles had actually interacted with their device – it would have pointed them out.
To search for dark matter the scientists say their experiment was set-up to look for WIMPS, otherwise known as Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, which is where they think they’ll be able to find dark matter.
They theorize every second, billions of these WIMP particles are actually passing through our bodies, everything that surrounds us and through the Earth itself.
According to the scientists, we don’t notice this continual bombardment because the interaction of these WIMP particles with ordinary matter is quite weak.
Over its last 20 month run – October 2014 through May 2016 – the researchers say their experiment gathered and then analyzed nearly 500 terabytes or 500,000 gigabytes worth of data.
While they were unable to actually detect any dark matter, the LUX scientists say their experiment did eliminate a good number of possible models where the WIMP particles might be found.
The LUX team says their research and findings will also help future investigators in their hunt for dark matter.
The LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) experiment, which is set to replace LUX at the Sanford Underground Research Facility will continue the search some time in 2020.
When we hear “X marks the spot,” many of us might think of old pirate maps and where treasure is supposedly buried.
But “X marks the spot” could also have more of a cosmic meaning, thanks to a new study published in the Astronomical Journal.
The study’s two authors say that the X, in this case, marks the center of the Milky Way galaxy.
Using data from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE space telescope, a configuration of stars forming the letter X was could be seen within the galactic bulge located at the heart of the galaxy.
NASA describes this bulge as a round structure of tightly packed material that includes old stars, gas, and dust. The space agency says the Milky Way’s bulge is about 10,000 light years across.
While previous reports have mentioned the central X structure, the authors say data gathered for their study provides the clearest indication of the X shape so far.
Researchers have recently determined an asteroid that smashed into the moon some 3.8 billion years ago to form the Imbrium impact basin was more than 241 kilometers across, which is much larger than thought.
Previous estimates, based solely on computer models, have indicated the asteroid was only about 80 kilometers in diameter.
Sizable areas of the huge crater formed by the impact were later filled with basaltic lava and other materials.
Writing in the journal “Nature,” the scientists from Rhode Island’s Brown University suggest that the asteroid that formed the Imbrium basin was so enormous that it could have been classified as a protoplanet, an object that later can become a planet.
Based on the sizes of other impact basins, not only on the moon but also the planets Mars and Mercury, the scientists say their findings also suggest that the early solar system was full of protoplanet-sized asteroids.
The researchers made their findings after conducting experiments at NASA’s Vertical Gun Range at the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California.
Radiation is among the many health dangers that humans face in outer space.
For crewmembers aboard the International Space Station radiation exposure is currently monitored with a number of instruments.
Individual radiation doses are also measured with a device called the crew passive dosimeter (CPD), which is carried by each ISS crewmember for the duration of their time in space.
But these devices are only read and processed after the astronaut returns to Earth.
A more sophisticated personal monitoring instrument developed for the European Space Agency has been included in the recent shipment to the ISS.
Called the European Crew Personal Active Dosimeter (EuCPAD), this new device will provide crewmembers with a real-time picture of their radiation exposure.
The new system, which can distinguish radiation from the sun, the Van Allen belts or from the far reaches of the galaxy, will also help scientists prepare for deep space travel.
A research team, made-up of hundreds of physicists and astronomers from throughout the world, have built the largest 3D map of distant galaxies that has been created so far.
They claim the map has allowed them to precisely measure of dark energy, a mysterious force that scientists say is behind the current accelerated expansion of the universe.
To produce the map, the team took measurements over a five-year period of some 1.2 million galaxies that reside in one quarter of the sky or about 650 cubic billion light-years of the universe.
The measurements used to construct the map came from the Baryon Oscillation Spectroscopic Survey or BOSS, which is a program of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey-3.
The researchers say their new map allows scientists to measure just how fast the universe is expanding, which will help them to figure-out the amount of matter and dark energy that makes up our Universe.
Among the important ingredients used to make beer are hops, the seed cones of the hop plant. They’re also used in the manufacture of dietary supplements to help women relieve post-menopausal symptoms.
Now, lab tests conducted by a research team at the University of Illinois at Chicago has found that an enhanced hops extract could also someday be used to ward off breast cancer.
Researchers created compounds from the fortified hops extracts and then applied them to two different breast cell lines.
They wanted to see if any of the compounds had an effect on the metabolism of estrogen, something that’s considered a key process in breast cancer.
A compound, called 6-PN was created from the fortified hops extract and preliminary test results are suggesting that it could have anti-cancer effects.
But additional research must be conducted to further investigate possible helpful effects of the hops-based compound.
I arrived in Antarctica on a clear, sunny day in October, 2015. The Mount Erebus volcano dominated the horizon, sending large clouds of steam and smoke high into the air. Minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-28C) felt cold at the time, and watching my breath glide from my mouth and disappear into the landscape was hypnotizing. Like living through a Dali painting, I was melting into the continent and the continent was melting into me.
NOAA’s Refael Klein walks to work at the South Pole. (Photo by Hunter Davis)
To step off the grey LC130 and stand on the McMurdo ice runway was the culmination of a boyhood dream– a romantic adventure, a challenge I couldn’t refuse– a one year assignment to work as the Station Chief to the Global Monitoring Division’s Atmospheric Research Observatory (ARO) at the South Pole. Twelve months stretched in front of me, one 6 month long day and one 6 month long night, filled with ice crystal clouds, brilliant stars and dancing auroras. Most people would live their whole lives without experiencing those sights, but not me!
Now, eight months in, two-thirds of the way through my assignment, I’m experiencing another side of the Polar experience: extreme tedium, the result of an endless routine and an ever-present night, so thick and dark that even one’s imagination feels smothered.
During long deployments as a Deck Officer on board NOAA’s fleet of oceanographic research ships, I learned the best way to make the best of life in a confined space, to keep yourself sane when your existence begins in your head and ends at the horizon. On the ocean – liquid or frozen, it makes no difference – finding a routine and mustering the discipline to stick with it is key—as important as a sense of humor or a warm pair of mittens.
There is no beginning or end to my week. I walk to ARO each morning, and return each afternoon. I haven’t missed a day of work since I arrived on station. If I’m sick, I walk to work. If it is minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit (-73C), I walk to work. If I broke my foot, I would limp to work. My walk, as heinously cold as it can be, reminds me of where I am, an existential fact that becomes harder and harder to recognize the more time you spend inside the windowless, odorless, 70 degree (21C) world that we call our Station.
After work, I work out. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I go to the gym, and spend an hour on the stationary bike or treadmill. Sometimes, I’ll lift free weights for a few minutes afterwards, but usually it’s just an hour of cardio, enough to get through an NPR podcast about the Flint, Michigan water crisis or watch an episode of this or that on the gym’s flat screen television.
Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I make the quarter-mile trek to the summer camp gym, and spend an hour and a half climbing on the green, blue and pink plastic holds that make up the South Pole Climbing wall. Sometimes, I’ll do calisthenics afterwards—a few pushups and crunches, but usually it’s just 90 minutes of climbing, enough to get through half an episode of KDVS radio station’s New Day Jazz or Crossing Continents.
Sweaty and tired, I make my way back to my room, take an Amundsen-Scott Station regulation two-minute shower if it is a Cardio Day, change clothes and walk the 101 feet (30 meters) that separate my room from the entrance to the galley. Dinner is served from 1700 to 1830. I always arrive at 1800, and try to finish in a half-hour, so I can get my dirty dishes into the dish pit before it closes.
It’s evening now, and thanks to an exhausting and cold walk back and forth from ARO, and another hour plus spent exercising in a more traditional manner, I’m ready to sit down on the couch in the greenhouse and read for a few hours, or appropriate the television in the station’s lounge to watch a movie–a musical, a B-movie, or a Criterion Collection Classic. Regardless of what I watch, I’m swept away; the sterility of the ice cap makes it exceptionally easy to become engrossed in anything that isn’t frozen, arid and dark.
If it’s a Sunday, I’ll squirrel myself away in my room early and begin to write my weekly blog. I’ll write about what happened that week, about the nuisances of my routine, about the research projects I help operate, about the occasional departures from the ordinary: a good meal, a good laugh, or an exceptionally bright full moon. I’ll write in prose, and in coded messages that only those in the know can decipher. I’ll write in lists and doodle in between the lines, trying to keep my thoughts lucid and find the words that bring my polar adventure – the excitement and the tedium – to life.
For the first time, astronomers have been able to get a glimpse of a water “snowline” in a protoplanetary disk, which is the material surrounding a new star that may later form into planets.
This water “snowline” marks the point within these left overs of star formation where the temperature and pressure drop to a point to allow water ice to form.
These “snowlines” usually form closer to a star whose light overwhelms any possible observation.
In this case it was formed farther out than normal from the star, identified as V883 Orionis, so astronomers were able to image it with the ALMA radio telescope in Chile.
It’s believed that a sudden and significant increase in the brightness of the star is what pushed the “snowline” out to where it could be seen.
The astronomers say that this phenomenon is about 6 billion kilometers from the star, comparable to the orbit of Pluto in our solar system.
Many drivers today prefer vehicles that use less petrol and cost less to operate.
But a new Canadian study suggests that although fuel-efficient technologies may provide more miles per gallon, some of these new gas saving internal combustion engines could actually contribute to climate change.
To provide their customers with vehicles that offer high performance, while using less gas, automakers have been turning to a small new type of fuel-efficient engine known as the gasoline direct injection, or GDI engine.
The study found that that while GDI engines emit less carbon dioxide, they also produce higher levels of the climate-warming pollutant black carbon than traditional engines.
The researchers suggest installing more effective filters in GDI engines, at the risk of slightly lower fuel-efficiency, but preserving the technology’s net benefit for the environment.
Lying some 250 million light years away, in what is described as a quiet and unexceptional section of the universe, astronomers have discovered a gigantic and quite unusual galaxy.
What makes UGC 1382 such an oddity is that they believe it was formed from the parts of other galaxies.
So they’ve nicknamed it the Frankenstein Galaxy, after the fictional monster made from body parts taken from various corpses.
At first this mammoth galaxy was thought to be just a tiny, old and normal galaxy.
But after sifting through data gathered by a couple of NASA’s space telescopes, along with several ground based telescopes, the astronomers realized that the galaxy was a rotating disk of low-density gas that’s seven times wider than the Milky Way.
A New Zealand based study suggests that children who are exposed to microbial organisms at an early age, through thumb sucking or nail biting, are less likely to develop allergies.
The study finds that children that engage in both of these habits are less likely to develop allergies to common triggers such as house dust mites, grass, cats, dogs, horses or airborne fungi.
Researchers at New Zealand’s University of Otago made their findings from data gathered by the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Study.
The long-term study followed into adulthood about one-thousand participants who were born in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1972 and 1973.
Despite their findings, the researchers say that they are not suggesting that children be encouraged to engage in thumb sucking or nail biting, since it is still uncertain if there are any real health benefits from acquiring these habits.
Seventy thick, grass-fed buffalo strip steaks sat in front of me, each individually vacuumed-sealed in a clear plastic bag—red, red meat, wrapped in a red, red film of Myoglobin and water. I found myself a large, green plastic cutting board and an open section of stainless counter next to a deep sink, then I grabbed a red plastic-handled serrated paring knife and a pair of disposable latex gloves—size medium. In the next hour, each one of those steaks would need to be opened, trimmed, patted dry and seasoned.
This was going to be a bloody mess—a hell of a way to celebrate the middle of winter.
A week ago, a sign-up sheet had been posted at the entrance of the galley to recruit volunteers for midwinter dinner— a celebration of the solstice. It was a call for extra stewards to help set-up the banquet, pour drinks, serve appetizers and bus tables, and extra dishwashers to clean up afterwards. Having always enjoyed entertaining, I decided to add my name to the list, and lend my services as an amateur waiter, sommelier, cicerone, and expediter.
Dressed in my only nice non-uniform clothes, a pair of fitted green-grey chinos and a blue and black flannel I had picked up from a small men’s store in Brooklyn, I waltzed into the galley. Appetizers were scheduled to be served in the foyer in 30 minutes, and I knew the head-chef, Darby Butts, would need someone to un-cork bottles of wine, ice sodas and arrange cheese and charcuterie platters for service.
In the South Pole kitchen, three men in white aprons, black pants and baseball caps, were busy at work—filling pastry bags with mousse, rolling out mounds of dough and whisking dressings. They were a sight to behold, a well-oiled machine, working in near silence with a precision and focus that was as palpable as a humid August day in Washington, DC.
Not wanting to interrupt their ballet, I stood at the entrance to the kitchen with a glass of water in my hand, and waited for a break in the chopping, a joke or expletive, some type of opening in which I could ask, “what do you need me to do?” without disrupting their cooking cadence, which had reached the extreme speed and power of a Japanese bullet train. To interrupt them at the wrong moment could derail them—and I didn’t need a severed finger or a burnt pastry resting on my conscience.
“Get your ass in here,” said Darby with the devilish grin of a young boy who had just finished popping all the heads off of his younger sister’s Barbie Dolls. “You see all these steaks?” referring to a mountain of red meat overflowing from a hotel pan. “You are our new prep cook, anything the Sous needs you to do, you do, starting with these,” picking up one of the flaccid steaks like a rag doll and indifferently throwing it back onto the pile. With a bewildered “Okay,” I found an apron and got to work.
We had one hour to get things ready and set in the steamer line. The steaks would be cooked to order, but they all had to be prepped and staged next to the grill before the galley doors opened, and 48 tipsy, hungry and excited individuals found their seats at two long, white tableclothed banquet tables that had been decorated with candles and origami swans.
Adrenaline racing, I worked with a singular focus—cut, trim, dry, salt, pepper, repeat— until three cookie pans were packed with steaks, staged and ready for their communion with fire. With fifteen minutes remaining, I wiped down my counter with soap and bleach, cleaned my knives and ran my cutting board through a large industrial sterilizer.
When I returned to my work station, a plastic grocery bag filled with herbs—mountain mint and fresh basil—lay where my cornucopia of buffalo once sat. Before I could say a word, the Sous handed me a 10-inch chef’s knife, and gave me a one word command: “chiffonade.” I nodded, dropped my head, and began picking the aromatic leaves off their spindly branches—pick, stack, chop, repeat—until the pound of herbs had been tamed into a pile of evenly ribboned confetti.
I looked at my work, and breathed a sigh of accomplishment. It had been eight months since I did any cooking, and I managed to get through an hour of it without making a total fool of myself or severing a major artery.
The first people began to enter the galley, making their way to their seats, with half-finished bottles of wine, mingling with each other with the combination of ease and restlessness that can only be found among those who are two-thirds of the way through a one-year contract at the South Pole.
The kitchen continued to hum, the finishing touches frantically put onto each dish as it was nestled into position on the line atop the steamer trays. I ran a platter of pastries to the dessert table– Peruvian Cocoa Nib Mousse Tarts, garnished with cashew florentines and thin triangles of coconut and chocolate caramel. With extreme self-control, I managed to not pick one off the tray and eat it with my bare hands. Instead, I removed my apron and sat down at a special table that had been reserved for those volunteering that night.
Having spent the last hour plus in the kitchen, I knew the menu inside and out: Grilled bison strip steaks with black truffle demi-glace, potato gnocchi—the last of our fresh potatoes—tossed in a white truffle cream sauce, channa masala tossed with fresh herbs, roasted asparagus wrapped in phyllo dough with a honey balsamic reduction, and a beautiful, fresh green house salad with herb vinaigrette and house-made ciabatta croutons. And those tarts!
Rich and tempting aromas rolled off the line, and while some say the Winter Site manager gave a spirited speech—as is tradition– I can’t recall it, so focused was I on the decadent foods I was about to pile high on my plate. And I’m sure I contributed to the quiet drone of rumbling stomachs that could be heard throughout the galley.
This was going to be a night to remember—a five star meal at the bottom of the earth.
As NASA’s probe Juno buzzes closer and closer for its 4th of July rendezvous with Jupiter, astronomers are using the good ole Hubble Space Telescope to study the planet’s auroras, which are just like our own northern and southern lights.
These spectacular light shows in the Jovian atmosphere hover above the giant planet’s two poles just like they do on Earth.
Scientists say they are created when high-energy particles, such as the solar wind or from disturbances of the sun, enter a planet’s atmosphere near its magnetic poles and smash into gas atoms.
NASA says that while Hubble takes care of observing and measuring Jupiter’s auroras, Juno is gauging the properties of the solar wind itself.
Scientists want to find out how various elements of the Jovian auroras react to different conditions within the solar wind.
A group of British astronomers just released a number of infrared images that provide an extraordinarily deep and detailed view of the distant universe.
Final data released from the Ultra-Deep Survey, a component of the UKIRT Infrared Deep Sky Survey, allowed the astronomers to create a map of an area of space that’s four times the size of the full Moon.
The survey spotted 250,000 galaxies, several hundred of which show light that was produced within the first billion years after the Big Bang (13.7 billion years ago).
The Ultra Deep Survey began scanning the skies in 2005 with astronomers using a wide field near-infrared camera mounted on the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope at Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
Scientists involved with the Ultra Deep Survey say that their new images will help astronomers to study and get a better understanding of some of the earliest phases of the formation and evolution of galaxies.
Scientists at NASA and the University of California, Irvine are predicting that the El Nino that took place during late 2015 into early 2016 will produce an intense fire season for the Amazon region of South America.
This periodic weather phenomenon caused a change the rainfall pattern for many parts of the world over the past year, with some areas getting more rain than usual while others got much less.
For the Amazon region, the scientists say that the recent El Nino cut back the amount of rain that fell during its wet season, which usually lasts from November until May.
According to NASA satellite data, the decreased rainfall left this huge area of South America drier at the start of its 2016 dry season, which lasts from July through September, than any year since 2002.
Jim Randerson, a professor of Earth system science at the University of California Irvine says that this is the driest he has seen at the start of a fire season. He says that an important challenge right now is to come up with ways to use what they’ve learned to help limit damages in coming months.
The European Space Agency says its comet chasing Rosetta orbiter will wrap up its mission on September 30th.
That’s when the space agency will send the spacecraft on a controlled descent to the surface of its comet, 67P-Churyumov/Gerasimenko.
ESA says the mission has to end because the spacecraft and the comet are traveling too far from the sun, which is reducing the solar power needed to operate Rosetta and its instruments.
Adding to the decision to terminate the mission is the plain fact that the spacecraft is pretty much near the end of its life, having to deal with the harsh environment of space for over twelve years, two of which was spent close to the dusty comet.
As it drops to the surface of 67P during the final hours of its mission Rosetta will capture some close up images and make a number of what ESA calls once-in-a-lifetime measurements of the comet.
It’s thought that the first optic telescopes emerged sometime in the 17 century.
But is it possible that ancient stargazers could have studied the heavens with their own observation tools long before the modern telescope was invented?
In a project presented to the National Astronomy meeting, that was held this past week in England, scientists proposed to learn whether or not long, narrow passageways or prehistoric tombs were used as a way to enhance views of the night sky some 6,000 years ago.
The scientists want to find out if the human eye might be able to see stars of any given brightness or color without the help of any telescopic device in locations such as the Seven-Stone Antas in central Portugal.
Those proposing this investigation say that perhaps ancient astronomers were able to better observe certain stars from deep within one of these passageways. The researchers also suggest that in ancient times, spotting a particular star, after not being able to see it for a period of time, may have provided a way to mark the seasons.