Friday, August 31, 2012

Antennae: NGC 4038 and NGC 4039 Spiral Galaxy Collision

This image of the Antennae galaxies is the sharpest yet of this merging pair of galaxies.

During the course of the collision, billions of stars will be formed.

The brightest and most compact of these star birth regions are called super star clusters.

The two spiral galaxies started to interact a few hundred million years ago, making the Antennae galaxies one of the nearest and youngest examples of a pair of colliding galaxies.

Nearly half of the faint objects in the Antennae image are young clusters containing tens of thousands of stars.

The orange blobs to the left and right of image center are the two cores of the original galaxies and consist mainly of old stars criss-crossed by filaments of dust, which appears brown in the image.

The two galaxies are dotted with brilliant blue star-forming regions surrounded by glowing hydrogen gas, appearing in the image in pink.

The new image allows astronomers to better distinguish between the stars and super star clusters created in the collision of two spiral galaxies.

By age dating the clusters in the image, astronomers find that only about 10 percent of the newly formed super star clusters in the Antennae will survive beyond the first 10 million years.

The vast majority of the super star clusters formed during this interaction will disperse, with the individual stars becoming part of the smooth background of the galaxy.

It is however believed that about a hundred of the most massive clusters will survive to form regular globular clusters, similar to the globular clusters found in our own Milky Way galaxy.

The Antennae galaxies take their name from the long antenna-like "arms" extending far out from the nuclei of the two galaxies, best seen by ground-based telescopes.

These "tidal tails" were formed during the initial encounter of the galaxies some 200 to 300 million years ago. They give us a preview of what may happen when our Milky Way galaxy collides with the neighboring Andromeda galaxy in several billion years.

Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

NGC 5033 is a galaxy in the constellation Canes Venatici

NGC 5033 is a galaxy that lies some 40 million light-years away in the northern constellation Canes Venatici.

The image captures striking details of dust lanes winding inward toward the galaxy's bright core and majestic but relatively faint spiral arms that span over 100,000 light-years.

The galaxy is similar in size to our own spiral Milky Way.

A fine ribbon of gas floating through the Milky Way

The delicate remains of a violent act: this is a fine ribbon of gas floating through the Milky Way, likely left over from a supernova explosion a millennium ago.

Its scientific significance is minimal—but that doesn't mean it's not beautiful.

Arabia Terra in the northern highlands of Mars

Bright and dark slope streaks on the surface of Arabia Terra in the northern highlands of Mars.

The heavily cratered and eroded surface identifies it as one of Mars's oldest features.

Streaks on some Martian slopes have been associated with underground water that thaws and flows in the Martian summer and contracts and freezes in the winter.

The streaks here formed another way—likely through dust deposited and cleared away by the planet's ever-shifting winds.

Solar filament extends over half a million miles

The sun isn't about just heat and fire. It's also about texture, variegated colours and occasional violent outbursts.

Here, a whip-like solar filament extends over half a million miles in a long arc above the sun’s surface.

Filaments are exceedingly hot ionized gasses that are magnetically anchored to the sun's photosphere.

Viewed against the blackness of space, they're very bright and are known as prominences.

Viewed with the sun itself as a backdrop, they appear darker since they're cooler than the overall solar mass. That more-modest appearance also earns them a more modest name.

A more recent and much larger Solar Filament eruption is shown below.

  This image was captured by the NASA SDO.

Neil Armstrong Loved Charts

I am, and ever will be, a white-socks, pocket-protector, nerdy engineer, born under the second law of thermodynamics, steeped in steam tables, in love with free-body diagrams, transformed by Laplace and propelled by compressible flow.

Neil Armstrong

Neil Armstrong loved charts. RIP.


Blue Moon seen on the last days of August

A full moon is seen from the Atahualpa Stadium in Quito, Ecuador. 

This is the second full moon in this month - the first was on August 1 to 2. 

This phenomenon, which is referred to as the Blue Moon, happens every two and a half years on average.

Picture: REUTERS/Gary Granja

Lightning bolt striking through a Rainbow

Stormchaser Travis Heying photographed a lightning bolt striking through a rainbow over the Little Arkansas River near his home in Wichita, Kansas.

Fortunately, this spectacle happened right on his doorstep.


NASA Mars Science Laboratory: Panoramic Image

Click on the image to go to the interactive picture page.

This colour panorama shows a 360-degree view of the landing site of NASA's Curiosity rover, including the highest part of Mount Sharp visible to the rover.

That part of Mount Sharp is approximately 12 miles (20 kilometers) away from the rover.

The images were obtained by the rover's 34-millimeter Mast Camera. The mosaic, which stretches about 29,000 pixels across by 7,000 pixels high, includes 130 images taken on Aug. 8 and an additional 10 images taken on Aug. 18. These images were shot before the camera was fully characterized.

Scientists enhanced the color in one version to show the Martian scene as it would appear under the lighting conditions we have on Earth, which helps in analyzing the terrain. A raw version is also available.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

Thursday, August 30, 2012

NASA ISS EVA: Astronauts stymied by sticky bolts

Sticky bolts proved too much for spacewalking astronauts Thursday, forcing them to leave a new power-switching box dangling from the International Space Station instead of firmly bolted down.

NASA scrambled to reduce the power demands of the orbiting lab and balance the electrical load, while mapping out a plan that could have the astronauts going back out as early as next week to tackle the problem.

Sunita Williams
It was a major disappointment for NASA's Sunita Williams and Japan's Akihiko Hoshide, who spent hours struggling with the bolts.

They used all sorts of tools and tactics as the spacewalk went into overtime, but nothing worked.

With time running out, Mission Control finally told them to tie down the box and head inside.

"We'll figure this out another day," Mission Control radioed.

Thursday's spacewalk was supposed to last 6½ hours but stretched past eight hours. It ended up in NASA's top 10 list for longest spacewalks -- at the No. 3 spot.

The power router is one of four, and NASA stressed that the other three are working fine. Nonetheless, electrical usage will need to be closely monitored at the 260-mile-high lab given Thursday's failed effort.

"The team may have to manage power loads a little bit, but this is familiar territory," said NASA's space station program manager, Mike Suffredini. "We'll be able to deal with that while we decide what our next plan is."

Akihiko Hoshide
While the space station remains in stable condition, NASA would like to take another crack at securing the box as soon as possible -- perhaps next week -- because of the mid-September departure of half the six-member crew, including the second U.S. astronaut, who ran the robot arm Thursday from inside the station.

And the longer this situation goes on, the more vulnerable the space station is to additional failures, Suffredini noted.

Until the problem is resolved, the space station is able to draw power from just three-quarters of its solar wings -- six instead of all eight.

The old switch box started acting up last fall, and NASA decided to replace it before it failed. This was the first spacewalk by Americans since the final shuttle flight a year ago.

Williams and Hoshide had trouble getting the old unit out because of two sticky bolts, and they found metal shavings in the sockets. They squirted in compressed nitrogen gas to clear the holes, and some debris came out. But still, the main bolt would not go in properly; the companion bolt was left undone.

The frustration mounted as the minutes and hours ticked by. At one point, Mission Control radioed, "We've tried almost every backup we have on this stupid bolt."

Mike Suffredini
At a news conference later in the day, NASA officials said possible solutions might involve lubricating the thick, sturdy bolts or applying more torque.

Putting in a new switching box was the No. 1 priority of the spacewalk. In separate work, the astronauts managed to hook up one power cable and get another cable halfway connected.

They never got around to replacing a bad camera on the space station's big robotic arm.

Mission Control did its best to cheer up the spacewalkers as they re-entered the space station. "You guys are rock stars, just so you know," Mission Control said.

It was the second spacewalk in less than two weeks. On Aug. 20, two Russians worked outside the orbiting complex, installing shields to protect against micrometeorite strikes.

It's no longer common for astronauts to step into the vacuum of space. That's because after almost 14 years, the space station is virtually complete. Plus NASA's shuttles are retired and now museum pieces.

Williams is the lone woman at the space station. She and Hoshide arrived a month ago, launching from Kazakhstan aboard a Russian rocket.

ESA Astronaut Luca Parmitano: Really likes his space suit!

ESA Astronaut Luca Parmitano (@astro_luca) is a European astronaut of Italian nationality, currently training for ISS expedition 36.

SDO Image: Solar Activity in a new region - Helioviewer

There may be a new active region in town soon! An as of yet unnumbered region rotating almost into view released a series of small to moderate flares including a high C-class and an M1.3 solar flare. 


The M flare produced a brief radio blackout. Once the region is more on the disk we will have to see if it produces any interesting events.

There is a nice sized filament sitting to the West of the region. The current activity is not considered high or of any concern. Just a region to keep an eye on.

Recent Solar flare recorded today.

ESA: Astronaut Andre Kuipers celebrations

NASA Mars Curiosity: A desolate vision of the future of Mars exploration

In the wake of Curiosity's landing on Mars, artist Kelly Richardson's depictions of a post-apocalyptic Red Planet are a call for us to save our own planet

IT'S 200 years from now, and the sun beats down on a barren landscape of red rock scattered with smashed satellites and dilapidated robots.

NASA's battered old Curiosity rover lies wedged on a mound of dirt, its wheels whirring intermittently in futile effort, like an exhausted beetle stuck on its back.

This bleak Mars-scape is the work of Canadian artist Kelly Richardson. Mariner 9, a 12-metre long, hyper-realistic video installation, named after a NASA orbiter, offers a glimpse at a possible reality for the future of humanity on other planets.

Richardson worked closely with the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment at the University of Arizona in Tucson and NASA to make sure elements such as the spacecraft that already exist and the composition of the rocks were accurate and realistic.

Facts couldn't fill in all the details though, and that is where Richardson's imagination took over. "Because it's a futurescape, of course I had to imagine what craft we might produce from this point," she says.

The result is a breathtaking yet peaceful panorama. At first glance, the footage could be mistaken for a photograph.

Movements in the scene are subtle and hypnotic - a gust of sand blows, the shadows shift and the robots whirr. An eerie soundscape accompanies it all.

Alongside the degeneration is construction. Pipes protrude from the ground - although it is open to speculation who or what built them.

That kind of ambiguity is important to Richardson. Take the two pulsing beacons in the middle distance, reminiscent of a landing strip.

"Maybe they're calling to other spacecraft that are on their way, or perhaps they had functioned that way before, or they could be sending data back to whomever, possibly no one," she says.

The idea that there may be nobody home to pick up these signals resonates with Richardson's other works, which often depict post-apocalyptic scenes of Earth's future.

Mariner 9 is suffused with the same concerns for the environment and humanity. "I don't want to depress people, but at the same time it would be great if we all woke up and decided to take charge of the situation," she says.

If we don't, Curiosity's successful landing on Mars could be one more fateful step towards realising this prophecy.

NASA Space Weather: RBSP Successful Launch Today

The countdown was holding at the T-4 minute mark for 25 minutes but the launch went ahead as planned.

The Atlas V first stage and Centaur upper stage had been fueled for the planned launch at 4:05 a.m. EDT of NASA’s Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP). 

The Atlas V burns refined kerosene fuel, known as RP-1, mixed with liquid oxygen.

There are no technical problems and weather has improved to 90 percent “go.”

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

NASA's WISE Survey Uncovers Millions of Black Holes

With its all-sky infrared survey, NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, has identified millions of quasar candidates. 

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission has led to a bonanza of newfound supermassive black holes and extreme galaxies called hot DOGs, or dust-obscured galaxies.

Images from the telescope have revealed millions of dusty black hole candidates across the universe and about 1,000 even dustier objects thought to be among the brightest galaxies ever found.

These powerful galaxies, which burn brightly with infrared light, are nicknamed hot DOGs.

"WISE has exposed a menagerie of hidden objects," said Hashima Hasan, WISE program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington.

"We've found an asteroid dancing ahead of Earth in its orbit, the coldest star-like orbs known and now, supermassive black holes and galaxies hiding behind cloaks of dust."

WISE scanned the whole sky twice in infrared light, completing its survey in early 2011. Like night-vision goggles probing the dark, the telescope captured millions of images of the sky.

All the data from the mission have been released publicly, allowing astronomers to dig in and make new discoveries.

The latest findings are helping astronomers better understand how galaxies and the behemoth black holes at their centers grow and evolve together.

For example, the giant black hole at the center of our Milky Way galaxy, called Sagittarius A, has 4 million times the mass of our sun and has gone through periodic feeding frenzies where material falls towards the black hole, heats up and irradiates its surroundings.

Bigger central black holes, up to a billion times the mass of our sun, may even shut down star formation in galaxies.

In one study, astronomers used WISE to identify about 2.5 million actively feeding supermassive black holes across the full sky, stretching back to distances more than 10 billion light-years away.

About two-thirds of these objects never had been detected before because dust blocks their visible light. WISE easily sees these monsters because their powerful, accreting black holes warm the dust, causing it to glow in infrared light.

"We've got the black holes cornered," said Daniel Stern of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., lead author of the WISE black hole study and project scientist for another NASA black-hole mission, the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR).

"WISE is finding them across the full sky, while NuSTAR is giving us an entirely new look at their high-energy X-ray light and learning what makes them tick."

NASA WISE Telescope Finds Sugar Molecules Around a distant Star

This image shows the Rho Ophiuchi star-forming region in infrared light, as seen by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Explorer (WISE).

IRAS 16293-2422 is the red object in the center of the small square.

The inset image is an artist’s impression of glycolaldehyde molecules, showing glycolaldehyde's molecular structure.

CREDIT: ESO/L. Calçada & NASA/JPL-Caltech/WISE Team

What a sweet cosmic find! Sugar molecules have been found in the gas surrounding a young sun-like star, suggesting that some of the building blocks of life may actually be present even as alien planets are still forming in the system.

The young star, called IRAS 16293-2422, is part of a binary (or two-star) system. It has a similar mass to the sun and is located about 400 light-years away in the constellation of Ophiuchus.

The sugar molecules, known as glycolaldehyde, have previously been detected in interstellar space, but according to the researchers, this is the first time they have been spotted so close to a sun-like star.

In fact, the molecules are about the same distance away from the star as the planet Uranus is from our sun.

"In the disk of gas and dust surrounding this newly formed star, we found glycolaldehyde, which is a simple form of sugar, not much different to the sugar we put in coffee," study lead author Jes Jørgensen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark, said in a statement.

"This molecule is one of the ingredients in the formation of RNA, which — like DNA, to which it is related — is one of the building blocks of life."

Hurricane Isaac: Amazing Night Photo of Tropical Storm

NASA's Suomi-NPP satellite snapped this spectacular photo of then-Tropical Storm Isaac at night from space early on Aug. 28, 2012, as the storm neared the U.S. Gulf Coast. 

The storm ultimately grew into a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall later in the day.

A NASA satellite captured a spectacular photo of what is now Hurricane Isaac from space, a nighttime view showing the then-tropical storm's clouds lit up by moonlight as it approached the U.S. Gulf Coast.

NASA's Suomi-NPP weather tracking satellite recorded the amazing nighttime photo of Isaac just after midnight on Tuesday (Aug. 28).

The bright city lights of New Orleans, Houston and Tampa, Fla., can be easily identified, but the photo also includes lights from cities all along the Gulf Coast, Florida and the southeast U.S. coast.

"The image was acquired just after local midnight by the VIIRS 'day-night band,' which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared and uses light intensification to enable the detection of dim signals," NASA officials explained in an image description. "In this case, the clouds of Isaac were lit by moonlight."

Hurricane Isaac is currently a Category 1 hurricane and made two landfalls late Tuesday in Louisiana. As of 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) today (Aug. 29), Isaac is battering Louisiana and neighbouring states with drenching rains and maximum sustained winds of 75 miles per hour (120 kilometers per hour), according to the latest National Hurricane Center update.

Stop-Motion Animated Film About the Progression of Alzheimer’s

Art, with its capacity for expressing in abstract form experiences and emotions too complex or confusing to name explicitly, has proven itself a powerful medium for exploring mental health issues — from artist Bobby Baker’s diary drawings of borderline personality disorder to children’s illustrations of what it’s like to have autism.

Now comes Undone, a beautiful and bittersweet stop-motion film by animator Hayley Morris, inspired by her grandfather, which captures with tender abstraction the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.

Bubble Nebula in the constellation of Cassopeia

Telegraph reader Simon de Visscher sent us this astronomical picture of the bubble nebula, or NGC7635, in the constellation of Cassopeia. 

Picture: Simon de Visscher

Water Spout over Hongze Lake

A giant waterspout is seen over Hongze Lake in eastern China's Jiangsu Province. 

Photographer Yue Mingyou says: "It started from 17:30 and lasted around 25 minutes, during which time a grey water pipe connected between the lake surface and the sky. It was phenomenal."

Picture: Quirky China News / Rex Features

EUMETSAT Metop-A Image: Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans

On the 7th anniversary of the day Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, Hurricane Isaac hits the city (right-hand image). 

Unlike Katrina, which was a devastating Category 5 hurricane, Isaac is a Category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of around 80mph (128 km/h).

Left-hand image show Isaac approaching on 28 Aug. 0

Composite from 28/08/12 15:46 and 29/08/12 03:01 UTC Archive of Images

Credit the EUMETSAT Site

NASA Astronaut Michael Collins: Apollo 11 Crewmate of Armstrong and Aldrin

America is mourning the first man to walk on the moon. Among those paying tribute to Neil Armstrong is his Apollo 11 crewmate Buzz Aldrin, the second man to tread the lunar surface.

"My friend Neil took the small step but giant leap that changed the world and will forever be remembered as a historic moment in human history," Aldrin said in a statement Saturday.

Many of us are familiar with the exploits of Armstrong and Aldrin. But what of the third astronaut on Apollo 11?

Michael Collins never set foot on the moon. As Armstrong and Aldrin descended to the lunar surface in the Eagle lander, Collins orbited around the moon in the command module of Apollo 11, called Columbia.

For a day he circled, waiting for his comrades to lift off again. As he passed behind the dark side of the moon, his communication with Earth was totally cut off.

In his autobiography "Carrying the Fire: An Astronaut's Journeys," Collins wrote about that isolation with surprising enthusiasm: "I feel this powerfully -- not as fear or loneliness -- but as awareness, anticipation, satisfaction, confidence, almost exultation.

I like the feeling. Outside my window I can see stars -- and that is all. Where I know the moon to be, there is simply a black void, the moon's presence is defined solely by the absence of stars."

After leaving NASA in 1970, Collins became director of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum and later started an aerospace consulting firm.

He has not been one to court media attention. In a rare statement released by NASA in 2009, Collins said he was happy with his role in man's first trip to the moon.

The three astronauts of Apollo 11, he said, came along at exactly the right time to succeed in their careers.

"In my own case at least, it was 10 percent shrewd planning and 90 percent blind luck. Put LUCKY on my tombstone," Collins said.

On learning of Armstrong's death, the quiet Collins told NASA that he will miss Armstrong terribly, agency spokesman Bob Jacobs tweeted. 

'Bullet-Shaped' UFO Spotted over Turkey, Europe - YouTube

A video clip of a bullet-shaped UFO was uploaded on Tuesday to YouTube, but viewers are left to interpret the filmed sighting, as the uploader did not post a description.

The clip's first frame hinted the location could be somewhere in the woods, or a remote area. The camera holder then looked up the sky, and the strange-looking flying object was seen. Aside from its unusual shape, the UFOs chemtrail also puzzled viewers.

The title of the clip is written in Turkish characters. But there is no absolutely certainty that the video was taken in Turkey.

However, a glance at the flying object would show a really unusual shape of an aircraft. The stream of vapor smoke it left on its trail made the sighting even more peculiar.

"But one look at the object is enough to say that it is unlike any airplane, jet or helicopter ever filmed before," reported.

Unfortunately, no one could get a closer look on the silver-colored subject. Zooming in would only break the image because it requires a cutting-edge camera for film viewing.

Without distinct wings, rotor blades, and flashing navigational lights, the "bullet video" shows nothing less than a legitimate unidentified flying object.

It seemed the aircraft was being propelled by some kind of an engine. As to the manner of flight operation, it seemed there is an entirely different method for the bullet UFO.

No explanation has come up on the bullet UFO just yet. Are the aliens on to some 'Earthling' things?

Desmoid Tumours: About The Rare Condition

What exactly are desmoid tumours?

Aggressive fibromatosis is a rare condition marked by the presence of desmoid tumors, which are benign, slow-growing tumours without any metastatic potential.

However, aggressive fibromatosis is locally aggressive. Despite their benign nature, they can damage nearby structures causing organ dysfunction.

Most cases are sporadic, but some are associated with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP).

Approximately 10% of individuals with Gardner's syndrome, a type of FAP with extracolonic features, have desmoid tumors

The growths form from fibroblasts, a type of cell that helps heal wounds and protects the lung, liver, blood vessels, heart, kidneys and other vital organs, according to the Desmoid Tumour Research Foundation.

The prognosis for desmoid tumours depends on how aggressively they grow and whether the growths compress organs such as the intestines, kidneys and lungs or blood vessels or nerves.

More aggressive desmoids can be fatal, according to the foundation.

Unlike some cancers, desmoid tumors do not metastatize, meaning they don't spread from organ to organ or through the blood.

Desmoid tumors are extremely rare, with 900 people diagnosed with the condition each year, according to the foundation, although more people may have the condition due to difficulties diagnosing the growths.

Anyone can become afflicted with desmoid tumors, but they commonly occur in people in their 30s and 40s. Women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with desmoid tumours as men, according to the foundation.

There may also be a link between desmoid tumours and people who have a family history of colon cancer, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The growths are diagnosed through a biopsy and are treated either through surgery (as in Rounds' case), chemotherapy, radiation, medications and hormone therapy.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Nasa Mars Rover's Curiosity: New Mars HD camera pictures

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Nasa's Curiosity rover has beamed back yet more astonishing pictures from Mars.

One of the images is a 360-degree view of the landing site, including the highest part of a nearby mountain called Mount Sharp.

Hurricane Isaac reaches shore

A powerful storm bearing down on the Gulf Coast and New Orleans is now a hurricane, US forecasters say.
Hurricane Isaac boasts sustained winds at least 75mph (120km/h), and is likely to make landfall by Tuesday night.

The storm is expected to hit New Orleans seven years after the much stronger Hurricane Katrina.

US President Barack Obama has warned residents in the path of the storm they should not "tempt fate" and should heed evacuation warnings.

At 11:20 CDT (16:20 GMT), the storm was 160 miles (250km) south-east of New Orleans, moving north-west at 10mph (17km/h).

Mr Obama has declared an emergency in Louisiana, allowing federal funds to be released to local authorities.

"As we prepare for Isaac to hit, I want to encourage all residents of the Gulf Coast to listen to your local officials and follow their directions - including if they tell you to evacuate," Mr Obama said on Tuesday.

Speaking from the White House, he added: "Now is not the time to tempt fate. Now is not the time to dismiss official warnings. You need to take this seriously."
Storm surge
Shortly after Isaac reached hurricane status, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Fema) to make a full emergency declaration for the state.

He told reporters that a declaration made on Monday did not allow for the reimbursement for state's expenses from the storm.

"We have learned from past experiences that you cannot wait and you have to push the federal bureaucracy," Mr Jindal, who cancelled an appearance at the Republican National Convention because of the storm, said.

Isaac has killed at least 24 people in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, and caused significant flooding and damage in the Caribbean.

It largely bypassed the Republican convention in Tampa, Florida, but prompted a day-long delay to proceedings there.

The National Hurricane Center warned that a possible combined "storm surge" and high tide would cause flooding in coastal areas along the Gulf Coast.

Water would potentially reach 6-12ft (1.8-3.7m) above ground in south-west Louisiana and Mississippi, 4-8ft in Alabama and 3-6ft in south-central Louisiana.

Isaac is also threatening heavy rainfall of as much as 20in (51cm) in isolated spots, and could spark possible tornadoes along the northern Gulf Coast.

Hurricane warnings are in place for a swathe of land 400 miles (645km) wide, from Morgan City in Louisiana to the Florida-Alabama state line.

2012 US Meteorological Society: Information Statement on Climate Change

CNN Video footage of Hurricane Isaac
There is unequivocal evidence that Earth’s lower atmosphere, ocean, and land surface are warming; sea level is rising; and snow cover, mountain glaciers, and Arctic sea ice are shrinking.

The dominant cause of the warming since the 1950s is human activities. This scientific finding is based on a large and persuasive body of research.

The observed warming will be irreversible for many years into the future, and even larger temperature increases will occur as greenhouse gases continue to accumulate in the atmosphere.

Avoiding this future warming will require a large and rapid reduction in global greenhouse gas emissions.

The ongoing warming will increase risks and stresses to human societies, economies, ecosystems, and wildlife through the 21st century and beyond, making it imperative that society respond to a changing climate.

To inform decisions on adaptation and mitigation, it is critical that we improve our understanding of the global climate system and our ability to project future climate through continued and improved monitoring and research.

This is especially true for smaller (seasonal and regional) scales and weather and climate extremes, and for important hydroclimatic variables such as precipitation and water availability.

Technological, economic, and policy choices in the near future will determine the extent of future impacts of climate change.

Science-based decisions are seldom made in a context of absolute certainty. National and international policy discussions should include consideration of the best ways to both adapt to and mitigate climate change.

Mitigation will reduce the amount of future climate change and the risk of impacts that are potentially large and dangerous. At the same time, some continued climate change is inevitable, and policy responses should include adaptation to climate change.

Prudence dictates extreme care in accounting for our relationship with the only planet known to be capable of sustaining human life.

[This statement is considered in force until August 2017 unless superseded by a new statement issued by the AMS Council before this date.]

Read the report in PDF format:  pdf version

Read the full online report here: 2012 AMS Information Statement on Climate Change

Monday, August 27, 2012

Tribute to the late Neil Armstrong

Scottish Screen Archive - Neil Armstrong in LANGHOLM' Scotland

Neil Armstrong swears the oath of allegiance and is granted the freedom of the burgh of Langholm.

Video shows sections of original news footage from Scottish Border Television.

Shots of pipe band in the streets of Langholm. Neil Armstrong and his wife, accompanied by the Provost and civic officials, stand to attention for the American national anthem.

Shots of the party as they are driven through the burgh streets in an open landau carriage.

They arrive at parish church. Shots inside the church as Armstrong swears oath of allegiance and is granted the freedom of the burgh. He signs the Burgess Roll.

Shots of Neil Armstrong as he addresses the congregation. Shots of the party outside the church.

Armstrong signs autographs and walks through the crowds.

NASA Astronaut Neil Armstrong with his fellow USAF Test Pilots

Title: NASA Test Pilots

This picture includes John McKay, Neil Armstrong (2nd from Right), Robert White, Joe Walker

Credit Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive

ESA Nasa Hubble Space Telescope (HST): Hidden treasures

Astronomer Joe Liske (aka Dr J) presents the winners of the Hidden Treasures image processing competition, a 2012 contest that challenged the public to find spectacular Hubble Space Telescope images that were never released. See the results here. Credit: ESA/Hubble

Scientists use A-Train satellites to measure how pollution particles affect clouds

Described as a satellite constellation, the 'A-Train' is shown in this artist's conception. 

The close timing and engineering of these satellites along a track means that they function as if they were all on the same platform. 

Data collected by the A-Train gave scientists in this CloudSat study more complete information on atmospheric particles around the globe. Photo: NASA.

Grabbing a virtual tiger by the tail, scientists led by researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory directly linked a cloud's inclination to rain to its effects on the climate.

Using global satellite data and complex calculations, they were able—for the first time—to develop a proxy measurement for one of the most vexing questions in atmospheric science: how tiny particles in the atmosphere affect the amount of cloud.

Using this new metric, they showed that aerosols' effects on clouds are overestimated by as much as 30 percent in a global climate model. The results were published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

"Our study helps narrow the large aerosol-cloud interaction uncertainties in projections of future global warming," said Dr. Minghuai Wang, atmospheric scientist at PNNL and lead author of the study.

"Wide ranges of estimates in aerosol effects on clouds have made it challenging to understand how clouds really affect the climate." Understanding clouds and their effects on climate is a formidable challenge in trying to predict how the climate will change by the end of the century.

On the line are questions of future melting of the polar ice, drought and water shortages, and increases in extreme weather events. One particularly tough question is how tiny pollution-caused particles in the atmosphere will affect clouds.

This study shows how satellite observations can be used to hone in on aerosol effects on clouds and make it possible to better understand how clouds will affect climate.

"The use of satellite observations in studying climate processes like these is absolutely critical because it is the only way to obtain cloud and aerosol measurements over the whole globe," said Dr. Mikhail Ovchinnikov, PNNL atmospheric scientist and co-author of the study.

The study, led by PNNL scientists, constructed a new metric for rain frequency susceptibility, then closely correlated that metric to the aerosol effect on cloud amount, which is the total amount of water in the cloud and the cloud's size.

This metric, along with satellite measurements, was then used in three global climate models to find new ranges of cloud amount change due to pollution-caused aerosol particles, compared to current estimates.

The team, for the first time, used "A-Train" satellite observations which collect coincident global measurements of aerosols, clouds, and precipitation to develop a new metric, termed rain frequency susceptibility or "S-POP."

This metric provides a quantitative measure of the sensitivity of rain frequency to the amount of aerosols in clouds.

They showed how S-POP is closely correlated to aerosols' effects on cloud amount, using three global climate models, including a multi-scale aerosol climate model developed at PNNL (PNNL-MMF) that embeds a cloud-resolving model at each grid column of a host global climate model.

Finally, the relationship between S-POP and the aerosol effects on cloud amount from the global climate models together with the observed rain frequency susceptibility from A-Train observations were used to estimate aerosol effects on cloud amount in global climate models.

They showed that in one global model, the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Community Atmosphere Model version 5 (CAM5), aerosol effects on clouds were overestimated by 30 percent.

This research also provides a guide for the development and evaluation of new parameterizations, techniques to computationally represent complex small-scale systems, of aerosol effects on clouds in global climate models.

The researchers plan to apply S-POP to evaluate cloud amount based on rain frequency susceptibility in other global climate models, and guide further improvement of the aerosol indirect effects estimations in CAM5 and the PNNL-MMF multi-scale aerosol-climate model.

Read the paper: "Constraining Cloud Lifetime Effects of Aerosols Using A-Train Satellite Observations," Geophysical Research Letters 39:L15709. DOI:10.1029/2012GL052204

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Neil Armstrong Tribute - YouTube

Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on a world that was not Earth, has died. Getting his pilot's license before his driver's license probably didn't hurt when it came to becoming one of the world's most famous men - certainly the world's most famous space man.

A remarkable man who was able to accomplish many great things, his legacy is far larger than himself - he became a symbol of our greatest accomplishments and it is very sad to now be in a world without him.

Sad Loss of the most famous US Astronaut in History - Neil Armstrong

"I am, and ever will be, a nerdy engineer," Neil Armstrong once said, trying to downplay any suggestion that he was some sort of modern icon or superman. 

After making history in 1969 as the first person to walk on the moon, he spent much of the rest of his career out of the limelight and leading a quiet, modest life.

But his achievements were never, and will never, be forgotten. 

On hearing the news of Armstrong's death, President Obama said: "He was a hero not just of his time, but of all time."

Let us all celebrate the life of one of history's most acclaimed yet unassuming pioneers.

A footprint left by Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon on 20 July 1969. 

The Apollo 11 astronauts - Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr - were launched to the moon by a Saturn V rocket on 16 July in Houston, Texas.

A photograph of Neil Armstrong taken by Buzz Aldrin on their way back from the moon.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

An Aerofex hoverbike

An Aerofex hoverbike is tested in the Mojave desert, California. Aerofex, a Manhattan Beach aerospace company, has developed a Star Wars style hoverbike that can fly nearly 30 mph and hovers inches above the ground.

Picture: KeystoneUSA-ZUMA / Rex Features

Tungurahua Volcano, Ecuador, puts on a fiery show

Tungurahua volcano has been very active the past days, with continous ash emissions and occasional large explosions producing ash plumes up to 32,000 ft (ca. 10 km) altitude.

IG scientists on an overflight observed strombolian activity from the inner summit crater which has filled with fresh lava.

At the time of updating, tremor and seismic activity have decreased somewhat.

Nasa's James Webb Space Telescope (JWST): Mirrors Finished

One of the most challenging parts of NASA’s huge new space telescope, the building of its ultrasophisticated mirror system, is now finished, and the mirrors are ready for delivery.

Send-off ceremonies held here at Ball Aerospace on Aug. 15 saluted the completion of 18 beryllium primary mirror segments for the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), which is billed as the successor to NASA's venerable Hubble Space Telescope.

Ball is also responsible for JWST’s secondary and tertiary mirrors, a fine steering mirror assembly and several engineering development units.

Ball is the principal subcontractor to manufacturer Northrop Grumman for the JWST optical technology and lightweight mirror system at the heart of the telescope — an astronomical project that is now pegged to cost roughly $8.7 billion and to be lofted in the fall of 2018.