Thursday, December 29, 2011
SKYWATCH: New solar flare on its way
Spaceweather.com - Emerging over the sun's southeastern limb, sunspot AR1389 unleashed an M2-class solar flare at 1350 UT on Dec. 29th. The blast shows that the newly-visible sunspot is capable of significant eruptions. AR1389 is not yet facing Earth, but it is turning in our direction.
CHANCE OF MAGNETIC STORMS: NOAA forecasters have downgraded the chances of a geomagnetic storm on Dec. 29th to 20%. A CME is still expected to arrrive later today, but the longer it takes to get here, the weaker its impact is likely to be.
U.S. Fifth Fleet says won't allow Hormuz disruption
TEHRAN/DUBAI (Reuters) - The U.S. Fifth Fleet said on Wednesday it would not allow any disruption of traffic in the Strait of Hormuz, after Iran threatened to stop ships moving through the world's most important oil route. "Anyone who threatens to disrupt freedom of navigation in an international strait is clearly outside the community of nations; any disruption will not be tolerated," the Bahrain-based fleet said in an e-mail. Iran, at loggerheads with the West over its nuclear program, said on Tuesday it would stop the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if sanctions were imposed on its crude exports. "Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran's armed forces is really easy ... or as Iranians say, it will be easier than drinking a glass of water," Iran's navy chief Habibollah Sayyari told Iran's English-language Press TV on Wednesday. "But right now, we don't need to shut it ...," said Sayyari, who is leading 10 days of exercises in the Strait. Analysts say that Iran could potentially cause havoc in the Strait of Hormuz, a strip of water separating Oman and Iran, which connects the biggest Gulf oil producers, including Saudi Arabia, with the Gulf of Oman and the Arabian Sea. At its narrowest point, it is 21 miles across. But its navy would be no match for the firepower of the Fifth Fleet which consists of 20-plus ships supported by combat aircraft, with 15,000 people afloat and another 1,000 ashore.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Report: U.S. Bio-Security Officials Sound Warning After Scientists Create Deadly New Strain of Bird Flu
The U.S. government is sounding the alarm after reports that Dutch scientists have created a highly-contagious and deadly airborne strain of bird flu that is potentially capable of killing millions, The Independent reported Tuesday.
The U.S. National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity is currently analyzing how much of the scientists' information should be allowed to be published—given the inherent risks of having the information fall into the hands of terrorists or rogue states.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/12/20/scientists-spark-fears-by-creating-highly-contagious-airborne-strain-bird-flu/#ixzz1h63ZhH7Y
Wednesday, December 14, 2011
SKYWATCH: Annual meteor shower underway
GEMINID METEOR UPDATE: Today, Earth is passing through a stream of debris from near-Earth asteroid 3200 Phaethon, source of the annual Geminid meteor shower. Often the encounter produces more than 100 Geminids per hour, but this year many of the meteors are obscured by bright moonlight. Visual rates are currently in the dozens, not hundreds.
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Scientists narrow hunt for 'God' particle
Associated Press - GENEVA – Scientists hunting for an elusive subatomic particle say they've found "intriguing hints" — but not definitive proof — that it exists, narrowing down the search for what is believed to be a basic component of the universe. The researchers added that they hope to reach a conclusion on whether the particle exists by next year. The latest data show that the mass of the Higgs boson — popularly referred to as the "God particle" — probably falls in the lower end of the spectrum of mass that can be produced by smashing protons together in the huge Large Hadron Collider, researchers from two independent teams said Tuesday. The two teams said their data indicates the particle itself may have a mass of between roughly 114 and 130 billion electron volts. One billion electron volts is roughly the mass of a proton. The most likely mass of the Higgs boson is around 124 to 126 billion electron volts, the teams said. Until Tuesday, the most likely mass was seen as between 114 and 141 billion electron volts. There is still a small possibility that the Higgs could be much more massive and found above 476 billion electron volts, physicists said. The revelations Tuesday were heavily anticipated by thousands of researchers who hope that the particle, if it exists, can help explain why there is mass in the universe. British physicist Peter Higgs and others theorized the particle's existence more than 40 years ago to explain why fundamental particles — building blocks of the universe — have mass.
Monday, December 12, 2011
SKYWATCH: Significant comet plunges toward the sun
A comet nearly as wide as two football fields (200m) is plunging toward the sun where it will most likely be destroyed in a spectacular light show on Dec. 15/16. Although Comet Lovejoy (C/2011 W3) could become as bright as Jupiter or Venus when it "flames out," the glare of the sun will hide the event from human eyes. Solar observatories in space, however, will have a grand view.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Nasa's Voyager 1 in 'cosmic purgatory' on verge of entering Milky Way
07 Dec 2011 - The spacecraft is close to leaving the Solar System and into the uncharted territory of the Milky Way after more than three decades in space. Voyager 1 was launched with its twin, Voyager 2, by the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) in 1977. Voyager 1 is travelling at just under 11 miles per second and sending information from nearly 11 billion miles away from the sun. It is about to become the first man-made object to leave the Solar System, although Nasa expects it to take between several months and years before it completely enters interstellar space. Voyager 2 will follow later. Ed Stone, the Voyager project scientist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said: "Voyager tells us now that we're in a stagnation region in the outermost layer of the bubble around our solar system. Voyager is showing that what is outside is pushing back.
Tuesday, December 6, 2011
A branch of the Greek central bank. Bank deposits are falling rapidly.
SPIEGEL ONLINE - Many Greeks are draining their savings accounts because they are out of work, face rising taxes or are afraid the country will be forced to leave the euro zone. By withdrawing money, they are forcing banks to scale back their lending -- and are inadvertently making the recession even worse. Georgios Provopoulos, the governor of the central bank of Greece, is a man of statistics, and they speak a clear language. "In September and October, savings and time deposits fell by a further 13 to 14 billion euros. In the first 10 days of November the decline continued on a large scale," he recently told the economic affairs committee of the Greek parliament. With disarming honesty, the central banker explained to the lawmakers why the Greek economy isn't managing to recover from a recession that has gone on for three years now: "Our banking system lacks the scope to finance growth." He means that the outflow of funds from Greek bank accounts has been accelerating rapidly. At the start of 2010, savings and time deposits held by private households in Greece totalled €237.7 billion -- by the end of 2011, they had fallen by €49 billion. Since then, the decline has been gaining momentum. Savings fell by a further €5.4 billion in September and by an estimated €8.5 billion in October -- the biggest monthly outflow of funds since the start of the debt crisis in late 2009. The raid on bank accounts stems from deep uncertainty in Greek households which culminated in early November during the political turmoil that followed the announcement by then-Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou of a referendum on the second Greek bailout package. Papandreou withdrew the plan and stepped down following an outcry among other European leaders against the referendum, and a new government was formed on Nov. 11 under former central banker Loukas Papademos. That appears to have slowed the drop in bank savings, at least for the time being.
Monday, December 5, 2011
NASA finds planet that could sustain life
Associated Press - Dec. 5 – NASA has found a new planet outside our solar system that's eerily similar to Earth in key aspects. Scientists say the temperature on the surface of the planet is about a comfy 72 degrees. Its star could almost be a twin of our sun. It likely has water and land. It was found in the middle of the habitable zone, making it the best potential target for life yet. The discovery announced Monday was made by NASA's Kepler planet-hunting telescope. This is the first time Kepler confirmed a planet outside our solar system in the not-too-hot, not-too-cold habitable zone. Twice before astronomers have announced a planet found in that zone, but neither was as promising. One was later disputed; the other is on the hot edge of the zone.
Scientists find monster black holes, biggest yet
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Scientists have found the biggest black holes known to exist — each one 10 billion times the size of our sun.
A team led by an astronomer at the University of California at Berkeley discovered the two gigantic black holes in clusters of galaxies 300 million light years away. That's relatively close on the galactic scale.
The previous black hole record-holder is as large as 6 billion suns. A black hole is formed by the collapse of a super-size star. It's a region where nothing, not even light, can escape.
The scientists say their findings suggest differences in the way black holes grow, depending on the size of the galaxy.
The research was released Monday by the journal Nature.
Friday, December 2, 2011
Santa Ana winds: Pasadena on emergency footing as powerful winds whip Southern California
Pasadena, Calif., saw winds that blew over trees like this one on the corner of North San Gabriel Avenue and East Colorado Boulevard, Thursday. Some of the worst winds in years blasted through California overnight, sweeping through canyons, gusting up to 97 mph, and toppling trees and trucks while knocking out power to hundreds of thousands of people. The high Santa Ana winds, which began late Wednesday, have rattled residents and businesses all over the West, from Utah to Southern California. Hundreds of thousands of people are without power, and colleges, schools and at least one movie studio have shut down. While some meteorologists are referring to the storm as an especially severe form of the Santa Ana winds that Southern California experiences at this time of year, others say the storm’s wind patterns are unusual, affecting communities that don’t usually experience such violent weather.