NASA found proof that water present on the moon is distributed widely across the lunar surface

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TECH TIMES)

 

NASA found proof that water present on the moon is distributed widely across the lunar surface, not just in a particular terrain or region.

NASA gathered new evidence from two lunar missions. The water, however, is not always easily accessible though it appears to be present day and night.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, could help scientists gain more insight into the origin of water on the moon and if it could be used easily as a resource. Subsequently, future explorers on the moon might be able to convert water into oxygen and hydrogen to fuel a rocket, or breathing oxygen, or even as drinking water.

“We find that it doesn’t matter what time of day or which latitude we look at, the signal indicating water always seems to be present,” said senior research scientist Joshua Bandfield, who is the lead study author.

Bandfield also added that the water present does not seem to be dependent on the surface composition and the water sticks around.

Widespread And Immobile Water On The Lunar Surface

The discovery of water, which is relatively immobile and widespread, indicates that it could be primarily present as OH or hydroxide. OH is water’s more reactive relative, which is made up of one atom of oxygen and one atom of hydrogen. Also referred to as hydroxyl, it does not stay on its own for a long duration, choosing to chemically attach itself to molecules or attacking them. Therefore, OH has to be taken out from minerals to be useful.

The research team associated with the study also found that water present on the moon is not attached loosely to the lunar surface.

Lunar Water

The researchers could gain more insight into the water sources and how it was stored for a long time on other rocky forms present in the solar system, once they sort out what happens on the moon.

At present, the scientists are still trying to figure out what the discovery tells about the moon water’s source. The results indicate that H2O or OH is being generated by the solar wind slamming the surface of the moon. The team, however, did not ignore the fact that H2O or OH could originate from the moon itself, which is released from the deep interiors of minerals. The water has been trapped here since the formation of the satellite.

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Thick Layers Of Ice Water Discovered Below Surface Of Mars

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TECH TIMES)

 

Thick Layers Of Ice Water Discovered Below Surface Of Mars

 By Maui Hermitanio Tech Times
Nasa building new rover for Mars 2020 mission
Underground ice found beneath Mars’ surface extending to its middle latitude. This discovery is a game changer in mankind’s exploration of the read planet.   ( Aynur Zakirov | Pixabay )

Geological features comprising 300 feet of thick ice was exposed in the surface of Mars.

Eroded slopes of pure water ice called scarps were scanned by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. At least eight scarps were found in both northern and southern hemisphere of Mars’ middle latitudes.

Pure Water Ice Discovered From Mars’ Surface

The pictures sent back to Earth by MRO showed a more detailed cross-section view of thick ice sheets below a layer of ice-cemented rock and dust on Mars’ surface. The 3D images were studied by scientists using the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment camera.

In 2001, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft discovered that a third of Mars’ surface is covered in shallow ice. Also, its poles are full of ice deposits through the detection of hydrogen using gamma rays.

In 2008, the Phoenix lander analyzed and confirmed the Odyssey findings as it discovered buried water ice at 68 degrees north latitude or about one-third into the planet’s pole. However, previous scans using the MRO’s Shallow Radar instrument were not enough to determine the extent and makeup of ice on the Red Planet.

Scientists were astonished to discover that Mars’ mid-latitudes contained pure water ice.

“It was surprising to find ice exposed at the surface at these places. In the mid-latitudes, it’s normally covered by a blanket of dust or regolith,” loose bits of rock atop a layer of bedrock, said Colin Dundas, research geologist of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona.

The ice sheets appear bluish in the high-resolution images and look like steep cliffs of glaciers, up to 100 meters tall. The discovery points to a vast area of underground ice buried only a meter or two below Martian ground surface. The location of the scarps was at 55 to 58 middle latitudes or the equivalent of Scotland or the tip of South America on Earth.

Shayne Byrne of the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory in Tucson said the discovery was like looking at an ant farm from a glass on the side and seeing what’s hidden beneath the ground.

How Scarps Were Formed

No definitive information was provided on how the scarps were formed. Scientists said once the buried ice is exposed to Mars’ atmosphere, a scarp likely grows wider and taller as it retreats. It is also possible that layers of snow were compressed every climate cycle, resulting in the building deposits of ice over time.

The varying shades of light to a dark blue color of ice as shown on the images suggest that the thick slabs of ice are stacked. The ice could also be remnants of glaciers that existed millions of years ago.

Unlimited Source Of Water And Possible Life On Mars

The discovery is considered a game changer in mankind’s exploration of Mars. Scientists have raised the possibility that the thick ice sheets could become a potential accessible source of water for future scientific exploration and visit to Mars. Byrne suggested that would-be visitors to Mars can just use a bucket and shovel and collect water from the sources.

The latest research gave scientists a glimpse of Mars’ climate history and would be the basis for further study of its water sources. It will also help NASA and other agencies plan upcoming rover and human missions to Mars.

The study was published in the journal Science.

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Jupiter Looks Beautiful In These New NASA Photos

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME NEWS)

 

NASA has shared brand new photos of Jupiter taken by the Juno spacecraft, showing the gas giant’s blue-tinged skies.

The Juno spacecraft takes batches of photos about every 53 days as it orbits Jupiter. NASA researchers uploaded the raw images online last month, prompting several people to process the photos into colorful views of Jupiter, including self-described citizen scientists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran.

Eichstädt and Doran’s enhanced images from Juno’s JunoCam show a beautiful planet of luminous colors, ranging from deep blues and purples to browns and reds — though people should not be fooled by how inviting the planet seems.

“As pretty as a planet can get, but get too close and Jupiter will END YOU,” Doran tweeted.

See the stunning images of Jupiter below.

NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran
NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran
NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran
NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran

 

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China’s out-of-control space station may crash to Earth in 2 months

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE BUSINESS INSIDER’)

 

China’s out-of-control space station may crash to Earth in 2 months

china tiangong 1 space station model reutersA scale model of China’s Tiangong-1 space station. Jason Lee/Reuters

  • In 2016, China lost control of its first space station, called Tiangong-1 or “Heavenly Palace.”
  • The Aerospace Corporation expects the spacecraft to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere in mid-March, give or take a couple of weeks.
  • Chunks of the 8.5-ton vessel should be durable enough to reach our planet’s surface.
  • Any surviving pieces of Tiangong-1 will most likely land in the ocean.

China’s first space station, called Tiangong-1 or “Heavenly Palace,” will soon explode over Earth into a rain of fiery debris.

Aerospace Corporation, a nonprofit research company, predicted last month that the derelict spacecraft would reenter Earth’s atmosphere in mid-March, give or take two weeks — so possibly as early as the end of February or as late as April.

When it does, extreme heat and pressure caused by plowing through the air at more than 15,000 mph will destroy the 8.5-ton vessel.

Not everything may vanish, though.

There’s a good chance that gear and hardware left on board could survive intact all the way to the ground, according to Bill Ailor, an aerospace engineer who specializes in atmospheric reentry. That durability is thanks to Tiangong-1’s onion-like layers of protective material.

“The thing about a space station is that it’s typically got things on the inside,” Ailor, who works for Aerospace Corporation, previously told Business Insider. “So basically, the heating will just strip these various layers off. If you’ve got enough layers, a lot of the energy is gone before a particular object falls out, it doesn’t get hot, and it lands on the ground.”

For example, he said, after NASA’s Columbia space shuttle broke up over the US in 2003, investigators recovered a working flight computer — an artifact that ultimately helped explain how the deadly incident happened.

Predicting Tiangong-1’s crash to Earth

Tiangong-1 is a two-room space station for two taikonauts, or Chinese astronauts. It has a volume of 15 cubic meters, about 1/60th of the football-field-size International Space Station.

Though China superseded Tiangong-1 in 2016 with Tiangong-2, space experts hailed it as a major achievement for the nation’s space program, since it helped pioneer a permanent Chinese presence in orbit.

“It conducted six successive rendezvous and dockings with spacecraft Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9, and Shenzhou-10 and completed all assigned missions, making important contributions to China’s manned space exploration activities,” said a memo China submitted in May to the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space.

tiangong 1 chinese space station cmsaAn illustration of Tiangong-1, China’s first space station, orbiting Earth. China Manned Space Agency

In the memo, China said it lost contact with the spacecraft on March 16, 2016, after it “fully fulfilled its historic mission.”

By May 2017, Tiangong-1 was coasting about 218 miles above Earth and dropping by about 525 feet a day, the memo said. Its altitude has since plummeted to less than 175 miles, according to Aerospace Corporation data.

“For any vehicle like this, the thing that brings them down is atmospheric drag,” Ailor said. “Why there’s a lot of uncertainty in the predictions is that it depends on what the sun’s doing, to a large measure.”

The sun can unleash solar storms and solar flares — bursts of X-rays and ultraviolet light — that heat Earth’s outer atmosphere, causing the air to expand and rise. That forces low-flying objects like Tiangong-1 to plow through denser gases.

“This puts just a little bit of a higher force on these objects that causes them to come down,” Ailor said.

An analysis of the combined effects of solar activity and Tiangong-1’s orbital speed, direction, and altitude, as well as other factors, helped the Aerospace Corporation provide its most recent estimate of a mid-March de-orbit. Before the big moment, however, the company may refine its estimate as conditions change.

What will happen when China’s space station is destroyed

atv spacecraft atmospheric reentry burning up fireball esa d ducrosAn illustration of Europe’s ATV spacecraft breaking apart and burning up as it reenters Earth’s atmosphere.ESA/D. Ducros

Tiangong-1 is likely to crash over the ocean, as water covers about 71% of Earth’s surface. But there’s a decent chance some pieces may strike land as it breaks up over a long and thin oval footprint.

“The whole footprint length for something like this could be 1,000 miles or so,” Ailor said, with heavier pieces at the front and lighter debris toward the back.

If anyone is lucky enough to witness Tiangong-1’s atmospheric breakup from an airplane, it may look similar to the destruction of the European Space Agency’s 14-ton Automated Transfer Vehicle — an expendable spacecraft that was once used to resupply the ISS.

When asked for comment on Tiangong-1’s threat to ongoing NASA missions, the space agency told Business Insider it “actually doesn’t track any debris.”

Ailor says pieces of China’s space station are “really unlikely” to hit anyone or anything on Earth.

“It’s not impossible, but since the beginning of the space age … a woman who was brushed on the shoulder in Oklahoma is the only one we’re aware of who’s been touched by a piece of space debris,” he said.

Should a hunk of titanium, a computer, or another piece smash through a roof or windshield, however, international space law covers compensation for victims.

“It’s China’s responsibility if someone gets hurt or property gets damaged by this,” NASA’s representative said.

3 Astronauts Take Off For International Space Station

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF TIME AND THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

 

Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, bottom, U.S. astronaut Scott Tingle, above, and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, prior to the launch of the Soyuz-FG rocket in Kazakhstan, on Dec. 17, 2017
Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov, bottom, U.S. astronaut Scott Tingle, above, and Japanese astronaut Norishige Kanai, prior to the launch of the Soyuz-FG rocket in Kazakhstan, on Dec. 17, 2017
Shamil Zhumatov—AP

By ASSOCIATED PRESS

December 17, 2017

(BAIKONUR, Kazakhstan) — A capsule carrying three astronauts from Russia, Japan and the United States has blasted off for a two-day trip to the International Space Station.

The Soyuz capsule with Anton Shkaplerov, Norishige Kanai and Scott Tingle launched at 1:23 p.m. (0723 GMT; 2:23 a.m. EST) Sunday from Russia’s manned space-launch complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan. It entered orbit nine minutes later.

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It is the first space flight for Tingle and Kanai; Shkaplerov is on his third mission to the ISS.

The capsule is to dock on Tuesday with the orbiting space laboratory. The three will join Russia’s Alexander Misurkin and Joe Acaba and Mark Vandde Hei of NASA, who have been aboard since September.

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Eight planets found orbiting distant star, NASA says

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN AND NASA)

 

Eight planets found orbiting distant star, NASA says

The galaxy explained

Story highlights

  • For the first time, eight planets have been found orbiting Kepler-90
  • It is tied with our solar system for a star hosting the most known planets

(CNN) For the first time, eight planets have been found orbiting a distant star, Kepler-90, 2,545 light-years from Earth in the Draco constellation, NASA announced Thursday. It is the first star known to support as many planets as are orbiting our own sun, and researchers believe that this is the first of many to come.

Researchers had known that seven planets were orbiting the star. But Google Artificial Intelligence — which enables computers to “learn” — looked at archival data obtained by NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler telescope and uncovered the eighth planet.
With the idea of eventually differentiating among exoplanets, Christopher Shallue, senior software engineer at Google AI in California, and Andrew Vanderburg, astronomer and NASA Sagan postdoctoral fellow at the University of Texas, Austin, trained a computer how to differentiate between images of cats and dogs.
They refined their approach to identify exoplanets in Kepler data based on the change in light when a planet passed in front of its star. The neural network learned to identify these by using signals that had been vetted and confirmed in Kepler’s planet catalog. Ninety-six percent of the time, it was accurate.
Since launching in 2009, Kepler has watched more than 150,000 stars in one part of the sky to determine exoplanet candidates, based on the slight dimming of stars as potential planets pass across them. Kepler gathered a dataset of 35,000 possible signals indicating planets. In order to help find weaker signals of potential planets that researchers had missed, the neural network was trained to look for weak signals in star systems that were known to support multiple planets.
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“Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can’t search it for themselves,” Shallue said.
The new planet has been dubbed Kepler-90i. It’s not a hospitable environment. It’s small, “sizzling” hot and rocky, whirling around its star every 14.4 days. In our solar system, the closest planet to the sun, Mercury, has an orbit of 88 days.
“The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system. You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer,” Vanderburg said.
Although Kepler-90 is a sun-like star, the planets are all bunched together in tight orbits around it — the same distance that Earth is from the sun.

“Just as we expected, there are exciting discoveries lurking in our archived Kepler data, waiting for the right tool or technology to unearth them,” said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington. “This finding shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come.”
Researchers also announced that they had uncovered a sixth planet in the Kepler-80 system, Kepler-80g, which is similar in size to Earth. It also has an orbit of 14.4 days. The star is cooler and redder than our sun, and all of the planets orbit very tightly around it. Five of the six planets form a resonant chain, in which they are locked in orbit by mutual gravity. The Kepler-80 system is stable, as the previously discovered seven-planet TRAPPIST-1 system has proven to be.
To date, Kepler has observed 2,525 confirmed exoplanets.
“These results demonstrate the enduring value of Kepler’s mission,” said Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California. “New ways of looking at the data — such as this early-stage research to apply machine learning algorithms — promises to continue to yield significant advances in our understanding of planetary systems around other stars. I’m sure there are more firsts in the data waiting for people to find them.”
Missions launching in 2018, like the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the James Webb Space Telescope, will enable further and closer study of planet candidates identified by Kepler.
Compared with Kepler, TESS will use a similar transit method for observing planets when they pass in front of their parent stars. Though Kepler looked at one portion of the sky for stars that were farther away for a longer time, TESS will observe the entire sky and focus on the brightest and closest stars, each for 30 days.
The James Webb Space Telescope is capable of observing large exoplanets and detecting starlight filtered through their atmospheres, which will enable scientists to determine the atmospheric composition and analyze them for gases that can create a biological ecosystem.
The K2 mission, which launched in 2014, is extending Kepler’s legacy to new parts of the sky and new fields of study, adding to NASA’s “arc of discovery.” It has enough fuel to keep identifying candidates until summer 2018. It’s helping bridge the gap between Kepler and TESS as far as identifying targets for the James Webb Space Telescope to observe.
  

Voyager 1 Spacecraft Thrusters Fired Up For First Time Since 1980

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Voyager 1 spacecraft thrusters fired up for first time since 1980

Story highlights

  • Voyager 1 is in interstellar space and is NASA’s farthest spacecraft
  • Scientists were looking for a new way to reorient Voyager 1

(CNN)It’s a good idea to have a backup plan, especially in interstellar space.

NASA scientists needed to reorient the 40-year-old Voyager 1 — the space agency’s farthest spacecraft — so its antenna would point toward Earth, 13 billion miles away. But the “attitude control thrusters,” the first option to make the spacecraft turn in space, have been wearing out.
So NASA searched for a Plan B, eventually deciding to try using four “trajectory correction maneuver” (TCM) thrusters, located on the back side of Voyager 1. But those thrusters had not been used in 37 years. NASA wasn’t sure they’d work.
Tuesday, engineers fired up the thrusters and waited eagerly to find out whether the plan was successful. They got their answer 19 hours and 35 minutes later, the time it took for the results to reach Earth: The set of four thrusters worked perfectly. The spacecraft turned and the mood at NASA shifted to jubilation.
“The Voyager team got more excited each time with each milestone in the thruster test. The mood was one of relief, joy and incredulity after witnessing these well-rested thrusters pick up the baton as if no time had passed at all,” said Todd Barber, a propulsion engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
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“With these thrusters that are still functional after 37 years without use, we will be able to extend the life of the Voyager 1 spacecraft by two to three years,” said Suzanne Dodd, project manager for Voyager at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

Launched 40 years ago

In 1977, the twin spacecrafts Voyager 1 and 2 were launched, 16 days apart. In September 2013, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft became the first human-made object to leave the solar system, entering interstellar space, the environment between the stars.
Voyager 2 lags behind, but according to NASA, the spacecraft is following the lead of the first Voyager and is on course to enter interstellar space in the coming years. The pair are still exploring the outer solar system and continue to communicate with Earth daily.
The Voyager missions discovered the first active volcanoes beyond Earth, at Jupiter’s moon Io, and hints of a subsurface ocean on Jupiter’s moon Europa. They encountered Saturn’s largest moon, Titan, where data showed a thick Earth-like atmosphere; found the icy moon Miranda at Uranus; and spotted icy-cold geysers on Neptune’s moon Triton.
The significance of Voyager is the vast amount of knowledge of outer space it has provided and the interest in further exploration. That interest has resulted in the Galileo mission to Jupiter and the Cassini mission to Saturn, as well as the discovery of three new moons around Saturn using Earth-based instruments.

The future of Voyager

Because of the success in the attempt to test Voyager 1’s TCM thrusters, NASA plans to test the ones on Voyager 2. The need to use them is not as immediate, however, because the primary thrusters of Voyager 2 have not significantly degraded.
It is expected that in the year 40,272, Voyager 1 will come within 1.7 light years of an obscure star in the constellation Ursa Minor (the Little Bear or Little Dipper) and in about 40,000 years, Voyager 2 will come within about 1.7 light years of a star called Ross 248, a small star in the constellation of Andromeda.

The first asteroid we’ve seen from outside our Solar System is totally bizarre

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE VERGE’ SCIENCE MAGAZINE)

 

The first asteroid we’ve seen from outside our Solar System is totally bizarre

7

The first distant visitor we’ve ever observed

An artist’s impression of the first interstellar asteroid, `Oumuamua.
 European Southern Observatory

Astronomers have confirmed that an object that recently passed by our planet is from outside our Solar System — the first interstellar asteroid that’s ever been observed. And it doesn’t look like any object we’ve ever seen in our cosmic neighborhood before.

Follow-up observations, detailed today in Nature, have found that the asteroid is dark and reddish, similar to the objects in the outer Solar System. It doesn’t have any gas or dust surrounding it like comets do, and it’s stretched long and skinny, looking a bit like an oddly shaped pen. It’s thought to be about a quarter-mile long, and about 10 times longer than it is wide. That makes it unlike any asteroids seen in our Solar System, none of which are so elongated.

Astronomers also think this object — nicknamed `Oumuamua, Hawaiian for “a messenger from afar arriving first”— traveled for millions of years before stumbling upon our Solar System. It seems to have come from the direction of the constellation Lyra, but the asteroid’s exact origin is still unknown. More answers might come soon, as NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is observing `Oumuamua this week. “Our plan is to look at it through the end of the year, so we can get the very best pass possible and figure out where it came from,” Karen Meech, lead author of the study at the University of Hawaii’s Institute of Astronomy, tells The Verge.

`Oumuamua was first spotted on October 19th by astronomers working on the Pan STARRS telescope in Hawaii. The telescope is used to scan the sky for objects orbiting near Earth, looking for any that might pose a threat to our planet. But one of the rocks in the latest observations looked as if it might not belong in our neck of the Universe.

The team at Pan STARRS continued observing the object over the next couple of days. Based on their measurements, they were fairly certain that they were watching the first ever interstellar asteroid. Up until then, such a distant visitor had never been seen before, so observatories all over the world started following the object, too, in order to calculate its path and figure out its shape.

Interstellar asteroids are thought to be rejects from other planetary systems. When our Solar System first formed, for instance, the giant planets tossed around all the smaller bits of material circulating around the Sun, some of which landed in the outer edges of the Solar System while others were ejected from our neighborhood completely. These outcasts then traveled through interstellar space, possibly passing by other stars. Conceivably, ejected material from other planetary systems must make their way to our Solar System once in a while, says Meech.

Such interstellar objects are thought to pass through our Solar System pretty frequently, but they’re usually moving too fast, and they’re usually too faint to see. With `Oumuamua, astronomers got lucky: the asteroid entered our Solar System at an angle, coming in close by the Sun, and then passed by Earth on its way out of the Solar System. That gave astronomers the chance to catch it with ground-based telescopes. “I think it’s really neat that we had this visitor, however briefly, and we had a chance to look at it up close,” says Meech.

This diagram shows the orbit of the interstellar asteroid ‘Oumuamua as it passes through the Solar System. Unlike all other asteroids and comets observed before, this body is not bound by gravity to the Sun. It has come from interstellar space and will return there after its brief encounter with our star system. Its hyperbolic orbit is highly inclined and it does not appear to have come close to any other Solar System body on its way in.
`Oumuamua’s trajectory through the Solar System.
 Image: European Southern Observatory

After it was first spotted, dozens of observatories all over the world continued to follow it over the next week and a half. Speed was crucial, since `Oumuamua is getting progressively farther away and growing fainter every day. “We had about a window of 10 days or two weeks to do anything practical,” says Meech. Through those quick observations, astronomers found that `Oumuamua had large fluctuations in brightness, indicating an unusually elongated, spinning object that makes one complete rotation every 7.3 hours.

Now, `Oumuamua is 124 million miles from Earth, zooming away at 85,700 miles per hour. It passed by Mars’ orbit on November 1st, and will reach Jupiter’s orbit sometime in 2018. Soon, it’ll be too hard to track, even with Hubble. “It’s really getting much too faint to do anything at all,” says Meech.

But in the next few years, we may be able to spot more interstellar objects like `Oumuamua. Once bigger telescopes start to come online, like the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope that’s being built in Chile, astronomers will be able to see even more visiting rocks. “I predict there will be a lot of these detected in the future,” says Meech.

NASA Captures Stunning Close-Up Photos of Antarctica’s Massive Iceberg

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WEBSITE OF ‘GIZMODO’)

 

NASA Captures Stunning Close-Up Photos of Antarctica’s Massive Iceberg

The edge of A-68, the iceberg the calved from the Larsen C ice shelf in July 2017. (Image: NASA/Nathan Kurtz)

Back in July, satellite images showed an iceberg bigger than the state of Delaware calving and drifting away from Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf. Well, it’s summertime now in Antarctica, which means scientists are finally able to view this behemoth from up close—and the pictures are just as spectacular as we imagined.

Known as iceberg A-68, the gigantic slab of ice weighs about a trillion tons and features a surface area of 2,240 square miles (5,800 square kilometers). The berg is slowly drifting away from the Larsen C ice shelf, possibly heading towards the South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. As it floats away from the Antarctic Peninsula, A-68 is splintering and forming more icebergs in the process.

This past Sunday, November 12th, members of Operation Icebridge—a NASA-led initiative to produce detailed 3D maps of Antarctic and Arctic polar ice—flew a P-3 aircraft armed with a sophisticated array of measuring instruments to take a closer look.

A remarkable shot of A-69, revealing the extent of its size. (Image: NASA/John Sonntag)

“Perhaps you know the feeling: that moment when you see with your eyes something you have previously only seen in pictures,” wrote science writer Kathryn Hansen, who participated in the trip, in an article penned for NASA’s Earth Observatory. “Before today, I knew the Larsen C ice shelf only from the satellite images we have published since August 2016.”

A wide view showing iceberg A-68B (front), iceberg A-68A (middle) and the Larsen C ice shelf (back). (Image: NASA/Nathan Kurtz)

Hansen said she wasn’t prepared for the enormity of the iceberg, as most bergs she’s seen were relatively small and blocky.

“A-68 is so expansive it appears if it were still part of the ice shelf,” she said. “But if you look far into the distance you can see a thin line of water between the iceberg and where the new front of the shelf begins. A small part of the flight today took us down the front of iceberg A-68, its towering edge reflecting in the dark Weddell Sea.”

Who’s up for a swim!? Larsen C ice shelf (left) and iceberg A-68A (right). (Image: NASA/Nathan Kurtz)

In addition to taking photos, the Operational Icebridge scientists sought to measure the depth of water below iceberg, which they did using radar and a gravimeter.

IceBridge project scientist Nathan Kurtz and Sebastián Marinsek from Instituto Antártica Argentino observe Larsen C from a window on the P-3 aircraft. (Image: NASA/Kathryn Hansen)

Scientists now have the clearest picture yet of A-68, which will help them track and study its progress moving forward.

[NASA Earth Observatory]

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

George Dvorsky

George is a contributing editor at Gizmodo and io9.

Thousands of scientists issue bleak ‘second notice’ to humanity

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Thousands of scientists issue bleak ‘second notice’ to humanity

 November 13 at 3:14 PM

Planet Earth (NASA)

In late 1992, 1,700 scientists from around the world issued a dire “warning to humanity.” They said humans had pushed Earth’s ecosystems to their breaking point and were well on the way to ruining the planet. The letter listed environmental impacts like they were biblical plagues — stratospheric ozone depletion, air and water pollution, the collapse of fisheries and loss of soil productivity, deforestation, species loss and catastrophic global climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

“If not checked,” wrote the scientists, led by particle physicist and Union of Concerned Scientists co-founder Henry Kendall, “many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know.”

But things were only going to get worse.

To mark the letter’s 25th anniversary, researchers have issued a bracing follow-up. In a communique published Monday in the journal BioScience, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries assess the world’s latest responses to various environmental threats. Once again, they find us sorely wanting.

“Humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse,” they write.

This letter, spearheaded by Oregon State University ecologist William Ripple, serves as a “second notice,” the authors say: “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory.”

Global climate change sits atop the new letter’s list of planetary threats. Global average temperatures have risen by more than half a degree Celsius since 1992, and annual carbon dioxide emissions have increased by 62 percent.

 Play Video 2:08
Government’s dire climate change report blames humans
The government’s National Climate Assessment released on Nov. 3 cited human influence as the “dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” (Patrick Martin/The Washington Post)

But it’s far from the only problem people face. Access to fresh water has declined, as has the amount of forestland and the number of wild-caught fish (a marker of the health of global fisheries). The number of ocean dead zones has increased. The human population grew by a whopping 2 billion, while the populations of all other mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and fish have declined by nearly 30 percent.

The lone bright spot exists way up in the stratosphere, where the hole in the planet’s protective ozone layer has shrunk to its smallest size since 1988. Scientists credit that progress to the phasing out of chlorofluorocarbons — chemicals once used in refrigerators, air conditioners and aerosol cans that trigger reactions in the atmosphere to break down ozone.

“The rapid global decline in ozone-depleting substances shows that we can make positive change when we act decisively,” the letter says.

The authors offer 13 suggestions for reining in our impact on the planet, including establishing nature reserves, reducing food waste, developing green technologies and establishing economic incentives to shift patterns of consumption.

To this end, Ripple and his colleagues have formed a new organization, the Alliance of World Scientists, aimed at providing a science-based perspective on issues affecting the well-being of people and the planet.

“Scientists are in the business of analyzing data and looking at the long-term consequences,” Ripple said in a release. “Those who signed this second warning aren’t just raising a false alarm. They are acknowledging the obvious signs that we are heading down an unsustainable path. We are hoping that our paper will ignite a widespread public debate about the global environment and climate.”

Read more:

The Earth’s ozone hole is shrinking and is the smallest it has been since 1988

Fossil fuel emissions will reach an all-time high in 2017, scientists say — dashing hopes of progress

Trump’s top environmental pick says she has ‘many questions’ about climate change

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