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  • NASA Inspector General Lobs Big Rocks At Agency's Asteroid Hunting Program

    coondoggie writes Lack of money, management structure and staff are hampering NASA's ability to effectively identify and track comets, meteorites and asteroids that might threaten Earth. The space agency's Inspector General, Paul Martin, issued a scathing report this week that said while NASA's Near Earth Object program has done substantial work in identifying the sometimes massive rocks hurtling around the planet it is substantially behind in its goal of cataloging 90% of those 140 meters in diameter by 2020, among other issues.

    1 comments | 12 minutes ago

  • New Data Center Protects Against Solar Storm and Nuclear EMPs

    dcblogs writes "In Boyers, Pa., a recently opened 2,000-sq.-ft. data center has been purpose-built to protect against an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), either generated by a solar storm or a nuclear event. The company that built the facility isn't disclosing exactly how the data center was constructed or what materials were used. But broadly, it did say that the structure has an inner skin and an outer skin that use a combination of thicknesses and metals to provide EMP protection. Betting against an EMP event is a gamble. In 1859, the so-called Carrington solar storm lit the night skies and disrupted the only telegraph communications. William Murtagh, program coordinator at U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center, said there is ongoing concern that the earth may see an solar storm that could impact electronics on the ground. "We're concerned that can happen," A 2012 solar storm, that missed the earth, "was very powerful, and some have suggested it would have been on par with a Carrington-level event." One researcher put the odds of a catastrophic solar storm by 2020 as one in eight.

    59 comments | 2 days ago

  • Extent of Antarctic Sea Ice Reaches Record Levels

    schwit1 writes Scientists have declared a new record has been set for the extent of Antarctic sea ice since records began. Satellite imagery reveals an area of about 20 million square kilometers covered by sea ice around the Antarctic continent. Jan Lieser from the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) said the discovery was made two days ago. "Thirty-five years ago the first satellites went up which were reliably telling us what area, two dimensional area, of sea ice was covered and we've never seen that before, that much area."

    597 comments | 2 days ago

  • European Space Agency Picks Site For First Comet Landing In November

    An anonymous reader writes Europe's Rosetta mission, which aims to land on a comet later this year, has identified what it thinks is the safest place to touch down. From the article: "Scientists and engineers have spent weeks studying the 4km-wide "ice mountain" known as 67P, looking for a location they can place a small robot. They have chosen what they hope is a relatively smooth region on the smaller of the comet's two lobes. But the team is under no illusions as to how difficult the task will be. Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, currently sweeping through space some 440 million km from Earth, is highly irregular in shape. Its surface terrain is marked by deep depressions and towering cliffs. Even the apparently flat surfaces contain potentially hazardous boulders and fractures. Avoiding all of these dangers will require a good slice of luck as well as careful planning.

    35 comments | 2 days ago

  • Treasure Map: NSA, GCHQ Work On Real-Time "Google Earth" Internet Observation

    wabrandsma) writes with the latest accusations about NSA spying activity in Germany. According to top-secret documents from the NSA and the British agency GCHQ, the intelligence agencies are seeking to map the entire Internet.
    Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world — every smartphone, tablet and computer — is to be made visible. Such a map doesn't just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them. The breathtaking mission is described in a Treasure Map presentation from the documents of the former intelligence service employee Edward Snowden which SPIEGEL has seen. It instructs analysts to "map the entire Internet — Any device, anywhere, all the time." Treasure Map allows for the creation of an "interactive map of the global Internet" in "near real-time," the document notes. Employees of the so-called "FiveEyes" intelligence agencies from Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which cooperate closely with the American agency NSA, can install and use the program on their own computers. One can imagine it as a kind of Google Earth for global data traffic, a bird's eye view of the planet's digital arteries.

    262 comments | 3 days ago

  • Solar Powered Technology Enhances Oil Recovery

    mdsolar writes with this story of a company that uses solar energy to recover crude oil. Royal Dutch Shell has teamed with a sovereign investment fund from Oman to invest $53 million in a company that manufactures solar power equipment designed for increasing oil production. Glasspoint Solar Inc. installs aluminum mirrors near oil fields that concentrate solar radiation on insulated tubes containing water. The steam generated from heating the water is injected into oil fields to recover heavy crude oil. This concept of enhanced oil recovery. involves high pressure injection of hot fluids to recover heavy crude oil. The use of renewable energy like solar power makes great economic sense, as the fuel cost associated with this enhanced oil recovery technology is practically zero. Shell hopes to employ this technology in its oil fields in Oman. The company hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with enhanced oil recovery operations. A large-scale successful implementation of this technology could be a game changer for major consumers like India and the U.S.. Both have substantial oil reserves, but are unable to tap them due to high costs involved in heavy oil recovery.

    81 comments | 3 days ago

  • Ozone Layer Recovering But Remains Threatened

    First time accepted submitter i kan reed writes in with some good news from the ozone report of the United Nations. The Earth’s protective ozone layer is on track to recover by the middle of the century, the United Nations today reported, urging unified action to tackle climate change and curb continued fluctuations to the composition of the atmosphere. That is according to the assessment of 300 scientists in the summary document of the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2014, published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “International action on the ozone layer is a major environmental success story,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a news release. “This should encourage us to display the same level of urgency and unity to tackle the even greater challenge of climate change.”

    59 comments | about a week ago

  • X-Class Solar Flare Coming Friday

    First time accepted submitter kit_triforce writes Satellites have just detected a powerful X1.6-class solar flare. The source was active sunspot AR2158, which is directly facing Earth. NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the extreme ultraviolet flash. Ionizing radiation from the flare could cause HF radio blackouts and other communications disturbances, especially on the day-lit side of Earth. In the next few hours, when coronagraph data from SOHO and STEREO become available, we will see if a coronal mass ejection (CME) emerges from the blast site. If so, the cloud would likely be aimed directly at Earth and could reach our planet in 2 to 3 days.

    145 comments | about a week ago

  • The Exoplanets That Never Were

    StartsWithABang writes In 1992, scientists discovered the first planets orbiting a star other than our Sun. The pulsar PSR B1257+12 was discovered to have its own planetary system, and since then, exoplanet discoveries have exploded. But before that, in 1963, decades of research led to the much-anticipated publication and announcement of an exoplanet discovered around Barnard's star, the second-closest star system to Earth. Unfortunately, it turned out to be spurious, and it took years to uncover, an amazing story which is only now fully coming to light.

    31 comments | about a week ago

  • SpaceX and Boeing Battle For US Manned Spaceflight Contracts

    An anonymous reader writes: $3 billion in funding is on the line as private space companies duke it out for contracts to end U.S. reliance on Russian rockets for manned spaceflight. The two biggest contenders are SpaceX and Boeing, described as "the exciting choice" and "the safe choice," respectively. "NASA is charting a new direction 45 years after sending humans to the Moon, looking to private industry for missions near Earth, such as commuting to and from the space station. Commercial operators would develop space tourism while the space agency focuses on distant trips to Mars or asteroids." It's possible the contracts would be split, giving some tasks to each company. It's also possible that the much smaller Sierra Nevada Corp. could grab a bit of government funding as well for launches using its unique winged-shuttle design.

    123 comments | about a week ago

  • US Rust Belt Manufacturing Rebounds Via Fracking Boom

    schnell writes: A NY Times article reports that Midwestern "Rust Belt" towns and their manufacturing economies in particular have rebounded greatly due to the U.S. resurgence in fossil fuel production. This resurgence is driven by production of shale gas and natural gas from "fracking" and other new technologies that recover previously unavailable fuel but are more invasive than traditional techniques. "Both Youngstown and Canton are places which experienced nothing but disinvestment for 40 years." "They're not ghost towns anymore," according to the article. But while many have decried the loss of traditional U.S. manufacturing jobs in a globalized world and the associated loss of high-wage, blue collar jobs, do the associated environmental risks of new "tight oil" extraction techniques outweigh the benefits to these depressed economic regions?

    191 comments | about a week ago

  • How Astrophysicists Hope To Turn the Entire Moon Into a Cosmic Ray Detector

    KentuckyFC writes One of the great mysteries in astrophysics surrounds the origin of ultra-high energy cosmic rays, which can have energies of 10^20 electron volts and beyond. To put that in context, that's a single proton with the same energy as a baseball flying at 100 kilometers per hour. Nobody knows where ultra-high energy cosmic rays come from or how they get their enormous energies. That's largely because they are so rare--physicists detect them on Earth at a rate of less than one particle per square kilometer per century. So astronomers have come up with a plan to see vastly more ultra high energy cosmic rays by using the Moon as a giant cosmic ray detector. When these particles hit the lunar surface, they generate brief bursts of radio waves that a highly sensitive radio telescope can pick up. No radio telescope on Earth is currently capable of this but astronomers are about to start work on a new one that will be able to pick up these signals for the first time. That should help them finally tease apart the origins of these most energetic particles in the Universe .

    74 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Restoring Salmon To Their Original Habitat -- With a Cannon

    StartsWithABang writes Hydroelectric dams are one of the best and oldest sources of green, renewable energy, but — as the Three Gorges Dam in China exemplifies — they often cause a host of environmental and ecological problems and challenges. One of the more interesting ones is how to coax fish upstream in the face of these herculean walls that can often span more than 500 feet in height. While fish ladders might be a solution for some of the smaller dams, they're limited in application and success. Could Whooshh Innovations' Salmon Cannon, a pneumatic tube capable of launching fish up-and-over these dams, finally restore the Columbia River salmon to their original habitats?

    147 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Apparent Meteorite Hits Managua, Nicaragua, Leaving Crater But No Injuries

    A wire report from AFP says that an explosion heard in Managua last night, and a 40-foot crater evident today, are evidence that the city was the impact site for a small meteorite that struck Saturday night. The photos are not very exciting at a glance, which is a good thing, considering that a dirt crater and no injuries is probably the best outcome if a meteorite strikes the city where you live. From the article: The meteorite appeared to have hurtled into a wooded area near the airport around midnight Saturday, its thunderous impact felt across the capital. The hit was so large that it registered on the instruments Strauss’ organization uses to size up earthquakes. “You can see two waves: first, a small seismic wave when the meteorite hit Earth, and then another stronger one, which is the impact of the sound,” he said. Government officials and experts visited the impact site on Sunday. One of them, William Martínez, said it was not yet clear if the meteorite burned up completely or if it had been blasted into the soil. “You can see mirror-like spots on the sides of the crater from where the meteorite power-scraped the walls,” Martínez said. (The same news, in slightly shorter form, from the AP.)

    107 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Surprise! More Than Twice As Much Mercury In Environment As Thought

    sciencehabit writes The most comprehensive estimate of mercury released into the environment is putting a new spotlight on the potent neurotoxin. By accounting for mercury in consumer products, such as thermostats, and released by industrial processes, the calculations more than double previous tallies of the amount of mercury that has entered the environment since 1850. The analysis also reveals a previously unknown spike in mercury emissions during the 1970s, caused largely by the use of mercury in latex paint.

    173 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Newly Discovered 60-foot Asteroid About To Buzz By Earth

    An asteroid nicknamed "Pitbull" and detected by the University of Arizona observatory atop Mt. Lemmon on August 31st will make a close approach to Earth Sunday; it's predicted to pass at a distance of about 25,000 miles, and to pass over New Zealand. According to the article, The asteroid is a similar size to the rock which caused enormous damage to the city of Chelyabinsk in Siberia. Last year's explosion generated the equivalent energy of more than 20 atomic bombs detonating and left more than 1,000 people injured while damaging thousands of buildings. Astronomers at Nasa, who track the movements of the more than 11,000 near-Earth objects, are confident Pitbull will not strike the planet.

    68 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Bill Gates Wants To Remake the Way History Is Taught. Should We Let Him?

    theodp (442580) writes With his Big History Project, the NY Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin reports that Bill Gates wants to remake the way history is taught (intro video). Last month, the Univ. of California system announced that a version of the Big History Project course could be counted in place of a more traditional World History class, paving the way for the state's 1,300 high schools to offer it. Still, not everyone's keen on the idea. "Is this Bill Gates's history?" asks NYU's Diane Ravitch. "And should it be labeled 'Bill Gates's History'? Because Bill Gates's history would be very different from somebody else's who wasn't worth $50-60 billion." Of the opposition to Gates, Scott L. Thomas of Claremont Graduate University explains, 'Frankly, in the eyes of the critics, he's really not an expert. He just happens to be a guy that watched a DVD and thought it was a good idea and had a bunch of money to fund it."

    362 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Two Explorers Descend Into An Active Volcano, and Live to Tell About It

    Discover reports on the unlikely adventure of explorers and daredevils Sam Cossman and George Kourounis, who (with caution employed at least in their choice of gear) "rappelled down the crater inside Mount Marum, which is situated on one of 80 islands that make up the Pacific Republic of Vanautu. And they’ve just uploaded video of this up-close encounter with one of the world’s most volcanically active locations." Warning: the linked video may inspire envy and wanderlust, even if it doesn't expose any deep new science.

    66 comments | about two weeks ago

  • California Blue Whales Rebound From Whaling

    vinces99 writes: The number of California blue whales has rebounded to near historical levels, according to new research (abstract) by the University of Washington, and while the number of blue whales struck by ships is likely above allowable U.S. limits, such strikes do not immediately threaten that recovery. This is the only population of blue whales known to have recovered from whaling – blue whales as a species having been hunted nearly to extinction. Blue whales – nearly 100 feet in length and weighing 190 tons as adults – are the largest animals on Earth and the heaviest ever, weighing more than twice as much as the largest known dinosaur, the Argentinosaurus. They are an icon of the conservation movement and many people want to minimize harm to them, according to Trevor Branch, UW assistant professor of aquatic and fishery sciences. California blue whales, most visible while feeding 20 to 30 miles off the California coast, range from the equator to the Gulf of Alaska. Today they number about 2,200, according to monitoring by other research groups, which is likely about 97 percent of the historical levels.

    91 comments | about two weeks ago

  • Space Station's 'Cubesat Cannon' Has Gone Rogue

    astroengine writes: Last night (Thursday), two more of Planet Lab's shoebox-sized Earth imaging satellites launched themselves from aboard the International Space Station, the latest in a series of technical mysteries involving a commercially owned CubeSat deployer located outside Japan's Kibo laboratory module. Station commander Steve Swanson was storing some blood samples in one of the station's freezers Friday morning when he noticed that the doors on NanoRack's cubesat deployer were open, said NASA mission commentator Pat Ryan. Flight controllers at the Johnson Space Center in Houston determined that two CubeSats had been inadvertently released. "No crew members or ground controllers saw the deployment. They reviewed all the camera footage and there was no views of it there either," Ryan said.

    143 comments | about two weeks ago

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