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  • richardmitnick 7:43 am on June 30, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The Tunguska explosion 114 years ago today" presented for Asteroid Day, , , , EarthSky   

    From “EarthSky” : “The Tunguska explosion 114 years ago today” presented for Asteroid Day 

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    From “EarthSky”

    June 30, 2022

    Paul Scott Anderson
    Kelly Kizer Whitt

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    Photo from the Soviet Academy of Science 1927 expedition, led by Leonid Kulik, showing trees knocked over by the Tunguska explosion in 1908. Image via Wikipedia.

    The Tunguska explosion: June 30, 1908

    On today’s date 114 years ago, the largest asteroid impact in recorded history struck on a warm summer morning in Siberia, Russia. Now, we observe Asteroid Day each year on June 30, on the anniversary of what’s now known as the “Tunguska explosion”.

    The explosion happened over the sparsely populated northern forestland above the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is present-day Krasnoyarsk Krai.

    Incredibly, the blast released enough energy to kill reindeer and flatten an estimated 80 million trees over an area of 830 square miles (2,150 square km). Witnesses reported seeing a fireball – a bluish light, nearly as bright as the sun – moving across the sky. In addition, a flash and a sound similar to artillery fire was said to follow it. Moreover, a powerful shockwave broke windows hundreds of miles/kilometers away and knocked people off their feet.

    Yet, ultimately, decades passed before anyone could explain the event.

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    Map showing the approximate location of the Tunguska event of 1908 in Siberia, Russia. Image via Wikipedia.

    Tunguska explosion largest in recorded history

    A mysterious aspect of the Tunguska event was that, surprisingly, no one ever found a crater. But, even without a crater, scientists still categorized it as an impact event. They now believe the incoming object never struck Earth, but instead exploded in the atmosphere, causing what’s known as an air burst. This type of atmospheric explosion was still enough to cause massive damage to the forest in the region.

    Scientists determined the object was most likely a stony asteroid approximately the size of a 25-story building. The asteroid was traveling at a speed of about 33,500 miles (54,000 km) per hour and exploded 3 to 6 miles (5 to 10 km) above Earth’s surface.

    Understanding Tunguska

    Why did it take so long – the better part of the 20th century – for scientists to understand what caused the Tunguska event? For one thing, it was almost a decade before the first scientists reached this remote region of Siberia. In 1927, Leonid Kulik led the first Soviet research expedition to investigate the Tunguska event. He made an initial trip to the region, interviewing local witnesses and exploring the area of fallen trees.

    But Kulik did not find any meteorite fragments or an impact crater.

    As a result of Kulik’s initial investigation, some concocted wild theories to explain the Tunguska event. People claimed a stricken alien spacecraft caused the destruction. Later, they pointed to a mini-black-hole, or a particle of antimatter.

    The truth is just as interesting, and perhaps more terrifying … because it can happen again.

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    Photo of an air burst, in this case from a U.S. Navy submarine-launched Tomahawk cruise missile. A similar kind of air burst from an incoming asteroid or comet flattened the trees in Siberia in 1908. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

    The Chelyabinsk meteor impact

    In fact, the Tunguska event basically did happen again, just on a smaller scale: The Chelyabinsk meteor, 1,500 miles (2,400 km) to the west, 105 years later.

    On February 15, 2013, a similar although smaller airburst occurred over the city of Chelyabinsk, Russia.

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    Smoke trail from the Chelyabinsk meteor, February 15, 2013. Image via Alex Alishevskikh, who caught it about a minute after the blast.


    NASA ScienceCasts: What Exploded Over Russia?

    The Chelyabinsk event provided vital clues as to what happened during the Tunguska event. As NASA explained, new evidence arrived to help solve the mystery of Tunguska:

    “This highly documented fireball created an opportunity for researchers to apply modern computer modeling techniques to explain what was seen, heard and felt.

    The models were used with video observations of the fireball and maps of the damage on the ground to reconstruct the original size, motion and speed of the Chelyabinsk object. The resulting interpretation is that Chelyabinsk was most likely a stony asteroid the size of a five-story building that broke apart 15 miles (24 kilometers) above the ground. This generated a shock wave equivalent to a 550-kiloton explosion. The explosion’s shockwave blew out roughly a million windows and injured more than a thousand people. Fortunately, the force of the explosion was not enough to knock down trees or structures.

    Per current understanding of the asteroid population, an object like the Chelyabinsk meteor can impact the Earth every 10 to 100 years on average.”

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    Approximate size comparison of the asteroids/meteorites that exploded over Tunguska and Chelyabinsk, in relation to the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower. Image via Wikipedia.

    Studying Tunguska to prepare for future events

    In 2019, scientists published new research about the Tunguska event in a series of papers in a special issue of the journal Icarus. A workshop held at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley and sponsored by the NASA Planetary Defense Coordination Office inspired the research.

    The theme of the workshop was Reexamining the astronomical cold case of the 1908 Tunguska impact event.

    Read more about NASA’s research on the Tunguska explosion

    In recent decades – due to the Tunguska event, and other, smaller impacts – astronomers have come to take the possibility of catastrophic comet and asteroid impacts seriously. They now have observing programs to watch for near-Earth objects (NEOs), as they’re called. At regular meetings they discuss what might happen if we do find a large object on a collision course with Earth.

    Future asteroid missions

    Two separate missions will travel to the asteroid Didymos. ESA’s Hera mission is due to launch in 2024.

    NASA’s DART mission launched November 23, 2021.

    The DART mission will crash into Didymos’s little moonlet between September 26 and October 1 this year to test how we can nudge an object in space and change its course, a challenge we may one day have to undertake if a dangerous object has Earth in its sights. The Hera mission will journey to Didymos to study DART’s impact.

    Lorien Wheeler, a researcher at NASA Ames Research Center, working on NASA’s Asteroid Threat Assessment Project, said:

    “Because there are so few observed cases, a lot of uncertainty remains about how large asteroids break up in the atmosphere and how much damage they could cause on the ground. However, recent advancements in computational models, along with analyses of the Chelyabinsk and other meteor events, are helping to improve our understanding of these factors so that we can better evaluate potential asteroid threats in the future.”

    Astronomer David Morrison, also at NASA Ames Research Center, commented:

    “Tunguska is the largest cosmic impact witnessed by modern humans. It also is characteristic of the sort of impact we are likely to have to protect against in the future.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:16 am on June 28, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , EarthSky, "Baby woolly mammoth – beautifully preserved – found in Yukon"   

    From “EarthSky” : “Baby woolly mammoth – beautifully preserved – found in Yukon” 

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    From “EarthSky”

    June 28, 2022
    Deborah Byrd

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    Miners in Yukon, Canada, stumbled upon an intact and beautifully preserved baby woolly mammoth on June 21, 2022. Geologists suggest the animal was frozen in permafrost during the ice age, over 30,000 years ago.

    Baby woolly mammoth: ‘Beautiful’

    The Canadian territory Yukon – and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, a First Nation band – said late last week (June 24, 2022) that miners in the region have discovered a whole, 30,000-year-old mummified baby woolly mammoth. It’s only the second one ever found in the world. And it’s the first and most complete discovery of its kind in North America.

    Miners with the Treadstone Mining company found the near-complete mummified baby woolly mammoth. They found her in the Klondike gold fields within Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Traditional Territory. A joint statement from Yukon and Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in said:

    “Miners working on Eureka Creek uncovered the frozen woolly mammoth while excavating through the permafrost. This is a significant discovery for Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and the Government of Yukon. Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Elders named the mammoth calf Nun cho ga, meaning ‘big baby animal’ in the Hän language.

    The Yukon has a world-renowned fossil record of ice age animals. But mummified remains with skin and hair are rarely unearthed. Nun cho ga is the most complete mummified mammoth found in North America.”

    “It took my breath away”

    Yukon paleontologist Grant Zazula has been studying the ice age in the Yukon since 1999. He said:

    “As an ice age paleontologist, it has been one of my lifelong dreams to come face to face with a real woolly mammoth. And that dream came true today. Nun cho ga is beautiful and one of the most incredible mummified ice age animals ever discovered in the world. So I am excited to get to know her more.”

    Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Elder Peggy Kormendy said:

    “It’s amazing. It took my breath away when they removed the tarp. We must all treat it with respect. When that happens, it is going to be powerful, and we will heal.”

    Brian McCaughan of Treadstone Mining said:

    “There will be one thing that stands out in a person’s entire life. And I can guarantee you this is my one thing.”

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    “She’s beautiful,” said Yukon government paleontologist Dr. Grant Zazula. The 1st whole baby woolly mammoth found in North America and 2nd in the world has been named Nun cho ga (“Big baby animal” in the Hän language). You can see her well-preserved trunk, ears and tail. Image via Government of Yukon.

    “Most important discovery in paleontology in North America”

    Michel Proulx of CBC News in Canada reported that miners made the discovery on June 21, which is National Indigenous People’s Day:

    A little after noon … a young miner working in Yukon’s Eureka Creek, south of Dawson City, was digging up muck using a front end loader when he struck something. He stopped and called his boss, who went to see him right away.

    When he arrived, Treadstone Mining’s Brian McCaughan put a stop to the operation on the spot. Within half an hour, Zazula received a picture of the discovery. According to Zazula, the miner had made the “most important discovery in paleontology in North America.”

    “She would have been lost in the storm”

    Proulx continued:

    National Indigenous People’s Day is a statutory holiday in the Yukon so when Zazula received the email, he tried to contact anyone he could find in Dawson City who could help.

    Two geologists, one with the Yukon Geological Survey and another with the University of Calgary, were able to drive to the creek and recover the baby woolly mammoth and do a complete geological description and sampling of the site.

    “And the amazing thing is, within an hour of them being there to do the work, the sky opened up, it turned black, lightning started striking and rain started pouring in,” said Zazula.

    “So if she wasn’t recovered at that time, she would have been lost in the storm.”

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    On June 21, 2022, miners discovered the intact baby woolly mammoth at Treadstone Mine in the Yukon’s Eureka Creek. The mine is located south of Dawson City, a town in the Canadian territory of Yukon. Image via Government of Yukon.

    Quick facts:

    – A quick examination of the woolly mammoth suggests she is female and roughly the same size as the 42,000-year-old infant mummy woolly mammoth Lyuba, found in Siberia in 2007.

    – Geologists from the Yukon Geological Survey and University of Calgary recovered the frozen mammoth on site. They suggest that Nun cho ga died and was frozen in permafrost during the ice age, over 30,000 years ago.

    – These amazing ice age remains provide an extremely detailed glimpse into a time when Nun cho ga roamed the Yukon alongside wild horses, cave lions and giant steppe bison.

    – The discovery of Nun cho ga marks the first near complete and best-preserved mummified woolly mammoth found in North America. A partial mammoth calf, named Effie, was found in 1948 at a gold mine in interior Alaska.

    – The successful recovery of Nun cho ga was possible because of the partnership between miners, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and the Government of Yukon’s Department of Environment, Yukon Geological Survey, and Yukon Palaeontology Program.

    Baby woolly mammoth: What’s next?

    In the months to come, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and the Government of Yukon say they will work together to respectfully preserve and learn more about Nun cho ga and share these stories and information with the community of Dawson City, residents of the Yukon and the global scientific community.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

     
  • richardmitnick 9:18 am on June 26, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Better ice tower reservoirs for farming", , Automated systems use about 1/10 the volume of water manual methods use., EarthSky, Spraying less - spraying smarter, Storing irrigation water in dry high-altitude mountain villages, The automated systems do not require winter maintenance., The method-first developed in Ladakh in India is also in use in dry high-altitude locations in Chile and Kyrgyzstan., The pipes and fountains needed to make these great ice cones are relatively inexpensive and easily obtained., Towering artificial ice reservoirs – called ice stupas   

    From “EarthSky” : “Better ice tower reservoirs for farming” 

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    From “EarthSky”

    Originally in AGU – Advancing Earth and Space Science

    June 26, 2022
    Liza Lester

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    Local farmers in Ladakh, India, built these artificial ice tower reservoirs, or ice stupa, in 2019. They were 100 feet (30 meters) tall and survived into early fall, releasing more than 2 million gallons (8 million liters) of meltwater. Look closely for the small figures of people to get a feel for the great size of the ice towers. Image via Suryanarayanan Balasubramanian.

    Artificial ice tower reservoirs

    Towering artificial ice reservoirs – called ice stupas – emerged in 2014 as an accessible means of storing irrigation water in dry high-altitude mountain villages. Now, experiments with automated systems demonstrate construction of these giant ice cones – which top 100 feet (30 meters) – uses about 1/10 the volume of water manual methods use. Scientists presented this new research on June 23, 2022, at the Frontiers in Hydrology meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

    Science article:
    Frontiers in Hydrology

    In the high, arid region of Ladakh, India, this improvement makes all the difference. The original, manual approach to ice-stupa construction typically lets the water flow all winter. Most of the water does not freeze and is lost. Cold temperatures help ice stupas grow, but too cold temperatures freeze water in the delivery pipes.

    Suryanarayanan Balasubramanian is a glaciologist at The University of Fribourg [Université de Fribourg; Universität Freiburg] (CH) and the lead researcher on this project. Balasubramanian said:

    “In Ladakh right now, many of the ice structures have stopped being built not because the farmers chose to stop watering. It is because the weather chose to stop working.”

    Automation can build ice reservoirs that last longer

    The best solution is to drain the pipe before it freezes. The new automated approach avoided blocked pipes. It uses information from models and weather data to predict the optimal water spray time, duration and flow rate to build ice stupas efficiently. Researchers also said they could apply the information manually.

    Many ice stupas melt by summer, but larger, more efficiently shaped ice towers last into the following year. They could potentially become permanent structures that can provide a predictable water source year-round.

    Balasubramanian said, referring to the new results:

    “The point of the experiment was to show that a better methodology exists to construct these structures and there are simple lessons that we can extract. Why is that important? It shows that these structures are limited in their potential right now. They can grow much bigger and last much longer and use much less water.”

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    These ice stupas are from Switzerland (left) and India (right). Image via Daniel Bürki/ Thinles Norboo/ Suryanarayanan Balasubramanian.

    Cold storage ice tower reservoirs

    Farmers make ice stupas by fountaining water into the air during the winter to fall and freeze into giant, icy stalagmites. The pipes and fountains needed to make these great ice cones are relatively inexpensive and easily obtained, which means farmers can implement them without outside aid. They can build large stupas from a flow rate of just 7.9 gallons (30 liters) per minute, or 2-3 times the flow of a typical garden hose, if applied consistently over months.

    The method-first developed in Ladakh in India is also in use in dry high-altitude locations in Chile and Kyrgyzstan. Ladakh sits higher than 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) above sea level between the Karakorum range and the Himalaya and receives less than 4 inches (10 centimeters) of rain or snow each year. Irrigation networks in this arid region depend on timely meltwater from glaciers, snow and permafrost, which are increasingly unreliable in a changing climate.

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    A fountain sprays water for an artificial ice reservoir in Ladakh, India. Low, steady flow over months can build ice towers 100 feet (30 meters high). Meltwater from these structures irrigates crops in spring. Image via Suryanarayanan Balasubramanian.

    Spraying less – spraying smarter

    Balasubramanian and colleagues tested an automated system. It controlled how much water they sprayed, when and for how long, based on models and weather data. Preliminary results from drone measurements found the automated system dispensed 13% of the amount of water used by the manual fountain system to create ice stupas that delivered the same or more meltwater. The automated systems also did not require winter maintenance.

    Although the automated system is currently outside the budgets of most farmers using ice stupas, Balasubramanian said:

    “…development and mass production could bring down the price and make the system easier to use. Lessons learned from the automation experiments about how to optimize the duration of spray and rate of water flow based on historical freezing rates in the locality could be applied by hand. We have just scratched the surface on these structures, because we only talk about Ladakh. But this is not just about this one location. It could be applied many places, some of which are much, much colder. We don’t know really what the upper size limit is….”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:28 am on June 17, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A meltwater imbalance from Earth’s 3rd Pole", "TPE": Third Pole Environment, , Asian Water Tower, , , EarthSky   

    From “EarthSky” : “A meltwater imbalance from Earth’s 3rd Pole” 

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    From “EarthSky”

    June 13, 2022
    Kelly Kizer Whitt

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    Earth’s 3rd Pole, aka the Asian Water Tower, is the region that encompasses the Hindu Kush Himalayas mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau. This area is the 3rd largest reservoir of snow and ice on the globe after the Arctic and Antarctica. It supplies water to 25% of Earth’s population. The region has warmed at rates significantly higher than the global mean. Annual and seasonal temperatures have increased more at higher elevation zones across the 3rd Pole. Glaciers are retreating, permafrost degrading, and snow cover days decreasing at the 3rd Pole. Map via Weforum.org. Caption via TPE.

    Earth’s 3rd Pole is melting

    The Hindu Kush Himalayas mountain range and the Tibetan Plateau are sometimes called Earth’s 3rd Pole. The region comprises the largest store of frozen water after Earth’s North and South Poles. This so-called Asian Water Tower supplies much of Asia – 25% of Earth’s population, about 2 billion people – with fresh water.

    Scientists have known for some time that Earth’s 3rd Pole is melting and that flooding will become an issue, likely between 2030 (or earlier) and 2050, when annual glacier runoff will reach a maximum. Afterwards, water shortages will begin. This month (June 7, 2022) – while acknowledging that the region’s future “remains highly uncertain” – scientists released a new study suggesting that an imbalance in the way meltwater runs off will cause those north of the region to have a greater supply of water, in the short run, while those in the south will face more immediate and greater shortages.

    The scientists are associated with TPE (Third Pole Environment). TPE has established an observation network which includes 51 sites tracking glacier thickness changes, 35 on glacier mass balance, 16 following permafrost changes, six on snow cover changes as well as 16 collecting hydrological and meteorological data. Initiated in 2009 by three scientists, TPE is part of UNESCO and calls itself:

    “… an international program for the interdisciplinary study of the relationships among water, ice, air, ecology and humankind in the Third Pole region and beyond….”

    The scientists published the new study in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment on June 7, 2022.

    3rd Pole runoff from glaciers isn’t balanced

    As the paper explained:

    “During 1980–2018, warming of the Asian Water Tower was 0.42 degrees C [about .8 degrees F] per decade, twice the global average rate.”

    They said their study:

    “… synthesize[d] observational evidence and model projections that describe an imbalance in the Asian water tower caused by accelerated transformation of ice and snow into liquid water. This phase change is associated with a south–north disparity due to the spatio-temporal interaction between the westerlies and the Indian monsoon….”

    In other words, although global warming itself is causing the overall melt, the westerlies (prevailing winds) and the Indian monsoon have created an imbalance. The researchers said that, as the transformation of ice and snow into liquid water accelerates, the amount of liquid water in the north will (temporarily) increase while the supply in the south will decrease. This imbalance will alleviate water scarcity in areas such as the Yellow and Yangtze River basins in the short term. On the other hand, they said, it will increase scarcity in the Indus and Amu Darya River basins.

    Yao Tandong, lead author and co-chair of Third Pole Environment, said:

    “Such imbalance is expected to pose a great challenge to the supply-demand balancing of water resources in downstream regions.”


    Scientists address the imbalance of the “Asian Water Tower”.

    The Asian Water Tower’s future

    So these scientists think it’s possible that populations north of the Tibetan Plateau will have a greater supply of water, longer, while populations in the south will experience a greater demand for water more quickly. Scientists predict the highest demand for water will be in the southern Indus basin. The demand is largely due to irrigation for farmland. In fact, 90% of water usage in this region goes to irrigation to help feed the area’s great population. The Indus and Ganges Brahmaputra River basins are home to the world’s largest irrigated agricultural area.

    The researchers said the north-south disparity will increase – in the coming decades of this century – as the climate warms. Piao Shilong of Peking University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences said:

    “Actionable policies for sustainable water resource management are greatly needed in this region.”

    The researchers also said more studies will help provide more information to the people of the region so they can anticipate the changes. Lonnie Thompson of the Ohio State University and co-chair of Third Pole Environment said:

    “We need more accurate predictions of future water supply to assess mitigation and adaptation strategies for the region.”

    Three of the scientists’ future goals are comprehensive monitoring stations, advanced modeling and sustainable water management.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.orgin 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:30 am on June 15, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Has China’s FAST telescope detected alien intelligence?", Beijing Normal University [北京師範大學](CN), EarthSky,   

    From Beijing Normal University [北京師範大學](CN) via “EarthSky” : “Has China’s FAST telescope detected alien intelligence?” 

    From Beijing Normal University [北京師範大學](CN)

    via

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    “EarthSky”

    June 14, 2022

    Deborah Byrd
    Paul Scott Anderson

    China’s “FAST” telescope: World’s largest radio telescope

    There’s chatter on Twitter this afternoon (June 14, 2022) about several new possible artificial signals detected by the 1,640-foot (500-meter) FAST radio telescope in China. The implication is that these might be signals from an alien civilization. Global Times (@globaltimesnews) – which describes itself as “China state-affiliated media” – was one source that reported the story. At this time, there’s no confirmation for the story. And Chinese scientists note that the suspicious signals might be some kind of natural radio interference. Or not.

    China’s Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical radio Telescope (FAST) has found several possible technical traces and suspected signals of extraterrestrial civilizations, said the research team from Beijing Normal University, which is further exploring the information.

    FAST is the world’s largest and most sensitive radio telescope. Since 2020, it has been engaged in a program to search for alien life. According to a story published today (June 14) in the Chinese news source YiCai:

    “… The team discovered two groups of signals from space in 2020 when processing data observed by FAST in 2019. This year, it found another suspicious signal from observing exoplanets….”

    See the full article here.

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Beijing Normal University[北京师范大学] is a public research university located in Beijing, China, with a strong emphasis on humanities and sciences. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in China as part of Class A Double First Class University in the Double First Class University Plan and was designated by the Chinese Ministry of Education as a member of Project 985 and Project 211.

    “Normal school” refers to an institution that trained schoolteachers in the early 20th century. The title is preserved in the names of Chinese institutions after they developed into comprehensive universities. It also reflects BNU’s heritage as a Faculty of Education member of the Imperial University of Peking which was established as China’s first modern university.

    BNU ranked first among universities that originated as “normal schools”. The Faculty of Education is considered the best in China according to several widely cited international rankings, including the QS World University Rankings, the Academic Ranking of World Universities, and the University Ranking by Academic Performance. BNU is ranked 36th among the Global Top 100 Innovative Universities according to the World’s Universities with Real Impacts Ranking 2021.

    The University grew out of the Faculty of Education at the Imperial University of Peking by the emporer after the Hundred Days’ Reform in 1898. In 1908 the Faculty of Education was named the “Imperial Capital School of Supreme Teacher Training” and separated from the Imperial University of Peking which subsequently became The Peking University [北京大学](CN).

    In 1912, after the Republic of China was established, the Imperial Capital School of Supreme Teacher Training was renamed Peking Normal College. The college established its first graduate programs in 1920 and began accepting female students in 1921. In 1923 it was renamed Peking Normal University and became the first normal university in modern Chinese history. The Peking Women’s College of Education merged into Peking Normal University in 1931.

    When the Communist Party established the People’s Republic of China in 1949 the capital of Peking was renamed, via pinyin, as Beijing and the university was consequently renamed Beijing Normal University. During a national initiative of university rearrangement in 1952 Fu Jen Catholic University merged with Beijing Normal University. In 1954 BNU moved from its Hepingmen campus to the newly established campus at Beitaipingzhuang.

    Historically, students at Beijing Normal University have played major roles in patriotic, democratic and other social movements, including the May Fourth Movement in 1919, the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. The New York Times described it as “one of the most progressive institutions” in China. During the Cultural Revolution Beijing Normal University students made up the majority of Red Guards, a Maoist movement that killed thousands of people and attempted to destroy what they saw as “outdated” and “backwards” artifacts and cultural institutions.

    Beijing Normal University was selected to be a Project 211 institution in 1996. In 2002, BNU signed an agreement with the Ministry of Education and Beijing municipal government to become the 10th university participating in Project 985, through which it receives special support from the Chinese government aimed at elevating its reputation to the level of a “world-class” university.

    During its centennial celebration in 2002 an asteroid discovered in 1996 was named after the university as 8050 Beishida.

    After a special visit by Premier Wen Jiabao to the university on May 4, 2006, the Chinese government implemented a tuition-waiver policy for teacher training programs in six normal universities that are supervised by the Ministry of Education, including Beijing Normal University.

    The university has a strong emphasis on increasing educational equity. Its 2009 demographic data shows that 40% of its enrolled students were from western China, one third were from rural areas and a quarter were from low-income families. Ethnic minorities comprised more than 10% of students.

    International Collaboration

    Beijing Normal University is part of a university consortium, including the University for Continuing Education Krems, Eötvös Loránd University, Hochschule Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences, Thapar Institute of Engineering and Technology and the University of Tampere, which offers an Erasmus+ joint master’s degree and a Master in Research and Innovation in Higher Education.

    Beijing Normal University was among the first Chinese institutions to accept international students. It is particularly popular for its Mandarin Chinese study programs. Among its most prestigious programs is Princeton in Beijing, a collaboration with Princeton University in the United States.

    The University collaborates with the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) on SUSS’s Master of Arts in Chinese Language and Literature.

    Beijing Normal University is the seat of the BRICS Universities League Secretariat with BNU as a leading university in terms of BRICS higher education and academic cooperation.

    Rankings and reputation

    BNU ranked No.1 in China among universities that originated as “normal schools”. In 2021, BNU was ranked 24th and 28th globally in the QS World University Rankings by Subjects and the Times Higher Education Rankings by Subjects for “Education and Training” respectively, which are historical strengths for the Faculty of Education that originated as a “normal university”.

    According to the 2021 QS World University Rankings, BNU was ranked among the top 170 in “Arts and Humanities”, “Social Sciences & Management” and “Natural Science” related subjects.

    Beijing Normal University consistently features in the top 300th global universities as ranked by the Academic Ranking of World Universities, the QS World University Rankings, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings and the U.S. News & World Report. Internationally, Beijing Normal University was regarded as one of the most reputable Chinese universities by the Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings where, it has ranked 126-150th globally.

    QS World University Ranking : 270nd, 12th in China
    Academic Ranking of World Universities : 201-300th, 7th-12th in China
    Times Higher Education World University Rankings : 251-300th, 11th in China

     
  • richardmitnick 7:21 am on June 8, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Ocean rings’ mystery stems from shape of seafloor", , , , EarthSky,   

    From “EarthSky” : “Ocean rings’ mystery stems from shape of seafloor” 

    1

    From “EarthSky”

    June 8, 2022
    Kelly Kizer Whitt

    1
    Do you see the circular swirls in this view of the South Atlantic Ocean from January 5, 2021? These are ocean rings, or eddies. Image via NOAA/ NASA.

    Oceans rings and the sandpaper effect

    Oceans cover more than 70% of Earth’s surface. But there’s much we still don’t know about these vast watery stretches of our planet. This month (June 3, 2022), researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, announced new insights into the mystery of how ocean rings, or eddies – like those seen in this video – stay stable for long periods of time. They said the answer lies in the shape of the seafloor: its topography. That’s despite the fact that the average depth of the ocean – from seafloor to surface – is 2.3 miles (3.7 km)!

    The researchers – doctoral student Larry Gulliver and professor Timour Radko – said small-scale texture on the seafloor slows down deep ocean currents, improving the stability and longevity of the eddies all the way at the surface. They call this the sandpaper effect. Just as small abrasive particles can grind down larger objects – like sandpaper does on a block of wood – so can these small features on the ocean floor affect portions of the vast ocean above it.

    Their discovery, published March 9, 2022, landed them on the cover of the March 2022 issue of the peer-reviewed journal Geophysical Research Letters. This was Gulliver’s first paper as a lead author. Radko said of Gulliver that he did it:

    “… on his first try. It’s like getting on the cover of Rolling Stone … You’re a rockstar.”

    2
    Larry Gulliver and Timour Radko of the Naval Postgraduate School discovered why circular currents known as ocean rings can persist for long periods of time. Image via NPS.

    What are ocean rings?

    Ocean rings, or eddies, are circular swirls of currents that can be a couple of miles or kilometers wide. These rings can persist in the same location from months to years. Ocean rings are vital for transporting heat and nutrients throughout the ocean. These circular features can create their own weather, generate wave patterns and even impact acoustics.

    While scientists have long searched for how large vortices can be stable for long periods, previous searches disregarded ocean floor topography because they thought it was too far away to make a difference. Theoreticians don’t look at topography when considering activity on the ocean’s surface. Radko said this new finding has him questioning everything:

    “If this small-scale topography affects this vortex, it may affect currents, waves, and what not. I’m becoming skeptical of everything that assumes the bottom is smooth.”

    Piggy-backing on previous ocean ring research

    With an assumption of a smooth seafloor, the physics suggests that ocean rings should dissipate after a few weeks. Old studies on ocean rings didn’t account for the sandpaper effect. Radko and Gulliver made their model as accurate to the topography as possible. Using data from echo-sounding, or sonar systems, they made their model represent a rough bottom that mathematically represents an average seafloor. Gulliver said:

    “We borrowed this, borrowed that, borrowed the other idea, put it together and it worked! It was pretty quick, [but] I had to run a few more simulations to make sure.”

    “Pretty quick” in researcher-speak equaled about four years of studying, modeling and collaboration. Their discovery will help other researchers and the Navy’s meteorology and oceanography community provide critical information to others. Radko is planning to look at how the Navy’s Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model represents eddies. He hopes their new discovery helps improve the accuracy of the model. As Radko said:

    Let’s get to the bottom of it.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.orgin 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

     
  • richardmitnick 7:25 am on June 2, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Could homeless aliens migrate to rogue planets?", , , , EarthSky,   

    From “EarthSky” : “Could homeless aliens migrate to rogue planets?” 

    1

    From “EarthSky”

    June 2, 2022
    Kelly Kizer Whitt

    1
    Artist’s concept of one of the billions of rogue planets thought to float freely through our Milky Way galaxy, not bound to any star. Could homeless aliens use rogue planets to colonize the galaxy? Image via Wikimedia Commons.

    Why haven’t we found alien civilizations, assuming they exist? Irina K. Romanovskaya (Irina Mullins), a professor of physics and astronomy at Houston Community College System, thinks maybe we’ve been looking in all the wrong places. In a press release from Cambridge University Press – dated May 26, 2022 – Romanovskaya said we might be more successful if we considered rogue planets and possible migrating civilizations. Suppose an alien society’s home planet becomes uninhabitable? Then, Romanovskaya said, aliens might hitch a ride on free-floating planets. She pointed out that these worlds would offer space, resources and protection for long interstellar journeys.

    The peer-reviewed International Journal of Astrobiology published Romanovskaya’s study on April 28, 2022.

    Homeless aliens traveling on rogue planets

    Romanovskaya calls her theory the Cosmic Hitchhikers Hypothesis. She says that alien civilizations could migrate to the free-floating planets when these rogue planets pass near the civilizations’ home planets. They could also ride ejected planetary objects away from their dying host stars. (Perhaps on a shattered piece of a planet?) Another possibility is that ETs could use propulsion systems or gravity assist events to convert dwarf planets into rogue planets. Once torn from their solar bonds, they could roam interstellar space.

    The alien civilizations could also use rogue planets to survey interstellar space, stars and planetary systems. They could send biological species to establish colonies in numerous planetary systems. It would give them a jump start on preserving and expanding their civilizations even before they’re faced with threats on their home planets.

    Homeless aliens making themselves at home in new planetary systems

    Rogue planets, by definition, are floating through the emptiness of space, untied to a home star. Without solar energy, Romanovskaya theorizes that aliens on these planets could use controlled nuclear fusion as their energy source. They could also live under the surface of the planet or in oceans as protection against space radiation.

    However, free-floating planets cannot sustain their oceans forever. So Romanovskaya says the civilizations would want to ride their rogue planet to a new stellar system where there are more opportunities and other planets to colonize. Romanovskaya hypothesizes that the aliens would approach a new planetary system from the outskirts, transfer to objects in the Oort cloud (the region of comets on the icy edge of solar systems), and travel inward.
    ===
    How to find these rogue-planet civilizations

    So how would we find alien civilizations riding rogue planets across the galaxy? Romanovskaya says we should search for certain technosignatures, or electromagnetic emissions produced by extraterrestrial technologies. In fact, Romanovskaya gives an example that shows we may already have detected one.

    On August 15, 1977, astronomers detected a strange signal from space that they dubbed the Wow! signal. Coming from the direction of Sagittarius, they were only ever able to detect this amplified signal once and are still searching for its source.

    Therefore, Romanovskaya thinks it’s possible for astronomers to detect a rogue planet’s technosignatures without detecting the planet itself, which could lead to misinterpretations of what they’re witnessing. If aliens on a rogue planet were responsible for the Wow! signal, the planet may then have moved from the location where astronomers detected the transmission. So Romanovskaya says astronomers should search for free-floating planets along the lines of observations of unusual and potentially artificial signals coming from space.

    Rogue planets visiting our solar system

    This scenario begs the question: Could aliens on a rogue planet pass near our solar system? Romanovskaya says that while the chances are small, it is possible. In the paper, she discusses the different ways to look for artifacts of the visits of rogue planets supporting alien life or artificial-intelligent scouts.

    If, somewhere in our part of the galaxy, migrating intelligent species or AI are riding free-floating planets looking for a new home, Romanovskaya wants us to be searching for them.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.orgin 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:27 am on May 28, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Will the Tau Herculid meteors produce a storm?", A brief-but-intense meteor display, Astronomers found this comet in 1930., , , , EarthSky, In 1995 comet SW3 suddenly brightened by a factor of nearly 7 magnitudes., No one saw the comet again until 1979., The Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3, The comet that split apart in 1995 and is apparently still fragmenting., The meteor shower is the Tau Herculids., The radiant will be above the horizon for all of South America during the peak of the shower., With the exception of 1985 astronomers have caught it on every return near the sun since 1979.   

    From “EarthSky” : “Will the Tau Herculid meteors produce a storm?” 

    1

    From “EarthSky”

    May 28, 2022
    Don Machholz

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    Will Earth see a meteor storm when passing through the fragments of Comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3? The comet broke up in 1995 and continued to fragment. Hubble took the images of the fragmentation here in 2006. We’ll find out if this produces a meteor storm on the evening of May 30-31, 2022. Look for Tau Herculid meteors! Image via NASA/ ESA/ H. Weaver (APL/JHU), M. Mutchler and Z. Levay (STScI).

    Intense meteor display possible from comet SW3

    Heads up! On May 30-31, 2022, we might have a brief-but-intense meteor display, thanks to a comet that split apart in 1995 and is apparently still fragmenting. It might happen, as Earth passes through a particularly dense stream of icy particles which the comet left behind in the years 1995, 1897 and 1892.

    If it does happen, we’ll see a grand display of meteors! And, even if it doesn’t, this comet is one you’ll want to come to know.

    The meteor shower is the Tau Herculids. Its parent comet is 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3, aka SW3. Astronomers found SW3 on May 2, 1930. It orbits the sun every 5.4 years. And the comet will be in our evening sky again, in July and August 2022. It’s not an intrinsically bright comet. But it’s an exceptionally interesting comet. In 1995, astronomers watched as this comet began to fracture and litter its orbit with an increasing amount of debris.

    That’s why, by some recent calculations, the May 2022 Tau Herculid meteor shower – spawned by SW3 – might be an intense display. Bill Cooke, who leads NASA’s Meteoroid Environment Office, said:

    “This is going to be an all or nothing event. If the debris from SW3 was traveling more than 220 miles per hour (354 kph) when it separated from the comet, we might see a nice meteor shower. If the debris had slower ejection speeds, then nothing will make it to Earth and there will be no meteors from this comet.”

    2
    An infrared image of the broken comet 73P/Schwassman-Wachmann 3 in 2006, skimming along a trail of debris left during its multiple trips around the sun. The flame-like objects are the icy comet fragments and their tails. The dusty comet trail is the line bridging the fragments. In May 2022, when Earth passes through this comet’s orbit, we might see a grand meteor display, the Tau Herculid meteors! Image via NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

    A fractured comet

    Arnold Schwassmann and Arno Arthur Wachmann of Hamburg Observatory discovered two comets before this one (SW1 in 1927 and SW2 in 1929), not while looking for comets, but instead while conducting a photographic search for asteroids, or minor planets.

    But, after its initial discovery in 1930 – despite its relatively short orbit around the sun – no one saw the comet again until 1979. Why not? Astronomers missed SW3 partly because of its intrinsic faintness. And the astronomers were also looking in the wrong place in the sky. Their inaccurate orbital calculations were due to occasional close sweeps of this comet past the giant planet Jupiter. The close passes near mighty Jupiter had changed the comet’s orbit.

    And then … people began to see the comet again. With the exception of 1985 astronomers have caught it on every return near the sun since 1979.

    In 1995 comet SW3 suddenly brightened by a factor of nearly 7 magnitudes. In other words, the comet suddenly got about 600 times brighter. For a while, it could be seen with the unaided eye.

    A month after this outburst, observers using telescopes noticed that the nucleus, or core, of SW3 had split into pieces. They ultimately determined the comet split into four parts, with two parts disintegrating and two parts remaining, still following the original comet’s orbit around the sun.

    2006 return: 68 comet pieces

    By 2006, two things had become clear. First, the comet had by then fragmented into at least 68 pieces.

    Second, it was still falling apart.

    And that’s where the story of the possible Tau Herculid meteor shower in 2022 gets even more interesting, for earthly observers.

    What can we expect at the comet’s 2022 return? We don’t know yet what we’ll see when the comet comes back this year.

    Comet 73P/SW3 returned in 2011. But it wasn’t well-placed for observers that year, as it stayed mostly behind the sun. So we didn’t learn from that passage.

    In 2017, astronomers observed the main component (C), along with one new fragment (BT).

    The nuclei or multiple cores of this comet are small. For instance, the largest part, component C, is only about 0.6 miles, or 1.0 km, in diameter. That’s in contrast to a typical comet nucleus, which is about 6 miles (10 km) wide.

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    Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 breaking up. Image via NASA.

    Will Tau Herculid meteors wow us in 2022?

    For there to be a good meteor shower in 2022, three pieces of the puzzle must fall into place.

    First, a large number of particles must have been expelled from the comet’s nucleus during its 1995 breakup. This appears to be true, as images taken at that time indicate.

    Second, the breakup of the comet would have had to eventually push the material forward in its orbit. As a comet orbits the sun and ejects material, let’s assume that particles go in all directions. Those pushed backward will assume a slower speed and – governed by the laws of gravity – they’ll fall closer to the sun. Since they’re now closer to the sun, they will speed up. And, in time, they’ll pass by the comet on their smaller orbits and get ahead of the comet. Images from the 2006 passage of the comet show:

    … Large chunks in a temporary orbit behind one of the larger fragments.

    Finally, the comet must eject the material at a speed fast enough to assume this new orbit. A speed of about 60 miles per hour (97 km/hour) is necessary to pull this off. This is faster than typical, but the major outburst and breakup of the comet’s nucleus in 1995 might have been strong enough to produce this speed.

    If all three of these conditions are met, we will have the perfect storm.

    The radiant for Tau Herculid meteors

    This meteor shower – the Tau Herculids – got its name in 1930 when the parent comet for this shower flew by, very close to the Earth. It’s said that some observers saw a short-lived meteor shower in 1930. But that claim has been disputed.

    Since then, the shower has been either non-existent or lackluster, although it’s still on the meteor shower list of the American Meteor Society, which gives its duration as May 19 to June 14.

    Most meteor showers take their names from the point in the sky from which they appear to radiate. And this shower will probably be forever known as Tau Herculids. That was the location calculated when the comet was discovered in 1930. But, oddly enough, observers have never seen any meteors from this comet radiate from this location in our sky. Due to gravity of our giant planet Jupiter, the radiant has wandered.

    It is now located in western Boötes, near the bright star of Arcturus, close to the globular star cluster M3.

    2
    UWM Planetarium – The Boötes constellation.

    How to watch the shower: Timing will be everything

    In 2022, the moon will be new the day before the shower’s predicted peak. So – luckily – the moon will not be a factor in this event.

    Calculations by different teams have provided three different peaks, all within a 22-minute time span. The most recent one places the peak at 05:04 UTC on May 31, 2022. For much of the Western Hemisphere, this translates to Monday night, May 30-31. It would be 10:04 p.m. PDT (North American west coast), 11:04 p.m. MDT, 12:04 a.m. CDT early on the morning of May 31 (central North America), and 1:04 a.m. EDT on May 31 (eastern North America). Translate 5:04 UTC on May 31 to your time zone.

    The other two teams produced similar times: 04:55 UTC and 05:17 UTC.

    Alert observers might also see meteors from previous visits of the comet, but with less activity than that expected from the 1995 breakup. A slight increase in meteor counts might occur anytime between May 28 and June 1. Dust from the comet’s 1892 and 1897 visits may appear in our sky between about 16 UTC May 30 and about 10 UTC on May 31.

    The radiant will be high in the sky for much of northern and central North America. But from the northwestern United States and much of Canada, with the sun far north of the equator in late May, it will be twilight during the peak of the shower.

    What will the Southern Hemisphere see?

    The radiant will be above the horizon for all of South America during the peak of the shower.

    But the radiant will be lower in the sky as seen from the Southern Hemisphere than from North America. So the number of meteors will be fewer than if observed from further north. On the other hand, with the radiant low in the sky, observers might spot some earthgrazers, long-path meteors traveling through the sky from the radiant.

    How to watch the shower: A dark sky is essential

    This potential meteor shower will be short-lived, so don’t be late to the star party. Find a dark site from which to observe. Take time to get dark-adapted.

    Note that these meteors will be slow-moving, as they will have to catch up with us as we orbit the sun. With their slow motion, the meteors will be dimmer than they would be if they were moving faster in relation to Earth. Meteors from this shower will trace back to the radiant area. You will see other meteors too; if they do not appear to come from the radiant, they are not members of the Tau Herculids meteor shower.

    The meteors will appear to travel away from the radiant in the sky. That does not mean they’ll be only in that part of the sky. You’ll likely see the greatest number of meteors while watching about 45 degrees from the radiant and about 45 degrees high in the sky.

    If you have a telescope, look for Comet SW3, located 47 degrees west of the meteor radiant. It’s in the part of the sky occupied by the constellation Leo. The comet will be faint, at magnitude 11.

    Will we get a wonderful meteor display? We never know for sure. EarthSky readers are encouraged to go out and see for themselves, in real-time, on May 30-31, 2022. A strong meteor shower or a meteor storm will be memorable. If no shower develops, you’ll be among the first to know!

    Any time spent under the nighttime sky is never time wasted.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.orgin 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:56 am on May 14, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Webb fully aligned! See the new test images", EarthSky, ,   

    From EarthSky and The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope: “Webb fully aligned! See the new test images” 

    1

    From EarthSky

    and

    The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope

    May 8, 2022
    Paul Scott Anderson


    The Webb Telescope Completes Alignment Phase.

    The excitement of the James Webb Space Telescope mission continues. NASA announced on April 28, 2022, that the alignment process is now complete. Teams have just completed the seventh and final stage, and all the science instruments are almost ready to start imaging the cosmos this summer. NASA released a new series of test images – called an image sharpness check – to demonstrate the alignment and hint at what future images will be able to show.

    If this preview is anything to go by, the first actual science images this summer should be fantastic! The images show a portion of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, irregular satellite galaxy of the Milky Way.

    Webb is fully aligned – but what does it mean?

    What does NASA mean by “fully aligned?”

    “Fully aligned” means that Webb’s mirrors are now directing fully focused light collected from space down into each instrument. Each instrument is also successfully capturing images with the light being delivered to them.

    The next and final phase of preparations is science instrument commissioning, which will take about another two months. Then, Webb will finally begin its actual science mission, obtaining unprecedented new images and data of stars, galaxies, exoplanets and other objects in the universe.

    Webb’s new alignment test images are in full focus

    The new test images show that all four of Webb’s science instruments are fully aligned and in focus. It goes without saying that this testing phase is crucial to the success of the mission. As Lee Feinberg, Optical Telescope Element Manager for Webb at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), commented:

    “These remarkable test images from a successfully aligned telescope demonstrate what people across countries and continents can achieve when there is a bold scientific vision to explore the universe.”

    2
    Lee Feinberg has been the Optical Telescope Element Manager for the James Webb Space Telescope at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center for the past 20 years. Image via Goddard/ NASA.

    Even better than expected

    The results of the test images, along with the optical performance of Webb overall, are even better than hoped for. All four instruments are capturing images exactly as they are supposed to do. In fact, the image quality is “diffraction-limited,” which means that the fineness of detail that we can see is as good as physically possible for the size of the telescope. Scientists will need to make only very small, periodic adjustments from now on.

    Scott Acton, Webb wavefront sensing and control scientist at Ball Aerospace, said:

    “With the completion of telescope alignment and half a lifetime’s worth of effort, my role on the James Webb Space Telescope mission has come to an end. These images have profoundly changed the way I see the universe. We are surrounded by a symphony of creation; there are galaxies everywhere! It is my hope that everyone in the world can see them.”

    3
    Webb took this series of images during its sharpness check. Even though these are still just test images, the detail in them is incredible. The images show a portion of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a small, irregular satellite galaxy of the Milky Way. Image via NASA/ The Space Telescope Science Institute.

    What’s next for Webb?

    Now, Webb enters a new phase, called science instrument commissioning. Basically, this involves making sure that each instrument is ready to conduct the science operations it is designed for. Each instrument is specialized with unique detectors, lenses, masks, filters and other customized equipment. The characteristics of each instrument need to be configured and operated in various combinations to ensure their readiness.

    The alignment phase is now over, but there are still some calibration activities to finish. For example, engineers will command the telescope to point to different areas in the sky where the total amount of solar radiation hitting the observatory varies. They do this to confirm the thermal stability of Webb when it is changing targets. Also, to be extra careful, engineers will conduct maintenance observations every two days. This involves monitoring the mirror alignment and, if necessary, applying corrections to keep the mirrors properly aligned.

    With this in mind, engineers must do all of the maintenance observations and other testing remotely. Webb is too far away, nearly one million miles (1.6 million km) from Earth, for astronauts to go and service it as with the Hubble Space Telescope. Unlike Hubble, Webb orbits the sun at the second Lagrange point, or L2.

    NASA released Webb’s first test image on March 16, 2022. Unlike the new images, it focused on a single star.

    4
    On March 16, 2022, NASA released another new image from Webb, the giant space telescope launched on Christmas Day and now residing at the L-2 point in the Earth-sun system.

    The telescope is now in a testing phase. Its first science images are expected this summer. This image is a taste of what’s to come. As NASA said: “While the purpose of this image was to focus on the bright star at the center for alignment evaluation, Webb’s optics and NIRCam are so sensitive that the galaxies and stars seen in the background show up.” Image via NASA.

    See the full article here .


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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


    Stem Education Coalition

    NASA Webb Header

    National Aeronautics Space Agency(US)/European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea] [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU)/ Canadian Space Agency [Agence Spatiale Canadienne](CA) James Webb Infrared Space Telescope(US) annotated, finally launched December 25, 2021, ten years late.

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    The NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope is a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. Webb was finally launched December 25, 2021, ten years late. The James Webb Space Telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

    The James Webb Space Telescope is the world’s largest, most powerful, and most complex space science telescope ever built. Webb will solve mysteries in our solar system, look beyond to distant worlds around other stars, and probe the mysterious structures and origins of our universe and our place in it.

    Webb telescope will be the premier observatory of the next decade, serving thousands of astronomers worldwide. It will study every phase in the history of our Universe, ranging from the first luminous glows after the Big Bang, to the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth, to the evolution of our own Solar System.

    Webb telescope was formerly known as the “Next Generation Space Telescope” (NGST); it was renamed in Sept. 2002 after a former NASA administrator, James Webb.

    Webb is an international collaboration between National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the European Space Agency (ESA), and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center managed the development effort. The main industrial partner is Northrop Grumman; the Space Telescope Science Institute will operate Webb after launch.

    Several innovative technologies have been developed for Webb. These include a folding, segmented primary mirror, adjusted to shape after launch; ultra-lightweight beryllium optics; detectors able to record extremely weak signals, microshutters that enable programmable object selection for the spectrograph; and a cryocooler for cooling the mid-IR detectors to 7K.

    There are four science instruments on Webb: The Near InfraRed Camera (NIRCam), The Near InfraRed Spectrograph (NIRspec), The Mid-InfraRed Instrument (MIRI), and The Fine Guidance Sensor/ Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph (FGS-NIRISS). Webb’s instruments are designed to work primarily in the infrared range of the electromagnetic spectrum, with some capability in the visible range. It will be sensitive to light from 0.6 to 28 micrometers in wavelength.
    National Aeronautics Space Agency Webb NIRCam.

    The European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea] [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) Webb NIRspec.

    The European Space Agency [La Agencia Espacial Europea] [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) Webb MIRI schematic.

    Webb Fine Guidance Sensor-Near InfraRed Imager and Slitless Spectrograph FGS/NIRISS.

    Webb has four main science themes: The End of the Dark Ages: First Light and Reionization, The Assembly of Galaxies, The Birth of Stars and Protoplanetary Systems, and Planetary Systems and the Origins of Life.

    Launch was December 25, 2021 on an Ariane 5 rocket. The launch was from Arianespace’s ELA-3 launch complex at European Spaceport located near Kourou, French Guiana. Webb is located at the second Lagrange point, about a million miles from the Earth.

    ESA50 Logo large

    Canadian Space Agency

    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.orgin 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

     
  • richardmitnick 10:08 am on May 8, 2022 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Storm-chasing: A picturesque Texas tornado" Photo Essay, "Supercell" thunderstorms, , , , EarthSky,   

    From EarthSky: “Storm-chasing: A picturesque Texas tornado” Photo Essay 

    1

    From EarthSky

    May 8, 2022
    Peter Forister

    1
    Storm chasing. A cone tornado near Crowell, Texas, awes chasers, who stop along the road to take photos. Image via Peter Forister.

    “This past week, I chased some incredible storms in the Great Plains. Over three days, I witnessed eight tornadoes on two robust supercell thunderstorms. I have always been fascinated by thunderstorms and tornadoes and get the chance to chase storms only once or twice in a year. This stretch of active weather in Oklahoma and Texas in early May was the perfect opportunity to get out and hunt for tornadoes.
    Forecasting for storm chasing

    On Wednesday, May 4, 2022, the Storm Prediction Center issued a “moderate” risk area (level 4 out of 5) for northwestern Texas and southern Oklahoma. This forecast outlook included the potential for long-lived and strong tornadoes. This is the kind of high-end severe weather day that only happens a handful of times in a year.

    I started the day in Norman, Oklahoma, and spent the morning poring over weather models and observations from weather stations around the region. It was tough to decide between Texas and Oklahoma, both of which offered the potential for storms that would produce tornadoes. However, after much discussion, I decided to make the four-hour drive to Texas with my chasing partners.

    We ended up in Quanah, a tiny farm town just south of the Red River. Grand scenes of the High Plains opened in front of us. In this part of Texas, you can see 30 miles (50 km) or more without a single tree or hill blocking the view. It’s a storm chaser’s paradise with very few towns and wide expanses of empty fields. Storm chasers hope for tornadoes in these empty spaces so that we can gawk at the storms while they spin in open fields, not posing a risk to any people.

    Our forecast for storm initiation was spot on. Half an hour after we arrived, a supercell thunderstorm started to develop just a few miles away. We drove to get in position to watch the storm, and the chase was on!”

    2
    NOAA’s forecast for severe weather for May 4, 2022. Image via NOAA.

    Storm chasing the supercell

    The supercell started off slowly to our west. It developed over open fields just ahead of the dry line with more than 4,000 joules per kilogram (J/Kg) of CAPE fueling the updraft. As the National Weather Service explains:

    On average, CAPE of 1000 J/Kg is usually sufficient for strong to severe storms. CAPE of 3,000 to 4,000 J/Kg or higher is usually a signal of a very volatile atmosphere that could produce severe storms if other environmental parameters are in place.

    After an hour, the supercell grew to 50,000 feet (nearly ten miles or 16 km) tall and started dropping baseball-sized hail. We approached the storm from the inflow notch, hoping for a clear view of the spinning part of the storm without getting slammed by the hail.

    After an hour, the supercell grew to 50,000 feet (nearly ten miles or 16 km) tall and started dropping baseball-sized hail. We approached the storm from the inflow notch, hoping for a clear view of the spinning part of the storm without getting slammed by the hail.

    3
    Watching the storm strengthen over northwestern Texas. Image via Peter Forister.

    A tornado forms

    Suddenly, the storm ramped up. It started sucking up dust like a vacuum cleaner from the fields around us. The cloud bases under the mesocyclone lowered, and the rotation intensified. You could feel the storm “breathing” as it got ready to produce the first tornado. We cut in underneath the rear flank downdraft (RFD) and acquired a visual on a spinning “cinnamon bun” wall cloud. Within minutes, a tornado shrouded in dust touched down just a mile from us.

    The environment near a storm can become intense very quickly. As the mesocyclone ingests warm air, massive lightning bolts start striking far ahead, and a deep rumble dominates the auditory experience. When a tornado is on the ground, strong winds scream in from behind you, getting sucked into the circulation. The tornado ingests dust, tumbleweeds, and any unfortunate hats that get easily pulled off of storm chaser’s heads. The storm feels alive, and you feel like a tiny spectator in awe of the grand scale of it all. Tornadoes can also be absolutely massive, stretching thousands of feet into the sky and dwarfing wind turbines and farm buildings.

    After the first tornado encounter, we had to find a road to stay with the storm as it moved northeast. Unfortunately, it tracked over open fields without any good roads, so we were forced to take a small dirt road. We encountered some curious free-range cows standing in the middle of the road, apparently completely oblivious to the nearby supercell. After some coaxing, we eased by the cows and made it back onto a paved highway.

    The picturesque tornado

    The supercell ramped up the intensity again. From our vantage point on Texas Highway 6, a barrage of lightning fell from the sky. The low rumble under the storm turned into the roar of constant thunder and wind. The sky under the mesocyclone started to turn green (a phenomena dubbed greenage by storm chasers) due to the mega hail in the storm’s core. As the storm approached the road, the sky darkened, and a massive wall cloud became visible through the dusty haze. We inched forward to get closer to the monster.

    Within seconds, a picturesque cone tornado condensed all the way to the ground and started wrapping up red dust. It engulfed some 300-foot wind turbines, but otherwise remained over clear fields and shrubland. The contrast between the greenage, black wall cloud, and white cone tornado was an impressive spectacle. We quickly grabbed cameras and phones and began snapping photos and shooting video. My goal while storm chasing is to capture still photographs, so I pulled out my camera and shot hundreds of quick photos in the excitement (most of which turned out blurry) but I still came away with a few shots that were completely worth the long drive.

    After a couple of minutes, the tornado became completely enveloped in red dust and dissipated shortly afterward. All the storm chasers, myself included, were left in awe of the rare spectacle we had witnessed, and with a massive amount of adrenaline.

    4
    Watching the wall cloud and “greenage.” Image via Peter Forister.

    5
    Tornado near Crowell, Texas, on May 4, 2022. Peter Forister wrote: “Picturesque and in open country. Incredible experience.”

    After the storm

    The storm continued east after sunset. It produced more tornadoes, including a large rain-wrapped EF-3 wedge tornado. Unfortunately, this tornado hit the small town of Lockett and injured several people in cars and homes. I saw this tornado briefly from behind the storm but did not want to risk getting closer to a dangerous tornado at night. The drive through the damage in Lockett a few minutes later was a sobering reminder of the human impact of these storms. Meteorologists always hope that tornadoes will stay out in open country away from population centers.

    In total, I saw four tornadoes from this one supercell. It was an awe-inspiring experience, but also a reminder of why understanding and forecasting tornadoes is so important for people who live on the Great Plains.

    See the full article here .


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    Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.orgin 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. “Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers,” she says.

     
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