Jul 052017

A huge iceberg, one of the largest ever seen, clings to Antarctica by only a 5-kilometer icy expanse, said researchers at the European Space Agency, who have been studying for a while the ice block that is expected to break away soon.


Large iceberg floating

Icebergs are discharged continuously from Antarctica, but this one, with an area of ​​6,000 square kilometers, is particularly large and needs to be monitored to avoid endangering maritime traffic, explains ESA.

This ice chunk is part of “Larsen C” – the fourth largest ice shelf in Antarctica -, which holds icebergs that could make water levels rise 10 cm if they reach the ocean.

Using information from the CryoSat satellite, “we determined the height of the ice above the ocean and we calculated that the final iceberg would be about 190 meters thick and will contain about 1,155 cubic meters of ice,” said Noel Gourmelen of the University of Edinburgh. It is believed that the depth below sea level could reach 210 meters.

May 062017

The universe seems to “speak” to us again. The US Space Agency has released new recordings of the space sound, captured in the proximity of planet Saturn.

saturn rings

Saturn and its rings (pic: JPL-Caltech / Space Science Institute / NASA)

A space probe whizzing between Saturn and its rings has recorded a sinister noise resembling the “dolphin language” and NASA scientists are now trying to decipher the information from Cosmos.

The Cassini spacecraft which has been studying Saturn for 13 years, made a stunning pass through the gap between the celestial body and its innermost ring at speeds of over 120,000 kilometers per hour.

Worth more than three billion dollars, Cassini odyssee will come to an end on September 15 when the probe is set to crash into Saturn after completing its “Grand Finale” mission.

Spacecraft Cassini is running low on fuel after nearly 20 years in space. It will plunge between Saturn and its rings 22 times before it crashes itself into the planet.

Video-Audio: Sounds of Cassini: Grand Finale Mission

May 062017

The pilot of a commercial airliner used a Sony a7S camera to film the magnificent splendor of our galaxy during a TransAtlantic flight from Europe to South America.

The video shows the lit up cities on the Earth beneath and the shining Milky Way above. From time to time, other planes are spotted whizzing by and shooting stars soar through the night sky.

Milky Way galaxy

Milky Way at night (public domain)

The project, called “Beyond the Clouds“, is a timelapse of a 8000km trip on board a Boeing 777 passenger plane that departed from Zurich, Switzerland at 9:50PM BST and touched down in Sao Paulo, Brazil at 4:35AM BST.

“Flying at night, while the world beneath us is at sleep, is a pretty common thing as a long haul pilot,” pilot Sales Wick wrote on his blog.

“The latter is the case for my flight today across the Atlantic Ocean to South America. Our flight is packed and some 340 passengers are settling in for a long night flight.”

The plane first flew westbound along the Alps that emerged on the left side of the jet.

“Just before reaching Geneva and the western tip of Switzerland we are making a shallow left turn to join the Rhone valley leading us to Marseille and onward onto the Mediterranean Sea,” Mr Wick wrote.

“Our routing will bring us towards Algeria and on across the northwestern part of the vast Sahara. We will be flying past Dakar in Senegal where we will be heading out onto the Atlantic Ocean.”

“Landfall is expected just north of Rio de Janeiro and the remaining few hundred miles will get us straight towards Sao Paolo. Our landing is expected around 6am local time, still before the sun will rise.”

Video: FlightLapse unveils the beauty of Milky Way galaxy and magic of Earth

Feb 262017

TRAPPIST-1 life and human habitation. NASA announced the discovery of a new solar system, called TRAPPIST-1, located at a distance of “just” 39 light years from us, and the news of the existence of seven potentially-habitale Earth-like planets sparked numerous assumptions and discussions. Because many people dream of travelling to these alien worlds, the big question is: how would Trappist-1 life be different than life on Earth?

trappist-1 life sky view

Artistic impression of Trappist-1 sky view (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Astounding sky views
One of the upside of living on a habitable planet of Trappist-1 is the night-sky view which would be spectacular because of the other six planets constantly looming in the vicinity. “You wouldn’t see them [other 6 planets] like we see Venus or Mars, like dots of light. You would see them really as we see the moon. A neighboring planet might appear twice as large as the full moon seen from Earth,” said Belgian astronomer Michaël Gillon quoted by Space.com.

The very short distance between the orbits of the seven planets is caused by the fact that their parent star is an ultracool dwarf star. It’s about 2,000 times dimmer than the sun, and only slightly larger than the planet Jupiter.

Sunset-like view
Despite orbiting close to their star, the natural lighting on TRAPPIST-1 planets would appear very dim to a human visitor.

Ultracool dwarf stars produce significantly less radiation than sun-like stars, and most of TRAPPIST-1’s light is radiated in the infrared wavelengths rather than visible wavelengths, according to Amaury Triaud of the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge in England, a co-author on the paper describing the discovery.

Short years and long-lasting days and nights
Planets of the Trappist-1 system need just a few days to complete a full orbit around the dwarf star, with the most distant planet finishing this cycle in about 20 days.

While the years are much shorter, the days & nights are extremely long – almost eternal, due to the tidal block which means that same side of each planet will always be exposed to light from the star, just as the Moon always shows the same face to Earth. The Trappist-1 planets rotate but so slow that the days & nights last “forever”.

The initial enthusiasm that the seven planets could host life seems to fade away in front of the 40-light-years distance. Transporting people to Trappist-1 requires development of new groundbreaking technologies that go beyond the horizon of application of physics and engineering known so far.

Trappist-1 night sky view

Planets in TRAPPIST-1 system would definitely offer amazing night sky views (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Feb 252017

A NASA ISS live stream unveils unidentified objects flying in the dark background of the outer space (scroll for photo and video).

In a mysterious twist of the situation, the video, streamed live from the International Space Station, is interrupted suddenly every time the unidentified objects seem to enter camera’s viewing angle.

The footage shows the bizarre space objects moving in tandem from right to left, but their shape is not distinguished with high clarity as the images are somehow fuzzy.

However, it was concluded that the alien objects are quite big, round and bright.

NASA ISS livestream ufo

Round and bright UFO appear in NASA ISS livestream

VIDEO: UFO appear in NASA livestream from aboard ISS

Feb 222017

TRAPPIST-1 Solar System: NASA have just unveiled the existence of a new solar system filled with 7 planets that appear like Earth and could support life. The system was discovered by Spitzer Space Telescope and named TRAPPIST which stands for “The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope”.

Trappist-1 solar system

TRAPPIST-1 star and 7 orbiting Earth-size planets (pic: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Of the seven planets, at least three are seen as “holy grail for planet-hunting astronomers”, because they sit within the “habitable zone” and feature the proper temperature to allow alien life to thrive. Furthermore, the planets might host oceans, just like our Earth.

This is the first system to comprise so many Earth-sized and rocky planets, of the kind thought to be needed to accomodate aliens.

“Pssst! We’ve got exciting news from beyond our solar system! Spoiler: NOT aliens. Watch at 1pm ET”, NASA tweeted before hosting a news conference and elaborating on the discovery via a series of other messages:

“Around a nearby, cold, small star we found 7 rocky Earth-sized planets, all of which could have liquid water – key to life as we know it.”

“These planets were seen by @NASASpitzer around a nearby, ultra-cool dwarf star called TRAPPIST-1”

“The TRAPPIST-1 star & 7 Earth-sized planets orbiting it, are relatively close to us; located ~40 light-years away”.

“NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of seven Earth-size planets around a single star. Three of these planets are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water. The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven planets could have liquid water – key to life as we know it – under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable zone”, NASA wrote on its website.

TRAPPIST-1 burns hydrogen so slowly that it will live for another 10 trillion years – more than 700 times longer than the Universe has existed so far, which is arguably enough time for life to evolve”, said Ignas AG Snellen from the Leiden Observatory, in an article about the planetary breakthrough.

The planets were detected via a technique called “transit photometry”. It practically monitors the moment when a planet passes, or transits, in front of its host star – blocking out a tiny amount of light, allowing astronimers to observe the planet and learn about its size.

Dwarf star TRAPPIST-1 was first spotted back in 2010, when space researchers monitored the smallest stars close to the Sun. Meanwhile, they have been watching out for planetary transits – and after seeing 34 of them clearly, they concluded that they can be assigned to the 7 new planets.

Video: Trappist-1 Solar System: 7 Earth-like planets orbiting dwarf star

Feb 192017

A massive crack in one of Antarctica’s ice shelves seem to spark serious concerns within the scientific community.

larsen c rift

Current position of the rift on Larsen C, as of January 19 2017 (projectmidas.org)

British researchers working on MIDAS project have been monitoring for years the condition of glaciers in Antarctica, but now they stunningly noticed that the developing cut across Larsen C Ice Sheet is already 175 km long and 3 km wide.

The rift expanded considerably over the past 3 months and will “soon” lead to the break-up of the largest shelf ever observed. Since last December, Larsen C fissure has increased by 27 km. The rift threatens to calve an iceberg measuring more than 5,000 sq. km, that’s almost the size of the US state of Delaware.

Larsen C crack

Worrying rift progresses across Antarctica’s Larsen C ice shelf (public domain)

When it calves, the Larsen C Ice Shelf will lose more than 10% of its area to leave the ice front at its most retreated position ever recorded; this event will definitely change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula.

MIDAS researchers wanted to make it clear that Larsen C rift is not caused by global warming but a purely natural phenomenon. “We have no evidence to link this event to climate change. Although the general southward progression of ice shelf decay down the Antarctic Peninsula has been linked to a warming climate, this rift appears to have been developing for many decades, and the result is probably natural.”

Ice shelfs keep the glaciers together. If they crack, then the glaciers get loose and reach the ocean where they melt causing a considerable rise in sea levels.

Unfortunately, the melting of a significant portion of the ice shelf will lead to climate change with global effects. However, the melting will take place over years or even decades.

“The breakup of the ice sheet can occur at anytime, over a few days or a few years. But it is more likely to happen in the coming months,” reads a note from MIDAS project.

Dec 042016

Shock in Hawaii where heavy snow and wind transformed the holiday paradise into a kind of sky resort.

snow hawaii

Snow blanket at the Mauna Loa Observatory, December 2, 2016. (NOAA)

US authorities issued a meteorological warning of bad weather and storm for Hawaii, as the US islands seem to experience a harsh winter these days with layers of snow that already exceeded 90 centimeter (3 feet) in thinkness near Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

Meteorologists claim that although the snow is an extremely rare event in the tropical islands, the weather over the past days is even more surprising given that the snow has settled in areas of low altitudes.

The largest snow deposition was seen near the mountain peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Meanwhile, other areas of the Hawaiian archipelago were hit by strong floods.

“Heavier downpours and thunderstorms could cause streams to quickly overflow their banks, leading to flash flooding”, said The National Weather Service cited by The Sun.

Authorities will close access to the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa volcanoes on Monday.

Hawaii is also facing torrential rain while the average temperature in the lowlands dropped to 20 degrees Celsius.

Nov 212016

Alarming news are coming from the North Pole where the weather temperature seems to be rising instead of dropping in this period of the year, and that’s a serious reason of concern for climate scientists.

The polar night has already set in across the Arctic region and this should make temperatures fall. However, the opposite happens with ice levels reaching minimum values.

North Pole weather map

North Pole weather map

Arctic nights span over several months, during which the sun does not make its appearance in most areas of the North Pole, leading to a sharp drop in temperatures.

Contrary to what would normal be, temperatures are currently extremely high.

Furthermore, the ice covering the Arctic Ocean reaches a new minimum threshold. Similar to previous years, the ice began to form in October but this year things are going at a much slower rate than usual.

The temperatures north of 80th parallel is around -5 degrees Celsius, when in fact it should be -25 degrees Celsius in this period.

This is the second year in a row where temperatures at North Pole hit unusual levels. Currently, “temperatures over a large portion of the Arctic Ocean are 20 degrees (36 Fahrenheit) higher”, said Arctic specialist at Rutgers University, Jennifer Francis, for The Washington Post.

“That it’s related to climate change around the rest of the planet – the WMO last week declared that 2016 will most likely be the hottest year on record. The Arctic warmth is the result of a combination of record-low sea-ice extent for this time of year, probably very thin ice, and plenty of warm/moist air from lower latitudes being driven northward by a very wavy jet stream,” added Francis.

Nov 192016

Zika virus is no longer an international health threat, said The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) However, W.H.O. sees zika and the disorders it causes, as a permanent source of research and action.

Zika Virus

Zika Virus seen with a TEM (public domain)

“The health organization lifted the state of emergency concerning the virus. Though Zika is still expanding, the situation is under control”, said David Heymann, the Executive Director (Communicable Diseases) at WHO.

“We do not mean to imply that zikavirus is less important. We are sendng the message that Zika is here to stay and the W.H.O. response is here to stay,” said Peter Salama Director of the WHO emergency program.

Global Health Emergency:
An international public health emergency was declared on February 1, 2016 due to an imperative need for urgent action to prevent the spread of the virus.

As a mosquito-borne disease, Zika is not very dangerous for adults, but for a fetus. The virus could cause microcephaly to a child: a small skull size with serious consequences for the development of the brain. Also other diseases have been associated with Zika. The virus is generally transmitted by mosquitoes. It was discovered for the first time in Zikawoud, Africa, back in 1947. An effective treatment is not yet available.

Zika Symptoms:
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, many people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms or will only have mild symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika are:
Joint pain
Conjunctivitis (red eyes)
Other symptoms include:
Muscle pain

Zika Virus Spread:
An increased the number of cases of microcephaly unexpectedly emerged between 2010 and 2015. Brazil was particularly hit but also other countries in South and Central America followed.

Asia, Europe and North America were affected later by the virus and its disease, but to a much lesser extent. US scientists revealed the first zika antibodies last July. They would also help in treatment of dengue virus / fever.

A country like Colombia had 12,000 zika infections a year ago but Brazil had already 3900 victims of microcephaly by that time.