Doomsday Paranoia Prompts the Search for Threats outside of Earth

December 22, 2012, was a good day for some; this is because the world is still standing and did not come to an end the day before as some doomsday prophecies have theorized. However, while Dec 21 may have passed without incident, this does not mean mankind is out of the woods yet. Letting our guards down may be a little bit premature as astronomers have detected an asteroid heading right for Earth.

The asteroid is estimated to be about 140 meters and was discovered by scientists from the University of Hawaii. While the asteroid will just barely miss our planet by about 890,000 kilometers, the fact that a behemoth rock is able to come that close is reasonable cause for alarm.

The reason we should worry is because that very same asteroid could change course and be headed back at Earth’s direction in the year 2040. This is due to a phenomenon known as the Yarkovsky effect. The effect occurs when an asteroid absorbs energy from the sun, which can alter the original direction of the object’s trajectory.

The asteroid in question is relatively the same mass as the one that slammed into an uninhabited area of Siberia in 1908, which caused an impact comparable to that of 1,000 atomic bombs going off at once.

Most astronomers agree that being hit by an asteroid is not a matter of “if” but “when.” For this reason, The B612 Foundation, a California based organization, is in the process of obtaining a half billion dollar fund for an infrared space telescope that is capable of detecting large celestial rocks that may pose a threat to Earth.

The telescope they hope to produce is called the Sentinel and will orbit the planet and take pictures of the sky and relay it back home. Detection is the key because we cannot stop what we don’t see. It is estimated that the Sentinel will be able to capture the locations of about 10,000 new asteroids every month.

Discovery Changes Current Views on the Origins of the Solar System

The astronomy community is in shock and delight as a new discovery may completely change the current theory about the evolution of our solar system.

It is common knowledge that the sun is about 4.6 billion years old. At the time it was forming, it was surrounded by a cloud of dust and gas, which would ultimately become the building blocks for the billions of asteroids that circle the solar system today.

Current theories propose that two early types of solids were formed eons apart. However, astronomers from the University of Copenhagen have devised a new dating technique that puts this belief into question.

The two types of solids in question are chondrules and calcium-aluminum-rich inclusions (CAIs), both of which are commonly found in meteorites. CAIs form when droplets of molten gas reach less than 1,880 degrees Fahrenheit. Chondrules, on the other hand, are formed when large collections of dust drop in temperatures below 1,340 degrees Fahrenheit.

The new model proposes that the spinning disk responsible for the creation of the sun, planets and moons had massive amounts of energy within it. This caused particles to flatten as the center of the disk was formed into the sun. As the material began condensing and collapsing, gigantic surges in energy caused a massive wave of heat that affected the state of the chondrules and CAIs.

The discovery could explain how all solids are formed within a protoplanetary disk. Previous models show that within our solar system, chondrules did not form for another two million years until after the formation of CAIs. This theory, however, puzzled astronomers as observation of other planetary systems suggest they were formed differently.

Old dating methods rely on the amount of aluminum found in meteorites. This method was flawed because not all forms of aluminum are distributed evenly within the solar system. Under the new dating system, meteorites are broken apart where the lead and uranium can be measured using spectrometers.

Super Storm Sandy Made Its Presence Known in the East Coast

The East Coast lies in shambles after Hurricane Sandy demonstrated exactly why Mother Nature should never be underestimated.

Major cities that include Philadelphia, New York and Washington are in disarray with their streets completely overtaken by floods, fires and surges of seawater. So far, more than 16,000 scheduled flights in the region have been called off and nearly all ground public transportation transits have been crippled.

Wind gusts up to 80 mph have been recorded and at least 33 deaths have been reported across seven states. In addition, over seven million residents are currently without electrical power. Aside from human losses and injuries, the area is also expected to suffer from a massive financial toll. The total damage is expected to reach an estimated 20 billion dollars. The figure includes companies that have lost revenue due to employees skipping town and not showing up for work.

Sandy is not just another run-of-the-mill hurricane. When it approached the East Coast, it merged with the winter weather from the west and absorbed cold air from up north in Canada. The end result is what some meteorologists call a super storm; the impact left behind by Sandy shows exactly why the term “super storm” is a fitting name.

New York was one of the hardest hit cities. Wall Street was forced to shut its doors for two days straight. All K-12 schools remain closed and President Obama has declared the city along with neighboring New Jersey a disaster area.

For those who chose to remain in the area, they awoke to a scene reminiscent of a battlefield. Homes and buildings lay flattened with vehicles tossed about like they were rag dolls. Firefighters and emergency response teams reported chest-high water levels and had to resort to boats for rescue missions and scouting for survivors.

House Pets May Provide Health Benefits for Infants

Dogs have often been touted as a man’s best friend. However, it may be more accurate to say that it is an infant’s best friend. A new study done in Finland suggests that infants who grow up in a household with either a dog or a cat are less likely to suffer from coughs, runny noses and ear infections. These babies were also less likely to need treatment that includes antibiotics.

While it is not currently known how having pets in the home can contribute to an infant’s health, one theory suggests that the dirt and allergens that a pet brings into the home may actually be good for a child’s immune system.

The research
consisted of almost 400 infants. The parents would keep record of the child’s health as well as how often their child had contact with pets.

The study shows that before the babies reached their first year, close to 300 of them had contracted a fever at least once. 335 also suffered minor bouts of coughs with 157 having an ear infection and almost 200 having to take some form of antibiotics.

The study indicated that those who reportedly had contact with a household pet experienced fewer illnesses. Those who had contact with a dog were healthy around 76 percent of the time, while those who had no dog contact were only healthy for about 65 percent of the time. Overall, the former was also 29 percent less likely to be treated for antibiotics.

It is believed that all the germs and bacteria that a pet attracts into the home forces a baby’s immune system to work harder, and therefore develop more quickly.

Of course, the study does not prove for certain that pets lead to healthier children, so there is no need for expectant parents to go to the nearest pet store and bring home a new puppy or kitten.

Supermoon Weekend is On

Skywatcher Tim McCord of Entiat, Washington caught this amazing view of the March 19, 2011 full moon – called a supermoon because the moon was at perigee, the closest point to Earth in its orbit – using a camera-equipped telescope.
CREDIT: Tim McCord

I was looking at the skies last night and wondering at the size and brightness of the Moon. Now that I see that this weekend is Supermoon Weekend it all makes sense. It was a truly spectacular moon.

The moon will officially become full Saturday (May 5) at 11:35 p.m. EDT. And because this month’s full moon coincides with the moon’s perigee — its closest approach to Earth — it will also be the year’s biggest.
The moon will swing in 221,802 miles (356,955 kilometers) from our planet, offering skywatchers a spectacular view of an extra-big, extra-bright moon, nicknamed a supermoon.

Learn what makes a big full moon a true 'supermoon' in this infographic.
Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

Green Resolutions for 2012

It’s a new year, which means that it’s time to make some resolutions. Everybody makes resolutions for the new year, but how about some resolutions that aren’t focused on us? 2012 should be the year that you start making resolutions to be greener for the planet. Here are a few suggestions to help you be much greener in the new year.

Red Meat

The red meat industry is one of the biggest industries for creating greenhouse gases, waste and pollution. Start 2012 off by reducing your consumption of red meat. The meat industry is known to pump their meat with preservatives so not only will you be helping the planet, you will be helping your body.


Most of the time you will need a car to run errands around town. However, if you’re just going to the post office or you need something from the local supermarket, consider riding your bike. Taking an hour to ride your bike instead of a couple of minutes by car is not always an option, but when it is you should consider cutting down on your carbon footprint while enjoying the day with a bike ride. This will also cut down on the wear and tear on your car.

Buy In Bulk And Use Less

This is a great resolution to cut the costs of household items while cutting down on the gas used to ship items around the country. When you buy in bulk you spend less money on items that you’re going to need anyway. Using less reduces the frequency in which you need to buy the items and reduces waste. Consider getting a membership at a warehouse dealer like BJ’s or Sam’s Club.

Buy Ebooks- Go Paperless

Ebooks are a great way to reduce the amount of trees that are cut down every year for paperbacks. Ebooks are also cheaper and some are offered for free in PDF form. Consider buying an iPad or an Amazon Kindle to help save trees and reduce the cost of buying books from a bookstore. Although the initial investment in a reader can be high, the savings over time will be much more.

Life on Mars?

A new study by NASA finds that if life has ever existed on Mars, it had to have been underground.

Ever since clay minerals were initially discovered on Mars in 2005, scientists have thought warm and wet conditions which could have possibly supported life may have existed. This is because clay is formed when stone and water interact with one another.

However, researchers analyzing orbiter data from over 350 areas of the planet’s surface have found that the type of clay which is formed underground is abundant on Mars, while the type of clay which is formed above the surface is quite rare. Conditions on the red planet are not especially conducive to water above the planet’s surface.

From Universe Today:

But there’s a problem with Mars’ atmosphere – it is not thick enough now for water to be retained on Mars’ surface, and there is no scientific consensus that it was ever thick enough in the past to have allowed water to remain on the surface.
According to NASA, the study, which is published in the current issue of the journal Nature, backs up a hypothesis that warm water was present only on the planet’s surface for geologically short periods of time.

But don’t worry — this doesn’t rule out the possibility of life on the red planet.

Shark Attack in Monterey

A surfer was bitten in the neck last weekend by a shark at a beach near Monterey, California. 27-year-old Eric Tarantino was surfing for only 10 minutes at Marina State Beach before he was attacked on the forearm and neck by a nine-foot shark.

Tarantino was saved by friends who pulled him out of the water and stopped his bleeding before he was airlifted to safety. Tarantino saw the shark prior to the attack however he could not escape in time.

The sheer force of the great white shark is reflected in the images of the young man’s surfboard which bore a 19-inch gash in it following the attack.

Four years prior to the incident, Tarantino’s friend and fellow surfer, Todd Engris, was attacked by a shark at the same beach. Engris told “The Today Show” that the news of the attack on Tarantino “shakes me up.”

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Notwithstanding the grizzly nature of these as well as other shark attacks, the video from Today explains that “experts say beach goers are more likely to drown than be attacked.”
Actually, human attacks on sharks are far more common than vice versa. On average, five people are killed by sharks each year. However, up to 70 million sharks are killed each year by fishermen, according to University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File.

Floating Japanese Debris Rapidly Approaching Hawaii

According to reports, some 5 to 20 million tons of debris – fishing boats, furniture, refrigerators –sucked into the Pacific Ocean in the wake of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami that happened on March 11 are currently floating rapidly across the Pacific.

Researchers from the University of Hawaii have been tracking the wreckage and they estimate that it could approach the United States’ West Coast in the next three years.

University of Hawaii researcher Jan Hafner told Hawaii’s ABC affiliate KITV.”We have a rough estimate of 5 to 20 million tons of debris coming from Japan,”

According to reports, crew members from the Russian training ship the STS Pallada “spotted the debris 2,000 miles from Japan”, after passing the Midway islands sometime last month. “They saw some pieces of furniture, some appliances, anything that can float, and they picked up a fishing boat,” according to Miss Hafner. The boat was some 20-feet long, and was painted with the word “Fukushima… That is actually our first confirmed report of tsunami debris…”

But even more grisly are the predictions of U.S. oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who is expecting human feet, still in their shoes, to wash up on the West Coast within three years.
‘I’m expecting parts of houses, whole boats and feet in sneakers to wash up,’ Mr Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle oceanographer who has spent decades tracking flotsam, told MailOnline. (The Blaze)