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Comet

Earth at risk after cuts close comet-spotting program that spotted the Siding Spring

© Nasa, JPL-Caltech, UCLA/AAP
A Nasa infrared image of Comet Siding Spring. The comet, also known by the less catchy name of C/2007 Q3, was discovered in 2007 by astronomers at the Siding Spring Observatory.
The Earth has been left with a huge blind spot for potentially devastating comet strikes after the only dedicated comet-spotting program in the southern hemisphere lost its funding, leading astronomers have warned.

The program, which discovered the Siding Spring comet that narrowly missed Mars on Sunday, was shut down last year after losing funding.

"It's a real worry," Bradley Tucker, an astronomer at the Australian National University (ANU) and University of California Berkeley, told Guardian Australia.

"There could be something hurtling towards us right now and we wouldn't know about it."


Comment: Indeed, something wicked this way comes, and SOTT has been warning about it for years.


The Siding Spring survey - named after the observatory near Coonabarabran in central New South Wales, where the Mars comet was first spotted - was the only program in the southern hemisphere actively searching for potentially hazardous comets, asteroids and meteors.

Comment: Don't say we didn't warn you. As was mentioned above, SOTT has been talking about the cosmic threat for years now, and how this knowledge is been purposefully concealed and distorted by the Powers that Be. Considering the recent anti-Putin charade and continuous bloodshed in the Middle East, Victor Clube, author of The Cosmic Serpent and The Cosmic Winter was right when he said in the report commissioned by the U.S. Air Force:
We do not need the celestial threat to disguise Cold War intentions; rather we need the Cold War to disguise celestial intentions!


Magnify

Cell biology research shakes up mitochondrial mystery

mitochondria

A volume rendering of mitochondria
Elvis did it, Michael Jackson did it, and so do the mitochondria in our cells. They shake. While Elvis and Michael shook for decades before loud and appreciative audiences, mitochondrial oscillations have quietly bewildered scientists for more than 40 years.

Now, a team of scientists at National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) has imaged mitochondria for the first time oscillating in a live animal, in this case, the salivary glands of laboratory rats. The report, published online today in the journal Cell Reports, shows the oscillations occur spontaneously and often in the rodent cells, which leads the researchers to believe the oscillations almost surely also occur in human cells.

"The movements could last from tens of seconds to minutes, which was far longer and frequently at a faster tempo than observed previously in cell culture," said Roberto Weigert, Ph.D., an NIDCR scientist and senior author on the study. The mitochondria also appear to synchronize their movements not only in an individual cell but, quite unexpectedly, into a linked network of oscillators vibrating throughout the tissue.

"You look through the microscope, and it almost looks like a synchronized dance," said Weigert. "The synchronization, to borrow an old cliché, tells us that we need to differentiate the forest from the trees - and vice versa - when studying mitochondria. It may be that the forest holds the key to understanding how mitochondria function in human health and disease."
Telescope

Heavy metal frost? A new look at a Venusian mystery

Venus
© NASA
This is a radar image of one of the areas sampled on Ovda. There is a smooth ramp across the map going from higher to lower elevations, shown as a gradual transition in radar brightness up the ramp. (The top of the ramp is brighter than the bottom of the ramp in the lower right corner). The bright areas to either side of the ramp are highland plateaus, and the curious dark spots are the mysterious areas at the highest elevations that the researchers are investigating.
Venus is hiding something beneath its brilliant shroud of clouds: a first order mystery about the planet that researchers may be a little closer to solving because of a new re-analysis of twenty-year-old spacecraft data.

Venus's surface can't be seen from orbit in visible light because of the planet's hot, dense, cloudy atmosphere. Instead, radar has been used by spacecraft to penetrate the clouds and map out the surface - both by reflecting radar off the surface to measure elevation and by looking at the radio emissions of the hot surface. The last spacecraft to map Venus in this way was Magellan, two decades ago. One of the Venusian surprises discovered at that time is that radio waves are reflected differently at different elevations on Venus. Also observed were a handful of radio dark spots at the highest elevations. Both enigmas have defied explanation.

"There is general brightening upward trend in the highlands and then dark spots at the highest locations," explained Elise Harrington, an Earth sciences undergraduate at Simon Fraser University, in British Columbia, who revisited the Venus data during her internship at the Lunar and Planetary Institute, under the direction of Allan Treiman. Brightening, in this case, means the radio waves reflect well. Dark means the radio waves are not reflected. In other words, the higher you go on Venus, the more radio reflective the ground gets until it abruptly goes radio black.
Comet 2

Mars Orbiter image shows Comet Siding Spring's nucleus is small

comet siding
© NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona
These images were taken of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on Oct. 19, 2014, during the comet's close flyby of Mars and the spacecraft.
The High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured views of comet C/2013 A1 Siding Spring while that visitor sped past Mars on Sunday (Oct. 19), yielding information about its nucleus.

The images are the highest-resolution views ever acquired of a comet coming from the Oort Cloud at the fringes of the solar system. Other spacecraft have approached and studied comets with shorter orbits. This comet's flyby of Mars provided spacecraft at the Red Planet an opportunity to investigate from close range.

Images of comet Siding Spring from HiRISE are online.

The highest-resolution of images of the comet's nucleus, taken from a distance of about 86,000 miles (138,000 kilometers), have a scale of about 150 yards (138 meters) per pixel. Telescopic observers had modeled the size of the nucleus as about half a mile, or one kilometer wide. However, the best HiRISE images show only two to three pixels across the brightest feature, probably the nucleus, suggesting a size smaller than half that estimate.
Comet 2

Comet Siding Spring shaved past Mars, but NASA orbiters and rovers are safe


An artist drawing of Comet Siding Spring approaching Mars.
It was the closest comet near-miss known to astronomers, but everything is alright.

Comet Siding Spring shaved past a planet's surface at one third the distance of the Earth to the moon. But it wasn't Earth in the cross hairs - it was our neighbor Mars.

Earth got lucky in more than one way. With a gang of NASA orbiters and rovers on and around Mars, their cameras and instruments got a historic front row seat on the comet that NASA said made the closest recorded pass ever by any planet.

The three orbiters are just coming out of hiding.

The comet came so close that Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) had to duck and cover on the other side of the planet.

Otherwise, Siding Spring's debris of dust and gas flying at 126,000 miles per hour just 87,000 miles above Mars' surface could have blasted them like a shotgun.

They're all OK, NASA said in a statement. It will take a few days for them to transfer pictures and data to Earth.

Siding Spring has moved on. The comet does not pose a threat to Earth and was headed back out to the outer reaches of the solar system, NASA said.
Magnify

Blind cave fish may provide insight on eye disease and other human health issues

Cavefish
© CC BY-SA 3.0
A closeup of our Blind Cave Fish, for the mexican tetra page.
Blind cave fish may not be the first thing that comes to mind when it comes to understanding human sight, but recent research indicates they may have quite a bit to teach us about the causes of many human ailments, including those that result in loss of sight. A team of researchers, led by Suzanne McGaugh, an assistant professor in the University of Minnesota's College of Biological Sciences, is looking to the tiny eyeless fish for clues about the underpinnings of degenerative eye disease and more.

A new study, published in the October 20 online edition of Nature Communications, opens the doors to research that could illuminate the mechanisms behind human disease.

Cave fish exhibit repeated, independent evolution for a variety of traits including eye degeneration, pigment loss, increased size, number of taste buds and shifts in behavior. The researchers are investigating how organisms adapt to cave environments and which genes are involved in a range of traits. "The cavefish genome sequence is similar to the human genome sequence, and we share many of the same pathways and genes with them," says McGaugh. "They're an ideal subject for study, because they have traits that are directly translatable to human health."
Robot

Nine creepy Orwellian technologies that will soon be inside you...

Given the frenzy of interest following the announcement of the Apple Watch, you might think wearables will be the next really important shift in technology.

Not so.

Wearables will have their moment in the sun, but they're simply a transition technology.

Technology will move from existing outside our bodies to residing inside us.

That's the next big frontier.

Here are nine signs that implantable tech is here now, growing rapidly, and that it will be part of your life (and your body) in the near future.

1. Implantable smartphones
Sure, we're virtual connected to our phones 24/7 now, but what if we were actually connected to our phones?

That's already starting to happen.

Last year, for instance, artist Anthony Antonellis had an RFID chip embedded in his arm that could store and transfer art to his handheld smartphone.

Researchers are experimenting with embedded sensors that turn human bone into living speakers.

Comment: Why such levity from Mr. Edelhart when writing about totalitarianism? Stevie Wonder could see that this is nothing to be lighthearted about.

See:
Beyond Orwell's worst nightmare

2011: A Brave New Dystopia

Airplane

Mysterious military X-37B space plane lands after nearly two years in orbit

© Boeing
Recovery crew members process the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle at Vandenberg Air Force Base after completing 674 days in space. A total of three X-37B missions have been completed, totaling 1,367 days on orbit.
The US Air Force's unmanned, X-37B military space plane made an autonomous runway landing on Friday, Oct. 17, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., concluding an orbital test flight nearly two years in duration on a record breaking mission whose goals are shrouded in secrecy.

The Boeing-built X-37B, also known as the Orbital Test Vehicle (OTV), successfully de-orbited and safely touched down on Vandenberg Air Force Base at 9:24 a.m. PDT, concluding a 674-day experimental test mission for the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office.

This was the third flight of an X-37B OTV vehicle on a mission known as OTV-3.

"I'm extremely proud of our team for coming together to execute this third safe and successful landing," said Col Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, in a statement.
Attention

Evolutionary trait in pathogen cryptococcus gattii allows it to bypass strong immune responses

New research into a rare pathogen has shown how a unique evolutionary trait allows it to infect even the healthiest of hosts through a smart solution to the body's immune response against it.

Scientists at the University of Birmingham have explained how a particular strain of a fungus, Cryptococcus gattii, responds to the human immune response and triggers a 'division of labour' in its invading cells, which can lead to life-threatening infections.

Once inhaled, the pathogen can spread through the body to cause pneumonia or meningitis. The outbreak strain of this fungus differs significantly from other strains because it threatens the lives of healthy people -- those with a strong immune response -- rather than those usually considered at risk of infection.

Professor Robin May, from the University of Birmingham, explained, "It is important to point out that the risk to any individual is still very low: the fungus is non-contagious and cannot be passed between humans, or indeed from animals to humans, so we're not presenting a doomsday scenario here."
Cloud Grey

'Space Bubbles' may have downed key Afghan rescue mission

helicopter
© news.agu.org
Soldiers walk to the ramp of the CH-47 Chinook helicopter that will return them to Kandahar Army Air Field. New models will help predict the impact of plasma bubbles on future missions.
Twelve years ago, a U.S. military rescue mission in Afghanistan went horribly wrong. A Chinook helicopter carrying U.S. troops failed to receive a crucial radio message and was shot down over the snow-covered peak of Takur Ghar.

But the radio failure was not caused by malfunctioning equipment. Instead, a giant, 62-mile-long (100 kilometers) "plasma bubble" made up of clouds of electrically charged particles was responsible for the communication blackout, new research suggests.

Michael Kelly, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab (APL), in Laurel, Maryland, started to put the pieces together after reading a journalist's account of the Battle of Takur Ghar. He suspected the radio failure was caused by a little-known space weather effect caused by these mysterious plasma bubbles.

Ionospheric Scintillation
© www.jhuapl.edu
Plasma Bubbles: Tendrils of low-density charged particles with turbulence at their edges can skew radio frequency waves passing through them.
During daylight hours in the upper atmosphere, radiation beaming down from the sun rips electrons from their atoms. But once the sun sets, the electrons start recombining with their atoms. This recombination process happens faster in the lower atmosphere because there are heavier particles there, and electrons recombine faster with molecules than they do with single atoms. Since the plasma in this part of the atmosphere is less dense, it rises and burrows into the denser plasma above. This causes giant bubbles of charged particles to form, similar to the way air bubbles rise from a submerged diver.

Comment: The data for this research was from the Global Ultraviolet Imager(GUVI) instrument aboard NASA's Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) mission, which launched in 2001 to study the composition and dynamics of the upper atmosphere. A new model, based on this data, shows the electron-depleted regions of the atmosphere where radio wave interference, known as scintillation, is most likely to occur. Bubbles have been tracked between 53 and 370 miles above the earth, perhaps answers to space weather communications blackouts.

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