Science & Technology


Astronomers Capture Rare Video Of Meteor Falling To Earth; Hunt For Meteorite

Astronomers from The University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, have captured rare video of a meteor falling to Earth.

The Physics and Astronomy Department at Western has a network of all-sky cameras in Southern Ontario that scan the sky monitoring for meteors. Associate Professor Peter Brown, who specializes in the study of meteors and meteorites, says that Wednesday evening (March 5) at 10:59 p.m. EST these cameras captured video of a large fireball and the department has also received a number of calls and emails from people who actually saw the light.


Tunguska meteorite: a warning from outer space

Almost a century ago, on June 17 (30), 1908, a massive explosion occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River, in what is now Russia's Krasnoyarsk Territory, Central Siberia.

The residents of the Vanavara trading post, 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of the blast site, later claimed that the ground trembled violently when attacked by a huge ball of fire, followed by a terrible storm that destroyed everything in its wake.


Cornell telescope lacks funding despite rare asteroid discovery

Scientists at Puerto Rico's Arecibo Telescope, run by Cornell University, found a rare asteroid last month with two moons only seven million miles from Earth - a breakthrough for a facility in the midst of serious budget woes.

Michael Nolan, research associate and head of radar astronomy at Arecibo, said the facility was the first in the world to find extrasolar planets and to develop a three dimensional map of how galaxies are distributed in the universe. Still, NASA completely cut off funding to the facility in 2004, and the National Science Foundation has refused to step up its funding in the meantime.

Language of a fly proves surprising: Insect's sensory data tells a new story about neural networks

A group of researchers has developed a novel way to view the world through the eyes of a common fly and partially decode the insect's reactions to changes in the world around it. The research fundamentally alters earlier beliefs about how neural networks function and could provide the basis for intelligent computers that mimic biological processes.

In an article published in the Public Library of Science Computational Biology Journal, Los Alamos physicist Ilya Nemenman joins Geoffrey Lewen, William Bialek and Rob de Ruyter van Steveninck of the Hun School of Princeton, Princeton University and Indiana University, respectively, in describing the research.

Special seismic studies of deep tremor - Cascadia Arrays for Earthscope (CAFE)

The University of Washington seismic group began studying deep tremor associated with Episodic Tremor and Slip (ETS) events in 2003 using both the regional PNSN and small aperture arrays. With NSF funding we installed Cascadia Arrays for Earthscope (CAFE) for both structural and tremor studies. The CAFE experiment is still installed as of winter, 2008; however the transportable array stations (TA) of earthscope are starting to be pulled out of western Oregon and many will be pulled out of western Washington in February ....... just before the next ETS. Too bad. Some of the more critical stations are being left longer as well as some stations that the PNSN is taking over by purchasing the equipment from IRIS using funds supplied by the Murdock Chairtable Foundation.
Cow Skull

Giant Fossil Bats Out Of Africa, 35 Million Years Old

When most of us think of Ancient Egypt, visions of pyramids and mummies fill our imaginations. For a team of paleontologists interested in fossil mammals, the Fayum district of Egypt summons an even older and equally impressive history that extends much further back in time than the Sphinx.

In a recent issue of the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, scientists report on the discovery of six new bat species dating to around 35 million years ago, which sheds new light on the early evolution of bats.

It took over 25 years of fieldwork to collect the 33 specimens that form the basis of the new study. "That translates to a little over one specimen per year - a lot of effort for a single fossil," said Erik Seiffert, a paleontologist at Stony Brook University. "But it shows just how important patience and long term field programs are to science. Our long-term commitment to field work certainly paid off in this case." Among the new species is "a giant among bats; though weighing in at less than a half-pound, it is one of the largest fossil bats ever discovered," said Greg Gunnell, a paleontologist at the University of Michigan.

©Drawing by Bonnie Miljour
Reconstruction of Witwatia schlosseri, a new species of very large bat from the Fayum distric of Egypt.

Artificial black hole created in lab

Everyone knows the score with black holes: even if light strays too close, the immense gravity will drag it inside, never to be seen again. They are thought to be created when large stars finally spend all their fuel and collapse. It might come as a surprise, therefore, to find that physicists in the UK have now managed to create an "artificial" black hole in the lab.

Originally, theorists studying black holes focused almost exclusively on applying Einstein's theory of general relativity, which describes how the gravity of massive objects arises from the curvature of space - time. Then, in 1974, the Cambridge University physicist Stephen Hawking, building on the work of Jacob Bekenstein, showed that quantum mechanics should also be thrown into the mix.

NEAR-EARTH OBJECTS:Preparing for Doomsday

Over the next several years, new telescopes will spot thousands of near-Earth asteroids and comets. If one is headed our way, will world leaders be ready to respond?

NEO Figure
Aswarm with asteroids. In 2000, there were more than 86,000 known asteroids. By 2007, there were nearly 380,000, including main-belt objects that don't approach Earth (green); objects that approach but do not cross Earth's orbit (yellow); and objects that cross Earth's orbit (red).

TIESHAN TEMPLE NATIONAL FOREST, CHINA--In the control room of XuYi Observatory, Zhao Haibin sits at a computer and loads the night sky over Jiangsu Province. A faint white dot streaks across a backdrop of pulsating stars. "That's a satellite," Zhao says. Elsewhere on the screen, a larger white dot lumbers from east to west. It's a main-belt asteroid, circling the sun between Mars and Jupiter.

Damage Control: Experts Find No Evidence for a Mammoth-Killer Impact

A devastating cosmic collision 13,000 years ago continues to play well in the media, but specialists are challenging the grounds for thinking it happened

Victims of a hit? Published evidence that an impact triggered the mammoths' disappearance is falling far short of proof.

Comment: The American uniformatarianist school of climate change is clearly on the defense. What's missing from this critique is the complete lack of attention to obvious secondary impact craters dating to 12,900 years BP: the Carolina Bays.

As for Gabrielli's comment, one can judge the data from his paper for oneself (click image to enlarge):

Depositional Fluxes

Clearly, there is a spike around 12,900 years (first peak from the left in the shaded area. The graph is log-linear). Note also the increased depositional flux throughout the ice age and recall astronomer Victor Clube's talk:
You first take the modern sky accessible to science, especially during the Space Age, and you look at its' darker debris with a view to relating its behavior to the more accessible human history which we can, in principle, really understand. And by this approach you discover from the dynamics of the material in space which I'm talking about that a huge comet must have settled in a Taurid orbit some 20,000 years ago, whose dense meteor stream for 10,000 years almost certainly produced the last Ice Age.


Saturn Moon Rhea May Have Rings

PASADENA, Calif. - New observations by a spacecraft suggest Saturn's second-largest moon may be surrounded by rings. If confirmed, it would the first time a ring system has been found around a moon.