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Comet 2

Giant comets pose a much greater hazard to life than asteroids

© The Daily Galaxy
A decade ago, Stephen Hawking warned that one of the major factors in the possible scarcity of intelligent life in our galaxy is the high probability of an asteroid or comet colliding with inhabited planets. This past December, a team of astronomers from Armagh Observatory and the University of Buckingham reported that the discovery of hundreds of giant comets in the outer planetary system over the last two decades means that these objects pose a much greater hazard to life than asteroids.

Giant comets, termed centaurs, move on unstable orbits crossing the paths of the massive outer planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. The planetary gravitational fields can occasionally deflect these objects in towards the Earth. Centaurs are typically 50 to 100 kilometer across, or larger, and a single such body contains more mass than the entire population of Earth-crossing asteroids found to date.

Because they are so distant from the Earth, Centaurs appear as pinpricks of light in even the largest telescopes. Saturn's 200-km moon Phoebe, depicted in this image, seems likely to be a Centaur that was captured by that planet's gravity at some time in the past. Until spacecraft are sent to visit other Centaurs, our best idea of what they look like comes from images like this one, obtained by the Cassini space probe orbiting Saturn. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, having flown past Pluto six months ago, has been targeted to conduct an approach to a 45-km wide trans-Neptunian object at the end of 2018.

Calculations of the rate at which centaurs enter the inner solar system indicate that one will be deflected onto a path crossing the Earth's orbit about once every 40,000 to 100,000 years. Whilst in near-Earth space they are expected to disintegrate into dust and larger fragments, flooding the inner solar system with cometary debris and making impacts on our planet inevitable.

Known severe upsets of the terrestrial environment and interruptions in the progress of ancient civilisations, together with our growing knowledge of interplanetary matter in near-Earth space, indicate the arrival of a centaur around 30,000 years ago. This giant comet would have strewn the inner planetary system with debris ranging in size from dust all the way up to lumps several kilometres across.

Specific episodes of environmental upheaval around 10,800 BCE and 2,300 BCE, identified by geologists and palaeontologists, are also consistent with this new understanding of cometary populations. Some of the greatest mass extinctions in the distant past, for example the death of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, may similarly be associated with this giant comet hypothesis.

People 2

Stanford researchers create body cooling synthetic fabric made of plastic

© L.A. Cicero
Stanford researchers began with a sheet of polyethylene and modified it with a series of chemical treatments, resulting in a cooling fabric.
Stanford engineers have developed a low-cost, plastic-based textile that, if woven into clothing, could cool your body far more efficiently than is possible with the natural or synthetic fabrics in clothes we wear today.

Describing their work in Science, the researchers suggest that this new family of fabrics could become the basis for garments that keep people cool in hot climates without air conditioning.

"If you can cool the person rather than the building where they work or live, that will save energy," said Yi Cui, an associate professor of materials science and engineering and of photon science at Stanford.

This new material works by allowing the body to discharge heat in two ways that would make the wearer feel nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than if they wore cotton clothing.

Fire

Not so smart technology: Safety inspector blows the whistle on fire hazards of 'smart' electronics


All electronics – WiFi/Bluetooth gadgets, cheap phone chargers, iPads, and wide screen TVs pose fire risks
If you think your "smart" appliances are the "cat's whiskers," then please think again! Actually, in my opinion, they are the dumbest things ever invented that have been able to buffalo consumers into spending their hard-earned money to purchase, but have the greatest potential for causing consumers harm and grief.

Recently, I received an email from one of my readers who had to attend a fire safety training session for 'their' job. That instructional course was given by none other than a Delaware County, Pennsylvania Fire Investigator, who was quite explicit in his presentation about certain fire causes.

Comment:


Laptop

Quantum computer created that can tap into parallel universes

Meanwhile as everyone was busy arguing over the bread and circus elections, the CIA was busy funding a computer so powerful that it is described as "tapping into the fundamental fabric of reality" and the man who owns the company says being near one is like "standing at the altar of an alien God".

What exactly do you suppose they are doing with it?

You have to take a few minutes and watch this. It will change the way you look at "reality" forever.

Comment: See also:


Sun

NASA sees first 'global picture of solar wind evolution'

© NASA Goddard/YouTube
A recent breakthrough from NASA allows scientists to see the sun in a whole new way. The Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) is helping to answer questions plaguing the scientific community.

When the sun's solar material begins leaving its atmosphere, also known as the corona, it's a steady and focused stream. But once it reaches the end of the sun's magnetic field, the material's flow becomes scattered and turbulent. The question of why and how this happens was finally answered by scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

The sun is made of plasma that is formed by a mix of oppositely-charged particles that separate at high temperatures. These particles separate and then travel away from the sun through its magnetic field. Once it leaves the magnetic field, it enters the area of solar winds. Solar winds are the constant flow of particles that fill our solar system and the space between planets. But the question that has beleaguered scientists is why the particles leaving the sun's magnetic field go very quickly from being focused to falling apart.

But the recent breakthrough has finally given scientists an idea of what happens between particles being a part of the sun and being solar wind. "Now we have a global picture of solar wind evolution," Nicholeen Viall, a solar scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center told Raw Story. "This is really going to change our understanding of how the space environment develops."


Solar Flares

NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory captures spectacular double eclipse

© NASA
The Earth's fuzzy edge and moon's crisp silhouette revealed the sun during this week's eclipse.
A rare double eclipse was captured by NASA this week when both the Earth and the moon blocked the sun from the view of their Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO).

Not to be outdone by the spectacular "Ring of Fire" eclipse witnessed earlier in the week across eastern and southern Africa, the SDO captured the brief moment when the Earth revealed the sun to the orbiting satellite just as the moon also blocked its view.

Earth comes between the SDO and the sun briefly on a daily basis as a consequence of following the planet's rotation. On Thursday, both the Earth and the moon's eclipse coincided for a brief, but beautiful moment.

Info

World's highest and longest glass bridge closes indefinitely 2 weeks after grand opening in China

© Fred Dufour / AFP
A true architectural wonder - the world's longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge which provides visitors with magnificent views of China's Zhangjiajie mountains - has been closed indefinitely just two weeks after its opening.

The record-breaking structure which gives even the most robust adrenaline junkies the chills, was closed on Friday - just 13 days after its grand opening in China's Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, authorities said.

On Thursday officials posted an announcement on the Chinese microblogging site Weibo, saying the bridge has been closed due to the "urgency to improve and update" the construction. The officials said no damage had been done to the bridge and it just needed upgrading.

Galaxy

Discovery of highly unusual planetary system finds twin stars hosting three giant exoplanets

© Timothy Rodigas.
This is an illustration of this highly unusual system, which features the smallest-separation binary stars that both host planets ever discovered. Only six other metal-poor binary star systems with exoplanets have ever been found.
A team of Carnegie scientists has discovered three giant planets in a binary star system composed of stellar ''twins'' that are also effectively siblings of our Sun. One star hosts two planets and the other hosts the third. The system represents the smallest-separation binary in which both stars host planets that has ever been observed. The findings, which may help explain the influence that giant planets like Jupiter have over a solar system's architecture, have been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal.

New discoveries coming from the study of exoplanetary systems will show us where on the continuum of ordinary to unique our own Solar System's layout falls. So far, planet hunters have revealed populations of planets that are very different from what we see in our Solar System. The most-common exoplanets detected are so-called super-Earths, which are larger than our planet but smaller than Neptune or Uranus. Given current statistics, Jupiter-sized planets seem fairly rare -- having been detected only around a small percentage of stars.

This is of interest because Jupiter's gravitational pull was likely a huge influence on our Solar System's architecture during its formative period. So the scarcity of Jupiter-like planets could explain why our home system is different from all the others found to date.

Jupiter

NASA's Juno probe reveals that Jupiter's north pole is 'like nothing we have seen or imagined'

© NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS
NASA's Juno spacecraft captured this view as it closed in on Jupiter's north pole, about two hours before closest approach on Aug. 27, 2016.
NASA has released striking close-up images of Jupiter's north pole and its southern lights, all captured by the Juno spacecraft which is now in orbit around the gas giant.

The images show a different side of the planet, Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute said in statement released via NASA on Friday.

"First glimpse of Jupiter's north pole, and it looks like nothing we have seen or imagined before. It's bluer in color up there than other parts of the planet, and there are a lot of storms," Bolton said.

"There is no sign of the latitudinal bands or zone and belts that we are used to - this image is hardly recognizable as Jupiter. We're seeing signs that the clouds have shadows, possibly indicating that the clouds are at a higher altitude than other features," he added.

The southern aurora of Jupiter was captured by June on August 27 along with the other data, giving what the space agency said was a unique look at the planet in detail.

The spaceship's Infrared Auroral Mapper (JIRAM) camera acquired the view at wavelengths ranging from 3.3 to 3.6 microns, which is the wavelengths of light emitted by excited hydrogen ions in the polar regions.

Question

Stratospheric deviation in wind pattern reversal observed for the first time

© NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth
Earth’s stratosphere lies just above the red-orange troposphere in this photo snapped by International Space Station astronauts in 2011. Late last year, unusual wind behavior interrupted a reliable stratospheric wind pattern known as the quasi-biennial oscillation.
For the first time, scientists have observed a deviation from the typical alternating pattern of easterly and westerly winds in the equatorial stratosphere.

The weather we experience on Earth typically occurs in the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere. But the stratosphere, which envelops the planet just above the troposphere, is home to winds of its own. In a new study, Newman et al. report an anomalous interruption in an otherwise reliable stratospheric wind pattern known as the quasi-biennial oscillation.

Each cycle of the quasi-biennial oscillation begins with strong westerly winds that flow through the stratosphere in a belt around the equator. Over the course of about 1 year, these winds gradually weaken and descend in altitude to the lower stratosphere as easterly winds replace them. These easterly winds slowly sink and weaken, too, as westerly winds return. The cycle repeats roughly once every 28 months.

Since 1953, scientists have observed equatorial winds by instruments known as radiosondes, which are carried skyward by weather balloons. The quasi-biennial oscillation was discovered in the early 1960s. Although the timing of each cycle has sometimes varied by a few months, the pattern as a whole has remained uninterrupted—until now.