Tag: earth

Seagulls Eat Garbage In Landfills And Then Poop Pollution Into Our Waters

What goes around comes around. Scientists say chemicals from trash in our landfills are making their way into our waters via the seagulls’ gastrointestinal tracts.

A report on this delightful state of affairs was published in the journal Water Research.

We generally stop thinking about our trash the moment the garbage truck comes to collect it. But it doesn’t just disappear.

No, our coffee filters and corn-chip bags head to the landfill, where they sit and sit and sit … unless they get eaten first.




Then their nutrients, their nitrogen and phosphorus, disappear into an animal’s gullet and reappear on the other side, sometimes a few days later, sometimes miles away—and sometimes in our lakes, rivers, and streams.

Researchers wondered how much of an impact these trash-picking critters could have.

They were especially interested in seagulls, whose poop has previously been shown to carry traces of toxic chemicals from our plastic-filled seas.

The first step was to figure out just how many landfill-mooching seagulls we have.

Authors Scott Winton and Mark River of the Duke University Wetland Center used documented seagull sightings in the eBird citizen science database to estimate the number of landfill-living gulls across the entire United States.

Their calculations came up with about 1.4 million birds.

The scientists then used that 1.4-million figure to calculate the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus the birds might collectively be dumping.

That phosphorus changes the water’s chemical composition and could lead to more algae blooms, which can kill off other organisms in the lake’s ecosystem.

Winton and River suggest that rather than clean our waters after they’re polluted, a better approach might be to stop the problem at the source: our trash.

They recommend limiting landfill size and covering existing garbage heaps to keep the seagulls from ever finding it.

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Japanese Rocket Launches Two Satellites Into Orbit

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency launched two satellites into space Friday (Dec. 22) on separate missions to study the Earth and test new ion engine technology.

A JAXA H-2A rocket launched from the Tanegashima Space Center in southern Japan carrying the Global Change Observation Mission-Climate (GCOM-C) satellite and the Super Low Altitude Test Satellite (SLATS).

Liftoff occurred at 8:26 p.m. EST (0126 GMT) on Friday, though the local time was 10:26 a.m. Saturday Japan Standard Time.




The GCOM-C satellite, nicknamed Shikisai (which means “Color” in Japanese), is an Earth-observing satellite designed to be the first in a pair to monitor Earth’s climate from space over 15 years.

It carries instruments to study Earth’s carbon cycle, clouds, aerosols, ocean color, vegetation, and snow and ice, according to a JAXA mission description.

GCOM is expected to play an important role in monitoring both global water circulation and climate change, and examining the health of Earth from space,” JAXA officials wrote.

The SLATS satellite (nicknamed Tsubame, or “Swallow”) is on a technology demonstration mission to test how ion engines could help keep satellites aloft in “super low orbits” below 186 miles.

Such a low orbit will subject SLATS to 1,000 times the atmospheric drag on satellites in higher orbits between 372 and 497 miles (600-800 km), JAXA officials said.

Even the International Space Station is in a higher orbit of about 248 miles (400 km).

JAXA’s successful satellite launch on Friday came just over one minute before another rocket launch.

The U.S. spaceflight company SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 10 Iridium Next communications satellites into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The launch created dazzling views for spectators across Southern California.

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NASA Planning A 2069 Mission To Look For Life On Newly Discovered Earth-Like Planets

NASA is reportedly planning an interstellar mission to search for life outside our solar system in the three-star Alpha Centauri system.

The mission is as yet unnamed and the technology required to get a craft there does not exist yet, but the projected launch date would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the first moon landing.

The ambitious mission would require a craft that would need to travel at a minimum of 10 per cent of the speed of light.




The Alpha Centauri constellation is 4.4 light years away, and even if a record-breaking tenth of the speed of light could be achieved, the system would still be a 44-year trip, reaching our nearest neighbor by 2113.

NASA is said to be considering sending tiny probes powered by lasers which in theory may be able to reach a quarter of the speed of light.

Other techniques under consideration include harnessing nuclear reactions, or through collisions between antimatter and matter, the magazine reported.

There is already a known exoplanet in the Alpha Centauri star system, Proxima Centauri b, which orbits a red dwarf star.

However, it has not been considered a perfect location for finding alien life, as the star throws out bursts of radiation that make the conditions inhospitable.

So far humans have only made one spacecraft that has successfully left our solar system – the Voyager 1 craft.

Which was launched in 1977 and despite the limitations of the technology it was equipped with, provided astonishing new insights into the planets and moons within our own solar system.

However, it was never designed to be an interstellar craft.

NASA’s announcement follows an admission from the former head of the Pentagon’s secret UFO-hunting bureau that he believes “we may not be alone”, and said he had seen compelling evidence to support the idea of alien life.

As the first alien rock to travel here from another star, it was immediately recognized as highly unusual – but as scientists learn more about the object, they are discovering how strange it actually is.

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Anthropocene: We Might Be About To Move From The Holocene To A New Epoch

After 11,700 years, the Holocene epoch may be coming to an end, with a group of geologists, climate scientists and ecologists meeting in Berlin this week to decide whether humanity’s impact on the planet has been big enough to deserve a new time period: the Anthropocene.

The term, coined in the 1980s by ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer, takes its prefix from the Ancient Greek word for human because its proponents believe the influence of humanity on the Earth’s atmosphere and crust in the last few centuries is so significant as to constitute a new geological epoch.




The Anthropocene Working Group assembles in Berlin on Friday, an interdisciplinary body of scientists and humanists working under the umbrella of the International Commission on Stratigraphy and “tasked with developing a proposal for the formal ratification of the Anthropocene as an official unit amending the Geological Time Scale“.

The 30-strong group, which includes a lawyer, has outlined two key questions which it will address during deliberations at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt:

How does the recent cognition of the immense quantitative shift in the biophysical conditions of the Earth affect both scientific research and a political response to these changes?”

And “Does the Anthropocene also pose a profound qualitative shift, a paradigm shift for the ways in which science, politics, and law advance accordingly?”

Following the Pleistocene, we have for the last 11,700 years lived in the Holocene epoch, which is characterized by the warmer and wetter conditions that came after the end of the last ice age and has seen humans establish new territories and the Earth’s population soar.

Many scientists are happy with the Holocene as a term, but after Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist popularized the “Anthropocene” at the turn of the millennium it refuses to go away and the ICS has deemed it in need of serious debate.

Based around a series of presentations by members of the AWG and statements from invited speakers from the humanities, the social sciences, and political fields, the forum will “discuss both the extraordinary changes to the Earth system as well as its consequences in setting new agendas for governing, researching, and disseminating crucial knowledge.”

The group has given itself until 2016 to come up with a proposal to submit to the ISC, which ultimately determines what time period we live in.

This might seem like a long way away, but when you consider the earliest epoch, the Paleozoic, began approximately 541 to 252 million years ago, it’s just a speck in the Earth’s history.

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Has The Mystery Of How The Moon Was Formed Finally Been Solved?

The object that smashed into earth to create the moon was far smaller than thought, a new simulation has shown.

Researchers at the Paris Institute of Earth Physics tested over two billion combinations of parameters to try and solve the mystery of how the moon formed.

The key, they concluded, was an impact with a body roughly one-tenth the mass of Earth.

Astronomers have long suspected that the moon was created when a giant protoplanet called Theia struck the newly formed Earth – a theory first put forward in the 1970s.




It says the huge collision created a vast cloud of debris, which coalesced into the moon.

However, until now, astronomers have not been able to explain how this left the moon and Earth chemically identical.

This led to two other ideas, which predicted dramatically different masses for the impact object.

In one, two half-Earths merged to form the Earth-moon system, and in the second, Theia was a small, high-velocity projectile that smacked into a larger and fast-spinning young Earth.

The researchers ran more than 2 billion simulations of the crash, and found an impactor larger than 15 per cent of the mass of Earth, couldn’t produce the chemistry we see in Earth’s mantle, instead leading to a mantle far too rich in nickel and cobalt.

This was known as the giant-impact hypothesis, or the Big Splash.

Now, a simulation created by researchers from Southwest Research Institute in Colorado has found that after this massive impact, there was a long period when leftover mini planets called planetesimals pounded the Earth.

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The Most Distant Supermassive Black Hole Ever Discovered

Scientists searching for astronomical objects in the early universe, not long after the Big Bang, have made a record-breaking, two-for-one discovery.

Using ground-based telescopes, a team of astronomers have discovered the most distant supermassive black hole ever found.

The black hole has a mass 800 million times greater than our sun, which earns it the “supermassive” classification reserved for giants like this.

Astronomers can’t see the black hole, but they know it’s there because they can see something else: A flood of light around the black hole that can outshine an entire galaxy.

This is called a quasar, and this particular quasar is the most distant one ever observed.




The light from the quasar took more than 13 billion years to reach Earth, showing us a picture of itself as it was when the universe was just 5 percent of its current age.

Back then, the universe was “just” 690 million years old. The hot soup of particles that burst into existence during the Big Bang was cooling rapidly and expanding outward.

The first stars were starting to turn on, and the first galaxies beginning to swirl into shape.

Quasars from this time are incredibly faint compared to the nearest quasars, the light from some of which takes just 600 million light years to reach the Earth.

Black holes, mysterious as they are, are among the most recognizable astronomical phenomena in popular science.

They’re pretty straightforward: Black holes are spots in space where the tug of gravity is so strong that not even light can escape.

They gobble up gas and dust and anything that comes near, growing and growing in size. A supermassive black hole sits in the center of virtually all large galaxies, including the Milky Way.

Astronomers can infer their existence by watching fast-moving stars hurtle around a seemingly empty, dark region.

Quasars, meanwhile, are a little trickier to understand, and you’d be forgiven for thinking they sound like something out of Star Trek.

A quasar is, to put it simply, the product of a binge-eating black hole. A black hole consumes nearby gas and dust inside a galaxy with intense speed, and the violent feast generates a swirling disk of material around it as it feeds.

The disk heats up to extreme temperatures on the order of 100,000 degrees Kelvin and glows brightly. The resulting light show is what we call a quasar, and what a light show it is.

The more material a black hole consumes, the bigger it becomes. Eventually, the black hole drains the surrounding area of material and has nothing to eat.

The luminous disk around it shrinks and fades, and the quasar is extinguished.

In this way, quasars—and the black holes that power them—are like volcanoes, erupting under one set of conditions and settling into dormancy under another.

Quasars were first detected in 1963 by the Dutch astronomer Maarten Schmidt with California’s Palomar Observatory.

Astronomers thought these newly discovered points of light were stars because of their extreme brightness.

But when they studied the spectrum of their light, they were stunned to find the “stars” were more than a billion light-years away.

When light travels through space, it gets stretched thanks to the constant expansion of the universe. As it moves, it shifts toward redder, longer wavelengths.

Astronomers can measure this “redshift” to figure out how long the light took to reach Earth, which indicates how far a certain object is.

Schmidt and his fellow astronomers knew that for stars to appear so luminous to Earth from such great distances was impossible. They were dealing with completely new phenomena.

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Budweiser Is Sending Barley To Space In Hopes Of Learning How To Brew Beer On Mars

Budweiser wasn’t kidding about its plans to brew “the first beer on Mars.

After announcing its initiative at the South by Southwest conference in March, Budweiser is reportedly taking its next steps toward accomplishing its out-of-this-world goal by sending beer-making grains, namely, barley — into space later this year.

According to a press release, this December, SpaceX will be delivering the shipment of barley to the International Space Station, where it will remain in orbit for a month.




Once back on Earth, the barley will be analyzed in order to determine how the grain reacts to microgravity environments.

Budweiser’s “innovation team” will also experiment with germinating the exposed barley seeds.

Budweiser is always pushing the boundaries of innovation and we are inspired by the collective American Dream to get to Mars,” said Budweiser Vice President Ricardo Marques in a statement.

“We are excited to begin our research to brew beer for the red planet.”

The company said its efforts might also provide insight on its agricultural practices here on Earth, although it maintained that its foremost goal is to one day supply “a colonized red planet the same enjoyments provided here on Earth.

Budweiser executives originally announced the company’s plans back on March 11 during SXSW in Austin, Texas, at a panel discussion that also included retired astronaut Clayton “Clay” Anderson and actress Kate Mara, of the 2015 film “The Martian.”

At the time, Budweiser also explained the challenges it faced in brewing beer in a Mars-like environment, including limited water resources, limited sunlight for growing hops and atmospheric pressure that would turn traditional beer to “foamy slop.”

Nevertheless, the company vowed to be ready to “toast on Mars” when mankind finally colonizes the planet.

With this bold, new dream Budweiser is celebrating the entrepreneurial spirit in which our iconic brand was founded upon,” said Marques in a press release issued shortly after the initial announcement.

Through our relentless focus on quality and innovation, Budweiser can today be enjoyed in every corner of the world, but we now believe it is time for the King of Beers to set its sights on its next destination.”

“When the dream of colonizing Mars becomes a reality, Budweiser will be there to toast the next great step for mankind.”

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NASA Just Found Our Solar System’s Twin By Using Artificial Intelligent

Searching the stars for unique phenomena is not an easy process.

The problem is that space is simply too big, too diverse, and too wonderful.

Locating a specific kind of anomaly among the many wondrous sights scattered throughout the cosmos is near impossible for humans, without easily-distracted brains.

With so many stars to check, the process of scanning the galaxy to find planets like our own can take a lot of time and effort.

Thankfully, artificial intelligence can help us in the process of spotting distant stars and their neighboring planets.

NASA has announced that, thanks to an AI program that was given the task of spotting cool stuff in space, the agency has been able to find a solar system that looks uncannily like our own; albeit in miniature form.




The Kepler-90 system exists a distant 2,545 light years from Earth, but has drawn attention from the astrological society after an AI noted that its series of eight planets match up well with our own.

The primary difference is that its planets orbit a lot closer to the sun than those in our solar system, with the newly discovered Kepler-90i making a full rotation around the star in a matter of just fourteen Earth days.

In order to locate Kepler-90’s planets NASA’s AI had to scan through a daunting thirty five thousand potential signals from distant stars, over a period of four years.

This is where machine learning was able to come into play to help make the process easier—the AI was fed data from around fifteen thousand signals that NASA had previously investigated.

So the AI had a pretty good idea of what it was looking for based on the kinds of readings that NASA had flagged as noteworthy among the program’s database of reference materials.

From there, it was a simple matter of letting the AI run checks for all potential star systems against its database until the program found something that matched what it was looking for, which happened to be a bunch of newly discovered planets orbiting Kepler-90.

Kepler-90 isn’t actually the most exciting solar system in the galaxy—it’s unlikely that its super hot worlds will bear life, or even any noteworthy new discoveries.

What is special, is the fact that an AI managed to identify Kepler-90 as fitting the right parameters for investigation.

This shows that there really are benefits to employing machine learning as a technique for searching the cosmos for interesting research subjects without the need for a human to slog through thousands of signals in order to find a few interesting stars that warrant a closer look.

Essentially, NASA is building a self-teaching search engine that can trawl through all of our records of the stars to find things that look interesting, based only on a vague description of what scientists are looking for.

The future of space exploration is going to be a whole lot easier if we can trust an artificial intelligence to do all the boring stuff for us.

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The Remarkable Island Born From An Underwater Volcanic Eruption

 

Nearly three years ago, an island sprung into existence in the South Pacific Kingdom of Tonga, nestling between two older islands in the archipelago.

The new island formed after the eruption of a submarine volcano in the region, which flung ash 30,000 feet into the sky, before it eventually settled in January 2015.

While scientists first estimated that the island with a 400-foot (120-meter) summit would last just a few months, new calculations suggest it could remain in its new place for as much as 30 years.

The island has come to be known as Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai.

It became visible to satellites in 2015, and is the first of its kind to emerge and survive in the modern satellite era, according to NASA.




A stunning time-lapse released by the space agency this week reveals how its shape has changed since it first emerged, using 33 months of high-resolution satellite data.

Over the last 150 years, there have been three of these ‘surtseyan’ volcanic island formations, with the Tongan being the most recent.

It sits on the north rim of a caldera atop an underwater volcano, which is nearly 4,600 feet (1,400 meters) higher than the surrounding sea floor, the researchers say.

Volcanic islands are some of the simplest landforms to make“, said Jim Garvin, chief scientist of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Our interest is to calculate how much the 3D landscape changes over time, particularly its volume, which has only been measured a few times at other such islands.

It’s the first step to understand erosion rates and processes and to decipher why it has persisted longer than most people expected.

Experts were able to track the formation of the new Tongan island since its beginning, using high-resolution satellite observations.

The scientists first began watching the island after the initial eruption died down, using images from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instruments to make a 3D map of its topography.

According to the team, there are two potential scenarios that could play out. The island could experience accelerated erosion by wave abrasion, they say.

This would destabilize the tuff cone in roughly six to seven years, leaving behind a land-bridge between the two neighbouring islands.

Or, erosion could occur at a slower rate, which would leave it intact for 25-30 years.

According to the researchers, the new Tongan island may be experiencing similar interactions as seen at Surtsey, where warmed seawater and ash chemically altered the rock to create a tougher material.

And, a similar process could help explain some of the volcanic features on Mars.

Everything we learn about what we see on Mars is based on the experience of interpreting Earth phenomena,” Garvin said.

We think there were eruptions on Mars at a time when there were areas of persistent surface water.

We may be able to use this new Tongan island and its evolution as a way of testing whether any of those represented an oceanic environment or ephemeral lake environment.

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Scientists Are Slowly Unlocking The Secrets Of The Earth’s Mysterious Hum

“In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”

— Cormac McCarthy, “The Road”

The world hums. It shivers endlessly.

It’s a low, ceaseless droning of unclear origin that rolls imperceptibly beneath our feet, impossible to hear with human ears.

A researcher once described it to HuffPost as the sound of static on an old TV, slowed down 10,000 times.

It’s comforting to think of Earth as solid and immovable, but that’s false. The world is vibrating, stretching and compressing. We’re shaking right along with it.

The earth is ringing like a bell all the time,” said Spahr Webb, a seismologist at Columbia University.

The hum is everywhere. Its ultralow frequencies have been recorded in Antarctica and Algeria, and — as announced this week by the American Geophysical Union — on the floor of the Indian Ocean.

We still don’t know what causes it.




Some have theorized that it’s the echo of colliding ocean waves, or the movements of the atmosphere, or vibrations born of sea and sky alike.

But if we could hear this music more clearly, scientists around the world say, it could reveal deep secrets about the earth beneath us, or even teach us to map out alien planets.

And the hum is getting clearer all the time.

Earth vibrates at different frequencies and amplitudes, for different reasons, and not all those vibrations are the ‘hum’. Earthquakes are like huge gong bangs.

When an enormous quake hit Japan in 2011, Webb said, the globe kept ringing for a month afterward.

People sitting on the other side of the world bounced up and down about a centimeter, though so slowly they didn’t feel a thing.

In 1998, a team of researchers analyzed data from a gravimeter in east Antarctica and realized that some of these vibrations never actually stop.

The phenomenon became popularly known as the “hum of the Earth.

Webb was one of many researchers who searched for the hum’s cause in the 21st century.

Some thought interactions between the atmosphere and solid ground caused the shaking, though he discounts the idea.

Sometimes waves sloshing in opposite directions intersect, sending vibrations deep down into Earth’s crust.

Sometimes a wave on a shallow coast somewhere ripples over the rough sea floor and adds its own frequencies to the hum.

Whatever the origin, the result is a harmony of ultralow frequencies that resonate almost identically all over the globe.

And that’s potentially invaluable to those who want to know what goes on beneath its surface, where the core spins and tectonic plates shift.

Scientists already measure how fast earthquake waves travel through different regions of the underground to make detailed subterranean maps.

The scientists collected data from seismometer stations that had been placed in the Indian Ocean near Madagascar several years ago.

These stations were meant to study volcanic hot spots nothing to do with the hum but the team worked out a method to clean the data of ocean currents, waves, glitches and other noise.

It peaked between 2.9 and 4.5 millihertz, they said — a tighter range than the first hum researchers in the 1990s had recorded.

It was also similar to measurements taken from a land-based station in Algeria.

So more evidence that the hum goes all the way around the world; and more hope that we may one day reveal all that goes on beneath it.

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