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PostSubject: Random Information   Fri Aug 06, 2010 8:23 am

A large explosion on the surface of the sun on Sunday sent a tidal wave of electrically charged particles toward Earth, say scientists.

The Week - While the discharge is likely to create aurora borealis–like effects in large sections of the northern sky, it may also mark the beginning of an 11-year cycle of solar storms that have the potential to cause serious disruption of technological systems.

Here's the lowdown:

Is this week's event a solar storm? Yes, and it's the first to be directed at Earth for "quite some time," say astronomers. It is predicted to cause a "killer light show" in northern regions of the globe, and may be visible from some parts of the United States.

What are solar storms? Also known as a solar flare, a solar storm is a series of large explosions in the sun's atmosphere caused by magnetic instability.



[This ultraviolet image of the sun shows two flares.] "Large explosions" — how large? Sun storms have been recorded releasing as much as 6 x 10ˆ25 joules of energy — that's about a trillion times more powerful than the nuclear bomb that exploded over Hiroshima at the end of World War II.

Could this weekend's explosion pose a threat? This one will provoke nothing more extreme than a dazzling light show. But scientists say this could be the start of a low in the sun's 11-year life cycle, making this potentially the first in a long season of solar storms. More serious ones could cause immense damage to our infrastructure.

How could sun storms damage our infrastructure? A serious sun storm emits massive amounts of radiation capable of creating havoc with our technological systems. The X-rays and UV radiation emitted by powerful solar flares could, in theory, disable satellites and communications equipment.

So our cell phones might not work? Correct. But a massive burst of energy could also fry electrical grids. Power in wide areas might fail, or surge dangerously, causing fires. Navigation systems — such as those on commercial airliners — could be disabled, and the global financial system brought to a grinding halt. Such an event, warns NASA, might "cause 20 times more economic damage than Hurricane Katrina."

Has it ever happened before? There was a "solar tempest" in 1859 that caused telegraph wires to short out across the U.S. and Europe, starting multiple fires. With today's modern technology, the effects would be much, much worse. A minor solar flare in 1989, for instance, caused a massive power outage across Quebec, Canada.

Is there any way of stopping this? No, but scientists can put satellites and power grids on "safe mode" if they can figure out how to predict when a sun storm will occur. NASA is collaborating with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration to improve its space weather forecasting, and a group of scientists recently congregated in Washington, D.C. to discuss how to protect the planet from powerful bursts of energy from the sun that have the potential to devastate civilization.

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PostSubject: Re: Random Information   Fri Aug 13, 2010 10:23 am

Nasa has begun to wind down construction of the rockets and spacecraft that were to have taken astronauts back to the Moon — effectively dismantling the US human spaceflight programme despite a congressional ban on its doing so.

Times Online - Legislators have accused President Obama’s Administration of contriving to slip the termination of the Constellation programme through the back door to avoid a battle on Capitol Hill.



[Endeavour launch from February 08, 2010.] Constellation aimed to build upon what was arguably America’s greatest technological achievement, the first lunar landing of 1969, by launching new expeditions to the Moon and to Mars and worlds beyond. Mr Obama proposed in February that it should be scrapped because it was “over budget, behind schedule and lacking in innovation”, but he has met opposition in Congress, which has yet to approve his plan.The head of Nasa, Major-General Charlie Bolden — an Obama appointee — has now written to aerospace contractors telling them to cut back immediately on Constellation-related projects costing almost $1 billion (£690 million), to comply with regulations requiring them to budget for possible contract termination costs.

The move has been branded a “disingenuous legal manoeuvre” and referred to Nasa’s inspector-general for investigation. “It’s bordering on arrogance by the Administration to boldly and brazenly go forward with this approach. It shows a blatant disregard for Congress,” said the Republican Congressman Rob Bishop, of Utah, whose constituency stands to lose thousands of jobs. Two weeks ago the Senate passed legislation that compels Nasa to continue work on Constellation unless Congress directs otherwise. That legislation is due to be signed into law by Mr Obama this month while Congress continues its deliberations over his proposal to cancel the current space progamme.

Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Texas Republican and member of the Senate’s Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, said: “The timing of Nasa’s decision to push forward with these actions now, before this becomes law, is highly questionable.” Nasa is “willfully subverting the repeatedly expressed will of Congress”, she added.

Scott Pace, a former Nasa executive and now the Director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University, said: “The effect will be to stop work on Constellation and lay off or transfer people to other jobs. If Congress then says it wants to continue going ahead with Constellation, those people will be difficult to re-hire. It’s already a difficult situation, but this will introduce more instability.”

Constellation was born in 2004 from President George W. Bush’s vision for returning Americans to the Moon by 2020 and using it as a base to build the knowledge and technologies for a manned mission to Mars by 2030. Since then, more than $9 billion has been spent on designing and building the necessary space vehicles.

An independent review panel appointed by Mr Obama last year concluded, however, that without an extra $3 billion a year Constellation was on an “unsustainable trajectory”. In his proposed budget for the 2011 fiscal year, unveiled in February, Mr Obama made it clear that there would be no extra money for its continuation. The proposal has yet to clear Congress.

Distinguished space veterans, including the first and last men to walk on the Moon, Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan, have complained that the abandonment of Constellation will set America’s space capabilities on a “downhill slide to mediocrity”. They say that, while Mr Obama has outlined a vision for Nasa that includes sending people to Mars at some point, it lacks a concise plan for developing the rockets and spacecraft to get them there.

“The Administration has no planning, no programme and no idea — they’d just have these things happen mysteriously,” Mr Bishop said. “Rockets aren’t something that Wal-Mart puts on its shelves. You have to have a plan for how you get from A to B, and Obama has just said we’ll work it as we go along and maybe some day we’ll end up on an asteroid or the Moon or somewhere. The bottom line is, those ‘maybes’ will never happen.”

Private rocket developers, to whom Mr Obama proposes outsourcing the task of carrying crews and cargo to the International Space Station after the shuttle fleet retires, are making advances. Ten days ago Elon Musk, a spaceflight entrepreneur — and founder of the online payment system PayPal — launched a near-flawless test flight of his Falcon 9 rocket, which is designed to take payloads and ultimately human beings into space.

Triumphs and tragedies

Oct 4, 1958 A year after the Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the US Congress passes “an Act to provide for research into the problems of flight within and outside the Earth’s atmosphere, and for other purposes”. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) is born

Feb 20, 1962 John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit Earth. The Russian Yuri Gagarin had made the first space flight a year earlier. Glenn returns to public adulation and later becomes a US senator

May 25, 1961 President Kennedy announces that he is setting the United States the goal of reaching the Moon by the end of the decade

January 27, 1967 Three US astronauts die in a fire during a simulated take-off, the first to die in the space programme

July 20, 1969 Neil Armstrong takes man’s first step on the Moon and plants an American flag, a significant propaganda coup. The US is still the only nation to have put a man on the Moon

April 13, 1970 An oxygen tank explodes aboard Apollo 13. It becomes clear that there is not enough air in the capsule to keep the three astronauts alive. They manage to board the self-contained Lunar Module and land safely in the Pacific

April 12, 1981 The US launches Columbia, its first space shuttle and the first spacecraft to land on a runway instead of in the sea

Jan 28, 1986 The Challenger space shuttle explodes 73 seconds after take-off, killing its crew

April 24, 1990 The Hubble Space Telescope comes online after being carried into space by a US shuttle

Feb 1, 2003 Columbia breaks up over Texas returning from its 28th mission, killing the crew

Feb 1, 2010 President Obama announces plans to cancel additional funding of the programme to return US astronauts to the Moon by 2020

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PostSubject: Re: Random Information   Fri Aug 13, 2010 10:26 am

The first detailed pictures of one of the planet's last unexplored frontiers — a vast mountain range that rivals the Alps in majesty buried underneath the ice of Antarctica — were revealed by scientists this week.

Live Science - The rugged peaks soar to more than 8,000 feet (2,400 meters). They are buried beneath solid ice more than a mile (1.6 kilometers) thick, deep within Antarctica's eastern interior.

The existence of this mountain range, called the Gamburtsev Mountains, shocked the Russian scientists who first discovered it more than 50 years ago, and mystery still shrouds the nearly 750-mile- (1,200-km-) long series of subglacial peaks.

At the International Polar Yearconference in Oslo, Norway, scientists unveiled new radar images of an area of the mountains the size of the state of New York.



The image illustrates the ice surface (transparent top layer with contour lines) imaged from NASA's ICESat satellite and below that the rugged bedrock topography of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains mapped from airborne geophysical data from the AGAP project showing a surprisingly rugged mountain range with deeply incised valleys beneath the ice sheet. Credit: Michael Studinger

"What we'd shown before was an estimate based on gravity data — a little bit of a coarse resolution tool," said Robin Bell, a senior research scientist at Columbia's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York. "What we showed at this meeting was the radar data. It's like going from using a big, fat sharpie to using a fine-tipped pencil."

What the pictures reveal, Bell said, is spectacular: a dramatic landscape of rocky summits, deep river valleys, and liquid, not frozen, lakes, all hidden beneath the ice.

Bell was among a team of scientists from seven countries who spent two frigid months collecting geophysical data in the remote antipodean wilderness via sophisticated, aircraft-mounted instruments in late 2008 and early 2009.

The expedition provided researchers with several terabytes of information — just one terabyte could hold two days worth of songs or one million pictures. Although it will take years to process all that data, Bell hopes the numbers will answer some of the questions surrounding the Gamburtsev Mountains. A big one is how they formed in the first place.

"We now know it's not a volcanic mountain range," said study team member Kathryn Rose, of the British Antarctic Survey. "And uplift by a hotspot in the mantle is probably out in terms of a mechanism of formation." (The mantle is the scorching hot, molten rock that underlies Earth's crust and is the source of volcanic magma.)

Rose said the data are also providing invaluable insight into the evolution of the colossal East Antarctica Ice Sheet — the 6 million square miles (15.5 million square km) of ice that conceals the Gamburtsev Mountains and is important to understand in terms of its potential to melt in a warming world.

"Scientists need to improve our understanding of ice sheets and their dynamics because it impacts sea level everywhere," Bell told OurAmazingPlanet, emphasizing that new insights are guaranteed for years to come.

"We're still scratching our heads as to how the mountains were made and why they're still there," she said. "But I think we have the data we need to solve the puzzle."

Video: Australian television news report.

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PostSubject: OMGOMGOMGOMG   Fri Aug 13, 2010 11:30 am

OMG THIS IS SO INTERESTING!!! ... ... ... *cough*
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PostSubject: Re: Random Information   Wed Aug 18, 2010 7:21 am

I Find all this quite interesting thank you

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