Meteor seen in Ohio, USA


This video by Adrian Burns from Ohio in the USA says about itself:

Video of the 1/30/16 Meteor from Lancaster, OH

30 January 2016

Was headed east on Union St. in Lancaster, OH and saw it. Caught it on the dash cam, too. Very bright. Definitely waited for a boom.

See also here.

Scottish spy base converted for whales, astronomy?


This video says about itself:

Sunfish, Basking Sharks and Minke Whale encounters with Basking Shark Scotland

27 July 2014

A small video of 2 amazing days in the Hebrides, Scotland. We had warm waters from the Gulf Stream reach our coast bringing in a lot of food and ocean giants. We had 2 Minke Whales swim 4 x under the boat, over 12 basking sharks, ranging from 3m to 6m and a very rare visitor – the ocean sunfish (Mola mola). To top it off we had an otter and sea eagles sighted on the way in, numerous porpoises and many different species of seabird. All in water interactions were guided and closely monitored to ensure they meet our code of practice.

From The Press and Journal in Scotland:

Bid to turn former island Cold War spy base into whale-listening station

31 January 2016 by Mike Merritt

A crowdfunding appeal was launched yesterday to turn a former Cold War spy base in the Outer Hebrides into a whale-listening station and star-gazing observatory.

Locals formally took ownership of the isolated surveillance station at RAF Aird Uig on the Isle of Lewis, which was built to give early warning of a Soviet attack following the end of the Second World War.

They symbolically opened the gates of the complex in a ceremony attended by Western Isles MSP Dr Alasdair Allan.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and the advance of satellite technology made the base redundant and a pair of long distance radars which had protected the UK for decades were dismantled.

The Gallan Head Community Trust (GHCT) has used a £200,000 grant from the Scottish Land Fund to purchase the land from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and turn a nearby building into a visitor centre, which should be open in the summer.

The trust plans to demolish some of the buildings at Aird Uig and convert the former base into a tourist attraction featuring an astronomical observatory, gallery and visitor centre, in a project that could cost between £1m and £3m.

They will also install underwater microphones to record whales and basking sharks which swim past the peninsula, the most north westerly point of the UK.

Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Dr Aileen McLeod said:”The fact that such a small community has taken this step into community ownership is a testament to the skills, drive and tenacity of the members and directors of GHCT.

“I’m sure that the proposed developments will make a real difference to the local economy and beyond. The Scottish Government is committed to assisting communities in taking control of their own futures, this is why we provide financial support to local communities through the Scottish Land Fund.”

Earth and moon origins, new study


This video says about itself:

Lunar rocks show evidence for collision of Earth and Planet Theia [which] Formed our Moon

5 June 2014

Read full story here.

Today, a new study appeared, saying the collision between Earth and Theia was harder than thought before, and not only did parts of Theia become the moon, but also other parts became parts of planet Earth.

From Science magazine:

Rehomogenizing the Earth-Moon system

A giant impact formed the Moon, and lunar rocks provide insight into that process. Young et al. found that rocks on Earth and the Moon have identical oxygen isotopes. This suggests that well-mixed material from the giant impact must have formed both the Moon and Earth’s mantle. The finding also constrains the composition of the “late veneer”: material sprinkled onto Earth after the Moon-forming impact.

Science, this issue p. 493

Abstract

Earth and the Moon are shown here to have indistinguishable oxygen isotope ratios, with a difference in Δ′17O of −1 ± 5 parts per million (2 standard error). On the basis of these data and our new planet formation simulations that include a realistic model for primordial oxygen isotopic reservoirs, our results favor vigorous mixing during the giant impact and therefore a high-energy, high-angular-momentum impact. The results indicate that the late veneer impactors had an average Δ′17O within approximately 1 per mil of the terrestrial value, limiting possible sources for this late addition of mass to the Earth-Moon system.

Largest known solar system discovered


This video says about itself:

Largest solar system ever known: Planet orbits star 1trn km away

27 January 2016

A new study discovered that a planet previously thought to be a loner actually orbits a star 1 trillion kilometers away from it. It takes a million Earth years to orbit its sun, making it the largest solar system found to date.

The giant gas planet – identified only as 2MASS J2126−8140 by scientists – is 100 light years away from Earth. It’s around 12 to 15 times the mass of Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system.

“We were very surprised to find such an object so far from its parent star,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr Simon Murphy of The Australian National University.

2MASS J2126−8140’s parent is a red dwarf star called TYC 9486-927-1. It’s so far away that it would take light a whole month to reach the planet.

“We can speculate they formed 10 million to 45 million years ago from a filament of gas that pushed them together in the same direction,” Murphy said.

Knowing the planet’s age allowed the scientists to estimate its size. Age is measured by the amount of lithium in a star’s atmosphere – the more lithium a star has, the younger it is.

From the BBC:

Astronomers discover largest solar system

7 hours ago

Astronomers have discovered the largest known solar system, consisting of a large planet that takes nearly a million years to orbit its star.

The gas giant is one trillion kilometres away, making its orbit 140 times wider than Pluto‘s path around our Sun.

Only a handful of extremely wide pairs of this kind have been found in recent years.

Details appear in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The planet, known as 2MASS J2126-8140, is between 12 and 15 times the mass of Jupiter.

“We were very surprised to find such a low-mass object so far from its parent star,” said Dr Simon Murphy from the Australian National University (ANU).

“There is no way it formed in the same way as our solar system did, from a large disc of dust and gas.”

This system is nearly three times the size of the previous widest star-planet pair.

The star and its planet were found by a survey of young stars and brown dwarfs in Earth’s neighbourhood.

Once team members discovered they were a similar distance from the Earth – about 100 light-years – they compared the motion of the two through space and realised they were moving together.

“We can speculate they formed 10 million to 45 million years ago from a filament of gas that pushed them together in the same direction,” Dr Murphy explained.

“They must not have lived their lives in a very dense environment. They are so tenuously bound together that any nearby star would have disrupted their orbit completely.”

Unknown big planet in the solar system?


This 2014 video is called Kuiper Belt Objects and Io, Europa & Triton.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Planet 9: Secret, dark world could be hiding in our solar system

The mysterious object has been spotted disturbing the movement of smaller objects in the outer solar system — but is too far away to be spotted directly

Andrew Griffin

A huge planet might be sitting at the edge of our solar system without ever being seen.

The world — which could be about ten times as massive as Earth — would be large enough to become the ninth planet of our solar system.

The planet hasn’t yet been seen by scientists. Instead, they have found it by watching the way that dwarf planets and other objects in the outer solar system move — their orbits seem to be disturbed by something huge but hidden sitting out there.

“If there’s going to be another planet in the solar system, I think this is it,” Greg Laughlin of the University of California, Santa Cruz told National Geographic. “It would be quite extraordinary if we had one. Fingers crossed. It would be amazing.”

If the planet exists, it is thought to be about ten times as massive or three times as large as Earth. That sort of sized planet occurs throughout the universe — but has been an obvious omission from our own.

“This would be a real ninth planet,” says Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy. “There have only been two true planets discovered since ancient times, and this would be a third. It’s a pretty substantial chunk of our solar system that’s still out there to be found, which is pretty exciting.”

It would be around 200 to 300 times as far away from the sun as when it gets closest to the star, scientists say. It will spend some of its time as much as four times as far away as that, and an entire orbit of the sun probably takes about 20,000 years.

The planet might have made its way out to the edge of the universe when it was thrown out there by the gravity of Jupiter or Saturn, the scientists suggest.

At such distances, the planet could be impossible to spot — even with the two huge telescopes that are currently looking for it. So little light is sent back from that far away that it might never make it back for us to see.

It is surrounded by much brighter lights — even the distant Pluto could be about 10,000 times brighter — and so scientists have to be sure that they point telescopes at exactly the right point and pick out an already very unlikely speck of light.

That’s why the scientists have spotted the potential planet by seeing the disturbances that it is causing in the gravitational field of the far star system. There appears to be a “great perturber” upsetting the movement of other objects in that far away region, and the new paper — authored by Michael Brown and Konstantin Batygin and published in the Astronomical Journal — claims that is being caused by a mysterious, unknown world.

The solar system doesn’t often change. The only recent addition was Pluto, which was found in 1930 and spent most of the 21st century as its most distant and smallest planet — until it was controversially downgraded to being just a dwarf planet, and the solar system went back to having eight members.

If the new planet is real, then it will definitely be a planet, scientists say. Since it dominates a bigger region than any of the other planets, it would “the most planet-y of the planets in the whole solar system”, Brown said.

The downgrading of Pluto was partly the result of work by astronomer Michael Brown, who co-wrote the new paper. He had found that Pluto was surrounded by a huge number of similarly-sized planets, and the International Astronomical Union decided that Pluto would be excluded from a new definition.

The two astronomers found the new potential planet while they were looking at those small rocks. They seemed to fly around on orbits that couldn’t be happening by chance, and instead were best explained by a big ninth planet sitting out there with them.

A ninth planet has long been hypothesised — and become the basis of some conspiracy theories — originally going under the name Planet X. It was first talked about more than a century ago, and looking for that planet was what brought astronomers to find Pluto.

This video from the USA says about itself:

20 January 2016

Caltech’s Konstantin Batygin, an assistant professor of planetary science, and Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy, discuss new research that provides evidence of a giant planet tracing a bizarre, highly elongated orbit in the outer solar system.

First flower grown in space


Zinnia in space, image credit: NASA/Scott Kelly

From Gizmodo.com:

The First Flower Grown in Space is an Edible Orange Zinnia

Mika McKinnon

17 January 2016

The first flowers to ever grow in space are blooming on the International Space Station today. Despite fears of over-watering, the crew coaxed the zinnias into a burst of colour in their zero-g vegetable garden.

Zinnias are edible blooming plants that are usually on the easy ends in the spectrum to grow. They’re the second plant to be tested in the space station’s hydroponic VEGGIE lab. Astronauts taste-tested their previous crop, lettuce, last last year. Zinnias are most commonly eaten in salads, but also made a tasty accent to tacos.

So, gardeners: How does this flower look different than your terrestrial blooms?

Arctic zooplankton, new study


This video says about itself:

Arctic Werewolves

7 January 2016

In this video, Last et al. provide evidence for lunar influence on Arctic zooplankton communities during the dark polar night. During full moon periods, zooplankton migrations are driven by moonlight in synchrony with the altitude and phase of the moon. Such lunar vertical migrations occur throughout the Arctic, in fjord, shelf, slope, and open sea. Credit: SAMS Communications

From Science News:

The moon drives the migration of Arctic zooplankton

by Sarah Zielinski

2:11pm, January 11, 2016

The daily rising and setting of the sun propels what is thought to be the world’s largest migration: Tiny zooplankton move from the near-surface waters — where they spend the night feeding — down into deeper, darker waters during the day to avoid predators that rely on sight for finding a meal.

It was thought that in the perpetually dark waters of the Arctic winter that such a migration wouldn’t happen. After all, there’s no sunlight for weeks or months. And until last year, researchers believed that the Arctic pretty much shut down for the winter; it turns out that the region can be surprisingly active in the dark of the polar night.

Now a new study that combines 50 years of observations from locations across the Arctic shows that zooplankton are still migrating in the depths of winter. But with the sun gone, they have tied their timing to the next biggest source of light — the moon.

Zooplankton may be tiny — some are less than 2 micrometers long — but they are so numerous that acoustic instrumentation can detect their presence. Sound bounces off the itty bitty critters, creating what can look like a false ocean bottom (or at least it did to World War II sonar operators). And for more than five decades, scientists have monitored zooplankton with moored acoustic instruments at several locations in the Arctic.

Kim Last of the Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban and colleagues gathered data from those instruments to look at daily zooplankton movements at locations across the Arctic. The moon plays an important role in zooplankton migration, the team reports January 7 in Current Biology.

In spring and fall, when the sun sets and rises daily in the Arctic, zooplankton follow their normal pattern of vertical migration, moving down deep in the day and rising toward the surface at night. But after the sun sets for winter, the zooplankton adjust their schedule, swimming up and down the water column not every 24 hours but every 24.8 hours, following the rising and setting of the moon. And every 29.5 days, when there is a full moon, the mass of zooplankton fall to a depth of about 50 meters, where they can keep out of the brightest moonlight. The movement may help hide the zooplankton from predators that need light to find their prey, the researchers say.

In 2013, researchers found a marine worm with a biological clock tied to the phases of the moon, but it is not yet clear if there is a similar molecular mechanism at work in zooplankton. The invertebrates could be responding to subtle changes in illumination, diving deeper to avoid getting eaten by what Last and his team call the “werewolves” of the Arctic night.