Archive for September 24, 2014

Nazca Lines of Kazakhstan: More Than 50 Geoglyphs Discovered

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on September 24, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

Post 3779

Nazca Lines of Kazakhstan: More Than 50 Geoglyphs Discovered


US Diabetes Rate May Be Leveling Off

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags on September 24, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

Post 3778

US Diabetes Rate May Be Leveling Off


Failure Is Good (When You Learn from Mistakes), Experts Say

Posted in SCIENCE, GEOLOGY,HEALTH, INVIRONMENT, TECHNOLOGY,ANTHROPOLOGY, ARCHAEOLOGY, with tags , on September 24, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

Post  3777

Failure Is Good (When You Learn from Mistakes), Experts Say

10 More Years for the ISS

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on September 24, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

Post 3776

10 More Years for the ISS

Feb. 14, 2014: A lot can happen in 10 years. Over the past decade an international laboratory, widely known but often under-appreciated, has been producing results at an extraordinary rate. Using its unique capabilities,

  • engineers have developed a precision robotic arm that helps surgeons remove tumors from the human brain;
  • experimenters have learned to start fires without flames—an anti-intuitive technology that could lead to super-efficient auto engines;
  • physicists have counted hundreds of thousands of anti-matter particles among normal cosmic rays, a telltale sign of mysterious dark matter.;
  • researchers have gathered atoms into exotic forms, creating the building blocks of futuristic smart materials;

…and much more.

That lab is the International Space Station.


A new ScienceCast video previews the next decade of research onboard the International Space Station.  Play it

“The accomplishments of the past 10 years are remarkable–especially considering that the space station was still under construction.” notes Julie Robinson, program scientist for the ISS. “Now that the station is finished, we’ve been granted at least 10 more.”

In January, the Obama Administration announced an extension of the International Space Station until at least 2024.  The extra time allows NASA and other space agencies around the world to pursue a number of important goals.

For one thing, the ISS is crucial for long-duration travel through deep space.  “That may sound ironic given that the space station never leaves Earth orbit,” says Robinson, “but we have determined that research on station is necessary to mitigate 21 of 32 known human-health risks associated with long duration space missions. The road to Mars leads through the ISS.”

She adds that medical research for astronauts helps people on Earth, too. Treatments for bone loss and muscle decay, and advances in telemedicine are just a few of the spin-offs that have made their way into hospital rooms since the ISS program began.

As the next ten years unfolds, a menagerie of “model organisms” will join astronauts on the ISS for advanced life science studies.  New “crewmembers” include weeds, fruit flies and rodents—all of which share surprising amounts of DNA with humans. “By studying these organisms in microgravity, we will learn a lot about ourselves,” she says.

Although Robinson has a degree in biology, some of her favorite experiments are in the area of fundamental physics.  For instance, she says, “the station’s Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer program, led by Nobel laureate Samuel Ting, is poised for breakthroughs on the nature of dark matter.” Another exciting project is the Cold Atom Lab, slated for flight in 2016.  “We are going to create the coldest spot in the known universeinside the ISS,” she says.  “This will allow researchers to study exotic forms of quantum matter such as Bose-Einstein condensates.”

With the “big blue marble” looming large in its window, the space station is a powerful platform for Earth science. Sensors under construction and slated for launch in the next few years include instruments for hurricane forecasting, studies of the global climate, and lightning hazards.  “The extension of the space station allows Earth science instruments to collect longer term datasets,” notes Robinson.  “Some of our existing sensors will collect 90% more data during the extra decade.”

The station’s 10-year extension also boosts the development of America’s homegrown commercial space program. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp., which have contracts to supply cargo to the station, can now look forward to competing for future contracts. SpaceX, Boeing and Sierra Nevada are also interested in launching crews to the station by 2017. As commercial providers provide access to Earth orbit at lower cost, we move toward the day when scientists will travel to space to do their own experiments, first-hand.

Ten more years, indeed.  For more information about research on the International Space Station,


Author: Dr. Tony PhillipsProduction editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit:Science@NASA

A Breakthrough in Planet Discoveries

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on September 24, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

Post 3775

A Breakthrough in Planet Discoveries

Feb. 26, 2014: Years ago, before the launch of NASA’s Kepler spacecraft, astronomers were thrilled when they discovered a single planet.

Today, the Kepler team announced 715.

Kepler has always been good at finding planets. Even before the announcement, the observatory had confirmed 246 new worlds outside the solar system. The latest discoveries almost quadruple that number.


A new ScienceCast video explores the 715 new worlds just confirmed by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. Play it!

Kepler works by looking for the slight dimming of starlight caused when a distant planet transits its parent star.  Any dip in stellar brightness attracts the attention of the Kepler team, and can prompt them to declare a planet candidate. Verification of candidates can be a laborious process, proceeding slowly, planet-by-planet.

Now, however, a research team co-led by Jack Lissauer of the Ames Research Center has figured out a way to speed the process up.

“We’ve developed a procedure to verify multiple planet candidates in bulk to deliver planets wholesale, and have used it to unveil a veritable bonanza of new worlds,” says Lissauer.

The technique is called “verification by multiplicity,” which relies in part on the logic of probability. Out of the 160,000 stars Kepler has observed, a few thousand have planet candidates.  But not all candidate systems are equal.  A subset of the total, numbering in the hundreds, have not just one but multiple candidates.  By concentrating on those busy systems, the team found 715 planets orbiting 305 stars.

The method of multiplicity can be likened to the behavior of lions and lionesses. Suppose that Kepler’s stars are like lions, and the planets are lionesses. If you see two big cats it could be a lion and a lioness or it could be two lions. But if more than two cats are gathered, then it is very likely a lion and his pride. Thus, through multiplicity, the lionesses—or planets—can be reliably identified.


Click to visit the Kepler home page.

All of the newly-discovered worlds are located in multi-planet systems. Nearly 95 percent of the planets are smaller than Neptune—that is, less than four times the size of Earth. This is a marked increase in the known number of relatively small planets.

“This study shows us that planets in multi-systems tend to be small and their orbits are flat and circular, much like the inner parts of our own solar system,” says Jason Rowe a co-leader of the research at the SETI Institute.

Four of the new planets are less than two-and-a-half times the size of Earth. Moreover, they orbit in their sun’s habitable zone, where the surface temperature of the planets may be suitable for liquid water, a key ingredient for life as we know it.

“The more we explore,” concludes Rowe, “the more we find familiar traces of ourselves amongst the stars that remind us of home.”

For more information about the discovery of these and other new worlds, visit PlanetQuest


Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Production editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit:Science@NASA

A Telescope Bigger than a Galaxy

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on September 24, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

Post 3774

A Telescope Bigger than a Galaxy

March 7, 2014:  More than 400 years ago, Galileo turned a primitive spyglass toward the sky, and in just a few nights learned more about the unseen heavens than all of the scientists and philosophers before him, combined.

Since then astronomers have been guided by a simple imperative: Make Bigger Telescopes. As the 21st century unfolds, the power of optics has grown a million-fold.  Telescopes cap the highest mountains, sprawl across deserts, fill valleys and even fly through space. These modern giants provide crystal-clear views of stars and galaxies billions of light years farther away than anything Galileo ever saw, each breakthrough in size bringing a new and deeper understanding of the cosmos.

It makes you wonder, how big can a telescope get?


A new ScienceCast video peers through the biggest telescope in the history of astronomy.  Play it!

Would you believe, bigger than an entire galaxy? At the January 2014 meeting of the American Astronomical Society, researchers revealed a patch of sky seen through a lens more than 500,000 light years wide.

The “lens” is actually a massive cluster of galaxies known as Abell 2744.  As predicted by Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity, the mass of the cluster warps the fabric of space around it.  Starlight passing by is bent and magnified, much like an ordinary lens except on a vastly larger scale.

Lately, the Hubble Space Telescope, along with the Spitzer Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory, has been looking through this gravitational lens as part of a program called “Frontier Fields.”

“Frontier Fields is an experiment to explore the first billion years of the Universe’s history,” says Matt Mountain from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. The question is, “Can we use Hubble’s exquisite image quality and Einstein’s theory of general relativity to search for the first galaxies?”

The answer seems to be “yes.”  At the AAS meeting, an international team led by astronomers from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias and La Laguna University discussed Hubble and Spitzer observations of the Abell 2744 cluster. Among the results was the discovery of one of the most distant galaxies ever seen—a star system 30 times smaller yet 10 times more active than our own Milky Way.  Bursting with newborn stars, the firebrand is giving astronomers a rare glimpse of a galaxy born not long after the Big Bang itself.

Overall, the Hubble exposure of Abell2744 revealed almost 3,000 distant galaxies magnified as much as 10 to 20 times larger than they would normally appear. Without the boost of gravitational lensing, almost all of those background galaxies would be invisible.

Abell 2744 is just the beginning.  Frontier Fields is targeting six galaxy clusters as gravitational lenses. Together, they form an array of mighty telescopes capable of probing the heavens as never before.

For more news from Frontier Fields visit


Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Production editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit:Science@NASA

2014 Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Sixth Lowest on Record

Posted in THE UNIVERSE & SPACE SCIENCE with tags on September 24, 2014 by 2eyeswatching

Post 3773

2014 Arctic Sea Ice Minimum Sixth Lowest on Record

Sept. 22, 2014: Arctic sea ice coverage continued its below-average trend this year as the ice declined to its annual minimum on Sept. 17, according to the NASA-supported National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

“Arctic sea ice coverage in 2014 is the sixth lowest recorded since 1978,” said Walter Meier, a research scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.


An animation of daily Arctic sea ice extent from March 21 to Sept. 17 – when the ice appeared to reach it’s minimum extent for the year. It’s the sixth lowest minimum sea ice extent in the satellite era. The data was provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

Over the 2014 summer, Arctic sea ice melted back from its maximum extent reached in March to a coverage area of 1.94 million square miles (5.02 million square kilometers), according to analysis from NASA and NSIDC scientists. This year’s minimum extent is similar to last year’s and below the 1981-2010 average of 2.40 million square miles (6.22 million square km).

“The summer started off relatively cool, and lacked the big storms or persistent winds that can break up ice and increase melting,” said Meier. Nevertheless, the season ended with below-average sea ice. “Even with a relatively cool year, the ice is so much thinner than it used to be. It is more susceptible to melting,” he explained.

This summer, the Northwest Passage above Canada and Alaska remained ice-bound. A finger of open water stretched north of Siberia in the Laptev Sea, reaching beyond 85 degrees north, which is the farthest north open ocean has reached since the late 1970s, according to Meier.

While summer sea ice has covered more of the Arctic in the last two years than in 2012’s record low summer, this is not an indication that the Arctic is returning to average conditions, Meier said. This year’s minimum extent remains in line with a downward trend; the Arctic Ocean is losing about 13 percent of its sea ice per decade.

To measure sea ice extent, scientists include areas that are at least 15 percent ice-covered. The NASA-developed computer analysis, which is one of several methods scientists use to calculate extent, is based on data from NASA’s Nimbus 7 satellite, which operated from 1978 to 1987, and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, which has provided information since 1987.

In addition to monitoring sea ice from space, NASA is conducting airborne field campaigns to track changes in Arctic sea ice and its impact on climate. Operation IceBridge flights have been measuring Arctic sea ice and ice sheets for the past several years during the spring. A new field experiment, the Arctic Radiation – IceBridge Sea and Ice Experiment (ARISE) started this month to explore the relationship between retreating sea ice and the Arctic climate.

For more information on sea ice observations from space, visit


Production editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

More information:

NASA monitors Earth’s vital signs from land, air and space with a fleet of satellites and ambitious airborne and ground-based observation campaigns. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth’s interconnected natural systems with long-term data records and computer analysis tools to better see how our planet is changing. The agency shares this unique knowledge with the global community and works with institutions in the United States and around the world that contribute to understanding and protecting our home planet.

For more information about NASA’s Earth science activities in 2014, including the Operation IceBridge and ARISE airborne campaigns, visit