Blue lines show Earth’s northern magnetic field and the magnetic north pole in an artist’s rendering. Credit: Stefan Maus, NOAA NGDC
Earth’s north magnetic pole is racing toward Russia at almost 40 miles (64 kilometers) a year due to magnetic changes in the planet’s core, new research says.
The core is too deep for scientists to directly detect its magnetic field. But researchers can infer the field’s movements by tracking how Earth’s magnetic field has been changing at the surface and in space.
Now, newly analyzed data suggest that there’s a region of rapidly changing magnetism on the core’s surface, possibly being created by a mysterious “plume” of magnetism arising from deeper in the core.
And it’s this region that could be pulling the magnetic pole away from its long-time location in northern Canada, said Arnaud Chulliat, a geophysicist at the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris in France.
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An unlikely source of energy has emerged to meet international demands that the United States do more to fight global warming: It’s cleaner than coal, cheaper than oil and a 90-year supply is under our feet.
It’s natural gas, the same fossil fuel that was in such short supply a decade ago that it was deemed unreliable. It’s now being uncovered at such a rapid pace that its price is near a seven-year low. Long used to heat half the nation’s homes, it’s becoming the fuel of choice when building new power plants. Someday, it may win wider acceptance as a replacement for gasoline in our cars and trucks.
Natural gas’ abundance and low price come as governments around the world debate how to curtail carbon dioxide and other pollution that contribute to global warming. The likely outcome is a tax on companies that spew excessive greenhouse gases. Utilities and other companies see natural gas as a way to lower emissions — and their costs. Yet politicians aren’t stumping for it.
In June, President Barack Obama lumped natural gas with oil and coal as energy sources the nation must move away from. He touts alternative sources — solar, wind and biofuels derived from corn and other plants. In Congress, the energy debate has focused on finding cleaner coal and saving thousands of mining jobs from West Virginia to Wyoming.
Utilities in the U.S. aren’t waiting for Washington to jump on the gas bandwagon. Looming climate legislation has altered the calculus that they use to determine the cheapest way to deliver power. Coal may still be cheaper, but natural gas emits half as much carbon when burned to generate the same amount electricity.
COPENHAGEN — The question is a potential deal-killer: If nations ever agree to slash greenhouse gas emissions, how will the world know if they live up to their pledges?
The answer is in space, experts say — both outer space and cyberspace.
NASA, the wonder agency of the 1960s, and Google, the go-to company of the early 21st Century, are trying to give the world the ability to monitor both the carbon dioxide pollution and the levels of forest destruction that contribute to global warming.
“Just having the thing flying around there imaging would just about make everybody act differently,” said professor Steve Pacala, director of the Princeton Environmental Institute. “The idea that you could pull a fast one would be different.”
Google, meanwhile, has rolled out a new program call Earth Engine which essentially is a massive storehouse for satellite and other data that forest countries will be able to access for free by the time of the next U.N. climate conference in Mexico next year.
Deforestation is the biggest climate change culprit in much of the developing world, and industrial countries plan to pay billions of dollars to poor countries to stop deforestation. The Google system could help everyone keep track of what forests are saved.
The rest of the news article here…
NASA says space shuttle Endeavour will begin the last year of shuttle flights by delivering the final U.S. module of the International Space Station.
That STS-130 mission is targeted for launch Feb. 7 from the Kennedy Space Center.
NASA officials said they will preview the mission during a series of briefings Friday, Jan. 15, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA Television and the agency’s Web site will broadcast the briefings live.
Five shuttle missions are planned during 2010, with the final flight currently targeted for launch in September.
The rest here…
The ExoMars programme will be launched in partnership with NASA. Credit: ESA
The European Space Agency, in collaboration with NASA, will launch two Mars exploration
missions in 2016 and 2018.
The ExoMars mission will be undertaken to probe the Martian atmosphere, especially astrobiological issues and to develop and demonstrate new technologies for planetary exploration with a long-term view of a future Mars sample return mission in the 2020s, ESA said.
The project, for which around $1.2 billion (850 million euro) has been sanctioned, will include an Orbiter plus an Entry, Descent and Landing Demonstrator, to be launched in 2016, and two rovers which would be sent in 2018.
“This marks an important moment for Europe in its steps towards space exploration on the world scale,” David Southwood, Director of Science and Robotic Exploration, said.
“We have been to the planets before, sure. But now we have a plan for exploration ahead to build our technical capability and explore Mars in a long-term partnership,” he said.
Eleven of ESA’s 17 member states are participating in the project.
Source: BNS (Paris)
MOD Director Paul Hill has hinted that there’s a “remote” chance NASA may add one or more shuttle flights, in addition to “under evaluation” STS-135. Mr Hill’s comments came during an address to his team – relating to the upcoming White House decision on NASA’s Human Space Flight program – in which he noted his awareness of discussions relating to a commercial crew launch vehicle for ISS missions.
Mr Hill Address:
The former flight director has made several addresses over the past year, mainly relating to the job losses that will hit the space program – not least with the United Space Alliance (USA) contractor workforce within the Mission Operations Directorate (MOD).
Some workers have already lost their jobs, but the main bulk of layoffs will occur over the next one year period under the current direction of closing down the shuttle program.
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SEEING STARS The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, which contains a four-million-pixel camera, will photograph the entire sky every six months. Credit: NASA
Most of the light from stars and other objects like planets in the universe is doubly invisible. It comes in the form of infrared, or heat radiation, with wavelengths too long for our eyes to pick up. Moreover, most infrared wavelengths do not penetrate the Earth’s atmosphere to get to our unseeing eyes.
So to take a proper inventory of cosmic shenanigans, astronomers have had to take to space. On Friday, they will get a little more help when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is scheduled to launch the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, into orbit from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California as early as 9:09 a.m., Eastern time.
Circling the Earth in a polar orbit 300 miles high, the spacecraft, equipped with a 16-inch telescope and infrared detectors, will photograph the entire sky every six months.
WISE is a successor to the Infrared Astronomy Satellite, or IRAS, which was launched in 1983 and made the first heat maps of the sky. And it is a trailblazer for the giant James Webb Space Telescope due in 2014.
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‘I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Is it not obvious that the vision of apocalypse as it was revealed to Saint John of Patmos was, in fact, global warming?
Here’s a partial rundown of some of the ills seriously attributed to climate change: prostitution in the Philippines (along with greater rates of HIV infection); higher suicide rates in Italy; the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” battle in Somalia; an increase in strokes and heart disease in China; wars in the Middle East; a larger pool of potential recruits to terrorism; harm to indigenous peoples and “biocultural diversity.”
All this, of course, on top of the Maldives sinking under the waves, millions of climate refugees, a half-dozen Katrina-type events every year and so on and on—a long parade of horrors animating the policy ambitions of the politicians, scientists, climate mandarins and entrepreneurs now gathered at a U.N. summit in Copenhagen. Never mind that none of these scenarios has any basis in some kind of observable reality (sea levels around the Maldives have been stable for decades), or that the chain of causation linking climate change to sundry disasters is usually of a meaningless six-degrees-of-separation variety.
Still, the really interesting question is less about the facts than it is about the psychology. Last week, I suggested that funding flows had much to do with climate alarmism. But deeper things are at work as well.
Full article here…
NASA’s latest space telescope will scan the sky in search of never-before-seen asteroids, comets, stars and galaxies, with one of its main tasks to catalog objects posing a danger to Earth. The sky-mapping WISE, or Wide-Field Infrared Survey Explorer, is scheduled to launch no earlier than before dawn Friday from Vandenberg Air Force Base on the central California coast aboard a Delta 2 rocket.
If all goes as planned, WISE will orbit some 325 miles above the Earth and produce the most detailed map yet of the cosmos. It is designed to detect objects that give off infrared light or heat. Infrared light is ideal for uncovering dusty, cold and distant objects that often can’t be seen by optical telescopes.
The mission is expected to find millions of hard-to-see objects, said principal investigator Edward Wright of the University of California, Los Angeles.
“It’s really a mission to survey everything that’s out there,” Wright said. “What we’re trying to do is make a map of the universe.”
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Most astronomers today believe that one of the most plausible reasons we have yet to detect intelligent life in the universe is due to the deadly effects of local supernova explosions that wipe out all life in a given region of a galaxy.
While there is, on average, only one supernova per galaxy per century, there is something on the order of 100 billion galaxies in the observable Universe. Taking 10 billion years for the age of the Universe (it’s actually 13.7 billion, but stars didn’t form for the first few hundred million), Dr. Richard Mushotzky of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, derived a figure of 1 billion supernovae per year, or 30 supernovae per second in the observable Universe!
Certain rare stars -real killers -type 11 stars, are core-collapse hypernova that generate deadly gamma ray bursts (GRBs). These long burst objects release 1000 times the non-neutrino energy release of an ordinary “core-collapse” supernova. Concrete proof of the core-collapse GRB model came in 2003.
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Even more from NASA here: A Hypernova: The Super-charged Supernova and its link to Gamma-Ray Bursts