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Exoplanet is first ‘ice giant’ found outside our solar system

Exoplanet is first ‘ice giant’ found outside our solar system

The planet orbits one member of a binary star system 25,000 light-years from Earth.


space.gotnewswire.com


According to an Ohio State University (OSU) statement, a team led by OSU researcher Radek Poleski has discovered the first exoplanet that resembles the planet Uranus in our own solar system. The exoplanet falls into the category of ‘ice giants’, and adds another type of world to the exoplanet roster, which already includes rocky planets similar to Earth and gas giants akin to Jupiter.
The exoplanet is located in a binary star system approximately 25,000 light-years away in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius. One of the member stars is about two-thirds the mass of the Sun, while the other is about one-sixth as massive. The exoplanet itself is four times the mass of Uranus and orbits the larger of the two stars at nearly the same distance as Uranus revolves around the Sun.
The exoplanet and its home star system were found with the 1.3-meter Warsaw Telescope at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, in the course of the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE). The star system was discovered in light magnified by an intervening gravitational microlens, and object between Earth and the star system; the light from the more distant object, the binary system in this case, is magnified by the gravity of the microlensing object.
It was actually two separate microlensing events, one in 2008 and the other in 2010, that revealed the existence of the binary system and its ice giant planet. OGLE’s database currently includes 13,000 microlensing events; Poleski is designing software to scrutinize the database for indications of additional exoplanets in other solar systems.
“Only microlensing can detect these cold ice giants that, like Uranus and Neptune, are far away from their host stars. This discovery demonstrates that microlensing is capable of discovering planets in very wide orbits,” Poleski explained.
“We were lucky to see the signal from the planet, its host star, and the companion star. If the orientation had been different, we would have seen only the planet, and we probably would have called it a free-floating planet.”
The new research has been published online in The Astrophysical Journal.

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Throw Out the Geology Books – Volcanic Activity Demands a Rethink of Moon




Excerpt from forbes.com
By Brid-Aine Parnell



Space geologists will have to rewrite the textbooks on the Moon after the latest Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data, which shows that there have been volcanoes on our rocky satellite a lot more recently than we thought.

NASA’s LRO satellite has spotted strong evidence that the Moon’s volcanic activity slowed down gradually instead of coming to an abrupt stop a billion years ago – which also means the interior is probably not the temperature scientists thought it was.

Some of the distinctive rock deposit evidence seen by LRO could be as young as a hundred million years, right around the time of the dinosaurs on Earth. Others could be even younger, just 50 million years old.

“This finding is the kind of science that is literally going to make geologists rewrite the textbooks about the moon,” said John Keller, LRO project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Centre, in a statement.


LRO spots volcanic activity rock deposits on the Moon

So many of these rocky deposits strongly suggests that the last spate of volcanoes on the Moon weren’t sporadic flukes, but important parts of the Moon’s geological history.


If there was widespread volcanic activity still going on just a few tens of millions of years ago, that also means that the temperature of the Moon’s interior is probably very different to previous estimates.

“The existence and age of the irregular mare patches tell us that the lunar mantle had to remain hot enough to provide magma for the small-volume eruptions that created these unusual young features,” said Sarah Braden, a recent Arizona State University graduate and the lead author of the study.

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NASA Brings Scientists & Theologians Together To Prepare World For Extraterrestrial Contact

Arjun Walia, Collective-EvolutionA couple of months ago top U.S. astronomers gathered in front of congress to let them know that extraterrestrial life exists without question. Their main argument was the size of the universe, emphasizing that there are trillions of stars out there, with one in every five most likely harboring an Earth-like planet. It’s also important to keep in mind that planets do not have to be “Earth-like” in order to harbor life. You can read mor [...]

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U.S. Creates Largest Protected Area in the World ~ 3X Larger than California


Photo of fish swimming in the Palmyra Atoll.
A school of fish swims under the water around Palmyra Atoll, in an area of the Pacific that is already part of a marine sanctuary.
Photograph by Randy Olson, National Geographic



By Brian Clark Howard




NEW YORK—The Obama administration announced Thursday that it will create the largest marine reserve in the world by expanding an existing monument around U.S.-controlled islands and atolls in the central Pacific.


The Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument will now be nearly 490,000 square miles, nearly three times the size of California and six times larger than its previous size. Commercial fishing, dumping, and mining will be prohibited in the reserve, but recreational fishing will be allowed with permits, and boaters may visit the area.


The protected area that Secretary of State John Kerry announced this morning is actually smaller than the 782,000 square miles that the president initially considered. But environmentalists, preservationists, and conservation groups that had pushed for the expansion called President Barack Obama's designation a historic victory in their efforts to limit the impact of fishing, drilling, and other activities that threaten some of the world's most species-rich waters.

Map of the pacific remote islands.
MAGGIE SMITH, NG STAFF. SOURCES: U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE; USGS; MARINE CONSERVATION INSTITUTE


"What has happened is extraordinary. It is history making. There is a lot of reason we should be celebrating right now," said Elliott Norse, founder and chief scientist of the Seattle-based Marine Conservation Institute.


Enric Sala, an ocean scientist and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, called the newly expanded monument "a great example of marine protection."


During the past several years, Sala and National Geographic's Pristine Seas project—which aims to explore, survey, and protect several of the last wild places in the world's oceans—have been key players in expeditions to the region that helped to put a spotlight on its biodiversity. Sala also met with White House officials to make the scientific case for expanding the Pacific Remote Islands monument. 


Photo of a sea anemone providing cover for a transparent shrimp in Kingman Reef, Pacific Ocean.
Tentacles of a sea anemone provide cover for a transparent shrimp in Kingman Reef, which is part of the existing marine sanctuary. Photograph by Brian Skerry, National Geographic Creative


In announcing the expansion of protected marine areas, Kerry said, “We’re committed to protecting more of the world's ocean. Today, one to three percent of the ocean is protected, that's it. That's why President Obama will sign a proclamation today that will create one of the largest maritime protected areas in the world. It will be protected in perpetuity.”

Michael Boots, chairman of the White House's Council on Environmental Quality, made clear that by expanding protected areas, the administration sought to balance the need to preserve a range of marine species with concerns from the fishing industry, which had warned about the economic impact of curtailing deep-sea fishing areas.

"We thought [the monument decision] was a good way to balance what the science was telling us was important to protect and the needs of those who use the area," Boots said.


The administration said in a statement late Wednesday that "expanding the monument will more fully protect the deep coral reefs, seamounts, and marine ecosystems unique to this part of the world, which are also among the most vulnerable areas to the impacts of climate change and ocean acidification."


In June, when he first announced his intent to expand the monument, Obama said, "I'm using my authority as president to protect some of our nation's most pristine marine monuments, just like we do on land."


The June announcement was followed by a public comment period and further analysis by the White House, officials said. Thousands of people submitted comments, with many conservation groups and scientists offering their support. Some fishing and cannery groups, as well as a few members of the U.S. Congress opposed the expansion, citing the potential a loss of commercial fishing grounds. 


Norse said that the newly protected areas will safeguard endangered seabirds and other key species, including five endangered sea turtle species (such as loggerheads and leatherbacks), sooty terns and other terns, silky sharks and oceanic whitetip sharks, beaked whales, manta rays, red-tailed tropic birds, and deep-sea corals.

The expanded monument will help ensure that "there are some places that are as pristine as possible for as long as possible," Norse said. "I think a hundred years from now, people will be praising Barack Obama for having the vision to protect the Pacific remote islands."


"A Big Step"


Obama's Democratic administration is building on a national monument that was first created by his predecessor, Republican President George W. Bush, suggesting that "ocean protection may be one of the last bipartisan issues" in the politically divided United States, says David Helvarg, the author of several books on the ocean and the founder of the advocacy group Blue Frontier Campaign.

Democratic and Republican presidents going all the way back to Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican who served from 1901 to 1909, have used the 1906 Antiquities Act to designate national monuments. The law requires simply that an area be unique and considered worthy of protection for future generations. This is the 12th time Obama has used his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect environmental areas.

The area being protected by the administration will expand the protected areas from 50 miles offshore to 200 miles offshore around three areas—Wake Island, Johnston Atoll, and Jarvis Island—the maximum reach of the United States’ exclusive economic zone. The current 50-mile offshore protections around the Howland and Baker islands, and Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll, will not change.


"Although 71 percent of our planet is covered with saltwater, we have protected much more of the land than the ocean," Helvarg said. But the newly expanded monument is a big step in the right direction, he added.

Enforcing fishing bans in the monument will be a big challenge, Kerry acknowledged. "Agreements won't matter if no one is enforcing them," he said. "It's going to take training and resources."
Kerry said one measure that could help deter illegal fishing in the region, as well as around the world, would be to implement the Port State Measures Agreement, an international treaty that requires member nations to prevent illegally caught fish from entering the market. Eleven nations or parties have ratified the agreement, but a total of 25 must sign before the treaty will take effect.

"Our goal is to get this done this year," Kerry said.


Meanwhile, efforts to preserve more biologically diverse waters continue.


This week, National Geographic Society announced that it is dramatically expanding its campaign to help protect marine areas, with a goal of persuading governments to officially safeguard more than 770,000 square miles.


The plan, announced by former President Bill Clinton, includes programs that target the Seychelles—an archipelago in the Indian Ocean—northern Greenland, and South America's Patagonia region. The program builds on National Geographic's Pristine Seas project, which has financed ten scientific expeditions to remote areas of ocean around the world, including in the South Pacific and off Africa, Russia, and South America.

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7 Types of Non-Believers Who Don’t Need Religion

Valerie Tarico, AlterNetReligious labels help shore up identity. So what are some of the things non-believers can call themselves?Catholic, born-again, Reformed, Jew, Muslim, Shiite, Sunni, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist…religions give people labels. The downside can be tribalism, an assumption that insiders are better than outsiders, that they merit more compassion, integrity and generosity or even that violence toward “infidels” is acceptable. But the upside is that religious o [...]

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The Light Side of the Dark Night of the Soul

by Kim Hutchinson Clayhut Healing CentreThe phenomenon known as the Dark Night of the Soul is something which many spiritual seekers experience on their journey to re-enlightenment. It can be a painful and frightening process, but it can also be liberating and empowering. It all depends on your perspective and your ability to remain detached. Peeling the Onion The word ‘night’ is misleading. This is a process, and thankfully so. I doubt you would want to experience [...]

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Ascension and the Intuitive Ability of Clairvoyance

by Trish LeSageThose who are on the path of ascension may eventually possess the ability of clairvoyance. Clairvoyance is the ability to see beyond that which is perceived with the physical eyes. Clairvoyance includes seeing with the third eye, also known as the psychic eye, the inner eye, or the mind's eye.For example, words, symbols, or other information may appear in the mind's eye of a person who possesses the ability of clairvoyance. This may happen as a form of guidance unexpectedly [...]

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India’s Mars mission a step closer to success with engine test

India's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C25), carrying the Mars orbiter, blasts off from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, about 100 km (62 miles) north of the southern Indian city of Chennai November 5, 2013. REUTERS/B...

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