Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Space Shuttle Lands In Washington DC

Friday, April 20th, 2012

NASA Transfers Shuttle Discovery to National Air and Space Museum

Focuses on Bold New Era of Space Exploration

Space Shuttle Rides a Jet to the Air and Space Museum

Space Shuttle Rides a Jet to the Air and Space Museum

WASHINGTON, D.C. — NASA transferred space shuttle Discovery to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum during a ceremony Thursday, April 19, at the Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

“Today, while we look back at Discovery’s amazing legacy, I also want to look forward to what she and the shuttle fleet helped to make possible,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “As NASA transfers the shuttle orbiters to museums across the country, we are embarked on an exciting new space exploration journey. Relying on American ingenuity and know-how, NASA is partnering with private industry to provide crew and cargo transportation to the International Space Station, while developing the most powerful rocket ever built to take the nation farther than ever before into the solar system.”

National Air and Space Museum Director, General John “Jack” Dailey said, “Discovery has distinguished itself as the champion of America’s shuttle fleet. In its new home, it will shine as an American icon, educating and inspiring people of all ages for generations to come. The Museum is committed to teaching and inspiring youngsters, so that they will climb the ladder of academic success and choose professions that will help America be competitive and successful in the world of tomorrow.”

In this new era of exploration, NASA will build the capabilities to send humans deeper into space than ever before. NASA is using the space station as a test bed and stepping stone for the journey ahead. The agency is changing the way it does business and fostering a commercial industry that will safely service low Earth orbit, so NASA can focus its energy and resources on sending astronauts to an asteroid by 2025 and eventually to Mars in the 2030s.

The space station is the centerpiece of NASA’s human spaceflight activities in low Earth orbit. It is fully staffed with an international crew of six, and American astronauts will continue to live and work there 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, as they have for more than 11 years. Part of the U.S. portion of the station has been designated as a national laboratory, and NASA is committed to using this unique resource for scientific research.

The station is testing exploration technologies such as autonomous refueling of spacecraft, advanced life support systems and human/robotic interfaces. Commercial companies are well on their way to providing cargo and crew flights to the station, allowing NASA to focus its attention on the next steps into our solar system.

For more information about NASA, visit:

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Opels Lose Their Luster

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

Australia’s historic opal industry dying off

By Brigid Andersen

Updated March 22, 2012 01:40:41

As the mining boom roars on, a small, historic part of the industry has been forgotten.

The vast, arid gem fields of South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland are some of the few places in the world where opals can be found.

But this iconic piece of Australian history is being killed off as tourism figures decline and the number of people taking up the opal mining trade plummets.

Kev Phillips has been mining opals in Queensland since the 1980s and says he is struggling to see a future for the industry.

“It’s a very colourful industry; we’ve got people from all walks of life, doctors, teachers, immigrants, it’s classic,” he said.

It’s not an occupation, it’s a vocation. It’s very seldom people in their life can find something that they love.

Opal miner Kev Phillips

“It’s a fantastic sort of industry and it’ll be a tragedy to lose this iconic way of life and the people involved.

“But it is happening.”

He jokes of how he was born with a natural love for gems.

“As a child I’ve had a genetic interest – coming from a long line of criminals – in gemstones,” he said.

He says it is love not money that moves people to some of the hottest, remote parts of the country to dig for opals.

“It’s not an occupation, it’s a vocation,” he said.

“It’s very seldom people in their life can find something that they love.

“You wouldn’t do it for the money.

“I’d earn more money working for the coal seam gas companies.”

He says young people interested in opal mining are now lured away by the fat pay cheques offered by big mining companies.

And Mr Phillips says many of the older opal miners have been forced out of business by a mountain of fees and paperwork imposed by state governments.

“In this term of the Bligh Government we have seen fee increases and legislation pushed through without any consultation whatsoever,” he said.

“They’ve imposed these costs and now we have to just live with them, which is deterring small scale mining from progressing and being a substantial part of the economics of regional Queensland.”

Mr Phillips, who is also head of the Queensland Small Miners Council, says opal miners have been unfairly restricted by laws aimed at the coal seam gas industry.

“We’re only very low impact operations generally, we have to rehabilitate our sites,” he said.

“We had an interest in being involved in this new legislation but the Department didn’t even contact us to see how these new laws for coal seam gas would affect our industry.

“We met with (Queensland Environment Minister) Kate Jones and she more or less implied to us about our concerns that we were environmental vandals and put us in the same boat.

“We were astonished.”

He says unless legislation is wound back, the future for all small miners is bleak.

“It’s not only opal, it’s sapphires and small gold miners,” he said.

“For us it’s been a way of life.

“It’s a lifestyle that’s historical part of Queensland’s identity since day dot.

“What’s happening is the Government is slowly taking away that right in favour of large mining with unionised staff.”

Away from the rough mining camps of inland Australia, the opal trade is also struggling on the tourist glitter strips of the coast.

Marketed as Australia’s national gemstone, opals have always been a hit with overseas visitors.

I’ve been doing this for 25 years and this is definitely the toughest period that I’ve seen.

Opal retailer Scott Coggan

But with tourist numbers dropping since the global financial crisis, the economies of tourist centres like Cairns and the Gold and Sunshine coasts are hurting.

Scott Coggan, an opal cutter and manager of Opals Down Under on the Sunshine Coast, says times are tough for opal retailers.

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years and this is definitely the toughest period that I’ve seen,” he said.

Mr Coggan says the industry is facing a massive change.

“It’s a different type of tourist that we’re getting through. For us here on the Sunshine Coast the Americans that are not travelling here at the moment, that’s certainly made a big dent,” he said.

“We’ve had to change tack and look at other avenues. We’re predominantly targeting a lot of the interstate markets – a lot of Sydney, Melbourne people, the younger market.”

He is confident the industry can survive the retail slump, so long as the mining trade can attract some young blood.

“The biggest challenge for the industry is getting some incentive for young people to get into the mining sector,” he said.

“Anyone that was doing that has now headed off to the resources boom. They can get a steady $100,000 pay cheque without risking their lives underground.”

Mr Phillips agrees.

He says unless the Government steps in, the colourful existence of the opal miner will be consigned to Australia’s history.

“For the small battler like myself that came through the ranks and had an interest in gemstones as a child and got into it as a hobby and then a career path – for it to be over-regulated as it is is just taking that right away,” he said.

“It’s a tragic day for our country when that happens.”

Topics: mining-industry, industry, business-economics-and-finance, mining-rural, states-and-territories, tourism, opalton-4735, qld, australia, quilpie-4480

Geomagnetic Storm Watch

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

As the strongest Solar Radiation Storm (S3) since May, 2005 continues, the associated Earthward-directed Coronal Mass Ejection is expected to arrive about 1400 UT (9am EST) Jan 24. SWPC has issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch with G2 level storming likely and G3 level storming possible, with the storm continuing into Wednesday, Jan 25. All of this activity is related to a moderate (R2) Radio Blackout x-ray flare that erupted Sunday night (11pm EST).

Geomagnetic Storm Photo of the Sun

Geomagnetic Storm Photo of the Sun

NOAA Updates

How to Mend a Broken Bone

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Question: Can you give me broken bone advice?

Check with your doctor first; however, in most instances certain motions and impacts actually help speed bone growth.

Vitamin D.
Most Americans have a vitamin D deficiency. A simple blood screening can reveal your level. Chances are large you should be taking a D supplement. Vitamin D in conjunction with sunlight is essential for bone growth.

Electric stimulation.
You can wear an electronic stimulation device to help promote bone growth. Many insurance companies will not cover the device, so try to find a company that will donate a bone stimulator.


Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Fires in Russia and China

Smoke clouds the skies across northeastern China and southeastern Russia in this image taken on October 8, 2011, by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Widespread fires are marked in red.

The dry, windy weather of autumn created hazardous fire conditions in northeast China. On October 9, officials in Heilongjiang, the province shown here, raised the fire alert level to its second-highest level, said Xinhua news. Russian officials, meanwhile, reported monitoring four large wildfires in the Far Eastern Federal District, which includes the area shown here.

EMERCOM of Russia. (2011, October 10). Fire situation as of 06:00 10.10.2011. Accessed October 10, 2011.
Xinhua. (2011, October 9). Hundreds evacuated for grassland fire in NE China. China Daily. Accessed October 10, 2011.

More on Global Warming and Human Induced Climate Change


Monday, October 3rd, 2011
Fires Burning In Australia

Fires Burning In Australia

Baptism By Fire


Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

This infrared image from NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, showcases the Tadpole Nebula, a star-forming hub in the Auriga constellation about 12,000 light-years from Earth. As WISE scanned the sky, capturing this mosaic of stitched-together frames, it happened to catch an asteroid in our solar system passing by. The asteroid, called 1719 Jens, left tracks across the image. A second asteroid was also observed cruising by.

But that’s not all that WISE caught in this busy image — two natural satellites orbiting above WISE streak through the image, appearing as faint green trails. This Tadpole region is chock full of stars as young as only a million years old — infants in stellar terms — and masses over 10 times that of our sun. It is called the Tadpole nebula because the masses of hot, young stars are blasting out ultraviolet radiation that has etched the gas into two tadpole-shaped pillars, called Sim 129 and Sim 130. These “tadpoles” appear as the yellow squiggles near the center of the frame. The knotted regions at their heads are likely to contain new young stars. WISE’s infrared vision is helping to ferret out hidden stars such as these.

The 1719 Jens asteroid, discovered in 1950, orbits in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The space rock, which has a diameter of 19 kilometers (12 miles), rotates every 5.9 hours and orbits the sun every 4.3 years.

Twenty-five frames of the region, taken at all four of the wavelengths detected by WISE, were combined into this one image. The space telescope caught 1719 Jens in 11 successive frames. Infrared light of 3.4 microns is color-coded blue: 4.6-micron light is cyan; 12-micron-light is green; and 22-micron light is red.

WISE is an all-sky survey, snapping pictures of the whole sky, including everything from asteroids to stars to powerful, distant galaxies.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA

Astroid Traveling Through Space

Astroid Traveling Through Space

NASA Ocean Recovery

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA — For the first time, NASA has released high-definition video taken during the retrieval of solid rocket booster segments from the Atlantic Ocean. The solid rocket boosters provided 144 million horsepower of thrust for the final launch of space shuttle Discovery on its STS-133 mission.

After each shuttle launch, crew members of the Liberty Star and Freedom Star retrieval ships pull the spent boosters out of the ocean and return them to Hangar AF at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. After they are processed, the boosters are transported to Utah, where they are refurbished and stored, if necessary.

The video includes high-definition video footage from the recovery ships and time-lapse footage of recovery efforts on Freedom Star.

The footage was captured with a Panasonic HPX 3700 high-definition, cinema-style camera with 1080 progressive scanning at 24 frames per second.

The video will be broadcast on NASA Television’s Video File. For NASA TV downlink information, schedules and links to streaming video, visit:

To view the video on the Kennedy YouTube page, visit:

Enough Space To Feel Sick

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC — Recent research aboard the space shuttle is giving scientists a better understanding of how infectious disease occurs in space and could someday improve astronaut health and provide novel treatments for people on Earth.

“With our space-based research efforts, including the International Space Station, we are not only continuing our human presence in space, but we are engaged in science that can make a real difference in people’s lives here on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “NASA’s leadership in human spaceflight allows us to conduct innovative and ground-breaking science that reveals the unknown and unlocks the mysteries of how disease-causing agents work.”

The research involves an opportunistic pathogen known as Pseudomonas aeruginosa, the same bacterium that caused astronaut Fred Haise to become sick during the Apollo 13 mission to the moon in 1970.

Scientists studying the bacterium aboard the shuttle hope to unlock the mysteries of how disease-causing agents work. They believe the research can lead to advanced vaccines and therapies to better fight infections. The findings are based on flight experiments with microbial pathogens on NASA shuttle missions to the International Space Station and appear in a recent edition of the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

“For the first time, we’re able to see that two very different species of bacteria – Salmonella and Pseudomonas – share the same basic regulating mechanism, or master control switch, that micro-manages many of the microbes’ responses to the spaceflight environment,” said Cheryl Nickerson, associate professor at the Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University (ASU) in Tempe. “We have shown that spaceflight affects common regulators in both bacteria that invariably cause disease in healthy individuals [Salmonella] and those that cause disease only in people with compromised immune systems [Pseudomonas].”

By studying the global gene expression patterns in bacterial pathogens like Pseudomonas and Salmonella, Nickerson’s team learned more about how they react to reduced gravity.

Pseudomonas aeruginosa can coexist as a benign microbe in healthy individuals, but poses a serious threat to people with compromised immune systems. It is the leading cause of death for those suffering from cystic fibrosis and is a serious risk to burn victims. However, a high enough dosage of Salmonella typhimurium always will cause disease, even in healthy individuals.

During the initial study in 2006, two bacterial pathogens, Salmonella typhimurium and Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and one fungal pathogen, Candida albicans, were launched to the station aboard shuttles. They were allowed to grow in appropriately contained vessels for several days. Nickerson’s team was the first to evaluate global gene and protein expression (how the bacteria react at the molecular level) and virulence changes in microbes in response to reduced gravity.

“We discovered that aspects of the environment that microbes encountered during spaceflight appeared to mimic key conditions that pathogens normally encounter in our bodies during the natural course of infection, particularly in the respiratory system, gastrointestinal system and urogenital tract,” Nickerson said. NASA’s Advanced Capabilities Division Director, Benjamin Neumann added that, “This means that in addition to safeguarding future space travelers, such research may aid the quest for better therapeutics against pathogens here on Earth.”

The initial study and follow-on space experiments show that spaceflight creates a low fluid shear environment, where liquids exert little force as they flow over the surface of cells. The low fluid shear environment of spaceflight affects the molecular genetic regulators that can make microbes more infectious. These same regulators might function in a similar way to regulate microbial virulence during the course of infection in the human body.

“We have now shown that spaceflight conditions modified molecular pathways that are known to be involved in the virulence of Pseudomonas aeruginosa,” said Aurelie Crabbe, a researcher in Dr. Nickerson’s lab at ASU and the lead author of the paper. “Future work will establish whether Pseudomonas also exhibits increased virulence following spaceflight as did Salmonella.”

NASA’s Fundamental Space Biology Program sponsored and funded the research conducted by Crabbe and Nickerson along with their colleagues at the Biodesign Institute at ASU. They collaborated with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, University of Arizona, Belgian Nuclear Research Center, Villanova University, Tulane University, Affymetrix Inc, and NASA scientists.

For an abstract of the journal article on this research, visit:

For more information about NASA programs, visit:

Super Perigee Moon

Monday, March 21st, 2011
The full moon is seen as it rises near the Lincoln Memorial

The full moon is seen as it rises near the Lincoln Memorial


The full moon is called a super perigee moon since it is at its closest to Earth in 2011. The last full moon so big and close to Earth occurred in March 1993.

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