The forgotten moon landing that paved the way for today’s space adventures

Birmingham UK (SPX) Feb 07, 2016

Crashing into a planet is seldom a good idea. If you’re trying to travel to another world, you’re likely to land at tens of kilometres per second unless you do something serious to slow down. When Neil Armstrong famously became the first man on the moon in 1969, he piloted a lunar module onto the surface using thrusters that slowed the craft’s descent.

But far less remembered is that the S —> Read More

Millisecond pulsars are likely to account for dark matter signal in galactic centre

Amsterdam, Netherlands (SPX) Feb 07, 2016

The puzzling excess of gamma rays from the centre of the Milky Way probably originate from rapidly rotating neutron stars, or millisecond pulsars, and not from dark matter annihilation, as previously claimed. This is the conclusion of new data analyses by two independent research teams from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and Princeton University/Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The rese —> Read More

Dawn now circling Ceres in its final orbit

Pasadena CA (JPL) Feb 07, 2016

A veteran interplanetary traveler is writing the closing chapter in its long and storied expedition. In its final orbit, where it will remain even beyond the end of its mission, at its lowest altitude, Dawn is circling dwarf planet Ceres, gathering an album of spellbinding pictures and other data to reveal the nature of this mysterious world of rock and ice.

Ceres turns on its axis in a li —> Read More

Protecting Nicaragua’s Natural Paradise for Jaguars and Other Wildlife

Habitat loss and fragmentation have contributed to the currently endangered status of the Central American tapir. Large wild areas such as Bosawás are important for the species' survival. Photo ©John Polisar.

By John Polisar

Bosawás Biosphere Reserve in northeastern Nicaragua is home to extraordinary natural areas and abundant wildlife. Covering close to 20,000 square kilometers, the reserve features more than 300 types of trees, at least 368 bird species (representing close to half of all the birds found in the country), and a variety of large mammals that includes jaguars, pumas, white-lipped peccaries, and Baird’s tapirs in addition to a great number of amphibian and reptile species.

Habitat loss and fragmentation have contributed to the currently endangered status of the Central American tapir. Large wild areas such as Bosawás are important for the species’ survival. Photo ©John Polisar.

In addition to lowland species, Bosawás has mountainous areas with cloud forests that hold amphibian and plant species adapted to live exclusively in these high natural forests. Bosawás constitutes one of the last forested strongholds where it is possible to find all the medium and large mammal species that originally occurred along the entire length of Mesoamerica’s Caribbean region.

But despite the plenitude of fauna and flora in the core areas of Bosawás, the reserve faces serious threats to its long-term survival, including deforestation of natural forest areas for cattle ranching and unsustainable levels of wildlife hunting. Without attention and action, Bosawás’s magnificent wild resources face an uncertain future.

The St. Louis Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) worked together on the first jaguar camera trap survey in Nicaragua in 2006. WCS has conducted a number of surveys since. Photo ©Fabricio Diaz Santos.

A decade ago, WCS, where I work as coordinator for the Jaguar Conservation Program, joined up with the St. Louis Zoo to conduct the first camera-trap studies of jaguars and their prey in Nicaragua, in coordination with indigenous groups and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Nicaragua (MARENA).

The studies, conducted in —> Read More

Space Station Back At Dusk / See Orion’s Curlicue and Five Dawn Planets

Rays of aurora borealis reach 60 miles and higher over the Pacific Northwest on Jan. 20, 2016 in this photo taken by astronauts Scott Kelly and Tim Peake from the International Space Station. Credit: NASA

I hadn’t been paying attention, so I was pleasantly surprised two nights ago to see the International Space Station (ISS) made a bright pass in the southwestern sky. A quick check revealed that another round of evening passes had begun for locations across the central and northern U.S., Canada and Europe. I like the evening ones because they’re so much convenient to view than those that occur at dawn. You can find out when the space station passes over your house at NASA’s Spot the Station site or Heavens Above.The six-member Expedition 46 crew are wrapping up their work week on different types of research including botany, bone loss and pilot testing. Plants are being grown on the International Space Station so future crews can learn to become self-sustainable as they go farther out in space. While they work their jobs speeding at more than 17,000 mph overhead, we carry on here on the surface of the blue planet.U.S. astronaut Scott Kelly regularly tweets photos from the station and recently noted the passing of Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who died Thursday at age 85 on the eve of the 45th anniversary of his lunar landing on February 5, 1971. Mitchell was one of only 12 people to walk on the moon and described the experience to the UK Telegraph in 2014: Relive the Mitchell’s Apollo 14 mission to the moon in 9 minutes and 57 seconds“Looking at Earth from space and seeing it was a planet in isolation … that was an experience of ecstasy, realizing that every molecule in our bodies is a system of matter created from a star hanging in space. The experience I had was called Samadhi in the ancient —> Read More

Adorable Polar Bear Cub Nora Grows Up Before Your Very Eyes

Don’t they grow up fast!

It seems like only yesterday that Columbus Zoo and Aquarium in Powell, Ohio, welcomed its newborn polar bear, weighing a tiny 1 pound, into the world.

Now the adorable cub — who was this week named Nora after a public vote — weighs 18 pounds and is crawling, walking and running around all by herself.

Footage posted online shows how she’s matured since her birth on Nov. 6 last year. The zoo also uploaded this video where she’s officially given her name, a fusion of her dad’s Nanuq and mom’s Aurora:

A total 88,061 votes were cast from across the world to decide on the moniker, according to the zoo. The rejected suggestions were Desna, meaning “boss,” Kaya, meaning “little but wise” and Sakari, meaning “sweet.”

“We are thrilled and inspired that so many people around the world helped name this young polar bear,” said zoo president and CEO Tom Stalf.

“We hope that those who have been watching Nora grow will continue to do so throughout her life, and remember that we all have a role to play in protecting wild polar bears for generations to come.”

A previous Facebook post revealed that the zoo’s animal care staff were hand-rearing the cub after her mom stopped caring for her:

Staff continue to help but the cub is becoming more and more independent every day, said the zoo’s assistant curator Shannon Morarity.

Wild polar bears are found in the U.S., Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway, and do not live in the Southern Hemisphere, according to the zoo’s website.

Females live for an average 24.1 years and can grow to 8 feet tall and 550 pounds. —> Read More

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