Thursday, November 3, 2011

CELESTIAL CONVERGENCE: NASA / NSF Broadcast on Asteroid 2005 YU55 - An Object That Will Come 15% Closer to the Earth Than the Moon (325,000 Kilometers Away), on November 9th (11/9/11 or 9/11)!

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)  recently announced that an asteroid measuring 400 meters in diameter will pass the Earth within the orbit of the moon on November 8th and/or 9th and that its closest approach point will be about 325,000 kilometers away (0.0022 Astronomical Unit (AU)). Asteroid 2005 YU55 is about 400 metres wide, the largest space rock ever identified that will come so close and there is really a great risk or possibility of a collision with our planet or the moon. To be truthful, the asteroid is classified as a potentially hazardous Near-Earth Object (NEO), because it will fly past the Earth, at 15 percent closer to the planet than the moon. The average distance from the Earth to the moon is about 384,000 kilometers.

WATCH: Orbital path of Asteroid 2005 YU55.

NASA is eagerly preparing for the asteroid’s approach with plans for a wide variety of radar, visual and infrared observations, including using the radar capabilities at its Deep Space Network facility in Goldstone, California, and the huge Arecibo dish in Puerto Rico. On Tuesday, they held a live press conference on USTREAM to discuss the observations of the object. Today, astronomers from NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) will be holding another live broadcast to further examine the origins, orbital path and threat of the asteroid.
You are invited to participate in a live online chat this Thursday from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. EDT with two eminent astronomers from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NASA, who will discuss a large asteroid that will approach close to Earth on Nov. 8, 2011 and the science of such near-Earth asteroids. This rare flyby of the asteroid--which is known as 2005 YU55--will likely draw significant public interest because of the asteroid's large size of about 396 meters (1,300 feet) in diameter, the nature of its close encounter with Earth and the public's fascination with near-Earth objects. The chat is sponsored by ScienceNOW, the daily news site of the journal Science. To participate, go to ScienceNow's website on November 3 at 3 p.m. EDT and submit questions to:
  • Scott Fisher: A program director in the Division of Astronomical Sciences at the National Science Foundation and a staff scientist at the Gemini Observatory--a large international observatory with eight-meter telescopes located in Hawaii and Chile--where he researches planet formation.
  • Donald K. Yeomans: A scientific investigator on NASA's Deep Impact mission that successfully impacted comet Tempel 1 in July 2005, and a senior research scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he contributes to predictions of future close Earth approaches and impacts by comets and asteroids.
The November 3 chat about asteroid 2005 YU55 and other near-Earth objects provides an ideal opportunity to ask experts about these and other topics:
  • What is currently known about the 2005 YU55's size, shape, orbit and origins?
  • What are the real dangers potentially posed by asteroids and comets vs. threats hyped by doomsayers?
  • What is the likelihood that 2005 YU55 will ever crash into the Earth?
  • When and where is the best place to view 2005 YU55?
  • How are scientists currently tracking comets and asteroids that may impact the Earth?
  • What types of additional information are scientists likely to learn about 2005 YU55 and asteroids in general via radar, visual and infrared monitoring of the asteroid during its close approach to Earth?
The live online chat on 2055 YU55 is part of the journal Science's weekly series of chats on the hottest topics in science held every Thursday at 3 p.m. EDT. - NSF.
WATCH: NASA's and NSF's Live Conference on Asteroid 2005 YU55.

NOTE: Thanks to Jacqui Chasson for contributing to this article.

MONUMENTAL EARTH CHANGES: NYC-Sized Iceberg Discovered in Antarctica Glacier - 18-Mile-Long Crack Along Unstable Ice Shelf!

Scientists call Pine Island Glacier "the largest source of uncertainty in global sea level rise projections," NASA noted in its statement. "It is likely that once the iceberg floats away, the leading edge of the ice shelf will have receded farther than at any time since its location was first recorded in the 1940s," NASA noted.

A huge, emerging crack has been discovered in one of Antarctica's glaciers, with a NASA plane mission providing the first-ever detailed airborne measurements of a major iceberg breakup in progress.

Scientists on an aerial survey of Antarctica have come across an 18-mile-long break in an ice shelf — a sign that the sensitive area is giving birth to an iceberg that will be larger than New York City. "We are actually now witnessing how it happens," Michael Studinger, project scientist with NASA's IceBridge survey, said in a statement Wednesday. "It’s part of a natural process but it’s pretty exciting to be here and actually observe it while it happens." The scientists were aboard a NASA jet on Oct. 14, making measurements of Pine Island Glacier and its ice shelf, when they came across the crack. Glaciers naturally give birth to icebergs, but scientists are concerned that warming temperatures might be destabilizing those in Antarctica and Greenland by eroding the ice shelves floating on water that hold them back up against the mainland.

Without the ice shelves, those glaciers could flow much faster into the ocean, raising sea levels. Scientists call Pine Island Glacier "the largest source of uncertainty in global sea level rise projections," NASA noted in its statement. "It is likely that once the iceberg floats away, the leading edge of the ice shelf will have receded farther than at any time since its location was first recorded in the 1940s," NASA noted. The team estimated the ice might finally break away from the shelf "in the coming months" now that the Southern Hemisphere is entering its summer. Pine Island Glacier last calved a large iceberg in 2001. The NASA team measured the rift at about 820 feet apart at its widest, and about 260 feet wide along most of the crack. The deepest points were nearly 200 feet. The ice shelf around the rift is about 1,640 feet thick, the team estimated. "When the iceberg breaks free it will cover about 340 square miles of surface area," NASA stated. By contrast, New York City comes in at 302 square miles. - MSNBC.
NASA's Operation Ice Bridge, the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever flown, is in the midst of its third field campaign from Punta Arenas, Chile. The six-year mission will yield an unprecedented three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice. The glaciers of the Antarctic, and Greenland, Ice Sheets, commonly birth icebergs that break off from the main ice streams where they flow in to the sea, a process called calving. The crack was found in c, which last calved a significant iceberg in 2001; some scientists have speculated recently that it was primed to calve again. But until an Oct. 14 IceBridge flight, no one had seen any evidence of the ice shelf beginning to break apart. Since then, a more detailed look back at satellite imagery seems to show the first signs of the crack in early October.  "We are actually now witnessing how it happens and it's very exciting for us," said IceBridge project scientist Michael Studinger of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. "It's part of a natural process, but it’s pretty exciting to be here and actually observe it while it happens." - Yahoo.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Gateway to Hell - Experts Are Warning That Iceland's Katla Volcano is on the Brink of a Major & Violent Eruption!

Seismologists in Iceland are warning of another volcanic eruption, this time at Katla, which could dwarf the volcanic ash cloud crisis of last year. These experts believe the overdue eruption would wreak even more havoc on European flights than the Eyjafjallajökull upheaval did last year

Experts are warning that an eruption could be imminent at an even more powerful Icelandic volcano than the one that paralysed air traffic last year. Seismologists are nervously watching rumblings beneath Katla which could spew an ash cloud dwarfing the 2010 eruption that cost airlines two billion dollars (£1.27 billion) and drove home how vulnerable modern society is to the whims of nature. Brooding over rugged moss-covered hills on Iceland's southern edge, Katla is a much bigger beast than the nearby Eyjafjallajokul volcano, which blasted ash all over Europe for several weeks in an eruption that local scientist Pall Einarsson describes nonetheless as "small". Named after an evil troll, Katla has a larger magma chamber than Eyjafjallajokul's. Its last major eruption in 1918 continued more than a month, turning day into night, starving crops of sunlight and killing off some livestock. The eruption melted some of the ice-sheet covering Katla, flooding surrounding farmlands with a torrent of water that some accounts have said measured as wide as the Amazon. Now, clusters of small earthquakes are being detected around Katla, which means an eruption could be imminent, seismologists say. The earthquakes have been growing in strength, too.

After a long period of magnitude three tremors, a magnitude four quake was detected last week. "It is definitely showing signs of restlessness," said Mr Einarsson, a professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland. Teams of seismologists and geologists at the university are tracking the spike in seismic activity and working with disaster officials to prepare communities near Katla like Vik, a small town of some 300 people that is flanked by black sand beaches. Civil defence authorities have been holding regular meetings with scientists. Disaster officials have also drafted an evacuation plan and set aside temporary housing, but many fear they may have less than an hour to evacuate once the volcano erupts. Iceland sits on a large volcanic hot spot in the Atlantic's mid-oceanic ridge. Eruptions, common throughout Iceland's history, are often triggered by seismic activity when the Earth's plates move and magma from deep underground pushes its way to the surface. The longer pressure builds up, the more catastrophic an eruption can be. Records show that Katla usually has a large eruption twice a century. Since its last eruption was almost exactly 93 years ago, it is long overdue for another, seismologists say.

Icelanders are getting nervous as they mark the anniversary of Katla's last blast. "We've been getting calls recently from people concerned that Katla is about to erupt because it erupted ... in 1918 on October 12," said Einar Kjartansson, a geophysicist at the Icelandic Meteorological Office. "As scientists we don't see that much of a correlation in the date but there is most definitely increased activity. The question is whether it calms down after this or whether there is an eruption." Of Iceland's more than 22 volcanoes, seven are active and four are particularly active - including Katla and Hekla. Although it does not pose the same flood risk as Katla because it's not situated beneath an icecap, Hekla is one of Iceland's most active volcanoes and sits in the path of most international flight patterns. Like Katla, Hekla is also overdue for a large eruption and could produce a disruptive and dangerous ash cloud that, in addition to disrupting air travel, could lower overall temperatures across continents by blocking out sunlight for days or weeks. - RSOE EDIS Event Report.
WATCH: Iceland volcano on brink of major eruption.

ICE AGE NOW: EXTREME WEATHER - Big Siberian Freeze to Hit United Kingdom - Alert Activated as Weather Could be Worst Than Last Year!

"Experts predict a bitterly cold December with thermometers falling at least as low as -15C (5F)."

Britain faces a sudden shivering end to the exceptionally warm late autumn with temperatures plunging towards Siberian levels.

Winter weather will arrive with a vengeance with temperatures well below zero within the next fortnight. Experts then predict a bitterly cold December with thermometers falling at least as low as -15C (5F). Snow could hit the country even earlier than last year when a big freeze at the end of November sent temperatures to -20C (-4F), crippling transport. And some forecasters fear that temperatures could plunge as low or even lower this winter. Jonathan Powell of Positive Weather Sol­utions said: “It will not be as sustained as last year, but these episodes are expected to be severe, with Siberian temperatures.” The warnings came as the Government announced the Met Office will send out extreme weather alerts this year to the NHS, social services and other agencies in a bid to cut the 25,000 extra deaths winter causes in the UK. Forecaster Brian Gaze of The Weather Outlook, said: “There are signs of a significant change in the mild weather in mid-November. “The current mild weather is caused by a high-pressure block to our east, keeping us under a south-westerly flow of Atlantic air. But it looks as though high pressure could move further north west, allowing much colder air to filter across the UK from the north or east, with the risk of snow increasing.”

James Madden, of Exacta Weather, warned the theme of this winter would be “very cold and snowy across many parts of the UK”. He said there would be “frequent and widespread heavy snowfalls during November to January across many parts of the UK and Ireland, with below-average temperatures”. The new winter alerts will come in the form of one of four possible warnings depending on the severity of the conditions the Met Office expects. Level One will initiate long-term planning, Level Two will indicate a 60 per cent risk of extreme cold for 48 hours, Level Three means severe weather is expected to impact on health and Level Four is a “major cold weather incident.” Previously local areas were left to decide how to react to cold snaps. The alert system is part of the Government’s Cold Weather Plan which also contains advice to individuals and carers, such as making sure at-risk groups get vaccinated against flu and keep homes heated adequately. A minimum of 70F is being recommended during the day and 61F at night. Below that, the risk of heart problems, strokes and respiratory illness increases.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: “Older people and those with long-term illnesses are particularly vulnerable to the cold and we need to be aware – within families, in communities and across the NHS – of how we can help others. “Every year, there is a 20 per cent increase in deaths in the winter in England. By working together, this coordinated plan will help protect those most in need. We are determined to do all we can to achieve this.” Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK said: “The coalition Government has set a new emphasis on public health as one of its key objectives, and this Cold Weather Plan is a very important step in the right direction. “Age UK will be building on this with its own winter campaign to help vulnerable older people live well through the cold months of the year.” The Met Office said: “Our excess winter mortality, of an average 25,000 extra deaths in winter compared to other months of the year – 80 per cent thought to be due to the cold – is very poor compared to other countries in Europe. “The aim of the cold weather alerts is to reduce winter mortality by allowing action to be taken, helping people and patients reduce the risks of cold weather.” - The Express.

THE DELUGE: Flash Floods Kills 6 People in Oman!

Various regions of Oman witnessed heavy rainfall causing flooding of usually dry wadis and bringing down the temperature thanks to a depression in the Arabian Sea.

The regions of southern Dhofar, central Al Wusta and eastern Al Sharqiyah saw maximum rainfall as these areas are directly facing the Arabian Sea. Some vehicles were washed away by strong currents in the wadi waters and schools remained closed in areas where there was heavy rain. A local media report said that three people got electrocuted when a naked electric wire allegedly fell into a pool of water that formed near a house in the Sharqiyah region. The met department has predicted that rains will continue under the influence of the low pressure system and will cover the governorates of Muscat, the Dakhiliyah, Southern and Northern Batinah, Al Buraimi and the Dhahirah. As per rainfall data gathered by the Met department, Masirah station received a maximum rainfall (22.2mm) followed by Ras Al Hadd (14.2mm), Sur (8.2mm) and Qalhat (2.6mm).

Rescue crews in Oman have moved patients from a flooded hospital and are warning about more torrents as deadly rains lash the Arabian peninsula nation. Media reports on Wednesday quoted a police official, Ali Al Kasbi, as saying at least six deaths have been blamed on the storms com-ing off the Indian Ocean this week. The latest downpours have caused flash floods and swamped low-lying areas. At Muscat’s Al Nahda Hospital, patients were moved after water reached knee deep in some wards. The official Oman News Agency says the rains are not expected to ease until Thursday. The regions of southern Dhofar, central Al Wusta and eastern Al Sharqiyah saw maximum rainfall as these areas are directly facing the Arabian Sea. Some vehicles were washed away by strong currents in the wadi waters and schools remained closed in areas where there was heavy rain. A local media report said three people got electrocuted when a naked electric wire allegedly fell into a pool of water that formed near a housein the Sharqiyah region. - Khaleej Times.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 6.2 Quake Hits Pacific-Antarctic Ridge!

USGS Map of the earthquake.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) a magnitude 6.2 earthquake has struck the Pacific-Antarctic Ridge at a depth of 1.1 km ( 0 miles). The quake hit at 14:59:26 UTC Wednesday 2nd November 2011 and was located at 55.303°S, 128.795°W.

The epicenter was 1764 km ( 1096 miles) West of Swain's Island; 2011 km (1249 miles) north of Mt. Siple, Antarctica; 3384 km (2102 miles) south of Adamstown, Pitcairn Islands; and 5041 km (3132 miles) southwest of Santiago, Region Metropolitana, Chile.

EMSC seismicity of the region.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre (EMSC) recorded the tremor at a magnitude of 6.0, with scientific data from monitoring stations ranging from magnitude 5.1 to 6.3.

There were no tsunami warnings issued and there are currently no reports of any damage or injuries.