Sunday, January 1, 2012

SOLAR ACTIVITY UPDATE: Fire in the Sky - The First Fireball of 2012 and a Sudden Ionospheric Disturbance from the Sun, as Earth is Being Mysteriously Peppered With Meteorites From the Giant Asteroid Vesta!

Space Weather is currently reporting that Sunspot 1389 poses a continued threat for M-class solar flares and possible X-flares over the next 24 hours.


SUDDEN IONOSPHERIC DISTURBANCE: On Dec. 31st, a wave of ionization swept through the high atmosphere over Europe when sunspot AR1389 unleashed another M2-class solar flare. "There was a very clear sudden ionospheric disturbance on my VLF radio instruments," reports Rob Stammes, who sends these data from the Polar Light Center in Lofoten, Norway. "The sun is below the horizon where we are located north of the Arctic Circle," says Stammes. "This event shows we still have some contact with the sun." NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of more M-flares during the next 24 hours. There is also a 5% chance of X-flares.
WATCH: Solar Activity Update.


Meanwhile, a fireball was seen streaking across the skies of New Mexico last night.
NEW YEAR'S FIREBALL: The first bright fireball of the New Year streaked over the southwestern USA on Jan. 1st at 03:15 UT. It was visible from Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. "I was able to see it out my window," reports amateur astronomer Thomas Ashcraft from his rural observatory outside of Santa Fe. "It was brilliant turquoise blue." Ashcraft operates a combination all-sky camera/forward-scatter meteor radar system, which captured the fireball's flight.
WATCH: Fireball over New Mexico.


This comes against the background of a deluge of meteorites from asteroid Vesta.

A side view of Vesta's great south polar mountain.
When NASA's Dawn spacecraft entered orbit around giant asteroid Vesta in July, scientists fully expected the probe to reveal some surprising sights. But no one expected a 13-mile high mountain, two and a half times higher than Mount Everest, to be one of them. The existence of this towering peak could solve a longstanding mystery: How did so many pieces of Vesta end up right here on our own planet? For many years, researchers have been collecting Vesta meteorites from "fall sites" around the world. The rocks' chemical fingerprints leave little doubt that they came from the giant asteroid. Earth has been peppered by so many fragments of Vesta, that people have actually witnessed fireballs caused by the meteoroids tearing through our atmosphere. Recent examples include falls near the African village of Bilanga Yanga in October 1999 and outside Millbillillie, Australia, in October 1960. "Those meteorites just might be pieces of the basin excavated when Vesta's giant mountain formed," says Dawn PI Chris Russell of UCLA.


Russell believes the mountain was created by a 'big bad impact' with a smaller body; material displaced in the smashup rebounded and expanded upward to form a towering peak. The same tremendous collision that created the mountain might have hurled splinters of Vesta toward Earth. "Some of the meteorites in our museums and labs," he says, "could be fragments of Vesta formed in the impact -- pieces of the same stuff the mountain itself is made of." To confirm the theory, Dawn's science team will try to prove that Vesta's meteorites came from the mountain's vicinity. It's a "match game" involving both age and chemistry. "Vesta formed at the dawn of the solar system," says Russell. "Billions of years of collisions with other space rocks have given it a densely cratered surface." The surface around the mountain, however, is tellingly smooth. Russell believes the impact wiped out the entire history of cratering in the vicinity. By counting craters that have accumulated since then, researchers can estimate the age of the landscape. - NASA.


WORLD WAR III: Countdown to Armageddon - Iran Claims to Have Produced Its First Nuclear Fuel Rod and Test-Fires Missile Near Strait of Hormuz!

Iran says its scientists have produced the nation's first nuclear fuel rod, a feat of engineering the West doubted Tehran was capable of. 

The reactor building of Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant is seen, just outside the port city of Bushehr.
Sunday's announcement comes after Iran has said it was compelled to manufacture fuel rods on its own since international sanctions banned Tehran from buying them on foreign markets.

Nuclear fuel rods contain pellets of enriched uranium that provide fuel for nuclear power plants.

Iran's atomic energy agency's website says the first domestically made rod has already been inserted into the core of Tehran's research nuclear reactor.

It's unclear if the rod contained pellets or was inserted empty, as part of a test.

The West fears Iran's uranium enrichment program is geared toward making atomic weapons -- a charge Tehran denies. - FOX News.
In addition to this, Iran's navy said it has test-fired a medium-range surface-to-air missile during a drill in international waters near the strategic Strait of Hormuz—the passageway for one-sixth of the world's oil supply.
State TV said the missile is designed to evade radars and was developed by Iranian scientists. The report didn't provide further details or say when the missile was tested. A spokesman for the exercise, Rear Adm. Mahmoud Mousavi, says torpedoes will be used in the drill on Sunday.

The exercise covers a 1,250-mile (2,000-kilometer) stretch of water beyond the Strait of Hormuz, including parts of the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden. The drill could bring Iranian ships into proximity with U.S. Navy vessels that operate in the same area.

Separately, Iran said its scientists have produced the nation's first nuclear fuel rod, a feat of engineering the West doubted Tehran was capable of. Sunday's announcement comes after Iran has said it was compelled to manufacture fuel rods on its own since international sanctions banned Tehran from buying them on foreign markets.

Nuclear fuel rods contain pellets of enriched uranium that provide fuel for nuclear power plants. Iran's atomic energy agency's website says the first domestically made rod has already been inserted into the core of Tehran's research nuclear reactor.

It's unclear if the rod contained pellets or was inserted empty, as part of a test. The West fears Iran's uranium enrichment program is geared toward making atomic weapons—a charge Tehran denies. - Wall Street Journal.
These announcement comes just hours after President Barack Obama signed into law on Saturday a defense funding bill that imposes sanctions on financial institutions dealing with Iran's central bank.
The sanctions target both private and government-controlled banks—including central banks— and would take hold after a two- to six-month warning period, depending on the transactions, a senior Obama administration official said.

Under the law, the president can move to exempt institutions in a country that has significantly reduced its dealings with Iran and in situations where a waiver is in the U.S. national security interest or otherwise necessary for energy market stability. He would need to notify Congress and waivers would be temporary, but could be extended.

Sanctioned institutions would be frozen out of U.S. financial markets.

"Our intent is to implement this law in a timed and phased approach so that we avoid repercussions to the oil market and ensure that this damages Iran and not the rest of the world," the senior U.S. official told Reuters. - CNBC.

2012, IT BEGINS: PLANETARY TREMORS - Magnitude 7.0 Earthquake Hits Disaster-Ravaged Japan!

A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 earthquake hit off the shores of Japan's southern Pacific island, Isu islands.


The Meteorological Agency says the offshore quake Sunday struck about 230 miles below the sea surface. The agency said there was no danger of a tsunami. The quake struck at 2.28pm and caused buildings to sway in Tokyo, but did not disrupt the final of the Emperor's Cup football tournament that was being played at the National Stadium. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. The agency said the strongest aftershocks was felt in the prefectures of Tokyo, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Chiba and Kanagawa.


Northeastern Japan was devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that left nearly 20,000 people dead or missing. Japan, which lies along the Pacific 'Ring of Fire,' is one of the world's most seismically active countries.


MASS BIRD DIE-OFF: Hundreds of Birds Fall Dead in Arkansas Town - Again!

It's been nearly a year since thousands of dead black birds fell from the sky in Beebe. The small town received national and international attention for the bizarre event and it looks like it is happening all over again.

Blackbirds have fallen dead from the sky in a central Arkansas town for the second New Year's Eve in a row. KATV showed a radar image that it said showed a large mass over Beebe a few hours before midnight Saturday. The Little Rock television station reported that hundreds of birds had died.

Hearst Taylor, an animal control worker in the Beebe, told KATV the reason for the bird deaths isn't yet known. Last year, fireworks were blamed for the deaths of thousands of birds. It wasn't immediately clear whether year-end celebrations were again to blame. Beebe police imposed an impromptu fireworks ban Saturday night. Biologists said last year's kill was caused by the birds being rousted from their roosts and flying into homes, cars, telephone poles and each other. - CBC.

EXTREME WEATHER: Violent Storms Wreak Havoc in Southern and Western Finland - Leave Up To 200,000 Finnish People Without Power!

A record number of households had to spend the night without electricity in the aftermath of Monday's powerful storm. Up to 200,000 thousand people in Finland are suffering from power cuts, as new storm winds caused more damage.

While the country's southern and western areas were hit hardest on Monday, Tuesday's storm has moved east. In northern Karelia, about 30,000 households were without electricity, while nearly 40,000 households in the Savo region had lost power. Northern Ostrobothnia and central Finland also suffered power cuts on Tuesday

Energy companies Fortum and Vattenfall say that repairs will likely last for days, especially when it comes to sparsely populated areas.

Karoliina Lehmusvirta, Manager for Communications in Fortum’s Electricity Distribution unit told YLE News that the storm hit the network unusually hard.

While Fortum cleared trees downed by Monday's storm off power lines, more fallen trees were taking their place, as the winds continued to rage on Tuesday.

“It is very likely that some of our customers won’t get electricity back for some days—and it may even be weeks for some. It is partly because our network has been destroyed so completely that that we need to build some parts of it up and get it running again," Lehmusvirta explained.

In addition to Fortum and Vattenfall, a number of smaller energy companies have reported power cuts.

They advise people to stay clear of downed power lines as they may still be live and pose a danger of fatal electric shock. Under no circumstances should these lines be touched. - YLE.