Friday, January 27, 2012

CONTACT 2012: The Search for a Twin Earth and Extraterrestrials Are Getting Hotter - NASA Announces 11 New Planetary Systems Hosting 26 Confirmed Planets!

In the past year astronomers have discovered smaller planets are more numerous and diverse than anyone has expected --"Searing hot planets with iron rain, atmospheres with 1,000 mile an hour winds, planetary systems with two suns, a planet that literally skims the surface of its star once every three months," reports Dimitar Sasselov, professor of astronomy at Harvard University.

NASA's Kepler mission's recent discoveries nearly double the number of verified Kepler planets and triple the number of stars known to have more than one planet that transits, or passes in front of, the star. Such systems will help astronomers better understand how planets form.
"Prior to the Kepler mission, we knew of perhaps 500 exoplanets across the whole sky," said Doug Hudgins, Kepler program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "Now, in just two years staring at a patch of sky not much bigger than your fist, Kepler has discovered more than 60 planets and more than 2,300 planet candidates. This tells us that our galaxy is positively loaded with planets of all sizes and orbits."

The planets orbit close to their host stars and range in size from 1.5 times the radius of Earth to larger than Jupiter. Fifteen are between Earth and Neptune in size. Further observations will be required to determine which are rocky like Earth and which have thick gaseous atmospheres like Neptune. The planets orbit their host star once every six to 143 days. All are closer to their host star than Venus is to our sun.

Kepler identifies planet candidates by repeatedly measuring the change in brightness of more than 150,000 stars to detect when a planet passes in front of the star. That passage casts a small shadow toward Earth and the Kepler spacecraft.

"Confirming that the small decrease in the star's brightness is due to a planet requires additional observations and time-consuming analysis," said Eric Ford, associate professor of astronomy at the University of Florida and lead author of the paper confirming Kepler-23 and Kepler-24. "We verified these planets using new techniques that dramatically accelerated their discovery."

Each of the newly confirmed planetary systems contains two to five closely spaced transiting planets. In tightly packed planetary systems, the gravitational pull of the planets on each other causes some planets to accelerate and some to decelerate along their orbits. The acceleration causes the orbital period of each planet to change. Kepler detects this effect by measuring the changes, or so-called Transit Timing Variations.

Planetary systems with Transit Timing Variations can be verified without requiring extensive ground-based observations, accelerating confirmation of planet candidates. This detection technique also increases Kepler's ability to confirm planetary systems around fainter and more distant stars.

"By precisely timing when each planet transits its star, Kepler detected the gravitational tug of the planets on each other, clinching the case for 10 of the newly announced planetary systems," said Dan Fabrycky, Hubble Fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lead author for a paper confirming Kepler-29, 30, 31 and 32.

Five of the systems (Kepler-25, Kepler-27, Kepler-30, Kepler-31 and Kepler-33) contain a pair of planets where the inner planet orbits the star twice during each orbit of the outer planet. Four of the systems (Kepler-23, Kepler-24, Kepler-28 and Kepler-32) contain a pairing where the outer planet circles the star twice for every three times the inner planet orbits its star.

Kepler-33, a star that is older and more massive than our sun, had the most planets. The system hosts five planets, ranging in size from 1.5 to 5 times that of Earth. All of the planets are located closer to their star than any planet is to our sun.

The properties of a star provide clues for planet detection. The decrease in the star's brightness and duration of a planet transit combined with the properties of its host star present a recognizable signature. When astronomers detect planet candidates that exhibit similar signatures around the same star, the likelihood of any of these planet candidates being a false positive is very low.

"The approach used to verify the Kepler-33 planets shows the overall reliability is quite high," said Jack Lissauer, planetary scientist at NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif., and lead author of the paper on Kepler-33. "This is a validation by multiplicity."

In the image below,  all the colored planets have been verified. More vivid colors indicate planets that have been confirmed by their gravitational interactions with each other or the star. Several of these systems contain additional planet candidates (shown in grey) that have not yet been verified. - Daily Galaxy.
WATCH: NASA Telescope Discovers 26 Alien Planets Around 11 Different Stars.

HIGH STRANGENESS: Mysterious Blue Spheres Fall Over England - Bournemouth Resident Mystified by Objects, That the Met Office Declares as "Not Meteorological"?!

" is only going to get weirder and weirder and weirder..." - Terence McKenna.

A man in Dorset has been left mystified after tiny blue spheres fell from the sky into his garden. Steve Hornsby from Bournemouth said the 3cm diameter balls came raining down late on Thursday afternoon during a hail storm.

He found about a dozen of the balls in his garden. He said: "[They're] difficult to pick up, I had to get a spoon and flick them into a jam jar." The Met Office said the jelly-like substance was "not meteorological". Mr Hornsby, a former aircraft engineer, said: "The sky went a really dark yellow colour. "As I walked outside to go to the garage there was an instant hail storm for a few seconds and I thought, 'what's that in the grass'?"

'No smell'

Walking around his garden he found many more blue spheres were scattered across the grass. He said: "The have an exterior shell with a softer inner but have no smell, aren't sticky and do not melt." Mr Hornsby said he was keeping the balls in his fridge while he tried to find out what they were. Josie Pegg, an applied science research assistant at Bournemouth University, speculated that the apparently strange phenomena might be "marine invertebrate eggs". "These have been implicated in previous 'strange goo' incidents," she said. "I'd have thought it's a little early for spawning but I suppose we've had a very mild winter. "The transmission of eggs on birds' feet is well documented and I guess if a bird was caught out in a storm this could be the cause. - BBC.
WATCH: Strange Blue Spheres Fall Over England.

RATTLE & HUM: "Sounds Of the Apocalypse" - The Mysterious Humming Noise Phenomena Continues; More Videos From the United States!

Here are the latest videos of strange sounds heard across America:

Illinois. Part 1.

Illinois. Part 2.

Allentown, Pennsylvania.

Sunnyside, New York.

Rochester, Michigan.

POLE SHIFT NOW: Magnetic Pole Reversal Officially Confirmed - The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Releases New Planting Zone Map As Gradual Northward Warming Trend Accelerates!

Camelias, a New Orleans trandemark, staking out in North Carolina and higher latitudes? It's true, gardening experts say, and expect similar oddities to represent the new norm. It is now safe to plant new species in many parts of the nation, according to a new government map released Wednesday showing new growing guidelines for the first time in decades. A gradual northward warming trend makes it possible to plant trees and other perennials that would have perished in colder zones.

The "hardiness" zones, the gospel to the the nation's 82 million gardeners that are printed on the back of seed packs and catalogs, are based on average minimum temperatures.

"It is a good thing the government has updated the map," says Woodrow Nelson, director of marketing communications for the Arbor Day Foundation. "Our members have been noticing these climate changes for years and have been successfully growing new kinds of trees in places they wouldn't grow before."

For example, Pennsylvania's growing zone was considered risky for Southern Magnolias, according to the old government map dating to 1990. But the new map, based on updated weather statistics from 1996 to 2005, puts Pennsylvania, like much of the Northeast, in a warmer growing zone.

Catherine Woteki, an undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, which issued the new guidelines, cautioned against reading too much into the changes. "We do not think the plant hardiness zone methodology is appropriate for making comments on climate change," she says.

Might gardeners being going out on a limb? Steve Carroll, director of public programs at the State Arboretum in Virginia, advises gardeners to check with their local nurseries or a university extension program for advice.

"There's definitely a changing climate," says Charlie Nardozzi, a gardening consultant in northern Vermont. "But that doesn't mean we won't have a harsh winter again that could kill all their plants." - KSDK.
WATCH: Magnetic Pole Shift Accelerating.

WATCH: Magnetic North Pole Moving Toward Siberia.

WATCH: Sun and Earth's Magnetic Field Flip 2012.

EXTRATERRESTRIAL & UFO MEMES: UFO Sightings Off the Charts Worldwide in Wake of the Massive Solar Storm - Thousands of Sightings Reported Across the Globe!

The solar storm that hit the Earth with “fireworks” Tuesday, also spawned thousands of UFO sightings worldwide, state ufologists who monitor daily online UFO sighting reports.

Locals here at this popular UFO sighting location at Bray’s Point -- and down the Oregon coast at nearby Stonefield Beach -- said they “breathed an exasperated sigh” after Tuesday’s solar storm brought no new disaster to this region that’s been slammed by a week of fierce winter weather. The day of the solar storm “passed slowly with a fuzzy haze over Bray’s Point,” and towards nightfall Jan. 24 “it was red and bright yellow all over,” explained Oregon UFO “watcher” Errol while pointing to an “upside down tree” hanging on nearby power lines as “one sign that something crazy happened with that solar storm.” In turn, those UFO watchers over in Sweden “have been all over the Internet with reports of crazy northern lights and lots of sightings Jan. 24,” added Errol who reminded UFO fans that “the Sun has always been ‘connected’ to historical records of UFO sightings going back to 360 AD in the Kushan Kingdom with a cold coin (on display at the British Museum in London) showing the Goddess Ardoksho pointing to stars in the heavens and what appears to be a spacecraft.”

Swedes get bird’s eye view of Sun storm.

Those lucky enough to be in Sweden on Jan. 24 when the solar radiation storm “from the broiling Sun turned the chilly northernmost skies of Earth into an ever-changing and awe-provoking art show of northern lights,” reported MSNBC TV reports the day after, on Jan. 25, while worldwide UFO sightings were also noted as “spectacular” during this rare Sun eruption that cast ultraviolet light over much of the Earth’s northern regions
In turn, MSNBC noted that even experienced stargazers were stunned by the intensity of the aurora borealis that swept across the night sky in northern Scandinavia after the biggest solar flare in six years. It has been absolutely incredible," British astronomer John Mason cried from the deck of the MS Midnatsol, a cruise ship plying the fjord-fringed coast of northern Norway. "I saw my first aurora 40 years ago, and this is one of the best," Mason told The Associated Press, his voice nearly drowning in the cheers of awe-struck fellow passengers. In turn, U.S. space weather experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – at both the national headquarters and NOAA's $38 million Marine Operations Center in nearby Newport, Oregon, said on Jan. 24 that this massive eruption on the Sun “triggered the auroras,” that were seen as far south as Wales and the Oregon coast; while ufologists noted in Jan. 25 online reports that these “auroras” are “a perfect time for UFO sightings, and those who looked for them were not disappointed.”

Bray’s Point UFO sightings & "strange sounds".

Oregon UFO “watcher” Errol – in reporting from Bray’s Point in a Huliq interview Jan. 25 – noted “numerous sightings Tuesday evening up and down the West Coast." "We had one report up north in Canada early Jan. 25 that a spread of nine bright lights were spotted by UFO watchers who then noted a sort of 'voice' with a high-sonic stiletto that stopped everything dead," Errol explained. In turn, the Canadian watcher said it was "haunting," but also "somehow familiar" as the Sun storm released auroras "blended with this possible alien spacecraft that produced a high pitched sound like "someone clearing his throat of rumbling phlegm." "It just all sounded crazy from that high North American vantage point up in Canada," added Errol of an e-mail communication he had with a fellow UFO watcher in Canada early Jan. 25. Also, he said "one real bright light" was reported at 4:30 a.m. -- in the Bray's Point, Stonefield Beach region -- Wednesday morning, "that our watcher said had the same hallmarks of other ‘colorful’ sightings" happening over in England and Scandinavia Jan. 25. Moreover, Errol said: “Nobody bothers to report these types of sightings due, in part, to a lot is already happening in the sky.”

Coins with images of "aliens" a clue?

Errol also noted that “Sun storms” or events involving the Sun and other things happening in the heavens are a “very interesting” revelation of the recently released British government hoard of once top secret UFO documents, “reveals how the British UFO hunters examined ancient coins on display at the British Museum in London, for clues to when UFO sightings began here on Earth. In turn, a review of one British government UFO document makes note that a 123 B.C. “drachm” coin featured a “helmeted bust” of a Babylon king seated at “what resembled a control panel;” while the flip side of this ancient coin featured the Sun with “shooting stars” and unidentified “coded numbers or symbols.” According to the British government UFO documents – that number more than 8,500 once top secret UFO files, with links to tens of thousands of other related UFO reports from the U.S. and around the world – “King Adramelek, from the 4th Century, B.C., featured images of ‘ancient astronauts’ on shekel coins that include images of the king with a space helmet on his head, instead of a crown, and even Zeus standing holding a star within.

Sun storm a “wake up call” for ufologists.

The Jan. 25 MSNBC TV report also noted an expert stating that this radiation eruption on the Sun was more than just another Sun spot that impacted the Earth. "To me this was a wakeup call. The sun is reminding us that solar max is approaching," the expert said. "A lot worse is in store for us. We hope that you guys are paying attention. I would say we passed with flying colors." Those who got to see Tuesday night's colorful display marveled at the brilliance added the MSNBC TV report; while also pointing to locals in Sweden who reacted to these “signs in the heavens.” "It was the biggest northern lights I've seen in the five, six years that I've worked here," said Andreas Hermansson, a tour guide at the Ice Hotel in the Swedish town of Jukkasjarvi, above the Arctic Circle. In turn, the reported noted that Hermansson “was leading a group of tourists on a bus tour in the area when a green glow that had lingered in the sky for much of the evening virtually exploded into a spectacle of colors around 10:15 p.m. local time.” "We stopped the bus. And suddenly it was just this gigantic display of dancing lights and Technicolor," said Michele Cahill, an Irish psychologist who was on the tour. "It was an absolutely awesome display. It went on for over an hour. Literally one would have to lie on the ground to capture it all."
UFO sightings overseas on the rise.

Likewise, Swedish media reported “numerous UFO sightings Tuesday,” after an aurora appeared and “a magnetic solar wind slammed into the Earth’s magnetic field, exciting both electrons of oxygen and nitrogen,” and other strange and unexplained “trigger points here on Earth” at Bray’s Point and all across the northern region of North America, Northern Europe and Asia. In general, ufologists report that "thus far in 2012, sightings overseas are on the rise," with most local police giving no quarter to those who report a UFO, add ufologists, "because nobody cares much about it anymore with the exception of a growing number of believers who say "it only takes one to believe." Moreover, NASA recently noted that the crew of the International Space Station reported “seeing strange lights” that they believe are linked to the northern lights, this recent Sun eruption or something more. The electromagnetic burst associated with the start of this week's storm occurred at about 11 p.m. ET Sunday, reaching medlum levels. Then, on Monday and Tuesday, the proton radiation from the eruption hit strong levels, the most powerful since October 2003. That mostly affects astronauts and satellites, but NASA said the crew on the International Space Station was not harmed, and other space experts noted that only a few minor problems with satellites were reported.
WATCH: UFO Sightings On The Rise In 2012.

EXTREME WEATHER: Eastern and Central Europe Hit by - Frigid Temperatures Causes Mass Stranding and Evacuations! UPDATE: Snowstorm Collapses Hockey Rink Roof in Slovakia!

Parts of eastern and central Europe were hit hard by heavy snow and frigid temperatures for a second day Thursday, leaving hundreds trapped in cars, dozens of communities without power and at least one person dead. Some areas saw as much as 10 feet of snow.

A flurry of snow passes a man as he speaks on the phone from a snow stranded vehicle on the
outskirts of Bucharest, Romania, on Thursday. The man, who declined to be identified, spent the
night in the car fearing it would be damaged by road clearing vehicles if he abandoned it.
Some 340 people were evacuated overnight from stranded vehicles on roads across Romania, Prime Minister Emil Boc said, and another 100 people were transported during the day to Bucharest after getting stuck on two major roads.  Health officials said a man died and a woman was hospitalized in serious condition after they were found unconscious in a car about 11 miles south of Bucharest. A hospital spokesman said the woman was suffering from hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning. About 1,300 people have been given temporary shelter since Wednesday morning, said the Interior Ministry, and forecasters are predicting that temperatures will fall as low as -16 degrees C (3F). A train derailed on icy tracks in the country's south, but nobody was injured, and about 28 flights were canceled on Thursday, along with 49 trains, Romanian officials said. Defense Minister Gabriel Oprea said defense ministry employees were helping to clear snow in an operation involving tanks and other military vehicles.

Authorities said 40 towns and villages in southern Romania suffered power outages. In neighboring Bulgaria more than 100 communities were left without electricity, while traffic was snarled in many areas. Bulgaria's main Black Sea port of Varna was closed for traffic due to windstorms and heavy snowfall, port officials said. The heavy snow forced authorities to close several mountain passes as well as many schools. Southern and central Serbia were also badly hit. Many villages were cut off due to the snowfall, and some residents had a difficult time feeding their animals. In the village of Lunjevac, in central Serbia, a villager hired a horse-drawn cart to help him reach a nearby hospital. Authorities said a key road linking Serbia to Macedonia to the south, was blanketed with snow but still passable. Thousands were left without electricity, while railway traffic was halted in many areas.  Further west, in the Swiss resort of Davos, which is currently hosting the annual World Economic Forum, there were snowbanks some six feet high lining the streets and snow clearing machines working all over town. - MSNBC.
Blizzards hit eastern Europe hard.
The Balkans and parts of eastern and central Europe were hit hard by heavy snow Thursday, forcing Romania's prime minister to call in army tanks to clear roads and leaving a hundred communities in Bulgaria without power.  For two days blizzards have covered the area with as much as three meters (10 feet) of snow at a time.  Snow in Romania left hundreds of people stranded in cars, forced the cancellation of flights and appeared to derail a train. Some 340 people were evacuated overnight from stranded vehicles on scores of roads across the country, Prime Minister Emil Boc said.  A train with 123 passengers derailed on icy tracks in southern Romania, but nobody was injured. Ten flights to and from Bucharest were canceled Wednesday night, and planes arriving from Dubai, Tel Aviv and Munich were diverted to other airports.

Snowstorms also swept through neighboring Bulgaria, causing traffic chaos and blanketing villages in the northern parts of the country. The harsh weather has left more than 100 communities across the country without electricity. Bulgaria's main Black Sea port of Varna was closed for traffic due to wind storms and heavy snowfall, port officials said. Heavy snowfall created hazardous driving conditions along icy mountain roads and forced authorities to close several mountain passes. Classes have been canceled in many schools in the snow-gripped regions. - CBS News.
Hockey Rink Roof Collapses in Slovakia.
Snow and ice collapsed the roof of the hockey rink in Slovakia right after young players skated off the ice.According to Telesport, the children were practicing with former NHL player Richard Zednik. A big snowstorm over last weekend likely contributed to the collapse. Katowice, 40 miles to north of Namestovo, had almost 7 times the normal amount of precipitation so far in January. Areas nearby had 2 to 4 times the normal amount. Early in the month, temperatures were mild, so some of precipitation was rain. Lately, with cold weather, precipitation has been falling as snow.The good news for cleanup is that there should be no new storms for at least a week. Weather will be dry though much colder than normal. Namestovo, Slovakia, is in the mountains, around 100km southwest of Krakow, Poland. - Accu Weather.
WATCH: Roof collapses on ice hockey rink as players train in Slovakia.

DELUGE: Hundreds of Tourists Stranded as Kruger National Park Floods - Three Days of Heavy Rainfall in South Africa Caused Widespread Damage!

Several hundred tourists have been stranded by flood waters inside the Kruger National Park as torrential rains pound the region.

The world renowned game reserve in South Africa - one of the largest in the world - has endured three days of heavy rainfall causing rivers to burst their banks and sever road connections. At least 12 camps are unreachable by road and 10 main entrance gates have been closed, according to officials. SA National Parks spokesman, Reynold Thakuli, said the military, had been brought in to help with the evacuation. 'The situation is under control but has deteriorated severely,' he said. 'Several camps are now unreachable. The tourists and staff in each are all safe and being looked after, but are effectively stranded.' A river near the Kruger's main camp Skukuza has completely burst its banks, effectively dividing the camp in two and causing severe flooding.

A doctor who works at Skukuza - which has become the centre of operations for the emergency services during the crisis - confirmed medics were flying emergency supplies to guests and workers in need. Dr. Gary Pieser said: 'We are now totally stranded inside the camp – the only way to get in or out is via helicopter,' he added. Helicopter evacuations began after six holidaymakers were isolated by flooding during a game drive on Tuesday night. The group was airlifted to safety and treated by doctors at Skukuza. 'They had minor injuries and are now receiving medical attention,' said Mr. Thakuli. Around 32 foreign tourists have been evacuated by helicopter, including 26 guests from the Tinga private lodge near Skukuza. Another of the park's private game lodges, Phinda, has been completely submerged by the flood. All organised game drives have been suspended and Mr Thakhuli has rushed to reassure holidaymakers that they will be well looked after.

The reserve was currently around 50 percent occupied after the peak safari period over the Christmas break. More than 1,500 people have been forced to flee their homes in the neighbouring Maputo and Gaza provinces of Mozambique as relentless flood waters devastate their land. Nearby Hoedspruit weather station reported a 267mm rainfall in the 24 hour period between Tuesday and Wednesday, over five times the classification for heavy rain. The downpour follows a prolonged spell of wet weather across South Africa's eastern provinces, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. Wanda Mkhutshulwa, head of communications at SA National Parks, said: 'We gather from reports that the worst is over. We are in contact with Mpumalanga’s disaster management centre and we will receive military support if necessary.' But SA weather forecasters have advised that another storm will be approaching Mozambique near Madagascar next Thursday, which could result in yet more heavy rain. - Daily Mail.

EXTREME WEATHER: Severe Earth Changes Across America as the First Major Storm of February Approaches - Drenching Storms on the East Coast; Tornadoes and Flooding in Texas; Flooding Rains Target Alabama; and Avalanche Danger in Colorado!

Here's a look at the extreme weather conditions currently being experienced in the United States:

Drenching Storms Threaten East Coast Travel Delays.

As a cold front sweeps toward the East Coast, drenching and gusty thunderstorms will slow travel from New England to Florida into the afternoon.

Included in the mess is the busy Northeast corridor, where the combination of low clouds and heavy rain will result in flight delays. The heaviest rain will fall during the midday hours from eastern North Carolina to New England. During the afternoon the rain will sweep out of much of the coastal mid-Atlantic, but will linger over southeastern new England. Rainfall amounts of at least a half an inch are expected, with the heaviest rain falling within a few hours' time as a cold front approaches and passes. At the very least, motorists will encounter large puddles of water on roadways and reduced visibility in the wake of spray from larger vehicles and tractor trailers. Accompanying the downpours at times from the New York metropolitan area on south will be a few thunderstorms, which could even turn gusty as the front passes.

Warmer, more humid air from the Delmarva to Florida could even help to turn the storms severe as they march toward the coast. Strong wind gusts in excess of 50 mph are a possibility with a few of the storms, which will generally threaten areas only through the midday hours. With a powerful, twisting blast of air arriving in the upper levels of the atmosphere, it's not out of the question an isolated, brief tornado be spawned from the strongest storms. In the wake of the front this afternoon and evening, unusually mild air will be replaced by falling temperatures; this will effectively end the threat for any additional showers or storms. - Accu Weather.
WATCH: Accu Weather's Forecast.


Drivers, residents rescued from high waters in Texas.

Storms that spawned at least one tornado swept across central and east Texas on Wednesday, leading to numerous water rescues but not dropping enough rain to make up for the state's historic drought.
Storms pounded Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio overnight. Tornado warnings and watches were in effect for parts of Texas and Louisiana as the line of storms moved east. Record rainfall drenched the Austin area, which also saw a confirmed tornado that did some minor damage but caused no injuries. The downpour was celebrated in drought-stricken Washington County near Houston. Emergency management coordinator Robert Smith said the rural area's ranches finally have water and, "I think the cows are doing a jig." Springlike moisture from the Gulf of Mexico dropped the heaviest rainfall -- 6-8 inches -- on an area east of Austin and San Antonio along IH-35, said Mark Wiley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Fort Worth. "That's very unusual for this time of year," he said. "It was just so much rain in such a short period of time. In so many areas, the ground is still fairly dry, but it was just so fast that it didn't have anywhere to go, especially in the urban areas." At least 13 people were rescued from high water in Cedar Creek, an hour southeast of Dallas, reported A driver whose car was reportedly submerged on Highway 71 and residents trapped in their home by severe flooding were among those saved, the National Weather Service said.
WATCH: Rains turns to raging flood in Dallas neighborhood.

In Austin, the Austin Bergstrom International Airport reported 2.79 inches of rainfall in one hour Wednesday morning, said. Dallas-Fort Worth Airport canceled about 30 departing flights, reported. The widespread storms began Tuesday afternoon and continued nonstop throughout the night, delivering the heaviest amounts west of Fort Worth. Strong winds and scattered showers slammed the Houston area early Wednesday, knocking out power to tens of thousands of people, reported NBC affiliate KPRC. Flights were canceled there as well.  Wind gusts of 50 to 55 mph in the early-morning hours knocked down trees and power lines, cutting power to some 20,000 customers. Flooding is a common hazard in Houston, which got hit with severe weather on Jan. 9, when firefighters had to perform about 140 water rescues. Officials warned drivers to "turn around, not drown" if they approached rising water.
The water rescues from this most recent bout of storms began Tuesday night, reported Late Tuesday, firefighters rescued a motorist who had gotten trapped under a bridge in Rowlett, a suburb of Dallas. Texas suffered its worst single-year drought in state history in 2011. On Tuesday, a top official told state lawmakers that record wildfires last year caused as much as $11 million in damage to Texas state parks and, coupled with the drought, continue to drive down the parks' visitation rates. - MSNBC.
WATCH: Central Texas Storms.

Tornado touched down in Brenham, Houston.

A tornado touched down in Washington County when a band of strong storms moved through the area Wednesday.

A brief EF-0 tornado touched down just north of Brenham Municipal Airport Wednesday shortly after 7 a.m., the National Weather Service confirmed. The tornado and straight-line winds caused damage within Brenham and across areas to the north and east of FM 50 to near Independence. Wind speeds were estimated between 60 and 70 mph, taking down power lines and several trees. The storm started around 7 a.m. and lasted about 25 minutes. NWS officials said the damage was sporadic and not continuous. The tornado touched down briefly west of County Road 50 just north of the airport and traveled eastward near the intersection of FM 262 and County Road 65. The tornado destroyed several small metal outbuildings and took the roof off a barn. The EF-0 tornado had maximum sustained winds of 85 miles per hour and the damage path was about 2.5 miles long and 50 yards wide. Residents spent Thursday cleaning up the mess. "I looks kind of bad, but it's not that bad," resident Matt Miller said. "Everybody survived. We got through this. No one was hurt or anything like that, so it was OK." The city's office of emergency management said they did not do a count of how many structures were damaged because there were no injuries or emergencies. Another tornado touched down in Pearland along FM 518 near Highway 35, according to the National Weather Service. - Click 2 Houston.

Weak snowpack, heavy snow raising avalanche danger. 3 deaths last weekend; 'potential to be a pretty dangerous winter,' expert says.

A weak, sugary snowpack is raising the avalanche danger in parts of the West, leaving slopes vulnerable to crumbling under the pressure of heavy snowstorms that also have lured skiers and snowmobilers looking for fresh powder.

Avalanches killed three people in Colorado over the weekend, including two who were skiing at resorts that were pounded with new snow. On Monday, an avalanche buried a man in Montana, but snowmobilers and skiers were able to quickly dig him out. In Wyoming, U.S. Forest Service officials warned backcountry enthusiasts to beware of dangerous conditions. Avalanche forecasters say a weak base layer of snow, packed with large grains of ice that aren't well connected to each other, is plaguing parts of Colorado, Utah, Montana and California and could keep avalanche risks high for the rest of the season. "This has the potential to be a pretty dangerous winter because of the foundation," Colorado Avalanche Information Center avalanche forecaster Scott Toepfer said Tuesday. "It may haunt us into the spring." The Colorado Avalanche Information Center has recorded eight avalanche deaths around the West this season, with four in Colorado, three along the Wyoming-Montana border and one in Utah. There were 25 recorded last winter and 36 the season before.
All four Colorado deaths this winter happened within the last week following storms. A backcountry skier near the Snowmass ski area was trapped Jan. 18. Resort officials said one skier died after being caught in a small avalanche at Winter Park Resort on Sunday, and a 13-year-old skier died after being trapped Sunday on a closed area at Vail Mountain. On Monday, rescuers reached a snowmobiler who took shelter in a snow cave after an avalanche trapped him and his brother over the weekend. Jordan Lundstedt, 21, of Fort Collins, made swimming motions to stay near the surface and dug himself out of the snow, but 24-year-old Tyler Lundstedt died after being buried under an estimated 2 to 3 feet of snow, said Mark White of Jackson County Search and Rescue. Story: 1 snowmobiler dead, 1 rescued after Colorado avalanche

The brothers' snowmobiles had gotten stuck, and they were on foot when the avalanche struck, either late Saturday or early Sunday, White said. Jordan Lundstedt told rescuers the brothers had avalanche beacons, which led him to find his brother in the dark, but the slide stripped him of his other gear. More than 100 slides have been reported to the Colorado avalanche center since Friday. In Utah, avalanche dangers remained high on Tuesday across the northern mountains after two back-to-back storms brought the region its first significant snowfall of the season. Several feet of snow fell on the mountains through the weekend, adding dangerous layers atop older snow. The instability can last days after a storm, Utah Avalanche Center Director Bruce Temper said. "That's what makes it so dangerous because after the storm is over, it's just basic human nature to think when the storms are finished, the danger is finished, but the snowpack is just teetering on the edge," Temper said. "It's just waiting for someone to give it a thump and it'll just come on down." New gear, new technology and backcountry ski and snowboard films have lured more and more powder hounds to seek fresh snow after storms.

This season, icy base layers have proven a weak matrix for snow dumps to rest on. If more than a foot of snow piles up quickly, like it did in Colorado last weekend with gusts reaching 70 mph, the layers of snow can give way, Toepfer said. "If you built a foundation of your house on potato chips, you get a wind storm and your house is going to blow over," Toepfer said. In Colorado, north-facing slopes that don't see as much sun and slopes at 30- to 40-degree angles are prime avalanche country. Officials at the Utah Avalanche Center were warning people to remain out of much of the backcountry. More than a dozen avalanches have been reported just since Sunday, but Utah has only had one slide-related death this season. Jamie Pierre, a world record-holding professional skier who once famously jumped off a 255-foot cliff, died Nov. 13 in the mountains near Salt Lake City while on a steep slope at Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort. The resort wasn't yet open and had not begun avalanche control. Avalanche deaths are more common in the backcountry than at ski resorts. Out of about 900 avalanche deaths nationwide since the 1950-1951 winter, 32 were within terrain that was open for riding at ski resorts, according to the center.
WATCH: Avalanche in Washington State.

Is The First Major Storm of February Coming? meteorologists are monitoring weather patterns for next week that could allow a major storm to develop and affect the Northeast.

The storm we speak of is currently a batch of energy over the northern Pacific Ocean. Indications are that this feature may hook up with a buckling jet stream at just the right time next week. The result could conjure up a potent storm system as it rolls out from Texas and heads to the Northeast during the second half of next week. The same lack of sufficient, lasting cold that has prevented much (if any) snow from falling over the I-95 mid-Atlantic and southern New England this winter will likely still continue with next week's storm. Sorry, big city snow fans! However, there may be enough cold air in front of the storm so that mostly snow falls from northern New England to upstate New York, the eastern Great Lakes and neighboring Canada.

The details of the nature of the storm, and most importantly its critical track, will unfold early next week.
If the storm develops to its full potential and cold air holds its ground, it could be the heaviest snowfall of the abysmal winter season so far for northern areas in the Northeast and part of the eastern Great Lakes.

A Pattern-Changer?

Indications are this storm will try to bring formidably cold air in its wake starting next weekend for the Midwest and Northeast. In turn, this could pave the way for future, snowier storms in the region.

The polar vortex, essentially the jet stream equivalent of the meteorological north pole, may set up shop farther south for a time around Hudson Bay, Canada, during the second week of February. From here, cold air from near the pole would have more of a free ride into the Midwest and Northeast.
During the second half of next week into next weekend, the jet stream will be shuffling around. Only once that shuffling process ceases will the nature of the pattern be revealed moving forward.
Recall that a southward shift in the jet stream during the second half of January contributed to an active storm track over the northern United States. A number of areas that had received little or no snow during the winter thus far finally got on the scoreboard. However, other than the Northwest and northern Rockies, it was nickel and dime snowfall. Ahead of the next week's Friday storm, a swath of accumulating snow will streak eastward over the Upper Midwest, northern New England and neighboring Canada spanning Tuesday and Wednesday. Certainly this is not a major storm, but another opportunity for some snow-starved areas. At least for a weather weenie standpoint, the pattern continues to look more interesting during February from the Midwest to the Northeast with perhaps not only cold air around, but also plenty of jet stream energy. - Accu Weather.
Flooding Rains Target Alabama.
Heavy rain moved through Alabama on Thursday producing flooding near Birmingham. People cleaning up the Alabama cities hit by this week's tornadoes, have a new problem, flooding. Heavy rains are causing debris to flow down some streets. Fire and Rescue officials even had a hazmat situation on their hands in Center Point, after an oil spill. Storm drains backed up and pipes burst. The Health Department is also worried about contaminated water.  There are flood warnings in effect for several areas through Sunday morning. - WSPA.

WATCH: Tornado destruction from earlier this week.

CELESTIAL CONVERGENCE: Monumental Solar System Changes - The Season of the Wind on Mars; NASA Mars Orbiter Photo Shows Stunning Wind Handiwork on the Red Planet's Landscape!

Some images of stark Martian landscapes provide visual appeal beyond their science value, including a recent scene of wind-sculpted features from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

The scene shows dunes and of various shapes and sizes inside an impact crater in the Noachis Terra region of southern Mars. Patterns of dune erosion and deposition provide insight into the sedimentary history of the area. The has been examining Mars with six science instruments since 2006. Now in an extended mission, the orbiter continues to provide insights about the planet's ancient environments and about how processes such as wind, and seasonal frosts are continuing to affect the Martian surface today. This mission has returned more data about Mars than all other orbital and surface missions combined.

More than 20,600 images taken by HiRISE are available for viewing on the instrument team's website: . Each observation by this telescopic camera covers several square miles, or square kilometers, and can reveal features as small as a desk.

HiRISE is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson. The instrument was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. - PHYSORG.
More information: For more information about the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, see .

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: One of the Worst Fish-Kill in Recent Times Found Off Guyana, Suriname - Countless Amounts of Fish Leaves Fisheries Department Stunned!

In what authorities believe is one of the worst fish-kills in recent times, a lot of Curiass is being washed up on the Guyanese and Surinamese foreshores, apparently due to murky Atlantic Ocean waters and the discharge of freshwater into the sea.

The Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture says mostly dead Cuirass have been sighted since January 9 and the situation peaked on January 29 when a "significant amount of dead fish was observed on the beaches in the area. Consultations with Surinamese Fisheries Department officials have revealed that similar occurrences of dead fish have been observed in the vicinity of Nickerie and Coronie during the same period, the ministry here stated. "An on-the-spot observation conducted by the Regional Fisheries Officer revealed that the gills were heavily coated with sling mud and slime. This condition may have resulted in oxygen deprivation to the fish resulting in death," Guyana's Fisheries Department added.

While the observance of dead fish is said to be an annual occurrence by local fisherfolk in both countries, Guyana's Fisheries Department believes that this year's was "noticeably worse" and may have resulted from one of or a combination of factors. They include turbidity of the water in the area – caused by excessive rainfall in the general region resulting in excessive cloudiness of the water due to suspended particles from the rivers which flow into the ocean and reduced dissolved oxygen levels. The other major factor could have been a high fresh water discharge – the high discharge of fresh water from the rivers may have disrupted the salinity content of the water in the area which could adversely affect fish in the area.

The University of Guyana's Biodiversity Centre is expected to conduct tests on samples collected on January 22 to determine the cause of death of the fish. Results will be available several weeks later. The Fisheries Department said it was also conducting continuous water quality tests to determine the effects of the rainfall on the water quality in the area. According to officials, the situation has improved greatly since Sunday January 22 and Wednesday, with far less dead fish observed on beaches along the Upper Corentyne Coast. "The situation is being continually monitored by staff of the Fisheries Department," the Agriculture Ministry department said. - The Daily Herald.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: Big Ben's Tilt Could Force MPs Out Of Commons - Land Subsidence Tilts Iconic Tower by 0.26 Degrees (46cm); Fears That it Will Get Worse and Sink Into the Thames!

The iconic clocktower which houses Big Ben tilts by 0.26 degrees (46cm) at the top and if the subsidence gets much worse, MPs may be forced out of the Palace of Westminster.

The House of Commons Commission, which is chaired by Speaker John Bercow, will meet to discuss a new report that offers a range of options, up to and including selling the building and moving Parliament elsewhere. The crumbling Palace, which has been beset by maintenance problems since it was built in the 19th Century replace the Old Palace destroyed by fire in 1834, needs years of repairs. It could even sink into the Thames if action is not taken. The building of the Jubilee Line extension in the 1990s is being blamed for the subsidence and, even though there is a continuous programme of repairs to the 1,100 room Palace, surveyors are expected to recommend sealing off sections for several years to shore up its foundations.

It is thought the House of Commons and House of Lords Chambers may also have to close for long periods. A Commons spokesman told The Sunday Times: "The commission will be considering whether to ask officials from both Houses to undertake a study into the long-term approach to the maintenance of Parliament. "No decisions are likely to be taken for several years as to whether either House will need to move out of the palace for a period to allow essential work to take place." Mr Bercow will take a particularly keen interest in the report as his grace-and-favour apartment is in the clocktower. Dunfermiline and West Fife MP Thomas Docherty, who is a member of the Commons Administration Committee, said Big Ben is not likely to topple into the river anytime soon. However, like others looking at this problem, he agreed it needed to be dealt with sooner rather than later, and is likely to prove very expensive. - SKY News.

FIRE IN THE SKY: School Bus-Sized Asteroid to Pass Extremely Close to Earth Today - Asteroid 2012 BX34 Will Close to Within 36,750 Miles of Our Planet!

A small asteroid will make an extremely close pass by Earth Friday, Jan. 27, coming much nearer than the moon -- but the space rock poses no danger of impacting our planet, NASA scientists say.

The newly discovered asteroid 2012 BX34 (whose orbit is represented by the blue line)
will come within 0.17 lunar distances of Earth on Jan. 27, 2012, experts say.
The newfound asteroid 2012 BX34, which is about the size of a city bus, will pass within 36,750 miles (59,044 kilometers) of Earth at about 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT) Friday, astronomers with NASA's Asteroid Watch program announced via Twitter. The space rock is about 36 feet (11 meters) wide, making it much too small to pose a threat to Earth. "It wouldn't get through our atmosphere intact even if it dared to try," Asteroid Watch scientists tweeted today (Jan. 26). Asteroid Watch is based at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Asteroid 2012 BX34 will zip by at a distance about 0.17 times that separating Earth and the moon. The moon orbits Earth at an average distance of about 240,000 miles (386,000 km). [Video and image of asteroid 2012 BX34's orbit]

While the near-Earth asteroid won't hit Earth, it may offer seasoned amateur astronomers a great show — if they are in the right viewing location and have good equipment. "Advanced amateur astronomers might be able to observe the flyby as the asteroid brightens to 14th magnitude just before closest approach on Friday," the website reported today. In astronomers' classification system, higher magnitudes correspond to dimmer objects. The full moon, for example, has a magnitude around -12.75. A magnitude of +14 would put 2012 BX34 roughly on par with the maximum brightness of the distant dwarf planet Pluto. NASA scientists and other astronomer teams regularly monitor the skies in search of asteroids that could pose a danger to Earth. Experts estimate that asteroids measuring about 460 feet (140 m) across can cause widespread destruction near their impact sites, but they'd need to be even larger to cause devastation on a global scale.

Last September, NASA announced that it had catalogued about 90 percent of the largest asteroids whose orbits bring them near Earth — a major goal set by Congress in 1998. Using NASA's recent WISE asteroid-mapping mission as a guide, scientists estimate that there are about 981 near-Earth asteroids the size of a mountain or larger. About 911 of those space rocks have been spotted, WISE mission scientists said. Finding and mapping the orbits of such potentially hazardous space rocks is a task crucial to the long-term survival of our species, many scientists say.

Throughout history, asteroids big enough to cause major damage and disruption to the global economy and society (were they to strike a populated area today) have hit Earth, on average, every 200 or 300 years, according to former astronaut Rusty Schweickart. Schweickart chairs the B612 Foundation, a group dedicated to predicting and preventing cataclysmic asteroid impacts on Earth. The group's chief message is that humanity's survival will someday depend on our ability to deflect a killer asteroid away from Earth.

The dinosaurs possessed no such technology, of course, and a catastrophic impact wiped them out — along with many other plant and animal species — 65 million years ago. - FOX News.
WATCH: Path of the asteroid.

THE AGE OF OBAMA: Dawn of the Global Totalitarian Police State - FEMA Camps Have Been Exposed; LAX FEMA Rendition Site Confirmed!

Talk show host and fellow conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones presents newly exposed footage filmed at LAX airport in Los Angeles confirming a ‘rendition hub’ capable of processing thousands of people per hour from straight off the tarmac and other transportation points.

Further, Alex dredges up video clips of other facilities used in the past for mass containment of dissenters- from Pier 57 in New York City used to detain those rounded-up during mass arrests at the 2004 Republican National Convention to the former Mueller Airport facility in Austin which news clips exposed had been converted to hold mass arrestees to the Sand Point Naval Station in Seattle used for 1999 WTO protesters.

This is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg, yet demonstrates the growing apparatus aimed at American dissenters in the Homeland. - Info Wars.
WATCH: LAX FEMA Rendition Site Confirmed.

WATCH: Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura - FEMA Camps.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Turrialba Volcano in Costa Rica Produces a Burst of Violent Activity - Shooting Water, Vapor and Ash More Than 15,000 Feet in the Air!

The fear of an enormous eruption fills the neighours of the Turrialba Volcano, located southwest of Cartago and a stone's through (volcano wise) from San José, as the colossus continues to emit ash and sometimes with greater force as it did earlier this week, spewing stones and gases.

Costa Rica’s Turrialba volcano produced a burst of activity that shot water, vapor and ash more than 15,000 feet into the air. Nearby residents reported that ash from the blast showered several communities. The mountain’s volcano observatory said that a new fissure broke open on the southeastern flank of the crater during the eruption.

Turrialba last produced an eruption in 1866, which sent ash falling as far away as Nicaragua, according to historical records. The mountain has become increasingly active since it began to rumble again in January 2001. In January 2010, it spewed ash with such force that two nearby villages, La Central and El Retiro, were evacuated briefly. - Earth Week.

Turrialba volcano. The false-color image is a combination of near infrared, red, and green light.
Healthy vegetation is bright red, while vegetation damaged by years of acidic gas emissions
 is brown. Bare ground in the summit craters is brown or gray.
A new vent has opened on one of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes, the latest activity following a series of small eruptions beginning in 2010, researchers say. NASA’s Terra satellite captured an image of the new vent, located on the southeastern flank of the Turrialba volcano’s West Crater, on Jan. 12, a release from the space agency said. The Observatorio Vulcanologico y Sismologico de Costa Rica reported the new vent exhibited “a vigorous output of bluish gas at high temperature … that generated a jet-like sound audible from the visitor lookout.” Turrialba is the eastern-most of Costa Rica’s active volcanoes.

The rock at the summit of Turrialba is very weak due to the intense rains of the region and the persistent hydrothermal activity at the summit, seismologists said, allowing new vents to open when pressure from below is high enough to make its way through the weakened rock. The current eruptions and vent openings are the first substantial activity at Turrialba since the 1860s, researchers said. - Outcome Mag.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Haiti Could be in a New Earthquake Cycle, Scientists Say - Detailed Records Suggest a Centuries-Long Pattern of Temblors on the Island of Hispaniola!

The magnitude-7.0 earthquake that shook Port-au-Prince, Haiti, two years ago nearly demolished the city and took both residents and geologists by surprise.
Haiti's quake history from 1900-2010. The depths and magnitudes are indicated.
Now, a team of scientists thinks they’ve identified a centuries-long pattern of earthquakes on the island of Hispaniola, which comprises both Haiti and the Dominican Republic, that could portend earthquakes to come. Although past seismic activity can’t be used to predict future quakes, the findings may help residents and those hoping to rebuild Port-au-Prince prepare for the next big one, said William Bakun, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif."People shouldn't be surprised if, in the decades to come, there are more very damaging earthquakes in the region," Bakun told OurAmazingPlanet, "and they should plan and build accordingly."

A very detailed record.

Bakun and his colleagues gathered historical records — letters, drawings, newspaper clippings and more — from residents of Hispaniola since the time that Christopher Columbus dropped anchor at the island. From descriptions of shaking and damage, Bakun was able to estimate the intensities, magnitudes and locations of historical earthquakes. "It was in the interests of the Spanish colonies to report all damage back to the king," Bakun explained, "because he was in the habit of supplying them funds to rebuild critical facilities, cathedrals and the like. So there are actually very detailed records of Hispaniola's earthquakes." A critical part of the analysis was comparing people's accounts of shaking in the historical tremors to what residents reported feeling in the 2010 earthquake, Bakun said. From that, the team was able to understand how seismic waves travel through the island, which helped them estimate the sizes and locations of the historical quakes.

Seismic history repeating itself?

Hidden in the historical data, the team found a striking pattern of quakes and quiescence. From about 1500 to 1701, the records mention no seismic activity. Then, in 1701, an estimated magnitude-6.6 earthquake struck west of Port-au-Prince. Bakun and his team pinpointed that quake to the east-west trending Enriquillo fault, the same fault thought to have ruptured in the 2010 earthquake. The accounts of shaking and damage in 1701 were also very similar to those of the 2010 quake, Bakun said.

The region was then quiet for another 50 years, until a devastating magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck the eastern end of the Enriquillo fault in October 1751, in the Dominican Republic. A month later, a magnitude-6.6 quake shook Port-au-Prince again, followed by a magnitude-7.5 earthquake on the western end of the Enriquillo fault in 1770. Finally, the fault went silent for 240 years, until the 2010 quake.

"The entire Enriquillo fault system ruptured during these 70 years of earthquakes, then it shut off," Bakun said. "We're certainly not suggesting that things will repeat precisely as they did in the 18th century, but history tells us that we shouldn't be surprised if we have intervals — in the 18th century it was 50 years — of quiet before the next one really takes off.” Most importantly, residents and engineers should rebuild Port-au-Prince with an eye toward future seismic activity, Bakun said. "The consensus is that the quality of construction and building practices were not sufficient for the 2010 earthquake," Bakun said. "We certainly know how to build buildings that can withstand that kind of an earthquake, but the construction practices that have been in place in the region don't cut it." The team's findings will appear in the February issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. - MSNBC.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Mexico's Popocatepetl Volcano Erupts Again - Emits Largest Plume of Gas Cloud in Many Years!

The Popocatépetl volcano near Puebla came back to life in 1994 and is now one of Mexico's most active volcanoes, regularly spewing smoke and ashes.

The 5,400-metre high  Popocatepeti volcano  has erupted again with a plume of ash after shaking for several minutes early on Thursday. Civil protection authorities reported that the cloud drifted west before turning back eat towards Puebla City. Lying 37 miles southeast of Mexico city and its 18 million inhabitants it remains to be seen how the ash cloud will effect the megalopolis.

The volcano's activity has been reported as stable and there is no threat to populated areas. However, authorities have urged people to stay at least seven miles from the area and to await further information from Mexico's national disaster prevention agency. The gas cloud is the largest in many years with authorities eagerly keeping watch over any potential change in activity. Popocatepetl has had more than 15 major eruptions since the arrival of the Spanish in 1519. - India TV.
WATCH: Mexican Volcano Erupts Again.