Tuesday, May 22, 2012

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: The Celestial Convergence - The Moon, Venus, Mercury, Jupiter and the Pleiades Align For a Beautiful Noon & Sunset Conjunction!

With no sunspots actively flaring, the sun's x-ray output has flatlined. Solar activity is very low, and likely to remain so for the next 24 hours. However, the heavens above will feature two dramatic conjunctions, today.

SUNSET CONJUNCTION: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west. An exquisitely-slender crescent Moon is passing to the left of Venus. A small telescope pointed at Venus shows that it is a crescent, too. [sky map]
NOON CONJUNCTION: Mercury, Jupiter and the Pleiades are converging for a beautiful three-way conjunction. Unfortunately, it's happening in broad daylight. The two planets and the star cluster are only a few degrees from the sun. The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) photographed the encounter on May 22nd. SOHO uses a coronagraph to block the glare of the sun, revealing what the human eye cannot see. Later today, Mercury and Jupiter will pass in the noon sky less than 1/3rd a degree apart. Join SOHO for a ringside seat. - Space Weather.

TERMINATOR NOW: Rise of the Machines - Equipped With a Hot Glue Gun, New Robot Builds its Own Custom Tools!

Most robots are designed to do a couple specific things, which is one reason why the adaptability requirements in DARPA’s robotics challenge will be so interesting. But not everyone has the funds or know-how to build a robot that can do anything. Instead, the robotics whiz teams at ETH Zurich are giving robots the ability to build any new tool for itself, whenever the need might arise. It just comes with a hot glue gun, which the robot uses like a low-tech 3-D printer.

 The Hot Melt Adhesive robot can do more than climb walls, as seen here — it can fashion its own tools, too.
Other robots have used hot glue guns before, primarily to climb up walls — Israeli researchers and the ETH researchers themselves are among those who've built such surface-scaling bots. But if you’ve ever played with a hot glue gun, you know the tool can be used to do much more than form an adhesive — you could make any shape you want and simply let it cool, hardening into an milky-looking object of your design. That’s what this new robot does.
It uses hot glue to form a base and sides of a cup one layer at a time, much like a 3-D printer would sinter materials one layer at a time. The robot also builds a handle and attaches it to the cup so it can tote the water vessel between two separate containers. It takes about an hour. All the tasks were performed autonomously, reports IEEE Spectrum, which spotted the bot at the ICRA conference over the weekend. But the cup design was pre-programmed. Ideally, future versions of this robot would be able to figure out exactly what type of tool is needed for a given task, and be able to design and build said tool. It certainly works more slowly than a 3-D printer, but it’s much simpler, too. - POPSCI.
WATCH: Self-Reconfigurable Robot with Hot Melt Adhesives.

EARTH CHANGES: Tropical Storm Bud Maintains Speed - Could Develop Into the First Hurricane of the Eastern Pacific Tropical Season!

Tropical Storm Bud is maintaining maximum sustained winds near 40 mph amid predictions that it will strengthen and could become a hurricane by Wednesday night.

Tropical Storm Bud is forecast to become a hurricane Wednesday and then head towards Mexico.
As of late Tuesday morning, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said Bud was centered about 485 miles south of Zihuatanejo, Mexico and was moving west-northwest near 13 mph. 

It was expected to turn northwest and decrease in speed later Tuesday, and turn north by Thursday morning. No coastal warnings or watches have been issued.  Meanwhile, Alberto has been downgraded to a post-tropical cyclone and is expected to stay well offshore as it moves up the Atlantic. 

Alberto's maximum sustained winds are near 35 mph. Additional weakening is expected, and forecasters say Alberto could dissipate Thursday. - USA Today.

SPACE: The Final Frontier - NASA Launches Private Sector Commercial Space Era With Today's SpaceX Falcon 9 Liftoff!

The Space X company made history as its Falcon 9 rocket rose from its seaside launch pad and pierced the pre-dawn sky, aiming for a rendezvous in a few days with the space station and launching the commercial space era. It is the first time a private company has launched a rocket to the International Space Station.

The unmanned rocket carried into orbit a capsule named Dragon that is packed with 1,000 pounds of space station provisions. "Falcon flew perfectly!!" SpaceX's billionaire founder, Elon Musk, said via Twitter. "Dragon in orbit ... Feels like a giant weight just came off my back."  NASA is betting on the switch from government to commercial cargo providers in the U.S., now that the shuttles no longer are flying. Astronauts could begin taking commercial rides to the space station in three to five years, if all goes as planned. 

The real test comes Thursday when the Dragon reaches the vicinity of the International Space Station, where it will undergo practice maneuvers from more than a mile out. If all goes well, the docking will occur Friday. Musk will preside over the operation from the company's Mission Control in Hawthorne, Calif., where he monitored the liftoff.  In many ways, this epic event mirrors a similar shift back in the 1970's and 1980's as the emerging computer industry shifted from government and DARPA funding to private equity funding ushering in the desktop, Internet, and mobile eras. - Daily Galaxy.
WATCH: NASA TV HD coverage of Falcon 9 Flight 2.

EXTREME WEATHER: Violent "Apocalyptic" Rainstorm Wrecks Havoc in North-Eastern France - Six Weeks' Rain Fell in Three Hours Causing Flooding and Power Cuts!

A violent rainstorm has caused flooding and power cuts in north-eastern France, with one person found dead in their home, French media report. The equivalent of up to six weeks' rain fell in three hours on Nancy and the surrounding area on Monday night.

Cellars were flooded in some parts.
Emergency services have been called out 648 times, with floodwater reaching two metres (6.6ft) in some areas. Some 4,100 homes were left without power, several roads were shut and three schools were closed. A firefighter was seriously injured when his vehicle collided with a coach. Two coach passengers were lightly hurt in the incident in Nancy, French radio reported. The mayor of Nancy, Andre Rossinot, is asking for the storm to be declared a natural disaster. The weather in the Meurthe-and-Moselle department cleared on Tuesday morning, but other rainstorms were being reported as far as Burgundy, the Massif Central and the Rhone Valley.

The dead person, described as elderly, was found in their home by emergency workers in Essey-les-Nancy, a village which suffered particularly severe flooding. An investigation is under way into the cause of death. In the same village, fast-flowing floodwater two metres deep prevented emergency workers from crossing some streets. Cellars filled with water in a matter of minutes. Jean-Paul Monin, mayor of Essey-les-Nancy, told French radio: "I've just come back from one small area where the people are in despair. "There are people who have lost everything... It's rather apocalyptic. There are no other words to describe it.... A wall of water fell on us."   Julien, an inhabitant of Nancy, told regional newspaper L'Est Republicain: "At 23:00 [21:00 GMT on Monday] I saw from my window geysers coming out of the manholes.  "I just had time to move my car... It reminded me of a tsunami." More than 260 firefighters and police were deployed, according to the Meurthe-and-Moselle prefect's office. - BBC.

MYSTERY: The Symbols of an Alien Sky, Man-Made or Natural Phenomena - The Latest UFO Sightings And Aerial Anomalies Around the World, Part 2?!

Here are several of the latest unidentified flying objects (UFOs) seen recently across the globe.

Penza, Russia - May, 2012.

Bologna, Italy - 20th of May, 2012.

Stouffville, Ontario, Canada - 20th of May, 2012.

Cartago, Costa Rica - 18th of January, 2012.

Milam County, Texas, United States - May, 2012.

Hanoi, Vietnam - 20th of May, 2012.

FIRE IN THE SKY: Fireball Filmed Over Arequipa in Peru!

On May 17, Thursday, someone in Peru, shot video of a strange object that looks like a fireball.

The strange fireball was seen in the sky in Arequipa, Peru and caused great surprise for onlookers wondering what it was.

Strange enough, this isn't the first incident with fireballs or meteoroids in Peru.

In September 2007, more than 600 were reported sick after a meteoroid landed.

And in August 2011 a suspected meteor streaked across the sky over the city of Cusco in Peru. - WTVR.
WATCH: Fireball over Peru.

MYSTERY: The Symbols of an Alien Sky, Man-Made or Natural Phenomena - The Latest UFO Sightings And Aerial Anomalies Around the World, Part 1?!

Here are several of the latest unidentified flying objects (UFOs) seen recently across the globe.

Sweden - May, 2012.

Oklahoma, United States - April, 2012.

Cardiff, United Kingdom - 3rd of April, 2012.

Mount Pleasant, Vancouver, Canada - 11th of January, 2012

Moscow, Russia - 17th of May, 2012.

Warsaw, Poland - 14th of May, 2012.

DELUGE: Flash Floods Kill 21 in Afghanistan - Over 1,000 Homes Destroyed; 3,000 Animals Killed; Over 1,000 Hectares of Farm Land Devastated; 10,000 Left Homeless and Many More Missing!

At least 21 people have died and scores of others have gone missing after flash floods triggered by torrential rains destroyed thousands of homes in two provinces in northern Afghanistan, officials have said.  It was reported on Sunday that the floods left thousands of people homeless on Saturday after it struck the provincial capitals of Sari Pul and Takhar. 

In Sari Pul, 19 people were killed and about 60 people went missing after the floods hit. Rescuers have searched for survivors across the city, said Sayed Faizullah Sadat, the national disaster director of the city. He also said that 1,000 houses were destroyed and 10,000 people were forced to find shelter in mosques, schools and a teacher-training center. "Most of these families have lost their houses and all their property, their livelihoods," he said. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance, the water rose to 1.5 metres on Saturday during the peak of the flooding. The office said four humanitarian assessment teams tried to get to the city on Saturday, but could not access the area. "Most of the roads are blocked by the flooding," said Sayed Jahangir, a deputy provincial police chief.

The Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority reported that several hundred people were rescued from rooftops. Floods also wreaked havoc across Takhar province, where at least two people were killed since Saturday. Mustafa Rasouli, a spokesman for the province, said that "two thousand houses have been partially or completely destroyed" by the disaster. He also said that 3,000 animals, including sheep and cows were killed, and about 1,000 hectares of farm land had been destroyed in the provincial capital of Taloqan and six other districts. Afghanistan's harshest winter in 15 years saw unusually heavy snowfalls and experts predicted that rivers swollen by melting snow were likely to flood in the mountainous north in spring. According to IMMAP, a data-analysis and mapping company, 15 per cent of Afghanistan's population is at high risk of being affected by floods. - Al Jazeera.