Wednesday, February 20, 2013

THE MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: Increasing Magnetism - Saturn's Shockwaves Reach Supernova Force, Strongest Shock Ever Encountered At The Ringed Planet!

February 20, 2013 - SATURN - During a chance encounter with what appears to be an unusually strong blast of solar wind at Saturn, NASA's Cassini spacecraft detected particles being accelerated to ultra-high energies. This is similar to the acceleration that takes place around distant supernovas.

Image credit: Coutersy NASA/JPL.
"Cassini has essentially given us the capability of studying the nature of a supernova shock in situ in our own solar system, bridging the gap to distant high-energy astrophysical phenomena that are usually only studied remotely," said Adam Masters of the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science, Sagamihara, Japan.

Scientists are particularly interested in "quasi-parallel" shocks, where the magnetic field and the "forward"-facing direction of the shock are almost aligned, as may be found in supernova remnants.

The new study, led by Masters describes the first detection of significant acceleration of electrons in a quasi-parallel shock at Saturn, coinciding with what may be the strongest shock ever encountered at the ringed planet.

Image credit: Coutersy NASA/JPL.
Since we can't travel out to the far-off stellar explosions right now, the shockwave that forms from the flow of solar wind around Saturn's magnetic field provides a rare laboratory for scientists with the Cassini mission -- a partnership involving NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency -- to observe this phenomenon up-close.

The findings, published this week in the journal Nature Physics, confirm that certain kinds of shocks can become considerably more effective electron accelerators than previously thought.

Shock waves
are commonplace in the universe, for example in the aftermath of a stellar explosion as debris accelerate outward in a supernova remnant, or when the flow of particles from the sun - the solar wind - impinges on the magnetic field of a planet to form a bow shock.

Image credit: Coutersy NASA/JPL.
Under certain magnetic field orientations and depending on the strength of the shock, particles can be accelerated to close to the speed of light at these boundaries. These may be the dominant source of cosmic rays, high-energy particles that pervade our galaxy. - Daily Galaxy.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: New Study Reveals That Gravity Deforms And Sags Volcanoes, Influencing Eruptions?!

February 20, 2013 - VOLCANOES - The way gravity deforms volcanoes could help explain mysterious features seen in volcanoes on Mars, Earth and elsewhere, as well as potentially revealing risks that volcanoes pose to neighboring communities on Earth, a group of researchers says. Gravity can make large volcanoes warp under their own weight in two ways: they can either spread outward on top of their "basement" of underlying rock or sag downward into that basement.

The way volcanoes deform strongly influences the stability of their structures, and when and how they erupt. To learn more about how gravity can change the shape of volcanoes, researchers built models simulating a range of deformation styles, from pure spreading to pure sagging.

Messy modeling

The scientists developed models consisting of large containers in which the researchers placed silicone putty mimicking the pliable part of the Earth's uppermost layers. On top of that, the scientists placed sand and gypsum to reflect the more brittle layers of a volcano's basement.

Experimental results -- photos from above. Left: Sagging volcano. Middle: Hybrid sagging-spreading volcano.
C: Spreading volcano. CREDIT: P.K. Byrne et al., Geology.

Finally, researchers poured more sand and gypsum on top to build cones representing volcanoes and waited about 10 to 60 minutes to let the cones deform their basements. For some models, the team added a thin silicone layer just below the cone's base, imitating certain weak basement materials, such as waterlogged rocks.

"I can certainly say it was good fun, if messy," said researcher Paul Byrne, a planetary geologist at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "The gypsum powder we used to increase sand cohesion had a tendency to settle on everything in the lab, and the silicone gel was impossible to control once it was out of a container.

I wrote off more than a few pairs of pants, shoes and lab coats during the experiments I conducted." The researchers took digital photos as the models developed and used special software to measure, with exceptional detail, how the structures' surfaces deformed over time.

"Our experimental method is sufficiently straightforward that these experiments can be carried out in high school labs, which could encourage the next generation of earth and planetary scientists," Byrne told OurAmazingPlanet.

Spreading and sagging

The researchers saw that a range of volcano spreading and sagging evolved, depending on the rigidity and strength of a volcano's basement compared to the size of the volcano it supported. Spreading occurred when the basement was rigid, as appears to be the case with the volcanic island of La RĂ©union in the Indian Ocean, while sagging happened when a volcano and its basement deformed together, as is the case with

Elysium Mons on Mars.
Sagging and spreading can also happen at the same time, when a volcano and its basement deform separately. These interactions may explain features seen at Olympus Mons on Mars and with volcanoes on Hawaii, the largest volcanoes on Mars and Earth, respectively. Such activity may explain puzzling terraces seen jutting a bit like steps out fromthese structures' mid-to-upper flanks.

"Our models can reproduce, and so help explain, the range of structural complexity seen on volcanoes across the solar system," Byrne said. "In particular, we are able to tie the various enigmatic structural features on the largest known volcano, Olympus Mons on Mars, into a single model, which is rewarding as I've been studying this volcano since 2005."

Olympus Mons is the largest volcano in the solar system, about 370 miles (600 km) in diameter, wide enough to cover the entire state of New Mexico, and 13.6 miles (22 km) high, nearly three times taller than Mount Everest.

Volcano hazards

Such research could help assess the hazards that different volcanoes pose. For instance, "a volcano that's more likely to spread than sag is at greater risk of suffering landslides or a full-blown flank collapse, and vice versa for a sagging volcano," Byrne said. These studies could also reveal likely sagging- or spreading-influenced sites of eruptions.

Byrne added that his team could start to think "about other, smaller volcanoes on Earth and Mars, and not just some of the very largest, like [those in] Hawaii or the enormous Olympus Mons. Moreover, we can look to apply these results to yet other extraterrestrial volcanoes, such as the shield volcanoes on Venus, structures named for their resemblance to a warrior's shield laid on the ground.

"And we can apply the insights gained from our laboratory models to numerical models, and so begin to get a more detailed understanding of how gravity-driven volcano deformation works mechanically." Byrne and his colleagues detailed their findings online Jan. 17 in the journal Geology. - Live Science.

EXTREME WEATHER: Southwestern American Prepares For Severe Storm - 30 Million In The Path Of The Winter Storm; Blizzard, Big Snow Under Way Kansas To Nebraska; Severe Storm, Damaging Winds And Hail Outbreak From Dallas To Hattiesburg!

February 20, 2013 - UNITED STATES - It's no Donner Pass, eat-the-driver-next-door situation, but a big winter storm threatening 18 states has forced California authorities to close portions of a snowed-under interstate and a state highway in Kern County.

What California's highway department described as "hundreds of vehicles" got stuck on State Route 58 between Bakersfield and the community of Tehachapi on Tuesday night, California's highway department reported, and at least a few big rigs and some cars remained Wednesday morning, a highway patrol dispatcher said.

The agency closed a portion of Interstate 5 because of icy conditions Wednesday morning, according to its website. Incident reports on the website indicated at least two vehicles had lost control on the icy highway, which remained treacherous despite efforts to sand it.

The interstate is the main route between the northern and southern parts of the state. The California Highway Patrol told motorists to use U.S. Highway 101 as an alternate and to expect heavy delays.

It's all part of a major winter storm that's now moving out of California and toward the central Plains and Midwest, where some places could see more than a foot of snow between Wednesday and Friday, CNN meteorologist Brandon Miller said.

All told, about 800,000 square miles in 18 states were under some form of watch or warning related to the storm, Miller said. About 30 million people live in the covered areas, he said.

The biggest threat of heavy snow lies in parts of Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri, with the possibility of whiteout conditions in some places, he said.

In Kansas, the National Weather Service was predicting as much as 18 inches of snow. The agency said parts of Nebraska could see more than a foot of snow, with drifts making some roads impassable.

Forecasters were predicting as much as 2 inches of snow in St. Louis, with the precipitation turning into sleet and freezing rain Thursday. The conditions will have "a significant impact on travel," the weather service warned.

North of where the biggest snow will fall, Chicago could receive what would be its largest single snowfall of the year -- 4 inches, Miller said. The city usually gets up to 4 feet of snow a year. So far this year, only about a foot has fallen, he said.

South of the snow belt, dangerously icy conditions are possible in parts of of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, he said.

Elsewhere, severe thunderstorms moving in from the Gulf of Mexico are expected to dump from 2 to 6 inches of rain over New Orleans, Louisiana, and Montgomery, Alabama, according to CNN's weather center, before rolling up toward Atlanta.

The torrential rains could lead to significant river flooding near the Gulf, as flood watches are still in effect from last week's heavy rains.

Heavy winds, hail and tornadoes are possible, the National Weather Service says. Downpours are expected to continue into Friday. - CNN.

WATCH: Southwest prepares for severe storm.

Blizzard, Big Snow Under Way Kansas To Nebraska.
A storm system set to emerge from the Rockies later in the week will bring blizzard conditions, as well as needed moisture, to portions of the central Plains.  There is the potential for flight and ground travel disruptions from Denver to Chicago. There is also the potential for significant moisture in the drought-stricken region.  While the storm will affect a vast area from Texas to the Dakotas, the wintry side of the storm will affect areas from the Rockies to the Upper Midwest during the second half of this week after hitting areas from California to Utah, Arizona and New Mexico with snow, wind and cold. 

Locally blinding, heavy snow will fall over the passes of the Rockies. Snow broke out over portions of Kansas and as far south as central Oklahoma Wednesday morning. Winds were increasing over western and central Kansas with the snow.

The area of snow will expand Wednesday night reaching from Denver, Colo. to Grand Island, Neb. and Kansas City, Mo.  Snow will continue to expand to the north and east during Thursday reaching Iowa, a large part of South Dakota, part of North Dakota, southern Minnesota, northern Illinois and central and southern Wisconsin.  The strongest winds will be on the front side of the storm and its snow, creating low visibility and extensive drifting. Several hours of blizzard conditions are possible as far north as Omaha.  Since the storm will mature and diminish quickly, severe blowing and drifting snow in the wake of the storm are not likely. - AccuWeather.

Severe Storm, Damaging Winds And Hail Outbreak From Dallas To Hattiesburg.
As low pressure intensifies across the southern High Plains Wednesday night, a cold front will slice through central Texas, igniting powerful thunderstorms from San Angelo to Abilene.  These thunderstorms will then race through the eastern part of the state, plowing though Dallas and even Tyler by Thursday morning.  The primary threats from this first round of severe thunderstorms will come in the form of large hail and damaging gusts of wind, which could bring down trees and power poles.  Hail could reach the size of quarters or even tennis balls across this region, which is big enough to cause damage to vehicles, windshields and windows.  Be sure to heed any watches or warnings that may be issued. Remember: If a warning is issued, this means a dangerous thunderstorm is imminent, and you should take shelter immediately.

Utility workers cut trees blocking a road in Hattiesburg, Miss., Monday, Feb. 11, 2013, after
a tornado damaged the area. (AP Photo/Chuck Cook).
Storms Become Tornadic
As Thursday progresses, the thunderstorms will enter an area of very unstable, warm and moist air across far eastern Texas and Louisiana. Powerful westerly winds behind the thunderstorms will be met with strong southerly winds ahead of them, resulting in a twisting motion of the lower atmosphere.  The second round of thunderstorms will take on rotating supercell characteristics in the late morning into the early evening hours from near Lufkin, Texas eastward to near Hattiesburg, Miss and New Orleans. This is the window of opportunity for the worst of the thunderstorm outbreak to take place. Tornados will be likely in the most violent thunderstorms, and one or two of these tornados will have the potential to become long-lived, life-threatening and destructive. Large hail and damaging wind gusts will also be likely.  If you have travel plans across the area, blinding downpours and locally flooding rains will cause plenty of delays on I-10, I-20, I-55 and I-35, to name a few.  Airport Delays are also a potential problem, especially if you'll be flying to or from Dallas, Houston or New Orleans.  The threat for severe thunderstorms will end late Thursday night, and dry and much more tranquil weather will follow for Friday. - AccuWeather.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Strong Magnitude 4.9 Earthquake Rocks Southwest China - Injuries 8, Topples 72 Houses And Damaged 949 Others!

February 20, 2013 - CHINA - Eight people have been confirmed injured in an earthquake near the border area of southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan provinces on Tuesday, local authorities said.

The 4.9-magnitude quake, which occurred at 10:46 a.m. with an epicenter 6 km deep, toppled 72 houses and damaged 949 others in Yunnan's Qiaojia County as of 7:30 p.m., the county government said.

The injured, including two people in serious condition, have been sent to local hospitals.

Photo taken on Feb. 19, 2013 shows a house destroyed by an earthquake in Qiaojia County of Zhaotong City in southwest China's Yunnan Province. Two people were injured when a 4.9-magnitude quake jolted the border area of southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces at 10:46 a.m. (0246 GMT) on Tuesday , authorities said. [Photo: Xinhua].
"Many people ran out of buildings when the quake came, but there was no falling debris. The shopping mall resumed business shortly after," a mall shopper in the county said.

Rescue work is underway and local civil affairs authorities have dispatched relief materials such as tents and quilts to the area, the county government said.

Villagers stand in front of a building struck by earthquake in Qiaojia County of Zhaotong City in southwest China's Yunnan Province, Feb. 19, 2013. Two people were injured when a 4.9-magnitude quake jolted the border area of southwest China's Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces at 10:46 a.m. (0246 GMT) on Tuesday , authorities said. [Photo: Xinhua].
The quake was followed by two more in Sichuan Province that both registered above magnitude 4.

A 4.5-magnitude quake jolted Yibin City, Sichuan Province, at 3:55 p.m., and another 4.7-magnitude quake hit Mianyang City at 10:17 p.m., according to the China Earthquake Networks Center.

Casualties and damages from the two quakes are not yet known. - CRI.

SOLAR WATCH: Fast-Growing Sunspot 1678 - Five Times Wider Than Earth, Develops Delta-Class Magnetic Fields, Harbors Energy For Strong Explosions!

February 20, 2013 - THE SUN - According to Space Weather, Sunspot AR1678 is growing rapidly and could soon pose a threat for M-class flares.

CHANCE OF FLARES: New sunspot AR1678 has developed a delta-class magnetic field that harbors energy for strong explosions. NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of M-flares and a 15% chance of X-flares during the next 24 hours.

FAST-GROWING SUNSPOT: At the beginning of this week, sunspot AR1678 didn't exist. Now it is five times wider than our entire planet. NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded the sunspot's rapid emergence on Feb. 19-20:

Sunspots are islands of magnetism that float on the surface of the sun. This one is emerging from depth and changing at such a rapid pace that its magnetic field is likely unstable. A reconnection event in AR1678's magnetic canopy could lead to a significant solar flare. 

SUNSPOTS: The visible solar disk on Wednesday morning. Solar activity has been fairly low, with the exception of a solar flare reaching C8.2 and peaking at 11:11 UTC on Wednesday morning. The source of the flare was Sunspot 1678. This region has a Beta-Gamma-Delta magnetic configuration and may produce a moderate M-Class solar flare within the next 24-48 hours. All other regions are currently stable.

CORONAL HOLE: Solar wind flowing from this sinuous coronal hole could reach Earth on Feb. 21-22. Credit: SDO/AIA.

SOLAR FLARE: A solar flare reaching C8.2 was detected at 11:11 UTC this morning. The source of the flare was around Sunspot 1678. This image by SDO shows the region shortly after the flare, along with a large prominence located off the northwest limb.

AURORA WATCH: Despite low solar activity, February has been a good month for auroras, with some observers reporting weeks of nightly Northern Lights around the Arctic Circle. "There were great auroras yesterday night outside the little Inuit village of Ivujivik in Nunavik, Quebec," says Sylvain Serre, who photographed some of the onlookers:

Serre used a Canon EOS 5D digital camera set to 4000 ISO for the 3.2 second exposure. Other photographers should take note of those settings because more lights are in the offing. NOAA forecasters estimate a 40% chance of polar geomagnetic storms on Feb. 21 as a solar wind stream approaches our planet.

SOURCE: Space Weather, Solar Ham.

SHADOW WARS: Nightmare On The Korean Peninsula - North Korea Propaganda Video Shows President Obama And United States Troops On Fire As U.S., Australia, Japan Send Signal To China With Joint Air Drill In Guam!

February 20, 2013 - KOREAN PENINSULA - Just weeks on since the country published a video depicting a US city resembling New York engulfed in flames after an apparent missile attack, Pyongyang has now released a new clip including scenes supposed to show President Obama on fire.

Screenshot from the video showing President Obama on fire.
The video also shows US soldiers engulfed in flames and seemingly ends with a reference to North Korea's recent nuclear test.

"North Korea has succeeded in proceeding with this nuclear test despite the United States’ increasingly unfair bully activities against North Korea," some of the clip's captions read, according to North Korea news.

Hosted by a website known to distribute state sponsored video, other captions on the clip attack the US for having no respect for others, or for equality and ends by stating, "the people are watching. America should answer."

According to US news site Global Post, the soundtrack to the video comes from the Elder Scrolls Oblivion, a video game. - Telegraph.

Screenshot from the video showing United States troops on fire.
A new North Korean propaganda video has emerged, depicting US President Barack Obama and American soldiers through a background of flames. The footage states Pyongyang carried out its latest nuclear test to spite the US, which warned against it.

A new North Korean propaganda video has emerged, depicting US President Barack Obama and American soldiers through a background of flames. The footage states Pyongyang carried out its latest nuclear test to spite the US, which warned against it.

The video ends with a simulation of a nuclear explosion underground. It was initially posted on YouTube account connected to a government news and propaganda agency called Uriminzokkiri, AFP reported.

The footage came with Korean captions, pointing out that the test had been conducted because of the US hostility.

"The North's high-level nuclear test aimed at US invaders is a nuclear deterrent to safeguard our sovereignty," one caption read.

"The US practically guided the North towards conducting the nuclear test," it added.

Screenshot from the video showing a nuclear explosion.
The footage emerged as North Korean scientists, technicians, workers and officials who were behind the test were honored in the capital during a day of the official celebration of the successful launch.

A fortnight earlier, Pyongyang posted other footage which showed New York on fire following what appeared to be a missile attack. The video was deleted within a few hours.

North Korea has threatened the South with 'final destruction' during a debate at the UN Conference on Disarmament on Tuesday, Reuters reported. It follows an underground nuclear test just over a week ago, which triggered immediate condemnation from the UN and the international community.

Pyongyang reportedly responded by informing its primary ally China that it may stage two more nuclear tests before the end of this year. - RT.

WATCH: North Korea propaganda video.

U.S., Australia, Japan Send Signal To China With Joint Air Drill In Guam.
Two key U.S. allies rolled out jet fighters in the U.S. Pacific territory of Guam last week in a joint exercise and show of force.

Combat aircraft from Japan, Australia and the United States started the drill codenamed Cope North on Feb. 7 in response to the increasingly volatile situation in the Asia-Pacific region.

U.S., Japan and Australia air forces were the participants in Exercise Cope North Guam
2013 at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
The objective of the exercise was for the three air forces to operate as one if a war breaks out in the region that requires joint response.

“The training is not against a specific country, like China. However, I think the fact that our alliance with the U.S. and Australia is healthy is a strong message,” Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force Lieutenant General Masayuki Hironaka was quoted as saying. Read the complete article HERE.

SKYFALL: Fire In The Sky - Russian Meteorite 1,000 Times Bigger Than Originally Thought; Russia To Spend Billions On Asteroid Defense, United Nations Reviewing Asteroid Impact Threat; NASA Scrambles For Better Asteroid Detection!

February 20, 2013 - RUSSIA - It turns out the meteor that landed in Russia last week was a bit bigger than the 10 tons first reported. About 1,000 times bigger.  When a hunk of rock raced out of the morning skies over Russia on Friday and exploded with nearly 500 kilotons of energy, early size estimates from the Russian Academy of Sciences that were carried by the Associated Press, Reuters and other news wires pegged it on the small size, with a weight of about 10 tons.  Oops.  

Later in the evening, after studying infrasound data from stations around the world, NASA released a new estimate revising that first guess upward by a thousand-fold: The meteorite actually weighed closer to 10,000 tons, scientists said -- approximately as much as 170 M1 Abrams tanks.  “My guess is that someone eyeballed the videos and made an educated guess,” said Margaret Campbell-Brown, associate professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. “This event was so much bigger than anything we've seen on video that it doesn't surprise me the guess was off by three orders of magnitude.”

“My guess is that someone eyeballed the videos and made an educated guess,” said Margaret Campbell-Brown, associate professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Western Ontario. “This event was so much bigger than anything we've seen on video that it doesn't surprise me the guess was off by three orders of magnitude.”  That poor estimate underscores the daunting task scientists face today: While NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program currently tracks about 10,000 objects through the heavens, there are far, far more smaller objects that are simply too tiny to track.  “If you think about objects the size of the one that came into Russia, you’re probably looking at 100 million up there. Of those likely to intersect Earth, there’s less, maybe 100,000,” said K.T. Ramesh, director of the Hopkins Extreme Materials Institute and a professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins. “Space is pretty big.”  And the size of those smaller objects -- whether they’re 10 tons or 10,000 tons -- makes them impossible to track with current technology, he said. 

“In general, we're pretty good at seeing things that are 1 kilometer and up in diameter, and have trouble seeing things that are less than 100 meters in diameter. The big problem is knowing where they are -- once you know where to look, you can find even the smaller objects,” he said.  For comparison, NASA currently believes the Russian meteorite was about 49 feet in diameter, or 15 meters. (Asteroid 2012 DA14, which NASA tracked on its flight near our planet on Friday, was approximately 150 feet in diameter, or 45 meters.)  “A good analogy is finding a few pennies scattered over an acre of dirt. If you know where to look, you have no trouble seeing them. But if you just look over the whole field, your chance of finding a penny is pretty small,” Ramesh told  Without sensors aimed directly at the incoming meteor, initial data was scarce. As other bits of data came in, scientists were able to hone their estimates of the size of the meteor, explained Edwin Bergin with the University of Michigan’s Department of Astronomy.  “Reports say that the network used to detect and infer nuclear explosions led to the revision,” he told “I think it just is better information that took time to filter out.”  - FOX News.

WATCH: Could largest-in-century meteor have been stopped?

Russia To Spend Billions On Asteroid Defense.
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech .
Moscow believes an operable national defense against threats from outer space can be built within 10 years’ time. The 500-kiloton explosion of a space bolide above the Urals region has sped-up allocation of some $2 billion to prevent future threats.  Russian scientists have presented a federal program designed to counteract space threats. Elaborated by the Institute of Astronomy at Russia’s Academy of Sciences and the Central Engineering Research Institute, Russia’s leading space industry enterprise, the program has already been approved by Roskosmos, the national space agency. 

The program has nothing to do with Hollywood sci-fi movie scenarios; no lasers, annihilators or Bruce Willis drilling a huge peace of rock rushing towards Earth.  The system will consist of a network of robotic telescopes monitoring space around our planet, some of them delivered to orbit, others operating from the surface.  Destruction of an asteroid in emergency cases may be performed by a rocket with a powerful megaton-class thermonuclear warhead. If the threat is detected early, more advanced means of changing an asteroid’s orbit may be considered.  The program costing 58 billion rubles (over $1.9 billion) has already been handed over to the head of Russia’s defense industry, Deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin who is expected to present it to Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.  Lidia Rykhlova from the Institute of Astronomy (RAS) who presented the project, reported that Russia will need to modernize and fully computerize the 60 cm lens telescopes it already has. Several larger telescopes with 2 meter lens will have to be additionally installed. 

Rykhlova announced that an analytical center will be created to collect the data from various sources and analyze it in real time mode.  However, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has denied reports about the Russian government’s intentions to spend 58 billion rubles on asteroid defense system.  Professor of the Moscow State University, head of the laboratory for space monitoring Vladimir Lipunov told Interfax news agency that it will take about two years to modernize all Russia’s existing nine telescopes with the diameter of the lens of 40 centimeters and unite them into one network. A network of larger telescopes across the globe could be ready in five years.  “It will cost a mere trifle. What [Russian billionaire] Roman Abramovich paid for Chelsea [football club] would cover all the costs of the project,” Lipunov said.  According to Forbes during the eight years of owning Chelsea Abramovich spent $1.3 billion on the football club.  Lipunov stressed that tracking and forecasting space threats is more real and efficient than engaging air defense systems to deal with meteorites in the atmosphere, as people could be evacuated from an impact zone in advance.

Asteroid threat is growing by the year 
“There are a lot of asteroids orbitingclose to Earth and every year up to 1,000 more are being discovered,” Lidia Rykhlova said, specifying that three years ago the number of known asteroids passing close to our planet was about 7,000 and now their number has grown up to around 9,400.  Most of the relatively large asteroids, with a diameter of one kilometer and larger are already known.  “We know about 90 per cent of kilometer-class asteroids, their orbits are well known and predictable. As for the smaller 40-50 meter ones – we still have insufficient observation apparatus. The more we observe – the more of them we find,” Rykhlova acknowledged.  If the space object is discovered beforehand, at least a month prior to possible collision with Earth, there is time to find out its size and consider various measures of its elimination.  The execution of a really complicated operation will require at least a year, Rykhlova pointed out.  “Therefore our emergency aid is a rocket with a nuclear warhead,” she concluded. - RT.

United Nations Reviewing Asteroid Impact Threat.
The Russian fireball and the close flyby of the asteroid 2012 DA14 on Friday came at a moment in time when the United Nations is discussing international response to the near-Earth object impact concern.
Detailed discussions about the Russian meteor explosion and Earth's encounter with asteroid 2012 DA14 were high on the Feb. 15 agenda of Action Team-14 during the 50th session of the Scientific and Technical Subcommittee of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS), being held from Feb. 11 to 22 at the United Nations headquarters in Vienna. The multi-year work of Action Team-14 (AT-14) is focused on pushing forward on an international response to the impact threat of asteroids and other near-Earth objects (NEOs). Up for discussion at the Vienna gathering is the report: "Near-Earth Objects, 2011-2012, Recommendations of the Action Team on Near-Earth Objects for an International Response to the Near-Earth Object Impact Threat."

Future threatening asteroids "This event in Russia and the pass of the larger asteroid 2012 DA14 are good reminders that many thousands of objects like it pass near Earth daily," said Ray Williamson, a senior advisor to the Secure World Foundation and a participant in the Vienna gathering. Secure World Foundation is a private operating foundation dedicated to the secure and sustainable use of space for the benefit of Earth and all its peoples.Williamson said that some objects will be larger and cause considerable damage if they strike Earth. Furthermore, it is critical that efforts continue to identify and track asteroids in order to counter the largest ones before they do serious damage to population centers.  "Work is continuing within the United Nations on developing international responses to future threatening asteroids. Given the uncertainties concerning where such asteroids might strike Earth and how much damage they might do, international responses will be critical," Williamson told  Also taking part in the UN NEO working group is space scientist, Detlef Koschny of the European Space Agency’s European Space Research and Technology Center (ESTEC) in Noordwijk, The Netherlands.  "The day before we thought it is great timing that 2012 DA14 flies by in the evening … and were shocked when in the morning we learned about the Russia event," Koschny told "What a coincidence. Was this a cosmic warning shot? It makes you think."

Timely warnings For its part, the UN Action Team-14 has been deliberating over the years regarding the makeup and focus of an Information, Analysis and Warning Network (IAWN), designed to gather and analyze NEO data and provide timely warnings to national authorities should a potentially hazardous NEO threaten Earth.
That report and its findings are being shouldered by Sergio Camacho who chairs the Action Team on NEOs — a group that was established in 2001. But gluing together a planetary defense strategy is not easy and includes a number of components: From finding potentially hazardous objects, predicting their future locations, and providing warning about future impacts with the Earth. Furthermore, such a strategy also involves missions to deflect impacting asteroids by changing their orbit, as well as disaster preparedness management and, in the event of a NEO strike, shaping a mitigation and recovery plan to counteract consequences. The need for an IAWN had been identified in the September 2008 report: "Asteroid Threats: A Call for a Global Response," a document prepared by an expert panel convened by the Association of Space Explorers (ASE) to assist the work of AT-14. Here is an excerpt of the 2008 asteroid threat report.- NBC News.

NASA Scrambles For Better Asteroid Detection.
A man in Moscow looks at a computer screen on February
 15, 2013, showing the trail of a meteorite.
(AFP/File, Yuri Kadobnov).
NASA, universities and private groups in the US are working on asteroid warning systems that can detect objects from space like the one that struck Russia last week with a blinding flash and mighty boom.  But the US space agency reiterated that events like the one in the Urals, which shattered windows and injured nearly 1,000 people, are rare.  "We would expect an event of this magnitude to occur once every 100 years on average," said Paul Chodas of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.  NASA estimates that before entering the Earth's atmosphere above Russia, the asteroid measured 17 meters (56 feet) in diameter and weighed 10 tons.  Fragments of the asteroid caused an explosion equivalent to 500,000 tons of TNT when they hit.  The same day, a 45-meter in diameter asteroid known as 2012 14 whizzed harmlessly past the Earth, its passage overshadowed by the bright arc drawn across the Russian sky that same day.  But had it hit ground, 2012 DA14 could have obliterated a large city.  Ten years ago, NASA would not have been able to detect 2012 DA14, said Lindsey Johnson, near earth object (NEO) project manager at NASA said recently.  But he said NASA has made progress on learning how to detect small asteroids.  Johnson said there are many of these objects flying around near the Earth -- say, half a million -- and they are hard to track because of their small size. 

In line with a goal set by Congress in 1998, NASA has already discovered and catalogued around 95 percent of the asteroids of a kilometer or more in diameter that are in the Earth's orbit around the sun and capable of causing mega-destruction.  The NEO program at NASA currently detects and tracks Earth-approaching asteroids and comets with land-based and orbiting telescopes. Scientists estimate their mass and orbit to gauge whether they pose a danger.  With this system, the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico, which has an antenna 305 meters in diameter, can observe with great sensitivity a third of the night sky and detect asteroids that are on the large side.  All asteroid observations made anywhere in the world by telescopes, even by amateur star gazers, must be passed on to the Minor Planet Center, which is financed by NASA and run by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory for the Paris-based International Astronomical Union.  But in times of tight budgets like these, NASA is trying to develop other systems specifically capable of tracking small objects in space.  It is financing to the tune of $5 million a project at the University of Hawaii called Atlas, or Asteroid Terrestrial-Impact Alert System. 

Researchers say ATLAS, which will monitor the entire visible sky every night, will be able to detect objects 45 meters (yards) in diameter a week before they hit our planet.  For those measuring 150 meters (yards) in diameter, the system -- which could be operational in late 2015 -- will give a three week heads up.  The goal is to find the objects and give enough advance warning for measures to be taken to protect people, said John Tonry, the principal investigator at ATLAS.  The system has enough sensitivity to detect a match flame in New York City when viewed from San Francisco, for instance.  "That's enough time to evacuate the area of people, take measures to protect buildings and other infrastructures and be alert to a tsunami danger generated by ocean impacts," according to the ATLAS website.  But NASA's efforts are deemed insufficient by former agency astronauts and scientists who last year launched a project designed to finance, build and launch the first private space telescope to track asteroids and protect humanity.  The foundation called B612 is trying to raise $450 million to build and deploy a space telescope that would be called Sentinel and placed in orbit around the sun, at a distance of 273 million kilometers from the Earth to detect most objects that are otherwise not visible. - AFP.

Concept drawing of the DE-STAR system engaging both an asteroid for evaporation or composition analysis, and simultaneously propelling an interplanetary spacecraft. (Philip M. Lubin).
Massive, Orbital Laser Blaster Could Defend Against Asteroid Threats.
Could a “Deathstar” someday defend Earth against incoming threats from space?  Last Friday, asteroid 2012 DA14 -- half a football field long and weighing about 190,000 tons -- missed plane Earth in a fly-by. Far smaller and therefore harder to detect was the 50 foot long asteroid that injured more than 1,000 Russians when it stuck a few hours earlier.  What can we do about these dangerous asteroid threats? Options on the table include detonating a nuclear weapon near the surface or below a threatening object, “Armageddon” style, or slamming a spacecraft into it to knock it off course.  Two California scientists have a better idea for how to save the world: a Deathstar, straight out of "Star Wars." 

Philip Lubin of the University of California Santa Barbara and Gary Hughes of California Polytechnic State University believe a directed-energy orbital defense system could eliminate a threat on the scale of 2012 DA14 in an hour.   Designed to destroy or deflect an asteroid, DE-STAR, or Directed Energy Solar Targeting of Asteroids, harnesses power from the sun and converts it into a massive phased laser beam array.  The laser beams can destroy or evaporate asteroids that pose a threat to Earth. It can also be used to deflect them away from the Earth or into the sun.  Deflection may be preferred to save the asteroid for lucrative, rare-element mining. Deep Space Industries announced earlier this year it will be racing against Planetary Resources to send mining missions to asteroids.  The scientists say it is based on current technology and enabled by advances in efficient conversion of electrical power to light.  The DE-STAR system is apparently scalable, ranging from a desktop device to one as large as six miles long – the larger the system the greater its power. 

According to the researchers, it even has the potential to destroy asteroids 10 times larger, the size of five football fields. It would take a year to vaporize one that giant but it would start evaporating it from as far away as the Sun.  For example, the DE-STAR 4 about 100 times the size of the International Space System could deliver 1.4 megatons of energy per day to its target.  The team says the same DE-STAR could also be used for deep space exploration.  The system would accelerate interplanetary travel speed, power deep space travel advanced ion drive systems and could “simultaneously evaporate an asteroid, determine the composition of another, and propel a spacecraft."  They believe their larger DE-STAR 6 could be a massive orbiting power source and could propel a 10-ton spacecraft at near the speed of light making interstellar possible. - FOX News.