Sunday, August 18, 2013

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Strange, Pulsating Star Found - Reveals Powerful Magnetic Field Around The Giant Black Hole At The Heart Of Earth's Milky Way Galaxy!

August 18, 2013 - SPACE - A strange, pulsing star has revealed a powerful magnetic field around the giant black hole at the heart of Earth’s Milky Way galaxy, scientists say.

Artist's impression of PSR J1745-2900, a pulsar with a very high magnetic field.

The finding may help shed light on how the galaxy's supermassive black hole devours matter around it and spits out powerful jets of superhot matter, the researchers added.

The center of virtually every large galaxy is suspected to host a supermassive black hole with a mass that can range from millions to billions of times the mass of the sun. Astronomers think the Milky Way's core is home to the monster black hole called Sagittarius A* — pronounced "Sagittarius A-star" — that is about 4 million times the mass of Earth's sun.

Scientists want to learn more about how black holes distort the universe around them, hoping to see if the leading theory regarding black holes, Einstein's theory of general relativity, holds up or if new concepts might be necessary. One way to see how black holes warp space and time is by looking at clocks near them. Cosmic versions of clocks are known as pulsars — rapidly spinning neutron stars that regularly give off pulses of radio waves.

Pulsar tells the tale

Astronomers have been searching for pulsars near Sagittarius A* for the past 20 years.

Earlier this year, NASA's NuSTAR telescope helped confirm the existence of such a pulsar apparently less than half a light-year away from the black hole, one that pulsates radio signals every 3.76 seconds. Scientists quickly analyzed the pulsar using the Effelsberg Radio Observatory of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany.

"On our first attempt, the pulsar was not clearly visible, but some pulsars are stubborn and require a few observations to be detected," said study lead author Ralph Eatough, an astrophysicist at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany. "The second time we looked, the pulsar had become very active in the radio band and was very bright. I could hardly believe that we had finally detected a pulsar in the galactic center."

Additional observations were performed in parallel and subsequently with other radio telescopes around the world. "We were too excited to sleep in between observations," said study co-author Evan Keane from the Jodrell Bank Observatory in England.

The newfound pulsar, named PSR J1745-2900, belongs to a rare kind of pulsars known as magnetars, which only make up about 1 out of every 500 pulsars found to date. Magnetars possess extremely powerful magnetic fields, ones about 1,000 times stronger than the magnetic fields of ordinary neutron stars, or 100 trillion times the Earth's magnetic field.

The radio pulses from magnetars are highly polarized, meaning these signals oscillate along one plane in space. This fact helped the researchers detect a magnetic field surrounding Sagittarius A*.

Black hole magnetic field revealed

Black holes swallow their surroundings, mainly hot ionized gas, in a process of accretion. Magnetic fields threading within this accretion flow can influence how this infalling gas is structured and behaves.

"The magnetic field we measure around the black hole can regulate the amount of matter the black hole eats and could even cause it to spit matter out in so-called jets," Eatough told "These measurements are therefore of great importance in understanding how supermassive black holes feed, a process that can affect galaxy formation and evolution."

As radio signals traverse the magnetized gas around black holes, the way they are polarized gets twisted depending on the strength of the magnetic fields. By analyzing radio waves from the magnetar, the researchers discovered a relatively strong, large-scale magnetic field pervades the area surrounding Sagittarius A*.

In the area around the pulsar, the magnetic field is about 100 times weaker than Earth's magnetic field. However, "the field very close to the black hole should be much stronger — a few hundred times the Earth's magnetic field," Eatough said.

If the magnetic field generated by the infalling gas is accreted down to the event horizon of the black hole — its point of no return — that could help explain the radio and X-ray glow long associated with Sagittarius A*, researchers added.

"It is amazing how much information we can extract from this single object," said study co-author Adam Deller at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy in Dwingeloo.

Astronomers predict there should be thousands of pulsars around the center of the Milky Way. Despite that, PSR J1745-2900 is the first pulsar discovered there. "Astronomers have searched for decades for a pulsar around the central black hole in our galaxy, without success. This discovery is an enormous breakthrough, but it remains a mystery why it has taken so long to find a pulsar there," said study co-author Heino Falcke at Radboud Universiteit Nijmegen in the Netherlands.

"It could be the environment is very dense and patchy, making it difficult to see other pulsars," Eatough added.

The researchers cannot test the leading theory regarding black holes using PSR J1745-2900 — they cannot measure the way it warps space-time accurately enough, since the pulsar is slightly too far away from Sagittarius A* and, being relatively young, its spin is too variable. The researchers suggest pulsars that are closer to the black hole and are older with less variable spins could help test the theory.

"If there is a young pulsar, there should also be many older ones. We just have to find them," said study co-author Michael Kramer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy.

The scientists detailed their findings online Aug. 14 in the journal Nature. - TWC.

GLOBAL FOOD CRISIS: Ominous Precedent On The Colorado River - Severe Drought Forces Dam Operators To Cut The Amount Of Water Supplying Millions Of Homes And Farms!

August 18, 2013 - UNITED STATES - In an ominous precedent, dam operators on the Colorado River will cut the amount of water released over next year from Lake Powell, a massive reservoir in the Western United States. The river flows through the Grand Canyon, eventually supplying millions of homes in Las Vegas and large farms in Arizona and California.

Red alert - Dropping water levels behind the Glen Canyon Dam will force operators to cut downstream
flows for the first time in dam’s 47-year history. Researchers say climate change could
make such moves more common in the future.
© T. Ross Reeve

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced today it will reduce the flow out of Glen Canyon Dam by 9% starting in October. Homeowners and farmers will still get the same amount as they do now, but the decision highlights the likelihood of future shortages. "I view this as another serious warning to users of the Colorado River that we're headed for big trouble," says water and climate specialist Peter Gleick of the Pacific Water Institute in Oakland, California.

Historically, the untamed Colorado River flooded after the snow melted in the Rocky Mountains and then water levels dropped during the summer. Two massive dams changed that behavior, regulating the river throughout the year and also generating billions of kilowatts of electricity. Glen Canyon Dam in northern Arizona created the vast Lake Powell in 1966. And more than 575 kilometers downstream, Hoover Dam, completed in 1936, heads up a reservoir called Lake Mead near Las Vegas, Nevada.

According to a 2007 agreement between the seven states that use the water from the Colorado River, the Bureau must keep a certain amount of water in the reservoirs. Both reservoirs, the two largest in the country, are now about half full - or empty, depending on how you look at it. "This is the worst 14-year drought period in the last hundred years," the Bureau's Upper Colorado Regional Director Larry Walkoviak said in a statement.

As a result of the drought, less water has been flowing from the watershed into the upper Colorado River and into Lake Powell. Flows in July were just 13% of normal, so Powell has continued to drain. Over the next operational year, which begins 1 October, the Bureau will release just 9.23 cubic kilometers of water into the river, compared to the usual 10.15 cubic kilometers.

And with a smaller river flowing downstream, levels in Lake Mead will drop by an additional 2.4 meters. The reservoir will nevertheless remain high enough for the same amount of water to be released from Hoover Dam as this year. Looking ahead to 2015, however, there is a 2% chance that Hoover dam will have to cut back, according to the Bureau's 2-year forecast of river conditions and dam operations. Those odds go up to 50% in 2016. If Hoover Dam tightens the tap, some users of the Colorado River would get less water than before, as specified in the 2007 agreement.

Even though today's announced cut doesn't immediately affect users, "it portends worse coming down the line," says Tim Barnett, a climate modeler at Scripps Institute of Oceanography, who has predicted frequent shortages in the Colorado River water deliveries over the coming decades due to climate change. "It's pretty scary when you look at the economic ramifications." Both he and Gleick note a fundamental problem: More water has been promised to 27 million users than can be supplied by the river. - Science Mag.

d more here:

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: 80 Dead Giant Turtles Wash Up On Beaches In Guatemala!

August 18, 2013 - GUATEMALA - About 80 turtles have been found dead in seven Pacific beaches (south) of Guatemala since last July, reported on Monday that Guatemalan environmental mortality attributed to shrimp fishing in the region.

Volunteers help dig a hole to place sea turtle eggs to protect them.

Read more here:

"From the first week of July to date, have been sighted about 80 dead sea turtles," which "coincides with the presence of shrimp boats in waters off these beaches," he said in a statement nongovernmental Rescue and Conservation Association Wildlife (Arcas).

"It is clearly documented that the practice of trawl fishing is a threat to sea turtles," explained the organization conservacionsita in the press release.

According to Arcas, people settled in the Guatemalan Pacific Coast located 72 dead ridleys (Lepidochelys olivacea), seven black turtles (Chelonia mydas agazzisi) and one of the species leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea).

"These last two species (are) critically threatened with extinction worldwide," explains the report.

Conservationists and researchers in Guatemala environmentalists urged the government to restrict fishing of shrimp to "establish the impact of economic activity on marine turtle populations," the statement added.

According to the text, controlled gatherers turtle eggs are concerned about the deaths threaten their livelihood.

"These species are a valuable resource to be alive, both as a tourist attraction and a source of income by collecting eggs under a program that allows the collection of eggs, provided they deliver 20 percent of each nest Local a turtle ", the statement added.

For its part, the Ministry of Agriculture responsible for fishing in Guatemala, investigates "the real cause" of the death of turtles, local media said Sebastian Marcucci, assistant director of that institution.

In El Salvador, the environmental authorities investigate whether toxic microalgae are responsible for the death of a dozen sea turtles located in the last two weeks on the Pacific coast of that country. - El Nuevo Herald. [Translated]

d more here:

EXTREME WEATHER: NASA's Aqua Satellite Captures Dozens Of Raging Fires In Eastern Russia!

August 18, 2013 - SIBERIA - The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite detected dozens of fires burning in eastern Russia in this satellite image captured on August 15, 2013. The fires are outlined in red. Smoke appears as grayish, wispy air currents.

Jeff Schmaltz LANCE/EOSDIS MODIS Rapid Response Team, GSFC

The location, widespread nature, and number of fires suggest that these fires were deliberately set to manage land. Farmers often use fire to return nutrients to the soil and to clear the ground of unwanted plants. While fire helps enhance crops and grasses for pasture, the fires also produce smoke that degrades air quality.

According to NOVA Online, "The largest area of forests in the European region, spanning eleven time zones, is Russia. Approximately 95 percent of Russian forests lie in the boreal zone, as in Canada, and Russia's fire seasons closely resemble Canada's, with most burning occurring in late summer. A majority of Russia's boreal forests are remote and contain large amounts of accumulated fuel matter. Unmanaged fires burn freely during the fire season.

Agricultural burning occurs in pockets of the Russian Federation, and many of these human-set fires quickly become uncontrolled wildfires. In recent years, fire-management teams in Russia have begun to assess ways to limit uncontrolled fires in the boreal forests, for they are a major source of carbon emissions; the carbon stored in these boreal forests accounts for approximately 37 percent of the total global carbon pool. " - NASA.

SOLAR WATCH: Sun Unleashes M3.3 Solar Flare And Coronal Mass Ejection - Could Deliver Glancing Blow To Earth And Trigger Polar Geomagnetic Storms!

August 18, 2013 - SPACE - According to NOAA analysts, a CME hurled into space by an M-class solar flare on August 17th will probably miss Earth.

Attached image by SDO shows a jet of plasma released by 1818 in the aftermath of the initial M3.3 flare.The Solar-X-Rays are currently above the moderate M-Class threshold as the region continues to reverberate.

The M3.3 solar flare was associated with a 10cm Radio Burst (TenFlare) lasting 25 minutes and measuring 150 solar flux units. Type II and IV sweep frequency events were also detected, including a Type II radio emission with a velocity of 1399 km/s.

WATCH: Long Duration M3.3 Solar Flare - August 17, 2013.

SUMMARY: 10cm Radio Burst
Begin Time: 2013 Aug 17 1908 UTC
Maximum Time: 2013 Aug 17 1915 UTC
End Time: 2013 Aug 17 1933 UTC
Duration: 25 minutes
Peak Flux: 150 sfu
Latest Penticton Noon Flux: 120 sfu
Description: A 10cm radio burst indicates that the electromagnetic burst associated with a solar flare at the 10cm wavelength was double or greater than the initial 10cm radio background. This can be indicative of significant radio noise in association with a solar flare. This noise is generally short-lived but can cause interference for sensitive receivers including radar, GPS, and satellite communications.

Type II Radio Emission

Begin Time: 2013 Aug 17 1856 UTC
Estimated Velocity: 1399 km/s
Description: Type II emissions occur in association with eruptions on the sun and typically indicate a coronal mass ejection is associated with a flare event.

Type IV Radio Emission

Begin Time: 2013 Aug 17 1909 UTC
Description: Type IV emissions occur in association with major eruptions on the sun and are typically associated with strong coronal mass ejections and solar radiation storms.

However, Earth will pass through the wake of the CME after the cloud itself passes by. This could trigger polar geomagnetic storms despite the CME being off-target. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras on August 20-21.

The Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) photographed the CME billowing away from the sun's southwestern limb on August 17th.

Standard Lasco C2 image with a bright CME now visible.

A coronal mass ejection is shown in the latest coronagraph imagery released by STEREO Ahead.
Two questions remain. How large will it be and will there be an Earth directed component.

Attached is an impressive Earth facing image released by Lasco C2 showing a very bright Coronal
Mass Ejection (CME). A majority of the ejected plasma looks to be directed southwest,
however an Earth directed component is possible.

Sunspot 1818 will remain the largest threat for another isolated M-Class event while it holds on to its delta magnetic configuration. Sunspot 1817 continues to shrink in both size and magnetic complexity as it rotates towards the southwest limb. New sunspot 1824 grew quickly on Saturday and is currently a beta magnetic region. Separation between the leader and trailer spots is being observed. A new sunspot rotated into view off the southeast limb and will be assigned a number today. So far it appears to be stable. The source of a long duration C-Class flare Saturday morning is now just beginning to rotate into view off the northeast limb.

Sunspot AR1818 has a 'beta-gamma-delta' magnetic field that harbors energy for strong flares.
Credit: SDO/HMI
Earth is inside a stream of solar wind flowing from this coronal hole.

Credit: SDO/AIA.

A minor glancing blow at best will be possible by August 20th as the eastern flank of the plasma clouds possibly sweeps past Earth.

SOURCES: Space Weather | Solar Ham.

SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: A New Star In The Sky - Surging Nova, With Stellar Brightness Above The 6th Magnitude, Discovered In The Minor Constellation Delphinus!

August 18, 2013 - SPACE - Around the world, amateur astronomers are turning their telescopes toward minor constellation Delphinus where a new star has appeared.

Koichi Itagaki of Yamagata, Japan, discovered the nova on August 14th. At the time, the stellar brightness was +6.3. Since then it has continued to brighten, crossing the 6th magnitude threshold of naked-eye visibility. John Chumack photographed the surging nova on August 15th from the John Bryan State Park in Yellow Springs, Ohio:

"The nova is hard to see naked eye unless you are in a very dark sky and know exactly where to look," says Chumack, "but this is a very bright nova visible in binoculars." He used a 16-inch Newtonian telescope to take the picture.

Backyard astronomers who wish to see this nova should point their GOTO telescopes to coordinates 20:23:30.7, +20:46:06 (J2000). 

The nova in Delphinus is now around magnitude 5.0, on fine display high in the evening sky. It erupted on August 14th. It's easy to see with binoculars even in bright urban surroundings with a good chart, and it's visible to the unaided eye in a fairly dark sky.

The nova is easy to locate north of the lovely star pattern of Delphinus. Sagitta, the Arrow, points toward it.

The new nova is in the northwest corner of Delphinus, near the border with Sagitta and Vulpecula.
Sky & Telescope diagram

Use the chart at above, or download this printable, full-page chart, which is a slightly modified version of page 64 from Sky & Telescope's Pocket Sky Atlas.

Here's a 10°-wide comparison-star chart from the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO). The nova is the cross at center. The AAVSO's comparison-star magnitudes are the ones used by observers so that different estimates will be made consistently.

Itagaki 's image was taken at 18h Universal Time (2 p.m. EDT) on August 14th. It was not present in a photo that he took the previous day. Here is the announcement from the IAU's Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams.

A closeup of Nova Delphini 2013, at center, taken on the morning of August 16th (EDT). Click for wide-field view,
with Sagitta at right. S&T's Dennis di Cicco used a 180-mm f/2.8 lens at f/8 on a Nikon D700 DSLR, set at ISO 400,
for this 5-minute tracked exposure. S&T: Dennis di Cicco

A classical nova happens in a special kind of tightly-orbiting binary star system: one where a relatively normal star pours a stream of hydrogen onto the surface of a companion white dwarf. When the layer of fresh hydrogen on the white dwarf's surface grows thick and dense enough, the bottom of the layer explodes in a runaway hydrogen-fusion reaction — a hydrogen bomb in the shape of a thin shell roughly the size of Earth. The underlying white dwarf remains intact, and as new hydrogen builds up, the process may repeat in a few years to tens of thousands of years.

SOURCE: Space Weather | Sky and Telescope.

MONUMENTAL GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Sakurajima Volcano Erupts In Japan - The Largest Eruption In Decades; Sends Ash Plume Thousands Of Feet High! [PHOTOS+VIDEOS]

August 18, 2013 - JAPAN - Sakurajima, one of Japan's most active volcanoes, experienced one of its most powerful eruptions in decades Sunday, sending an ash plume thousands of feet into the air.

Volcanic smoke billows from Mount Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. Sunday's eruption
marked the 500th eruption this year at the mountain, which is one of Japan's most active volcanoes.
(AP Photo/Kagoshima Local Meteorological Observatory)

The volcano, located in the far southwestern part of Japan's mainland on the island of Kyushu, began to erupt at 4:31 p.m. local time Sunday (3:31 a.m. EDT U.S. time). The smoke plume eventually reached a height of 5,000 meters (approximately 16,000 feet), according to the Kagoshima Local Meteorological Observatory. Public broadcaster NHK reported it was the volcano's tallest ash plume since records began in 1955.

Volcanic smoke from Mount Sakurajima flows into an urban area in Kagoshima, Japan, Sunday,
Aug. 18, 2013. Sunday's eruption marked the 500th eruption this year at the mountain,
which is one of Japan's most active volcanoes. (AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Volcanic smoke billows from Mount Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013.
Sunday's eruption marked the 500th eruption this year at the mountain,
which is one of Japan's most active volcanoes.
(AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Visibility in the city of Kagoshima, where the volcano sits, deteriorated quickly as ash spread into populated portions of the city of 600,000 residents, according to the English-language NHK World website. NHK World said a pyroclastic flow, a fast-moving current of gas and rock, was observed along a one-kilometer (0.6-mile) swath on the southeast flank of the mountain.

Japanese news media said it was the 500th eruption of 2013 at Sakurajima. There are no early reports of any injuries.

Volcanic smoke billows from Mount Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013.
Sunday's eruption marked the 500th eruption this year at the mountain,
which is one of Japan's most active volcanoes.
(AP Photo/Kyodo News)

Volcanic smoke billows from Mount Sakurajima in Kagoshima, Japan, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013.
Sunday's eruption marked the 500th eruption this year at the mountain,
which is one of Japan's most active volcanoes.
(AP Photo/Kagoshima Local Meteorological Observatory)

The eruption is the latest in a string of recent natural calamities in Japan. A deadly, record-shattering heat wave has gripped Japan most of this month. Northern Japan suffered deadly landslides earlier this month and has seen additional heavy rainfall and floods in more recent days. - TWC.

WATCH: Video from Japan's FNN television network shows the initial moment of the eruption:

WATCH: Kagoshima in ashes.

FIRE IN THE SKY: U.S. Military's 'Space Fence' Shutdown - Will Weaken Orbital Surveillance Network!

August 18, 2013 - SPACE - The U.S. Air Force's decision to shut down a key component of its Space Surveillance Network will weaken the service's ability to accurately detect and characterize objects in Earth orbit, experts say.

This computer illustration depicts the density of space junk around Earth in low-Earth orbit. Image: ESA

The space fence shutdown, ordered by Gen. William Shelton, commander of Air Force Space Command, also will reduce the overall capacity of the system, these experts said. At the same time, they suggested it could increase pressure on the Air Force to award a contract on a next-generation system, which has stalled amid a Pentagon-wide review of its acquisition plans.

According to two recent memos obtained by SpaceNews, the Air Force will shut down the aging Air Force Space Surveillance System, also known informally as the Space Fence, Sept. 1. The memos, from Austin Frindt, a contracting officer with Air Force Space Command, were addressed to Five Rivers Services of Colorado Springs, Colo., operator of the current Space Fence, which consists of a line of VHF radars stretching across the southern United States.

Deployed in the 1960s, the VHF Space Fence includes three transmitter sites and six receiving stations. It is responsible for approximately 40 percent of all observations performed by the Air Force-run Space Surveillance Network, which includes other ground-and space-based sensor assets, said Brian Weeden, technical adviser at the Secure World Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to space sustainability.
"The Space Fence does a lot of heavy lifting," said Dave Baiocchi, a senior engineer at the Rand Corp., an Air Force think tank in Santa Monica, Calif. Without it, "you're missing some level of accuracy," he said.

In a memo dated Aug. 1, Frindt said the Air Force was not exercising its option for a fifth year of a contract to provide management and logistical support for the nine field stations.

Lori Thomas, president of Five Rivers Services, declined to comment and referred questions to the Air Force.

"This is your notice to begin preparing the sites for closure," the memo said. "A specific list of action items will be provided as soon as it is finalized."

A follow-up memo dated Aug. 9 asked Five Rivers for an analysis of what it would cost to close the Space Fence sites. This memo said the system would be turned off Sept. 1.

In an email Aug. 5 Andy Roake, a spokesman for Air Force Space Command, pointed to the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. "In this tough, sequestered budget environment, we're considering many options, but for FY14, no final decisions have been made," he said.

The memos suggest otherwise, asking for photographs of the closed sites, plywood on windows and weekly updates. Roake did not respond to follow-up questions by press time. A spokesman for the U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the Joint Space Operations Center, referred questions to Space Command.

Though part of a broader surveillance network, the VHF Space Fence is crucial because it can track objects up to 24,000 kilometers away. Other ground-based sensors in the network generally track objects at altitudes lower than a few thousand kilometers, Weeden said.

"The Space Fence is very important as it gives an 'uncued tracking' capability," Weeden said. "Because it's constantly transmitting, it can detect objects without being tasked to do so. There are some other sensors in the network that can do uncued tracking to some degree, but the Space Fence is rather unique in the sheer size of the detection coverage it has."

The Space Fence, along with operators at the Joint Space Operations Center, can observe objects down to the size of a basketball and make precise determinations of their characteristics, location and movement. Each month the system is responsible for logging more than 5 million observations of space objects, according to an Air Force fact sheet.

Experts said without the Space Fence, the Air Force will have a harder time knowing when orbital collisions have occurred.

"It will be more difficult and take longer to detect and catalog new pieces of debris, especially those from large breakups," Weeden said. "And the loss of capacity likely means that we have less accurate orbits for a good portion of the space debris" in low Earth Orbit, he said.

In April, Shelton said two of the Space Fence's receiver sites had been placed in cold storage, one in Glennville, Ga., and one in Hollandale, Miss., reducing the overall accuracy and effectiveness of the system. The change was made as part of the Air Force's response sequestration, the across-the board-budget cuts that took effect in March.

In July, the Air Force released a request for proposals to operate the aging system beginning in September 2015 — one year after the Five Rivers Services' contract was set to expire. The request said the Space Fence "has been identified as a critical defense system and, therefore, shall be manned on a 24-hour, 7-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year basis at transmitter sites and 8-hour, 7-days-a-week, 365-days-a-year basis at receiver sites."

But as sequestration lingered, experts said, turning off the Space Fence may well have been the best of a bad set of options. Other sensors, they noted, have a dual mission that includes space surveillance and missile warning.

"Closing them down would have impacted those other missions and likely generated a lot more political heat from Congress," Weeden said.

Meanwhile, an overdue contract to build a next-generation Space Fence is on hold due to the Defense Department's recently completed Strategic Choices and Management Review, which examined the Pentagon's options under three different funding scenarios for the next decade.

Baiocchi said he expected the closure of the current Space Fence to increase pressure on the Pentagon and Congress to fund a next-generation system, consisting of S-band radars, that would be capable of tracking golf ball-sized objects.

Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Sensors of Moorestown, N.J., and Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems of Tewksbury, Mass., have developed competing designs for the new Space Fence.

Shelton said in July that engineers at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida were looking for ways to improve the current Space Fence as a contingency plan should the Pentagon elect not to go forward with the next-generation system. - Scientific American.

GREAT DELUGE: Precursors To A Global Coastal Event - Huge Flood Wave Threatens Major Russian Far Cities As Region Is Hit By Cyclones; 120 Populated Areas; 32,000 People Affected; 17,000 Persons Evacuated!

August 18, 2013 - RUSSIA - A section of the world famous Trans Siberian Railway was closed on Thursday on the route linking capital Moscow with Vladivostok. Flood water washed away some of the stone ballast supporting the track in Amur region after a nearby river reached a 'critical level, said a Russian Railways statement.

The Amur River is expected to rise to its highest-ever 7 metres in coming days, posing major threats to the city of Khabarovsk, as well as Komsomolsk-on-Amur and Nikolayevsk-on-Amur, also with many more districts. Blagoveschensk is also threatened. © Vitaly Ragulin

Both Amur and Khabarovsk regions are devastated by record deluges which have caused rivers to break their banks, forcing residents to abandon their homes and threatening disease.

A state of emergency is in force in these two regions along with the Sakha republic (Yakutia), Primorye region, and the Jewish Autonomous region.

The Amur River is expected to rise to its highest-ever 7 metres in coming days, posing major threats to the city of Khabarovsk, as well as Komsomolsk-on-Amur and Nikolayevsk-on-Amur, also with many more districts. Blagoveschensk is also threatened. In Khabarovsk, the authorities called for residents of Bolshoi Ussuriysky Island - a sedimentary island at the confluence of the Amur and Ussuri rivers - to urgently leave and move to the mainland.

The Chinese part of the island is already submerged and the Russia part is expected to be underwater by early next week.

In Amur region, some 14,000 have been evacuated from their water-sodden homes, with the worst yet to come. In the Jewish Autonomous Region, a report said there was a near 10 metre rise in the water level of the Amur, with 44% increase in houses underwater in 24 hours. There are concerns the serious flooding could continue beyond mid-September as the federal and regional authorities seek to grapple with the growing crisis.

Russian Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov and members of the government commission for emergencies were in Blagoveshchensk on Friday. He was due to fly over worst-hit areas.

Sun Square at the Bolshoi Ussuriysky Island near the city of Khabarovsk, pictured before the flooding and now,
and sunk workers' settlement, also at Chinese part of the island.
© Alexander Leonkin

In other developments, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced 'all medical institutions in emergency areas in the Far East will give free medical aid to people affected by the floods', said his press service.

More than 100 military doctors, paramedics and nurses are on duty in the flood-affected areas. Eight sanitary groups are monitoring water levels in the Primorye, Khabarovsk and the Amur region. A key problem from the flooding is the hundreds of thousands of hectares of agricultural land submerged by flood water, with Amur, Khabarovsk and Primorye regions all severely hit.

'Crops have been almost submerged by flood waters across the Far East, making it impossible to collect the harvest,' said Viktor Ishayev, Far East development minister and the Russian president's envoy to the Far East.

'Hayfields, which provide livestock with food, are under flood waters as well. And if people choose to slaughter their cattle, restoring the livestock population to its current level will prove unrealistic. Colossal damage will be caused to the agricultural sector there. I will not give you any estimates at the moment, but it is clear that the extent of damage will be significant as 1.5 million hectares of farmland have been submerged by flood waters in the region'.

On Thursday, President Putin ordered additional assistance to victims from the Emergencies and Defence Ministries. And he instructed Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova to take 'all possible disease control and prevention measures and to provide timely medical aid to the population in the flooded areas'.

In another move, the Kremlin leader ordered Energy Minister Alexander Novak and CEO of the JSC Rushydro hydroelectricity company Yevgeny Dod to fly to Blagoveshchensk. Dod told the president that RusHydro will immediately allocate 100 million roubles for the payment of compensation to the people affected by floods in the Amur Region.

© Vitaly Ragulin

The authorities have had to increase discharges from the Zeye and Bureya hydro dams because of the colossal water flow from heavy rains and cyclonic conditions. Dramatic pictures show the extent of record flooding in the Amur region in the Far East of Russia, with the peak still to strike Russia's extreme east. Rescuers are bracing themselves for peak flooding late this week after several weeks deluged by heavy rain.

Some villages are cut off and now depend on deliveries by plane of bread, water, mail and even pensions.

'Our units are ready for the flood peak. As of today no victims have been reported. I believe it will be so,' said Sergei Didenko, head of the emergency HQ dealing with the crisis.

As the pictures below show, thousands are living in shelters.

'As a result of heavy rain, more than 100 settlements have found themselves in the flood zone since the end of July, and more than 60 settlements remain in this zone in the Amur region,' said one official.

In danger is the region's largest cattle farm in Novopetrovka village. Water is holding back by the last dam. If it bursts, the village will be divided into three islands, and it will be too late to save the cattle which have not been fed for several days.

The head of Rodina collective farm, Alexander Silohin, said: 'Four dams were broken, and all this water with mud, clumps and silt came to our settlements.

'The outbreaks of diseases has begun.'

Didenko added: 'Our plane carried pre-engineering dams from the Federal Agency for State Reserves. They help us prepare settlements for the water rise.

© Vitaly Ragulin

'The Amur region received four kilometres of such dams. Let's see them function. Then we'll ask for additional dams to protect other settlements.'

Reports on Thursday said some 10,168 rescuers and 1,549 machines, including 3,311 workers and 457 pieces of hardware belonging to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry have been assigned to clean up after the flooding. The Russian army has been deployed to assist people in distress from the flooding.

More than 1,000 servicemen and 1,556 units of special hardware struggle against the natural disaster.  - The Siberian Times.

Floods In Russia's Far East Claim More Areas
The number of populated areas affected by flooding in Russia's Far East has risen to more than 120, affecting more than 32,000 people, the Emergencies Ministry said Saturday.

Ninety-four of the areas affected are in the Amur Region, a ministry spokesperson told RIA Novosti.

More than 17,000 people have been evacuated, including 6,100 children, the spokesperson said.

The Amur Region is one of three regions in Russia's Far East - together with the Khabarovsk Territory and the Jewish Autonomous Region - that have been affected by flooding following heavy rain in the area.

One hundred and sixty-six temporary shelters have been set up across the three regions, providing drinking water, hot food and medical supplies, Health Minister Veronika Skvortsova said at a meeting with President Vladimir Putin devoted to the flooding Saturday.

An Emergencies Ministry plane delivered 53 tons of humanitarian aid, including food, lifejackets and boats, to the city of Blagoveshchensk in the Amur Region on Saturday for those affected by the flooding, the ministry said.

Emergencies Minister Vladimir Puchkov visited the Amur Region on Saturday, where he met with residents of the village of Ivanovka, which has been flooded several times during the last month. Residents who have returned to their homes, having been evacuated from the village previously, expressed concern over the coming winter, telling Puchkov that they have been living in a state of emergency for a month, and have been left without electricity for half of that time.

"We will solve the issue of rehousing those whose homes cannot be rebuilt to other places or residential areas," Puchkov said.

Hydrometeorologists forecast the volume of rainfall to decrease and the level of the Amur River to stop rising so fast after August 20, Vyacheslav Parshin, head of the Far East hydrometeorology and environmental monitoring department, said Saturday, adding that the level of the river, which he said is expected to rise to seven meters by August 25, had never been so high.

Putin instructed the governors of the affected regions to handle the response to the flooding personally at the meeting devoted to the flooding Saturday.

"No one must be forgotten, and no one must be lost, I mean those people who live in your regions," he said.

"Large areas of territory have been flooded, dozens of residential areas; communication lines have been damaged, as well as roads, bridges and electricity cables. The damage is very severe. The main thing we were able to do was prevent the loss of human life," Putin said.

Last July, the southern Russian city of Krymsk and the surrounding region suffered devastating floods that killed more than 170 people and caused massive damage and destruction.

Officials came under fire from local residents and the political opposition over what they deemed an inefficient response to the disaster, with some residents complaining that the state has been slow to provide compensation and new housing. - RIA Novosti.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Nepal To Cull 500,000 Chickens Near Kathmandu To Combat Major Bird Flu Outbreak - Tens Of Thousands Have Already Been Killed?!

August 18, 2013 - NEPAL - Half a million chickens are to be culled in a district on the outskirts of Nepal's capital Kathmandu, as efforts to combat a major outbreak of bird flu are stepped up.

Photo: Some 62 cases of bird flu have been recorded at 250 poultry farms in recent weeks.
(AFP: Prakash Mathema)

Tens of thousands of birds have already been killed in what government officials have described as one of the country's worst outbreaks of avian flu.

Now authorities in the Himalayan nation have declared the area of Bhaktapur an emergency zone.

Some 62 cases of bird flu have been recorded at 250 poultry farms in three districts in the past few weeks, officials said.

A spokesman for the Directorate of Animal Health said the government ordered the cull to be stepped up after a week-long ban imposed on the sales of poultry products failed to control the H5N1 virus.

"We could not control it (the outbreak) because the supply of poultry products continued despite the ban," Narayan Ghimire said.

"Now, the poultry farmers have joined us in our battle. We are sure we will control it."

Nepal's first outbreak of bird flu was in January 2009.

H5N1, a common strain of bird flu, has killed 377 people globally between 2003 until July 5 this year, according to the World Health Organisation.

No human deaths from bird flu have been reported in Nepal. - ABC Australia.

MASS MAMMAL DIE-OFF: 21 Dead Turtles Mysteriously Wash Up On Beaches In 15 Days In El Salvador?!

August 18, 2013 - EL SALVADOR - Boats?, Algae or contamination? Whatever the cause for which 21 turtles have been found dead on two beaches Abroad in a span of 15 days, the fact has not gone unnoticed. Conservationists suspect that industrial fishing is the cause, while MARN technicians investigate whether a concentration of algae 80 nautical miles offshore has led to the phenomenon.

Technical Protortuga, Guatemala, made this leatherback necropsy and took tissue sample. Photo EDH / ARKS

Michael Liles, the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (ICAPO) confirmed that authorities have contacted those involved in conservation projects to call to report any findings.
"I think they want to go and take tissue samples for analysis," he said.

Enrique Barraza, MARN, said the turtle tissue will be analyzed in a laboratory at the University of El Salvador and also analyze water samples for the presence of toxins.

In July, in the Bay of Jaquilisco, Liles recorded three hawksbill turtle deaths.
He confirmed that the toxicity of some algae can kill turtles, but thought to die more because of boats beaten or caught in their nets.

"The biggest threat are industrial vessels who walk there in front (of the beach). Lets say about 20 to 10 come ashore dead by a red tide that's like a typical week with shrimp boats," he says.

The deaths have set in motion MARN technicians occurred in two beaches Abroad: Monte Ball and Garita Palmera.
Wildlife manager, Nestor Herrera, explained that so far this year there have been 41 deaths of turtles, of which those recorded in these beaches equal to 50%. Herrera explained that most strandings occur between July and October, so the number may increase.

He noted that there are multiple causes.
Among the reported cases there are four victims of bycatch and six kidney problems.

A regional phenomenon

Monte Ball and Garita Palmera are near the border with Guatemala, where the National Protected Areas Commission has registered 80 dead turtles.

Since the first week of July, 54 turtles were reported by the Rescue and Conservation Association Wildlife (Areas) in the neighboring country.

The findings occurred on the beaches: The Barrona, Las Lisas, Flange and Hawaii.
Among the specimens had 46 ridleys turtles (Lepidochelys olivacea), seven black turtles (Chelonia mydas agazzisi) and a leatherback turtle (Dermochelys coriacea).

"The loss of these two species is especially painful given their status in critically endangered," the association said in its Facebook page.

From this association noted that cases coincide with the presence of sea-water shrimp boats off the beaches Guatemalan mentioned.

"It is well documented that the practice of trawling is a threat to sea turtles", they say.
So, prepare to ask the government to cope with mortality of turtles and watch the shrimp boats to determine their impact on sea turtle populations.

If necessary, ask to establish a ban to protect turtles in the breeding season.

Elsewhere in Central America, on August 7, the Supreme Court of Costa Rica ruled unconstitutional trawling.

The judges considered that it has been scientifically proven that this technique "causes serious harm to the marine environment, due to the amount of marine life that is incidentally captured but not used".

The director of the Zoological Foundation of El Salvador (Funzel), Rodrigo Samayoa Valiente urges to determine the cause of death of the turtles.

The latest death reported by Funzel corresponds to an adult Olive Ridley turtle, which was found in the Barra de Santiago.
By asking the autopsy, it was found that the turtle had a kidney infection. "I think we have a very strong pollution problem," said Samayoa Valiente. - El Salvador. [Translated]

ANIMAL BEHAVIOR: Rare Ragfish Washes Up On Alaskan Beach?!

August 18, 2013 - ALASKA - Although this gnarly fish isn't uncommon in Alaska waters, it's rare that one of them makes an appearance on shore, especially in Juneau. A dead ragfish, scientific name Icosteus aenigmaticus, washed up on Lena Beach early this month, Juneau resident Michael Hays told us.

This ragfish washed up on the shore of Lena Beach early in the month of August. According to Mary Willson,
a retired professor of ecology, ragfish are very distantly related to perch and bass, but they are characterized
by a skeleton that is mostly cartilage and flabby flesh. Juveniles look quite different from adults in body
shape and fin shape, and adults have no body scales.
© Michael Hays

It was longer than a shovel, battered and looking less than appealing. However, this particular specimen is small for its size - ragfish can reach an astounding 7 feet in length, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration biologist Dave Csepp said.

The fish are widespread throughout Alaska waters off the Bering Sea slope, hanging out deep, around 1,420 meters. However, they're not as common near Juneau - NOAA's Auke Bay Laboratories usually only get a few sightings of the fish each year, Csepp said in an email. They're most commonly caught in trawl nets or while trolling, and not very often found on beaches.

Yet another, larger fish, was found earlier this year. Mary Willson and Richard Carstensen encountered a dead ragfish in February, also on Lena Beach.

Although they don't look it, ragfish are floppy and limp like a rag, hence their name, Csepp said. These fish have mainly cartilaginous skeletons, and if you tried to bop one on the head with a salmon club, the club would go straight through. Ragfish have no scales, NOAA's Julie Speegle said. Their bodies are soft, their skin not unlike a squid's: a dark top layer can be easily removed to reveal smooth, white flesh underneath, Csepp said. They feed on small fish and cephalopods, and are food for sperm whales.

Besides what we know about the ragfish's colossal size and bizarre anatomy, not much is known about this species, Csepp said.

So, if you come across one on the beach, take some photos. You're one of the lucky few to come in contact with this mysterious fish. - Juneau Empire.

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: 15 TONS Of Dead Fish, Plus Crabs And Birds Found In A Lake In Rostov-on-Don, Russia?!

August 18, 2013 - RUSSIA - On the territory of the fishing industry, "Cossack woman", located in Rostov-on-Don on the Left Bank street, was discovered about 15 tons of dead fish.

In addition to fish, the complex began to die crabs and birds.

The cause of death, according to experts, could be chemical poisoning. The correspondent of " FederalPress.Yug . "

Dead fish, mainly carp, was found on the shore of the pond area of ​​210 hectares rybohozyaystvnnogo complex "Cossack woman", which belongs to the group of companies "AGROKOM" passed Rostov edition with reference to the press service of "Agrokoma." It is reported that in addition to fish, the complex began to die crabs and birds. The probable cause, according to experts, is a chemical poisoning.

The incident happened on August 11, the day after the injection of water into the pond from the Don. Experts suspect that, along with the river water to the fish could get dangerous chemicals. Currently, laboratory specialists Rosselkhoznadzor conduct the examination, the results of which will be known within 10 working days. - Fedpress. [Translated]

MASS BEES DIE-OFF: Beemageddon And The Global FOOD Crisis - Thousands Of Dead Bees Mysteriously Found On A Farm In Bauru, Brazil?!

August 18, 2013 - BRAZIL - On the ground, the bees are dead and tens of hives are empty. The reason of mass deaths is still unknown, but leaves the producer intrigued.

The boxes, according to agronomist Vitor Carvalho, are scattered by planting more than four years and even today he hadn't seen anything like it.

Wild insects are essential for the cultivation of thousands of feet of avocado, a type of avocado very used by international cuisine, that Vitor produces on the farm in Bauru, São Paulo. The bees are responsible for pollinating, that is the transport of grains of pollen from one flower to another.

Every three months, an average of 30 pounds of honey are produced by beehive. With the loss of 51 boxes and thousands of dead bees, which will directly reach the production of avocado, Vitor calculates a loss of r $ 500 thousand.

For the bee expert of Unesp, Botucatu Ricardo Orsi, several factors may have caused the death of bees. "The bees may have gone to seek food in a radius of two or three kilometers and any other contaminated source affected all of them. Another possibility are the aerial spraying, "he says.

The farmer went to a police station of Bauru and registered a police report. The case will be investigated. - Globo TV. [Translated]

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: Thousands Of Dead Fish Found Floating In A Lake In Xiamen, China?!

August 18, 2013 - CHINA - The afternoon of August 15, 2013, Xiamen when numerous dead fish floating on the Lake. Especially in the Lake next to the embankment, dead fish is more extruded film, smell bad, it is not close.

Photo: odd/Dongfang IC.

Xiamen City Lakes Management Office was informed that caused the death of fish a lot, first days of rain in the Lake salinity caused by plunging.

Lake lake water, storm before the onset of salinity in the Lake is 27, and yesterday's test salinity became 2.

Unable to adapt to sudden changes in water quality of fish in the Lake, resulting in death. Second, fish mass mortality caused by hypoxia.

Amount of oxygen in the water in the Lake after the storm only 0.5 mg/l, fish survival of normal standard is 4 mg/l and less than 1 mg/l, fish of oxygen will not survive. So, these two days a large number of fish floating in the Lake breathing. - Kaixian. [Translated]

MASS FISH DIE-OFF: 3,000 Dead Fish Found In A Dam In Avila, Spain?!

August 18, 2013 - SPAIN - The Douro River Basin (CHD) estimated 3,000 dead fish in the vicinity of the dam Fuentes Claras, in the tail of the reservoir Cogotas, between Tuesday and Wednesday.

According to the deputy commissioner Basin Agency, Urban Sanz, "lack of oxygen" was the reason for the plague, that is because the purification of Avila "performance has dropped because of the works," the storm, high temperatures and low levels of water in that area.

The fish, most goldfish have been collected between Wednesday and Thursday. - La Informacion. [Translated]