Thursday, November 14, 2013

FIRE IN THE SKY: Comet ISON Outburst - Sudden Outburst Of Brightness By A Factor Of 6, Catapults It To Threshold Of Naked-Eye Visibility; Astronomers And Scientists Are Puzzled?!

November 14, 2013 - SPACE - A sudden outburst of brightness from sundiving Comet ISON has catapulted it to the threshold of naked-eye visibility. "I've been imaging Comet ISON every morning," reports amateur astronomer Charles Coburn. of Rescue, CA. "Today, to my surprise, I could see it on my DSLR live preview screen." These two images show the comet on consecutive days as photographed by Coburn using the same camera and telescope settings:

Reports like Coburn's are coming in from around the world. Apparently, during the early hours of Nov. 14th Comet ISON surged in brightness by a factor of approximately 6. In terms of astronomical magnitudes, it jumped from +8 to +6. If the trend continues, it could be a faint but easy naked-eye object by the end of the week.

The sudden uptick in brightness could be caused by a fresh vein of ice opening up in the comet's nucleus. Rapid vaporization of ice by solar heat is a sure-fire way to boost a comet's visibility. But, as NASA's Comet ISON Observing Campaign states, "we have no idea." The comet's nucleus is hidden from view by a hazy green atmosphere, so events in the interior remain a mystery.

"I have a strong suspicion that this is Comet LINEAR (C/1999 S4) all over again," says Mark Kidger of the ESA's European Space Astronomy Centre in Madrid. In the year 2000, Kidger other astronomers monitored Comet LINEAR as it disintegrated en route to the sun. "The sudden appearance of ISON's gas tail (discussed further below), the increasing fuzziness of its coma, and now this sudden outburst all remind me of C/1999 S4 just before it broke apart."

To reiterate: No one knows what is happening to Comet ISON. This could be the comet's death throes--or just the first of many brightening events the comet experiences as it plunges toward the sun for a close encounter on Thanksgiving Day (Nov. 28th).

Monitoring is encouraged. Comet ISON rises in the east just before the sun. Amateur astronomers, if you have a GOTO telescope, enter these coordinates. Dates of special interest include Nov. 17th and 18th when the comet will pass the bright star Spica, making ISON extra-easy to find.

Sky maps: Nov. 15, 16, 17, 18, 19.

- Space Weather.

MONUMENTAL SOLAR SYSTEM CHANGES: NASA Declares That SOMETHING BIG Is About To Happen On The Sun - The Sun's Magnetic Field Is ABOUT TO FLIP!

November 14, 2013 - SUN - The sun's polarity is getting closer to flipping. The star's northern hemisphere's polarity has already reversed, and the southern hemisphere should follow suit soon, scientists say.

The Sun's magnetic poles are about to flip. The major event will have effects all across the solar system.

Every 11 years or so, the two hemispheres of the sun reverse their polarity, creating a ripple effect that can be felt throughout the far reaches of the solar system. The sun is currently going through one of those flips in its cycle, scientists working at Stanford University's Wilcox Solar Observatory, which has monitored the sun's magnetic field since 1975, said.

"The sun's poles are reversing, and this is a large-scale process that takes place over a few months, but it happens once every 11 years," Todd Hoeksema, a solar physicist at Stanford said in a video about the polarity reversal. "What we're looking at is really a reversal of the whole heliosphere, everything from the sun out past the planets."

WATCH:  Stanford scientist explains Sun's magnetic reversal.

The polarity reversal builds up over time. A sunspot spreads out, causing the sun's magnetic field to migrate from the equator of the star to one of the sun's poles. As this change occurs, the sun's magnetic field reduces to zero and then comes back with the opposite polarity, Hoeksema said in a statement.

"When that reverses it effects us here on Earth because not only do we see more cosmic rays, but there's also more activity on the sun," Hoeksema said. "That activity comes in and it affects the Earth's magnetic field."

Astronomers at the Wilcox Solar Observatory (WSO) monitor the sun's global magnetic field on a daily basis.
WSO home page

The planet's magnetic field affects technology on Earth like GPS systems and power grids, Hoeksema said. The uptick in solar activity can also create brilliant auroras on Earth and on certain planets of the solar system.

"We also see the effects of this on other planets," Hoeksema said in a statement. "Jupiter has storms, Saturn has auroras, and this is all driven by activity of the sun."

WATCH: A new ScienceCast video anticipates the reversal of the sun's global magnetic field.

This part of the sun's cycle is known as the "solar maximum." The solar max marks the peak in the star's activity. Usually, the sun's polarity reversal happens during this period of the solar cycle, however, the reversal isn't responsible for the increased number of solar flares and eruptions known as coronal mass ejections usually observed around solar max.

The increased activity acts as an indicator that the polarity reversal will occur, but it doesn't cause the sun to become more active, Hoeksema said in an earlier interview with

An artist's concept of the heliospheric current sheet, which becomes more wavy when
the sun's magnetic field flips. More

The polarity reversal probably won't harmfully impact Earth, in fact, it could even protect the planet in some ways, scientists have said.

The sun's huge "current sheet" — a surface extending out from the sun's equator — becomes wavier as the poles reverse. The sheet's crinkles can create a better barrier against the cosmic rays that can damage satellites, other spacecraft and people in orbit, scientists said. - FOX News.

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: Global Volcano Report For November 14, 2013 - Updates On Sakurajima, Etna, Klyuchevskoy, Aso, Bagana, Sinabung, Popocatépetl, Reventador, Jebel Zubair And Heard! [PHOTOS+VIDEOS]

November 14, 2013 - WORLDWIDE VOLCANOES - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe, courtesy of  Volcano Discovery.

Sakurajima (Kyushu, Japan): The volcano has picked up activity again.

Vulcanian explosion from Sakurajima this morning with lightning in the ash plume.

Over the past days, the Showa crater has been producing near-constant ash emissions and several vulcanian explosions with ash plumes rising up to 14,000 ft (4.2 km) altitude.

WATCH: Sakurajima volcano eruption with lightning.

Etna (Sicily, Italy): Activity at the New SE crater has decreased during the night, but probably weak strombolian explosions still occur from time to time. At the moment, weather is very bad and visible observations difficult. The tremor decreased as well, but has gained again and continues to show an overall increasing trend, similar to the days before the 10-11 Nov paroxysm.

Current tremor signal (ESLN station, INGV Catania)

Tremor amplitude (EFTI station), cut off in the morning of November 11th, when the station was covered by lava.

WATCH: Etna volcano activity on November 13 -14.

The last recorded signal from the Torre del Filosofo seismic station (ETFI), showing the tremor intensity at unprecedented levels. If the eruption size is more or less proportional to the integral of the tremor amplitude, this illustrates the size of the paroxysm:

Klyuchevskoy (Kamchatka): The volcano remains active. It produces a variable but often intense steam plume with possibly some ash.

Giant steam ring (ring vortex) rising from Klyuchevskoy this morning

On webcam images, there are sporadic small explosions visible, suggesting that weak strombolian activity continues at the summit. A large steam ring was produced this morning (see image / video) - similar to what we have observed at Etna last Monday.

WATCH: Klyuchevskoy volcano produces steam ring.

Aso (Kyushu): The Japan Meteorological Agency reported in its latest activity summary (for September 2013) a seismic crisis that started on 23 September evening. An survey of SO2 emissions 2 days later showed an increase of gas release as well, suggesting a magmatic intrusion was taking place. No eruption has taken place since then.

Japanese volcanologists immediately raised the alert level from 1 to 2, as there is a possibility of sudden explosions that could throw blocks to distances of perhaps as far as 1 km. The new alert level means that the active Nakadake 1 crater is currently closed for access.

In late September seismicity remained high, but with a declining trend. No other information was given in the report.

Bagana (Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea): Explosions continue. An ash plume was spotted this morning at 9,000 ft (2,7 km) altitude extending 60 nautical miles to the west.

Sinabung (Sumatra, Indonesia): Eruptions seem to increase. Over the past days, ash explosions have occurred at rates of 1-2 per day. Ash plumes rose to 10,000-12,000 ft (3-3.6 km) altitude. At least one pyroclastic flow occurred on 11 Nov, reaching about 1 km length.

Several 1000 people have been evacuated from nearby villages at the foot of the volcano and a (dangerously small) 3 km exclusion zone around the volcano is in place.

Popocatépetl (Central Mexico): Activity has remained stable at low levels. CENAPRED reported 61 weak emissions of mostly steam, gas and only occasionally minor amounts of ash during the 24 hour observation interval between 12-13 Nov.

Reventador (Ecuador): The activity consisting of sporadic small to moderate explosions continues but has decreased after 2 November. On that day, a small pyroclastic flow descended on the west flank of the active cone, reaching a length of 300-400 m. Explosions produced plumes of up to about 2 km height and light ash fall occurred in San Rafael village located 8 km east of the volcano.

Explosion and small pyroclastic flow from Reventador on November 2, 2013.

The following webcam time-lapse show the activity during 2-3 Nov when the weather was unusually clear. There are small explosions and a small tornado next to the cone caused by turbulence between ambient and rising hot air.

Jebel Zubair (Red Sea): Signs of weak continuing or renewed activity could be spotted again on recent satellite data after few weeks with no evidence of activity.

MODIS / Terra satellite image on the 11th of November, showing the gas plume and discolored water plume

The attached MODIS / Terra satellite image from 11 Nov shows a gas plume drifting NE from the new island as well as a discolored water plume extending south. The discolored sea water is likely caused by dissolved volcanic gasses (H2S in particular).

The absence of steam suggests that there is no lava entering the sea and no submarine effusive activity.

Heard (Australia, Southern Indian Ocean): A thermal hot spot was visible on satellite data from 9 Nov, suggesting that some activity continues or has resumed at the remote volcano.

MODIS hot spot data (past 7 days) for Heard volcano (ModVolc, Univ. Hawaii)

Complete Earthquake list (worldwide) for November 14, 2013.

- Volcano Discovery.

GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVAL: More Sinkholes Keep Popping Up Across The United States - Another Massive Florida Sinkhole Swallows Boat And Swimming Pool, Threaten Homes!

November 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Another large sinkhole has formed in Florida, causing parts of two homes to collapse and swallowing a boat and a backyard pool.

Into the earth: A sinkhole opened up this morning in Dunedin, Florida, swallowing up parts of two homes.

The sinkhole in Dunedin, Fla., erupted early Thursday morning between the two houses, and by noon, had grown to a size of about 70 feet wide by 53 feet deep.

"There was apparently some work being done to try to fill in what they thought was a sinkhole beneath the house the last couple of days," Dunedin Fire Chief Jeff Parks said. "The owner woke up this morning at 5:40 when he heard noises on his back porch and went out and found the sinkhole at that point."

WATCH: Sinkholes are becoming common in Florida where sandy soil sits on top of layers of clay and limestone. NBC's Janet Shamlian reports.

Conestoga-Rovers and Associates, an engineering and environmental consulting company, confirmed it had been at the home earlier this week.

A screened-in porch and a 14-foot-long boat at the homeowner's property had collapsed into the hole, and next door, the master bedroom and a swimming pool had gone in. The garage at the second home was also starting to crumble by late morning, Parks said.

City officials condemned both homes. There were no injuries, Parks said.

Expanding: When fire and rescue responders arrived on the scene around 6am, the sinkhole was
12-feet-wide but soon grew to 40-feet-wide and 30-feet-deep.

Breakfast: The sinkhole gobbled up a boat, pool and one home's master bedroom.
No one was injured from the sinkhole.

Six houses in Dunedin — a city on central Florida's west coast — were evacuated, and power and utility lines were cut after officials arrived. The engineering company that was working on the house earlier in the week was also on the scene, waiting for the ground around the sinkhole to be stable enough for them to work to fill it.

"They thought it would slow down to the point where it would stop, but in the last half hour, it's still continued to grow," Parks said. "They're just assessing right now to see what they can do."

Sinkholes are relatively common in Florida, but do not always cause major disruption or injuries. In February, a Seffner, Fla., man was killed when a massive sinkhole opened up underneath his family's home.

Engineers had been pouring grout into the house's foundation for the past two days, Michael Dupre told in Florida.

WATCH: After opening up early in the morning, a growing sinkhole has swallowed most of a swimming pool, and damaged two homes, forcing evacuation of Florida neighborhood. WFLA's Judd Chapin reports.

"There was a sinkhole before and we knew there was sinkhole activity," Dupre told "After the Seffner sinkhole, we were scared. We've been dealing with our insurance company and finally two days ago, they started working on our house. Now it looks like our home is gone."

John Marquardt, a geotechnical engineer with Conestoga-Rovers and Associates, said the work being done this week was a continuation of a project that was started two years ago.

"The homeowner had filed a claim with their insurance company alleging damage due to sinkhole activity," he said.

The engineers diagnosed the "sinkhole activity" — movement under the ground — at the site two years ago, but did not see any actual sinkholes at the time. Sinkhole activity is not always a precursor to sinkholes, and could not have led engineers to know that Thursday's sinkhole was going to occur, Marquardt said.

Sinkhole alley: Sinkholes are common in this area of Florida, nicknamed 'sinkhole alley' for the type
of porous rocks that cause the earth to shift.

Early morning surprise: According to homeowners in the area,
the sinkhole opened up at about 5:15 this morning.

The work the engineers were doing earlier this week may have had a slight effect on the timing of the sinkhole, he said.

"Any time you start changing the subsurface, if there's anything that's going to collapse, you can trigger it," he said. "It may have occurred before we got there, it may have occurred a day after we got there, no matter what. It may have occurred next week if we hadn't doing anything. Either way, it was going to happen."

The sinkhole is still growing because the "upper soils [are] caving off the sides," he said, and that could continue for the next few days.

"We're not doing anything right now for a couple of reasons," he said. "We want to wait and let it become stable and the insurance company has to make a decision as to whether they're going to call it a total loss." - NBC News.

DISASTER IMPACT: UN Doubles Philippines Typhoon Death Toll - Over 4,400 People Dead; 900,000 Displaced; 12 Million Affected; Roads Impassable; Fuel Shortages Rampant; Widespread Chaos!

November 14, 2013 - PHILIPPINES - The United Nations has nearly doubled the death toll from the devastating typhoon that struck the Philippines to over 4,400 people - a substantial rise from an earlier estimate of 2,357.

Ships lie next to destroyed houses after being swept ashore at the height of Typhoon Haiyan in Tacloban
city, Leyte province, central Philippines on November 14, 2013. (AFP Photo / Ted Aljibe)

Typhoon Haiyan has also displaced more than 900,000 people, with the city of Tacloban expected to run out of fuel within a few days. Almost 12 million people have been affected by the storm, which is thought to be one of the most powerful to ever strike land, UN said on Thursday.

These numbers are in stark contrast to the death toll of 2,000 to 2,500 which was forecast by Filipino President Benigno Aquino earlier this week, but still less than the 10,000 deaths initially estimated by local authorities.

“Tens of thousands of people are living in the open or sheltering in the remains of their homes and badly damaged public buildings, exposed to rain and wind. Many have lost loved ones and are traumatized by their experience. Our focus is now on scaling up our efforts,” Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos said at a press conference in the capital, Manila.

“As of 13 November, the government reported that 4,460 people have died,” the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in its situation report issued on November 14.

WATCH:  Three Dos and Don'ts of Disaster Relief.

Making matters worse are the logistical challenges that come with delivering aid to the region. Airports are slowly reopening, yet much of the area is not expected to have power and electricity restored for some time. Roads are impassable because of the debris, and fuel shortages are rampant.

“Today and in the next few days things will get even better as our capacity increases,” Amos said. “We know that much more is required.”

Aid capabilities increased Thursday with the arrival of the USS George Washington, a naval carrier that parked in the Philippine Sea near the Gulf of Leyte. The carrier, which can produce 1.5 million liters of fresh water daily, can also serve as a staging platform for essential incoming and outgoing flights. - RT.

PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: New Bird Flu Strain Infects Human For First Time - Could Ignite A Global Outbreak!

November 14, 2013 - TAIWAN - A strain of bird flu that scientists thought could not infect people has shown up in a Taiwanese woman, a nasty surprise that shows scientists must do more to spot worrisome flu strains before they ignite a global outbreak, doctors say.

Chickens are kept in a cage waiting to be sold at a market in Taipei, Taiwan, Thursday, April 25, 2013. Taiwan
has confirmed its first case of a new deadly strain of bird flu. (AP Photo/Chiang Ying-ying)

On a more hopeful front, two pharmaceuticals separately reported encouraging results from human tests of a possible vaccine against a different type of bird flu that has been spreading in China since first being identified last spring, which is feared to have pandemic potential.

The woman, 20, was hospitalized in May with a lung infection. After being treated with Tamiflu and antibiotics, she was released. One of her throat swabs was sent to the Taiwan Centres for Disease Control. Experts there identified it as the H6N1 bird flu, widely circulating in chickens on the island.

The patient, who was not identified, worked in a deli and had no known connection to live birds. Investigators couldn't figure out how she was infected. But they noted several of her close family and friends also developed flu-like symptoms after spending time with her, though none tested positive for H6N1. The research was published online Thursday in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine.

Since the H5N1 bird flu strain first broke out in southern China in 1996, public health officials have been nervously monitoring its progress — it has so far killed more than 600 people, mostly in Asia. Several other bird flu strains, including H7N9, which was first identified in China in April, have also caused concern but none has so far mutated into a form able to spread easily among people.

"The question again is what would it take for these viruses to evolve into a pandemic strain?" wrote Marion Koopmans, a virologist at the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands, in a commentary accompanying the new report.

She said it was worrying that scientists had no early warning signals that such new bird flus could be a problem until humans fell ill. Scientists often monitor birds to see which viruses are killing them, in an attempt to guess which flu strains might be troublesome for humans — but neither H6N1 nor H7N9 make birds very sick.

Koopmans called for increased surveillance of animal flu viruses and more research into predicting which viruses might cause a global crisis.

"We can surely do better than to have human beings as sentinels," she wrote.

The vaccine news is on the H7N9 bird flu that has infected at least 137 people and killed at least 45 since last spring. Scientists from Novavax Inc., a Gaithersburg, Maryland, company, say tests on 284 people suggest that after two shots of the vaccine, most made antibodies at a level that usually confers protection.

"They gave a third of the usual dose and yet had antibodies in over 80 percent," said an expert not connected with the work, Dr. Greg Poland of the Mayo Clinic. "This is encouraging news. We've struggled to make vaccines quickly enough against novel viruses," he said.

Results were published online Wednesday by the New England Journal of Medicine.

In a separate announcement on Thursday, Switzerland-based Novartis announced early tests on its H7N9 vaccine in 400 people showed 85 percent of them got a protective immune response after two doses. The data has not yet been published. - NBC News.

INFRASTRUCTURE & SOCIETAL COLLAPSE: Texas Town Evacuated After Massive Pipeline Explosion - Officials Aren't Sure What Caused The Explosion?!

November 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - A Chevron natural gas pipeline has exploded in Milford, Texas, and the town has been evacuated, according to the Associated Press.

Gas pipeline explosion near Milford, Texas.
Photo: Jaime Ortiz

CBS in Dallas reports that a second pipeline nearby might also be in danger of exploding.
The flames can reportedly be seen for miles. Milford is about 50 miles south of Dallas. The town has a population of about 700, according to Reuters.

No injuries have been reported so far, according to CBS.

Here are photos from the scene:




It appears the flames are rising from a drilling rig, FOX 4 reports.

NBC in Dallas reports that officials are letting the fire burn out. Roads within a one-mile radius of the explosion are closed.

Officials aren't yet sure what caused the explosion.

Chevron issued this statement to NBC:

At approximately 9.30 a.m. (CST) today, there was an incident at a Chevron pipeline near Milford, Texas. Chevron has initiated its emergency response procedures and is currently responding to the incident. Chevron’s primary concern at this point is to ensure the safety of its employees and the surrounding community. As soon as there are further details, they will be made available.

- Business Insider.

PLANETARY TREMORS: 7 Earthquakes In A Week Shakes Northern Parker County, Texas!

November 14, 2013 - UNITED STATES - Seven earthquakes have occurred in the northern Parker County area during the last week, including a 2.8-magnitude quake west of Briar early Monday morning.

USGS earthquake location map.

A 3.0-magnitude earthquake occurred shortly before 2 p.m. Saturday south of Springtown, according to U.S. Geological Service data.

The earthquakes in the area began around 9:30 p.m. Nov. 5 with a 2.6-magnitude shaking in the Reno area, followed several minutes later by a 2.3 aftershock centered in the Newark area.

Other earthquakes included a 2.7 quake south of Springtown around 11 a.m. Nov. 6, a 2.8 quake east of Springtown around 10:30 p.m. Nov. 7, and a 2.4 quake near Azle around 9:30 p.m. Nov. 8.

To view a map of the earthquakes visit the USGS website, - WD.

PLANETARY TREMORS: Indian Capital Delhi Shaken By Four Earthquakes Within 3 Hours!

November 14, 2013 - INDIA - Four earthquakes have shaken homes in the Indian capital, Delhi, sending people running into the streets.

India's meteorological department said the first tremor measured magnitude 3.1 and was centred near a neighbourhood in south Delhi.

The Indian capital, Delhi, is close to several fault lines.

This was followed by three more tremors measuring 3.3, 2.5 and 2.8 magnitude over an hour in the capital and its suburbs of Noida and Ghaziabad.

No damage or casualties have been reported in Delhi or the suburbs.

The first quake hit at 12:41 (18:30 GMT), India's meteorological department said.

Reports say several people ran out of their homes after the tremors.

"This must be the strongest earthquake tremor I have ever felt. It was like earth shivering," a Delhi resident with the Twitter handle @DilliDurAst tweeted.

Others like S Irfan Habib tweeted that "despite being awake till 0100 never felt the earthquake shocks in Delhi. May be low intensity and central Delhi was away from its centre."

Delhi is close to several fault lines and held a major earthquake drill last year. - BBC.