|Brown Dwarf! |
Anti-War Protests, Human Rights,
Swastikas, Old Glory, Excalibur,
Lurking Stars, Buffy Rumors Fly!
|Brown Dwarf Found!|
|European Southern Observatory Press Release |
January 13, 2003 - A team of European astronomers has discovered a Brown Dwarf object (a 'failed' star) less than 12 light-years from the Sun. It is the nearest yet known.
Now designated Epsilon Indi B, it is a companion to a well-known bright star in the southern sky, Epsilon Indi (now "Epsilon Indi A"), previously thought to be single. The binary system is one of the twenty nearest stellar systems to the Sun.
The brown dwarf was discovered from the comparatively rapid motion across the sky which it shares with its brighter companion: the pair move a full lunar diameter in less than 400 years. It was first identified using digitized archival photographic plates from the SuperCOSMOS Sky Surveys (SSS) and confirmed using data from the Two Micron All Sky Survey (2MASS).
Follow-up observations with the near-infrared sensitive SOFI instrument on the ESO 3.5-m New Technology Telescope (NTT) at the La Silla Observatory confirmed its nature and has allowed measurements of its physical properties.
European Southern Observatory - http://www.eso.org
|LA Anti-War Protest Draws Thousands|
|By SANDRA MARQUEZ |
LOS ANGELES January 11, 2003 (AP) - With the U.S. government moving closer to war with Iraq, thousands of demonstrators, some pushing strollers and walking dogs, took to the streets of downtown Los Angeles Saturday to voice their protest.
"Here, take a picture of my sons' first protest," Maria Negrete, 27, goaded relatives as waves of people streamed by in a festival-like atmosphere.
A mother of three small children, Negrete echoed the views of many accidental activists who said although a war with Iraq might be inevitable, they weren't going to sit back without a nonviolent fight.
"There are going to be children like mine who will die for oil, which I think is crazy, stupid and dumb," Negrete said. "So I brought my sons, who are just as beautiful as any in Iraq."
The demonstration came a day after the Bush administration issued a massive deployment order to send about 35,000 new troops to the Persian Gulf region. Famed Vietnam War veteran Ron Kovic, who uses a wheelchair, led the protesters.
Others lending their celebrity to the cause included Martin Sheen, star of NBC's "West Wing," and pop singer Jackson Browne.
Organizers put the turnout at 20,000. But police offered a much smaller estimate of 3,000. There were no reports of arrests or incidents, said Officer Grace Brady, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles Police Department.
Kovic, whose autobiography "Born on the Fourth of July," was made into a movie, predicted the protest would mark the start of "one of the greatest anti-war movements in the history of the United States."
Additional demonstrations, timed to coincide with the upcoming Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, are scheduled to take place in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., next Saturday.
"I and others are entering a deployment order for citizens of this country to go to the streets and to protest in mass," Kovic said.
Standing nearby, retired school teacher Bill Payne, 65, said he had not participated in anti-war protests during the Vietnam era. But his feelings about activism changed over the years, prompting him to drive two hours from his home in Yucaipa.
"I don't want to see any kids killed. That's it. That's all there is to it," he said. "No kids in Iraq killed, no kids any place killed."
But he said the U.S. war machine might be unstoppable.
"I am sure that (President Bush) is going to start his war anyway," he said. "I hope that he is getting stronger and stronger messages all the time that there are more and more people who really don't want this thing to happen."
Many of the signs at the protest appeared to be directed at the president.
|US Neglects Human Rights|
|Human Rights Watch Press Release |
Washington, D.C., January 14, 2003 - Global support for the war on terrorism is diminishing partly because the United States too often neglects human rights in its conduct of the war, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing its World Report 2003.
Terrorists violate basic human rights principles because they target civilians.
But the United States undermines those principles when it overlooks human rights abuses by anti-terror allies such as Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia and Afghan warlords, Human Rights Watch said in its annual survey of human rights around the world.
Meanwhile, governments continued highly repressive policies in Burma, China, Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Liberia and Vietnam.
For example, the United States is generating popular resentment in Pakistan by uncritically backing General Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup.
Human Rights Watch does not take a position on the possible war in Iraq, and believes that its most important contribution to reducing the civilian suffering that war entails is to monitor and promote the compliance by all warring parties with international humanitarian law.
|Supreme Court and Rights of Noncitizens|
|By Warren Richey |
Christian Science Monitor
WASHINGTON January 14, 2003 (CSM) - When he was 18 years old, Hyung Joon Kim was arrested for breaking into a toolshed. He spent two months in jail. Then, a year later, he was arrested for petty theft and went to prison for 18 months.
For most convicted criminals in the US, the harshest aspect of their punishment ends when they are released from jail or prison. But for Mr. Kim, a green-card holder who came to the US from Korea at age 6, his most costly punishment is yet to come: a one-way ticket back to Korea.
A 1996 immigration law requires that any non-US citizen who commits an aggravated felony must be deported. It further requires that so-called "criminal aliens" be held without bond pending their removal from the US.
Immigrant-rights advocates say that such mandatory detention requirements - which don't afford an opportunity for an individualized hearing before a judge - violate constitutional protections against arbitrary imprisonment by the government.
Government lawyers counter that Congress has the power under the Constitution to enact tough measures to protect America's borders. They say judges shouldn't interfere with efforts to enforce such laws, particularly as the nation is waging a war against foreign-based terrorists seeking to infiltrate the US.
Wednesday, the US Supreme Court takes up Kim's plight in a case that will help establish to what extent constitutional protections apply to noncitizens living in the US. The issue arises at a time when the government is seeking to exercise broad powers to question, investigate, and detain noncitizens, and even conduct secret hearings.
Cases challenging the full array of government efforts in the war on terror are working their way through the courts. The Kim case may offer important clues about how the nation's highest court is likely to approach the thorny issue of protecting civil liberties in times of national peril.
Specifically at issue in this case is whether Congress overstepped its authority in enacting a law that requires an entire class of potential deportees be held behind bars without an opportunity to be free on bond pending a final removal order. "What is so extreme about this statute is that it doesn't allow [the Immigration and Naturalization Service] to decide that this person doesn't need to be detained," says Kim's lawyer, Judy Rabinovitz of the American Civil Liberties Union.
In criminal cases, even accused mass murderers and terrorists have a right to a hearing to determine whether the defendant may be freed after posting a bond. The judge must decide whether the size of the bond will guarantee the defendant's presence at trial. In addition, a judge may refuse to grant bond if prosecutors can show that the defendant may pose a danger to the community if released.
Lawyers for Kim say he should enjoy the same rights. His crimes were relatively minor, they say, and so his release would pose no danger to the community. And a monetary bond would be more than enough to prevent him from fleeing to avoid being sent back to Korea, they say.
Statistics show otherwise, according to government lawyers. "When non-detained aliens were ordered to appear for deportation from the United States, nearly 90 percent absconded," writes Solicitor General Theodore Olson in his brief to the court. "Congress concluded that mandatory detention of a selected group of criminal aliens, during the pendency of their removal proceedings, is necessary to implement its immigration policies."
Federal appeals courts are split on the issue. The Third, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits in Philadelphia, Richmond, San Francisco, and Denver, respectively, have struck the law down, while the Seventh US Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago has upheld it.
"In light of the recent terrorist attacks in this country, [we] believe that the political branches of government must be afforded broad power to detain aliens who are convicted of aggravated felonies," says Richard Samp in a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Washington Legal Foundation.
Yet Ms. Rabinovitz says if Kim wins his case, it will in no way undermine the war on terror. "The essence of an individualized determination is that individuals who are a danger are not going to be released. So this does not put the country at risk whether from dangerous people or from terrorism," she says.
|Glasgow Residents Win Fattest Title|
|Glasgow Scotland January 7, 2003 (Daily Record UK) - The people of Glasgow were yesterday named the fattest in Britain. The city already boasts the worst heart disease record in the UK and an extremely high rate of strokes. |
It also tops the table for lung and bowel cancer. And now the latest study shows Glaswegians are champions at avoiding healthy eating and exercise.
Last year, First Minister Jack McConnell unveiled plans to spend tens of millions of pounds to rid Scotland of its notorious Sick Man of Europe tag. And in 2001 food tsar Gillian Kynoch was appointed in a bid to get Scots to ditch fatty foods and eat more fresh fruit and vegetables.
The fat survey, for Muscle And Fitness magazine, looked at eating habits, alcohol, smoking and exercise. It found Glaswegians consumed the most junk food, alcohol and cigarettes and watched more TV than anyone else in the country. The city also scored poorly in areas such as air quality and climate, as well as the standard of health care.
Dr Catherine Hankey, an obesity expert at Glasgow University, said: "Although there are a lot of initiatives in place to try to combat the problem, they are only reaching a small proportion of people.
"Much more needs to be done."
Edinburgh fared better in the study, coming 15th in the fat league of 27 cities. Bristol showed up as the healthiest city.
Neville Rigby, of the International Obesity Task Force, said: "The numbers of obese children have gone up between 50 and 100 per cent in the past eight years.
"It is perceived not to be safe to walk outside, so parents encourage children to sit in the house rather than run around and play."
The National Audit Office says obesity costs the economy £2billion a year, and kills up to 30,000 people prematurely.
|BY LEO KELLEY |
Ada Oklahoma January 13, 2003 (Ada Evening News) - When the Oklahoma National Guard was expanded to create the 45th Infantry Division in 1923, state military leaders selected the swastika as its symbol. That move may seem strange today but the swastika was considered a good luck sign.
Unfortunately, Adolph Hitler and his ruthless Nazi regime took the swastika and turned it into the most hated symbol in world history.
For thousands of years, the swastika - derived from the Sanskrit word Svastikah - depicted peace or good luck. Once the most popular and mystical symbol in the world, it is now the most hated.
James Roberts, who joined the Oklahoma National Guard at Altus in 1923, was proud of the swastika patch on his uniform.
"It seemed perfectly natural to have the swastika as our symbol," Roberts said before his death in 1986. "It was like having a rabbit's foot in your pocket. It was a good luck symbol. But Hitler changed all that."
The swastika - a form of a cross with ends of the arms bent at right angles - has been discovered by archaeologists on ancient Byzantine structures, Buddhist inscriptions, Celtic manuscripts and Greek coins. The symbol was even left behind on the walls of the Great Pyramids. And if you look close enough, the symbol can be identified in several friezes at the Capitol Building in Washington.
After the Allies defeated Germany and its Axis partners in 1945, they banned the display of the swastika emblem.
"They tell me that the swastika had been used for thousands of years. It would still be used if the Nazis hadn't come along."
|Easter Island Relics Mystery|
|By Jonathan Franklin |
Santiago January 11, 2003 (Guardian UK) - Two Easter Island stone heads on sale at an art gallery in Miami have brought to light a mystery about their origin. The Chilean government, which claimed the Pacific island in 1888, is investigating whether the pieces are genuine antiques smuggled from Chile or skillful reproductions.
An expert on the island's archaeology says they seem to be carved from island stone with modern tools.
The Cronos gallery, which is selling them as part of a collection of 15 Easter Island artifacts, says "these rare pieces" were recently revealed to be in the possession of Hernan Garcia Gonzalo de Vidal, whom it inaccurately describes as a former vice-minister of planning in the Chilean government.
It has withdrawn its original claim that they are 1,000 and 700 years old and substituted "age unknown."
They weigh 680kg and 952kg respectively.
In Chile Mr. Garcia is best known as a senior aide to Augusto Pinochet. Magazines have listed him as one of the former dictator's inner circle. He has worked closely with General Pinochet's former wife Lucia Hiriart de Pinochet.
Angel Cabeza, head of the Chilean national monuments committee, said: "We have never authorized the shipping of a private collection of original works from Easter Island. If Mr. Garcia removed these pieces and if these pieces are real, he couldn't have done it with our authorization. We have never received such a petition."
Archaeologists from the committee plan to go to Miami next week to find out if the pieces are authentic.
Mr. Garcia, meanwhile, has disappeared. After agreeing to an interview with the Chilean daily El Mercurio, which first reported the sale, he issued a statement through Cronos claiming a "family emergency".
Patricia Vargas, an archaeologist at the University of Chile's Easter Island institute, doubts that authentic statues were smuggled out of Chile. Before a preservation law was introduced in in 1935, such pieces were routinely taken from the island and are in display in London, Paris and the US. The pieces in Miami, she says, "are made with materials from Easter Island and that alone gives them a certain value.
"They might be nice art pieces, but I doubt any one is 500 years old. It appears that the cuts have been made with modern machinery and not with stone tools."
|Crews Replanting Old Glory|
|By PAUL WILBORN |
Associated Press Writer
SANTA CLARITA CA January 13, 203 (AP) - Crews with heavy equipment have started efforts to move the 400-year-old oak that was occupied for more than two months by a demonstrator trying to save the tree from a housing development.
Two days after sheriff's deputies removed environmentalist John Quigley from his perch in the ancient tree, workers dug around the oak's roots and climbed into its branches Sunday in preparation for an attempt to move it.
About 200 protesters gathered outside the fence that was erected to keep them away from the tree they have dubbed "Old Glory."
Officials of developer John Laing Homes have said they will try to transplant the tree to a nearby park — a move protesters fear will kill the oak.
Quigley, 42, climbed into the tree Nov. 1 to save it from being bulldozed to make way for a road to a huge housing development. His vigil in the tree attracted a steady stream of residents, celebrities, folk singers and the just plain curious.
He accused the developer of reneging on verbal assurances given Sunday morning that no immediate action would be taken to move the tree.
"Today crossed a line. It's time for outrage," Quigley said, adding that he would do "whatever we have to do" to stop the relocation.
Company officials did not immediately return calls seeking comment. A company attorney has said the relocation must begin by Wednesday while the tree's root system is dormant for the winter.
Quigley's attorney, Anthony Zinnanti, said he was preparing to go to court Tuesday to attempt to stay the tree's removal. But he conceded that the developer appears to have the legal right to remove it.
|By Robin McKie |
London January 12, 2003 (Observer UK) - Climate change is inevitable, unpredictable, and has been responsible for bringing down some of the world's greatest civilizations. Soon it may do the same to ours.
That is the conclusion of researchers who have found that the Mayans - whose empire reached its peak around 700AD - were destroyed because central America was afflicted by a 200-year drought.
The discovery has been made by the American archaeologist Richardson Gill, who argues that the Mayans - famed for their massive stepped pyramids and astronomy - simply starved to death when their water supplies ran dry, a fate that has profound implications for the future of humanity.
Gill's research, based on studies of ice cores taken from glaciers in the Andes, is controversial. Many historians believe only cultural changes such as war, trade or rebellion affect the course of history and that people can always adapt to climate change. In the case of the Mayans, it is generally assumed they were destroyed by invaders.
Gill's work challenges this. "I have seen with my own eyes the devastating effects of drought," he says in Scientific American. Deprived of water, the Mayans could no longer grow crops and perished.
Gill and his contemporaries argue that humanity is much more vulnerable to weather changes than realized. Studies of tree rings and ice cores taken from glaciers have created a detailed pattern of climate fluctuations going back a thousand years. When matched against historical events, these have revealed startling correspondences.
The Vikings colonized Iceland, Greenland and North America at a time when Europe was enjoying warm weather. Then, around AD1300, the weather worsened and the Little Ice Age began, gripping the world until around 1880. Its worst periods coincided with the Irish potato famine, the destruction of the Spanish Armada, and the French Revolution, while the Viking settlements in America and Greenland were wiped out.
|Spit on The Mummy|
|By Kay Lazar |
Boston January 7, 2003 (Boston Herald) - Using their own saliva on cotton swabs, restoration experts delicately cleaned one of the nation's premier mummies yesterday in preparation for exhibition at a Springfield art museum later this month.
"Your own saliva is a very good cleaning solution," said Mimi Leveque, consulting conservator for the daylong project at Massachusetts General Hospital. The work was done in the hospital's original operating room, the Ether Dome.
Padihershef, a 6th-century B.C. mummy affectionately called "Padi" by MGHers, resides at the hospital when he is not touring the country. But Padi was in sore need of some expert cleaning because he had some problems the last time he went before the cameras - TV cameras, to be precise.
Leveque said the bright lights used by crews to film him at the Museum of Science in 1999 caused some of the resin on his face to melt. That created salt stains as salt used in the mummification process started to seep out.
The ancient Egyptians used pine and other resins to seal the skin on a dead body's face from air and moisture before the body was wrapped in linens.
"The resin started to melt," Leveque said. "He looked like he had a very bad case of dandruff, a very white crusty appearance."
As two interns painstakingly moistened cotton swabs and gently wiped salt stains from Padi's 2,500-year-old face and head, Leveque scrutinized his 4-foot-11-inch body, wrapped in yellowed linens, for other damage.
"Every mummy is different because every person is different, but this guy seems to be in fairly solid shape," Leveque said. "I'm shocked, given that he was toured around in America as a sort of side show when he first arrived."
Padi was sent to the hospital in 1823 as a gift from Dutch merchant Jacob Van Lennep. He was one of the first mummies to come to the United States. Later that year, Padi was released from the hospital and took a tour of the United States. Experts who have studied Padi determined he was a male who died in his late 40s of unknown causes.
About 20 years ago, experts also deciphered the coffin's ancient writings, known as hieroglyphics, to figure out his name and his history. It is believed he was an unmarried stone cutter from the famous City of the Dead in Thebes. The centuries-old hieroglyphics and painted pictures on Padi's coffin are still vibrant shades of turquoise, burnt orange, sage and white. But time has taken its toll, with some cracked paint and plaster.
Mixing their own adhesives, the experts yesterday patched worn areas. Leveque said they had to use materials that would stand a very long test of time.
Padi is scheduled to head out today to Springfield for a major Ancient Egypt exhibit later this month at the George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum.
|Greenpeace Storms Nuke Plant!|
|LONDON January 14, 2003 (AP) — More than 30 anti-nuclear protesters used ropes, ladders and wire-cutters to break into the central control building of a nuclear power station in eastern England on Monday, the environmental group Greenpeace said. Greenpeace, which campaigns for an end to nuclear energy, said it staged the break-in to expose poor security at the Sizewell B plant and other nuclear facilities. |
"It is a terrifying thought that if we can do this then anyone can," said Rob Gueterbock, one of the protesters who occupied the plant's roof during the daylong demonstration. "We wouldn't do anything to interfere with the plant, but if terrorists targeted a nuclear power station it would be deadly."
Mike Harrison, maintenance manager at Sizewell B, condemned the protest as a stunt. "It is a totally irresponsible and criminal act which has caused damage to the insulation after a fence was broken through and a door smashed," Harrison said, adding the protesters gained limited access to the plant. "At no time was there any risk to plant safety or public safety."
Suffolk police said the demonstration ended peacefully. Officers arrested 12 protesters, the force said.
Greenpeace said the protesters entered the complex from a public beach just after 6 a.m. (0600 GMT) by cutting through a wire fence. Some climbed onto the roof of the reactor dome, while others entered the central control building.
"The aim was to demonstrate the ease with which lightly equipped, peaceful individuals can gain access to the most sensitive areas of a nuclear power station," Greenpeace campaigns director Blake Lee-Harwood said. "Britain is sending troops into a war. We have a war on terror. The British nuclear industry is meant to be on the highest state of alert. But it was essentially a breeze to get in," he said.
In October, more than 100 Greenpeace activists broke into the Sizewell B plant. Several climbed onto the roof of the building housing the cooling water pump, unfurling banners saying "No More Nuclear." They climbed down after a day and were arrested by police.
|By Giles Tremlett |
Madrid January 9, 2003 (Guardian UK) - They have called it Excalibur, though it was plucked from a pit of bones rather than the stone of Arthurian legend. To the ordinary eye it is a hand-sized, triangular chunk of ochre and purple rock, its surface slightly scratched.
But to the paleontologists who found this axe-head buried in a deep cavern on a Spanish hilltop, it is proof of a terrible and defining moment in the evolutionary history of the human mind.
The discovery in a Spanish cave of what is claimed to be the world's oldest burial artifact was set to provoke a fierce scientific debate about the exact moment when man's mind was lit by the spark of imagination and creativity.
Paleontologists who discovered the axe-head placed among ancient bones in a cave at Atapuerca, near the city of Burgos in central Spain, yesterday claimed that this key moment in the evolution of man's mind had to be placed at a time well before our own race, Homo sapiens, reached Europe.
Deliberately tossed into a primitive burial chamber, the placing of the axe was a ritual act and evidence that, in the minds of some very ancient Europeans, death had become something more than a mere, brutish fact of nature.
This idea first dawned more than 350,000 years ago on the squat, powerful examples of Homo heidelbergensis whose remains are being slowly excavated from the so-called Pit of Bones at Atapuerca.
The find means that man's development of a mind capable of thinking beyond reality and needs into a world of shared ideas, symbols, fantasy and imagination, may have developed 310,000 years earlier than was thought.
Controversy already rages in the palaeontological community over whether Homo sapiens was the first such deep thinker, or whether that honor goes to the slightly earlier Neanderthal.
But it is generally thought that modern, thinking men and women did not arrive until 30-40,000 years ago, sparking a "creative explosion" that produced, among other things, the first art.
"The biggest debate in human evolution is when men's minds appeared, when the spark was lit," Ignacio Martinez, one of the Atapuerca team, told El Pais news paper. The only proof of that spark, he said, would come from rock art, the earliest examples of which are only 40,000 years old, from proof of language use or from burial ceremonies.
The discovery at Atapuerca, if it turned out to be a true example of a ceremonial burial, would be remarkable. As such, it can expect to raise bitter controversy.
Experts contacted by the Guardian yesterday said they were surprised and generally rather skeptical about Excalibur.
"If they could prove it, it would be staggering," said Dr Michael Petraglia, lecturer at Cambridge University's Leverhulme centre for human evolutionary studies. "It would push intentional or symbolic thought back much further than is currently accepted."
Excalibur goes on show for the first time this weekend at an exhibition of Atapuerca's work in the American Museum of Natural History, in New York. It is bound to provoke debate among the many scientists due to appear at the opening conferences.
The director of the Atapuerca dig, Dr Juan Luis Arsuaga, argued in an article in El Pais yesterday that the groups of Homo heidelbergensis probably brought their dead, one-by-one, into the cavern so they could be buried together. "It had to be a collective practice," he said.
"We had gradually become convinced that, incredible as it may seem given the age of the site, this was case of symbolic behavior, the first of its kind in the history of humanity," he wrote.
"In order to demonstrate that we needed a symbolic object, with its own significance. Then Excalibur appeared from the sediment," he said. "The Pit of Bones had produced a new historic discovery."
But other scientists, while eager to see the written research, were skeptical, saying there did not seem to be proof that the axe had been deliberately placed. "There might be other reasons for it to be there," speculated Dr. Margarita Diaz-Andreu, a Durham University archaeologist.
Dr Petraglia said the find was "potentially exciting" but doubted that it was sufficient to reach such scientifically explosive conclusions about the development of the human mind. "We often have great difficulty in assessing if something is intentional," he said. "Often we require more evidence than one tool."
The Atapuerca team have produced some of the most remarkable palaeontological finds of the past decade, producing 350,000-year-old crania and proof that Homo heidelbergensis was a cannibal. They seemed yesterday to have the backing of at least one scientific heavyweight for their claims that these were also thinking, imaginative, potentially artistic cannibals.
The legendary French scientist Henry de Lumley, director of France's National Museum of Natural History, visited the cave and was told of Excalibur two years ago. He declared the combination of the two things to be "proof of the birth of the first human myths", according to El Pais.
The Pit of Bones, open for excavation for just one month a year, will be keeping archaeologists busy for decades. Excalibur, pulled from among those bones, looked set to spark a debate about the evolution of man's minds that could last just as long.
Even if Homo heidelbergensis was an intelligent, creative, artistic type, it did him no good. He eventually evolved into a Neanderthal and then became extinct. Homo sapiens came out of Africa to replace him.
|Lurking Star Discovered|
|UC-RIVERSIDE NEWS RELEASE |
January 11, 2003 - A new type of star has been discovered lurking as a low mass component in a very compact binary star system.
Astronomers Steve B. Howell of the University of California, Riverside and Tom Harrison of New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, announced at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Seattle, Wash., that they have confirmed the existence of a new variety of stellar end-product. This previously unknown type of star has some properties similar to brown dwarf stars and may help astronomers understand some of the recently discovered extra-solar planets in close proximity to their suns.
The newly discovered type of star resides in a binary star system known as EF Eridanus with an estimated distance of 300 light years from Earth. EF Eri, with an orbital period of 81 minutes, belongs to a class of binary star called magnetic cataclysmic variables, so named for their sudden explosive brightenings caused by mass accretion events and their very strong magnetic fields.
Using telescopes at the National Science Foundation's Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, Ariz., and at Apache Point Observatory in Sunspot, N.M., Howell and Harrison simultaneously obtained observations of EF Eridanus using an infrared camera at the Kitt Peak 2.1 meter (84-inch) telescope and an optical camera on the New Mexico State University 1-m (36-inch) telescope.
In typical magnetic cataclysmic variables, the more massive component is a white dwarf star, the remnant of a once massive star with probably 3-5 times the mass of the sun. Most stars, including the sun, will end their lives as white dwarfs - small degenerate objects with about as much mass as our sun smashed into a size equal to that of the Earth. A teaspoon full of white dwarf material would weigh about as much as ~100 elephants. In these magnetic binaries, the white dwarf has a strong magnetic field of order 10-200 million times that of the Earth.
The other component in a magnetic cataclysmic variable is typically a normal star similar to our sun, but smaller and with only about 1/2 the mass. This companion spends its life transferring mass to the white dwarf at a rate of approximately 6 billion tons per second. The white dwarf in EF Eri has an extremely intense magnetic field, 15-20 million times that of the Earth, and when mass transfer occurs, the matter is funneled down the magnetic field lines where it eventually crashes onto the surface of the white dwarf near its magnetic poles within an area about the size of California.
Gravitational energy released from the accreted material produces copious amounts of radiation (equal to about 20 billion megaton bombs per second) coming from the binary, generally swamping the light emitted by either star from the X-ray to the optical and infrared regions. The two stars are, in effect, invisible when mass is being transferred, and observations reveal only strong emission from 1 million degree regions on the white dwarf surface.
For reasons that astronomers do not yet fully understand, the flow of matter from the mass donor to the white dwarf occasionally shuts off in these magnetic systems. The mass flow starts again within a few weeks to a few months in most systems. EF Eridanus stopped transferring matter in 1995, became 30 times fainter, and has remained relatively inactive for the last seven years. With the stars in the binary now exposed, Howell and Harrison had the first good opportunity to directly detect the low mass companion in EF Eri.
|Genre News: Buffy Rumors Fly, Willow and Wesley, Angel Returns, Darkness Falls, Insomniac, Thunderbirds, The Lone Ranger & More!|
|Buffy Rumors Fly! |
Sunnydale CA January 15, 2003 (eXoNews) - If you believe today's mainstream press, Buffy The Vampire Slayer is over. In a barrage of print and web stories, apparently stemming from a quote from CBS and UPN chief Leslie Moonves at a January 13th Television Critics Association press tour, Buffy is either on her way out or has already been axed from UPN's fall lineup.
According to HR reporter Scott Collins, Moonves actually said: "I wouldn't bet that it comes back, but it's possible."
But HR also says Moonves added that Gellar "hasn't said no" to an eighth season.
That would be UPN Entertainment President Dawn Ostroff and Buffy creator Joss Whedon, of course, in reference to UPN asking 20th Century Fox TV and Joss if they would retool Buffy for a spin-off. The spin-off rumor has been circulating since Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar said last summer that she would rather make movies than ride out Buffy's decline on UPN.
The show has suffered a serious ratings drop since moving from the WB, although last week's midseason return earned Buffy a 3.5/5 overnight.
According to another recent story, UPN is trying to impress Fox affiliates who carry UPN programming because that association keeps UPN afloat. If Fox affiliates pull out, UPN could disappear.
Buffy then moved to UPN, currently owned by Viacom. Viacom also owns CBS, which is how Leslie Moonves happens to be cast as the current Buffy doomsayer.
UPN recently passed on a pickup of Joss Whedon's Firefly, with Dawn Ostroff cooing over "Abby", a new UPN sitcom featuring Sidney Poitier's daughter Sydney Tamiia Poitier. Despite Ostroff's enthusiasm, "Abby" only managed a 2.7/4 in a "sneak peak" last Monday and failed to beat out a rerun of Smallville in when it premiered in it's regular slot the following night.
Firefly fans recently turned their Save Firefly campaign to Sci Fi Channel, hoping that the genre cable network would continue Whedon's tales of the crew of Serenity, but The Sci Fi Channel announced yesterday that it will not be picking up Firefly.
Willow and Wesley Engaged!
Denisof, 36, who plays former Watcher Wesley Wyndam-Pryce on Angel, met Hannigan, 28, when they both appeared on UPN's Buffy, and the two have been dating since Denisof moved to The WB's Buffy spinoff series. He said he decided to propose while the two took a break from production for the holidays.
LOS ANGELES January 13, 2003 (Zap2it.com) - There are those who think The WB is condemning "Angel" by moving it to Wednesday nights at 9 p.m. ET, a highly competitive hour of television already occupied by NBC's "The West Wing" and ABC's "Bachelor" franchise, but the network itself thinks it's the natural choice to replace freshman flop "Birds of Prey."
However, Levin says that they're not burning off episodes by any means, rather they are giving it a chance to prove itself on Wednesdays instead of being the show that loses its "Charmed" lead-in on Sundays.
"Angel" moves to its new Wednesday home on Jan. 15th
Hallett Upped At Angel
Emma Caulfield Rises in Darkness Falls
We all love Emma, of course, who is also the subject of a feature story in this month's Fangoria Magazine.
Fangoria - http://www.fangoria.com
Spielberg Impersonated a Movie Executive
NEW YORK January 13, 2003 (AP) — Steven Spielberg learned about con men long before he directed "Catch Me If You Can."
Insomniac Dave Atell DVD Release
LOS ANGELES January 15, 2003 (Zap2it.com) - For those nights when you can't sleep, but are too lazy (or scared) to actually go out, "Insomniac with Dave Atell" is made-to-order.
Frakes Directs Thunderbirds
London January 10, 2003 (Guardian UK) - After years of rumor, false dawns and delays Thunderbirds are finally go. A big-screen live-action version of the cult 60s children's TV show is at last leaving the launching pad - and its first mission is to rescue the British film industry from the doldrums.
At more than £50m, the budget for the film is the biggest that Working Title - the powerhouse behind such successes as Four Weddings and a Funeral, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones and Billy Elliot - has gambled on a single production. But few would bet against Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner scoring another major hit, the first they hope in a whole new franchise of Thunderbird films to rival Bond and Harry Potter.
The human faces for Gerry Anderson's family of marionettes, led by the astronaut-turned-billionaire Jeff Tracy, who ran International Rescue from a South Sea island with his sons Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John - and inventor Brains - have yet to be cast, although the model-turned-actor Sophie Dahl is being mentioned as a possible Lady Penelope. Parker, her deadpan and ever-resourceful butler and chauffeur, will also return to the wheel of her Rolls.
But last night Bevan stressed that the real stars of the show would be the Thunderbirds craft - eye-popping cars, planes, spaceships and sub marines that could soon be appearing in toy shops as the film's merchandising machine begins to roll. On the back of TV repeats alone, Tracy Island has been one of the bestselling toys for the past two Christmases.
"The important thing is that Thunderbirds are known there," he said. "We showed some people in Los Angeles a mock-up of Thunderbird 2 outside parliament the other day and they really sat up and took notice."
Art Directors Set Design Nominations
Among TV movies and miniseries, the productions singled out include two HBO features, "Live From Baghdad" and "Path to War"; two TV films that aired on CBS, "Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story" and "Martin and Lewis"; and the Sci Fi Channel miniseries "Taken."
The Lone Ranger Rides Again!