|Hypergiant Eruption! |
Solar Power, Greenpeace vs. Dow
Mysteries of The Milky Way!
Mother Mary, Kids With Guns & More!
|Hypergiant Rho Cassiopeiae Ready to Blow!|
|By Deborah Zabarenko |
SEATTLE January 7, 2003 (Reuters) - An erratic monster star that lobbed 10,000 times the Earth's mass into space when it erupted two years ago is ready to blow again at any time, astronomers said on Tuesday.
There is no reason to panic, since the star is 10,000 light-years away in the constellation Cassiopeia and any explosion there would have no effect on Earth. A light-year is about 6 trillion miles, the distance light travels in a year.
Researchers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics urged amateur astronomers to keep watching it though, because the same kinds of things that happened before the 2000 blast are happening now.
With perhaps as much as 40 times the mass and 700 times the breadth of our sun, the star known as Rho Cas is visible without a telescope in the northern hemisphere, because it is over 500,000 times more luminous than the sun.
Rho Cas, a rare star type called a hypergiant, has a habit of occasionally dimming by a factor of six, indicating a steep drop in surface temperature from 12,000 degrees F to 5,000 degrees F. This happened in 1946, when astronomers recognized there had been an explosion on the star's surface but could not tell how big it was, or what caused it.
Scientists using five moderate-sized telescopes in the United States and Europe kept a constant vigil on Rho Cas for 10 years, which paid off in 2000 when they detected the big blast that ejected 3 percent of the star's mass in about 200 days.
The dimming of the star was directly related to the explosion, said Alex Lobel of the Harvard center.
"The star in the spring of 2000 first brightened and then it dimmed by 1.2 magnitudes, something which is very unusual in any star," Lobel told reporters. "This dimming is corresponding to the star shedding a shell, by producing a shock wave which is about four times as fast as the speed of sound."
When Rho Cas blasted off this shell of gas, its atmosphere cooled drastically as it did in 1946. As a hypergiant, Rho Cas has a huge atmosphere. If it were located where our sun is, its atmosphere would extend beyond Mars, engulfing Earth. Rho Cas also pulsates irregularly, so mass from its atmosphere periodically extends even further than that, Lobel said.
"I think it's worth keeping an eye on this fellow," the Harvard center's Andrea Dupree said. "Things may be heating up again, we're starting to see some anomalous motions, so keep looking."
Lobel said that by breaking down the light from the star into individual bands of color, just as a prism creates a rainbow, scientists analyzed the output from the last explosion, and found that hydrogen was an indicator for mass that was expanding and then falling down before the 2000 blast.
That same indicator is present now, Lobel said.
A larger image of the 2000 blast (above) is available online at http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/press/pr0302_image.html
Amateurs may report findings on Rho Cas to the Central Bureau for Astronomical Telegrams, the scientists said at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle.
Instructions on how to report to the bureau are available online at http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/iau/cbat.html
|Eighty Whales Die in Mass Stranding on NZ Island|
|WELLINGTON January 7,2003 (Reuters) - Eighty pilot whales have died after stranding themselves on a beach on a southern New Zealand island, a wildlife official said Wednesday. |
Conservation workers and residents are trying to save survivors of a pod of 159 pilot whales that swam ashore on Stewart Island, about 20 miles south of the South Island, Department of Conservation spokesman Tom O'Connor said.
"They're pretty distressed...there's no wind and swell to splash on them so they're not in good order," he said.
An attempt will be made to refloat the whales, which look like dolphins and grow up to 16 feet long and weigh as much as three tons, at the next high tide.
New Zealand has one of the world's highest rates of whale strandings, which are thought to occur when the animals become disoriented or when a dominant animal leads others ashore.
But the strandings are not clearly understood by scientists who believe illness or other types of trauma might also play a role.
|Australia Considers Giant Solar Power Tower |
By Michelle Nichols
MELBOURNE, Australia January 07, 2003 (Reuters) — The world's tallest man-made structure could soon be towering over the Australian outback as part of a plan to capitalize on the global push for greater use of renewable energy.
The tower — originally known as the solar chimney — is the invention of German structural engineers Schlaich Bergerman, who constructed a 656-foot high demonstration power plant in Manzanares, Spain, in 1982. The 50 kilowatt plant produced electricity for seven years and then closed down after having proved the technology worked. Schlaich Bergerman now works with EnviroMission.
Next-generation Solar Cells in Space
|Salt Volcanoes on Io!|
|Johns Hopkins University News Release |
Baltimore January 1, 2003 - Astronomers at The Johns Hopkins University, the Observatoire de Paris, and other institutions have solved a nearly 30-year-old mystery surrounding Jupiter's moon Io, showing that volcanoes there appear to be shooting gaseous salt into the moon's thin atmosphere.
"This gives nice closure to the discovery Bob Brown made in 1974 of sodium in neutral clouds of gas around Io, " said Darrell Strobel, a professor of earth and planetary sciences in the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins and an author of a paper on the new results in the Jan. 2 issue of "Nature."
Further analysis of the results, including modeling how the salt is broken down into sodium and chlorine atoms, could help planetary scientists move closer to determining what kinds of meteoritic materials originally came together to form Io.
Strobel said Brown, who later became a project scientist at the Space Telescope Science Institute, found the sodium around Io while testing out a spectrograph he had built.
"He told me some years afterwards, 'This discovery of mine is so simple. I was amazed somebody hadn't done it 30 to 40 years earlier,'" Strobel said.
"Nobody was looking for it; nobody would have guessed it was there."
|Greenpeace Delivers Toxics to Dow - 15 Arrested|
|NETHERLANDS/Tenuzen January 7, 2003 (Greenpeace) - Greenpeace and the survivors of the Bhopal industrial disaster wanted to give something back to Dow today: a few barrels of the waste the chemical giant refuses to clean up. Dow's response: arrests of about fifteen activists. |
Their crime: unloading four barrels of waste transported from India aboard the Greenpeace ship "Arctic Sunrise" and delivering it to Dow's largest chemical plant in Europe, near Tenuzen, The Netherlands.
The poisonous waste is only a fraction of hundreds of tons that have been strewn around the derelict pesticide plant in Bhopal since 1984 when Union Carbide, which is now owned by Dow, fled the city after a gas leak at the plant killed 8,000 people and injured half a million. No-one has accepted responsibility for the waste and the chemical company still refuses to clean up the site. For 18 years, chemicals have leaked into the soil and ground water in and around the factory site and have been poisoning people who survived the gas leak. Today, the death toll stands at 20,000 and is rising every day. Children born to survivors are suffering health problems and 150,000 people are in urgent need of medical attention.
The Greenpeace activists included John Passacantando, Executive Director of Greenpeace in the U.S. and Rashida Bi, leader of the Bhopal Gas Victim Women's Union. Three activists abseiled down the building and hung eight huge photographs depicting Dow's corporate crime in Bhopal and a banner which called on Dow to clean up Bhopal.
"We'll carry on confronting Dow with this corporate crime until it cleans up its toxic fallout in Bhopal and stops poisoning us. We're already struggling to survive sickness from gas exposure without adequate help from the company responsible, and are now facing a slow death from exposure to these poisons. How can a corporation get away with this?" asked Rashida Bi who traveled to the Netherlands to return the waste.
"Until they are, crimes such as this will continue to be committed and people and the environment will pay the price," said Ganesh Nochur, campaigner from Greenpeace India onboard the 'Arctic Sunrise'.
Greenpeace - http://www.greenpeace.org
|Federal Lawsuit Goes After Offroad Vehicle Emissions|
|Washington, DC January 7, 2003 (Earthjustice) - Earthjustice filed suit in federal court today to challenge the Environmental Protection Agency’s emission standards for snowmobiles, dirt bikes, and all-terrain vehicles. Representing Environmental Defense and Bluewater Network, Earthjustice will argue that the Clean Air Act required far stronger standards than the agency promulgated. |
"Snowmobiles in particular are egregious polluters. Many of the snowmobiles that are currently being built emit more pollution in one day than a modern car emits in 100,000 miles of driving," pointed out James Pew of Earthjustice.
The Clean Air Act requires that EPA’s emissions standards for offroad engines reflect the use of modern technology that will be available. "This is a forward-looking statute, designed by Congress to provide the cleanest engines that can be built," said Pew. "Past experience with automobiles has shown that each time EPA has required cleaner engines, manufacturers have built them for a reasonable cost. Clean engines could also be built for offroad vehicles—right now and for a reasonable cost—but EPA has refused to require it."
"Once again, the Bush Administration is demonstrating utter contempt for protecting the nation's environment. By allowing the indefinite sale of dirty two-stroke engines in snowmobiles, backing off on catalytic converters for all-terrain vehicles, and failing to regulate noise pollution, we will sacrifice air quality, public health, and wildlife," said Russell Long, Bluewater Network's Executive Director. "We refuse to let Mr. Bush get away with this."
Earthjustice - http://www.earthjustice.org
|Mysteries of The Milky Way!|
|Milky's Black Hole |
NASA Press Release
January 6, 2003 - The longest X-ray look yet at the supermassive black hole at the Milky Way's center has given astronomers unprecedented access to its life and times. The new data from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory revealed that our galaxy's central black hole is a frequent bad actor, prone to numerous outbursts and occasional large explosions.
The observations of the black hole, a.k.a. Sagittarius A* or Sgr A*, occurred over a two-week period for a total exposure time of 164 hours. During this time Sgr A* flared up in X-ray intensity half a dozen or more times. Astronomers also found evidence that suggests it had an even more boisterous past. These discoveries will help to unlock the secrets of how Sgr A* grows and how it interacts with its environment.
"We are getting a look at the everyday life of a supermassive black hole like never before," said Frederick K. Baganoff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who presented these new results on behalf of an international team at a press conference today at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. "We see it flaring on an almost daily basis."
The cause of the flares is not understood, but the rapidity with which they rise and fall indicates that they are occurring near the event horizon, or point of no return, around the black hole. Even when it flares, the intensity of the X-ray emission from the vicinity of the black hole is relatively weak, which suggests that Sgr A*, weighing in at 3 million times the mass of the Sun, is a starved black hole.
"Although it appears to snack often, this black hole is definitely on a severe diet," says Baganoff. "This could be because explosive events in the past blew away much of the gas from the neighborhood of the black hole."
Indeed, evidence for such events - which astronomers are viewing 26,000 years later due to the time it takes light to travel to Earth from the center of the Galaxy - can be found in the image. A faint streak of X-rays about 1 light-year long has been discovered 1.5 light-years from Sgr A*. The streak points at Sgr A*, suggesting that it may be a jet of particles expelled at nearly the speed of light from just outside the event horizon of the black hole. The intensity and size of this jet indicate that the flaring activity has been occurring for many years.
On a much larger scale, huge lobes of 20-million-degree-Centigrade gas extending over dozens of light years on either side of the black hole have also been discovered. "These lobes show that enormous explosions have occurred several times over the last ten thousand years," said Mark Morris of UCLA, lead author of a second paper on Sgr A*, who also participated in the press conference.
Sangwook Park, of Penn State University in University Park, and Michael Muno, of MIT, were lead authors of two other papers presented at the meeting. These papers focused on the extraordinarily rich region around the central black hole, where they detected more than 2,000 X-ray sources.
NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program, and TRW, Inc., Redondo Beach, Calif., is the prime contractor for the spacecraft. The Smithsonian's Chandra X-ray Center controls science and flight operations from Cambridge, Mass., for the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters, Washington.
Images and additional information about this result are available at: http://chandra.harvard.edu and http://chandra.nasa.gov
"It's an indication that at least part of our galaxy was formed by many smaller or dwarf galaxies mixing together."
|Orbiting Asteroid Approaches Earth|
|NASA NEWS RELEASE |
Pasadena January 3, 2003 - The first asteroid discovered to orbit the Sun in nearly the same path as Earth will make its closest approach to our planet this month before scurrying away for 95 years.
The space rock, measuring about 60 meters (approximately 200 feet) across, is like a mouse teasing a cat. According to an international team of astronomers, including a researcher from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., the asteroid approaches the Earth, first on one side and then on the other. The team's report appeared in the October 2002 issue of the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science.
The asteroid, named 2002 AA29, traces an unusual horseshoe pattern relative to Earth. The asteroid alternately leads and follows Earth around the Sun without ever passing it. "In some ways, the Earth and this asteroid are like two racecars on a circular track," said JPL's Dr. Paul Chodas, who discovered the object's unusual motion. "Right now the asteroid is on a slightly slower track just outside Earth's, and our planet is catching up," he said.
On Jan. 8, 2003, the tiny body will come within approximately 5.9 million kilometers (3.7 million miles) of Earth, its closest approach for almost a century. "Unlike racecars, the two bodies will not pass when they approach each other," Chodas said. "Instead, the combined gravitational effects of the Earth and Sun will nudge the asteroid onto a slightly faster track just inside Earth's, and it will begin to pull ahead," he said.
In 95 years, the asteroid will have advanced all the way around to where it is catching up to the Earth from behind. A similar interaction with gravity from both the Earth and Sun will then push the asteroid back onto a slower outside track, and the pattern will repeat. To an observer moving with the Earth, the asteroid appears to trace out a horseshoe pattern.
"There's no possibility that this asteroid could hit Earth, because Earth's gravity rebuffs its periodic advances and keeps it at bay," said Dr. Don Yeomans, JPL manager of NASA's Near Earth Objects Program Office. "The asteroid and Earth take turns sneaking up on each other, but they never get too close," he said.
The team's calculations show that in about 600 years, the asteroid may begin looping around Earth like a tiny, distant quasi-moon. "The asteroid will appear to orbit the Earth at that time, but in fact it will be too far away to be considered a true satellite of our planet," Chodas said. "Our calculations indicate the space rock will circle the Earth as a quasi-satellite for about 40 years before resuming its horseshoe orbital pattern."
Other members of the team investigating this object include Dr. Martin Connors, Athabasca University, Canada; Dr. Seppo Mikkola, University of Turku, Finland; Dr. Paul Wiegert, Queen's University, Canada; Dr. Christian Veillet, Canada- France-Hawaii Telescope, Hawaii; and Dr. Kim A. Innanen, York University, Canada.
JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif.
|Los Angeles January 6, 2003 (BBC) - Jesus Christ and his apostles may have used a cannabis-based anointing oil to help cure people with crippling diseases, it has been claimed. Researchers in the United States say the oil used in the early days of the Christian church contained a cannabis extract called kaneh-bosem. |
They suggest the extract, which is absorbed into the body when placed on the skin, could have helped cure people with a variety of physical and mental problems. The author of the article, published in the US drugs magazine High Times, says his findings are based on a study of scriptural texts.
The article does not question the validity of the miracles reported in the Bible but rather examines whether the early Christian Church may have made use of substances with an active medical effect. It does not rule out the role played by blind faith in Christ.
Chris Bennett said cannabis was widely used at the time to heal the sick.
"The medical use of cannabis during that time is supported by archaeological records." He said the ancient anointing oil contained high levels of cannabis extract.
"The holy anointing oil, as described in the original Hebrew version of the recipe in Exodus, contained over six pounds of keneh-bosum - a substance identified by respected etymology, linguists anthropologists, botanists and other researchers as cannabis extracted into about six quarts of olive oil along with a variety of other fragrant herbs. The ancient anointed ones were literally drenched in this potent mixture."
Mr. Bennett suggested the drug may have played a role in some healing miracles carried out by Jesus and his disciples.
He wrote: "In the ancient world, diseases such as epilepsy were attributed to demonic possession. To cure somebody of such an illness, even with the aid of certain herbs was considered exorcism or miraculous healing. Interestingly, cannabis has been shown to be effective in the treatment of not only epilepsy but many of the other ailments that Jesus and the disciples healed people of such as skin diseases, eye problems and menstrual problems."
|Payment Demanded from 8th Century Saint!|
|BERLIN January 6, 2003 (Reuters) - Germany's television license fee agency apologized Monday for sending an angry letter demanding payment from an eighth century saint. |
"This was quite embarrassing," said Eckhard Ohliger, an official at the Cologne-based GEZ fee collection headquarters, which collects 6.5 billion euros ($6.8 billion) per year from viewers. "But unfortunately mistakes happen."
|Teenager Wins DVD Copy Protection Case|
|Norway January 7, 2003 (BBC) - A Norwegian court has acquitted a teenager accused by US entertainment groups of creating tools for hackers. The court acquitted Jon Johansen on all charges and said he did not break the law when he created a system that could remove copy protection on DVDs. |
The ruling by the court said there was no evidence that Mr Johansen was helping people break the law as the US film industry claimed. The decision is a serious blow to US entertainment industry ambitions to extend control over what people can with the movies, music and software they have bought.
In 1999, Norwegian police raided the home of teenager Jon Lech Johansen following a complaint by US entertainment giants that the software he had created was being used to help people pirate DVDs. Mr. Johansen produced software, called DeCSS, that could strip the Content Scrambling System (CSS) from DVD disks.
Mr. Johansen said he created the DeCSS software to let him watch DVDs he purchased on a Linux computer rather than an expensive DVD player. He maintained that he should have the right to watch films he had legally bought on a device of his choosing.
Now the Norwegian court has backed Mr Johansen and said there was "no evidence" that what he did was aiding DVD piracy. With no evidence that Mr. Johansen was engaged in piracy or that he was aiding others to illegally copy disks the Norwegian court had no choice but to acquit the teenager. The court also ruled that it was not illegal to use DeCSS to watch legally obtained DVD films.
The court case pitted the mighty Motion Picture Association of America against Mr. Johansen and was widely seen as a test case for US ambitions to extend its control over what people can do with copyrighted materials. The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten broke the news about the court case.
US laws, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, have encouraged movie and music industry associations to pursue people who they see as aiding piracy. These ambitions have been dented recently by two court decisions.
The first concerned Russian software firm Elcomsoft which was accused of creating tools that could unlock encryption controls of electronic books. But in late 2002 a US court acquitted Elcomsoft and said the firm had done nothing wrong.
Now Norwegian judges have issued another rebuff to the US entertainment giants.
|Kids With Guns!|
|Johns Hopkins Medical Institution Press Release |
Baltimore January 6, 2003 - Race, gender and other social factors may explain why some parents allow their children to play with toy guns, while others shudder at the thought, a Johns Hopkins researcher reports in the January issue of Pediatrics.
Almost 70 percent of parents surveyed felt it was "never OK" for a parent to let a child play with toy guns. The parents who allowed their children to play with toy guns were more likely to be male, with male children, and Caucasian. Families with younger children and mothers were more likely to limit toy gun play.
In general, researchers found the gender and age of the child, gender of the parent, and race of the family factored significantly into parents' attitudes about allowing their children to play with toy guns.
"This study calls attention to an issue that has been largely unstudied - assessing community norms on toy gun play from the perspective of parents," says lead author Tina Cheng, M.D., Ph.D., director of general pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Cheng led the study while at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
According to Cheng, some studies have linked toy gun play with aggressive behavior, and some child health professionals counsel families to limit this type of activity. Concerns about toy guns also include potential confusion of toy guns with real guns and the dangers of toy guns with projectiles, all of which could potentially cause serious injury to both the child and others.
"There needs to be more study on the impact of toy gun play on child behavior. Understanding what parents think about issues like toy gun play and what their parenting practices are may be a first step in designing effective community-based prevention programs," said Cheng.
Researchers surveyed more than 900 parents and guardians visiting pediatricians' offices in Washington, D.C., and its suburbs. The survey included questions on child rearing attitudes and practices, lifestyle, and demographic information. More than half of all respondents were African-American, and the majority of the parents participating were mothers.
|Genre News: Save Farscape, Firefly, Dead Zone, Buffy, Billy Campbell, Bette Davis, Smallville, Men Into Space!|
|Save Farscape! |
Hollywood January 8, 2003 (eXoNews) - A new rallying cry for Scapers has begun with the impending final episodes of Farscape's Season Four due this Friday January 10th on Sci Fi.
Save Farscape (http://www.watchfarscape.com) is contacting fans again, hoping to convince someone to energize their fallen favorite for a fifth season, despite the fact that Moya's sets are gone and Pilot is packed away in a box, as the lovely Virginia Hey (Zhaan) put it.
Virginia also spoke for Farscape fans when she said: "I can't imagine the end of my beloved Moya and Pilot, my Stark, my children, my friends in our fabulous world of Farscape."
One fan has organized a friendly assault on Farscape sponsor KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken) - http://www.watchfarscape.com/forums/showthread.php?s=&threadid=6169#newpost
Another has supplied a flyer you can hand out or mail to potential watchers and supporters at http://the-janissary.com/SaveFarscape/FSFlyers.html
The same artist has provided Farscape stationary to write the Sci Fi Channel and potential new home UPN at http://the-janissary.com/SaveFarscape/FSWatermarks.html
US (only) fans can donate telemarketing time for two weeks to help restart the show. Email Deneba or Jul at Save Farscape: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Other Email addresses:
Also read Kate O'Hare's January 4th Zap2It Interview with Farscape star Ben Browder at http://tv.zap2it.com/sciencefiction/otherworlds.html?29518
And this less than encouraging analysis of the Farscape battle - http://tv.zap2it.com/news/tvnewsdaily.html?29572
Latest Save Firefly Campaign News!
Hollywood January 10, 2003 (eXoNews) - Firefly: Immediate Assistance reports that UPN has nixed the idea of picking up Joss Whedon's space western series Firefly. FIA got this from a source at 20th Century Fox, the major that pays the Firefly production bills for Mutant Enemy, Whedon's production unit.
Firefly's lowest national rating was a 2.4 for "War Stories", down from its initial premiere in September at 4.0. (See http://home.insightbb.com/~wahoskem/firefly1.html for a complete breakdown of Firefly's ratings.)
FIA reports that 20th Century Fox is now aiming at selling Firefly to the Sci Fi Channel, which is also the target of the Save Farscape campaign.
FIA notes that there should be no conflict in getting Sci Fi to host both shows or hurt Farscape's chance for a fifth season renewal.
Go to http://www.fireflysupport.com/statement.html to read a statement from the two strategy teams about how they can work to support one another.
Dead Zone Scores Highest in 2nd Season Premiere
Grabbing a total of 4.1 million viewers, the episode also scored a 2.2 among viewers 25-54 and the same tally with viewers 18-49.
The Dead Zone Official site - http://www.usanetwork.com/thedeadzone
Buffy Summer Harvest
London England January 7, 2003 (eXoNews) - Hey, there, Buffy fans! Ever wonder what really happened to Giles' almost-girl friend Jenny Calendar? If you've got a handy transporter spell, or the airfare, you might want to fly over to London this summer to find out.
Campbell As Ted Bundy
A&E Plans Bette Davis Bio
It will explore her love affair, marriage and divorce from her co-star Gary Merrill.
The script will be written by Pulitzer, Tony and Oscar-winning scribe Alfred Uhry ("Driving Miss Daisy").
Superman Actor Reeve Lands Back in 'Smallville'
According to the report in TV Guide's next edition, which hits newsstands next Monday, the Vancouver-based production will be shot in New York City to accommodate Reeve, who was paralyzed from the neck down in a 1995 horseback riding accident. Reeve was best known for playing the title role in the 1978 hit film "Superman" and in two movie sequels.
New episodes of Smallville begin next week, Tuesdays at 9PM on the WB.
Smallville Official Site - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||126,00.htm
That's the reaction viewers may have while watching "Bridezilla," an upcoming Fox special that will feature a full hour of what the network is calling "matrimonial monsters" who wreak havoc on their loved ones as they prepare to walk down the aisle.
Write Fox and complain about how incredibly stupid their programming is - firstname.lastname@example.org
Men Into Space
Hollywood January 7, 2003 (eXoNews) - I recently received the answer to a question I threw out to the Beat The Geeks TV Geek in an eXoNews article . The question being who played Colonel Edward McCauley on the 1959 TV series Men Into Space?
I didn't think anyone would remember the show, but I was wrong. eXoNews visitor Ned Avejic not only knew actor William Lundigan played Colonel Edward McCauley, but Ned even hosts a web site for Men Into Space.