2012: Fear No Supernova

Given the incredible amounts of energy in a supernova explosion – as much as the sun creates during its entire lifetime – another erroneous doomsday theory is that such an explosion could happen in 2012 and harm life on Earth. However, given the vastness of space and the long times between supernovae, astronomers can say with certainty that there is no threatening star close enough to hurt Earth.

Astronomers estimate that, on average, about one or two supernovae explode each century in our galaxy. But for Earth's ozone layer to experience damage from a supernova, the blast must occur less than 50 light-years away. All of the nearby stars capable of going supernova are much farther than this.

Any planet with life on it near a star that goes supernova would indeed experience problems. X- and gamma-ray radiation from the supernova could damage the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful ultraviolet light in the sun's rays. The less ozone there is, the more UV light reaches the surface. At some wavelengths, just a 10 percent increase in ground-level UV can be lethal to some organisms, including phytoplankton near the ocean surface. Because these organisms form the basis of oxygen production on Earth and the marine food chain, any significant disruption to them could cascade into a planet-wide problem.

Another explosive event, called a gamma-ray burst (GRB), is often associated with supernovae. When a massive star collapses on itself -- or, less frequently, when two compact neutron stars collide -- the result is the birth of a black hole. As matter falls toward a nascent black hole, some of it becomes accelerated into a particle jet so powerful that it can drill its way completely through the star before the star's outermost layers even have begun to collapse. If one of the jets happens to be directed toward Earth, orbiting satellites detect a burst of highly energetic gamma rays somewhere in the sky. These bursts occur almost daily and are so powerful that they can be seen across billions of light-years.

A gamma-ray burst could affect Earth in much the same way as a supernova -- and at much greater distance -- but only if its jet is directly pointed our way. Astronomers estimate that a gamma-ray burst could affect Earth from up to 10,000 light-years away with each separated by about 15 million years, on average. So far, the closest burst on record, known as GRB 031203, was 1.3 billion light-years away.

As with impacts, our planet likely has already experienced such events over its long history, but there's no reason to expect a gamma-ray burst in our galaxy to occur in the near future, much less in December 2012.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012-supernova.html

The new trend of beach wedding dress

In recent days a new trend of beach wedding accepted between many people. Dissimilar from the customary formal church wedding, the beach wedding distinguish more enjoyment and Joy. In adding up the white sand, gentle breeze and awesome sea will all make the wedding more idealistic.

As like as choosing the evening gowns for special evening occasion, the beach wedding dresses should be choose. In common, the beach wedding dresses are especially planned for the beach wedding. So, they may be dissimilar from other dresses. This dress appears very simple and makes the wedding more pleasure. The dress with high decorations may make the bride to feel hot during summer.

Apart from the easy line cut, the cloth is also a significant issue. There are many clothes can be useful to the bridal gown, however for the beach weddings, the light fabrics are very much appreciated. In the meantime, the cloth should be air porous.

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Dawn Obtains First Low Altitude Images of Vesta

NASA's Dawn spacecraft has sent back the first images of the giant asteroid Vesta from its low-altitude mapping orbit. The images, obtained by the framing camera, show the stippled and lumpy surface in detail never seen before, piquing the curiosity of scientists who are studying Vesta for clues about the solar system's early history.

At this detailed resolution, the surface shows abundant small craters, and textures such as small grooves and lineaments that are reminiscent of the structures seen in low-resolution data from the higher-altitude orbits. Also, this fine scale highlights small outcrops of bright and dark material.

A gallery of images can be found online at: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/multimedia/gallery-index.html .

The images were returned to Earth on Dec. 13. Dawn scientists plan to acquire data in the low-altitude mapping orbit for at least 10 weeks. The primary science objectives in this orbit are to learn about the elemental composition of Vesta's surface with the gamma ray and neutron detector and to probe the interior structure of the asteroid by measuring the gravity field.

The Dawn mission to the asteroids Vesta and Ceres is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. Dawn is a project of the directorate's Discovery Program, managed by NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. UCLA is responsible for overall Dawn mission science. The Dawn Framing Cameras have been developed and built under the leadership of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research, Katlenburg-Lindau, Germany, with significant contributions by DLR German Aerospace Center, Institute of Planetary Research, Berlin, and in coordination with the Institute of Computer and Communication Network Engineering, Braunschweig. The framing camera project is funded by the Max Planck Society, DLR, and NASA/JPL.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/dawn/news/dawn20111221.html

Satellite Data Shows that Kirtland’s Warblers Prefer Forests After Fire

Kirtland’s warblers are an endangered species of lightweight little birds with bright yellow-bellies that summer in North America and winter in the Bahamas. But be it their winter or their summer home, a new study using data from NASA-built Landsat satellites shows that these warblers like to live in young forests and often forests that have been on fire.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed Kirtland’s warblers as endangered in 1967 after a startling decline of over 50 percent in less than ten years. The little birds prefer to nest on the ground amidst large areas of relatively young jack pine trees, and these trees need fire to reproduce. When fires were dramatically suppressed in the 1960s across northern Michigan, Wisconsin and southern Ontario, the warbler’s habitat became scarce.

After an intensive recovery program that focused both on combating invasive cowbirds and managing controlled forest burns, and thus creating warbler-friendly jack pine habitat, the Kirtland’s warbler made an impressive comeback. By 1995 their numbers had tripled.

But those extensive efforts only occurred at the Kirtland’s summer home, so a team of researchers reviewed the conditions of many a warbler’s winter home – the Bahamian island of Eleuthera. They did this by painstakingly putting together Landsat data to create cloud-free images of the isle’s forest cover.

Tropical islands typically have cloud cover, so the team compiled many Landsat images with scenes where the clouds were in different places into one image of clear forest, said Eileen Helmer. She’s a member of the Landsat Science Team for the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) and works for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service International Institute of Tropical Forestry.

The researchers did this not just once, but ten times, obtaining a record that spans a 30-year time period. According to Helmer, this allows them to tell how long it had been since the forest was last disturbed by fire, crops or grazing.

What the scientists discovered was that, like in their summer homes, Kirtland’s warblers are found in young forests. On Eleuthera, these forests only occur after a disturbance of some sort – like fire, clearing for agriculture, or grazing. And grazing turns out to be a disturbance the warbler can live with just fine. Old forest whose underbrush has been munched on by goats provides the most suitable habitat for warblers, said Helmer.

The results, published in this month's issue of Biotropica, suggest that goat grazing stunts the forest regrowth, so that the tree height doesn’t exceed the height beyond which important fruit-bearing forage tree species are shaded out by taller woody species. Helmer said that understanding how and where the warbler's winter habitat occurs will help conservation efforts in the Bahamas.

Helmer said that a unique feature of warbler’s winter habitat is that the age of this forest correlates very strongly with its height. By tracking the age of the forest after a disturbance, she and her team determined forest height at different times. Helmer said they used image time-series data from Landsat and the Advance Land Imager (ALI) sensor aboard the Earth-Observing 1 (EO-1) satellite to essentially ‘stack’ many images over time. This project is the first time that forest height profiles have been successfully mapped by satellite imagery at a medium resolution that shows a broad area but still resolves human impacts on the land. As in the warbler case, understanding how a forest is put together in three dimensions is important for ecological studies. Helmer adds that this tool may be applied elsewhere around the world due to Landsat’s global coverage and policy of free access to data. Helmer will discuss mapping forest height at the American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco on Friday, Dec. 9.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/warblers.html

Expedition 29 Welcomes New Crewmates

The Soyuz TMA-22 spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Dan Burbank and Russian cosmonauts Anton Shkaplerov and Anatoly Ivanishin docked to the International Space Station’s Poisk mini-research module at 12:24 a.m. EST Wednesday. The trio launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 11:14 p.m. EST Sunday (10:14 a.m. Monday, Kazakhstan time).

After the hatches between Soyuz and station were opened at 2:39 a.m., Expedition 29 Commander Mike Fossum of NASA and Flight Engineers Satoshi Furukawa of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and Russian cosmonaut Sergei Volkov welcomed the new flight engineers aboard for their four-month stay on the orbiting complex.

The six station crew members will have a little less than a week together as the Expedition 29 crew before Fossum, Furukawa and Volkov head home Monday aboard the Soyuz TMA-02M spacecraft that brought them to the station June 9. Their departure will mark the beginning of Expedition 30, under the command of Burbank. A formal change-of-command ceremony is planned for Sunday.

Three additional Expedition 30 flight engineers -- NASA astronaut Don Pettit, Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko and European Space Agency astronaut Andre Kuipers -- are scheduled to launch to the station Dec. 21.

Burbank is making his third visit to the station. His previous two visits were both aboard space shuttle Atlantis. During the STS-106 mission in September 2000, he helped prepare the station for its first permanent crew. During STS-115 in September 2006, he conducted a 7-hour, 11-minute spacewalk that completed truss installation, activated the solar alpha rotary joint and enabled the solar arrays to be deployed.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/expeditions/expedition29/exp29_dock.html

Maintaining Crew Health One Step at a Time

While many of us may not like to exercise, imagine having to do it two hours every day. Astronauts on the International Space Station must exercise at least that much to stay fit. A new space station experiment is studying the difference between exercising on a treadmill in space and on Earth.

Biomechanical Analysis of Treadmill Exercise on the International Space Station, or Treadmill Kinematics, is the first rigorous investigation to determine the most beneficial treadmill exercise conditions to maintain or improve crew health during long-duration spaceflight.

"Exercise activities are developed under the assumption that walking and running in microgravity have the same training effects as under normal gravity," said John De Witt, principal investigator for the experiment with Wyle Integrated Science and Engineering Group in Houston. "However, if there is a difference, we will learn more about the effects, allowing us to develop appropriate exercise prescriptions to increase benefits to crew health and well-being."

Researchers are gathering video and data on the force the body exerts when the foot hits the ground while crew members run and walk on a treadmill at varying weights and speeds. This will determine joint motions and muscle functions that occur during normal exercise. Researchers also are comparing in-flight running styles with running styles on Earth.

"On the space station, locomotion -- running and walking movement -- occurs on a treadmill that isolates vibrations, which increases the potential for training differences in space," said De Witt. "The overall goal of the advanced exercise regimes for the crew members is to increase weight at the joints to provide a greater stimulus for bone and muscle health."

An earlier study on the space station titled Foot Reaction Forces During Space Flight, or Foot, measured foot forces on the previous version of the treadmill. "They weren’t enough to maintain bone," said Julie Robinson, International Space Station Program scientist at Johnson Space Center in Houston. "Now we have a better treadmill, a better harness and improved protocols. They will help us determine how to arrive at future exploration destinations strong and ready to explore the surface."

While results of the Treadmill Kinematics analysis will be used to determine the best treadmill conditions for maintaining health during spaceflight, the data gathered may provide researchers with a better understanding of how exercise speed and external loads affect forces experienced by the joints and muscles on Earth.

Fore more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/Treadmill_Kinematics.html

Technology Innovation Magazine Highlights the International Space Station

The International Space Station didn't just make the cover story of the latest publication of NASA's Technology Innovation magazine, the entire issue was devoted to this amazing feat of collaboration and technology.

With assembly complete, the station can now fulfill its purpose as a testbed for research, innovation and technology development in microgravity, according to Joseph Parrish, NASA's deputy chief technologist. In the "Upfront with…" introduction to the magazine, Parrish shared the importance investment plays in moving forward as a global leader in aerospace technology.

"America is the nation we are today because of the technological investments made in the 1960s, because of the engineers and scientists of that generation and those policy makers who had the wisdom and foresight to make the investments required for our country to emerge as a global technological leader," said Parrish.

This sense of excitement as the investment in the space station turns to utilization echoes in the various articles from the issue. Contributors, such as Mark Uhran, NASA's International Space Station assistant associate administrator, shared their perspective on the space station's past and future, including opportunities available for research, technology and partnership.

In a piece titled "An Era of Opportunity, the International Space Station Begins its Next Stage of Partnership and Innovation," Uhran looked back at the developmental timeline that ultimately led to the station's creation. "While the design, assembly, and operations of the station to date are remarkable human achievements in their own right, the opening of the utilization era over the next decade presents unprecedented opportunities for partnerships to advance the research and development of space resources," said Uhran.

Other articles in the publication delve into the areas of scientific focus for research on the orbiting laboratory. These include biology and biotechnology, Earth and space science, physical science, human research, technology and educational opportunities. The space station environment, which includes microgravity, extreme temperatures and radiation, provides a unique testing area with tremendous potential for discovery.

The feature titled "Biology in Orbit, How Research Partnerships Growing Plants, Cells, and Animals, and Testing New Drugs on the ISS Pays Off on Earth," spotlights how investigations in space can lead to real changes in everyday lives on the ground. From vaccine development to cell therapy, studies like Space Tissue Loss hold potential that is just starting to be tapped.

"This research helps us better understand adult stem cell biology and how to optimize our regenerative cell population," said Tom Cannon, vice president and co-founder of Tissue Genesis Inc. "This same cell population recovered from adipose tissue (fat) is currently in FDA clinical trials as we begin to translate its tremendous therapeutic potential into the clinic."

The space station's technological developments also can pay off with partnership dividends via industry products for Earth. For instance, a chemical sensor technology originally developed for aerospace fuel delivery safety found a second life as a "Lick and Stick" leak detection system. This technology is a core part of the Advanced Life Support System on the station, and on the ground is used to monitor hydrogen-powered concept cars, measure emissions and detect fires. You can read more in the related article "Innovative Research, 'Lick and Stick' Sensor Systems Enhance Safety and Performance."

Developments such as this sensor generate a ripple effect in related industries, according to Benjamin Ward, Ph.D., with Makel Engineering. "Our partnership with NASA in the development of the lick-and-stick technology has resulted in a wide range of sensor and smart systems products, which have generated a large percentage of company revenues and supported multiple engineering jobs," said Ward.

Inspiration, however, is not limited to corporate developments from station research. In fact, some of the greatest inventions and discoveries may result not from direct innovations, but from the inspirations generated from the educational efforts of the space station crew and their ground counterparts. Learning opportunities take center stage in the feature "Pen Caps and Nanoparticles, Inspiring, Engaging, and Educating the Next Generation through ISS Research."

"As you read about the wonders taking place now on [the] world's orbiting laboratory -- the International Space Station -- dare to dream about where these opportunities will take us over the next 10 or 25 years," said Parrish. "The possibilities are limitless!"

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/research/news/Innovation_Magazine.html

New Tool for Touring Mars Using Detailed Images

An improved tool debuts today for viewing channels, dunes, boulders and other features revealed in the huge image files from the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The new tool, HiView, offers the best way to take a personal, virtual hike through any of thousands of square miles of Mars observed by HiRISE, seeing details as small as a desk. To watch the tutorial video and download the free HiView application, go to: http://www.uahirise.org/hiview/ .

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been studying Mars with an advanced set of instruments since 2006. It has returned more data about the planet than all other spacecraft combined. For more information about the mission, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/mro and http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/mro/ .

HiRISE is operated by the University of Arizona, Tucson, and the instrument was built by Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., Boulder, Colo. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter project is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, Washington. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology, also in Pasadena. Lockheed Martin Space Systems, Denver, built the spacecraft.

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For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/MRO/news/mro20111207.html

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NASA's Hubble Confirms That Galaxies Are the Ultimate Recyclers

New observations by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope are expanding astronomers' understanding of the ways in which galaxies continuously recycle immense volumes of hydrogen gas and heavy elements. This process allows galaxies to build successive generations of stars stretching over billions of years.

This ongoing recycling keeps some galaxies from emptying their "fuel tanks" and stretches their star-forming epoch to over 10 billion years.

This conclusion is based on a series of Hubble Space Telescope observations that flexed the special capabilities of its Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS) to detect gas in the halo of our Milky Way and more than 40 other galaxies. Data from large ground-based telescopes in Hawaii, Arizona and Chile also contributed to the studies by measuring the properties of the galaxies.

Astronomers believe that the color and shape of a galaxy is largely controlled by gas flowing through an extended halo around it. The three studies investigated different aspects of the gas-recycling phenomenon.

The results are being published in three papers in the November 18 issue of Science magazine. The leaders of the three studies are Nicolas Lehner of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind.; Jason Tumlinson of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Md.; and Todd Tripp of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

The COS observations of distant stars demonstrate that a large mass of clouds is falling through the giant halo of our Milky Way, fueling its ongoing star formation. These clouds of hot hydrogen reside within 20,000 light-years of the Milky Way disk and contain enough material to make 100 million suns. Some of this gas is recycled material that is continually being replenished by star formation and the explosive energy of novae and supernovae, which kicks chemically enriched gas back into the halo.

The COS observations also show halos of hot gas surrounding vigorous star-forming galaxies. These halos, rich in heavy elements, extend as much as 450,000 light-years beyond the visible portions of their galactic disks. The amount of heavy-element mass discovered far outside a galaxy came as a surprise. COS measured 10 million solar masses of oxygen in a galaxy's halo, which corresponds to about one billion solar masses of gas -- as much as in the entire space between stars in a galaxy’s disk.

Researchers also found that this gas is nearly absent from galaxies that have stopped forming stars. In these galaxies, the “recycling” process ignites a rapid firestorm of star birth which can blow away the remaining fuel, essentially turning off further star-birth activity.

This is evidence that gas pushed out of a galaxy, rather than pulled in from intergalactic space, determine a galaxy's fate."

The Hubble observations demonstrate that those galaxies forming stars at a very rapid rate, perhaps a hundred solar masses per year, can drive two-million-degree gas very far out into intergalactic space at speeds of up to two million miles per hour. That's fast enough for the gas to escape forever and never refuel the parent galaxy.

While hot gas "winds" from galaxies have been known for some time, the new COS observations reveal that hot outflows extend to much greater distances than previously thought and can carry a tremendous amount of mass out of a galaxy. Some of the hot gas is moving more slowly and could eventually be recycled. The observations show how gas-rich star-forming spiral galaxies can evolve to elliptical galaxies that no longer have star formation.

The light emitted by this hot plasma is invisible, so the researchers used COS to detect the presence of the gas by the way it absorbs certain colors of light from background quasars. Quasars are the brightest objects in the universe and are the brilliant cores of active galaxies that contain active central black holes. The quasars serve as distant lighthouse beacons that shine through the gas-rich "fog" of hot plasma encircling galaxies. At ultraviolet wavelengths, COS is sensitive to the presence of heavy elements, such as nitrogen, oxygen, and neon. COS's high sensitivity allows many galaxies to be studied that happen to lie in front of the much more distant quasars. The ionized heavy elements are markers for estimating how much mass is in a galaxy's halo.

For more information visit http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/recyclers.html