So to close 2012 with a bang, they enlisted 138 skydivers to participate in their Vertical Skydiving World Record by jumping out a plane and forming a snow flake at speeds of 220 mph. Of course, only GoPros caught all the action.
Solar winds stream through the vacuum of space at an awesome 400 kilometers per second (over one million miles per hour). To help understand the effect of these gusts on the space environment, NASA developed this hypnoticvisualization.
The sun is continually producingsolar winds, although they can vary in strength, temperatureand consistency. They consist of charged particles of electrons and protons that are thrustforward by the thermal energy and magnetic fields of the Suns atmosphere. The effect of the Aurora Borealis (or the Northern Lights) is the result of solar winds as they hit the Earths atmosphere. The swirling shape of the winds you see in the video comes from the rotation of the Sun.
Scientists at NASAs Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, made this visualizationusing data fromNew Horizons and models of solar winds.As you can see by the little date and clock on the bottom right, these solar winds can take months and months to reach Pluto despite their stunning speeds.
At the end of the last ice age, an armada of icebergs, each twice the height of the Empire State Building, broke off from the shoreline of Antarctica. According to a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they were created when a 280,000-square-kilometer (108,000-square-mile)section of the colossal Ross Ice Shelf collapsed in just 1,500 years.
The current stability of Antarctic ice shelves, the floating seaward extensions of ice sheets, is incredibly low. Man-made climate change is leading to unprecedented degrees of warming, causing the undersides of huge ice masses to melt and weaken. As a result, Larsen-A in the Antarctic Peninsula collapsed in 1995, followed by Larsen-B in 2002. Larsen-C, which is roughly 2.5 times the size of Wales, is due to follow suit.
Although these land-anchored ice shelves do not significantly contribute to sea level rise as they tumble into the ocean, they are acting as barricades for the landlocked ice sheets behind them. When removed, these enormous sheets may begin to join their watery grave, dramatically raising sea levels. For these reasons, researchers are keen to try and predict the future of gigantic ice shelves, and the Ross Ice Shelf, which is currently the size of France, is no exception to this.
The research vessel peeking at the ancient striations within the basin. L. Simkins/Rice University
At the height of the last ice age, we know that the sheet of ice covering the Antarctic continent was larger and thicker than it is today, said John Anderson, a professor of oceanography at Rice University and co-author of the paper, in a statement. This continent-enveloping ice sheet extended all the way to the continental shelf, and in western Antarctica it filled the entire Ross Sea basin.
Up to 18,000 years ago, this basin was packed with thick, heavy ice all the way down to the seafloor. The team decided to look for the telltale signatures of the movement of ice, large grooves in the seafloor known as striations, within this basin. To accomplish this, they used cutting-edge seafloor mapping systems aboard a U.S. research vessel the most sensitive ever employed in the Antarctic.
By tracing the paths of these massive striations, they found that around 10,000 years ago, as the ice age ended, a huge number of icebergs broke off from the shelf and pushed themselves out to sea. As this happened, the remaining part of the shelf retreated back onto the land as the warmer and more acidic sea eroded its exposed front.
Within 1,500 years, an area the size of Colorado had fallen into the sea. Theres a chance that in our rapidly warming world, such collapses could become more commonplace, unleashing massive volumes of ice on the continent into the oceans.
When Larsen-B broke apart, the glaciers behind it began to move forwards toward the sea 10 times faster than they used to. If the Ross Ice Shelf follows the same path, a fleet of glaciers could plunge into the sea soon afterwards. Worryingly, the modern day Ross Ice Shelf is considered by glaciologists to be unstable, behaving in a similar way to its ancient predecessor prior to its dramatic, rapid collapse.
A photographer in the right place at the right time has managed to catch an extremely rare snap of a black Kenyan serval.
National Geographic photographer Sergio Pitamitz took this amazing image on February 18 in Lualenyi Camp, a private reserve nearTsavo West National Park, Kenya.
“When you do wildlife photography, youre always searching for something rare and strange,” Pitamitz told National Geographic. “It was absolutely incredible.
Servals stand about 60 centimeters (23 inches) at the shoulder, around the height of a medium-sized dog, and are typically spotted like a cheetah.
In their write-up about the serval,National Geographic explain just how unusual this particular beast is. The serval in the image is melanistic technically the opposite of an albino. This means the individual carries a genetic mutation that makes itproduce more dark pigment than light pigment, resulting in ablack coloring.
Melanistic servals have only been documented in six scientific studies and photographed ahandful of times. Melanistic wildcats, as a whole, are comparatively common and have been scientifically documented in 13 of the 38 known species.
Itcan be a pretty good deal to bea melanistic cat, although it can bring its own challenges. Servalsare primarily nighthunters, so being as black as night has its obvious advantages when it comes to sneaking up on prey. On the other hand, black is not a comfortable color in the baking African savanna, as it absorbs considerably more light and heat than aspotted tan coat. Nevertheless, this photograph joins previousevidence that servals withmelanism can survive and thrive in the wild.
Servals are notoriously elusive, so even seeing one is a treat. For a wildlife photographer to snap a black one in the wild is like Christmas coming early.
In Norse mythology and Marvel Comics, Thors hammer the Mjlniris only possible to lift if youare worthy. In this video, however, the force behind wielding such ahammer is not Nordic god-like power; turns out, it’s justan electromagnetstolen from a microwave.
Allen Pan, from the Sufficiently Advanced YouTube channel, took to Venice Beach and challenged passersby to lift the legendary hammer. Unbeknownst to them, there’s a fingerprint scanner registered to only Allens thumb that turns off a strong electromagnet embedded in the hammer.
Check out the hilarious prank below, which also shows the neat electrical engineering that wentinto making the “unliftable”Mjlnir.
Interested in the environment? Are you partial to theplanetary sciences? Are youlooking to give your career a jumpstart? Its never been easier to learn about those subjects you’ve been curious about, but never had the means or time to explorefurther. Now, all you need is an Internet connection and a thirst for knowledge.
edXis a non-profit website that offers free education courses on a bunch of subjects from over 110 of the worlds top universities and institutions. The courses range from introductory to university level, all taught by leading researchers and experts in the field. Youcan also attend the classesfrom the comfort of your home with just a few hours of your time eachweek. So whats your excuse?
Check out a selection of their free courses below, ranging from the Earth sciences to astrophysics to science communication. In just a few clicks, you can start learning today!
When it comes to unimaginably powerful forces and astronomical explosions, it does not get much more mind-blowing than the field of astrophysics. This self-paced course from the Australian National University gives an intermediate look at some of the most deadly forces and grand objects in the known universe, from neutron stars and white dwarfs to supernovae and even hypernovae.
Victoria University of Wellington are offering youthechance to explore the coldest, driest, windiest, and coolest (no pun intended) continent on Earth: Antarctica
This course offers lessons onAntarctica’s 500 million years of geological history, as well as an insight into the 250 years of human and scientific exploration of this mysterious land. It also features virtual field trips and video lectures straight from Ross Island and the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica.
Climate change is undoubtedly one of the biggest and most controversial issues of our time, so its never been more important toknow the facts behind it.
Instructors from the University of British Columbia will give you the skills to understand and evaluate the latest science on climate change, as well as provide key expertise onways in which to communicate the scientific and human issues surrounding climate science to a wider audience.
This introductory course tells you everything you need to know about the different ways scientists use Earth observation tools, whether it be from space, aircraft, or on the ground. With the help of course instructors from Chalmers University of Technology, youll learn all you need to know to use, understand, and apply valuable observation data about our planet.
This Hubble Space Telescope image shows Supernova 1987A.Credit: NASA, ESA, R. Kirshner and M. Mutchler and R. Avila (STScI)
There’s no greater mystery than the universe. Just think, we don’t really know what most of the universe is even made of. Through this Australian National University course, you’ll learn many of the great questions raised by modern astrophysicsand understand why we’re so close, yet so very far, from answering them.
When you boil it down, science is simply a way of looking at the world. However,it doesnt just stop at scientific exploration, you can apply this way of seeing to all kinds of situations.This University of Queensland course shows how science can help you critically think about and appreciate the world around you. Its also perfect preparation if youre a high school student looking to further your interest in mathematics and science.
“Be more like this guy.” Shutterstock
After much sweat and toil, Taylorveltrop has finally unveiled his complete project. Using a Microsoft Kinect, a Nintendo Wii, a treadmill, and computers, he created a quasi virtual reality remote control robot avatar. To test his project, he successfully brushes a kitty in another room with only virtual reality control.
Life is a fickle thing, and to understand the potential for life beyond Earthwe continue to test how microorganisms deal with extreme conditions. The latest experiment looked at how fungi and lichens would fare on the Red Planet.
European scientists collected fungi from Antarctica, and lichens from the Sierra de Gredos (Spain) and the Alps (Austria), and theysent them tothe International Space Station (ISS) to experienceconditions similar to Mars. After 18 months, the team analyzed the samplesand discovered that more than 60 percentof the cells were intact and with stable DNA. The results indicate that the harsh conditions of Marsmight not bean insurmountable obstacle, andtheseextremophilespecies might survive.
The Antarctic fungi were collected in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, an area that is considered to be the most Martian-like environment on Earth, due to its dryness and sub-zero temperatures. Along with the European lichenspecies, the fungi were placed in EXPOSE-E,an experiment platform developed by ESA that was attached to the outside of the ISS.
The microorganisms were in a Mars-like atmosphere, made almost entirely of carbon dioxide,and at a low pressure (0.01 atmospheres). Using optical filters, thesamples were subjected to the same ultraviolet radiation they would experience on Mars.
“The most relevant outcome was that more than 60 percentof the cells of the endolithic communities studied remained intact after ‘exposure to Mars’, or rather, the stability of their cellular DNA was still high,” said a co-researcher on the project,Rosa de la Torre Noetzelfrom Spain’s National Institute of Aerospace Technology, in astatement
“The results help to assess the survival ability and long-term stability of microorganisms and bioindicators on the surface of Mars, information which becomes fundamental and relevant for future experiments centred around the search for life on the Red Planet,” she added.
The findings, published in the journal Astrobiology, might seem incontrast to the lack of bacteria in the Antarctic permafrostreported by IFLSciencelast week, butboth studiestell us something profound about life in the universe. Yes, there are evolved life forms that could survive in extreme extraterrestrial environments, but theres a significant difference between surviving and thriving.
Get ready, Earthlings. There’s a 5-kilometer (3 miles) wide space rock about to zip past our planet this weekend.
Asteroid 3200 Phaethon will make its closest approach on Saturday December 16 at 5:30 pm EST (click here to convert that to your time zone). Unfortunately, you won’t be able to see the asteroid with the naked eye. However, even a backyard telescope should be able to pick it up with a bit of know-how. If you’ve got a computerized telescope, you catch a glimpse of it by aiming between HIP2113 and a magnitude 9 star, according to NASA Earth Sky.
Phaethon is the third largest near-Earth asteroid classified as a “Potentially Hazardous Asteroid” but there’s no need to worry about it. The rock will skim past Earth from a distance of 10.3 million kilometers (6.4 million miles) away. That’s around 27 times the distance between the Earth and Moon, so pay no heed to the headlines telling you it’s threatening Armageddon just before Christmas.
Even so, this is still pretty close in space-terms. It is the closest encounter with this asteroid since 1974 and until 2093, meaning it’s a prime opportunity for astronomists to study this flying space rock.
“This will be the best opportunity to date for radar observations of this asteroid and we hope to obtain detailed images,” said NASA.
“The images should be excellent for obtaining a detailed 3D model.”
If – with extra stress on the totally hypothetical “if” – the asteroid did hit our planet, or any planet for that matter, Boston University astronomy professor Michael Mendillo told TIME that 3200 Phaethon would be a likely candidate. It “would be this type of object that would cause a catastrophic collision, should there be one,” he said.
Phaethon, only discovered in 1983, is named after the son of the Greek sun god Helios due to its close approach to our Sun. If you were lucky enough to witness the Geminid meteor shower earlier this week, these shooting stars actually came from debris left by 3200 Phaethon. That’s why this asteroid is sometimes referred to as “the mother of all Geminids.”
Asteroids don’t typically behave like this, so some astronomers argue it is not actually an asteroid at all but, in fact, a dead comet or perhaps just a comet that’s breaking apart.