NASA spotted a vast, glowing ‘hydrogen wall’ at the edge of our solar system

There’s a “hydrogen wall” at the edge of our solar system, and NASA scientists think their New Horizons spacecraft can see it.

That hydrogen wall is the outer boundary of our home system, the place where our sun’s bubble of solar wind ends and where a mass of interstellar matter too small to bust through that wind builds up, pressing inward. Our host star’s powerful jets of matter and energy flow outward for a long stretch after leaving the sun — far beyond the orbit of Pluto. But at a certain point, they peter out, and their ability to push back the bits of dust and other matter — the thin, mysterious stuff floating within our galaxy’s walls — wanes. A visible boundary forms. On one side are the last vestiges of solar wind. And on the other side, in the direction of the Sun’s movement through the galaxy, there’s a buildup of interstellar matter, including hydrogen.

And now NASA researchers are pretty sure that New Horizons, the probe that famously skimmed past Pluto in 2015, can see that boundary.

What New Horizons definitely sees, the researchers reported in a paper published Aug. 7 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, is some extra ultraviolet light — the kind the researchers would expect such a wall of galactic hydrogen to produce. That replicates an ultraviolet signal the two Voyager spacecraft — NASA’s farthest-traveling probes, which launched in the late 1970s — spotted all the way back in 1992. [Images: Dust Grains from Interstellar Space]

However, the researchers cautioned, that signal isn’t a sure sign that New Horizons has seen the hydrogen wall, or that Voyager did. All three probes could have actually detected the ultraviolet light from some other source, emanating from much deeper in the galaxy, the researchers wrote.

But Alice, the instrument on board New Horizons responsible for this finding, is much more sensitive than anything the Voyagers had on board before beginning their own journey out of the solar system, the researchers wrote. And they said they expect Alice to function 15 to 20 more years.

New Horizons will continue to scan the sky for ultraviolet light twice a year, the researchers wrote, and report what it sees back to Earth.

“If the ultraviolet light drops off at some point, then New Horizons may have left the wall in its rearview mirror,” the researchers explained in an accompanying statement. “But if the light never fades, then its source could be farther ahead — coming from somewhere deeper in space.”

Originally published on Live Science.

 

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe blasts off on epic journey to ‘touch the Sun’

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe has blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force station on its historic mission to the Sun.

The probe lit up the night sky as it blasted off at 3:31 a.m. EDT.

“It was a really clean launch,” Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, told reporters. “It took off like it should.”

“Everything was exactly like we thought it would be – it really was textbook,” he added.

Carried by a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, Parker lifted off from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37. The launch had intially been scheduled for early Saturday, but last-minute technical glitches ate away at the launch window, prompting a 24-hour delay.

The $1.5 billion mission will take humanity closer to the Sun than ever before. Parker will be the first spacecraft to fly through the Sun’s corona, the outermost part of the star’s atmosphere. It is expected to reach the Sun in November.

NASA’S PARKER SOLAR PROBE: CAPE CANAVERAL PREPARES FOR EPIC MISSION TO THE SUN

Parker will face “brutal” heat and radiation during an epic journey that will take it to within 3.8 million miles of the Sun’s surface, according to the space agency. This is seven times closer than the previous closest spacecraft, Helios 2, which came within 27 million miles of the Sun in 1976.

The average distance between the Sun and Earth is 93 million miles. 

Parker must withstand heat of nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit to complete its audacious mission. To achieve this, the probe will be protected by a special 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield. Safe inside the spacecraft, however, the probe’s payload will be operating at room temperature.

NASA’S PARKER SOLAR PROBE SET TO WRITE NEW CHAPTER IN CAPE CANAVERAL HISTORY

Harnessing Venus’ gravity, Parker will complete seven flybys over seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. On its closest approach in 2024, the probe will be traveling at approximately 430,000 mph, setting a new speed record for a manmade object.

The Sun’s corona, which can be seen during a total solar eclipse, is usually hidden by the bright light of the star’s surface. The probe, named after pioneering solar physicist Dr. Eugene Parker, will provide a wealth of invaluable data.

Scientists expect to shed new light on the Sun’s potential to disrupt satellites and spacecraft, as well as electronics and communications on Earth.

NASA’S PARKER SOLAR PROBE SET TO ‘TOUCH THE SUN’ ON HISTORIC MISSION

It is also hoped that the probe will provide answers to what scientists describe as “the coronal heating problem.” One of the most unusual aspects of the Sun is that its atmosphere gets much hotter the farther it stretches from the star’s surface, according to NASA.

Instruments on board Parker will study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles as well as imaging solar wind, a flow of ionized gases that stream past the Earth at more than a million miles an hour.

Eugene Parker first theorized the existence of the solar wind. To honor his contribution to science, the probe is NASA’s first spacecraft to be named after a living person.

WEIRD SOLAR SCIENCE: HOW NASA’S PARKER PROBE WILL DIVE THROUGH THE SUN’S ATMOSPHERE

The probe, which was designed and built by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University, is also carrying more than 1.1 million names to the Sun. In March, members of the public were invited to be a part in the historic mission by submitting their names to be placed on a memory card that the spacecraft will take into space. In May, NASA confirmed that, over a seven-week period a total of 1,137,202 names were submitted.

The memory card also contains photos of Dr. Parker and his groundbreaking 1958 scientific paper on solar wind.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe launch scrubbed, rescheduled for Sunday

The eagerly anticipated launch of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe was scrubbed early Saturday when delays on the launch pad ate away at the spacecraft’s 65-minute window to blast off to the sun.

Crowds had gathered at Kennedy Space Center in Florida to see the Solar Probe embark on its incredible journey from nearby Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Sitting atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, the Solar Probe was initially scheduled to launch from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37 at 3:33 a.m. EDT. Onlookers watched tensely as the launch-time was pushed back to 3:53 a.m. EDT, eating into the 65-minute launch window. The launch was scrubbed about 2 minutes from the end of the launch window.

NASA’S PARKER SOLAR PROBE: CAPE CANAVERAL PREPARES FOR EPIC MISSION TO THE SUN

“The launch of a ULA #DeltaIV Heavy carrying the Parker #SolarProbe spacecraft was scrubbed today due to a violation of a launch limit, resulting in a hold. There was not enough time remaining in the window to recycle,” tweeted ULA.

Specific details of what caused the delays have not yet been released.

A new launch time has been set for 3:31 a.m. EDT Sunday.

NASA’S PARKER SOLAR PROBE SET TO WRITE NEW CHAPTER IN CAPE CANAVERAL

The $1.5 billion mission will take humanity closer to the sun than ever before. Parker will be the first spacecraft to fly through the sun’s corona, the outermost part of the star’s atmosphere. It is expected to reach the sun in November.

Parker will face “brutal” heat and radiation during an epic journey that will take it to within 3.8 million miles of the sun’s surface, according to the space agency. This is seven times closer than the previous closest spacecraft, Helios 2, which came within 27 million miles of the sun in 1976.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Jupiter’s storms: Scientists now think they know what’s causing these powerful storms

How Jupiter gets its stripes has been one of astronomy’s most enticing mysteries.

They are straight. They are clearly defined. They have different colors.

Now, thanks to the Juno space probe currently in orbit around the gas giant, we’ve been able to infer what’s going on beneath them.

Researchers from Australia and the United States have been looking into the interaction between the planet’s atmosphere and its magnetic field.

Dr. Navid Constantinou from the Research School of Earth Sciences at The Australian National University (ANU) has been taking part in the study.

“We know a lot about the jet streams in Earth’s atmosphere and the key role they play in the weather and climate, but we still have a lot to learn about Jupiter’s atmosphere,” he says.

Jupiter is a gas giant. It has no solid surface like Earth’s. Instead, it’s made up mostly of hydrogen and helium.

So do the winds go all the way down?

Thanks to Juno, we now know these enormous funnels of wind extend some 3000km deep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s not as far as expected.

“Scientists have long debated how deep the jet streams reach beneath the surfaces of Jupiter and other gas giants, and why they do not appear in the sun’s interior,” Dr. Constantinou says.

The theory put forward by the new study argues the winds are suppressed by strong magnetic fields.

“The gas in the interior of Jupiter is magnetized,, so we think our new theory explains why the jet streams go as deep as they do under the gas giant’s surface but don’t go any deeper,” says Co-researcher Dr. Jeffrey Parker from Livermore National Laboratory in the United States.

Just as the jet-streams of Earth shape our climate, Jupiter’s jet-streams shape the clouds of ammonia cast about in the gas giant’s upper atmosphere. This gives the planet its distinctive shades of white, red, orange, brown and yellow coloration.

“Earth’s jet streams have a huge impact on the weather and climate by acting as a barrier and making it harder for air on either side of them to exchange properties such as heat, moisture and carbon,” says Dr. Constantinou.

They have a similar effect on Jupiter. To a point.

They are also straighter. And much faster.

“There are no continents and mountains below Jupiter’s atmosphere to obstruct the path of the jet streams,” Dr. Parker adds.

“This makes the jet streams on Jupiter simpler. By studying Jupiter, not only do we unravel the mysteries in the interior of the gas giant, but we can also use Jupiter as a laboratory for studying how atmospheric flows work in general.”

The study is published in The Astrophysical Journal.

This story originally appeared in news.com.au.

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe set to ‘touch the Sun’ on historic mission

NASA is set to launch its Parker Solar Probe Saturday on a historic mission that will “touch the Sun.”

The solar probe will be the first spacecraft to fly through the Sun’s corona, the outermost part of the star’s atmosphere. “Parker Solar Probe will revolutionize our understanding of the Sun,” explains NASA, on its website.

“The coolest, hottest mission, baby, that’s what it is,” said Nicola Fox, the project scientist at Johns Hopkins University.

SOLAR ECLIPSE, CRASHING SPACECRAFT, VOLCANOES AND MORE: BIGGEST SCIENCE STORIES OF 2017

Parker will blast off aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket from Space Launch Complex 37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The 65-minute launch window for the mission opens at 3:33 a.m. EDT on Aug. 11, 2018.

The probe will face “brutal” heat and radiation during an epic journey that will take it to within 3.8 million miles of the Sun’s surface, according to the space agency. This is seven times closer than the previous closest spacecraft, Helios 2, which came within 27 million miles of the Sun in 1976.

The average distance between the Sun and Earth is 93 million miles. 

Parker must withstand temperatures of nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit to complete its audacious mission. To achieve this, the probe will be protected by a special 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield. Safe inside the spacecraft, however, the probe’s payload will be operating at room temperature.

Harnessing Venus’ gravity, Parker will complete seven flybys over seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the Sun. On its closest approach, the probe will be traveling at approximately 430,000 mph.

Scientists expect the $1.5 billion mission to shed light not only on our own dynamic Sun, but the billions of other yellow dwarf stars — and other types of stars — out there in the Milky Way and beyond. While granting us life, the Sun also has the power to disrupt spacecraft in orbit, and communications and electronics on Earth.

NASA NAMES NINE ‘AMERICAN HERO’ ASTRONAUTS FOR SPACEX, BOEING MISSIONS

Parker was designed and built by the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University.

The probe, named after pioneering solar physicist Dr. Eugene Parker, will provide a wealth of invaluable data for scientists.

The Sun is the source of solar wind, a flow of ionized gases that stream past the Earth at more than a million miles an hour, the space agency explains. “Disturbances in the solar wind shake Earth’s magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts, part of a set of changes in near-Earth space known as space weather,” it says. ”Space weather can change the orbits of satellites, shorten their lifetimes, or interfere with onboard electronics. The more we learn about what causes space weather – and how to predict it – the more we can protect the satellites we depend on.”

MASSIVE MARS DISCOVERY: ORGANIC MOLECULES ‘FUNDAMENTAL TO OUR SEARCH FOR LIFE’ FOUND BY NASA ROVER

NASA adds that solar wind dominates the space environment far beyond Earth. “As we send spacecraft and astronauts further and further from home, we must understand this space environment just as early seafarers needed to understand the ocean,” it explains.

The project was proposed in 1958 to a brand-new NASA, and “60 years later, and it’s becoming a reality,” said project manager Andy Driesman, also of Johns Hopkins, which designed and built the spacecraft. The technology for surviving such a close solar encounter, while still being light enough for flight, wasn’t available until now.

Instruments on board Parker will study magnetic fields, plasma and energetic particles as well as image the solar wind.

The Sun’s corona, which can be seen during a total solar eclipse, is usually hidden by the bright light of the star’s surface. “That makes it difficult to see without using special instruments,” the space agency explains.

United Launch Alliance is also involved in NASA’s Commercial Crew program that will take American astronauts into space on missions launched from U.S. soil. Since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the U.S. has been relying on Russian Soyuz rockets, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, to get astronauts to the International Space Station.

Last week, NASA named the nine American astronauts that will crew the test flights and first missions of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft. The Starliner will launch atop a ULA Atlas V rocket.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Toxic algae bloom killing marine life, making people sick along Florida’s Gulf Coast

Albert Fernandez has been fishing the waters of Florida his entire life. But the once crystal-clear water he remembers has turned a brownish-red the past few months because of a toxic algae polluting the water.

“I haven’t been here in months and reason being is because I’m not going to enjoy myself,” he said while tying his aptly named boat, The Aquaholic, to a dock near his home on Little Gasparilla Island, a barrier island about an hour south of Venice, Fla. The island is only accessible by boat and commutable by golf cart, luring visitors from around the world in search of remote tranquility.

The area is normally brimming with wildlife. But recently, the state’s Gulf Coast has been ravaged by an unrelenting Red Tide—thousands of dead fish have clogged waterways, while manatees, sea turtles and even a whale shark have washed ashore after falling victim to the dangerous water conditions.

The bloom occurs when “colonies of algae—simple plants that live in the sea and freshwater — grow out of control while producing toxic or harmful effects on people, fish, shellfish, marine mammals, and birds,” according to the National Ocean Service.

When marine life ingests the toxins, they become disoriented and drown. Their decaying bodies then have the potential to kill off whole marine ecosystems because decomposition can deplete oxygen in the water, killing other animals in the area or forcing them to move elsewhere.

Humans are at risk, too, in some cases. Red Tide can be deadly for those with asthma or other respiratory problems.

“Folks that have lived here 20, 30, 40 years, they’re actually considering selling their homes because of this,” Fernandez said. “It’s affecting them physically. They’re getting sick.”

RAFFAREDTIDE1

“It’s awful, as soon as I got out of my car which is several hundred feet away it hit the back of my throat,” said Sarasota resident Erin Alonso. “It makes you cough, it’s just terrible.”

 (Fox News)

The Sunshine State is no stranger to the natural phenomenon. The blooms show up on the coast almost every year. But this is different—and far more severe.

“I’ve been through some pretty bad ones, we’ve lived here for 30 years,” said Laurie Gaines, a rental property manager on the island. “There was a particularly bad one in 2006…but this one just doesn’t seem to go away.”

“It’s going to get worse before it gets better,” said Robert Weisberg, University of South Florida professor of physical oceanography, “we are still seeing the vestiges of the Red Tide from last year, which never fully went away and the conditions offshore this year have been conducive to form a new bloom, which will make its way to the shoreline soon.”

All along the coastline, vacation destinations have turned into ghost towns, angering residents of a state highly dependent on tourism.

“For a place where 70 percent of our seating is outside, this has been pretty devastating,” said Joe Farrell, owner of Pop’s Sunset Grill in Nokomis, Fla. “All the businesses are being affected by it.”

“As a rental manager, I’m telling people ‘we’ll allow you to reschedule and give you refunds,’” said Gaines. “We can’t encourage people to come to the island in situations like this, knowing their family vacations will be ruined.”

Red Tide blooms manifest along the shoreline in the late summer and fall seasons and typically last a few months. Weisberg said they originate 40 to 50 miles offshore and move with the current to the shoreline in some cases, but they travel underwater and are not detectable until they reach land.

Weisberg said a “perfect storm” of water current, warmth, bacteria and nutrients come together to form algae blooms, but other contributing factors are the result of humans, such as water contamination by fertilizers, sewage and septic tank runoff.

The blooms have spread as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers releases water from Lake Okeechobee to keep levels down to protect the aging Herbert Hoover Dike. Hurricane Irma only worsened the situation when it plowed over the state, churning the lake’s nutrient-rich bottom as it traveled across the ocean-like body of water with tropical force winds. Much of that water was released in the weeks after the storm through the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers and is thought to be a major factor in this year’s outbreak.

“This is something that’s affecting not only the economy, but the ecology, which is so sensitive down here in Florida,” Fernandez said.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican, issued an executive order last month, declaring states of emergency in several counties to help combat the growing blooms and announced an agreement on a $50 million state investment to fund repairs to the dike. The agreement follows a $50 million investment made earlier this year, bringing the state’s total investment in the federal project to $100 million to reduce the amount of harmful water runoffs by allowing more water to be stored in the lake.

“As our communities once again face the threat of harmful algal blooms caused by water releases from Lake Okeechobee, we are continuing to find innovative ways to combat this serious problem and fix the federal government’s years of inaction,” Scott said in the release.

RAFFAREDTIDE2

This year’s Red Tide has turned Florida’s most popular beaches into deserted wastelands.

 (Fox News)

It’s unclear how long the Red Tide will last.

“People are not seeing the beach at its best, they’re not seeing Florida at its best,” Gaines said, “and it’s a shame.”

Allie Raffa is a multimedia reporter for Fox News based in Tampa.

Audio reveals creepy details of UFO mystery

In 1966, over 300 children and staff from a Melbourne school reportedly witnessed multiple UFOs silently flying through the sky before landing in a nearby field.

 

It is the largest mass UFO sighting in Australia, yet hardly anything was reported on it at the time.

Over the years, there have been differing reports about the details of what happened on April 6 at Westall High School, such as people claiming there were three saucerlike objects, while some thought there was just one.

In the 52 years since, there has been wide speculation about what people saw, with some believing it was an alien encounter and others pointing the finger at the government testing new technology.

Throughout all the years of speculation, however, one particularly interesting piece of audio has been greatly overlooked.

An American physicist known for his research into UFOs, Dr. James E. McDonald, conducted an interview with a science teacher from the Westall school, Andrew Greenwood, who witnessed the event.

He then recorded himself describing their meeting and the creepy details Mr. Greenwood gave about his experience. “Greenwood told me the UFO was first brought to his attention by a hysterical child who ran into his classroom and told him there’s a flying saucer outside,” Dr. McDonald said.

“He thought this child had become deranged or something so he didn’t take any notice, but when the child insisted that this object was in the sky he decided to go out and have a look for himself.”

When he went outside, he noticed a group of children looking toward the northeast area of the school grounds and as he approached them he claims he saw a UFO hovering close to the powerline.

Mr. Greenwood described it as a round, silver object about the size of a car with a metal rod sticking up in the air.

According to Dr. McDonald, the teacher then told him five planes came and surrounded the object as more people began gathering to watch the scene before them.

“He called it the most amazing flying he had ever seen in his life,” Dr. McDonald said.

“The planes were doing everything possible to approach the object and he said how they all avoided collision he will never know.

“Every time they got too close to the object it would slowly accelerate, then rapidly accelerate and then move away from them and stop. Then they would take off after it again and the same thing would happen.”

This game of cat and mouse reportedly went on for about 20 minutes and by this time Mr. Greenwood said 350 children and staff were watching on.

Suddenly the UFO shot away and vanished within seconds and it was at this point the headmaster came out and ordered everyone to go back to class.

Over the years there were reports that the government tried to cover up the incident and stop witnesses from talking, but Mr. Greenwood claimed it was the headmaster who first tried to squash discussion of the incident.

“He gave the school a lecture and told the children they would be severely punished if they talked about this matter and told the staff they could lose their jobs if they mentioned it at all,” Dr. McDonald said.

The teacher claimed the headmaster was so “scared” and “disturbed” by the incident that he had refused to come outside until the object was gone.

“When the Royal Australian Airforce contacted the headmaster he told them to ‘go and jump in a lake’,” Dr. McDonald said.

There have been claims from several witnesses that sharply dressed men in black suits visited them and warned them from speaking about the incident.

This lines up with a few experiences Mr. Greenwood had when he tried to speak with other witnesses about what they saw.

“At the time of seeing the UFO he was a complete skeptic himself. He had never even considered the possibility of their existence,” Dr. McDonald said.

“When he asked the physical education teacher to describe what she had seen herself so that he could compare it with his own observation, she just wouldn’t say anything.”

He then reportedly spoke to one of the older students who described the event in great detail exactly as he had seen it, but when he spoke to her again half an hour later she wouldn’t say a word.

Mr. Greenwood didn’t think it had anything to do with the headmaster’s threats as no one usually took him seriously and he knew for a fact that the student he spoke with didn’t attend the meeting where he had made the threats.

Dr. McDonald’s description of his interview with Mr. Greenwood offers a rare insight into the events from the eyes of someone who was an adult at the time.

There continues to be speculation over what actually happened and the site of the encounter has been turned into a memorial park to reflect the 1966 Westall UFO Incident.

This story originally appeared in news.com.au.

Massive glowing ‘rogue’ planet spotted ‘drifting’ in space

A massive glowing “rogue” planetary-mass object has been discovered, surprising scientists with not only its size, but also the fact it’s not orbiting a star.

The object, named SIMP J01365663+0933473, has a magnetic field more than 200 times stronger than Jupiter’s and is nearly 13 times the size of the gas giant. At its size, it’s right between the size of a planet and a failed star, so scientists will need to study it further to determine exactly what it is.

“This object is right at the boundary between a planet and a brown dwarf, or ‘failed star,’ and is giving us some surprises that can potentially help us understand magnetic processes on both stars and planets,” said Caltech graduate student Melodie Kao, who led the study, in a statement.

MYSTERIOUS ‘SUPER EARTH’ PLANET ‘MOST LIKELY’ CANDIDATE TO HOST LIFE – BUT THERE’S A HUGE PROBLEM

The study’s findings have been published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Kao and her team are surprised that the object isn’t orbiting a star, a typical behavior of planets.

“Detecting SIMP J01365663+0933473 with the VLA through its auroral radio emission also means that we may have a new way of detecting exoplanets, including the elusive rogue ones not orbiting a parent star,” Caltech’s Gregg Hallinan added in the statement.

Originally discovered in 2016, it was only recently that it was identified as a planetary-mass object, having originally been classified as a brown dwarf. Once more data was obtained, the idea that SIMP J01365663+0933473 was a brown dwarf was scrapped.

It’s thought that SIMP J01365663+0933473  is only 200 million years-old and is just 20 light-years away from Earth. It also has a surface temperature of 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit, compared to minus 234 degrees Fahrenheit for Jupiter and 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit for the Sun.

It was first detected using a radio telescope, the  National Science Foundation’s Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array.

NEARBY ALIEN PLANET MA BE CAPABLE OF SUPPORTING LIFE

Aside from its glow, seen in the picture, and its other uncharacteristic traits, SIMP J01365663+0933473 may help scientists discover other worlds, known as exoplanets, as well as understand these far-away celestial bodies.

“This particular object is exciting because studying its magnetic dynamo mechanisms can give us new insights on how the same type of mechanisms can operate in extrasolar planets — planets beyond our Solar System,” Kao said.

She continued: “We think these mechanisms can work not only in brown dwarfs, but also in both gas giant and terrestrial planets.”

Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

Giant eel bites woman vacationing in Hawaii: ‘There was blood everywhere’

Kristen Porter was relaxing on a floatie at Kuhio Beach in Waikiki, Hawaii last week when she felt something sharp pierce her foot. Wincing in pain, Porter pulled her foot out of the water and saw a terrifying sight.

“I knew immediately that it was something bad, and it wasn’t just like a fish nibble, so I pulled my foot into the air and there was blood everywhere,” Porter, of Annapolis, Maryland, told KHON-TV on Thursday.

With help from her son and fellow beachgoers, Porter hobbled to shore to examine the mysterious wound. Once on land, a lifeguard observed several gashes on her foot, telling her the marks appeared to be consistent with an eel bite.

INDIANA WILDLIFE OFFICIALS CATCH ‘PECULIAR’ EEL-LIKE CREATURE IN LOCAL SWAMP

Porter initially thought it was a shark attack, though the International Shark File in Florida confirmed to KHON-TV days after the Sunday incident that wasn’t the case.

Waikiki Aquarium director Andrew Rossiter, who examined photos of the injury, told KHON-TV he also believes it was an eel bite, though they’re extremely rare — especially at Kuhio Beach, which isn’t particularly rocky.

Rossiter determined the likely culprit was a moray eel, a snake-like fish that can reach up to a whopping 13 feet in length. Some moray eels can even weigh more than humans, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) described in a blog post.

Some burrow underneath the sand while others hide among rocks. They have sharp, long teeth — a second set alllows them to more easily break down their prey, which they typically swallow whole.

“(They’re) incredibly rapid and even a diver will tell you to stay away from them in the water because they can come out and ping you in the blink of an eye,” Rossiter told the news station.

HUMPBACK WHALES LUNGE TOWARD CALIFORNIA TOUR BOAT IN SHOCKING VIDEO

Eel bites are rare. The sea creatures tend to stick to themselves, though it’s possible they would strike if they feel threatened or someone invades their space. They’re also more active at night than during swimming hours.

“[This bite] was definitely a case of mistaken identity, because the eel’s teeth penetrate, so they literally pierce their prey and swallow their pray whole, so I doubt the eel was trying to swallow the lady whole,” Rossiter said.

Porter, 51, was later taken to a nearby urgent care, where her wound was cleaned and wrapped up. A doctor recommended she go to the hospital for stitches, but she declined any further treatment, according to the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

“So the mystery is solved. Turns out it was a 5-6 ft moray eel. If this doesn’t give me [nightmares],” Porter wrote on Facebook early Friday.

Jennifer Earl is an SEO editor for Fox News. Follow her on Twitter @jenearlyspeakin.

Mystery swirls around damaged 1881 time capsule

The contents of a 19th-century time capsule uncovered in Plymouth, Mass. continue to be shrouded in mystery.

Roughly the size of a lunchbox, the time capsule was placed beneath the granite staircase of Coles Hill when it was built in 1881. A national historic landmark, Coles Hill contains the first cemetery used by the Mayflower pilgrims after their arrival in Plymouth in 1620.

“The box was uncovered in 1930 during repairs to the lower flight of solid granite steps,” explained Donna Curtin, Executive Director of Plymouth’s Pilgrim Hall Museum, in an email to Fox News. “They opened the box, looked at the contents, added a few items from their own time, then sealed it up again and put it back under the corner of the heavy granite slab where it had been found.”

DOZENS HEARD AMELIA EARHART RADIO FOR HELP AFTER CRASHING INTO PACIFIC: REPORT

Curtin explained that, unfortunately, when the capsule was re-interred, the box was placed on a porous cement pedestal rather than simply being placed back in the ground. “As the cement slowly eroded at one corner, the weight of the staircase eventually crushed the top of the box and ripped open gaps at the sides,” she said. “Right now, the box can’t be opened due to the condition of the lid.”

The Milford Daily News reports that a construction crew discovered the box when they were renovating the staircase last week.

“It’s evident that water did get inside and has definitely turned some items to mush,” said Curtin. “We remain hopeful that other items remain in the box that may be recoverable- it’s surprisingly heavy.”

WHY GRAVE ROBBERS MISSED THIS ANCIENT, GOLD-FILLED BURIAL

The next stage for researchers is to carefully examine the box, work out how best to open it and then have a conservator examine the contents, according to Curtin. “Even if items are badly damaged, a trained conservator can often stabilize and treat an object to make it recognizable,” she told Fox News. “What did the people of Plymouth in 1881 and in 1930 want to share with Americans of the future, with us? Pilgrim Hall Museum hopes to uncover some answers.”

However, it may be a few weeks before additional information on the mysterious time capsule is available.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

We need to keep looking for aliens, scientists tell senators

Four scientists made the case yesterday (Aug. 1) to a panel of senators that Congress should continue to fund NASA’s search for life beyond Earth.

Only one of those scientists was affiliated directly with NASA, and the hearing touched on a broader range of scientific priorities for the agency and how to balance those with a limited budget. After opening statements, the hearing began with subcommittee chair Sen. Ted Cruz asking the panel flat out why we should search for life on other worlds.

“I believe it’s one of the big questions of all of humanity. This is how great nations make a mark — it’s by what they do for their citizens but also how they move history forward,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for the Science Mission Directorate at NASA, said. “This will be one of those questions, if answered, that will be remembered forever, because it will be a leap in not only understanding more about nature but a leap in understanding ourselves at a level we’ve never had in the past.” [9 Strange, Scientific Excuses for Why We Haven’t Found Aliens Yet]

Other panelists echoed the emphasis on symbolism and inspiration rather than science directly. Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pointed out that most of the current senior researchers came of age during the moon landings. “Today, the equivalent of that is the search for life, and that public search and when we do discover it will inspire that next generation to go into technology,” she said.

But she was also careful to point to more-tangible benefits that could come from searching for life, regardless of whether we ever find it. She didn’t promise specific technologies, but asserted that the scientific research would inevitably lead to benefits not yet expected. “It takes a ton of pure science research to come up with anything practical, things you could never invent if you set out to find something practical,” Seager said, pointing to GPS technology, which began as a way to track satellites and was only later used for ground navigation, as an example.

That emphasis on spin-off technology was a clear theme in the hearing, with senators pushing the scientists to explain how searching for life on other worlds could benefit humans on Earth. Meanwhile, the scientists offered an economic justification for the search as well as an intellectual one.

“When we try to do things that are really hard, like we did at the time of Apollo, when you push yourself to answer the really tough questions, that’s when you really push technology forward,” Ellen Stofan, director of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and former chief scientist at NASA, said. “I would argue that when you push technology forward, you push your society forward, you push the economy forward.”

The panel also tried to convince the senators that the United States, specifically, is in a position to tackle the search for life and to welcome that search. “Thanks to decades of NASA spacecraft missions, we know how to take the next steps in the search for life at Europa, Enceladus and of course Mars, and eventually Titan,” Stofan said.

Seager quoted a passage by John Adams in which he expressed belief in life on other worlds — long before science could prove such worlds existed. “Although we don’t have evidence for life beyond Earth, we are the first generation with the capability to find it,” Seager said, describing how the new Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite and the much-delayed James Webb Space Telescope will work together to identify planets around small, faint M dwarf stars. [NASA’s New Planet Hunter Begins Its Search for Alien Worlds]

Even admitting that such technology was still in the works, Seager emphasized that NASA is on track to develop those tools and shouldn’t be distracted from that effort. She was talking about technologies meant to help scientists find what she called “a true Earth twin,” a planet with a bright sun and an environment like our own.

While most of the hearing’s conversation focused on microbial life, the discussion did touch briefly on technologically advanced civilizations beyond our solar system. Senator Gary Peters of Michigan referenced the theoretical possibility of billion-year-old civilizations and asked whether we are even searching for life in the right way. Stofan elegantly directed the conversation back to exoplanet science and surveying our own neighborhood first.

And, of course, the James Webb Space Telescope showed up in the discussion, with senators expressing the usual horror at the instrument’s cost overruns and launch delays. The scientists all made the case, however, that the telescope was worth it.

Original article on Space.com.

 

Extremely rare blue diamonds lurk deep in Earth’s core

The rarest diamonds on Earth were forged hundreds of miles below its surface, scientists announced on Thursday.

A team of geologists and gemologists from Australia and the U.S. analyzed 46 blue diamonds, including one from South Africa that sold for $25 million in 2016, to determine that the precious gems are formed at depths of 410 miles below the Earth’s surface. The findings were published in the journal Nature.

For perspective, the International Space Station orbits about 250 miles above the Earth and the deepest humans ever have drilled below the surface is about seven miles.

Blue diamonds comprise about 0.02 percent of mined diamonds, according to experts, but they include some of the world’s most exquisite jewels. Their origins long have been shrouded in mystery.

“We knew essentially absolutely nothing about where they grow,” geologist Evan Smith, a lead author of the report and a research scientist at the Gemological Institute of America in New York, told the Washington Post.

The color of these rare gems tipped off scientists to how they were formed. Their striking blue hue, which is partly dependent on the amount of the element of boron the gem captures, is helping scientists to unlock the mysteries deep in the planet’s core.

blue diamond GIA

A blue, boron-bearing diamond that was examined as part of the study announced in Nature.

 (Evan Smith/Gemological Institute of America)

“We always knew there was something special about these diamonds,” geologist Jeffrey Post, curator of the mineral collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, who was not involved with the Nature report, said in the newspaper. Post added that the authors make a “very compelling argument” that these diamonds formed at greater than typical depths.

‘QUADRILLION’ TONS OF DIAMONDS FOUND DEEP BELOW EARTH’S SURFACE

The scientists concluded that the boron coloring the diamonds is the same as the boron found in the ocean’s floor. However, that spurred more questions.

As the sea floor ages and becomes colder, it eventually becomes denser than the mantle beneath it and sinks. The boron, which is encased by protective rock, heads miles underground to the lower mantle. 

That deep, hidden area of extreme heat and pressure is where rare blue diamonds are formed. And they still must make a journey of millions of years back toward the surface. 

“It gives us a clue as to how the layers of the Earth are recycling,” Megan Duncan, an Earth scientist at the University of California, Davis, who was not involved in the research, told Scientific American. 

Christopher Carbone is a reporter and news editor covering science and technology for FoxNews.com. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @christocarbone.