Sunday, September 30, 2007

Blogging For Burma-A Call To Action

This is a call to all Bloggers Everywhere to use Your Voice and Blog For Burma. Please place a post on your Blogs, Sites,Forums. Stop Killing Buddist Monks and Free Burma. Together we CAN make a difference. Blog For Burma and speak out about this horrific injustice. No Matter what Religion you are or What Country You Live in, Blog For Burma.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Blogging For Burma-Bloggers Unite to Help Burma

I am so touched by the plight of the Burmese that I have created a new Blog. You are all invited to participate by posting articles on your blogs, Sites, Forums, etc. and then provide the links to your post in comments or on the cbox on the new Blog "Blogging For Burma"

click here to see Blogging For Burma

Note-Some of the most beautiful Ancient Wonders on the Planet are Located in Myanmar(Burma). If the Buddist Monks are being killed along with other civilians, what do you think will happen to the Monuments and Treasures there?

Burma (Myanmar) Pray For Burma-Myanmar protests falter after crackdown

Pray With Us that Burma will stop killing Monks.
"I don't think that we have any more hope to win," said a young woman who took part in a massive demonstration Thursday in Yangon that was broken up when troops opened fire on the crowd. She was separated from her boyfriend and has not seen him since.
"The monks are the ones who give us courage," she said, referring to the clergymen who have been the backbone of rallies — both those of this week and in past years. Most are now besieged in their monasteries, penned in by locked gates and barbed wire surrounding the compounds.
Images of bloodied protesters and fleeing crowds have riveted world attention, raising fears of a repeat of a 1988 democracy uprising that saw an estimated 3,000 protesters slain.
The United States urged "all civilized nations" to press Myanmar's leaders to end the crackdown, which has also resulted in hundreds of arrests. Win Mya Mya, an outspoken member of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, was among those seized overnight, according to family members.
Authorities have also gone after the Internet, which has played a crucial role in getting news and images of the democracy protests to residents and the outside world alike. Few foreign journalists have been permitted to operate and media freedom is severely restricted.
"They don't want the world to see what is going on there," Scott Stanzel, a spokesman for the U.S. government, told reporters in Washington.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Top 10 Largest Diamonds in the World-Photos

Cullinan I - also known as The Star of Africa was named after Sir Thomas Cullinan, owner of the mining company, and currently claims the title of largest cut diamond in the world. Of all the worlds largest diamonds Cullinan I is the largest. It was cut by Asscher in Amsterdam, weighs 530.20 carats, and has 74 facets. The Cullinan now resides in the Tower of London and is set in the sceptre of King Edward VII.

The Excelsior *which means higher* is not only one of the worlds largest diamonds it is the second largest diamond ever found. It originally weighed 995.2 carats. The diamond was cut into ten pieces, the three largest weighing 158, 147 and 130 carats. These pieces were then cut into 21 gems ranging from 70 carats to less than 1 carat. An African mine worker found the diamond as he was loading his truck, he kept the find secret until he could safely turn it over to the mine manager who rewarded him with some money, a horse and a saddle.

Orloff - the worlds third largest cut diamond weighs 194 carats. It was once one of the eyes of the idol Sheringham, in the temple of Brahma, later it was acquired by the Shah Nadir who desired to own one of the worlds largest diamonds. In 1775 it was given to Catherine II. of Russia by Grigori Orloff, one of her ex-lovers, and has been called the Orloff since then.

The Great Mogul is one of the worlds largest diamonds. The rough diamond was discovered in the 17th century, weighed 793 carats and was named after Shah Jehan... builder of the Taj Mahal.

The Premier Rose became one of the worlds largest diamonds when it was discovered in 1978. The diamond weighed 353.9 carats and was cut into three diamonds known as the Premier Rose family. All of them qualify to be one of the worlds largest diamonds. The largest of the three kept the name Premier Rose and now weighs 137.02 carats, is cut with 189 facets, and is the second largest pear shaped diamond in the world. It was sold in 1979 for $10,000,000.00.

The Premier Rose became one of the worlds largest diamonds when it was discovered in 1978. The diamond weighed 353.9 carats and was cut into three diamonds known as the Premier Rose family. All of them qualify to be one of the worlds largest diamonds. The largest of the three kept the name Premier Rose and now weighs 137.02 carats, is cut with 189 facets, and is the second largest pear shaped diamond in the world. It was sold in 1979 for $10,000,000.00.

The Regent another of the worlds largest diamonds was discovered in 1701 by an Indian slave near Golconda, it weighed 410 carats in the rough. Once owned by William Pitt, the English Prime Minister, it was cut into a cushion shaped brilliant of 140.50 carats and, until it was sold to the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France when Louis XV was a boy in 1717, was called The Pitt. It was then renamed The Regent and set in the crown Louis XV wore at his coronation. After the French revolution, it was owned by Napoleon Bonaparte who set it in the hilt of his sword. It is now on display in the Louvre as one of the worlds largest diamonds.

The Blue Hope another of the worlds largest diamonds was once owned by Louis XIV and officially designated the *blue diamond of the crown*. It was stolen during the French Revolution but showed up again in 1830 and was bought by Henry Philip Hope of London, the diamond was named after the new owner. The Blue Hope Diamond is believed to carry a curse, two of the owners had their entire family die just one year apart. It now resides in the Smithsonian in Washington where it is recognized as one of the worlds largest diamonds.

The Sancy is named after one of its owners Seigneur de Sancy, a French Ambassador to Turkey in the late 16th century. It was first owned by Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy, who lost it in battle in 1477. He loaned it to the French king, Henry III, who wore it in the cap with which he concealed his baldness. Henry IV of France also borrowed the stone from Sancy, but it was sold in 1664 to James I of England. In 1688, James II, King of England, fled with it to Paris and it has never been found since. The Sancy weighed 55 carats making it one of the smallest of the worlds largest diamonds.

The Taylor-Burton diamond was found in the Premier mine in 1966, the rough stone weighed 240.80 carats. The famous diamond was purchased by Harry Winston who commissioned the stone cleaved into two pieces, the larger piece weighed 162 carats and was eventually cut into a pear shaped 69.42 carat diamond. It was later auctioned for $1,050,000 and named the "Cartier". The diamond was then purchased by Richard Burton and given to Elizabeth Taylor and renamed the Taylor-Burton. In 1978, following her divorce from Richard Burton, Elizabeth put one of the worlds largest diamonds up for sale to raise funds for a hospital in Botswana. The current owner is Robert Mouawad, President of the Mouawad Group.

NOTE***There may be some larger uncut diamonds, but these are the most beautiful and the Most Famous!

Pagodas of Burma

Burma was unified by Burman dynasties three times during the past millennium. The first such unification came with the rise of the Bagan (Pagan) Dynasty in 1044 AD, which is considered the "Golden Age" in Burmese history. During this period, Theravada Buddhism first made its appearance in Burma, and the Bagan kings built a massive city with thousands of pagodas and monasteries along the Irrawaddy River. The Bagan Dynasty lasted until 1287 .
The origins of Shwedagon are lost in antiquity, its age unknown. Long before the pagoda was built, its location on Singuttara hill was already an ancient sacred site because of the buried relics of the three previous Buddhas. According to one legend, nearly 5000 years had passed since the last Buddha walked the Earth, and Singuttara hill would soon lose its blessedness unless it was reconsecrated with relics of a new Buddha. In order that such new relics might be obtained, King Okkalapa of Suvannabhumi spent much time atop the hill, meditating and praying. A series of miracles ensued and eight hairs of the historical Buddha were, somewhat magically, brought to the hill. To enshrine the relics, multiple pagodas of silver, tin, copper, lead, marble, iron and gold where built one on top of the other to a height of twenty meters. During the following centuries, passing from myth to historical fact, the pagoda grew to its present height of ninety-eight meters. Much of the continued construction of Shwedagon was actually reconstruction following disastrous earthquakes. During the 17th century the pagoda suffered earthquake damage on at least eight occasions. A particularly bad quake in 1786 brought the entire top half of the pagoda to the ground and its current shape and height date from the reconstruction of that time.
While much of the pagoda's beauty derives from the complex geometry of its shape and surrounding structures, equally mesmerizing is its golden glow. The lower stupa is plated with 8,688 solid gold bars, an upper part with another 13,153. The tip of the stupa, far too high for the human eye to discern in any detail, is set with 5448 diamonds, 2317 rubies, sapphires, and other gems, 1065 golden bells and, at the very top, a single 76-carat diamond. Surrounding the pagoda are a plentitude of smaller shrines housing pre-Buddhist spirits called Nats, miracle working images, and even a wish granting stone. The entire temple complex radiates a palpable sense of beauty and serenity.

The Biggest Snakes in the World-Photos, Anacondas,Pythons

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Alaska rehab facility takes in walrus

In this photo released by the Alaska SeaLife Center shows young walrus at the Alaska SeaLife Center in Seward, Alaska

SEWARD, Alaska -- A young walrus is exploring new surroundings at the Alaska SeaLife Center after first appearing without its mother about a month ago near the Red Dog Mine port facility south of Kivalina.
The walrus, born last year and weighing over 400 pounds, seemed exhausted and lethargic, hauling out on the backs of zinc ships as they were loaded. It eluded several attempts to capture it, until last Thursday.
The walrus, named "Chukchi," was flown to Kotzebue and Anchorage on chartered cargo planes, and then on to Seward where it is getting acclimated in the center's rehabilitation facility.
Visitors to the center can observe Chukchi on a monitor near the touch pool, via a video camera linked to its quarantined area.
When the walrus was first spotted near the Red Dog Mine port facility, there was no sign of its mother. Walrus can remain dependent on their mothers for more than two years. Workers decided to call the SeaLife Center's stranding response staff for assistance.
"U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists tell us that harvested animals of this age normally have only their mother's milk for stomach contents," said Tim Lebling, stranding coordinator at the Alaska SeaLife Center.
After taking note of the walrus's size and budding tusks, Lebling determined it was born last year. While the animal did not need to be rescued, center staff decided the young walrus needed to be captured and nursed back to optimum health.
Walrus calves are born mostly in late April or early May during the spring migration, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Web site. At birth, they can weigh 100 to 160 pounds. Calves are dependent upon their mothers for at least 18 months and occasionally for as long as 2 1/2 years.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The 10 most intriguing extrasolar planets,Free floaters-Photo

There are known exoplanets that have one, two and even three suns. But one bizarre class of planet-sized objects has no suns at all, and instead floats untethered through space. Called planemos, the objects are similar to, but smaller than, brown dwarfs, failed stars too small to achieve stellar ignition.

NASA spacecraft finds possible Mars caves

An orbiting spacecraft has found evidence of what look like seven caves on the slopes of a Martian volcano, the space agency NASA said on Friday.
The Mars Odyssey spacecraft has sent back images of very dark, nearly circular features that appear to be openings to underground spaces.
"They are cooler than the surrounding surface in the day and warmer at night," said Glen Cushing of the U.S. Geological Survey's Astrogeology Team and Northern Arizona University.
"Their thermal behavior is not as steady as large caves on Earth that often maintain a fairly constant temperature, but it is consistent with these being deep holes in the ground."
The holes, which the researchers have nicknamed the "Seven Sisters," are at some of the highest altitudes on the planet, on a volcano named Arsia Mons near Mars' tallest mountain, the researchers report in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
"Whether these are just deep vertical shafts or openings into spacious caverns, they are entries to the subsurface of Mars," said USGS researcher Tim Titus.
"Somewhere on Mars, caves might provide a protected niche for past or current life, or shelter for humans in the future."
But not these caves.
"These are at such extreme altitude, they are poor candidates either for use as human habitation or for having microbial life," Cushing said. "Even if life has ever existed on Mars, it may not have migrated to this height."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ancient Egyptian Art-amazing photos

The earliest Egyptian art is very different from that of the pyramids and temples of the Pharaonic period. As early as the eighth millennium BC, the first inhabitants of the Nile Valley began to make engraved drawings on the cliffs, particularly in Upper Egypt and Nubia. They depicted the fundamentals of their lives, from wild game and hunting scenes in the earlier times to river boats and herds of cattle in the early Neolithic period. The art of the Predynastic period has survived mainly in the form of small carved stone and ivory grave goods, together with pottery vessels, placed alongside the deceased in simple pit burials. The small votive figures of people and animals include many female statuettes made of pottery and ivory, whose exaggerated sexual characteristics suggest that they probably related to early fertility cults.
Some of the painted scenes on pottery vessels continue, during the Predynastic period, to reflect the prehistoric rock-carvings, while others begin to display the styles and preoccupations of the Dynastic period. In the final stages of the Predynastic period, a range of unusual ceremonial artifacts, including maces, palettes and ivory handled flint knives, began to play an important role in the emerging religious ritual and social hierarchy. Many of the more elaborate mace heads and palettes, such as those of the kings named Scorpion and Narmer, were discovered in a deposit of the temple at Hierakonpolis, and though the archaeological circumstances of their discovery are poorly documented, they were apparently meant as votive offerings. Their carved decoration appears to summarize the important events of the year in which they were offered to the god. However, it is unclear whether any of the scenes depicting historical events are real, or simply generalized representations of myth and ritual. In fact, this would be a problem with Egyptian art throughout the ages.
A number of references on ancient Egypt insinuate that the Egyptians had no concept of the term, art. Indeed, we know of no word from the ancient Egyptian language that exactly conforms to our abstract use of the word. They did have words for their creations that we today regard as examples of Egyptian art, such as statues, stelas and tombs, but we have no reason to believe that these words necessarily included an aesthetic dimension in their meaning.
Though the ancient Egyptians built and decorated their monuments, and cut their statues first and foremost for religious functionality, this does not mean that the Egyptians were not aware of and did not aim for an aesthetic content. To represent was, in a way, to create, and Egyptian representation in both two and three dimensions was meant to create images that would function as a meaningful part of the cult of the gods and the dead.
Statues were objects in which deities could manifest themselves, while images of the dead ensured their survival in the next world and formed a point of contact between this and the next domains, where the deceased could receive the offerings of the living. Depictions of temple cult ceremonies ensured their enactment for all time, and portrayals of offering goods meant that these items would be available in the next world. Furthermore, images of protective deities found in houses, on furniture and made into amulets created a powerful shield against the malign forces of the universe.
Most of what we see of ancient Egyptian art, at museums or in books, are pieces that appeal to modern aesthetic tastes. Yet they represent only a selection of surviving Egyptian material and are usually pieces produced under royal patronage. For each of these pieces, there are many, many others collecting dust in museum reserve collections that are not so finely made. These latter items may demonstrate poor workmanship, unbalanced compositions, awkward proportions or clumsy execution, but they were came from the more common Egyptians. Though these items lack the artistic quality of the more accomplished works, they must have still been thought to have functioned for the benefit of their owners.
Hence, we must ask ourselves why those of power sought out the best artists, if not for their superior artistic abilities. And we must also question Egyptologists who tell us that art completely surrounded Egyptian religion, for it did not, nor may it have always served a specific function. We find, in tombs of common Egyptians, sometimes intricate scenes of daily life that seemingly have really very little mortuary functionality, but we also find designs on pottery and other items that today we would call art, and appear to have no further function than to adorn the pottery, making it more appealing. Indeed, while the ancient Egyptians may not have had an abstract word to denote art in general, they did appreciate fine designs and well decorated objects.
However, it should also be pointed out that artists in ancient Egypt were very different than their modern counterparts. In ancient Egyptian society, conformity and not individualism was encouraged, and there was hardly a place for an artist with a personal vision that broke the accepted norms. In fact, Egyptian artists usually worked in teams and according to strict guidelines, even though their works might be highly regarded. This does not mean that artists could not experiment and innovate within certain limits.
Many of the fundamentals of Egyptian art were established at the very beginning of Egyptian history and changed little over time. Subject matter also remained relatively unchanged over long periods of time. However, Egyptian art did not remain completely static over the three thousand years of pharaonic history. Despite the limited repertory of subject matter, Egyptian artists valued variation and avoided producing exact copies of the same forms.
To understand most of the Egyptian artwork that we see in museums and books, we must understand that it was produced by elite Egyptians, mostly for specific functions, and that it was an integral part of their world view. It is important that we understand the purpose of the artwork, or the concepts that shaped it, because a lack of such information has often led people to unfavorably compare it to the art of other cultures. For example, while the ancient Egyptians produced sculptures that were intricately detailed and lifelike in many ways, they never turned the body and twisted it through space as we find in classical Greek statuary. Egyptian artists sometimes got left and right "muddled, and never seem to have discovered the rules of geometric perspective as European artists did in the Renaissance. In fact, such shortcomings had little if anything to do with the ability of the artists, and everything to do with the purpose for which they were producing their art. Egyptian art was not intended to merely imitate or reflect reality, but to replace and perpetuate it. Hence, for example, the religious ritual known as "the opening of the mouth" was not just performed by Egyptian funerary priest on the mummy of the deceased, but also on his or her statuary.
Egyptian art was concerned above all with ensuring the continuity of the universe, the gods, the king and the people. The artists therefore depicted things not as they saw them but as idealized symbols intended to be more significant and enduring than was otherwise possible in the real world. The best, most inspired Egyptian art therefore blends the real with the ideal.
The essential elements of art during the Old Kingdom were the funerary sculpture and painted reliefs of the royal family and the provincial elite. One of the most impressive statues to come from this period is the diorite figure of the seated Khafra, builder of the second pyramid at Giza,. On the simplest level, the statue is a portrait of a powerful individual, but is also made up of symbols that relate to the general role of the pharaoh. His head and neck are physically embraced by the wings of a hawk representing the protective god, Horus, who was also the divine counterpart of the mortal ruler. His throne is decorated on either side with a complex design consisting of the hieroglyph meaning "union" tied up with the tendrils of the plants of Upper and Lower Egypt, all of which symbolizes the unified state over which he ruled. In the same manner, an alabaster statue of the 6th Dynasty ruler Pepi I has the rear of the throne carved to imitate a serekh with Horus perched on the top.
After the Old Kingdom, centralized power within Egypt declined into what we refer to as the First Intermediate Period. This decline in power resulted in a period when provincial workshops at sites such as el-Mo'alla and Gebelein began to create distinctive funerary decoration and equipment rather than being influenced by the artists at the royal court, as they were earlier during the Old Kingdom and later during the Middle Kingdom.
During the Middle Kingdom, Egyptian art is exemplified both by the fragments of reliefs from the royal pyramid complexes at Dahshur, el-Lisht, el-Lahun and Hawara, and by the spacious tombs of the governors buried at Beni Hassan in Middle Egypt. In the latter, the traditional scenes of the deceased receiving offerings or hunting and fishing in the marshes are joined by large depictions of wrestling and warfare, perhaps copied from Old Kingdom royal prototypes.
The history of the Middle Kingdom is very much characterized by a tension between the artistic styles of the various provincial sites and the styles of the royal workshops at Itjtawy, the new capital established near el-Lisht. Only by the late Middle Kingdom does the distinctive provincial styles become eclipsed by the art of the royal workshops..
After the Middle Kingdom, Egypt was ruled for a period of time by Asiatics, who gained control of a considerable area of the country. The works of art surviving from this phase show that the foreign rulers simply re-used and copied traditional Egyptian sculptures and reliefs in order to strengthen their claims to the throne.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Top 10 extra solar planets-Upsilon Andromeda b, A World of Fire and Ice

A World of Fire and Ice
Photo Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt (SSC)

Upsilon Andromeda b is tidally locked to its sun like the Moon is to Earth, so one side of the planet is always facing its star. This setup creates one of the largest temperature differences astronomers have ever seen on an exoplanet. One side of the planet is always hot as lava, while the other is chilled possibly below freezing.
Number 5: Brave New World

Major Planet Formation Mystery Solved

By Dave Mosher, Staff Writer
Planet formation is a story with a well-known beginning and end, but how its middle plays out has been an enigma to scientists--until now.
A new computer-modeled theory shows how rocky boulders around infant stars team up to form planets without falling into stars.
"This has been a stumbling block for 30 years," said Mordecai-Marc Mac Low, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, of planet formation theories. "The reason is that boulders tend to fall into the star in a celestial blink of an eye. Some mechanism had to be found to prevent them from being dragged into a star."
The solution: Together, many boulders can join to fight a cosmic headwind that otherwise would doom them.
Truckin' boulders
The stuff of rocky planets originates in an accretion disk, or collection of gas and dust that circles around a newborn star. Over time the dust particles bunch together and form large boulders, but eventually they meet "wind" resistance from the disk's mist of gas.
"They see a headwind. It's deadly and drags them into the star," Mac Low told
Modeling the turbulence within the gas, however, showed that boulders can team up and form planets.
"Turbulence in the disk concentrates boulders in regions of higher pressure," Mac Low said, noting that such a disturbance is enough to enable the boulders to fight the dooming headwind. "If the gas is sped up, the boulders don't see a headwind. By getting the gas going with them they conserve energy and stay in orbit."
Mac Low compared the effect to a chain of semi-trucks driving down a highway. Each boulder is like a semi-truck "pushing" the gas in front of it, creating a friendly pocket of air behind it that other semis can travel in without using up as much fuel. "The end of the story is that enough boulders gather together, gravity takes over and they collapse into planet-like bodies," Mac Low said.
Mac Low and his colleagues' findings will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Nature.
Pulverizing problem
Although Mac Low and his colleagues kept planet-forming boulders safe from the gravitational clutches of stars in their simulation, he noted that many questions remain.
"There are enough uncertainties that [planet formation] is not going to be an open and shut case any time soon," he said. "We don't know how that collapse into a planet actually occurs. You've got thousands, millions of boulders swarming together like a bees. In my nightmares I imagine that they grind each other down to dust and it all goes away."
Despite the problem, Mac Low is confident the theory will hold up to future scrutiny.
"All that material is gravitationally bound together, so we think it's likely that it will form large objects," he said. Running the computer simulation, in fact, formed tight boulder clusters as large as the dwarf planet Ceres (formerly known as the asteroid Ceres).
Alan Boss, an astrophysicist with the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C., said that the theory is attractive despite the caveat.
"Overall, the calculations present an encouraging approach to understanding how something happened that we know must have happened, at least for the terrestrial planets," Boss said in an e-mail. How giant planets form yet another question. One idea is that gas coalesces around a rocky, or terrestrial planet. Boss, however, thinks the gas giants collapse from a knot, much in the manner of star formation.
Mac Low and his team plan to address the mystery of how boulders collapse into planetesimals, or protoplanetary chunks of rock, in the future.
VIDEO: New Black Planet is Hottest Ever
Trickle of Planet Discoveries Becomes a Flood

Dealing With Threatening Space Rocks

The Don Quijote mission under study is based on two phases. In the first phase a spacecraft (Sanchez) would rendezvous with an asteroid and go into orbit around it, monitoring it for several months. In the second phase another spacecraft would slam into the asteroid, while the first spacecraft watches, looking for any changes in the asteroid's trajectory. If it becomes a reality, Don Quijote would launch sometime early in the next decade. (Credit: ESA - AOES Medialab)

Science Daily — Every now and then a space rock hits the world's media – sometimes almost literally. Threatening asteroids that zoom past the Earth, fireballs in the sky seen by hundreds of people and mysterious craters which may have been caused by impacting meteorites; all make ESA's planned mission Don Quijote look increasingly timely.

The uncertainty surrounding whether a meteorite impacted in South America recently highlights the need to know more about these pieces of natural space debris and their trajectories. ESA has always been interested in such endeavours and conducted a number of studies into how it might best help.
Those studies showed that it is probably the smaller pieces of rock, at most a few hundred metres across, rather than the larger ones that we should be more worried about for the time being. A worldwide network of astronomers is currently cataloguing most of the larger objects, those above 1 km in diameter. A number of survey telescopes have taken up the challenge to detect as many as 90 percent of all near Earth objects down to a size of 140 metres by around 2020. Only after this time will we know whether space-based observatories will be needed to find the rest.
Part of the trouble with these small chunks of rock is fixing their orbits. From the ground, it is very difficult – sometimes impossible – to determine their trajectory with enough precision to rule out impacts with our planet in the years to come. So, ESA have been concentrating on a mission to actually 'mark a cross' on small asteroids and check the state of the art of our technology. The Don Quijote mission is a project based on two phases. In the first phase, a spacecraft would rendezvous with an asteroid and go into orbit around it. It would monitor the asteroid for several months, precisely determining its position, shape, mass and gravity field.
In the second phase, another spacecraft would slam into the asteroid at a speed of around 10 km/s, while the first spacecraft watches, looking for any changes in the asteroid's trajectory. In this way, a mission involving two spacecraft would attempt to be the first to actually move an asteroid.
In preparation for dealing with small asteroids, ESA's Don Quijote is also starting small. In its current design, the first spacecraft, Sancho, could reach any one of 5 or 6 small, nearby asteroids. Each one is no larger than a few hundred metres in diameter. At present, the mission planners have chosen to concentrate on Apophis, a small asteroid that can swing dangerously close to Earth on the outwards stretch of its orbit around the Sun.
If it becomes a reality, Don Quijote could launch sometime early in the next decade. Sancho would take some 25 months to reach its target. Once there, it would begin its groundbreaking study – both literally and metaphorically.
"The idea is to get the technology ready before you really need it," says Ian Carnelli, Technical Officer for the Don Quijote mission at ESA.
In 1908, a 20-metre asteroid impacted the uninhabited Tunguska forest in Siberia, toppling trees and causing total devastation over an area of two thousand square kilometres. Scientists predict this type of event to occur about every 150 years. Next year's 100th anniversary of that impact will be yet another reminder of the need to learn about and become ready to deal with asteroids – even the small ones.
Note: This story has been adapted from a news release issued by European Space Agency.

Photo in the News: "Nonexistent" Flying Fox Discovered

This unusual species of flying fox was recently discovered in the Philippines not long after it was deemed not to exist.
Jake Esselstyn, a biologist with the University of Kansas, was among a team of researchers that found the animal, a type of fruit bat, last year while surveying forest life on the island of Mindoro (see Philippines map).
"When we first arrived on Mindoro, a local resident that we hired as a guide described the bat to me in great detail, and he asked me what it was called," Esselstyn said.
"I politely told him that there was no such bat. I was wrong."
Several days into the survey, the scientists accidentally captured a creature in a net that fit the guide's description: a large flying fox with bright orange fur and distinctive white stripes across its brow and jaw.
"Our guide's description of the animal was quite accurate, and I had to apologize for not believing him," Esselstyn said, adding that the animal is now known as the Mindoro stripe-faced fruit bat.
In his own defense, the scientist pointed out that the species' closest known relative lives some 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) away on an island in Indonesia.
"It makes you wonder if there are other related species on islands between [the two]," he said.
"It also makes you realize how there are probably many more species which have yet to be discovered—in the Philippines and elsewhere," Esselstyn added.
"This discovery emphasizes the need for a great deal more basic biodiversity inventory research."
—Blake de Pastino
More Photos in the News

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Photograph courtesy Harvey Garcia

Photo of the Day-temple of Ramses III, Madinet Habu

Luxor, Egypt, 1998
Photograph by Richard T. Nowitz
"Dedicated to the Egyptian god Amun, the mortuary temple of Ramses III, Madinet Habu, towers on the west bank of the Nile. Its elaborate hieroglyphs describe battles with Libyans and invaders called Sea Peoples." —Text from "The Power of Writing," August 1999, National Geographic magazine (Photographed on assignment for, but not published in, "Into an Antique Land: Egypt's Greatest Hits," March 1999, National Geographic Traveler magazine)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

First known planet to survive red-giant phase found

Planetary nebulae, the remains of sun-like stars that have reached the end of their red giant stage, in an undated image. Astronomers have discovered the first known planet to survive its 'red-giant' phase, a period when an aging star expands and engulfs bodies orbiting it.

Astronomers have discovered the first known planet to survive its "red-giant" phase, a period when an aging star expands and engulfs bodies orbiting it.

The discovery of the gas-giant planet three times the size of Jupiter offers a look at the future of our own solar system and what will happen to the Earth when the sun grows old and collapses, the researchers said.
Scientists found the planet some 4,500 light-years from Earth. It once orbited its star at the same distance as the Earth is now from the sun -- about eight light-minutes -- but then drifted away, the researchers said in the journal Nature.
"At present, (the) discovery is the only planetary system known to have survived its red-giant phase," Jonathan Fortney, a NASA researcher, wrote in a commentary in Nature, where the international team published its findings on Wednesday.
"This will shed light not only on our own solar system, in which Mercury, Venus and perhaps Earth will eventually be engulfed by the red-giant Sun but also the diverse array of planetary systems that are our galactic neighbors."
Scientists have identified some 250 planets orbiting stars other than our sun. Most are detected by indirect measurements such as tiny variations in the wobble of a star.
The team found this planet by chance while studying its parent star V 391 Pegasi, Don Kurtz, astrophysicist at the University of Lancashire who worked on the study, told Reuters.
Sound waves in the star cause it to pulsate and vary in brightness every few minutes. By observing these changes, astronomers can measure sound speed to see inside the star.
The team found that during its time as a middle-aged star, V 391 Pegasi had a mass similar to the sun before it expanded its radius by more than 100 times when it entered its red-giant phase -- something the sun is expected to do in 5 billion years.
The researchers said the planet stayed intact because the parent star lost mass, reducing its gravitational pull just enough to let the planet drift away a bit.
When the Sun -- which scientists think is 30 percent bigger than when it came into being -- exhausts all its hydrogen and swells up during its red-giant phase, the Earth will also likely avoid complete destruction for the same reason, Kurtz said.
"The future of the Earth is to die with the sun boiling up the oceans, but the hot rock will survive," he said.
"We think the processes that are happening on this planet will be the same as on earth ... It is psychologically interesting to think that the earth will survive."

Mystery illness strikes after meteorite hits Peruvian village

File photo shows the green streak of a meteor cutting across the sky. Villagers in southern Peru were struck by a mysterious illness after a meteorite made a fiery crash to Earth in their area, regional authorities said Monday.

LIMA (AFP) - Villagers in southern Peru were struck by a mysterious illness after a meteorite made a fiery crash to Earth in their area, regional authorities said Monday.

Around midday Saturday, villagers were startled by an explosion and a fireball that many were convinced was an airplane crashing near their remote village, located in the high Andes department of Puno in the Desaguadero region, near the border with Bolivia.
Residents complained of headaches and vomiting brought on by a "strange odor," local health department official Jorge Lopez told Peruvian radio RPP.
Seven policemen who went to check on the reports also became ill and had to be given oxygen before being hospitalized, Lopez said.
Rescue teams and experts were dispatched to the scene, where the meteorite left a 100-foot-wide (30-meter-wide) and 20-foot-deep (six-meter-deep) crater, said local official Marco Limache.
"Boiling water started coming out of the crater and particles of rock and cinders were found nearby. Residents are very concerned," he said.

An Australian grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus). Photo

An Australian grey-headed Flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus). A new species of flying fox or fruit bat has been discovered on an island south of Manila(AFP/File/Greg Wood)

A one-month-old leopard cub-photo

A one-month-old leopard cub sits on a branch at Jordan Zoo, near Amman, August 27, 2007. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed (JORDAN)

An iceberg melts off Ammassalik Island in Eastern Greenland -photo

An iceberg melts off Ammassalik Island in Eastern Greenland in this July 19, 2007 file photo. Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane. The European Space Agency said nearly 200 satellite photos taken together in Sept. 2007 showed an ice-free passage along northern Canada, Alaska and Greenland, and ice retreating to its lowest level since such images were first taken in 1978.