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  As a powerful bomb cyclone winter storm curls across the U.S. East Coasttoday (Jan. 4), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) GOES-East satellite is snapping stunning images of the Earth's surface. The NOAA satellite, which launched in 2016 (referred to as GOES-R and GOES-16 before and after launch), is intended to give forecasters their best-ever views of storms and severe weather affecting the globe. The satellite's views have been updating online here as the storm progresses.[See the 'Bomb Cyclone' in These NASA and NOAA Gifs]   This full-disk view of Earth from the GOES-East satellite shows a storm swirling over a darkened United States Jan. 4, 2018 at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT). Credit: NOAA A bomb cyclone occurs when a weather system's atmospheric pressure drops incredibly rapidly, causing it to quickly increase in strength and whipping up hurricane-level winds and often heavy snow over a broad ar...

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The science behind kids’ belief in Santa

Tuesday, December 26th 2017 03:48 PM

Over the past week, my little girls have seen Santa in real life at least three times (though only one encounter was close enough to whisper “yo-yo” in his ear). You’d think that this Santa saturation might make them doubt that each one was the real deal. For one thing, they looked quite different. Brewery Santa’s beard was a joke, while Christmas-tree-lighting Santa’s beard was legit. Add to that variations in outfits and jolliness levels. But as I delved into the Santa-related research, I found I was wrong to think his omnipresence might throw my kids off. It turns out that the more kids see real, live Santa Clauses, the more likely they are to think he’s real. More exposure actually tracked with stronger belief, scientists reported in Cognitive Development in 2016. That got me wondering about this belief. Like many parents, I feel a little hint of unease when it comes to telling my trusting, innocent children a lie. But lots...

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What is Astrophysics?

Tuesday, December 26th 2017 12:49 PM

Astrophysics is a branch of space science that applies the laws of physics and chemistry to explain the birth, life and death of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulae and other objects in the universe. It has two sibling sciences, astronomy and cosmology, and the lines between them blur.  In the most rigid sense: Astronomy measures positions, luminosities, motions and other characteristics Astrophysics creates physical theories of small to medium-size structures in the universe Cosmology does this for the largest structures, and the universe as a whole.  In practice, the three professions form a tight-knit family. Ask for the position of a nebula or what kind of light it emits, and the astronomer might answer first. Ask what the nebula is made of and how it formed and the astrophysicist will pipe up. Ask how the data fit with the formation of the universe, and the cosmologist would probably jump in. But watch out — for any of these questions, two or three may sta...

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Winter Solstice is here!

Thursday, December 21st 2017 11:02 AM




NASA's Juno Probes the Depths of Jupiter's Great Red Spot

Monday, December 18th 2017 01:56 PM

Data collected by NASA's Juno spacecraft during its first pass over Jupiter's Great Red Spot in July 2017 indicates that this iconic feature penetrates well below the clouds. Other revelations from the mission include that Jupiter has two previously uncharted radiation zones."One of the most basic questions about Jupiter's Great Red Spot is: how deep are the roots?" said Scott Bolton, Juno's principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "Juno data indicate that the solar system's most famous storm is almost one-and-a-half Earths wide, and has roots that penetrate about 200 miles (300 kilometers) into the planet's atmosphere."The science instrument responsible for this in-depth revelation was Juno's Microwave Radiometer (MWR). "Juno's Microwave Radiometer has the unique capability to peer deep below Jupiter's clouds," said Michael Janssen, Juno co-investigator from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. "It is proving to be an excellent...

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The Ursids produce a handful of meteors or shooting stars every hour, usually in the range of five to 10 per hour. While it's one of the lesser showers of the year, in 2017 skywatchers will be treated to only a crescent moon around sunset, making it easy to see the meteors in dark skies.   The 2017 Ursid meteor shower will peak overnight on Dec. 22 and Dec. 23. According to Jane Houston Jones at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, stargazers should expect only 10 meteors per hour this year. In some past years, the meteors have been more spectacular — in 1945 and 1986, for instance, 50 per hour were observed — but experts say that such events are rare.  "They're about average," NASA meteor expert Bill Cooke told Space.com. "The Ursids are not noted for fireballs, like the Geminids and the Perseids [are]. You will need a dark sky to see them."   The Ursids have a sharp peak on the morning of Dec. 22, meaning that observers will see many...

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The art of exoplanet detection is on the upswing, and scientists are perhaps at the cusp of a watershed moment — detecting life on other worlds.  To date, ground- and space-based telescopes have discovered more than 3,500 confirmed planets circling stars other than Earth's sun. And that number is destined to grow. Indeed, the discovery of extrasolar planets that are about the same size and mass as Earth has opened the door to scientific debate about the probability that such worlds may be habitable.   Cautionary flags Exoplanet finds over the last few years have sparked lots of news stories with terms such as "most habitable planet" or "Earth twin" in the headlines. However, the reality is that we currently have no way to quantitatively assess a planet's ability to support life, said Elizabeth Tasker, an associate professor in the Department of Solar System Sciences for the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and its Institute of Space and Astronautical Science....

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Earth's Mysterious Hum Recorded Underwater for 1st Time

Tuesday, December 12th 2017 01:24 PM

Far from the blaring cacophony of cities, towns and suburbs, there are far quieter soundtracks to be found — the murmurs of wind rustling grasses, rushing waves tumbling onto beaches, the creaking of tree branches and trunks. But underneath all that is yet another soundscape, a permanent, low-frequency drone produced by Earth itself, from the vibrations of ongoing, subtle seismic movements that are not earthquakes and are too small to be detected without special equipment. Earth is "humming." You can't hear it, but it's ongoing. And now scientists have measured that persistent hum from the ocean floor, for the first time. [What's That Noise? 11 Strange and Mysterious Sounds on Earth & Beyond Far from the blaring cacophony of cities, towns and suburbs, there are far quieter soundtracks to be found — the murmurs of wind rustling grasses, rushing waves tumbling onto beaches, the creaking of tree branches and trunks. But underneath all that is yet another soundscape...

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As streetlights the world over change from sodium lamps to LEDs, scientists wonder what this means for night skies. Scientists are finding that much of the financial savings derived from the improved energy efficiency of outdoor lighting is being wasted in the deployment of more lights. As a result, the projected large reduction in global energy consumption for outdoor lighting is not being realized. (Image Credit: International Dark-sky Association - IDA, NASA)   Five years of advanced satellite images show that there is more artificial light at night across the globe... And that light at night is getting brighter. The rate of growth is approximately two percent each year in both the amount of areas lit and in the radiance of the light.A Brightening WorldAn international team of scientists reported the results of a landmark study of global light pollution and the rise of light emitting diode (LED) outdoor lighting technology. The study finds both light pollution and energy co...

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  Dark matter is the elusive, invisible substance that appears to make up more than 80 percent of the total mass in the universe — far more than accounted for by the "regular" matter that makes up things like stars, planets and everything astronomers can directly observe. A new study makes the bold claim, however, that perhaps dark matter doesn't exist at all.  But scientists aren't convinced that the study holds water. Hints of the existence of dark matter appeared as early as the 1930s, but the real discovery took place in 1978, when astrophysicist Vera Rubin concluded that the observable motions of galaxies couldn't be explained by the laws of Newtonian physics alone. Due to the speed of the galaxies' rotation, the stars on their edges would fly away if the only thing holding them in place were the visible matter   Rubin estimated that the galaxies must contain about six times more mass than what could be observed with existing instruments....

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