BREAKING NEWS: Kilauea Volcano Has Deeper Roots Than Most Understand

NOTE: I will be on Coast to Coast AM radio with George Noory for a news brief on Kilauea volcano. Radio Stations: Click Here

Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. It is a shield-type volcano that makes up the southeastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii. The volcano rises 4,190 feet (1,227 meters) above sea level and is about 14 percent of the land area of the Big Island. The summit caldera contains a lava lake known as Halema’uma’u that is said to be the home of the Hawaiian volcano goddess, Pele.

Cecily Wolfe of the University of Hawaii, used sea bottom sensors to identify how seismic waves propagate through the pliable mantle layer beneath the Earth’s crust. She believes her evidence has pinpointed the location of the mantle plume. However, Qin Cao, an MIT seismologist, believes a giant deep thermal anomaly hundreds of miles wide located far west of Hawaii is what feeds the island’s volcanoes.

As both well researched hypothesis have merit, as of the time of this writing we still do not have conclusive evidence as to the source. Wolfe says: “I acknowledges the importance of the new find, but believes it will take much more work to truly explain how her thermal plume and the “pancake” of hot rocks are related and how they provide the heat source for Kilauea and the other active volcanoes of the Hawaiian Islands.”

“We need to think about different types of mantle plumes,” Cao said. “The picture of the internal dynamics of the Earth and material-exchange processes between the upper and lower mantle are more complicated than people thought before.”

We know one thing – the residents of Hawaii are not so concerned on why the eruption is so large and everlasting, but ‘when’ will it stop….

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Pair Of Satellites In Orbit To Measure Earth’s Water

A SpaceX rocket Tuesday blasted off a duo of sports car-sized satellites built by the US and Germany to reveal changes in sea level rise, ice melt and drought on Earth.

“Three, two, one, liftoff!” said a SpaceX commentator as the Falcon 9 rocket launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 12:47 pm Pacific time (1947 GMT).

The $521 million payload, called the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-on (GRACE-FO), was successfully deployed into its planned orbit some 310 miles (500 kilometers) above the Earth about 10 minutes after liftoff.

The mission picks up from GRACE, a satellite pair that launched in 2002 and tracked, among other things, precisely how much ice was lost each year in Greenland and Antarctica until 2017.

Groundwater, oceans, lakes, rivers and ice sheets will be monitored by the twin satellites, a joint mission between the US space agency and German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ).

The pair will fly 137 miles (220 kilometers) apart, or about the distance from Los Angeles to San Diego.

How they work

According to the laws of physics, the slightest variation in mass on Earth modifies the pull of gravity on satellites.

When the lead satellite passes over a mountain, it will get slightly farther from its twin for a few instants because of the extra mass in this area and a slightly stronger pull of gravity.

These variations in distance will be constantly recorded by the spacecraft, because each shift signals a change in mass on the planet underneath.

The satellites use a monthly reference point, because unless there is an earthquake or other unusual event, only water has the capacity to change that fast.

Water always has mass, whether it is in the form of liquid, solid or gas.

When ice melts, the oceans’ mass rises. When it rains a lot in a certain region, the volume of the aquifers mounts. The satellites will pick this up, and the data will show that the mass in a certain area was higher than it was in the prior month, or year.

That is how the GRACE-FO satellites will establish a map of the water on Earth, every 30 days, showing which areas have more and which have less, whether above or below ground.

They operate with a precision equivalent to a change of 0.4 inches (one centimeter) in water height across areas of about 211 miles (340 kilometers) in diameter.

Other satellites to deploy

After the SpaceX rocket sent off its first payload, GRACE-FO, its second stage continued its climb in order to deploy a series of commercial communications satellites for the Virginia-based company, Iridium.

The five Iridium NEXT satellites are “part of the company’s campaign to replace the world’s largest commercial satellite network,” said a statement.

A total of 75 satellites for Iridium are being sent to orbit as part of the upgrade, taking place over eight launches with SpaceX.

“That is a clean sweep again for all the deployments today,” said SpaceX commentator John Insprucker after the five satellites floated into orbit, one by one.

He said SpaceX had tried but failed to catch the payload fairing, a nose cone used to protect the rocket, as it plunged into the ocean.

The fairing recovery ship “came very close but not quite,” he said on SpaceX’s webcast.

SpaceX did not attempt to land the first stage of the rocket after launch.

Multiple Gamma-Ray Emission Regions Detected In The Blazar 3C 279

Using very long baseline interferometry (VLBI), astronomers have investigated the magnetic field topology of the blazar 3C 279, uncovering the presence of multiple gamma-ray emission regions in this source. The discovery was presented May 11 in a paper published on arXiv.org.

Blazars, classified as members of a larger group of active galaxies that host active galactic nuclei (AGN), are the most numerous extragalactic gamma-ray sources. Their characteristic features are relativistic jets pointed almost exactly toward the Earth. In general, blazars are perceived by astronomers as high-energy engines serving as natural laboratories to study particle acceleration, relativistic plasma processes, magnetic field dynamics and black hole physics.

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope is an essential instrument for blazar studies. The spacecraft is equipped with in the Large Area Telescope (LAT), which allows it to detect photons with energy from about 20 million to about 300 billion electronvolts. So far, Fermi has discovered more than 1,600 blazars.

A team of astronomers led by Bindu Rani of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has analyzed the data provided by LAT and by the U.S.-based Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) to investigate the blazar 3C 279. The studied object, located in the constellation Virgo. It is one of the brightest and most variable sources in the gamma-ray sky monitored by Fermi. The data allowed Rani’s team to uncover more insight into the nature of gamma-ray emission from this blazar.

“Using high-frequency radio interferometry (VLBI) polarization imaging, we could probe the magnetic field topology of the compact high-energy emission regions in blazars. A case study for the blazar 3C 279 reveals the presence of multiple gamma-ray emission regions,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

Six gamma-ray flares were observed in 3C 279 between November 2013 and August 2014. The researchers also investigated the morphological changes in the blazar’s jet.

The team found that ejection of a new component (designated NC2) during the first three gamma-ray flares suggests the VLBI core as the possible site of the high-energy emission. Furthermore, a delay between the last three flares and the ejection of a new component (NC3) indicates that high-energy emission in this case is located upstream of the 43 GHz core (closer to the blazar’s black hole).

The astronomers concluded that their results are indicative of multiple sites of high-energy dissipation in 3C 279. Moreover, according to the authors of the paper, their study proves that VLBI is the most promising technique to probe the high-energy dissipation regions. However, they added that still more observations are needed to fully understand these features and mechanisms behind them.

“The Fermi mission will continue observing the GeV sky at least for next couple of years. The TeV missions are on their way to probe the most energetic part of the electromagnetic spectrum. High-energy polarization observations (AMEGO, IXPE, etc.) will be of extreme importance in understanding the high-energy dissipation mechanisms,” the researchers concluded.

Could Recent Supernova Explosions Have Caused Mass Extinctions on Earth?

Two nearby supernovae that exploded about 2.5 and eight million years ago could have resulted in a staggered depletion of Earth’s ozone layer, leading to a variety of repercussions for life on Earth.

In particular, 2.5 million years ago, the Earth was changing dramatically. The Pliocene, which was a hot and balmy epoch, was ending and the Pleistocene, an era of repeated glaciation known as the Ice Age, was beginning. Natural variations in Earth’s orbit and wobble likely accounted for the change in climate, but the simultaneous event of a supernova could provide insight on the diversification of life during this epoch.

This supernova is thought to have occurred between 163 and 326 light-years away (50–100 parsecs) from Earth. For perspective, our closest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light-years away.

Consequences for Earth

Supernovae can sterilize any nearby inhabited planets that happen to be in the path of their harmful ionizing radiation. Could nearby supernovae wreak havoc on the existing biology of our planet? One researcher wanted to find out. Brian Thomas, an astrophysicist at Washburn University in Kansas, modeled the biological impacts at the Earth’s surface, based on geologic evidence of nearby supernovae 2.5 million and 8 million years ago.

In his latest paper, which was published in the journal Astrobiology, Thomas investigated cosmic rays from the supernovae as they propagated through our atmosphere to the surface, to understand their effect on living organisms.

Looking at the fossil record during the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary (2.5 million years ago), we see a dramatic change in the fossil record and in land cover globally. Thomas told Astrobiology Magazine that “there were changes, especially in Africa, which went from being more forested to more grassland.” During this time, the geologic record shows an elevated global concentration of iron-60 (60Fe), which is a radioactive isotope produced during a supernova.

“We are interested in how exploding stars affect life on Earth, and it turns out a few million years ago there were changes in the things that were living at the time,” Thomas said. “It might have been connected to this supernova.”

For example, there was a change in the abundance of species during the Pliocene-Pleistocene boundary. Although no major mass extinctions happened, there was a higher rate of extinction in general, more speciation and a change in vegetation.

Not quite so deadly

How would a nearby supernova affect life on Earth? Thomas laments that supernovae often are exemplified as “supernova goes off and everything dies,” but that is not quite the case. The answer lies in Earth’s atmosphere. The ozone layer protects all biology from harmful, genetically altering ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Thomas used global climate models, recent atmospheric chemistry models and radiative transfer (the propagation of radiation through the layers of the atmosphere) to better understand how the flux of cosmic rays from supernovae would alter Earth’s atmosphere, specifically the ozone layer.

One thing to note is that cosmic rays from supernovae would not blast everything in their paths all at once. The intergalactic medium acts as a kind of sieve, slowing down the arrival of cosmic rays and “radioactive iron rain” (60Fe) over hundreds of thousands of years, Thomas told Astrobiology Magazine. Higher-energy particles will reach Earth first and interact with our atmosphere differently than lower-energy particles arriving later. Thomas’s study modeled the depletion in ozone 100, 300, and 1,000 years after the initial particles from a supernova began penetrating our atmosphere. Interestingly, depletion peaked (at roughly 26 percent) for the 300-year case, beating out the 100-year case.

The high-energy cosmic rays in the 100-year case would zip right through the stratosphere and deposit their energy below the ozone layer, depleting it less, while the less energetic cosmic rays arriving during the 300-year interval would deposit more energy in the stratosphere, depleting ozone significantly.

A decrease in ozone could be a concern for life on the surface.

“This work is an important step towards understanding the impact of nearby supernovae on our biosphere,” said Dimitra Atri, a computational physicist at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science in Seattle, who was not involved in the new study.

One of the last supernovae known to have exploded in our Milky Way Galaxy was the star that left behind the Cassiopeia A supernova remnant over 300 years ago, which is 11,000 light-years away — much too far to have affected Earth.

Mixed effects

Thomas examined several possible biologically damaging effects (erythema, skin cancer, cataracts, marine phytoplankton photosynthesis inhibition and plant damage) at different latitudes as a result of increased UV radiation resulting from a depleted ozone layer. They showed heightened damage across the board, generally increasing with latitude, which makes sense given the changes we see in the fossil record. However, the effects aren’t equally detrimental to all organisms. Plankton, the primary producers of oxygen, seemed to be minimally affected. The results also suggested a small increase in the risk of sunburn and skin cancer among humans.

So, do nearby supernovae result in mass extinctions? It depends, Thomas said.

“There is a subtler shift; instead of a ‘wipe-out everything,’ some [organisms] are better off and some are worse off,” he said.

For example some plants showed increase yield, like soybean and wheat, while other plants showed reduced productivity. “It fits,” Thomas stated, referring to the change in species in the fossil record.

In the future, Thomas hopes to expand on this work and examine possible linkages between human evolution and supernovae.

Mysterious Medium-Size Black Holes May Lurk at the Centers of Small Galaxies

The hearts of small galaxies may hide a mysterious kind of black hole that has long proved elusive: medium-size black holes with masses between the mass of a few suns and that of millions of suns, a new study finds.

Over the decades, astronomers have detected many examples of two kinds of black holes: stellar-mass black holes and supermassive black holes. Stellar-mass black holes are up to a few times the sun’s mass and are thought to arise when giant stars die and collapse in on themselves, whereas supermassive black holes are millions to billions of times the sun’s mass and form the hearts of most, if not all, large galaxies.

Much remains unknown about the origins of supermassive black holes; they seem to have grown extraordinarily fast and appeared early in cosmic history, but researchers don’t know exactly how. One theory involves intermediate-mass black holes — those with masses between 100 and 1 million solar masses — that previous research suggested might serve as the middle stages between stellar-mass and supermassive black holes. However, evidence for these missing links remains scant. [The Strangest Black Holes in the Universe]

Now, researchers say they may have detected 10 intermediate-mass black holes in the hearts of galaxies, including five that were previously unknown. These new findings suggest that intermediate-mass black holes may lurk within the centers of many small galaxies, the scientists said.

“Intermediate-mass black holes are ubiquitous in the local universe,” study lead author Igor Chilingarian, an astronomer at both the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Moscow State University in Russia, told Space.com.

Black holes of any kind are challenging to spot because, as their name suggests, they are black, making them difficult to see against the blackness of space. One way to detect black holes indirectly is by looking for extraordinarily bright galactic cores. Prior work suggested that these so-called “active galactic nuclei” are likely black holes that unleash vast amounts of energy as gigantic clouds of gas “accrete” or fall into them.

To hunt for intermediate-mass black holes, the new study’s researchers first analyzed data on about 1 million galaxies in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, looking for the kind of light typically seen from accreting black holes. After they detected 305 potential intermediate-mass black holes residing in galactic cores, they searched data from the Chandra, XMM-Newton and Swift orbital X-ray observatories for X-rays that would serve as strong evidence that these candidates were, in fact, intermediate-mass black holes.

“These are very faint sources of X-rays at the centers of galaxies,” Avi Loeb, chair of astronomy at Harvard University, told Space.com. “Because they’re faint, they can’t be seen at great distances, so the researchers had to look at the nearby universe. It’s very challenging to see these sources, because there are also stars at the centers of galaxies, and the researchers needed to distinguish these sources from stars all around it. This is why many of these sources were not seen before.” Loeb was not involved with the new study.

The researchers detected 10 active galactic nuclei that they suggested were intermediate-mass black holes, ranging in mass from about 36,000 to 316,000 solar masses.

“These are the lowest-mass black holes at the centers of galaxies that we know about,” Loeb said. “The detection of these intermediate-mass black holes in the centers of nearby dwarf galaxies indicates that you can, in fact, have black holes well below a million solar masses in size at the centers of galaxies.”

The researchers found that the greater the masses of the intermediate-mass black holes were, the larger the central bulges of stars usually were in the galaxies that hosted them. A similar relationship is also seen with supermassive black holes, Loeb said. “This suggests the same process that builds black holes also builds galaxies; it starts with smaller galaxies and is seen in bigger galaxies,” he said. [No Escape: Dive Into a Black Hole (Infographic)]

Loeb expected to see intermediate-mass black holes in the centers of many small galaxies. “If you go back in time to the early universe, these were the most common galaxies,” Loeb said. “Galaxy formation is a hierarchical process; galaxies start small, and grow in mass by mergers and by accreting more matter.”

Future research can explore how supermassive black holes originated. One possibility is that intermediate-mass black holes grew from stellar-mass black holes that rapidly devoured gas around them in the early universe, and that mergers of intermediate-mass black holes helped create supermassive black holes, Loeb said. Gravitational-wave observatories could detect such mergers in the future, he added.

However, there are other possible origins for both intermediate-mass and supermassive black holes that scientists need to explore, Loeb said. For instance, intermediate-mass black holes could have originated from the collisions of stars in extremely dense star clusters. In addition, black holes 100,000 to 1 million solar masses in size could have formed from collapsing massive gas clouds in the early universe, he added.

“The more we can learn about the origins of intermediate-mass and supermassive black holes, the more we can understand about the evolution of galaxies and the universe,” Loeb said.

Chilingarian and his colleagues are now using one of the Magellan telescopes in Chile to improve their estimates of black-hole masses, and they hope to inspect 13 promising intermediate-mass black-hole candidates with the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Chilingarian also noted that, if the eROSITA X-ray space telescope launches as planned in 2019, “the number of confirmed intermediate-mass black holes will grow by an order of magnitude.”

Somalia’s “Strongest Cyclone On Record” Has Left Dozens Dead And Thousands Displaced

A tropical cyclone has wrecked havoc across the Horn of Africa, leaving at least 15 people dead and tens of thousands displaced.

Tropical cyclone Sagar, which means “the sea” in Hindi, formed in the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and northern Somalia late last week. Since landing over the weekend, the cyclone system has caused heavy rains in both the Puntland and Somaliland regions of Somalia, and moved along the coast to strike the tiny nation of Djibouti.

With top sustained winds of 60 miles per hour, Sagar made landfall further west than any tropical cyclone in 52 years of record-keeping for the North Indian Basin. The cyclone, which is being called the strongest ever recorded in Somalia, left a trail of destruction including loss of livestock and crops and destruction of homes, as well as massive damage to infrastructure.

“This is the biggest storm to hit the region in years,” Nigel Tricks, the regional director for the Norwegian Refugee Council said.

The NRC said that at least 30,000 people were affected in Somalia and Djibouti. But the extent of the damage is yet to be confirmed, especially given the current armed conflict between Somaliland and Puntland that had already displaced almost 10,000 people prior to the cyclone’s arrival.

Torrential rains also pounded other parts of Somalia, with people and cars slowly moving through waist-deep floodwater after homes were inundated. Officials said the storm killed at least six people in the capital Mogadishu. The United Nations estimates 700,000 people in flood-affected areas will need livelihood support through September. Facebook activated a safety feature following the devastating floods.

The flooding in Somalia comes just as countries including Kenya, and Ethiopia are recovering from the devastating drought that swept the Horn and East Africa region in the last two years. In Kenya, more than 170 people have died since heavy rains swept the country starting in March.

BREAKING NEWS: Scientists to Determine Recent Supernovae Responsible for Earth’s Previous Mass Extinction

Dr Brian Thomas, an astrophysicist at Washburn University in Kansas, USA, modeled the biological impacts at the Earth’s surface, based on geologic evidence of nearby supernovae 2.5 million and 8 million years ago. In his latest paper, Thomas investigated cosmic rays from the supernovae as they propagated through our atmosphere to the surface, to understand their effect on living organisms.

How would a nearby supernova affect life on Earth? Thomas laments that supernovae often are exemplified as “supernova goes off and everything dies”, but that is not quite the case. The answer lies in the atmosphere. Beyond sunscreen, the ozone layer protects all biology from harmful, genetically altering ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Thomas used global climate models, recent atmospheric chemistry models and radiative transfer (the propagation of radiation through the layers of the atmosphere) to better understand how the flux of cosmic rays from supernovae would alter Earth’s atmosphere, specifically the ozone layer.

One thing to note is that cosmic rays from supernovae would not blast everything in their paths all at once. The intergalactic medium acts as a kind of sieve, slowing down the arrival of cosmic rays and “radioactive iron rain” (60Fe) over hundreds of thousands of years, Thomas tells Astrobiology Magazine. Higher energetic particles will reach Earth first and interact with our atmosphere differently than lower energy particles arriving later. Thomas’s study modeled the depletion in ozone 100, 300, and 1,000 years after the initial particles from a supernova began penetrating our atmosphere. Interestingly, depletion peaked (at roughly 26 percent) for the 300-year case, beating out the 100-year case.

The high-energy cosmic rays in the 100-year case would zip right through the stratosphere and deposit their energy below the ozone layer, depleting it less, while the less energetic cosmic rays arriving during the 300-year interval would deposit more energy in the stratosphere, depleting ozone significantly.

A decrease in ozone could be a concern for life on the surface. “This work is an important step towards understanding the impact of nearby supernovae on our biosphere,” says Dr Dimitra Atri, a computational physicist at the Blue Marble Space Institute of Science in Seattle, USA.

Thomas examined several possible biologically-damaging effects (erythema, skin cancer, cataracts, marine phytoplankton photosynthesis inhibition and plant damage) at different latitudes as a result of increased UV radiation resulting from a depleted ozone layer. They showed heightened damage across the board, generally increasing with latitude, which makes sense given the changes we see in the fossil record. However, the effects aren’t equally detrimental to all organisms. Plankton, the primary producers of oxygen, seemed to be minimally affected. The results also suggested a small increase in the risk of sunburn and skin cancer among humans.

So, do nearby supernovae result in mass extinctions? It depends, says Thomas. “There is a subtler shift; instead of a ‘wipe-out everything’, some [organisms] are better off and some are worse off.” For example some plants showed increase yield, like soybean and wheat, while other plants showed reduced productivity.  “It fits,” Thomas states, referring to the change in species in the fossil record.

In the future, Thomas hopes to expand on this work and examine possible linkages between human evolution and supernovae.

_______________

Science Of Cycles Research Fund

Your assistance has always been at the core of this model, without you we fail. Below is an example of how Science Of Cycles keeps you tuned in and knowledgeable of what we are discovering, and how some of these changes will affect our communities and ways of living. We are maintaining our open ended donation so you can place amount of your choice.   Cheers, Mitch