BREAKING NEWS: ‘Lost’ Asteroid To Pass Close To Earth Tuesday Evening

An asteroid that was lost by tracking satellites eight years ago has been spotted again as it prepares to make an unnervingly close pass by the Earth on May 15. While the giant space rock is expected to miss the planet, the asteroid will give sky watchers a chance to see the action unfold live online.

On Nov. 30, 2010, astronomers discovered an asteroid that could be as large as one of the Great Pyramids of ancient Egypt. It passed within nine million miles of Earth and then scientists lost track of it as it headed back to the outer solar system.

Asteroid 2010 WC9, which is about 426 feet in diameter, was observed for too short of a time for astronomers to be able to predict when its orbit might bring it back to our neighborhood.

This same asteroid is back and about to buzz by us about 70 times closer (126,000 miles away) than it did eight years ago. That puts it at about half the distance between the Earth and moon, making it one of the closest approaches ever observed by such a sizable asteroid.

London’s Northolt Branch Observatories, which helped to rediscover the asteroid, will be broadcasting the flyby live on Facebook. Don’t worry, the broadcast won’t be like a countdown to the apocalypse. 2010 WC9 will sail by the planet safely at about 6:05 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on May 15.

While this asteroid isn’t a threat (this time) it does emphasize the need to keep a watchful eye on the sky to catalog and track as many space rocks as possible.

“There are lots of asteroids and comets in our solar system and it’s impossible to predict the trajectories of all of these objects, but we need to try,} University of Saskatchewan astronomy professor Daryl Janzen said in a news release on May 10.

Just last month, astronomers discovered a slightly smaller asteroid just hours before it passed by the Earth and came even closer to hitting the moon.

On the cosmic scale, these asteroids are large enough to do some damage if they were to impact Earth, especially near a populated area. However, they aren’t considered big enough to do the kind of catastrophic damage caused by the space rock believed to have wiped out the dinosaurs.

“There is an extremely low probability of the planet coming into contact with one of these large near-Earth objects in our lifetime, but there is really good evidence that it happened in the past and led to mass extinction on the planet,” Janzen added. “So, although the probability is low, it’s important to discover as many NEOs as we can, so that if one does enter into a collision course with Earth, we can try to do something about it.”

UPDATE : Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Eruption Destroys 9 Homes

PAHOA, Hawaii — The number of homes destroyed by lava shooting out of openings in the ground created by Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has climbed to nine. Some of the more than 1,700 people who evacuated prepared for the possibility they may not return for quite some time.

“I have no idea how soon we can get back,” said Todd Corrigan, who left his home in Leilani Estates with his wife on Friday as lava burst through the ground three or four blocks from their home. They spent the night on the beach in their car and began looking for a vacation rental.

Hawaii County civil defense officials said two new fissures opened overnight, bringing the total to nine that opened in the neighborhood since Thursday. U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist Wendy Stovall said that with the two new fissures, the total was 10, though one of the new ones had already stopped producing lava.

Scientists said Kilauea was likely to release more lava through additional vents, but they were unable to predict exactly where. Leilani Estates, a subdivision in the mostly rural district of Puna, is at greatest risk. Authorities ordered more than 1,700 residents to evacuate from there and nearby Lanipuna Gardens.

Talmadge Magno, administrator for Hawaii County Civil Defense, told CBS News correspondent Carter Evans that it’s not known for how long the volcanic activity will continue.

“That’s the sad part about it,” Magno told Evans. “It could be happening for a long time, or on the other hand, like I said, mysteriously it could just end.”

Leilani Estates, a subdivision in the mostly rural district of Puna, is at greatest risk. Authorities ordered more than 1,700 residents to evacuate from there and nearby Lanipuna Gardens.

Hundreds of small earthquakes continued to rumble through the area Saturday, one day after a magnitude-6.9 temblor hit — the largest earthquake to hit Hawaii in more than 40 years. Magma moving through Kilauea set off the earthquakes, said geologists, who warned of aftershocks.

Authorities cautioned sulfuric gas pouring out of the vents also posed dangers, particularly to the elderly and people with respiratory problems. Hawaii County spokeswoman Kanani Aton said some residents may be allowed to return home briefly to pick up medicine or take care of pets if sulfur dioxide levels drop.

Tesha “Mirah” Montoya, 45, said the threat of toxic fumes wasn’t enough to make her family evacuate, but the tipping point was the earthquakes.

“I felt like the whole side of our hill was going to explode,” she said. “The earthquake was what made us start running and start throwing guinea pigs and bunnies in the car.”

Montoya, her husband and daughter don’t know how long they will be away from the three-story octagonal house they built nearly 20 years ago in a patch of “raw jungle.”

“My heart and soul’s there,” she said in a phone interview from a cabin on the north side of the Big Island, where the family had hunkered down. “I’m nothing without the land. It’s part of my being.”

Gary McMillan said his home is about 3,000 feet from one of the fissures in Leilani Estates. He monitored remote cameras set up in his home and said his home was still intact.

He’s living out of his van with his wife at the nearby community center and constantly thinks about things they left behind, but understands why authorities evacuated residents.

“I was a critical care nurse for 37 years, so I understand the health implications and the dangers involved,” McMillan said.

Kilauea has been continuously erupting since 1983 and is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. In 2014, lava burned a house and smothered a cemetery as it approached Pahoa, the town closest to Leilani Estates. But this flow stalled just before it reached Pahoa’s main road.

Nearly 30 years ago, lava slowly covered an entire town, Kalapana, over the period of about a year.

BREAKING NEWS: New Massive 6.9 Earthquake Hits Near Kilauea Volcano

A 6.9 magnitude earthquake has rocked Hawaii near an erupting volcano on Friday, just an hour after a 5.0 -magnitude earthquake also hit nearby. The massive 6.9 quake was centered near the south flank of Kilauea volcano, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says: “No tsunami is expected, however, this earthquake generated small sea level changes at Hilo (20 cm amplitude), Kapoho (40 cm amplitude), Honuapo (15 cm amplitude)”.

Hawaii County Civil Defense says Friday’s 5.4 earthquake was centered near the south flank of Kilauea volcano. Officials say there’s no tsunami threat to the Big Island.

Both quakes hit about 1.2 miles from Kapaahu and 17.8 miles from Hawaiian Paradise Park – starting at about 2:30 p.m. PST.

The quakes come after a volcanic eruption that began Thursday, which spewed molten lava that chewed through forests and bubbled up on paved streets. One resident described the scene as “a curtain of fire.”

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Breaking News : Kilauea Volcano Erupts in Hawaii, Forcing Evacuations

The eruption of lava from the Kilauea volcano forced residents in two subdivisions on the island of Hawaii to evacuate Thursday.

Lava spewed from a crack in the earth following days of small earthquakes around the volcano. Photos and drone footage showed cracks opening up across green yards and roadways and molten rock bursting out.

The area has experienced hundreds of small earthquakes in recent days. The largest, a magnitude 5.0, hit about 10:30 a.m. Thursday. It was centered on the southeastern coast of the island of Hawaii, with a depth of four miles.

Hawaii County ordered the mandatory evacuation of the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Officials opened two community centers to shelter people who fled their homes.

No deaths or injuries were reported.

One resident, Ikaika Marzo, told The Honolulu Star-Advertiser that lava fountains were shooting 150 feet into the air about 5:30 p.m. and that lava had spread over a 200-yard-wide area behind a house in Leilani Estates.

Continue reading the main story
“It sounds like a jet engine. It’s going hard,” he told the newspaper.

Leilani Estates had a population of 1,560 in the 2010 census, but residents say the evacuations could affect thousands of people.

“People are scared,” said Matthew Purvis, a pastor who runs a bakery in the town of Pahoa.

“It’s not just evacuating people, it’s their things and their animals and their livelihoods,” he added.

Mr. Purvis drove a van into the threatened subdivisions to help residents flee.

“I don’t think people thought this would actually happen,” he said. “It was just a moment’s notice. It’s pretty wild.”

The Hawaii Volcano Observatory said white vapor and blue fumes began emanating from the cracked areas Thursday afternoon, followed by spatter — blobs of lava blown into the air — just before 5 p.m.

“The opening phases of fissure eruptions are dynamic,” the observatory warned. “Additional vents and new lava outbreaks may occur and at this time it is not possible to say where new vents may occur.”

An eruption from the Puu Oo’ cone of Kilauea in 1983 has continued to flow, destroying houses in the Royal Gardens subdivision. In 1990 more than 100 homes in the Kalapana community were destroyed by lava flow.

An eruption from Kilauea in 2014 flowed down the surface of the volcano and burned a house in Pahoa. Now residents worry that more structures could be threatened in the area, which is one of the fastest-growing in the state.

“Living on a volcano, everybody has got pretty thick skin. They know the risk,” said Ryan Finlay, who lives in Pahoa and runs an online trade school. “Lava for the most part has flown to the ocean the last 30 years. Everybody gets in a comfort zone. The last couple weeks, everything changed.”

India Dust Storms: More Than 125 Killed As Storms Continue

At least 125 people are now reported to have died in fierce dust storms in northern India, with officials warning of more bad weather to come.

High-speed winds and lightning devastated many villages, bringing down walls and leaving dozens injured.

An Uttar Pradesh relief commissioner’s office spokesperson told AFP news agency the death toll was the highest from such storms in at least 20 years.

Officials have said the death toll could rise as more bodies are found.

Wind speeds were around 132 km/h (82mph) accompanied by hail storms and heavy lightning, officials said.

Fear amid the ruins

Villagers in Badhera, in the worst affected district of Agra in Uttar Pradesh, say they had had absolutely no warning of the storm that devastated their homes.

This is despite senior police officials saying that an alert was issued across the northern state.

The storm killed three people in the village, while several others were taken to hospital with serious injuries.

Ten-year-old Abhishek Kumar was asleep with his family when the storm struck. Their house collapsed, trapping him and his brother in the debris. Villagers dug them out but while Abhishek survived, his brother did not.

Dhambi Singh also suffered injuries but had to leave hospital to perform the last rites for his father who died when the roof of their house caved in.

Villagers are now worried as they have been warned that a similar storm could strike the region again in the next 72 hours.

“People should be alert,” the relief commissioner’s office told AFP.

In the two states of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, the storm brought down electricity, uprooted trees, destroyed houses and killed livestock.

Hubble Detects Helium In The Atmosphere Of An Exoplanet For The First Time

Astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope have detected helium in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-107b. This is the first time this element has been detected in the atmosphere of a planet outside the Solar System. The discovery demonstrates the ability to use infrared spectra to study exoplanet extended atmospheres.

The international team of astronomers, led by Jessica Spake, a PhD student at the University of Exeter in the UK, used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to discover helium in the atmosphere of the exoplanet WASP-107b This is the first detection of its kind.

Spake explains the importance of the discovery: “Helium is the second-most common element in the Universe after hydrogen. It is also one of the main constituents of the planets Jupiter and Saturn in our Solar System. However, up until now helium had not been detected on exoplanets — despite searches for it.”

The team made the detection by analysing the infrared spectrum of the atmosphere of WASP-107b. Previous detections of extended exoplanet atmospheres have been made by studying the spectrum at ultraviolet and optical wavelengths; this detection therefore demonstrates that exoplanet atmospheres can also be studied at longer wavelengths.

“The strong signal from helium we measured demonstrates a new technique to study upper layers of exoplanet atmospheres in a wider range of planets,” says Spake “Current methods, which use ultraviolet light, are limited to the closest exoplanets. We know there is helium in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and this new technique may help us to detect atmospheres around Earth-sized exoplanets — which is very difficult with current technology.”

WASP-107b is one of the lowest density planets known: While the planet is about the same size as Jupiter, it has only 12% of Jupiter’s mass. The exoplanet is about 200 light-years from Earth and takes less than six days to orbit its host star.

The amount of helium detected in the atmosphere of WASP-107b is so large that its upper atmosphere must extend tens of thousands of kilometres out into space. This also makes it the first time that an extended atmosphere has been discovered at infrared wavelengths.

Since its atmosphere is so extended, the planet is losing a significant amount of its atmospheric gases into space — between ~0.1-4% of its atmosphere’s total mass every billion years [2].

As far back as the year 2000, it was predicted that helium would be one of the most readily-detectable gases on giant exoplanets, but until now, searches were unsuccessful.

David Sing, co-author of the study also from the University of Exeter, concludes: “Our new method, along with future telescopes such as the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope/, will allow us to analyse atmospheres of exoplanets in far greater detail than ever before.”

Taming The Multiverse: Stephen Hawking’s Final Theory About The Big Bang

Professor Stephen Hawking’s final theory on the origin of the universe, which he worked on in collaboration with Professor Thomas Hertog from KU Leuven, has been published today in the Journal of High Energy Physics.

The theory, which was submitted for publication before Hawking’s death earlier this year, is based on string theory and predicts the universe is finite and far simpler than many current theories about the big bang say.

Professor Hertog, whose work has been supported by the European Research Council, first announced the new theory at a conference at the University of Cambridge in July of last year, organised on the occasion of Professor Hawking’s 75th birthday.

Modern theories of the big bang predict that our local universe came into existence with a brief burst of inflation — in other words, a tiny fraction of a second after the big bang itself, the universe expanded at an exponential rate. It is widely believed, however, that once inflation starts, there are regions where it never stops. It is thought that quantum effects can keep inflation going forever in some regions of the universe so that globally, inflation is eternal. The observable part of our universe would then be just a hospitable pocket universe, a region in which inflation has ended and stars and galaxies formed.

“The usual theory of eternal inflation predicts that globally our universe is like an infinite fractal, with a mosaic of different pocket universes, separated by an inflating ocean,” said Hawking in an interview last autumn. “The local laws of physics and chemistry can differ from one pocket universe to another, which together would form a multiverse. But I have never been a fan of the multiverse. If the scale of different universes in the multiverse is large or infinite the theory can’t be tested. ”

In their new paper, Hawking and Hertog say this account of eternal inflation as a theory of the big bang is wrong. “The problem with the usual account of eternal inflation is that it assumes an existing background universe that evolves according to Einstein’s theory of general relativity and treats the quantum effects as small fluctuations around this,” said Hertog. “However, the dynamics of eternal inflation wipes out the separation between classical and quantum physics. As a consequence, Einstein’s theory breaks down in eternal inflation.”

“We predict that our universe, on the largest scales, is reasonably smooth and globally finite. So it is not a fractal structure,” said Hawking.

The theory of eternal inflation that Hawking and Hertog put forward is based on string theory: a branch of theoretical physics that attempts to reconcile gravity and general relativity with quantum physics, in part by describing the fundamental constituents of the universe as tiny vibrating strings. Their approach uses the string theory concept of holography, which postulates that the universe is a large and complex hologram: physical reality in certain 3D spaces can be mathematically reduced to 2D projections on a surface.

Hawking and Hertog developed a variation of this concept of holography to project out the time dimension in eternal inflation. This enabled them to describe eternal inflation without having to rely on Einstein’ theory. In the new theory, eternal inflation is reduced to a timeless state defined on a spatial surface at the beginning of time.

“When we trace the evolution of our universe backwards in time, at some point we arrive at the threshold of eternal inflation, where our familiar notion of time ceases to have any meaning,” said Hertog.

Hawking’s earlier ‘no boundary theory’ predicted that if you go back in time to the beginning of the universe, the universe shrinks and closes off like a sphere, but this new theory represents a step away from the earlier work. “Now we’re saying that there is a boundary in our past,” said Hertog.

Hertog and Hawking used their new theory to derive more reliable predictions about the global structure of the universe. They predicted the universe that emerges from eternal inflation on the past boundary is finite and far simpler than the infinite fractal structure predicted by the old theory of eternal inflation.

Their results, if confirmed by further work, would have far-reaching implications for the multiverse paradigm. “We are not down to a single, unique universe, but our findings imply a significant reduction of the multiverse, to a much smaller range of possible universes,” said Hawking.

This makes the theory more predictive and testable.

Hertog now plans to study the implications of the new theory on smaller scales that are within reach of our space telescopes. He believes that primordial gravitational waves — ripples in spacetime — generated at the exit from eternal inflation constitute the most promising “smoking gun” to test the model. The expansion of our universe since the beginning means such gravitational waves would have very long wavelengths, outside the range of the current LIGO detectors. But they might be heard by the planned European space-based gravitational wave observatory, LISA, or seen in future experiments measuring the cosmic microwave background.