Drone-Dropped “Dragon Eggs” Made To Monitor Volcanoes

Would you want to climb up an active volcano to deposit a sensor at its crater? Probably not, and it’s something that safety-conscious volcanologists would prefer not to do, too. With that in mind, British scientists have created drone-deployed sensing devices known as “dragon eggs.”

Developed by a team at the University of Bristol, the eggs are small electronics-packed boxes that can be dropped off right at the heart of a volcano, using a remote-control quadcopter.

As long as the volcano isn’t about to erupt, each device remains dormant, consuming very little power – in fact, they’re claimed to feature “the lowest stand-by power consumption in the world.” Upon detecting even slight volcanic tremors, however, they wake up and begin sensing/recording temperature, humidity, vibrations, and the presence of various toxic gases. They can operate individually, or in a linked multi-egg network.

The sensor data can be wirelessly transmitted in real time to a base station located up to 10 km away (6 miles), and from there transmitted via a satellite uplink to scientists at a research facility. There, it could be used in geological studies, or even to provide warnings of impending eruptions.

Because the eggs use so little power, they could reportedly remain operational for several months utilizing one battery. To that end, they could conceivably be used to remotely monitor not only volcanoes, but also hazardous settings such as glaciers, geological faults, or nuclear waste storage sites.

The technology has already been successfully field tested at the top of Italy’s Stromboli volcano, and is now being commercially developed by spinoff company Sensor Driven Ltd.

Outer Bands Begin Lashing North Carolina Coast With Winds, Rain

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — The big slosh has begun, and the consequences could be disastrous.

Hurricane Florence’s leading edge battered the Carolina coast Thursday, bending trees and shooting frothy sea water over streets on the Outer Banks, as the hulking storm closed in with 105 mph (165 kph) winds for a drenching siege that could last all weekend.

Forecasters said conditions will only get more lethal as the storm pushes ashore early Friday near the North Carolina-South Carolina line and makes its way slowly inland. Its surge of ocean water could cover all but a sliver of the Carolina coast under as much as 13 feet, and days of downpours could dump more than 3 feet of rain, touching off severe flooding.

Florence’s winds weakened as it drew closer to land, dropping from a peak of 140 mph (225 kph) earlier in the week, and the hurricane was downgraded from a terrifying Category 4 to a 2.

But North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper warned: “Don’t relax, don’t get complacent. Stay on guard. This is a powerful storm that can kill. Today the threat becomes a reality.”

Forecasters said that given the storm’s size and sluggish track, it could cause epic damage akin to what the Houston area saw during Hurricane Harvey just over a year ago, with floodwaters swamping homes and businesses and washing over industrial and farm waste sites.

“It truly is really about the whole size of this storm,” National Hurricane Center Director Ken Graham said. “The larger and the slower the storm is, the greater the threat and the impact – and we have that.”

Schools and businesses closed as far south as Georgia, airlines canceled about 1,200 flights and counting, and coastal towns in the Carolinas were largely emptied out.

Around midday, Spanish moss blew sideways in the trees as the winds increased in Wilmington. Some of the few people still left in Nags Head on the Outer Banks took photos of angry waves topped with white froth. By early afternoon, utilities reported about 12,000 homes and businesses were already in the dark.

Wilmington resident Julie Terrell was plenty concerned after walking to breakfast past a row of shops fortified with boards, sandbags and hurricane shutters.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, I’m probably a 7” in terms of worry, she said. “Because it’s Mother Nature. You can’t predict.”

More than 1.7 million people in the Carolinas and Virginia were warned to evacuate over the past few days, and the homes of about 10 million were under watches or warnings for the hurricane or tropical storm conditions.

Duke Energy Co. said Florence could knock out electricity to three-quarters of its 4 million customers in the Carolinas, and outages could last for weeks. Workers are being brought in from the Midwest and Florida to help in the storm’s aftermath, it said.

As of 2 p.m., Florence was centered about 110 miles (180 kilometers) southeast of Wilmington, its forward movement slowed to 10 mph (17 kph). Hurricane-force winds extended 80 miles (130 kilometers) from its center, and tropical-storm-force winds up to 195 miles (315 kilometers).

Scientists said it is too soon to say what role, if any, global warming played in the storm. But previous research has shown that the strongest hurricanes are getting wetter, more intense and intensifying faster because of human-caused climate change.

Florence’s weakening as it neared the coast created tension between some who left home and authorities who worried that the storm could still be deadly.

Frustrated after evacuating his beach home for a storm that was later downgraded, retired nurse Frederick Fisher grumbled in the lobby of a Wilmington hotel several miles inland.

“Against my better judgment, due to emotionalism, I evacuated,” said Fisher, 74. “I’ve got four cats inside the house. If I can’t get back in a week, after a while they might turn on each other or trash the place.”

Authorities pushed back against any suggestion the storm’s threat was exaggerated.

The police chief of a barrier island in Florence’s bulls’-eye said he was asking for next-of-kin contact information from the few residents who refused to leave.

“I’m not going to put our personnel in harm’s way, especially for people that we’ve already told to evacuate,” Wrightsville Beach Police Chief Dan House said.

Some of those who are getting out of the way of Hurricane Florence and landing in Chicago.

Many passengers were relieved to make it into Chicago just before the airports in the southeast started shutting down Wednesday night. They were sending thoughts and prayers to their friends and family back home.

Many passengers flew to Chicago to be with relatives while they wait out the storm.

They described the panic back home to stock up on supplies, the long lines for gas… and their concerns that that they will be returning back home to damage and destruction.

“Me and my friends were out there shopping for groceries and water,” said Harshil Patel. “Everything running out from the stores.”

“I feel great being up here out of it, but I worry about all the family and friends back home,” said Teresa Moore, who lives in Raleigh.

And help is on the way from the Chicago-area at the request of FEMA. A group of paramedics and several ambulances from Elite Medical Transportation are in North and South Carolina to help with the evacuations.

Tropical Storm Isaac Approaching Caribbean With 45-Mph Winds

Tropical-storm-force winds are expected soon in the Leeward Islands as Tropical Storm Isaac approaches with 45-mph winds – Location: 25 miles east of Dominica ; Maximum sustained winds: 45 mph and Movement: west at 21 mph.

At 8 a.m., the center of Tropical Storm Isaac was located 25 miles east of Dominica.

Isaac is moving faster toward the west near 21 mph.

This general motion is forecast to continue today with a decrease in forward speed over the Caribbean Sea.

On the forecast track, Isaac should move across the central Lesser Antilles and into the eastern Caribbean Sea later today, and then move across the eastern and central Caribbean Sea through the weekend.

Maximum sustained winds remain near 45 mph, with higher gusts.

Little change in strength is expected over the next several hours as Isaac moves through the Leeward Islands.

Gradual weakening is forecast after that as Isaac moves through the eastern Caribbean.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 160 miles from the center.

JUST IN: ESA’s New Satellite ‘Aeolus’ Wows with First Wind Data

Just one week after ESA’s Aeolus satellite shone a light on our atmosphere and returned a taster of what’s in store, this ground-breaking mission has again exceeded all expectations by delivering its first data on wind – a truly remarkable feat so early in its life in space.

Named after Aeolus, who in Greek mythology was appointed ‘keeper of the winds’ by the Gods, this novel mission is the fifth in the family of ESA’s Earth Explorers, which address the most urgent Earth-science questions of our time.

Florence Rabier, Director General of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), said, “We always knew that Aeolus would be an exceptional mission, but these first results have really impressed us.

“The essence of an Earth Explorer mission is to deliver data that advances our understanding of our home planet and that demonstrates cutting-edge space technology. With the first light measurements and now these amazing wind data; Aeolus has wowed us on both fronts.”

In particular, you can see strong winds, called the Stratospheric Polar Vortex, around the South Pole. These winds play an important role in the depletion of the ozone layer over the South Pole at this time of the year.

ESA’s Aeolus instrument manager, Denny Wernham, noted, “These first results are truly amazing. It took years to develop this remarkable mission and everyone’s hard work is really paying off.

“The satellite hasn’t even been in orbit a month yet, but the results so far look extremely promising, far better than anyone expected at this early stage.

“We are very proud to be part of the mission. Aeolus looks set to provide some of the most substantial improvements to our weather forecasts that we’ve seen over the past decade.”

ESA’s Aeolus mission scientist, Anne Grete Straume, explained, “These first wind data shown in the plot made by ECMWF are from one orbit. In the profile we can see large-scale easterly and westerly winds between Earth’s surface and the lower stratosphere, including jet streams.

It carries the first instrument of its kind and uses a completely new approach to measuring the wind from space.

ESA’s Earth Explorer Programme manager, Danilo Muzi, said, “Aeolus carries revolutionary laser technology to address one of the major deficits in the Global Observing System: the lack of direct global wind measurements.

“Aeolus’ Aladin instrument is extremely sensitive. When we switched it on we increased its energy levels step by step, checking it after every move.

“It is indeed wonderful to see that it is behaving superbly so soon after launch.”

Nicola Chamussy, Head of Airbus Space Systems, said, “These initial results look wonderful. Thanks to the meticulous preparatory work and testing, the mission is in really good shape. Our Aladin system engineer, Olivier Lecrenier, tells me that it has exceeded his best expectations.

New X-Ray Pulsar Found Near Center of Milky Way

Using NuSTAR spacecraft and NICER instrument, an international team of astronomers has found a new accreting millisecond X-ray pulsar. The newly discovered object, designated IGR J17591−2342, is the newest addition to a still short list of known accreting millisecond X-ray pulsars. The finding is reported in a paper published August 30 on the arXiv pre-print server.

Astronomers noted that IGR J17591−2342 is located near the center of our Milky Way galaxy, some 28,000 light years away from the Earth. The estimated accretion rate was found to be about 0.52 billionth of one solar mass per year. IGR J17591−2342 is so far the 22nd known AMXP. The authors of the paper underlined that their discovery enriches the census of these objects that are essential for the understanding of the late stages of stellar evolution.

X-ray pulsars exhibit strict periodic variations in X-ray intensity, which can be as short as a fraction of a second. Accreting millisecond X-ray pulsars (AMXPs) are a peculiar type of X-ray pulsars in which short spin periods are caused by long-lasting mass transfer from a low-mass companion star through an accretion disc onto a slow-rotating neutron star. Astronomers perceive AMXPs as astrophysical laboratories that could be crucial in advancing our knowledge about thermonuclear burst processes.

To date, only 21 AMXPs have been discovered, with spin periods ranging from 1.7 to 9.5 milliseconds. In order to expand the list of this peculiar objects, the scientific community is still actively searching for such sources using space observatories like NASA’s Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) telescope.

Recently, a group of researchers led by Andrea Sanna of the University of Cagliari, Italy, has used NuSTAR to identify a new AMXP. The source, named IGR J17591−2342, was initially classified as an X-ray transient by European Space Agency’s INTernational Gamma-Ray Astrophysics Laboratory (INTEGRAL) during galactic center scanning on August 10, 2018. The team observed this source with NuSTAR, which revealed evidence about the nature of this object. Additional observations of the pulsar were conducted using the Neutron Star Interior Composition Explorer (NICER) onboard the International Space Station (ISS).

“In this letter, we describe a coherent timing analysis of the NuSTAR and NICER observations that provided the pulsar spin period and binary ephemeris,” the researchers wrote in the paper.

The team detected coherent X-ray pulsations around 527.4 Hz (1.9 milliseconds) in the NuSTAR and NICER observations performed almost 25 days from the beginning of the outburst, with a pulse fraction of 15 percent.

According to the paper, IGR J17591−2342 has an orbital period of about 8.8 hours. The mass of the neutron star was calculated to be approximately 1.4 solar masses, while the minimum mass of the companion is most likely 0.42 solar masses.

Tropical Storm Dumps Rain On Hawaii While Crossing State

HONOLULU – Heavy rain and winds from a tropical storm downed trees, knocked out power and prompted evacuations of several homes on Hawaii’s Maui island.

Tropical Storm Olivia crossed the state Wednesday, making landfall on Maui and Lanai islands along the way.

But it spared the state widespread damage before continuing out to sea.

Weather forecasters are warning heavy rains will continue through Thursday.

Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa says Olivia hadn’t caused extreme damage the way other storms have in the past.

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center says Olivia will likely weaken further and become a tropical depression by Thursday.

Lava Flow Seen On Restless Alaska Volcano

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – A lava flow has been spotted on an Alaska volcano that recently became active again.

Alaska Volcano Observatory scientists say witnesses aboard the state ferry Tustumena saw the lava flow and fountaining on Mount Veniaminof (VEN’-ee-ah-mean-off) Monday morning.

Scientists say satellite images obtained Sunday shows the lava flow is about one-half-mile long on the 8,225-foot (2,500-meter) volcano, one of Alaska’s most active.

The observatory last week increased the threat level of Veniaminof from yellow to orange. That color designation indicates sudden explosions could send ash above 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) and threaten international airplanes.

The volcano erupted for several months in 2013. Other recent eruptions occurred in 2005 and between 1993 and 1995.

Veniaminof is 480 miles (772 kilometers) southwest of Anchorage on the Alaska Peninsula. Perryville, a town of about 100 people, is 20 miles southeast of the volcano.