Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cave Water and Faunal Bones Found in Atacama Desert

NASA scientists have discovered water in a cave in the driest place in the world---the Atacama desert. The cave Cueva Chulacao, where the water was found, is the largest known cave in the Cordillera de la Sal. There were hardly any indication of recent visits to the place and was in pristine condition.

J. Judson Wynne, a cave expert who is with the SETI Institute and Northern Arizona University, was planting a sensor on the wall of the cave when his feet sank into mud. It was not apparent where the water came from, and it was quite a surprise.

Another surprise came from another cave, which they renamed Cuevita de Huesos which means Small Cave of the Bones, because in it, they discovered hundreds---maybe even thousands of animal bones stuck in the wall, as if encased by time itself. Like the water in the other cave, how the animals came to be deposited there in those numbers is a big mystery.

The scientists were on a sensor-planting mission which would help in research for identifying thermal signatures of caves which may harbor water in a dry environment.

Results of the study would help determine which caves on Mars could potentially have water. Some of these caves, which have already been photographed from space, could potentially harbor life. Otherwise, they can be used by astronauts as shelter from the harsh Martian environment.

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NASA: We Have Water on Mars!

Lowell was right! At least least about the Martian poles being a source of water. The Phoenix lander on Mars has finally analyzed some of the ice it has scooped up and heated and the results show that indeed, there is water on Mars.

Analysis of the Martian soil showed that is was more alkaline than anticipated and contained magnesium, sodium, potassium, and other elements. Because of the discovery, the mission of the lander had been extended to September. The next step for it is to discover if the area had been habitable in the past or suitable for habitation. It would not be looking for evidence of life though. That would be for another mission.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Hybrid Cars Pose Danger to Blind People

People cross the street using their eyes to determine if it's safe. The blind on the other hand, use their ears to determine if cars are coming or going. But car technology is changing fast, and where there used to be noisy combustion cars, there are now quieter hybrids that are semi electric or hydrogen-powered and these are the ones that pose risk to the blind.

According to the American Council for the Blind, government officials should push for ways to make the streets safer for blind and visually-impaired people who rely on hearing while on the street. Council Executive Director Melanie Brunson says "Without those sound cues, a blind or visually impaired person is at serious risk."

Dr. Karen Gourgey, a member of the council's environmental access committee, says even people with non-impaired vision use sounds to determine safety while on the streets. In response to the problem, the U.S. Federal Highway Traffic Safety Administration held its first public meeting on the matter.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Evidence of Ancient Tigers In Palawan, Philippines Unearthed

Archaeologists first discovered that tigers once thrived in Palawan in the Philippines 12,000 years ago when paw bones were unearthed in the Westmouth excavation of the Ille Cave and Rockshelter in 2004. Recently, a new tiger bone, specifically that of the basal phalanx (toe bone) were found by scientists of The Palawan Island Paleohistoric Project led by Dr. Helen Lewis and Dr. Victor Paz in excavations in the Dewil Valley.

The findings, participated in by the Archaeological Studies Program (ASP) of the University of the Philippines, shed new light on life in prehistoric Philippines more than 10,000 years ago. Dr. Philip Piper, a member of the ASP, says tigers probably entered Palawan from Borneo 620,000 or 420,000 years ago by traveling across the Balabac strait when the gap between the islands was but a few kilometers. He says environmental conditions or the intervention of humans could have made the move possible. The tigers could have been hunted down to extinction by the early inhabitants of Palawan.

Interestingly, a model of the Earth during the last ice age 18 thousand years ago (below) - when ocean levels were considerably lower - appears to show Palawan connected to Borneo (as well as the Sulu group of islands) - although a sliver of ocean still stood between Palawan and Mindoro. During that time, it would have been possible to travel from Luzon, down to Tawi-Tawi, into Malaysia onwards to the tip of South America, passing through Central Asia, into Europe, then to Alaska, and down to Central and ultimately to Tierra del Fuego in South America!

Other areas in the Philippines currently of interest to archaeologists are Cagayan de Oro, Batangas, and Cagayan Valley, where pygmy elephants or stegodons used to roam and where stone tools were found that could indicate habitation of pre modern humans - although there are no remains found to support this notion. The earliest modern human habitation known in the Philippines with bones as evidence is in Tabon cave, also in Palawan, and dates to over 30,000 years ago.

Confiscated anthropomorphic burial jars seen as evidence of ancient lost tribe in the Philippines

What is the strange landscape ring in Pangasinan in the Philippines that is visible from space?

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Monday, July 21, 2008

Baby Red Spot Eaten by Great Red on Jupiter

In a great big event for Jupiter, one of the smaller significant spots of Jupiter has been swallowed by the Great Red Spot. It would now seem that spots come and go on Jupiter. If so, there's a good chance you can discover a new one in the future, just like what Filipino Christopher Go did by just taking pictures of Jupiter.

The above picture shows the baby red spot nearing the Great Red one. The picture on the left shows how it was "eaten up" by big brother. You can study the process in the picture sequence.

Experience outer space virtually rendered Hollywood style

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Surtsey Volcano Island Resembles Face in Photograph

The island of Surtsey was formed by volcanic action off the coast of Iceland in the 1960s. Now, it has been named as one of eight new natural wonders of the world and included in the World Heritage Sites list of the United Nations. Curiously, the island resembles a face in this photograph. If Surtsey has a face, that must be it!

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Saturday, July 5, 2008

Earth's Magnetic Field Fluctuating Wildly

Scientists have discovered that the Earth's magnetic field is weakening in some parts and changes are happening pretty quickly. The fluctuations are thought to be closely connected with current movements of our planet's outer liquid center core, 3,000 kilometers down.

In 2003, the changes were prominent in the Australasian region. This shifted to Southern Africa in 2004. The findings are the result of nine years of accumulated satellite data. Mioara Mandea, scientist of the German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam says the changes may mean an upcoming reversal of the geomagnetic field.

The Earth's polarity regularly switches and evidence of this has been found by scientists geologically. Every time a decline in the Earth's magnetic field happens, the surface becomes exposed to more radiation from the Sun, and outer space in general, to altitudes below a hundred kilometers. Currently, the geomagnetic field is weak in the South-Atlantic region.

Some associate the phenomenon to Mayan prophecies and the belief about 2012, the researchers say the thinning of the magnetic field does not even affect temperature and only disrupt radio signals. The small photo (top left) shows how solar particles interact with the magnetic field to produce spectacular aurora displays like the one shown in Manitoba. The chart on the left marks polar reversals in the Earth's geological history. The scientists are continuing to monitor the developments.

Journey to the Center of the Earth remade in 3D