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    A still from a time-lapse video of two months aboard an Antarctic ice-breaker. (Credit: Cassandra Brooks)

    The oceans surrounding Antarctica may be littered with buried shipwrecks in pristine condition, new research suggests.

    Researchers came to that conclusion, detailed today (Aug. 13) in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, after burying wood and bone at the depths of the Antarctic oceans and analyzing the handiwork of worms and mollusks more than a year later.

    "The bones were infested by a carpet of red-plumed Osedax worms, which we have named as a new species - Osedax antarcticus - but the wood planks were untouched, with not a trace of the wood-eating worms," study co-author Adrian Glover, an aquatic invertebrates researcher at the Natural History Museum in London, said in an email. "The wood was hardly degraded either, after 14 months on the seafloor."

    That finding suggests that some of the most iconic shipwrecks - including the Endurance, the most famous ship to ever sail to Antarctica - could be perfectly preserved in the icy waters near the southern continent. [Shipwrecks Gallery: Secrets of the Deep]

    Sir Ernest Shackleton first set sail for Antarctica aboard the Endurance. At the time, the ship was the strongest one ever built. Yet it was crushed by icebergs in the Weddell Sea near Antarctica in 1915 and sunk. More than 9 months later and a after a series of harrowing ordeals, the entire crew was eventually rescued.

    In any other ocean, wooden ships like the Endurance are quickly devoured by shipworms or wood-boring mollusks.

    Antarctica, however, has been treeless for the last 30 million years. Instead, the region is teeming with whales and other cetaceans whose bones sink to the ocean floor. That raised the possibility that, whereas ocean dwellers feast on wood in other regions, local organisms may have adapted to devour bone in Antarctica.

    To see how shipwrecks and animal bones fared in the Southern Ocean, the team created massive underwater landers that were loaded with whalebones and large planks of pine and oak, Glover said. They then placed those landers at three spots in the ocean along the western Antarctic Peninsula.

    Fourteen months later, the team hoisted up the landers from the seafloor. The bones, which were riddled with holes, were covered in O. antarcticus. The wooden planks, in contrast, were untouched by wood-boring mollusks.

    After analyses, the team found the worms were genetically related to the worms that live in sulfuric, oxygen-poor muds and use bacteria to break down their food.

    "Perhaps, at some point after whales first appeared in the oceans, ancestral worms were able to make the evolutionary leap from sulphidic muds to whale carcasses," Glover said, adding that fossil studies should help the researchers understand how that leap was made.

    At least one group, Blue Water Recoveries, hopes to recover the Endurance shipwreck in the future.

    Follow Tia Ghose on Twitterand Google+. Follow LiveScience @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

    Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    A family battles against the strong wind near the waterfront in Hong Kong, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

    BEIJING (AP) - A typhoon left one person dead and five others missing as it churned through southern China before weakening into a tropical storm on Thursday, authorities said.

    After shutting down business in the financial center of Hong Kong and sinking a cargo ship, Typhoon Utor brought high winds and torrential rain to Guangdong province after making landfall Wednesday afternoon. These triggered flooding and mountain torrents that led to the casualties, the provincial government said Thursday.

    The typhoon had forced the closure of schools, offices, shopping centers and construction sites in cities along its path northwest across Guangdong.

    Only minor damage was reported, a result, state media said, of strict adherence to orders to confine tens of thousands of fishing boats to port and evacuate vulnerable people to shelters.

    Thousands of travelers were stranded by the suspension of flights and ferry services.

    By Thursday morning, the force of the storm had weakened considerably, with sustained winds at its center falling to speeds of 53 mph as it headed northwest through Guangxi province, about 215 miles west of Hong Kong.

    Life returned to normal in Hong Kong Thursday, a day after offices, schools and courts were shut and the stock market halted trading, bringing an eerie calm to the normally busy southern Chinese commercial hub.

    Flights had been canceled and ferry services curtailed while helicopter search and rescue teams from Hong Kong and Guangdong province rescued 21 crew members from a bulk carrier transporting nickel ore before it sank in waters southwest of Hong Kong.

    Utor was the world's strongest typhoon of the year before it crossed the Philippines earlier this week, leaving at least eight people dead.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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    This July 16, 2013, photo released by the Alaska Volcano Observatory shows the southwest flank of the intra-caldera cone at the Veniaminof Volcano near Perryville, Alaska. (AP Photo/Alaska Volcano Observatory and U.S. Geological Survey)

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A remote Alaska volcano is again oozing lava into its ice-filled caldera, but the activity is no cause for alarm for nearby villagers, scientists said Wednesday.

    Seismic activity and satellite imagery indicated Veniaminof Volcano began emitting a low-level lava flow Sunday, after about a week of quiet behavior, said Game McGimsey, a volcanologist with the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage.

    The volcano also produced an ash cloud of about 12,000 feet Monday, but it quickly dissipated. That was the highest of several plumes since the volcano began its eruption in June, and the first since the activity settled down earlier this month.

    Veniaminof, pronounced ven-ee-ah-mean-off, has a 6 1/2-mile wide caldera, the large depression at a volcano's center that usually is formed by the collapse of land following an eruption. Protruding from the caldera ice is a "central cinder cone," McGimsey said.

    "That's where all the activity it taking place," he said.

    The lava flows are not extensive, going down the side of the cone onto the ice on the caldera floor and not traveling much beyond the base of the cone, he said.

    "This is, in no way, hazardous to anybody, any villages or anything," McGimsey said.

    Cloud cover has obscured the observatory's webcam at Veniaminof, about 480 miles southwest of Anchorage along the Aleutian chain.

    The closest community to the volcano is Perryville, an Alutiiq subsistence village of about 110 people. A state website says the village was founded in 1912 as a refuge for Alutiiq people who were driven from their homes by the eruption of Novarupta, the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. The burst dumped ash still visible today along Alaska's Katmai region.

    "The weather is kind of crummy right now, and we're unable to see the volcano right now because it's all closed in, foggy," said Timothy Kosbruck, an office clerk for Oceanside Native Crop, the village corporation for Perryville.

    He said the 1- to 2-mile visibility was limiting any views of the volcano about 20 miles away. When it's not cloudy, he said the 8,225-foot volcano is clearly visible without the aid of binoculars.

    Kosbruck said he hasn't noticed any activity lately, but it was a different story about three weeks ago.

    "It was really acting up. You could hear it rumbling, and you could see lava flows," he said by telephone.

    Veniaminof has erupted at least 12 times in the past 200 years. The most significant eruptions occurred between 1993 and 1995, when the volcano produced steam and ash and a small lava flow was extruded from a vent. The lava flow melted snow and ice, producing an oval-shaped ice pit.

    Eruptions were characterized by small explosions and brief bursts of ash that reached no more than 20,000 feet.

    Minor ash-producing explosions occurred in 2002, 2004 and 2005. An eruption in 1983 and 1984 produced an ash plume that went up 25,000 feet.

    In 1939, following an eruption, several centimeters of fine ash fell on Perryville.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking Volcanic Eruptions Seen from Space

     

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    In this photo released by the U.S. Forest Service Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013, firefighters stand watch near the perimeter of the Elk Complex fire near the small mountain community of Pine, Idaho, Monday, Aug. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/U.S. Forest Service)

    WANSHIP, Utah (AP) - A wildfire threatened hundreds of homes Wednesday after destroying more than a dozen others outside the resort town of Park City.

    The lightning-sparked blaze was among several in the West where fires have devoured dry grass and brush and burned to the edges of small communities.

    Shifting winds in Utah pushed the fire toward homes in a subdivision about 10 miles outside Park City. It destroyed a dozen homes on Tuesday, plus another home overnight.

    A 14th home burned Wednesday after strong winds kicked up in the afternoon, the Deseret News reported. The blaze also burned 20 outbuildings and several vehicles and boats, fire officials said.

    The fire began near a populated area and had grown to 2,000 acres, or nearly 3 square miles, by Wednesday evening. About 250 homes northeast of Park City remain threatened, including some along a golf course in the gated community of Promontory.

    Residents who hoped to return home Wednesday night aren't likely to be allowed back in until Thursday at the earliest, said Utah fire official Mike Eriksson. Some were allowed to pick up pets and medication early Wednesday.

    Steady winds and rising temperatures stoked the fire Wednesday afternoon, sending large clouds of brownish-black smoke into the sky. The fire was still only about 25 percent contained, said Utah fire official Mike Eriksson.

    "The winds haven't been helping out with this fire," Eriksson said. "It's definitely growing."

    The lighting strike that ignited the blaze Tuesday shook Kim Alderman's convenience store, and flames were visible within a few minutes. The fire then spread into the gated communities of Rockport Ranches and Rockport Estates, mostly middle-class homes used as primary residences, said Alderman, owner of the Rafter B Gas N' Grub in Wanship.

    Brenda Child was at a nearby lake with her 6-year-old grandson when she saw the flames Tuesday afternoon. She raced home in her car and ran into the house with her shirt covering her mouth to avoid breathing in the smoke. She grabbed her dog, computer and insurance policy and left. When she was allowed to return Wednesday, she found the 3,000-square-foot house she and her husband moved into three months ago untouched.

    "I was absolutely horrified that our house was going to be gone," Child said.

    Several helicopters and one large DC-10 tanker plane worked the fire Wednesday, dropping fire retardant. More than 100 people were assigned to help fight the fire.

    In west-central Utah's Skull Valley, more than 20 structures had been threatened by the Patch Springs Fire on Tuesday. Crews made progress and officials said Wednesday the structures were no longer threatened by the 16-square-mile blaze.

    More than 250 firefighters were working to contain the largest blaze in Utah, which jumped across the border into Idaho. The lightning-caused State Fire has charred almost 36 square miles in steep and rugged terrain. It was 50 percent contained.

    In Idaho, fire crews prepared to capitalize on favorable winds and lower temperatures to continue burnout operations around the small mountain community of Pine, where the Elk Complex remained the nation's No. 1 firefighting priority.

    The lightning-caused fire has burned across more than 175 square miles and destroyed structures in the community of Fall Creek, fire spokeswoman Ludie Bond said.

    A wildfire near Glenwood Springs, Colo., prompted a small number of evacuations Tuesday, Garfield County Sheriff's Office spokesman Walter Stowe said. The Red Canyon Fire was threatening 20 structures and was 10 percent contained Wednesday.

    Meanwhile, health district officials in northern Nevada were monitoring air quality concerns due to smoky haze from a wildfire in the Tahoe National Forest more than 60 miles away.

     

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    Researchers found that petroglyphs discovered in western Nevada are at least 10,500 years old, making them the oldest rock art ever dated in North America. (Credit: University of Colorado)

    On the west side of Nevada's dried-up Winnemucca Lake, there are several limestone boulders with deep, ancient carvings; some resemble trees and leaves, whereas others are more abstract designs that look like ovals or diamonds in a chain.

    The true age of this rock art had not been known, but a new analysis suggests these petroglyphs are the oldest North America, dating back to between 10,500 and 14,800 years ago.

    Though Winnemucca Lake is now barren, at other times in the past it was so full of water the lake would have submerged the rocks where the petroglyphs were found and spilled its excess contents over Emerson Pass to the north. [See Photos of Amazing Cave Art]

    To determine the age of the rock art, researchers had to figure out when the boulders were above the water line.

    The overflowing lake left telltale crusts of carbonate on these rocks, according to study researcher Larry Benson of the University of Colorado Boulder. Radiocarbon tests revealed that the carbonate film underlying the petroglyphs dated back roughly 14,800 years ago, while a later layer of carbonate coating the rock art dated to about 11,000 years ago.

    Those findings, along with an analysis of sediment core sampled nearby, suggest the petroglyph-decorated rocks were exposed first between 14,800 and 13,200 years ago and again between about 11,300 and 10,500 years ago.

    "Prior to our study, archaeologists had suggested these petroglyphs were extremely old," Benson said in a statement. "Whether they turn out to be as old as 14,800 years ago or as recent as 10,500 years ago, they are still the oldest petroglyphs that have been dated in North America."

    Researchers previously believed the oldest rock art in North America could be found at Long Lake, Ore., in carvings that were created at least 6,700 years ago, before being covered in ash from the Mount Mazama volcanic eruption.

    The deeply carved lines and grooves in geometric motifs in the petroglyphs at Winnemucca Lake share similarities with their cousins in Oregon. As for what the petroglyphs represented to their Native American creators, researchers are still scratching their heads.

    "We have no idea what they mean," Benson said. "But I think they are absolutely beautiful symbols. Some look like multiple connected sets of diamonds, and some look like trees, or veins in a leaf. There are few petroglyphs in the American Southwest that are as deeply carved as these, and few that have the same sense of size."

    The findings will be detailed in the December 2013 issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

    Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

    Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

     

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    This was no underwater magic trick. A man being billed as the "Shark Whisperer" managed to hypnotize a shark 45 feet below the ocean's surface in the Bahamas. The incredible video footage shows the diver calmly rubbing the shark's nose until the animal becomes so sedate that the man is able to balance the shark by its nose on just the palm of his hand.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Underwater Surfing Photos

     

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    Asteroids, Earth
    This NASA graphic shows the orbits of all the known Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs), numbering over 1,400 as of early 2013. Shown here is a close-up of the orbits overlaid on the orbits of Earth and other inner planets. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

    If you've seen films like "Armageddon," you know the potential threat asteroids can be for Earth. To meet that threat, NASA has built a map like no other: a plot of every dangerous asteroid that could potentially endanger our planet ... at least the ones we know about.

    NASA released the new map of "potentially hazardous asteroids" on Aug. 2 in a post to its online Planetary Photojournal overseen by the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. The map shows the orbital paths of more than 1,400 asteroids known creep too close to Earth for comfort. None of the asteroids mapped pose an impact threat to Earth within the next 100 years, agency officials said.

    "These are the asteroids considered hazardous because they are fairly large (at least 460 feet or 140 meters in size), and because they follow orbits that pass close to the Earth's orbit (within 4.7 million miles or 7.5 million kilometers)," NASA officials explained in the image description. [See photos of potentially dangerous asteroids seen by NASA.]

    The asteroid map shows a dizzying swarm of overlapping blue ellipses (the asteroid orbits) surrounding the sun. The orbits of Earth, Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter are also visible to put the asteroid orbits in perspective on a solar system-wide scale.

    If you're worried about a rogue asteroid or comet obliterating life as we know it this week, don't panic just yet. Just because the asteroids in the new NASA map are classified as "potentially hazardous" - scientists call them PHAs in NASA-speak - that doesn't mean they are an imminent threat to the Earth, NASA said.

    According to NASA, "being classified as a PHA does not mean that an asteroid will impact the Earth: None of these PHAs is a worrisome threat over the next 100 years. By continuing to observe and track these asteroids, their orbits can be refined and more precise predictions made of their future close approaches and impact probabilities."

    NASA scientists and astronomers around the world are constantly searching for asteroids that may pose an impact threat to Earth. NASA has said that roughly 95 percent of the largest asteroids that could endanger Earth - space rocks at least 0.6 miles (1 km) wide - have been identified through these surveys.

    At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA's Asteroid Watch project scientists work to share the latest asteroid discoveries and potential threats with the public. The Asteroid Watch is part of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program that studies asteroids and comets, as well as their potential impact threats to the Earth and other planets.

    Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

    Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space
    Space, Galaxies

     

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    Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013

    In this July 2012 photo, British stuntman Mark Sutton parachutes into London's Olympic Stadium dressed as James Bond during the Olympic Games 2012 Opening Ceremony. (AP Photo/PA, Lewis Whyld, File)

    GENEVA (AP) - He wasn't a competitor, but Mark Sutton still got one of the biggest cheers of the 2012 Olympics.


    Sutton, who was killed during a wingsuit jump in the Alps this week, was the skydiver who parachuted into London's Olympic Stadium during the opening ceremony dressed as James Bond, alongside another stuntman disguised as Queen Elizabeth II.

    It was the punchline to a filmed sequence in which Daniel Craig's Bond escorted the real queen from Buckingham Palace onto a helicopter - and, for many, the highlight of director Danny Boyle's ceremony.

    Swiss police confirmed that Sutton died Wednesday when he crashed into a rocky ridge near Trient in the southwestern Valais region. They gave his age as 42.

    Wingsuits - aerodynamic jumpsuits that make wearers look like winged superheroes - allow fliers to jump from planes, helicopters and occasionally cliffs and soar long distances before opening parachutes to land.

    Boyle on Thursday paid tribute to Sutton, saying he and fellow diver Gary Connery had "made the stadium gasp ... and left indelible memories for people from all walks of life all over the world."

    "The show was built from so many contributions from so many people, none finer and braver than Mark Sutton," Boyle said. "On behalf of everyone in the show we were all honored to have worked with him and to have known him as a friend and a professional. "

    London 2012 chief Sebastian Coe said Sutton was "a consummate professional and team player" who would be widely missed.

    Online extreme sports broadcaster Epic TV said Sutton was killed during a gathering it had organized involving 20 wingsuitpilots who were filmed as they jumped from helicopters. The firm said Sutton's death was "a tragic loss for the globalwingsuit community."

    The former British Army officer with the Gurkha Rifles who worked as a derivatives adviser was an accomplished skydiver. He performed at the Olympics alongside his friend Gary Connery. Sutton was the tuxedo-clad Bond, while Connery wore a pink dress and wig to play the queen.

    Connery told The Sun newspaper that he had lost a friend who was "smart, articulate and funny."

    "In any sport where you share a common bond you can make friends in a heartbeat that last a lifetime," he was quoted as saying. "My relationship with Mark was like that."

    Sutton was an experienced participant in the exhilarating but dangerous world of wingsuit jumping, and had worked with Connery on a bid to complete the first jump from an aircraft without a parachute. Sutton filmed Connery's successful attempt in May 2012.

    Valais police, who are investigating Sutton's fatal accident, said crashed into a mountain ridge and fell to his death after jumping from a helicopter at 3,300 meters (10,800 feet)

    Epic TV editor-in-chief Trey Cook said Sutton jumped with another diver who was wearing a camera, though the moment of impact had not been captured.

    SEE ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Photos of Wingsuit Flying

     

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    Updated Friday, Aug. 16, 2013, 9:15 a.m. ET

    (NOAA)

    An area of moisture moving into the Gulf of Mexico could develop into a tropical system before the weekend. This same area of moisture will enhance rain across the Southeast, which could lead to flooding across the region.

    Meanwhile, Erin has weakened to a tropical depression and continues to slowly spin west-northwestward in the eastern Atlantic.

    Tropical development in the Caribbean and Gulf has been a concern since early this week, with numerous scenarios still in play. However, meteorologists continue to have more confidence due to the moisture from the storm shifting into the Gulf of Mexico and towards the United States.

    Once the system moves into the Gulf later today, it will be in a rather favorable environment for development.



    Heading into the weekend, water temperatures are expected to stay just slightly above average for this time of year. The strong opposing winds that tend to shred storms have also weakened.

    However, it is still questionable if the storm will have enough time to officially develop into a tropical depression or storm.

    AccuWeather.com expert senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski noted Tuesday morning that the broad area of low pressure has not yet shown signs of strengthening.

    "This suggests there is no sign that a low-level feature is forming yet," Kottlowski said, and a low-level feature is necessary for a disturbance to strengthen.

    There will only be a day or two in which this lower-level feature could form before the system moves inland. Without the warm, tropical water after landfall, the storm will not be able to strengthen.

    RELATED:
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    AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center
    AccuWeather's 2013 Fall Forecast


    Whether the system is officially named or not, tropical moisture is expected to begin to surge into the Southeast Friday. This will bring the potential for heavy rain that could stall over the area for several days.

    Although there are still multiple plausible paths this disturbance could take, a path into the central U.S. Gulf Coast appears to be the most likely route. This puts locations between central Louisiana east to the Florida Panhandle most at risk.

    With a very wet summer thus far, even just a little rain could cause isolated flooding problems. However, with the increasing likelihood of more rain with this tropical system, flooding will be a huge risk, especially along the Gulf coast and into the southern Appalachians.

    There could also be some gusty winds along the coastlines as the disturbance moves closer to land, as well as some minor storm surge.

    In addition to keeping an eye on the southern Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Depression Erin continues to spin in the eastern Atlantic. Erin formed on Thursday morning, making it the fifth named tropical storm in the 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season. But Friday morning, it was downgraded to a tropical depression.

    The depression will not have any immediate impacts on the United States as it is currently more than 2,000 miles away from the country. However, it should still be monitored as it is expected to track west-northwestward over the next several days.

    Conditions are quickly becoming more favorable in the Atlantic for development, which is typical for mid- to late August.

    Over the past week, the strong, opposing wind shear has weakened across the tropics. Furthermore, the dry, Saharan air off the African coast has begun to dissipate.

    The disintegration of these factors will lead to an uptick of storms in the Atlantic Basin in the coming weeks.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 30 Stunning Photos Revealing the Power of Hurricanes

     

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    A part of house wall was damaged in the small South Island town of Seddon after a magnitude-6.5 earthquake hit in the upper South Island of New Zealand, Friday, Aug. 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Bejon Haswell/NZ Herald)

    WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - Strong earthquakes shook central New Zealand on Friday, damaging homes and roads and sending office workers scrambling for cover in the capital. No serious injuries were reported.

    A magnitude-6.5 temblor struck just after 2:30 p.m. near the small South Island town of Seddon, and at least six aftershocks were 5.0 magnitude or stronger.

    Several homes near the epicenter were severely damaged, with chimneys collapsing and roofs caving in, said police spokeswoman Barbara Dunn. She said a bridge was severely damaged on the main highway near Seddon, and that rocks and debris had fallen onto the road. Police closed a section of the highway.

    Some buildings in Wellington, the capital, were evacuated, and items were knocked off shelves in places.

    Police said a number of people were freed from Wellington elevators that stopped working. The initial temblor also forced the nation's stock exchange to close for more than an hour.

    Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said there was no major damage to the city's infrastructure or office buildings. She said highways had become clogged as people left the city.

    "We think this is business as usual," she said, "but it is going to take a little while for people to get home tonight."

    The U.S. Geological Survey said the epicenter of the initial temblor was 94 kilometers (58 miles) west of Wellington at a depth of 10 kilometers (6 miles).

    A quake of similar strength in the same area three weeks ago broke water mains, smashed windows and downed power lines.

    Caroline Little, a seismologist with New Zealand quake monitoring agency GeoNet, said the series of quakes since July had followed an unusual pattern.

    "Normally you get a big quake and then the aftershocks get smaller in magnitude," she said.

    Little said the July quake was on a fault line near Seddon that had not previously been mapped. She said it was too early to determine if Friday's quakes were on that same fault.

    A different fault line runs through Wellington, and many in the city fear an earthquakealong that fault could result in a major disaster.

    New Zealand is part of the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire" that has regular seismic activity. A severe earthquake in the city of Christchurch in 2011 killed 185 people and destroyed much of the city's downtown.

    Local authorities issued no tsunami warnings after Friday's quakes.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    In this Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, photo, Cameron Richardson, right, who was trapped in the rubble of Plaza Towers Elementary school following the May 20, 2013, tornado, poses for a photo with his brothers, Anthony Richardson, 3, center, and Davion Richardson, 13, in their yard in Moore, Okla. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

    MOORE, Okla. (AP) - Nearly three months after a twister blasted through this Oklahoma City suburb and destroyed two elementary schools, officials and many families hope Friday's start of a new school year will help students put the memory of the deadly tornado behind them.

    Though many families are ready to return to a familiar routine, parents and teachers say the town's children have fears that are still fresh and a lot more healing to do.

    Seven students at the Plaza Towers Elementary School were among the 24 people killed by the EF-5 twister that wrecked scores of homes and businesses along a 17-mile path through the heart of Moore on May 20. Students at Plaza Towers and nearby Briarwood Elementary, which also was destroyed, will attend classes in temporary buildings at least for this school year.

    "I'm a little nervous about the beginning of school because I want the kids so badly to feel good and comfortable at school," said Plaza Towers Principal Amy Simpson, who took cover from the storm in a 4-by-5-foot bathroom with her office staff and emerged to find a mangled car on a co-worker's desk.

    Since the storm, different students have found different ways to cope with their memories of the mayhem. Haley Delgado, 8, carries headphones to block out the noise of the wind and her brother, Xavier, 10, says he is scared by loud thunder.

    Ruby Macias, 9, who was trapped under the same wall that crushed her classmates, remembers the screaming and the crying.

    "She says she dreams about her friend," said Ruby's mother, Veronica Macias. "I don't know what to tell her."

    The site where the Plaza Towers school once stood, in the heart of a neighborhood decimated by the tornado, has become a makeshift memorial for the dead and a meeting spot for volunteers, even though there is just a slab where the school used to be.

    A handful of wind-battered trees are beginning to grow new leaves and branches again. Seven crosses, each carrying the name of a child killed in the storm, are accompanied by an eighth cross that has a black "7'' inside a red heart.

    "I'm not going to act as though those first couple of weeks (after the storm) weren't so terribly difficult, because they were," said Superintendent Robert Romines, a longtime Moore resident who took the district's top post over the summer. "But since that day, we have turned a lot of corners. After our last funeral, we turned a corner."

    The district will build new schools at the sites of the old ones; the new ones will have tornado-safe rooms.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 10 Amazing Things Found in the Tornado Rubble

     

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    In this Aug. 14, 2013, photo, members of the Idaho City Hotshots work on burnout operations around Pine, Idaho, where the Elk Complex lightning-caused fire continued to burn. (AP Photo/The Times-News, Ashley Smith)

    PASCO, Wash. (AP) - Researchers are flying over Western wildfires to sample the thick smoke they emit and study its role in cloud formation and climate.

    The data-gathering campaign is intended to help scientists flesh out one of the least understood areas of climate: the role of aerosols, or particles given off by wildfires, and how they evolve over time.

    Biomass burning, such as forest fires and agricultural fires when farmers burn off their farm fields, has long been known to release large amounts of carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, but less is known about how smoke plumes evolve over time and affect climate.

    The researchers already have flown over fires in Washington and Oregon. This week, they traveled to central Idaho, where a complex of fires has scorched some 400 square miles (256,000 acres) of grass and forest land.

    So far, they're finding that the thick, black smoke emitted when a wildfire is burning hottest tends to have a warming effect on the climate, said Larry Kleinman, one of two principal investigators from Brookhaven National Laboratory.

    However, as winds push them away from the fire, the particles gather a coating of reflective organic matter that has a cooling effect on the Earth, he said.

    Think of the white smoke you see over a smoldering fire.

    That change can happen in just a couple of hours as the particles travel through the atmosphere, said Arthur Sedlacek, the other Brookhaven investigator.

    Both stressed that they are still early in their research, though they hope to provide information that could be factored into large-scale climate models.

    A tour of the research aircraft Wednesday showed a wall of instruments designed to measure, among other things, the size and chemical composition of particles, their light absorption and scattering effects, and the gases in the air. All of that is sucked in through small tubes outside the airplane.

    Much like flying through thunderclouds, the bumpy flight is not often a friendly environment for sensitive measurements.

    In addition, Kleinman said, flight restrictions sometimes limit how close they can fly to allow air tankers and helicopters to fight the fires. The researchers also must pore over detailed weather forecasts to map their flights, delaying their response.

    Still, they've managed to fly into big plumes to collect large particles of black carbon soot and continue their travels downwind to gather smaller particles.

    "It's surreal to go through the plume. You're in blue skies, then you hit a wall of white haze, then it's orange. And there's a lot of turbulence," Sedlacek said.

    The researchers hope the field study will contribute to a better understanding of how particles emitted from different types of fires may contribute to climate change.

    The study continues in the Northwest through mid-September. The researchers will travel to Tennessee in October to study smoke plumes from large agricultural plumes.

     

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    Makena, Maui, Hawaii (Getty Images)

    HONOLULU (AP) - Officials reopened a Maui beach Thursday, a day after a shark bit off the right arm of a German visitor about 50 yards offshore.

    About 2 miles of beach in the resort community of Makena reopened at noon after lifeguards and firefighters surveying the ocean found no sign of sharks in the area, Maui County officials said.

    The woman, who is about 20 years old, was snorkeling at Palauea Beach when the attack occurred shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday. The water was choppy and visibility was limited at the time.

    Bystanders on shore heard the woman scream, put her on a kayak and brought her to land, said Lee Mainaga, fire services chief at the Maui Fire Department. Her right arm was severed below the shoulder, he said. The limb wasn't recovered.

    The woman was taken to Maui Memorial Medical Center in critical condition. A spokeswoman there said Thursday that the hospital had no further information to release.

    It wasn't clear what type of shark bit the woman. Witnesses interviewed didn't see the animal, said Department of Land and Natural Resources spokeswoman Deborah Ward.

    "We will try to speak to the victim when she is cleared to speak with us," Ward said.

    There have been six shark attacks in Hawaii this year through the end of July, including three on Maui, according to a state database. There were 11 shark attacks in the state in 2012.

    The last time anyone in Hawaii died from a shark attack was in 2004, when a tiger shark bit Willis McInnis in the leg while he was surfing 100 yards off Maui. McInnis suffered severe blood loss and died on the shore despite rescue efforts by beachgoers, police and paramedics. The last fatal attack before that was in 1992.

    State officials say fatal attacks in Hawaii are unusual considering how many people are in the state's waters.

    Tiger sharks are the species most often blamed for attacks, but it's not known why they sometimes bite humans. They may be trying to figure out whether a person could be prey.

    To protect against attacks, authorities recommend swimming, snorkeling and surfing with other people. They also say people should avoid the water at dawn and dusk, as this is when some shark species move inshore to eat.

     

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    A spectacular new video from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity shows the Red Planet's two tiny moons eclipsing each other in an otherworldly skywatching first.

    Curiosity snapped 41 images of the Mars moons in the night sky on Aug. 1, with rover scientists then stitching them together to make the final 30-second video. It is the first time a view of the two Martian satellites - called Phobos and Deimos - eclipsing each other has been captured from the vantage point of the planet's surface, NASA officials said.

    The new Curiosity video has plenty of scientific value in addition to its gee-whiz appeal, officials said. For example, researchers are studying the images to refine their knowledge of the orbits of Phobos and Deimos, both of which appear to be captured asteroids. [Watch Curiosity's video of the Martian moon eclipse]

    Curiosity Rover, Mars Moons"The ultimate goal is to improve orbit knowledge enough that we can improve the measurement of the tides Phobos raises on the Martian solid surface, giving knowledge of the Martian interior," Mark Lemmon of Texas A&M University said in a statement.

    "We may also get data good enough to detect density variations within Phobos and to determine if Deimos' orbit is systematically changing," added Lemmon, who is a co-investigator for Curiosity's Mastcam instrument, which took the pictures using its telephoto lens.

    Phobos' orbit is taking it closer to the surface of Mars very slowly, researchers said, while Deimos may gradually be getting farther and farther away from the planet.

    Phobos is just 14 miles (22 kilometers) wide on average, while Deimos is even smaller. But Curiosity was able to spot both of them because they orbit quite close to the Red Planet's surface - 3,700 miles (6,000 km) in Phobos' case and 12,470 miles (20,070 km) for Deimos.

    Earth's moon is gigantic compared to Phobos and Deimos, with a diameter of about 2,160 miles (3,475 km). But our planet's natural satellite orbits much farther away - its average distance is 239,000 miles (384,600 km) - so Phobos appears half as big in the sky to Curiosity as Earth's moon does to human skywatchers, NASA officials said.

    The 1-ton Curiosity rover landed on Mars on Aug. 5, 2012 to determine if the Red Planet could ever have supported microbial life. The six-wheeled robot has already achieved that mission goal, finding that a site called Yellowknife Bay was indeed habitable billions of years ago.

    Curiosity is now embarked upon a long drive to the foothills of the huge Mount Sharp, whose many layers hold a record of the Red Planet's changing environmental conditions over time. Mission scientists want Curiosity to read that history like a book as it climbs up through the mountain's lower reaches.

    Curiosity deputy project scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., will discuss the rover's first year on Mars tonight (Aug. 15) during a talk at JPL. You can watch the presentation, which begins at 10 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT Aug. 16), live here on SPACE.com, courtesy of NASA and JPL.

    Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+. Originally published on SPACE.com.

    Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space

     

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    Aug. 16, 2013
    Flooding Southeast

    A tropical depression or storm could form in the Gulf this weekend while also bringing flooding rain to the Southeast.

    Development across the Caribbean and Gulf has been a concern since early in the week, with numerous scenarios. However, meteorologists have been getting closer to a consensus on how this system will play out.

    An area of low pressure has emerged into the southwestern Gulf of Mexico Friday.

    As it moves away from the Yucatan Peninsula, and into the warm Gulf water, there is a chance that the system could organize into a tropical depression or weak tropical storm.

    Despite the warm environment, there are multiple factors that could also hinder development.

    The storm will be deflected in different directions, tearing the system apart.

    The main area of low pressure is expected to track westward, likely towards Mexico or the Texas Gulf coast early next week.

    Tropical Storm

    Meanwhile, most of the moisture will surge into the Southeast through the weekend, whether the system is a storm or not. This will bring the potential for heavy rain that could stall over the area for several days.

    With a very wet summer thus far, even just a little rain could cause isolated flooding problems. However, with the tropical surge, the risk of flash, human and small stream flooding will be escalated through the weekend.

    The Gulf coast from eastern Louisiana through the Florida Panhandle is where the heavy rain will likely move onshore. The moist flow will continue up through Georgia and Carolinas, an area that has been hit with rounds of heavy rain and flooding already this week.

    As Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski explained earlier this month, the drenching rain was already starting to make it too wet for some crops.

    Heavy rain will continue creeping farther northward throughout the weekend, making it into northern Virginia. The Washington, D.C., and Baltimore area could encounter the outer fringes of this tropical rain.

    However, a high settled over the Great Lakes this weekend will likely keep showers from pressing farther north than Philadelphia. For most of the Northeast, it will remain a dry weekend.

    Get more weather news at AccuWeather.com.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 23 Incredible Hurricane Images from Space
    Hurricane from Space

     

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    August 17, 2013



    A tropical depression or storm could form in the Gulf this weekend while also bringing flooding rain to the Southeast.Development across the Caribbean and Gulf has been a concern since early in the week, with numerous scenarios. However, meteorologists have been getting closer to a consensus on how this system will play out.

    An area of low pressure has emerged into the southwestern Gulf of Mexico Friday.

    As it moves away from the Yucatan Peninsula, and into the warm Gulf water, there is a chance that the system could organize into a tropical depression or weak tropical storm.

    Despite the warm environment, there are multiple factors that could also hinder development.

    The storm will be deflected in different directions, tearing the system apart.

    RELATED:
    Erin Becomes Tropical Storm Once Again
    AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center
    Southeast Regional Weather Radar

    The main area of low pressure is expected to track westward, likely towards Mexico or the Texas Gulf coast early next week.

    Meanwhile, most of the moisture will surge into the Southeast through the weekend, whether the system is a storm or not. This will bring the potential for heavy rain that could stall over the area for several days.

    With a very wet summer thus far, even just a little rain could cause isolated flooding problems. However, with the tropical surge, the risk of flash, human and small stream flooding will be escalated through the weekend.

    The Gulf coast from eastern Louisiana through the Florida Panhandle is where the heavy rain will likely move onshore. The moist flow will continue up through Georgia and Carolinas, an area that has been hit with rounds of heavy rain and flooding already this week.

    As Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski explained earlier this month, the drenching rain was already starting to make it too wet for some crops.

    Heavy rain will continue creeping farther northward throughout the weekend, making it into northern Virginia. The Washington, D.C., and Baltimore area could encounter the outer fringes of this tropical rain.

    However, a high settled over the Great Lakes this weekend will likely keep showers from pressing farther north than Philadelphia. For most of the Northeast, it will remain a dry weekend.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    August 17, 2013

    Lie back on a warm summer night and look straight up. You'll see three bright stars: Vega, Deneb, and Altair. These mark the corners of the "Summer Triangle" and are your guides to the three constellations of Lyra, Cygnus, and Aquila. (Starry Night Software)

    Have you ever wished you knew more about the stars overhead? It's easier than you think. All you need to do is lie back on a warm summer evening and look straight up.

    To catch a great view of the summer stars, it helps if you can find a spot free from light pollution on a night when the moon isn't in the sky. The first thing you will notice is that some stars are brighter than others.

    The brightest stars are said to be "of first magnitude" and there are three that should leap out at you. The brightest is Vega, almost directly overhead at 10:30 p.m. your local time this week. Next brightest is Altair, down towards the southern horizon, and third is Deneb, off towards the northeast. These three form the "Summer Triangle" and are as characteristic of the summer sky as Orion is of the winter sky. [Amazing Night Sky Photos for August 2013 (Gallery)]

    Since these three stars appear to be about the same brightness, you might think that they were all about the same distance away, but you'd be wrong. Stars come in many colors and brightness, and sometimes a very distant, very bright star can look as bright as a very close, relatively dim star.

    Vega and Altair are both relatively close to the sun 25 and 17 light-years away, but Deneb, which rivals them in brightness, is a whopping 3,300 light-years away, making it one of the farthest objects you can see with your unaided eye. In fact, Deneb is an absolutely brilliant star, but so far away that its brightness is greatly dimmed by distance.

    As you continue to watch the sky, you may begin to see patterns in the fainter stars. The human brain always tries to find patterns in random shapes, as when we look for the shapes of animals in the clouds. The same is true for stars.

    Stars are pretty much randomly distributed across the sky, but from time immemorial humans have grouped them into patterns which we call constellations. Each of the three stars in the Summer Triangle is a member of such a constellation.

    If you look closely at Vega, for example, you may notice a small parallelogram of stars just to its south. This reminded ancient astronomers of the musical instrument the lyre, so they named this group of stars Lyra. If you have binoculars, use them to take a closer look at Vega and the stars nearby.

    Even a pair of small binoculars is enough to confirm one of Galileo's first discoveries when he turned his telescope on the sky: many stars which appear single to the naked eye turn out to be double or multiple with a bit of magnification. Several of the stars near Vega are obvious doubles, even with only 6 or 7 times magnification.

    Now take a closer look at Deneb. It stands at one end of a chain of bright stars stretching to the south of Vega. There is a second shorter chain of stars which crosses the first chain at right angles. Different cultures have seen different patterns.

    The ancient Greeks saw this as a swan and named it Cygnus. Deneb is the tail of the swan, the short chain marks the swan's wings, and the long chain its outstretched neck, with a brighter star Albireo at the head. Others see this as a Christian cross, and call it the Northern Cross, to distinguish it from Crux, the Southern Cross.

    If you are under a dark country sky, you will see that the swan is flying along the faint, silvery Milky Way galaxy. This is the glow from millions of distant stars, too far away for the individual points of light to be resolved. This was another of Galileo's discoveries.

    Altair marks the head of a different bird: Aquila the Eagle. This has broader wings than the swan, and a distinctive curved tail.

    Look for some of the smaller constellations in this part of the sky, in particular Delphinus the Dolphin, one of the few constellations which actually resembles its namesake.

    Don't be dismayed if you can't readily see these patterns. Sometimes the objects the ancients saw in the sky owed more to imagination than to reality.

    This article was provided to SPACE.com by Starry Night Education, the leader in space science curriculum solutions. Follow Starry Night on Twitter @StarryNightEdu.

    Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    SEE ON SKYE: 21 Awe-Inspiring Spacewalk Photos


     

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    August 17, 2013

    Russian cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin works outside the International Space Station, with the Earth far below, in this still from a NASA broadcast on Aug. 16, 2013. (NASA TV)

    Two cosmonauts set a new record for the longest Russian spacewalk on Friday (Aug. 16), spending more than seven hours working outside the International Space Station to prepare it for the addition of a new Russian-built orbital lab.

    Veteran cosmonaut Fyodor Yurchikhin and flight engineer Alexander Misurkin spent a total of seven hours and 29 minutes -- a new Russian record -- on a spacewalk to install power and data cables for a new Russian laboratory module expected to launch to the space station in upcoming months. NASA cameras beamed images of the record-setting spacewalk to Earth during the orbital excursion.

    NASA spokesman Rob Navias said the cosmonauts broke a Russian spacewalking record that had stood for 23 years. Before Friday, the longest spacewalk by two Russian cosmonauts was seven hours and 16 minutes. It occurred on July, 17 1990 and was performed by cosmonauts Anatoly Solovyev and Alekandr Balandin to repair thermal protection gear on Russia's Mir Space Station. [Most Extreme Human Spaceflight Records of All Time]

    "Today, that mark was eclipsed by Yurchikhin and Misurkin," Navias said.

    Friday's spacewalk was originally supposed to last 6.5 hours, but Russian flight controllers opted to extend it to allow time to retract a hand-operated extendable crane, called Strela, back into place. The cosmonauts initially planned to leave the crane extended for another spacewalk set for Aug. 22.

    Yurchikhin and Misurkin spent most of their time Friday installing two long power cables and a data cable on an Earth-facing Pirs docking compartment, which will ultimately replaced with the new, and larger, Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory. Nauka means "Science" in Russian.

    The cable installation was hard on the cosmonauts' hands, since they had to tackle the stiff cables with bulky spacesuit-clad gloves.

    "Alright guys, take a break -- relax your hands," Russian Mission Control radioed the pair.

    But the work appeared to go smoothly, with Yurchikhin and Misurkin also installing a materials science experiment on the station's exterior and a guide line that can be used by future spacewalkers. At one point, one of the cosmonauts was heard humming to himself as they wrapped up their work.

    Friday's spacewalk was the fourth of five spacewalks planned for the Expedition 36 crew on the International Space Station, and the first of two spacewalks scheduled in August. Yurchikhin and Misurkin will venture outside the station on Aug. 22 to install equipment for new science experiments.

    The Russian spacewalk was the first excursion by space station crewmembers since NASA aborted a spacewalk in U.S.-built spacesuits on July 16. That spacewalk, which included Expedition 36 crewmembers Chris Cassidy of NASA and Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano, was cut short when Parmitano reported a water leak inside his spacesuit that flooded his helmet with a substantial amount of water. An investigation into the cause of the leak is underway.

    The space station's Expedition 36 crew consists of Yurchikhin, Misurkin, Cassidy, Parmitano, NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg and Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov.

    Yurchikhin and Misurkin wore Russian-built Orlan spacesuits during their Friday spacewalk and experienced no setbacks with the gear. It was the seventh career spacewalk for Yurchikhin, who ended the day with a total of 45 hours and 55 minutes of spacewalking time. It was the second spacewalk for Misurkin, who now has 14 hours and three minutes of spacewalking time under his belt.

    While the seven-hour, 29-minute spacewalk was the longest Russian spacewalk, it is not the longest spacewalk Yurchikhin has ever performed. In 2007, the cosmonaut spent seven hours and 41 minutes working outside the space station while wearing a U.S. spacesuit during a 2007 spacewalk with NASA astronaut Clayton Anderson to toss a huge, empty ammonia tank into space.

    The longest spacewalk in history lasted eight hours and 56 minutes and was performed by NASA astronauts Jim Voss and Susan Helms on March 11, 2001 as they worked on the space station.

    Russian cosmonaut Alexei Leonov performed the first spacewalk in history on March 18, 1965. That spacewalk for the former Soviet Union lasted just 12 minutes.

    Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalikand Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebookand Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

    Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 25 Amazing Photos of the International Space Station
    International Space Station, Shuttle

     

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