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SKYE on AOL

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    A frog unwittingly made one giant leap for amphibian kind on Friday, Sept. 6, when it was catapulted into the air during NASA's LADEE spacecraft launch. A still camera on a sound trigger at Virginia's Wallops Flight Facility captured this incredibly well-timed shot of the frog's wild ride.

    The image has gone went viral (naturally) - accompanied punny headlines and jokes, including "Rocket frog takes flying leap" and "Frog pops up in NASA photo of LADEE rocket launch: Did it croak?"

    Rocket frog even got its own anthem, a re-worked version of David Bowie's classic, "Space Oddity":

    This is Major Frog to Ground Control
    I thought I had a few seconds more
    And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
    And the pond looks very different today

    Sadly, according to NASA, "the condition of the frog, however, is uncertain."

    But, maybe, just maybe ...

     

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    People along the Lake Michigan shoreline near Kenosha and Pleasant Prairie, Wis., were treated to a stunning sight Thursday afternoon when twin waterspouts formed off the coast.

    Gulnaz Saiyed uploaded this incredible photo to Twitter, writing, "Another shot from the water spout in Pleasant Prairie, WI. We saw about 5 tunnels total. #aykm."

    Sgt. Bill Beth of the Kenosha County sheriff's office told the Associated Press that the two water spouts merged into one large one, then split. Experts say water spouts can occur in the area between August and October. No injuries were reported.

    Watch the video below to see the water spout after the two spouts merged.



    RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere

     

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    Updated Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, 7:44 p.m. ET
    New Jersey Boardwalk Fire
    Onlookers watch from the shore as black smoke rises from a fire on the Seaside Heights, N.J., boardwalk Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/The Asbury Park Press, Bob Bielk)

    SEASIDE PARK, N.J. (AP) - A massive fire spitting fist-sized embers engulfed dozens of businesses along an iconic Jersey shore boardwalk Thursday, forcing workers to rip up stretches of walkway only recently replaced in the wake of Superstorm Sandy as they raced to contain the blaze's advance.

    The 6-alarm blaze began in a frozen custard stand on the Seaside Park portion of the boardwalk around 2:30 p.m. and fanned by 15-20 mph winds from an approaching storm system, quickly spread north into Seaside Heights, the boardwalk town where the MTV series "Jersey Shore" was filmed - and where the October storm famously plunged a roller coast into the ocean.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Fire Rages Along NJ Boardwalk
    New Jersey Boardwalk FireNo serious injuries were reported as of 7 p.m., but the blaze continued to burn out of control and had destroyed all 32 businesses on the Seaside Park portion of the boardwalk, borough Councilwoman Nancy Koury told The Associated Press. An undetermined number of additional boardwalk businesses in Seaside Heights also were burned.

    "We're going to be here for several days," one firefighter said as he scurried toward the flames.

    The blaze tore the heart out of two popular Jersey shore resort communities whose livelihoods depend on summer tourism and who had just spent millions of dollars rebuilding their boardwalks, arcade games, pizza stands and bar and grills to be ready for the summer season.

    "It's devastating; I've been crying all afternoon," said Shirley Kreszl, who has rented a summer home in Seaside Park for decades. "Haven't we been hit enough? We try to rebuild and just when we think we saved a little bit of our town, this happens. It's just not fair."

    Gov. Chris Christie, who raced to the fire scene, was typically blunt describing his thoughts as he approached the blaze.

    "I feel like I want to throw up," he said.

    Koury said the fire caused several million dollars' worth of damage. At one point, she said, flames jumped across Ocean Avenue, the oceanfront street, and ignited two or three small houses but firefighters quickly doused them. A motel near the boardwalk also was engulfed in flames.

    For hours, two boardwalk businesses, an arcade and the Saw Mill Cafe, a popular Jersey shore bar, escaped the flames. But shortly before 7 p.m. both were engulfed in a huge orange fireball that rolled into the darkening sky.

    "I can't believe this is happening," Koury said as she watched the flames devour the structures. "Our small business people went through so much in the storm to get ready for summer and stay open all summer, and now it's all gone. I just can't believe it."

    Further north in Seaside Heights, public works crews ripped up a section of the newly rebuilt boardwalk to serve as a makeshift fire break, in much the same way that forest fire crews clear out underbrush to deprive an advancing fire of fuel.

    Christie said the fire had engulfed at least six blocks, and was being fought by a force of 400 firefighters, some from miles away.

    Officials said the fire got underneath the boardwalk, making it even more difficult to extinguish.

    "It's underneath the boards, and its coming up through the cracks," Koury said. "It's making it harder to get water on it."

    In Seaside Heights, real estate agent Michael Loundy, who works with the borough on tourism related projects, was pained as he watched firefighters make a stand against the flames on DuPont Avenue, several blocks from the Seaside Park border.

    "It's raging," he said "It is absolutely raging. The wind is blowing something fierce, making it very difficult for firefighters to fight."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Fire Rages Along NJ Boardwalk
    New Jersey Boardwalk Fire

     

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    CARIBOU, Maine (AP) - Hundreds of multicolored balloons used Thursday to launch a balloonist for a trans-Atlantic crossing look like a page taken from the script of the movie "Up."

    Instead of using a conventional hot-air balloon, Jonathan Trappe lifted off using more than 300 helium-filled balloons, like those used in in the animated movie.

    Trappe's goal is to float across the ocean.

    "The Atlantic Ocean has been crossed many times, and in many ways, but never quite like this," the North Carolina native said on his website, which detailed his efforts.

    City Manager Austin Bleess said about 150 volunteers assisted in filling the helium balloons starting Wednesday night. Trappe and his balloons lifted off from a foggy softball field in northern Maine, near the Canadian border, at sunrise Thursday.

    "Man, it was awesome," Bleess said. "It was amazing to watch."

    Also on hand Thursday was Joe Kittinger, a retired Air Force officer who once set a record for jumping from a balloon 19.5 miles up and later became the first solo balloonist to cross the Atlantic in 1984.

    As for Trappe, he's no stranger to the cluster balloons.

    He's used them to fly in an office chair, and he's used them to lift a faux house, just like in the Disney-Pixar movie. In 2010, he crossed the English Channel using a cluster of balloons. For his trans-Atlantic crossing, the basket in which he's riding is actually a lifeboat that could be used if he ditches in the ocean.

    Trappe worked on the trans-Atlantic crossing for two years and hoped to be the first person to succeed in doing so with a cluster of balloons. By Thursday evening, he was well on his way, headed toward Newfoundland.

    The airborne journey, if it goes according to plan, could take anywhere from three days to six days. Wind currents could bring him to northern Africa or Norway.

     

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    Updated Friday, Sept. 13, 6:56 p.m. ET

    Firefighters battle a raging fire on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights, N.J., that apparently started in an ice cream shop and has spread several blocks, Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013. (AP Photo/The Asbury Park Press, Kristi Funderburk)

    SEASIDE PARK, N.J. (AP) - They were the kind of places that made for family memories of french fries and ice cream, but also created some raucous reality TV, like the time Snooki was laid out by a barroom sucker punch.

    They included an arcade where New Jersey's governor played Skee Ball with his wife and kids, and a shop where he ate pizza (at least before his recent weight-loss surgery). There were three frozen custard shacks, games of chance, and stores where tourists could buy naughty T-shirts.

    And now they're gone, reduced to smoldering ruins by a spectacular fire that engulfed more than four blocks of a Jersey shore boardwalk that had been rebuilt just five months ago after being destroyed by Superstorm Sandy.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Fire Rages Along NJ Boardwalk
    New Jersey Boardwalk Fire

    "We're wiped out again. It's just unimaginable," said Daniel Shauger, manager of Funtown Arcade, which reopened June 1 - and struggled all summer - after Sandy's floodwaters ruined game machines and other equipment.

    The cause of Thursday's blaze was under investigation, though prosecutors said they had seen no evidence it was suspicious.

    Sending giant orange and red fireballs rolling 50 feet into the sky, the fire brought a painful sense of deja vu to the side-by-side communities of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights, which rely on the boardwalk and beach for their economic survival.

    Three police officers leaving the fire scene were injured Friday morning when they fell from an emergency vehicle; two suffered head injuries. Their injuries were not believed to be life-threatening.

    Gov. Chris Christie, as he did just after the Oct. 29 storm, vowed the two towns would rebuild.

    "I will not permit all the work we've done over the last 10 months to be diminished or destroyed by what happened last night," he said, standing across the street from a still-smoldering pizza shop and a gutted arcade that he used to patronize with his family.

    He added: "We will make new memories, because that's what we do."

    President Barack Obama praised the first responders who helped fight the fire and pledged support for state and local efforts to rebuild and recover again.

    Christie said about 30 businesses were destroyed, although authorities in the two towns said Thursday night more than 50 businesses had been wrecked, including 32 in Seaside Park and more than 20 in Seaside Heights.

    Paul Schneider, who owns three small boardwalk stands, was stunned.

    "Everything's gone. I can't believe this is happening again," said Schneider, who had to rip out damaged electrical wiring and replace sodden merchandise after Sandy.

    Seaside Park officials began planning Friday morning to rebuild their part of the boardwalk, at the southern end, where the fire began near a frozen custard stand. Most of the boardwalk shared by the two towns was still intact.

    Bob Martucci, the borough administrator, said it will cost $600,000 to rebuild the borough-owned boardwalk. Individual businesses would not be included in that cost, he said.

    The ruined businesses included pizza shops, wheel-of-chance games, and a seafood restaurant whose Facebook page on Friday read simply "R.I.P."

    There were french fry stands, a fudge shop and bar-and-grills, including one where Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi was punched in the face during filming of the first season of MTV's "Jersey Shore." Another bar wrecked by Sandy had not had the chance to reopen before being engulfed by flames.

    The Funtown amusement pier was so badly damaged by Sandy it could not reopen this summer. It burned, too, its landmark "Funtown Pier" sign collapsing in a hail of flames and sparks.

    Christie said he suspected most affected businesses would primarily rely on insurance to rebuild.

    Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., whose congressional district lies a few miles north of Seaside Heights, said he would ask federal officials to let the two towns use some of the federal Sandy disaster relief money to rebuild the boardwalk again.

    "There's obviously a pot of money out there," Pallone said. "If we can use it for this, we should."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Fire Rages Along NJ Boardwalk
    New Jersey Boardwalk Fire

     

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    (NOAA)

    The southwestern Gulf of Mexico has given birth to the next tropical depression in the Atlantic. The system will then spread flooding downpours into eastern Mexico and perhaps needed rain into South Texas.

    Because this may be a very slow-moving system, there is the potential for very damaging, and life-threatening flooding in portions of eastern Mexico.

    As expected Tropical Depression Ten has formed over the southwestern Gulf of Mexico, known as the Bay of Campeche.

    The system has a chance at becoming the next named tropical storm of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. The next name on the list is Ingrid. If the system becomes a tropical storm by Friday midday, there could be three active, named systems in the Atlantic basin simultaneously, joining Humberto and Gabrielle.

    The greatest impacts from this system will likely be heavy rainfall, incidents of flash flooding and mudslides.

    A general 3 to 6 inches of rain are likely to fall along the coasts of the Mexico states of Veracruz and southern and central Tamaulipas, with the rainfall frequency increasing into the weekend. However, torrential rain could continue into the middle of next week in some areas. The cities of Veracruz, Poza Rica and Tampico are likely to be affected.



    There is the potential for a foot of rain, especially over the Sierra Madre Oriental as the system drifts inland before breaking up.

    Depending on the strength of the system, there is also the potential for rough surf and seas over part of the western Gulf, which could potentially disrupt bathers, fishing and petroleum operations in the region for a brief time. Small craft operators should exercise caution over the Bay of Campeche through the weekend as the weather can deteriorate quickly with the development of heavy squalls.

    RELATED:
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    Interactive Hurricane Tracker
    Humberto Becomes First Atlantic Hurricane of 2013


    Part of eastern Mexico has been hit by multiple tropical systems with flooding in recent weeks including Fernand and Tropical Depression Eight.

    The system also brings an opportunity for needed rainfall farther north along the Mexico coast and perhaps as far north as South Texas, depending on its track. Any reasonable rainfall will be welcomed by many residential and agricultural interests over the Rio Grande Valley.

    More precise details as to the amount of rainfall and magnitude of problems will unfold this weekend as the system develops and establishes a track over the Bay of Campeche.

    In the meantime, enough rain capable of causing flash flooding and mud slides will occur over the Mexico states of Yucatan, Quintana Roo, Campeche and Tabasco into Friday with local rainfall amounts of 6 inches.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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    Various kinds of dead marine life collected by employees from the PENCO Pacific Environmental Corporation can been seen in this barrel on the dock fronting the La Mariana Sailing Club in Keehi Lagoon Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Honolulu. (AP Photo/Eugene Tanner)

    HONOLULU (AP) - Officials responding to a spill of 1,400 tons of molasses in Hawaii waters plan to let nature clean things up, with boat crews collecting thousands of dead fish to determine the extent of environmental damage.

    The crews already have collected about 2,000 dead fish from waters near Honolulu Harbor, and they expect to see more in the coming days and possibly weeks, said Gary Gill, deputy director of the Hawaii Department of Health.

    "Our best advice as of this morning is to let nature take its course," Gill told reporters at a news conference at the harbor, where commercial ships passed through discolored, empty-looking waters.

    A senior executive for the shipping company responsible, Matson Navigation Co., said it was taking responsibility but hadn't planned ahead of time for the possibility of a spill.

    The state didn't require Matson to plan for the possibility, Gill and a state Department of Transportation spokeswoman said.

    Vic Angoco, senior vice president for Matson's Pacific operations, said the company had been loading and transporting molasses at the harbor for about 30 years.

    Angoco said the company regrets what happened.

    "We take pride in being good stewards of the land, good stewards of the ocean, and in this case, we didn't live up to our standards," he said. "And we are truly sorry for that, we're truly sorry for that."

    More fish have died because of the spill than in any other incident in the area, Gill said.

    The fish are dying because the high concentration of molasses is making it difficult for them to breathe, said Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo.

    The spill occurred Monday in an industrial area where Matson loads molasses and other goods for shipping. The harbor is west of downtown Honolulu, about 5 miles west of the popular Waikiki tourist area.

    Three days after the spill, several patches of discolored water were clearly visible from across the harbor where Matson operates, and fish were tougher than usual to see.

    John Hernandez, owner of a fish broker across the harbor from Matson, said he believed it would take years for the waters to restore.

    "Mother Nature and the earth seems to always have to deal with our (mistakes)," Hernandez said.

    Downstream from the spill, workers collected dead fish in nets at a small sailing club, placing them in plastic bags and blue plastic tubs. About a half-mile away, recreational fishers tried their luck despite warnings from state officials to avoid eating fish from the waters.

    Angoco said Matson temporarily patched the hole and the pipe stopped leaking Tuesday morning. The company was working on a permanent fix.

    He said the leak occurred in a section of pipe that was not normally used. But he declined to say how the molasses got into the section of pipe where it eventually leaked, saying the company was still investigating.

    Gill said the molasses seeped through a section that was supposed to have been sealed off, into the abandoned part of the pipe and eventually to the water.

    As much as 233,000 gallons of molasses leaked into the harbor. That's equivalent to what would fill about seven rail cars or about one-third of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

    Underwater video taken by Honolulu television station Hawaii News Now showed dead fish, crabs and eels scattered along the ocean floor of the harbor and the water tinted a yellowish brown.

    The state has been documenting the collected fish and keeping them on ice for possible testing. Officials were also collecting water samples. The data will allow the department to estimate the duration and severity of the contamination.

    Matson ships molasses from Hawaii to the mainland about once a week. Molasses is made at Hawaii's last sugar plantation, run by Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. on Maui.

     

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    An artist's illustration of NASA's Voyager 1 spacecraft, the farthest human-built object from Earth, which launched in 1977 and is headed for interstellar space. (Credit: NASA)

    A spacecraft from Earth has left its cosmic backyard and taken its first steps in interstellar space.

    After streaking through space for nearly 35 years, NASA's robotic Voyager 1 probe finally left the solar system in August 2012, a study published today (Sept. 12) in the journal Science reports.

    "Voyager has boldly gone where no probe has gone before, marking one of the most significant technological achievements in the annals of the history of science, and as it enters interstellar space, it adds a new chapter in human scientific dreams and endeavors," NASA science chief John Grunsfeld said in a statement. "Perhaps some future deep-space explorers will catch up with Voyager, our first interstellar envoy, and reflect on how this intrepid spacecraft helped enable their future." [Voyager 1 in Interstellar Space: Complete Coverage]

    A long and historic journey

    Voyager 1 launched on Sept. 5, 1977, about two weeks after its twin, Voyager 2. Together, the two probes conducted a historic "grand tour" of the outer planets, giving scientists some of their first up-close looks at Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and the moons of these faraway worlds.

    The duo completed its primary mission in 1989, and then kept on flying toward the edge of the heliosphere, the huge bubble of charged particles and magnetic fields that the sun puffs out around itself. Voyager 1 has now popped free of this bubble into the exotic and unexplored realm of interstellar space, scientists say.

    They reached this historic conclusion with a little help from the sun. A powerful solar eruption caused electrons in Voyager 1's location to vibrate signficantly between April 9 and May 22 of this year. The probe's plasma wave instrument detected these oscillations, and researchers used the measurements to figure out that Voyager 1's surroundings contained about 1.3 electrons per cubic inch (0.08 electrons per cubic centimeter).

    That's far higher than the density observed in the outer regions of the heliosphere (roughly 0.03 electrons per cubic inch, or 0.002 electrons per cubic cm) and very much in line with the 1.6 electrons per cubic inch (0.10 electrons per cubic cm) or so expected in interstellar space. [Photos from NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 Probes]

    "We literally jumped out of our seats when we saw these oscillations in our data - they showed us that the spacecraft was in an entirely new region, comparable to what was expected in interstellar space, and totally different than in the solar bubble," study lead author Don Gurnett of the University of Iowa, the principal investigator of Voyager 1's plasma wave instrument, said in a statement.

    It may seem surprising that electron density is higher beyond the solar system than in its extreme outer reaches. Interstellar space is, indeed, emptier than the regions in Earth's neighborhood, but the density inside the solar bubble drops off dramatically at great distances from the sun, researchers said.

    Calculating a departure date

    The study team wanted to know if Voyager 1 left the solar system sometime before April 2013, so they combed through some of the probe's older data. They found a monthlong period of electron oscillations in October-November 2012 that translated to a density of 0.004 electrons per cubic inch (0.006 electrons per cubic cm).

    Using these numbers and the amount of ground that Voyager 1 covers - about 325 million miles (520 million kilometers) per year - the researchers calculated that the spacecraft likely left the solar system in August 2012.

    That time frame matches up well with several other important changes Voyager 1 observed. On Aug. 25, 2012, the probe recorded a 1,000-fold drop in the number of charged solar particles while also measuring a 9 percent increase in fast-moving galactic cosmic rays, which originate beyond the solar system.

    "These results, and comparison with previous heliospheric radio measurements, strongly support the view that Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause into the interstellar plasma on or about Aug. 25, 2012," Gurnett and his colleagues write in the new study.

    At that point, Voyager 1 was about 11.25 billion miles (18.11 billion km) from the sun, or roughly 121 times the distance between Earth and the sun. The probe is now 11.66 billion miles (18.76 billion km) from the sun. (Voyager 2, which took a different route through the solar system, is currently 9.54 billion miles, or 15.35 billion km, from the sun.)

    Magnetic-field mystery

    Mission scientists have long pegged Voyager 1's departure from the solar system on the observation of three phenomena: a big drop in solar particles, a dramatic jump in galactic cosmic rays and a shift in the orientation of the surrounding magnetic field.

    Voyager 1 has measured the first two changes, as noted above, but not the third; the magnetic field is stronger than it used to be in the probe's location, but it hasn't changed direction.

    This key point has led NASA and the mission team to proceed with caution. For example, they have held off on making any big announcements, despite several recent studies by outside researchers - including one published last month - suggesting that Voyager 1 entered interstellar space in July or August 2012.

    But the new electron-density measurements have convinced Voyager mission scientists that the probe is, indeed, beyond the solar bubble.

    After all, magnetic-field measurements were always regarded as a proxy for observations of electron density, said Voyager chief scientist Ed Stone, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

    "The solar wind carries the solar magnetic field with it, and the interstellar wind carries the galactic magnetic field with it," Stone, who is not an author of the new Science paper, told SPACE.com. "Once we got the plasma data itself in interstellar space, we knew we must have left the bubble."

    (Voyager 1 launched with an instrument designed to measure plasma density directly, but it failed in 1980, forcing the team to get more creative.)

    Scientists need a better understanding of the complex interface between the solar and galactic magnetic fields to figure out why Voyager 1 hasn't measured the predicted change in field direction, Stone said.

    "What we need to do now is go back and look more carefully at the models of that interaction," he said.

    Voyage of exploration

    The Voyager mission has racked up a series of discoveries over the last 36 years, revealing key insights about the giant planets and their moons, as well as conditions at the edge of the solar system.

    The spacecraft's arrival in interstellar space could bring many more exciting finds, the researchers said.

    "Every day we look at data, we know we're looking at data that no one has seen before and is in a region where nothing has ever been before," Stone said. "I think we're all looking forward to learning a lot in the years ahead."

    Voyager 1 could keep beaming data home for a while, provided nothing too important breaks down. The spacecraft's declining power supply won't force engineers to shut off the first instrument until 2020, mission scientists have said. All of Voyager 1's science gear will probably stop working by 2025.

    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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    (AFP PHOTO / MARKKU ULANDER)

    HELSINKI (AP) - Would you board flight 666 to HEL on Friday the 13th?

    For superstitious travelers, that might be tempting fate. But Finnair passengers on AY666 to Helsinki - which has the 3 letter designation HEL - don't seem too bothered. Friday's flight is almost full.

    "It has been quite a joke among the pilots," said veteran Finnair pilot Juha-Pekka Keidasto, who will fly the Airbus A320 from Copenhagen to Helsinki. "I'm not a superstitious man. It's only a coincidence for me."

    The daily flight AY666 from Copenhagen to Helsinki falls on Friday the 13th twice in 2013. Friday the 13th is considered bad luck in many countries and the number 666 also has strong negative biblical associations.

    Some airlines, like Scandinavian Airlines, take these fears seriously and don't have a row 13 on board. However, the negative connotations are a relatively new phenomenon for northern Europeans, and Finnair and other regional carriers like Norwegian and Estonian Air keep row 13.

    "Less than 100 years ago, the number 13 did not have this sinister meaning; it's quite recent in the north," said Ulo Valk, professor of comparative folklore at the University of Tartu in Estonia.

    "There are 12 hours, 12 months and in Christianity 12 apostles and this is a divine number. Add one more and it brings in a certain element of chaos," he said.

    But passengers on flight 666 to HEL should have a calm flight over the Baltic at this time of year.

    "It's hopefully smooth skies" says Keidasto. "And if there's some passenger who is anxious about this 666 our cabin crew is always happy to help them."

    RELATED ON SKYE: The World's Most Terrifying Airports

     

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    Friday, Sept. 13, 2013

    Jonathan Trappe/Facebook

    YORK HARBOR, Newfoundland (AP) - A balloonist who was trying to cross the Atlantic Ocean using hundreds of helium-filled balloons landed short of his goal in Newfoundland.

    Jonathan Trappe reported that he was having trouble controlling his balloons before landing Thursday evening just south of York Harbor, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He touched down safely and required no medical attention.

    Instead of using a conventional hot-air balloon, Trappe was using more than 300 helium-filled balloons, like those used in in the animated movie "Up."

    He lifted off Thursday morning from Maine and had hoped to be the first person to cross the Atlantic using a cluster of helium balloons.

    But he ran into trouble as he approached Newfoundland and was in communication with a search and rescue center in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said Lt. Steve Henley of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Stephenville. The balloonist's movements were tracked by radar by Canadian officials, he said.

    Trappe told local officials that on Friday he planned to hike out of the remote area where he landed and make arrangements to remove his equipment.

    The U.S. man launched earlier Thursday from Caribou, Maine.

    "The Atlantic Ocean has been crossed many times, and in many ways, but never quite like this," the North Carolina native said on his website before his departure.

    Trappe, who couldn't immediately be reached for comment, is no stranger to cluster balloons.

    He's used them to lift a faux house, as in the Disney-Pixar movie. In 2010, he crossed the English Channel using a cluster of balloons. For his trans-Atlantic crossing, the basket in which he was riding was actually a lifeboat that could have been used if he ditches in the ocean.

    Trappe said he'd worked on the trans-Atlantic crossing for two years.

    By Thursday evening, he was well on his way, headed toward Newfoundland. But a couple of hours later, he posted that he'd landed. "This doesn't look like France," he posted on Facebook.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The World's Best Places to go Hot-Air Ballooning

     

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    Updated Friday, Sept. 13, 2013, 7:10 p.m. ET
    Tropical Storm Ingrid
    VERACRUZ, Mexico (AP) - Heavy rains lashed Mexico's Gulf Coast Friday as Tropical Storm Ingrid formed over water about 60 miles away, threatening more damage in a state where landslides and flooding have killed dozens of people in recent weeks.

    At least three major rivers in the eastern state of Veracruz were flooding or close to overflowing their banks and hundreds of people were evacuating low-lying areas, officials said. A bridge collapsed near the northern city of Misantla, cutting off the area from the state capital. Thirteen people died when a landslide buried their homes in heavy rains spawned by Tropical Depression Fernand on Monday.

    State officials imposed an orange alert, the highest possible, in parts of southern Veracruz.

    The storm's maximum sustained winds early Friday were near 45 mph (75 kph), according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It was nearly stationary, entered about 40 miles (65 kilometers) east-northeast of the port city of Veracruz, but forecasters said it was likely to advance north and curve into the coast near Tampico during Mexico's long Independence Day weekend.

    A tropical storm warning was in effect for Mexico's coast from Coatzacoalcos to Cabo Rojo and the system and it was expected to dump 10 to 15 inches (25 to 40 centimeters) of rain over a large part of eastern Mexico with 25 inches (65 centimeters) in some places.

    On the other side of the country, Tropical Storm Manuel prompted Mexico's government to issue warnings for the Pacific coast from Acapulco to Punta San Telmo.

    Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami say Manuel had sustained winds Friday afternoon of 40 mph (65 kph) and the center was located about 150 miles (240 kilometers) south-southwest of Zihuatanejo. It was moving west slowly and should be near the coast of southwestern Mexico by late Saturday or early Sunday.

    The storm is expected to produce 10 to 15 inches of rain over parts of the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin in the warning area by midday Saturday.

    Life-threatening flash floods and mudslides are likely.

    Meanwhile far out over the Atlantic, Humberto weakened to a tropical storm and did not threaten land.

    Gabrielle weakened to a tropical depression and remained well off the U.S. East Coast on a track toward Canada's Atlantic seaboard.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Stunning Hurricane Photos from Space

     

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    Updated: Sept. 14, 2013, 12:30 p.m. ET

    Mail carrier Dave Jackson closes a mailbox with his foot after delivering the mail to a home surrounded on three sides by a flooded Cheyenne Creek Friday, Sept. 13, 2013 in Colorado Springs, Colo. (AP Photo/The Colorado Springs Gazette, Michael Ciaglo)

    LYONS, Colo. (AP) - By air and by land, the rescue of Coloradoans stranded by epic mountain flooding accelerated Saturday as debris-filled rivers became muddy seas that extended into towns and farms miles from the Rockies.

    Helicopters and hundreds of National Guard troops searched miles of mountainous terrain for people as food and water supplies ran low in remote communities cut off since Thursday. Thousands were being driven from their homes in convoys.

    For the first time since the harrowing floods began Wednesday, Colorado got its first broad view of the devastation. Floodwaters have affected parts of a 4,500-square-mile area, almost the size of Connecticut.

    National Guard helicopters flew in and out of the mountain hamlet of Jamestown late into Friday night after the village became isolated by rushing water that scoured the canyon the town sits in. The choppers were evacuating nearly 300 people and their pets.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dramatic Flooding in Colorado
    Colorado FloodsRescuers were also concentrating on the town of Lyons, where the Guard had evacuated nearly 800 people by ground by Saturday morning.

    More than a dozen helicopters were available to aid with rescue efforts.

    "We have the ability to go whenever, wherever," Master Sgt. Cheresa Theiral said.

    Still more rain was expected Saturday. And the outlook for anyone who preferred to stay behind was bleak: weeks without power, cellphone service or running water.

    "Essentially, what they were threatening us with is, 'If you stay here, you may be here for a month,'" said 79-year-old Dean Hollenbaugh, who was evacuated by helicopter from Jamestown, northwest of Boulder.

    For those awaiting an airlift, Guardsmen dropped food, water and other supplies to residents of the winding, narrow canyons that cut through the Rocky Mountain foothills.

    Although the number of confirmed deaths stood at four, authorities feared more bodies could turn up in areas that remain inaccessible.

    "The thing with this event is, we don't know what we don't know," Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.

    More than 170 people remained unaccounted for in Boulder County, but that number could include people who are still stranded or who escaped but have not made contact yet, the sheriff said.

    As the waters rose, thousands of people fled mountain and downriver towns, where rivers were still swelling and spilling over their banks Saturday.

    One was Mary Hemme, 62, who displayed a pair of purple socks as she sat outside the Lifebridge Christian Church in Longmont. The socks were a memento of the more than 30 hours she spent in an elementary school in Lyons. Many evacuees were given dry socks because most had wet feet, Hemme said.

    She recalled the sirens blared at 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

    "Mary, we have to go. This place is flooding," she recalled friend Kristen Vincent saying as they clambered out of a trailer into water that was nearly knee-deep.

    "It wasn't just sitting there," she said. "It was rushing at us."

    Soon the trailer, like others in the park where she was staying, was submerged.

    Hemme said she walked up at hill a daybreak and surveyed the trailer park.

    "The most terrifying thing was when I climbed up on that cliff and looked down," she said. The water had carried cars as if they were toys.

    "I was so afraid that I was going to die, that water came so fast."

    The dayslong rush of water from higher ground turned towns on Colorado's expansive eastern plains into muddy swamps. Crews used inflatable boats to rescue families and pets from stranded farmhouses. Some evacuees on horseback had to be escorted to safe ground.

    The city of Boulder reported late Friday that the rushing waters had caused "a significant breach in its main wastewater pipeline" to the treatment plant, but officials said it would not affect drinking water.

    Near Greeley, some 35 miles east of the foothills, broad swaths of farmland had become lakes, and the raging South Platte and Poudre rivers led to rescues of stranded residents late into the night, the Greeley Tribune reported.

    Hundreds of roads were closed or damaged by floodwaters, and a 70-mile stretch of Interstate 25 was closed from Denver to the Wyoming line.

    Rocky Mountain National Park closed Friday, its visitors forced to leave via the 60-mile Trail Ridge Road to the west side of the Rockies.

    It will be weeks, if not months, before a semblance of normalcy returns to Lyons, a gateway community to the park. The town, surrounded by sandstone cliffs whose color was reflected in the raging St. Vrain River, consisted of six islands Friday as residents barbecued their food before it spoiled. Several people set up a tent camp on a hill.

    Some 2,500 residents were being evacuated from Lyons, but Hilary Clark was left walking around her neighborhood Friday.

    Two bridges that led into the area were washed away. Unlike other parts of Lyons that had been reached by the National Guard in high clearance trucks, no such help had arrived for Clark.

    "We're surviving on what we got," she said. "Some of us have ponds in our backyard, and we're using that water and boiling it."

    Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said recovery would be long and expensive - similar to wildfires the state is more familiar with.

    "Please be patient," he said. "This is an unprecedented event."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dramatic Flooding in Colorado
    Colorado Floods

     

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    Updated Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, at 10:32 p.m. ET

    Above, a man walks through a flooded street during heavy rains caused by tropical storm Ingrid in the Gulf port city of Veracruz, Mexico, Friday Sept. 13., 2013. (AP Photo/Felix Marquez)

    XALAPA, Mexico (AP) - Ingrid became the second hurricane of the Atlantic storm season off Mexico on Saturday, prompting the evacuation of several thousand people while Tropical Storm Manuel threatened to cause flash floods and mudslides on the opposite side of the country.

    On Saturday evening, Hurricane Ingrid was packing maximum sustained winds of 75 mph (120 kph). The storm was centered about 195 miles (315 km) east of Tuxpan, Mexico and moving north at 7 mph (11 km).

    The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said that if Ingrid stays on the forecast track, it's likely to reach the coast of Mexico on Monday.

    In Tamaulipas state to the north, where the Hurricane Center says Ingrid will probably make landfall, the government said in a statement that Independence Day festivities were cancelled in the cities of Tampico, Madero and Altamira. The Sept. 15 and 16 celebrations commemorate Mexico's battle of independence from Spain.

    Officials in the Gulf state of Veracruz began evacuating coastal residents Friday night, and local civil protection authorities said that more than 5,300 people had been moved to safer ground. Of those, about 3,500 people were being housed in official shelters with the rest staying with family and friends. There were no immediate reports of injuries blamed on the storm.

    More than 1,000 homes in Veracruz state have been affected by the storm to varying degrees, and 20 highways and 12 bridges have suffered damages, according to the state's civil protection authority.

    A bridge collapsed near the northern Veracruz city of Misantla Friday, cutting off the area from the state capital. Thirteen people died when a landslide buried their homes in heavy rains spawned by Tropical Depression Fernand on Monday.

    State officials imposed an orange alert, the highest possible, in parts of southern Veracruz.

    Off Mexico's Pacific coast, Tropical Storm Manuel was moving with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph (85 kph). It was 75 miles (120 kilometers) off the city of Lazaro Cardenas and 185 miles (300 kilometers) southeast of Manzanillo. A tropical storm warning was in effect from Acapulco to Manzanillo.

    Manuel was expected to produce 10 to 15 inches of rain over parts of the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Guerrero, and life-threatening flash floods and mudslides were considered likely.

    Elsewhere, the remnants of Tropical Storm Humberto were swirling in the Atlantic, far from land. It was expected to regenerate in a couple of days, according to the Hurricane Center.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Remembering Hurricane Katrina
    Hurricane Katrina, Looting

     

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    Updated Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at 11:47 p.m. ET

    Satellite imagery shows Tropical Storm Manuel landing on Mexico's Pacific coast. (NOAA)

    MIAMI (AP) - Tropical Storm Manuel has prompted the government of Mexico to issue warnings for the Pacific coast of the country from Acapulco to Punta San Telmo.

    Forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla., say Manuel had sustained winds Friday afternoon of 40 mph (65 kph) and the center was located about 150 miles (240 kilometers) south-southwest of Zihuatanejo. It was moving west slowly and should be near the coast of southwestern Mexico by late Saturday or early Sunday.

    The storm is expected to produce 10 to 15 inches of rain over parts of the Mexican states of Oaxaca and Guerrero. Tropical storm conditions are expected to begin in the warning area by midday Saturday.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 50 Must-See Weather Photos

     

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    Sept. 14, 2013

    Above is the surface of the "Blue Hole" in Santa Rosa, N.M. The balloons hold up underwater scuba stations used to train divers. (Richard Delgado)

    In 1976, two students died while exploring the "Blue Hole," an underwater cave connected to a deep lake in Santa Rosa, N.M. Shorty thereafter, police divers collected the students' bodies and made rough, incomplete sketches of the first part of the cave.

    After that, the entrance to the cave was covered with a grate to prevent anybody else from getting in, and since then, nobody has entered it -- until now.

    On Friday, Sept. 13, the grate that seals off the cave was opened to a special team of divers from the ADM Exploration Foundation to explore what lies beyond. Divers from the group, which has explored thousands of caves in the Americas, will produce a detailed map of the Blue Hole cavern, as well as take video of the expedition to make into a documentary, said Walter Pickel, a diver and logistics officer for ADM (which stands for Advanced Diver Magazine).

    Although police divers made measurements in the '70s suggesting that the cavern is about 225 feet deep, it's not known how far back it goes, or if it gets deeper, said Richard Delgado, the tourism director for the city of Santa Rosa. Delgado said he wagers it's connected to other caves in the area, which is known for having several deep lakes consisting of flooded caverns and artesian wells, in which pressurized water seeps up from below. [The 7 Longest Caves in the World]

    "We really have no idea what exists beyond the grate," Delgado told LiveScience.

    As the divers explore the cave they will carry a long line with them. The line measures how far they gone and how far apart certain landmarks are. The direction, or bearing, of the line is also recorded, Pickel said. These measurements, along with high-definition video, will allow them to recreate and make drawings of the cave, he said. A collaborating cartographer will use other methods to measure the caves' dimensions, he added.

    The ADM team travels to caves around the world, often getting permission from private landowners to enter their caves. In return, ADM makes maps of what's inside them, Pickel said.

    The "Blue Hole" was formerly a sinkhole caused by the dissolution of underground limestone and gypsum, according to the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources. Many of the area's caves and sinkholes were formed by the same process. Groundwater is plentiful in the region, as it lies on the western edge of the Ogallala Aquifer, Delgado said.

    Email Douglas Main or follow him on Twitter or Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook or Google+. Article originally on LiveScience.

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

    RELATED ON SKYE: Could a Trip to Your Favorite Beach Make You Sick?

     

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    Updated Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, at 10:40 p.m. ET

    Eric Machmuller, front left, and Pat Machmuller, rear left, lead a boat down a residential street to help residents gather pets and belongings from their flooded homes in Longmont, Colo., on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Chris Schneider)

    BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - As rescuers broke through to flood-ravaged Colorado towns, they issued a stern warning Saturday to anyone thinking of staying behind: Leave now or be prepared to endure weeks without electricity, running water and basic supplies.

    National Guard helicopters and truck convoys carried the admonition into paralyzed canyon communities where thousands of stranded residents were eager to escape the Rocky Mountain foothills. But not everybody was willing to go. Dozens of people in the isolated community of Jamestown wanted to stay to watch over their homes.

    Authorities made clear that residents who chose not to leave might not get another chance for a while. Rescuers won't go back for people who insist on staying, Boulder County Sheriff Joe Pelle said.

    "We're not trying to force anyone from their home. We're not trying to be forceful, but we're trying to be very factual and definitive about the consequences of their decision, and we hope that they will come down," Pelle said.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dramatic Flooding in Colorado
    Colorado FloodsSpecial education teacher Brian Shultz, 38, was torn about leaving his Jamestown home.

    "I was thinking about staying. I could have lasted at least a year. I have a lot of training in wilderness survival," he said, adding that he probably had enough beer to last the whole time.

    As he sat outside a makeshift shelter at a high school, Shultz floated the idea of walking back into the funky mountain town.

    "If we hike back, I would stay there and just live. I'd rather be at our own house than staying at some other people's houses," he said.

    His wife, Meagan Harrington, gave him a wry smile. About 10 of their neighbors declined to evacuate, she said.

    "They said they wouldn't force you, but it was strongly encouraged," she said.

    Shultz teared up behind his sunglasses as he compared his situation to that of his neighbors.

    "At least all of our stuff's there and will be there when we get back. The people right by the river, their houses were washed away. Other people thought their houses were going to be OK, and then they started to go. It's just really devastating."

    Across the foothills, rescuers made progress against the floodwaters. But they were still unable to go up many narrow canyon roads that were either underwater or washed out.

    On Saturday, the surge of water reached the plains east of the mountains, cutting off more communities and diverting some rescue operations.

    Four people have been confirmed dead since the harrowing floods began Wednesday. And hundreds of others have not been heard from in the flood zone, which has grown to cover portions of an area nearly the size of Connecticut.

    Some of those who are unaccounted for may be stranded or injured. Others might have gotten out but not yet contacted friends and relatives, officials said.

    Police expected to find more bodies as the full scope of damage emerges.

    A woman was missing and presumed dead after witnesses saw floodwaters from the Big Thompson River destroy her home in the Cedar Cove area, Larimer County sheriff's spokesman John Schulz said.

    "I expect that we're going to continue to receive reports of confirmed missing and confirmed fatalities throughout the next several days," he said.

    Two fatalities were identified by the Boulder County coroner Saturday as Wesley Quinlan and Wiyanna Nelson, both 19.

    Authorities believe the couple died when they were swept away after driving into floodwaters and then leaving their vehicle. Their cause of death is under investigation.

    The military put more troops on the ground and helicopters in the air to aid in the search-and-rescue effort.

    By Saturday night, 1,750 people and 300 pets had been evacuated from Boulder and Larimer County, National Guard Lt. James Goff said.

    The airlifts will continue Sunday with helicopter crews expanding their searches east to include Longmont, Fort Collins and Weld County.

    It was not clear how many people were still stranded.

    A helicopter taking Gov. John Hickenlooper on a tour of the flooded areas even got in the act, stopping twice to pick up six stranded people and their two pets. Terry Kishiyama's son flagged down a helicopter with his shirt after a three-day wait for rescue from a neighbor's house on higher ground.

    "You could hear the choppers for miles and miles, but I didn't know if they were evacuating people. You see a chopper going down behind a ridge, and you have no clue," Kishiyama said.

    In addition to his son's efforts, Kishiyama said his wife shouted at the chopper, "We have babies!"

    More than 85 fifth-graders from Louisville were greeted by their parents and friends Saturday after they were rescued from an outdoor education center near Jamestown.

    Above Larimer County, rescue crews airlifted 475 people to safety and planned to resume helicopter searches on Sunday, weather permitting.

    Rain was expected to start up again in the mountains and foothills, with between a half-inch and 2 inches forecast to fall overnight, according to the National Weather Service.

    Crews also used inflatable boats to pick up families and pets from farmhouses on Saturday. Some evacuees on horseback had to be escorted to safe ground.

    Near Greeley, 35 miles east of the foothills, broad swaths of farmland had become lakes, and the raging South Platte and Poudre rivers surrounded more homes.

    In one Boulder neighborhood, residents turned back city crews and machinery that arrived to remove the makeshift berms and sand-filled trash bags protecting their homes. University of Colorado students helped homeowners improvise a way to divert the rising water from Gregory Creek.

    "The residents know better than anybody else how the water flows through the neighborhood," said Colleen Scanlan Lyons.

    In communities where floodwaters began receding, homeowners had a chance to assess damage.

    In Laporte, Wendy Clark surveyed soggy carpets and furniture that got damaged by the Poudre River.

    "This mud smells disgusting," she said. "I don't know how long that's going to be around."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: Dramatic Flooding in Colorado
    Colorado Floods

     

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