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- 09/26/13--01:22: _Death Toll From Hug...
- 09/26/13--01:27: _Muddy Island Formed...
- 09/26/13--01:34: _P-U! Mexico City Tr...
- 09/26/13--01:47: _Will an Atlantic St...
- 09/26/13--01:57: _Powerful Storm to S...
- 09/26/13--10:02: _Curiosity Rover Mak...
- 09/26/13--17:10: _Winterlike Storm Th...
- 09/26/13--23:10: _CDC Looks Toward Cl...
- 09/27/13--01:34: _Climate Panel: Warm...
- 09/27/13--01:40: _Are Europe's Rare A...
- 09/27/13--01:51: _Venice's Gradual Si...
- 09/27/13--02:00: _Killer Hornets Terr...
- 09/27/13--10:01: _Before and After Sa...
- 09/27/13--12:44: _Watch: GoPro's Gorg...
- 11/14/13--02:48: _Watch: Strange 'Ele...
- 11/14/13--05:06: _Interview with Astr...
- 11/14/13--05:42: _25 Indelible Photos...
- 11/14/13--16:10: _Rain, Storms and Da...
- 11/15/13--00:43: _Florida Sinkhole De...
- 11/15/13--00:50: _US Military Ramps U...
- 09/26/13--01:22: Death Toll From Huge Quake Rises to 348, Over 500 Injured
- 09/26/13--01:27: Muddy Island Formed by Pakistan Quake May Not Last
- 09/26/13--01:34: P-U! Mexico City Tries to Freshen Its Odor Problem
- 09/26/13--01:47: Will an Atlantic Storm Lash the East Coast?
- 09/26/13--01:57: Powerful Storm to Slam Pacific Northwest
- 09/26/13--10:02: Curiosity Rover Makes Big Water Discovery in Mars Dirt
- Amazing Mars Rover Curiosity's Martian Views (Latest Photos)
- A 'Curiosity' Quiz: How Well Do You Know NASA's Newest Mars Rover?
- Ancient Mars Could Have Supported Life (Photos)
- 09/26/13--17:10: Winterlike Storm Threatens Major Flooding in Northwest
- 09/26/13--23:10: CDC Looks Toward Climate Change in Brain-Eating Amoeba Cases
- 09/27/13--01:34: Climate Panel: Warming 'Extremely Likely' Man-Made
- 09/27/13--01:40: Are Europe's Rare Animals Making a Comeback?
- 09/27/13--01:51: Venice's Gradual Sinking Charted by Satellites
- 6 Unexpected Effects of Climate Change
- Earth Pictures From Space: Landsat Satellite Legacy
- 8 of the World's Most Endangered Places
- 09/27/13--02:00: Killer Hornets Terrorize China
- The 10 Weirdest Animal Discoveries
- Images: Amazing Rhinoceros Beetles
- Gallery: Dazzling Photos of Dew-Covered Insects
- 09/27/13--12:44: Watch: GoPro's Gorgeous 'Whale Fantasia' Video
- 11/14/13--02:48: Watch: Strange 'Elephant Trunk' Space Clouds Surround Star Cluster
- Inside the Pillars of Creation - Space Telescopes Peer Into Nebula
- 10 Space Discoveries by the European Southern Observatory
- Top 10 Strangest Things in Space
- 11/14/13--05:06: Interview with Astronaut Chris Hadfield: 'I'm a Front Man'
- 11/14/13--05:42: 25 Indelible Photos from Typhoon Haiyan
- 11/14/13--16:10: Rain, Storms and Damaging Winds Threaten Midwest, South
- 11/15/13--00:43: Florida Sinkhole Destroys Homes, Forces Evacuations
- 11/15/13--00:50: US Military Ramps Up Philippines Typhoon Mission
Pakistani villagers look for belongings amid the rubble of their destroyed homes following an earthquake in the remote district of Awaran, Baluchistan province, Pakistan, Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Arshad Butt)
DALBADI, Pakistan (AP) - Survivors built makeshift shelters with sticks and bedsheets after their mud houses were flattened in an earthquake that killed 348 people in southwestern Pakistan and pushed a new island up out of the Arabian Sea.
While waiting for help to reach remote villages, hungry people dug through the rubble to find food. And the country's poorest province struggled with a dearth of medical supplies, hospitals and other aid.
Tuesday's quake flattened wide swathes of Awaran district, where it was centered, leaving much of the population homeless.
Almost all of the 300 mud-brick homes in the village of Dalbadi were destroyed. Noor Ahmad said he was working when the quake struck and rushed home to find his house leveled and his wife and son dead.
PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Earthquake Hits Pakistan
The spokesman for the Baluchistan provincial government, Jan Mohammad Bulaidi, said Thursday that the death toll had climbed to 348 and that another 552 people had been injured.
Doctors in the village treated some of the injured, but due to a scarcity of medicine and staff, they were mostly seen comforting residents.
The remoteness of the area and the lack of infrastructure hampered relief efforts. Awaran district is one of the poorest in the country's most impoverished province.
Just getting to victims was challenging in a region with almost no roads where many people use four-wheel-drive vehicles and camels to traverse the rough terrain.
"We need more tents, more medicine and more food," said Bulaidi.
Associated Press images from the village of Kaich showed the devastation. Houses made mostly of mud and handmade bricks had collapsed. Walls and roofs caved in, and people's possessions were scattered on the ground. A few goats roamed through the ruins.
The Pakistani military said it had rushed almost 1,000 troops to the area overnight and was sending helicopters as well. A convoy of 60 Pakistani army trucks left the port city of Karachi early Wednesday with supplies.
Pakistani forces have evacuated more than 170 people from various villages around Awaran to the district hospital, the military said. Others were evacuated to Karachi.
One survivor interviewed in his Karachi hospital bed said he was sleeping when the quake struck.
"I don't know who brought me from Awaran to here in Karachi, but I feel back pain and severe pain in my whole body," he said.
Jan said he didn't know what happened to the man's family. He was trying to contact relatives.
Local officials said they were sending doctors, food and 1,000 tents for people who had nowhere to sleep. The efforts were complicated by strong aftershocks.
Baluchistan is Pakistan's largest province but also the least populated. Medical facilities are few and often poorly stocked with supplies and qualified personnel. Awaran district has about 300,000 residents spread out over 11,197 square miles.
The local economy consists mostly of smuggling fuel from Iran or harvesting dates.
The area where the quake struck is at the center of an insurgency that Baluch separatists have been waging against the Pakistani government for years. The separatists regularly attack Pakistani troops and symbols of the state, such as infrastructure projects.
It's also prone to earthquakes. A magnitude 7.8 quake centered just across the border in Iran killed at least 35 people in Pakistan last April.
Tuesday's shaking was so violent it drove up mud and earth from the seafloor to create an island off the Pakistani coast.
A Pakistani Navy team reached the island by midday Wednesday. Navy geologist Mohammed Danish told the country's Geo Television that the mass was a little wider than a tennis court and slightly shorter than a football field.
The director of the National Seismic Monitoring Center confirmed that the mass was created by the quake and said scientists were trying to determine how it happened. Zahid Rafi said such masses are sometimes created by the movement of gases locked in the earth that push mud to the surface.
"That big shock beneath the earth causes a lot of disturbance," he said.
He said these types of islands can remain for a long time or eventually subside back into the ocean, depending on their makeup.
He warned residents not to visit the island because it was emitting dangerous gases.
But dozens of people went anyway, including the deputy commissioner of Gwadar district, Tufail Baloch.
Water bubbled along the edges of the island. The land was stable but the air smelled of gas that caught fire when people lit cigarettes, Baloch said.
Dead fish floated on the water's surface while residents visited the island and took stones as souvenirs, he added.
Similar land masses appeared off Pakistan's coast following quakes in 1999 and 2010, said Muhammed Arshad, a hydrographer with the navy. They eventually disappeared into the sea during the rainy season.
PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Earthquake Hits Pakistan
In this photo released by the Gwadar local government office on Wednesday, Sept 25, 2013, people walk on an island that reportedly emerged off the Gwadar coastline in the Arabian Sea. (AP Photo/Gwadar local government office)
KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) - Alongside the carnage of Pakistan's massive earthquakecame a new creation: a small island of mud, stone and bubbling gas pushed forth from the seabed.
Experts say the island was formed by the massive movement of the earth during the 7.7-magnitude quake that hit Pakistan's Baluchistan province on Tuesday, killing at least 285 people.
"That big shock beneath the earth causes a lot of disturbance," said Zahid Rafi, director of the National Seismic Monitoring Center.
The island appeared off the coast of Gwadar, a port about 330 miles from Pakistan's largest city of Karachi and 75 miles from Iran.
PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Earthquake Hits Pakistan
Such islands are not entirely unusual to scientists who study the earth and its sometimes violent movements.
Marco Bohnhoff, a professor of seismology at the German Center for Geosciences in Potsdam said there are two ways such islands can be created.
In the first scenario, the earth's crust violently lifts up out of the water. In the second, the earthquake triggers the movement and release of gases locked in the earth resulting in a flow called a "mud volcano."
Experts are still trying to determine what caused this island, but it could have been a mud volcano, Rafi said. Scientists will have to analyze the material to see what it's made of.
The island's appearance electrified people along the coast who flocked to the beach and took to boats to visit the island, despite warnings from officials who worried about gas emanating from the island.
The deputy commissioner of Gwadar district, Tufail Baloch, traveled by boat to the island Wednesday.
Water bubbled along the edges of the island, in what appeared to be gas discharging, Baloch said. He said the area smelled of gas that caused a flash when people lit cigarettes.
Dead fish floated on the water's surface, and local residents took stones from the land mass as souvenirs, he said.
Unlike lava volcanoes that harden when they come to the surface and cool, mud volcanoes generally don't create steep or hard rock structures, Bornhoff said, although they can last for long periods of time.
Such land masses have appeared before off Pakistan's Makran coast, said Muhammed Arshad, a hydrographer with the navy. After quakes in 1999 and 2010, new land masses rose up along a different part of the coast about 175 miles east of Gwadar, he said.
Each of those disappeared back into the sea within a year during the stormy monsoon season that sweeps Pakistan every summer, he said.
PHOTOS ON SKYE: Massive Earthquake Hits Pakistan
This photo taken on January 18, 2012 shows a scavenger walking across the 'Bordo Poniente' garbage dump in Mexico City. (YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
MEXICO CITY (AP) - For many, the first experience of Mexico City is a sprawling airport and an appalling stink.
It wafts from the manholes and leaves the morning air smelling fresh as a septic tank.
On bad days, it hits travelers as they step off airplanes and follows them through the terminal. It can overpower a pleasant bike ride along the cobblestone streets of the capital's downtown, or interrupt an alfresco meal in the trendy Condesa neighborhood.
Anna Sloan, a 68-year-old tourist from California who arrived at the Mexico City airport one recent afternoon, noticed a foul odor while waiting to pick up her luggage.
"What's that smell? That's horrible!" she told a group of friends traveling with her. "That's no way to welcome visitors."
The odor problems are a result of poorly managed wastewater and trash in a sprawling metropolis whose population - 20 million by official count - outgrew its infrastructure decades ago. Authorities have sought for years to find a solution.
Now, it's new Mayor Miguel Mancera's turn to try to deodorize the city's B.O. This month he announced plans to control the foul odors that waft from the city's only compost plant at a landfill near the airport and to more aggressively recycle trash citywide. The ambitious $135 million plan calls for construction of three bio-gas plants to produce electricity from compost. It will include more recycling programs so that by the time it's completed in 2018 all 12,500 tons of trash produced daily is recycled, Mancera said.
Experts agree the main source of the fetid air that blows into some areas of Mexico City intermittently is from an overwhelmed sewage system.
The city's sewage pipes and an underground drainage tunnel, which has to accommodate sewage and storm water, were built more than 50 years ago, and the population in the metropolitan area has doubled since then and the system can't keep up.
To make matters worse, the city pumps so much water from underground aquifers that some neighborhoods sink by up to a foot a year, which further disrupts the draining of sewage, said Sergio Palacios Mayorga, a professor at Mexico's National Autonomous University, who studies solid-waste management.
"What's happening is that the sewage system has less pressure because the city is sinking, and that makes wastewater move slowly or completely get stuck in some places," he said.
Mexico City advocates note the odor problems come and go and do not affect all areas of the city equally. And for such a huge metropolis in a developing country where boiling grease from thousands of food stalls crackle along many streets, things could be worse.
"There are smells in the city, definitely, but they are in certain areas where the sewage system doesn't work very well," said Ricardo Estrada, deputy director for recycling at the city's Development Services Department.
Sewage pumps have been built throughout the city and work constantly to suck sewage-laced water out of the rapidly sinking, mountain-ringed lakebed on which the city was built more than 600 years ago. The pumps have venting stacks that spew foul-smelling gas into the sky, including from a large yellow horse figure that doubles as a piece of public art.
The huge sculpture known as "El Caballito," or "The Little Horse," sits on the leafy, elegant Reforma Avenue and is a venting stack for the city's underground drainage tunnel.
The sewage system in the metropolitan area currently processes more than 13,000 gallons (50,000 liters) of sewage water every second, enough to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every minute.
City officials are also looking for help with bad odors and, more importantly, the risk of major flooding from a 39-mile long and 7.5-yard wide sewage tunnel that is being built by the federal government. So far, 6 miles of the underground project, which will cost at least $15 billion, have been completed.
Mexico City residents have learned to live with the smells.
Some joggers and bike riders wear surgical masks that protect them against pollution and rancid air. Restaurant owners, food vendors, shoe shiners and anyone else who works on sidewalks cover manholes with pieces of tarp, carpet or trash bags. Patrons at sidewalk cafes wrinkle their noses at the fetid fumes and simply change tables indoors.
Jose Garcia, a 48-year-old shoe shiner with a prime spot on Reforma Avenue, uses a plastic bag and a piece of carpet to try to conceal the smell emanating from a manhole near his work station, but his clients still notice.
"They tell me they can smell feces," Garcia said. "I can smell it, too, from time to time, but what else can I do? There are other corners where the smell is worse."
Garcia said he has worked on the same corner for 33 years and the whole time he has caught whiffs of rancid air.
"We are thousands and thousands of people with a bad drainage system. Imagine!" he said. "I have already gotten used to it."
Sunny versus stormy weather on the East coast starting this weekend is contingent upon the development and track of a future system over the western Atlantic Ocean.
Current indications are that a storm will spin up just off the Atlantic coast Sunday and Monday. One scenario swings that storm westward with heavy rain, gusty winds and rough seas.
Other scenarios parallel the storm along the mid-Atlantic and New England coasts, take the storm out to sea or bring the storm northward, brushing New England and into Atlantic Canada.
Even if the storm remains out to sea, large swells could be generated, especially north and west of the center from off the Outer Banks to Georges Bank.
Cruise, shipping and offshore fishing interests should monitor the progress of this storm, even if the weather for land lubbers remains clear.
There is the potential for building seas from North Carolina to New England later this weekend into early next week. This could produce not only rough surf and strong rip currents, but also beach erosion in some communities.
Forecasts from eastern North Carolina to the I-95 Northeast and Nova Scotia and Newfoundland Sunday into next week are contingent on the track and strength of the storm expected to form offshore.
How strong the storm becomes and the track it takes will determine sunny versus stormy conditions at Cape Hatteras, N.C., Atlantic City, N.J., New York City, Boston, Portland, Maine, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and St. John's, Newfoundland.
Two features may come together off the East coast this weekend: a storm in the upper atmosphere and a weak tropical system currently drifting across Florida with heavy rain.
Such a storm will have access to plenty of tropical moisture, while high pressure to the north and west gives extra velocity to winds well away from the storm center.
Because the system is likely to have both tropical and non-tropical characteristics, it may be considered to be a hybrid (sub-tropical) storm, rather than a pure nor'easter or tropical storm/hurricane.
According to Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, "The possibilities range from the storm becoming very strong and backing toward the Northeast coast to escaping harmlessly out to sea."
More Rain, Flooding Risk for Parts of Florida This Week
AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center
First Big Wind, Wave Storm of the Season Takes Aim at Northwest
Meanwhile, a potent storm is likely to affect part of the West Coast this weekend.
According to Expert Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson, "One scenario brings heavy rain, strong winds and rough seas to areas from British Columbia to parts of Washington and western Oregon."
The details on the track and severity of the Atlantic and Pacific coast storms will unfold as the week progresses.
"Meanwhile, the balance of the Atlantic Ocean is likely to remain free of organized tropical systems into early week," Kottlowski said.
There is a possibility of a system slowly developing in the Eastern Pacific over the next week.
RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere
After a fairly quiet few days ahead, several rounds of heavy rain, high winds, rough seas and even mountain snow will impact the Pacific Northwest over the weekend and into early next week.
Travel will likely be slowed by the heavy rain, localized flooding and gusty winds from Vancouver down through Seattle and Portland. Strong winds will raise seas and could also cause disruptions and damage.
All indications are that a powerful, early season storm system will dive into the Gulf of Alaska on Friday. The storm will not move much over the weekend before it finally weakens and moves eastward by late on Monday.
Disturbances moving around the storm will bring rounds of locally heavy rain to southwestern British Columbia, western Washington and northwestern Washington.
As the storm first establishes itself on Friday, some rain will move into western Washington and British Columbia. A powerful disturbance moving around the storm will bring the threat for locally heavy rain on Saturday.
The next round of heavy rain could be enhanced by the moisture leftover from what is now Typhoon Pabuk, which was centered near Japan on Wednesday. This would bring more heavy rain later on Sunday into Monday.
Typhoon Pabuk will pass to the east of Japan through Thursday before weakening and racing eastward across the North Pacific over the next few days. Some leftover moisture from the storm may impact the Pacific Northwest late on Sunday and Monday.
From Friday through Monday, rainfall amounts of over 6 inches will be possible over the high terrain of the Olympic Peninsula, southwestern British Columbia including Vancouver Island, and the Cascades of Washington.
While lesser amounts are expected from Vancouver to Seattle and Portland, 1 to 3 inches (3 to 8 cm) of rain appears likely in these areas.
The Seattle Mariners have games scheduled at Safeco Field both on Saturday and Sunday. Given how persistent the rain may be, outdoor activities will be difficult to squeeze in at times over the weekend.
While some snow will fall at pass level over the Cascades into Thursday associated with a storm over the Rockies, snow levels will initially be high over the weekend. Only the high country above 9,000 feet is likely to receive accumulating snow.
Fall Foliage Forecast
Interactive Northwest Weather Radar
First Significant Snow of the Season for Rockies, Northwest
Snow levels will lower to around 6,000 feet by Monday. Significant snow is generally expected to remain above pass level for most locations into early next week, so major travel problems are not anticipated due to the snow.
The strong onshore flow around this storm will also lead to rough seas. Wave heights off the Washington coast and along the western coast of Vancouver Island, B.C., could build to between 15 and 30 feet.
Winds will be strongest along the immediate coast and the west-facing slopes of the Olympic and Cascade ranges, where gusts of 50 mph or more could cause downed trees, power outages and minor property damage over the weekend.
As the storm finally weakens and drifts away on Monday, conditions should begin to improve by Tuesday with just some leftover showers.
RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere
Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013
The mosaic using images taken Oct. 31 and Nov. 1, 2012, shows the rover at "Rocknest," the spot in Gale Crater where the mission's first scoop sampling took place. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS)
Future Mars explorers may be able to get all the water they need out of the red dirt beneath their boots, a new study suggests.
NASA's Mars rover Curiosity has found that surface soil on the Red Planet contains about 2 percent water by weight. That means astronaut pioneers could extract roughly 2 pints of water out of every cubic foot of Martian dirt they dig up, said study lead author Laurie Leshin, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.
"For me, that was a big 'wow' moment," Leshin told SPACE.com. "I was really happy when we saw that there's easily accessible water here in the dirt beneath your feet. And it's probably true anywhere you go on Mars." [The Search for Water on Mars (Photos)]
The new study is one of five papers published in the journal Science today (Sept. 26, 2013) that report what researchers have learned about Martian surface materials from the work Curiosity did during its first 100 days on the Red Planet.
Soaking up atmospheric water
Curiosity touched down inside Mars' huge Gale Crater in August 2012, kicking off a planned two-year surface mission to determine if the Red Planet could ever have supported microbial life. It achieved that goal in March, when it found that a spot near its landing site called Yellowknife Bay was indeed habitable billions of years ago.
But Curiosity did quite a bit of science work before getting to Yellowknife Bay. Leshin and her colleagues looked at the results of Curiosity's first extensive Mars soil analyses, which the 1-ton rover performed on dirt that it scooped up at a sandy site called Rocknest in November 2012.
Using its Sample Analysis at Mars instrument, or SAM, Curiosity heated this dirt to a temperature of 1,535 degrees Fahrenheit (835 degrees Celsius), and then identified the gases that boiled off. SAM saw significant amounts of carbon dioxide, oxygen and sulfur compounds - and lots of water on Mars.
SAM also determined that the soil water is rich in deuterium, a "heavy" isotope of hydrogen that contains one neutron and one proton (as opposed to "normal" hydrogen atoms, which have no neutrons). The water in Mars' thin air sports a similar deuterium ratio, Leshin said.
"That tells us that the dirt is acting like a bit of a sponge and absorbing water from the atmosphere," she said.
Some bad news for manned exploration
SAM detected some organic compounds in the Rocknest sample as well - carbon-containing chemicals that are the building blocks of life here on Earth. But as mission scientists reported late last year, these are simple, chlorinated organics that likely have nothing to do with Martian life. [The Hunt for Martian Life: A Photo Timeline]
Instead, Leshin said, they were probably produced when organics that hitched a ride from Earth reacted with chlorine atoms released by a toxic chemical in the sample called perchlorate.
Perchlorate is known to exist in Martian dirt; NASA's Phoenix lander spotted it near the planet's north pole in 2008. Curiosity has now found evidence of it near the equator, suggesting that the chemical is common across the planet. (Indeed, observations by a variety of robotic Mars explorers indicate that Red Planet dirt is likely similar from place to place, distributed in a global layer across the surface, Leshin said.)
The presence of perchlorate is a challenge that architects of future manned Mars missions will have to overcome, Leshin said.
"Perchlorate is not good for people. We have to figure out, if humans are going to come into contact with the soil, how to deal with that," she said.
"That's the reason we send robotic explorers before we send humans - to try to really understand both the opportunities and the good stuff, and the challenges we need to work through," Leshin added.
A wealth of discoveries
The four other papers published in Science today report exciting results as well.
For example, Curiosity's laser-firing ChemCam instrument found a strong hydrogen signal in fine-grained Martian soils along the rover's route, reinforcing the SAM data and further suggesting that water is common in dirt across the planet (since such fine soils are globally distributed).
Another study reveals more intriguing details about a rock Curiosity studied in October 2012. This stone - which scientists dubbed "Jake Matijevic" in honor of a mission team member who died two weeks after the rover touched down - is a type of volcanic rock never before seen on Mars.
However, rocks similar to Jake Matijevic are commonly observed here on Earth, especially on oceanic islands and in rifts where the planet's crust is thinning out.
"Of all the Martian rocks, this one is the most Earth-like. It's kind of amazing," said Curiosity lead scientist John Grotzinger, a geologist at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "What it indicates is that the planet is more evolved than we thought it was, more differentiated."
The five new studies showcase the diversity and scientific value of Gale Crater, Grotzinger said. They also highlight how well Curiosity's 10 science instruments have worked together, returning huge amounts of data that will keep the mission team busy for years to come.
"The amount of information that comes out of this rover just blows me away, all the time," Grotzinger told SPACE.com. "We're getting better at using Curiosity, and she just keeps telling us more and more. One year into the mission, we still feel like we're drinking from a fire hose."
The road to Mount Sharp
The pace of discovery could pick up even more. This past July, Curiosity left the Yellowknife Bay area and headed for Mount Sharp, which rises 3.4 miles (5.5 kilometers) into the Martian sky from Gale Crater's center.
Mount Sharp has been Curiosity's main destination since before the rover's November 2011 launch. Mission scientists want the rover to climb up through the mountain's foothills, reading the terrain's many layers along the way.
"As we go through the rock layers, we're basically looking at the history of ancient environments and how they may be changing," Grotzinger said. "So what we'll really be able to do for the first time is get a relative chronology of some substantial part of Martian history, which should be pretty cool."
Curiosity has covered about 20 percent of the planned 5.3-mile (8.5 km) trek to Mount Sharp. The rover, which is doing science work as it goes, may reach the base of the mountain around the middle of next year, Grotzinger said.
Originally published on SPACE.com.
RELATED ON SKYE: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space
Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, 5:11 p.m. ET
The first powerful winterlike storm of the season will take aim on the Pacific Northwest this weekend into Monday with potentially disastrous flooding, damaging winds and dangerous seas.
The storm crossed Alaska Thursday with gusty winds, rain and mountain snow, but began to grow into a monster over the Gulf of Alaska Friday, where it will stall over the weekend. Winds of 40 to 60 mph will roar over the ocean raising 15- to 30-foot seas.
As the storm expands southward and eastward, it will spread heavy rain, flooding, travel delays, high winds, pounding surf and rough seas first to British Columbia, then to Washington and Oregon and finally to northernmost California.
The worst conditions are likely to stay north of California, and will instead target areas farther north on Saturday with another heavy dose later Sunday into Sunday night. The pulse of rain Sunday night will be associated with some of the leftover moisture from the former Western PacificTyphoon Pabuk that brushed near Japan this past week.
Enough rain will fall to cause urban flooding and small stream flooding, rockslides and rises on the major rivers. Flooding along the short-run rivers off the Olympics and Cascades is possible later this weekend.
Rounds of windswept rain, urban flooding and poor visibility will lead to travel delays along the I-5 corridor and potentially at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and others.
The heaviest rain, on the order of 4 to 8 inches (up to 200 mm) will fall on the southwest-facing slopes of the Olympics and Cascades in Washington and the Vancouver Island Ranges Coast Mountains in British Columbia.
Elsewhere, from western Oregon through western British Columbia, a general 2 to 4 inches of rain is forecast. Much less rain will fall over central and eastern Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, but some rain will fall on these areas. Enough rain could fall to end the risk of wildfires once and for all this season.
Rounds of heavy rain and gusty winds may be a factor for college football games in Seattle, Eugene and Corvallis, Ore., and other locations in the region. The Huskies, Ducks, Beavers and Cougars are all at home Saturday.
South-to-southwest winds can be strong enough to down some trees, cause minor property damage and lead to power outages.
Wind gusts along the northwestern part of Vancouver Island and parts of the Washington and British Columbia coasts can reach between 50 and 60 mph. Gusts can be locally higher on the ridges.
Because of the wind direction from the south and southwest, this will not be the worst-case scenario for Seattle, Tacoma and Olympia, Wash., and Portland, Ore.
Unlike many storms in the winter, snow levels with this storm will remain rather high ranging from 7,000 to 8,500 feet.
According to meteorologist Brian Thompson, "Accumulating snow will generally remain above the passes, including Snoqualmie and I-90."
Snow levels will drop during the latter stages of the storm, Sunday night and Monday, when wet snow can mix in over the higher passes. However, hikers should avoid the peaks in the Cascades throughout the storm, where blizzard conditions are likely.
Small craft should remain in port or within protective areas of the bays and straits of Georgia and Juan de Fuca.
While seas will be very rough offshore, the south-to-southwest wind driving the waves will not bring the worst-case scenario to most coastal areas in terms of pounding surf and coastal erosion.
In some cases, the wind-wave action will be parallel to the coast. However, the worst effects are likely to be along the upper half of Vancouver Island that is exposed to south to southwest winds.
Record Wet September Possible
Enough rain could fall at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport for this September to rank in the top-five wettest on record. According to the National Weather Service, the wettest September on record at the airport was in 1978, when 5.95 inches fell. As of Thursday, Sept, 26, 2013, 3.03 inches of rain have fallen at the site. This September could be the new record-holder.
Similarly, Olympia Airport, Wash., could achieve a top five or record rainfall for September. In 1978, the month brought a record 7.59 inches. The fifth-wettest September was in 1977, when 4.58 inches fell. As of Thursday, 3.92 inches of rain have fallen at the site.
Naegleria fowleri infection of brain. (Getty Images)
Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are investigating whether climate change could allow for the presence of the brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri, in locations it has not previously threatened.
Naegleria Fowleri survives in warm, fresh water and infects people when contaminated water enters the nose and travels to the brain, resulting in the deadly infection known as primary amebic meningoencephaltis, or PAM.
The infection was confirmed in four children in the U.S. in the summer of 2013, killing three.
"There certainly is a concern," Dr. Jennifer Cope, medical epidemiologist at the CDC, told AccuWeather.com.
"We don't have data right now to show that the infections are increasing, but just by the virtue of the fact that it's a thermophillic organism and we're seeing warmer temperatures, I think just put those two together. It certainly is something we are concerned about and we will be paying attention to."
Most often, the infections are reported in southern-tier states, such as Florida and Texas, during the summer months. The two states have accounted for almost 50 percent of cases reported to the CDC since 1962.
In 2012, the infection was confirmed in Minnesota, marking the first occurrence outside of a southern-tier state. State officials confirmed it occurred after a heat wave, which warmed waters and may have made the area's fresh water sources more conducive to the amoeba's growth and survival.
Evidence does not suggest that more infections will occur with climate change, the CDC stressed, but the rising temperatures could allow the amoeba to exist in previously unhospitable environments.
"It may not be that there are more infections, and we don't have evidence of that, but it could be that infections occur in places where they have previously not occurred, such as Minnesota, Kansas, places we've seen recent infections," waterborne disease and outbreak surveillance coordinator for the CDC Jonathan Yoder said.
In late August, the amoeba was discovered in the water supply of the St. Barnard Parish in Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans after a young boy became infected. Residents were then urged to take precautions to avoid getting water in their noses.
How the amoeba found its way into the water is still unclear, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals told AccuWeather.com.
"We are certainly optimistic that we're making some progress on understanding the ecology of the organism, understanding what's important for treatment, but certainly there's a lot to learn still," Yoder said.RELATED ON SKYE: Could a Trip to Your Favorite Beach Make You Sick?
(AP Photo/Martin Meissner, File)
STOCKHOLM (AP) - Scientists can now say with extreme confidence that human activity is the dominant cause of the global warming observed since the 1950s, a new report by an international scientific group said Friday.
Calling man-made warming "extremely likely," the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change used the strongest words yet on the issue as it adopted its assessment on the state of the climate system.
In its previous assessment, in 2007, the U.N.-sponsored panel said it was "very likely" that global warming was man-made.
One of the most controversial subjects in the report was how to deal with a purported slowdown in warming in the past 15 years. Climate skeptics say this "hiatus" casts doubt on the scientific consensus on climate change.
Many governments had objections over how the issue was treated in earlier drafts and some had called for it to be deleted altogether.
In the end, the IPCC made only a brief mention of the issue in the summary for policymakers, stressing that short-term records are sensitive to natural variability and don't in general reflect long-term trends.
"An old rule says that climate-relevant trends should not be calculated for periods less than around 30 years," said Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the group that wrote the report.
Many scientists say the purported slowdown reflects random climate fluctuations and an unusually hot year, 1998, picked as a starting point for charting temperatures. Another leading hypothesis is that heat is settling temporarily in the oceans, but that wasn't included in the summary.
Stocker said there wasn't enough literature on "this emerging question."
The IPCC said the evidence of climate change has grown thanks to more and better observations, a clearer understanding of the climate system and improved models to analyze the impact of rising temperatures.
"Our assessment of the science finds that the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amount of snow and ice has diminished, the global mean sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased," said Qin Dahe, co-chair of the working group that wrote the report.
The full 2,000-page report isn't going to be released until Monday, but the summary for policymakers with the key findings was published Friday. It contained few surprises as many of the findings had been leaked in advance.
As expected, the IPCC raised its projections of the rise in sea levels to 10-32 inches (26-82 centimeters) by the end of the century. The previous report predicted a rise of 7-23 inches (18-59 centimeters).
The IPCC assessments are important because they form the scientific basis of U.N. negotiations on a new climate deal. Governments are supposed to finish that agreement in 2015, but it's unclear whether they will commit to the emissions cuts that scientists say will be necessary to keep the temperature below a limit at which the worst effects of climate change can be avoided.
Using four scenarios with different emissions controls, the report projected that global average temperatures would rise by 0.3 to 4.8 degrees C by the end of the century. That's 0.5-8.6 F.
Only the two lower scenarios, which were based on significant cuts in CO2 emissions, came in below the 3.6 F limit that countries have set as their target in the climate talks to avoid the worst impacts of warming.
"This is yet another wakeup call: Those who deny the science or choose excuses over action are playing with fire," U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. "Once again, the science grows clearer, the case grows more compelling, and the costs of inaction grow beyond anything that anyone with conscience or common sense should be willing to even contemplate."
At this point, emissions keep rising mainly due to rapid growth in China and other emerging economies. They say rich countries should take the lead on emissions cuts because they've pumped carbon into the atmosphere for longer.
Climate activists said the report should spur governments to action.
"There are few surprises in this report but the increase in the confidence around many observations just validates what we are seeing happening around us," said Samantha Smith, of the World Wildlife Fund.
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In this April 11, 2013, file picture, European bison, also known as wisent, gather in the woods near Bad Berleburg, Germany. (AP Photo/dpa, Marius Becker, File)
BERLIN (AP) - Wild boars, greys wolves and white-tailed eagles have made a comeback in Europe thanks to decades-long conservation efforts.
A study published Thursday by the London Zoological Society claims dozens of species have been brought back from the brink of extinction and some are now thriving.
Researchers from BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council contributed to the study, which found that protecting habitats, restricting hunting, reducing pollution and the careful reintroduction were key to the species' survival.
The population of European bison, also known as wisent, has increased more than 3,000 percent since the 1950s, the study said.
Still, researchers noted that many of the 18 mammal and 19 bird species studied in the report remain in peril.
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Venice, the "floating city" of romance and gondolas, is slowly sinking into its watery foundations.
A new study using modern satellite data has shown the amount that Venice is sinking with an unprecedented level of resolution, allowing scientists to tease apart the influence of natural causes of the sinking, due to compaction of the sediments on which the city is built, versus man-made ones, such as building restoration.
Understanding how the land is sinking is particularly important in the face of rising sea levels. "Venice is in a situation so critical with respect to the sea that continuous monitoring of the city's movement is of paramount importance," said study researcher Pietro Teatini, a hydraulic engineer at the University of Padua in Italy. [8 Ways Global Warming is Already Changing the World]
Scientists first recognized the problem decades ago when they noticed that pumping of groundwater from beneath Venice was causing the city to settle into the earth. The pumping and its effects have long since stopped, but the city continues to sink.
Maps of the displacement rate (mm/yr) detected at Venice by TerraSAR-X (COA0612 (C) DLR) satellites from March 2008 and January 2009. Negative values indicate settlement, positive mean uplift. (Credit: Tosi and colleagues)
In the study, Teatini and his colleagues used two sets of satellite measurements of Venice's historical city center and the surrounding area. The first dataset came from first-generation satellite sensors that have coarse resolution and collect data about once a month, whereas the second dataset comes from a newer satellite with sensors that have much better resolution and take measurements every 10 days."The techniques are continuously evolving and improving, and we are able to detect displacement with an accuracy that was unbelievable 10 to 20 years ago," Teatini told LiveScience.
The satellites beam signals down to the Earth's surface, where they reflect off land and buildings. To determine the amount that Venice is sinking, the researchers measured differences in the signals returning from the city relative to those returning from nearby areas, a method called interferometry.
Teatini's team compared short-term changes in the city's height measured by the new satellite from 2008 to 2011 with the average, long-term movement measured by the old satellite from 1992 to 2010. Then they subtracted the short-term changes in ground level from the long-term ones to determine the human contribution to the sinking.
The results revealed the city is naturally subsiding at a rate of about 0.03 to 0.04 inches (0.8 to 1 millimeter) per year, while human activities contribute sinking of about 0.08 to 0.39 inches (2 to 10 mm) per year. However, human activities, such as conservation and reconstruction of buildings, cause sinking only on a localized, short-term scale, the researchers said.
The sinking threatens to increase flooding in Venice, which already occurs due to high tides about four times per year. And the problems are compounded by rising sea levels resulting from climate change. The Northern Adriatic Sea is rising at about 0.04 inches (1 mm) per year, Teatini said. To buffer this rise, the MOSE (Experimental Electromechanical Module) project, planned to begin in 2016, will install a system of movable gates that would block the inlets to the Venetian lagoon during high tides.
Teatini and his colleagues' study was detailed today (Sept. 26) in the journal Scientific Reports.
Venice isn't the only city that's sinking - parts of New Orleans are dropping at a rate of 1 inch, or 2.5 cm, per year, possibly due to the removal of oil, gas and water from underground reservoirs, studies suggest.
RELATED ON SKYE: 10 U.S. Cities Most at Risk from Rising Sea Levels
A series of deadly hornet attacks has led Chinese officials to warn citizens to avoid walking through fields and wooded areas this year. At least 28 people have been killed, and hundreds seriously injured, when swarms of the stinging insects descend without warning on unsuspecting people.
The prime suspect in the killings is the Asian giant hornet - sometimes called the yak-killer hornet (Vespa mandarinia) - which can grow to be more than 2 inches (5 centimeters) in length, and has a quarter-inch-long (6 millimeters) stinger that delivers venom containing a potent neurotoxin.
The Asian giant hornet is the world's largest hornet, and is a voracious predator that dines on mantises, bees and other large insects. It has a deservedly evil reputation for wiping out entire hives containing thousands of honeybees by biting off the bees' heads and then stealing their honey and bee larvae. The hornets are capable of flying up to 62 miles (100 kilometers) in a single day at speeds of 25 mph (40 km/h). [Sting, Bite & Destroy: Nature's 10 Biggest Pests]
Most of the attacks have occurred in Shaanxi province, the South China Morning Post reports. One victim suffered acute renal failure after being stung by hornets; the man claimed the hornets chased him over a distance of more than 650 feet (200 meters). A 55-year-old woman from the same village reported that she was stung more than 200 times and needed to be hospitalized for almost a month.
The unexpected rise in hornet attacks may be due to a number of factors, according to The Guardian. Hotter weather in the area has led to more successful breeding for the hornets, and laborers are moving deeper into the isolated rural areas where the hornets typically live.
"Patients with more than 10 hornet stings should seek medical attention. Those with more than 30 stings need immediate emergency treatment," said a director of the Ankang (Shaanxi) Disease Control Center, as quoted in the Post. Area hospitals have now created medical teams specializing in the treatment of hornet stings, and fire crews have removed more than 300 hornet nests from residential areas in an effort to prevent additional deaths and injuries.
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Islands don't usually appear out of nowhere -- but that's just what happened Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013. A massive 7.7-magnitude earthquake struck southwestern Pakistan that morning, causing mud, stone and gas to bubble up from the seabed off the coast of Gwadar. As awe-struck locals looked on, a mass of land about 60 feet high, 100 feet wide and 250 feet long formed in a matter of hours.
Scientists now think the mound is a mud volcano, created when the quake released flammable gases trapped within the earth. The island is the third of its kind to appear in the region in the last 15 years. "It may last a few months," GeoScience Australia duty seismologist Hugh Glanville told ABC. "It depends on the mud pressure. Some mud volcanoes have been known to stay for years."
NASA's Earth Observing-1 satellite captured an image of the freshly surfaced island on Sept. 26, 2013. Above is a comparison of the area before and after the island's creation.
Below is a close-up aerial view of the island from the National Institute of Oceanography.
RELATED ON SKYE: Breathtaking Photos of Earth from Space
GoPro has produced an HD video featuring three snorkelers' encounter with humpback whales in Tonga. The voice you hear is that of Zen-inspired philosopher Alan Watts. It's a gorgeous production.
(H/T 5 Things I Learned Today)
A telescope in Chile has captured the most detailed views ever of odd clouds of interstellar dust that are being sculpted into strange shapes by the wind from nearby stars.
Astronomers used the European Southern Observatory's La Silla Observatory to capture the amazing new images of the space clouds around the distant star cluster NGC 3572. The new photo shows a mysterious ring and structures known as "elephant trunks" - huge columns of interstellar dust and gas. You can watch a video fly-through of the new space cloud photos provided by ESO.
"This new image shows how these clouds of gas and dust have been sculpted into whimsical bubbles, arcs and the odd features known as elephant trunks by the stellar winds flowing from this gathering of hot young stars," ESO officials wrote in an image description.
This wide-field image shows the patch of sky around the star cluster NGC 3572 and its associated gas clouds. Image released Nov. 13, 2013. (Credit: ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2. Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin)
NGC 3572 - located in the southern constellation Carina - plays host to many young, hot stars that shine bright blue and white in the new photos and shape the clouds, ESO officials wrote.
The "Pillars of Creation" photo of the Eagle Nebula taken by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope is the most famous example of elephant trunks, according to ESO representatives.
Another interesting aspect of the new image is a ring-shaped nebula located a bit above the center of the picture. Scientists aren't sure what the origin of the nebula is, but they think it might be a leftover from the cloud of material that formed the star cluster, or it could be a bubble around a hot star. Some astronomers also suggest that it could be a planetary nebula - the remains of a dying sunlike star.
Stars in clusters might have formed at around the same time, but they are incredibly diverse in size, temperature, color and mass, ESO officials said.
"These gangs of young stars stick together for a relatively short time, typically tens or hundreds of millions of years," ESO officials said. "They are gradually disbanded by gravitational interactions, but also because the most massive stars are short-lived, burning through their fuel quickly and ultimately ending their lives in violent supernova explosions, thus contributing to the dispersion of the remaining gas and stars in the cluster."
RELATED ON SKYE: Mind-Blowing New Photos from Space
Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013
Astronaut Chris Hadfield records the first music video from space - David Bowie's "Space Oddity" - aboard the International Space Station on Sunday, May 12, 2013. (AP Photo/NASA, Chris Hadfield)
Before he arrived at the International Space Station in December of 2012, Chris Hadfield had already enjoyed a storied astronaut career. He'd flown two space shuttle flights, performed a space walk and spent time aboard the Russian space station Mir and the ISS. But it was during his five months aboard the space station earlier this year that he became an Internet sensation. Hadfield sent back wildly popular YouTube videos. He posted captivating photos to Twitter, sometimes accompanied by poetic observations. And he recorded a music video - a haunting cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" - that instantly went viral. In May, Hadfield plunged back to Earth in the Soyuz capsule, and soon after, he announced his retirement from the Canadian Space Agency and set to work on a book. "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" hit bookstores Oct. 29 and rocketed the astronaut onto bestseller lists.
SKYE caught up with him this week in Los Angeles, hours after he taped an interview with Conan O'Brien and moments before a bookstore appearance in front of hundreds of starstruck fans.
SKYE: The world had never seen anything quite like your zero-gravity cover of "Space Oddity." You mention in the book that your son, Evan, suggested it. Where'd the idea come from?
The whole world sort of had the idea for "Space Oddity." They were sending notes to Evan. He was managing the social media on the ground. I tweeted, but I was busy and didn't have time for everything. He was really keeping his finger on the pulse and right away, back in December, he said,"Dad, you have to record 'Space Oddity.'" I was like, "Why would I do that - a druggie tune where the astronaut dies?" But he was insistent. He said, "It's not for you, but for everyone else." So it was like, OK. He rewrote the words for me so that the astronaut didn't die and I actually updated the words and made it more topical. Then I did the audio and got some friends to add music underneath. They did a great job. Then Evan said, "You're in space, it's got to be a video." So I made the video. Then Evan and his editor, in about a week, put the whole thing together - two kids in their 20s. And it just came out great.
It's amazing. Have you spoken to David Bowie since you got back?
I've emailed with him. Recently, I heard he said it's the best the song's ever been done, which is crazy high praise for me for one weekend doing a project on the space station.
I have to imagine, when Bowie wrote the song, that he never dreamed an astronaut would one day perform it in space.
Yeah, it's pretty amazing. And the reason for the reaction is, too: the crossover between art and kind of the ethereal nature to space flight, and then the reality of it. That's the key thing. This was art and reality, and somehow it made it more interesting, to see them go together.
It was mind-blowing. Are you the first astronaut to understand that?
Apparently, I guess. I mean, we've had musicians up there before, but I'm a front man. Whenever I get in a band - I've organized bands - when we're up [on stage] and it's time to talk before the next song, I always look around at the band and nobody's talking. So I talk to the crowd. Someone's got to do that, and I'm more by nature a front man, and it was a front man thing to do, I guess.
Are most astronauts, by nature, front man types?
Some are, but we're actually a pretty reserved group, because you don't want some big, boisterous personality up there. You don't want some loudmouth. You want people with a bit of reserve, with a good sense of humor and a real urge to help everybody else and put someone else's needs ahead of their own. But you also have to be the spokesman, and you are, whether you want to be or not. You are the face of NASA, you're the voice of NASA, and you can just keep it low-key or raise it to whatever level that you're comfortable with. I tried, on all three of my spaceflights, to make it as accessible and interesting to people as I could, and this last one just went really well.
The United States has been at the forefront of space exploration for so long. And we're speaking tonight in Hollywood, the entertainment capital of the world. It's amazing to me that, despite all that, a Canadian came along and seized the spotlight and captured everyone's imagination. (Hadfield laughs.) Obviously you had a lot to say and a way of saying it that really connected with people. I talked to one astronaut who also wondered if the fact that you were working for the much smaller Canadian Space Agency helped make that possible.
It gave me more latitude. Absolutely.
Yeah, because NASA is such a big organization and there's has to be so much bureaucracy to contend with, in terms of getting videos approved and other projects.
Well, Twitter provides this weird end run, because I could tweet directly from space. None of the big organizations know what to do with Twitter. Do they let their employees tweet, or encourage them to tweet about business? But then when people tweet about non-business, where is the line? Nobody's got it quite sorted out yet, but NASA encouraged us to tweet and at first they wanted to make sure it didn't get out of control. I remember back on my first space flight, they didn't want us to be able to email back and forth to the ground. They wanted Mission Control to control communication with us. They didn't want us finding out procedures or ideas or whatever from alternate sources. I can understand that. We don't own the space station. But over time, they've seen that it's OK, that we're not going to start running a procedure just because someone emailed it to us.
We're sort of in that phase with social media now. I just saw it as a great tool. The Canadian Space Agency was really forthright with it and brave and tried to push it to the limit and make the most of it, and then I even pushed them to their limit, because they have to answer to the Canadian government lawyers, also. Doing "Space Oddity," we got legal permission from Bowie, and we put the Canadian Space Agency watermark on the video, so it doesn't belong to me. I don't earn a cent from it. It's all legal. But it took a bunch of work, and the CSA was willing to shoulder that work. But the net result was a real positive and a real eye-opening awareness of what the space station is doing.
For me, your tweets and YouTube videos made the abstract, almost theoretical quality of space and life on the space station more real. It made it all more human.
My point has been for a long time, if people don't know the space station exists, then they can't support it or not support it. First, they have to know it exists. Then, they have to know what it's doing, what it's for. Then, maybe they can make a value judgment about it. But at least give people a look on board so they can see that we are working hard for the money, and we're running 200 experiments, and we're trying to figure out what the universe is made of, and we're looking at pollution around the world, and we're doing groundbreaking experiments onboard. Let people see all that, but also let them see that this is a new place for people. This is a perspective on the world, and this is a cultural place. We've been there for the last 13 years. We've left Earth. This is an important thing we're doing. I really worked hard to have people see it as clearly as I could make it, while still always putting work first. We set records for the amount of science done. We set records for the amount of operations done.
Some former commanders have said, "We could maintain that pace for a while but we could never have responded to a surge, if there'd been some big demand, we never could have done it." Four days before we came home, the station began leaking ammonia and we had to do an emergency spacewalk on one day's notice on the weekend. And we were perfectly positioned to do it. In fact, it just went great because of how we'd set things up.
You recorded at least a couple of songs in space. What are your top five space songs?
[Laughs.] Gosh, I'd have to think about it. Well "Oddity" is great. You know, the iconic space song "Rocket Man" isn't really a space song at all. "Rocket Man" is about being lonely and in the public eye, when in fact you feel very lonely and ostracized. I assume it was about Elton John's early homosexuality and being a public figure and just the torture of that - I think. People want me to play "Rocket Man," but "Rocket Man" has nothing to do with space flight. Do you know the theme to the Thunderbirds?
That may be my favorite space song. It was a funny mannequin cartoon in the '60s and '70s.
Why that song?
It's just cool. It evokes imagery in my mind.
Do you know "Major Tom" by Pete Schilling?
The chorus goes, "Earth below us, drifting, falling. Floating, weightless ..."
How about "Tranquility Base" by Eric Brace? NASA put out a video with it recently honoring Neil Armstrong. Beautiful song.
No, I don't know it. There's a song by Simple Plan called "Astronaut," but it's the same as "Rocket Man." It's a metaphor and not really about space. People think space flight is lonely, which is really puzzling to me. As I've said in the book, the loneliest people live in the middle of cities. Loneliness is a state of mind, not locational. Flying in space is not lonely at all. You see the whole world every 90 minutes. You see more people and more civilization and more stimulus than almost anyone in existence.
But you also see the blackness of space.
Yeah, but you see that from Earth, too. I've never once felt lonely up there, not on any one of my three flights. Plus, you're there with other people.
Speaking of seeing things, has being in space changed the way you see the night sky when you're back on Earth?
Definitely, when I see the space station go over. I like seeing the space station go over. It thrills me in many ways. I helped build it and I lived there. To see it go over, when I look at the night sky, I just love the beauty of it, and the inevitability of it, and the fact of it. But I have trouble connecting the reality of my two experiences, of standing on Earth and watching it go over, and of having been aboard it. It's hard to connect. I know I was onboard. But when I see the station go over, it's so surreal. I still haven't completely figured out what that means.
You see the night sky differently out on a spacewalk, because it's not above you, it's below you and around you. You're in the night sky. That's a whole different feeling. It's maybe the difference between sitting in your kitchen, looking out at the ocean, and floating out in the middle of the ocean.
I love the idea of the overview effect - the notion that looking back at Earth from space produces a cognitive shift in astronauts, that they come to see the world differently. What kind of an effect has looking back at Earth had on you?
It definitely had a bigger impact on me in my third flight than my first two because it was so much longer. You stole time on a [space] shuttle flight. You stole minutes. If you could steal two minutes to get to the window, you were doing great. On station [the International Space Station], if you didn't see it this month, you could see it next month. The phasing of light and dark and geography took like six or eight weeks to swap around, so if you didn't get a good picture of Paris in the daytime in January, you had to wait until March to do it again. But you had time to do that.
But a child of that experience also was the chance for the world to really have a cumulative effect on you. The world snuck up on me with its - I don't know if "oneness" is the right word - but how shared our experience is as people onboard this spaceship [Earth], and how thin this little slice of where we live is, between the cooled-off crust of the magma where we stand and the three-mile-thick tiny little layer of air where all of us live. We all live in that tiny little slice. And so our shared existence is so common.
If you look down at a town somewhere - I don't know, Phoenix - you see there's a downtown by the river, and then there's kind of the suburbs, and then you spread out and there are farmers and farmers' fields on the outskirts, and roads leading in and out. And then if you wait 25 minutes, you're over the top of Timbuktu, which has exactly the same pattern, and in another 25 minutes, you're over - I don't know, somewhere in Australia - and it's the same pattern. You see the same pattern repeated over and over, all over the world, and after a while, you realize, this is just us, this is how we live, this is where we are.
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I lost my sense of "us" and "them." The "them" kind of faded. And I'm not some sort of dewy-eyed schoolgirl about it. But it just perceptibly faded. There are bad people in the world, and there are aggressive, negative forces around, and there's a shortage of resources that we have to fight for, and there are historical enmities that we deal with. All that exists. But at the same time, the vast majority of people are subject to those things. They're not the cause of those things. And the vast majority of people are sharing the experience exactly the same as I am, and their hopes and dreams are the same, and what they want for their children is the same, and you can't avoid having that seep into you when you go around the world 2,500 times. I think that's maybe what the overview effect is all about: that shared sense of the existence that we all have, and hopefully that maybe, the next step is the citizenship and stewardship and responsibility that come from that. And the more people that get that, the better off we'll all be.
Do you ever worry about the future of space exploration, given the cost and economic pressures on governments?
There's this big negativity in the States right now. It's kind of funny. Everybody wants to be negative. They're poor students of history. They say, "Oh, in the old days things, we were so much better off." We were canceling the last Apollo missions before Apollo 11 even launched. We canceled two Apollo missions. We'd built the rockets already and we didn't launch them. And then after Apollo was over, we had this long hiatus and took forever to get to shuttle flying. The space station Skylab fell from the sky because we couldn't get the shuttle going. Nobody remembers that, right? And then after Challenger, and after Columbia, I thought we'd never fly again. Horrific things to have to get through and recover from. And space station came within a hair's breadth of being canceled right at its birth. And it's always been a budget fight, and it should be. It's been a tough economic time for the last three years, but what people forget is, we've been permanently living off the Earth since 2000. We have probes orbiting around Mercury. In the last three weeks, Curiosity discovered that in every cubic foot of dirt on Mars there's a liter of water. Mars has oceans of water and we just discovered that. We've got a probe going to Pluto. The space station is thriving. It's finished. Everyone's like, "Oh, we canceled the shuttle." Orion is set to do its first test flight next September. And Elon Musk and company are working hard to build manned vehicles to go in parallel with the Soyuz. And so there's all this populist negativity, but meanwhile, we've got a heck of a space program going on. I think what we're doing is amazing.
India just launched a probe to Mars. And the Chinese are going to the moon. We should cooperate with the Chinese. In 1989, if I'd said, we should cooperate with the Soviets, people would've looked at me just like they do if you say that we should cooperate with the Chinese. We need to commit to this internationally in order to let the projects ride out each country's economic and political cycles. That's the only way to make it happen. It's how the space station has survived. So I'm optimistic about the whole thing.
I know you've officially retired. Any chance you'll go into space again?
There's always a chance. I'm not going to fly with any nation's space program. I'm no longer an employee, and I had my share. I was so lucky to fly three difference spaceships and go to two space stations and command a spaceship and be a Soyuz pilot. I was hugely lucky. But if [Richard] Branson and company come up with a really good version that drops the price by a whole bunch, we'll see. Or if Elon Musk gets an orbital version? Who knows? Or I may decide I want to go fly for Richard Branson and be one of his pilots. Probably not, but never say never. I mean, when I was 9, I decided to be an astronaut and it was impossible - and I flew three times. So never say never.
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Friday, Nov. 15, 2013
Periods of rain, thunderstorms and locally damaging winds will bring a stormy end to the upcoming weekend across the Ohio Valley.
Initially, some locally strong winds may rattle areas from St. Louis to Chicago Saturday night into early Sunday. By Sunday, rounds of wind-driven rain will soak cities such as Indianapolis to Columbus, Ohio, and areas south toward Louisville, Ky., and Memphis and Nashville, Tenn.
Some thunderstorms will accompany the rain, potentially unleashing locally damaging winds in the region. The combination of a rain-soaked ground and strong winds can topple trees and power lines as the powerful storm drives through.
Flights may have significant delays due to the wind, particularly for Detroit and Indianapolis. Those traveling by car can face slow travel across Interstates 90, 70 and 64 among a host of other roadways as blinding downpours sweep across the region.
There will not be a significant threat of tornadoes across the region, but one or two may spin up in the strongest thunderstorms. The low tornado threat will continue the trend of a historically low year for tornadoes across the United States.
The above chart details the 2013 preliminary tornado count through Nov. 13, 2013, courtesy of NOAA.
The storm responsible for the stormy weather will also drive a new cold wave into the U.S. Unseasonably warm and humid air ahead of this storm will clash with a new wave of arctic air slamming into the region creating the volatile situation.
Travel may be disrupted across areas highlighted in red.
The wet and stormy weather across the Ohio and Tennessee valleys will be replaced with much colder and drier weather on Monday, as the stormy weather moves into the East Coast.RELATED ON SKYE: Epic Storm Photos from the Twittersphere
Friday, Nov. 14, 2013
The home of Michael and Janni Dupre is destroyed after the backyard behind the home collapsed into a sinkhole, taking their patio and boat, on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/The Tampa Bay Times, Douglas R. Clifford)
DUNEDIN, Fla. (AP) - Residents of several Florida homes have been evacuated due to a possible sinkhole that opened in a backyard in Pinellas County on Thursday.
Dunedin Deputy Fire Chief Trip Barrs said the hole appeared to be about 12 feet wide when officials arrived on the scene. Residents of the neighboring houses also were evacuated as a precaution.
The Tampa Bay Times reported that the ground was so unstable, two homes had to be demolished.
Television footage showed part of a patio caved in and a boat on the edge of the hole. Tampa area television stations reported that a neighboring pool appears to have cracks.
The affected neighborhood is in Dunedin, a small city in northern Pinellas County, about 20 miles north of St. Petersburg.
Sinkholes are common in Florida because the peninsula is made up of porous carbonate rocks such as limestone that store and help move water underground. Over time, the rocks can dissolve from an acid created from oxygen in water, causing a void under the limestone roof. When dirt, clay or sand gets too heavy for the limestone roof, it can collapse, creating a sinkhole.
On Feb. 28, Jeffrey Bush died when a sinkhole opened under his bedroom in Seffner, Fla., near Tampa. His body was never recovered. In August, sections of a building at a resort near Orlando collapsed into a sinkhole. No one was injured.
Homeowner Michael Dupre said the family heard a noise that sounded like a sledgehammer pounding on the wall early Thursday morning.
Dupre told Bay News 9 there had been "sinkhole activity" in the area. "After the Seffner sinkhole, we were scared. We've been dealing with our insurance company and finally two days ago, they started working on our house. Now it looks like our house is gone."
As the hole grew, it swallowed the Dupre's porch and new boat. Now, his neighbor's swimming pool and a portion of that home have fallen in as well.
Engineers were called in to assess the homes and ultimately decided both Dupre's home and his neighbor's would be complete losses.
A backhoe was used to pull Dupre's boat from the hole. Crews had feared fuel in the boat could leak into groundwater. Otherwise, the rescue crews are in a holding pattern until the hole stabilizes.
State officials say three counties in the Tampa region are known as "sinkhole alley." Two-thirds of the sinkhole damage claims reported to the state Office of Insurance Regulation between 2006 and 2010 came from Hernando, Hillsborough and Pasco counties. Dunedin is in neighboring Pinellas County.
RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Astonishing Sinkholes Around the World
Friday, Nov. 15, 2013
A U.S. Navy Sea Hawk helicopter from the U.S. aircraft carrier USS George Washington takes off to air drops relief supplies to villages isolated by last week's typhoon at Tacloban City airport, Leyte province in central Philippines, Friday Nov.15, 2013. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
VILLAMOR AIR BASE, Philippines (AP) - The U.S. military is sending roughly 1,000 more troops, along with additional ships and aircraft, to join a massive effort to assist typhoon victims in the Philippines - a mission one Philippines military official on Friday called a "game changer."
"We are increasing our presence based on the request of the government of the Philippines," said Col. John Peck, chief of staff for the 3rd Marines Expeditionary Battalion, which is coordinating the U.S. operation from a Philippine air force base next to Manila's international airport.
The U.S. military - looking to both help an ally and show its commitment to remaining the leading power in the Pacific amid the rise of China - has been extremely fast in responding to the disaster.
About a half dozen countries - including Japan, Indonesia and Singapore - have offered military assistance to Manila, and many more have sent supplies. Chinese troops, however, have been prominently absent, in large part because of a territorial spat between the two nations.
According to Lt. Col. Rodney Legowski, the first U.S. Marines arrived in the Philippines in response to the disaster within six hours, and began flying supplies to affected areas less than 18 hours after that. By Friday, there were 400 Marines in the country.
The USS George Washington aircraft carrier and its battle group are also in place off the hard-hit islands of Leyte and Samar. So far, the U.S. military has moved 190 tons of supplies and flown nearly 200 sorties.
"Having the U.S. military here is a game changer," said Col. Miguel Okol, a spokesman for the Philippines air force. "For countries that we don't have these kinds of relationships with, it can take a while to get help. But with the U.S., it's immediate."
With roughly 600,000 people displaced by the typhoon and millions still in need of aid, the Marines said in a statement Thursday that about 900 more Marines based on Okinawa, Japan, were to arrive early next week aboard two U.S. Navy amphibious ships.
Another 100 Marines from Okinawa will come aboard aircraft.
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