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SKYE on AOL

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    Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2013
    In this Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 photo, a huge sinkhole appears in the village of Sanica, Bosnia. Only weeks ago, the spot was a pond full of fish and floating green algae, lined with old willow and plum trees, and a grass field where cattle used to peacefully graze. The vanishing pond was some 20-meters in diameter and about 10-meters deep. Now, the
    In this Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013 photo, a huge sinkhole appears in the village of Sanica, Bosnia. (AP Photo/Amel Emric)

    SANICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) - Just outside the rustic village, children fished in a tranquil pond bobbing with green algae and lined with willow trees, as cattle grazed nearby.

    Now, Rezak Motanic gazes in disbelief down a gigantic moonlike crater where the pond used to be. It's like something from a science fiction movie: a sinkhole swallowed the water, the fish and even nearby trees.

    "I sat here only a day before it happened, sipping plum brandy," Cemal Hasan said. "And then, there was panic. Fish were jumping out, and a big plum tree was pulled down like someone yanked it with a hook."

    The villagers of this remote northwestern Bosnian village have been in shock since the pond vanished two weeks ago.

    Their pond was some 20 meters (yards) in diameter and about eight meters deep. Now, the "abyss," as the villagers have dubbed the crater, is some 50 meters wide and 30 meters deep - and growing.

    Scientists say it is not uncommon that ponds and small lakes suddenly disappear. They say it could be caused by drying underground water currents, or changes in soil drainage due to irrigation.

    The Sanica villagers, however, are having none of the scientific explanations.

    "It could have been a giant cave that opened its doors," offered Milanko Skrbic. "Or avolcano."

    Another popular theory - one that experts dismiss along with the others proposed by townsfolk - is that fish could have triggered the explosion of one of several World War II German bombs believed to have been thrown into the pond by an old woman after the war.

    "She herself died when one of the bombs exploded in her arms," Cemal Hasan said as he stood on the edge of the "abyss."

    Another spooky explanation: The owner of the pond took it with him when he died about a month ago.

    "Only days before Hasan passed away he said: 'I'll take everything with me when I die.' And that's what he did," Motanic said. "His daughter saw him walk on the lake the night he died."

    Husein Nanic said it could be a sign that the end is nigh: "All sort of miracles happen before the doomsday," he said.

    RELATED ON SKYE: Photos: Astonishing Sinkholes Around the World

     

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    Updated Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013, 12:21 p.m. ET
    Holiday travelers line up for one of the TSA security checkpoints at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington on November 26, 2013 as air traffic increases for  the Thanksgiving holiday.    AFP PHOTO/Paul J. Richards        (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
    Holiday travelers line up for one of the TSA security checkpoints at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington on November 26, 2013. (PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)

    CHICAGO (AP) - Bands of heavy rain, ice and snow were upending some holiday travel plans on the East Coast as millions of Americans took to the roads, skies and rails Wednesday for Thanksgiving, but the wintry mix was not causing the widespread gridlock that had been feared.

    So far, the storms barreling over the mid-Atlantic and Northeast have not sent flight delays or cancellations rippling out beyond the region to other parts of the nation's air network, and forecasters said the storm would start to loosen its grip on the East Coast as the day wore on.

    Thanksgiving Storm Satellite"Yes, I'm worried," said Sylvia Faban, an 18-year-old college freshman waiting to launch into the heart of the wintry mess in New York from Chicago, where skies were a clear crystal blue. She and a few travel buddies could do little more than slump down on top of their bags at O'Hare International Airport and wait.

    "I'm checking the weather in New York," she said as her fingers pecked at her smartphone.

    As of early Wednesday, more than 230 flights to, from or within the United States had been canceled, according to the air tracking website FlightAware.com. Most of the scrapped flights were in or out of three major Northeast hubs: Newark Liberty International, Philadelphia International and LaGuardia.

    Some of the longest delays were affecting Philadelphia-bound flights, which were being held up at their points of origin for an average of about two hours because of the weather, according to website. The Philadelphia area was under a flood watch with 2-3 inches of rain forecast to fall before colder temperatures turn precipitation to snow.

    Roads there were snarled. A multi-vehicle crash closed the westbound lanes of the Schuylkill Expressway - Interstate 76 - in the Philadelphia area after eastbound lanes were closed due to flooding on what is traditionally the year's busiest travel day. One lane was later reopened in both directions.

    The storm system that developed in the West over the weekend has been blamed in at least 11 deaths, five of them in Texas. But as the storm moved east it wasn't as bad as feared.

    A large area of rain was spreading over the Northeast and was expected to gradually move out into the Atlantic and the Canadian Maritimes as the day wore on. Wind was a concern, especially Wednesday morning in Boston. Parts of southeast New England were under a high-wind warning with the potential for wind gusts of up to 60 mph, said Chris Vaccaro, spokesman for the National Weather Service headquarters in Silver Spring, Md.

    There was a residual band of snow behind the storm that, as of Wednesday morning, was stretching from western Pennsylvania to West Virginia and into parts of the southeast. It was expected to pivot into parts of the Mid-Atlantic by Wednesday night.

    "This is a fairly typical storm for this time of year," Vaccaro said. "Obviously, it's ill-timed because you have a lot of rain and snowfall in areas where people are trying to move around town or fly or drive out of town ... but fortunately, we're at this point going to start seeing a steady improvement in conditions across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast."

    More than 43 million people are to travel over the long holiday weekend, according to AAA. About 39 million of those will be on the roads, while more than 3 million people are expected to filter through airports. The weather could snarl takeoffs and landings at some of the busiest hubs on the East Coast, including New York, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Boston and Charlotte, N.C.

    Transportation officials advised travelers to check with their airlines and reduce speed on highways. Travel experts suggested airline passengers might be able to have penalty fees waived if they wanted to change their bookings because of the weather.

    Weather woes aside, there were some things for travelers to be happy about this year. The Federal Aviation Administration last month lifted restrictions on the use of most personal electronic devices during takeoffs and landings, and some airlines, including American, have already begun allowing passengers to stay powered up from gate to gate.

    "I'm always down for Wi-Fi," said a jazzed-up Chris Reichert, a 20-year-old film student at Northwestern University who was headed from Chicago to Baltimore.

    His excitement was lost in the generational gap with some older passengers such as Phyllis Dolinko, 79, of Highland Park, Ill., who was bound for LaGuardia.

    "I have a cellphone (but) I really wouldn't do that anyway," she said of using in-flight services to browse the Web. "That's discourteous," she sniffed.

    Her main weather concern was not that she wouldn't be able to make it to New York City to see her family (her flight was listed on time), but rather that high winds on turkey day might prevent the city from sending up giant balloons for the parade.

    Most of the country was spared by the weather, and many travelers were pre-occupied by nothing more than whether they'd make a tight connection. Travelers at O'Hare were even surprised by how quiet and orderly it was.

    Others, like Pat Wilson in suburban Detroit, were just excited to set off on a new journey.

    She and her immediate family have never ventured from home before for Thanksgiving, but decided to get on an Amtrak train from Dearborn to Chicago after her 9-year-old granddaughter said she really wanted to go there.

    "She requested it," said Wilson, 65, adding that the visit will almost certainly include a stop at the city's American Girl store, a mecca for girls who are fans of the specialty dolls.


    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013
    FILE - In this Nov. 22, 2012, file photo, handlers keep a tight rein on the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon as it travels the route of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. Macyís says it is closely monitoring the weather after recent forecasts predicted wind gusts up to 30 mph on Thanksgiving morning during the department storeís upcoming Thanksgiving Day Parade. Based on New York City guidelines, no giant balloons will be operated if the wind gusts exceed 34 mph. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, File)
    In this Nov. 22, 2012, file photo, handlers keep a tight rein on the Sonic the Hedgehog balloon as it travels the route of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes, File)

    NEW YORK (AP) - A storm bearing down on the East Coast with a messy mix of snow, rain and wind is threatening to ground giant balloon versions of Snoopy and SpongeBob SquarePants in the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

    The iconic characters that soar between the Manhattan skyscrapers every year may not lift off Thursday if sustained winds exceed 23 mph and gusts exceed 34 mph, according to city rules enacted after fierce winds in 1997 caused a Cat in the Hat balloon to topple a light pole and seriously injure a woman spectator.

    Current forecasts call for sustained winds of 20 mph and gusts of 36 mph.

    "At this time, it is too early to make any determinations on the flight of the giant balloons," said Macy's spokesman Orlando Veras. "On Thanksgiving morning, Macy's works closely with the NYPD, who, based on real time weather data and the official regulations, determine if the balloons will fly and at what heights."

    Balloons have only been grounded once in the parade's 87-year history, when bad weather kept them from flying in 1971. They're set to be inflated in Manhattan on Wednesday evening.

    The parade was awash in animal-related protests over its floats, with controversies involving the unlikely pairing of rocker Joan Jett and Shamu the killer whale.

    Activists planned to line the parade route to protest a SeaWorld float over accusations in a new documentary that the theme parks treat whales badly. And ranchers succeeded in getting Jett pulled off the South Dakota tourism float after they questioned why the vegetarian and animal-rights ally was representing their beef-loving state.

    SeaWorld says the accusations have "absolutely no basis" and that "the men and women who care for these animals at SeaWorld are dedicated in every respect to their health and well-being."

    Macy's said the parade does not engage in social commentary or political debate.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The World's Best Christmas Festivals

     

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    Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013
    In this Nov. 24, 2013 photo provided by George Loegering is a large spinning circle of bits of ice that Loegering spotted in North Dakota's  Sheyenne River while out hunting with friends. Members of the National Weather service said a combination of cold, dense air last weekend and an eddy in the river likely caused the disk that Loegering, a retired engineer, calculated to be about 55 feet in diameter. It's not an unknown phenomenon, but it is relatively rare, said Loegering, who lives in rural Casselton, about 20 miles west of Fargo, N.D. (AP Photo/George Loegering)
    In this Nov. 24, 2013, photo provided by George Loegering is a large spinning circle of bits of ice that Loegering spotted in North Dakota's Sheyenne River while out hunting with friends. (AP Photo/George Loegering)

    BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - When George Loegering saw a large spinning circle of ice in the Sheyenne River while out hunting with relatives, the retired engineer couldn't believe his eyes.

    "At first I thought, no way! It was surreal," Loegering, 73, said Tuesday of the large ice disk he witnessed Saturday. "You looked at it and you thought, how did it do that?"

    Then his engineering background kicked in. He calculated the disk's diameter to be about 55 feet, took photos and videos of it and then turned to the Internet for more information about what he, his brother-in-law and nephew had seen.

    "It's not an unknown phenomenon, but it is relatively rare," said Loegering, who lives in rural Casselton, about 20 miles west of Fargo.

    Allen Schlag, a National Weather Service hydrologist in Bismarck, and Greg Gust, a weather service meteorologist in Grand Forks, said a combination of cold, dense air last weekend and an eddy in the river likely caused the disk.

    "It's actually quite beautiful," Schlag said.

    The cold, dense air - the air pressure Saturday in nearby Fargo was a record high for the city for the month of November, according to Gust - turned the river water into ice, but since the water was relatively warm it didn't happen all at once. Floating bits of ice got caught in the eddy and started to spin in a circle.

    "It's not a continuous sheet of ice," Schlag said. "If you were to throw a grapefruit-size rock on it, it would go through. It's not a solid piece of ice - it's a collection of ice cubes."

    Loegering said the spinning disk had frozen up but was still visible in the river.

    "I'm not sure how long it was there (spinning)," he said. "It had to be quite a long time. If you look at the picture, you can see growth rings on the disk."

    Schlag said he was surprised by the size of the ice circle, which he said would be more likely on a larger river such as the Missouri.

    "That might be one of the better examples I've seen," he said. "It's a pretty cool one."

    RELATED ON SKYE: 30 Ice Sculptures That Will Take Your Breath Away

     

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    A NASA spacecraft has captured its best video yet of the icy Comet ISON streaking toward a Thanksgiving Day encounter with a sun, a close shave that the comet might just not survive.

    The latest video of Comet ISON comes from NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft, one of several sun-watching space observatories tracking the comet's close encounter with the sun on Thursday (Nov. 28).

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    "This movie from the spacecraft's Heliospheric Imager shows Comet ISON, Mercury, Comet Encke and Earth over a five-day period from Nov. 20 to Nov. 25, 2013," NASA officials wrote in a video description. "The sun sits right of the field of view of this camera." [Comet ISON's Thanksgiving Sun Encounter: Complete Coverage]

    Known officially as C/2012 S1 (ISON), Comet ISON is what scientists call a "sungrazer" comet because its orbit brings it extremely close to the sun. It is that extremely close solar shave, less than one diameter of the sun away, that has scientists guessing as to whether ISON will survive the encounter.

    In the video, Comet ISON appears as a bright object streaking from left to right as it draws ever closer to the sun. Comet Encke, meanwhile, appears as a dimmer object moving from the upper left to lower right. The planets Mercury and Earth and labeled in the STEREO-A view.

    NASA scientists, amateur astronomers and a fleet of spacecraft are tracking Comet ISON's solar passage on Thursday. The comet has drawn wide interest because of its potential to be a spectacular sight in the night sky, with some scientists dubbing the object a possible "comet of the century."

    Comet ISON's origins in the distant Oort cloud, a realm of icy objects surrounding the entire solar system, has scientists excited because ISON is a pristine sample of the raw ingredients that formed Earth and other planets in the solar system.

    Comet ISON was discovered in September 2012 by Russian amateur astronomers Vitali Nevski and Artyom Novichonok. Since then, it has been meticulously followed by professional and amateur astronomers using ground-based telescopes, as well as space-based observatories. The Hubble Space Telescope and NASA spacecraft orbiting Mars and Mercury have also captured images of the incoming comet.

    On Thursday, NASA will hold a Google Hangout from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EST (1800 to 2030 GMT) to stream live views of the comet during its close sun approach. You will be able to watch the Comet ISON hangout live on SPACE.com here.

    You can follow the latest Comet ISON news, photos and video on SPACE.com.

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

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

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 10 Breathtaking Photos of Comets

     

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    Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013

    The Suomi NPP satellite captured this image of the eastern United States on Nov. 25, 2013, showing the storm system as it moves through the South and Midwest. (Credit: NASA/NOAA)

    A messy winter storm is moving across the eastern half of the United States, threatening to delay drivers and fliers right before Thanksgiving Day, one of the busiest travel times of the year.

    Weather forecasters say a few key atmospheric components joined forces to create this meteorological misery.

    The storm is actually the same upper level low-pressure system, or trough (essentially a dip in the jet stream), that tore over the Southwest over the last few days, Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service said. The storm dumped nearly a foot of snow in parts of northern New Mexico, prompted hundreds of flight cancellations in Texas and caused several deadly traffic accidents across the region, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    Now that it's moving east, the storm is pulling in more moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

    "It's just now getting to the point where once it gets to the Gulf region, it has more moisture to work with," Hurley told LiveScience Tuesday morning (Nov. 26).

    That means a large swath of the eastern United States, from Tennessee to Maine, could see heavy precipitation. Through Thursday morning, the system is expected to unleash between 2 and 4 inches (5 to 10 centimeters) of rain on average, with some areas likely seeing more, said Patrick Burke, another NWS forecaster.

    But residents across the Appalachian Mountains and Great Lakes will likely see snow instead of rain. Several days ago, the storm system was joined by cold air that plunged down out of Canada, setting the stage for wintry precipitation, Burke said.

    While coastal cities like New York and Boston will have a "pretty miserable couple of days," Burke said cities farther inland, such as Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Buffalo, N.Y., will bear the brunt of the storm.

    Hurley explained that these systems "like to go along the path of least resistance, like a railroad track." And for storms, that path is the one with the most moisture and warmth, which is why they tend to move just off the East Coast. This storm, however, is tracking farther inland because of the orientation of the upper level trough, Hurley said.

    "What happens aloft can dictate the low track," Hurley told LiveScience. "In this case, there's just a stronger, deeper trough aloft."

    The track of the storm means that warmer air will be pushed up the East Coast, so some cities closer to the shore will likely be spared from the cold temperatures the storm is expected to bring inland.

    "In Washington, D.C., we'll feel it tonight and tomorrow," Hurley said. "It's going to be pretty humid for late November."

    But the East Coast likely won't be spared from the blustery weather. Hurley said there will be strong winds on either side of this low pressure system.

    NWS forecasters have predicted northwest winds will be blowing 18 to 23 mph (29 to 37 km/h), with gusts as high as 37 mph (60 km/h), on Thanksgiving (Nov. 28) in New York. Those conditions threaten to ground the balloons in Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, The Wall Street Journal said.

    Those traveling over the next several days should check with their local National Weather Service office for updates and weather advisories, forecasters advise.

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

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

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013
    Elegantly set table on the Thanksgiving day.
    (Gettystock)

    Residents and visitors in the South for the Thanksgiving holiday will face the coldest Thanksgiving in years in the wake of recent heavy rain and thunderstorms.

    The turkey and landscape will be cold Thanksgiving morning with many areas having their lowest temperatures so far this season.

    A frost and freeze will reach into new territory for the season so far in the Deep South, reaching the Gulf coast and into portions of central Florida.

    Some unprotected fruits and vegetables grown in north-central Florida could be at risk.

    Temperatures during the cold wave will dip to 15 to 25 degrees below normal and will challenge record lows in some locations.

    According to AccuWeather.com Expert Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker, "Since 1985, only two Thanksgiving days failed to reach 70 degrees in Tampa."

    A high of 65 is forecast in Tampa, Fla., this Thanksgiving.

    RELATED
    Forecast Temperature Maps
    Winter Weather Center
    Frost/Freeze Watches and Warnings

    "Prior chilly Thanksgiving days in Tampa include a high of 67 degrees on Nov. 28, 2002, and a high of 68 degrees on Nov. 23, 2000," Walker said.

    For folks hitting theme parks and golf courses in Florida, it is definitely jacket and long-sleeve weather, especially for the morning and evening hours.

    However, temperatures will rebound Friday into the weekend with dry weather and clear skies forecast for much of the region.

    The only potential inclement weather for visitors and residence along Florida's east coast will be clouds, spotty showers and rough surf.

    Temperature Forecast for Several Cities

    City
    High Thursday
    Atlanta
    47
    Charlotte, N.C.
    43
    Myrtle Beach, S.C.
    47
    Mobile, Ala.
    53
    Orlando, Fla.
    66
    New Orleans
    52
    Jackson, Miss.
    50


    RELATED ON SKYE: The World's Best Christmas Festivals

     

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    Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013
    look for bargains during the traditional Black Friday shopping day at the Target store in Mayfield Hts., Ohio on Friday, Nov. 27, 2009.   (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)
    (AP Photo/Amy Sancetta)

    After a winter storm rumbled across the East Wednesday disrupting Thanksgiving travel, Black Friday is forecast to be cold but calm, as consumers head out for one of the busiest shopping days of the year.

    No major storms are expected in the United States, but cold air from Canada will spread across the eastern part of the country, AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Dave Samuhel said.

    Thursday night will be the chilliest for shoppers who wait outside for the doors to open for Black Friday deals, particularly in the interior Northeast, Samuhel said.

    "The AccuWeather RealFeel(R) temperature will be subzero in parts of the Northeast," Samuhel said. "The cold will be felt down South and West as well. Thursday night's low will be 32 degrees in Houston; that's impressive."

    RELATED:
    Thanksgiving Spirit Thrives in Wake of Devastating Tornadoes
    AccuWeather LIVE: Special Holiday Travel Edition
    Snowfall Accumulation Map

    Some stores are opening Thanksgiving evening, but others will be opening as late as 5 a.m. Friday. The staggered start will give enclosed malls an opportunity to shelter customers who would normally wait outside for Black Friday to start.

    Joy Weidel, spokeswoman for the Logan Valley Mall, Altoona, Pa., and Nittany Mall, State College, Pa., said while more than half of the stores there will open early, other shoppers can stay inside to wait out of the cold.

    The malls plan refreshments and other activities for shoppers as they shop or wait -- a fun, interactive evening, Weidel said.

    Snow showers will wind down in favored lake-effect regions while rain showers and cooler temperatures are stretch from Southern California to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The World's Best Christmas Festivals

     

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    Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013
    A man stands by a rain covered window at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. Bands of ice, sleet and rain were upending some Thanksgiving holiday plans as millions of Americans took to the roads, skies and rails Wednesday, likely the busiest travel day of the year.  (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
    A man stands by a rain covered window at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2013. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

    NEW YORK (AP) - Snoopy, Spider-Man and the rest of the iconic balloons have gotten the all-clear to fly between Manhattan skyscrapers at the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

    There were fears the balloons could be grounded if sustained winds exceeded 23 mph and gusts exceeded 34 mph.

    But the New York Police Department decided Thursday morning that the winds were calm enough for the 16 giant character balloons to lift off.

    Balloons have only been grounded once in the parade's 87-year history, when badweather kept them from flying in 1971.

    The city enacted strict rules after fierce winds in 1997 caused a Cat in the Hat balloon to topple a light pole and seriously injure a spectator.

    A wet and blustery storm along the East Coast made driving hazardous and tangled up hundreds of flights Wednesday but didn't cause the all-out gridlock many Thanksgiving travelers had feared. The storm for the most part unleashed wind-driven rain along the Northeast's heavily populated Interstate 95 corridor from Richmond, Va., to the tip of Maine.

    Elsewhere in the country, Thanksgiving traditions were unaffected by the weather.

    In Washington on Wednesday, President Barack Obama pardoned two 38-pound turkeys named Popcorn and Caramel, fulfilling the annual presidential tradition.

    In a holiday edition of his weekend radio and Internet address, Obama gave thanks for the country's founders, the generations who followed, and members of the military, and their families, for the sacrifices they make.

    He expressed gratitude for the freedoms service members defend, including speech, religion and the right to choose America's leaders. And he had kind words for those who work to make America a more compassionate place.

    Also Wednesday, two American astronauts on board the International Space Station, Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio, released a video from 260 miles above Earth showing off their traditional Thanksgiving meal: irradiated smoked turkey, thermostabilized yams, cornbread dressing, potatoes, freeze-dried asparagus, baked beans, bread, cobbler and dehydrated green bean casserole.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013

    For American astronauts in space, the lack of gravity is no reason to miss a turkey dinner on Thanksgiving.

    On Thursday (Nov. 28), while Americans across the United States chow down on turkey, cranberries, pumpkin pie and other dishes in honor of Thanksgiving Day holiday, Americans in space will be sure to do the same.

    The six crewmembers on the International Space Station will eat a traditional Thanksgiving dinner as they sail 260 miles above the Earth. On the menu are freeze-dried green beans, thermostabilized yams and other dishes prepared to give the astronauts a little taste of home. [Space Food Photos: What Astronauts Eat in Orbit]

    "We now have about 200 different foods and beverages that are part of our baseline food system for the International Space Station," NASA food scientist Vickie Kloeris said today (Nov. 27) during a video interview with SPACE.com. "Included in those are a variety of traditional type Thanksgiving items.

    "For instance, we have sliced turkey that is thermostabilized - it's in a pouch so they warm it up and cut the pouch open and eat out of the pouch with a fork," Kloeris said. "We also have some of the traditional side dishes. We have cornbread dressing freeze-dried - they add water on orbit. We have mashed potatoes - no gravy, unfortunately."

    NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio on the station won't get a full day off for the holiday, but they will get a little free time. Mastracchio and Hopkins will do some work on science experiments and also try to spot the potentially brilliant Comet ISON as it makes its close pass with the sun tomorrow.

    Russian cosmonauts Oleg Kotov, Sergey Ryazanskiy and Mikhail Tyurin are off-duty Thanksgiving Day.

    "People often ask us what it's like to be onboard ISS [International Space Station] for the holidays," Hopkins said in a Thanksgiving video beamed down from the station. "Though we miss our families, it's great to be in space. As astronauts, this is what we train for and this is where we want to be."

    Hopkins and Mastracchio have a host of options to choose from for their holiday meal - including NASA's cornbread dressing - but that wasn't always the case. Before astronauts began their long-duration stays on the space station, food options were much more limited, according to Kloeris.

    "I've been working with space food about 28 years," Kloeris said. "Preservation methods that we've used over the years haven't changed all that much, but the variety has grown a bunch over that time because we've gone from short duration shuttle flights to six month stays on the International Space Station. The amount of variety that we have to provide for a six-month stay is much greater than for a week or two on the shuttle."

    Want to eat like an astronaut? SPACE.com has NASA's special Thanksgiving cornbread dressing recipe.

    Follow Miriam Kramer @mirikramer and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.

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

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

     

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    Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013

    German amateur astronomer Waldemar Skorupa captured this spectacular photo of Comet ISON from Kahler Asten, in Germany, on Nov. 16, 2013. [Credit: Waldemar Skorupa (Kahler Asten, Germany)]


    The moment of truth has finally arrived for Comet ISON.

    The icy wanderer is slated to skim just within 684,000 miles (1.1 million kilometers) above the surface of the sun for a Thanksgiving Day encounter today (Nov. 28) in a cosmic maneuver that skywatchers and scientists alike have been anticipating since the comet's discovery in September 2012. The solar passage could destroy Comet ISON, or make it brighter than ever, scientists say.

    Researchers will discuss the solar flyby and show live spacecraft images of Comet ISON during a NASA-hosted Google+ Hangout from 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EST today (1800 to 2030 GMT). You can watch the event live on SPACE.com, courtesy of NASA TV. [Comet ISON's Sun Encounter: Complete Coverage]

    If Comet ISON survives its Thanksgiving Day plunge, it could put on quite a show for skywatchers in early December and cough up more of its secrets to astronomers. But nobody knows just what the icy object is going to do.

    "This comet is giving us quite a ride," Carey Lisse, a senior research scientist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., told reporters Tuesday (Nov. 26). "It's going to be hard to predict exactly what's going on."

    A fleet of sun-watching spacecraft are tracking Comet ISON's solar passage. The NASA-European run SOHO spacecraft, NASA's twin STEREO probes and the Solar Dynamics Observatory are all recording constant views of the incoming comet. Today, astronauts on the International Space Station will also try to observe the comet as they celebrate Thanksgiving in space.

    A pristine comet

    Comet ISON is making its first-ever trip to the inner solar system from the distant and frigid Oort Cloud. So it's still a relatively pristine body whose volatile components have yet to be baked off by the intense heat of the sun.

    "Comet ISON is a relic," Lisse said. "It's a dinosaur bone of solar-system formation. You need comets in order to build the planets, and this comet has been in deep freeze in the Oort Cloud, halfway to the next star, for the last four and a half billion years."

    Scientists have never before been able to watch an Oort Cloud comet dive past the sun, explaining why they're so excited about ISON. By noting which materials boil off the the object at various distances from our star, they can get an unprecedented look at comet composition and, by extension, what the solar system looked like in its earliest days.

    Further, Comet ISON also serves as a solar probe of sorts, researchers say. For example, some of the comet's particles will cling to the magnetic field in the sun's atmosphere during today's flyby, allowing scientists to test out some of their theories about the processes occurring in this extreme environment.

    "We get a huge amount of science from the solar observations - not only about the comet, but we learn a tremendous amount about space weather and the sun as well," said ?comet scientist Karl Battams, of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

    What will ISON do?

    Scientists and skywatchers hope ISON survives today's close solar approach, allowing more observation as it whips around the sun and heads back out into the depths of space. But at the moment, nobody knows what will happen.

    Three possible fates await Comet ISON, according to Don Yeomans, manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

    "It could be tough enough to survive the passage of the sun and be a fairly bright naked-eye object in the early morning sky in the first week of December," Yeomans said in a statement. "Or, the sun could actually pull it apart. The tidal forces could actually pull this comet apart and so it becomes several chunks rounding the sun and putting on a great show again in early December. Or, if the comet is very weak, it could break up into a cloud of dust and be a complete bust in December."

    If ISON doesn't fizzle out completely, skywatchers should aim to spot the comet - or its fragments - 10 to 14 days from now, low in the sky just before sunrise and just after sunset, Lisse said. (Immediately after the flyby, ISON will be too close to the sun to be seen.) Viewers in the Northern Hemisphere will get much better looks than those in the South. [How to See Comet ISON in the Night Sky]

    Lisse isn't particulary optimistic about Comet ISON's chances, giving the icy wanderer a 40 percent chance of putting on a good sky show after today's encounter.

    "But I also want to say, I'm thrilled to be wrong," he said.

    Editor's note: If you snap an amazing picture of Comet ISON or any other night sky view that you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, send photos, comments and your name and location to managing editor Tariq Malik at spacephotos@space.com.

    You can follow the latest Comet ISON news, photos and video on SPACE.com.

    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.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 10 Breathtaking Photos of Comets

     

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    Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013
    In this frame grab taken from enhanced video made by NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft, comet ISON, left, approaches the sun on Nov. 25, 2013. Comet Encke is shown just below ISON, The sun is to the right, just outside the frame. ISON, which was discovered a year ago, is making its first spin around the sun and will come the closest to the super-hot solar surface on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013, at 1:37 p.m. EST. (AP Photo/NASA)
    In this frame grab taken from enhanced video made by NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft, comet ISON, left, approaches the sun on Nov. 25, 2013. Comet Encke is shown just below ISON, The sun is to the right, just outside the frame. (AP Photo/NASA)

    STOCKHOLM (AP) - Once billed as the comet of the century, Comet ISON apparently was no match for the sun.

    Images from NASA spacecraft showed the comet approaching for a slingshot around the sun on Thursday, but nothing coming out on the other side.

    "It does seem like Comet ISON probably hasn't survived this journey," U.S. Navy solar researcher Karl Battams said in a Google+ hangout.

    Phil Plait, an astronomer who runs the "Bad Astronomy" blog, agreed, saying "I don't think the comet made it."

    Still, he said, it wouldn't be all bad news if the 4.5-billion-year-old space rock broke up into pieces, because astronomers might be able to study them and learn more about comets.

    "This is a time capsule looking back at the birth of the solar system," he said.

    The comet was two-thirds of a mile wide as it got within 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) of the sun, which in space terms basically means grazing it.

    NASA solar physicist Alex Young said it would take a few hours to confirm ISON's demise, but admitted things were not looking good.

    He said the comet had been expected to show up in images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft at around noon eastern time (1700 GMT), but almost four hours later there was "no sign of it whatsoever."

    "Maybe over the last couple of days it's been breaking up," Young told The Associated Press. "The nucleus could have been gone a day or so ago."

    Comet ISON was first spotted by a Russian telescope in September last year.

    Some sky gazers speculated early on that it might become the comet of the century because of its brightness, although expectations dimmed as it got closer to the sun.

    Made up of loosely packed ice and dirt, it was essentially a dirty snowball from the Oort cloud, an area of comets and debris on the fringes of the solar system.

    Two years ago, a smaller comet, Lovejoy, grazed the sun and survived, but fell apart a couple of days later.

    "That's why we expected that maybe this one would make it because it was 10 times the size," Young said.

    It may be a while before there's a sun-grazer of the same size, he said.

    "They are pretty rare," Young said. "So we might not see one maybe even in our lifetime."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 10 Breathtaking Photos of Comets

     

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    Friday, Nov. 29, 2013
    RUSSIA-THEME-COLORS
    A view of the snow covered trees on a mountain side in Krasnaya Polyana near the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, on November 29, 2013. (YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

    With just over two months remaining until the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, the first snow of the season is on the way for the region.

    A storm system will slide through northern Turkey and into Georgia Friday. A swath of rain and snow is likely on the northern fringe of the storm. Pulling in moisture from the Black Sea, the quick-moving storm will also interact with cold air located to the north allowing for snow.

    While the city of Sochi itself should get only some snowflakes mixed with a chilly rain, the Caucasus Mountains east of the city, a prime location for the winter games, can receive 10-20 cm (4-8 inches) of snow Friday.

    AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Eric Wanenchak noted, "The relatively warm water of the Black Sea will help keep the precipitation mainly rain for Sochi, but air rising into the mountains will cool, allowing for snow."

    This mountain snow is crucial to skiing and sliding sports come February. These sports will take place just 30 minutes from Sochi in Krasnaya Polyana and surrounding mountains.

    The past several days have featured bouts of rain for the region while temperatures have dropped from around 20 to 10 degrees C.

    As AccuWeather.com detailed in April, game organizers have been storing snow in the event that there is not enough of a base when the games start.

    After this first round of snow exits in time for the weekend, another brief batch of wintry weather may target the area late Sunday and Monday. A dry and cool weather pattern is expected for the rest of next week.

    RELATED:
    Sochi Weather
    AccuWeather.com Asia Winter Forecast
    AccuWeather.com Europe Winter Forecast

    The town of Sochi, located on the Black Sea in the Krasnodar region of Russia, has similar winter weather to the 2010 Olympic host city of Vancouver. The city does not receive a lot of snow due to the milder air of the Black Sea, but the Caucasus mountains just to the east receive plenty of snow in a typical winter.

    "Sochi, Russia, is located on the sea and is one of the warmest areas in Russia," said AccuWeather Senior Expert Meteorologist Jim Andrews. The temperature in Sochi averages in the mid 30s during the months of December through February.

    The town of Sochi averaged 7.9 inches of precipitation in January with an average monthly temperature of 33 degrees F.

    RELATED ON SKYE: The 10 Snowiest Places on Earth

     

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    Friday, Nov. 29, 2013
    Person on ski lift, Mount Baker, Washington
    (Getty Images/First Light)

    Soaking rain, snow and a blast of cold air is heading for the Northwest later this weekend into early next week.

    While the ski resorts in the Cascades and northern Rockies will welcome the fresh snow, it will create hazardous driving conditions, especially through the passes.

    Snow will be heavy at times Sunday into Monday, and the heavy snowfall rates will significantly reduce visibility and cause roads to become snowpacked and treacherous.

    Gusty winds over 30 mph will also accompany this storm.

    The winds will cause snow to blow and drift and can also cause localized power outages by snapping off tree limbs.

    Times of heavy rainfall can cause localized flooding in low-lying and poor drainage areas, especially in the foothills of the coastal ranges of Washington and Oregon and the Cascades.

    RELATED
    Forecast Temperature Maps
    Winter Weather Center
    Cold Eases in East, Blasts Into West

    Interstate 90 through the Washington Cascades and across northern Idaho and western Montana will be affected, along with Interstate 15 in western Montana.

    Snow levels will start out around 5,000 feet Sunday morning in the northern Rockies then fall Sunday night into Monday as colder air arrives, getting down to the valley floors across Idaho and Montana by Monday morning.

    By late Monday into Monday night, snow levels will fall below 1,000 feet across western Washington southward into western Oregon.

    Seattle, Wash., and the surrounding lowlands can get snow showers mixed with rain showers late Monday and Portland, Ore., can see a snow shower Monday night.

    Temperatures across the Northwest will be abnormally cold into the middle of next week.

    Several locations, including Seattle and Portland, will flirt with their record low temperatures both Tuesday night and Wednesday night.

    AccuWeather.com meteorologists are forecasting nighttime temperatures to dip into the teens and 20s.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 20 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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    Friday, Nov. 29, 2013
    Father Claims Son Was Hit by Meteorite Fragment

    A father in Loxahatchee, Fla. is claiming that his 7-year-old son was struck by meteorite fragments while playing outdoors. The odds of being struck by meteorite fragments are extremely rare, but experts say that doesn't mean it isn't possible. Wayne Lippard claims his son, Steven was playing in the driveway when he was struck by an object. The blow left a laceration on the boy's head that required stitches. Initially, the father and son were unsure what had caused the injury.

    After searching the ground near the driveway, Lippard found a number of tiny, pea-sized rock fragments which were sent for testing at Florida Atlantic University. Though the school was unprepared to properly test the fragments, they were able to determine that the stones were metallic, suggesting they could have come from space. Still, additional testing will need to be done to positively confirm the fragments are, indeed, from a meteorite.

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 10 Breathtaking Photos of Comets

     

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    Friday, Nov. 29, 2013
    In a composite image provided by NASA, Comet ISON nears the sun in an image captured at 10:51 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. The sun was imaged by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, and an image from ESA/NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory shows the solar atmosphere, the corona. Scientists are studying spacecraft images to find out whether a small part ISON survived its close encounter with the sun. (AP Photo/ESA&NASA SOHO/SDO)
    In a composite image provided by NASA, Comet ISON nears the sun in an image captured at 10:51 a.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. (AP Photo/ESA&NASA SOHO/SDO)

    STOCKHOLM (AP) - Scientists were studying spacecraft images Friday to find out whether a small part of Comet ISON survived its close encounter with the sun.

    The comet at first seemed to have fallen apart as it approached the sun's sizzling surface, but new images showed a streak of light moving away from the sun that some said could indicate it wasn't game over just yet.

    "It certainly appears as if there is an object there that is emitting material," said Alan Fitzsimmons, an astronomer at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

    The European Space Agency, which had declared ISON's death on Twitter late Thursday, was backtracking early Friday, saying the comet "continues to surprise."

    Comet ISON, essentially a dirty snowball from the fringes of the solar system, was first spotted by a Russian telescope in September last year.

    Some sky gazers speculated early on that it might become the comet of the century because of its brightness, although expectations dimmed over time.

    The comet was two-thirds of a mile wide as it got within 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) of the sun, which in space terms basically means grazing it.

    NASA solar physicist Alex Young said Thursday the comet had been expected to show up in images from the Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft at around noon eastern time (1700 GMT), but almost four hours later there was "no sign of it whatsoever."

    Images from other spacecraft showed a light streak continuing past the sun, but Young said that was most likely a trail of dust continuing in the comet's trajectory.

    However, instead of fading, that trail appeared to get brighter Friday, suggesting that "at least some small fraction of ISON has remained in one piece," U.S. Navy solar researcher Karl Battams wrote on his blog. He cautioned that even if there is a solid nucleus, it may not survive for long.

    Two years ago, a smaller comet, Lovejoy, grazed the sun and survived, but fell apart a couple of days later.

    ISON's mysterious dance with the sun left astronomers puzzled and excited at the same time.

    "This is what makes science interesting," said Fitzsimmons, who specializes in comets and asteroids. "If we knew what was going to happen, it wouldn't be interesting."

    PHOTOS ON SKYE: 10 Breathtaking Photos of Comets

     

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    Friday, Nov. 29, 2013
    Severe Weather
    This aerial view on Monday, Nov. 18, 2013, two men walk through what is left of a home that was destroyed by a tornado that hit the western Illinois town of Washington on Sunday. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

    WASHINGTON, Ill. (AP) - A dog and his owner have been reunited after the animal was found under a pile of rubble more than a week after a tornado ripped through a central Illinois city.

    Jacob Montgomery of Washington and his dog Dexter were separated when the Nov. 17 tornado damaged Montgomery's third floor apartment.

    Montgomery is a member of the Illinois National Guard.

    A guard spokesman says a neighbor sent Montgomery a Facebook message nine days later to tell him Dexter had been found under debris where the apartment used to be.

    An animal rescuing organization had coaxed the 6-month-old puppy out of the rubble with hot dogs.

    A veterinarian found Dexter to be malnourished, but without any major injuries.

    Montgomery says as soon as the dog saw him "his tail started going."

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

     

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    Saturday, Nov. 30, 2012
    PITTSBURGH, PA - November 26: Mark Swigart, 41, uses a leaf blower to remove snow from the sidewalks along Grandview Avenue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on November 26, 2013.(Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
    November 26: Mark Swigart, 41, uses a leaf blower to remove snow from the sidewalks along Grandview Avenue on November 26, 2013, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

    A fresh blanket of snow will cause slippery roads on another busy travel day across northern New England.

    The snow will arrive on Sunday, which is a bad time for travelers returning home from their Thanksgiving holiday trips.

    Snowfall is not expected to be heavy, but it will reduce visibility and coat the roads enough to create some slick spots.

    Travel on Interstates 89, 91, 93 and 95 can be slow at times from northern Vermont to Maine.

    The snow can also cause delays at the airports in Burlington, Vt., and Bangor, Maine.

    Closer to the coast, including in Portland, Maine, snow showers will mix with rain showers.

    RELATED
    Post-Holiday Travelers May Face Snow, Rain Delays Sunday
    Ski Resorts Open for Season This Holiday Weekend
    Flight Delays and Winter Weather Advisories, Watches and Warnings

    While snow is not expected to accumulate on the roads in that area, the precipitation could cause some delays at Portland International Jetport.

    For area ski resorts, the timing of the snow is welcome, as many are open during the holiday weekend.

    Portions of Maine can have 1 to 3 inches of snow on Sunday, while amounts across the rest of northern New England will generally be an inch or less.

    Another storm system could bring rain, snow and gusty coastal winds to parts of New England on Monday into Tuesday.

    Watch the above video for a detailed forecast for the Northeast.

    RELATED ON SKYE: 15 Photos of Monster Blizzards

     

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