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Science + Astronomy
Explore some of the mysteries of the cosmos. These news articles deal with all things science and astronomy. Black holes, gamma ray bursts, supernovas etc.


Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind
Science-Astronomy
December 04, 2014
Stephen Hawking: "Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn't compete and would be superseded"
Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind
Prof Stephen Hawking, one of Britain’s pre-eminent scientists, has said that efforts to create thinking machines pose a threat to our very existence.

He told the BBC: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

His warning came in response to a question about a revamp of the technology he uses to communicate, which involves a basic form of AI.

But others are less gloomy about AI’s prospects.

Read more

 
Look out! House-sized asteroid set to pass within 160,000km of Earth TODAY
Science-Astronomy
October 27, 2014
  • 15m wide space rock will pass at around 9:12pm UTC (4:12pm EST)
  • Asteroid was only discovered on Sunday 
  • Experts say there is no risk from flyby between Earth and the Moon
  • Asteroid will revisit Earth in 2018 

A house-sized asteroid has been spotted heading for Earth - and will pass just 160,000km from us today.

Called asteroid 2014 UFC56, it is around 15m wide - and was only spotted for the first time yesterday.

Experts say there is no risk from the flyby, which will happen at around 4:12pm EST.

The house-sized asteroid 2014 UF56 will pass between the Earth and the Moon.

The 15 meter wide space rock will miss our planet at a distance of about 160,000 km (0.4 lunar distances) at 9:12 p.m. UTC. 

The asteroid was discovered Saturday.

Despite passing so close to Earth, few if any of us will see the flyby - even with a telescope. 

Experts say it was no surprise the asteroid was not spotted until now. 

'With 90% of near-Earth asteroids larger than 0.6 miles (1 km) discovered, surveys are now focusing on finding 90% of objects larger than 460 feet (140-m),' amateur astronomer Bob King wroes on his blog

 

 
Blasting Stellar Fireball: Caught On Camera For The First Time
Science-Astronomy
October 27, 2014
"The stellar surface turns into one titanic hydrogen bomb throwing a fireball out into space"
Blasting Stellar Fireball: Caught On Camera For The First Time


Recently, the first time-lapse images of a thermonuclear fireball blasting out of a nova star have been captured by the astronomers.

An international team of researchers worked together to map the nova eruption, a baby brother to a supernova explosion. The study is published in the Nature journal.

Professor Peter Tuthill of the University of Sydney’s Institute for Astronomy stated that, “Although novae often play second fiddle in the popular imagination to their more famous big cousins – the supernovae – they are a truly remarkable celestial phenomenon.”

When a striking, compact star known as white dwarf shreds the matter from a nearby companion star with its intense gravitational field, Novae happen.

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Huge Solar Flare Erupts from Biggest Sunspot in 24 Years
Science-Astronomy
October 25, 2014
"This is the fourth substantial flare from this active region since Oct. 19"
Huge Solar Flare Erupts from Biggest Sunspot in 24 Years


The biggest sunspot on the face of the sun in more than two decades unleashed a major flare on Friday (Oct. 24), the fourth intense solar storm from the active star in less than a week.

The solar flare occurred Friday afternoon, reaching its peak at 5:41 p.m. EDT (2141 GMT), and triggered a strong radio blackout at the time, according to the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center. NASA’s sun-watching Solar Dynamics Observatory captured stunning video of the huge solar flare.

The flare erupted from a giant active sunspot known as AR 12192 and was classified as an X3.1-class solar storm — one of the most powerful types of solar storms on the sun — but it is not the first time the sunspot has made its presence known. [Biggest Solar Flares of 2014 in Photos]

“This is the fourth substantial flare from this active region since Oct. 19,” NASA spokesperson Karen Fox wrote in a status update.

Read more

 
Monster Sunspot – Solar Flare: Oops, There Goes The 21st Century
Science-Astronomy
October 25, 2014

sunspot-ar-2192

>UPDATE (10/24, 21:30 GMT) A Strong X3+ Solar Flare Is Currently In Progress and it will be geoeffective because the sunspot is directly facing Earth.

(will update with further information as it develops)

 
LOTS OF SOLAR FLARES: Solar activity is high.

GIANT sunspot AR2192 has produced dozens of C-class solar flares, many M-class flares, and several X-flares (so far).

The most powerful solar flare eruption from this sunspot (so far) is apparently this one currently in progress (10/24) so far an X3+. Previously an X1.6-category blast on Oct 22nd knocked out some radio communication on Earth.

It may be the biggest sunspot group in 25 years.

FULL ARTICLE

 
Earth’s magnetic field ‘could flip in the space of 100 years’
Science-Astronomy
October 21, 2014
Earth’s magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than normal at present
earth magnetic field
Scientists predict that the Earth’s magnetic field can flip far faster than previously thought – unleashing a force which Mayan apocalypse believers thought might destroy our planet in 2012.

Berkeley scientists say that the Earth’s magnetic field can weaken and dip within just 100 years, before flipping so that compasses point south – an event they admit could wreck the entire world’s power grid and expose the world to deadly cosmic rays.

Earth’s magnetic field is weakening 10 times faster than normal at present, leading geophysicists to predict a flip within a few thousand years – but Discovery news says that could understimate the speed of the change.

Authors such as Robert Felix claim that previous reversals have been associated with mass disruptions such as the extinction of Neanderthal man, and with supervolcano eruptions and other apocalyptic events.

The ‘flip’ occurs regularly, but there has not been a documented instance for 800,000 years.

 

Read more

 
Earth at risk after cuts close comet-spotting program, scientists warn
Science-Astronomy
October 21, 2014
Astronomers sound alarm after closure of the Australian early-warning program that spotted the Siding Spring comet
asteroid risk earth

The Earth has been left with a huge blind spot for potentially devastating comet strikes after the only dedicated comet-spotting program in the southern hemisphere lost its funding, leading astronomers have warned.

The program, which discovered the Siding Spring comet that narrowly missed Mars on Sunday, was shut down last year after losing funding.

“It’s a real worry,” Bradley Tucker, an astronomer at the Australian National University (ANU) and University of California Berkeley, told Guardian Australia.

“There could be something hurtling towards us right now and we wouldn’t know about it.”

The Siding Spring survey – named after the observatory near Coonabarabran in central New South Wales, where the Mars comet was first spotted – was the only program in the southern hemisphere actively searching for potentially hazardous comets, asteroids and meteors.

Celestial objects that pass within 7.4m kilometres of the earth, or which are more than 150 metres in diameter, are considered potentially hazardous asteroids (PHAs). There are 1,508 known cases. The most famous asteroid to have struck the Earth landed in Mexico about 65m years ago, and is believed to have caused or contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs.

A 20-metre meteor entered the Earth’s atmosphere undetected in 2013 and exploded spectacularly about 30km above Chelyabinsk in Russia, injuring 1,500 people.

“It’s essentially like a nuclear bomb going off in the atmosphere,” Tucker said. “These things can do inconceivable damage.”

 

Read more

 
U.S. may keep nuclear warheads handy for giant asteroid threat
Science-Astronomy
October 03, 2014
Nuclear warheads no longer considered necessary for national defense may be used against asteroids on a collision course with Earth
U.S. may keep nuclear warheads handy for giant asteroid threat
Should an approaching asteroid represent a possible collision risk to the Earth, officials say the United States could be ready to respond — with an arsenal of nuclear weapons.

Several federal agencies are reportedly considering the feasibility of keeping some nuclear warheads that are no longer considered necessary for the national defense as possible protections against asteroids on a collision course with the Earth.

The proposal was revealed in a Government Accountability Office report on the federal agency responsible for America’s nuclear weapons, the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is planning on dismantling a portion of the country’s Cold War nuclear arsenal.

While that dismantling is underway there are plans to keep some warheads “pending a senior-level government evaluation of their use in planetary defense against earthbound asteroids,” the GOA report said.

Read more

 
Study Reveals Death of Ancient Stars Led to Universe
Science-Astronomy
September 29, 2014
Current solar systems, stars formed from mass left by ancient stars
Study Reveals Death of Ancient Stars Led to Universe
At first glance, it looks uncannily like an image of the human brain.

But in fact, this is the death of one of the first stars in our Universe.

Researchers say the death throes of these early stars were unique as they exploded as supernovae and burned completely, leaving no black hole behind, but instead spewing out chemical elements into space that eventually formed our Universe.

Read more

 
Scientists: ‘Extreme’ solar storm heading to Earth
Science-Astronomy
September 10, 2014

Scientists say an extreme solar flare is blasting its way to Earth and could mess up some power grids, satellites and radio transmissions.

Forecasters at the Space Weather Prediction Center don't yet know when Wednesday's solar storm will arrive here and which part of the planet will be facing the sun and bear the brunt of the effects. It could be as early as Thursday morning to a few days.

Prediction Center director Tom Berger said scientists will have a better idea after they get more satellite data.

The flare is considered extreme on forecasters' scale, but just barely. Flares like this cause geomagnetic storms which can knock some power grids offline temporarily. They also can damage satellites and disrupt radio transmissions. But they expand the colorful northern lights.

solar storm september 2014

 
Stephen Hawking: God particle could wipe out the universe
Science-Astronomy
September 08, 2014

.hawking98.png

Is Stephen Hawking offering only a theoretical doomsday scenario for the Higgs Boson?

Stephen Hawking seems to have turned into the man with the sandwich board that says: "The end is nigh."

Not only has he warned us that aliens might destroy us, but he's also been worrying that artificial intelligence might do the same.

Now he's perceiving a threat that might not merely put an end to Earth, but to the whole Universe.

 
Killer robots a small step away and must be outlawed, says top UN official
Science-Astronomy
August 27, 2014

A senior UN official says battlefield robots that can kill without human control are a 'small step' away and should be banned

Killer robots programmed to open fire without human control are just a “small step” from the battlefield and military powers should agree to outlaw them, a top United Nations official has said.

Angela Kane, the UN’s high representative for disarmament, said governments should be more open about programmes to develop the technology and she favoured a pre-emptive ban before it was too late.

She said: “Any weapon of war is terrible, and if you can launch this without human intervention, I think it’s even worse. It compounds the problem and dehumanises it in a way.

“It becomes a faceless war and I think that’s really terrible and so to my mind I think it should be outlawed. The decision is really in the hands of the states who have the capability to develop them."

Ms Kane said there was “a great deal of concern” about the prospect of killer robots being developed that would commit war crimes on the battlefield.

 
Asteroid that 'could wipe out human life' heading for Earth!
Science-Astronomy
August 15, 2014

asteroid 1950 DA

 

Scientists have moved closer to being able to stop a huge asteroid colliding with the Earth and potentially wiping out human life.

Researchers at the University of Tennessee have discovered that blowing the space rock up could make the collision worse by causing several devastating impacts.

Instead, small changes could be made to its surface to disrupt the forces keeping it together and cause it to break up in outer space.

They were studying asteroid 1950 DA, which has a one in 300 chance of hitting the planet on 16 March, 2880.

 
Apocalypse NOW: Killer solar superstorm could destroy Earth at ANY MOMENT
Science-Astronomy
August 02, 2014
VIOLENT solar superstorms could destroy life as we know it at ANY MOMENT, shocked scientists have warned today.

A solar flare could destroy the earth at any moment

Solar flares could destroy the earth at any moment[GETTY]

It is “only a matter of time” before a catastrophic eruption on the surface of the sun hurtles towards the planet with devastating consequences.

The Earth could be the target of an explosion equivalent to “10 billion Hiroshima bombs exploding at the same time”.

It has emerged crisis meetings have been held to discuss how to limit the damage of solar superstorms which present a “long-lasting” threat to all forms of life.

Scientists warn communication systems will be crippled, vital services such as transport, sanitation and medicine will close, and loss of power will plunge the planet into darkness.

Ashley Dale, member of international task force SolarMAX set up to identify the risks of a solar storm, said: “Without power, people would struggle to fuel their cars at petrol stations, get money from cash dispensers or pay online.

“Water and sewage systems would be affected too, meaning that health epidemics in urbanised areas would quickly take a grip, with diseases we thought we had left behind centuries ago soon returning.”

A solar flare eruption that was captured by NASA

An eruption was captured here by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory [NASA]

The earth would be obliterated if the sun was to send out a flare

The earth would be obliterated if the sun was to send out a flare [NASA]

The warning comes as Britain is experiencing one of the hottest summers on record. Scientists have warned of "highly unusual activity" on the surface of the sun which has already sent smaller solar flares spiralling towards earth.

Solar storms are triggered when coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the sun tear into the earths magnetic field ripping it apart.

This triggers huge surges of electrical currents which lead to widespread power outages and destroy machinery which use electricity.

Mr Dale, currently writing a doctorate on aerospace engineering at Bristol University, said it is only a “matter of time” before a violent solar storm smashes into Earth.

He warned the planet is facing a repeat of the devastating solar superstorm of 1859 - dubbed the Carrington Event after English astronomer Richard Carrington.

Carrington spotted a solar flare before terrifying fireballs hurtled across the atmosphere making people think it was the end of the world.

Reports followed of sparks showering from telegraph machines, out of control fires and electrical operators being injured.

Around 10^22 kJ of energy catapulted around a trillion kilos of charged particles towards the Earth at speeds of up to 1,900 miles per second.

 
Hedge fund manager issues EMP warning to investors
Science-Astronomy
July 29, 2014
Concept image of an electromagnetic field

Billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer has issued an unusual warning for investors, calling the threat of a widespread blackout from an electromagnetic surge the "most significant danger" in the world. Called an "electromagnetic pulse" or EMP, the events can occur naturally from solar storms or artificially from a high-altitude explosion of nuclear weapons. -- "While these pages are typically chock full of scary or depressing scenarios, there is one risk that is head-and-shoulders above all the rest in terms of the scope of potential damage adjusted for the likelihood of occurrence," Singer wrote to clients of his $24.8 billion Elliott Management on Monday in a standard investment update letter. "Even horrendous nuclear war, except in its most extreme form, can [be] a relatively localized issue, and the threat from asteroids can (possibly) be mitigated."

 
How a solar storm two years ago nearly caused a catastrophe on Earth
Science-Astronomy
July 24, 2014
Solar flare preceding CMEs on July 22, 2012 (NASA)

On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth’s atmosphere.  These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years.

“If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces,” physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA.

 
Suddenly, the sun is eerily quiet: Where did the sunspots go?
Science-Astronomy
July 19, 2014

A few weeks ago it was teeming with sunspots, as you would expect since we are supposed to be in the middle of solar maximum -- the time in the sun's 11-year cycle when it is the most active.

A nearly spotless sun

But now, there is hardly a sunspot in sight. If you look closely at the image above, taken on July 18 by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, you will see a tiny smidge of brown just right of center where a small sunspot appears to be developing. But just one day before, there truly was nothing. It was a totally spotless day.

 
U.S. Plans for Power-Grid Crippling Sun Storm
Science-Astronomy
July 07, 2014

Corporations and the federal government may not be prepared for a severe geomagnetic storm..

U.S. Plans for Power-Grid Crippling Sun Storm

At Delta Air Lines’ (DAL) operations center in Atlanta, meteorologists do more than monitor the usual wind, rain, and snow. They also keep a close eye out for a less common but potentially more dangerous phenomenon known as space weather. The sun’s eruptions can send billions of tons of superheated, electrically charged gas hurtling through the solar system. When these clouds hit the earth’s magnetic field, they can result in geomagnetic storms that disrupt electric power and communications systems.

 
Bus-Size Asteroid Buzzes Earth, Comes Closer Than the Moon
Science-Astronomy
May 04, 2014

A small asteroid about the size of a city bus zipped by Earth at a range closer than the moon early Saturday (May 3), but posed no threat to our planet.

The newly discovered asteroid 2014 HL129 came within 186,000 miles (299,338 kilometers) of Earth when it made its closest approach on Saturday morning, which is close enough to pass between the planet and the orbit of the moon. The average distance between the Earth and moon is about 238,855 miles (384,400 km).

You can watch a video animation of asteroid 2014 HL129's orbit around the sun on Space.com. The asteroid is about 25 feet (7.6 meters) wide, according to NASA's Asteroid Watch project based at the agency's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. It made its closest approach to Earth at 4:13 a.m. EDT (0813 GMT).

 
Super Space Storm Like 2012 Hits Earth : Picking Up Pieces For Years
Science-Astronomy
April 30, 2014

A new video from NASA’s science division highlights the fact that earth is one X-Class solar flare away from a situation that would completely alter life on earth as we know it today.

Such events have played out at various times in our history, with the most notable recent examples occurring in 1859 and 1989.

The 1859 ‘Carrington Event’ was so powerful that newspapers of the time reported communication lines showed visible surges and telegraph offices literally went up in flames.

solar flare event disaster
 
'City-Killer' space rocks : Sentinel satellite to launch in 2018
Science-Astronomy
April 22, 2014
  • New research has revealed asteroids hit Earth more often than first thought
  • Announcement was made by former astronauts at the B612 Foundation
  • From 2000 to 2013 former astronauts studied explosion data on Earth
  • They found 26 instances were likely caused by asteroids exploding high up in the atmosphere
  • This makes impacts up to ten times more common than original estimates
  • However, the majority of the impacts occurred in unpopulated areas including the Atlantic and Pacific oceans
  • Researchers have proposed a satellite to detect asteroids before they hit
  • The Sentinel satellite would launch in 2018 and would find 500,000 by 2024

Sentinel Satellite Asteroid Impact

 
Asteroids cause dozens of nuclear-scale blasts in Earth's atmosphere
Science-Astronomy
April 22, 2014
asteroid threat nuclear explosion
Asteroids caused 26 nuclear-scale explosions in the Earth's atmosphere between 2000 and 2013, a new report reveals. Some were more powerful – in one case, dozens of times stronger – than the atom bomb blast that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945 with an energy yield equivalent to 16 kilotons of TNT.

Most occurred too high in the atmosphere to cause any serious damage on the ground. But the evidence was a sobering reminder of how vulnerable the Earth was to the threat from space, scientists said. The impacts were recorded by the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organisation, which operates a global network of sensors set up to detect nuclear weapon detonations. None of the asteroids were picked up or tracked in advance by any space- or Earth-based observatory.
 
The Scientific Revolution: Bringing an Extinction Level Event Right To Your Door
Science-Astronomy
April 07, 2014
I’m not quite old enough yet to spend my days considering how I, as an individual, will die. I have seen so many things in my former life in the hospital that it would be almost impossible to pick one as the most likely cause of my demise.

Increasingly I have considered that what finishes me off will most likely take a whole load of other people with me. A nuclear winter from Yellowstone popping off cutting the food supply, a pandemic like Ebola sweeping the globe, bad weather causing widespread famine or maybe a solar flare ending life as we know it. All of these things could, and possibly would be what I call an AELE…an Almost Extinction Level Event. I say almost because all of them would see some people surviving, and hopefully one of them would be me.

The last year or so though, my thoughts have drifted from an AELE, to a total ELE, an Extinction Level Event that actually kills off the entire human race.

 
Society Is Doomed, Scientists Claim
Science-Astronomy
March 20, 2014
society is doomed

There's never been a shortage of doomsday scenarios. From the dreaded Mayan Apocalypse of 2012 (remember that?) to the havoc wreaked in the movie "The Day After Tomorrow," people have been predicting the end of civilization for as long as there has been a civilization.

The trouble is, they're sometimes correct: The Roman Empire fell spectacularly, as did the Mayan civilization, the Han Dynasty of China, India's Gupta Empire and dozens of other once-mighty kingdoms.

But how, exactly, do powerful empires collapse, and why? Researchers now believe they've found an answer, one that has troubling implications for today — because we're clearly on the road to ruin.
 
Destructive solar blasts narrowly missed Earth in 2012
Science-Astronomy
March 20, 2014

Fierce solar blasts that could have badly damaged electrical grids and disabled satellites in space narrowly missed Earth in 2012, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.

The bursts would have wreaked havoc on the Earth's magnetic field, matching the severity of the 1859 Carrington event, the largest solar magnetic storm ever reported on the planet. That blast knocked out the telegraph system across the United States, according to University of California, Berkeley research physicist Janet Luhmann.

"Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous," Luhmann said in a statement.

 
Earth's Greatest Extinction Hardly Changed Ocean Ways of Life
Science-Astronomy
February 24, 2014
greatest extinction

Earth's largest mass extinction had surprisingly little effect on the range of lifestyles seen on the planet's seafloor, despite the loss of more than 90 percent of marine species, researchers find.

Understanding the impacts of this ancient extinction event may shed light on the damage climate change might now inflict on the planet, the scientists say.

The end-Permian mass extinction, which occurred 252 million years ago, was the biggest die-off in the planet's history, and the largest of the five mass extinctions seen in the fossil record. The cataclysm killed as much as 95 percent of all species on Earth.  [LS]

 
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