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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.


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]

 
Asteroid to hurtle past the Earth at 27,000 mph
Science-Astronomy
February 17, 2014
asteroid 2000 EM26

A ‘potentially hazardous’ asteroid which is three times the size of a football pitch and travelling at 27,000 miles an hour will pass close to Earth on Monday night.

Although the speeding chunk of rock – named 2000 EM26 – will be 1.6 million miles away it still represents a close shave for our planet in astronomical terms.

It will be tracked by the online Slooh Space Camera which monitors asteroids but scientists say it poses no threat to Earth.

 
Sunspot Larger than Jupiter, and Still Unleashing More Flares
Science-Astronomy
February 11, 2014
sunspot AR 1944 threat to earth

As most Americans go about their daily lives without care or concern for what’s happening around them, 92 million miles away a catastrophic threat may well be in the making.

In January, the NOAA identified a sizable sun spot dubbed AR 1944. Within hours of warnings being issued about the potential for this particular region of the sun to cause earth-directed coronal mass ejections it sent an X-class solar flare our way. While powerful, that particular flare and the subsequent M-class flares were not strong enough to cause any significant disruptions on earth.

But as the spot rotated to the other side of the sun things got interesting… and ever more dangerous for the people of earth.

AR1944 has since been renamed to AR1967, and the region is now more active than it was in January. According to sky photographer John Chumack, AR1967 has grown considerably. It is now wider than Jupiter. That’s big. So big, in fact, that you can fit over 100 earth-sized planets into it. [FULL STORY]

 
Sun Goes Wild: Earth Directed X-Class Flare Is On Its Way; Chance Of More
Science-Astronomy
January 07, 2014
x class solar flare 2014

This morning The Daily Sheeple reported that the biggest sun spot in recent history had been identified on the sun and that it had moved into position facing earth. The spot is so large that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it could swallow three earths.

The spot was mostly quiet for the last few days and wasn’t directly facing earth, though a smaller Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) glanced the planet in the early hours of January 7th.

Then at 12:32 Central Time it went wild: [SHTFPLAN]

 
Sun's Current Solar Activity Cycle Is Weakest in a Century
Science-Astronomy
December 14, 2013
solar cycle lowest in century
The sun's current space-weather cycle is the most anemic in 100 years, scientists say.

Our star is now at "solar maximum," the peak phase of its 11-year activity cycle. But this solar max is weak, and the overall current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, conjures up comparisons to the famously feeble Solar Cycle 14 in the early 1900s, researchers said.

"None of us alive have ever seen such a weak cycle. So we will learn something," Leif Svalgaard of Stanford University told reporters here today (Dec. 11) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.  [SPACE]

 
Earth's Greatest Killer Finally Caught
Science-Astronomy
December 12, 2013
earths greatest killer disaster
Geology is partly detective work, and scientists now have enough evidence to book a suspect in the biggest environmental catastrophe in Earth's history.

Painstaking analysis of rocks from China and Russia prove the culprit is a series of massive volcanic eruptions, which flooded ancient Siberia with thick lava flows just before Earth's worst mass extinction almost 252 million years ago, researchers said here yesterday (Dec. 11) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Thanks to new computer models of the eruption's devastating effects, and detailed mapping of rocks deposited around the time of the mass dying, researchers now have their best case ever for pinning the extinction on the enormous lava outpouring.

 
“Solar Flares… Will Short Circuit Satellites, Power Grids, Ground Comm. Equipment”
Science-Astronomy
December 11, 2013
worst case scenario disaster
Researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder recently completed analyzing data from a Coronal Mass Ejection that took place in the summer of 2012. The CME, which was reportedly the most powerful electrical discharge ever recorded from the sun, narrowly missed earth. It was not “earth directed,” meaning the electro-magnetic mass was ejected by the sun when it was facing away from our planet. However, had it occurred just a week prior, the highly charged particles would have struck earth and, according to CU-Boulder Professor Daniel Baker, would have led to nothing short of a technological disaster across the globe.

The CME itself was massive… and its speed was unprecedented, clocking in at 7 million miles per hour. [SHTFPLAN]

 
From sunspots to solar eruptions: Amateur astronomer captures incredible images of sun
Science-Astronomy
December 05, 2013
amateur sun pictures amazing
  • Jose Manteca from Begues, near Barcelona, took the photos from a small observatory on the terrace of his house
  • The 54-year-old says he spends hours on the terrace gazing into space, hoping to spot scintillating solar activity
  • He has developed a technique to take 15 images per second using a humble DSLR camera and a solar telescope
  • Images include stunning close-ups of solar prominences, sunspots and even a plane crossing the face of the sun

Despite being 93 million miles from the sun, amateur astronomer Jose Manteca has captured these stunning shots from his back garden. Mr Manteca, who works as a sales representative, installed a small observatory on the terrace of his house in 2011. Ever since he has used a humble DSLR camera to capture breathtaking shots - including solar prominences, sunspots and even a plane crossing the face of the sun.
 
Calm solar cycle prompts questions about impact on Earth
Science-Astronomy
November 25, 2013
sun solar cycle 2013
The surface of the sun has been surprisingly calm of late -- with fewer sunspots than anytime in in the last century -- prompting curious scientists to wonder just what it might mean here on Earth.

Sunspots have been observed for millennia -- first by Chinese astronomers and then, for the first time with a telescope, by Galileo in 1610.

The sunspots appear in roughly 11-year cycles -- increasing to a daily flurry and then subsiding drastically, before amping up again. But this cycle -- dubbed cycle 24 -- has surprised scientists with its sluggishness. The number of spots counted since it kicked off in December 2008 is well below the average observed over the last 250 years. In fact, it's less than half.

 
Scientists witness massive gamma-ray burst, don't understand it
Science-Astronomy
November 22, 2013
massive gamma ray burst

An exploded star some 3.8 billion light-years away is forcing scientists to overhaul much of what they thought they knew about gamma-ray bursts – intense blasts of radiation triggered, in this case, by a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole.

Last April, gamma rays from the blast struck detectors in gamma-ray observatories orbiting Earth, triggering a frenzy of space- and ground-based observations. Many of them fly in the face of explanations researchers have developed during the past 30 years for the processes driving the evolution of a burst from flash to fade out, according to four research papers appearing Friday in the journal Science. -- "Some of our theories are just going down the drain,” said Charles Dermer, an astrophysicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and a member of one of the teams reporting on their observations of the burst, known as GRB 130427A.

 
Russian fireball shows meteor risk may be bigger
Science-Astronomy
November 06, 2013
meteor risk
Scientists studying the terrifying meteor that exploded without warning over a Russian city last winter say the threat of space rocks smashing into Earth is bigger than they thought.

Meteors about the size of the one that streaked through the sky at 42,000 mph and burst over Chelyabinsk in February — and ones even larger and more dangerous — are probably four, five or even seven times more likely to hit the planet than scientists believed before the fireball, according to three studies published Wednesday in the journals Nature and Science.
 
Two billion planets in our galaxy may be suitable for life
Science-Astronomy
November 04, 2013
life outside earth
Our galaxy probably contains at least two billion planets that, like Earth, have liquid water on their surfaces and orbit around their parent stars in the "habitable zone" for life. The nearest, according to astronomers, could be a mere 12 light years away.

A new study, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that Earth-like planets capable of supporting life are far more common than previously thought. Using measurements from Nasa's Kepler space observatory, scientists led by Erik Petigura the University of California, Berkely, estimated that 22% of our galaxy's sun-like stars had rocky planets circling them that were within the zone that meant they got roughly the same amount of light energy as Earth gets from the sun. There are around 100bn stars in our galaxy, of which 10% are like the sun.
 
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