Biodiversity isn’t just pretty: it future-proofs our world

By Elizabeth Boakes, a research associate at the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research at University College London. Edited by Sally Davies

A small boy hauls enthusiastically on his fishing rod. The line flies up and a needle-spined fish strikes him in the eye. Desperate to stay outdoors, he ignores the pain, but his sight deteriorates over the following months. He continues to pursue his love of nature but, now blind in one eye, he is confined to studying creatures that are easy to see: insects. He grows to become the global authority on ants, and in later life is given the moniker ‘the father of biodiversity’.

Continue reading Biodiversity isn’t just pretty: it future-proofs our world

Super Blue Blood Moon 2018

Today (January 31), with popular terms, there was a “super blue blood moon”. It will be the first full total moon eclipse since September 27/28, 2015. What’s more, it was the first Blue Moon / Blood Moon visible from the United States since 1866.

UPDATE: NASA is live now, saying “We’re live online with views of the #SuperBlueBloodMoon from @UHawaiiNews.” (Click here to watch the live stream)

Continue reading Super Blue Blood Moon 2018

Watch: Astronaut Shares Photos of Places He’d Visited on Earth Alongside Photos of the Same Locations he Snapped from Space

NASA astronaut Randy “Komrade” Bresnik, the commander of the Expedition 53 (the 53rd expedition to the International Space Station) has published a beautiful video on his twitter account titled “Through the eyes of a spaceman: One World Many Views”. In the video, Bresnik shared photos of places he’d visited on Earth alongside photos of the same locations he snapped from space. He also wrote: “You don’t have to be in outer space to experience the beauty of our home planet. Capture the beauty of a moment, or the excitement of an instant, and share it with others.”

Continue reading Watch: Astronaut Shares Photos of Places He’d Visited on Earth Alongside Photos of the Same Locations he Snapped from Space

Watch: Earth from the Geostationary Orbit

An amazing time-lapse video of Earth from the geostationary orbitNotes 1. The video was generated from the images taken by Japanese weather satellite Himawari 8, which takes a photo of Earth every 10 minutes. Himawari 8 is the 8th of the Himawari geostationary weather satellites operated by the Japan Meteorological Agency.

Continue reading Watch: Earth from the Geostationary Orbit

There’s a Memorial to Fallen Astronauts on the Moon

On August 2, 1971, during the third EVA (Extravehicular activity) of Apollo 15 Notes 1 mission, commander David Scott drove the rover away from Lunar Module, where the television camera could be used to observe the lunar liftoff. Then he left a small aluminum statuette called “Fallen Astronaut” next to the rover, which commemorates those astronauts and cosmonauts who lost their lives in the pursuit of space exploration. Scott also left a plaque bearing the names of 14 known American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts deceased by that time, along with the statuette. The names of Astronauts and cosmonauts were inscribed in alphabetical order on the plaque.

The “fallen astronaut” statuette was created by the Belgian sculptor, painter, and printmaker Paul Van Hoeydonck. It is an 8.5-centimeter (3.3 in) aluminum sculpture, a small stylized figure, meant to depict an astronaut in a spacesuit. Before the mission, commander David Scott met Van Hoeydonck at a dinner party. It was there agreed that Van Hoeydonck would create a small statuette for Scott to place on the Moon. Scott’s purpose was to commemorate those astronauts and cosmonauts who had lost their lives in the furtherance of space exploration. He also designed and separately made a plaque listing fourteen American astronauts and Soviet cosmonauts’ names who lost their lives in the pursuit of space exploration. Van Hoeydonck was given a set of design specifications: the sculpture was to be lightweight but sturdy, capable of withstanding the temperature extremes of the Moon; it could not be identifiably male or female, nor of any identifiable ethnic group. According to Scott, it was agreed Van Hoeydonck’s name would not be made public, to avoid the commercial exploitation of the US government’s space program. Scott kept the agreement secret from NASA management prior to the mission, smuggling the statue aboard his spacecraft.Notes 2

Continue reading There’s a Memorial to Fallen Astronauts on the Moon

Why meteoroids explode before they reach Earth?

On 15 February 2013, an approximately 20-meter (66 feet) meteoroidNotes 1 entered Earth’s atmosphere over Russia, with a speed of 19.16 ± 0.15 kilometers per second (60,000-69,000 km/h or 40,000-42,900 mph). Its mass is estimated at 7,000 to 10,000 tons, one of the largest meteoroids entered Earth’s atmosphere in the recent history. Then, at 9:20 am local time (03:20 UTC), it exploded some 20 to 30 kilometers above the city of Chelyabinsk and created a gigantic fireball (known as a superbolideNotes 1) brighter than the Sun. An estimated 500 kilotons of energy was released by the explosion. For a comparison, the “Little Boy”, the atomic bomb dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945 exploded with an energy of approximately 15 kilotons of TNT. So, the Chelyabinsk meteor’s explosion was about 33 times stronger. The shock waves damaged several thousand buildings and injured approximately 1,500 people. No deaths were reported.

Scientists estimate such events occur on average once every 100 years. The most well-known was the Tunguska event, which occurred near the Stony Tunguska River in Yeniseysk Governorate (now Krasnoyarsk Krai), Russia, on the morning of 30 June 1908. It is also the largest impact event on Earth in recorded history. Studies have yielded different estimates of the meteoroid’s size, on the order of 60 to 190 meters (200 to 620 feet), depending on whether the body was a comet or a denser asteroid.

Continue reading Why meteoroids explode before they reach Earth?

Watch: How Earth will look in 250 million years

Earth’s outer shell is divided into multiple plates that slowly glide over the mantle. The movement of these plates slowly changes Earth’s surface over time by merging, or separating, continents. 250 million years from now, consistent with the supercontinent cycleNotes 1, there will be a possible future supercontinent called Pangaea Ultima. Hypothesized by Christopher Scotese, a geologist at the University of Texas at Arlington, Pangaea Ultima earned its name from its similarity to the previous Pangaea supercontinent, which was formed about 335 million years ago, and began to break apart about 175 million years ago. Here is a beautiful video published by the Tech Insider channel showing the formation of this supercontinent.

Continue reading Watch: How Earth will look in 250 million years

Watch: The Man Who Flies With Migrating Birds

Using a two-seater ultralight aircraft built by himself, Frenchman Christian Moullec flies with migrating birds since 1995. In that year, dubbed the “birdman“, Moullec, saw that lesser white-fronted geese were struggling with their migration from Germany to Sweden. Inspired by the work of the famous Austrian ethologist Konrad Lorenz Notes 1, known as “the man who walked with geese”, he decided to help them and built his handmade aircraft. Today, if the weather permits, he flies with birds almost every day and guides them through their journey. This stunning footage published by National Geographic shows Moullec, “the man who flies with migrating birds” guiding the flocks of vulnerable species in his ultralight and taking enthralled passengers with him. According to National Geographic, he takes tourists up to fly with birds from March through October.

Continue reading Watch: The Man Who Flies With Migrating Birds

Watch: 12 Years Ago, New Horizons’ fantastic voyage began with a spectacular launch

Twelve years ago, on January 19, 2006, aboard an Atlas V rocket, NASA’s New Horizons probe started its fantastic voyage of exploration with a spectacular launch from the Florida coast toward Pluto and the mysterious realm of the Kuiper Belt beyond.

Video: two views of launch of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft aboard an Atlas V rocket on January 19, 2006, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. New Horizons was the fastest spacecraft ever launched, leaving Earth at approximately 16.26 kilometers per second (58,536 km/h; 36,373 mph).

Continue reading Watch: 12 Years Ago, New Horizons’ fantastic voyage began with a spectacular launch