Good Luck ISON!

comet ISON

In this frame grab taken from enhanced video made by Nasa’s STEREO-A spacecraft, comet ISON, left, approaches the sun on November 25. 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 today

Astronomers hope ‘comet of the century’ will survive its close encounter with the sun this evening

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‘Let’s tax the sun’: new law shocks world press


A new tax on solar power introduced two weeks ago by the Spanish government has been described as “ludicrous” and “stupid” in two leading international publications.

'Let's tax the sun': new law shocks world press

Some homeowners have removed their solar panels rather than face fines of up to €30 million. Photo: JOHN MOORE/GETTY IMAGES/AFP


It pointed out that Spain “is one of the top countries in the world with respect to installed photovoltaic (PV) solar energy capacity.”


But the author took an incredulous tone and noted: “Spain is now attempting to scale back the use of solar panels – the use of which they have encouraged and subsidized over the last decade – by imposing a tax on those who use the panels.”


She added: “You get the feeling that government officials were out of ideas, stared up at the sky one day and thought, ‘I’ve got it! We’ll tax the sun!'”

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Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2013

More Than 20,000 (Pagans) Celebrate At World Heritage Site (PICTURES)


STONEHENGE, England — Police say more than 20,000 celebrants have gathered at the famed Stonehenge monument to mark the summer solstice.

The cloud cover Friday morning prevented bright sunshine at dawn of the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere but a joyous spirit prevailed.

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Earth’s core far hotter than thought

New measurements suggest the Earth’s inner core is far hotter than prior experiments suggested, putting it at 6,000C – as hot as the Sun’s surface.

Earth layers graphic The Earth’s solid inner core is surrounded by a fast-moving liquid core, giving rise to the planet’s magnetic field

By Jason Palmer Science and technology reporter, BBC News

The solid iron core is actually crystalline, surrounded by liquid.

But the temperature at which that crystal can form had been a subject of long-running debate.

Experiments outlined in Science used X-rays to probe tiny samples of iron at extraordinary pressures to examine how the iron crystals form and melt.

Seismic waves captured after earthquakes around the globe can give a great deal of information as to the thickness and density of layers in the Earth, but they give no indication of temperature.

That has to be worked out either in computer models that simulate the Earth’s insides, or in the laboratory.

X-ray vision

Measurements in the early 1990s of iron’s “melting curves” – from which the core’s temperature can be deduced – suggested a core temperature of about 5,000C.

“It was just the beginning of these kinds of measurements so they made a first estimate… to constrain the temperature inside the Earth,” said Agnes Dewaele of the French research agency CEA and a co-author of the new research.

X-ray diffraction setup at ESRF
Iron samples were subjected to enormous pressures before being probed with a spray of intense X-rays

“Other people made other measurements and calculations with computers and nothing was in agreement. It was not good for our field that we didn’t agree with each other,” she told BBC News.

The core temperature is crucial to a number of disciplines that study regions of our planet’s interior that will never be accessed directly – guiding our understanding of everything from earthquakes to the Earth’s magnetic field.

“We have to give answers to geophysicists, seismologists, geodynamicists – they need some data to feed their computer models,” Dr Dewaele said.

The team has now revisited those 20-year-old measurements, making use of the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility – one of the world’s most intense sources of X-rays.

To replicate the enormous pressures at the core boundary – more than a million times the pressure at sea level – they used a device called a diamond anvil cell – essentially a tiny sample held between the points of two precision-machined synthetic diamonds.

Once the team’s iron samples were subjected to the high pressures and high temperatures using a laser, the scientists used X-ray beams to carry out “diffraction” – bouncing X-rays off the nuclei of the iron atoms and watching how the pattern changed as the iron changed from solid to liquid.

Those diffraction patterns give more insight into partially molten states of iron, which the team believes were what the researchers were measuring in the first experiments.

They suggest a core temperature of about 6,000C, give or take 500C – roughly that of the Sun’s surface.

But importantly, Dr Dewaele said, “now everything agrees”.


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Radioactive solar blast to hit Earth

NASA tracks particles moving at 900 miles per second


A burst of radioactive solar particles has erupted from the Sun, streaking toward Earth at 900 miles per second, NASA has announced.

The event, called a coronal mass ejection, or CME, while not occurring as frequently as solar flares, is still a common phenomenon. This time, however, rather than projecting out into space, it’s headed straight for Earth.

Given the direction and speed of the CME, Science World Report explains, mild to moderate effects may be felt as soon as today.

When a CME strikes the Earth, the traveling body of solar energetic particles can – on rare occasion – causes a significant enough geomagnetic storm to disrupt the Earth’s magnetosphere. Results may include stronger aurorae around the Earth’s magnetic poles, disruption of radio transmissions and even damage to satellites and electrical transmission facilities, which could cause power outages.

NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory and ESA/NASA’s Solar and Heliospheric Observatory reportedly observed the event, while experimental research models have measured its relative speed.

NASA’s models predict two of its space instruments, the Spitzer and MESSENGER spacecraft, will be affected by the solar blast, and the space agency has alerted mission scientists to take steps preventing particle radiation from damaging on-board instruments.

The Spitzer Space Telescope is an infrared space observatory launched in 2003 that has returned stunning photos of distant galaxies to Earth and became the first telescope in history to visually identify planets in other solar systems.

MESSENGER, an acronym of MErcury Surface, Space ENvironment, GEochemistry, and Ranging, was launched in 2004 and became the first spacecraft ever to orbit the planet Mercury.


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