Friday, January 21, 2011

Earth could be getting a second sun, at least temporarily. A Senior Lecturer of Physics at the University of Southern Queensland says that Betelgeuse, one of the night sky's brightest stars, is losing mass, indicating it is collapsing. It could run out of fuel and go super-nova at any time. When that happens, for at least a few weeks, we'd see a second sun. There may also be no night during that time frame.
The Star Wars-esque scenario could happen by 2012... or it could take longer. The explosion could also cause a neutron star or result in the formation of a black hole 1300 light years from Earth. But if the star does go super-nova, Earth will be showered only with harmless particles. "They will flood through the Earth and bizarrely enough, even though the supernova we see visually will light up the night sky, 99 per cent of the energy in the supernova is released in these particles that will come through our bodies and through the Earth with absolutely no harm whatsoever." This "star stuff" makes up the universe. "It literally makes things like gold, silver - all the heavy elements - even things like uranium....a star like Betelgeuse is instantly forming for us all sorts of heavy elements and atoms that our own Earth and our own bodies have from long past supernovas."
Astronomers have recently determined that Betelgeuse is shrinking - in a big way. In the last 15 years it has lost 15% of its diameter. In the past the size of the star has usually ranged between the diameters of the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, but now it unexplainably has shrunk to the size of the orbit of Venus. Although its size is now smaller, its brightness, oddly enough, did not diminish in the process. In addition, an unusual, large red spot has recently appeared on the star’s surface.
All this could be a precursor to it going supernova, when it finally runs out of thermonuclear fuel and ends its 8.5-million-year-old life in a massive explosion. This star would thus become the most luminous object in our sky, much more so than our full Moon. It could even rate as the brightest supernova in history. If Betelgeuse indeed turns into a supernova, it would be visible even during the day and would remain in the night sky for months or even years before fading away - the right shoulder of Orion vanished forever.
Another possible scenario exists: Betelgeuse may have already gone supernova, but we just don’t know it yet because its light has not reached us. Scientists have not precisely determined how far the star is from us, although the commonly accepted distance is 430 light-years - then the supernova could have happened in the year 1372 AD. New measurements taken last year, however, increased the distance to 640 light-years - and the supernova could actually havw happened in 1582 AD.
Suppose we say that the light from the supernova will reach us sometime during 2012. The date just three years in the future is, of course, the much-debated end of the current cycle of the Mayan Calendar. It is significant that Betelgeuse achieves midnight culmination (or highest point in the sky when the star crosses the observer’s meridian) each December 21st, the winter solstice - the exact date of the calendar’s conclusion. Perhaps the end of the Mayan calendar will be accompanied not by huge solar flares as some have claimed or by an asteroid or comet strike, or even by a major pole shift. We may instead be seeing a massive supernova explosion of the red star Betelgeuse.
If this supernova comes to pass, it probably will not cause any direct physical destruction, due to the great distance between Betelgeuse and the Earth. It may, however, trigger a subtler albeit more profound change - altering both our DNA structure and the vital essence of our etheric bodies. An earlier supernova may provide the guide for what is to come. The light from the explosion of a blue supergiant named Supernova 1987A left its surface 168,000 years ago and finally reached Earth on February 23rd, 1987. By May of that year it had reached a maximum magnitude of 3, becoming the brightest supernova since the invention of the telescope. This stellar salvo blasted us with neutrinos (chargeless, massless “ghost particles”) and bombarded us as well with ultraviolet radiation, infrared radiation, X-rays, and gamma rays. We routinely receive such output from the electromagnetic spectrum, of course, but not usually to this degree. Are we talking about a monumental evolutionary leap forward or a colossal fall into an apocalyptic scenario of world devastation? The spectrum of 2012 predictions includes these two extremes and everything in between. (Much more on possible interpretations at the link.)

**Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.**
Martin Luther King, Jr.

This morning -

Yesterday -
1/20/11 -

NEW ZEALAND - There have been 4,500 aftershocks since a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit the city of Christchurch on September 4 last year. A series of aftershocks have been felt in the New Zealand city of Christchurch recently, but there are no reports of significant damage. Thursday, the first and most severe aftershock was 5.1-magnitude at a depth of 10 kilometres. Eight other aftershocks of lower magnitude followed. GNS Science says residents should prepare for aftershocks of this intensity every four to six weeks for up to a year.

No current tropical cyclones.

AUSTRALIA - A new cyclone is expected to form in the Gulf this weekend amid warnings Queensland's floods may not be over.
A tropical low in the Gulf of Carpentaria may develop into a cyclone on Saturday. It will remain slow moving, likely moving towards the southwest. It could see the flood focus turn to the north and far west of the state because Gulf cyclones often bring heavy rain to the lower Gulf and NT border regions, causing flooding through the length of western Queensland and into northern SA and Lake Eyre.
A second low in the Coral Sea may also deepen, but is expected to move away from the coast. With two and half months of a La Nina wet season still to come, there was a serious risk of further flooding, particularly in Queensland. ``The worst case scenario would be a tropical low or cyclone moving south from the Gulf or Coral Sea which could bring flood levels to Queensland similar to what we've seen over the past month." Although rain-inducing La Nina weather conditions are expected to last right into autumn, the National Climate Centre has dropped the odds of the region exceeding its average rainfall in the southeast to 50 per cent. The revised estimate is down from last October's forecast of a 75 per cent chance of exceeding median summer rainfall - its STRONGEST WET WEATHER PREDICTION IN A DECADE. In north Queensland, the odds of better than average rainfall are up to 75 per cent. The RECORD LA NINA had been exceeded only by the La Nina of 1917-18, with the flood-producing 1975-76 La Nina ranked third. Rainfall should return to normal about mid year.

Are variations in temperatures triggering a complete new monsoon calendar for India? This is something that climatologists are looking at while monitoring the different aspects of changing weather patterns. The frequency of storms is related to the changes in a couple of atmospheric parameters over the north Indian Ocean during the global warming period. Using a series of multiple data sets including the tracks of storms over the North Indian Ocean for the period 1951-2007, the scientists found that the frequency of storms and severe storms do not show a dramatic rise in spite of a substantial increase in the sea-surface temperature in the Bay of Bengal from 1951-2007 compared to that in 1901-1951.
“This prompted us to conclude that the frequency of storms is related to the changes in a couple of atmospheric parameters over the north Indian Ocean during the global warming period. The relationship between the sea surface temperature over the Bay of Bengal and the maximum wind speed of the cyclonic systems is complex and there is no preferred range for the formation of cyclonic or severe cyclonic storms over the north Indian Ocean."
The present study assumes significance owing to the large contribution of rainfall over India from storms that form over the north of the Indian Ocean during the summer and the winter monsoons. Tropical cyclones are among the most destructive natural disasters in the world. About 7 percent of the global tropical cyclones form in the north Indian Ocean. Further, more number of cyclones form in the Bay of Bengal (about three to four times higher) than in the Arabian Sea. In the north Indian Ocean, there are two important seasons for their formation, namely, Pre-monsoon (March-May) and Post-monsoon (October-December).
“An important concern about the consequences of the global warming scenario is its impact on the frequency, the intensity and the duration of tropical cyclones. Theoretical and modelling studies indicate that tropical cyclone winds would increase with increasing ocean temperature." Though direct observational evidence of this relationship over the tropical Oceans is lacking, it has been brought out in the recent study over the Atlantic Ocean that higher sea surface temperatures (SSTs) over this region increase the intensity of Atlantic tropical cyclones.


When hundreds of dead birds were found Monday in Yankton, South Dakota, many residents were puzzled, thinking it was the latest in a string of similar mysterious mass animal deaths around the world. But this is one instance of the many where a clear cause has been identified, as the U.S. government claims responsibility for killing the more than 200 starlings.
It was initially believed that cold weather may have caused the bird deaths, but then Yankton police received a call from the USDA, attesting that they had poisoned the birds at a feedlot 10 miles away. Apparently, some 5,000 of the birds were defecating in the feed meal, posing a threat to the animals and farm workers, when the USDA decided killing them would be the best action to take. A bait laced with the poison DRC-1339 was used, though officials were surprised the birds made it so far before dying. They assure that the poisoned dead birds do not pose a risk to nearby animals or humans.
While the mystery of dead birds falling from the sky in South Dakota was quickly solved, similar mass animal deaths around the world remain enigmatic. 200 dead cows were recently found on a farm in Wisconsin, with a disease or pneumonia suspected as the culprit. Prior to that, mass bird deaths ranging from dozens to thousands were reported in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Kentucky, California, Italy and Sweden. Mass fish death had been report in Arkansas, Maryland, Chicago, New Zealand and Brazil, and 40,000 crabs washed ashore beaches in England.
Officials don't believe any of the incidents are related, and suspect a wide range of causes to be responsible, from cold weather and fireworks to semi-truck collisions and overeating, though they admit in many instances a clear cause may never be identified. Mass animal deaths are not a rare occurrence. (video and links to articles about the mass deaths)


A report from Hong Kong says that the use of blood plasma donated by recovered H1N1 influenza patients reduced the death rate in severely ill H1N1 patients. The authors recruited 93 critically ill H1N1 patients, of whom 20 agreed to receive the plasma treatment while the rest served as controls. The death rate in those who received the plasma was 20%, versus about 55% in those who didn't receive it. The treatment also reduced the patients' viral load and inflammatory cytokine response.
Plasma from recovered patients has been used to treat a number of infectious diseases, as it contains antibodies that latch onto pathogens, enabling the plasma recipient's immune system to identify and fight them. The use of this approach to treat severe flu cases has been discussed for years but not widely attempted.
The approach has also been used with apparent success in a few H5N1 avian flu patients.
Two US experts on blood transfusion who commented on the Hong Kong report said the idea of using plasma treatment in flu patients is promising, but it faces a number of practical and regulatory barriers, and much more research is needed. "I think it's promising, but it's not ready for prime time. I don't want anyone to think that if they get a bad flu, their doctor is going to get this stuff. The operational and regulatory hurdles are very substantial."
In a flu pandemic, it's far from clear whether blood banks would be able to harvest large amounts of suitable plasma quickly enough to be useful. It takes 4 to 6 weeks after an infection for antibody titers to reach robust levels, which would delay the availability of suitable plasma. Also, blood centers would probably be unable to gather suitable plasma from more than a few hundred donors in a month. If a pandemic unfolded fairly quickly, "by the time we could start collections, much of the mayhem might be over."