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Showing posts from November 5, 2015

Scientists crack mystery of Mars' missing atmosphere - the sun did it

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Scientists have documented a solar storm blasting away Mars’ atmosphere, an important clue in a long-standing mystery of how a planet that was once like Earth turned into a cold, dry desert, research published on Thursday shows. Unlike Earth, Mars does not have a global magnetic field to protect its atmosphere, leaving it vulnerable to solar ultraviolet radiation and high-energy blasts of gas and magnetic particles that stream from the sun during solar storms. On March 8, NASA’s Mars-orbiting MAVEN spacecraft caught such a storm stripping away the planet’s atmosphere, according to a report published in this week’s issue of the journal Science.

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Dengue Fever Outbreak Hits Hawaii — Will It Last?

Four more people were diagnosed with dengue fever on Hawaii's Big Island today (Nov. 5), raising the number of locally transmitted cases to 19 people, according to the Hawaii State Department of Health. Health officials say these "locally transmitted" cases are concerning because, although dengue has popped up sporadically in Hawaii before, in most previous cases, the disease was imported, meaning travelers brought it to the islands from elsewhere. "Although dengue is not endemic to Hawaii, we do have the mosquito species capable of transmitting the disease," Dr. Sarah Park, the state epidemiologist for Hawaii, said in a statement last week.

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Gorgeous Auroras Could Light Up Entire Martian Sky

The first astronauts to set foot on Mars may be in for a spectacular sight — the entire night sky filled with glowing auroras. Researchers working on NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission hosted a news conference this afternoon (Nov. 5) to discuss the orbiter's observations about the Red Planet's loss of atmosphere due to solar wind, and they also shared some details about MAVEN's measurements of Mars auroras. "A new kind of aurora was observed at Mars that frankly surprised us, and this was aurorae in a part of the atmosphere that is above regions that don't have a magnetic field at all," Dave Brain, MAVEN co-investigator and researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP), said during the news conference.


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NASA Pluto Probe Sets Course for Second Flyby Target

The NASA probe that flew by Pluto in July is now all lined up for a potential close encounter with a second faraway object, in 2019. NASA's New Horizons spacecraft completed the last of four trajectory-altering engine burns Wednesday (Nov. 4) and is now on course to a small body called 2014 MU69, which lies more than 1 billion miles (1.6 billion kilometers) beyond Pluto. The probe will study 2014 MU69 up close in January 2019, if NASA approves an extended mission.


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Mars Lost Atmosphere to Space as Life Took Hold on Earth

The window for life to take root across broad stretches of the Martian surface may have closed shortly after the first microbes evolved on Earth. New results from NASA's MAVEN spacecraft suggest that the Red Planet lost most of its carbon dioxide-dominated atmosphere — which had kept Mars relatively warm and allowed the planet to support liquid surface water — to space about 3.7 billion years ago. "We think that all of the action took place between about 4.2 to 3.7 billion years ago," MAVEN principal investigator Bruce Jakosky, of the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics (LASP) at the University of Colorado Boulder, told Space.com.


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NASA drops Boeing from space station cargo competition

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - U.S. space agency NASA has dropped Boeing Co from a multibillion-dollar competition to fly cargo to the International Space Station and will delay selecting one or more winners for about two months, officials said on Thursday. Boeing was offering an unmanned version of its Starliner CST-100 space taxi, under development as part of a separate NASA program to transport crew and cargo to the space station. “We received a letter from NASA and are out of CRS-2,” Boeing spokeswoman Kelly Kaplan wrote in an email, referring to NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.


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Big businesses back affirmative action before U.S. Supreme Court

Three major companies, citing the under-representation of minorities in science and technology fields, are urging the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold affirmative action in university admissions in a closely watched case to be argued next month. Technology services company IBM Corp, chemical manufacturer DuPont and chip maker Intel Corp signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief filed this week backing the University of Texas at Austin. Affirmative action is a policy under which racial minorities historically subject to discrimination are given certain preferences in education and employment.


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Scientists learn how some fish can supercharge their vision

It turns out that in real life, some fish and amphibians can do something nearly as super when it come to their sight. Researchers on Thursday said these animals, when navigating murky freshwater environments like rivers and streams, can turn on an enzyme in their eyes that supercharges their ability to see infrared light, sharpening their vision in the muck and mire. With the enzyme, fish and amphibians can tune their vision to match the environmental light.


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Scientists crack mystery of Mars' missing atmosphere -the sun did it

By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Scientists have documented a solar storm blasting away Mars’ atmosphere, an important clue in a long-standing mystery of how a planet that was once like Earth turned into a cold, dry desert, research published on Thursday shows. Unlike Earth, Mars does not have a global magnetic field to protect its atmosphere, leaving it vulnerable to solar ultraviolet radiation and high-energy blasts of gas and magnetic particles that stream from the sun during solar storms. On March 8, NASA’s Mars-orbiting MAVEN spacecraft caught such a storm stripping away the planet’s atmosphere, according to a report published in this week’s issue of the journal Science.

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Watch your mouth: Allosaurus had monstrously gaping jaws

By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - You might call the Jurassic Period meat-eating dinosaur Allosaurus the ultimate big mouth. A new study analyzing dinosaur jaw musculature found that this fearsome hunter that prowled North America about 150 million years ago was able to crank open its jaws between 79 and 92 degrees, wider than a right angle. With a skull length of about 3 feet (90 cm), that means a jaw gape of more than 31 inches (80 cm), a terrifying threat to the plant-eating dinosaurs stalked by Allosaurus, a beast more than 33 feet (10 meters) long.


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Man Dies After Tapeworm Inside Him Gets Cancer

A Colombian man's lung tumors turned out to have an extremely unusual cause: The rapidly growing masses weren't actually made of human cells, but were from a tapeworm living inside him, according to a report of the case. This is the first known report of a person becoming sick from cancer cells that developed in a parasite, the researchers said. "We were amazed when we found this new type of disease — tapeworms growing inside a person, essentially getting cancer, that spreads to the person, causing tumors," said study researcher Dr. Atis Muehlenbachs, a staff pathologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Infectious Diseases Pathology Branch (IDPB).

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Better Instructions for Tattoo Care Could Prevent Infections, Doctors Say

People who get tattoos need better instructions on how to properly care for their skin afterward, and most states need stronger guidelines for tattoo artists about this topic, a new opinion paper suggests. Only seven states in the U.S. — Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan and North Dakota — have strong policies, requiring that licensed tattoo artists provide customers with instructions on tattoo "aftercare" that has received prior approval from state public health officials, the skin care experts wrote. Such instructions can prevent skin infections after a person gets inked, according to the paper, published online today (Nov. 4) in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Dermatology.

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Can Prenatal Choline Cut Schizophrenia Risk in Kids?

In an update to a recent study, researchers say they are continuing to find evidence that women who take supplements containing choline when they're pregnant may lower the risk of schizophrenia in their children. The children in the study are now 4 years old, and are already showing fewer early signs of schizophrenia — such as certain attention and social problems — than expected, said Dr. Robert Freedman at a talk in New York City on Oct. 23.  Half of the children in the study had an increased risk for schizophrenia because their mothers had depression, anxiety or psychosis. Freedman, the chairman of the department of psychiatry at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and editor in chief of The American Journal of Psychiatry, gave attendees at the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation symposium an update on the participants in his study, which was originally published in 2013 in The American Journal of Psychiatry.

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Oil Spill Aftermath: Why Baby Dolphins May Be Rare in Gulf Waters

Bottlenose dolphins swimming in waters affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill are dying earlier and birthing fewer calves than dolphins living in other areas, a new study shows. Just 20 percent of pregnant dolphins in Barataria Bay — a part of the Gulf of Mexico that was most heavily tainted by oil from the spill — gave birth to surviving calves, much lower than the 83 percent success rate in other dolphin populations, the researchers found. In addition, just 86.8 percent of the Barataria Bay dolphins survive every year.


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Mysterious Dark Matter May Not Always Have Been Dark

Dark matter particles may have interacted extensively with normal matter long ago, when the universe was very hot, a new study suggests. Astronomers began suspecting the existence of dark matter when they noticed the cosmos seemed to possess more mass than stars could account for. Most scientists think dark matter provides the gravity that helps hold these stars back.


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Flying Telescope Catches Glimpse of Alien Planet

Studies of exoplanets normally have been confined to either outer space or the ground. "Exoplanets are rare events that are sometimes hard to observe from a fixed ground-based telescope," Daniel Angerhausen, a postdoctoral fellow at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, told Space.com by email.


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