Big Lake, Alaska and The Susitna Valley News, Weather, Events, And More

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Friday, January 19 2018 @ 12:03 PM AKST


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Dutch team is pioneering development of crops fed by sea water

ScienceThis article has implications for Alaska: "In a small army field-hut Dr Arjen de Vos shows off his irrigation machine with pride. Pipes lead out to several acres of muddy field, where only a few stragglers from the autumn harvest of potatoes, salads, carrots and onions are left. The tubes are lined with copper to stop corrosion because – in a move that defies everything we think we know about farming – de Vos is watering his plants with diluted sea water.

Last week the project beat 560 competitors from 90 countries to win the prestigious USAid grand challenge award for its salt-tolerant potato. “It’s a game changer,” said de Vos. “We don’t see salination as a problem, we see it as an opportunity.”

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Rosetta Comet Comes Alive

ScienceFrom NASA: "A spacecraft from Earth is about to do something no spacecraft has ever done before: orbit a comet and land on its surface.

Right now, the European Space Agency's Rosetta probe is hurtling toward Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The spacecraft's mission is to study the comet at close-range as it transforms from a quiet nugget of ice and rock, frozen solid by years spent in deep space, to a sun-warmed dynamo spewing jets of gas and dust into a magnificently evolving tail."

This sequence of images shows comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko moving against a background star field in the constellation Ophiuchus between 27 March and 4 May 2014, as the distance between the spacecraft and comet closed from around 5 million to 2 million kilometres. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA
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Linear Gravity Anomalies on the Moon

ScienceThese maps of the near and far side of the moon show the gravity gradients as measured by NASA's GRAIL mission, highlighting a population of linear gravity anomalies. The linear gravity anomalies are long blue streaks in the gradient maps. At least 22 anomalies with a combined length of more than 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) have been identified, with individual features having lengths up to and exceeding 300 miles (500 kilometers).

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/CSM
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NASA's Kepler Discovers First Earth-Size Planet In The 'Habitable Zone' of Another Star


The artist's concept depicts Kepler-186f , the first validated Earth-size planet to orbit a distant star in the habitable zone. Image Credit: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech

Using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the "habitable zone" -- the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet. The discovery of Kepler-186f confirms that planets the size of Earth exist in the habitable zone of stars other than our sun.

While planets have previously been found in the habitable zone, they are all at least 40 percent larger in size than Earth and understanding their makeup is challenging. Kepler-186f is more reminiscent of Earth.

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NASA Cassini Images May Reveal Birth of a Saturn Moon


The disturbance visible at the outer edge of Saturn's A ring in this image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft results from gravitational effects on ring particles by an object that may be replaying the birth process of icy moons. Cassini's narrow-angle camera recorded this view on April 15, 2013. Credit: NASA/JPL

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet's known moons.

Images taken with Cassini's narrow angle camera on April 15, 2013, show disturbances at the very edge of Saturn's A ring -- the outermost of the planet's large, bright rings. One of these disturbances is an arc about 20 percent brighter than its surroundings, 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) long and 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide. Scientists also found unusual protuberances in the usually smooth profile at the ring's edge. Scientists believe the arc and protuberances are caused by the gravitational effects of a nearby object. Details of the observations were published online today (April 14, 2014) by the journal Icarus.

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Bacteria Turn Plants and Insects into Zombies

ScienceFrom Scientific American: "Many parasites commandeer the bodies of their hosts in order to spread. Examples of this include horsehair worms that reach water by forcing their cricket hosts to drown themselves, and liver flukes that drive infected ants to climb blades of grass, where cows can eat the insects, and so the flukes.

But parasites can turn plants into zombies, too — and a team of scientists from the John Innes Center in Norwich, UK, has now discovered how they do it."

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"Blood Moon" expected tonight.

ScienceFrom NASA: The first eclipse of the year is well placed for observers throughout the Western Hemisphere. The eclipse occurs at the lunar orbit's ascending node in Virgo. The apparent diameter of the Moon is close to its average since the eclipse occurs nearly midway between apogee (April 08 at 14:53 UT) and perigee (April 23 at 00:28 UT). This is the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015 (see Lunar Eclipse Tetrads). [NOTE: It should peak around 12:46 a.m.]

The Moon's orbital trajectory takes it through the southern half of Earth's umbral shadow. Although the eclipse is not central, the total phase still lasts 78 minutes. The Moon's path through Earth's shadows as well as a map illustrating worldwide visibility of the event are shown in Figure 1. The times of the major eclipse phases are listed below.
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Quarter of Americans Convinced Sun Revolves Around Earth, Survey Finds

ScienceSubmitted by a reader: ""Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth?"

If you answered the latter, you're among a quarter of Americans who also got it wrong, according to a new report by the National Science Foundation.

A survey of 2,200 people that was released Friday revealed some alarming truths about the state of science education across the country, with many failing to an answer even the most basic astronomy and science questions, according to a release about the survey.

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Medieval Poop Found: Still Stinks

ScienceSubmitted by Harold: "A number of Medieval wooden barrels have been uncovered in Denmark, revealing their less- than-glamorous contents.

Originally built to transport goods and store fish, the barrels were converted into latrines — still filled with their original contents.

"We are talking about 700-year-old latrines. And yes, they still smell bad," Maria Elisabeth Lauridsen, the archaeologist in charge of the excavation, told Discovery News.

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A Super Solar Flare

ScienceAn interesting story about Solar Flares, contributed by a reader: "Just before dawn the next day, skies all over planet Earth erupted in red, green, and purple auroras so brilliant that newspapers could be read as easily as in daylight. Indeed, stunning auroras pulsated even at near tropical latitudes over Cuba, the Bahamas, Jamaica, El Salvador, and Hawaii.
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A Diminutive New Tyrannosaur from Arctic Alaska

ScienceSubmitted by a reader: Scientists on Wednesday reported the discovery of a previously unknown meat-eating dinosaur -- a small tyrannosaur related to the much-larger Tyrannosaurus rex that roamed Alaska’s North Slope during the late Cretaceous period. The find was reported in the journal PLOS ONE.

The discovery of the new, relatively small tyrannosaurid Nanuqsaurus hoglundi from the earliest Late Maastrichtian (70-69Ma) section of the Prince Creek Formation on Alaska's North Slope provides new information regarding the diversity, distribution, and adaptability of derived tyrannosaurs.

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Pack your bags, we're moving to Europa

ScienceContributed by a reader: "The Europa Clipper is a concept under study by NASA that would conduct detailed reconnaissance of Jupiter's moon Europa and would investigate whether the icy moon could harbor conditions suitable for life.

The Europa Clipper mission would place a spacecraft in orbit around Jupiter in order to perform a detailed investigation of the giant planet's moon Europa -- a world that shows strong evidence for an ocean of liquid water beneath its icy crust and which could host conditions favorable for life. The Europa Clipper mission would send a highly capable, radiation-tolerant spacecraft into a long, looping orbit around Jupiter to perform repeated close flybys of Europa."

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Scientists thaw out 30,000 year old "Giant Virus".

ScienceSubmitted by a reader: "Giant DNA viruses are visible under a light microscope and their genomes encode more proteins than some bacteria or intracellular parasitic eukaryotes. There are two very distinct types and infect unicellular protists such as Acanthamoeba. On one hand, Megaviridae possess large pseudoicosahedral capsids enclosing a megabase-sized adenine–thymine-rich genome, and on the other, the recently discovered Pandoraviruses exhibit micron-sized amphora-shaped particles and guanine–cytosine-rich genomes of up to 2.8 Mb. While initiating a survey of the Siberian permafrost, we isolated a third type of giant virus combining the Pandoravirus morphology with a gene content more similar to that of icosahedral DNA viruses. This suggests that pandoravirus-like particles may correspond to an unexplored diversity of unconventional DNA virus families."
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NASA's Kepler Mission Announces a Planet Bonanza, 715 New Worlds

ScienceNASA's Kepler mission announced Wednesday the discovery of 715 new planets. These newly-verified worlds orbit 305 stars, revealing multiple-planet systems much like our own solar system.

The artist concept depicts multiple-transiting planet systems, which are stars with more than one planet. The planets eclipse or transit their host star from the vantage point of the observer. This angle is called edge-on. Image Credit: NASA

Nearly 95 percent of these planets are smaller than Neptune, which is almost four times the size of Earth. This discovery marks a significant increase in the number of known small-sized planets more akin to Earth than previously identified exoplanets, which are planets outside our solar system. "The Kepler team continues to amaze and excite us with their planet hunting results," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. "That these new planets and solar systems look somewhat like our own, portends a great future when we have the James Webb Space Telescope in space to characterize the new worlds.”

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Astronomy Picture of the Day


Cassini Spacecraft Crosses Saturn's Ring Plane
Image Credit: Cassini Imaging Team, ISS, JPL, ESA, NASA
Explanation: If this is Saturn, where are the rings? When Saturn's "appendages" disappeared in 1612, Galileo did not understand why. Later that century, it became understood that Saturn's unusual protrusions were rings and that when the Earth crosses the ring plane, the edge-on rings will appear to disappear. This is because Saturn's rings are confined to a plane many times thinner, in proportion, than a razor blade. In modern times, the robot Cassini spacecraft orbiting Saturn now also crosses Saturn's ring plane. A series of plane crossing images from 2005 February was dug out of the vast online Cassini raw image archive by interested Spanish amateur Fernando Garcia Navarro. Pictured above, digitally cropped and set in representative colors, is the striking result. Saturn's thin ring plane appears in blue, bands and clouds in Saturn's upper atmosphere appear in gold. Details of Saturn's rings can be seen in the high dark shadows across the top of this image, taken back in 2005. Moons appear as bumps in the rings.
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