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Sunday, August 24, 2014

6.0 earthquake jolts Bay Area in California; outages, injuries reported

by tap taru  |  in Earthquake at  9:43 PM

A long rolling temblor pegged at 6.0 by the
 U.S. Geological Survey shook a wide swath of the Bay Area awake early Sunday.

Centered about nine miles south of wine country's Napa at 3:20 a.m., the quake was felt as far south as Santa Cruz and into Sonoma County. It was the largest earthquake to strike the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta temblor of 1989, the USGS said.

Residents reported power outages in Napa, and fire departments in several counties, along with the California Highway Patrol, were on the lookout for damage to bridges.

Reports were beginning to stream in of gas leaks, downed power lines and at least one fire.

Napa County Fire Department confirms they are swamped with calls, including reports of injuries. It is unclear how  severe the injuries are because units are still responding.

Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa reported calls of injuries, mostly cuts from glass.

According to PG&E, more than 42,000 customers are without power across the northern Bay Area, including American Canyon, Napa, Saint Helena, Santa Rosa and Sonoma, according to an outage map.

Pictures flooding in from Twitter show damage within homes.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Sea plankton found living on the outer surface of the ISS(video)

by tap taru  |  in space at  11:41 PM
 

Life in space? Sea plankton discovered attached to ISS outer hull

Russian scientists say they made a “unique” discovery while analyzing samples from the exterior of the International Space Station – traces of tiny sea creatures on the station’s windows and walls. It remains unclear how marine plankton ended up in space.
The results of the recent experiments prove that that some organisms are capable of living on the outer surface of the International Space Station (ISS), Vladimir Solovyev, head of the Russian segment of the ISS, has revealed. 

Some studies suggest that these organisms may even develop in the hostile conditions of spaceflight, which include vacuum, low temperatures, radiation and others, he added. 

“The results of the so-called ‘Test’ experiment are unique. On the surface of the [ISS] windows we found traces of marine plankton – the microparticles – that will become the subject of further studies,” Solovyev was quoted as saying by Itar-Tass. 

While the experiments on the matter were finalized last year, it is still unclear how the microparticles could get all the way to the ISS, Solovyev said. 

“[Plankton in] such phases of development is found on the surface of the ocean. It isn’t characteristic to Baikonur,” he explained, referring to Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan from where crew and cargo deliveries to ISS are launched. 

“It turns out that there are some rising air currents, which settle on the surface of the station,”Solovyev added.
The former cosmonaut, who spent nearly a year in orbit back in the 1980s, said that outer surface of ISS is “heavily contaminated” by the waste products from engines of the arriving spacecraft, atmospheric discharges from the station during spacewalks by the crew and other factors. 

“We are currently conducting special operations to be able to somehow to polish and clean up the windows [at the ISS]. This is especially important during long space flights,” Solovyev concluded. 

The assembly of the International Space Station began in 1998. Since then it has spent nearly 6,000 days in Earth orbit. 

Russia says it has no plans to continue its partnership in the station after 2020, while the US segment of the station is financed until 2024. 

Russian space agency Roscosmos has proposed using the ISS to commission modules for a new space station, called OPSEK (Orbital Piloted Assembly and Experiment Complex).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Yellowstone Super Volcano:Resent Eruption Rumors Prompt USGS Issue Statement (Video)

by tap taru  |  in Volcanos at  10:58 AM

Recent Rumors About Supervolcano Erupting Prompts USGS to Issue Statement


Yellowstone National Park, home to Old Faithful and some of the prettiest and most pristine natural beauty on the planet, is one of the largest volcanoes ever discovered. Scientists made a wild hypothesis back in the mid-20th century that massive volcanoes spanning hundreds of square miles actually existed at one time on this planet. We would later find out that they still do exist on earth. One of the largest is in our own backyard. 

  Scientists have now located 7 of these giants on the planet. Any one of them erupting would cause massive devastation and threaten human existence on this planet. These same scientists have determined that the sleeping giant under Yellowstone National Park is the most likely to erupt, and is actually "overdue". But with the internet, social media, and the many ways to circulate information now days, many subjects can be exaggerated, and plenty of misinformation can hit the eyes of millions in just a few hours. Because of this misinformation as of late, the USGS issued a statement (something this meteorologist has never seen before) regarding some of these so called “facts” that have been circulating the internet about the majestic park and the monster hiding beneath it. Here is what it says…

“Though we love doing research at YVO (Yellowstone Volcano Observatory), we prefer it when the research is on topics geological rather than the origin of false rumors. Nevertheless, we have received enough concerned emails and phone calls that we've spent some time tracking down a few of the statements made on various "alternative Internet news sources."
1) First, everyone should know that geological activity, including earthquakes and ground uplift/subsidence is well within historical norms and seismicity is actually a bit low at present.
2) Concern over road closures is much overblown. There's been one road closure of a small side road – just over three miles long – that was closed for two days. As one can imagine, it is not easy to maintain roads that pass over thermal areas where ground temperatures can approach those of boiling water. Roads at Yellowstone often need repair because of damage by thermal features as well as extreme cold winter conditions.
3) The park has not been evacuated. This one is pretty easy to verify by everyone. If the Old Faithful webcam shows people, or if news articles are coming out about a hobbyist's remote control helicopter crashing into a hot spring, Yellowstone is certainly open for business.
4) No volcanologists have stated that Yellowstone is likely to erupt this week, this month or this year. In one recent article, a name was attributed to a "senior volcanologist", but that person does not appear to exist, and a geologist with that name assures us that he did not supply any quotes regarding Yellowstone.
5) Finally, we note that those who've kept track of Yellowstone over the past decade or so, have seen a constant stream of "predictions" regarding imminent eruptions at Yellowstone. Many have had specific dates in mind, none had a scientific basis, and none have come true.
We will continue to provide updates on geological activity at Yellowstone, and educational materials to help understand the science around Yellowstone monitoring.

Virtually everything known about Yellowstone's spectacular volcanic past comes from the scientists who work at this observatory, at all our eight member agencies. We're the ones who mapped the deposits, figured out the ages of the eruptions, measured the gases, located the earthquakes, and tracked the ground movement. A few of us have been doing it for over forty years. We will continue to help you understand what's happening at Yellowstone now, and what's likely to happen in the future.”
To sum this up… yes, Yellowstone National Park sits atop a huge volcano. But there is no evidence to show that this volcano will erupt anytime soon. So sleep easy…. For now….

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Amazonian Tribe Makes First Contact With Outside World In UtterlyFascinating Video

by tap taru  |  in World News at  11:29 AM

Members of an isolated tribe have emerged from the Amazon rainforest and made contact with the outside world in a video released by Brazil's indigenous authority.

The video shows indigenous people from the Panoan linguistic group carrying bows and wearing loin clothes making contact with the Ashaninka native people of northern Brazil along the banks of the Envira River, near the Peruvian border.

In one scene, an ethnic Ashaninka in athletic shorts gives bananas to two loincloth-clad natives who appear wary of approaching, quickly grabbing the fruit and then retreating out of arm's reach. 

Brazilian experts said the indigenous people likely crossed the border from Peru facing pressure from illegal logging and drug trafficking at home.

After the native people made initial contact with the Ashaninka on June 26, a team from Brazil's National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) traveled to the area and filmed a second encounter on June 30, according to news portal G1.

The people, identified as members of a group known as the Rio Xinane, at first emerged only briefly and then returned to the forest, said FUNAI official Carlos Travassos.

"They were whistling and making animal sounds," he said.

Two Panoan indigenous interpreters were then called in to speak with them on their next visit.

"They speak our language. I was so happy we could talk to each other," said one of the interpreters, Jaminawa Jose Correia.

He said the natives had come in search of weapons and allies.

"They described being attacked by non-native people and many died after coming down with the flu and diphtheria," he told G1.

Anthropologist Terri Aquino said the group had probably come in search of axes, knives, and pots.

"This is a people looking for technology. It's important in their lives because there's an internal war among them and because of contact with non-indigenous groups," he said.

Another scene in the video shows the natives taking axes from the ethnic Ashaninka village of Simpatia.

FUNAI said the group had returned from the forest after their initial visit because they had contracted the flu. A government medical team was sent to treat seven from the group.

Rights group Survival International said the episode was extremely worrying, because influenza epidemics have wiped out entire tribes in the past.

The Brazilian Amazon has the largest number of uncontacted tribes in the world at 77, FUNAI estimates.

Friday, August 1, 2014

US to Bring Home at Least 1 American Ebola Victim from West Africa

by tap taru  |  in Human Health at  10:51 AM

An American aid worker who became sick with the Ebola virus in West Africa is returning to the United States within the next several days.

Hospital officials at Emory University confirmed the patient would be treated in a special isolation unit there, but declined to identify the person.

The university hospital in Atlanta, Georgia has one of only four such facilities in the United States, and has worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, to set up the special unit.

Earlier Thursday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the State Department was working with the CDC to facilitate options to bring home infected U.S. aid workers.

The State Department said if an evacuation is undertaken every precaution will be observed and the individual will be isolated both in route and once back in the U.S.

The United States has issued travel warnings for Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the three countries hardest hit by the ongoing Ebola outbreak.

The overall death toll from the Ebola outbreak has climbed to 729, including more than 50 new fatalities reported since last Friday.

The latest update from the World Health Organization (WHO) came as officials in Sierra Leone and Liberia moved to enact intensive new measures to stop the Ebola virus from spreading.

Sierra Leone's President Ernest Bai Koroma said the government will quarantine areas where the disease is found, restrict public meetings, search houses to find infected people and screen passengers at the country's main airport.  

In Liberia, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announced the closure of schools, the shutdown of markets along border areas, and said all public facilities would be disinfected and chlorinated on Friday.   

Guinea has the largest number of Ebola-related deaths at 339, followed by Sierra Leone at 233 and Liberia at 156.  Another man with U.S. and Liberian citizenship died in Nigeria last week soon after arriving on a flight that made stops in Ghana and Togo.

The WHO says Nigerian authorities have identified 59 people who may have come into contact with the man before he died.

In another development, the WHO said it is launching a $100 million response plan to deal with the Ebola outbreak, which it also called unprecedented.

WHO said the new measure will focus on finding ways to stop the virus' transmission in the affected countries and preventing Ebola from spreading to neighboring nations.

Doctors Without Borders is among the medical groups that have been trying to fight the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone.  The group's Anja Wolz said it lacks the manpower to fully address the problem.

"We only have the possibility to work in the case management centers and we don't have the capacity to go outside. The situation is quite difficult," she said. "I would say, we are on the top of an iceberg in the moment because the contact tracing is not really functioning.  This is one of the major issues what we have.  Because, to find the patient as soon as possible and to refer them to the case management center, it's the basic for an Ebola outbreak."

There is no vaccine or cure for Ebola, which can be fatal in up to 90 percent of cases.  The disease is characterized by fever, vomiting, diarrhea, body aches, and unstoppable bleeding from areas such as the eyes, ears and nose.

The Ebola virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person.  Health officials are warning people not to touch Ebola patients and to avoid burial rituals that require handling the body of an Ebola fatality.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Leading Sierra Leone doctor Sheik Umar Khan battling outbreak dies of Ebola

by tap taru  |  in Virus at  1:05 PM

A doctor from Sierra Leone who was leading the fight to battle the deadly Ebola virus outbreak there has died from the disease, officials in that country said.

Dr. Sheik Umar Khan died at a Doctors Without Borders facility in Kailahun, Sierra Leone, said Dr. Brima Kargbo, chief medical officer of the country's Ministry of Health and Sanitation. Speaking to the Los Angeles Times by phone, Kargbo said Khan had died Tuesday afternoon.

He was the latest casualty in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which is the largest recorded, killing more than 670 people and sickening hundreds more since March, according to theWorld Health Organization.

Doctors Without Borders released a statement, saying the organization is “deeply saddened” by the death of Khan, who was hailed a national hero by the government and had treated more than 100 patients.

This month, three nurses working alongside Khan died of Ebola, but he continued to work.

“Dr. Khan was an extremely determined and courageous doctor who cared deeply for his patients. His work and dedication have been greatly appreciated,” the statement read.

Government officials in Sierra Leone reported last week that Khan had contracted the diseaseand had been admitted for treatment in Kailahun.

Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma visited the center where the doctor was being treated on Monday.

Medical personnel are among some of the most vulnerable people to contract the incurable disease because of the close contact they have with infected blood or bodily fluids.

“We are the first port of call for somebody who is sickened by disease,” Khan told Reuters last month. Khan told the news service that he had installed a mirror in his office to check carefully for any holes in his protecting gear before treating infected people. “Even with the full protective clothing you put on, you are at risk.”

Dr. Samuel Brisbane, a top Liberian health official, died Sunday of the disease, and a Ugandan doctor died earlier this month, according to the Associated Press.

Two American volunteers, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol have also contracted the disease, according to Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse. Both are reportedly in stable condition and receiving round-the-clock care in Liberia.

As a precaution, the charity has evacuated all nonessential personnel in Liberia.

There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola, which causes fever, vomiting, diarrhea and massive internal bleeding, and has a fatality rate of  60% to 90%.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How Terrifying Is the New Ebola Virus Outbreak in West Africa?(video)

by tap taru  |  in Viruses at  1:05 PM

A colorized image of the Ebola virus Found at Cynthia Goldsmith/CDC

Two US aid workers in Liberia recently became the latest victims of an Ebola epidemic that health experts are calling "out of control" and the deadliest outbreak of the virus in history. The disease has a high fatality rate. There have been over 1,000 suspected and confirmed cases across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone since March, and over 660 people have died. Health workers are having trouble aiding victims, the New York Times reports, due to being shut out by fearful communities. Here's what you need to know about this outbreak.


When and where did it start?


On March 25, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that 86 suspected cases of Ebola had been reported to the World Health Organization across four southeastern districts in Guinea. At that time, cases were also being investigated in Liberia and Sierra Leone. By April 1, Liberia was reporting eight suspected cases and two deaths. On May 26, a case of Ebola was confirmed in Sierra Leone. Since then, the disease has continued to spread across the region. Guinea has had the highest suspected death toll so far, with 314 fatal cases as of July 20. 



Since March, the latest Ebola outbreak has already spread to three neighboring countries CDC

Have there been Ebola outbreaks of this size before?


No, health workers are reporting that this is the deadliest. According to data compiled by the BBC and the World Health Organization, the outbreak that comes closest occurred in 1976, when over 400 people died. Many of those cases occurred in then-Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) cropping up near the Ebola river (for which the disease is named). Since then, there have been several outbreaks across Africa, but none of this scale.


How does Ebola spread?


Ebola can infect humans and animals, and spreads through bodily fluids. Scientists believe that fruit bats are the natural carriers of the virus. According to the World Health Organization, African pig farms often play host to bats, allowing the disease to spread from the bats to pork. Eating "bushmeat"—or the meat from wild animals, such as gorillas, monkeys, or bats—can put you at risk for exposure. Recently, the government of the Cote d'Ivoire (otherwise known as Ivory Coast)—which borders two of the countries enduing the outbreak—prohibited the sale of bush meat. But the government does not have the means to enforce the ban, and it's still easy to come by. Funerals for victims of Ebola can also be a source of transmission, with friends and family members potentially coming into contact with the blood and other fluids of the deceased. (Within some African cultures, mourners hug and kiss the bodies, making exposure even more likely.)


How fatal is Ebola?


One of the problems with treating the virus is that in its earliest stages it mimics a number of other diseases endemic to Africa. Usually within eight to 10 days of infection, according to the CDC, patients experience a fever, a headache, and muscle fatigue. Some people get better, but most—up to 90 percent—get worse. In a victim's last days, he or she will begin to hemorrhage blood, internally and externally, as the disease lays waste to internal organs. There are no drugs approved for treating Ebola. For the infected, the only hope is that the virus will pass. According to the CDC, the only treatments available fall under the category of "supportive therapy"—providing patients with water, maintaining blood pressure, and treating for complicating infections—with the hope that a patient's immune system can fight off the virus. Lab researchers have had some luck using drug cocktails to block the disease in animals shortly after exposure, but they haven't yet tested these treatments on humans.


How easily is Ebola transmitted?


Doctors Without Borders calls Ebola "highly infectious," and medical staff treating patients must wear full protective suits to avoid contracting the disease themselves. The Ebola virus is so contagious that researchers can only work with it in specially outfitted labs that boast the highest levels of biocontainment. However, David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, tells CNN that Ebola can be controlled when the right precautions are taken: "It's not rocket science to control these outbreaks but instead basic epidemiology: infection control, hygiene practices, contact-tracing, and safe burial practices."


Is there a vaccine?


There's no vaccine for Ebola. What is so vexing for researchers is that the virus keeps emerging in new forms. Scientists can't predict what form the virus will take when it strikes next; a vaccine would have to inoculate a person against all of the variants. But Ebola is adaptive and hard to pin down. Even if a vaccine were developed, researchers worry the virus could adapt and overcome it.


Why are health workers having trouble containing the virus this time?


Marc Poncin, the emergency coordinator in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders, told the New York Times that "we're not stopping the epidemic." According to health officials, locals are fearful of aid workers and are threatening violence against them to keep them from entering communities and monitoring the virus, providing supportive therapy, and isolating patients. This has led to difficulties in placing victims into quarantine. In Sierra Leone, for example, the family of a woman who had tested positive for Ebola removed her from the hospital so she could be treated using traditional medicine. The woman has since died.



Where is the virus headed next?


Nigeria is the latest country to report a case of Ebola, with an infected man dying there after arriving from Liberia. (On Sunday, Liberia closed most of its borders.) Nigeria is taking preemptive steps to stop the spread of the virus, including shutting down the hospital where the man died, monitoring people who were on his plane, and putting border checkpoints on high alert.


How dangerous would Ebola be if it arrived in the United States?


Not as dangerous. Dr. Jonathan Epstein, a veterinary epidemiologist and Ebola expert with EcoHealth Alliance, recently told Mother Jones that infections likely wouldn't be widespread in the United States, because it has better systems in place for controlling outbreaks.

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