Archive for February, 2009

Published by Rosalind on 27 Feb 2009

Antarctic Volcano – Fire and Ice

Mt. Erebus in Antarctica. NASA photos.

Mt. Erebus in Antarctica. NASA photos.


This great NASA satellite photo combination shows Mt. Erebus in Antarctica. The small inset photo is a thermal image of the volcano, showing the heat from the lava. The 3794 meter (12,447 feet) volcano is a stratovolcano, made up of layers of hardened ash, rocks from previous eruptions, and solidified lava. It has shown continuous lava lake activity since 1972. Mt. Erebus is named for a figure from Greek mythology; Erebus was the embodiment of darkness, the son of Chaos.

You can find out more about Mt. Erebus and read the journal of John Wood, a California teacher who spent more than a month this winter (the Antarctic summer) helping researchers with seismic experiments at the MEVO (Mt. Erebus Volcano Observatory):  MEVO.

Published by Rosalind on 25 Feb 2009

NASA satellite launch a failure

NASA announced the crash of the Orbiting Carbon Observatory satellite as it was being launched on February 24th. The satellite crashed into the ocean near Antarctica. Scientists worldwide are disappointed as they had been counting on obtaining the data from the satellite to help answer important questions about carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere. This was the first time that NASA has used the Taurus XL rocket to launch a satellite. Hopefully, NASA investigators will be able to find out the exact reason for the crash, so future problems can be avoided.

Another new satellite – the Japanese Gosat, which is monitoring atmospheric gases – will soon begin sending back scientific information, so researchers will have some data to work with. An additional American atmospheric research satellite, Glory, is scheduled to launch in June 2009. We hope that launch – also on a Taurus – will succeed! 

You can see video of the unsuccessful OCO launch and NASA’s description of the apparent cause here: BBC Coverage of NASA OCO Launch.

Published by Rosalind on 23 Feb 2009

Orbiting Carbon Observatory launches this week

NASA is launching a new satellite designed to study where the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere ends up. The Orbiting Carbon Observatory will measure both CO2 and oxygen in earth’s atmosphere using an instrument with three spectrometers. The Observatory will orbit in a 438-mile-high polar orbit. Scientists hope to use the satellite to measure emissions from industry and other human activities, and to investigate carbon sinks – areas which naturally absorb carbon dioxide, such as the oceans. Read the story here: Satellite.

Published by Rosalind on 22 Feb 2009

Celebrate the Year of Science!

The Coalition on the Public Understanding of Science is a network of museums, educators, businesses and organizations devoted to science and scientific literacy. In 2009, participants will be celebrating the importance of science, and some important science-related anniversaries, such as the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday, the 400th anniversary of Galileo’s first use of a telescope to study the sky, the International Year of Astronomy, and the International Year of Planet Earth. For events near you, check the Year of Science website: Year of Science.

Published by Rosalind on 10 Feb 2009

Birds On the Move

Eastern Wild Turkey. Photo by Gary Stolz, USFWS.

Eastern Wild Turkey. Photo by Gary Stolz, USFWS.

A new Audubon Society study has shown that many North American bird species seem to be shifting their ranges north, and scientists think the changes may be due to the warming climate. The average change seen is 35 miles, but some have extended their ranges much more than that. Two of the species that have moved the farthest over the last 40 years include the Purple Finch and the Wild Turkey. Some species have stayed put, however, and most of them seem to be grassland birds.

Citizen scientists can do a lot to help researchers study birds. If you have ever helped with an Audubon Christmas Bird Count, then you helped gather the data for this study. Check out the study here to see what your favorite birds are doing – and how you can help them! What the Birds Are Telling Us.