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Update June 2018


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Science & Nature
 

June 16, 2018 - June 22, 2018

Pompeii: New find shows man crushed trying to flee eruption

Anthropologist Valeria Amoretti works with a brush on a skeleton of a victim of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79, which destroyed the ancient town of Pompeii, at Pompeii' archeological site, near Naples, on Tuesday, May 29, 2018. The skeleton was found during recent excavations and is believed to be of a 35-year-old man with a limp who was hit by a pyroclastic cloud during the eruption. (Ciro Fusco/ANSA via AP)

Milan (AP) - Officials at the Pompeii archaeological site have announced a dramatic new discovery, the skeleton of a man crushed by an enormous stone while trying to flee the explosion of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

Pompeii officials on Tuesday released a photograph showing the skeleton protruding from beneath a large block of stone that may have been a door jamb that had been "violently thrown by the volcanic cloud."

The victim, who was over 30, had his thorax crushed. Archaeologists have not found the victim's head. Officials said the man suffered an infection of the tibia, which may have caused walking difficulties, impeding his escape.

The archaeological site's general director, Massimo Osanna, called it "an exceptional find," that contributes to a better "picture of the history and civilization of the age."


June 9, 2018 - June 15, 2018

Residents riding out Hawaii lava told to escape torrents

In this Saturday, May 26, 2018, image released by the U.S. Geological Survey HVO shows an aerial view of fissure 22 looking toward the south, as Kilauea Volcano continues its eruption cycle near Pahoa on the island of Kilauea, Hawaii. (U.S. Geological Survey via AP)

Sophia Yan

Honolulu (AP) - Rivers of lava have been flowing toward the ocean on Hawaii’s Big Island, forcing officials to knock on doors and urge residents holding out in evacuated neighborhoods to flee right away.

Molten rock trapped at least one person who was rescued by authorities. The Kilauea volcano has been unleashing danger on the remote, rural southeastern side of the island for nearly a month, displacing thousands of residents, destroying 37 houses and forcing businesses to shut down.

A section of a key rural highway closed after a lava flow came within about 100 yards (90 meters), according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The two-lane highway connects Pahoa, a small town near the evacuation zones of the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens neighborhoods, to the east coastline and links two other small highways that run north and south.

Lava was shooting up from cracks in the ground and blowing strands of volcanic glass.

Explosions at the summit were sending small bursts of volcanic ash as high as 15,000 feet (4,570 meters).

Wind was carrying volcanic glass, gases, pollution and ash particles to other parts of the island. Authorities on Tuesday advised residents to minimize exposure to avoid irritation to skin and eyes and breathing problems.

A new fissure has opened, bringing the total number of cracks spouting lava to 24 since the volcano began erupting on May 3, Hawaii County Civil Defense said.

Lava also has covered two wells at a geothermal plant. County officials said the plugged wells were stable and being monitored, and no dangerous gases have been released, such as hydrogen sulfide - a colorless, flammable gas that can be emitted by volcanoes or when organic matter and waste break down.

Ormat Technologies, a Nevada company that owns the Puna Geothermal Venture plant, said it could not assess the extent of the damage to the wells. The facility produces roughly one-quarter of the Big Island’s daily energy supply.

After weeks of scientific updates on the volcano, the U.S. Geological Survey took a lighter tone as it responded to a question on Twitter about whether it would be safe to roast marshmallows over volcanic vents.

“We’re going to have to say no, that’s not safe,” the agency’s volcanos account replied Monday, saying if the vent was belching volcanic gases, such as sulfur dioxide or hydrogen sulfide, the roasted marshmallows “would taste bad.” The gases generally smell like rotten eggs.

Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park has been closed and has no water due to damaged utility lines, said Jessica Ferracane, a spokeswoman for the National Park Service.

Associated Press journalist Audrey McAvoy contributed to this report.


June 2, 2018 - June 8, 2018

Experts: China far side lunar mission potentially historic

 

China has launched a relay satellite as part of a groundbreaking program to land a probe on the far side of the moon this year. The China National Space Administration said on its website that the satellite lofted into space early Monday, May 21, aboard a Long March-4C rocket will facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang’e 4 mission. (Cai Yang/Xinhua via AP)

Christopher Bodeen

Beijing (AP) - China’s ambition to soft-land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon later this year faces considerable challenges, but if successful would propel the country’s space program to the forefront of one of the most important areas of lunar exploration, experts say.

China hopes to be the first country to complete such a landing. On Monday, it launched a relay satellite to facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the upcoming Chang’e 4 mission.

The moon’s far side is also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and remains comparatively unknown.

Creating the ability to explore the far side of the Moon is an impressive achievement, John M. Logsdon of George Washington University’s Space Policy Institute said in an email.

“Spacefaring countries around the globe are focusing a great deal of attention on lunar exploration, and this far side capability, if it comes into being, will put China in a leading position with respect to that objective,” Logsdon said.

However, getting the relay satellite into the proper position will be tricky and marks only a first step in pulling off the landing, he said.

“Doing things in space, especially at a far distance from Earth, remains hard, so success is far from assured, Logsdon said.

A far side soft-landing would be a “world historical first,” said Bernard Foing, head of the European Space Agency’s International Lunar Exploration Working Group, which has collaborated with the Chinese program.

That would offer a “deep science opportunity to study the far side,” which has a different composition from sites on the near side, where previous missions have landed, Foing said.

However, he too warned of the difficulties ahead, saying it would be a “great challenge using the relay orbiter for control and data.”

Such a communications relay link is needed for communication with a spacecraft on the far side because the moon’s rocky bulk would otherwise block contact with Earth.

China previously landed its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon and plans to land its Chang’e 5 probe there next year and have it return to Earth with samples - the first time that would be done since 1976.

China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, making it only the third country after Russia and the U.S. to do so, and has put a pair of space stations into orbit.

Upcoming missions include the launch of the 20-ton core module for the still orbiting Tiangong 2 station, along with specialized components for a more-than 60-ton station that is due to come online in 2022 and a Mars rover planned for the mid 2020s.

Additionally, China has already obtained the “technological basis” to put astronauts on the moon, the chief designer of the manned space program, Zhou Jianping, told a conference last month.

“We have had in-depth discussions with many experts about manned lunar exploration, and conducted research on key technologies in recent years,” Zhou said.

Although China’s space program is largely military-run, the Chang’e 4 mission underscores how it is a developing “an ambitious civilian, science-based space effort alongside building up the country’s national security space capabilities,” Logsdon said.

A number of Chinese commercial satellite launchers have also sprung up in recent years on the model, if not the scale, of private U.S. companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin.

Last week, Beijing-based OneSpace Technologies became the first private spaceflight company to send a rocket into space, launching its relatively small 9-meter (30-foot) OS-X for a test flight that ended with it falling back to Earth.


DAILY UPDATE

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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

Pompeii: New find shows man crushed trying to flee eruption


Residents riding out Hawaii lava told to escape torrents


Experts: China far side lunar mission potentially historic

 



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