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Update August 2018


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Science & Nature
 

August 18, 2018 - August 24, 2018

One giant sale: Neil Armstrong’s collection goes to auction

In this July 16, 1969, file photo, Neil Armstrong waving in front, heads for the van that will take the crew to the rocket for launch to the moon at Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Fla. (AP Photo/File)

This June 15, 2018 photo provided by Heritage Auctions shows an Apollo 11 Robbins Medallion which was also flown on the moon landing mission in July 1969. (Emily Clements/Heritage Auctions via AP)

Lisa Cornwell

Cincinnati (AP) - Admirers of Neil Armstrong and space exploration have a chance to own artifacts and mementos that belonged to the modest man who became a global hero by becoming the first human to walk on the moon.

The personal collection of Armstrong, who died in his native Ohio in 2012, will be offered for sale in a series of auctions handled by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, beginning Nov. 1-2 and continuing in May and November 2019.

The collection includes a variety of artifacts from Armstrong’s 1969 lunar landing and private mementos that include pieces of a wing and propeller from the 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer that the astronaut took with him to the moon.

Other items that went to the moon with Armstrong include a U.S. flag, the largest size typically flown during Apollo missions; a United Nations flag; various state flags; and some Robbins Medallions. The sterling silver medallions were paid for by the crews of Apollo missions and were available for purchase only by NASA astronauts. Armstrong’s collection also includes a rare gold medallion.

Among the more personal items to be auctioned are a Purdue University centennial flag from Armstrong’s alma mater that traveled on Apollo 11 and his Boy Scout cap.

Armstrong’s son, Mark Armstrong, said his father never talked to him about what he wanted done with the large amount of items he kept.

“I don’t think he spent much time thinking about it,” Armstrong said. “He did save all the items, so he obviously felt they were worth saving.”

Armstrong, who lives in suburban Cincinnati, said his father did keep all of his “flown” items together.

Faced with the responsibility of conserving, preserving and insuring irreplaceable items and honoring their father’s legacy, Armstrong and his brother, Rick, found that some things needed restoration, and that some required research to be properly identified.

“We felt like the number of people that could help us identify them and give us the historical context was diminishing and that the problem of understanding that context would only get worse over time,” he said.

The Armstrongs turned to Sarasota, Florida-based Collectibles Authentication Guaranty for help with preserving and authenticating the artifacts and memorabilia and chose Heritage Auctions for the sales.

Greg Rohan, president of Heritage Auctions, said it handles numerous categories of collectibles that appeal to various collectors, but items connected with space seem to have a universal appeal.

“Space is one of the very, very few categories that every single person seems to be interested in,” Rohan said. “You show somebody something from the space program, and they are fascinated by it.”

Bids can be taken online, by phone or in person.


August 11, 2018 - August 17, 2018

Study: Climate change making Europe heatwaves more likely in Madagascar

People enjoy the Bournemouth beach in Dorset, England, as the hot weather continues across Britain. (Andrew Matthews/PA via AP)

Berlin (AP) - Researchers say heatwaves of the kind currently being seen in northern Europe have become twice as likely due to climate change.

Scientists from the World Weather Attribution team said they have compared observations and forecasts for the Netherlands, Denmark and Ireland with historical records going back to the early 1900s. They concluded the likelihood of three-day stretches of extreme heat in those areas has increased at least two-fold.

The group, which works to determine if there’s a link between weather phenomena and climate change, said current temperatures further north are so unusual there’s not enough data to predict their future likelihood.

Erich Fischer, an expert on weather extremes at ETH Zurich in Switzerland who was not involved with the study, said the authors use well-established methodology and “their estimates may even be rather conservative.”


Researchers use leaf blower to see how lizards endure storms

In this Oct. 19, 2017 photo provided by Colin Donihue, an anoles lizard hangs onto a pole during a simulated wind experiment in the Turks and Caicos Islands. (Colin Donihue via AP)

Seth Borenstein

Washington (AP) - Tropical lizards have a stick-to-itiveness in high wind that puts TV weather reporters to shame. Now we know why, thanks in part to a high-powered leaf blower.

Hurricanes Irma and Maria put a group of little tree-hugging lizards to the test, and scientists were perfectly positioned to see which reptiles survived and why. Then, Harvard researchers cranked up the leaf blower to observe just how 47 of the Caribbean critters held onto a wooden rod.

Under tropical storm-force winds, the lizards lounged. As the wind speed cranked up, they still held on, although it got tougher. Even at 102 mph (164 kph), the lizards grasped the pole with two clingy front feet while their tails and back legs flapped in the wind like a flag.

“All the lizard needs is an inside out umbrella and the image would be perfect,” study lead author Colin Donihue said.

But there’s only so much a little lizard can take. At 108 mph (174 kph), it was flying lizard time.

Don’t worry. No lizard was harmed in the lab test.

“They do go flying in the air, but it is softly into the net and everybody was returned back home” unharmed, said Donihue, a Harvard evolutionary biologist.

The lizards’ secret weapon to surviving hurricanes? The survivors had 6 to 9 percent bigger toe pads, significantly longer front limbs and smaller back limbs, compared with the population before the storm, according to a study in Wednesday’s journal Nature. The study is the first to show natural selection due to hurricane, Donihue said.

By coincidence, Donihue and colleagues had been measuring and studying lizards just before the storms blew into the Turks and Caicos Islands last September. They returned several weeks later to see if there was a difference in the surviving population.

They found that the survivors were a bit lighter overall despite the bulked-up front. Key were those toe pads - they are at most about half the size of a pencil’s eraser - Donihue said. It also explains why island lizards have bigger toe pads than inland Central American lizards, a difference that had baffled scientists.

Outside experts praised the study, especially the researchers’ luck of being in the right place at the right time.

“This study provides exciting insight into the effects of extreme natural events,” said Pennsylvania State University biologist Tracy Langkilde, who wasn’t part of the study.

Donihue and colleagues didn’t merely measure the differences. They took the leaf blower and cranked up the power on different lizards, recording it all with a high-speed camera.

“These lizards are very impressive for their clinging in the high winds,” Donihue said.


August 4, 2018 - August 10, 2018

World gazes at total lunar eclipse, longest of this century

The moon turns red during a total lunar eclipse, as seen from Dresden, Germany, Friday, July 27, 2018. (Sebastian Kahnert/dpa via AP)

A full moon sets over the Petronas Twin Towers during a complete lunar eclipse in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday, July 28, 2018. (AP Photo/Yam G-Jun)

 Johannesburg (AP) - Curiosity and awe greeted a complete lunar eclipse on July 27, the longest one of this century and visible in much of the world.

The so-called “blood moon,” when it turns a deep red, was visible at different times in Australia, Africa, Asia, Europe and South America when the sun, Earth and moon lined up perfectly, casting Earth’s shadow on the moon.

The total eclipse lasted 1 hour and 43 minutes, with the entire event lasting closer to four hours.

Rio de Janeiro’s spectators cheered when the blood moon emerged from the fog. Hundreds of people watched at a fort overlooking the iconic Copacabana beach and Sugarloaf Mountain. The local planetarium set up telescopes for astrology fans.

“These telescopes are fantastic. It’s one thing to see pictures of the planets in a book and another to see it in real life,” said Ana Selma Ferreira, a 46-year old lawyer who brought her children to the spectacle.

Across Africa people turned to the sky, watching the reddish shadow slide up the moon’s surface. In Somalia, some hurried to mosques for special prayers. In South Sudan, some dared to take photos in a war-torn country where using a camera in public is discouraged.

In Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, people at an open-air restaurant admired a rare clear view during the rainy season, comparing a live NASA webcast to what they saw above. Then clouds rolled in.

“Dem yelebesech chereka,” some murmured - Amharic for “blood moon.”

“The reason that the moon turns red is because atmospheric scattering causes red light to pass through the atmosphere and the composition of the atmosphere can change if volcanic eruptions or forest fires occur,” said Tom Kerss, an astronomer with the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

“And the density of dust increasing in the atmosphere can cause the moon to appear a particularly deep red, and indeed it has the same effect on our sunsets and sunrises.”

In a special treat, Mars is also at its closest approach to Earth this week since 2003, making it appear bigger and brighter.

Excited skywatchers on social media shared photos of the bright planet just to the right of the moon.

North America missed out on Friday’s lunar eclipse but can look forward to the next one on Jan. 21, 2019, according to NASA.


UK space officials seek nifty name for Mars rover

 London (AP) - The U.K. Space Agency is looking for a catchy name for the ExoMars Rover being developed for use in a mission set for 2020.

The agency launched a competition last week to find the best name for the rover, a key U.K. contribution to the European Space Agency’s Mars voyage.

The winner won’t get a trip to Mars - that would take far too long.

However, the winner will win the chance to take three guests on a tour of the Airbus facility in Stevenage, around 30 miles north of London, where the rover is being built.

The rover is a six-wheeled robot that will search for evidence of past or even present life.

The contest is open to residents of countries belonging to the European Space Agency.


Russian space agency confirms security agency search

Moscow (AP) - Russia’s space agency is confirming that federal security agents have searched two of its daughter operations, following a report that their workers were suspected of treason for cooperating with the West.

The respected business newspaper Kommersant reported that a criminal case for treason had been filed in connection with the alleged passing on of information about Russia’s hypersonic rocket development.

The searches were confirmed by space agency spokesman Vladimir Ustimenko to state television, but he said further information would have to come from the Federal Security Service.

Kommersant, citing unnamed sources, said the searches involved hypersonic rockets.

President Vladimir Putin in March announced Russia had developed an array of new weapons, including a nuclear missile that could fly at Mach 10 and evade enemy defenses.


July 28, 2018 - August 3, 2018

Archaeologists in Egypt discover mummification workshop

A photographer films a gilded silver mummy mask found on the face of the mummy of the second priest of Mut, as it is displayed during a press conference in front of the step pyramid of Saqqara, in Giza, Saturday, July 14, 2018. Archaeologists say they have discovered a mummification workshop dating back some 2,500 years at an ancient necropolis near Egypt’s famed pyramids. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

Menna Zaki

Cairo (AP) - Archaeologists in Egypt stumbled upon a new discovery dating back to more than 2,500 years ago near Egypt’s famed pyramids at an ancient necropolis south of Cairo.

The discovery which includes a mummification workshop and a shaft, used as a communal burial place, is located at the Saqqara necropolis of Memphis, the first capital of ancient Egypt. Memphis, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its vast necropolis are home to a wide range of temples and tombs as well as the three renowned Giza pyramids.

The latest find, announced at a press conference Saturday, belongs to the Saite-Persian Period, from 664-404 B.C. The site, which lies south of the Unas pyramid, was last excavated more than 100 years ago, in 1900.

In the mummification workshop, an embalmer’s cachette holding a large collection of pottery vessels, bowels and measuring cups were found. Archaeologists believe the findings will reveal more about the oils used in the mummification process in the 26th Dynasty.

“We are in front of a goldmine of information about the chemical composition of these oils,” said Ramadan Hussein, the head of the German-Egyptian mission, at the press conference.

Among the artifacts found were fragments of mummy cartonnages, canopic cylindrical jars and marl clay and faience cups. Many will be displayed in the under-construction Grand Egyptian Museum, the first phase of which is expected to be inaugurated later this year.

Archaeologists also found a gilded silver mask on the face of a mummy in a badly-damaged wooden coffin. The mask, the first to be discovered since 1939, belongs to a priest.

“The finding of this mask could be called a sensation,” Hussein said. “Very few masks of precious metals have been preserved to the present day, because the tombs of most Ancient Egyptian dignitaries were looted in ancient times.”

Down the 30-meter-deep shaft is a host of burial chambers carved into the bedrock lining the sides of two hallways. There lie several mummies, wooden coffins and sarcophagi.

“It’s only the beginning,” added Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani. He told reporters that the sites will likely yield more discoveries after further excavation.

Egypt has gone at great length to revive its vital tourism industry, still reeling from the political turmoil that followed a 2011 popular uprising. The Antiquities Ministry has boosted discoveries in recent years in the hopes of bolstering tourism, a major pillar of foreign currency.


Temps rise, records fall: Things to know about the heat wave

A man dives into the Devil’s Pool in Wissahickon Valley Park, Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Philadelphia. Record high temperatures have been logged over the past week around the world. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Malcolm Ritter

New York (AP) - If you’ve been hot lately, you’re not alone. Record high temperatures have been logged over the past week in the U.S. and around the world.

Here’s a quick look at the heat.

What’s going on?

For the week through Tuesday, July 3, 227 U.S. records were broken for highest temperature for particular days, and another 157 were tied, federal statistics show.

There was also a lack of cooling overnight, with 451 records broken for warmest minimum temperatures for particular days, and another 421 tied. In Burlington, Vermont, for example, the temperature got down only to 80 degrees (27 degrees Celsius) on July 2, its highest low temperature ever.

Some other countries have seen all-time highs, such as 105 degrees (41 C) in Tblisi, the capital of the nation of Georgia, on Wednesday, and 109 degrees (43 C) in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, on Sunday. On Monday, Iran experienced its hottest July temperature ever, 127 degrees (53 C).

Is this due to climate change?

Heat waves are a part of every summer, and scientists hesitate to link any single weather event to the warming climate that researchers have measured over long periods of time. Still, Matthew Rosencrans of the National Weather service says that because of global warming, “heat waves like this are likely to be more frequent going forward than they have been in the past.”

Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for the private forecasting service Weather Underground, said the past week’s heat wave “is the kind of thing you expect to see on a warming planet ... it’s easier to set a heat record.” He notes that 2016 was the warmest year on record globally, and that year saw the most all-time heat records broken around the world.


8 endangered black rhinos die in Kenya after relocation

 

A Kenyan wildlife official on Friday, July 13, 2018 says eight critically endangered black rhinos are dead following an attempt to move them from the capital to a national park hundreds of kilometers away. (AP Photo/Sayyid Abdul Azim, File)

Khaled Kazziha

Nairobi, Kenya (AP) - Eight critically endangered black rhinos are dead in Kenya after wildlife workers moved them from the capital to a new national park, the government said Friday, calling the toll “unprecedented” in more than a decade of such transfers.

Preliminary investigations point to salt poisoning as the rhinos tried to adapt to saltier water in their new home, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife said in a statement, describing how the animals likely became dehydrated and drank more salty water in a fatal cycle.

The ministry suspended the ongoing move of rhinos and said the surviving ones in the new park were being closely monitored.

The loss is “a complete disaster,” said prominent Kenyan conservationist Paula Kahumbu of WildlifeDirect.

Conservationists in Africa have been working hard to protect the black rhino sub-species from poachers targeting them for their horns to supply an illegal Asian market.

In moving a group of 11 rhinos to the newly created Tsavo East National Park from Nairobi last month, the Kenya Wildlife Service said it hoped to boost the population there. The government agency has not said how the rhinos died. Fourteen of the animals were to be moved in all.

“Disciplinary action will definitely be taken” if an investigation into the deaths indicates negligence by agency staff, the wildlife ministry said.

“Moving rhinos is complicated, akin to moving gold bullion, it requires extremely careful planning and security due to the value of these rare animals,” Kahumbu said in a statement. “Rhino translocations also have major welfare considerations and I dread to think of the suffering that these poor animals endured before they died.”

Transporting wildlife is a strategy used by conservationists to help build up, or even bring back, animal populations. In May, six black rhinos were moved from South Africa to Chad, restoring the species to the country in north-central Africa nearly half a century after it was wiped out there.

Kenya transported 149 rhinos between 2005 and 2017 with eight deaths, the wildlife ministry said.

According to WWF, black rhino populations declined dramatically in the 20th century, mostly at the hands of European hunters and settlers. Between 1960 and 1995 numbers dropped by 98 percent, to fewer than 2,500.

Since then the species has rebounded, although it remains extremely threatened. In addition to poaching the animals also face habitat loss.

African Parks, a Johannes­burg-based conservation group, said earlier this year that there are fewer than 25,000 rhinos in the African wild, of which about 20 percent are black rhinos and the rest white rhinos.

In another major setback for conservation, the last remaining male northern white rhino on the planet died in March in Kenya, leaving conservationists struggling to save that sub-species using in vitro fertilization.


DAILY UPDATE

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Back to Main Page

HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]

One giant sale: Neil Armstrong’s collection goes to auction


Study: Climate change making Europe heatwaves more likely

Researchers use leaf blower to see how lizards endure storms


World gazes at total lunar eclipse, longest of this century

UK space officials seek nifty name for Mars rover

Russian space agency confirms security agency search


Archaeologists in Egypt discover mummification workshop

Temps rise, records fall: Things to know about the heat wave

8 endangered black rhinos die in Kenya after relocation

 



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