Scientists on research vessel spot rare whale in Bering Sea
Aug. 6, 2017 photo provided by NOAA Fisheries a North Pacific right
whale swims in the Bering Sea west of Bristol Bay. (NOAA Fisheries via
Alaska (AP) - Federal researchers studying
critically endangered North Pacific right whales sometimes go years
without finding their subjects. Over the weekend they got lucky.
A research vessel
in the Bering Sea photographed two of the animals Sunday and obtained a
biopsy sample from one, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration announced Thursday.
research biologist Jessica Crance was on board the Yushin Maru 2, when
the whales were spotted. The ship is part of the Pacific Ocean Whale and
Ecosystem Research program, a collaborative effort headed by the
International Whaling Commission. Using an acoustic recorder, and
between sounds of killer whales and walrus, Crance picked up faint calls
of a right whale east of Bristol Bay, Alaska.
The sounds came
from an estimated 10 to 32 miles (16 to 51 kilometers) away and the ship
headed west, she said in a blog entry. After four and a half hours,
despite the presence of minke and humpback whales, and only a few calls
from the right whales, the rare animals were spotted.
The two right
whales are part of the eastern stock that number just 30 to 50 whales,
said Phillip Clapham, head of the cetacean program at NOAA’s Alaska
Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.
A French whaling
ship recorded the first kill in 1835 and reported seeing “millions” of
others. That claim was exaggerated but it drew hundreds of other whalers
to the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea, Clapham said.
Within 14 years,
Clapham said, the overharvest of the slow, buoyant animals sent many
whalers through the Bering Strait to hunt bowhead whales instead.
A modest comeback
of right whales in the 20th Century was derailed when Soviet whalers in
the 1960s ignored critically low numbers and illegally killed eastern
stock right whales in the Gulf of Alaska, Clapham said.
The right whale
sampled Sunday had been seen eight times before, Clapham said. The last
time was a decade ago.
A biopsy sample, he
said, can positively identify the animal, reveal its gender, indicate
whether it’s pregnant and reveal information on diet and reproductive
Pacific right whales is complicated by the expense of reaching their
habitat in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea. Critical data remains
unknown, including their winter habits and many of their preferred
summer feeding areas for copepods, a tiny crustacean plankton.
“We don’t know what
habitats continue to be important to the species,” Clapham said.
The biggest threats
to the animals are fishing gear entanglements and ship strikes, Clapham
SpaceX chief says 1st launch
of big new rocket will be risky
founder Elon Musk said the first launch of its big new rocket, the
Falcon Heavy, is risky and stands “a real good chance” of failure. (AP
Photo/Refugio Ruiz, File)
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) -
SpaceX’s chief said the first launch of its big new rocket is risky and
stands “a real good chance” of failure.
Founder Elon Musk told a space
station research conference that he wants to set realistic expectations
for the flight later this year from Cape Canaveral. The Falcon Heavy
will have three boosters instead of one, and 27 engines instead of nine,
all of which must ignite simultaneously. No one will be aboard the
initial flights. When it comes time to add people, Musk said, “No
question, whoever’s on the first flight, brave.”
SpaceX plans to fly two paying
customers to the moon late next year, using a Falcon Heavy.
While the moon may not be in Musk’s
personal travel plans, he said in response to a question that he’d like
to ride one of his smaller Falcon rockets to the International Space
Station in maybe three or four years. SpaceX plans to start ferrying
NASA astronauts to the orbiting outpost, using Falcon 9 rockets and
enhanced Dragon capsules, by the middle of next year. SpaceX now uses
the Dragon capsule to deliver supplies to the space station.
“All right, we’ll put you on the
manifest,” said NASA’s space station program manager Kirk Shireman.
Speaking for over an hour at the
Washington conference, Musk encouraged people to go to Cape Canaveral
for the Falcon Heavy launch. “It’s guaranteed to be exciting,” he
promised, getting a big laugh.
“There’s a lot of risk associated
with Falcon Heavy, real good chance that that vehicle does not make it
to orbit,” he said. “Major pucker factor, really, is like the only way
to describe it.”
Building the Falcon Heavy has
proven harder than SpaceX envisioned, according to Musk. But it will be
capable of lifting more than double the amount of payload into orbit
than the current Falcon 9, and also hoisting a SpaceX Dragon capsule
into a loop around the moon.
As for Mars, Musk said he favored
friendly competition for getting astronauts to the red planet. NASA for
years has supported an international effort. Musk said it would be
better to have at least two or three-country coalitions striving to get
there first and making the most progress.
He praised the model used by NASA
in the commercial crew program, in which both SpaceX and Boeing are
developing capsules for flying space station astronauts. Americans have
not launched from home soil since the last shuttle flight in 2011,
instead forced to use Russian rockets. The crew Dragons will parachute
into the ocean just like the cargo Dragons; land landings were scrapped
because of the work needed to make everything safe.
Musk said he’s updated his
long-term plan for colonizing Mars to make it more economically
feasible. The vehicles will be smaller, although still big. He promised
to share his evolving ideas at a September conference in Australia.
“Going to Mars is not for the faint
of heart,” Musk stressed. “It’s risky, dangerous, uncomfortable and you
might die. Now do you want to go? For a lot of people, the answer is
going to be hell no, and for some, it’s going to be hell yes.”
10-year-old boy trips over 1.2M-year-old fossil in desert
Jude Sparks with the dinosaur fossil.
(Credit: Peter Houde)
Las Cruces, N.M. (AP) - A boy’s misstep on a family hike in New
Mexico has given the world a prehistoric wonder.
Ten-year-old Jude Sparks was on a desert hike in
Las Cruces in November when he tripped over what turned out to be the
fossilized tusk of a 1.2 million-year-old elephant-like creature, called
The family contacted New Mexico State University
professor Peter Houde, and he and a team from the university spent a
week digging up the skull in May after getting permission from the
Houde estimates the entire skull weighs about a
He expects the university to put the skull on
exhibit after it’s studied and reconstructed, which could take years.
Physicists find new particle with a double dose of charm
image provided by CERN shows an artist’s conception of a new subatomic
particle. The particle is the first of its kind to have two heavy
quarks, both a type called “charm.” (CERN via AP)
Washington (AP) - Scientists
have found an extra charming new subatomic particle that they hope will
help further explain a key force that binds matter together.
Physicists at the Large Hadron
Collider in Europe announced Thursday the fleeting discovery of a long
theorized but never-before-seen type of baryon.
Baryons are subatomic particles
made up of quarks. Protons and neutrons are the most common baryons.
Quarks are even smaller particles that come in six types, two common
types that are light and four heavier types.
The high-speed collisions at the
world’s biggest atom smasher created for a fraction of a second a baryon
particle called Xi cc, said Oxford physicist Guy Wilkinson, who is part
of the experiment.
The particle has two heavy quarks -
both of a type that are called “charm”- and a light one. In the natural
world, baryons have at most one heavy quark.
It may have been brief, but in
particle physics it lived for “an appreciably long time,” he said.
The two heavy quarks are in a dance
that’s just like the interaction of a star system with two suns and the
third lighter quark circles the dancing pair, Wilkinson said.
“People have looked for it for a
long time,” Wilkinson said. He said this opens up a whole new “family”
of baryons for physicists to find and study.
“It gives us a very unique and
interesting laboratory to give us an interesting new angle on the
behavior of the strong interaction (between particles), which is one of
the key forces in nature,” Wilkinson said.
Chris Quigg, a theoretical
physicist at the Fermilab near Chicago, who wasn’t part of the discovery
team, praised the discovery and said “it gives us a lot to think about.”
The team has submitted a paper to
the journal Physical Review Letters.
The Large Hadron Collider, located
in a 27-kilometer (16.8-mile) tunnel beneath the Swiss-French border,
was instrumental in the discovery of the Higgs boson. It was built by
the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known by its French
Apollo 11 bag laced with moon dust sells for $1.8 million
Apollo 11 Contingency Lunar Sample Return Bag used by astronaut Neil
Armstrong sold for $1.8 million at an auction on Thursday following a
galactic court battle. The lunar dust plus some tiny rocks that
Armstrong also collected are zipped up in a small bag. (AP Photo/Richard
New York (AP) -
A bag containing traces of moon dust sold for
$1.8 million at an auction on Thursday following a galactic court
The collection bag,
used by astronaut Neil Armstrong during the first manned mission to the
moon in 1969, was sold at a Sotheby’s auction of items related to space
voyages. The buyer declined to be identified. The pre-sale estimate was
$2 million to $4 million.
The artifact from
the Apollo 11 mission had been misidentified and sold at an online
government auction, and NASA had fought to get it back. But in December
a federal judge ruled that it legally belonged to a Chicago-area woman
who bought it in 2015 for $995.
to identify the seller. However, details of the 2015 purchase were made
public during the court case.
unknowingly hit the moon mother lode in 2003 while searching the garage
of a man later convicted of stealing and selling museum artifacts,
including some that were on loan from NASA.
(30-by-20-centimeter) bag was misidentified and sold at an online
Nancy Carlson, of
Inverness, Illinois, got an ordinary-looking bag made of white Beta
cloth and polyester with rubberized nylon and a brass zipper.
collector, knew the bag had been used in a space flight, but she didn’t
know which one. She sent it to NASA for testing, and the government
agency, discovering its importance, fought to keep it.
“belongs to the American people,” NASA said then.
U.S. District Judge
J. Thomas Marten, in Wichita, Kansas, said that while it shouldn’t have
gone up for auction he didn’t have the authority to reverse the sale. He
ordered the government to return it.
The judge said the
importance and desirability of the bag stemmed solely from the efforts
of NASA employees whose “amazing technical achievements, skill and
courage in landing astronauts on the moon and returning them safely have
not been replicated in the almost half a century since the Apollo 11
When it comes to
moon landings, Thursday’s auction is far from the final frontier.
A group called For
All Moonkind Inc. mentioned the moon bag this week while campaigning for
“measures to preserve and protect the six Apollo lunar landing sites.”
It plans to take up the issue this month at the Starship Congress 2017
out-of-this-world interest at the auction was the Flown Apollo 13 Flight
Plan, with handwritten notations by all three crew members. It sold to
an online bidder for $275,000, well above its pre-sale estimate high of
What to drive on Mars?
Rover to be displayed at DC museum
Washington (AP) -
The type of vehicle that could explore the surface of Mars is going on
display in Washington.
The National Air and
Space Museum is featuring the Mars rover concept vehicle on Friday and
Saturday. Friday is the museum’s annual “Mars Day!” celebration.
The museum says the
rover weighs 5,500 pounds (2495 kilograms) and is nearly 11 feet (3 meters)
tall. It was commissioned by the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in
Florida as a traveling exhibit to inspire the public about space exploration
and interplanetary travel.
The Washington Post
reports the rover can separate in the middle, with the front end working as
a scout vehicle and the rear end working as a laboratory. It runs on an
electric motor fueled by solar panels and battery power.