If you’ve never been to California to see its giant redwoods, you should probably go soon.It might be only a matter of time before they’re all gone. Research released Friday indicates that the world’s oldest trees are dying at an alarming rate. “It is a very, very disturbing trend,” says lead researcher William Laurance of James Cook University. “We are talking about the loss of the biggest living organisms on the planet, of the largest flowering plants on the planet, of organisms that play a key role in regulating and enriching our world.”
Oh no! This is so terrible!!
Great White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias, Over/Under (by Todd Bretl)
The 2012 Geminid Meteor Shower in Pictures.
James Cameron’s Dive: Deep-Sea Expedition Uncovers Never-Before-Seen Creatures
The deepest place on the planet may also hold the clues to the origin of life on Earth.
The discovery of microbial mats — bizarre-looking, filamentlike clumps of microorganisms — living off chemicals from altered rocks 35,803 feet (10,912 meters) beneath the surface of the Pacific Ocean comes from samples and video collected by an unmanned lander, part of movie director James Cameron’s mission to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Researchers have speculated that a similar setup may have sparked the chemical steps that lead to life on Earth, and possibly elsewhere in the solar system.
“We do think that this chemistry could be the roots for metabolism,” said Kevin Hand, an astrobiologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif. “It could be the driving engine that leads to the emergence of life,” he said. “Perhaps not just here, but also on worlds like Europa,” an icy moon of Jupiter.
Cameron’s Deepsea Challenger expedition made dives to the New Britain Trench and the Mariana Trench in the southwestern Pacific Ocean between Jan. 31 and April 3, with one manned dive to Mariana’s Challenger Deep, the dark, flat pool that scientists now know houses a surprising array of life. A peek at results from the expedition were presented to a packed audience here Tuesday (Dec. 4) at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
The filmmaker journeyed inside a steel sphere encased in foam — dubbed the Deepsea Challenger — built to withstand the crushing pressures below the ocean’s surface. The expedition traveled with two unmanned seafloor “landers” — large contraptions hoisted over the side of a ship and dropped to the seafloor. Once on the bottom, bait attached to the lander lured seafloor creatures to the craft, and a suite of instruments took samples, photographs and data.
When he emerged, Cameron told reporters the view was “bleak” and “looked like the moon.” But scientists who examined data collected during the deep dives, both manned and unmanned, soon discovered there was life in the coldest, darkest sea.
Bizarre, never-before seen creatures
Along with the discovery of thriving deep-sea mats, several new species swam by the expedition’s high-definition cameras and into its collection tubes. Scientists are now analyzing bacteria and other organisms brought back to the surface.
Giant, 7-inch-long (17 centimeters) amphipods, a shrimplike crustacean that may scavenge fallen logs in the trench,were trapped at nearly 7 miles (11 kilometers) below the surface in Challenger Deep and hauled back to the ship. Tests reveal the creatures contain compounds that help tissues and proteins function better at high pressure, including scyllo-inositol. The compound is identical to a drug used in clinical trials to break down the amyloid plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease, said Doug Bartlett, a microbiologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego.
Some 20,000 microbes from the trench are being picked over and will undergo genetic analysis, he said. There were also abundant numbers of xenophyophores, a giant amoeba that is among the largest individual cells in existence.
Could you love a worm?
The expedition also spied unusual species during practice runs in the New Britain Trench near Papua New Guinea. The submersible reached 26,900 feet (8,200 m) at its deepest dive in the trench on March 7, Cameron said.
The biggest species of the deep-sea trench was a type of sea cucumber called a holothurian, Bartlett said. “They have been implicated in the past to exist at these depths, but not filmed and reported. We saw one that we think could represent a new species,” he said.
The higher elevation walls of New Britain, which extend to a depth of around 12,467 feet (3.8 km) depth, anchored hundreds of acorn worms, a deep- sea invertebrate that leaves distinctive spiral traces of poo on the seafloor. “If you’ve never thought of loving worms, if you’ve seen these videos, you would love worms,” Bartlett said.
Clues to early life
The high-definition video provided close-up images of not only the world’s deepest sea life, but also the planet’s oldest seafloor. At 180 million years old, rocks at the bottom of the Mariana Trench were molten lava when giant dinosaurs roamed the Earth.
Cameron’s imagery from the New Britain Trench, shown at the meeting, may be the deepest pictures ever taken of pillow lavas, formed when lava erupts under water, said marine geologist Patty Fryer of the University of Hawaii in Honolulu. And in the Sirena Trench, where an unmanned lander made a descent to 35,761 feet (10,900 m), researchers unexpectedly discovered outcrops of chemically altered rock called aragonite, lizardite and brucite, said JPL’s Hand.
Though the lander’s rock sampling arm wasn’t functioning properly, Hand later deduced the rock’s composition by sieving a few grains of sediment from a water sample brought back to the surface. “It was akin to Mars sample return for me,” he said. “Though it’s not much, it was plenty to do some great analysis. The analysis was very consistent with seeing those alteration products,” he said.
Feeding on hydrogen
The altered rock is part of the younger tectonic plate overlying the ancient Pacific seafloor, Fryer said. The Mariana trench is a subduction zone, where two of Earth’s tectonic plates meet and one slides beneath the other. Water percolating up through the rocks alters the minerals through a process called serpentinization, releasing sulfur, methane and hydrogen, which can feed bacteria — the last, in particular, is “like cotton candy” for microbes, she said.
The outcrop was covered in part by a few meters of thick, filamentlike organic mats. “There was an astonishingly bizarre microbial ecosystem populating these talus blocks,” Hand said. “To see this kind of structure, this kind of mat in organized form was quite a surprise.”
In recent years, researchers have speculated that early life on Earth arose 4 billion years ago at subduction zones similar to the Mariana Trench. Temperatures were cooler in the deep trenches, and serpentine rocks may have provided the necessary chemical jump-start.
“These deep-sea trenches are places were life might have emerged on Earth,” Cameron said. “These mysteries need to be unraveled. Hopefully, we will dive again.”
There are no plans for another dive as yet, but Cameron said the submersible and landers are operational and sitting in a barn on his Santa Barbara, Calif., property. “The question is where the funding is going to come from,” he said. “I’ll have to aggregate funding to do it. I’ve also got this hobby I do occasionally where I make movies about Pandora.”
If someone were to ask me what I consider beautiful about this universe, these images come to mind. This is just one small aspect of the natural universe but to me, nebulae and the formation of stars because of them is extraordinary beyond words. Starting from the top and going down, left to right, here are the names and a brief description:
Carina Nebula-Otherwise known as NGC 3372, The Carina nebula is an estimated 7,500 light years away from Earth, and can be seen in the Southern Hemisphere in the constellation, Carina. It is four times larger than the Orion Nebula and contains a total mass in the range of 900,000 times the mass of the Sun. This magnificent nebula is home to one of the largest stars ever discovered- Eta Carinae. It is roughly 150 times the mass of our Sun but is four million times as luminous.
Orion Nebula- Otherwise known as M42, the Orion Nebula is a relatively close 1,500 light years away. It has a diameter of 24 light years, which is roughly 141 trillion miles wide. It’s total mass is roughly 2,000 times the mass of the Sun. Due to its close proximity, the Orion Nebula remains one of the most studied nebulae. We can see roughly 700 stars at many different stages of their lifecycle in the Orion Nebula.
Trifid Nebula- Residing in the constellation of Sagittarius, the Trifid Nebula, known also as M20, is approximately 5,000 light years away from Earth. In this image, we can see three distinctive types of Nebulae within the Trifid. The first being a red emission nebula, which is created by the hydrogen atoms being ionized by nearby stars within the nebula. The second is a blue reflection nebula, created by the dust that is reflecting the starlight. This reflection creates the blue seen in this image. The third is a dark nebula, which is created by the even thicker dust clouds that create a silhouette within the Trifid. The diameter of the Trifid Nebula is roughly 40 light years across.
Tarantula Nebula- This absolutely massive nebula deserves a lengthy description to appreciate its true size. Otherwise known as Doradus 30 or NGC 2070, the Tarantula lies at a distance of 160,000 light years from Earth and contains a mass that is measured in millions of times the mass of our Sun. It is estimated to be 100 times larger than the Orion Nebula and roughly 550 light years in diameter. This equates to about 3.2 quadrillion miles in diameter. A number that is so utterly comprehensible, but worth considering. For perspective, the distance to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri is 4.3 light years away, making the diameter of the Tarantula Nebula 127 times wider than the distance to Alpha Centauri. This nebula is also so incredibly bright that if we replaced the Orion Nebula with it, it would be as bright as 60 moons and would cast shadows on Earth. The Tarantula Nebula can be seen in the constellation of Doradus.
R136 within the Tarantula Nebula- This tremendously luminous super star cluster seen as the bright blue stars to the right of the image, lies within the previously mentioned Tarantula Nebula. R136 contains what are called OB type stars(Blue-Blue/White). They are short-lived and extremely large. A rule to remember- the larger the star, the shorter the life. There are thousands of stars in this cluster alone, many of them being at least 50 times larger than our Sun. It is believed that this cluster will become a Globular Cluster in the future due to the close proximity of all the stars. In fact, Scientists have measured that 121 of these stars reside in a region of only 15 light years in diameter Consider again that the nearest star to our Sun is 4.3 light years away. In under 4 times that distance there lies 121 massive and extremely luminous OB-type stars. Truly unbelievable when you think about it. It is also believed that 40 supernovae have occurred in R136 within the last 10,000 years; the last being the famous SN 1987A supernova.
Seahorse Nebula- This beautiful image of the Seahorse Nebula lies near the Tarantula Nebula at a distance of 170,000 light years. It is roughly 100 light years in diameter, which includes the Seahorse that is 20 light years in diameter alone. The incredible colors that we see here are a result of red sulfur atoms being ionized by a nearby star cluster known as NGC 2074. In addition to the sulfur atoms creating the red hue, the glowing hydrogen creates the green hue, and the oxygen atoms are creating the blue-ish hue.
oceanportal: Ocean Acidification
Ocean acidification is happening before our eyes! Scientists have long known that sea snail shells dissolve in more acidic seawater from lab experiments. But now shells have already begun dissolving from acidification in the Southern Ocean!
(photo: Courtesy of David Littschwager/National Geo. Soc.)
A volcano may have snuffed out the light of a tricky glowing cockroach.
This is amazing! Just imagine how many resources are used up for lawns. And how amazing would it be to know where your food comes from? Grow food and fuel your life!
There are so many people around my neighbourhood that do this. And my landlord just finished growing zucchinis, tomatoes and peas in my backyard lol.
Beautiful science illustrations of scale by design duo Brainstorm, a fine addition to these essential visualizations of the scale of the universe.
Plastics at SEA: North Pacific Expedition 2012 is a scientific research expedition conducted by Sea Education Association (SEA) dedicated to the study of the effects of plastic marine debris in the ocean ecosystem. Plastics are versatile, durable and inexpensive materials that have become an important part of our daily lives. Because of their extensive use and slow degradation, plastics have also become a ubiquitous presence in the world’s oceans. In October 2012, 38 scientists, sailors and students will embark upon an expedition from San Diego, CA to Honolulu, HI to tackle tough questions about the impacts of plastic on the ocean ecosystem, while also providing updated estimates of floating plastic concentrations in the region dubbed the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”.
SEA is doing some serious work out there in the Pacific right now. I sailed with them this summer and I’m an alumna of the program, so I can tell you they are very passionate about plastics research. On this current trip, they have counted 36,401 pieces of plastic so far in 20 days at sea. Read more about this plastics expedition here! There are all kinds of cool things on the website, from videos to photographs to journals to an expedition map. Check it out.
All photos © to Sea Education Association, 2012.
New report details how natural gas extraction is destroying forests in Pennsylvania. This photo says it all.
A new analysis from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) of two counties in Pennsylvania found that natural gas extraction creates “potentially serious patterns of disturbance on the landscape.” Wellpads, roads, pipelines and waste pits are clearcuts in forests. Cumulatively they are very destructive to the natural ecosystem.
According to the USGS: “Changes in land use and land cover affect the ability of ecosystems to provide essential ecological goods and services, which, in turn, affect the economic, public health, and social benefits that these ecosystems provide.” Habitat fragmentation decreases a forest’s “abilty to support viable populations of individual species.” Read more.
Photo source: Landscape consequences of natural gas extraction in Bradford and Washington Counties, Pennsylvania, 2004–2010: U.S. Geological Survey
Stop and think about that for a second.
Honey, You Make Me Blue. Beekeepers near the French town of Ribeauville, which is home to a M&M’s processing plant, have noticed their bees turning out honey in unnatural shades — green, blue and dark brown among them.
Container Ship Starts Yearlong Climate Study
A Horizon Lines container ship outfitted with meteorological and atmospheric instruments installed by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) scientists from Argonne National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory will begin taking data for a yearlong mission aimed at improving the representation of clouds in climate models. The study, a collaborative effort between DOE’s Atmospheric Radiation Measurement(ARM) program Climate Research Facility and Horizon Lines, marks the first official marine deployment of the second ARM Mobile Facility, AMF2, and is likely the most elaborate climate study ever mounted aboard a commercial vessel.
“We are very grateful to Horizon Lines for giving us the opportunity to install our research equipment aboard the Horizon Spirit,” says lead investigator Ernie Lewis, an atmospheric scientist at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory. The Horizon Spirit makes a roundtrip journey from Los Angeles to Hawaii every two weeks, which allows for repeated measurements over the same transect at different seasons.
Read more: http://www.laboratoryequipment.com/news/2012/10/container-ship-starts-yearlong-climate-study