Tag Archives: Mother Earth

Quadrantids’ Fiery Journey: First Sky Show of 2012, Overnight Jan. 3-4

A centuries-long journey will end tonight for hundreds of comet fragments as they smash into Earth’s atmosphere at 90,000 miles per hour, burning up 50 miles above Mother Earth’s surface.

The result: the Quadrantid meteor shower, the first star show of the ostensibly apocalyptic 2012.

Though not as famous as their cousins the Orionids and the Geminids, the Quadrantids are among the best and brightest celestial shows of the calendar year, astronomical observers say. They can be caught for a few hours only in what NASA calls a “brief, beautiful show” during the overnight of January 3 to 4, peaking at 2 a.m. on the fourth. Unlike with previous shows, the meteors will not be obscured by an abundance of moonlight.

“The Quadrantids have a maximum rate of about 100 per hour, varying between 60–200,” NASA said in a media release. “The waxing gibbous moon will set around 3 a.m. local time, leaving about two hours of excellent meteor observing before dawn. It’s a good thing, too, because unlike the more famous Perseid and Geminid meteor showers, the Quadrantids only last a few hours—it’s the morning of January 4, or nothing.”

For those unable to see the shower—it will only be visible in the Northern Hemisphere, though that includes all of Turtle Island—NASA has announced that the Marshall Space Flight Center will set up a live, all-sky camera feed of the skies over Huntsville, Alabama.

“The weather looks very clear for tonight in Huntsville, and the feed will go live late this afternoon,” NASA said in its Tuesday January 3 statement, urging viewers to check back to its site for a gander at the embedded Ustream feed.

Originating from an asteroid called 2003 EH1, this set of shooting stars was first seen in 1825, according to NASA. They’re possibly part of a comet that broke apart centuries ago, NASA said, with these meteors being the small debris from the fragmentation. The shower is named after the no-longer-recognized constellation of Quadrans Muralis, so designated in 1795 by the French astronomer Jerome Lalande, NASA said.

“After hundreds of years orbiting the sun, they will enter our atmosphere at 90,000 mph, burning up 50 miles above Earth’s surface—a fiery end to a long journey!” NASA’s release said.

This one sounds worth staying awake for, so grab a cup of coffee, lean back, and enjoy the show.

Big Blue Marble: Mother Earth in High Def

Up close she is our dear, beloved, Mother Earth. From space our home planet resembles a shimmering blue glass sphere.

This has now been shown in high-definition by recent satellite photos that revisit the cosmic vision first recorded by the crew of Apollo 17 as they photographed Earth during their flight to the moon. That 1972 photo got Mother Earth dubbed the Blue Marble and, as NASA noted in this paper talking about the significance of the first space shots of Earth, helped spark the environmental movement by highlighting our planet’s fragility.

Now the epithet has been reapplied, thanks to the work of NASA oceanographer Norman Kuring, who explained to The Los Angeles Times how it was done. The image, he said, is not really a photograph but a compilation of data collected by something called the Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), a gadget aboard NASA’s Suomi NPP satellite, which is observing Earth from 512 miles up. Kuring’s image came from a translation of the data collected by the telescope on January 4, 2012, rather than from a series of snapshots. The result: Earth as you’ve never seen her before.

For comparison, below is the Apollo 17 original, with the caption that appeared on it way back when.

Blue Marble 1972 615x615 Big Blue Marble: Mother Earth in High Def

"View of the Earth as seen by the Apollo 17 crew traveling toward the moon. This translunar coast photograph extends from the Mediterranean Sea area to the Antarctica south polar ice cap. This is the first time the Apollo trajectory made it possible to photograph the south polar ice cap. Note the heavy cloud cover in the Southern Hemisphere. Almost the entire coastline of Africa is clearly visible. The Arabian Peninsula can be seen at the northeastern edge of Africa. The large island off the coast of Africa is Madagascar. The Asian mainland is on the horizon toward the northeast."

Ancestral Mother of All Horses Discovered

Using mitochondrial DNA, researchers have discovered that every horse that’s ever roamed Mother Earth can be traced to a single female ancestor that lived about 140,000 years ago.

The study, led by Alessandro Achilli, a researcher in the department of cellular and environmental biology at the Universita di Perugia in Italy, identified 18 genetic clusters that suggest domestication of the horse happened in many places across Europe and Asia. This is “unlike modern livestock, such as cattle and sheep, which were derived from a handful of animals domesticated around 10,000 years ago in just a few places,” the study says.

The study also notes how the domestication of the wild horse was a fundamental step in human development.

“The horse served as a means to provide food, facilitate transportation, and (since the Bronze age) enhance warfare capabilities. A question that has not yet been completely addressed concerns the timing and mode in which humans began to benefit from the employment of these animals.”

The discoveries were published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and may also help classify well-preserved horse fossils.

Big Blue Marble Redux: Earth’s Flipside, and a Goldilocks Planet

The first reissue of the Big Blue Marble image of Earth last week was so popular, Wired UK reports, that hits on Flickr surpassed those on the previous high record, the Situation Room shot taken at the time of Osama bin Laden’s assassination.

It’s an interesting comparison, given that on February 2, NASA oceanographer Norman Kuring, who compiled last week’s image, went to the far side of the Earth to compile this view showing the Eastern Hemisphere with Africa, Saudi Arabia and India.

It’s a composite of data from six separate orbits that the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership (NPP) took on January 23, NASA said in a statement. The new instrument, the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), obtained the images with a viewpoint that is 7,918 miles above Earth’s surface, NASA said. As a bonus, VIIRS captured sunlight bouncing off the ocean, which comes across as four vertical smoky lines.

Last week’s image was of the Western Hemisphere, with North and South Americas in full view.

The new image, above, is almost the same view as the iconic 1972 photograph that started the whole thing, which shows the Arabian Peninsula at the northeastern edge of Africa, with Madagascar off the coast of Africa and the Asian mainland is on the horizon to the northeast.

GJ667Cc 400 270x153 Big Blue Marble Redux: Earth’s Flipside, and a Goldilocks Planet

An artist's rendering of the so-called Goldilocks planet, which may be Earthlike. Guillem Anglada-Escudé, Carnegie Institution

As it turns out, Mother Earth may not be the only shimmering blue marble in the skies. The Carnegie Institution for Science announced on February 2 the discovery of a so-called Goldilocks planet, one that falls solidly into the “habitable” realm, meaning that it has a very good chance of hosting conditions necessary to foster life.

The main condition necessary is water, and this planet falls in the temperature zone that water could remain liquid in, said Carnegie in a statement.

The skies would look very different from this planet, Carnegie said. For one thing, the system has three suns, although this “super earth,” as it has been dubbed, orbits just one of them. Even more confounding, the scientists said, is that the planet cruises around its sun, a red dwarf, in just 28 days—talk about the years flying by!

According to Carnegie, this new planet, whose real name is GJ 667Cc, receives just 90 percent of the light that Earth does, but that is mitigated by the infrared nature of the light, which means the planet will absorb a higher percentage of the energy, making the end result the same in terms of energy absorption. That could lead to liquid water, though the atmosphere remains in question. The planet is also 4.5 times larger than Earth.

Although much more study is needed, “This planet is the new best candidate to support liquid water and, perhaps, life as we know it,” Guillem Anglada-Escudé, one of the leaders of the study, said in the Carnegie statement. The full results will be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Get Out Your Shades for the Brilliant Algonquin Snow Moon

There’s no need to keep one’s eyes peeled for tonight’s lunar phenomenon—it will be in your face with the luminescent Snow Moon, which is attracting a lot of online chatter both for being a spectacular display and for being an Algonquin term, at least according to the Farmers’ Almanac.

Every tribe has names for the moon, a different one for each month in many cases. With Earth’s satellite changing shape and color in the sky almost daily, and its lighting and position varying month by month, it’s not surprising that the orb has earned many monikers.

“The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full moon,” states the Farmers’ Almanac, the principal source quoted by numerous media outlets. “Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred.”

Tonight Mother Earth will bask in the full glow of the Snow Moon, which according to the Farmers’ Almanac earned the designation because of what is usually happening on the Algonquins’ traditional turf, the territory stretching from the Great Lakes through what is known today as the northeastern United States.

“Some tribes also referred to it as the Full Hunger Moon or Little Famine Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult,” the Farmers’ Almanac says. “Forced to gnaw on bones and sip bone marrow soup for sustenance, the Cherokee named it the Full Bony Moon.”

The Algonquin name may have the world abuzz, but it is just one of dozens of tribal names for the February moon. Some samples are below, thanks to the site AmericanIndian.net, which actually lists the Algonquin name for February moon as wapicuummilcum, or Ice in River Is Gone.

Other tribal February moon names, according to the site: the Abenaki call it piaôdagos, Makes Branches Fall in Pieces Moon; the Anishnaabe (Chippewa, Ojibwe), from the Great Lakes, named it the Sucker Moon, or namebini-giizis. The Apache had a cheerier epithet, Frost Sparkling in the Sun, while the Assiniboine called it Long Dry Moon, and the Choctaw nicknamed it hotvlee-hv’see, or Wind Moon. Back in the wintry realm, the Comanche of the southern plains called it positsu mua, Sleet Moon, while the Canadian Cree of the northern plains called it the Old Moon. Up north in Alaska it’s also known as cepizun, or Old Moon, among the Haida, while the Hopi call it powamuya, Moon of Purification and Renewal.

On a more pessimistic note, the Kalapuya of the Pacific Northwest, in what is today Oregon, called it atchiulartadsh, Out of Food. Cannapopa wi was the name given the moon by the Lakota of the northern plains, Moon When the Trees Crack Because of the Cold.

One name unlikely to surface soon is 51st State, USA, Republican Presidential hopeful Newt Gringrich’s vow to colonize the moon notwithstanding. The moon’s rutted dark side, which the Earth never sees, bears the scars of interplanetary bombardment, as the recent NASA video shows.

Tonight’s abnormally springlike temperatures will not deter the Snow Moon from shining brightly, however. Stay tuned for the full brilliance starting at 4:54 p.m. EST (2154 GMT), according to Space.com. The moon has been blazing since yesterday and will continue into tomorrow night, but tonight is the actual full moon, Space.com said.

“The full moon rises around sunset and sets around sunrise, the only night in the month when the moon is in the sky all night long,” Space.com said, quoting a February 2012 skywatching guide written by contributor and astronomer Geoff Gaherty.

Russian Scientists May Have Drilled Down to Antarctica’s Lake Vostok, Buried for 14 Million Years

Russian scientists claim to have successfully drilled through two miles of glacial ice to reach Lake Vostok, buried under Antarctica for 14 million years.

Russia’s news agency Ria Novosti was reporting on February 6 that scientists had reached the lake, but that was not corroborated by Russian authorities until February 8.

After a couple of days of uncertainty, Valery Lukin, the director of the Russian Antarctic Expedition, released a statement quoted by The New York Times from A.M. Yelagin, chief of the Vostok Research Station, saying that the drill contacted the lake water 12,366 feet down. The pressurized lake water shot up the bore hole for 100 to 130 feet, which pushed the drilling fluid out of contact with the untouched waters beneath, Yelagin’s statement said. It froze, plugging the hole and thus preventing contamination, The Times said. Scientists will have to wait until the next Antarctic season to take actual water samples.

“For me, the discovery of this lake is comparable with the first flight into space,” Lukin told the Interfax News Agency, according to The Times. “By technological complexity, by importance, by uniqueness.”

Based on the truism that where there’s water, there’s potential life, researchers are hoping to learn more about this subterranean lake that is among the last unexplored frontiers of Mother Earth. Moreover it may actually resemble another largely unexplored frontier, the solar system.

“The conditions in Lake Vostok are thought to be similar to the conditions on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s tiny moon Enceladus,” Wired UK reports. “In June, NASA probe Cassini found the best evidence yet for a massive saltwater reservoir beneath the icy surface of Enceladus. This all means that finding life in the inhospitable depths of Vostok would strengthen the case for life in the outer solar system.”

Even the music world has taken notice, with British rock group Fanfarlo releasing a new song in honor of the event, “Vostok, I Know You Are Waiting,” which you can listen to at The NJ Underground.

The video accounts below give a good overview of what is to be gained, and potentially lost, by breaching this ancient body of water.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Rick Santorum’s Quotes On Man’s Dominion Over Nature, the Crusades and Christendom

Outspoken Republican Presidential Candidate Rick Santorum is not shy about establishing his points of view in speeches on such interesting subjects as man versus nature and Christendom—all of which will be of interest to Indian country. Santorum is riding a surge of momentum heading into the February 28 primaries in Arizona and Michigan. On February 7, Santorum swept primaries in Missouri, Minnesota and Colorado—the latter two states have a strong American Indian presence.

That momentum has also carried over into the main race as Santorum has jumped into the lead with 30.8 percent, ahead of Mitt Romney by 1.6 percent as of February 13’s Real Clear Politics poll.

According to the Washington Times, the February 7 results show a growing pool of support for Santorum and possible dangers for Romney as the race progresses.

With the primary season about to heat up, Santorum’s momentum could continue to grow especially in the Midwest and Mountain West, areas with large blue-collar populations according to the Washington Post. Of course, many Native issues loom large in these states.

Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul continue to be a part of the race, though neither is building momentum.

Santorum’s recent rise to the front of the Republican Presidential Candidate race has brought a new round of analysis on the viability of a hard-line right-winger in a national election. Santorum has made much of his Christian faith, which he uses to inform his contemporary views of the world. American Indians, however, may find some elements of his traditional, biblical point of view disturbing. Consider, for example, his attitudes towards nature, and philosophies that seem closely aligned with such troubling retrograde, harmful historical concepts such as the doctrine of discovery. To wit:

“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit,” Santorum told an audience at the Colorado School of Mines where he was a guest speaker February 6 at the Colorado Energy Summit. Where he called climate change a “hoax” and advocated for a fossil fuel heavy energy plan according to RealAspen.com. “We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through the course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create.”

The vagaries of nature? Is he referring to dam control or perhaps Keystone XL Pipeline, or the artificial snow on the San Francisco Peaks? And what about the degradations of large-scale mining? Santorum’s stance is clearly in contrast to that of Bolvian President Evo Morales who created a law protecting Mother Earth. One area Santorum and Romney tend to agree on? Big corporations, big money and fossil fuels. Protecting the environment isn’t a high priority.

“The idea that the Crusades and the fight of Christendom against Islam is somehow an aggression on our part is absolutely anti-historical. And that is what the perception is by the American Left who hates Christendom. … What I’m talking about is onward American soldiers. What we’re talking about are core American values.” Santorum shared this nugget on his South Carolina campaign stop and made No. 3 of The Week’s nine controversial Santorum quotes.

“Core American values” built from Christendom is something familiar to Natives, and how the Church tried to assimilate Indians into society.

Santorum took a very clear stance on contraception when he was interviewed by CaffeinatedThoughts.com and shared at thinkprogress.org, One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country…. Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that’s okay, contraception is okay. It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Speaking on the topic of same sex marriages in an Associated Press interview in 2003 Santorum said, “If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual [gay] sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn’t exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.”

Santorum’s addresses have also favored factory work over social programs: “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them other people’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn their money and provide for themselves and their families. The best way to do that is to get the manufacturing sector of the economy rolling.”

Suffering for Santorum is a good thing and he feels Americans should suffer some, “Suffering, if you’re a Christian, suffering is a part of life. And it’s not a bad thing, it is an essential thing in life … There are all different ways to suffer. One way to suffer is through lack of food and shelter and there’s another way to suffer which is lack of dignity and hope and there’s all sorts of ways that people suffer and it’s not just tangible, it’s also intangible and we have to consider both.”

Santorum’s infatuation for fossil fuels is also evident especially with comments like, “Drill everywhere … There is no such thing as global warming.”

For more information on these subjects and how they affect Indian country in particular, visit the links below.

Church and Christendom

Women’s rights and sexual preferences: domestic violence, attacks on women, Heather Purser and Susan Allen, Two Spirits

Social Programs to assist minority groups: Obama’s latest Budget proposal

Suffering: boarding schools, domestic violence or tribes still struggling for federal recognition

Drill Everywhere: tribes in Louisiana, Wind River Reservation, wells containing arsenic and Fracking

Red Planet Mars Sidles up to Mother Earth; Best View Saturday March 3

Well, it’s the warrior planet, so it won’t get too, too friendly. But this weekend Mars is making its closest approach to Earth in two years, rising in the east just after sunset and setting at dawn. The best view will be around midnight to the south, astronomers say.

Two things are happening with Mars this weekend. On Saturday night, March 3, Mars is in opposition—that is, it will be on one side of Earth while the sun will be on the other. This puts the sun’s full illumination on the Red Planet. The show, NASA says, will be worth a look. The naked eye will see Mars as an unblinking orange-red dot, while those gazing through a telescope can view the Red Planet’s actual features—polar ice caps and perhaps a crater or two.

Also not to be missed, especially with telescope, are the vision of Saturn in the southeast, according to the Windsor Star in Canada. This is on top of the continuing show given by Venus and Jupiter as they close in on one another through mid-March, along with views of Mercury just after sunset.

Those not lucky enough to have a telescope and/or clear skies can watch the Mars-opposition action live courtesy of the Slooh Space Camera, which will broadcast a free, real-time feed of the Mars opposition from 11:00 p.m. EST (8:00 p.m. PST) on, Space.com said. Commentary will be provided by Astronomy magazine’s Bob Berman, as well as Patrick Paolucci from Slooh, Space.com said.

A couple of days later, on March 5, this warrior planet, the next one out from the sun after Mother Earth, will be its closest in two years, providing slightly better viewing, telescopically speaking.

As Wired points out, Mars is 62 million miles away this time, so it still won’t be as close as it can get. In 2003, Wired notes, the planets came within 35 million miles of each other, but that only happens once every 60,000 years or so. In 2287, which is 275 years from now, they’ve penciled in a date to get that close once again, Wired said.

Venus, Jupiter and Moon Back for More; Conjunction Lights up March 26 Twilight Sky in Jupiter’s Last Dance

Venus, the moon and Jupiter are closing in for yet another love triangle on March 26, official sky observers say. And this will be their last, since Jupiter flits off to its far-flung orbit as March flows into April, and the three are not due to meet in Mother Earth’s sky for quite some time.

The crescent moon, in a slightly different position than it took during the previous three-way in late February, will hover slightly above and to the left of Venus.

Having already started in during the day, with Venus visible near the moon during the afternoon of March 26, the two will be joined by Jupiter at their usual rendezvous time at dusk, Space.com reports. Viewers in North America will see the three closest together at about 9 p.m. EDT.

The three will form an arrow—think Cupid—with Jupiter at the downward point in what Space.com calls a “twilight light tango” cum “pas de trois as our nearest neighbor, the moon, gets involved in this eye-catching celestial scene.”

It also marks a fond farewell, as Jupiter drifts into the nether regions of its orbit. It will be back in view in June, but without its cherished partners.

The Wrath of Sol: Mother Earth Could Get Socked With Violent Solar Storm by 2020

Just as California is waiting for the big earthquake, so now Mother Earth—or at least her passengers—may need to brace for a rock ‘em, sock ‘em solar blast bigger than the flares that blew by or pummeled us in January and March.

A report released earlier this year by a group of solar physicists posits that the sun could disgorge a giant blob of plasma sometime between now and 2020 that would hurl itself at the earth at 4 million mph, causing damage to the tune of trillions of dollars and taking 10 years to recover from.

It’s part and parcel of what the sun does as a matter of routine. Such a discharge would not affect the sun; it sluffs off tons of plasma the way we drop spare change. Every 11 years the sun enters a period of increased kinetic activity. The latest cycle, now upon us, will peak in 2013.

But what does this mean exactly? More solar flares? An increase in sunspots? Giant plasma storms that wipe out communication? A reversal of Earth’s polarity? An epic cataclysm?

Apocalyptic prophesiers foretell blue comets, massive asteroid attacks and the end of the calendar, which they associate with doomsday. Not all of them, though, think or talk about the sun’s role in all this. Most of us are so busy worrying about what humans are doing to the planet that we aren’t training our eyes to the sky—at least not the part that could do some serious harm.

Forget about asteroids hurled at us from the galaxy’s nether regions. Today, with our overreliance on power and intangibly transmitted data, we should worry more about damage from Helios that no amount of sunscreen will prevent. An X-class solar flare like the ones that occurred at the end of January and in early March, slamming at just the right moment at just the right angle into Earth’s magnetic field, could take out huge portions of our planet’s power grid, disrupt radio and satellite communications and cause general havoc. There could potentially be $2 trillion in damages and a recovery time of at least 10 years, the National Academy of Sciences recently determined.

There is a 12 percent chance that such a storm could hit Earth before 2020, according to an analysis done recently by Pete Riley, a space physicist and senior scientist at Predictive Science in San Diego. He published his predictions, which he told Wired magazine surprised even him, in the journal Space Weather on February 23. Such an event last happened in 1859 and is known as the Carrington Event, named for astronomer Richard Carrington, who witnessed the flare.

According to Wired, the resultant solar storm jolted us so hard that telegraph operators’ lines were overflowing with electric current, “so they unplugged the batteries connected to their machines, and kept working using just the electricity coursing through the air.”

Of course, we’ve got much more going on these days than telegraph machines. Even the Carrington event caused a mere 1.5 hours of business disruption, and spectacular aurora seen all the way to Havana, Wired said. In 1989 a solar flare took out much of the electrical grid in Quebec, causing 6 million people to lose power for more than nine hours.

The next couple of years could very well prove or disprove the sun’s power over the world’s electronic infrastructure. Whether it will also demonstrate that traditional knowledge, in the form of millennia of carefully recorded solar history, can predict the outcome of these events, is another matter entirely.

Many religions allude to a moment that will transform everyone. Buddhists speak of an impending evolution in consciousness. In the Bible, we find this passage in 1 Corinthians 15:52: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

Consider, too, the end of the Mayan Long Count calendar. Many interpret it to mean the end of time or of the world as we know it. On the other hand, it may be nothing more than the equivalent of flipping the calendar from December to January, as NASA puts it.

David Courchene, the winner of Canada’s National Aboriginal Achievement/Indspire Award for Heritage, Culture and Spirituality, said he has spoken with a higher authority about the end times.

“I never hear the spirit give any specific date,” he told Indian Country Today Media Network. But he did say that human beings reap what they sow. “We’ve created such an imbalance,” he said. “We can’t continue to support practices that destroy life. That is not the truth.”

Meanwhile, in the near term, the increased solar activity will continue through 2013 or even 2014, scientists say. And rather than bringing a cataclysm, the activity is more likely to stop at spectacular northern lights displays that could dance as far south as the Great Lakes. So just sit back, enjoy the show and don’t worry too much—at least not yet.

LO RES AST Photo SUN aurora borealis canada AP120308148192 The Wrath of Sol: Mother Earth Could Get Socked With Violent Solar Storm by 2020

Heightened aurora borealis, or northern lights, may be the most that happens during a solar storm. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Bill Braden)