Climate change may contribute to civil wars
Sudanese demonstrators are seen in May. Sudan is one country whose violence has been linked to El Niño warming.
August 24th, 2011
01:00 PM ET

Climate change may contribute to civil wars

When you think about civil violence in countries worldwide, consider that one factor may be changes in climate.

A new study in the journal Nature finds that the climate event El Niño Southern Oscillation played a role in 21% of civil conflicts from 1950 to 2004. This is seen most prominently in the poorer countries of the tropics, such as Sudan and Rwanda. Wealthier nations affected by El Niño, such as Australia, do not appear to have civil conflict related to climate change.

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Filed under: News • On Earth
Space freighter crashes in Siberia, Russia says
An unmanned Russian "Progress" supply ship, like the one pictured here, has reported an "abnormal situation."
August 24th, 2011
12:08 PM ET

Space freighter crashes in Siberia, Russia says

[Update 11:50 a.m. ET] A Russian space freighter carrying cargo to the International Space Station has crashed in a remote area of Siberia, Russian emergency officials said Wednesday.

The unmanned Progress cargo craft, which launched at 7 p.m. Kazakhstan time (9 a.m. ET) from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, was due to dock with the ISS on Friday.

Rescue teams have been dispatched to the crash site of the Progress-M12M, the regional branch of the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry told CNN.

Officials could not immediately confirm whether the crash might have caused any damage on the ground. Russia's Interfax news agency reported that the rocket had come down in the Altai region.

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Filed under: In Space • News
August 24th, 2011
11:11 AM ET

Fears after contact lost with Russian rocket

(CNN) - Russia's mission control has reported an abnormal situation with a space freighter that launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome bound for the International Space Station, NASA said Wednesday.

The rocket was carrying 2.9 tonnes of food, fuel and supplies, NASA said, but has no passengers on board.

The Progress 44 cargo craft, which launched at 7 p.m. Kazakhstan time, is due to dock with the ISS on Friday.

NASA spokesman Rob Navias, at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, told CNN that contact with the space craft had been lost about three minutes before it reached orbit.

"We have no confirmation of a crash from the Russians," he said.

Navias said the Russians launch a supply vessel roughly every three months.

The six people currently living on the ISS are "well supplied - actually oversupplied" since the delivery of supplies after the last U.S. shuttle mission last month, he said.

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Filed under: In Space • News
August 24th, 2011
10:34 AM ET

Daybreak at Gale Crater

"This computer-generated images depicts part of Mars at the boundary between darkness and daylight, with an area including Gale Crater, beginning to catch morning light.

Northward is to the left. Gale is the crater with a mound inside it near the center of the image. NASA selected Gale Crater as the landing site for Curiosity, the Mars Science Laboratory. The mission's rover will be placed on the ground in a northern portion of Gale crater in August 2012.

Gale Crater is 96 miles (154 kilometers) in diameter and holds a layered mountain rising about 3 miles (5 kilometers) above the crater floor. The intended landing site is at 4.5 degrees south latitude, 137.4 degrees east longitude.

This view was created using three-dimensional information from the Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter, which flew on NASA's Mars Global Surveyor orbiter. The vertical dimension is not exaggerated. Color information is based on general Mars color characteristics."

Image Credit:

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
August 23rd, 2011
11:20 AM ET

Hurricane Irene

"High above the Earth from aboard the International Space Station, astronaut Ron Garan snapped this image of Hurricane Irene as it passed over the Caribbean on Aug. 22, 2011.

The National Hurricane Center noted on Aug. 22 that Irene is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of 5 to 10 inches across Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Southeastern Bahamas and The Turks and Caicos Islands. Isolated maximum amounts of rainfall may reach up to 20 inches."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Hurricanes • Light up the screen • On Earth
Tuesday science boost: The world's oldest fossils
These tubular microfossils were found in 3.4 billion-year-old sandstone.
August 23rd, 2011
10:26 AM ET

Tuesday science boost: The world's oldest fossils

Greetings, science and space fans! Here are some news items and fun stuff to check out today:

–Sure, all fossils are old. But now, scientists say they’ve found the oldest - specifically, single-celled organisms that are 3.4 billion years old. According to The New York Times, around that time, the moon was orbiting a lot closer to Earth, which raised huge tides. Our planet hadn’t evolved to provide oxygen, so our atmosphere was full of methane. If these organisms really did come from that time, it means that life on Earth probably evolved after the Late Heavy Bombardment, which was a period when asteroids were crashing into the planet and heating the surface to molten rock, the Times reports.

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Filed under: In Space • News • On Earth
August 22nd, 2011
10:43 AM ET

Ophir Chasma

"During its examination of Mars, the Viking 1 spacecraft returned images of Valles Marineris, a huge canyon system 5,000 km, or about 3,106 miles, long, whose connected chasma or valleys may have formed from a combination of erosional collapse and structural activity. This synthetic oblique view shows Ophir Chasma, the northern most one of the connected valleys of Valles Marineris. For scale, the large impact crater in lower right corner is about 18.5 miles, or 30 km, wide.

Ophir Chasma is a large west-northwest-trending trough about 62 miles, or 100 km, wide. The Chasma is bordered by high-walled cliffs, most likely faults, that show spur-and-gully morphology and smooth sections. The walls have been dissected by landslides forming reentrants. The volume of the landslide debris is more than 1,000 times greater than that from the May 18, 1980, debris avalanche from Mount St. Helens. The longitudinal grooves seen in the foreground are thought to be due to differential shear and lateral spreading at high velocities."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
August 21st, 2011
12:57 PM ET

A good planet is hard to find

Editor's note: Lucianne Walkowicz is a Kepler postdoctoral fellow at the University of California at Berkeley's astronomy department. She spoke last month at the TED global conference in Edinburgh, UK. TED is a nonprofit dedicated to "Ideas worth spreading," which it makes available through its website.

(CNN) - It was much too late on a Tuesday when a fellow astronomer friend and I found ourselves catching a cab back to Berkeley, having missed the last train home. My friend promptly dozed off in the taxi, leaving me to chat with our driver - who wondered how we could be out so late with jobs to go to in the morning.

I explained that we were astronomers, and naturally tended to be night owls (although I added that my now-snoring friend was a theorist and therefore accustomed to a more regular schedule). "Astronomers!" Our driver immediately began to pepper me with questions about the universe, and so I launched into telling him about my work. Think of it as "Astronomy 101: Wee Hours of the Morning Edition."

One of the wonderful things about astronomy is that it's a very accessible science - in principle the sky is available to everyone. Although one's access to the sky may vary due to light pollution or outdoor space, most people have wondered what lies in that great beyond - and nowhere is that more true than in the search for planets outside our own solar system. Hard to believe, but it's only been a little over 20 years since the first planets were found orbiting other stars, and though astronomers have found several hundred planets during that time, it's been painstaking, hard-scrabble work.

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August 19th, 2011
09:00 AM ET

#FollowFriday

Every Friday, @CNNLightYears will suggest interesting and exciting space and science Twitter accounts to follow.

Today, @CNNLightYears is giving a #FollowFriday to NASA’s Dawn mission. Scientists hope that Dawn, which was launched in 2007, will provide a better understanding of how the solar system formed.

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Filed under: FollowFriday • Voices
August 18th, 2011
04:07 PM ET

Elmo and STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson

"The crew of STS-135, NASA's final space shuttle mission, and Sesame Street's Elmo welcomed visitors to "What's Your Favorite Space?" in New York City. The free, public event was presented by NASA and Eventi on Wednesday, Aug. 17, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on the hotel's "Big Screen Plaza." The outdoor plaza was transformed into a miniature space outpost filled with displays including an inflatable Mars Rover, demonstrations, interactive exhibits, video segments, children's activities and more. Pictured with Elmo is STS-135 Commander Chris Ferguson."

Source: NASA

Filed under: Light up the screen
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