New commercial supply ship reaches space stationView gallery MARCIA DUNN 4 hours agoCAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA’s newest delivery service pulled up at the International Space Station on Sunday after a week’s delay, bringing more than a half-ton of meals and special treats to the astronauts who assisted in the high-flying feat.With the smooth linkup, Orbital Sciences Corp. became only the second company to accomplish such a far-flung shipment.The space station astronauts used their ship’s huge robot arm to grab the Cygnus capsule, as the two vessels zoomed 260 miles above the Indian Ocean.”Everybody is just so excited,” Mission Control radioed. Ground teams described the achievement as „epic” and „superb.'”Orbital Sciences launched the Cygnus capsule on this test flight from Virginia on Sept. 18. It was supposed to reach the space station last Sunday, but got held up by inaccurate navigation data. A software patch fixed everything. Then the Cygnus had to wait for a Russian spacecraft bringing three new astronauts in midweek.View gallery.”This framegrabbed image provided by NASA-TV shows the Cygnus spacecraft attached to the Canadarm 2 o …The successful arrival means the Virginia-based company can begin making good on a $1.9 billion contract with NASA for a series of Cygnus deliveries. The next one could fly by Christmas.Applause could be heard in Mission Control once Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano grabbed hold of Cygnus with the space station’s hulking mechanical arm.”Good capture. That’s a long time coming,” Mission Control radioed.”Smiles all around,” added Orbital Sciences in a tweet.Sunday’s successful operation culminated years of effort for Orbital Sciences, which was hired by NASA along with the California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp. to keep the space station well stocked in this post-shuttle era.View gallery.”This framegrabbed image provided by NASA-TV shows the Cygnus spacecraft as it approaches the Interna …SpaceX has been launching its supply ships, called Dragon, for more than a year. It’s also working on a possible manned capsule that would ferry U.S. astronauts to the space station, rather than having them hitch rides on Russian rockets.Unlike the SpaceX Dragon that can return items to Earth, the Cygnus is designed to burn up upon descent. Once unloaded of its 1,300 pounds worth of food, clothes and other items, it will be filled with trash and cut loose toward the end of October. That’s how the Russian, European and Japanese supply ships end up as well: self-destructing garbage cans.The latest delivery included student experiments and, almost certainly, chocolate for the six-person crew. That’s what astronaut Karen Nyberg was expecting, anyway, from her astronaut-husband and 3-year-old son.Following the early morning capture, the astronauts worked to install Cygnus — named after the swan constellation — on the space station. The hatch opening was set for early Monday.Both Parmitano and Mission Control paid tribute to the late astronaut for whom the Cygnus is dedicated: G. David Low. Low flew three times on space shuttles, then went to work for Orbital Sciences to help in this new commercial space effort. He died of cancer in 2008 at age 52. His family attended the Cygnus launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility.View gallery.”This framegrabbed image provided by NASA-TV shows the Cygnus spacecraft, top, as it approaches the I …”To our great friend and colleague G. David Low …this one’s for you,” Orbital Sciences said via Twitter.___Online:NASA:NASA: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.htmlOrbital Sciences Corp.: http://www.orbital.com/
Kenya arrests another mall raid suspectView gallery21 minutes agoNairobi (AFP) – Kenyan police on Sunday arrested another suspect over the September 21 Nairobi mall attack that left at least 67 people dead, the interior minister said.”Another suspect was arrested today and is undergoing interrogation,” Joseph Ole Lenku told reporters in his latest briefing on the status of the investigation.The latest arrest, on which he provided no further detail, brings to nine the number of suspects currently held in connection with the raid, one of the worst attacks in Kenya’s history.The raid was claimed by the Shebab, an Al-Qaeda linked Somali group which has vowed more attacks if Kenya failed to pull its troops out of Somalia.Witness accounts and experts point to the key role played by militants based in Kenya, which has a large ethnic Somali community.Lenku said that „156 witnesses have recorded statements” as Kenyan and foreign investigators attempt to piece together what happened during the 80-hour siege.The minister also said that three men suspected of looting shops inside the mall during the chaos had been held.”We wish to affirm that government takes very seriously allegations of looting and that those found to have engaged in the looting will be prosecuted,” Lenku said.Lenku said that owners of businesses at the shopping centre had been allowed into the strictly sealed-off site to check their shops following a first report of looting.
Radio blackout cited in deaths of 19 firefightersView gallery FELICIA FONSECA and MICHAEL R. BLOOD 14 hours agoPRESCOTT, Ariz. (AP) — Shortly before 19 elite firefighters perished in a raging Arizona wildfire, commanders thought the crew was in a safe place. No one had heard from the Granite Mountain Hotshots for 33 minutes. The crew didn’t contact commanders, and commanders didn’t radio them.Then it was too late.A three-month investigation into the June 30 deaths released Saturday did not determine if the tragedy was avoidable, while outlining a series of missteps by the crew and commanders and revealing the more than half-hour of radio silence that occurred just before the firefighters were overwhelmed by flames.It’s not certain why the crew left what was believed to be a safe spot on a ridge that the fire had previously burned and, apparently seeking another safe location, unknowingly walked to their deaths in a basin thick with dry brush. At the time they died, an airtanker was circling overhead, confused about their location.”There is much that cannot be known about the crew’s decisions and actions” because of the gap in communications, the report concluded.The 120-page report by a team of local, state and federal fire experts pointed to repeated problems with radios and contact with the crew. At one point, a pilot wanted to check on the firefighters after hearing radio traffic that they might be on the move, but commanders believed at that time the crew was positioned safely.Ted Putnam, a former investigator for the U.S. Forest Service, said the report didn’t go far enough to dissect the decisions made by the firefighters. When the crew members went silent and did not notify anyone they were changing locations „there’s an active failure there,” he said.At a news conference in Prescott, where the fallen firefighters lived, Shari Turbyfill implored officials to draw stronger conclusions about why her stepson and his fellow firefighters died, and recommend immediate changes.View gallery.”FILE -In this Tuesday, July 23, 2013 file photo, Prescott Wildland Division Chief Darrell Willis tou …”I don’t want another family to deal with this,” she said.Her husband, David, said the emergency fire shelter in which his 27-year-old son Travis died had not been improved in 13 years.”Policies, as they may be, need to change,” he said.Despite identifying numerous problems, the report found that proper procedure was followed in the worst firefighting tragedy since Sept. 11, 2001. Investigators suggested that the state of Arizona should possibly update its guidelines and look into better tracking technology.All but one member of the Granite Mountain Hotshots crew died while protecting the small former gold rush town of Yarnell, about 80 miles northwest of Phoenix, from an erratic, lightning-sparked fire. Hotshots are elite backcountry firefighters who hike deep into the brush to fight blazes.Investigators described what became a chaotic day in which a fire that two days earlier caused little concern bloomed into an inferno that incinerated pine, juniper and scrub oak in an area that hadn’t experienced a significant wildfire in nearly a half century.The day went according to routine in the boulder-strewn mountains until the wind shifted around 4 p.m., pushing a wall of fire that had been receding from the firefighters all day back toward them. The report suggested the crew was blindsided when the fire changed direction and surged in intensity and speed.Commanders did not find out the men were surrounded by flames and fighting for their lives until five minutes before they deployed their emergency shelters, which was more than a half hour after a stormy weather warning was issued.View gallery.”FILE – In this July 2, 2013 file photo, firefighter Brendan McDonough embraces a mourner near the en …Without guidance from the command center or their lookout, who had escaped after warning the crew, the men bushwhacked into a canyon that soon turned into a bowl of fire. The topography whipped up 70-foot flames that bent parallel and licked the ground, producing 2,000 degree heat. Fire shelters, always a dreaded last resort, start to melt at 1,200 degrees.The report confirms the crew knew about the changing weather, and just before 4 p.m. a commander warns the crew superintendent to „hunker and be safe.”There was no word from the crew from just after 4 p.m. until just minutes before the fire overwhelms them — a gap of 33 minutes.Shortly before they deploy their shelters, a static-filled transmission comes over an air-to-ground frequency from a crew member at 4:39 p.m.: „We are in front of the flaming front.”Other firefighters working on the blaze who pick up the transmission are confused, hearing the urgency in the Hotshot’s voice and chain saws roaring in the background. They believed the crew was in a safe spot.In final snippets of conversation, the crew superintendent says urgently „our escape route has been cut off. We are preparing a deployment site” for the shelters.He’s assured an airtanker is coming.But a smaller plane makes seven passes over four minutes trying to locate the crew to guide the big tanker, but cannot find or contact them.View gallery.”Shows where firefighters died near Yarnell, Arizona; 3c x 5 inches; 146 mm x 127 mm;Heavy smoke blankets the ground.A helicopter joins the search but „there is no further contact with the Granite Mountain” crew, the report said.The firefighters may have failed to communicate during that crucial half-hour because they entered a dead zone, or because they were wary of overloading the radio channels. In the end, the same communication gaps that stymied the rescue effort hindered the reconstruction of the tragedy.”We don’t know that information; we don’t have it,” lead investigator Jim Karels said. „That decision process went with those 19 men.”The fire destroyed more than 100 homes and burned 13 square miles before it was fully contained on July 10.No other wildfire had claimed the lives of more firefighters in 80 years.____Blood reported from Los Angeles. Hannah Dreier in Las Vegas and Michelle Price in Salt Lake City contributed to this report.
Colo. immigrants face uncertainty after floodsView gallery IVAN MORENO September 27, 2013 4:31 PMEVANS, Colo. (AP) — Immigrants living in the U.S. illegally returned to their mobile home parks in flood-ravaged Colorado to find that there was little left to salvage — not the water-damaged cars, not the old family pictures and not the sheds carried away by the rushing waters.The destruction, however, was only the beginning of what’s been a nightmarish two weeks. They didn’t have flood insurance. And because they are not citizens or legal residents — and don’t have family members who are — they won’t get the federal government’s help.”They say that faith and hope die last,” said Juan Partida, 40, a dairy worker who along with his wife Mari, who is pregnant, do not qualify for federal emergency aid because they are in the country illegally. „We need to have faith and hope that we’ll get help.”How quickly they can rebuild their lives, relying largely on local government and nonprofit organizations, will have long-term ramifications on the Weld County industries that depend on their labor, from meatpacking plants and farms to construction and hotels.”They’re out of their homes, and a lot of them have lost their vehicles in this, they’re impacted. So the economy is going to be impacted,” said Lyle Achziger, mayor of Evans, a city on the northern plains whose population of 19,500 is 43 percent Latino.View gallery.”In this Sept. 24, 2013 photo, Sonia Marquez, an organizer with the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coaliti …Achziger said officials responding to the disaster have been learning about the immigrants’ importance to the region’s economy. He said the city hopes to get people help by getting them to register with the city, county and other volunteer aid organizations.”We have told them that immigration status is not our focus. And I will repeat that again, that is not our focus. Our focus is getting people out of the cold, getting a roof over their head and getting them a warm meal,” he said.The JBS meatpacking plant in Greeley employs nearly 50 immigrant workers whose families were displaced. The company has paid for hotels, delivered food, and tried to connect families with available services, company spokesman Cameron Bruett said.”They’re certainly a critical element of our team,” Bruett said.The waters that ripped through the Evans mobile home park the morning of Sept. 13 gave residents only minutes to get out. Many left with just the clothes they were wearing.View gallery.”In this Sept. 24, 2013, photo, immigrant worker Raul Hernandez, and Sonia Marquez, an organizer with …In Partida’s trailer, he and his wife had toys and clothes from their boys, 8 and 3, who died in a car accident nearly a year ago with their aunt and uncle. „Not being able to get none of those things out, for me that’s what’s saddens me the most,” he said.In all, there were about 150 homes. Every single one is marked with an orange X to signify it’s uninhabitable.Many of the mobile park residents came from Mexico, and those in the country illegally will not get help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency unless they have U.S. citizen children or a family member who is a legal resident.For those who do qualify for FEMA aid, immigrant advocates are concerned there’s a lack of Spanish-language speakers to help families navigate the system.When a FEMA housing inspector visited Sofia Mendez, 59, the meeting left her confused about what help she would get, she said. Mendez, who is a naturalized citizen, started buying her $29,000 trailer in Evans about a year ago.View gallery.”
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Texas Drought: Has It Really Improved?
By Jon Erdman Published: Sep 27, 2013, 3:03 PM EDT weather.com
Change in the Texas drought status from Oct. 4, 2011 to Sep. 24, 2013, according to the Drought Monitor analysis. Darker brown shadings show areas in worse drought. (Credit: NOAA/USDA/NDMC)
Drought-stricken Texas seems to be improving, at least according to the animation above. But is this telling the whole story?
Monthly Rainfall Estimate
„From an agricultural perspective, drought conditions have gotten considerably better over the past few months, especially with rain in the Panhandle, west-central Texas, and the lower Rio Grande Valley,” says John Nielsen-Gammon, Texas State Climatologist and professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University.
Put another way, parts of the state have received rainfall over the summer that has helped replenish soil moisture.
Taken as a statewide average, June through August rainfall in Texas was near normal, according to the August State of the Climate report from the National Climatic Data Center.
Despite that, 54 percent of rangeland and pastures in Texas were rated in poor or very poor condition, due to the multi-year drought.
O.C. Fisher Reservoir near San Angelo, Texas is nearly dry in this photo taken in early September 2013. (Credit: Mike Johnson via NWS-San Angelo)
Reservoirs Near Record LowsOf course, the other aspect to a drought is its effect on water supplies in reservoirs, rivers and lakes.
Generally speaking, the longer and more intense the drought, the worse impact on water supplies, neglecting man-made conservation efforts.At least part of the Lone Star State has been in extreme drought (the second worst category in the weekly Drought Monitor analysis) since late November 2010.The driest year on record in Texas – 2011 – resulted in the most intense one-year drought on record in the state.While not nearly as dry as 2011, both 2012 and 2013 have continued to be drier than average. Several cities are running over 10 inch precipitation deficits since the start of 2012, including:
- Corpus Christi: -19.51 inches
- Houston (IAH): -19.25 inches
- Wichita Falls: -14.50 inches
- Lubbock: -13.08 inches
- Amarillo: -11.36 inches
- Dallas-Ft. Worth: -10.18 inches
As to where this drought ranks in Texas history, Nielsen-Gammon says this is now the second-worst drought on record (since 1895), considering both intensity and longevity. Only the 1950-1957 drought ranks worse in Texas history, according to Nielsen-Gammon.Of course, it’s not solely an issue of a precipitation deficit, but also evaporation from lakes and rivers.The National Weather Service in San Angelo, Texas tweeted an insightful graph in mid-August illustrating how much evaporation occurs just in a three and a half month period.The net effect on reservoirs has been staggering.
„Until the rain event on Sept. 19-20, Texas reservoirs were one or two days away from setting an all-time record for the gap between the amount of water stored and the storage capacity,” Nielsen-Gammon says in a Sep. 26 Texas A&M news story. “Our reservoirs were essentially storing 18 million acre-feet of water and 13 million acre-feet of air.”
Texas reservoir capacity (black line) compared to current conservation storage (light blue area) in thousands of of acre-feet. The late September 2013 total is shown at the far right, with the red bracket denoting the gap between capacity and the current level. (Credit: waterdatafortexas.org/Texas Water Development Board)
While reservoirs in parts of east and north Texas were running much higher, others from south-central Texas to the Panhandle were in a more dire situation.
- Lake Meredith (north of Amarillo): 0 percent full
- O.H. Ivie Reservoir (east of San Angelo): 15.9 percent full
- Lake Travis (west-northwest of Austin): 30.6 percent full
Relief in Sight?
Relief in Sight?
- South Central Forecast
- Let it Rain, but Not Too Much
How much rain is needed to return water levels to anything resembling a long-term average?
First, you need enough rain to first saturate the soil to allow significant runoff into lakes and reservoirs, in addition to what falls into the body of water directly.
„Some reservoirs will need a major flood to fill up, others can do it with a normal year of rain,” says Nielsen-Gammon.
In the near term, it would almost take a tropical cyclone or its remnant to bring enough rain to replenish the most depleted reservoirs.
It’s hard to believe it was just six years ago that Texas had its record wettest summer, culminating in a massive flood at Marble Falls from June 26-27.
In the absence of an extremely persistent wet pattern like 2007, it will likely take a few years, at least, for reservoirs to recover from this current multi-year drought.MORE ON WEATHER.COM: Plains Drought…Year Three
Still Dry at Year 3
Associated PressKent Walker, who farms and ranches, walks through one of his wheat fields in Frederick, Okla. on April 23. According to Walker, at this time of the year, the wheat should be growing higher than his knees. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Still stormy Northwest
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M. Ressler, Lead Meteorologist, The Weather Channel
Sep .29, 2013 11:32 am ET
West | View Regional Video
– Rain and mountain snow continue Monday from Washington, Oregon and northernmost California into the northern Rockies.
– Additional rainfall of 1 to 3 inches is possible across western Washington while the mountains of northern and central Idaho along with the coastal range and Cascades of western Oregon could see another inch of rain.
– Snow levels will begin to fall across the Northwest. In western Washington, snow levels will fall to below 4500 feet and the higher elevations of the Olympics and Cascades could pick up 1 to 2 feet of snow by Tuesday morning.
– Much of the Northwest will remain very windy as well. Parts of Montana and Wyoming will experience gusts from 50 to 80 mph.
– Temperatures will be below average across northern California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, northwest Wyoming and western Montana but above average up and down the high Plains.
– Highs will range from the 50s and 60s across most of the Northwest (40s in the higher mountains) to the 90s in the deserts.
– The showers diminish across the Northwest Tuesday and Wednesday.
– Then Thursday and Friday, heavier rain and snow target parts of Montana Wyoming and Colorado as much colder air invades the Rockies and high Plains.
Northeast | View Regional Video
– Ahead of a dying cold front, a few showers may make it into western New York, western Pennsylvania and West Virginia Monday.
– The rain from the Atlantic storm should stay east of New England.
– Temperatures will vary from near average to 11 degrees above average.
– Highs will be mainly in the 70s, except 60s coastal New England, the higher mountains, western New York and northwestern Pennsylvania.
– A few sprinkles may linger from Upstate New York to West Virginia Tuesday.
– Wednesday and Thursday should be dry and warm.
– A few showers could invade New York and New England Friday before the next cold front brings more substantial rain to the region next weekend.
South | View Regional Video
– Scattered showers and thundershowers are possible across southeast Texas, the northern Gulf Coast and Florida Monday. A few showers will extend northward from the lower Mississippi Valley into the Tennessee Valley.
– Temperatures will range from near average to 7 degrees above average.
– Highs will be mainly in the 80s, except 70s across Tennessee, north Georgia and the Carolinas and a few low 90s in south Texas.
– Tuesday and Wednesday, some showers and thundershowers will pop up in the vicinity of the lower Mississippi Valley, northern Gulf Coast and Florida.
Midwest | View Regional Video
– A few showers may linger in the Ohio Valley Monday while, from the Plains to Michigan, a dry sunny day is on tap.
– Gusty west to southwest winds are likely across the north-central states, especially the high Plains of the western Dakotas and western Nebraska.
– Temperatures will vary from near average to 15 degrees above average with highs in the 70s and 80s.
– Tuesday will be warm and dry region wide.
– A few showers begin to develop in the Plains and Mississippi Valley midweek.
– A strong storm and cold front move across the region Thursday into Saturday with locally heavy rain and some thunderstorms.
Giant NASA Balloon Ready to Hunt Comet ISON
Leonard David, SPACE.com Published: Sep 27, 2013, 11:42 AM EDT
An image of Comet ISON photographed on April 10 by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, when the comet was slightly closer than Jupiter’s orbit at a distance of 386 million miles from the Sun (394 million miles from Earth). (NASA)
A colossal NASA balloon is poised to carry a free-hanging gondola sky-high on a mission to take a gander at celestial grandeur: Comet ISON.
Weather permitting, NASA’s Balloon Rapid Response for Comet ISON (BRRISON) gondola and science instruments are to ascend from the space agency’s Scientific Balloon Facility in Fort Sumner, N.M., possibly by Sunday, Sept. 29. The one-day balloon mission’s target is Comet ISON, an incoming comet that some scientists have billed as a potential “comet of the century” because it could flare up to spectacular brilliance after a close flyby of the sun in late November.
Along with a 0.8-meter telescope, NASA’s reusable BRRISON balloon gondola will carry infrared and near-ultraviolet/visible imaging gear, along with fine-steering mirror technology to obtain high pointing stability while observing Comet ISON. [See amazing photos of Comet ISON by stargazers]
Reports from Fort Sumner by the BRRISON team are upbeat. The team has had a series of successful pointing tests with the gondola hanging from a crane inside an opened-door hangar and with project instruments acquiring test shots of star fields and planets, said Andrew Cheng, BRRISON principal investigator and chief scientist in the Space Department at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md.
The team had hoped to launch BRRISON by this week, although weather issues at the New Mexico launch site could force a delay to the weekend.
“We did come here to the launch site a week late because of problems with the infrared camera, but they’ve been overcome,” Cheng told SPACE.com. “I expect we’ll be flight-ready by Thursday this week and may fly Friday. I’m concerned about the weather … chances of being able to launch Friday or Saturday are poor, and Sunday may be a better bet,” he said.
The BRRISON science balloon will fly on a zero-pressure balloon. It is the first NASA Planetary Science Division balloon mission to observe a comet.
The large helium-filled balloon will carry the instrument-carrying gondola to near space, soaring up to 120,000 feet (36,576 m) altitude. That’s almost 23 miles (37 km) above the Earth. By sending the balloon to that height, the gondola instruments are flying above most of the atmosphere and they should be able to view Comet ISON more clearly.
Hang test for comet telescope
“One of the goals of the ultraviolet-visible bench is to demonstrate that we can stabilize a suspended telescope at the sub-arc second level in order to take advantage of the near-space seeing conditions at 120,000 feet,” said BRRISON team member Eliot Young, a principal scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. [Comet ISON: Evolution of a Potentially Great Comet (A Timeline)]
Young told SPACE.com that the team has exercised the gondola’s coarse pointing system and a fine steering mirror during a “hang test” on Sept. 22.
It was a gusty night, Young said, and the line of sight was limited, but the gondola’s Altazimuth (ALT/AZ) mounts permitted precise motion of the telescope tube in vertical (altitude) and horizontal (azimuth) directions. ALT/AZ motors kept a test source well within the desired field of view.
A guide camera was able to find and “centroid” — average position of an object — on a star at about 100 frames per second, and most of the motion of the buffeted telescope was corrected for, Young said.
“We hope that the conditions in the stratosphere will be less severe,” Young said, enabling “better image quality to help us get more accurate centroids and milder wind buffeting to overcome,” he told SPACE.com.
Tracking the sun-grazing comet
Comet ISON is an Oort cloud comet and scientists suspect the celestial wanderer is making its first — and potentially last — voyage into the inner solar system.
The comet was discovered in September 2012 and is a sun-grazer, meaning it will pass extremely close by the sun on Nov. 28. The sun’s gravity may well tear Comet ISON apart by tidal forces. But BRRISON will observe Comet ISON before it plunges close to the sun, while it is still outside Earth’s orbit distance.
During its observing trek, data gleaned by BRRISON will be recorded onboard and analyzed after landing.
In addition to observing Comet ISON, scientists plan to have BRRISON observe several other targets during its flight, including Comet Encke; moons of Jupiter; and the hydrated (water-bearing) asteroids 24 Themis and 130 Elektra.
Big comet questions
From high above Earth’s atmosphere, the BRRISON initiative is to focus on several scientific questions, such as:
- How does the composition of an Oort cloud comet compare with a Kuiper Belt comet?
- What are the chemical processes that lead to complex organic molecules in regions of star and planet formation?
- Were there systematic chemical or isotopic gradients in early solar nebula?
- How did Earth get its water and other volatiles?
BRISSON was built and managed by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in collaboration with NASA’s Glenn Research Center, NASA’s Balloon Program Office, the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility and the Southwest Research Institute.
Editor’s note: If you snap a photo of Comet ISON, or any other night sky object, and you’d like to share it for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at email@example.com.
To learn more about the comet’s trip through the inner solar system, visit SPACE.com’s complete coverage of Comet ISON.
Leonard David has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. He is former director of research for the National Commission on Space and is co-author of Buzz Aldrin’s new book “Mission to Mars – My Vision for Space Exploration” published by National Geographic. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on SPACE.com.
- Comet of the Century? Sun-Grazing Comet ISON Explained (Infographic)
- Comet ISON’s Mars ‘Buzz’ – Orbiter and Rovers on Lookout | Video
- Amazing Comet Photos of 2013 by Stargazers
Copyright 2013 SPACE.com, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
MORE FROM WEATHER.COM: Beautiful Space Photos
Archway to Heaven
The natural rock archway of Durdle Door dramatically frames the distant band of our Milky Way in this carefully composed shot. The spectacular rock formations in this part of Dorset’s Jurassic Coast are more than 100 million years old. (© Stephen Banks)
Russian court jails 6 more Greenpeace activists, raising total to 26View gallery In this photo provided by Greenpeace International, a Russian Investigation Committee, inspects the Greenpeace International ship, Arctic Sunrise, in a closed part of Murmansk port, Russia, Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013. Greenpeace said on Friday it will appeal the Russian court rulings that sent its activists to jail for a protest at an offshore drilling platform in the Arctic. (AP Photo/Greenpeace International, Dmitri Sharomov)Lynn Berry, Associated Press 3 hours ago MOSCOW (AP) — A court in the northern Russian city of Murmansk on Sunday sent six more Greenpeace activists to jail for two months and showed no sign that the remaining two activists would be treated any differently for a protest at a drilling platform in Arctic waters.Twenty other activists and two journalists were ordered jailed for two months during a marathon court session on Thursday that stretched late into night, but the court ruled to hold the remaining eight only until new hearings could be held on Sunday.No charges have been brought against any of the activists, who are citizens of 18 countries, including Russia. Russian prosecutors are considering whether to charge them with piracy, among other offenses, and the activists are being held pending the investigation.The Russian Coast Guard disrupted an attempt on Sept. 18 by two of the activists to scale a platform owned by Russian state-controlled energy giant Gazprom to call attention to the environmental risks of drilling in Arctic waters. The next day, the Coast Guard seized Greenpeace’s ship, the Arctic Sunrise, and towed it to Murmansk with the crew and activists aboard.Greenpeace Russia campaign director Ivan Blokov has described the seizure of the ship as „the most aggressive and hostile act” against the environmental organization since French government agents bombed the Rainbow Warrior ship in 1985, killing one man.Peter Wilcox, an American who captained the Rainbow Warrior, also is the captain of the Arctic Sunrise. He was ordered held in custody during Thursday’s court session.Those ordered jailed on Sunday include Dima Litvinov, Greenpeace International spokesman, who has dual U.S. and Swedish citizenship; Finnish activist Sini Saarela, who was one of the two who tried to scale the platform; a British activist; two Dutch citizens and a Ukrainian cook.The platform, which belongs to Gazprom’s oil subsidiary, is the first offshore rig in the Arctic. It was deployed to the vast Prirazlomnoye oil field in the Pechora Sea in 2011, but its launch has been delayed by technological challenges. Gazprom said this month it was to start pumping oil this year, but no precise date has been set.
Russian court detains seven more Greenpeace crewView gallery58 minutes ago Moscow (AFP) – A Russian court on Sunday ordered seven more crew members of a Greenpeace ship to be detained for two months over an open sea protest against Arctic oil drilling, as part of a probe into alleged piracy.The court in the northern city of Murmansk on Thursday had already ordered the two-month detention of 22 Greenpeace activists pending the investigation into suspected piracy after a protest at a Gazprom oil rig on September 18.The same Lenin district court in the city above the Arctic Circle nearly 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) north of Moscow had also remanded in custody eight crew members for 72 hours until a new hearing on Sunday.The judge has ordered seven of those activists including Dmitri Litvinov, a Greenpeace spokesman and a Swedish-American dual citizen of Russian origin, to remain in pre-trial detention for nearly two months.Ruslan Yakushev, a Ukrainian cook from Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise icebreaker, Sini Saarela, a Finnish activist who tried to scale the platform, and Frank Hewetson from Britain were among the crew members ordered to remain in detention until November 24, a Greenpeace representative, Andrei Petrov, told AFP from Murmansk.The hearing on the detention of the eighth activist was still continuing.The court was on Sunday holding simultaneous hearings in several different courtrooms to decide whether to extend the detention for the activists.The hearings were running behind schedule, and Greenpeace said there were problems with English and Dutch translation.Diplomats from several countries were in attendance.The total of 30 detained crew members of Greenpeace’s Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise icebreaker include six British citizens, four Russians and nationals of 16 other countries including Argentina, Italy, France and Australia.Russian investigators have accused the activists of piracy after Saarela and another activist tried to scale state energy giant Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Barents Sea.The group has denied committing piracy and accuses Russia of illegally boarding its ship in international waters.President Vladimir Putin has said that the activists „are of course not pirates” but stressed they had broken international law by getting dangerously close to the oil rig.View gallery.”Greenpeace activists board Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya Arctic oil platform somewhere off Russia’s nor …Charges of piracy carry a maximum prison term of 15 years but the Investigative Committee said that the charge against the group could be reduced in the course of the probe.Among those detained for two months is the vessel’s captain, Peter Willcox, who was also the skipper of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior ship, which French secret services bombed and sank in New Zealand in 1985.Another is photographer Denis Sinyakov, a former staff photographer at AFP and Reuters who was working for Greenpeace as a freelancer.The Netherlands government called on Moscow to release the activists immediately and said it was considering legal action.The arrests also sparked outrage from Russian and international rights activists, with Reporters Without Borders saying Russian investigators were „criminalising both journalists and environmental activists”.’Cellmate with Russians accused of robbery’Fourteen of the 22 detained are being held in a pre-trial detention centre in Murmansk, while the other eight have been transferred to the nearby city of Apatity.In violation of the law according to which foreign suspects should be held separately from Russian nationals, a British activist is being held with two Russians suspected of robbery, said Irina Paikacheva, the head of a state-connected regional prisoner rights watchdog.”That is a violation,” she told AFP. Other activists are likely to get cellmates from ex-Soviet countries because keeping suspects by themselves would also be a violation of the law.She noted that according to Russian law, the Greenpeace activists cannot be held together because they have all been detained on the same charges.One of the detained activists suffers from asthma, she added.Overall, the activists are being held in „satisfactory conditions,” said Paikacheva. „The food is decent. The cells are rather spacious.”The detention centres where suspects are held before trial in Russia are called Investigative Isolators (SIZO) and do not differ much from common Russian jails notorious for their filthy conditions and prisoner abuse.