Enn Original News

Tarantula Nebula
November 16, 2011 12:48 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Tarantula Nebula has an apparent magnitude of 8. Considering its distance of about 160,000 light years, this is an extremely luminous non-stellar object. Its luminosity is so great that if it were as close to Earth as the Orion Nebula, the Tarantula Nebula would cast shadows. In fact, it is the most active starburst region known in the Local Group of galaxies. It is also the largest such region in the Local Group with an estimated diameter of 200 parsecs. This spiderweb-like tangle of gas and dust is a star-forming region called 30 Doradus. It is one of the largest such regions located close to the Milky Way galaxy, and is found in the neighboring galaxy Large Magellanic Cloud. About 2,400 massive stars in the center of 30 Doradus, also known as the Tarantula nebula, are producing intense radiation and powerful winds as they blow off material. Multimillion-degree gas detected in X-rays (blue) by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory comes from shock fronts -- similar to sonic booms -- formed by these stellar winds and by supernova explosions. This hot gas carves out gigantic bubbles in the surrounding cooler gas and dust shown here in infrared light from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope (orange).

Why Wood Smoke May not Be Good for You
November 16, 2011 12:07 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Some people enjoy the scent of a wood fire. Still smoke is full of particulate matter and exotic trace chemicals. Two new studies led by University of California, Berkeley, researchers spotlight the human health effects of exposure to smoke from open fires and dirty cook stoves, the primary source of cooking and heating for 43 percent, or some 3 billion members, of the world's population. Women and young children in poverty are particularly vulnerable. In the first study, the researchers found a dramatic one-third reduction in severe pneumonia diagnoses among children in homes with smoke-reducing chimneys on their cook stoves. The second study uncovered a surprising link between prenatal maternal exposure to woodsmoke and poorer performance in markers for IQ among school-age children.

Bulgarian Air Pollution
November 15, 2011 02:22 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Chronic pollution makes Bulgaria one of the world’s deadliest places to live because of poor air quality, despite years of efforts to improve monitoring and comply with EU standards. But Bulgaria's problems are not isolated and reflect broader concerns over air quality among EU member states. Bulgaria has made steady progress in improving environmental monitoring and adopting regulations on air, water and environmental quality since joining the EU in 2007. Analysts say such steps have been followed by poor enforcement and neglect by both national and EU authorities.

Floods, Droughts, and Air Pollution
November 15, 2011 01:51 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Certain types of air pollution can serve as nuclei which aid in the formation of rainfall. Therefore increases in air pollution and other particulate matter in the atmosphere can strongly affect cloud development in ways that reduce precipitation in dry regions or seasons, while increasing rain, snowfall and the intensity of severe storms in wet regions or seasons, says a new study in Nature Geoscience. The research provides the first clear evidence of how aerosols — soot, dust and other small particles in the atmosphere — can affect weather and climate; and the findings have important implications for the availability, management and use of water resources in regions across the United States and around the world.

Cooking Stoves in Developing Nations Linked to Pneumonia
November 15, 2011 10:19 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

In many developing nations around the world, cooking is primarily done over a wood-burning fire pit. It is estimated that this is the primary cooking and heating source for 43% of the global population, about 3 billion people. A team of international researchers have found that pneumonia is linked with young children who are continuously exposed to the smoke from cooking fires. They found that if smoke-reducing chimneys are used on the cooking stoves, cases of severe pneumonia can be reduced by one-third.

Weed Ray Guns
November 14, 2011 12:51 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Weed control is the botanical component of pest control, using physical and chemical methods to stop weeds from reaching a mature stage of growth when they could be harmful to domesticated plants and livestock. In order to reduce weed growth, many weed control strategies have been developed in order to contain the growth and spread of weeds. The most basic technique is plowing or manual weeding which cuts the roots of annual weeds. Today, chemical weed killers known as herbicides are widely used. So what is there a better way? The Air Force is requesting proposals/research topics to develop a device that uses directed energy technology to prevent and abate unwanted plants (weeds) in areas that require control or defoliation. The purpose of this system will be the removal of unwanted plants and keep seeds from germinating.

Federal Government Unveils New Comprehensive Geospatial Map of United States
November 14, 2011 10:40 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

A new map website created by the Federal Geographic Data Committee has been created and made available to the public. Its ease of use and depth of information may give a serious run on other established mapping sites such as Google Earth, Bing, or Mapquest. For professionals who need maps for work or the average geography enthusiast, the new website will be very useful. Currently in its prototype phase, the map offers multiple layers including the standard street map, aerial view, plus topo maps and terrain maps. The website then allows the user to create an editable layer to draw features on the map, add text, save and share the map.

Primordial Gas
November 14, 2011 09:23 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Before the first planet, before the first star, there had to be gas. For the first time, astronomers have found pristine clouds of the primordial gas that formed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang. The composition of the gas matches theoretical predictions, providing direct evidence in support of the modern cosmological explanation for the origins of elements in the universe. Only the lightest elements, mostly hydrogen and helium, were created in the Big Bang. Then a few hundred million years passed before clumps of this primordial gas condensed to form the first stars, where heavier elements were forged. Until now, astronomers have always detected metals (their term for all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) wherever they have looked in the universe.

Monarch butterflies decline at wintering grounds in Mexico, Texas drought adds to stress to migration
November 14, 2011 07:55 AM - Rhett Butler, MONGABAY.COM

Every fall, millions of monarch butterflies travel south to Mexico and take refuge in twelve mountain sanctuaries of oyamel fir forests. Now, declining numbers of the overwintering butterflies expose the migration’s vulnerability and raise questions about threats throughout the monarch’s lifecycle. A study published online last spring in Insect Conservation and Diversity shows a decrease in Mexico’s overwintering monarch butterflies between 1994 and 2011. The butterflies face loss of wintering habitat in Mexico and breeding habitat in the United States. Extreme weather, like winter storms in Mexico and the ongoing drought in Texas, adds yet another challenge.

Survival against all odds: Animals of the Arctic
November 11, 2011 05:16 PM - BBC Earth

Adaptation is fundamental for a species to survive, especially in hostile environments like the Arctic. When faced with six months of perpetual darkness where snow and ice lays claim to every inch of the land. What kind of extraordinary animals survive in such harsh terrain, and more importantly, how do they do it? During winter in the Arctic, temperatures can drop to a bone-chilling −50°C (−58 °F). Rather than going into hibernation however, some animals will stick out the winter and use their cold-conquering adaptations to survive. One such animal that has done this is the arctic fox or the snow fox as it is also commonly known. Ranging far and wide in the arctic and alpine tundra, these jackals of the north, so-called because of their propensity to scavenge on polar bears' kills, have a woolly coat that has the best insulating properties of any mammal. Other adaptations for life in the arctic include small, heavily furred ears and a short nose. Having a smaller surface area reduces heat loss. They also have fur on the soles of their feet as well as increased blood circulation to the feet which literally stops their paws freezing to the ice! Another such master of retaining body heat is the walrus. Walrus are covered with short coarse hair that becomes less dense as they get older. Their skin which is folded and wrinkled can be up to 4 cm thick serving as a great insulator. This tough skin is the thickest on the neck and shoulders of adult males where it also serves as a defensive purpose — when these bulls spar the thick skin is intended to resist tusk penetration. They have a deposit of fatty tissue that is up to an astounding 15 centimetres (6 inches) thick - in winter it may make up to a third of their body mass. As well as being an excellent insulator it also streamlines the body and is used as an energy reserve.

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