Category: Science

SpaceX aborts approach to space station, delivery delayed

BY MARCIA DUNN AP AEROSPACE WRITER CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A navigation error forced SpaceX to delay its shipment to the International Space Station on Wednesday, following an otherwise smooth flight from NASA’s historic moon pad. SpaceX’s supply ship, the Dragon, was less than a mile from the orbiting outpost when a problem cropped up in the GPS system. The approach was aborted, and the Dragon backed away. NASA said neither the station nor its six-person crew was in any danger, and another attempt would be made Thursday. "As a pilot it is sometimes better to accelerate and...

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NASA aims to measure vital snow data from satellites

DENVER (AP) — Instrument-laden aircraft are surveying the Colorado high country this month as scientists search for better ways to measure how much water is locked up in the world’s mountain snows – water that sustains a substantial share of the global population. A NASA-led experiment called SnowEx is using five aircraft to test 10 sensors that might one day be used to monitor snow from satellites. The goal: Find the ideal combination to overcome multiple obstacles, including how to analyze snow hidden beneath forest canopies. "It would be, I would say, a monumental leap in our ability to...

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Study: Most Texas school districts have scant sex education

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — More than four-fifths of school districts offer no sex education or only teach abstinence in Texas, which has one of the country’s highest teen birth rates, according to a study released Tuesday. The study commissioned by Texas Freedom Network, a left-leaning education watchdog group, found that 25 percent of roughly 1,000 school districts statewide didn’t offer any sex education during the 2015-2016 school year and about 58 percent only taught students to abstain from sex. The remaining 17 percent, including eight of the 10 largest school districts in America’s second most-populous state, stress abstinence, which...

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Black hole taking a record-breaking decade to devour a star

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Scientists have detected a black hole that’s taken a record-breaking decade to devour a star – and it’s still chewing away. The food fest is happening in a small galaxy 1.8 billion light-years from Earth. University of New Hampshire research scientist Dacheng (dah-CHENG) Lin said that black hole feeding frenzies have been observed since the 1990s, but they’ve lasted just a year. At 11 years and counting, this is the longest known one yet. Lin and his team used data from orbiting X-ray telescopes to study the monstrous munching. X-ray flares erupt when a...

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Meteor over Lake Michigan lights up sky in several states

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — A meteor over Lake Michigan lit up the sky Monday morning across several states in the Midwest. Dashcam video from police cruisers in Wisconsin and Illinois captured the fireball streaking through the night about 1:30 a.m. In addition to Illinois and Wisconsin, the American Meteor Society lists sightings in Indiana, Michigan and other states as well. Meteorologist Jeff Last of the National Weather Service’s office in Green Bay, Wisconsin, says the meteor was accompanied by a sonic boom that shook houses in the region. Last says radar shows the meteor passing over Lake Michigan,...

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Tinder for apes? Dutch orangutans test out computer dating

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — How does a primate find a date when they’re confined to an urban jungle? Orangutans in a Dutch zoo may get a high-tech helping hand thanks to a research project that is being likened to a Tinder dating app for apes. The research at the Apenheul primate park, on the outskirts of the Dutch city of Apeldoorn, is investigating the emotional responses of orangutans and bonobos to images of the same species they are shown on a touch screen. Biologist Thomas Bionda said Wednesday the screen could help determine an ape’s preference between prospective...

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A commuter’s dream: Entrepreneurs race to develop flying car

WASHINGTON (AP) — Even before George Jetson entranced kids with his cartoon flying car, people dreamed of soaring above traffic congestion. Inventors and entrepreneurs have long tried and failed to make the dream a reality, but that may be changing. Nearly a dozen companies around the globe, including some with deep pockets such as European aircraft maker Airbus, are competing to be the first to develop a new kind of aircraft that will enable commuters to glide above crowded roadways. A few of the aircraft under development are cars with wings that unfold for flight, but most aren’t cars at all. Typically they take off and land vertically like helicopters. Rather than a single, large main rotor, they have multiple small rotors. Each rotor is operated by a battery-powered electric motor instead of a conventional aircraft piston engine. It’s no sure bet that flying-car dreams will turn into reality. There are many obstacles, including convincing regulators that the aircraft are safe, figuring out how to handle thousands of new low-flying aircraft over cities without collisions and developing batteries that will keep them aloft long enough to be useful. But entrepreneurs are moving forward. They see a vast potential market for “air taxis” and personally owned small aircraft to transport people from the fringes of metropolitan areas to city centers as urban areas grow more congested and people spend more...

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Smog pushes Beijing residents to innovate for the world

BEIJING (AP) — Beijing residents concerned about breathing the capital’s thick gray air are adapting, inventing and even creating businesses to protect the health of their families and others. Some of their efforts could help people around the world. Already this year, the smog-shrouded capital has suffered particularly hazardous bouts of pollution caused mainly by coal burning and vehicle emissions. Like other Chinese cities, Beijing is trying to tackle the problem: City authorities say they will spend $2.7 billion this year to help replace coal with natural gas, close heavily polluting factories and take older vehicles off the road....

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Trump EPA pick pledges more cooperation with industry

WASHINGTON (AP) — President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency told senators Wednesday that he intended to work cooperatively with states and industry to return the federal watchdog to what he called its proper role. Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has a long history of criticizing and suing the agency he is now being tapped to lead. His nomination was fiercely opposed by environmentalists who cite his cozy relationships with oil and gas industry executives who have donated generously his political campaigns. However, he is expected to win approval by the Republican-led Senate. “Environmental regulations...

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Report: Our moon may have formed from multiple small ones

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — A series of cosmic collisions may have spawned multiple moonlets that morphed into the one big moon we know today. Rather than one giant impact that knocked off part of early Earth and created the moon, a number of smaller collisions may have produced lots of mini-moons, Israeli scientists reported Monday And those mini-moons, over millions of years, may have clumped together to make one large one. The researchers conducted nearly 1,000 computer simulations and estimate about 20 impacts could do the job. They say that would explain why the moon seems to be...

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Vera Rubin, who did pioneering work on dark matter, dies

PRINCETON, N.J. (AP) — Vera Rubin, a pioneering astronomer who helped find powerful evidence of dark matter, has died, her son said Monday. She was 88. Allan Rubin, a professor of geosciences at Princeton University, said his mother died Sunday night of natural causes. He said the Philadelphia native had been living in the Princeton area. Vera Rubin found that galaxies don’t quite rotate the way they were predicted, and that lent support to the theory that some other force was at work, namely dark matter. Dark matter, which hasn’t been directly observed, makes up 27 percent of universe...

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NASA astronaut Sellers dies at 61

WASHINGTON (AP) — Piers Sellers, a climate scientist and former astronaut who gained fame late in life for his eloquent commentary about the earth’s fragility and his own cancer diagnosis, has died. He was 61. Sellers died Friday morning in Houston of pancreatic cancer, NASA said in a statement. Sellers shared his astronaut’s perspective on climate change in Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary, "Before the Flood," released this fall. He told DiCaprio that seeing the earth’s atmosphere as a "tiny little onion skin" from space helped him gain a fuller understanding of the planet’s delicacy. He also wrote a New York...

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