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Scientist warns of inevitable solar super-storm propelled towards Earth

Image credit: NASA

Image credit: NASA

Such a storm would wreak havoc with our communication systems and power supplies, and scientists say we’re overdue.

What’s the birthstone for August?

Peridot

Peridot

Happy birthday to our August friends! This is one of your birthstones, peridot. Your other birthstone is sardonyx.

Read about both your birthstones….

Moon, Mars and star Spica after sunset August 1

As darkness falls, watch for the moon to move eastward day by day. The green line depicts the ecliptic - the pathway of the moon and planets.

On these early August 2014 evenings, watch for the moon to move eastward past two planets. The moon is near Mars on August 1 and 2, and near Saturn on August 3 and 4. Notice the green line. It depicts the ecliptic – pathway of the moon and planets.

Look for the celestial show in the southwest sky as darkness falls on this Friday evening, August 1. The moon and Mars light up the constellation Virgo on opposite sides of Virgo’s brightest star, Spica.

Mystery crater in Yamal peninsula probably caused by methane release

Andrei Plekhanov, senior researcher at the Scientific Research Centre of the Arctic, stands at the first large crater, discovered recently in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug region of northern Russia.  Image via China Post.

Andrei Plekhanov, senior researcher at the Scientific Research Centre of the Arctic, stands at a large crater discovered recently in the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug region of northern Russia. Image via China Post.

UPDATE July 31, 2014. Stories are popping up fast in various media this afternoon about a likely source of a reported, mysterious hole in permafrost in the Yamal region of northern Russia. This hole was spotted by a helicopter pilot in mid-July; reindeer herders reported a second hole some days later. Eric Holthaus of Slate said that there is now:

… new (and definitive) evidence … that the Siberian holes were created via methane released from warming permafrost.

The evidence has come via the journal Nature, which published a story on its website today featuring the findings of Andrei Plekhanov, a senior researcher at the Scientific Centre of Arctic Studies in Salekhard, Russia, and his team. This is the team that was sent in to investigate the first hole shortly after it was found.

High-level detail as Rosetta gets closer, and closer, to its comet

Image from Rosetta spacecraft July 29, 2014.  Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.

Yes, Wow! Some comets really are dirty snowballs. Unprecedented close image of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko from ESA’s Rosetta Spacecraft – OSIRIS Narrow Angle Camera – July 29, 2014. Credits: ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA.

UPDATE: July 29, 2014. Beginning of high-level detail The 3.5-by-4-km-sized nucleus of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko has now been seen closer in at a distance of 1,950 kilometers / 1,212 miles by the Rosetta Mission OSIRIS NAC camera. Surface features on the nucleus are now becoming very apparent in this 37-meter resolution image.

August 2014 guide to the five visible planets

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

Skywatcher, by Predrag Agatonovic.

Moon near Saturn and Mars in early August. Closest supermoon of 2014 on August 10. Jupiter and Venus have closest conjunction of any two planets in 2014 before dawn on August 18. All in all … August 2014 is a wonderful month for skywatching!

Asteroid impacts may have buried Earth’s earliest rocks

An artistic conception of the early Earth, showing a surface pummeled by large impacts. Image credit: Credit: Simone Marchi/SwRI.

An artistic conception of the early Earth, showing a surface pummeled by large impacts. Image credit: Credit: Simone Marchi/SwRI.

More than 4 billion years ago, giant asteroid impacts melted, mixed and buried the surface of Earth

Find M4, a globular cluster by the Scorpion’s heart

Messier 4 or M4 from European Southern Observatory.

Messier 4 or M4 from European Southern Observatory.

At nightfall, look in your southern sky for the bright ruddy star that is called the Scorpion’s Heart – Antares, the brightest star in the constellation Scorpius. Antares is always up on summer evenings. It’s a bright red star known for twinkling rapidly. If you have binoculars, sweep for an object near Antares on the sky’s dome. This object is called M4, and it’s a globular star cluster located just one degree to the west of Antares.

More heat waves and cold snaps ahead

Climate extremes are here to stay, say researchers.

Deep-sea octopus guards her eggs for nearly 4.5 years

The video above, from Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) in California, tells the story of the creature scientists have dubbed “Octomom,” a deep-sea octopus observed to guard her eggs for nearly 4.5 years. It’s the longest egg-brooding period of any known animal.