Sunday, December 19, 2010

Huge Solar Storm Triggers Amazing Auroras

Aurora Over Quebec
Photograph courtesy Ian Diamond
Auroras create green curtains of light August 4 over the Rupert River in Waskaganish (see map), a Cree Nation community in Quebec, Canada.
Last week's northern lights—which lasted a few days—were products of a large burst of plasma, or charged gas, from the sun known as a coronal mass ejection. A NASA orbiter called the Solar Dynamics Observatory saw last Sunday's eruption, which was aimed directly at Earth and sparked predictions of a shimmering sky show.
Now it seems aurora fans may be in for another treat: A solar flare spotted Saturday by NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory was even more powerful than the previous eruption. Although this time the bulk of the plasma burst isn't aimed right at Earth, scientists say it could still trigger another round of colorful auroras.
Beach Aurora
Photograph courtesy Federico Buchbinder
An aurora created by last week's coronal mass ejection glimmers over Laurentian Beach, on the shores of Lake Manitoba in Canada (map), on August 6.
Auroras happen when energized particles from the sun wash over Earth and flow down the planet's magnetic field lines toward the Poles. Along the way, the charged partices bang into nitrogen, oxygen, and other atoms in our atmosphere.
The charged solar particles give Earth's atmospheric atoms an energy boost, which then gets released as light, producing the shimmering curtains of greens, reds, blues, and other colors. (Related: "Aurora 'Power Surges' Triggered by Magnetic Explosions.")
Purple Haze
Photograph courtesy Shawn Malone,
Seen from the shores of Lake Superior, an August 4 aurora glows green topped with blueish-purple. Auroras glow in different colors based on the types of atoms in the atmosphere and how high they are in the sky.
Humans mostly see auroras in shades of yellowish-green. That's because the eye sees a light show created by oxygen atoms at lower altitudes, about 62 to 186 miles (100 to 300 kilometers) above the surface.
Blues and purples are created by lighter gases such as hydrogen and helium, while low-level nitrogen can add red fringes to the bottoms of green auroral curtains.

Oslo Light Show
Photograph courtesy Otto L. Motzke
Green light curls over Oslo, Norway, August 4 in an auroral display caused by last Sunday's coronal mass ejection.
In the Northern Hemisphere, auroras are more commonly seen at high latitudes near the Arctic Circle, such as northern Alaska, Canada, and Scandinavia.
But scientists predicted that last Sunday's strong burst would bring the light show to slightly lower parts of the globe. In fact, sky-watchers were snapping pictures of auroras as far south as Oslo, Lake Manitoba in Canada, and Lake Superior (map) in the United States.
"Superior" Aurora
Photograph courtesy Shawn Malone,
The view from a Michigan shore of Lake Superior included multicolored auroras on August 3, as seen in a panoramic picture.
A solar storm headed for Earth isn't a guarantee of auroras. Without more sun-watching satellites, scientists are hard-pressed to know the exact effects a coronal mass ejection will have on Earth's atmosphere.
Last week Leon Golub of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics had put the odds of the August 1 solar flare producing auroras at about 50-50.
Sky Glows Green
Photograph courtesy Miguel Yetman
Clouds over Manitoba, Canada, are bathed in green light from an August 4 aurora.
The solar ejections that cause auroras can also create geomagnetic storms that can affect spacewalking astronauts, Earth-orbiting satellites, and even communications and power systems on the ground.
But like the previous solar storm, which was strong but relatively slow, the oncoming burst of charged particles shouldn't create significant problems for people, according to the website Instead, the site says, "high-latitude sky-watchers should be alert for auroras when the cloud arrives, probably on August 10."
Green Glow, Orange Clouds
Photograph courtesy Tania A. Berntsen
Green aurora borealis curtains light up the skies over a beach in Grimstad, Norway (map), just after midnight on August 4.
The cloud of solar particles that sparked last week's northern lights weighed about a billion tons, according to NASA. The space agency's Solar Dynamics Observatory and other sun-studying spacecraft are about more than just advance notice of sky shows.
Because solar wind can disrupt communications systems and power grids, "one of the main reasons to have these instruments in space is so that you can issue alerts or warnings, pretty much like you would with a hurricane," Golub said.
That way "people can know ahead of time when there is a possibility of an event that will have an impact on Earth."
Solar Extreme
Image courtesy NASA
A bright swirl (left of center) on the sun marks the spot where a tumult of plasma sent out the August 1 coronal mass ejection that sparked last week's auroras, as seen in a mosaic picture taken by the Solar Dynamics Observatory. Different colors show regions of temperature variation on the sun.
Solar activity rises and falls on a regular cycle of about 11 years. The last period of peak activity ended in 2001, and it led into a long-lasting quiet spell. (See "Sun Oddly Quiet—Hints at Next 'Little Ice Age'?")
Along with a recent flurry of sunspots, the August eruptions seem to be signs of the star's reawakening—good news for aurora fans, but potential trouble for satellites, astronauts, and some Earthly technologies.

9 Strange and Bizarre Animal Facts

The world of animals is vast, colorful and strange in its natural perfection. We know various interesting and curious facts about animals. Yet, some of the facts related to the animal kingdom are stranger than fiction.
Trying to rank the most bizarre animal facts could be difficult. Many wild facts will make it to the top 10.

Several intriguing facts are related to this nice, large animal. The elephant is the only animal in the world that has four knees. It also happens to be the single animal that cannot jump. The brain of an elephant weighs four to five kilograms on the average. A newborn elephant weighs approximately 100 kilograms. Though they appear large and clumsy, elephants are really mobile. Each elephant travels about 100 kilometers per day.

We all know a simple fact – chameleons change their color to blend in the environment. Another fact about the animal that very few of us know is that chameleons also change their color based on mood. If they feel scared, hungry or sad, chameleons become gray. The eyes of a chameleon can move independent of each other.

Did you know that while sleeping, dolphins keep one of their eyes open? Further, if a dolphin is wounded, it calls the rest for help. Other dolphins keep the wounded one close to the water surface to facilitate breathing.
The tongue of the blue whale weighs more than a fully-grown elephant. Apart from being the largest animal, the whale is the noisiest one. Blue whales are also known for having the slowest pulse out of all mammals – nine beats per minute.
Instead of moving its eyes, the owl turns its head.

Rats are forced to constantly chew. Their lower teeth have the power to grow exceptionally fast. This growth rate endangers rats, since the lower teeth could pierce through their mouths.

A scorpion can survive for an entire year without eating. It can glow when exposed to UV light. Another extreme fact – a scorpion can survive frozen for up to three weeks.
Mosquitoes are actually very ancient. Some scientists claim that dinosaurs suffered from their bites.
Penguins have no need for fresh water. They can drink the salty ocean water, since special glands in their bodies can separate salt from water.


Friday, December 10, 2010

12 Most Strange Mug Shots Of 2010

No, it's not photoshop. Carlos Rodriguez was arrested for attempting to solicit a prostitute. The profile shot showed the man's striking cranial cavity, the unfortunate result of a deformity or an accident.
What the... neck?
What the... head?
Two words: dental work.
Ain't that funny behind bars, ha?
Just a liiiittle touch of drawings here and there...
The mustache ladies crave for!
The third NY Yankees eye.
So much... redness in your life, dude...
Surprise!!! Happy birthday!!!
You can leave your hat on, grandma.

Because jail time is FUN!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

World’s Hotter than Hot Chili Pepper

Despite what you might think, the world’s hottest chili pepper was created not by a Mexican or Indian farmer, but by a “hot” British farmer.

Gerald Fowler grew the Naga Viper on his farm in Cumbria, northern England, and got to a record level of spiciness by crossing three of the hottest varieties of chili, including Bhut – Jolokia, the previous record holder.

There is a special way to measure their hotness. It’s not like someone tastes this babies. The heat of a chili pepper is measured using the Scoville Scale – the number of Scoville unites indicates the amount of capsaicin found in the chili, this being what gives it’s spiciness. Bhuta – Jolokia reached a maximum of 1.001.304 units whereas the Naga Viper has 1.359.000.

In an interview for The Daily Mail, Mrs.Fowler confirmed : ‘It’s painful to eat. It numbs your tongue, then burns all the way down. It can last an hour, and you just don’t want to talk to anyone or do anything. But it’s a marvellous endorphin rush. It makes you feel great.’

What I find interesting is that he makes people vouch in writing for their sanity, before letting them taste his chili.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bizarre Body Modification

Tattooed Head
A man shows off his tattooed head at the London Tattoo Convention. Last year, more than 20,000 enthusiasts attended the event.

Tattoo enthusiasts from around the world gathered in London for the fifth annual Tattoo Convention. Here, Samon shows off his ink.
How much do you love your Volkswagen? Chris Redford got a real "Bug" bite... and tattooed his affections to his toes.
I've done a lot of "colorful" stories over the years, but none of them can top this one.
There's a reason they call him Spiky Bob -- just take a look at those extreme modifications. Bob sipped a cold one at the London Tattoo Convention.
Dutch tattooist Jeroen Derks waits for business at the London Tattoo Convention.
Kriss Poison shows off her tattoos at the London Tattoo Convention. The annual body art convention is one of the top destinations for European tattoo lovers.
In early 2009, Guinness World Records certified that Brazilian-born nurse Elaine Davidson sports 6,005 piercings, including 1,500 that are internal.
With sharpened teeth, a split tongue, and a full-body tattoo of creen scales, sideshow star Erik Sprague of Austin regularly appears at Ripley's Odditoriums.
"I am Huron and Lokota," says Dennis Avner. "And in following a very old Huron tradition, I am transforming myself into my totem, a tiger."
Two masters of extreme body modification -- Dennis Avner and Erik Sprague -- at the opening of Ripley's Odditorium in London.
Sideshow Bennie the Human Pincushion cuts the ribbon at The Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Odditorium on May 1, 2008 in San Antonio, TX.
The Traumatic Stress Discipline Suspension Club performs at The Ripley's Believe It Or Not! celebration on May 1, 2008 in San Antonio, TX.
Using her body like a canvas, Isobel Varley, who turned 71 in 2009, is recognized as the most tattooed septuagenarian woman.
You have to be really committed to life as a lizardman to sport a forked tongue. Erik Sprague is committed -- he's the real "Lizardman."
Lizardman is more than just a man who looks like a lizard. The self-proclaimed professional freak is a certified Ripley's star.


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