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Satellites spy Antarctic 'upside-down ice canyon'

Satellites spy Antarctic 'upside-down ice canyon'

Science
Scientists have identified a way in which the effects of Antarctic melting can be enhanced. Their new satellite observations of the Dotson Ice Shelf show its losses, far from being even, are actually focused on a long, narrow sector. In places, this has cut an inverted canyon through more than half the thickness of the shelf structure. If the melting continued unabated, it would break Dotson in 40-50 years, not the 200 years currently projected. "That is unlikely to happen because the ice will respond in some way to the imbalance," said Noel Gourmelen, from the University of Edinburgh, UK. "It's possible the area of thinning could widen or the flow of ice could change. Both would affect the rate at which the channel forms. "But the important point here is that Dotson is not a flat slab and...
Study reveals importance of hydrogen atoms for star formation

Study reveals importance of hydrogen atoms for star formation

Science
Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Until recently, astronomers assumed hydrogen molecules fueled star formation in young galaxies. But new research suggests atomic hydrogen may be equally important to star formation.In the local universe, most hydrogen found inside galaxies exists as individual atoms. Scientists assumed younger galaxies would host less atomic hydrogen and more molecular hydrogen. But cosmic surveys suggest even the earliest galaxies were rich in atomic hydrogen.Now, new analysis by researchers at the University of Western Australia and the International Center for Radio Astronomy Research confirms even galaxies featuring intense rates of star formation host large amounts of atomic hydrogen.Previous studies of "cosmic noon" galaxies have revealed massive reservoirs of molecular hydrogen. Cos...
Scientists study whale's blow hole microbes with the help of a drone

Scientists study whale's blow hole microbes with the help of a drone

Science
Oct. 10 (UPI) -- Scientists have for the first time surveyed the unique community of microorganisms -- the microbiome -- living inside the blowhole of a humpback whale. They did so with the help of a six-rotor hexacopter.Researchers with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution used a custom-built drone to collect blow samples, the moist breath exhaled by whales, from 17 humpbacks off the coast of Cape Cod and from nine humpbacks swimming near Canada's Vancouver Island. The scientists sequenced the genetic material found in the blow samples to identify the microbes living in each whale's respiratory tract."We were using the drone to take aerial images of the whales, so that we could assess body conditions," NOAA researcher John Durban said in a news release. "Because of the stable flight p...
Watch live: NASA streams second of three October spacewalks from ISS

Watch live: NASA streams second of three October spacewalks from ISS

Science
Oct. 9 (UPI) -- NASA TV is streaming the second of three October spacewalks on Tuesday morning. Coverage begins at 6:30 a.m. EDT, but the spacewalk won't commence until 8:05 a.m.Expedition 53 Commander Randy Bresnik of NASA, who led last week's spacewalk -- the first of three -- will once again be joined by Flight Engineer Mark Vande Hei, also of NASA.For Bresnik, who will also lead the third spacewalk on Oct. 18, Tuesday's mission will be his fourth spacewalk. For Vande Hei, the spacewalk will be his second.Last week, the duo used their six hours outside the space station to replace one of the two Latching End Effectors on Canadarm2, the space station's robotic arm. One of the effector's mechanical latches stalled last month."They also accomplished a couple of get-ahead tasks, including r...
British mission to giant A-68 berg approved

British mission to giant A-68 berg approved

Science
UK scientists will lead an international expedition to the huge new iceberg that recently calved in the Antarctic. A-68, which covers an area of almost 6,000 sq km, broke away in July. Researchers are keen to investigate the seafloor uncovered by the trillion-tonne block of ice. Previous such ventures have discovered new species. The British Antarctic Survey has won funding to visit the berg and its calving zone in February next year. It will use the Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross.BAS cautions, however, that the final green-light will depend on the berg's position at the time and the state of sea-ice in the area. A-68 will need to be well clear of the Larsen Ice Shelf from which it calved, and any marine floes on top of the water will have to be sufficiently thin to allow the JCR acc...