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Snow leopard no longer 'endangered'

Snow leopard no longer 'endangered'

Science
Has the chilling threat of extinction worn off at last for the long-endangered snow leopard? Not exactly - but the iconic big cats' conservation status has been improved from "endangered" to "vulnerable". The decision was announced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) - the global standard for assessing extinction risk. Experts have warned that the species still faces serious threats from poaching and habitat destruction.The elegant yet elusive creatures, which live in the mountains of central Asia, were first listed as endangered by the IUCN in 1972.The status change followed a three-year assessment process by five international experts.Dr Tom McCarthy, who runs the Snow Leopard Programme at big cat charity Panthera, was one of them. "To be considered 'endangered,'...
Cassini: Probe incinerates on entry to Saturn

Cassini: Probe incinerates on entry to Saturn

Science
Media playback is unsupported on your deviceThe American-led Cassini space mission to Saturn has just come to a spectacular end. Controllers had commanded the probe to destroy itself by plunging into the planet's atmosphere. It survived for just over a minute before being broken apart. Cassini had run out of fuel and Nasa had determined that the probe should not be allowed simply to wander uncontrolled among Saturn and its moons. The loss of signal from the spacecraft occurred pretty close to the prediction. Here at mission control, at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, the drop-off was timed at 04:55 PDT (11:55 GMT; 12:55 BST). How the last hours unfoldedNasa's Earl Maize addressed fellow controllers: "Congratulations to you all. This has been an incredible missi...
Snow leopards no longer 'endangered,' conservationists rule

Snow leopards no longer 'endangered,' conservationists rule

Science
Sept. 14 (UPI) -- Scientists at the International Union for Conservation of Nature have taken snow leopards off the Red List. According to the IUCN, snow leopards are no longer "endangered."Now, the predatory cats are considered "vulnerable," a less severe classification.The snow leopard first joined the Red List in 1972, but the species' numbers have stabilized over the last four-plus decades.In order for a species to be considered endangered, there must be less than 2,500 specimens in the wild or they must be experiencing an extreme rate of decline. A three-year assessment -- featuring input from scientists in academia and researchers from a variety of conservation groups, including Panthera, the Snow Leopard Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Society -- determined the snow leopar...
Hubble spots black, super hot exoplanet

Hubble spots black, super hot exoplanet

Science
Sept. 14 (UPI) -- New analysis of an oft-studied exoplanet suggests the alien world reflect almost no light -- it's surface is pitch black, making it nearly invisible.A surface's reflectivity is known as its albedo. Researchers measured the albedo of WASP-12b using the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph on the Hubble Space Telescope."The measured albedo of WASP-12b is 0.064 at most," Taylor Bell, a grad student in astronomy at McGill University in Montreal, said in a news release. "This is an extremely low value, making the planet darker than fresh asphalt!"And like asphalt on a sunny summer day, WASP-12b gets extremely hot. The exoplanet is also about twice the size of Jupiter. Thus, scientists categorize the exoplanet as a "hot Jupiter."Few hot Jupiters are as hot as WASP-12b, which or...
Cassini conducts last picture show

Cassini conducts last picture show

Science
Media playback is unsupported on your deviceEngineers now have a precise expectation of when they will lose contact with the Cassini probe. The spacecraft is being ditched in the atmosphere of Saturn on Friday, bringing to an end 13 amazing years of discovery at the ringed planet. The team hopes to receive a signal for as long as possible while the satellite plummets into the giant world. But the radio will likely go dead at about 6 seconds after 04:55 local time here at mission control in California. That is 11:55:06 GMT (12:55:06 BST). This is the time that antennas on Earth lose contact. Because of the finite speed of light and the 1.4 billion km distance to Saturn, the event in space will actually have occurred 83 minutes earlier. "The spacecraft's final signal will be like an echo. I...