April 15, 2013
Titan’s Ice Cloud Heralds Changing Seasons – The Daily Orbit
It’s springtime on Titan.
Going back in time to figure out time.
And looking to the future with a new time machine—maybe.
All that and more coming up on the Daily Orbit.
Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.
Imagine a 7 and a half year summer. Well you peeps in SoCal and the Tropics can, but for the rest of us, it’s not so easy to picture. But that’s what you get on Saturn’s moon Titan – 7and a half year seasons – and it’s about to enter Spring! Scientists say an ice cloud taking shape over the south pole indicates the change from winter to spring. The formation of the cloud, seen in Cassini images, is evidence that an important pattern of air circulation has reversed direction. The official transition began in August 2009. Warm air from the southern hemisphere was rising high in the atmosphere and was transported to the cold north pole, where it sank to lower layers to form ice clouds. The southern ice cloud is building rapidly as the northern cloud is slowly fading. Seven and half years! Great for summer, but imagine that winter! Talk about seasonal depression!
And time marches on…seasons change and well, sometimes, calendars do too! Scientists have synched the European calendar with the long count calendar of the Ancient Maya, which fell into disuse before Europeans made contact in the Mayan area. The calendars were first aligned in 1905, but early radiocarbon dating in the 1950s put the original alignment into question. But a team from Penn State University used carbon-14 dating and tree growth rates to support the original findings. The researchers took four samples from an elaborately carved wooden ceiling found in the ancient Mayan city of Tikal. Researchers say the dating was particularly challenging because radiocarbon concentrations are different in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and the Maya area lies on the border, where the atmosphere mixes. Scientists say that aligning the two calendars allows them to combine environmental, climatic and archaeological datasets, and may prove that climate change played an important role in the rise and decline of the Mayan civilization.
And as we try to get a grasp on time, one Iranian scientist says he has invented a “time machine.” Don’t expect to jump in a hot tub like Jon Cusack and go back and fix your mistakes! This scientist says that his time machine, which can be made from only $400 in parts, prints off predictions about a person’s life 5-8 years in the future with 98 percent accuracy. Hmm…okay. That could put some psychics out of business. But the Huffington Post and other new sources say they aren’t buying it. Yeah, I guess we will all wait and see what the future holds for this time machine.
And what do I see in the future? I see a future Russian manned mission to space. Actually that’s not too far off as Russia’s President Putin announced a target date of 2018 for the first manned spaceflight launch at the Vostochny Cosmodrome, which is currently under construction. Russia maintains a lease on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan until 2050. The plan is to allow partner nations in Europe and North America to use the new spaceport, but they hope that this facility will help Russia catch up in the space exploration race!
Well, here at the Daily Orbit, we like a little good news and we’re happy to report that the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act has done its job. The law passed by Congress enacted a moratorium on the import, export, and financial transaction of any marine mammal or their parts within the U.S. A new report marking the 40th anniversary of the law’s passage says that there have been remarkable recoveries of some populations of marine mammals, such as gray seals in New England and sea lions and elephant seals along the Pacific coast. After collecting data from all over the world, researchers noted a 19% increase in stocks. But because of marine mammals’ longer life cycles, scientists say it’s going to take at least another decade for populations to really rebound. They say that despite pollution and ship traffic, the US is the safest place for marine mammals in the world.
Well that’s all for the Daily Orbit. Thanks guys!