Saturday, 27 May 2017

Asteroid 2017 KY4 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2017 KY4 passed by the Earth at a distance of  948 300 km (2.47 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, 0.63% of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly before 3.50 pm GMT on Saturday 20 May 2017. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though had it done so it would have presented no threat. 2017 KY4 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 22-68 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 22-68 m in diameter), and an object of this size would be expected to explode in an airburst (an explosion caused by superheating from friction with the Earth's atmosphere, which is greater than that caused by simply falling, due to the orbital momentum of the asteroid) in the atmosphere between 20 and 3 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface.

 
The calculated orbit of 2017 KY4. Minor Planet Center.

2017 KY4 was discovered on 22 May 2017 (two days after its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon Survey at the Steward Observatory on Mount Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The designation 2017 KY4 implies that the asteroid was the 124th object (object Y4) discovered in the second half of May 2017 (period 2017 K).

2017 KY4 has an 406 day orbital period and an eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 17.5° to the plane of the Solar System, which takes it from 1.002 AU from the Sun (i.e. 100.2% of he average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 1.15 AU from the Sun (i.e. 115% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun). It is therefore classed as an Amor Group Asteroid (an asteroid which comes close to the Earth, but which is always outside the Earth's orbit). This means that close encounters between the asteroid and Earth are fairly common, with the most recent having occurred in November 2007 next predicted in November this year.

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/asteroid-2017-jv1-passes-earth.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/comet-c2015-er61-panstarrs-reaches.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/asteroid-2017-ja-passes-earth.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/asteroid-448003-2008-de-passes-earth.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/the-2017-eta-aquarid-meteors.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/asteroid-2017-gk4-passes-earth.html
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Sinkhole swallows car in Denver, Colorado.

A taxi was swallowed by a sinkhole in Denver, Colorado, in the early hours of Friday 26 May 2017, after the driver mistook the hole for a puddle caused by overnight rain, and drove into it. The driver was unhurt, and no passengers were in the vehicle at the time, but the taxi is thought likely to be written off after falling into the two meter hole.

Taxi trapped in a sinkhole in Denver, Colorado, on 26 May 2017. CBS News.

Sinkholes are generally caused by water eroding soft limestone or unconsolidated deposits from beneath, causing a hole that works its way upwards and eventually opening spectacularly at the surface. Where there are unconsolidated deposits at the surface they can infill from the sides, apparently swallowing objects at the surface, including people, without trace.

However on this occasion the sinkhole is believed to have been caused by a burst water main, which washed away soft sediments beneath the road until it collapsed. A number of houses in the area have been left without water following the event.

See also...
 
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/museum-evacuated-after-chemical-spill.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/01/motorcycle-crash-causes-major-sinkhole.html


http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/magnitude-50-earthquake-in-payne-county.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/tourist-dies-after-falling-into-hot.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/magnitude-56-earthquake-in-pawnee.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/09/magnitude-38-earthquake-beneath-spencer.html

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Friday, 26 May 2017

Flooding and mudslides kill at least 91 in Sri Lanka.

At least 91 people have died and over 110 are missing after heavy rain triggered flooding and mudslides across central, western and southern parts of the country on Thursday 25 and Friday 26 May 2017. The worst incident occured in Bulathsinhala District in Western Province, where at least eleven people are known to have died in a single mudslide, while 38 people are reported to have died in flooding in Kalutara District in Central Province and 46 in Ratnapura District in Southern Province. Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall.

The  aftermath of a landslide in the village of Bellana in Kalutara District, Sri Lanka, on 26 May 2017. Eranga Jayawardina/AP.
Eranga Jayawardena
Eranga Jayawardena
Eranga Jayawardena
Eranga Jayawardena
Eranga Jayawardena

The rains are associated with the onset of the Sri Lankan summer monsoon, which lasts from May to October, typically brining around 400 mm of rain to many parts of the country in an average year. Monsoons are tropical sea breezes triggered by heating of the land during the warmer part of the year (summer). Both the land and sea are warmed by the Sun, but the land has a lower ability to absorb heat, radiating it back so that the air above landmasses becomes significantly warmer than that over the sea, causing the air above the land to rise and drawing in water from over the sea; since this has also been warmed it carries a high evaporated water content, and brings with it heavy rainfall. In the tropical dry season the situation is reversed, as the air over the land cools more rapidly with the seasons, leading to warmer air over the sea, and thus breezes moving from the shore to the sea (where air is rising more rapidly) and a drying of the climate. 

Diagrammatic representation of wind and rainfall patterns in a tropical monsoon climate. Geosciences/University of Arizona.

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/twenty-six-confirmed-dead-and-over.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/05/flooding-and-landslides-kill-at-least.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/12/at-least-six-dead-following-landslide.html
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Thursday, 25 May 2017

Closest Lunar Perigee of 2017.

At 1.24 am GMT on Friday 26 May 2017 the Moon will be at its closest point to the Earth in 2017, at a distance of 357 209 km. his will fall five hours and forty minutes after the New Moon, at 7.644 pm on Thursday 25 May, making it effectively invisible. The Moon completes one orbit about the Earth every 27.5 days, and like most orbiting bodies, its orbit is not completely circular, but slightly elliptical, so that the distance between the two bodies varies by about 3% over the course of a month. This elliptical orbit is also not completely regular, it periodically elongates then returns to normal, making some perigees closer than others. These cycles mean that the Moon reached its furthest point from the Earth (apogee) of the year in the same lunar cycle, 406 401 km at 7.52 pm GMT on Thursday 8 June, which will be the second most distant Lunar Apogee of 2017.

 Simplified diagram of the Moon's orbit. NASA.

Although this is the closest point to the Earth that the Moon has reached this year, it is not exceptional. The Moon reached 356 511 km from the Earth on 14 November 2016, and will reach 357 122 km from the Earth on 10 March 2020.

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/uranis-reaches-solar-conjunction.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/jupiter-at-opposition.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/03/the-march-equinox.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/neptune-reaches-solar-conjunction.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/annular-eclipse-to-be-visible-from.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/jupiter-approaches-aphelion.html
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Sunday, 14 May 2017

Magnitude 5.4 Earthquake in western Xinjiang Province, China, kills at least eight.

The United States Geological Survey recorded a Magnitude 5.4 Earthquake at a depth of 10.0 km in the Pamir Mountains of western Xinjiang Province, China, close to the borders with Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, slightly before 6.00 am local time on Thursday 11 May 2017 (slightly before 9.00 pm on Wednesday 10 May, GMT). At least eight people are known to have died following this event, with another eleven injured and over 3000 houses destroyed.

Damage following the 10 May 2017 Xinjiang Earthquake. Xinhua.

The Pamir Mountains lie to the north of the boundary between the Indian and Eurasian tectonic plates, which runs through northern Afghanistan. The Indian Plate is moving northward relative to the Eurasian Plate, causing folding and uplift along this boundary, which has led to the formation of the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan, The Pamirs in Tajikistan, the Himalayas and the other mountain ranges of Central Asia., and which makes the nations in this boundary zone prone to Earthquakes.
 
 The approximate location of the 10 May 2017 Xinjiang Earthquake. USGS.

Witness accounts of Earthquakes can help geologists to understand these events, and the structures that cause them. The international non-profit organisation Earthquake Report is interested in hearing from people who may have felt this event; if you felt this quake then you can report it to Earthquake Report here.

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/seven-conformed-deaths-as-heavy-rains.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/landslide-kills-24-in-osh-region-of.html

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/landslide-at-hindu-shrine-kills-at.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/11/magnitude-66-earthquake-in-western.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/landslide-kills-four-in-jammu-in-kashmir.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/08/magnitude-52-earthquake-in-northwest.html


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Zuul crurivastator: A new and exceptionally well preserved Ankylosaur from the Late Cretaceous Judith River Formation of northern Montana.

The Ankylosaurids were large armoured Dinosaurs from the Cretaceous of Europe, Asia and North America. Their bodies were encased in heavy armour forming an effective shell and they had large bony clubs on the ends of their tails. They are believed to have been entirely herbivorous, and had beak-like mouths, occasionally with residual teeth. Despite the extensive armour of the Ankylosaurids, which gives them excellent preservational potential, complete skeletons of these Dinosaurs are rare, hampering our understanding of the group.

In a paper published in the journal Royal Society Open Science on 10 May 2017, Victoria Arbour and David Evans of the Department of Palaeobiology at the Royal Ontario Museum and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Toronto, describe a new and exceptionally well preserved Ankylosaurid Dinosaur from the Late Cretaceous Judith River Formation of Hill County in Montana.

The Judith River Formation was laid down between 75 and 80 million years ago on what was then a coastal plain on the Bear Paw Sea coast of the island of Laramida, and is now northern Montana. It is roughly equivalent in age to the Oldman and Dinosaur Park formations of southern Alberta and the Two Medicine Formation of Montana. These strata have been excavated for Dinosaur remains since the early nineteenth century, though the majority of material produced from the Judith River Formation has been fragmentary in nature.

The new Dinosaur is named Zuul crurivastator, where 'Zuul' refers to 'Zuul the Gatekeeper' a monster in the 1984 film Ghostbusters, and 'crurivastator' means 'destroyer of shins' in Latin, in reference to the large tail-club of the specimen. The species is described from a single specimen located during the excavation of a Tyraosaurus specimen by a commercial fossil extraction company and later acquired by the Royal Ontario Museum. The specimen comprises two blocks recovered from the overturned above the Tyranosaurus specimen (i.e. material that was removed because it was above that specimen), one containing the head and torso and the other the tail.. The specimen had been exposed prior to discovery and was partially eroded away, nevertheless it appears to be fairly complete (it has not yet been completely extracted from the rock matrix) with an almost complete skull and some soft tissue preservation.

Well-preserved skull and jaws of Zuul crurivastator showing quality of preservation. Arbour & Evans (2017).

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/a-new-species-of-ankylosaurid-dinosaur.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/nodosaurid-teeth-from-early-cretaceous.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/a-new-species-of-ankylosaurid-dinosaur.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2012/02/new-description-of-ankylosaurid.html
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Saturday, 13 May 2017

Asteroid 2017 JV1 passes the Earth.

Asteroid 2017 JV1 passed by the Earth at a distance of  899 400 km (2.33 times the average distance between the Earth and the Moon, 0.60% of the average distance between the Earth and the Sun), slightly before 9.10 pm GMT on Monday 8 May 2017. There was no danger of the asteroid hitting us, though had it done so it would have presented no threat. 2017 JV1 has an estimated equivalent diameter of 11-34 m (i.e. it is estimated that a spherical object with the same volume would be 11-34 m in diameter), and an object of this size would be expected to explode in an airburst (an explosion caused by superheating from friction with the Earth's atmosphere, which is greater than that caused by simply falling, due to the orbital momentum of the asteroid) in the atmosphere between 30 and 15 km above the ground, with only fragmentary material reaching the Earth's surface.

 The calculated orbit of 2017 JV1. Minor Planet Center.

2017 JV1 was discovered on 3 May 2017 (five days before its closest approach to the Earth) by the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon Survey at the Steward Observatory on Mount Lemmon in the Catalina Mountains north of Tucson. The designation 2017 JV1 implies that the asteroid was the 46th object (object V1) discovered in the first half of May 2017 (period 2017 J). 

2017 JV1 has a 853 day orbital period and an eccentric orbit tilted at an angle of 10.8° to the plane of the Solar System, which takes it from 0.94 AU from the Sun (i.e. 94% of he average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun) to 2.58 AU from the Sun (i.e. 258% of the average distance at which the Earth orbits the Sun, considerably over twice the distance at which the planet Mars orbits the Sun). It is therefore classed as an Apollo Group Asteroid (an asteroid that is on average further from the Sun than the Earth, but which does get closer). This means that close encounters between the asteroid and Earth are common, with the last having occurred in April 2003.

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/comet-c2015-er61-panstarrs-reaches.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/asteroid-2017-ja-passes-earth.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/asteroid-448003-2008-de-passes-earth.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/the-2017-eta-aquarid-meteors.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/asteroid-2017-gk4-passes-earth.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/gobekli-tepe-does-ancient-anatolian.html
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Neopalpa donaldtrumpi: A new species of Twirler Moth from California and Baja California.

The Gnorimoschemini are a group of Twirler Moths, Gelechiidae, are found across much of North America. They are small Moths, with narrow, fringed wings, the larvae of which feed internally on their host plants, sometimes forming galls; many species being considered to be agricultural pests. The genus Neopalpa is known from a single species, Neopalpa neonata, which was originally described from Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California, but has since been found on the North American mainland, as far east as Arizona and south to Baja California Sur.

In a paper published in the journal ZooKeys on 17 January 2017, Vazrick Nazari from Ottawa, Canada, describes a new species of Neopalpa from southern California in the US and Baja California Norte in Mexico.

The new species is named Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, in honour of the 45th President of the United States, who was sworn in on 20 January 2017, in reference to a distinctive pattern of enlarged yellow-white scales on the front of the head, which resembles Mr Trump’s hairstyle. Males of this species reached 3.0-4.6 mm in length, with the single known female measuring 4.3 mm. The moth’s are distinguished from the other species in the genus by the orange-yellow colour of the forewings and the absence of an enlarged bilobed vinculum (penis-like structure) on the male genetalia. 

Neopalpa donaldtrumpi, from Imperial County in Mexico. Left: lateral aspect, right: frontal aspect. Scale bar 1 mm. Nazari (2017).

See also...

http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2016/03/teinotarsina-aurantiaca-new-species-of.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/12/micropterix-gaudiella-new-species-of.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2015/02/a-new-species-of-grass-moth-from-tibet.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/11/two-new-species-of-tortrix-moths-from.html
http://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/a-new-species-of-stem-mining-moth-from.htmlhttp://sciencythoughts.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/fourteen-new-species-of-moth-from.html
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