1) A runaway train is freighting enough, how about the image of a star, think of our sun, hurtling through space at 400,000 mph into space.  This apparently is a case of stellar musical chairs, and our runway came up short, pushed out it’s orbit be even bigger neighbors that inhabit the 30 Doradus Nebula, which has a much more catchy nickname among astronomers, “the Tarantula Nebula”. 

It’s 170,000 light-years from Earth so we don’t need the interstellar space police just yet.

 

From an article in Science Daily, my favorite stop each day for science news:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100511092402.htm

“A heavy runaway star rushing away from a nearby stellar nursery at more than 400 000 kilometers per hour, a speed that would get you to the Moon and back in two hours.”

“Tantalizing clues from three observatories, including the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s newly installed Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), and some old-fashioned detective work, suggest that the star may have travelled about 375 light-years from its suspected home, a giant star cluster called R136.”

“These results are of great interest because such dynamical processes in very dense, massive clusters have been predicted theoretically for some time, but this is the first direct observation of the process in such a region,” says Nolan Walborn of the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore and a member of the COS team that observed the misfit star. “Less massive runaway stars from the much smaller Orion Nebula Cluster were first found over half a century ago, but this is the first potential confirmation of more recent predictions applying to the most massive young clusters.”

2) Imagine the worst possible environment for a living creature, worst even than the bedroom of a teenage boy.  When we look hard enough we find life.  I don’t believe that life is really a miracle, I think it inevitable. In this case it’s in the acidic drainage pools in the abandoned Richmond Copper Mine, Iron Mountain, Calif.

From Science Daily

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/05/100504095218.htm

“In the depths of a former copper mine in Northern California dwell what may be the smallest, most stripped-down forms of life ever discovered.”

“The microbes — members of the domain of one-celled creatures called Archaea — are smaller than other known microorganisms, rivaled in size only by a microbe that can survive solely as a parasite attached to the outside of other cells. Their genomes, reconstructed by a group at the University of California, Berkeley, are among the smallest ever reported.”

“”Other cells in the mine have what looks like a needle that sometimes pokes right into the cells,” said Brett J. Baker, a researcher in UC Berkeley’s Department of Earth and Planetary Science and first author of a new paper describing the findings. “It is really remarkable and suggests an interaction that has never been described before in nature.”

3) It does sometimes seem that we humans are trying our hardest to screw up the environment on space ship Earth.  Of course no matter what changes we cause some life forms will adapt to it, the problem is we may not be one of them.

One person who is trying to cleanup our mess is Mary Crowley who is trying to enlist fishing vessels to help attack the mass of floating plastic garbage known as the North Pacific Trash Gyre.

Picture of a dead Laysan albatross chick carcass.  Ninety percent of these chicks regurgitated stomach contents contain plastics.

 

From the Wikipedia entry on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_Garbage_Patch

“The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a gyre of marine litter of in the central North Pacific Ocean, with estimates ranging from an area the size of the state of Texas to one larger than the continental United States.”

“The Patch is characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge , and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.”

Ms. Crowley is in Rocklin, California, trying to get some of the independent fishermen meeting here, for the annual gathering of the Western Fishboat Owners Association, to join her, using their boats to haul back garbage.

From an article in the Christian Science Monitor by Paul Van Slambrouck:

http://www.csmonitor.com/Environment/2010/0510/A-passion-to-clean-up-the-Pacific-Ocean-s-great-garbage-patch

“Mary Crowley would rather be at sea. But she’s not. Instead, she is in a small conference room at a roadside Marriott in this landlocked town north of Sacramento.

Around her are mainly men, many with beards, and many with baseball caps pulled down low and arms crossed tight. They are listening. Many of them would also rather be at sea. Can these wishes be joined? We shall see in the next month or so.

Ms. Crowley has long hair, a ruddy outdoor complexion, and a sincere manner. She wants to sail west in the next month or two, out to what is called the North Pacific Trash Gyre. Her goal is to start cleaning up the plastic trash that has leaped into social consciousness over the past couple of years.”

“Whether they do or not, and it seems possible some will, Crowley leaves little doubt she will set sail this spring, regardless. That determination is bringing her cleanup effort, called Project Kaisei, attention and resources to combat what strikes many as an overwhelming problem.

“It’s audacious because the scale is so intimidating,” says Matt Tinning, a spokesman for the Ocean Conservancy in Washington, D.C., a nonprofit group that mounts an annual global volunteer effort to clean the world’s beaches. “Project Kaisei has captured the public spotlight by shining a light on the problem.”

“After college Crowley became involved in the boat delivery business and eventually boat chartering, which is still what she does from her offices in Sausalito, Calif. She is also an educator, one of the founders in 1979 of the Ocean Voyages Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching the maritime arts and sciences.

Three decades ago, Crowley and Peter Sutter, a renowned San Francisco yachtsman and sailmaker, took the 33-foot sailboat Spirit into the North Pacific, not toward some distant shore but out to the equivalent of ocean wilderness. Their destination was the North Pacific Gyre.

Over four or five days in the becalmed mid-ocean, Crowley says, they saw only a handful of pieces of plastic and one small abandoned fishing net.

Fast-forward to 2009, and Crowley’s alarm at the concentration of trash she found last summer is understandable.

Yet as she sits in her Sausalito office with the San Francisco Bay visible over her shoulder, Crowley does not come across as an alarmist. “The big challenge for us is to get the word out that we do have the technology to figure out how to solve” this problem, she says.”

The web site of Project Kaisei:

http://www.projectkaisei.org/

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