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harvey leifert

Students send experiments to the International Space Station

As Orb-2, the latest mission to resupply the International Space Station (ISS), lifted off on July 13, no one at NASA’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Va., was more thrilled than 16 elementary and high school students whose scientific experiments were on board the Cygnus spacecraft. The fifth through 12th graders represented 15 teams totaling 99 students from across the United States whose proposals had survived a rigorous screening program.

19 Sep 2014

Oso landslide report yields some answers

Early on March 22, 2014, the most damaging landslide in U.S. history devastated the community of Oso, Washington. Forty-three people perished, most inside their homes, when a saturated hillside nearby gave way and a massive mudflow swept over their neighborhood. On July 22, a search crew recovered the last of the 43 bodies, exactly four months after the landslide, and coincidentally on the same day, a team of scientists and engineers released an exhaustive report detailing the event and its implications.

01 Aug 2014

Belugas, climate, mercury and cancer

Overall, the beluga whale population in the Arctic is robust and healthy, reported Stephen Raverty, a veterinary pathologist with the British Columbia Ministry of Agriculture and the University of British Columbia who has long studied belugas, at the AAAS meeting.

03 Jul 2014

Parasites spread across the Arctic under the 'new normal'

The last several decades have seen Arctic sea-ice minimums drop by more than half in sea-ice area and more than three-quarters in volume. With current models expecting further reductions, scientists are calling it the “new normal” and are trying to grasp its implications — one of which is the occurrence of pathogens never before seen in the Arctic.

02 Jul 2014

Lessons from the Russian meteor burst

Scientists can thank the high motor vehicle accident rate in the Russian city of Chelyabinsk for providing the most stunning videos ever recorded of a meteor burst. Because of the many traffic accidents in that city, dashboard cameras abound, constantly recording everything in front of a car — the road, other vehicles, pedestrians, and, incidentally, the sky.

At about 9:20 a.m. on Feb. 15, 2013, many of those cameras recorded the explosion of a large meteor 23 kilometers above the city. As was widely reported at the time, the air blast shattered windows, and meteorite fragments rained down in and around Chelyabinsk, causing damage to some 7,000 buildings and sending about 1,600 people to hospitals. Although no one was killed, it marks “the first ever asteroid impact disaster in human history,” according to Clark R. Chapman of the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) Planetary Science Directorate in Boulder, Colo., who presented research on the event at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San, Francisco, Calif., last December.

18 May 2014

Comet ISON still intrigues and inspires, even after its demise

Comet ISON is dead, but its memory will live on." That eulogy for the much-discussed “comet of the century" was delivered today by Karl Battams of the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., during a series of reports presented at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco, Calif.

11 Dec 2013

Juno salutes its home planet and heads to Jupiter

Thanks to orbital mechanics, a spacecraft heading to Jupiter must go most of the way there, then loop around the sun, zoom back close to Earth, and finally head out again on its mission to the largest planet in the solar system. That's the story of Juno, launched by NASA on Aug. 5, 2011, and due to arrive at Jupiter on July 4, 2016. Its journey required a boost in velocity, relative to the sun, which it received when it flew as close as 559  kilometers above Earth on Oct. 9, 2013.

11 Dec 2013

Curiosity finds an ancient habitable environment in Mars' Gale Crater

San Francisco - Yellowknife Bay is named for Yellowknife, the capital of Canada’s Northwest Territories, but is nowhere near that subarctic city. It is not even on Earth, but is the focus of intense interest among scores of Earthbound geologists, biologists and astronomers. Yellowknife Bay is a geologic formation on Mars in the 154-kilometer-wide Gale Crater. The Curiosity rover, also known as the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), has been exploring that crater for more than a year.

09 Dec 2013

Apollo science, 40 years later: Scientists reopen a lunar cold case

Today’s lunar scientists are like detectives who reopen old criminal cases and examine them anew with modern instruments and techniques like DNA analysis. Armed with data and analytical techniques not available in the 1970s, scientists are re-examining Apollo moon rocks and learning more than ever before about our nearest celestial neighbor.

24 Mar 2013

Kilauea’s Explosive Past — and Future

The explosive history of Kilauea is not well known. Today, it’s renowned for lobes of slow-moving, calm lava, which ooze out of cracks in the flanks of the volcano, pour downslope and eventually flow into the sea, where the lava cools and gradually enlarges the island. But in the past, Kilauea has erupted violently — more often and for much longer periods than was previously thought. Now, researchers have learned that over the past 2,500 years, violent eruptive periods lasting centuries have alternated with periods of quiet flows. Once an explosive period has begun, conditions on the Big Island will be very different from those on which the past hazard assessment was based.

17 May 2012

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