NASA Finds Tropical Storm Jongdari Now Comma Shaped

Tropical Depression Jongdari re-strengthened into a tropical storm when it was southeast of Kyushu, Japan and NASA’s Aqua satellite saw it take on a comma shape.

On July 31 at 0345 UTC (July 30 at 11:45 p.m. EDT), the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer or MODIS instrument that flies aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite provided a visible image of Tropical Storm Jongdari. The image revealed that the storm had taken on a signature comma shape which is associated with a more organized storm, although it is still elongated. The tropical storm has powerful storms around the center and a band extending to the northeast. That’s quite a difference from the very elongated appearance of the system the previous day, when wind shear was battering the system. The sea surface temperatures are warm enough to support intensification as they are as warm as or warmer than the 80 degrees Fahrenheit threshold (26.6 degrees Celsius).

On July 31 at 5 a.m. EDT (0900 UTC) Tropical Storm Jongdari was located near 30.1 degrees north latitude and 130.9 degrees east longitude. That’s about 207 nautical miles south-southeast of Sasebo, Japan. Jongdari was moving to the northwest. Maximum sustained winds 35 knots (40 mph/62 kph).

The Joint Typhoon Warning Center or JTWC forecast takes Jongdari in a westerly direction toward China. The JTWC expects Jongdari to make landfall south of Shanghai on August 2.

Monsoon Storm Causes Damage, Knocks Out Power In North Phoenix

Hundreds of thousands of homes woke up to lights out after Monday night’s monsoon storm swept through the Valley.

“From Seventh Street all the way down to here, we just have numerous trees broken down,” Marlo Pressley said. “We’ve just had a lot of walls broken out, so we’ve got a lot of damage.”

Seventy-mile-per-hour winds ripped up trees and tore down power lines in its path. A massive tree that toppled over in a backyard wipe out 1,027 homes of power, alone.

North Phoenix residents inside a neighborhood near Ninth Street and Cochise say the damage is unbelievable.

“We heard a bunch of crashes because the wires were clicking together behind us and then we heard a bunch of and crashes and then a couple trees went down,” Wendy Hartman said.

“It was like a microburst that came through here last night and we were out in it as soon as it started because the trees started breaking right behind my house,” Pressley said. “I was in my house, too. The whole house shook like nobody’s business and then all of a sudden you saw flashes.”

Overnight, APS responded to the outages in this area and they say clean-up has been the biggest challenge.

“We don’t have a specific time because we come up on scenes like this where we have to take down a 60-foot tree, so it just kind of depends on the situation in the neighborhood, but just know that there are a lot of APS crews working non-stop to get everyone back on safely,” Suzanne Trevino said.

Hundreds Of People Rescued From Volcano In Indonesia After Earthquake

Hundreds of people who were trapped on a volcano on an Indonesian tourist island have been rescued. They were stuck after a 6.4 magnitude earthquake hit Sunday morning.

A spokesman for the Indonesian National Disaster Management Agency said there were 820 people on the mountain when the earthquake struck. More than 600 of them were tourists.

The earthquake reportedly triggered landslides, which cut off escape routes. The BBC reports that most of the victims were able to walk safely down after an escape route was found, but several had to be flown out by helicopter.

At least 17 people were killed and more than 300 were injured in the earthquake. Thousands of people have been evacuated since, and more than 1,000 houses were damaged.

Indonesia is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area that has a lot of seismic and volcanic activity.

There were reportedly more than 120 aftershocks following Sunday’s earthquake.

Popocatépetl Volcano Sends Ash Over 5 Municipalities

The national coordinator of Civil Protection, Luis Felipe Puente, informed through his Twitter account that the Popocatépetl volcano presented activity.

Around 3:00 AM on Tuesday morning, Popocatépetl exploded sending ash 2 kilometers high. The fall of ash caused by volcanic activity is recorded in Amecameca, Acuautla, Ecatzingo, Ozumba and Tepetlixpa.

Puente called on the population of the affected municipalities to take the Civil Protection recommendations, such as covering nose and mouth, not doing outdoor activities, keeping pets in a covered place and protecting their food, among other measures.

The director of the Municipal Civil Protection Operational Unit in Puebla, Gustavo Salvatori, reported that monitoring of the behavior of the volcano is maintained, as well as the direction of the wind that favors the fall of ash in the State of Mexico and Morelos.

The National Center indicated that little by little the conditions of the Popocatépetl return to normal, reason why the semaphore of volcanic alert will remain in yellow phase 2.

Astronomers Assemble ‘Light-Fingerprints’ To Unveil Mysteries Of The Cosmos

Earthbound detectives rely on fingerprints to solve their cases; now astronomers can do the same, using “light-fingerprints” instead of skin grooves to uncover the mysteries of exoplanets.

Cornell University researchers have created a reference catalog using calibrated spectra and geometric albedos — the light reflected by a surface — of 19 of the most diverse bodies in our solar system. These include all eight planets, from rocky to gaseous; nine moons, from frozen to lava spewing; and two dwarf planets, one in the asteroid belt — Ceres — and one in the Kuiper belt — Pluto.

By comparing observed spectra and albedos of exoplanets to this catalog of our own home planetary system, scientists will be able to characterize them in reference to the wide range of icy, rocky and gaseous worlds in our home system.

“A Catalog of Spectra, Albedos and Colors of Solar System Bodies for Exoplanet Comparison” was published online in the journal Astrobiology and will be featured on the print edition’s cover in December.

“We use our own solar system and all we know about its incredible diversity of fascinating worlds as our Rosetta Stone,” said co-author Lisa Kaltenegger, associate professor of astronomy and director of the Carl Sagan Institute. “With this catalog of light-fingerprints, we will be able to compare new observations of exoplanets to objects in our own solar system — including the gaseous worlds of Jupiter and Saturn, the icy worlds of Europa, the volcanic world of Io and our own life-filled planet.”

The catalog, freely available on the Carl Sagan Institute website, includes high- and low-resolution versions of the data, which shows astronomers the influence of spectral resolution on an object’s identification. In addition, the catalog offers examples of how the colors of the 19 solar system models would change if they were orbiting stars other than our sun.

“Planetary science broke new ground in the ’70s and ’80s with spectral measurements for solar system bodies. Exoplanet science will see a similar renaissance in the near future,” said Jack Madden, doctoral candidate at the Carl Sagan Institute and lead author of the study. “The technology to directly collect the light from Earth-sized planets around other stars is currently in a clean room waiting to be assembled and trained on the right target. With the upcoming launch of the James Webb Space Telescope and the current construction of large ground-based telescopes such as the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Extremely Large Telescope, we are entering a new age of observational ability, so we need a reference catalog of all the planets and moons we already know, to compare these new exoplanet spectra to.”

The catalog will enable scientists to prioritize time-intensive, high-resolution observations of extrasolar planets and moons. It also offers insights into what kind of worlds won’t be so easy to categorize without high-resolution spectra. For example, Venus is a rocky planet, but because sunlight reflects from its dense carbon dioxide atmosphere rather than its rocky surface, the colors astronomers observe from such a planet are similar to those of an icy world. On the outer edge of the habitable zone, rocky exoplanets are likely to have dense atmospheres like Venus. Such worlds will require long observations to characterize correctly.

“Examining our solar system from the vantage point of a distant observer is an illuminating exercise,” said Madden.

“By unraveling the mysteries of the objects in our own solar system we can glimpse the secrets of these new worlds we are finding,” said Kaltenegger.

Tropical Storm Hector Forms In The East Pacific, May Cross Into Central Pacific Early Next Week

Newly formed Tropical Storm Hector has become better organized over the last twenty-four hours. Additional strengthening is forecast to occur over the next several days. Low wind shear and warm sea surface temperatures should keep Hector on a path to category one hurricane by Thursday.

Although not a threat to any major land mass at the moment, the system should be monitored as the forecast models have Hector crossing into the Central Pacific on Monday.

For the weekend, additional showers could move through the islands this weekend. The surge of shower activity is not related to Tropical Storm Hector.

Pair Of Colliding Stars Spill Radioactive Molecules Into Space

When two Sun-like stars collide, the result can be a spectacular explosion and the formation of an entirely new star. One such event was seen from Earth in 1670. It appeared to observers as a bright, red “new star.” Though initially visible with the naked eye, this burst of cosmic light quickly faded and now requires powerful telescopes to see the remains of this merger: a dim central star surrounded by a halo of glowing material flowing away from it.

Approximately 348 years after this event, an international team of astronomers using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) and the NOEMA (Northern Extended Millimeter Array) radio telescopes studied the remains of this explosive stellar merger — known as CK Vulpeculae (CK Vul) — and discovered the clear and convincing signature of a radioactive version of aluminum (26Al, an atom with 13 protons and 13 neutron) bound with atoms of fluorine, forming 26-aluminum monofluoride (26AlF).

This is the first molecule bearing an unstable radioisotope definitively detected outside of our solar system. Unstable isotopes have an excess of nuclear energy and eventually decay into a stable, less-radioactive form. In this case, the 26-aluminum (26Al) decays to 26-magnesium (26Mg).

“The first solid detection of this kind of radioactive molecule is an important milestone in our exploration of the cool molecular universe,” said Tomasz Kamiński, an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and lead author on a paper appearing in Nature Astronomy.

The researchers detected the unique spectral signature of these molecules in the debris surrounding CK Vul, which is approximately 2,000 light-years from Earth. As these molecules spin and tumble through space, they emit a distinctive fingerprint of millimeter-wavelength light, a process known as “rotational transition.” Astronomers consider this the “gold standard” for molecular detections.

These characteristic molecular fingerprints are usually taken from laboratory experiments and then used to identify molecules in space. In the case of 26AlF, this method is not applicable because 26-aluminum is not present on Earth. Laboratory astrophysicists from the University of Kassel/Germany therefore used the fingerprint data of stable and abundant 27AlF molecules to derive accurate data for the rare 26AlF molecule. “This method of extrapolation is based on the so-called Dunham approach,” explained Alexander Breier from the Kassel team. “It allows researchers to precisely calculate the rotational transitions of 26AlF with an accuracy far beyond the needs of astronomical observers.”

The observation of this particular isotopologue provides fresh insights into the merger process that created CK Vul. It also demonstrates that the deep, dense inner layers of a star, where heavy elements and radioactive isotopes are forged, can be churned up and cast into space by stellar collisions. “We are observing the guts of a star torn apart three centuries ago by a collision,” observed Kamiński. “How cool is that?”

The astronomers also determined that the two stars that merged were relatively low-mass, with one being a red giant star with a mass somewhere between 0.8 and 2.5 times that of our Sun.

“This first direct observation of this isotope in a stellar-like object is also important in the broader context of galactic chemical evolution,” noted Kamiński. “This is the first time an active producer of the radioactive nuclide 26Al has been directly observationally identified.”

It has been known for decades that there is about three entire Suns’ worth of 26Al spread across the Milky Way. But these observations, made at gamma-ray wavelengths, could only identify that the signal was there; they couldn’t pinpoint individual sources and it was unclear how the isotopes got there.

With current estimates on the mass of 26Al in CK Vul (about a quarter the mass of Pluto) and the rare occurrence of mergers such as this, it seems rather unlikely that mergers are solely responsible for this galactic radioactive material, the astronomers conclude.

However, ALMA and NOEMA can only detect the amount of 26Al bound with fluorine. The actual mass of 26Al in CK Vul (in atomic form) may be much greater. It is also possible that other merger remnants may have far greater amounts. Astronomers may also have underestimated the current merger rates in the Milky Way. “So this is not a closed issue and the role of mergers may be non-negligible,” speculated Kamiński.