Hurricane Beryl To Raise Risk Of Flooding In Caribbean; State Of Emergency Declared In Puerto Rico

Hurricane Beryl, a tiny storm over the south-central Atlantic, is projected to take a path over the northern Caribbean.

As of Friday evening, Beryl was moving westward at about 15 mph (24 km/h) and had maximum sustained winds of 80 mph (130 km/h).

In the short-term, some increase in strength and size of Beryl is likely.

By Sunday night, Beryl will enter a zone of conditions that are likely to inhibit its development.

“Because of the small size of Beryl and anticipated weakening, widespread wind damage is not expected,” according to AccuWeather Meteorologist Jake Sojda.

However, there will be some risk to lives and property along the storm’s path. People should take precautions.

“Beryl, the second tropical storm of the Atlantic hurricane season, and the first classified as a hurricane is heading toward the Leeward Islands, the Virgin Islands, and will approach Puerto Rico on Monday. If Beryl makes landfall in Puerto Rico it will be around Monday afternoon, and it will continue to impact the island into Monday night,” said Dr. Joel Myers, founder, president and chairman of AccuWeather. “While the storm is expected to weaken by the time it reaches Puerto Rico and probably will not be a hurricane, but a weak tropical storm, it still will carry significant moisture, resulting in general rainfall totals of 1 to 3 inches which is not a heavy amount. However, there is likely to be local spots that get up to 6 inches of rain, which could cause local flooding. This flooding could impact many local homes. When preparing for flooding make sure you have an expert like Buric Heating and Air Conditioning (www.burichvac.com/heating/) to help you restore your essential home services like air conditioning and heating for your water.”

“As we know, Puerto Rico was hard hit last year by Hurricanes Irma and then Maria, and the island is still recovering,” Myers added. “Again, this amount of rain is significant because the infrastructure of Puerto Rico was so damaged last year. Any heavy rainfall is capable of causing flash flooding. This is particularly true in the places that get heavy downpours, particularly low lying and poor drainage areas, and heavy rain, of course, can always trigger dangerous mudslides. Residents of these areas should take precautions to stay safe and out of harm’s way.”

On Friday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello declared a state of emergency due to the potential impacts from Beryl in the coming days.

Steering winds will guide Beryl, most likely in a weakened state, on a slightly north of west path later this weekend into next week.

This path may take Beryl close to the northern Leeward Islands on Sunday and near the Virgin Islands during Sunday night and Puerto Rico Monday.

Trees that have been trimmed and utility lines and structures that have been properly repaired in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Maria from 2017 should fair well. However, lines and property repairs that have been jury-rigged could fail and lead to power outages and other dangers. Electricity lines and plumbing systems could also cause some danger, and you might want to view website pages of professional contractors in advance to see how much repairs might cost.

“Rainfall from Beryl will be the primary concern from the northern Leeward Islands to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico,” Sojda said.

Enough rain may fall to cause localized flash flooding and mudslides, especially along steep hillsides and in mountainous terrain. The hurricanes from last year have reduced some of the canopy of vegetation that would normally slow down the runoff of this magnitude.

Debris should be cleared from storm drains to allow as much runoff to be channeled away as safely as possible.

Beryl’s small size and forecast weakening near land is not likely to cause a significant storm surge. However, the risk of rough surf and rip currents will increase over the islands, especially along the east- and north-facing shores.

Small craft should remain in port as Beryl approaches.

Stay tuned to the latest on Beryl’s impacts in the Caribbean and Puerto Rico from AccuWeather and its world-renowned expert predictions.

“Beryl is in the middle of a large swath of dry air,” according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker.

“While wind shear is low enough to allow Beryl to survive now, wind shear is projected to increase as the storm moves westward into the Caribbean late this weekend,” Walker said.

Wind shear is the change in wind direction and increase with altitude. Strong wind shear can cause a hurricane or tropical storm to weaken significantly.

Beryl’s small circulation may have prevented the storm from drawing in much dry air. However, the small size of the storm may also lead to a quick demise once it encounters increasing wind shear near the Caribbean.

Beyond early next week, a general northwest to west-northwest drift is likely.

Wind shear and proximity to the large islands of Hispaniola and Cuba would be deterrents for the storm’s survival and strengthening, but may still bring heavy squalls and drenching rainfall to part of the region.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, Tropical Depression 3 has developed off the coast of the Carolinas and may become Tropical Storm Chris over the weekend.

Scientists Finish Groundbreaking Volcano Mission

A mission off New Zealand’s coast has broken new-ground – literally – with scientists going where none have gone before.

Geologists on a trip to the Kermadec Arc – 400km northeast of White Island – have managed to drill into the heart of an underwater volcano, more than 1600m below the surface, and extract samples.

The Joides Resolution returned to Auckland this week and chief scientist Cornel De Ronde has been welcoming people aboard to share the expedition’s success.

It was very rare to be able to drill through any volcano, let alone one so deep in the ocean, he said.

“We were very lucky that this international consortium thought that this was a pretty good idea, all based on science,” Mr De Ronde said.

“It was five years in the making and $20 million in the costs.”

The scientists spent two months drilling into Brothers, a massive underwater volcano which is about three times the size of White island.

The oval shaped volcano is 13km-long and 8km-wide.

Mr De Ronde said scientists knew more about the dark side of the moon than they did about the ocean floor, but information from the Brothers would help answer some key questions.

“How are metals transported through volcanoes … what metals are there, how did they get there and where are they going?

Scientist Tobias Hofig said at one point they struck rock so hard and hot fluids so acidic that some of their drilling equipment was destroyed.

However, they still managed to recover more than 200m of volcanic core.

The trip was funded by a consortium of 23 countries that make up the International Ocean Discovery Programme, with the United States being the main funder.

Mr de Ronde said the expedition had been a career highlight.

“It was spectacularly successful. The technology used enabled us to do what we did.

“Once you get a bunch of people together with a common goal it’s amazing what you can achieve.”

Scientists will now spend the next year poring over the samples to help unearth more secrets around how and why submarine volcanoes work.

‘Lava Tornado’ Sends Hot Molten Stuff Flying As Kilauea Volcano Continues To Erupt

While fireworks filled skies across the nation at the start of July, Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island might have put on the most spectacular show this week.

A vortex of rapidly swirling air flung red glowing bits of molten rock, creating what several publications have dubbed a “lava tornado.”

Scientists at the United States Geological Survey used a telephoto lens to capture video footage of the whirlwind above an river of lava flowing from an opening in the ground known as fissure No. 8.

The activity lasted for 10 minutes on July 2 and threw lava several meters away, the USGS reports.

Lava has destroyed more than 600 homes on the Big Island since the volcano began spraying molten rock out of a vent on a residential street on May 3.

At Kilauea’s summit, there continue to be explosions that shoot plumes of ash into the sky.

Ash expelled during explosions may cause poor visibility and slippery conditions for drivers.

Another ongoing hazard comes from lava meeting the ocean. Scientists warn against venturing too close to the action, saying it could expose people to dangers from flying debris.

The Gaia Sausage: The Major Collision That Changed The Milky Way Galaxy

An international team of astronomers has discovered an ancient and dramatic head-on collision between the Milky Way and a smaller object, dubbed the “Sausage” galaxy. The cosmic crash was a defining event in the early history of the Milky Way and reshaped the structure of our galaxy, fashioning both its inner bulge and its outer halo, the astronomers report in a series of new papers.

The astronomers propose that around 8 billion to 10 billion years ago, an unknown dwarf galaxy smashed into our own Milky Way. The dwarf did not survive the impact: It quickly fell apart, and the wreckage is now all around us.

“The collision ripped the dwarf to shreds, leaving its stars moving in very radial orbits” that are long and narrow like needles, said Vasily Belokurov of the University of Cambridge and the Center for Computational Astrophysics at the Flatiron Institute in New York City. The stars’ paths take them “very close to the centre of our galaxy. This is a telltale sign that the dwarf galaxy came in on a really eccentric orbit and its fate was sealed.”

The new papers in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, The Astrophysical Journal Letters and arXiv.org outline the salient features of this extraordinary event. Several of the papers were led by Cambridge graduate student GyuChul Myeong. He and colleagues used data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite. This spacecraft has been mapping the stellar content of our galaxy, recording the journeys of stars as they travel through the Milky Way. Thanks to Gaia, astronomers now know the positions and trajectories of our celestial neighbours with unprecedented accuracy.

The paths of the stars from the galactic merger earned them the moniker “the Gaia Sausage,” explained Wyn Evans of Cambridge. “We plotted the velocities of the stars, and the sausage shape just jumped out at us. As the smaller galaxy broke up, its stars were thrown onto very radial orbits. These Sausage stars are what’s left of the last major merger of the Milky Way.”

The Milky Way continues to collide with other galaxies, such as the puny Sagittarius dwarf galaxy. However, the Sausage galaxy was much more massive. Its total mass in gas, stars and dark matter was more than 10 billion times the mass of our sun. When the Sausage crashed into the young Milky Way, its piercing trajectory caused a lot of mayhem. The Milky Way’s disk was probably puffed up or even fractured following the impact and would have needed to regrow. And Sausage debris was scattered all around the inner parts of the Milky Way, creating the ‘bulge’ at the galaxy’s centre and the surrounding ‘stellar halo.’

Numerical simulations of the galactic mashup can reproduce these features, said Denis Erkal of the University of Surrey. In simulations run by Erkal and colleagues, stars from the Sausage galaxy enter stretched-out orbits. The orbits are further elongated by the growing Milky Way disk, which swells and becomes thicker following the collision.

Evidence of this galactic remodelling is seen in the paths of stars inherited from the dwarf galaxy, said Alis Deason of Durham University. “The Sausage stars are all turning around at about the same distance from the centre of the galaxy.” These U-turns cause the density in the Milky Way’s stellar halo to decrease dramatically where the stars flip directions. This discovery was especially pleasing for Deason, who predicted this orbital pileup almost five years ago. The new work explains how the stars fell into such narrow orbits in the first place.

The new research also identified at least eight large, spherical clumps of stars called globular clusters that were brought into the Milky Way by the Sausage galaxy. Small galaxies generally do not have globular clusters of their own, so the Sausage galaxy must have been big enough to host a collection of clusters.

“While there have been many dwarf satellites falling onto the Milky Way over its life, this was the largest of them all,” said Sergey Koposov of Carnegie Mellon University, who has studied the kinematics of the Sausage stars and globular clusters in detail.

Milky Way Type Dust Particles Discovered In A Galaxy 11 Billion Light Years From Earth

An international research team, with participation from the Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen, has found the same type of interstellar dust that we know from the Milky Way in a distant galaxy 11 billion light years from Earth. This type of dust has been found to be rare in other galaxies and the new discovery plays an important role in understanding what it takes for this particular type of interstellar dust to be formed.

The discovery of the afterglow. To the left is an image from the so-called Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii taken before the explosion. To the right is an image of the same part of the sky taken with the Nordic Optical Telescope a few minutes after the explosion was registered by the Swift satellite.

Dust in galaxies

Galaxies are complex structures comprised of many individual parts, such as stars, gas, dust and dark matter. Even though the dust only represents a small part of the total amount of matter in a galaxy, it plays a major role in how stars are formed and how the light from the stars escapes the galaxies. Dust grains can both absorb and scatter light. Dust particles also play a decisive role in the formation of planets and thus also for the understanding of our own existence on Earth.

How do you measure dust 11 billion light years away?

The dust in galaxies consists of small grains of carbon, silicon, iron, aluminium and other heavier elements. The Milky Way has a very high content of carbonaceous dust, which has been shown to be very rare in other galaxies. But now a similar type of dust has been found in a few, very distant galaxies that researchers have been able to investigate using light from gamma-ray bursts. Gamma-ray bursts come from massive stars that explode when the when the fuel in its core is exhausted. The explosion causes the dying stars to emit powerful bursts of light that astronomers can use to analyse what the galaxies are comprised of. Specifically, they can measure the elemental content and analyse their way forward to the properties of the dust properties by examining the light that escapes from the galaxies.

The carbonaceous dust is registered in the measurements as a “dust bump,” that is, a high value of dust with the said composition. This ultraviolet dust bump has now been detected in a gamma-ray burst, which has been named GRB180325A and the result has just been accepted for publication in the journal Astrophysical Journal Letters. The lead author is Tayyaba Zafar who completed her PhD studies at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen and is now working at the Angle Australian Observatory in Australia. Several other researchers from NBI are co-authors of the article.

Collaboration between observatories

GRB180325A was detected by Neil Gehrel’s Swift Observatory (NASA) on 28 March 2018. Swift is a satellite mission that detects gamma rays from the dying stars. When such a detection from the satellite hits the astronomers, a hectic period begins. The astronomers try to observe that part of the sky as quickly as possible in order to secure the crucial information that allows them to study the interior of the galaxy the explosion originated from. In this case Kasper Heintz, who did his master’s thesis at the Niels Bohr Institute and is now a PhD student at the University of Iceland, was on duty. He activated the Nordic Optical Telescope (NOT) at La Palma, where Professor Johan Fynbo from the Niels Bohr Institute was observing for another project. The first observations of the light from the gamma-ray burst were secured only a few minutes after the discovery by Swift.

The observations from NOT showed that the star had exploded in a galaxy with a red shift of 2.25, which means that the light has travelled approximately 11 billion light years. The observations immediately showed that the dust bump, known from the Milky Way, was present in this galaxy. The team then observed the gamma-ray burst with the X-shooter spectrograph on ESO’s Very Large Telescope (European Southern Observatory) on the Cerro Paranal in Chile. All in all, four spectra of the afterglow from the gamma-ray burst were secured — all with a clear detection of the dust bump.

“It is a beautiful example of how observations in space and around the world can work together and create breakthroughs in research. The work also gives cause to express great thanks to the Carlsberg Foundation, without which Danish astronomy would neither have access to the Very Large Telescope nor NOT,” says Professor Johan Fynbo.

“Our spectra show that the presence of atomic carbon seems to be a requirement for the dust that causes the dust bump to be formed,” says Kasper Heintz.

The dust bump has previously been seen in observations of four other gamma-ray bursts, the last of which was detected 10 years ago.

“Further observations of this type will allow us to find more galaxies with this dust bump and thus conduct a more systematic study of similarities and differences in dust composition throughout the history of the Universe and in galaxies with different properties,” says Dr. Tayyaba Zafar.

Superstar Eta Carinae Shoots Cosmic Rays

A new study using data from NASA’s NuSTAR space telescope suggests that Eta Carinae, the most luminous and massive stellar system within 10,000 light-years, is accelerating particles to high energies — some of which may reach Earth as cosmic rays.

“We know the blast waves of exploded stars can accelerate cosmic ray particles to speeds comparable to that of light, an incredible energy boost,” said Kenji Hamaguchi, an astrophysicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the lead author of the study. “Similar processes must occur in other extreme environments. Our analysis indicates Eta Carinae is one of them.”

Astronomers know that cosmic rays with energies greater than 1 billion electron volts (eV) come to us from beyond our solar system. But because these particles — electrons, protons and atomic nuclei — all carry an electrical charge, they veer off course whenever they encounter magnetic fields. This scrambles their paths and masks their origins.

Eta Carinae, located about 7,500 light-years away in the southern constellation of Carina, is famous for a 19th century outburst that briefly made it the second-brightest star in the sky. This event also ejected a massive hourglass-shaped nebula, but the cause of the eruption remains poorly understood.

The system contains a pair of massive stars whose eccentric orbits bring them unusually close every 5.5 years. The stars contain 90 and 30 times the mass of our Sun and pass 140 million miles (225 million kilometers) apart at their closest approach — about the average distance separating Mars and the Sun.

“Both of Eta Carinae’s stars drive powerful outflows called stellar winds,” said team member Michael Corcoran, also at Goddard. “Where these winds clash changes during the orbital cycle, which produces a periodic signal in low-energy X-rays we’ve been tracking for more than two decades.”

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope also observes a change in gamma rays — light packing far more energy than X-rays — from a source in the direction of Eta Carinae. But Fermi’s vision isn’t as sharp as X-ray telescopes, so astronomers couldn’t confirm the connection.

To bridge the gap between low-energy X-ray monitoring and Fermi observations, Hamaguchi and his colleagues turned to NuSTAR. Launched in 2012, NuSTAR can focus X-rays of much greater energy than any previous telescope. Using both newly taken and archival data, the team examined NuSTAR observations acquired between March 2014 and June 2016, along with lower-energy X-ray observations from the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton satellite over the same period.

Eta Carinae’s low-energy, or soft, X-rays come from gas at the interface of the colliding stellar winds, where temperatures exceed 70 million degrees Fahrenheit (40 million degrees Celsius). But NuSTAR detects a source emitting X-rays above 30,000 eV, some three times higher than can be explained by shock waves in the colliding winds. For comparison, the energy of visible light ranges from about 2 to 3 eV.

The team’s analysis, presented in a paper published on Monday, July 2, in Nature Astronomy, shows that these “hard” X-rays vary with the binary orbital period and show a similar pattern of energy output as the gamma rays observed by Fermi.

The researchers say that the best explanation for both the hard X-ray and the gamma-ray emission is electrons accelerated in violent shock waves along the boundary of the colliding stellar winds. The X-rays detected by NuSTAR and the gamma rays detected by Fermi arise from starlight given a huge energy boost by interactions with these electrons.

Some of the superfast electrons, as well as other accelerated particles, must escape the system and perhaps some eventually wander to Earth, where they may be detected as cosmic rays.

“We’ve known for some time that the region around Eta Carinae is the source of energetic emission in high-energy X-rays and gamma rays,” said Fiona Harrison, the principal investigator of NuSTAR and a professor of astronomy at Caltech in Pasadena, California. “But until NuSTAR was able to pinpoint the radiation, show it comes from the binary and study its properties in detail, the origin was mysterious.”