Scientist: Oil slick likely from natural seafloor seepage

In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County, Calif., Fire Department, Henry Duncan, left, and Bob Seiler, legs covered in oil, foreground, stand in the Goleta Beach parking lot with their oil-covered kayaks, on the truck at rear, in Goleta, Calif., Wednesday, July 29, 2015. The pair encountered a large oil sheen and called the fire department to investigate. The Coast Guard is investigating this new oil slick off the Southern California coast about a dozen miles from where a broken pipeline spilled thousands of gallons of crude into the ocean in May. (Mike Eliason/ Santa Barbara County Fire Department via AP)LOS ANGELES (AP) — Coast Guard officials say it will likely be a couple more days before they can definitively say what caused a miles-long oil slick to materialize off the Santa Barbara County coast this week, but an expert said Thursday it was more than likely the result of ocean-floor seepage.

Posted on 30 July 2015 | 10:09 pm

U.S. lawmakers question NASA, Air Force on blast probe led by SpaceX

By Andrea Shalal WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Fourteen U.S. lawmakers on Thursday told the Air Force and NASA they had "serious concerns" about the fact that SpaceX is leading an investigation into the June 28 explosion of its Falcon 9 rocket, and whether it would receive enough oversight. Republican Representatives Mike Coffman from Colorado and Randy Forbes from Virginia led the bipartisan group, which questioned the two government agencies about what the explosion means for future NASA and Air Force launches.

Posted on 30 July 2015 | 9:29 pm

When is a jackal not a jackal? When it's really a 'golden wolf'

A golden jackal is seen in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania in this undated handout pictureScientists said on Thursday a comprehensive genetic analysis found that these populations are made up of two entirely distinct species, with those in Africa different from the others. The scientific name for the golden jackal is Canis aureus. The researchers proposed renaming those in Africa Canis anthus, or the African golden wolf.

Posted on 30 July 2015 | 5:02 pm

Earth's 'magnetic personality' much older than previously thought

An artist's depiction of Earth's magnetic field deflecting high-energy protons from the sun four billion years agoBy Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Earth's magnetic field has been a life preserver, protecting against relentless solar winds, streams of charged particles rushing from the Sun, that otherwise could strip away the planet's atmosphere and water. "It would be a pretty barren planet without it," said University of Rochester geophysicist John Tarduno. Researchers on Thursday said evidence entombed in tiny crystals retrieved from the outback of western Australia indicates the magnetic field arose at least 4.2 billion years ago, much earlier than previously believed.

Posted on 30 July 2015 | 4:15 pm

NASA Working to Avoid Traffic Jams at Mars

NASA Working to Avoid Traffic Jams at MarsWith two more Mars orbiters sent into space last year, traffic has picked up around the Red Planet — so much so that NASA recently bolstered its monitoring process to avoid future traffic jams. NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft and India's Mangalyaan probe both began circling the Red Planet last September, bringing the total number of operational Mars orbiters to five — the most ever. NASA's Mars Odyssey and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) and the European Space Agency's Mars Express are the other three spacecraft.

Posted on 30 July 2015 | 3:26 pm

Saving rhinos in a lab

By Ben Gruber San Francisco, California - Matthew Markus, of biotech company Pembient, is holding up a rhinoceros horn worth thousands of dollars on the black market because a poacher had to risk his life to kill an endangered species to obtain it.  At least that is what Markus would have you believe. The truth is this horn wasn't cut off a rhino in the African savannah, it was bioengineered in lab in San Francisco. Rhino horns are comprised primarily of keratin, a family of proteins that make up hair and nails.

Posted on 30 July 2015 | 2:45 pm

Will Europe's Philae Comet Lander Make Another Comeback?

Will Europe's Philae Comet Lander Make Another Comeback?The lander team would love to get Philae up and running again soon so that they can get an up-close look at how this "perihelion passage" affects 67P. This work ended when Philae's primary battery died and the probe went into hibernation — a consequence of coming to rest in an unexpectedly shaded location. A recharge did end up happening, though it took much longer than planned: Philae phoned home on June 13, apparently revivified by the increasing levels of solar radiation it experienced as Comet 67P got closer and closer to the sun.

Posted on 30 July 2015 | 2:22 pm

Philae lander shows there's more to comets than soft dust

Accomazzo SOM of ESOC reacts after successful landing of Philae lander on comet 67P/ Churyumov-GerasimenkoBy Victoria Bryan and Maria Sheahan BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - The comet lander Philae may be uncommunicative at the moment, but the pictures and measurements it took after it touched down on a comet in November have shown scientists that the comet is covered with coarse material, rather than dust, and is harder than expected. European scientists celebrated an historic first when Philae landed on a comet called 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in November after a 10-year journey through space aboard the Rosetta spacecraft. As it landed, Philae bounced and ended up in shadow, where its batteries soon ran out.

Posted on 30 July 2015 | 2:05 pm

Polar Bear Awes with Record-Breaking Dive

Polar Bear Awes with Record-Breaking DivePolar bears are known to be excellent swimmers, but new research suggests that they are also superb divers. Scientists recently observed a polar bear dive that lasted 3 minutes, 10 seconds, shattering the previous known record by about 2 minutes. The researchers — Ian Stirling from the University of Alberta in Canada, and Rinie van Meurs, a naturalist and polar expedition leader from the Netherlands — were studying polar bears in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard (located between continental Norway and the North Pole, east of Greenland), when they witnessed this epic underwater swim.

Posted on 30 July 2015 | 10:06 am

Volcanoes Dot Snowy Russian Landscape in New Photo from Space

Volcanoes Dot Snowy Russian Landscape in New Photo from SpaceThe Kamchatka Peninsula, in eastern Russia, is one of the most active volcanic regions on Earth, and the ash-covered Klyuchevskoy volcano erupts most frequently. The volcano formed 6,000 years ago and hasn't slowed down since, according to NASA. The image, which shows a thin plume of ash and steam flowing out of the Klyuchevskoy volcano, was captured by an astronaut aboard the International Space Station in early May. Klyuchevskoy is flanked by other snow-covered volcanoes, including Ushkovsky, Bezymianny and Tolbachik, according to NASA.

Posted on 30 July 2015 | 10:04 am