Making Unique Observations in a Very Cluttered World

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

A STAR primed to explode in a blast that could wipe out the Earth was revealed by astronomers yesterday

Reading - A STAR primed to explode in a blast that could wipe out the Earth was revealed by astronomers yesterday

It will self-destruct in an explosion called a supernova with the force of 20 billion billion billion megatons of TNT.

New studies show the star, called T Pyxidis, is much closer than previously thought at 3,260 light-years away - a short hop in galactic terms.

Risk ... impression of T Pyxidis
Risk ... impression of T Pyxidis

So the blast from the thermonuclear explosion could strip away our ozone layer that keeps out deadly space radiation. Life on Earth would then be frazzled.

The doomsday scenario was described yesterday by astronomers from Villanova University, Philadelphia, US.

They said the International Ultraviolet Explorer satellite has shown them that T Pyxidis is really two stars, one called a white dwarf that is sucking in gas and steadily growing. When it reaches a critical mass it will blow itself to pieces.

It will become as bright as all the other stars in the galaxy put together and shine like a beacon halfway across the universe.

The experts said the Hubble space telescope has photographed the star gearing up for its big bang with a series of smaller blasts or "burps", called novas.

These explosions came regularly about every 20 years from 1890 - but stopped after 1967.

So the next blast is nearly 20 years overdue, said scientists Edward M Sion, Patrick Godon and Timothy McClain at the American Astronomical Society in Washington. Robin Scagell, vice-president of the UK's Society for Popular Astronomy, said last night: "The star may certainly became a supernova soon - but soon could still be a long way off so don't have nightmares.

Read more:http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2795981/Supernova-may-wipe-out-the-Earth.html#ixzz0bscGfDSc

Wikileaks.org has gone dark until it finds funds to support its operations and fend off lawsuits -

Reading - Wikileaks.org has gone dark until it finds funds to support its operations and fend off lawsuits -

A Web site that for years has let anonymous whistleblowers break stories of corruption and government malfeasance has gone dark and is expected to remain offline until it finds funds to support its operations and fend off lawsuits.

Investigators and governmental watchdogs say Wikileaks.org has been an invaluable tool for exposing corruption and releasing previously unseen documents. Founded in late 2006, the Web site has posted sensitive documents related to the September 11 attacks, Guantanamo Bay and the Church of Scientology, among others.

The site had been expected to return today, according to a post on its default page. But now the home page times out without loading.

"Wikileaks is overloaded," the page read on Tuesday. "We need your support for more servers."

It said Wikileaks had received "hundreds of thousands" of pages from corrupt banks and other information pertaining to the Iraq war, China, the United Nations and other topics that it does not currently have the resources to release.

"You can change that and by doing so, change the world," it read.

The site, which says it has "successfully" fought more than 100 lawsuits filed against it, had been accepting donations via credit card as late as Tuesday, but it was inaccessible on Wednesday. Multiple attempts to contact Wikileaks officials were not successful.

Neil Gordon, an investigator for the Project on Government Oversight, an independent nonprofit group that exposes corruption, said Wikileaks had played pivotal roles in some "pretty juicy stories" in recent years, including documents related to standard operating procedures at Guantanamo Bay and rules of engagement for American troops in Iraq.

"We think there's nothing but good that can come from sites like Wikileaks," Gordon told FoxNews.com. "It provides places for whistleblowers to provide documents anonymously, which is often the only way you can uncover corruption."

Gordon, who writes a blog at the Project on Government Oversight, last wrote on Wikileaks in July regarding fusion centers, joint anti-terrorism entities consisting of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies.

Gordon said the site posted resumes that purportedly proved that some applicants at a Washington state fusion center had "traveled back and forth through the revolving door" between the military and private firms.

Wikileaks.org has reportedly applied for a two-year, $532,000 grant from the Knight Foundation to expand its anonymous submission system by local newspapers. The foundation's News Challenge will give as much as $5 million this year to projects that use digital technology in community news.

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, said sites like Wikileaks can provide invaluable resources to investigative journalism.

"Assuming the documents that are posted are accurate, it can be an important site," Dalglish told FoxNews.com. "When traditional newsrooms ... have very few funds to pay for investigative reporting, and to litigate for access, sites like this can be important because it would cut down on the cost, presumably, of some investigative reporting."

Support Wikileaks.org - http://wikileaks.org/

Now the Third Natural Disaster of 2010 - USDA Designates Five Counties in Maine as Primary Natural Disaster Areas

Reading - Now the Third Natural Disaster of 2010 - USDA Designates Five Counties in Maine as Primary Natural Disaster Areas

USDA Designates Five Counties in Maine as Primary Natural Disaster Areas

WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2010 - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated Aroostook, Hancock, Penobscot, Piscataquis, and Somerset Counties in Maine as primary natural disaster areas in three separate disaster designations.

Aroostook County received a disaster designation for drought that occurred between Aug. 1 and Sept. 15, 2009. Somerset County received a designation for heavy rains, flash flooding and high winds that occurred from June 1, 2009 and continuing. Hancock, Penobscot and Piscataquis Counties received a designation for heavy rains and subsequent drought from June 9 through Aug. 30, 2009.

"President Obama and I understand these conditions caused severe damage to the area and serious harm to farms in Maine and we want to help," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "This action will provide help to hundreds of farmers who suffered significant production losses to potatoes, blueberries, corn, and forage."

Farmers and ranchers in the following counties in Maine also qualify for natural disaster assistance because their counties are contiguous:


All counties listed above were designated natural disaster areas Jan. 4, 2010, making all qualified farm and ranch operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency (EM) loans from USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA), provided eligibility requirements are met. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from the date of the declaration to apply for loans to help cover part of their actual losses. FSA will consider each loan application on its own merits, taking into account the extent of losses, security available and repayment ability. FSA has a variety of programs, in addition to the EM loan program, to help eligible farmers and ranchers recover from adversity.

USDA has also made other programs available to assist farmers and ranchers, including the Supplemental Revenue Assistance Program (SURE), which was approved as part of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008; the Emergency Conservation Program; Federal Crop Insurance; and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program. Interested producers may contact their local USDA Service Centers for further information on eligibility requirements and application procedures for these and other programs. Additional information is also available online athttp://disaster.fsa.usda.gov.