A full moon occurred on Dec. 2. It will appear again on Thursday in time for the New Year's countdown.
"If you're in Times Square, you'll see the full moon right above you. It's going to be that brilliant," said Jack Horkheimer, director emeritus of the Miami Space Transit Planetarium and host of a weekly astronomy TV show.
The New Year's Eve blue moon will be visible in the United States, Canada, Europe, South America and Africa. For partygoers in Australia and Asia, the full moon does not show up until New Year's Day, making January a blue moon month for them.
However, the Eastern Hemisphere can celebrate with a partial lunar eclipse on New Year's Eve when part of the moon enters the Earth's shadow. The eclipse will not be visible in the Americas.
A full moon occurs every 29.5 days, and most years have 12. On average, an extra full moon in a month – a blue moon – occurs every 2.5 years. The last time there was a lunar double take was in May 2007. New Year's Eve blue moons are rarer, occurring every 19 years. The last time was in 1990; the next one won't come again until 2028.
Blue moons have no astronomical significance, said Greg Laughlin, an astronomer at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
"`Blue moon' is just a name in the same sense as a `hunter's moon' or a `harvest moon,'" Laughlin said in an e-mail.
The popular definition of blue moon came about after a writer for Sky & Telescope magazine in 1946 misinterpreted the Maine Farmer's Almanac and labeled a blue moon as the second full moon in a month. In fact, the almanac defined a blue moon as the third full moon in a season with four full moons, not the usual three.
Though Sky & Telescope corrected the error decades later, the definition caught on. For purists, however, this New Year's Eve full moon doesn't even qualify as a blue moon. It's just the first full moon of the winter season.
In a tongue-in-cheek essay posted on the magazine's Web site this week, senior contributing editor Kelly Beatty wrote: "If skies are clear when I'm out celebrating, I'll take a peek at that brilliant orb as it rises over the Boston skyline to see if it's an icy shade of blue. Or maybe I'll just howl."
He is known locally as ‘Tree Man’ and his condition has baffled local doctors for 20 years. In an attempt to earn a living to support his family, he is part of a circus troupe, displaying his 'Tree Man' limbs along with others afflicted with skin deformities in ‘freak’ shows.
Dr Anthony Gaspari, a world expert in skin conditions from the University of Maryland travels to Indonesia to attempt to diagnose 'Tree Man' Dede’s mysterious condition. He takes skin samples for biopsies back in the USA. What will he discover?
We go on an intimate journey with the extraordinary 'Tree Man' Dede, as he tries to eek out a living in a circus troupe to support his family, and as he is given medical help by Dr Gaspari. The identification and possible cure of his condition, could change his whole life.
Half way across the world, in Romania, farmer Ion Toader is discovered to have a similar extraordinary ‘Tree Man’ condition, with growths all over his hands. He has not been able to drive a tractor for five years. A Romanian surgeon offers to give him an operation to remove his growths.
Will it be successful, and how will it change Ion’s life?
Evidence suggests it has an atmosphere, and astronomers believe it to be more like Earth than any planet found outside the Solar System so far.
Although the planet is thought to be too hot to sustain Earth-type life, it is believed to consist of 75% water.
Planet GJ1214b is six times bigger than Earth and was discovered orbiting a small faint star 1.3 million miles away.
Although its red dwarf parent star is 3,000 times less bright than the Sun, it hugs the star so closely that its surface temperature is an oven-hot 200C.
Graduate student astronomer Zachory Berta, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics in the US, who spotted the first hints of the planet, said: "Despite its hot temperature, this appears to be a waterworld.
"It is much smaller, cooler and more Earth-like than any other known exoplanet."
He said some of the planet's water should be in the form of exotic materials such as Ice Seven - a crystalline form of water that exists at pressures greater than 20,000 times the Earth's sea-level atmosphere.
Scientists want to turn the Hubble Space Telescope towards the planet to allow astronomers to discover its composition.
Dr David Charbonneau, also from the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre, said: "Since this planet is so close to Earth, Hubble should be able to detect the atmosphere and determine what it's made of.
"That will make it the first super-Earth with a confirmed atmosphere - even though that atmosphere probably won't be hospitable to life as we know it."
The discovery is reported in the journal Nature.
State volcanologists raised the alert level on the cone-shaped, 8,070-foot (2,460-meter) Mayon volcano overnight to two steps below a major eruption after ash explosions.
Dark orange lava fragments glowed in the dark as they trickled down the mountain slope overnight. Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said the activity could get worse in coming days.
"It's already erupting," Solidum told The Associated Press.
More than 20,000 people were evacuated to safety by nightfall Tuesday, said Gov. Joey Salceda of Albay province, where Mayon is located about 210 miles (340 kilometers) southeast of Manila.
The first of 20 vehicles, including army trucks, were sent to villages to take residents to schools and other temporary housing, provincial emergency management official Jukes Nunez said.
"It's 10 days before Christmas. Most likely people will be in evacuation centers, and if Mayon's activity won't ease down we will not allow them to return to their homes," Nunez said. "It's difficult and sad, especially for children."
Residents in Albay are used to moving away from Mayon. Nearly 50,000 people live in a five-mile (eight-kilometer) radius around the mountain, and some villages were evacuated last month when the volcano spewed ash.
Mayon last erupted in 2006, and about 30,000 people were moved. Another eruption in 1993 killed 79 people.
Salceda said Tuesday that he has placed the central province under a "state of imminent disaster," which will make it easier for him to draw and use emergency funds.
Although the alarm has been sounded, life continued normally in many laid-back farming villages near the restive volcano. Throngs of farmers flocked to the town hall in Guinobatan, which lies near the danger zone, for a Christmas party, then headed home bearing gifts.
Village leader Romeo Opiana said the 249 residents in his farming community of Maninila, near the volcano, readied packs of clothes but no one had left. An army truck was parked nearby, ready to haul people if the threat grows.
"We're ready, but we're not really alarmed," said Opiana, 66. He could not remember how many times he had seen Mayon's eruptions since childhood.
Provincial governor Salceda said he had decided to cancel a trip to Copenhagen, where he was to attend the U.N. climate conference to discuss his province's experience with typhoons and other natural disasters.
He said he would appeal for foreign aid to deal with the expected influx of displaced villagers to emergency shelters.
"Whatever the volcano does, our target is zero casualty," Salceda told The Associated Press.
Magma had been rising at the volcano over the past two weeks and began to flow out of its crater Monday night, Solidum said. He said the volcano had so far only gently coughed out red-hot lava, which had flowed half a mile (half a kilometer) down from the crater.
Some classes were suspended indefinitely near the danger zone. Officials will find a way to squeeze in classes in school buildings to be used as shelters, Salceda said.
Mayon's most violent eruption, in 1814, killed more than 1,200 people and buried a town in mud.
The Philippines lies along the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where volcanic activity and earthquakes are common. About 22 out of 37 volcanos in the archipelago are active.
"Up in the Air" -- the critically lauded drama that stars George Clooney as a professional downsizer who never misses an airline connection but fails to connect with his family -- led the field with six nominations, including nods for best motion picture -- drama; best director (Jason Reitman), best screenplay; best actor (Clooney) and best supporting players (Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick). Up against "Up in the Air" in that best picture category: "Avatar," James Cameron’s sci-fi epic that reportedly wowed members of the Foreign Press Association during screenings last week; "The Hurt Locker," Kathryn Bigelow’s intense and in-the-moment Iraq War picture; a war epic of a very different sort, Quentin Tarantino’s "Inglourious Basterds"; and "Precious," the adaptation of Sapphire’s novel "Push," about a pregnant teenager suffering from unspeakable abuse.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association -- the group of international journalists behind the Globes, which revealed its field of contenders during an early morning news conference at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. -- routinely breaks its best-picture field into two categories, honoring five musicals or comedies in addition to the dramas.
The nominees on that funnier, more melodic end of the spectrum are: "Nine," the splashy adaptation of the Fellini-inspired Broadway show; "It’s Complicated," the rom-com for the 50-plus set starring Meryl Streep; "Julie & Julia," another Streep comedy, the one in which she cooks and clucks happily as Julia Child; "(500) Days of Summer," the boy-meets-then-loses-girl indie romance; and "The Hangover," the biggest box office hit (at least so far) among the top film contenders and proof that movies in which Mike Tyson air-drums to Phil Collins songs can, indeed, win some awards-season attention.
If "The Hangover" stood out as one of the Globes’ surprises in the film categories, it was hardly the only one. Among the other "Really?" moments:
-- Tobey Maguire’s nod for best actor in a drama for "Brothers," a film in limited release that never built much buzz in the all-important trophy-prediction blogosphere;
-- a nod for Julia Roberts as best actress in a musical-comedy for the almost-forgotten "Duplicity";
-- and not one, but two, nominations for Sandra Bullock, first for her turn as a no-nonsense businesswoman in "The Proposal" (musical/comedy), and second for her portrayal of a no-nonsense Tennessee woman who takes in a homeless high schooler in "The Blind Side" (drama).
Two other actors -- Matt Damon and Streep -- also walked away with dual nominations, the former for his dramatic work in "Invictus" and his comedic turn as clueless corporate spy in "The Informant!" and the latter for her roles in "It’s Complicated" and "Julie & Julia." (For those keeping score at home, that marks 25 lifetime Golden Globe nods for Streep. But at this point, really, who’s counting?)
The breakdown in another key category, best director, looks almost identical to the best motion picture category. Drama line-up: Reitman for "Up in the Air," Bigelow for "The Hurt Locker," Tarantino for "Inglourious Basterds," Cameron for "Avatar," plus one veteran whose film didn’t make the best picture cut, Clint Eastwood for his rugby uplifter "Invictus." (Which director in the best drama category was left without his own nomination? That would be Lee Daniels for "Precious.")
The Golden Globes have become newsworthy primarily because they serve as the ceremonial kickoff to the annual cinematic guessing game known as Oscar season. But let’s not forget that the Foreign Press also recognizes achievement in television, an area that was marked by far fewer surprises this year.
In the best drama category, "Mad Men," which has won the honor for the past two years, was again recognized, along with HBO’s "Big Love," "Dexter," "House" and "True Blood." The best comedy category also delivered three of the usual, albeit hilarious suspects -- "The Office," "30 Rock," "Entourage" -- but added a pair of newcomers to the mix: ABC’s "Modern Family" and -- get ready to burst into a round of "Don’t Stop Believin’," kids -- Fox’s popular "Glee."
As is always the case when nominations are announced, some notable names were left off the list. Peter Jackson’s once-buzzy "The Lovely Bones" scored only a single nod, for Stanley Tucci’s supporting performance. Same deal for the acclaimed "An Education," which was given recognition solely for its breakout star, Carey Mulligan. She received a nomination -- along with Bullock, Emily Blunt ("The Young Victoria"), Helen Mirren ("The Last Station") and newcomer Gabourey Sidibe ("Precious") -- in the best actress in a drama category.
The best actor in a drama contenders included Maguire, Clooney, Colin Firth ("A Single Man"), Morgan Freeman ("Invictus") and the Dude himself, Jeff Bridges, whose work as a grizzled country singer in "Crazy Heart" was already being touted as the performance to beat even before the Globes announcement.
So what does this all mean? Do the people basking in the glow of Foreign Press adulation this morning have a lock on an Oscar nod come Feb. 2? Not necessarily. Although the Globes often serve as foreshadowing for the Academy Awards, it’s worth noting that only once in the last five years -- last year, when "Slumdog Millionaire" fever swept the continents -- has a Globes’ best picture winner synched up with the Oscar’s top prize winner.
In other words, tune in to NBC when Ricky Gervais hosts the Globes on Jan. 17. But also keep an open mind.
The announcement allays concerns raised last month when Dubai sought a six-month delay in debt payments for Dubai World, the government's flagship holding company. Global markets, which fell sharply when the Dubai debt problems were first raised, were mostly higher in Monday trading.
Under the terms of the deal, Exxon will pay XTO shareholders .7098 common shares for each of their XTO shares, or about $51.69 based on Friday’s closing prices. The deal, which is taking advantage of low natural gas prices, represents a 25 percent premium for XTO’s shares.
The deal would give Exxon the equivalent of about 45 trillion cubic feet of natural gas throughout the United States, in a bet that demand will continue to rise. XTO, founded in 1986, is the nation’s largest domestic producer of natural gas.
“XTO is a leading U.S. unconventional natural gas producer, with an outstanding resource base, strong technical expertise and highly skilled employees,” Rex Tillerson, Exxon’s chief executive, said in a statement.
Exxon’s deal has prompted speculation among analysts over which natural gas producers may be up for sale next, with companies like Devon Energy now considered potential takeover targets.
Exxon said that after the deal’s close, expected in the second quarter next year, it would keep XTO as an upstream business unit to develop natural gas resources from unconventional sources like shale rock. The business will remain in XTO’s headquarters in Fort Worth, Tex.
Exxon was advised by JPMorgan Chase, while XTO was advised by Barclays Capital and Jefferies.
Berlusconi, 73, is still in hospital with broken nose, two teeth and injured upper lip after a man hurled a souvenir statuette at the premier while he was greeting the crowd and signing autographs after a flamboyant speech in Milan.
Speaking at a security conference in Milan, Roberto Maroni said: "Silvio Berlusconi could have been seriously injured or even killed yesterday."
Berlusconi told the Ansa news agency that he was "fine" and that it was a "miracle" he had not been struck in the eye.
Maroni pledged measures to improve the prime minister's security.
The minister also reiterated that the attack was a result of the atmosphere of "political intolerance" prevailing in the country.
The attacker, Massimo Tartaglia, 42, who was later reported to have a long record of mental illness, was jailed in the San Vittore prison last night. During preliminary questioning, he said he strongly opposed Berlusconi and the policies of the Italian government.
The premier has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks. Last Thursday, a mafia boss said during court hearings that Berlusconi and his old-time friend, senator Marcello Dell'Utri, had ties with the mafia. A day later a rally gathered in Rome to demand Berlusconi's resignation.
The popular Perseid meteor shower may get the fair-weather attention, but the real show comes in winter.
Most amateur stargazers huddle by the fireplace in December, when the Geminids rain debris above the Earth's atmosphere. A winter wallop has dropped temperatures to freezing in some parts of the nation, but don't let a difference of a few degrees Fahrenheit keep you from seeing the night show that NASA considers the "best meteor shower of 2009."
The shower (nearly) ends a stellar year for skywatching on a high note—which is appropriate, given that 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy. Meteor showers and plenty of other space-related phenomena captured cyberspace imagination this year. Just a few:
- Annular solar
eclipse—just a partial (January 26)
- Poor little Mars rover Spirit gets stuck (April 23...and still spinning its wheels)
- Hubble Space Telescope, repaired (May 18)
- Six crew members emerge from isolation on a fake spacecraft (July 14)
- Remembering the first step: Apollo mission's 40th anniversary (July 20)
- Solar eclipse spurs parties and prayers (July 22)
- Perseids keeps stargazers' necks happily craned (August 12-13)
- A deliberate crash landing on the moon (October 9)
- Pool party! There's water on the moon (November 13)
- Leonids light up the sky (November 17)
Catching the Last Shooting Stars
As for the Geminids, patient stargazers might've already caught its beginnings on December 6, but the meteor shower reaches its peak on the nights of December 13 and 14. For those disappointed by November’s Leonid show, the outlook for the current Geminid shower, which lasts until December 18, is good.
Astronomers believe the Geminids are increasing in intensity every year, yielding 120-160 meteors per hour during the shower. Astronomy magazine expects great conditions for viewing "100 'shooting stars' per hour—an average of nearly two per minute." People in China and Indonesia have the orchestra seats for the Geminid show, and might be able to see more than "300 meteors per hour."
You don’t need a telescope to see the streaks shooting across the heavens. For optimal viewing, NASA pinpoints 12:10 a.m. EST/9:10 p.m. PST, and suggests going somewhere away from the “light pollution” of cities and towns, to an area dark enough to see the stars clearly. Keep your eyes roaming all areas of the sky to spot a meteor. (And dress warmly, bring a blanket, and fill up on hot drinks.)
No Comet Here
At their best, meteor showers provide an intense display of the violence of the cosmos, at a safe distance for earthlings to watch. Meteors are streaks of light created by particles of debris from comets and other celestial bodies hitting the Earth's atmosphere. These particles, called meteoroids, can measure as small as a grain of sand to as large as a boulder.
Usually that space-dust dance comes from lively comets. The Geminid meteors are an exception: They emanate from a dead comet called 3200 Phaethon. As for their name, it's derived from the constellation Gemini, the area of the sky from which the meteors appear to originate.
Four hundred years ago, Galileo Galilei invented the telescope and Johannes Kepler came out with his 650-page documentation of Martian motion. That, according to the United Nations, is reason enough to call for a year-long celebration. The International Year of Astronomy hosted events all over the world, and the heavens apparently joined in and threw their own 2009 shows, like the solar eclipse that darkened the skies over Asia.
In the United States, NASA underwent a lot of scrutiny. But even as the bosses were evaluating its core mission, the agency got a few projects literally off the ground—and lots of Web attention: The buzziest may have been the highly risky (and rousingly successful) mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. The oddest may have been a March contest for naming a wing of the International Space Station: NASA opted for Tranquility over the more popular "Stephen Colbert," but the satirical TV host got a space-station treadmill named after him.
The Americans weren't the only busy ones: Selected Russian and European volunteers willingly isolated themselves for 105 days here on Earth, to prove their Mars mettle (and next year, the lucky crew gets to spend 520 days in isolation). And tourists who can afford the airfare to the International Space Station always get lots of envious queries—the first clown in space proved no exception this year.
Once in a Blue Moon
The sky shows aren't over yet. The Ursid meteor shower gets its turn December 22, the Pleiades will brighten up the night on December 29, and a blue moon will entertain New Year's Eve revelers. (And no, the moon doesn't turn a shade of turquoise: The phrase just means a second full moon appears in the same month. But don't let that stop you from singing its praises.)
Copenhagen will turn the city hall square into a centre of a big cultural event. Fotocollage Bo Benzon – Arkitekturministeriet.
From December 7 - 18 the Copenhagen City Hall Square will be transformed into a city of hope. Under the city sign 'Hopenhagen LIVE', the municipality of Copenhagen will turn the city hall square into a centre of a big cultural event focusing on the world's climate challenges and future climate solutions. Hopenhagen LIVE is to gather citizens of Copenhagen, Danes and the population of the world and send an unambiguous signal to the politicians of the world to agree on an ambitious climate agreement to reduce the CO2 emission.
A great experience
Hopenhagen LIVE consists of three principal elements: A globe, a stage, and a series of adventure pavilions, which each in their own individual way will interact with the audience and the surrounding world. The audience will be both challenged and entertained when exhibitions mix with debates, concerts with speeches, art with activism, and play with knowledge.
During COP15both Danish and international artists will give free concerts on Hopenhagen's stage. On December 18 you can experience the Danish rap group Malk de Koijn. Please see the official Hopenhagen LIVE website for a detailed program.
Host: Hopenhagen LIVE is developed by the cultural secretariat Golden Days in collaboration with Roskilde Event & Consult and Experimentarium on behalf of the municipality of Copenhagen.
Public transportation: S-Train central station/Hovedbanegården og Bus line: 10, 12, 14, 26, 29, 33, 67, 68, 69, 2A, 5A, 6A, 173E & 250S.
Entrance fee: Free.
The HAARP project (the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program) is a set of antennae in Alaska that emits packets of electric charge in to the ionosphere. This activity can cause variation in weathers, earthquakes and can incapacitate human mind. The HAARP project is financed by the Department of Defense. There is a “denying spokesman” assigned by the department to “deny” any allegation. He seems “too ready” to deny any fact. The HAARP project is itself portrayed by these authorities as “so-called research project”. They depict the project as a “dormant weapon” lying idle causing no harm to anyone for the time being. But some people have the view that show exaggerates to add spice of thrill that is required by the network. But Jesse is of the view that it is not the case and the reality is often blurred due to lack of concrete evidence. He told that lack of concrete evidence does not mean that something is not being done.
France Football commented that Messi’s victory was so emphatic that he only finished seven points of the maximum possible allocated by the judges. No-one can deny that Messi deserves the accolade as he has been in truly world class form over a year and has helped his club win the treble of the League, Cup and Champions League – unprecedented in Spanish football. Victory in the Champions League final saw Barca beat Manchester United 2-0 with Messi netting the second goal. Only on the international stage does the Argentinean still operate below his potential – but this could change in the summer when he heads to the World Cup in South Africa. Messi becomes the first Argentinean to win the award, which is amazing for a country with such footballing pedigree.
Messi was understandably delighted to take home the much coveted award. France Football quotes him as saying Honestly, I knew that I was among the favourites because Barcelona had a fruitful year in 2009.” "But I didn't expect to win with such a margin. The Golden Ball is very important to me. All the players who won it were great players, and some great players never won it.”