By Courtney Sherwood PORTLAND, Ore. (Reuters) - An undersea volcano about 300 miles (480 km) off Oregon's coast has been spewing lava for the past seven days, confirming forecasts made last fall and giving researchers unique insight into a hidden ocean hot spot, a scientist said on Friday. Researchers know of two previous eruptions by the volcano, dubbed "Axial Seamount" for its location along the axis of an underwater mountain ridge, Oregon State University geologist Bill Chadwick said on Friday. Last year, researchers connected monitoring gear to an undersea cable that, for the first time, allowed them to gather live data on the volcano, whose peak is about 4,900 feet (1,500 meters) below the ocean surface. "The cable allows us to have more sensors and monitoring instruments than ever before, and it's happening in real time," said Chadwick, who also is affiliated with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
By Will Dunham WASHINGTON (Reuters) - It may not be space debris, errant asteroids, supply shortages, thruster malfunctions or even the malevolent aliens envisioned in so many Hollywood films that thwart astronauts on any mission to Mars. It may be the ubiquitous galactic cosmic rays. Researchers said on Friday long-term exposure to these rays that permeate space may cause dementia-like cognitive impairments in astronauts during any future round-trip Mars journey, expected to take at least 2-1/2 years. In a NASA-funded study, mice exposed to highly energetic charged particles like those in galactic cosmic rays experienced declines in cognition and changes in the structure and integrity of brain nerve cells and the synapses where nerve impulses are sent and received.
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - - NASA's pioneering Messenger spacecraft ended its four-year study of the planet Mercury on Thursday by crashing into the planet?s surface, scientists said. Flight controllers at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland earlier estimated that Messenger, traveling at more than 8,700 mph (14,000 kph), would hit the ground near Mercury?s north pole at 3:26 p.m. EDT (1926 GMT). It likely gouged a 52-foot-wide (16 meter) crater into Mercury's 's scarred face During its final weeks in orbit, Messenger relayed more details about the innermost planet of the solar system, which turns out to have patches of ice inside some of its craters, despite its sizzling location more than twice as close to the sun as Earth. "We've been concentrating on getting as much of the data down on the ground,? lead researcher Sean Solomon, with Columbia University in New York, wrote in an email.
By Irene Klotz CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) - Blue Origin, a startup space company owned by Amazon.com chief Jeff Bezos, launched an experimental suborbital spaceship from Texas, the first in a series of test flights to develop commercial unmanned and passenger spaceflight services, the company said on Thursday. The New Shepard vehicle blasted off on Wednesday from Blue Origin?s test facility near Van Horn, Texas, and rose to an altitude of 58 miles (93 km) before the capsule separated and parachuted back to Earth. ?Fortunately, we?ve already been in work for some time on an improved hydraulic system ... We?ll be ready to fly again soon." Blue Origin is among a handful of companies developing privately owned spaceships to fly experiments, satellites and passengers into space. Like Virgin Galactic, a U.S. offshoot of Richard Branson?s London-based Virgin Group, and privately owned XCOR Aerospace, Blue Origin is eyeing suborbital spaceflights, which reach altitudes of about 62 miles (100 km), as a stepping stone to orbital flight.
Hurricane Wilma, a hurricane that hit Florida in 2005, was the last Category 3 storm to make landfall in the United States. Other storms ? including Hurricane Ike (Category 2, 2008), Hurricane Irene (Category 1, 2011) and Hurricane Sandy (Category 1, 2012) ? caused significant damage, but their winds weren't as strong. Several storms identified as Category 3 or higher have hit Cuba during the past nine years, but they substantially weakened by the time they reached the United States, the researchers found. "There's been a lot of talk about how unusual the string is, and we want to quantify it," Timothy Hall, the study's lead author and a hurricane researcher at the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, told the American Geophysical Union blog.