Earth

The festive season has arrived for astronomers at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in the form of this dramatic new image. It shows the swirling gas around the region known as NGC 2264 — an area of sky that includes the sparkling blue baubles of the Christmas Tree star cluster.

NGC 2264 lies about 2600 light-years from Earth in the obscure constellation of Monoceros, the Unicorn, not far from the more familiar figure of Orion, the Hunter. The image shows a region of space about 30 light-years across. 

The power of viruses is well documented in human history. Swarms of little viral Davids have repeatedly laid low the great Goliaths of human civilization, most famously in the devastating pandemics that swept the New World during European conquest and settlement.

In recent years, there has been growing evidence for the hypothesis that the effect of the pandemics in the Americas wasn't confined to killing indigenous peoples. Global climate appears to have been altered as well.

Scientists have discovered where they believe would be the best place to find ice on the moon.

Astrophysicists, led by an expert at Durham University, say if frozen water exists then it is most likely to be found near to the moon's poles in craters that are permanently shaded from the sun.

Their findings are based on a new computer analysis of data from the Lunar Prospector, a space probe sent to the moon in 1998 by NASA. The researchers showed that hydrogen on the moon is concentrated into polar craters where temperatures are colder than minus 170 degrees Celsius.

Former inhabitants of the Amazon Basin enriched their fields with charred organic materials-biochar-and transformed one of the earth's most infertile soils into one of the most productive. These early conservationists disappeared 500 years ago, but centuries later, their soil is still rich in organic matter and nutrients. Now, scientists, environmental groups and policymakers forging the next world climate agreement see biochar not only as an important tool for replenishing soils, but as a powerful tool for combating global warming.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--It's no simple matter to figure out how regional changes in precipitation, expected to result from global climate change, may affect water supplies. Now, a new analysis led by MIT researchers has found that the changes in groundwater may actually be much greater than the precipitation changes themselves.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Satellites that were designed to measure sea level over the world's oceans can serve a valuable purpose over land, a new study has found.

Researchers used NASA's TOPEX/Poseidon satellite and the European Space Agency's ENVISAT satellite to measure the height and extent of flooding in North America, South America, and Asia.

Three Alaska volcanoes erupted in midsummer 2008. Cleveland, Okmok and Kasatochi volcanoes, all located in Alaska's Aleutian Chain, made for a hectic 20th anniversary for the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Scientists from AVO and the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks will share details of their research on North Pacific volcanoes, highlighting some of the recent volcanic eruptions in Alaska, at a variety of presentations at the American Geophysical Union's fall meeting in San Francisco, Dec. 15-19, 2008.

Dozens of researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks will be among presenters at the 2008 American Geophysical Union fall meeting in San Francisco this week. Following are synopses of several presentations:

On its opening day, the London Millennium Bridge experienced unexpected swaying due to the large number of people crossing it. A new study finally explains the Millennium Bridge 'wobble' by looking at how humans stay balanced while walking.

A map of natural hazard mortality in the United States has been produced. The map, featured in BioMed Central's open access International Journal of Health Geographics, gives a county-level representation of the likelihood of dying as the result of natural events such as floods, earthquakes or extreme weather.

(Washington, DC – December 16, 2008) The overall condition of the nation's coastal waters has improved slightly, based on a recently released environmental assessment. The National Coastal Condition Report III (NCCRIII) is the third in a series of environmental assessments of U.S. coastal and Great Lakes waters.

WASHINGTON -- For the first time, astronomers have clearly seen the effects of "dark energy" on the most massive collapsed objects in the universe using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. By tracking how dark energy has stifled the growth of galaxy clusters and combining this with previous studies, scientists have obtained the best clues yet about what dark energy is and what the destiny of the universe could be.

Unparalleled warming over the last few decades has triggered widespread ecosystem changes in many temperate North American and Western European lakes, say researchers at Queen's University and the Ontario Ministry of the Environment.

The team reports that striking changes are now occurring in many temperate lakes similar to those previously observed in the rapidly warming Arctic, although typically many decades later. The Arctic has long been considered a "bellwether" of what will eventually happen with warmer conditions farther south.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Climate change could provide the warmer weather pests prefer, leading to an increase in populations that feed on corn and other crops, according to a new study.

Warmer growing season temperatures and milder winters could allow some of these insects to expand their territory and produce an extra generation of offspring each year, said Noah Diffenbaugh, the Purdue University associate professor of earth and atmospheric sciences who led the study.

Three major global climate-change projections scaled down to Oregon's Rogue River Basin point to hotter, drier summers with increasing wildfire risk, reduced snowpack and rainier, stormy winters, according to a report coordinated by the University of Oregon's Climate Leadership Initiative and the National Center for Conservation Science & Policy.