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Earth is spinning faster than normal, and we just had our shortest day in recent history –



If it feels like you’re losing time in the day, you may be right.

Scientists claim that on June 29, 2022, the Earth spun faster than normal, making it the shortest day recorded since the 1960s.

The average day is 24 hours long (or exactly 86,400 seconds). According to CBS, who spoke to Leonid Zotov, a scientist at the Sternberg Astronomical Institute of Lomonosov Moscow State University, June 29 was 1.59 millisecond shorter.

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Zotov and a team of scientists recently published a study outlining possible hypotheses for Earth’s new accelerated rotation.

They reported that the Earth has been turning faster since 2016. According to the Guardian, 2020 had 28 of the shortest days recorded in the last 50 years. (Not every day, however, is shorter than 24 hours.)

The increased rotational speed came as a surprise to scientists who, as Zotov and his peers wrote in the study, previously believed the Earth had been decelerating over the past centuries.

Scientists have not been able to say for certain what is causing the increased speed, though Zotov and other scientists will present their research and theories at the Asia Oceania Geosciences Society conference this month.

Zotov told CBS he believes the Earth’s tides may play a factor in why the planet is spinning faster.

According to Forbes (who also spoke to Zotov), a decay in the “Chandler Wobble” may be what is causing the change in acceleration. The Chandler Wobble involves the movement of geographical poles across the surface of the globe, as Earth is a living, moving planet.

(The normal amplitude of the Chandler wobble is about three to four metres at Earth’s surface, but from 2017 to 2020 it disappeared, according to numerous scientific reports.)

“Polar motion is caused by geophysical processes in the Earth systems, in particular currents in the ocean, winds in the atmosphere, internal processes inside the Earth,” Zotov told Forbes. He told the outlet he believes “something is happening inside the Earth to the core and mantle.”

Whatever is happening to Earth’s core and mantle is what is decaying the Chandler Wobble and causing Earth’s deceleration, Zotov claims.

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There are also other factors potentially at play, including natural weather occurrences. NASA has previously claimed that changes in atmospheric pressure and strong winds (like that of the El Niño years) can slow the speed of Earth’s rotation. Alternatively, events like earthquakes can speed up rotation.

This is not the first time the length of Earth’s days has changed. Scientists believe that more than 1.4 billion years ago, days on Earth were less than 19 hours long.

Still, despite there being no concrete answer for Earth’s new slowing speed, scientists and various professionals around the world are now disputing the best method to cope with the time shift.

Zotov said if Earth continues to rotate faster, atomic time  — the universal way time is measured on Earth — may need to change.

One such proposal is to introduce a negative leap second. First proposed in the 1970s, a negative leap second would see one second removed from clocks to maintain Coordinated Universal Time (CUT). Leap seconds are usually implemented either on the last day of June or the last day of December.

While a negative leap second has never been used, there have been, in total, 27 positive leap seconds (one second added to clocks) implemented about every year and a half (on average), according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Read more:

2016 is getting a ‘leap second’ on New Year’s Eve

Some engineers strongly oppose the use of negative leap seconds, claiming it could cause widespread technological issues.

Meta, the tech giant that owns Facebook, shared a blog post by engineers Oleg Obleukhov and Ahmad Byagowi in July, insisting that leap seconds should be a thing of the past. They claim in the blog post that leap seconds mainly benefit “scientists and astronomers as it allows them to observe celestial bodies using UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) for most purposes.”

Obleukhov and Byagowi wrote that a negative leap second could cause IT programs to crash and may corrupt data on an international level, as seen in simulations the company claims to have run.

“Introducing new leap seconds is a risky practice that does more harm than good, and we believe it is time to introduce new technologies to replace it,” they continued.

The Meta-affiliated engineers believe the melting and refreezing of ice caps on the world’s tallest mountains may be a factor in Earth’s increased rotational speed.

Read more:

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“This phenomenon can be simply visualized by thinking about a spinning figure skater, who manages angular velocity by controlling their arms and hands,” they wrote. “As they spread their arms the angular velocity decreases, preserving the skater’s momentum. As soon as the skater tucks their arms back in the angular velocity increases.”

All in all, scientists, engineers and other time and Earth science-related professionals are now arguing whether time should continue to be defined by the movement of the planet.

What’s to be done about the increased speed of Earth, then? Only time can tell.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Meteor Showers Taking Place Thursday and Friday Night –



A meteor shower you won’t want to miss.

Gary Boyle, The Backyard Astronomer, tells us we are currently passing through the dusty debris of Comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle.

It last appeared in 1992, and will return again in 2125.

He said the shower is lasting all night long, but 2 a.m. would be the time to see the most meteor.

The Backyard Astronomer suggested keeping an eye out for other things in the sky, as well.

Boyle added the next large shower will be in mid-December, but this one might be a little warmer to sit outside and watch.

Written by Ashley Taylor

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New long-necked dinosaur helps rewrite evolutionary history of sauropods in South America – University of Michigan News



Panoramic view of the Serranía del Perijá in Colombia, where a vertebra was found in 1943. The vertebra has allowed for scientists to identify a new species of sauropod, the Perijasaurus lapaz. Image credit: Jeff Wilson Mantilla, University of Michigan

A medium-sized sauropod dinosaur inhabited the tropical lowland forested area of the Serranía del Perijá in northern Colombia approximately 175 million years ago, according to a new study by an international team of researchers published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology.

The new species is a long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur known from a single trunk vertebra that is about a half meter tall and wide. The vertebra bears a distinct pattern of bony struts that identify it as the new dinosaur species Perijasaurus lapaz (pear-EE-hah-SOW-roos la-PAHZ)—named in recognition of the mountainous region where it was found and for the 2016 peace treaty that allowed scientists to pursue their research decades after the fossil remains were found in 1943.

Perijasaurus is the northernmost occurrence of a sauropod in South America and represents an early phase in their evolutionary history.

Aldo Rincón Burbano, a professor of physics and geosciences at the Universidad del Norte in Colombia, collects samples in the Serranía del Perijá in Colombia. Image credit: Jeff Wilson Mantilla, University of Michigan
Aldo Rincón Burbano, a professor of physics and geosciences at the Universidad del Norte in Colombia, collects samples in the Serranía del Perijá in Colombia. Image credit: Jeff Wilson Mantilla, University of Michigan

“This new genus and species in the paleotropics allows us to understand a little more about the origin of the sauropods in the Jurassic, as well as how they set the stage for later sauropods from the Cretaceous,” said study lead author Aldo Rincón Burbano, professor of physics and geosciences at the Universidad del Norte in Colombia.

The fossil was first discovered in 1943 during a geological mapping campaign by the Tropical Oil Company. The specimen was taken to the collections of University of California, Berkeley and preliminarily described in 1955.

University of Michigan paleontology curator and professor Jeff Wilson Mantilla examined the specimen as a graduate student in 1997 and later developed a project supported by the Fulbright Foundation to study early sauropod evolution in Colombia.

As part of that project, the Colombian specimen was loaned to U-M, where chief preparator William Sanders removed glues and plaster, greatly increasing the visibility of anatomical details and reducing the total weight of the sample.

“Following repreparation of the fossil, we were able to better visualize the delicate bony laminae that interconnect the projecting parts of the vertebra—the spine, the intervertebral articulations, the rib articulations—the architecture of those connections provides critical morphological information that identifies it as a new species and places it within the sauropod family tree,” Wilson Mantilla said.

A single trunk vertebra that is about a half meter tall and wide has allowed scientists to identify a new species of  long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur. Image credit: U-M Online Repository of Fossils viewer developed by the U-M Museum of Paleontology
A single trunk vertebra that is about a half meter tall and wide has allowed scientists to identify a new species of long-necked, plant-eating dinosaur. Image credit: U-M Online Repository of Fossils viewer developed by the U-M Museum of Paleontology

A 3D model of the specimen is hosted on the University of Michigan Online Repository of Fossils.

A conflict since 1964 between the Colombian military forces, the FARC guerrilla group and paramilitary groups made it unsafe to conduct research in Serranía del Perijá, near the border between Colombia and Venezuela, until the peace agreements in 2016.

Since then, the research team has been working to determine with higher precision where the fossil was found. A satellite image of the region was superimposed upon a hand-drawn map from 1955 showing the location of the fossil. A further clue was provided by sediment removed from the vertebra itself during the preparation process—allowing the team to determine the specific layer from which the bone was
collected. Fieldwork at the site and neighboring localities helped to reconstruct the paleoenvironment the dinosaur inhabited.

“Perijasaurus lived in an environment of low slopes associated with a river and a forested area. We found fine sand and leaf debris in the sediment deposited in the area where the vertebra was originally found, and it is consistent with the sediment within the neural arch of the vertebra, which are only preserved near a floodplain, i.e., near the slopes of a river, a wooded area,” said Daniel Raad, a former geology student at the Universidad del Norte.

Most of the discoveries of dinosaurs in South America come from rocks from the Cretaceous period located in Argentina and Brazil. Dinosaurs from the northern part of South America are much rarer, particularly during the Jurassic and Triassic periods, during the initial radiation of dinosaurs, when landmasses were still substantially interconnected.

“Although Perijasaurus is represented by a single vertebra, that region of ​​the skeleton provides the most information in sauropods, due to a series of laminae and other structures,” said Martín Ezcurra, a paleontologist and associate researcher of the CONICET (Argentina’s National Council for Scientific and Technical Research) and head curator of paleovertebrates at the Argentine Museum of Natural Sciences.

The researchers were able to determine the evolutionary relationships of Perijasaurus through a computational analysis focusing on Early and Middle Jurassic sauropods.

“Perijasaurus is part of the early radiation of sauropods, which includes species from southern South America, Africa, Asia and Europe,” said Harold Jiménez Velandia, a geologist at the University of Caldas.

The presence of Perijasaurus in the paleotropics of South America, together with its close phylogenetic relationship with geographically widespread species that inhabited low latitudes, suggests that sauropods diversified and dispersed fairly rapidly following a major anoxic event at the end of the Lower Jurassic, when portions of the oceans were depleted of oxygen over large geographic areas.

“What we see in the Early Jurassic, both in high latitudes and in the most tropical areas, is that sauropod species were evolutionarily and geographically interconnected, which is something that had also been seen with other groups of carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs,” Ezcurra said.

Patagosaurus is from Patagonia, and it is one of the sauropods most closely related to Perijasaurus. The image of Patagosaurus is a silhouette reconstruction done by Pol et al. (2020)
Patagosaurus is from Patagonia, and it is one of the sauropods most closely related to Perijasaurus. The image of Patagosaurus is a silhouette reconstruction done by Pol et al. (2020)

Sauropods are the largest animals to have walked on land, some reaching estimated lengths of 49 meters and weights of up to 57 metric tons. Their ability to support their weight and move their bodies efficiently stems from a series of adaptations to reduce weight and increase bony support.

An anatomical hallmark of sauropods is vertebral pneumaticity. Essentially, extensions of the air-sac system of the lungs extend into the vertebral column and actually remove internal bone, effectively lightening the skeleton.

Jeff Wilson Mantilla
Jeff Wilson Mantilla

“By the Late Jurassic, sauropods had evolved highly pneumatic vertebrae riddled with air spaces that removed one-half to three-quarters the bone weight. Perijasaurus represents an evolutionary antecedent in which the pneumatic invasions are much simpler and more limited in extent, removing less than a quarter of bone volume,” Wilson Mantilla said.

He said the team will continue to focus on regions of Colombia that have exposures of Jurassic sediments.

“Colombia is emerging as a country with great potential to contribute to the paleontology of the continent and the world,” Wilson Mantilla said.

Perijasaurus is permanently stored at the University of California Museum of Paleontology in Berkeley, California. The research was funded by the Fulbright Foundation, Universidad del Norte, Sam Welles Fund and CONICET.

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STEVE appears over Canada during 'surprise' solar storm –



In the dark of Sunday night and Monday morning (Aug. 7 and 8), a surprise solar storm slammed into Earth, showering our planet in a rapid stream of charged particles from the sun. The resulting clash of solar and terrestrial particles in Earth‘s atmosphere caused stunning auroras to appear at much lower latitudes than usual — and, in southern Canada, triggered a surprise cameo from the mysterious sky phenomenon known as STEVE.

Alan Dyer, an astronomy writer and photographer based in southern Alberta, Canada, caught the wispy ribbons of green and violet light on camera as they shot through the sky.

“STEVE lasted about 40 minutes, appearing as the … aurora to the north subsided,” Dyer wrote on Twitter (opens in new tab) on Aug. 8. “STEVE was ‘discovered’ here so he likes appearing here more than anywhere else!”

Related: Earliest documented aurora found in ancient Chinese text

As Dyer noted, the strange sky glow called STEVE was first described by citizen scientists and aurora hunters in northern Canada in 2017. STEVE is typically composed of an enormous ribbon of purplish light, which can hang in the sky for an hour or more, accompanied by a “picket fence” of green light that usually disappears within a few minutes. 

The glowing river of light may look like an aurora, but it’s actually a unique phenomenon that was considered “completely unknown” to science upon its discovery. Today, scientists have a slightly better idea of what’s going on. 

STEVE (short for “strong thermal velocity enhancement”) is a long, thin line of hot gas that slices through the sky for hundreds of miles. The hot air inside STEVE can blaze at more than 5,500 degrees Fahrenheit (3,000 degrees Celsius) and move roughly 500 times faster than the air on each side of it, satellite observations have shown.

Whereas the northern lights occur when charged solar particles bash into molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere, STEVE appears much lower in the sky, in a region called the subauroral zone. That likely means solar particles aren’t directly responsible for STEVE, Live Science previously reported. However, STEVE almost always appears during solar storms like Sunday’s, showing up after the northern lights have already begun to fade.

One hypothesis suggests that STEVE is the result of a sudden burst of thermal and kinetic energy in the subauroral zone, somehow triggered by the clash of charged particles higher in the atmosphere during aurora-inducing solar storms. However, more research is needed to uncover the true secrets of STEVE. In the meantime, we can simply bask in its otherworldly glow and wave back at its twinkling green fingers.

Originally published on Live Science.

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