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Great Barrier Reef Has Third Major Bleaching Event in Five Years – EcoWatch

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The Great Barrier Reef, a natural wonder that once teemed with life, just experienced a major coral bleaching event, according to scientists who conducted aerial surveys over hundreds of individual reefs, as The Guardian reported.


According to NBC News, the entire Great Barrier Reef is suffering a period of unprecedented heat stress. This bleaching event is the third one in five years and questions remain about the corals’ ability to recover from the constant onslaught from changing marine conditions.

“This has never happened before,” Mark Eakin, coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coral Reef Watch program in College Park, Maryland, said as the NBC News reported. “We’re in completely uncharted territory.”

Bleachings don’t necessarily kill the corals, but it does leave them extremely vulnerable to disease from bacteria or viruses. Bleaching, which occurs in response to abnormal conditions like heat or increased acidity in the water, forces the corals to release the tiny photosynthetic algae that live in their tissue and are responsible for their color, according to NBC News.

The previous two heat stress related bleaching events were in 2016 and 2017. Scientists say the frequency of the heat-induced bleaching is a direct result of the climate crisis, which spells trouble for the vitality of the reef since the corals do not have enough time to recover and to grow back, according to NBC News.

The scientists conducting the aerial surveys are from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland, Australia.

Terry Hughes, who runs the center, told The Guardian, that after three days of the planned nine-day survey, “We know this is a mass bleaching event and it’s a severe one. We know enough now that [the bleaching] is more severe than in 1998 and 2002. How it sits with 2016 and 2017 we are not sure yet.”

Global warming is an enormous threat to the future of coral reefs around the world. As The Guardian reported, The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded from published evidence that a majority of tropical coral reefs would disappear even if heating was limited to the Paris agreement’s target of 1.5 degrees Celsius and would be “at very high risk” at 1.2 degrees Celsius.

Hughes told NBC News there have been only five recorded Great Barrier Reef bleaching events. The first was in 1998, followed by 2002, then in 2016, 2017 and this year, setting up a disturbing pattern.

“The gap between one event and the next is shrinking, not just for the Great Barrier Reef, but forreefs throughout the tropics,” Hughes said to NBC News. “That’s important, because it takes a decade or so for a half-decent recovery of even the fastest-growing corals. The slowest ones take several decades.”

While past bleaching events, like the ones in 2002 and 2016, were driven by El Niño weather events, this one happened just because the Australian summer was too hot.

“We no longer need an El Niño to trigger a bleaching event — we just need a hot summer,” Eakin said to NBC News. “And the summers are getting hotter and hotter because of global warming. That is astounding in itself.”

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Celebrate Yuri's Night 2020 online with Bill Nye, astronauts and more this weekend! – Space.com

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This Saturday (April 11), 50 years after Apollo 13 launched to the moon, you can celebrate human spaceflight with a Yuri’s Night livestream event. 

Yuri’s Night events have been held annually since 2001 and were originally designed as a way to celebrate human spaceflight. The event is named after cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, who became the first human to go to space on April 12, 1961. 

In addition to the main annual Yuri’s Night event, including music, art, science and more, people also independently throw their own “Yuri’s Nights” all around the world however they want in whatever location they want.

Related: Vostok 1: How the First Human Spaceflight Worked (Infographic)

However, while “there is no ‘typical’ Yuri’s Night party,” Tim Bailey, executive director of Yuri’s Night, told Space.com in an email, this weekend will certainly be different from previous celebrations. “This year almost all local events have been canceled to help slow the spread of the coronavirus,” he said. The closures also mean that the annual event will be livestreamed. 

But the online event will feature an all-star cast of scientists, artists and astronauts who will be participating in the event. Spaceflyers taking part include South Korean astronaut Soyeon Yi, Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield and retired NASA astronauts Nicole Stott and Scott Kelly, Bailey said, while other guests include celebrity science communicator Bill Nye, former rocket scientist and current CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA Silvia Acevedo, founding member of the Grateful Dead Bob Weir and “Star Trek: Voyager” actor Robert Picardo.

Alongside the livestream, Yuri’s Night will hold a costume contest to mark the occasion, so don your favorite flight suit or get creative and make an imaginative space-inspired costume with things you already have at home. You could even win “fabulous prizes,” Bailey said, if you enter your costume by posting it on Twitter with the hashtag #YurisNight. 

You can watch the livestream and stay up-to-date with the evolving list of guests here

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Mercury-bound spacecraft buzzes Earth, beams back pictures – CityNews Edmonton

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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A Mercury-bound spacecraft swooped past Earth on Friday, tweaking its round-about path to the solar system’s smallest and innermost planet.

Launched 1 1/2 years ago, Europe and Japan’s Bepi-Colombo spacecraft passed within 8,000 miles (12,700 kilometres) of Earth. The closest approach occurred over the South Atlantic, with telescopes in Chile catching a glimpse of the speeding spacecraft.

The gravity tug from Earth slowed Bepi-Colombo and put it on a course closer to the sun.

It was the first of nine planetary gravity assists — and the only one involving Earth — on the spacecraft’s seven-year journey to Mercury. The spacecraft — comprised of two scientific orbiters — should reach Mercury in 2025, after swinging twice past Venus and six times past Mercury itself. The next flyby will be at Venus in October.

Before leaving Earth’s vicinity, Bepi-Colombo beamed back black-and-white pictures of the home planet. The spacecraft holds three GoPro-type cameras.

“These selfies from space are humbling, showing our planet, the common home that we share, in one of the most troubling and uncertain periods many of us have gone through,” Gunther Hasinger, the European Space Agency’s science director, said via Twitter.

The space agency’s control centre in Germany had fewer staff than usual for Friday’s operation because of the coronavirus pandemic. The ground controllers sat far apart as they monitored the flyby. Data from the flyby will be used to calibrate Bepi-Colombo’s science instruments.

Scientists hope to learn more about the origin and composition of Mercury, once the European and Japanese orbiters separate and begin their own circling of the scorched planet.

Mercury is the least explored of our solar system’s four rocky planets. It’s just a little bigger than our moon and circles the sun in just 88 days.

The spacecraft is named after Italian mathematician and engineer Giuseppe “Bepi” Colombo, who devised the use of planetary flybys for Mercury encounters. He died in 1984.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

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50 years after Apollo 13, we can now see the moon as the astronauts did – Space.com

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This Saturday (April 11) will mark 50 years since NASA’s Apollo 13 mission launched on an unexpectedly tumultuous journey around the moon. Now, a modern lunar orbiter has reconstructed what the Apollo 13 astronauts would have seen of the lunar surface. 

Famously described as a “successful failure,” Apollo 13 did not go as planned: An oxygen tank exploded 56 hours into the mission. Thankfully, some fast-thinking teamwork between the astronauts and mission control back on Earth salvaged the mission and, after a trip around the moon, the astronauts safely returned to Earth. 

So, while the crew didn’t land on the moon as planned, they did travel around it and, thanks to modern technology, we can now see what they saw on this journey. 

Related: Apollo 13 in Real-Time website offers new insight into mission

Image 1 of 3

A photo of the lunar surface taken by the Apollo 13 astronauts on their trip around the moon. (Image credit: NASA)

A photo of the lunar surface taken by the Apollo 13 astronauts on their trip around the moon. 

Image 2 of 3

Soon after sunrise, the Apollo 13 crew snapped this incredible shot of the moon.

Soon after sunrise, the Apollo 13 crew snapped this incredible shot of the moon. (Image credit: NASA)

Soon after sunrise, the Apollo 13 crew snapped this incredible shot of the moon. 

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A snapshot of the Tsiolkovskiy crater, taken by the Apollo 13 crew with a telephoto lens.

A snapshot of the Tsiolkovskiy crater, taken by the Apollo 13 crew with a telephoto lens. (Image credit: NASA)

A snapshot of the Tsiolkovskiy crater, taken by the Apollo 13 crew with a telephoto lens. 

Researchers used data from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission to recreate what the Apollo 13 crew saw as they flew around the far side of the moon. In the video, you can see craters and other lunar features emerge from the darkness. You can imagine yourself as any of the crewmembers — commander Jim Lovell, command module pilot Jack Swigert or lunar module pilot Fred Haise — looking down and watching the lunar surface pass by as the spacecraft flew overhead. 

In addition to the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter data, the researchers also consulted the Apollo 13 flight plan and, despite the major change in plans with the mission, were able to use the position and speed at the craft’s closest point to the Moon which was listed in the Apollo 13 Mission Report. Taken together, those details allowed them to determine factors including the position and speed of the spacecraft at its closest point to the moon, which helped clarify the vehicle’s trajectory. 

To create this virtual trip around the moon, this team was also informed by photos taken by the Apollo 13 crew during this trip around the moon. You can see some of the captivating original images above, but you can also find every Apollo 13 photo ever online in the Apollo Image Atlas

Follow Chelsea Gohd on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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