Asteroid That Wiped Out Dinosaurs Led to Severe Winter

Scientists have now found out that the asteroid that hit the earth and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago also caused a long period of winter and extremely cold temperatures.

The asteroid hit the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico and created a crater with a diameter of 15 km. As a result about three-quarters of all plant and animal species died, including the dinosaurs. The impact sent tons of dust and sulphur gas into the atmosphere.

Now we know that three times more sulphur gas was catapulted into the atmosphere than previously thought. Sunlight was blocked from getting in, which resulted in much lower temperatures. A new study shows that temperatures worldwide dropped to about -10° Celsius for at least three years after the impact. Thus, the earth was plunged into a deadly winter, which many plants and animals could not survive.

While air temperatures probably rose shortly after impact, ocean temperatures may have been affected for centuries. Scientists also found out that the amount of carbon-dioxide that was released into the atmosphere was probably over-estimated.

In new research on the Yucatan peninsula, scientists drilled into the surface of what’s left of the crater and collected rock samples. This allowed them to examine and reconstruct what happened.

 

Crater caused by a meteor crash
Crater caused by a meteor crash – Image : Steve Jurvetson

Words

  • affected = to do something that leads to a change later on
  • asteroid = one of the many small planets that move around the sun especially between Mars and Jupiter
  • block = stop from getting in
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals or people breathe out or when you burn carbon in the air
  • catapult = when something moves through the air very quickly
  • cause =  lead to; result in
  • century= a hundred years
  • crater = a round hole made by a large object crashing into something
  • diameter = a straight line from one side of a circle to the other
  • drill = to make a hole into the surface
  • drop = go down
  • examine = look at closely
  • extinction = when animals or plants die out
  • impact = crash
  • over-estimated = less than thought at first
  • peninsula = land with water on three sides
  • plunge = here: to suddenly change
  • previously = earlier
  • reconstruct = to see how something happened by putting the facts together
  • release= set free
  • research = to look at something closely in order to find out more about it
  • sample = here: rocks that scientists can study and look at
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • species = group of animals and plants whose members are similar and who can produce babies together
  • sulphur gas = a yellow bright substance that burns and has an unpleasant smell
  • survive  = continue to live after a dangerous situation

Behaviour of Whales and Dolphins Connected to Brain Size

Scientists have found out that the behaviour of marine mammals, especially dolphins and whales, is connected to their brain  size . In a recent study, researchers have found out that mammals with larger brains behave in a more complex way.

Researchers have collected information on about 90 different types of dolphins and whales. They found out that social behaviour among these two  species is more complex  than previously thought.

Whales, for example, change calling songs regularly and pass certain information on to their younger ones and other groups. They use various languages which are similar to human dialects. Sperm whales, with a brain six times the size of a human one, organise other whales to babysit for them while they go hunting for food.

Other whale species, like blue or humpback whales, have smaller brains. They live in a more solitary way and don’t have long-term relationships.

Dolphins have a way of contacting  other individuals , even if they are not present. Scientists regard this as a form of gossip. As well as having rich and varied diets, they play and hunt  together.

Scientists think that bigger brains have evolved in order handle the complex way that mammals socialise.

Sperm whales
Sperm whales – Image : Gabriel Barathieu

Words

  • behaviour = the things that a person or animal does
  • brain = the organ inside your head that controls how you think , feel and move
  • complex = here: with many different parts; difficult to understand
  • especially = above all
  • evolve = develop
  • gossip = information that is passed on to others about how they behave
  • handle = deal with
  • mammal = type of animal that drinks milk from its mother’s body when it is young
  • marine = in the sea or ocean
  • previously = before now; some time ago
  • recent = a short time ago
  • regard = think, consider
  • regularly = often
  • researcher = a person who studies something closely in order to find out more about it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • similar = like
  • size = how big something is
  • social behaviour = here: the way they behave in groups
  • socialise = here: to spend time together with others or in groups
  • solitary = spending a lot of time alone; not in a group
  • species = group of animals or plants that are similar and can have babies together
  • study =  a piece of work done to find out more about certain things
  • varied diet = here: they eat all kinds of different food
  • various = different kinds of …

 

 

Google Maps Navigates Through Solar System

In addition to finding any place on Earth,  Google Maps now lets you navigate through space too.  It has recently added two dwarf planets, Pluto and Ceres, as well as some of the moons of Venus, Saturn and Jupiter  to its service.

Users can now explore the surface of Titan, Saturn’s largest moon . You can see lakes and rivers of methane beneath its clouds . About half a million images  come from the Cassini mission ,which  explored Saturn and its moons for  15 years before it burned up in the planet’s atmosphere.

Other highlights include close-ups of Saturn’s sixth-largest moon Enceladus , where water was discovered beneath the surface. Jupiter’s moons Europa and Ganymede are also included in Google Map’s new version. A total of 16 planets and moons can now be explored by users.

Exploring space  works like any place on Earth would.  Just choose a planet or moon and zoom around. Google Map offers the most important physical features of each celestial body as well as corresponding names.

Google Maps started out as a service that let users navigate land . In the past, years the world’s oceans have been added to the map service and in 2014 Google added images of our moon and Mars. Since 2017 users can take a tour of the International Space Station. Most of the material comes from various explorations carried out by NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).

 

Artist's drawing of how Titan's surface may look like
Artist’s drawing of how Titan’s surface may look like

 

Words

  • atmosphere = mixture of gases that surrounds a planet
  • celestial = about the sky or heaven
  • close-up = film or picture in which the camera is very close to an object
  • corresponding names = names that are connected to the objects in the map
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • dwarf planet = object in space that is too large for a moon and too small to be planet
  • explore = to travel around a place in order to find out more about it
  • offer = give to the user
  • in addition = also
  • include = to contain; have in it
  • methane = gas that you cannot see or smell; it can be burned to give heat
  • navigate = to find your way around from one place to another
  • physical features = the landscape with mountains, rivers etc..
  • recently = a short time ago
  • service = here: something that the company lets users do
  • surface = top part of a planet
  • various = many different
  • zoom = to move very quickly

 

Thousands of Penguin Babies Die in the Antarctic

Thousands of penguin babies have starved to death in the eastern Antarctic recently . Observers found thousands of unhatched eggs and lifeless baby penguins  on the coast. According to scientists , only two baby penguins survived during the 2017 breeding seasonAdélie penguins live in colonies that consist of thousands of animals.  It is the second time that a whole colony has been wiped out after no babies survived in 2015.

The World Wildlife Fund says that krill fishing in the area has led to the starving of penguin babies. Officials state that fishing in the area may permanently endanger the whole penguin population in the Antarctic.

Another reason for the declining number of Adélie penguins is possibly climate change.  In regions where ice gets thicker, adult penguins must  travel further away from the shore in order to find food. When they get back they find many of their babies already dead.

The WWF  and other organisations now demand that the eastern Antarctic coastline be declared a Marine Protected Area in order to help endangered penguins. Commercial fishing should be banned around these areas .

Adélie penguins live along the Antarctic coast  and usually breed from October to February.  They lay eggs in nests made up of stones.

 

Adélie penguin
Adélie penguin – Image : Andrew Shiva

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • adult = grownup
  • ban = forbid
  • breed = two or more animals get together in order to have babies
  • commercial fishing = fishing in order to make money
  • consist of = made up of
  • declare = to officially say that something exists
  • declining = going down
  • demand = want to have
  • endanger = to put a person or an animal in danger
  • krill = small shellfish
  • lifeless = dead
  • Marine Protected Area = area in the ocean where fishing and mining is banned and where animals and plants are protected
  • permanently = exist for a long time in the future
  • observer = a person who watches something closely
  • official = person who is in a high position in an organisation
  • shore = coast; where land meets the sea
  • starve = to die because you do not have enough to eat
  • survive = to live on after a dangerous situation
  • unhatched = if a baby animal does not come out of an egg
  • wipe out =  destroy completely, so that nothing is left
  • World Wildlife Fund = organisation that protects endangered animals and plants

 

 

Where Did Easter Island Inhabitants Really Come From?

Easter Island , or Rapa Nui as the natives call themselves , belongs to the remotest  places on earth.  The Chilean island, famous for its carved statues,  is located in the middle of the southern Pacific Ocean.

For decades, scientists have been wondering how the natives got to the island before the first Europeans came in 1722. Most experts think that the first settlers came to Easter Island  at around 1200 A.D. , probably on small boats  crisscrossing the Pacific Ocean. 

Other anthropologists have been trying to find out if the natives have any connections to early South Americans, three thousand kilometres away. Latest research now claims that the Easter Islanders were, in fact, more isolated than previously thought.

Scientists have been examining the skeletons and  bones of five people that go back hundreds of years. However, they have found no evidence that suggests they have might have ancestors in South America.

The first theory of South American ancestry came up when Thor Heyerdahl saw  sweet potatoes when he arrived there in the 1950s. He also found people using fishing tools that South Americans also used.  Scientists at that time thought the people of the Easter Islands may have sailed to South America and back again some time before the Europeans came.

 

Famous statues on Easter Island
Famous statues on Easter Island – Image: Horacio_Fernandez

Words

  • ancestor = a member of your family who lived a long time ago
  • anthropologist = a person who studies people , their cultures and where they come from
  • carved = to cut an object with a knife
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you cannot prove it
  • Chilean = from Chile
  • crisscross = to travel many times back and forth without a certain pattern ; zigzag
  • decade = ten years
  • evidence = facts that clearly show that something is true or exists
  • examine = to look very closely at an object
  • however = but
  • isolated = here: to be alone and far away from others
  • located = can be found
  • native = a person who was born in a country or place
  • previously = earlier
  • remote  = very far away from civilisation
  • research = the study of a subject  in order to find out new facts
  • sail =  the wind brings you somewhere on a boat
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • settler = a person who goes to live in a place where not many people have lived before
  • sweet potato = a vegetable that looks like a red potato ,is yellow inside and tastes sweet

 

Massive Hole Discovered in Antarctic Ice

Scientists have discovered a gigantic hole that has reappeared in the Antarctic ice. It is about the size of the Netherlands and is located around the Weddell Sea.

In the 1970s climatologists found a similar hole at almost the same spot. At that time  they didn’t have the observation equipment that they have now, so they couldn’t study the hole closely enough. After a few years it disappeared . Last year, the hole came up again.

Researchers cannot explain how the hole emerged.  One theory is  that warmer salt water from deep under the Antarctic ice sheet  may have come up and mixed with cold water near the surface, thus , melting the ice sheet above.  Normally a thick layer of ice covers Antarctica at the end of the  southern winter. Scientists also claim that it may be connected to climate change and global warming.

Such a hole in the ice is called a polynya.  Although not totally uncommon, it is strange that the hole in the Antarctic ice has appeared very far from its edge . Usually such holes are found in coastal regions.

Climatologists are not sure whether the hole will have an impact on the water temperature in the world’s oceans. If warmer water continues to surface to the top of the hole it may stay there for a longer period of time because it would then be difficult for ice layers to form.

Severe weather conditions during the Antarctic winter make it difficult to find holes in the ice . This is the second time in two years that such a hole has emerged , although last year’s was not that big.

 

Antarctic Ice Shelf
Antarctic Ice Shelf

Words

  • although = while
  • claim = to say that something is true even if you cannot prove it
  • climatologist = person who studies the weather and how it changes the climate on earth
  • coastal = where land meets the sea
  • disappear = go away
  • discover = to find something that has not been there before
  • edge = the part of an object that is furthest from the centre
  • emerge = come out  from somewhere
  • equipment = the tools or machines you need to do something
  • gigantic = huge; very big
  • global warming = the increase in the temperature of the atmosphere
  • ice sheet = area of thick ice that covers the North and South Poles
  • impact = influence, change
  • layer = material or substance between two other things
  • reappear = to come again, after it has gone away for some time
  • researcher = a person who studies a subject in order to find out more about it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • severe = bad, extreme
  • similar = almost the same
  • size = how big something is
  • surface = the top layer of something
  • thus = therefore; that is why
  • uncommon = unusual, strange

2011 Tsunami Drives Marine Animals to US Coast

The 2011 tsunami , which led to the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, has swept thousands of sea creatures across the Pacific Ocean to the  US coast. In the past 6 years scientists have found mussels, starfish, crabs  and other marine animals washed up on the American Pacific coast. Marine biologists expect that there are even more species to arrive in the future.

The giant waves caused by the tsunami in Japan  were almost 40 metres  tall and washed objects into the open sea.  In 2012, scientists found debris together with living creatures on them near the Alaskan coast as well as in Hawaii. They were sea animals that have never before been seen there.

Scientists are surprised that marine species have been able to survive over such a long period in such bad conditions. However, most species travelled on plastic or glass objects, things that do not decompose and stay the same for many years. On the other hand, animals that travelled on wooden objects did not make the long journey across the Pacific, because wood lasts only for a short time.

Because the debris moved slowly across the ocean the animals had time to get used to their new surroundings as they travelled the 4,000 mile journey across the Pacific.

With so much plastic and other garbage swimming in the world’s oceans, the danger of marine animals being washed up on foreign coasts has never been greater.

Experts are not sure what effect these new species may have on the local environment. Such invasive species may change the ecosystem of the area  they arrive at. They might transport new diseases or kill off existing species . In any case, it will take a decade or more to see the results.

 

Starfish found off the Pacific coast
Starfish found off the Pacific coast

Words

  • crab= sea animal with a hard shell , five legs on each side and two large claws
  • creature = animal; living thing
  • debris = garbage, waste
  • decade = ten years
  • decompose = to break down into many smaller parts
  • disease = illness
  • ecosystem = the animals and plants in a certain area and they way they live together
  • effect = result ; change caused by an event
  • foreign = another country
  • garbage = waste; things people throw away
  • however = but
  • invasive species = plant or animal that does not grow naturally in an area but has come there from somewhere else
  • journey = trip
  • local environment = the world around the place that you live in
  • marine species = animals and plants that live in the ocean
  • mussel = small sea animal with a soft body  that can be eaten and a black shell that is split into two parts
  • nuclear catastrophe = here: an atomic power plant explodes and sends dangerous radioactive waves into the atmosphere
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • starfish = flat sea animal that has five arms and looks like a star
  • surroundings = the place or natural area around a person or animal
  • survive = live on after a dangerous situation
  • sweep – swept = to push something away
  • tsunami = very large waves, most of the time cause by an earthquake in or near the sea.

 

 

Italian Supervolcano May Erupt Soon

Scientists have discovered that one of the world’s most dangerous volcanoes , Campi Flegrei, a huge caldera near Naples may erupt soon. Geologists have  found evidence that magma may be  building up inside the volcano, which could blow up soon.

The supervolcano is only a few miles west of Naples, Italy’s third largest city. To the east lies Mount Vesuvius,  the famous volcano that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in a massive eruption in 79 A.D.

The last eruption of Campi Flegrei happened in 1538 after a series of earthquakes hit the area. A catastrophic outburst, however, occurred 39,000 years ago when an eruption formed today’s caldera and sent 48 cubic miles of ash and magma into the atmosphere. Geologists fear that a similar eruption could be catastrophic for the 2 million people who live in Naples and the towns around it.

In the last few decades scientists have  discovered a hotspot, a zone of magma, that lies about 4 km under the town of Pozzuoli , a few miles away from the supervolcano. They think that this zone of magma has been in motion in the past years but cannot locate in which direction. At the beginning of the 1980s,  the surface of the caldera rose by 2 metres but sank again shortly afterwards. This may be a sign of building pressure inside the volcano.

While geologists cannot predict when a major eruption will take place, they are sure that there is activity going on inside Campi Flegrei.

 

Caldera at Campi Flegrei
Caldera at Campi Flegrei – Image : Donar Reiskoffer

Words

  • activity = here: magma that is moving
  • ash = soft grey powder that comes from an eruption
  • atmosphere = the mixture of gases that is around the Earth
  • caldera = a large crater at the top of a volcano; in some cases it is filled with water
  • cubic mile = one mile high, long and wide
  • decade = ten years
  • destroy = to damage something completely so that it no longer exists
  • discover = to find out something for the first time
  • earthquake = a sudden shaking of the Earth’s surface  that often causes a lot of damage and may kill people
  • erupt = break out
  • evidence = facts that show something is true
  • geologist = a person who studies rocks that make up the Earth and the way they have formed
  • in motion = moving all the time
  • locate = find out where exactly something is
  • magma = hot melted rock below the Earth’s surface
  • major = important, very large
  • massive = great
  • predict = say that something will happen
  • pressure = weight that is put on something
  • occur = happen
  • outburst = eruption
  • shortly afterwards = a short time later
  • similar =like; almost the same
  • surface = top part of an object

NASA’s Mission to the Sun

The American space agency NASA is planning a mission to the sun in order to explore the outer atmosphere of our solar system’s star.

The Parker Solar Probe and will launch in the summer of 2018. It is planned to go into orbit about 4 million miles from the sun’s surface, closer than any other man-made object in history. Astronomers expect to get information on the corona, the gases and plasma of the sun’s atmosphere.

The probe will also explore solar winds, storms and magnetic fields. These phenomena can affect communication and electric signals on Earth. In addition, scientists expect to get more data on space weather, which is important for longer future missions to Mars.

The probe, named after American solar astronomer Eugene Parker, can provide insight into the structure of our solar system and give us more information on how stars, like our sun, work.

The Parker Solar Probe  must cope with extreme  heat and radiation. The specially designed heat shield is over 10 cm thick and can withstand temperatures of 1,300 degrees Celsius.

The 7-year mission will be made up of 24 orbits around the sun. The probe will pass by Venus 7 times and use the planet’s gravity to position itself inside the sun’s outer atmosphere.

Up to now, the closest a spacecraft ever got to the sun was Helios 2 , which passed the star at a distance of 27 million miles in 1976.

 

Parker Solar Probe
The Parker Solar Probe – artist’s drawing

Words

  • affect = influence
  • astronomer = scientist who studies the stars and planets
  • atmosphere = the gases around a planet or the sun
  • cope = deal with a problem
  • data = information
  • explore = to find out more about something
  • gravity = the power or force that causes an object to be pulled towards a planet
  • heat shield = piece of metal that protects you from fire or extreme heat
  • in addition = also
  • insight = being able to understand something
  • magnetic field = the area around an object that has magnetic power
  • mission = longer trip to an unknown place
  • orbit = to move around an object in circles
  • phenomena = something that happens or exists in nature and is studied because it is difficult to understand
  • position = to move to the correct place
  • radiation = waves of energy that come from light or heat
  • solar = about the sun
  • space agency = organisation that plans missions to planets and stars
  • surface = the top layer of a planet or star
  • withstand = to be strong enough to protect something

Largest and Smallest Animals At Risk of Becoming Extinct

Researchers have found out that the size of an animal is important when it comes to extinction. Scientists have determined that the biggest and the smallest animals are more at risk of dying out than medium-sized animals.

Heavy animals are mostly endangered by hunting and poaching while the smallest creatures may die out because their living area is being polluted. Among the most endangered animals are elephants, lions and rhinos. Public awareness is large  and campaigns to save such animals have been around for a long time. It is the smallest species that get the least attention. Especially fish and frogs are in danger of dying out.

The species that are most at risk have a weight of over 1 kilogram. They are in danger of being killed because we need food, skin and other items.

According to the study, animals that are becoming extinct affect large ecosystems, like  forests, deserts and oceans.

 

The common frog - an endangered species
The common frog – an endangered species – Image by Richard Bartz

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • affect = to change a situation or a place
  • attention = to listen, look at or think carefully about something
  • campaign = actions that lead to solving a special problem
  • determine = to find out the facts about something
  • ecosystem =all the animals and plants that live in a certain area and how they live together
  • extinction = when a plant or animal stops existing
  • least = less than anything else
  • poaching = to catch or shoot wild animals illegally
  • pollute = to make something dirty and unusable
  • public awareness = most people know that a problem exists
  • researcher = person who studies a subject in order to find out something new about it.
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science
  • skin = the outer part of a person or an animal’s body
  • size = how big something is
  • species = group of animals that are similar and can have babies with each other
  • weight = how heavy something is