Voyager 2 Becomes Second Object to Leave Solar System

Voyager 2 has become the second man-made object to pass the boundary of the solar system and enter interstellar space. It is currently 18 billion km from earth. Its sister ship, Voyager  1 reached this boundary in 2012.

According to NASA scientists, the probe can operate for five to ten more years. It is so far away from earth that commands take about 16 hours to reach it.

Voyager 2 has entered the heliopause, an area where hot solar winds do not exist any more and the sun’s magnetic field ends. Interstellar space is the vast emptiness between star systems.

The spacecraft is better equipped than its predecessor, Voyager 1. It has instruments on board to measure speed , density and temperature of solar winds. Voyager 1 stopped sending back this data decades ago. Voyager 2 also sends other useful information back to scientists on earth.

The Voyager missions, which were launched in the 1970s have become a great success for NASA. Both craft have traveled beyond their projected destinations. The two spacecraft were originally created to study Jupiter and Saturn more closely. Later, it turned out that Uranus and Neptune could also be examined before the probes left the solar system.

Even though their power sources will eventually stop, the Voyager probes will continue to move on to places no man-made object have gone before.

Voyager 2
Voyager 2


  • according to = as said by ..
  • beyond = farther than
  • boundary = a line where one are ends and another one starts
  • command = instruction
  • craft = spaceship
  • currently = at the moment
  • data = information
  • decade = ten years
  • density = the relationship between how big something is and how it is filled
  • equipped = here: it has instruments on board
  • emptiness = with nothing in it
  • even though = while
  • eventually = in the end, finally
  • examine = to look closely at something and find out more information about it
  • interstellar space = the area between star systems
  • launch = send into space
  • magnetic field = the area around an object that has magnetic power
  • measure = to find out how high, fast etc.. something is
  • man-made object = something that is made by people , not by nature
  • NASA = the American space agency
  • originally = at first
  • power source = where the energy to move on comes from
  • predecessor = here: the spacecraft that was launched before it
  • probe = unmanned spaceship that has instruments on board
  • projected destination = the place they were originally planned to go to
  • reach = get to; arrive at
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • solar = from the sun
  • solar system = our sun and the planets that move around it
  • vast = extremely big

Hong Kong-China High Speed Rail Link

The first high-speed railway between Hong Kong and China has gone into operation.

The Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link is expected to bring economic benefits to both China and Hong Kong as well as allow more Chinese tourists to travel to the former British colony. It will connect Hong Kong to the 25,000 km high-speed Chinese rail network, the largest in the world. 

Bullet trains can now travel from Beijing to Hong Kong in only 9  hours, compared to 18 before. Shenzen, just across the border from Hong Kong, can be reached in only 20 minutes.

Chinese authorities will  be in control of part of Hong Kong’s West Kowloon station. As a part of China, mainland police forces will check travelers’ documents and passports, making an additional stop at the Hong Kong – Chinese border unnecessary. It is the first time that mainland Chinese laws  are applied inside Hong Kong.

The project cost nearly 11 billion dollars and took almost eight years to complete. Authorities expect that by 2021, up to 80,000 passengers could access the new service on  80 trains daily.

Critics say the new rail link undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy, which has  been guaranteed by China until 2047.  They also raise concerns about increasing Chinese influence in the former British colony.



China - Hong Kong high speed rail link
Train on the new Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high-speed rail link – Image : 


  • access = use
  • additional = also; another
  • apply = in use ; work
  • authorities = government organisation that controls things and can make decisions
  • autonomy = being able to govern yourself
  • benefit = good side of something 
  • border = line between two countries
  • bullet train = very fast train that travels between two places
  • connect = link; bring together
  • critics = people who are against the project
  • former = in the past
  • go into operation = here: to start carrying passengers on trains
  • guarantee = a formal promise
  • high-speed = very fast
  • increasing = to go up; more and more
  • influence = power
  • law = the rule of a country
  • mainland = here: China without Hong Kong and Taiwan
  • raise concerns = to be worried about
  • undermine = here: to make weaker

More and More Children with Food Allergies

The rate of food allergies around the world is increasingThe rise in food allergies has affected western countries most. 

Especially children are at risk.  In some cases, allergies can lead to dangerous and even life-threatening situations. More and more families must change their diets in order to fight allergies.  Children can be allergic  to various types of food, above all, milk and dairy products, nuts , and fish.

Allergies are caused by allergens , which are basically harmless substances that the immune system tries to fight .  Victims suffer from a variety of symptoms including redness of the  skin, vomiting, diarrhea and breathing difficulties.

In the United States 8% of children have some form of allergy. In Australia, 5% of all children are affected.  The UK has seen a 500% increase in peanut allergies alone in the past 20 years.

While industrialized countries are hardest hit, allergy rates in developing countries are lower. Cities are  affected more than rural areas.

Scientists have been trying to find out why we are becoming more allergic to food.  One reason may be improved hygiene , which leads to children having fewer infections. Another cause may be the lack of vitamin D which helps our immune system  fight allergies.

At the moment a  food allergy cannot be cured. In addition, it is very difficult to determine which food children are allergic to.  Doctors recommend eating small amounts of possibly allergic food and observe how the body reacts .


Peanuts are causing an increasing number of allergies with children
Peanuts are causing an increasing number of allergies with children


  • above all = mostly
  • affect = to do something that causes a change in a certain situation
  • allergen = material that causes an allergy
  • cause = lead to ; to be the reason for
  • cure = to make an illness go away
  • dairy products = products that are made from  milk , like cheese, joghurt etc..
  • developing country = poor country of the Third World
  • determine = find out
  • diarrhea = an illness in which body waste comes out in a watery, liquid form
  • diet =the kind of food that you eat every day
  • especially = above all
  • harmless = not dangerous
  • hygiene = when you keep yourself  and the things around you clean in order to prevent diseases
  • immune system = the system by which our body protects itself against diseases and illnesses
  • improve = to make better
  • in addition = also
  • increase = to go up
  • infection = a disease that affects your body and is caused by a virus or bacteria
  • lack = not enough
  • life-threatening = very dangerous ; a situation that can lead to death
  • observe= watch something very closely
  • peanut = pale, brown nut with a thin shell that grows under the  ground
  • rate = the number of times something happens
  • rural = in the countryside
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • substance = material
  • symptom = sign that a health problem exists
  • various = different
  • variety = many different types
  • victim = here: a person who suffers from an allergy
  • vomit = to bring up the food you eat from your stomach through your mouth , because yo are ill

Porsche To Stop Production of Diesel Cars

German sports car maker Porsche has declared that it would no longer produce diesel cars, but instead concentrate on petrol-powered , electric and hybrid vehicles. It is the first German automaker to completely withdraw from the diesel car sector.

The company made the decision in the aftermath of the emission cheating scandal that hit Porsche’s parent company Volkswagen . In an interview, Porsche’s CEO Oliver Blume said that Porsche’s image had suffered due to the  scandal.

For luxury car manufacturer Porsche, the production of diesel cars has not been that important. In 2017 only 12 % of all Porsche cars produced were diesel-powered. The company has been making diesel cars for 10 years, but since February has stopped taking orders for them. It has never developed or produced any diesel engines of its own.

Porsche is also reacting to the fact that more and more European cities are considering a ban on diesel vehicles in an attempt to reduce air pollution. In addition, the demand for diesel cars is also decreasing.

Currently, the German car maker is investing heavily in new hybrid and electric car technology.  Next year it  will launch its first fully-electric sports car,  the TaycanBy 2025  Porsche expects that every second car it produces will be an an electric sports car.


Porsche Taycan
Taycan – Porsche’s first fully electric sports car – Image: Alexander Migl


  • aftermath = the period of time that has passed after something important happened
  • attempt = try
  • ban = to forbid something
  • concentrate = focus on
  • consider = think about
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • decrease = go down
  • demand = the number of cars that people want to buy
  • due to = because of
  • emission cheating scandal = in 2015 the United States found out that Volkswagen had lied about emission tests on its cars
  • declare = to say officially
  • heavily = a lot
  • hybrid = here: car that has a petrol engine and an electric motor
  • in addition = also
  • launch = to start selling
  • petrol-powered = engine that runs on petrol instead of diesel
  • reduce = lower ; make something go down
  • suffer= here: to be in a difficult situation
  • vehicle = car
  • withdraw = here: to stop production




Mediterranean Migrant Crisis Causes More Deaths

The United Nations Refugee Agency UNHCR has warned that migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Africa are putting put themselves in even more danger than in the past.

According to a UNHCR report, the number of refugees who have arrived in Europe has fallen while more of them have died on their trip across the Mediterranean. Over 1,000 people have died on the journey so far in 2018. The death rate is the highest since the migration crisis of 2015. One out of every 18 people attempting the passage have drowned .

The Mediterranean route leads from the Libyan coast  to Italy. Authorities in the northern African country are catching more and more traffickers who take  money to smuggle refugees to Europe. These smugglers try to get them to Europe as fast as possible in order to cut the costs of keeping them in warehouses and other hiding places for a longer period of time. However,they are also taking more risks due to increased Libyan surveillance.

While the EU has cooperated with Libya to intercept migrant boats, more and more organisations  are wiling to take the risk and bring people to Europe illegally

Migrants from all over Africa are arriving in Libya at an alarming rate.The EU has suggested opening up special migration centers in northern Africa in order to examine asylum applications .

EU member countries have not agreed on how to handle migration from Africa . Whereas states like Italy and Greece want to send migrants to other EU countries as quickly as possible, northern EU states suggest setting up migration centers in the south to control the number of asylum seekers.


Migrants rescued in Mediterranean sea
Migrants being rescued in the Mediterranean Sea – Image: Irish Defence Forces –


  • according to = as reported by …
  • alarming rate = very very fast
  • asylum application = if you officially say that you want to come to another country because you are in danger in your own
  • asylum seeker = person who wants another country to let them live there  because they are in danger at home
  • attempt = try
  • authorities = government organisation that has the power to make decisions
  • cooperate = work together
  • cut = lower, bring down
  • drown =to die from being under water for too long
  • due to = because of
  • examine = look at something very carefully
  • handle = deal with
  • however = but
  • illegal = against the law
  • increased = higher, more
  • intercept = to stop someone that is going from one place to another before they get there
  • journey = longer trip
  • Mediterranean Sea = sea between Europe and Africa
  • migrant = someone who goes to another country in order to live or work there
  • passage = here: journey
  • refugee = someone who has to leave their country because of war, natural disaster or because of political reasons
  • smuggle = to take something illegally from one country to another
  • surveillance = when police watch a place carefully  because it may be connected with criminal activities
  • trafficker = here: person who brings people from one country to another illegally
  • UNHCR = United Nations High Commission for Refugees = organisation that deals with helping and supporting refugees all over the world
  • warehouse = large building where you can store goods and products for a longer time
  • whereas = while

Jakarta – A Sinking City

The Indonesian capital Jakarta is in danger of sinking . According to a new report by environmentalist groups the city could be completely submerged by 2050. Jakarta is one of the most densely populated cities in the world – home to about 10 million people.

Jakarta is sinking at an average of 10 cm a year and , currently, half of it is already below sea level. Even more alarming, the luxurious northern part of the capital, with its modern buildings and high-rises has sunk by 2.5 meters in the past decade.

Sinking is partly due to the 13 rivers that flow through the Indonesian capital. Torrential rainfall in the monsoon season causes flooding on a regular basis.

In addition to natural causes, part of the problem is man-made. The city does not have enough piped water for its growing population. Authorities can only supply about 40% of the clean water that the city needs. Many people draw water out of the ground for drinking and other purposesAs a result the land above the ground water sinks. 

As in many Third World cities, infrastructure cannot keep up with the growing population. There are not enough sewers and a lack of pipes for the city’s water supplies. Indonesian authorities are now considering evacuating and relocating millions of people if the city continues to sink.

Global warming is also playing its part in Jakarta’s dilemma.  As ocean levels are rising more and more water is being forced into the city, causing rivers to sometimes flow upstream. Plans are under way to build a sea wall to keep ocean water out of the city.


polluted river in Jakarta
Boy takes a bath in a polluted river in Jakarta – Image : Jonathan McIntosh


  • according to = as reported by …
  • authorities = group of people in the city who have the power to make decisions
  • average = here: in a normal year
  • capital = the most important city in a country; usually where the government is
  • cause = lead to
  • consider = think about
  • currently = at the moment, now
  • decade = ten years
  • densely populated = many people live on a small area of land
  • draw = pull
  • due to = because of
  • environmentalist = person who cares about nature
  • evacuate = here: to move people to a safer area
  • force = the power with which something moves
  • global warming = the increase in the world’s temperatures
  • high-rise = tall building with many floors
  • in addition = also
  • infrastructure = the basic systems that a city or country needs in order to work the way it should: for example roads, hospitals, bridges, public transport etc…
  • lack = not enough
  • natural causes = here: problems that are caused by nature
  • partly = some of it, but not all of it
  • piped water = clean water that runs through tubes to people’s homes
  • purpose = for something you want to do
  • relocate = to move a person to another place
  • sea level = the normal height of the sea, used as a standard for measuring other objects
  • sewer = pipe under ground that carries away waste material and dirty water from houses and factories
  • submerge = to cover completely with water
  • supply = give to the people
  • torrential rainfall = very very heavy rain
  • upstream = in the opposite direction of the way a river normally flows

NASA Parker Probe On Journey To The Sun

The US space agency NASA has launched a space probe to get closer to the sun than any other spacecraft before it . The mission to the sun is named after Eugene Parker, a scientist who discovered solar winds in 1958.

The mission’s aim is to fly through the corona, the sun’s outer atmosphere, and find out more about how it’s made up and why it is many times hotter than the sun’s surface.

The spacecraft should also help scientists  better understand  solar winds. These streams of  charged particles can reach the earth’s magnetic field and cause the disruptions of communications , GPS systems and may also interfere with satellite navigation.

The Parker probe will get to within 6 million km of the sun’s surface, much closer than Helios-2, which traveled to within 43 million kilometers of the sun in 1976. It is planned to make 24 orbits around the sun within the next 7 years. Reaching almost 700,000 km an hour, the probe will also be the fastest object ever to travel around the sun.

The solar mission will first orbit around Venus  and use its gravity to propel it into an orbit around the sun. It will then spend a few days orbiting the sun before returning back to Venus to prepare for the next fly-by.

NASA has faced many challenges before the Parker probe could start. It had to produce a light spacecraft that could travel at high speeds and still resist  temperatures of over 1300° Celsius.


Parker Solar Probe
Parker Solar Probe – Image: NASA


  • aim = purpose, something that you hope to do
  • challenge = a difficult job
  • charged particle = tiny object that carries electricity with it
  • corona = the shining circle of light you see around the sun when the moon passes in front of it
  • discover = find out something that you didn’t know about before
  • disruption = to stop something from working the way it should
  • face = to put you in a difficult situation
  • fly-by = to fly past the sun or another planet
  • GPS = Global Positioning System = system that uses radio signals from satellites to show your exact position on earth
  • gravity = the power that pulls a planet to another one
  • interfere = here: cause something not to work the way it should
  • launch = start into space
  • magnetic field = an area around the earth that has magnetic power
  • mission = trip to a place  somewhere in space
  • orbit = to move around
  • probe =object that is sent into space without any people on board
  • propel = push
  • resist = here: not to be damaged
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • solar = about the sun
  • space agency = government organisation that controls space travel
  • spacecraft = object that can travel  in space
  • stream = line
  • surface = the top layer of an object

Australia’s Population Reaches 25 Million

According to the country’s  census office Australia’s population has crossed the 25 million mark, almost a decade earlier than expected. Last year the population rose by almost 400,000, since 1970 it has doubled.

Since the end of World War II Australia has recorded a steady growth rate of 1.6% per year.  While natural increase makes up only 38% over 60% of the country’s growth comes from immigration. The Bureau of Statistics estimates that Australia will add another million to its population in three years time.

Australia attracts hundreds of thousands  of immigrants every  year. In the last two decades most of Australia’s newcomers have come from India, China , Great Britain and the Philippines. Today, over one third of Australia’s population  were not born in the country.

As in many other western countries, some politicians have called on the government to curb  immigration.  They argue that the rapid increase puts stress on infrastructure, demanding more schools, hospitals and public transportation. However, it also leads to a higher growth for Australia’s economy. Immigrants pay taxes and work in areas that Australians avoid.

One of the big problems is getting immigrants to move to rural areas, where there is already a shortage of skilled workers Eight out of ten Australians live in coastal regions . Melbourne and Sydney, the two largest cities of Australia, make up about 40% of the population. Much of the so-called outback is sparsely populated.


Country of Birth of Australian Residents
Country of Birth of Australian Residents – Image : Saruman-the-white


  • according to = as said by, as reported by …
  • argue = give reasons for something
  • attract = here : to make something interesting so that people go there
  • avoid = don’t want
  • census office = place that is in charge of how the country officially counts its people
  • demand = need
  • doubled = to become two times as much
  • estimate = to calculate something in the future, based on the information that you have
  • cross = reach, move over
  • curb = slow down
  • immigration = when people go to another country in order to live and work there
  • natural increase = here: number of people who are born in the country minus those who die
  • newcomer = person who starts living in a new country
  • outback = the inner part of Australia ,  far away from the big cities
  • politician = someone who works in the government or in a political party
  • public transportation = trains, buses etc.. that everyone can use
  • put stress on = here: there is not enough for the growing number of people to use; you need more and more
  • rapid = fast
  • record = to write down information
  • rise – rose = go up
  • rural = in the countryside
  • shortage = not enough
  • skilled workers = someone who does something special they have learned through training
  • sparsely = only very few people
  • steady = slow but without stopping
  • tax = the money you pay to the government from what you earn; it is used for public services



Apple Worth 1 Trillion Dollars

Apple has become  the first US company to reach a market value of 1 trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) . The hi-tech firm has beaten  its rivals Microsoft, Google  and Amazon to pass the magical mark. Apple’s stock is now worth $207 per share, an all-time high. If it were a country, Apple would rank 17th in the world, on par with Indonesia.

Before Apple, only China’s oil giant PetroChina made it over the 1 trillion dollar  mark  back in 2007.  It’s value declined sharply shortly afterwards when oil prices collapsed.

Apple was founded in 1976 in a California garage by Steve Jobs. In the first two decades the company was famous for producing computers. Later on Apple developed its revolutionary MP3 player, the iPod, which also saved the company from bankruptcy 20 years ago.

The iPhone, the world’s first smartphone, was introduced in 2007 and has become the company’s flagship product. Up to now over 1.3 billion iPhones have been sold. Although Apple is currently selling fewer new models, sales and profits are rising. It is also making money by selling music and apps.

In 2017, Apple  has made profits in the range of $50 billion, selling over $220 billion worth of products .

Apple may soon be joined in the 1 trillion dollar club by other hi-tech giants . Amazon and Microsoft are close to the mark and may be passing it soon.


Apple headquarters in Cupertino , California
Apple headquarters in Cupertino , California – Image: Daniel L. Lu


  • all-time high = the highest point ever reached
  • although = while
  • bankruptcy = situation in which you have no money left and cannot pay back what you owe to others
  • collapse = here: to go down very quickly
  • close = near
  • currently = at the moment
  • decade = ten years
  • decline = to go down very fast
  • develop = to design and produce a new product
  • flagship = the best and most important product
  • found- founded = here: to start a new company
  • introduce = here: to bring to the market
  • join = to be together with others
  • market value = what a company is worth on the market
  • on par = on the same level
  • profit = the money you get by selling products and services after  your costs have been paid
  • rank = position
  • reach = get to a certain point
  • revolutionary = something completely new and different
  • rival = another company that wants to be more successful than you are
  • share = a part of a company that belongs to you
  • stock = the total value of all the company’s shares
  • value = what something is worth

East African Rift is Growing Quickly

A large crack in the surface of the earth, several kilometres long,   has caused a highway to collapse in Kenya. The area lies on the East African Rift, where the Arabian and African plate meet.

The earth’s crust is broken up into several tectonic plates which are constantly on the move, gliding towards or against each other at various speeds. When these plates collide energy is set free, resulting in earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The East African Rift stretches over 3000 km from the Gulf of Aden in the north to Zimbabwe in the south.  It consists of several valleys that are filled with long lakes. Because the two plates are moving away from each other Eastern Africa will be separated from the rest of the continent.

A rift is the first phase of a plate that is breaking apart. After millions of years, it can lead to the formation of a new ocean.  A well-known example is a separation of Africa and South America and the creation of the Atlantic Ocean.

Where the earth’s plates move away from each other magma plumes come up through the mantle and cause volcanic activity. Forces are so strong that the plate breaks apart and causes major earthquakes. In many cases, plates move slowly, at a rate of only  a few cm per year and most of the time we don’t notice these movements.

East African Rift from outer space
East African Rift from outer space – Image: Christoph Hormann


  • at a rate = how fast something happens
  • collapse = fall apart; break down
  • collide = crash into each other
  • consist of = is made up of
  • constantly = always
  • crack = a line that you see when something starts to  break apart
  • crust = the hard, outer layer of the earth
  • forces = here: the power or strength of an activity
  • formation = when something new is created
  • earthquake = a sudden shaking of the earth’s surface that can cause a lot of damage and kill people
  • eruption = if something  breaks out suddenly
  • glide = move slowly and quietly
  • magma plumes = hot melted rock from the inner part of the earth which comes to the surface
  • major = here: very strong
  • mantle = part of the earth below the crust
  • notice = to see something happen; to be aware of something
  • resulting in = something that leads to something else
  • separate = divide, split apart
  • several = a few
  • stretch = to spread from one place to another
  • surface = here: the top layer of the earth
  • tectonic = about the movments of sheets of rock that form the earth’s surface
  • various = different