Natures Corner

Intelligence in animals in nature, our backyards, and our homes!

June 16, 2006

The World's Largest Marine Sanctuary

President Bush created the world's largest marine sanctuary Thursday, designating nearly 140,000 square miles (360,000 square km) of sea and land as the United States' newest national monument. The area covers the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, an archipelago that stretches some 1,400 miles (2,250 km) across the Pacific Ocean--roughly the distance from Boston to the Florida Everglades.

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"It's the single-largest act of ocean conservation in history," says Conrad Lautenbacher, head of America's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). That may well be true. The sanctuary is slightly larger than Australia's Great Barrier Reef and covers nearly as much area as Japan.

Visit the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Sanctuary Site.

Big Sanctuary, Small Islands

How can the president set aside such a huge stretch of Hawaiian territory? ...

Don't picture the big, beachy Hawaiian islands you've been longing to visit. Unlike the eight main (or "Windward") Hawaiian Islands, the Northwestern (or "Leeward") Hawaiian Islands have almost no human inhabitants. Instead, the string of tiny islands, atolls, coral reefs, and underwater mountains plays home to more than 7,000 other species, around a quarter of which are endemic--found nowhere else in the world.

Some species are endemic to a single island or reef. Nihoa Island covers just 171 acres (less than 1 square km), but it's home to two unique bird species--the Nihoa finch and the Nihoa millerbird. It's also the nearest of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands to the main islands. Around 150 miles (240 km) of ocean separate Nihoa from Kauai, one of the big eight. Near the other end of the protected archipelago stands Midway Atoll, site of one of World War II's most important naval battles.

Big News for Big Fish

Beneath the islands and atolls lie some of the planet's last large coral reef ecosystems, underwater worlds in which apex predators--the fish on top of the food chain, like sharks and jacks--still rule the roost. Such predators currently account for more than half of the total fish biomass in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, compared to less than 3 percent in the rest of Hawaii. Scientists hope the sanctuary will help keep it that way.

Other species should enjoy the sanctuary, too. Endangered Hawaiian monk seals rely on the islands for breeding and the coral reefs for food. And around 90 percent of Hawaii's green sea turtles make their nests in the region, as do millions of tropical seabirds.

Posted by sue at 09:03 AM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2006

Sky Watching

HERE THEY COME: More than 60 fragments of dying comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 are racing toward Earth. There's no danger of a collision. At closest approach on May 12th through 16th, the mini-comets will be 6 million miles away.

That is close enough, however, for a marvelous view through backyard telescopes. Many of the fragments are themselves crumbling, producing clouds of gas and dust mixed with boulder-sized debris. As some fragments fade, others brighten, surprising onlookers. It's an amazing display.


Of particular interest is fragment B, which has brightened 25-fold (3.5 magnitudes) since May 5th. "Fragment B is definitely in outburst," says astronomer Horace Smith, who took these pictures using a 24-inch telescope at Michigan State University:

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The outburst probably signals a major break-up. As the comet-fragment falls apart, fresh veins of ice and dust are exposed to sunlight causing the ensemble to brighten. Whatever the cause, fragment B is now glowing like a 4th or 5th magnitude star, visible to the naked eye from rural areas: sky map.

Posted by sue at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2006

Such a Beautiful World...

A friend of Natures Corner Magazine sent me a link this morning.. was perfect with my morning coffee! Beautiful pictures of our Planet Earth taken from Space..

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North America at Night

Images ranging from The Alps to an amazing view of a Hurricane bearing down on Florida.

Sound on, full screen and some coffee will enhance your viewing.

"As you live and breathe on this earth,
remember you are on a beautiful planet in a beautiful universe."

Posted by sue at 10:11 AM | Comments (0)

October 14, 2005

Octobers Moon

According to folklore, October's full moon is called the "Hunter's Moon" or sometimes the "Blood Moon." It gets its name from hunters who tracked and killed their prey by autumn moonlight, stockpiling food for the winter ahead. The Hunter's Moon of 2005 is due on Oct. 17th. If you live on the Pacific side of Earth (California to Alaska, Hawaii, Japan and Australia), you can see a partial eclipse of the Hunter's Moon. The best time to look is Monday morning at 5:00 a.m. PDT (Oct. 17, 1200 UT) when the edge of the Moon dips into the darkest part of Earth's shadow. Only a little bit of the Moon will be shaded. A casual observer might not even notice the eclipse; but if you know what to look for, you'll definitely see it.

Posted by sue at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2005

The Da Vinci Glow

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Five hundred years ago, Leonardo Da Vinci solved an ancient astronomical riddle: the mystery of Earthshine.

Little-known to most, one of Leonardo's finest works is not a painting or an invention, but rather something from astronomy: He solved the ancient riddle of Earthshine.

You can see Earthshine whenever there's a crescent Moon on the horizon at sunset. Thursday, Oct. 6, is a good night. Look between the horns of the crescent for a ghostly image of the full Moon. That's Earthshine.
Continue Reading: The Da Vinci Glow

Posted by sue at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

September 30, 2005

Serving Earth

A thousand years ago, Mayan civilization collapsed. Today, a Space Age "situation room" in Panama is helping Central Americans avoid mistakes that doomed the Maya.

September 29, 2005: Central America, that narrow land bridge between North and South America, represents less than 0.5 percent of Earth's land mass. But it is home to 7 or 8 percent of the world's species of plants and animals.

That rain forest home, however, is assaulted by both nature and man: earthquakes, hurricanes, illegal logging and ranching, and deforestation from slash-and-burn agriculture. Now, NASA scientists are helping Central America keep watch on its biological treasures and stop environmental depredations through SERVIR, an acronym standing for the Spanish words meaning Mesoamerican Regional Visualization and Monitoring System.

Read the rest of the story: Nasa

Posted by sue at 09:11 AM | Comments (0)