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The mid-October explosion of a the upper stage of a Russian rocket has produced a cloud of space junk which would threaten the space station. The explosion produced about 500 pieces of debris, which have joined the ~21,000 pieces of space junk bigger than 10 centimetres that NASA tracks as a potential danger to the space station. For more information about this incident, go to

Hurricane Sandy is now headed north, and is expected to hit the northeast coast of the US sometime on Tuesday-Wednesday, just in time for Halloween. Models show that the storm is likely to interact with a strong cold front headed towards the northeast from the west, leading to intensification.

Information on the storm and storm track is available from the NOAA Hurricane Center and Wunderground.

In an analysis of satellite data from the GRACE and CHAMP instruments, geophysicists in Europe have shown that annual and decadal changes in the Earth's magnetic field (as measured by CHAMP) in the Atlantic and Indian Ocean regions are related to changes in the Earth's gravitational field (as measured by GRACE) in these areas.

Earth's magnetic field, which protects us from cosmic radiation, is generated movements of ionized fluids in the outer core. These movements may be related to mass displacements in these regions.

Six seismologists and a government official were found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to six years in prison. The court found that they had not adequately warned the public about the potential of a dangerous earthquake. L'Aquila, Italy, was rocked by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake on April 6, 2009 that killed 309 people.

For more information about this ruling, visit Earth magazine online.

In a recent report in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, researchers from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences found that around 41,000 years ago there was an abrupt and complete reversal of the Earth's dipole field which lasted only 440 years. During this period, the Earth's magnetic field was significantly weaker, with only 5% of the current field intensity, which would significantly reduce the protection provided the surface from radiation exposure.

A meteorite found in Morocco last summer was recently found to be from Mars, ejected from the surface 700,000 years ago, and subsequently traveling to Earth. The meteorite includes obsidian glass which contains noble gas inclusions. The meteorite was observed to fall to Earth near the village of Tissint in the Moroccan desert.

For more information, see the article in Science.

An Earth-sized planet has been discovered orbiting Alpha Centauri B. The Alpha Centauri system, which includes three stars, is the star system nearest Earth - only 4.4 light years away. The discovery was made by a team of European astronomers. The planet is likely to be a rocky planet, but is not habitable, with surface temperatures of 1,200 degrees.

At least 10 tornadoes were reported overnight in the mid-west of the United States, hitting towns in the states of Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky. Storms are moving east, and the tornado threat continues. For more information, visit the Weather Channel.

Every four years, we have an extra day in the month of February. Why?

Images of a martian landscape offer evidence that the Red Planet’s surface not only can shake like the surface of Earth, but has done so relatively recently. According to scientists from the University of London, the Open University, and the Geological Survey of Italy reporting their analysis of High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) imagery, if mars quakes do indeed take place, Mars may still have active volcanism, which could help create conditions for liquid water.


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Earth and Space Science Today

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