Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Treasure hunters eye huge silver haul from WWII ship

Source from AFP News :

When the SS Gairsoppa was torpedoed by a German U-boat 70 years ago, it took its huge silver cargo to a watery grave. US divers are working to recover what may be the biggest shipwreck haul ever, valued at some $210 million.

Florida-based Odyssey Marine Exploration on Monday confirmed the identity and location of the Gairsoppa, and cited official documents indicating the British ship was carrying some 219 tons of silver when it sank in 1941 in the North Atlantic some 300 miles (490 kilometers) off the Irish coast.

Valued then at 600,000 pounds, the silver today is worth about $210 million, which would make it history's largest recovery of precious metals lost at sea, Odyssey said.

"We've accomplished the first phase of this project -- the location and identification of the target shipwreck -- and now we're hard at work planning for the recovery phase," Odyssey senior project manager Andrew Craig said in a statement.

"Given the orientation and condition of the shipwreck, we are extremely confident that our planned salvage operation will be well suited for the recovery of this silver cargo."

Recovery is expected to begin next spring.

After a competitive tender process the British government awarded Odyssey an exclusive salvage contract for the cargo, and under the agreement Odyssey will retain 80 percent of the silver bullion salvaged from the wreck.

The 412-foot (125-meter) Gairsoppa had been sailing from India back to Britain in February 1941 bearing a cargo of silver, pig iron and tea, and was in a convoy of ships when a storm hit. Running low on fuel, the Gairsoppa broke off from the convoy and set a course for Galway, Ireland.

It never made it, succumbing to a German torpedo in the contested waters of the North Atlantic. Of the 85 people on board, only one survived.

The Gairsoppa came to rest nearly 15,400 feet (4,700 meters) below the surface, where for decades it was lost to the world. A previous effort to locate the shipwreck failed.

Odyssey found it relatively quickly, and insists the depth of the site won't prevent a full cargo recovery.

"We were fortunate to find the shipwreck sitting upright, with the holds open and easily accessible," Odyssey chief executive Greg Stemm said.

"This should enable us to unload cargo through the hatches as would happen with a floating ship alongside a cargo terminal."

Odyssey is a world leader in deep-ocean exploration and has numerous shipwreck hunting projects in process around the globe.

In May 2007, it announced it had found half a million silver coins and hundreds of gold objects from a ship they code-named the "Black Swan," which went down in 1804 in the Atlantic off the Strait of Gibraltar. The find is being contested by Spain, which claims the trove.

In the latest operation, the firm recently conducted remotely operated vehicles from its main ship, the Odyssey Explorer, to inspect the Gairsoppa wreck. It acquired still and video imagery from the site which were used to confirm the identify and evaluate the condition of the ship.

~ Handout image courtesy of the Odyssey Marine Exploration shows a stern compass of the SS Gairsoppa on the top of the poop deck

Photographs released by the company show clear details of the Gairsoppa, including a ladder leading to the forecastle deck, a waist-high compass used by the helmsman, even the hole in the steel hull blown open by the torpedo.

~ Graphic on the last voyage of the SS Gairsoppa, torpedoed by a German U-boat in World War II, carrying 219 tons of silver. Florida-based company Odyssey Marine Exploration is working to recover the treasures.

The find highlights the influential role that modern technology has come to play in the business of finding shipwrecks, with vastly improved sonar equipment, global positioning systems and advanced deepwater robots that scour the world's oceans for booty.

UNESCO estimates there are some three million shipwrecks worldwide, with billions of dollars in sunken treasures and priceless knowledge that can be recovered from the depths of the ocean, including vast amounts of naturally occurring copper, silver, gold and zinc deposits waiting to be discovered

"The majority of the world's ocean floor has not yet been explored," said Odyssey president Mark Gordon, who told AFP that the discovery at some 4,700 meters (15,400 feet) beneath below the ocean's surface is a treasure trove for companies like his.

"We know more about the surface of the moon than we know about the deepest parts of the oceans. It's exciting to be working at depths like these and to be among the pioneers of deep ocean exploration in this unexplored frontier."

Friday, September 23, 2011

Japan noodle museum opens doors

Japan's Nissin Foods opened a cup noodle museum on Saturday charting the history of the speedy snack where visitors even get the chance to create their own tasty version.

About 500 adults and children queued up before the museum opened in the port city of Yokohama near Tokyo with celebrity guests ranging from a former prime minister to a retail business tycoon.

"We opened this place... as a factory that gives children experience and a museum for corporate activities," Nissin Foods Holdings president Koki Ando said.

Ando, whose late father Momofuku Ando invented instant noodles more than half a century ago, said visitors could knead flour, roll out noodles, steam and fry them to make chicken ramen which is then put into bags.

Children in aprons set to work making noodles under the watchful gaze of guests including former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi, Japanese premier from 2001-2006.

In another area of the museum called "My Cup Noodle Factory", visitors can design cups, put dried noodles in them and pick toppings and broth for their own versions of cupped meals -- with the potential to create more than 5,000 different versions.

The museum exhibits packages of Nissin instant noodles from around the world over the decades and houses restaurants that serve food such as Vietnamese pho noodles and pasta from Italy.

There are giant cup noodle containers in the museum for children to play in.

Momofuku Ando, the man credited with inventing instant noodles, took a lower-profile role in the business at the ripe old age of 95 in 2005, the year Nissin supplied vacuum packed instant noodles or "Space Ram" to a Japanese astronaut aboard a US space shuttle.

Ando died of acute heart failure in 2007.

The businessman, born in 1910 in Taiwan under Japanese occupation, entered the food business when Japan was hungry after World War II and invented the world's first instant noodles, chicken ramen noodles sold in bags, in 1958.

He launched the cupped version in 1971 with a pre-cooked slab of noodles in a waterproof styrofoam container.

Ando saw his invention stocked on the shelves of convenience stores around the world.

As the products were widely replicated, more than 95 billion servings were consumed around the globe in 2010, according to the Japanese instant noodles manufacturers' association.

Ando said he was inspired to develop the product when he saw a long line of people waiting to buy soup noodles at a black market stall in post-war Japan.

"Peace prevails when food suffices," he was quoted as saying.

The museum is Nissin's second devoted to instant noodles after one opened in the western Japan province of Osaka in 1999.

The multi-storey Yokohama museum has a total floor space of 10,000 square metres (107,600 square feet) -- three times bigger than the Osaka museum.

By Yoshikazu Tsuno | AFP News – Sat, Sep 17, 2011

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hiroshima bomb impact

Amazing Timelapse of Earth

Science educator James Drake built this amazing timelapse video from the perspective of the International Space Station as it flew over North and South America.

He created this video by downloading a series of 600 photographs that were available online at the Gateway to Astronomy Photograph of Earth, and then stitching them together into a complete video.

Amazing volcanic activity seen from space


This May 23, 2006, photo released by NASA shows the eruption of Cleveland Volcano, Aleutian Islands, Alaska, as photographed by an Expedition 13 crew member on the International Space Station. The image captures the ash plume of the very short-lived eruption.

Photo Courtesy of Earth Sciences and Image Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center

Japanese girl delighted by bottle found in Hawaii

By MARI YAMAGUCHI , Sep 18, 2011

TOKYO (AP) — A Japanese teenager expressed her gratitude Sunday after a U.S. sailor in Hawaii found a bottle she had tossed into the sea off Japan's southern coast as a child, and said she was delighted to be reconnected with her old classmates as a result.

Saki Arikawa, 17, said she had almost forgotten about the bottle and initially couldn't believe it was found after five years.

In a telephone interview with The Associated Press from her hometown in Kagoshima, she said "it's a miracle" the bottle was found. "It's incredible," she said.

The clear glass bottle was found Thursday by Navy Petty Officer Jon Moore during a beach cleanup at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai island.

~ U.S. Navy electrician's Mate 2nd Class Jon Moore removes a message from a bottle sent from Kagoshima, Japan more than five years ago

The bottle contained four origami cranes — symbols of peace in Japan — as well as a photo of Arikawa's elementary school class and a note dated March 25, 2006, and signed by Arikawa saying she wanted it to be "a graduation memory."

~ A photo of 6th grade students from Kagoshima, Japan found in a bottle by Petty Officer Jon Moore during a cleanup on a beach at the Pacific Missile Range Facility on Kauai Island

News of the bottle's recovery reconnected more than a dozen of her old classmates, now studying at different high schools, and their elementary school homeroom teacher for a reunion Saturday. Arikawa says she now wants to further expand the circle of friendship.

"Thanks to the bottle, some of us could get together and had a great time," she said. "Now I'd like to meet the person who kindly saved my bottle."

The bottle was one of five she tossed into the ocean in 2006 as her sixth-grade class graduated from Kokubu Elementary School in Kagoshima. She and her 31 classmates dropped five bottles each, including the one that turned up last week.

Three other bottles had previously been recovered, including two in Alaska and a third at another location in Hawaii.

The Navy said Moore was among 40 base personnel and 16 students and faculty from a Kauai school who picked up beach trash in observance of International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

200-year-old letter by Raffles on Singpore

By Philip Lim @ 19/9/2011

A nearly illegible letter from almost two centuries ago is kept in a dim, cold room in downtown Singapore accessible only to a privileged few via an electronic swipe card.

In flowing script dated June 9, 1819, Singapore's colonial founder Stamford Raffles described the island's formative days as a regional trading port in the Malay archipelago, and it turned out to be prophetic.

"The Settlement I had the satisfaction to form in this very centrical and commanding station has had every success ... our Port is already crowded with shipping from all the native Ports in the Archipelago," he wrote.

~ letters from centuries ago displayed in a room that is home to the Rare Materials Collection (RMC) of Singapore's National Library.

The letter, as well as some 7,000 other items in the room, form the Rare Materials Collection (RMC) of Singapore's National Library, offering a more intimate look into the past of what is now one of the world's busiest ports.

"The history textbook doesn't cover everything," senior librarian Ong Eng Chuan told an AFP reporter who was allowed briefly into the chamber.

"The RMC gives you an interesting perspective of Singapore, from a small fishing village to an international trading port," Ong told AFP.

"It offers an interesting window for the generation now to look into Singapore, and how it has developed into the current place that it is now."

Stepping into the RMC may seem rather underwhelming at first as nondescript boxes containing books and documents sit neatly on shelves with no indication of their historical importance.

The boxes -- made from acid-free paper -- as well as the 18-20 degree celsius (64-68 degree Fahrenheit) temperature, 50-55 percent humidity and dim lighting are necessary to prevent the collection from degrading, Ong said.

People allowed to handle the documents have to wear gloves.

"Some of our hands might have sweat, and the moisture is not good for the paper," he said.

~Senior librarian Ong Eng Chuan flipping through the pages of old newspaper Syonan Sinbun, on display in the Rare Materials Collection (RMC) of Singapore's National Library

Physical access to the RMC is strictly limited on a "case-by-case basis," with librarians routinely referring people asking to view the collection to digital versions posted on the library's website.

Anyone asking to see the real collection needs a pretty good reason.

"Seeing the actual item has an X factor that can make it more interesting for the people, but we have to balance the need to preserve the item and the need to provide access to the content," Ong said.

Publications kept by the RMC include European travelogues from as early as 1577, biographical accounts of daily life in Malaya and even love poems and cookbooks from a hundred years ago.

"The Mem's Own Cookery Book" -- meant for the wives of British administrators who established colonies around Asia at the time -- features recipes to suit the tastebuds of homesick Englishmen.

Recipes for spinach soup, roast hare and pigeon mingle with tips for more adventurous fare like jungle deer curry and sheep head broth.

In contrast, the "Hikayat Abdullah," an 1849 biography of the father of modern Malay literature Munshi Abdullah, offered a unique perspective often missing from records largely penned by Western authors, librarian Ong said.

"It offers an Asian perspective in contrast to the accounts you see from the East India company's records and the memoirs written by those officials," he stated.

In the biography, Abdullah praises Raffles -- who had employed him as a translator -- but offered a less than complimentary description of British sailors who docked in his hometown Malacca, now part of Malaysia.

"To see an Englishman was like seeing a tiger, because they were so mischievous and violent... At that time I never met an Englishman who had a white face, for all of them had 'mounted the green horse', that is to say, were drunk," he wrote.

"So much so that when children cried their mothers would say, 'Be quiet, the drunken Englishman is coming,' and the children would be scared, and keep quiet."

John Solomon, a postgraduate student from Australia's University of New South Wales, accessed the RMC twice for his research on 19th-century transmarine convicts sent to Singapore.

"As a historian, I enjoy being able to physically handle material from the period. It gives the past this powerful sense of immediacy and presence," he said.

"Being in contact with the physical material also makes me realise that Singapore's story is not merely an account of economic and social policies but is also enmeshed in the everyday struggles and triumphs of individuals from vastly different circumstances."

Monday, September 19, 2011

Japanese Tsunami Viewed From A Car

Yu Muroga is a Japanese driver. It was his tour took place when the earthquake March 11, 2011. Like most people of his area, he did not feel threatened by the tsumani, as it was far enough from the coast. So he continued to drive and do its job. The HD camera mounted on the dashboard has not only captured the shock but also the moments that followed, where many drivers were stranded by the waters of the tsunami.

Note : The "Dancing" man at the road junction is due to EARTHQUAKE (ground shaking)

Visible Only From Above, Mystifying 'Nazca Lines' Discovered in Mideast

By Owen Jarus | – Thu, Sep 15, 2011

The giant stone structures form wheel shapes with spokes often radiating inside. Here a cluster of wheels in the Azraq Oasis. CREDIT: David D. Boyer

They stretch from Syria to Saudi Arabia, can be seen from the air but not the ground, and are virtually unknown to the public.

They are the Middle East's own version of the Nazca Lines — ancient "geolyphs," or drawings, that span deserts in southern Peru — and now, thanks to new satellite-mapping technologies, and an aerial photography program in Jordan, researchers are discovering more of them than ever before. They number well into the thousands.

Referred to by archaeologists as "wheels," these stone structures have a wide variety of designs, with a common one being a circle with spokes radiating inside. Researchers believe that they date back to antiquity, at least 2,000 years ago. They are often found on lava fields and range from 82 feet to 230 feet (25 meters to 70 meters) across. [See gallery of wheel structures]

"In Jordan alone we've got stone-built structures that are far more numerous than (the) Nazca Lines, far more extensive in the area that they cover, and far older," said David Kennedy, a professor of classics and ancient history at the University of Western Australia.

Kennedy's new research, which will be published in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science, reveals that these wheels form part of a variety of stone landscapes. These include kites (stone structures used for funnelling and killing animals); pendants (lines of stone cairns that run from burials); and walls, mysterious structures that meander across the landscape for up to several hundred feet and have no apparent practical use.

His team's studies are part of a long-term aerial reconnaissance project that is looking at archaeological sites across Jordan. As of now, Kennedy and his colleagues are puzzled as to what the structures may have been used for or what meaning they held. [History's Most Overlooked Mysteries]

Fascinating structures

Kennedy's main area of expertise is in Roman archaeology, but he became fascinated by these structures when, as a student, he read accounts of Royal Air Force pilots flying over them in the 1920s on airmail routes across Jordan. "You can't not be fascinated by these things," Kennedy said.

Indeed, in 1927 RAF Flight Lt. Percy Maitland published an account of the ruins in the journal Antiquity. He reported encountering them over "lava country" and said that they, along with the other stone structures, are known to the Bedouin as the "works of the old men."

Kennedy and his team have been studying the structures using aerial photography and Google Earth, as the wheels are hard to pick up from the ground, Kennedy said.

"Sometimes when you're actually there on the site you can make out something of a pattern but not very easily," he said. "Whereas if you go up just a hundred feet or so it, for me, comes sharply into focus what the shape is."

The designs must have been clearer when they were originally built. "People have probably walked over them, walked past them, for centuries, millennia, without having any clear idea what the shape was."

(The team has created an archive of images of the wheels from various sites in the Middle East.)

What were they used for ?

So far, none of the wheels appears to have been excavated, something that makes dating them, and finding out their purpose, more difficult. Archaeologists studying them in the pre-Google Earth era speculated that they could be the remains of houses or cemeteries. Kennedy said that neither of these explanations seems to work out well.

"There seems to be some overarching cultural continuum in this area in which people felt there was a need to build structures that were circular."

Some of the wheels are found in isolation while others are clustered together. At one location, near the Azraq Oasis, hundreds of them can be found clustered into a dozen groups. "Some of these collections around Azraq are really quite remarkable," Kennedy said.

In Saudi Arabia, Kennedy's team has found wheel styles that are quite different: Some are rectangular and are not wheels at all; others are circular but contain two spokes forming a bar often aligned in the same direction that the sun rises and sets in the Middle East.

The ones in Jordan and Syria, on the other hand, have numerous spokes and do not seem to be aligned with any astronomical phenomena. "On looking at large numbers of these, over a number of years, I wasn't struck by any pattern in the way in which the spokes were laid out," Kennedy said.

Cairns are often found associated with the wheels. Sometimes they circle the perimeter of the wheel, other times they are in among the spokes. In Saudi Arabia some of the cairns look, from the air, like they are associated with ancient burials.

Dating the wheels is difficult, since they appear to be prehistoric, but could date to as recently as 2,000 years ago. The researchers have noted that the wheels are often found on top of kites, which date as far back as 9,000 years, but never vice versa. "That suggests that wheels are more recent than the kites," Kennedy said.

Amelia Sparavigna, a physics professor at Politecnico di Torino in Italy, told Live Science in an email that she agrees these structures can be referred to as geoglyphs in the same way as the Nazca Lines are. "If we define a 'geoglyph' as a wide sign on the ground of artificial origin, the stone circles are geoglyphs," Sparavignawrote in her email.

The function of the wheels may also have been similar to the enigmatic drawings in the Nazca desert. [Science as Art: A Gallery]

"If we consider, more generally, the stone circles as worship places of ancestors, or places for rituals connected with astronomical events or with seasons, they could have the same function of [the] geoglyphs of South America, the Nazca Lines for instance. The design is different, but the function could be the same," she wrote in her email.

Kennedy said that for now the meaning of the wheels remains a mystery. "The question is what was the purpose?"

Awesome Paris Lighting

A chance photo taken from the window of an apartment captures an amazing moment.

Massive 20m deep crater opens up in German town

An aerial view of a large crater that appeared in the early hours in the central German town of Schmalkalden, November 1, 2010. A huge crater measuring 30 by 40 metres (98 by 131 feet ) has opened up in the middle of a residential estate early in the morning on Monday, according to local police. No one was reported hurt in the incident


Residents in the German town of Schmalkalden probably had the shock of their lives when they opened their bedroom curtains as a giant crater had formed overnight.
There is no injuries but forcing the evacuation of 25 people.This huge hole caused by landslide or impact by meteor hit ? The experts are now still investigating..

Stormy weather @ USA

Lightning flashes east of the Las Vegas Strip during a thunderstorm early on 13 September 2011.


Shanghainese women change attire on train

By Fann Sim – Wed, Sep 14, 2011

Photos and videos of Shanghainese women undressing and changing their clothes on the train have surfaced on the Internet.

On 22 August, a netizen caused a stir after uploading photos and videos of a girl on Shanghai's Metro train. The video detailed a girl stripping down to her underwear and changing clothes inside the train cabin.


Netizens believed that she was either late for work or doing it for a publicity stunt as the clothes she changed into looked like a uniform for cosplaying purposes.

The woman changed into a "uniform" that looks like it's for cosplaying purposes.

Some have said that such an act is immoral and very unsightly to look at while others disagreed with the public outcry.

A Chinese user wrote, "What's the big deal? Society's development should mean more diversity/pluralism. If it's always traditional ideas, we won't keep up with the times/fashion. Does everyone still remember the 80s, where peeping (into) the ladies would result in being sentenced to death? Now that we think about it, wasn't that going too far?"

Sunday, September 18, 2011

US astronomers find planet with two Suns

US astronomers said Thursday they have discovered the first planet that is orbiting two Suns, much like the fictional home of Luke Skywalker featured in Star Wars.

Skywalker's native planet of Tatooine was hot and desert-like, but this planet, called Kepler-16b, is a freezing cold world about the size of Saturn, orbiting two parent Suns in a near perfect circle about 200 light years away.

The planet was glimpsed with the US space agency's Kepler space telescope, which monitors the brightness of 155,000 stars, according to the research published in the journal Science.

"This discovery is stunning," said co-author Alan Boss of the Carnegie Institution for Science Department of Terrestrial Magnetism.

"Once again, what used to be science fiction has turned into reality."

While astronomers have previously glimpsed planets they believed were orbiting two stars, they had never before seen one actually passing in front of its two Suns so this discovery offers the first proof.

"Kepler-16b is the first confirmed, unambiguous example of a circumbinary planet -- a planet orbiting not one, but two stars," said co-author Josh Carter of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

"Once again, we're finding that our solar system is only one example of the variety of planetary systems nature can create."

If there were people on Kepler-16b, they could relax to the view of a double sunset, but such a scenario is highly unlikely due to the planet's extreme frigid surface temperature of -100 to -150 Fahrenheit (-73 to -101 Celsius).

The chill is likely due to the fact that even though the planet has two Suns which it orbits every 229 days at a distance of 65 million miles (105 million kilometers), they are smaller and cooler than our single Sun.

One of Kepler-16b's Suns is 20 percent as massive as ours, and the other is 69 percent as massive.

While the planet orbits them, the two Suns dance with each other in an "eccentric 41-day orbit," the study said.

The study was led by Kepler scientist Laurance Doyle of the California-based SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute.

AFP News – Fri, Sep 16, 2011

Sunday, September 11, 2011

NASA’s Cassini orbiter snaps unbelievable picture of Saturn


Science fiction movies have spoiled us on high definition views of our planetary neighbors, but real-life photographs with equal jaw-dropping potential are exceedingly rare. That's what makes NASA's awe-inspiring snapshot of Saturn (hi-res version here) such a stunning piece of eye candy.

Taken by NASA's Cassini robotic orbiter, the shot was captured from the dark side of Saturn as the Sun's bright rays illuminated every piece of dust and debris circling the planet. Cassini has offered astronomers a never-before-seen look at Saturn and revealed more information about the planet than any craft before it. The craft has taken so many pictures of the ringed wonder that they were recently made into a short flyby film that looks like it was created by George Lucas rather than a robotic space explorer.

The Cassini probe was launched in 1997 and took a further 7 years to reach Saturn's orbit. The total cost of its overarching objective of studying the ringed planet stands at a staggering $3.26 billion. However, the wealth of information it has wrought — including amazing pictures like the one above, and recordings of massive lightning storms on the planet — have already made it one of the best investments in space exploration. Hopefully Juno — which began a 5-year trek to Jupiter just last month — will bring us some equally stunning shots of Saturn's neighbor.

Article By :Mike Wehner, Thu, Sep 8, 2011

Dead NASA satellite will soon plummet to Earth


A dead NASA satellite will soon fall to Earth, but the space agency says there is very little chance that a piece of it will hit someone.

NASA says the 20-year-old satellite will probably fall sometime between late September and October. Pieces of it could land anywhere in the six inhabited continents in a worldwide swath from south of Juneau, Alaska, to just north of the tip of South America. NASA scientists estimate a 1-in-3,200 chance a satellite part could hit someone. Most of it will burn up after entering Earth's atmosphere.

The 6-ton (5.4-metric ton) Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) ran out of fuel in 2005 and will fall uncontrolled out of orbit. Only about 1,200 pounds (544.32 kilograms) of metal should survive, NASA said.

This satellite is far smaller than the 135-ton (123-metric ton) Russian space station Mir, which fell to Earth in 2001 or the 100-ton (91-metric ton) Skylab that fell in 1979. Mir fell into the South Pacific, while Skylab hit the Indian Ocean and parts of sparsely populated western Australia. Because two-thirds of the Earth is ocean, space debris usually hits water

"Things have been re-entering ever since the dawn of the Space Age; to date nobody has been injured by anything that's re-entered," said NASA orbital debris chief Gene Stansbery. "That doesn't mean we're not concerned."

NASA now has a rule that the chance of any of its satellites hitting someone has to be more than 1 in 10,000. But UARS, which measured chemicals in the air, was launched in 1991 before that rule was adopted. The agency usually tries to put dead satellites into "a graveyard orbit" or steer them down to the ocean, Stansbery said. But there was not enough fuel in this one to fire engines that would move it to a higher orbit or steer it down safely.

The 1-in-3,200 odds of being hit pertain to any of the nearly 7 billion people on Earth. But any one individual's odds of being struck are about 1 in 21 trillion.

Space debris bigger than 5 tons (4.5 metric tons) does not often fall to Earth. But this will be the third time this year for something that big to reach Earth, according to Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard University astrophysicist who tracks objects in orbit.

The UARS satellite travels over a large band of Earth, avoiding only areas close to the poles. NASA calculates that when the satellite does fall it will scatter pieces over a 500-mile (800-kilometer)-wide region.

Stansbery said the agency doesn't know exactly when and where those will fall because it depends on the orientation of the satellite in the atmosphere, solar storm activity and other variables.

There probably is no hazardous material left in the falling pieces, but people should not touch any fallen satellite parts just in case, he said.

NASA will be tracking the satellite on a weekly and later daily basis until it falls.

Article by :SETH BORENSTEIN - AP Science Writer | Sep 9, 2011


AFP News – Sat, Sep 17, 2011

US satellite may crash back to Earth Sept 23: NASA

This undated NASA image shows a conceptual image of the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS), launched in September 1991, by the space shuttle Discovery.


A 20-year-old satellite that measured the ozone layer is expected to crash back to Earth late next week, but NASA said it still does not know where it will fall.

The US space agency stressed that the risk to public safety from the Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) is "extremely small," and said that most, but not all, of the gear will burn up on re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

"Re-entry is expected Sept. 23, plus or minus a day. The re-entry of UARS is advancing because of a sharp increase in solar activity since the beginning of this week," NASA said in a brief update on its website on Friday.

"Safety is NASA's top priority," it added, noting that throughout history, there have been "no confirmed reports of an injury resulting from re-entering space objects."

The decommissioned satellite could land anywhere between 57 degrees north latitude and 57 degrees south latitude, a vast swath of populated territory. Predictions will only get more precise as the landing approaches.

The UARS satellite was sent into orbit in 1991 by the space shuttle Discovery.

The 35 by 15 foot (three by 10 meter) spacecraft weighed 13,000 pounds (5,900 kilograms) and toted 10 scientific instruments for measuring wind, temperature and ozone chemistry. It was officially decommissioned in 2005.

"Although the spacecraft will break into pieces during re-entry, not all of it will burn up in the atmosphere," NASA said.

"It is impossible to pinpoint just where in that zone the debris will land, but NASA estimates the debris footprint will be about 500 miles (800 kilometers) long," the space agency said.

It also urged anyone who comes across what they believe may be space debris not to touch it, but to call authorities for assistance.