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South Celestial Rocket Launch

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/28/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

At sunset on December 6 a Rocket Lab Electron rocket was launched from a rotating planet. With multiple small satellites on board it departed on a mission to low Earth orbit dubbed Running Out of Fingers from Mahia Peninsula on New Zealand's north island. The fiery trace of the Electron's graceful launch arc is toward the south in this southern sea and skyscape. Drifting vapor trails and rocket exhaust plumes catch the sunlight even as the sky grows dark though, the setting Sun still shinning at altitude along the rocket's trajectory. Fixed to a tripod, the camera's perspective nearly aligns the peak of the rocket arc with the South Celestial Pole, but no bright star marks that location in the southern hemisphere's evening sky. Still, it's easy to find at the center of the star trail arcs in the timelapse composite.

Photo by Brendan Gully

A make-ahead Alfredo Sauce! Ready in 10 minutes.  Toss with pasta or serve over vegetables, potatoes, fish, or chicken.Click the image below to read Emma Christensen's recipe at Simply Recipes

Two Hemisphere Night Sky

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/27/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

The Sun is hidden by a horizon that runs across the middle in this two hemisphere view of Earth's night sky. The digitally stitched mosaics were recorded from corresponding latitudes, one 29 degrees north and one 29 degrees south of the planet's equator. On top is the northern view from the IAC observatory at La Palma taken in February 2020. Below is a well-matched southern scene from the ESO La Silla Observatory recorded in April 2016. In this projection, the Milky Way runs almost vertically above and below the horizon. Its dark clouds and and bright nebulae are prominent near the galactic center in the lower half of the frame. In the upper half, brilliant Venus is immersed in zodiacal light. Sunlight faintly scattered by interplanetary dust, the zodiacal light traces the Solar System's ecliptic plane in a complete circle through the starry sky. Large telescope domes bulge along the inverted horizon from La Silla while at La Palma, multi-mirror Magic telescopes stand above center. Explore this two hemisphere night sky and you can also find the Andromeda Galaxy and the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds.

Photo by Petr Horálek

I want not,
not one little thing,
except to be near you
to feel your warmth
and hear your heart beat.
The slowness of your breath
remembering when I would caress
your lovely shoulders,
lying next to thee.
I miss you my darling,
your lovely smile and glow.
Yearning for days, now gone,
when conversation was a joy.
Not the same on this day.
No! Not anymore.

When leather soled shoes find the rain,
they act like a sponge soaking up water.
The soles become slick as a skate.
If you don't watch your step, you
may have great pain.
Stepping on a painted step, going
downstairs, when my feet slipped
and I unceremoniously fell on my
rear. I was now sitting there with
the packages I was carrying.
I got up. Took another step
and I once again was on my rear.
Didn't hurt much to land on your
rump, at least not mine.
The lesson learned in this life
of mine was to rid my self of
those leather soled shoes,
that showed me how to do
that slippery dance.

NGTS-10b: Discovery of a Doomed Planet

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/26/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

This hot jupiter is doomed. Hot jupiters are giant planets like Jupiter that orbit much closer to their parent stars than Mercury does to our Sun. But some hot jupiters are more extreme than others. NGTS-10b, illustrated generically, is the closest and fastest-orbiting giant planet yet discovered, circling its home star in only 18 hours. NGTS-10b is a little larger than Jupiter, but it orbits less than two times the diameter of its parent star away from the star’s surface. When a planet orbits this close, it is expected to spiral inward, pulled down by tidal forces to be eventually ripped apart by the star’s gravity. NGTS-10b, discovered by researchers at the University of Warwick, is named after the Next Generation Transit Survey, which detected the imperiled planet when it passed in front of its star, blocking some of the light. Although the violent demise of NGTS-10b will happen eventually, we don't yet know when.

Jupiter's Magnetic Field from Juno

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/25/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

How similar is Jupiter's magnetic field to Earth's? NASA's robotic Juno spacecraft has found that Jupiter's magnetic field is surprisingly complex, so that the Jovian world does not have single magnetic poles like our Earth. A snapshot of Jupiter's magnetic field at one moment in time, as animated from Juno data, appears in the featured video. Red and blue colors depict cloud-top regions of strong positive (south) and negative (north) magnetic fields, respectively. Surrounding the planet are imagined magnetic field lines. The first sequence of the animated video starts off by showing what appears to be a relatively normal dipole field, but soon a magnetic region now known as the Great Blue Spot rotates into view, which is not directly aligned with Jupiter's rotation poles. Further, in the second sequence, the illustrative animation takes us over one of Jupiter's spin poles where red magnetic hotspots are revealed to be extended and sometimes even annular. A better understanding of Jupiter's magnetic field may give clues toward a better understanding of Earth's enigmatic planetary magnetism.

It was after WWII was over,
when I was quite young.
I remember that my teen
years were in play.

My father worked for Todd's shipyards
on the Duwamish, in West Seattle.
After the war was over, he was laid off
and purchased a bar, The Looking Glass Tavern,
on 45th, West of the Blue Moon.
It was quite the watering hole for the returning
Veterans. Wine and beer could be purchased
but beer was the beverage of choice.
A small place that was close to UW.

On Sunday mornings, after church,
I would go with my father to help clean up.
I can still smell the sourness of spilt beer.
and the stale smell of tobacco.
I wasn't very helpful but my father would
let me sit at the bar. Closed on Sunday due to the
"Blue Laws" in effect in the City.
My father would pour me a Coke and I could have
a pickled Polish Sausage. I remember how that tasted
when washed down with a Coke.
I do remember the good time with my father,
when he owned The Looking Glass Tavern.

At some time that next year my mother decided
she wanted to move back to the Ellensburg area
where many of her sisters were as was her mother
and father. My Grandpa worked for the Kittitas Valley
Reclamation District, East of Ellensburg, but that
is a different story.

Many years later, I was on an adult soccer team
and we were playing at the Soccer pitch by Green Lake.
I told my two friends that were riding with me
about stopping there for nostalgic reasons.
It was no longer The Looking Glass Tavern but had a
different name.
I approached the door and it was exactly like I
remembered, Bar to the left, Booths to the right.
No Coke this time so I ordered a beer and a Pickled
Polish Sausage.
The sausage tasted like it was all grease. One bite
and then I washed it down with beer.
The taste? Yuck. Maybe I needed a Coke.

Moon Corona, Halo, and Arcs over Manitoba

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/24/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

Yes, but could you get to work on time if the Moon looked like this? As the photographer was preparing to drive to work, refraction, reflection, and even diffraction of moonlight from millions of falling ice crystals turned the familiar icon of our Moon into a menagerie of other-worldly halos and arcs. The featured scene was captured with three combined exposures two weeks ago on a cold winter morning in Manitoba, Canada. The colorful rings are a corona caused by quantum diffraction by small drops of water or ice near the direction of the Moon. Outside of that, a 22-degree halo was created by moonlight refracting through six-sided cylindrical ice crystals. To the sides are moon dogs, caused by light refracting through thin, flat, six-sided ice platelets as they flittered toward the ground. Visible at the top and bottom of the 22-degree halo are upper and lower tangent arcs, created by moonlight refracting through nearly horizontal hexagonal ice cylinders. A few minutes later, from a field just off the road to work, the halo and arcs had disappeared, the sky had returned to normal -- with the exception of a single faint moon dog.

Photo by Brent Mckean

This Iconic photo of six United States Marines raising the U.S. flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima was taken 75 years ago today.  It was later used for the construction of the Marine Corps War Memorial located in Arlington Ridge Park in 1954

Illustris Simulation of the Universe

Posted by Specola • Posted on 02/23/2020 at 12:16PM Photography See more by Specola

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day:

How did we get here? Click play, sit back, and watch. A computer simulation of the evolution of the universe provides insight into how galaxies formed and perspectives into humanity's place in the universe. The Illustris project exhausted 20 million CPU hours in 2014 following 12 billion resolution elements spanning a cube 35 million light years on a side as it evolved over 13 billion years. The simulation tracks matter into the formation of a wide variety of galaxy types. As the virtual universe evolves, some of the matter expanding with the universe soon gravitationally condenses to form filaments, galaxies, and clusters of galaxies. The featured video takes the perspective of a virtual camera circling part of this changing universe, first showing the evolution of dark matter, then hydrogen gas coded by temperature (0:45), then heavy elements such as helium and carbon (1:30), and then back to dark matter (2:07). On the lower left the time since the Big Bang is listed, while on the lower right the type of matter being shown is listed. Explosions (0:50) depict galaxy-center supermassive black holes expelling bubbles of hot gas. Interesting discrepancies between Illustris and the real universe have been studied, including why the simulation produced an overabundance of old stars.

Do I know I’m at risk for developing dementia? You bet.

My father died of Alzheimer’s disease at age 72; my sister was felled by frontotemporal dementia at 58.

And that’s not all: Two maternal uncles had Alzheimer’s, and my maternal grandfather may have had vascular dementia. (In his generation, it was called senility.)

So what happens when I misplace a pair of eyeglasses or can’t remember the name of a movie I saw a week ago? “Now comes my turn with dementia,” I think.

Then I talk myself down from that emotional cliff.

Am I alone in this? Hardly. Many people, like me, who’ve watched this cruel illness destroy a family member, dread the prospect that they, too, might become demented.

The lack of a cure or effective treatments only adds to the anxiety. Just this week, news emerged that another study trying to stop Alzheimer’s in people at extremely high genetic risk had failed.

How do we cope as we face our fears and peer into our future?

Andrea Kline, whose mother, as well as her mother’s sister and uncle, had Alzheimer’s disease, just turned 71 and lives in Boynton Beach, Florida. She’s a retired registered nurse who teaches yoga to seniors at community centers and assisted-living facilities.

“I worry about dementia incessantly. Every little thing that goes wrong, I’m convinced it’s the beginning,” she told me.

Because Kline has had multiple family members with Alzheimer’s, she’s more likely to have a genetic vulnerability than someone with a single occurrence in their family. But that doesn’t mean this condition lies in her future. A risk is just that: It’s not a guarantee.

The age of onset is also important. People with close relatives struck by dementia early — before age 65 — are more likely to be susceptible genetically.

Kline was the primary caregiver for her mother, Charlotte Kline, who received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis in 1999 and passed away in 2007 at age 80. “I try to eat very healthy. I exercise. I have an advance directive, and I’ve discussed what I want [in the way of care] with my son,” she said.

“Lately, I’ve been thinking I should probably get a test for APOE4 [a gene variant that can raise the risk of developing Alzheimer’s], although I’m not really sure if it would help,” Kline added. “Maybe it would add some intensity to my planning for the future.”

I spoke to half a dozen experts for this column. None was in favor of genetic testing, except in unusual circumstances.

“Having the APOE4 allele [gene variant] does not mean you’ll get Alzheimer’s disease. Plenty of people with Alzheimer’s don’t have the allele,” said Mark Mapstone, a professor of neurology at the University of California-Irvine. “And conversely, plenty of people with the allele never develop Alzheimer’s.”

Tamar Gefen, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, strongly suggests having an in-depth discussion with a genetic counselor if you’re considering a test.

“Before you say ‘I have to know,’ really understand what you’re dealing with, how your life might be affected, and what these tests can and cannot tell you,” she advised.

Karen Larsen, 55, is a social worker in the Boston area. Her father, George Larsen, was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s at age 84 and died within a year in 2014.

Larsen is firm: She doesn’t want to investigate her risk of having memory or thinking problems.

“I’ve already planned for the future. I have a health care proxy and a living will and long-term care insurance. I’ve assigned powers of attorney, and I’ve saved my money,” she said. “Eating a healthy diet, getting exercise, remaining socially engaged — I already do all that, and I plan to as long as I can.”

“What would I do if I learned some negative from a test — sit around and worry?” Larsen said.

Currently, the gold standard in cognitive testing consists of a comprehensive neuropsychological exam. Among the domains examined over three to four hours: memory, attention, language, intellectual functioning, problem-solving, visual-spatial orientation, perception and more.

Brain scans are another diagnostic tool. CT and MRI scans can show whether parts of the brain have structural abnormalities or aren’t functioning optimally. PET scans (not covered by Medicare) can demonstrate the buildup of amyloid proteins — a marker of Alzheimer’s. Also, spinal taps can show whether amyloid and tau proteins are present in cerebrospinal fluid.

A note of caution: While amyloid and tau proteins in the brain are a signature characteristic of Alzheimer’s, not all people with these proteins develop cognitive impairment.

Several experts recommend that people concerned about their Alzheimer’s risk get a baseline set of neuropsychological tests, followed by repeat tests if and when they start experiencing worrisome symptoms.

“When it comes to thinking and memory, everyone is different,” said Frederick Schmitt, a neurology professor at the University of Kentucky. Having baseline results is “very helpful” and “allows us to more carefully measure whether, in fact, significant changes have occurred” over time, he said.

Nora Super, senior director of the Milken Institute Center for the Future of Aging, watched her father, Bill Super, and all three of his siblings succumb to Alzheimer’s disease over the course of several years — falling, she said, “like a row of dominoes.”

One of her sisters was tested for the APOE4 genetic variant; results were negative. This is no guarantee of a dementia-free future, however, since hundreds of genes are implicated in Alzheimer’s, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia.

Rather than get genetic or neuropsychological tests, Super has focused on learning as much as she can about how to protect her brain. At the top of the list: managing her depression as well as stress. Both have been linked to dementia.

Also, Super exercises routinely and eats a MIND-style diet, rich in vegetables, berries, whole grains, nuts, fish and beans. She is learning French (a form of cognitive stimulation), meditates regularly and is socially and intellectually active.

According to a growing body of research, physical inactivity, hearing loss, depression, obesity, hypertension, smoking, social isolation, diabetes and low education levels raise the risk of dementia. All of these factors are modifiable.

What if Super started having memory problems? “I fear I would get really depressed,” she admitted. “Alzheimer’s is such a horrible disease: To see what people you love go through, especially in the early stages, when they’re aware of what’s happening but can’t do anything about it, is excruciating. I’m not sure I want to go through that.”

Gefen of Northwestern said she tells patients that “if [cognitive testing] is something that’s going to stress you out, then don’t do it.”

Nigel Smith, 49, had a change of heart after caring for his mother, Nancy Smith, 81, who’s in hospice care in the Boston area with Alzheimer’s. When he brought his mother in for a neuropsychological exam in early 2017 and she received a diagnosis of moderate Alzheimer’s, she was furious. At that point, Nancy was still living in the family’s large home in Brookline, Massachusetts, which she refused to leave.

Eventually, after his mother ended up in the hospital, Smith was given legal authority over her affairs and he moved her to a memory care unit.

“Now, she’s deteriorated to the point where she has about 5% of her previous verbal skills,” Nigel said. “She smiles but she doesn’t recognize me.”

Does he want to know if something like this might lie in his future?

A couple of years ago, Smith said he was too afraid of Alzheimer’s to contemplate this question. Now he’s determined to know as much as possible, “not so much because I’m curious but so I can help prepare myself and my family. I see the burden of what I’m doing for my mother, and I want to do everything I can to ease that burden for them.”

Kim Hall, 54, of Plymouth, Minnesota, feels a similar need for a plan. Her mother, Kathleen Peterson, 89, a registered nurse for over 50 years, was diagnosed with vascular dementia five years ago. Today, she resides in assisted living and doesn’t recognize most of her large family, including dozens of nieces and nephews who grew up with Hall.

Hall knows her mother had medical issues that may have harmed her brain: a traumatic brain injury as a young adult, uncontrolled high blood pressure for many years, several operations with general anesthesia and an addiction to prescription painkillers. “I don’t share these, and that may work in my favor,” she said.

Still, Hall is concerned. “I guess I want to know if I’m at risk for dementia and if there is anything I can do to slow it down,” she said. “I don’t want what happened to my mother to happen to me.” Probably, Hall speculated, she’ll arrange to take a neuropsychological exam at some point.

Several years ago, when I was grieving my sister’s death from frontotemporal dementia, my doctor suggested that a baseline exam of this sort might be a good idea.

I knew then I wouldn’t take him up on the offer. If and when my time with dementia comes, I’ll have to deal with it. Until then, I’d rather not know.

 Read more at KHN. This story also ran on The New York Times.

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