Friday Flotsam: Merapi now a "national emergency" and new monitoring tools for Newberry Caldera

Busy day for me here at the Department, so I just wanted to highlight some news, both from Merapi and beyond

Merapi: The NASA Earth Observatory posted some great IR thermal images of a pyroclastic flow from the volcano. The image taken on November 1 shows the domes at the summit area along with the trail of hot material left by a dome-collapse pyroclastic flow. This flow only travelled ~5-6 km from the volcano, unlike the flow yesterday that made it at least 12 km from the crater when the pyroclastic flow followed a river channel down the volcano's slopes. At least 60 people were killed. Currently, the death toll from this new eruptive period at Merapi is at least 122 people - and the footage of the evacuees is hard to watch, with many people covered in ash and injured with their homes destroyed by ash fall or pyroclastic flows.The president of Indonesia is now in Yogjakarta to monitor the relief effort, which has now been taken over by the national disaster mitigation agency and a national emergency was declared. And if you can imagine it, the current number of evacuees from the area is thought to have reached over 160,000. UPDATE: The NASA EO has now posted another image (that R Simmon kindly linked to in the comments as well) of the plume from Merapi punching through the cloud deck.

Newberry Volcano, Oregon: If we needed any reminder about the importance of preparedness and volcano monitoring, Merapi is it. So, it shouldn't be surprising that USGS geologists closely watch volcanoes that many people forget can still be a threat, such as Oregon's Newberry Caldera. Dr. Julie Donnelly-Nolan told reporters that "we have no reason to believe it’s finished" - that is, the volcano is still viable, even after 1,300 years since its last eruption. Eight new seismometers are being installed around the caldera next summer to help with monitoring volcanoes in the Central Oregon Cascades. That being said, there is no imminent threat of an eruption, but as with any potentially active volcano, it is better to be overprepared than under.

Top left: An aerial view of Newberry Caldera in Oregon, with the Big Obsidian Flow in the background.

How to make a black hole

Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.

  • There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
  • CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
  • Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
  • Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.

Russian reporters discover 101 'tortured' whales jammed in offshore pens

Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.

Politics & Current Affairs
  • Russian news network discovers 101 black-market whales.
  • Orcas and belugas are seen crammed into tiny pens.
  • Marine parks continue to create a high-price demand for illegal captures.
Keep reading Show less

China’s artificial sun reaches fusion temperature: 100 million degrees

In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.

Credit: EAST Team
Surprising Science
  • The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
  • Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
  • Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
Keep reading Show less