Tag Archive: Iowa State University


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Comet fragments best explanation of mysterious dimming star

Date:
November 25, 2015
Source:
Iowa State University
Summary:
Astronomers have responded to the buzz about a mysterious dimming star by studying data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. They conclude the dimming was probably caused by a family of comets passing in front of the star.

This illustration shows a star behind a shattered comet. Observations of the star KIC 8462852 by NASA’s Kepler and Spitzer space telescopes suggest that its unusual light signals are likely from dusty comet fragments, which blocked the light of the star as they passed in front of it in 2011 and 2013. The comets are thought to be traveling around the star in a very long, eccentric orbit.
Credit: Illustration by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Was it a catastrophic collision in the star’s asteroid belt? A giant impact that disrupted a nearby planet? A dusty cloud of rock and debris? A family of comets breaking apart? Or was it alien megastructures built to harvest the star’s energy?

Just what caused the mysterious dimming of star KIC 8462852?

Massimo Marengo, an Iowa State University associate professor of physics and astronomy, wondered when he saw all the buzz about the mysterious star found by citizen scientists on the Planet Hunters website.

Those citizen scientists were highlighting measurements of star brightness recorded by NASA’s Kepler spacecraft. Tiny dips in a star’s brightness can indicate a planet is passing in front of the star. That’s how Kepler astronomers — and citizen scientists using the internet to help analyze the light curves of stars — are looking for planets.

But this star had deep dips in brightness — up to 22 percent. The star’s brightness also changed irregularly, sometimes for days and even months at a time. A search of the 150,000-plus stars in Kepler’s database found nothing like this.

So Marengo and two other astronomers decided to take a close look at the star using data taken with the Infrared Array Camera of NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope. They report their findings in a paper recently published online by The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Their conclusion?

“The scenario in which the dimming in the KIC 8462852 light curve were caused by the destruction of a family of comets remains the preferred explanation …,” wrote the three — Marengo; Alan Hulsebus, an Iowa State doctoral student; and Sarah Willis, a former Iowa State graduate student now with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory.

Questions about the star were launched last month when a research team led by Tabetha Boyajian of Yale University reported on the star in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. The astronomers reported how citizen scientists tagged the star’s deep and irregular dips in brightness as “bizarre” and “interesting.”

Boyajian and the other researchers looked at the data and investigated several possible causes. They wrote the “most promising theory” was a barrage of crumbling comets passing in front of the star.

In a subsequent paper submitted to The Astrophysical Journal, Jason Wright and colleagues at Penn State University speculated about other causes, including alien megastructures built to harvest energy while orbiting the star.

When the Iowa State astronomers studied the star with Spitzer infrared data from January 2015 — two years after the Kepler measurements — Marengo said they didn’t see much. If there had been some kind of catastrophe near the star, he said there would be a lot of dust and debris. And that would show up as extra infrared emissions.

Marengo said the study looked at two different infrared wavelengths: the shorter was consistent with a typical star and the longer showed some infrared emissions, but not enough to reach a detection threshold. The astronomers concluded there were no excess infrared emissions and therefore no sign of an asteroid belt collision, a giant impact on a planet or a dusty cloud of rock and debris.

So Marengo and his colleagues say the destruction of a family of comets near the star is the most likely explanation for the mysterious dimming. The comet fragments coming in rapidly at a steep, elliptical orbit could create a big debris cloud that could dim the star. Then the cloud would move off, restoring the star’s brightness and leaving no trace of excess infrared light.

And the alien megastructure theory?

“We didn’t look for that,” Marengo said. “We can’t really say it is, or is not. But what the star is doing is very strange. It’s interesting when you have phenomena like that — typically it means there’s some new physical explanation or a new concept to be discovered.”


Story Source:

The above post is reprinted from materials provided by Iowa State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Massimo Marengo, Alan Hulsebus, Sarah Willis. KIC 8462852: THE INFRARED FLUX. The Astrophysical Journal, 2015; 814 (1): L15 DOI: 10.1088/2041-8205/814/1/L15

Earth Watch Report  –  Biological Hazards

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Biological Hazard USA State of Virginia, [The area was not defined.] Damage level Details

 

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RSOE EDIS

Biological Hazard in USA on Thursday, 10 April, 2014 at 03:23 (03:23 AM) UTC.

Description
Dr. Richard Wilkes, State Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), announced Tuesday that Virginia has just received laboratory confirmation of its first case of Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED). In light of this case, which coincides with the beginning of the exhibit season for 4-H members, ffa students and other livestock exhibitors, Dr. Wilkes says strict biosecurity is the most effective and most practical way to prevent the spread of PED and many other livestock and poultry diseases. Wilkes encourages every person involved in showing livestock to enhance their biosecurity efforts. “We always urge livestock owners who show animals and managers of show and exhibition facilities to keep biosecurity uppermost in their minds,” Wilkes said, “but with swine, it is even more important now that Virginia has experienced its first case of PED. Good biosecurity can help keep the disease from spreading.” Anytime animals are co-mingled at events, there is a risk they may be exposed to an infectious disease agent. Some states have cancelled pre-show weigh-ins or other animal commingling events to try to prevent PED infection of swine. Virginia show managers may want to consider voluntarily cancelling some of the higher risk activities. The PED virus is highly contagious, and commonly spreads through pig manure. Consuming pork continues to be safe and the disease does not affect humans, but is often deadly to piglets. Practicing and implementing sound biosecurity measures is critical in keeping the state’s animals disease free and marketable. Equine Herpes Virus is another highly contagious disease that has caused disease and death at multiple equine events across the country recently. Wilkes says that good biosecurity and advance planning will reduce the chances of spreading an infectious disease by people, animals, shoes and clothing or equipment. Show managers should have a proper biosecurity plan ready to execute in the event that an animal disease is introduced at a major stock show or event.
Biohazard name: Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED)
Biohazard level: 3/4 Hight
Biohazard desc.: Bacteria and viruses that can cause severe to fatal disease in humans, but for which vaccines or other treatments exist, such as anthrax, West Nile virus, Venezuelan equine encephalitis, SARS virus, variola virus (smallpox), tuberculosis, typhus, Rift Valley fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, yellow fever, and malaria. Among parasites Plasmodium falciparum, which causes Malaria, and Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes trypanosomiasis, also come under this level.
Symptoms:
Status: confirmed

 

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National Hog Farmer

 

Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) Virus: FAQ and Survival Tips

 Iowa State University swine veterinarians provide answers to some of the most-asked questions about Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) virus.

By now, swine producers should be well aware of the emergence of porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus in the United States.  Do not underestimate the likelihood of transmission to your herd; this is a sneaky virus.

Some answers to common questions asked at the diagnostic laboratory follow, as well as tidbits on how to understand disease impact and decreases losses of suckling pigs.

What is PED Virus?

Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) virus is a disease occurring only in pigs, caused by a coronavirus that does exactly what the disease name implies: produces acute and severe outbreaks of diarrhea that rapidly transmits among all ages of pigs (epidemic).

Where did PED virus come from?  Sequence data from U.S. strains thus far suggests all to be very similar to a strain deposited in GenBank from China in 2012. PED virus is present in many countries in Asia and has been present in Europe since the 1970s.

How common is PED Virus in the United States?

Data provided by veterinary diagnostic laboratories to the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) suggests that there are 40-50 new cases of PED virus diagnosed each week, with the disease now reported in 14 states. The epidemic form of the disease is easy to recognize clinically so samples may not always be submitted to a laboratory, hence currently reported data likely underestimates true prevalence. An accurate estimate of U.S. prevalence is difficult to achieve and will eventually need to rely on serologic surveys, particularly if the disease becomes endemic.

How did PED virus get into the United States?

There is no confirmation of particular source or location of entry of the virus. Speculation abounds, but it is unlikely that we will ever know how PED virus entered the United States with certainty. However, this does provide the opportunity to scrutinize the possibilities to prevent future events.

How is PED virus spread?

Huge numbers of virus particles are shed in feces. One thimble-full of feces could contain enough virus to infect all the pigs in the United States. The PED virus is being detected in samples collected from pig collection points, slaughter facilities, transportation vehicles and innumerable fomites illustrating the vast potential for transmission. It is expected that survivability and transmission of virus will be enhanced in cold weather. Farm biosecurity efficacy is likely to be tested aggressively in the coming months.

How do I get an accurate diagnosis of PED virus?

If PED virus is suspected, consult your veterinarian. Sometimes, 10 ml of feces from acutely affected pigs tested by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is sufficient to confirm the presence of virus. However, submission of tissues from acutely affected pig(s) for complete diagnostic testing (bacteria, viruses, parasites) will allow for diagnosis of PED virus as well as other diseases. The value of histopathology and immunohistochemistry (IHC) testing is illustrated in Figures 1-4 below. Sampling tips are found at http://vetmed.iastate.edu/vdpam/disease-topics/porcine-epidemic-diarrhea-ped-diagnostic-testing as well as the addendum below.

What is the impact of PED virus in weaned pigs?

Once pigs are weaned, the mortality rate from PED virus plummets. When not complicated by other diseases, pigs in nursery-finisher stages generally recover in about a week. The rumors of severe disease or high mortality in weaned pigs usually involve co-infections with salmonella or hemolytic E. coli or other risk factors associated with the environment or feeding practices.

 

 

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National Hog Farmer

 

Virginia Confirms PEDV Outbreak, Focuses on Biosecurity

Richard Wilkes, DVM, State Veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS), recently announced that Virginia has just received laboratory confirmation of its first case of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) in the state. In light of this case, which coincides with the beginning of the exhibit season for 4-H members, FFA students and other livestock exhibitors, Wilkes says strict biosecurity is the most effective, as well as the most practical way to prevent the spread of PEDV and many other livestock and poultry diseases.

Wilkes encourages every person involved in showing livestock to enhance their biosecurity efforts. He noted that the VDACS always urges livestock owners who show their animals, as well as those individuals who manage show and exhibition facilities to keep biosecurity uppermost in their minds.

However, Wilkes said that with swine it is even more important now that Virginia has experienced its first case of PEDV, and that having good biosecurity measures in place can help reduce the spread of the disease.

Anytime animals are co-mingled at events, there is a risk they may be exposed to an infectious disease agent. Some states have cancelled pre-show weigh-ins or other animal commingling events to try to prevent PEDV infection of swine.

 

Read More here

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Earth Watch Report  –  Extreme Weather  –  Drought

Drought-stressed corn grows on a farm near Oregon, Mo., in late August. Drought expanded this week in much of the Midwest, including Missouri.(Photo: Orlin Wagner, AP)

Drought USA State of Minnesota, [Golden Valley region] Damage level Details

Drought in USA on Saturday, 14 September, 2013 at 12:29 (12:29 PM) UTC.

Description
The metro area started the summer with heavy rains wiping out much of the drought. Now because of the lack of rain since, “severe” drought has made its way back to parts of the north metro. “The worst of the drought stretches from the St. Cloud area through the northern Twin Cities metro right down the Mississippi River through Winona,” said climatologist Pete Boulay. Boulay reported the worsening drought outlook Thursday. “They’re about 4 inches short at the airport. If you live in Anoka, Washington, Ramsey Counties you’re about five inches short of normal,” he said. “If you live down in Winona, they’re missing eight inches of rain.” It’s turned lush lawns into crunchy fields. The more brown underneath Frank Rothanburg’s shoes, the less green in his pockets. “There’s no work with all the grass being dead. There ain’t nothing to do,” said Rothanburg. He estimates his Anoka company, Superb Lawn Care, has lost $40,000 over the summer. “We’ve got places we haven’t mowed in three weeks now because they’re just so burnt up,” he said. And it’s not just rain that’s missing. “We’ve only seen maybe between 10 or 12 tornados for the year. And that’s well below normal,” said Boulay. And according to Rothanburg, even watering every other day isn’t helping. He is now hoping “Mother Nature” steps in. “Nothing’s helping. We need rain bad,” said Rothanburg.

Drought worsens in Midwest, South; affects crops

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The combination of heat and scarce amounts of rain intensified the drought in several agriculturally significant states, contributing to declining crop conditions in parts of the Midwest and South.

However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in a separate report Thursday the expected record corn harvest and third-largest soybean crop are on track, since areas that aren’t seeing as severe a drought will produce enough to make up for the driest regions.

Crops in states such as Kentucky and Tennessee look better than they did a month ago, the USDA said, while Iowa and Missouri are suffering from the heat.

‘‘The fringes of the corn belt are producing enough to offset Iowa’s loss,’’ said Chad Hart, agriculture economist at Iowa State University.

This week’s national drought monitor, which tracked conditions from Sept. 3 to Tuesday, shows nearly 50.7 percent of the contiguous United States is now in moderate drought or worse, up from just over 50 percent the week before.

The report said in Iowa, the nation’s largest corn producer, severe drought spread to nearly 42 percent of the state — up from 32 percent a week ago. All but two of the state’s counties, both in east-central Iowa, are experiencing some level of drought or abnormally dry conditions.

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More than half of USA in a drought

Drought is at its largest percentage since April.

Drought covers more than half of the country and is at its largest percentage since early April, according to this week’s U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly federal website.

As of Tuesday, 50.7% of the contiguous USA is in a drought.

Hot, dry weather over the past week led to worsening drought in the central USA: In the Midwest, where temperatures have been as much as 10 degrees above normal over the past week, drought expanded in parts of Missouri, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to the monitor.

For example, since July 1, La Crosse, Wis., has received only 2.4 inches of rain, the driest July 1-Sept. 10 period on record for that location.

 

Read More Here

 

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Midwest hot, dry spell brings back drought worries

In this Aug. 28, 2013, photo drought-stressed corn grows on a farm near Oregon, Mo. A growing season that began unusually wet and cold in the Midwest is finishing hot and dry, renewing worries of drought and the impact it may have on crops according to the weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, by the University of Nebraska at Lincoln. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

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Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A growing season that began unusually wet and cold in the Midwest is finishing hot and dry, renewing worries of drought and its impact on crops.

Temperatures soared to records in recent days in parts of the region, reaching nearly 100 degrees in some areas. The heat wave struck many farm states — from the Dakotas to Wisconsin, down through Missouri — that have seen too little rain this growing season.

“It’s about the worst case scenario we could have with these high temperatures and the lack of water with soil moisture declining,” said Roger Elmore, an agronomy professor at Iowa State University.

A wet, cool spring delayed planting and slowed crop growth — but it also replenished soil moisture in many crop producing states, causing some of last year’s widespread drought to retreat. The rain stopped in July in many of those states, however, and as the soil dried out, the heat set in and stressed corn and soybean crops.

The southeast Iowa city of Burlington, which is surrounded by corn fields, had its wettest spring on record at 19.23 inches of precipitation, nearly 8 inches above normal. Yet it’s now on track to have its driest summer on record, with only 3.86 inches so far, 8.41 inches below normal.

Wayne Humphries farms about 1,000 acres about 45 miles north of Burlington at Columbus Junction. He grows corn and soybeans and raises hogs.

He said he delayed planting by about 30 days because of wet fields and now is watching the lower leaves of cornstalks turn brown from lack of moisture. He hasn’t seen a measurable rain for 30 days.

Soybean plants are suffering too as seeds are developing in the pods.

“I have solace in the fact that we did everything we could and we did it to the best of our ability and now whatever happens, happens,” he said. “It’s sort of a philosophical moment.”

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Expanding U.S. Drought, Excessive Heat Hurt Iowa Corn, Soy Crops

High heat and little rain during the past week led to an unusual, quick expansion of drought conditions in Iowa and Illinois, damaging crops in the biggest U.S. corn- and soybean-growing states.

About 25 percent of Iowa had a moderate drought on Aug. 27, up from 7.9 percent a week earlier, while Illinois jumped to 20 percent from none, the U.S. Drought Monitor said yesterday in a report. Parts of Iowa received less than 25 percent of normal rain during the past 60 days, and much of Illinois got less than half of normal since June 30, data from the High Plains Regional Climate Center show.

After a wet May and June delayed planting, the U.S. Department of Agriculture cut its soybean-crop forecast by 4.8 percent on Aug. 12 and reduced its corn estimate for a third straight month. July was the 20th coldest in 119 years in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa, National Weather Service data show. Soybean futures are up 17 percent from an 18-month low on Aug. 7 on forecasts for dry weather, and corn rose 7.5 percent from a 35-month low on Aug. 13.

“The heat and drought are speeding crop development and reducing yield potential daily,” Roger Elmore, an agronomist at Iowa State University in Ames, said in a telephone interview. “We are skipping over critical stages of development that probably can’t recover even if temperatures cool and a little rain falls.”

While the crops need hot weather to develop, temperatures that approached 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius) from Nebraska to Indiana in the past five days can cut corn yields at least 3 percent a day while reducing the number of seeds and seed weight in soybeans, Elmore said.

Yield Loss

Cool weather during the first 19 days of August masked the stress that the dry spell was causing to crops over most of the Midwest, Planalytics Inc. said in a report yesterday. The epicenter of the crop damage is in Iowa, based on the vegetative growth index that the forecaster constructs biweekly from satellite images.

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May 01, 2013 5:57 PM
Corn plants dry in a drought-stricken farm field near Fritchton, Ind., last summer.

Corn plants dry in a drought-stricken farm field near Fritchton, Ind., last summer.

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Say the words “crop insurance” and most people start to yawn. For years, few nonfarmers knew much about these government-subsidized insurance policies, and even fewer found any fault with them. After all, who could criticize a safety net for farmers that saves them from getting wiped out by floods or drought?

But consider this: According to a , crop insurance allowed corn and soybean farmers not only to survive last year’s epic drought, but it also allowed them to make bigger profits than they would have in a normal year. A big chunk of those profits were provided through taxpayer subsidies. In fact, crop insurance has grown into the largest subsidy that the government provides to America’s farmers.

Economist from Iowa State University carried out the new analysis. It was commissioned by the , a long-time critic of agricultural subsidies.

“We really saw, in 2012, how the crop insurance program performs,” he says. “It kind of reveals itself.”

What’s revealed, first of all, is the fact that the vast majority of farmers are signing up for a version of insurance that Babcock calls the “Cadillac.” This kind of policy covers two different kinds of losses: lower harvests or lower prices.

Here’s why it’s Cadillac insurance and why it ends up costing taxpayers billions of dollars. Last year, farmers got a poor harvest. At the same time, because corn and soybeans were in short supply, prices soared, which benefited farmers greatly. The insurance, however, paid farmers for the lost yield — but paid them at the higher, post-drought market price. Essentially, farmers reaped the drought’s benefits, yet were protected from its harm.

“Those farmers made more money than they anticipated making when they planted the crop. That’s clear,” says Babcock.

 

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Nature fights back – bugs devour GM Monsanto corn with a vengeance

Friday, June 22, 2012 by: Tony Isaacs

corn

(NaturalNews) Corn genetically engineered by Monsanto to kill western corn rootworm is reportedly being devoured by those pests with a vengeance. Thanks to heavy reliance on the genetically modified (GM) crops, the tiny rootworm pest has overtaken fields, outsmarting the genetic engineering that was supposed to keep it away.

Nature fights back against GM corn
The GM corn, launched in 2003, is engineered to produce a protein, known as Cry3Bb1, derived from a bacterium known as Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. In theory, rootworms ingest Bt corn roots and the protein is fatal. However, recent reports indicate that pesticide-resistant rootworms are showing up weeks earlier and more voraciously than ever.

In a research paper published in the July/August/September 2012 issue of the journal GM Crops & Food, scientists reported that samples taken in 2010 indicated that rootworm populations had an eleven-fold survival rate on Cry3Bb1 maize than did control populations. The paper noted that resistant corn rootworm populations first identified in 2009 had three-fold survival rates on Cry3Bb1 maize at that time compared to other populations.

Mike Gray, a professor of entomology with the University of Illinois reported: “We’re still early in the growing season, and the adults are about a month ahead of schedule,” explained Gray. “I was surprised to see them – and there were a lot.”

Reports of increasing rootworm damage began coming in last year after Iowa State University researcher Aaron Gassmann published a study saying that the rootworms in Iowa were becoming resistant to GM corn, creating so-called “superbugs.” Farmers in several states found that the western corn rootworm was surviving after ingesting an insecticidal toxin produced by the corn plants.

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