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Did the Navy ever actually pursue the Rock-Site concept at Point Sur or elsewhere? A 1971 study discussed various methods of sea-floor excavation, but by then most man-in-the-sea development was classified. Point Sur is 600 feet of tough rock facing Pacific rollers that come 6,000 miles to pound the central California coast. Like the 19th-century lighthouse that marks the Point, the now-derelict compound of the former Naval Facility Point Sur evokes another era.
The full Moon on Jan 2 will be the perigee full Moon of 2018. Perigee is the point in an object’s elliptical orbit around the Earth where its distance to our planet is minimised. The Moon experiences perigee once per orbit but not always coinciding with full Moon. When it does, it produces a Moon which is appears slightly larger and brighter than those that proceed or follow it. The popular press uses the term Supermoon to describe such an event, a loose term originating from astrology rather than astronomy. Interestingly, the astrological definition means that the full Moons on Dec 3, 2017 and on Jan 31, 2018 are also technically Supermoons. A complete cycle of lunar phases takes one synodic month, approximately 29.5 days long: Moon phases The Moon repeats its phases over a period known as a synodic month, approximately 29.5 days long. So if the Moon is at a particular phase, for example full Moon, it reaches the same phase 29.5 days later. If the Moon is full early in a month containing at least 30 days, two full Moons may occur in the same calendar month. Such timings occur on average once every two-and-a-half years. In rare cases the timing will be such that February misses out altogether with the two full Moons in January being followed by two in March. This will be the case in 2018, a situation that happens roughly four times every century. The second full Moon in a month has, somewhat inaccurately, become known as a Blue Moon and if you’re wondering whether this is linked to the phrase ‘once in a blue Moon’, it isn’t. That references the effects caused by a volcanic eruption. Micron sized particles injected into the atmosphere from such events are particularly good at scattering red light, leaving the blue component to dominate. The eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 was notable for causing blue coloured Moons. The varying distance of the Earth from the Sun throughout the course of the year, causes the apparent size of the Sun as seen from Earth to change Credit: PETE LAWRENCE Earth’s orbit is also elliptical, causing our planet to pass through positions where it is alternately closest and farthest from the Sun. The farthest point occurs at the start of July and is known as aphelion. The closest point is known as perihelion and occurs at the start of January; the 3rd at 03:17 to be exact. Although it may not feel like it, our distance from the Sun on Jan 3 will be 3.1 million miles closer than it will be on July 6 at aphelion. Scintillating Sirius Finding Sirius Switching away from the Sun and daylight, one of the defining sights on a cold January night is that of the beautiful star Sirius twinkling away low towards the southern part of the sky. Sirius is the brightest night time star of them all and the alpha star of Canis Major the Great Dog. It is a fairly obvious sight but if you want further confirmation you have the right target, simply follow the line of Orion’s Belt down and to the left; it points directly at Sirius. Sirius’s brightness is due in part to its relative closeness to our own Sun. It’s a close neighbour, only 8.6 light years away (50,560,000,000,000 miles) and shines with a blue-white colour. From the UK at least, it never gets very high in the sky. For this reason, its light has to pass through a thick layer of turbulent atmosphere and this causes its light to deviate slightly, resulting in noticeable twinkling or, as the effect is known scientifically, scintillation. At low altitudes above the horizon, the atmosphere acts like a prism, spreading incoming starlight into its component colours. Known as atmospheric dispersion, this effect combines with scintillation to make Sirius flash intense colours. Make a point to stare at Sirius the next time it is clear and the colours should be obvious. If you have good dark skies or a pair of binoculars to hand, centre your view on Sirius and then move your gaze down until you arrive at a cluster of stars named Messier 41 (M41). This cluster was known in ancient times, perhaps even being seen by Aristotle as early as 325 BC. In total it contains around 100 stars and covers an area about the same as the full Moon. At its distance of 2,300 light years – that’s 270 times further away than Sirius – its apparent size translates to a physical diameter of around 26 light years. Its proximity to Sirius makes it a particularly nice object to hunt down on a chilly winter evening. The night sky in January Night sky January 2018 The chart shows how the sky will appear at midnight on 1 January, 11pm on 15 January and 10pm on 31 January. The planets are shown along with the location and phase of the Moon at 5-day intervals. The Moon is full on 2 January and again on 31 January. The full Moon on 2 January is a perigee-full Moon, the closest of 2018. The stars are shown as circles; the larger the circle the brighter the star. The hazy area represents the Milky Way. Orientate the chart by holding it in front of you rotated so the compass bearing at the bottom matches the direction you’re facing. The bottom of the chart then reflects your horizon with the middle of the chart representing the view directly above your head. The chart is designed to be viewed using a red torch outside. Red light allows you to see the chart detail without ruining your night vision.
2017 saw a lot of amazing animal discoveries, from new dinosaurs to modern birds. Killer whales lived up to their name in May when they allegedly killed three great white sharks, which people found dead off the coast of South Africa. Scientists suspect orcas had slain the animals to eat their livers because the organs are full of squalene, a compound that is sometimes difficult for orcas to get in their diet.
As cities around the world hold out in anticipation to welcome in the New Year, astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS) have a different plan. Exactly when New Year's Day begins on the ISS is difficult to define, as the spaceship isn’t confined to one specific time zone. In the 2 minute 14 second video, astronauts aboard the ISS told stories of their favorite past New Years Eve and New Year’s Day traditions on Earth, from watching the first sunrise of the New Year in Tokyo to dinner parties with friends and family in Colorado.
China's complete ban on ivory trade went into effect Sunday, officials said, a major step forward in Beijing's efforts to rein in what was once the world's largest market for illegal ivory. "From today... the buying and selling of elephant ivory and goods by any market, shop or vendor is against the law!" the forestry ministry said on its official account on Chinese social media platform Weibo. According to the Xinhua state news agency, a partial ban had already resulted in an 80 percent decline in seizures of ivory entering China.
The “vast majority” of NHS doctors are “not up to speed” with modern genetic techniques that can transform patients’ survival chances, a Government adviser has warned. Professor Patrick Chinnery, a member of the Medical Research Council, said the pace of technical advance meant swathes of the workforce need extra training. Genomics, and in particular whole genome sequencing (WGS), promise a revolution in personalised medicine that can flag an individual’s risk of disease and identify treatments most likely to work. Health chiefs are embracing the science, with a largescale pilot currently running that will lead to a full-scale Genomics Medicine Service within the NHS. But Professor Chinnery, a mitochondrial specialist at Cambridge University, told The Telegraph that while current medical students are being adequately trained, doctors above the age of 30 need to “get up to date”. He said demonstrating a working knowledge of genomics could soon be a condition of the re-licensing process all doctors go through every five years. It means those unable to update their knowledge of what was previously a specialist discipline could face losing their licence to practise. “All doctors will need to be able to understand when to use genomic testing and how to interpret the results they get back from the lab in practice,” Professor Chinnery said. “In the short-term it’s the specialists who will use it but we will increasingly see patients knowledgeable about genomics going to their GPs with questions. “GPs will need to understand what is possible.” The Genomics Medical Service will use approximately eight “factories” across the country to analyse the entire genetic blueprints of NHS patients and compare them to medical records. The more people who donate their genomes, the more links scientists can identify between genes and gene variations, diseases and possible cures. The success of the project will rely on the genomic literacy of front-line staff. The more genomes donated, the more links scientists can find to specific diseases and cures Credit: Reuters However, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) suggested family doctors are under such pressure they may not have time for the extra training required. “We’ve got a job to do to bring the whole profession along with us,” said Professor Chinnery. “The principles of the science are already known, but it’s the breadth of its use which is the challenge. “It will be an interesting test to see whether the processes are there in the system to respond to such a dramatic change in healthcare.” Genomics is already playing a major role in guiding doctors towards the best treatments for various cancers, such as Herceptin for women with HER2 positive breast cancer. In addition, around 80 per cent of rare diseases, affecting approximately three million people, are genomic in origin. Earlier this year the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, said all cancer patients in Britain should undergo DNA gene sequencing to prevent the misery of misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment. A person’s entire genetic makeup can be studied from just a small sample of blood or saliva. There are currently 25 small laboratories in Britain running DNA testing for a handful of conditions at around £600 per whole genome sequence, but reports predict costs could be slashed dramatically it they were brought under a centralised system. Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP, said she welcomed the potential of genetic science, adding: “But in order to interpret this data so that we can use it in a meaningful way, GPs and our teams will need to be provided with access to robust reporting, high quality training and the time and resources to learn about these new developments and the time to effectively communicate genomic data with their patients. “They must also be given support around the substantial ethical, social and legal implications that come with handling such sensitive patient data. “It must also be remembered that GPs and our teams are currently under intense resource and workforce pressures, and this needs to be taken into account before any more duties – including suggestions of mandatory training – are imposed on our profession without sufficient resources and capacity to safely deliver them.” The General Medical Council, which regulates doctors, is currently consulting on the skill requirements graduates need to engage in genomics.
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