Scientists launch campaign to restore Pluto to the planet club

UNTV News   •   March 30, 2017   •   3489

FILE PHOTO – Pluto nearly fills the frame in this image from the Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) aboard NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, taken on July 13, 2015 when the spacecraft was 476,000 miles (768,000 kilometers) from the surface. Courtesy NASA/Handout via REUTERS

A team of scientists seeking to restore Pluto to planethood launched a campaign on Tuesday to broaden the astronomical classifications which led to its demotion to a “dwarf planet” a decade ago.

Six scientists from institutions across the United States argued that Pluto deserves to be a full planet, along with some 110 other bodies in the solar system, including Earth’s moon.

In a paper presented at an international planetary science conference at The Woodlands, Texas, the scientists explained that geological properties, such as shape and surface features, should determine what constitutes a planet.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union, struggling with how to classify a newly discovered icy body beyond Pluto, adopted a definition for a planet based on characteristics that include clearing other objects from its orbital path.

Pluto and its newfound kin in the solar system’s distant Kuiper Belt region were reclassified as dwarf planets, along with Ceres, the biggest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The decision left the solar system with eight planets.

But this definition sidelines the research interests of most planetary scientists, said the paper’s lead author, Kirby Runyon, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University.

Runyon said he and other planetary scientists are more interested in a planet’s physical characteristics, such as its shape and whether it has mountains, oceans and an atmosphere.

“If you’re interested in the actual intrinsic properties of a world, then the IAU definition is worthless,” he said by phone.

Runyon and colleagues argue that the IAU does not have the authority to set the definition of a planet.

“There’s a teachable moment here for the public in terms of scientific literacy and in terms of how scientists do science,” Runyon added. “And that is not by saying, ‘Let’s agree on one thing.’ That’s not science at all.”

Runyon’s group advocates for a sub-classification system, similar to biology’s hierarchal method. This approach would categorize Earth’s moon as a type of planet.

That idea irks California Institute of Technology astronomer Mike Brown, who discovered the Kuiper Belt object that cast Pluto out of the planet club.

“It really takes blinders to not look at the solar system and see the profound differences between the eight planets in their stately circular orbits and then the millions and millions of tiny bodies flitting in and out between the planets and being tossed around by them,” he wrote in an email. —  By Irene Klotz

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Leslie Adler)

Trump’s visit to mass shooting sites ‘not welcome’

Robie de Guzman   •   August 7, 2019

Flowers, messages and candles reflect the grief
of the communities where two mass shootings took place last weekend.

The communities of El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, where 31 people were killed and scores more were wounded in two mass shootings last weekend, are not open to the United States President Donald Trump’s scheduled visits to their cities.

As the communities grieve, some politicians in both cities say the president isn’t welcome.

There is a mountain of flowers, messages, and candles, which is a symbol of the heartbreak and devastation calls for the mass shooting in El Paso on Saturday.

The city’s hospitals continue to treat those wounded in the attack.

Some of the survivors are still coming to terms with the horror.

“We were going to the store to get groceries for my kids. It just went chaotic as soon as we got there. My mum was in the produce department and I was in the drink department. And then I heard a gunshot,” said Christopher Grant, a survivor in El Paso attack.

The El Paso community continues to mourn the horrid events over the weekend. This is now one of the worst mass shooting in U.S. history. And tensions continue to run high ahead of Trump’s visit here.

“Don’t let him come here. That’s what I have been hearing all day,” said Veronica Escobar, a congresswoman in Texas.

Escobar is among those who say Trump isn’t welcome, saying the president has repeatedly targeted the Mexican community.

“The words that he has used to describe Hispanics and immigrants have fueled a lot of that hatred and that bigotry and have inspired some violence,” she said.

Trump is also scheduled to visit Dayton, Ohio, the scene of the other mass shooting last weekend.

The mayor of the city has criticized the president for not being stronger on gun control.

Mexican authorities are threatening legal action, claiming the U.S. failed to protect their citizens that died in the El Paso attack.

Two cities devastated by mass shootings united in grief. (REUTERS)

Church shooter fled mental facility in 2012 – Police

admin   •   November 8, 2017

The gunman who killed 26 churchgoers in Texas fled from a mental health clinic in 2012, according to a police report.

Officers in El Paso in West Texas who detained Devin Kelley five years ago said Kelley had been sent to a mental health facility after he was sent to the court-martial for assaulting his ex-wife and toddler stepson during a stint in US Air Force.

El Paso police arrested Kelley at a bus terminal in downtown El Paso in June 2012, according to a police report first reported by KPRC in Houston.

Officers wrote that later on Kelley fled peak behavioral health services in Santa Teresa, New Mexico. The person who reported him missing from the facility told police Kelley “suffered from mental disorders”.

FBI investigators said on Tuesday they have been trying to unlock Kelley’s mobile phone, to better understand what led him to carry out the mass shooting.

“Unfortunately at this point in time, we are unable to get into that phone. With the advance of the technology and the phones and encryption’s, law enforcement — whetted it’s at the state, local or the federal level is increasingly not able to get into these phones,” said  Christopher Combs, an FBI Special Agent-in-Charge.

Investigators are still probing a conflict between Kelley and his in-laws that appeared to have set off his rampage.

“There were questions regarding the suspect’s mother-in-law.  On Sunday when this crime occurred, she was not in church,” said the FBI agent.

The dead ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old. Twenty others were wounded, with 10 still in critical condition on Tuesday, officials said.

Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his getaway vehicle, where authorities found two handguns, said State Department of Public Safety spokesman Freeman Martin.

“We hope to finish up the crime scene investigation and all the forensic analysis by tomorrow night, and then that will be turned back over to the local officials,” said Martin. — Reuters

Volunteers pitch in with Hurricane Harvey rescue efforts

admin   •   August 30, 2017

The city government of Houston opened several additional emergency shelters to alleviate crowding at the convention center.

Many volunteers are pitching in to help evacuate trapped residents. Volunteers are using their private vehicles and boats to help transfer trapped residents to safety.

 “Some of these people who are in the apartment complex on the other side said they only have food and water enough for about three days. I am worried about those people who are staying in there. If this takes two weeks to drain out, what they’re going to do. And they’re out of power. Their cell phone’s dead. So we try to help them,” said one volunteer rescuer.

“Oh, amazing. We wouldn’t be here right now without them. So they really did help us,” said an affected resident.

The Houston chapter of members, Members Church of God International (MCGI) opened its doors to affected Filipinos and offered them relief assistance.

“I’ve experienced hurricane-like and the one before that was Hurricane Kathrina but not as bad as this Hurricane Harvey. We have water and other groceries,” said resident, Jayson Olds.

“Malapit po kami sa dalawang reservoir tapos hindi na po kaya nung reservoir yung tubig na dumarating po so nag re-release na po sila ng water kaya apektado na po yung apartment ( We are near two reservoirs. They were already overfilled so they released water, thereby affecting the apartment),” said Filipino resident Herlou Batinga.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump visited Texas to survey the damage and conferred state officials for the necessary emergency response. — Kath Carriedo | UNTV News & Rescue

 

 

 

 

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