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Compromises Lead to Climate Change Deal

Secretary-General Addresses Lima Climate Action High-level Meeting.  Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Secretary-General Addresses Lima Climate Action High-level Meeting.
Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten

Earlier this month, delegates from the various states that make up the UN met in Lima, Peru, to agree on a framework for the Climate Change Conference that is scheduled to take place in Paris next year. For over two weeks, representatives debated and discussed the issue, which at times became hotly contested and divisive.

In the end, a compromise was reached between rich and developing nations, which found themselves on opposite sides for much of the proceedings.

And while few member states walked away feeling they had received all they wanted, many expressed that the meeting was an important step on the road to the 2015 Climate Change Conference. It is hoped that this conference will, after 20 years of negotiations, create the first binding and universal agreement on climate change.

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Christmas lighting displays like this one near Duluth, Minn. U.S. are visible from outer space. Credit: Bob King

Christmas lighting displays like this one near Duluth, Minn. U.S. contribute to increased brightness around cities that can be seen from outer space. Credit: Bob King

Call it holiday light creep. A NASA satellite has been tracking the spread of Christmas lighting from 512 miles up for the past three years and according to the data, nighttime lights around many major U.S. cities shine 20 to 50 percent brighter during Christmas and New Year’s when compared to light output during the rest of the year. Not surprisingly, most it comes from suburban areas.

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Why Is Venus So Horrible?

Venus really sucks. It’s as hot as an oven with a dense, poisonous atmosphere. But how did it get that way?
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Artist's conception of the Kepler Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Artist’s conception of the Kepler Space Telescope. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

It’s alive! NASA’s Kepler space telescope had to stop planet-hunting during Earth’s northern-hemisphere summer 2013 when a second of its four pointing devices (reaction wheels) failed. But using a new technique that takes advantage of the solar wind, Kepler has found its first exoplanet since the K2 mission was publicly proposed in November 2013.

And despite a loss of pointing precision, Kepler’s find was a smaller planet — a super-Earth! It’s likely a water world or a rocky core shrouded in a thick, Neptune-like atmosphere. Called HIP 116454b, it’s 2.5 times the size of Earth and a whopping 12 times the mass. It circles its dwarf star quickly, every 9.1 days, and is about 180 light-years from Earth.
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Comet Finlay on December 16th showing a bright coma and short tail. Credit: FRAM team

Comet Finlay on December 16th shows a bright coma and short tail. Its sudden rise  to 9th magnitude was confirmed on December 18th by Australian comet observer Paul Camilleri. The moderately condensed object is about 3 arc minutes in diameter. Credit: J. Cerny, M. Masek, K. Honkova, J. Jurysek, J. Ebr, P. Kubanek, M. Prouza, M. Jelinek

Short-period comet 15P/Finlay, which had been plunking along at a dim magnitude +11, has suddenly brightened in the past couple days to +8.7, bright enough to see in 10×50 or larger binoculars. Czech comet observer Jakub Cerny and his team photographed the comet on December 16th and discovered the sudden surge. Wonderful news!

While comets generally brighten as they approach the Sun and fade as they depart, any one of them can undergo a sudden outburst in brightness. You can find Finlay right now low in the southwestern sky at nightfall near the planet Mars. [click to continue…]

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