Friday, March 16, 2012

Just the Facts?: Near Miss Asteroid Returning in 2013 -- Deadly Allergy to Cold -- Bizarre Accidents


Near miss asteroid to return in 2013

An amateur team spotted the unusual asteroid, named 2012 DA14, on February 22.

Its small size and orbit meant that it was observed only after it had flown past Earth at about seven times the distance of the Moon.

However, current predictions indicate that on its next flyby, due on 15 February 2013, it will pass Earth at just 24 000 km – closer than many commercial satellites.

“This is a safe distance, but it is still close enough to make the asteroid visible in normal binoculars,” said Detlef Koschny, responsible for near-earth objects in ESA’s Space Situational Awareness (SSA) office.

The asteroid was discovered by the La Sagra Sky Survey observatory, in the southeast of Spain, near Granada, at an altitude of 1700 m, one of the darkest, least light-polluted locations on the European mainland.

“Considering its path in the morning sky, its rather fast angular motion, the quite faint and fading brightness and its orbit high above the plane of Earth’s orbit, it was a slippery target – and easily could have escaped undetected during this Earth visit,” said Jaime Nomen, one of the discoverers.

“A preliminary orbit calculation shows that 2012 DA14 has a very Earth-like orbit with a period of 366.24 days, just one more day than our terrestrial year, and it ‘jumps’ inside and outside of the path of Earth two times per year.”

While an impact with Earth has been ruled out on the asteroid’s next visit, astronomers will use that close approach for more studies and calculate the Earth and Moon’s gravitational effects on it.

“We will also be keen to see the asteroid’s resulting orbit after the next close approach in order to compute any future risk of impact,” said Koschny.

The La Sagra Sky Survey is operated by the Observatorio Astronomico de Mallorca and has recently joined ESA’s SSA programme. In the future it will provide observations to the asteroid data hub that ESA is developing.

Together with information on space weather and debris, its information will help European scientists and policy-makers understand and assess hazards, particularly if an Earth-threatening asteroid is ever found.

The discovery of 2012 DA14 is particularly significant for the Agency’s SSA office, because it is typical of the estimated half a million undiscovered near-Earth objects up to 30 m across.

“The goal is to be able to spot them at least three weeks before closest approach to Earth.”

“We are developing a system of automated optical telescopes that can detect asteroids just like this one, with the goal of being able spot them at least three weeks before closest approach to Earth,” said Koschny.

To achieve this, ESA specialists supported by European industry are planning a network of 1 m-diameter telescopes with a combined field of view large enough to image the complete sky in one night. - phenomenica

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Girl who is allergic to the cold

It's been a long, lonely winter for Abbie Tully.

The 12-year-old, who lives in Bournemouth, has been forced to spend the last five months stuck indoors because a rare allergy to the cold could kill her.

She only developed the condition cold urticaria in November last year but since then she has been unable to go outside even for a few minutes and cannot attend an ordinary school.

Cooped up: Abbie Tully, 12, pictured left with mother and full-time carer Nina, suffers from a condition called cold urticaria. Her allergy to cold temperatures means she has been stuck indoors since November

Whereas others her age are free to play in the snow or paddle in the sea, even the slightest chill could lead to a deadly allergic reaction for Abbie.

Not only does the condition cause an angry, burning rash to develop all over her body when she is exposed to the elements, a sudden change in temperature could send her body into anaphylactic shock.

For this reason, Abbie has to keep a self-administering syringe of adrenalin - called an Epi-pen - with her at all times in case the dangerous reaction takes hold.

Even wrapping up warm in the cold weather has little effect as the condition develops even if only a small portion of skin is exposed to the cold.

Abbie has even had to quit her normal school and attend a special unit for children with long-term illnesses during the colder half of the year.

Mother Nina Tully, 38, said: 'Both of us have spent the last five months cooped up indoors and I’ve spent a small fortune on thermal underwear, hats, gloves, coats and scarves for her.

WHAT IS COLD URTICARIA?

Its name meaning 'cold hives', this condition is so rare that it is not known how many sufferers there are in the UK.

It causes itchy, red rashes to flare up on the skin upon exposure to cold temperatures, whether through contact with air, water or surfaces.

Symptoms appear within just a few minutes and can last up to two hours.

Eruptions may appear on parts of the body or all over, while more severe reactions can cause shortness of breath, abdominal pain and an irregular heartbeat.

In the worst cases, it can bring about a drop in blood pressure, shock, collapse and even death.

Swimming in cold water is the most common cause of reactions and, since reactions could pose a risk of drowning, sufferers are advised to avoid entering the water unsupervised.

Suspected sufferers can diagnose the condition by holding an ice cube to the skin for a few minutes. If a distinct and swollen rash emerges, further tests may be required.

Among the underlying conditions associated with the allergy are chickenpox, viral hepatitis and glandular fever.

Very high doses of anti-histamines, the go-to medication for most allergy sufferers, are sometimes prescribed - but in Abbie's case they have no effect.

'Within minutes of being outside the reaction spreads all over her legs, arms and face, even if it’s not that cold.

'She is desperate for the weather to warm up so she can play outside. Sometimes all she wants to do is go for a ride on her bike but she can’t.

'It’s so hard on her and she is really struggling to make friends because she has been indoors with me for months.'

Mrs Tully, Abbie’s full-time carer, lives in Bournemouth with her husband John, 41, an IT manager.

The family moved to the south coast from chilly Edinburgh last year, but ironically Abbie’s problems only started after the move to the sunnier end of the country.

Mrs Tully said: 'Abbie has always been a sickly child and developed eczema when she was just four months old.

'Blood tests showed that she was allergic to milk and eggs and then at six months old she was diagnosed with asthma.

'She was always in and out of hospital with chest infections and pneumonia and she’s also allergic to dogs, cats, cows, pollen and feathers.

'However, everything was pretty normal until we moved to Bournemouth. After about six months her problems started.'

In April last year, Abbie went for a dip in the sea and emerged covered head to toe with red, itchy hives.

Doctors at first suspected a water allergy, but when the weather turned cold Abbie suddenly erupted in the rash again.

One day in November, while waiting for the school bus, Abbie turned red and the hives spread all over her face and body.

Mrs Tully said: 'She rang me up hysterical and begged me to let her come home. The reaction was awful and she said people were staring at her - she was mortified.

'Up until that point it had not been that cold but that was the first of the cold weather. She’s been at home pretty much ever since.'

A dermatologist at Christchurch Hospital, in Dorset, diagnosed Abbie with cold urticaria, a rare allergy to the cold.

The hives are a histamine reaction in response to cold stimuli, including a drastic drop in temperature, cold air and cold water.

Abbie cannot attend ordinary school because walking in and out of the school buildings - even for just a few minutes - will lead her to have a painful reaction.

Instead she attends a special learning centre for children who have missed long periods of school four days a week and gets a taxi to and from home.

Mrs Tully said: 'We are still learning how to cope. Things like thermal underwear only help while she is outside, but then often leave her too hot when she gets indoors.

'Even standing in the salad aisle at the supermarket can set off her reaction as its slightly colder than the rest of the shop.

'If she fell in some cold water or if the temperature suddenly changed, she could have a very dangerous reaction in which her body would go into shock.

'That’s why she carries her Epi-pen wherever she goes and all her teachers know how to use it in an emergency.

'Since November we’ve been pretty much locked in the house. I was going to take her shopping with a friend the other day but despite the fact the weather is getting milder it was still too cold.

'Instead I took her to her friend’s house and it was the first time she had been able to do that in nearly six months.'

Mrs Tully believes Abbie’s allergy developed following a viral infection but unfortunately there is no cure.

Anti-histamines are sometimes prescribed for sufferers but in Abbie’s case they have little effect.

So few people in the UK suffer from cold urticaria that it is not known how many people have it. - dailymail

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Scientists unearth 1,400-year-old skeleton of one of Britain's first Christians

Scientists have discovered the remains of what is thought to be one of Britain's first ever Christians after unearthing an "excessively rare" 1,400 year old Anglo-Saxon burial site in Cambridgeshire.

The amazing grave in Trumpington Meadows contains the skeletal remains of a 16-year-old female Catholic convert lying on an ornamental bed clutching a gold and garnet cross.

It is believed the girl, from the 7th century AD, was a member of nobility, persuaded to join the Christian faith after the Pope dispatched St Augustine to England in 597AD.

St Augustine was a benedictine monk, known as the ‘Apostle to the English’, whose job was to convert Anglo-Saxon pagan kings and their families.

Dr Sam Lewsey, an expert on the period, said: "This is an excessively rare discovery. It is the most amazing find I have ever encountered.

"Christian conversion began at the top and percolated down. To be buried in this elaborate way, with such a valuable artefact, tells us that this girl was probably nobility or even royalty.

"This cross is the kind of material culture that was in circulation at the highest sphere of society." - yahoo

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“When Flesh Meets Fabric: The Shroud of Turin” – Interview with Barry Schwortz, photo imaging specialist

Scotty Robert's fascinating interview at Intrepid Magazine

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Mother, son survive 'bizarre' crashes

A mother and her son survived two separate head-on crashes within four minutes of each other on the Kapiti Coast.

Annie Price, 65, of Wellington, is in intensive care after a freak accident at Pukerua Bay.

She was driving north through the township in her Suzuki Escudo when a tyre came off a ute and hit her vehicle, causing her to cross the centre line and crash head-on into an oncoming car.

Just four minutes earlier, her son had also been involved in a head-on smash in which his car was written off.

Anthony O'Halloran, 35, had a "freaky, uneasy" feeling when he left his Upper Hutt home about 6am on Tuesday to head over to the coast, deciding at the last minute not to take his 2-year-old son with him.

"He was meant to come with me but my sister said leave him there.

"As I was going over Haywards I had a funny, uneasy feeling about the day and thought it was best he stayed behind," Mr O'Halloran said.

He was planning to help his mother and stepfather with some work in Paraparaumu.

He turned off State Highway 1 at McKays Crossing and was driving around a corner in nearby Emerald Glen Rd at 6.49am when he saw lights coming straight toward him in the dark.

A Nissan Sentra crossed the centre line and crashed into him.

Despite his Toyota stationwagon being written off, he escaped with only minor injuries.

He said emergency services told him "they had never seen anyone walk away from devastation like that".

"My car was like a piano accordion. All I got was a tiny scratch and a bruise".

As police arrived at the scene, his partner rang. "She said my mother had had a head-on crash. I said, `Yes, I have'.

"She said, `Have you had a head-on crash? Your mother has just been in one.'

"It was so bizarre, neither of us have ever had car accidents before. Two head-on crashes, it was unreal."

Mrs Price remains in Wellington Hospital's intensive care unit but is expected to be moved to a ward later this week.

Two other people were taken to hospital to be checked, one of whom had whiplash.

A 19-year-old man in the car that collided with Mr O'Halloran suffered pelvic injuries and was trapped for a while in his vehicle. He was flown to Wellington Hospital because State Highway 1 was blocked by Mrs Price's accident.

Mr O'Halloran was still recovering from the shock yesterday, "very glad" that he and his mother had survived.

"It still hasn't sunk in. It is so bizarre I was really totally unharmed. I am not in any more pain than I would be after a rugby game.
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"The scariest thing for me was that my 2-year-old was meant to come with me, then 40 minutes later – bang."

Sergeant Mike George said it was "incredible and bizarre" that both mother and son were involved in head-on crashes, in which neither was at fault, within four minutes of each other.

"It was very, very bizarre. Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction."

For the year ending August 2011, 12,952 people were injured in road crashes, the majority of whom were drivers.

Last year's 284 road deaths in New Zealand were the lowest since 1952. - stuff