Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Daily 2 Cents: NASA's Historic Three-Billion-Mile Journey to Pluto -- Terrifying New Species Discovered -- Numerous 'Macarthur Panther' Sightings

NASA's Historic Three-Billion-Mile Journey to Pluto

NASA has confirmed today that the New Horizons probe has successfully made its closest approach to Pluto.

After an epic journey spanning almost ten years and covering three billion miles NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has finally arrived at the small, distant world of Pluto.

Right now the probe has entered in to its data-gathering mode which means it will be out of contact with controllers on Earth until later on today when a signal is expected to indicate that all is well.

"Pluto was discovered just 85 years ago by a farmer's son from Kansas, inspired by a visionary from Boston, using a telescope in Flagstaff, Arizona," said NASA's John Grunsfeld.

"Today, science takes a great leap observing the Pluto system up close and flying into a new frontier that will help us better understand the origins of the solar system."

Because there is so much data and because the probe is so far away it will take a while for the first high-resolution photographs to be sent back. At its closest approach New Horizons skimmed past Pluto at a distance of approximately 7,750 miles from its surface.

"The New Horizons team is proud to have accomplished the first exploration of the Pluto system," said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern. "This mission has inspired people across the world with the excitement of exploration and what humankind can achieve."

Once the flyby is complete it will take New Horizons 16 months to return all its data to Earth. Read more at NASA's Three-Billion-Mile Journey to Pluto Reaches Historic Encounter


Terrifying New Species Discovered

Sharp teeth, fangs and a potential sting in the tail - researchers have discovered terrifying new species of fish lurking below the surface at our most popular beaches.

The photographs were taken by scientists with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) on a research voyage off the coast of Sydney in NSW.

Some of the species included in the grizzly snaps are the scaleless blackfish - a tiny fanged creature, the eel-like idiacanthidae and the nightmare-inducing chauliodontidae with its comparatively massive front teeth.

Chief scientist for the voyage, UNSW marine biologist Professor Iain Suthers, said he was amazed they were able to find so many on the tiny critters and the discovery will now change how researchers study juvenile fish.

'We had thought fish only developed in coastal estuaries, and that once larvae were swept out to sea that was end of them,' Professor Suthers said.

'But in fact, these eddies are nursery grounds for commercial fisheries along the east coast of Australia.'
However, the fish weren't the only thing found on the voyage, with four extinct volcanoes on the ocean-floor also discovered. Read more at Fishes only a mother could love! Terrifying-looking new species found lurking near just-discovered volcano off Sydney coast


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Interesting note: Since 2006, the Phantoms & Monsters blog has received 14.3 million page views and subscribers have received 38.9 million email newsletters. Lon


Numerous 'Macarthur Panther' Sightings

Mrs Sawka stared in stunned disbelief as the feline crossed Werombi Rd in front of her about 9.30pm on Wednesday.

“It was a very dark brown and about the size of a normal dog but slender,” she said. “It had very bright eyes. It was really unusual.”

The Macarthur Chronicle has reported on panther sightings across the region’s bushland and rural areas including Bargo, Appin, Greendale, Orangeville, Nattai, Cobbitty, Ingleburn, Narellan and Airds.

Mrs Sawka said she did a U-turn to see the cat again before it ran off into the bushes.

“I see a lot of wombats, foxes, kangaroos and such while driving home,” she said.

“At first I thought it was a wombat but as I came back I could see it clearly. It definitely wasn’t a domestic cat.”

Some include US Air Force personnel let wild animals go after World War II, or that panthers escaped from the now defunct Bullen’s Animal World and African Lions Safari in Wallacia.

Mrs Sawka said she wasn’t aware that so many people had reported similar sightings.

“I had heard about it vaguely but didn’t know it was such a big deal because I only moved here four years ago,” she said.

“I was really disappointed it ran off too quickly for me to take a photo.”

Long Point resident Shayne McDonald also reported a sighting this year while hiking in Nattai.

But associate professor at the University of Sydney, Camden, David Phalen cast doubt on the existence of the panther.

“I’m surrounded by biologists right now, let me take a poll,” he said as he answered the Macarthur Chronicle’s call. “No, we don’t believe in it,” he said as he returned to the phone.

Dr Phalen offered an explanation for the sightings.

“People make mistakes in identifying animals all the time,” he said.

“I’m not sure what they could be seeing but I guess at times it could be something like a big domestic cat or dog.

“At the end of the day, I think there is insufficient evidence to suggest a panther exists.”

One of the most popular theories regarding panther sightings is that some big cats may have escaped from Bullen’s Animal World in Wallacia or the African Lion Safari in Warragamba.

Bullen’s Animal World was opened in 1969 by Stafford Bullen, the son of circus founder Alfred Percival Bullen, and operated until 1985.

Mr Bullen’s nearby venture African Lion Safari, which was opened one year prior, closed in 1991.

In its early years, the ­safari proved popular attracting up to 200,000 visitors a year.

Despite its closure, the park continued to hold animals on site that were used in a circus but not displayed to the public.

Giving some confidence to the theory, several lionesses escaped from the park on August 7, 1995.

They entered the nearby townships of Warragamba and Silverdale and one of them killed a dog. The lioness responsible was shot.

A bear also escaped and was shot by residents.

Mr Bullen died in 2001 aged 76. - Numerous reports of panther sighting surface



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