Image credit NASA/JPL-Caltech/MIT
Not every big news story is caused by a politician’s blundering or a celebrity’s wardrobe malfunction: sometimes amazing things happen without any human involved in the story at all, other than to bear witness. And such has been the case in recent days. Even as the Federal Government has ground itself to a halt, the natural world has kept on churning out amazing occurrences. From ancient bones uncovered which offer a new understanding of the past to brand new landmasses suddenly appeared, for today let’s shift our focus to the news of nature.
5 A Cave With Weather
A team of explorers cavers have identified a network of caves with cavernous chambers so vast that they contain their own weather systems. The caves, in the Chongqing province of China, have never been properly explored, though some areas of the network had been used as nitrate mines. The team described rolling fog banks, layers of clouds and even precipitation: clouds and rain underground.
4 A Jellyfish Horde
A nuclear power plant in Sweden was forced to shut down the country’s largest reactor this week when a giant swarm of jellyfish “invaded” the waters nearby. The thousands and thousands of jellies that appeared near the Oskarshamns power plant were being sucked into intake pipes meant to pump cold seawater toward the superheated reactor core. This infestation of moon jellyfish is only the latest in a long line of reactor shutdowns caused by jelly infestations. Plants in the UK, Japan and Israel have all experienced the same thing in years past.
3 A Dinosaur Tail’s Tale
An attentive Canadian construction worker realized he had unearthed more than a trench for a pipeline this week when his backhoe unearthed the fossilized tail of creature that died millions of years ago. Based on the section of tail exposed so far, the creature is likely to be around 35 feet long in total, and has yet to be positively identified, leaving open the possibility that it is a new species of dinosaur. Only time, and painstaking paleontology, will reveal the true identity of the creature long buried near the town of Spirit River.
2 A Distant Weather Report
A team of scientists usually concerned with astrophysics and astronomy have taken on the mantel of the meteorologist this week. The scientists have apparently concluded what the weather is like on the exo-planet (i.e. a planet not in our solar system) Kepler-7b. It has taken more than three years of studying data about the planet, which is more than 1,000 light years away, but the team believes the planet is hot and cloudy (as hot as 1,800 degrees Celsius on the surface), making the gaseous giant even less appealing as a destination, but still a breakthrough for scientific discovery.
1 An Earthquake Gives Birth to an Island
Amidst the death and destruction wrought by the magnitude 7.7 earthquake that struck off the coast of Pakistan this week, there was one odd story of new birth, as well: an island arose from the sea near the coastal town of Gwadar. Recent satellite images have confirmed that the new landmass is in the shape of a rough circle approximately 550 feet in diameter. It was likely formed by mud and debris forced upward by compressed gasses released by the earthquake, and the island is unlikely to be a permanent landmark, but for now it perches some 65 feet above the water, a reminder of the tragedy that killed more than 500 people.