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Home of America’s Space Program Offers abundance of natural wonders to explore in immediate vicinity

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A National Park for the Father of Parks in America. VOA

US, Feb 28, 2017: When people think of Cape Canaveral, Florida, they usually associate it with America’s space program. The Kennedy Space Center is where NASA launched the Saturn V rocket that put the first men on the moon in 1969.

The real Florida

Since then, the area has been the site of many more launches into space. But as national parks traveler Mikah Meyer recently discovered, there is also an abundance of wildlife and other natural wonders to explore and admire in the immediate vicinity.

At Canaveral National Seashore for example, almost 40 kilometers (24 miles) of undeveloped beach is home to more than 1,000 types of plants and more than 300 bird species.

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Take a ride with Mikah

Mikah, who’s on a mission to visit all of the more than 400 sites within the National Park Service (NPS), found it fascinating that Canaveral National Seashore makes up the largest stretch of undeveloped beach on Florida’s East Coast.

“As somebody who drove down the entire coastline, I can tell you that there has been development along the entire Florida coast, such that everywhere either has a house or a condo or a hotel, and this is one stretch where you can go and there is no development,” he said.

That lack of development attracts many locals and tourists, who come to enjoy nature in its most primitive form. And without the pollutants that normally result from development, the water is cleaner too, Mikah noted. That, in turn, attracts fish… and fishermen.

This flock of coots is just a fraction of the waterfowl that spend the winter at Canaveral National Seashore and the adjacent Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida.
This flock of coots is just a fraction of the waterfowl that spend the winter at Canaveral National Seashore and the adjacent Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida. VOA

Walking along the dunes during his recent visit, he noted how the waters were “just inundated with fishermen… as far as the eye can see… even though it was a weekday.”

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Ancient landscapes

At the NPS sister park, Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, Mikah and his companion Andy Waldron traveled along the Black Point Wildlife Drive around several shallow marsh impoundments and through pine flatwoods.

Many say no animal better represents Florida than the American alligator. They are one of the main attractions at the Canaveral National Seashore.
Many say no animal better represents Florida than the American alligator. They are one of the main attractions at the Canaveral National Seashore. VOA

“We saw a number of alligators of all sizes and sorts,” Mikah explained. “And a bunch of birds, not just hanging out but actively running across the water and dipping their heads in and eating and catching fish,” he added.

He also saw a wild boar in the distance, wading through the shallow water, but Mikah was most impressed with the ‘gators living so close to the ocean.

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“It was very interesting the ecosystems that they live in, the natural versus salt water,” he remarked. “And just seeing a live ‘gator in the wild was so cool because so often we see them in zoos or contained areas.”

Mikah and Andy strolled along a wooded trail and a pristine, undeveloped shoreline, much like the first natives and early settlers must have done. They stayed just a short while, but long enough to imagine just how those lands and waterscapes must have seemed to all who came before them not too long ago.

Mikah invites you to learn more about his travels in Florida and all across America by visiting his website, Facebook and Instagram. natoi. (VOA)

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20 Years of Changing Seasons on Earth Captured into 2½ Minutes by NASA

NASA captured 20 years of changing seasons in a striking new global map of the home planet that shows Earth's fluctuations as seen from space

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The Changing seasons of the Earth
The Changing seasons of the Earth has been captured by NASA. Wikimedia.

NASA captured 20 years of changing seasons on Earth in a striking new global map of the home planet.

The data visualization, released this week, shows Earth’s fluctuations as seen from space.

The polar ice caps and snow cover are shown ebbing and flowing with the seasons. The varying ocean shades of blue, green, red and purple depict the abundance — or lack — of undersea life.

“It’s like watching the Earth breathe. It’s really remarkable,” said NASA oceanographer Jeremy Werdell, who took part in the project.

Two decades — from September 1997 to this past September — are crunched into 2½ minutes of viewing.

Werdell finds the imagery mesmerizing. “It’s like all of my senses are being transported into space, and then you can compress time and rewind it, and just continually watch this kind of visualization,” he said Friday.

Werdell said the visualization shows spring coming earlier and autumn lasting longer in the Northern Hemisphere. Also noticeable to him is the receding of the Arctic ice caps over time — and, though less obvious, the Antarctic, too.

On the sea side, Werdell was struck by “this hugely productive bloom of biology” that exploded in the Pacific along the equator from 1997 to 1998 — when a water-warming El Nino merged into cooling La Nina. This algae bloom is evident by a line of bright green.

In considerably smaller Lake Erie, more and more contaminating algae blooms are apparent — appearing red and yellow.

All this data can provide resources for policymakers as well as commercial fishermen and many others, according to Werdell.

Programmer Alex Kekesi of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland said it took three months to complete the visualization, using satellite imagery.

Just like our Earth, the visualization will continually change, officials said, as computer systems improve, new remote-sensing satellites are launched and more observations are made. (VOA)

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NASA: Earth’s Ozone Hole Shrinks to Smallest Since 1988

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NASA
NASA: Earth's Ozone Hole Shrinks to Smallest Since 1988 (VOA)

Washington: The ozone hole over Antarctica shrank to its smallest peak since 1988, NASA said Thursday. The huge hole in Earth’s protective ozone layer reached its maximum this year in September, and this year NASA said it was 7.6 million square miles (19.6 million square kilometers). The hole size shrinks after mid-September.

This year’s maximum hole is more than twice as big as the United States, but it’s 1.3 million square miles smaller than last year and 3.3 million square miles smaller than 2015.

FILE - A false-color view of total ozone over the Antarctic pole is seen in this NASA handout image released Oct. 24, 2012. The purple and blue colors are where there is the least ozone. The average area covered by the Antarctic ozone hole in that year was the second smallest in two decades, at 8.2 million square miles; in September 2017, it was 7.6 million square miles.

[ FILE – A false-color view of total ozone over the Antarctic pole is seen in this NASA handout image released Oct. 24, 2012. The purple and blue colors are where there is the least ozone. The average area covered by the Antarctic ozone hole in that year was the second smallest in two decades, at 8.2 million square miles; in September 2017, it was 7.6 million square miles ].

Paul Newman, chief Earth scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said stormy conditions in the upper atmosphere warmed the air and kept the chemicals chlorine and bromine from eating ozone. He said scientists haven’t quite figured out why some years are stormier — and have smaller ozone holes — than others.

“It’s really small this year. That’s a good thing,” Newman said.

Newman said this year’s drop is mostly natural but is on top of a trend of smaller steady improvements likely from the banning of ozone-eating chemicals in a 1987 international treaty. The ozone hole hit its highest in 2000 at 11.5 million square miles (29.86 million square kilometers).

Ozone is a colorless combination of three oxygen atoms. High in the atmosphere, about 7 to 25 miles (11 to 40 kilometers) above the Earth, ozone shields Earth from ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer, crop damage and other problems.

Scientists at the United Nations a few years ago determined that without the 1987 treaty, by 2030 there would have been an extra 2 million skin cancer cases. They said that overall, the ozone layer is beginning to recover because of the phase-out of chemicals used in refrigerants and aerosol cans. (VOA)

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NASA sounding rocket probing dark regions of space falters

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NASA

Washington, Oct 31: A NASA sounding rocket launched with the aim of studying the darks voids in between the stars and galaxies that fill the night sky has failed to deliver science data because of a possible issue with the attitude control system.

The Dual-channel Extreme Ultraviolet Continuum Experiment, or DEUCE for short, was launched on Monday from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

“The Black Brant IX sounding rocket performed nominally. However, science data was not obtained because of a possible issue with the attitude control system,” NASA said in a statement late on Monday.

“The payload descended by parachute and was recovered. The Sounding Rocket Program Office is investigating the anomaly,” it added.

The cold, diffuse gas between galaxies — called the intergalactic medium, or IGM for short — hardly emits any light.

To shed light on the nature of the IGM, the sounding rocket was equipped with special ultraviolet optics.

The experiment was designed to measure starlight from a pair of nearby hot stars in the constellation Canis Major, aiming to help researchers understand how the IGM got to its current state.

–IANS