Researchers using data from the European Space Agency’s Venus Express spacecraft said they spotted three active volcanoes that recently poured red hot lava onto the planet’s already broiling surface.
The discovery, announced in a paper published Friday online in Science, suggests that Venus — like the Earth — is periodically resurfaced by lava flows, explaining why it seems devoid of craters.
“We estimate the flows to be younger than 2.5 million years, and probably much younger, likely 250,000 years or less, indicating that Venus is actively resurfacing,” the authors write. They were led by Suzanne E. Smrekar of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.
Venus is only slightly smaller than Earth, but it seems to have evolved rather differently. It is swaddled in dense clouds of carbon dioxide. The pressure at the surface is 93 times the atmospheric pressure on Earth, and the temperature is almost 900 degrees Fahrenheit — enough to melt lead.
The European Space Agency launched its CryoSat-2 satellite on a 140 million-euro ($190 million) mission to measure the thickness of ice on Greenland, Antarctica and the polar seas.
The launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan was aired live on ESA’s Web site. It comes four years after the original satellite was lost due to a failure of the launcher. About 17 minutes after liftoff, the agency confirmed the first signal from the CryoSat-2 was received in Malindi, Kenya.
“This time the launcher worked beautifully: We are in orbit,” ESA Director-General Jean-Jacques Dordain said. “It’s one additional contribution from ESA to better understand the planet Earth and climate change.”
United Nations scientists have highlighted melting ice as a harbinger of climate change, and in 2007 said oceans will likely rise by as much as 59 centimeters (23 inches) by 2100 as a result of global warming. The loss of sea ice can increase the rate of warming by leaving dark, heat-absorbing ocean exposed.
The European Aeronautic, Defense & Space Co. satellite will use a technique called altimetry that employs radar to gauge the elevation of floating ice and grounded ice caps. The readings over the mission’s 3 1/2-year lifespan will enable scientists to better monitor how quickly ice is melting as the Earth warms, according to the agency.
In its 2007 report, the UN said uncertainty surrounds the amount ice caps may contribute to sea-level rise, a statement supported by scientific studies since then, some of which show melting in Greenland and Antarctica accelerating, and others indicating a possible slowdown.
“We know from our radar satellites that sea ice extent is diminishing but there is still an urgent need to understand how the volume of ice is changing,” ESA’s Director of Earth Observation Programmes, Volker Liebig, said in an e-mailed statement. “To make these calculations, scientists also need information on ice thickness, which is exactly what our new CryoSat satellite will provide.”
Activision Blizzard Inc. came out with guns blazing Friday in its legal battle with two former lead developers of Call of Duty, the video game publisher’s multibillion-dollar franchise.
In a lawsuit that read like a dramatic Hollywood script, Activision claimed it fired Jason West and Vincent Zampella in March because the two “morphed from valued, responsible executives into insubordinate and self-serving schemers who attempted to hijack Activision’s assets for their own personal gain.The Santa Monica firm accused West and Zampella of violating their employment contracts by meeting with a rival publisher — believed to be Electronic Arts Inc. — and using illicit means to recruit former colleagues to join them in forming a new independent game development studio.
An attorney for the pair called the claims “false and outrageous” and said that Activision itself proposed spinning off West and Zampella’s studio as part of a contract renegotiation last year.
Activision’s suit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, counters a complaint that West and Zampella filed against their former employer March 3, two days after being fired as the heads of Infinity Ward, the Encino-based studio purchased by Activision in 2002. Infinity Ward has produced Call of Duty games since the inception of the franchise in 2003.
Astronauts ventured back outside the International Space Station on Sunday, making their second spacewalk in three days to replace an old storage tank.
The 215-mile-high action unfolded on the 40th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 13.
Heading out nearly an hour early, Rick Mastracchio and Clayton Anderson quickly made their way over to the nearly empty ammonia tank that’s been on the space station for eight years as part of the cooling system.
“Everybody ready? Here we go,” Mastracchio said as he unbolted the final connection on the tank. One side of the 1,300-pound, refrigerator-size tank got hung up on a mechanism, and Anderson had to tug it loose.
“I’m really getting good at this,” Anderson said as the tank popped out. He had to use a pry bar during Friday’s spacewalk to get the new replacement tank out of space shuttle Discovery.
As the spacewalkers were moving the old tank toward the robot arm for capture, Anderson got caught on a pit pin and lanyard. “These silly things,” he grumbled, freeing himself.
“Just go slow. It’s fine. There’s no rush,” astronaut Dorothy Metcalf-Lindenburger assured him from inside.
With the spacewalkers serving as lookouts, the robot arm placed the old tank on a space station rail cart for temporary storage. “Keep it coming … beautiful,” Anderson said. The men strapped the tank down with several tethers.