Scientists Make 'Disturbing' Find on Remote Island: Plastic Rocks

A 'plastic rock' found by Brazilian scientists on Trindade Island, one of the most remote places on the planet. Fernanda AVELAR / Parana Federal University/AFP
A 'plastic rock' found by Brazilian scientists on Trindade Island, one of the most remote places on the planet. Fernanda AVELAR / Parana Federal University/AFP
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Scientists Make 'Disturbing' Find on Remote Island: Plastic Rocks

A 'plastic rock' found by Brazilian scientists on Trindade Island, one of the most remote places on the planet. Fernanda AVELAR / Parana Federal University/AFP
A 'plastic rock' found by Brazilian scientists on Trindade Island, one of the most remote places on the planet. Fernanda AVELAR / Parana Federal University/AFP

There are few places on Earth as isolated as Trindade island, a volcanic outcrop a three- to four-day boat trip off the coast of Brazil.

So geologist Fernanda Avelar Santos was startled to find an unsettling sign of human impact on the otherwise untouched landscape: rocks formed from the glut of plastic pollution floating in the ocean, AFP said.

Santos first found the plastic rocks in 2019, when she traveled to the island to research her doctoral thesis on a completely different topic -- landslides, erosion and other "geological risks."

She was working near a protected nature reserve known as Turtle Beach, the world's largest breeding ground for the endangered green turtle, when she came across a large outcrop of the peculiar-looking blue-green rocks.

Intrigued, she took some back to her lab after her two-month expedition.

Analyzing them, she and her team identified the specimens as a new kind of geological formation, merging the materials and processes the Earth has used to form rocks for billions of years with a new ingredient: plastic trash.

"We concluded that human beings are now acting as a geological agent, influencing processes that were previously completely natural, like rock formation," she told AFP.

"It fits in with the idea of the Anthropocene, which scientists are talking about a lot these days: the geological era of human beings influencing the planet's natural processes. This type of rock-like plastic will be preserved in the geological record and mark the Anthropocene."

Island paradise
The finding left her "disturbed" and "upset," said Santos, a professor at the Federal University of Parana, in southern Brazil.

She describes Trindade as "like paradise": a beautiful tropical island whose remoteness has made it a refuge for all sorts of species -- sea birds, fish found only there, nearly extinct crabs, the green turtle.

The only human presence on the South Atlantic island is a small Brazilian military base and a scientific research center.

"It's marvelous," she said.

"So it was all the more horrifying to find something like this -- and on one of the most ecologically important beaches."

She returned to the island late last year to collect more specimens and dig deeper into the phenomenon.

Continuing her research, she found similar rock-like plastic formations had previously been reported in places including Hawaii, Britain, Italy and Japan since 2014.

But Trindade island is the remotest place on the planet they have been found so far, she said.

She fears that as the rocks erode, they will leach microplastics into the environment and further contaminate the island's food chain.

'Paradigm shift'
She and her team's study, published in September in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, classified the new kind of "rocks" found worldwide into several types: "plastiglomerates," similar to sedimentary rocks; "pyroplastics," similar to clastic rocks; and a previously unidentified type, "plastistones," similar to igneous rocks formed by lava flow.

"Marine pollution is provoking a paradigm shift for concepts of rock and sedimentary deposit formations," her team wrote.

"Human interventions are now so pervasive that one has to question what is truly natural."

The main ingredient in the rocks Santos discovered was remnants of fishing nets, they found.

But ocean currents have also swept an abundance of bottles, household waste and other plastic trash from around the world to the island, she said.

Santos said she plans to make the topic her main research focus.

Trindade "is the most pristine place I've ever seen," she said.

"Seeing how vulnerable it is to the trash contaminating our oceans shows how pervasive the problem is worldwide."



Earth-like Planet Discovered by Researchers

Gliese 12 b's distance of 40 lights years away means it is too far away to experience more closely (NASA)
Gliese 12 b's distance of 40 lights years away means it is too far away to experience more closely (NASA)
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Earth-like Planet Discovered by Researchers

Gliese 12 b's distance of 40 lights years away means it is too far away to experience more closely (NASA)
Gliese 12 b's distance of 40 lights years away means it is too far away to experience more closely (NASA)

Scientists at the University of Warwick say they have been part of an international team to discover a new new habitable Earth-sized planet.

Working with NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA), they said Gliese 12 b has the same temperature as the 2022 UK heatwave and is one of the few known rocky planets where humans could theoretically survive, BBC reported.

But the planet's distance of 40 lights years away means it is too far away to experience more closely, the university said.

Warwick astrophysicist Dr Thomas Wilson said: "This is a really exciting discovery and will help our research into planets similar to Earth across our galaxy."

The planet has an estimated surface temperature of about 42C, but the scientists said they were still unsure of what, if any, its atmosphere was like.

It orbits its version of the sun every 12.8 days and is a similar size to Earth.

The planet’s equivalent of the Sun, called Gliese 12, is a cool, red dwarf located in the constellation Pisces and the planet receives 1.6 times more energy from its star as Earth does from the sun, the university said.

The team used data from NASA and ESA’s satellites to confirm the planet’s existence and characteristics like its size, temperature, and distance away from Earth.

"Thrillingly, this planet is the closest Earth-sized and temperature planet we know," Dr Wilson added.

"The light we are seeing now is from 1984 (40 years ago) – that’s how long it has taken to reach us here on Earth.

"Planets like Gliese 12 b are very few and far between, so for us to be able to examine one this closely and learn about its atmosphere and temperature is very rare."

According to BBC, Larissa Palethorpe, co-lead of the study and doctoral student at the University of Edinburgh and University College London said it was "a unique candidate" for further atmospheric study to help unlock some aspects of our own solar system’s evolution.

"Earth remains habitable, but Venus does not due to its complete loss of water. Gliese 12 b’s atmosphere could teach us a lot about the habitability pathways planets take as they develop," she added.


Massive Cradle of Baby Stars Revealed in New Space Telescope Images

This image provided by the European Space Agency on Thursday, May 23, 2024, shows Euclid’s new image of galaxy cluster Abell 2390. (European Space Agency via AP)
This image provided by the European Space Agency on Thursday, May 23, 2024, shows Euclid’s new image of galaxy cluster Abell 2390. (European Space Agency via AP)
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Massive Cradle of Baby Stars Revealed in New Space Telescope Images

This image provided by the European Space Agency on Thursday, May 23, 2024, shows Euclid’s new image of galaxy cluster Abell 2390. (European Space Agency via AP)
This image provided by the European Space Agency on Thursday, May 23, 2024, shows Euclid’s new image of galaxy cluster Abell 2390. (European Space Agency via AP)

A massive cradle of baby stars has been observed in new detail by a European space telescope, adding to its celestial collection of images.
The European Space Agency released the photos from the Euclid observatory on Thursday, The Associated Press reported. They were taken following the telescope’s Florida launch last year as a warm-up act to its main job currently underway: surveying the so-called dark universe.
From its perch 1 million miles (1.6 million kilometers) from Earth, Euclid will spend the next several years observing billions of galaxies covering more than one-third of the sky. The shape and size of all these galaxies can help scientists understand the mysterious dark energy and dark matter that make up most of the universe.
"Euclid is at the very beginning of its exciting journey to map the structure of the universe," the space agency's director general, Josef Aschbacher, said in a statement.
Among the newly released pictures is one of an enormous cradle of baby stars some 1,300 light-years away known as Messier 78. A light-year is 5.8 trillion miles. Euclid's infrared camera peered through the dust enveloping the stellar nursery, revealing new regions of star formation, according to ESA.


King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve Marks International Day for Biodiversity

The Saudi Green Initiative is a driving force behind achieving global climate goals and reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 - SPA
The Saudi Green Initiative is a driving force behind achieving global climate goals and reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 - SPA
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King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve Marks International Day for Biodiversity

The Saudi Green Initiative is a driving force behind achieving global climate goals and reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 - SPA
The Saudi Green Initiative is a driving force behind achieving global climate goals and reaching carbon neutrality by 2060 - SPA

The King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve Development Authority observed the International Day for Biodiversity on Wednesday. Under this year's theme, "Be Part of the Plan," the United Nations emphasizes the critical role biodiversity plays in achieving sustainable development, a core principle of Saudi Vision 2030, SPA reported.
The Saudi Green Initiative is a driving force behind achieving global climate goals and reaching carbon neutrality by 2060. Demonstrating this commitment, significant progress has already been made: over 192,000 hectares of land have been revitalized, more than three million wild seedlings have been cultivated, 49 million trees have been planted across the country, and 18.1% of wild areas have been transformed into protected nature reserves. These efforts promote wildlife conservation, with over 1,660 endangered animals being reintroduced to their natural habitats.
Aligned with Saudi Vision 2030 and the comprehensive strategy for royal reserves, the King Abdulaziz Royal Reserve Development Authority plays a vital role. Through collaboration with public, private, and non-profit sectors, it pursues a multifaceted mission that includes restoring environmental balance by removing over 45 million kilograms of waste and reintroducing 330 threatened species, such as the Arabian oryx and the houbara bustard.

The authority also prioritizes preserving the region's rich heritage and natural resources.
As a government member of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the authority plays a key role in boosting the Kingdom's biodiversity efforts.


Saudi Arabia Showcases Saudi Dates, Coffee at World Water Forum

The Kingdom ranks among the top 10 coffee-consuming nations globally - SPA
The Kingdom ranks among the top 10 coffee-consuming nations globally - SPA
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Saudi Arabia Showcases Saudi Dates, Coffee at World Water Forum

The Kingdom ranks among the top 10 coffee-consuming nations globally - SPA
The Kingdom ranks among the top 10 coffee-consuming nations globally - SPA

The Saudi pavilion at the World Water Forum Exhibition in Indonesia, held from May 18 to 25, garnered significant attention from visitors. Saudi hospitality, exemplified by the quality and variety of dates and coffee on offer, proved a major draw, SPA reported.
Saudi coffee, presented as a symbol of hospitality, added a unique cultural touch to the pavilion. The Kingdom's diverse and flavorful dates impressed attendees, enhancing the positive image of Saudi agricultural products on the international stage.
Saudi Arabia's date exports saw a 14% increase in 2023, reaching a value of SAR 1.462 billion compared to SAR 1.280 billion in 2022. The number of countries importing Saudi dates has grown to 119, with exports of dates and by-products experiencing a staggering 152.5% increase since 2016, reaching SAR 1.462 billion by the end of 2023.
The Kingdom ranks among the top 10 coffee-consuming nations globally, exceeding 80,000 tons annually. This high per capita consumption translates to an estimated 70,000–90,000 tons of coffee imported into Saudi markets each year.

Saudis spend over SAR 1 billion annually on coffee preparation, prompting significant efforts to increase coffee cultivation and production through establishing 60 model coffee farms on agricultural terraces. These initiatives aim to strengthen food security in rural areas and boost overall agricultural output.
The organizers expressed pride in the presence of the Kingdom at this crucial international forum. They emphasized that Saudi participation extended beyond product displays, also highlighting the nation's efforts to improve sustainable agriculture and promote water efficiency, aligning with the World Water Forum's global objectives.


Flower or Power? Campaigners Fear Lithium Mine Could Kill Rare Plant

A Tiehm's buckwheat plant starts to bud in its native habitat in the Silver Peak Range in Esmeralda County, Nevada beside Rhyolite Ridge, the site of a proposed lithium mine. Robyn Beck / AFP
A Tiehm's buckwheat plant starts to bud in its native habitat in the Silver Peak Range in Esmeralda County, Nevada beside Rhyolite Ridge, the site of a proposed lithium mine. Robyn Beck / AFP
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Flower or Power? Campaigners Fear Lithium Mine Could Kill Rare Plant

A Tiehm's buckwheat plant starts to bud in its native habitat in the Silver Peak Range in Esmeralda County, Nevada beside Rhyolite Ridge, the site of a proposed lithium mine. Robyn Beck / AFP
A Tiehm's buckwheat plant starts to bud in its native habitat in the Silver Peak Range in Esmeralda County, Nevada beside Rhyolite Ridge, the site of a proposed lithium mine. Robyn Beck / AFP

Delicate pink buds sway in the desert breeze, pregnant with yellow pompoms whose explosion will carpet the dusty corner of Nevada that is the only place on Earth where they exist.
Under their roots lie vast reserves of lithium, vital for the rechargeable electric car batteries that will reduce planet-heating pollution, AFP said.
But campaigners fear the extraction of the precious metal could destroy the flower's tiny habitat.
"This mine is going to cause extinction," says Patrick Donnelly, an environmentalist who works at the Center for Biological Diversity, a non-governmental organization.
"They somehow claim that they're not harming the (plant). But can you imagine if someone built an open-pit mine 200 feet from your house? Wouldn't that affect your life profoundly?"
The plant in question is Tiehm's buckwheat.
There are only around 20,000 known specimens, growing in a few very specific places on a total surface area equivalent to around five soccer fields.
In 2022, the wildflower was classified as endangered by US federal authorities, with mining cited as a major threat to its survival.
The plant and the lithium reserve on which it grows embody one of the key challenges and contradictions of the global climate struggle: how much damage can we inflict on the natural world as we seek to halt or reverse the problems we have already created?
- 'Coexist' -
Bernard Rowe, boss of Australian miner Ioneer, which holds the mineral rights to the area, says the lithium produced at Rhyolite Ridge "will be sufficient to provide batteries for about 370,000 vehicles" a year.
"We'll do that year-on-year for 26 years," he said.
Those nearly 10 million vehicles will go a long way towards meeting the goal President Joe Biden has set of cutting down the nation's fleet of gas-guzzlers as a way to slash US production of planet-warming pollutants.
So-called zero-emission cars make up around 7.5 percent of new vehicle sales in the United States today -- more than double the percentage just a few years earlier.
In California, the figure is more than 20 percent.
And while expansion in the sector has slowed, the category remains the fastest-growing, according to Kelley Blue Book.
And it's not only in the United States: Global demand for lithium will increase five to seven times by 2030, according to the International Energy Agency.
The difficulty for US manufacturers is that much of the world's lithium supply is dominated by strategic rival China, as well as Australia and Chile.
"The United States has very, very little domestic production," said Rowe.
"So it's important to develop a domestic supply chain to allow for that energy transition, and Rhyolite Ridge will be an integral part of that."
Ioneer's plans show that over the years the mine is in operation -- it is projected to start producing lithium in late 2027 -- around a fifth of the plant's habitat will be directly affected.
But the company, which has spent $2.5 million researching the plant, says mining will not affect its survival; it is already growing well in greenhouses and biologists think it can be replanted.
"We're very confident that the mine and Tiehm's buckwheat can coexist," Rowe said.
- 'Greenwashing' -
Donnelly counters that Ioneer is "basically greenwashing extinction."
"They're saying. 'We're going to save this plant,' when actually they are going to send it to its doom," he said.
Under the company's plans, the strip mine will use hundreds of trucks, which Donnelly says will raise clouds of dust that will affect photosynthesis and harm the insects that pollinate the plants.
Ioneer says it has already planned mitigation methods, like dust curtains, and keeping the roads wet.
Still, Donnelly says, why not just move the mine? But Rowe counters that it's not as simple as just digging somewhere else.
Ioneer has invested $170 million since 2016 to demonstrate the feasibility of this site, which it believes is one of the best around.
"Many of these other deposits haven't had that amount of work, so they're not viable alternatives to a project like this," he said.
The US Department of Energy has offered Ioneer a $700 million loan for the project, if the Bureau of Land Management signs off on an operating permit.
Donnelly insists the issue is not just the future of one obscure wildflower, but rather just one example of large-scale biodiversity loss that is threatening millions of plants and animals.
"If we solve the climate crisis, but we drive everything extinct while we do it, we're still going to lose our world," he said.


SDRPY Accelerates Work on Yemen's Heijat Al-Abed Road Rehabilitation Project

The road lacks essential traffic safety elements (Photo by SPA)
The road lacks essential traffic safety elements (Photo by SPA)
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SDRPY Accelerates Work on Yemen's Heijat Al-Abed Road Rehabilitation Project

The road lacks essential traffic safety elements (Photo by SPA)
The road lacks essential traffic safety elements (Photo by SPA)

The rehabilitation project for Heijat Al-Abed Road, a vital route connecting Taiz with other governorates, is progressing rapidly under the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen (SDRPY). This road is crucial for the lives of 5 million Yemenis, and the project aims to improve its efficiency, implement safety measures, reduce accidents, and alleviate the daily challenges faced by commuters, SPA reported.
Rehabilitating this essential road will ensure safe traffic flow and facilitate the movement of people and goods, including essential supplies like food and medicine, while reducing costs and travel time. Additionally, the project will create immediate employment opportunities and benefit various sectors, including the economy, services, education, and more.
With a significant elevation difference of 1,000 meters from the highest to the lowest point, the road lacks essential traffic safety elements, such as concrete barriers for vehicle protection, and is prone to rockfalls.
Rehabilitating the rain drainage system and constructing new drainage channels are also essential to prevent water penetration into the road pavement layers.

This project is part of 229 projects and initiatives implemented by SDRPY across various Yemeni governorates. These initiatives serve the Yemeni people in key sectors, including education, healthcare, water, energy, transportation, agriculture and fisheries, development and support of Yemeni government capacities, and developmental programs.


Woman Refuses to Straighten Her Hair for Friend’s Wedding

Woman questions whether she was wrong after refusing to straighten hair for friend’s wedding (Getty Images)
Woman questions whether she was wrong after refusing to straighten hair for friend’s wedding (Getty Images)
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Woman Refuses to Straighten Her Hair for Friend’s Wedding

Woman questions whether she was wrong after refusing to straighten hair for friend’s wedding (Getty Images)
Woman questions whether she was wrong after refusing to straighten hair for friend’s wedding (Getty Images)

A woman has questioned whether she was in the wrong after she defied a bride’s wishes by keeping her hair curly.

Whether it’s a dress code or a drink limit, weddings tend to come with their own set of rules to follow a certain aesthetic or ensure the event goes smoothly. In this case, one wedding required all guests to show up with straight hair, The Independent reported.

Taking to Reddit’s popular confession forum, a candid woman questioned whether she was in the wrong for not abiding by her cousin’s hairstyle rule. The 24-year-old started by explaining that the “straightened hair” rule came from her cousin’s 25-year-old partner. His now-wife wanted everyone who didn’t have natural curly or wavy locks to forget their usual hairdo and straighten everything out.

Oddly enough, the bride has been working for a hair brand that specializes in protecting and enhancing natural curls.

“She’s gotten into the brand overtime and often wears her hair curly, and wants everyone else to not make the same mistake she did by straightening it and ruining her curls for a period of time,” the Reddit user admitted.

But when it came time for the wedding, the Reddit writer decided to keep her hair curly. However, she wrote that her cousin and his wife had no idea her natural hair wasn’t straight.

“When I showed up to the wedding with my naturally curly hair, his wife went ballistic [and] said that only people with naturally curly hair were supposed to keep their hair curled. She claims I’ve never had curly hair,” the original poster confessed.

She continued: “I tried to tell her the calmest way possible that [that is] simply not true and I would rarely wear my hair naturally. But followed the rules for the wedding.”

The bride didn’t believe she was telling the truth, according to the post. Instead, her cousin’s partner assumed the Reddit user was trying to “ruin” the wedding by making a mockery of the rule. Unfortunately, her cousin thought she was lying too.

“As a present I bought them a very nice TV for their new house,” the Redditor went on to say. “I ended up getting kicked out for not following ‘dress code’ on my way out so I grabbed my TV and left. Once my cousin figured out it was the TV he and his wife had been wanting, he tried to convince her to let me back in.”

When the bride caught wind of what was at stake, she apologized to the writer and told her she “believed” her, according to the Reddit post. The Reddit user said the apology encouraged her to return to the party. However, once she’d returned, she said she was again judged for her hair choice.

“Halfway through the night one of her bridesmaids poured water on my head to see if my hair would straighten when it didn’t and I was sopping wet and my $400 dress. I picked up my TV and left,” she said.

Since then, the woman said her cousin and his wife have been badgering her, arguing she shouldn’t have left and taken the TV – but readers disagreed.

The overwhelming majority of Reddit readers thought the cousin and his wife were completely in the wrong.

“You get called a liar for following an asinine wedding rule. They wanted you back for the gift,” one person proclaimed.


Australian Researchers Turn Morning Coffee Waste into Greener Concrete

Coffee beans are seen as they are being packed for export in Medan, Indonesia's North Sumatra province April 25, 2013. (Reuters)
Coffee beans are seen as they are being packed for export in Medan, Indonesia's North Sumatra province April 25, 2013. (Reuters)
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Australian Researchers Turn Morning Coffee Waste into Greener Concrete

Coffee beans are seen as they are being packed for export in Medan, Indonesia's North Sumatra province April 25, 2013. (Reuters)
Coffee beans are seen as they are being packed for export in Medan, Indonesia's North Sumatra province April 25, 2013. (Reuters)

Your morning coffee could help the planet.

That's the promise of an Australian university turning used coffee grounds into a material that can be added to concrete to make it stronger and more sustainable, potentially lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Concrete production, which involves mixing sand and gravel with cement and water, is a major producer of greenhouse gases, responsible for around 7% of the world's emissions, according to the United Nations.

Researchers at Melbourne's RMIT University heated coffee waste without oxygen, a process known as pyrolysis, to create a substance called biochar that can replace up to 15% of the sand used in concrete.

The inclusion of the biochar makes the concrete 30% stronger and reduces the amount of cement needed by up to 10%, said lead researcher Rajeev Roychand.

"This ticks all the boxes," he said. "You preserve carbon and you are getting significantly higher strength."

Roughly 50 billion metric tons of sand is dug up each year, mostly for use in concrete, a 2022 UN report said. Its extraction is often environmentally destructive and it is in increasingly short supply, the report said.

Cement production, which involves heating a mixture of limestone and clay to around 1,500  degrees Celsius (2,732°F), is responsible for most of concrete's emissions.

BIOCHAR COMPANY

The Macedon Ranges Shire Council near Melbourne used the coffee concrete earlier this month to construct a footpath.

RMIT is talking with several construction firms and concrete makers and with Starbucks to take its waste coffee grounds, and could form a company to make biochar, Roychand said. Starbucks did not respond to a request for comment.

Australian infrastructure company Bild Group said it planned to trial the concrete and hoped to use it on major road projects. Construction giant Arup supported the research.

Millions of tons of used coffee grounds are produced globally and most are sent to landfills where they emit methane as they break down.

Australia generates around 75,000 tons of waste coffee grounds a year and biochar made from this could replace up to 655,000 tons of sand in concrete because it is a denser material, Roychand said. Globally, coffee-waste biochar could replace up to 90 million tons of sand in concrete, he said.

Food waste accounts for around 3% of Australia's emissions, according to the government, and most could eventually be made into biochar, Roychand said.

"We anticipate that about 60-70% (of organic waste) we can divert from landfill into concrete applications," he said.

Other international universities are also researching the potential of biochar and other bio-engineering in concrete. RMIT was the first to use waste coffee grounds in this way, Roychand said.


Sun’s Magnetic Field May Form Close to the Surface, Research Finds

 This image provided by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a solar flare, right, on May 14, 2024, captured in the extreme ultraviolet light portion of the spectrum colorized in red and yellow. (NASA/SDO via AP)
This image provided by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a solar flare, right, on May 14, 2024, captured in the extreme ultraviolet light portion of the spectrum colorized in red and yellow. (NASA/SDO via AP)
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Sun’s Magnetic Field May Form Close to the Surface, Research Finds

 This image provided by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a solar flare, right, on May 14, 2024, captured in the extreme ultraviolet light portion of the spectrum colorized in red and yellow. (NASA/SDO via AP)
This image provided by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory shows a solar flare, right, on May 14, 2024, captured in the extreme ultraviolet light portion of the spectrum colorized in red and yellow. (NASA/SDO via AP)

New research indicates the sun’s magnetic field originates much closer to the surface than previously thought, a finding that could help predict periods of extreme solar storms like the ones that slammed Earth earlier this month.

The magnetic field appears to generate 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometers) beneath the sun’s surface. Previous calculations put the roots of this process more than 130,000 miles (209,000 kilometers) below, an international team reported Wednesday.

The sun’s intense magnetic energy is the source of solar flares and eruptions of plasma known as coronal mass ejections. When directed toward Earth, they can create stunning auroras but also disrupt power and communications.

"We still don’t understand the sun well enough to make accurate predictions" of space weather, lead author Geoffrey Vasil of the University of Edinburgh said in an email.

The latest findings published in the journal Nature "will be an important step toward finally resolving" this mysterious process known as solar dynamo, added co-author Daniel Lecoanet of Northwestern University.

Galileo was among the first astronomers to turn a telescope skyward and study sunspots, back in the early 1600s. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections tend to occur near sunspots, dark patches as big as Earth that are located near the most intense portions of the sun’s shifting magnetic field.

Vasil and his team developed new models of the interaction between the sun’s magnetic field and the flow of plasma, which varies at different latitudes during an 11-year cycle. They fed their calculations into a NASA supercomputer in Northern California — the same one used in the 2015 movie "The Martian" to verify the best flight path to rescue the main character. The results suggested a shallow magnetic field and additional research is needed to confirm this.

The modeling was "highly simplified," University of Wisconsin-Madison's Ellen Zweibel, who was not part of the team, said in an accompanying editorial.

The results are intriguing and "sure to inspire future studies," Zweibel said.

The new knowledge should improve long-term solar forecasts, allowing scientists to better predict the strength of our star's future cycles. The sun is approaching its peak level of activity in the current 11-year cycle, thus the recent flareups.

Strong solar flares and outbursts of billions of tons of plasma earlier this month unleashed severe solar storms that produced auroras in unexpected places. Last week, the sun spewed out the biggest solar flare in almost 20 years, but it steered clear of Earth.

Better understanding of the sun can ensure "we are prepared for when the next storm — potentially much more dangerous — hits Earth," Lecoanet said.


Judge in Tennessee Blocks Effort to Put Elvis Presley's Former Home Graceland Up for Sale

The granddaughter of Elvis Presley is fighting plans to publicly auction his Graceland estate in Memphis after a company tried to sell the property based on claims that a loan using the king of rock ’n’ roll’s former home as collateral was not repaid. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill, File)
The granddaughter of Elvis Presley is fighting plans to publicly auction his Graceland estate in Memphis after a company tried to sell the property based on claims that a loan using the king of rock ’n’ roll’s former home as collateral was not repaid. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill, File)
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Judge in Tennessee Blocks Effort to Put Elvis Presley's Former Home Graceland Up for Sale

The granddaughter of Elvis Presley is fighting plans to publicly auction his Graceland estate in Memphis after a company tried to sell the property based on claims that a loan using the king of rock ’n’ roll’s former home as collateral was not repaid. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill, File)
The granddaughter of Elvis Presley is fighting plans to publicly auction his Graceland estate in Memphis after a company tried to sell the property based on claims that a loan using the king of rock ’n’ roll’s former home as collateral was not repaid. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill, File)

Judge in Tennessee blocks effort to put Elvis Presley's former home Graceland up for sale, The AP reported.

Earlier, actress and model Riley Keough - Elvis's granddaughter - has reportedly been able to get a temporary restraining order against any sale before a court rules on her application for an injunction.

The former home and burial site of Elvis Presley is set to be sold at a foreclosure auction on Thursday - but his granddaughter is attempting to halt the court-approved sale of Graceland, according to Sky News.

The case stems from a 2018 deed of trust Keough's late mother - Elvis's only child - allegedly signed, securing a $3.8m loan from Naussany Investments and Private Lending LLC in Missouri.

The company says Graceland was used as collateral in the loan, which was never paid back.

But in new court filings, Keough is fighting the sale of the Memphis, Tennessee, compound - claiming her mother never signed over anything and never borrowed any money.