President Obama Tweets First Blue Marble Photo in 43 Years
NASA's new Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has released a stunning, new Blue Marble photo for the first time in four decades, prompting President Obama to tweet a gentle reminder "that we need to protect the only planet we have."
— President Obama (@POTUS) July 20, 2015
The image above was taken on July 6 literally one million miles away and is the first Blue Marble photo of our planet since 1972, when the now-iconic photo of our glistening world was snapped by the American crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft.
"Turns out," as NASA astronaut Scott Kelly wrote on the White House's Medium page, "It’s quite tricky to take a good photo of the entire Earth." Other images you've seen of Earth are composites assembled from multiple different shots.
— Scott Kelly (@StationCDRKelly) July 20, 2015
EcoWatch readers know that it's more important than ever to preserve our environment from the dire effects of climate change, and President Obama has spoken out on this issue many times before.
At his Earth Day speech delivered at the Everglades National Park this past April, the commander-in-chief emphasized this message clearly:
"This is a problem now. It has serious implications for the way we live right now. Stronger storms. Deeper droughts. Longer wildfire seasons. The world’s top climate scientists are warning that a changing climate already affects the air that our children are breathing."
At the end of his speech, Obama concluded that we must all be planetary stewards to ensure the safety of future generations:
"We are blessed with the most beautiful God-given landscape in the world. It’s an incredible bounty that’s been given to us. But we’ve got to be good stewards for it. We have to take care of it. We only get to enjoy things like our amazing national parks because great Americans like Teddy Roosevelt and Marjory Stoneman Douglas and a whole bunch of ordinary folks whose name aren’t in the history books, they fought to protect our national inheritance. And now it’s our turn to ensure that this remains the birthright of all Americans for generations to come. So many people here are active in your communities, doing what’s needed. The young people who are here, the next generation, they’re way ahead of us in understanding how important this is. Let’s make sure we don’t disappoint them. Let’s stand up and do what’s right before it’s too late."
Following POTUS' tweet, plenty fellow Twitter users sent responses. Here are some of my favorites:
Agreed @POTUS, even more justification to push for a new #climate #deal in #Paris. @NASA https://t.co/bewwvHfi7r — NN Themvu Projects (@themvup) July 21, 2015
— mat (@Matouloulou) July 21, 2015
@POTUS @NASA Absolutely. So let's put a stop to #TPP before it breaks things even more. — Jack Phoenix (@BohemianPaladin) July 21, 2015
@POTUS @NASA To protect the only planet we have takes real leadership and new ideas. More energy efficient homes, appliances, cars, etc !!!!
— Tony (@TonyTbriggs) July 21, 2015
The White House's official Twitter also chimed in that DSCOVR will release several more Blue Marbles in the very near future:
The blue marble. It's our home. And soon, @NASA's #DSCOVR will be able to take full snapshots of it every few hours. http://t.co/KLWb0EG992
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) July 21, 2015
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By Aaron W Hunter
A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.
The Pompeii of palaeontology. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<h2></h2><p>Although starfish might appear very robust animals, they are typically made up of lots of hard parts attached by ligaments and soft tissue which, upon death, quickly degrade. This means we rely on places like the Fezouata formations to provide snapshots of their evolution.</p><p>The starfish fossil record is patchy, especially at the critical time when many of these animal groups first appeared. Sorting out how each of the various types of ancient starfish relate to each other is like putting a puzzle together when many of the parts are missing.</p><h2>The Oldest Starfish</h2><p><em><a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/216101v1.full.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Cantabrigiaster</a></em> is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. It was discovered in 2003, but it has taken over 17 years to work out its true significance.</p><p>What makes <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> unique is that it lacks almost all the characteristics we find in brittle stars and starfish.</p><p>Starfish and brittle stars belong to the family Asterozoa. Their ancestors, the Somasteroids were especially fragile - before <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> we only had a handful of specimens. The celebrated Moroccan paleontologist Mohamed <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.palaeo.2016.06.041" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Ben Moula</a> and his local team was instrumental in discovering <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0031018216302334?via%3Dihub" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">these amazing fossils</a> near the town of Zagora, in Morocco.</p><h2>The Breakthrough</h2><p>Our breakthrough moment came when I compared the arms of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> with those of modern sea lilles, filter feeders with long feathery arms that tend to be attached to the sea floor by a stem or stalk.</p><p>The striking similarity between these modern filter feeders and the ancient starfish led our team from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University to create a new analysis. We applied a biological model to the features of all the current early Asterozoa fossils in existence, along with a sample of their closest relatives.</p>
Cantabrigiaster is the most primitive starfish-like animal to be discovered in the fossil record. Aaron Hunter, Author provided<p>Our results demonstrate <em>Cantabrigiaster</em> is the most primitive of all the Asterozoa, and most likely evolved from ancient animals called crinoids that lived 250 million years before dinosaurs. The five arms of starfish are a relic left over from these ancestors. In the case of <em>Cantabrigiaster</em>, and its starfish descendants, it evolved by flipping upside-down so its arms are face down on the sediment to feed.</p><p>Although we sampled a relatively small numbers of those ancestors, one of the unexpected outcomes was it provided an idea of how they could be related to each other. Paleontologists studying echinoderms are often lost in detail as all the different groups are so radically different from each other, so it is hard to tell which evolved first.</p>
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