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Lifeform of the week: Fishing cats

Duloup_cat

As a teenager, I volunteered at the local animal shelter. One of the tasks I performed there was assisting in the bathing of newly acquired cats and kittens. From this I learned two important pieces of information: 1) cats hate water and 2) they will gladly claw your face off to escape a bath. Many wild felines also display a lack of enthusiasm for getting wet, but not the fishing cat. This species regularly and willingly enters water. They swim, they dive and, most importantly, they catch fish – thus earning them their common name.

2014 State of the Birds report: Mixed marks for U.S. birds

A male Rufous hummingbird. Image Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

A male Rufous hummingbird. Image Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The annual State of the Birds report documents the health of bird populations across the United States. This year’s findings: While some wetland birds appear to be doing well because of conservation programs, but other birds are experiencing steep declines in population numbers.

Of the more than 800 species of birds in the U.S., 233 have been placed on a Watch List in the new report. The Watch List provides an early warning system for birds that are most in danger of becoming extinct in the years ahead if significant conservation actions are not put in place to protect their populations. The list includes all native Hawaiian forest birds and birds in the continental U.S. such as the Rufous hummingbird, California condor, and wood thrush.

Is it possible to have three eclipses in one month?

solar-eclipse-annular

Is it possible to have three eclipses in one month? Yes, it’s possible. You can have two solar eclipses and one lunar eclipse in one month. Or you can have two lunar eclipses and one solar eclipse in one month. However, it’s quite rare to have three eclipses in one calendar month. Follow the links inside to learn more about past and future months in which there are three eclipses.

What’s the birthstone for October?

Photo credit: Orbital Joe

Tourmaline via Orbital Joe

Meet tourmaline. It’s one of two birthstones for October. The other October birthstone is opal. More info inside this post. And happy birthday October babies!

U.S. and India to collaborate on Earth and Mars missions

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (l) and K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), signed agreements this week for increased cooperation between the U.S. and India's space agencies.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden (l) and K. Radhakrishnan, chairman of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), signed agreements this week for increased cooperation between the U.S. and India’s space agencies.

In Toronto yesterday (September 30, 2014), NASA administrator Charles Bolden and India’s space agency chairman K. Radhakrishnan signed two documents to launch a U.S.-India satellite mission to observe Earth and establish a pathway for future joint missions to explore Mars. Both NASA and India’s space agency – called the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) – placed spacecraft in orbit around Mars during this past month.

Astrophotographer’s self-portrait

Photo by Daniel McVey, September 2014.  Visit Daniel McVey's website.

Self Portrait – Astrophotographer on Jeep. Photo by Daniel McVey, September 2014.

Daniel McVey in Summit County, Colorado has contributed some of the most beautiful images to our pages. He posted this one on EarthSky Facebook and wrote:

Inspired in part by a photo of Ansel Adams on his “Woody.”

Moon helps you visualize Pluto spacecraft on October 1

2014-oct-1-moon-pluto-new-horizons-m25-teapot-night-sky-chart

A spacecraft is now in route to the dwarf planet Pluto, scheduled to arrive in the year 2015. The October 1, 2014 moon can help you visualize this Pluto spacecraft’s whereabouts on the sky’s dome.

October 2014 guide to the five visible planets

Total lunar eclipse in 2004 by Fred Espenak

Total lunar eclipse in 2004 by Fred Espenak

A total eclipse of the moon on October 8. Comet Siding Spring just misses Mars on October 19. A partial solar eclipse on October 23. Plus Mars, Saturn, Mercury, Venus and Jupiter!

Wind and solar energy capacity catching with nuclear power

Image via and solarwinddepot.com

Image via and solarwinddepot.com

The Worldwatch Institute said on September 30 that energy generation capacity via wind and solar is catching up with that of nuclear energy. In its latest Vital Signs Online analysis, WorldWatch quantifies the steady decline of nuclear energy’s share of global power production, and renewable energy’s increased share.

California drought linked to climate change, say scientists

The drought crippling California is by some measures the worst in the state's history. Photo credit: NOAA

Photo credit: NOAA

The drought now crippling California – by some measures the worst in the state’s history – is very likely linked to human-caused climate change, researchers report.