‘Zombie fires’ smolder under the snow during the winter then rise from the dead come spring. They may get far more common.

zombie fire
The 25,000-acre Bogus Creek Fire in Alaska’s Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, June 7, 2015.

Forest fires don’t typically survive cold, wet winters. But “zombie fires” buck the mold.

In boreal forests just below the Arctic Circle, these rare blazes travel and persist underground, deep beneath the winter snow cover. They bide their time until the snow melts and spring begins, then reignite on the surface and begin to wreak havoc again, starting right where they left off.

Zombie fires can be devastating: In 2008, one such fire was responsible for 38% of the burned land in Alaska alone, scorching an area the size of San Francisco, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. That research predicts these fires will become more common as the Earth continues to warm.

“It is possible that we may see more zombie fires in the future,” Rebecca Scholten, a climate researcher at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam who co-authored the study, told Insider. “We do see an upward trend in summer temperatures in boreal regions, and this goes in line with increases in annual burned area.”

Scholten’s team found that zombie fires were, unsurprisingly, more frequent after hotter summers in which large fires burned across wide areas. The higher summer temperatures climb, the drier the subterranean vegetation and soil become – and that’s what zombie fires consume as they hibernate. The bigger the fire, the deeper its flames can penetrate underground in the summer. That makes them more likely to survive the winter.

Burn. Sleep. Repeat.

This satellite image provided by Roscosmos Space Agency, taken on Sunday, July 21, 2019, shows forest fires in Krasnoyarsk region, Eastern Siberia, Russia. President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russia's military to join efforts to fight forest fires that have engulfed nearly 30,000 square kilometers of territory in Siberia and the Russian Far East. (Roscosmos Space Agency via AP)
A satellite image from Russia’s Roscosmos Space Agency shows forest fires in Eastern Siberia, July 21, 2019.

Scholten’s team looked at reports from local fire managers and firefighters, as well as satellite imagery of Alaska and Canada’s Northwestern Territories captured between 2002 and 2018. They found 74 zombie fires in those 16 years.

“We can identify zombie fires from satellites because they appear close to an old fire scar,” Scholten said.

In Canada, they found that fires pulled through the winter following the six hottest summers in the study’s time frame. The analysis suggested that zombie flames can spread up to 650 feet (200 meters) underground. But no zombie fires survived the winter after the seven coolest summers.

The scientific term for zombie fires is “overwintering,” since the blazes hibernate underground for up to eight months like bears, then awaken four weeks after the snow starts melting. But Scholten said the colloquial moniker works.

“I like the term – it’s a really visual and engaging description,” she said.

Overwintering fires require a specific habitat. They happen in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions of North America and Siberia because the deepest soil layers there, called peat, are rich with organic matter. The smoldering flames can devour that matter, thereby staying alive even when the surrounding temperatures drop to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Overall, zombie fires are still rare: The new research suggests they accounted for just 0.8% of the total burned area in Alaska and the Northwestern Territories during the 16 years studied. But because climate change makes both hot summers and large, intense wildfires more likely, zombie blazes may become more common, too.

Atmospheric carbon-dioxide concentrations hit a record high last year, and the last seven years have been the seven warmest ever recorded, according to NASA. The Arctic, in particular, is warming faster than the rest of the Earth.

A vicious cycle

zombie fire
Smoke rises from a hot spot in the Swan Lake Fire scar at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, June 16, 2020.

Perhaps the worst part of the zombie fire phenomenon is its self-perpetuating nature. When a fire burns through trees and vegetation, that emits carbon dioxide, exacerbating the climate problem.

A zombie fire is double trouble: It burns through flora in the summer before its hibernation and during the spring after. In between, the peat it burns underground emits methane, a greenhouse gas with 80 times the warming potential of carbon dioxide.

“What’s special about fires in arctic and boreal regions is that the largest part of carbon emissions comes from the soils,” Scholten said.

Her group found that large overwintering fires in Alaska and the Northwest Territories emitted 3.5 million metric tons of carbon between 2002 and 2018.

More emissions means more warming, which increases the likelihood of more zombie fires, which in turn create more emissions, and so on.

It’s possible to hunt down zombie fires

Most fires are caused by people or lightning strikes. In Alaska and Canada, lightning season begins in June, which kicks off fire season.

But zombie fires don’t follow that schedule. They start “as soon as the snow melts and dry fuel is available,” Scholten said.

Mouth fire
The Mouth fire, which started in 2004, overwintered in the Yukon Flats area of Alaska then reignited in the spring of 2005.

So the new study suggests that by keeping tracking of summer temperatures and recording where the largest fires were each summer, firefighters might be able to predict and suppress zombie fires before they fully reignite.

Doing so would be cheaper than fighting a full-blown fire, the study authors wrote, and would also limit the blaze’s greenhouse-gas emissions.

Read the original article on Business Insider

New images reveal Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and its smaller counterpart, Red Spot Jr., in stunning detail

noir lab jupiter hubble
Three images of Jupiter show the gas giant in different types of light: infrared (left), visible, and ultraviolet (right).

  • Two telescopes have captured stunning images of Jupiter in regular, infrared, and ultraviolet light.
  • The images can help astronomers study storms and hot spots in the planet’s atmosphere.
  • Infrared imaging revealed that Jupiter’s shrinking Great Red Spot is riddled with holes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Jupiter looks good in all kinds of light.

A set of images released Tuesday show the planet in infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light. The combination reveals Jupiter’s characteristic Great Red Spot – a cyclonic storm large enough to engulf the Earth – in stunning detail. Also visible in the photos is the Great Red Spot’s smaller counterpart, aptly nicknamed Red Spot Jr. That storm, whose scientific name is Oval BA, appears to the bottom right of the Great Red Spot in the visible-light and ultraviolet images.

Astronomers were able to photograph Jupiter’s atmosphere in these different wavelengths of light by using both a camera on NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and an infrared imager on the Gemini North telescope in Hawaii. The images were first captured on January 11, 2017.

Such photos can help researchers glean new insight into the super-storms, hot spots, and cyclones that define the gas giant’s stormy atmosphere.

The Great Red Spot is riddled with holes

noirlab jupiter hubble
This infrared view of Jupiter was created from data captured on January 11, 2017 by the Gemini Observatory in Hawaii.

The infrared image of Jupiter shows that the cloud cover of the Great Red Spot is full of holes. Through these gaps, heat from the planet’s surface is leaking into the atmosphere.

In visible light, the holes look like swaths of different, darker clouds, but the infrared image confirmed that there aren’t any clouds in those darker patches. They’re just gaps in the giant storm.

“It’s kind of like a jack-o-lantern,” Michael Wong, a planetary scientist at the University of California, Berkeley, said last year.

Wong helped produce the new infrared image of Jupiter. He thinks the Great Red Spot’s mottled visage could be explained by swirling wind currents.

“The closest analog is eddies in the ocean,” he said in a release. “As the storm clouds spin, you can get little anomalies from these eddies that form streaks by just winding up.”

noir lab jupiter hubble
This visible-light image of Jupiter was created from data captured by a camera on the Hubble Space Telescope on January 11, 2017.

To create the infrared images, Wong’s team used a technique called “lucky imaging.” That’s when a ground telescope takes many short-exposure images of the same spot, and researchers then select the sharpest ones (which are generally taken in moments when Earth’s atmosphere was creating little interference). By stitching together these images of each region, the researchers crafted a portrait of the entire planet.

Keeping tabs on Jupiter’s Great Red Spot using different types of imaging may help solve the mystery of its shrinking. In the 1800s, the Great Red Spot was almost 25,000 miles across. Since then it’s shrunk by 60% – according to Wong’s team, the spot is currently only 10,000 miles wide.

A view of Red Spot Jr.

noir lab jupiter hubble
This ultraviolet image of Jupiter was created from data captured by a camera on the Hubble Space Telescope on January 11, 2017.

Jupiter’s Red Spot Jr. formed in 2000, when three storms merged together. Although the region appears red in the visible-light image, that’s not always the case – when the spot first formed, it was white. Then it turned red several years later, and in the four years since Hubble took the newly released images, the red spot has changed back to white again.

Although Red Spot Jr. isn’t visible in the infrared-light view of Jupiter, four large hot spots near Jupiter’s equator do appear in the image. Like in the Great Red Spot, these bright patches are regions where heat from the planet below oozes into the atmosphere.

noirlab jupiter
This infrared view of Jupiter was created from data captured on January 11, 2017 by the international Gemini Observatory in Hawaii.

Another feature visible in the infrared image is a bright streak atop a darker patch in the planet’s northern hemisphere.

This band is likely a giant cyclone, or series of cyclones, nearly 45,000 miles wide.

noir lab jupiter hubble
Labels added to this Hubble image of Jupiter point out several atmospheric features, including the Great Red Spot, and Red Spot Jr.

At visible wavelengths, the cyclones appears dark brown, so this type of feature is known as a “brown barge.”

Morgan McFall-Johnsen contributed to this story.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Photos show ancient Egyptian artifacts and skeletons found in a ‘lost golden city’ built by King Tut’s grandfather

luxor hawass getty
An ancient Egyptian artifact at the site of the newly discovered “lost golden city” in present-day Luxor.

  • Egyptian archaeologists have unearthed a 3,400-year-old “lost golden city” in Luxor over the last seven months.
  • In 1935, a French excavation team searched for the city – which may be the largest ever built in Ancient Egypt – but never found it.
  • The city, named “tehn Aten,” or the dazzling Aten, was built by Amenhotep III, King Tut’s grandfather. He is considered the wealthiest Pharaoh who ever lived.
  • Photos from the site show colored pottery, scarab-beetle amulets, jewelry, wine caskets, mud bricks, and an ancient bakery. Only one-third of Aten has been uncovered so far.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
On the banks of the Nile River, 300 miles south of Cairo, sits the city of Luxor. It’s adjacent to Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, where archaeologists discovered King Tutankhamen’s tomb a century ago.

luxor hawass getty
Former Egyptian minister of antiquities and archaeologist Zahi Hawass stands amongst the ruins of a newly discovered ancient city in Luxor, April 10, 2021.

Somewhere nearby, King Tut should have a mortuary temple, where priests and relatives left gifts and tribute for the pharaoh to enjoy in the afterlife. But it was never found. 

In September, archaeologist Zahi Hawass, the former Egyptian minister of antiquities, set out to find it.

 

Hawass’ team began searching an area of Luxor where Tut’s successors, Ay and Horemheb, built their mortuary temples. But instead of Tut’s temple, they uncovered an enormous, well-preserved metropolis.

luxor hawass
Walls of an ancient city found in Luxor, Egypt, April 8, 2021.

Within weeks of the start of their dig, Hawass’ team uncovered mud bricks stamped with Pharaoh Amenhotep III’s name. That helped them estimate the city was built 3,400 years ago, since Amenhotep III ruled between 1391 BC and 1353 BC.

“I called the city ‘the golden city’ because it was built during the golden age of Egypt,” Hawass told Insider.

Amenhotep III was King Tut’s grandfather, and “the wealthiest Pharaoh who ever lived,” according to Betsy Bryan, an Egyptologist from Johns Hopkins University.

king tut
The funerary mask of Tutankhamen, or King Tut, in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Amenhotep III ruled during a time of peace, which helped him amass unprecedented wealth, Bryan told Insider.

“He was never at war. All he did was sit back and count money for 40 years, so he built constantly,” she said.

Archaeologists knew the Pharaoh had funneled some of his riches into building a city in this area of Egypt: “This is a place we knew existed,” Bryan said. But its precise location had eluded diggers for almost a century.

luxor hawass getty
Egyptian excavation workers stand in front of the ruins of the newly discovered “lost golden city” in Luxor.

“Many foreign missions searched for this city and never found it,” Hawass said in a press release, adding it may be the largest ancient city ever found in Egypt.

In 1934 and 1935, a French excavation team searched Luxor for the “lost golden city” but came up empty, Hawass said.

Colossi_of_Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon in Luxor, May 18, 2015.

That effort failed because the French archaeologists had been looking in the wrong place, Hawass added. Figuring the city would be clustered around buildings dedicated to the Pharaoh who built it, the group searched next to the Collosi of Memnon: twin statues that depicted Amenhotep III. The Pharaoh’s mortuary temple was nearby as well — but they had no luck finding the city.

“It never occurred to them to look slightly south,” Bryan said.

The lost city, it turns out, was located to the south and west of Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple.

luxor hawass getty
Workers carry a fish covered in gold found in Luxor, April 10, 2021.

So far, Hawass’ team has uncovered remnants of the city in an area that’s at least half a square mile.  

But the city is likely far larger, Bryan said, stretching all the way to the Pharaoh’s palace at Malkata, which is almost 2 miles south of the Colossi of Memnon.

In addition to the city’s size, Hawass said, “the huge amount of artifacts” his team uncovered there makes this an unprecedented archaeological find.

luxor hawass getty
Egyptian excavation workers prepare to display ancient Egyptian artifacts like pottery vessels found in Luxor.

“It will give us a rare glimpse into the life of the ancient Egyptians at the time where the empire was at its wealthiest,” he said in a press release.

The city’s streets are flanked with buildings, some of which have walls 9 feet tall.

luxor hawass
A new archaeological discovery is seen in Luxor, Egypt, April 8, 2021.

Scattered throughout those structures, Hawass’ team found rooms filled with pottery, glass, metalwork, and weaving tools. Ancient Egyptians once used these objects in their day-to-day lives, but the tools had lain untouched for millennia. 

Hawass’ excavation team also found a large cemetery north of the city.

luxor hawass getty
An Egyptian excavation worker removes a cover from a skeleton found at the “lost golden city” in present-day Luxor.

They haven’t figured out how big the cemetery is yet, but the team discovered a cluster of underground tombs with stairs leading to each tomb entrance.

In one part of the cemetery, the diggers found a grave holding a skeleton with a rope wrapped around its knees.

luxor hawass
A skeleton uncovered at the “lost golden city” in present-day Luxor.

Hawass is still investigating why the body was buried in this manner.

The city seems to be divided into industrial and residential areas. In the south, archaeologists found an ancient bakery with a cooking and meal-preparation area, ovens, and pottery used for storing food.

luxor hawass getty
Egyptian excavation workers carry pottery vessels into storage.

Another neighborhood had multiple workshops: one for producing mud bricks used to build temples, and another for producing amulets.

Another part of the city was all houses. 

“For those of us interested in the people and how they did stuff, this place is a treasure trove,” Bryan said.

Nearby the cemetery, Hawass’ team found a piece of pottery containing 22 pounds of dried meat, likely from a butcher at a slaughterhouse.

luxor hawass getty
Egyptian excavation workers prepare to display ancient Egyptian artifacts ahead of a press conference on April 10, 2021.

The vessel had an inscription indicating that the meat was for a festival celebrating the continued rule of Amenhotep III.

The city dwellers were skilled craftsmen, Bryan said – they made fancy ceramic vessels, glassware, and temple decorations in the name of Amenhotep III.

luxor hawass
A scarab-beetle amulet and other amulets discovered in the “lost golden city” at Luxor.

“It really is like peeking into the king’s private storage unit,” she said. “That kind of specialization was rarely seen anywhere.” 

Hawass’ team also uncovered scarab-beetle amulets, rings, and wine caskets in the city.

luxor hawass getty
Rings of blue stone found in the “lost golden city” in Luxor.

According to Bryan, the city was Amenhotep III’s love letter to the god Aten.

“When ancient Egyptian kings built, they would dedicate their construction to a deity and associate themselves with that deity,” she said.

Aten was depicted as a sun disc. Archaeologists typically associated the deity with Amenhotep III’s son, Akhenaten, who worshipped Aten instead of the chief Egyptian god of the sun and air, Amon.

This discovery shows that Amenhotep III believed in Aten too, Hawass said — which explains why the Pharoah named the city “tehn Aten,” meaning the dazzling Aten.

After taking over from his father, Akhenaten – King Tut’s father – briefly lived in Aten. Then he moved 250 miles north to a city called Amarna, along with his people. That’s where King Tut was born.

luxor hawass
An ancient pottery vessel discovered in Luxor, Egypt.

Akhenaten’s exodus to Amarna could be why so many tools and artifacts were left behind in Aten. 

“When you pick up and move, you’re not going to take the ceramics,” Bryan said.

According to Hawass, Akhenaten fled to Amarna and built that city to escape the priests of Amon, who were displeased that their Pharaoh was worshipping a different god than their own.

Small_aten_temple amarna
Temple of the Aten in Amarna, Egypt.

Akhenaten was branded a heretic. Following his death, King Tut’s family moved to Thebes, another city in the Luxor area that served as the ancient Egyptian capital.

It’s unclear whether Aten was ever reoccupied.

Hawass said there’s plenty more to find of the “lost golden city,” since only one-third of it has been uncovered so far.

luxor hawass getty
Former Egyptian minister of antiquities Zahi Hawass speaks during a press conference on the newly discovered “lost golden city” in Luxor, April 10, 2021.

“We still think that the city has an extension to the west and to the north, and that is our goal by next September,” Hawass said. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Dispo is the buzzy, invite-only photo app that’s being called both the ‘new Instagram’ and the ‘anti-Instagram’

Watching on multiple devices
Dispo offers users a more authentic approach to taking photos.

For the last 10 years, Instagram has dominated the photo app scene, but now its potential rival has arrived. 

Dispo, a new, invite-only app, offers users a more authentic approach to taking photos by bringing disposable cameras back into fashion, but in digital form.

The app has attracted significant buzz since its launch in February, becoming the fourth most downloadable app on the App Store, as reported by Entrepreneur. 

According to Axios, the app is valued at about $200 million. 

The simple concept helps it stands out among competitors, including Google photos, CNBC reports. 

Users can take as many photos as they like, but unlike Instagram, the photos cannot be edited with filters, stickers, and texts and cannot be accessed immediately until the photos have been “developed,” as reported by CNBC. The photos can be accessed the following morning at 9 a.m.

Dispo users can also choose whether they would like to post their pictures in a solo or a ‘shared’ roll with other people.

The idea is that users will enjoy their experiences while fully in the moment and without receiving immediate gratification. This makes Dispro the ‘anti-Instagram’ social media platform, according to BuzzFeed.

Entrepreneur’s report quoted Dispo user Terry O’Neal as saying: “Instagram turned everyone into general photographers. Dispo makes you a photographer with a purpose. That is where the construction of the community is: everyone seeks the same thing through their own lens.”

In a recent interview with The New York Times, David Dobrik, a popular YouTuber and creator of Dispo, discussed why he purposely limited the options. He said: “When I used to go to parties with my friends, they had disposable cameras all over the house, and they invited people to take pictures at night. In the morning, they would pick up all the cameras, look back at the footage and say, ‘What happened last night?’ 

The proliferation of invite-only apps has been rising in recent months. Founded in 2020, Clubhouse, an invite-only chatting app, disrupted the social media landscape. The app creates a space for users to meet up to host, tune in, and in some circumstances, join conversations within a community consisting of venture capitalists, celebrities, journalists, and more. 

 

Read the original article on Business Insider

NASA shared some interstellar fireworks to bring 2020 to an end. The Orion Nebula looks like a rainbow canvas peppered with dots of light.

orion nebula
A composite image of the Orion Nebula, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space telescope.

  • NASA’s final “Image of the Day” for 2020 depicts the Orion Nebula, located 1,500 light-years from Earth.
  • The Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes captured the stunning, colorful image.
  • Nebulae are giant clouds of gas and dust where new stars are born.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

NASA decided to share some interstellar fireworks to end an unforgettable year.

The agency posts an “image of the day,” every day, and the final image of 2020 did not disappoint.

A canvas of color, NASA’s December 31 image of the day depicts a composite image of the Orion Nebula, captured by the Hubble Space and Spitzer Space Telescopes.

It’s located more than 1,500 light-years away from Earth.

Nebulae like this one are interstellar nurseries  – giant clouds of gas and dust in space that cradle infant stars as they’re born. Some nebulae form as stars die: As a star’s core cools, it starts to shed its outer layers, which disperse to form gaseous clouds.

A rainbow canvas

To the naked eye, nebulae wouldn’t actually look like rainbow canvases peppered with dots of lights (which typically show new stars forming).

Cepheus nebula
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captured two nebula, or clouds of gas and dust. On the left, baby stars (the red and yellow dots) are born in a dark clearing of the nebula.

When space telescopes like the Hubble image the hydrogen, sulfur, and carbon molecules that make up nebulae like Orion, they don’t capture color. Rather, Hubble records particles of light, which NASA can then view through different filters that only let in certain wavelengths of color. Then they assign color to the particles that come through those filters (light than came through the red filter is assigned a red color, for example.)

Helix Nebula
NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope captured this image of the Helix Nebula, which is located in the constellation Aquarius-about 700 light-years away from Earth.

By combining images of the same nebula viewed with different filters, the agency can create a composite, color image like the ones shown above.

“We often use color as a tool, whether it is to enhance an object’s detail or to visualize what ordinarily could never be seen by the human eye,” NASA said.

There are roughly 3,000 nebulae in our galaxy.

The closest known nebula to our planet is the Helix Nebula, the cosmic remnant of a dying star. It’s about half the distance from Earth as the Orion Nebula is – 700 light-years (so if you traveled at the speed of light, it’d take you 700 years to get there).

The Hubble Space Telescope has been imaging nebulae for 30 years, and these images help scientists learn more about how these cosmic clouds evolve, or even dim and shrink, over time.

Read the original article on Business Insider