‘She’s Clearly Reacting to a Loss’: Experts Say Killer Whale Carrying Her Dead Calf for 17 Days May Actually Be Grieving

A mother orca whale is still carrying the body of her calf 17 days after it died, in what some experts say may be an unprecedented testament to the strength of the species’ familial bonds.

The whale, known as Tahlequah or J35, is one of just 75 Southern Resident killer whales left in the ocean, and her calf — which died minutes after it was born last month — was the group’s first live birth since 2015. Tahlequah has been spotted in waters off the Pacific Northwest multiple times over the past two weeks, often pushing her calf’s corpse through the water or swimming with it balancing on her forehead. Other members of the pod have even taken turns carrying its body.

The heartbreaking display of apparent grief has captivated onlookers — and stymied experts.

The Southern Resident killer whales’ endangered status and cultural significance in both the U.S. and Canada has made them arguably the most studied whales in the world, says Peter Ross, a killer whale expert and vice president of research at conservation group Ocean Wise. But despite that close observation, Ross says, experts haven’t seen anything like this before, which makes it all the more noteworthy.

“This is unusual behavior,” Ross says. “It’s not normal. We haven’t seen it before. What it means — who knows?”

Dennis Christen, senior director of zoological operations at the Georgia Aquarium, says the strong bonds between mother whales and their calves can prompt this type of behavior for short periods of time. But staying with a dead calf for 17 days is unusual, he agrees, even for a such a social species.

“We do know that animals form very strong bonds, and killer whales are very well known to have very strong social relationships with their family members,” Christen says. “[Tahlequah] is an experienced mom — she’s had a calf before — so she’s doing what she has a very strong instinct to do.”

Southern Resident killer whales may have an especially strong tendency toward this type of behavior, Ross says. Whereas Bigg’s killer whales, which eat marine mammals, tend to hunt in small groups because they need the element of surprise, Southern Resident whales’ fish-only diet, which doesn’t necessitate stealthy hunting, allows them to travel in large groups, Ross explains. This feeding pattern builds a family-centric culture, which may be compounded by the fact that females have only a few …read more

Source:: Time – Science

      

Everything You Need to Know About the Last Eclipse of 2018

Partial solar eclipse

For much of the world, the last chance to catch an eclipse for awhile is about to happen.

This weekend’s partial solar eclipse will span across many countries in the Northern hemisphere on Saturday, Aug. 11 — becoming what could be the most widely viewed solar eclipse of 2018.

The eclipse kicks off at 5:46 a.m. E.T., and will be visible in Greenland before expanding toward Iceland, northern Europe, most of northern Russia and part of northern China, according to NASA. If the weather is good in the morning, when the eclipse starts (around 4:02 a.m. E.T.), then it may become the most viewed solar eclipse of the year. The wide path across parts of the Northern Hemisphere means much more people will be able to catch it than the July 13 partial solar eclipse. Even though it will be visible to a wider swath of the world, the August 11 eclipse still won’t be visible in the U.S.

In addition to potentially being the most viewed eclipse, the August 11 eclipse will also be the last eclipse — lunar or solar — of 2018. Eclipses happen approximately every 173 days during what’s called an eclipse season. According to NASA, twice a year, the moon’s orbit crosses paths with the sun’s orbit for 34 days when up to three eclipses can happen.

In 2018, the first eclipse was the super blue blood moon on Jan. 31 followed by a partial solar eclipse on the Feb. 15. The Aug. 11 eclipse marks the end of this eclipse season after two previous eclipses during the month of July. You’ll have to wait until Jan. 21, 2019 for the next eclipse. It will also be a supermoon.

To celebrate the last eclipse of the season, here’s everything you need to know to prepare for the August 11 partial solar eclipse.

What is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse happens when the moon comes between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on the planet. According to Space.com, because the moon is relatively smaller than Earth, the shadow is cast on a small area of the Earth’s surface. However, for those who can see it, during a total solar eclipse the moon will cover the sun, blocking out the visible light. The point at which the sun is totally blocked is called totality, and that can last from around …read more

Source:: Time – Science

      

This Is the Best Time to Watch the Perseid Meteor Shower

Perseid meteor shower

Anyone who was disappointed by the brightness of the nearly full moon obscuring the Perseid meteor shower last year will have a chance to turn their stargazing luck around this month. This year’s Perseid meteor shower will be highly visible both Saturday and Sunday night, giving watchers ample opportunity to spot plenty of shooting stars.

“The Perseids are perhaps the most popular meteor shower because they’re a summer watching event when people are often more relaxed, kids don’t have to be up early for school, and the weather is so much more accommodating than in the colder fall or winter months,” Dr. Jacqueline Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History, tells TIME.

This Perseid meteor shower will take place during a nearly new moon—meaning it won’t interfere with the show—and is expected to be the best meteor shower this year. Unfortunately, there’s always the chance that bad weather like fog or rain will create unfavorable viewing conditions. Be sure to check your local weather forecast. And if you want to know how to pronounce “Perseid” correctly, it sounds a little like “Purse-y-id,” here’s a video from NASA to help.

When is the best time to see the meteor shower?
Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty ImagesA meteor during the Perseid meteor shower seen from near Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

So when is the Perseid meteor shower? The Perseids takes place every year between July 17 and Aug. 24. The Perseid meteor shower peak happens from Aug. 11-13 with the night of Aug. 12-13 expected to be the best time to watch, according to Faherty. Stargazers should be able to see around 60-70 meteors per hour during the two peak nights. That’s fewer than the 150-200 meteors per hour that can be seen in years when the shower is in outburst, but will likely still make for quite the show.

How can I see the Perseid meteor shower

Spectators in the Northern Hemisphere will have the best view of the Perseid meteor shower, as the meteors will appear to radiate out from the constellation Perseus in the northeastern sky. However, observers in the mid-Southern Hemisphere will still have a chance of seeing some shooting stars if they look toward the northeast horizon.

If you’re interested in the best possible views of the show should set up shop somewhere dark—with no light pollution or …read more

Source:: Time – Science