Posts by Ilima Loomis

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NASA sensor to study space junk too small to be seen from Earth

The film Gravity dramatized the risks of space junk. But although flyaway wrenches and broken-off rocket parts may pose the deadliest threat to spacecraft, most orbital debris is actually much smaller—think flecks of paint and the splinters of shattered satellites. Now, NASA hopes to learn more about the dust-size microdebris orbiting Earth with the Space Debris Sensor…

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“Rating smallholder shrimp farmers’ sustainability challenging, controversial”

For more than a quarter century, Sri Lanka was devastated by civil war. As fighting raged in the east of the island nation of some 21 million people, life and economic development continued in the relatively peaceful northwest. After the conflict ended in 2009, and the country began to rebuild, Canadian researchers examined an important…

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“A Perfect Maui Getaway”

Just a short hop from Honolulu, the island of Maui is the perfect place to get away from the traffic and bustle of the city. Hawaii’s second largest island offers spectacular natural beauty, a taste of local culture, and a variety of accessible outdoor activities. Take a long weekend to reconnect, share an adventure, and…

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“Mystery Quakes May Be Among World’s Longest-Lived Aftershocks”

Central Washington State isn’t known for being very seismically active, especially compared with the western part of the state, where earthquakes are fairly common. But the town of Entiat, about 3 hours east of Seattle, is an exception: The area recorded hundreds of earthquakes over the past century. A group of scientists investigating this unusual and…

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“Under Antarctic ice, microbes gobble up greenhouse gas”

Trapped beneath blankets of ice in Antarctica are huge amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Scientists have long feared that climate change will melt these ice sheets and release the climate-altering gas. But a new study suggests the threat might not be as bad as it seemed. That’s thanks to some microscopic helpers: bacteria. Read…

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“Giant Antarctic sea spiders breathe really strangely”

Sea spiders just got weirder. The ocean arthropods pump blood with their guts, new research shows. It’s the first time this kind of circulatory system has been seen in nature. Read more of my story for Science News for Students here.

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“Mirror delivered to giant solar telescope despite Native Hawaiian protest”

Trucks carrying the primary mirror for the world’s largest solar telescope advanced past a line of protesters in the early morning hours on Wednesday, delivering it to the top of Haleakalā, the 3055-meter summit of Maui. Just after 4 a.m. Hawaii time, several people were arrested in a peaceful demonstration that suddenly turned confrontational. Read…

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“Trees in the Amazon make their own rain”

The Amazon rainforest is home to strange weather. One peculiarity is that rains begin 2 to 3 months before seasonal winds start to bring in moist air from the ocean. Now, researchers say they have finally figured out where this early moisture comes from: the trees themselves. The study provides concrete data for something scientists…

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“House of the Sun”

How did the world’s largest solar telescope rise on the summit of Maui’s Haleakala volcano, while another major telescope was derailed by protests an island away? I explored the politics and culture behind Hawaii’s telescope debate in this feature story for Science magazine. Read the full story here.

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“Satellite Observations Could Help Forecast an Eruption’s End”

Developing a method to predict when a volcano will erupt has long remained out of reach. Less studied, but also important for public safety, is forecasting when eruptions will end, a feat that has proven equally elusive. Now researchers are using satellite data to test a 1981 theory that lava flow–forming eruptions follow a predictable…

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Update on TMT

After months of testimony, a former state judge has recommended that Hawaii officials provide a key permit needed to start construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) atop Mauna Kea. It’s a step back on track for the project, which has drawn fierce opposition from Native Hawaiians and was placed in limbo in late 2015 as a result of a decision…

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Science-based first aid for jellyfish stings

Pack tweezers and vinegar in your beach bag — and, no, don’t pee on it, say scientists. Read my story for Hakai magazine here.