TIME astronomy

Watch the Delta Aquarid Meteor Shower Live

The best time to watch is between moonset and sunrise early Wednesday morning

The Delta Aquarid meteor shower is set to light up skies across the globe with shooting stars in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

While the Delta Aquarid meteor shower started on July 12 and is expected to continue until Aug. 23, the time between moonset and sunrise early Wednesday morning is slated to be the best time to see the shower’s shooting stars.

Astronomers suggest gazing up at the sky a few hours before dawn—at about 2 a.m.—when meteor showers are easiest to see and most frequent, with up to 15 or 20 meteors per hour. While a telescope or binoculars are unnecessary, city dwellers might find the showers hard to see; NASA suggests getting as far away from “urban light pollution as possible and find a location with a clear, unclouded view of the night sky.”

Click here to see where NASA recommends you watch meteor showers in your area.

Watch a livestream of the meteor shower at the top of this post starting at 9 p.m. EDT.

TIME space

Fatal Virgin Galactic Spaceship Crash Blamed on Co-Pilot Error

virgin galactic spaceshiptwo crash
Kenneth Brown—Reuters A combination of photos show Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo as it detaches from the jet airplane that carried it aloft and then exploding over the skies of the Mojave Desert, Calif. on October 31, 2014.

The accident killed the co-pilot and seriously injured the pilot

(WASHINGTON) — Federal safety investigators said Tuesday the crash of a Virgin Galactic spaceship last year was caused by a catastrophic structural failure triggered when the co-pilot unlocked the craft’s braking system early.

National Transportation Safety Board investigators said the resulting aerodynamic forces caused the brakes to actually be applied without any further action by the crew. Investigators said no safeguards were built into system to overcome the error of the co-pilot.

The spaceship broke apart over the Mojave Desert during a test flight 10 months ago. The accident killed the co-pilot and seriously injured the pilot.

NTSB officials said early in the investigation that the co-pilot prematurely unlocked equipment designed to slow the descent of the spacecraft during initial re-entry. Simply unlocking the spacecraft’s brakes shouldn’t have applied them, but that happened anyway.

In determining the probable cause of the accident, board members were focused on prioritizing the lack of systems put in place to mitigate or overcome human error. Scaled Composites developed the craft for Virgin Galactic, and NTSB member Robert Sumwalt said the company “put all its eggs in the basket” the crew doing everying correctly.

“My point is that a single-point human failure has to be anticipated,” Sumwalt said. “The system has to be designed to compensate for the error.”

NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said he hoped the investigation will prevent such an accident from happening again. He said the NTSB learned “with a high degree of certainty the events that resulted in the breakup.”

“Many of the safety issues that we will hear about today arose not from the novelty of a space launch test flight, but from human factors that were already known elsewhere in transportation,” Hart said.

Virgin Galactic has been proceeding with its plans for space flight and is now building another craft. Company officials have said in recent months that their commitment to commercial spacecraft has not waivered despite the crash and they expect the company to resume test flights later this year. Eventually, the company envisions flights with six passengers climbing more than 62 miles above Earth.

TIME MERS

There May Have Been a Major Breakthrough in MERS Treatment

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Getty Images

Researchers in Hong Kong have cured infected monkeys of MERS using existing drugs

Two existing and widely available drugs may prove to be effective treatments for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), new research published by the University of Hong Kong suggests.

According to the South China Morning Post, the medicines—lopinavir with ritonavir and a type of interferon—were tested on marmosets, small monkeys that a 2014 U.S. study concluded would be the best subject for MERS trials because of the way their reactions to the virus mimics human illness. The drugs, currently used to treat HIV and sclerosis, were found to be effective in curing MERS-infected marmosets.

The research is the first of its kind in the world.

“We would recommend doctors to start using both drugs immediately to treat MERS patients if they are critical,” said Jasper Chan Fuk-woo, one of the researchers, told SCMP. “The evidence in this study is quite strong in proving the effectiveness of these two drugs.”

Currently, there is no known cure for MERS.

Meanwhile, South Korea, which struggled with a MERS outbreak in May and June, has not reported any new MERS cases for 23 days and no deaths for more than two weeks. The country declared a “de-facto end” to its outbreak on July 28, although a spokesman for the World Health Organization told the BBC it would not declare an official end to the country’s outbreak until 28 days had passed with no new infections—twice the disease’s incubation period.

[SCMP]

TIME climate change

U.S. Flood Risk Could Be Worse Than We Thought

flooding climate change
Getty Images

A new study looks at what happens when storm surge occurs at the same time as high rain fall

The way scientists have traditionally analyzed storm surge and heavy rainfall, the two main drivers of flooding in coastal communities, may underestimate flood risk in the United States, according to new research.

In the past, disaster experts have used analyzed storm surges and high rainfall separately to define flood zones and devise preparedness plans. The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, shows that this method underestimates the risk of storm surges and high rainfall occurring at the same time. The number of these so-called compound events has increased over the past 100 years, researchers found.

New York City, for instance, has experienced an increase in the number of compound events with both storm surge and high precipitation in recent years, a change researchers write can be attributed to “storm surge weather patterns that also [favor] high precipitation.” Overall, a reevaluation of potential flooding scenarios that includes the possibility of compound events more than doubled odds of flooding in the city.

“Usually it requires an extreme storm surge to cause flooding or an extreme rainfall event,” said study author Thomas Wahl, a researcher at the University of South Florida. “But the combination of two events that are not really extreme on their own may cause larger damages than one of the two events alone.”

Read More: This Factor Predicts What People Think About Climate Change

The risk of these compound events varies greatly from city to city, according to the study. Cities most prone to hurricanes and other large storms on the East and Gulf coasts are more vulnerable than their West coast counterparts, for instance.

Researchers note that while the new research looks at storm surge and precipitation, long-term sea level rise remains the biggest driver of increased flood risk. A study released last week suggests that sea levels may rise by 10 feet above current levels within the next century. The estimates, which would make places like New York City and London uninhabitable, significantly exceed those by the widely-respected Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and have been met with skepticism by many climate scientists.

“Continued high emissions would result in multi-meter sea level rise this century and lock in continued ice sheet disintegration such that building cities or rebuilding cities on coast lines would become foolish,” Hansen wrote in a statement accompanying his paper.

TIME A Year In Space

See the Best Photos From an Astronaut’s Fourth Month in Space

Astronaut Scott Kelly just passed the four-month mark in his yearlong stay aboard the Space Station. Here is a collection of the best photos he's snapped so far

TIME is following Kelly’s mission in the new series, A Year In Space. Watch the first two episodes here.

TIME climate change

Companies To Invest $140 Billion To Fight Climate Change

The White House organized this large private-sector commitment

More than a dozen leading U.S. companies have committed to investing a total of $140 billion in new funds to combat climate change in a White House-organized effort meant to demonstrate the private sector’s commitment to the issue, the White House announced Monday.

The initiative, the latest in a series of White House moves on climate change, signals the continued effort by the administration to position global warming as a major issue in the lead up to a landmark United Nations conference on climate change in Paris at the end of the year.

“They’re not just committing to support a successful outcome in Paris, they’re walking the walk,” said Brian Deese, the president’s senior climate change advisor, on a conference call for journalists. “Commitments are varied, but the thing they all share is that they’re innovative and ambitious.”

The list of companies committing money and resources to fighting climate change contains many of the country’s most prominent corporations, including retailers, banks and tech companies. And, while many have made previous efforts to combat climate change, the announcements contains new commitments from each of the 13 companies. Financial institutions like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America have committed to financing billions of dollars in renewable energy plants. Tech companies like Google and Microsoft committed to purchasing 100% of the energy for their power-hungry data centers from renewable energy sources, in addition to a variety of other commitments. Companies like Walmart and Pepsico have agreed to rethink elements of their supply chain in an environmentally conscious manner.

“What’s exciting about this is these commitments are new and push beyond what has been done,” said Deese. “They are accountable, measurable and verifiable.”

Read More: Here’s Where to Buy a House In the U.S. That Will Be Resilient to Climate Change

The announcement also suggests an increased acceptance in the business community to the realities of climate change. The companies total revenue topped $1.3 trillion in 2014, and they have a combined value of more than $2.5 trillion. Still, the list of companies notably lacks an oil company, and it remains to be seen whether one will join the initiative in a future round of pledges. In response to a question on that topic, Deese said that he expects to see “substantial support from across different industry sectors” in the coming months.

The announcement, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, comes just months before a United Nations conference on climate change in Paris that many hope will lead to the strongest international agreement on the issue yet. Obama has sought to position the U.S. a leader on climate change in the lead up to that conference, committing to cut carbon emissions in the U.S. by 26 to 28% by 2025.

“There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate,” Obama said at the UN climate summit last September.

TIME climate change

This Factor Predicts What People Think About Climate Change

climate change protest
Getty Images

Education affects climate change beliefs differently if you live in the U.S.

Around the world, people with higher levels of education are more likely to understand climate change than their less-educated counterparts, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Using data collected by Gallup from 119 countries, researchers found that education level was a key determinant of climate change risk perceptions in 62% of countries around the world. But all bets are off when it comes to education and views of climate change in the United States, along with a select few English speaking countries. Political party and ideology predicted views of climate change in the U.S., not education alone. (Information on political ideology and climate change beliefs was not available for countries outside the U.S.)

“[For Americans] just having higher education does not mean that you understand or accept the science,” says study co-author Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. “[Americans] who have attained higher education are better at cherry picking evidence that seems to validate what we already believe.”

Read More: How the Recession Accidentally Helped the Planet

Overall, different regions had vastly different levels of awareness of climate change. Two-thirds of people in Egypt, Bangladesh and Nigeria, for instance, had never heard of climate change, the study found. Still, many in developing countries who lacked formal knowledge of the concept said they had noticed changes in their local weather patterns indicative of climate change. The lack of climate change awareness in developing countries should be of particular concern because many of those countries have been deemed more vulnerable to environmental changes. “If you don’t know you’re at risk, you’re even more at risk because you can’t possibly be taking the actions to prepare,” says Leiserowitz.

Global public awareness about climate change could also play a role in negotiations for a global treaty on climate change at a United Nations conference on the issue later this year. Public support for an agreement will help countries to follow through on commitments made at the summit, Leiserowitz said.

“It won’t be some top-down commandment from a legally binding treaty from the UN making everybody do it,” he says. “It’s going to be national dynamics where each government commits to doing this and then they have to get people onboard to support those policies.”

TIME animals

Obama Announces Major Restrictions on Ivory Trade

When implemented, the proposed rule will result in a near total ban on the ivory trade in the U.S.

President Obama announced sweeping new measures to stem the ivory trade on Saturday, including a ban on the interstate sale of most ivory in the U.S. and new restrictions on when the material can be exported. When implemented, the rule would result in a near total ban on the ivory trade in the U.S.

“We’re proposing a new rule that bans the sale of virtually all ivory across state lines,” Obama said at a press conference in Kenya.

Existing U.S. ivory regulations mostly concern the import and export of the material from the country, while allowing some legal trade of the material between states. The new regulation, which will be finalized later this year, would restrict interstate trade to antique items that are over 100 years old or contain a minimal amount of ivory. The proposed rule also contains new restrictions on the international trade.

Prior to the Saturday’s announcement, many animal conservationists had argued that allowing some legal ivory trade provided a cover for criminals who were actually selling illegal ivory. In a 2009 investigation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials seized more than a ton of ivory from a Philadelphia art store that had been manipulated to appear old enough to meet federal standards. Ivory from that seizure was destroyed at a “ivory crush” event in Times Square last month.

“By tightening domestic controls on trade in elephant ivory and allowing only very narrow exceptions, we will close existing avenues that are exploited by traffickers and address ivory trade that poses a threat to elephants in the wild,” said Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in a press release. “Federal law enforcement agents will have clearer lines by which to demarcate legal from illegal trade.”

Read More: Why Elephant Advocates Crushed a Ton of Ivory in Times Square

The announcement comes as conservation groups have warned about an increase in the prevalence of elephant poaching and a subsequent decline in the number of African elephants. Fewer than 500,000 elephants roam the continent today, and more than 50,000 are killed each year. After China, the U.S. is the world’s second largest market for ivory product sales, according to some estimates.

In addition to protecting elephants, the regulations will promote economic growth in Africa in the many countries rely on wildlife-based tourism, officials said. It will also aid the fight against terrorist groups that fund their efforts with money from the ivory trade.

“This is an issue not just about protecting elephants, but alleviating poverty, spurring economic growth, and fighting off people intent on destroying governments and terrorizing communities,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society, in an emailed statement. “Here’s a case where protecting wildlife is bound inextricably with core concerns about economic and national security.”

TIME vaccines

Seattle Flunks Vaccine Science

Northwest nonsense: Vaccine rates in Seattle are dangerously low
Edmund Lowe Photography; Getty Images/Moment RF Northwest nonsense: Vaccine rates in Seattle are dangerously low

Jeffrey Kluger is Editor at Large for TIME.

In the same week Nigeria frees itself from polio, vaccine rates continue to fall in the Pacific northwest

Nothing says First World city like Seattle does. Come for the cachet, stay for the Seahawks, and give a nod to the Starbucks and the Amazon and the mothership that is Microsoft just to the east. There’s nothing this so-hip-it-hurts town lacks, it seems—except perhaps for common sense. If you’re looking for that, the developing world is a far better bet.

That’s the inescapable conclusion on what should be a very good week for public health—and childhood health in particular—with the World Health Organization and other groups announcing on July 24 that Nigeria has gone a full year without a single reported case of polio. Pending further certification, the country will be removed from the dwindling list of countries in which the disease is endemic, leaving just Pakistan and Afghanistan. If Nigeria’s caseload remains at zero for two more years, it will be officially declared polio free.

How did the country that as recently as 1988 saw 30,000 children—a stadium’s worth—paralyzed or killed by polio every year achieve such a stunning turnaround? No surprise: vaccines—the same vaccines that have saved the lives and health of millions of children around the world, and the same vaccines that saw polio eradicated entirely in the U.S. in 1979.

So it came as a head-slapping development that earlier this month, Seattle news outlets reported that polio vaccination rates in their city have hit a low of just 81.4%, or worse than the rates in Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Algeria, El Salvador, Guyana, Sudan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Yemen, according to the WHO. Why? Because Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Algeria, El Salvador, Guyana, Sudan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia and Yemen may have a lot of problems, but they don’t have the anti-vaccine crazies.

Vaccine denialism is a perverse affliction of people who should be smarter than they act—the well-educated, high-income folks who know just enough to know too much, and to assume that simply because they haven’t seen a disease in a long time it’s gone away. And hey, if it does turn up, they’ve surely got the resources to deal with it.

That’s the reason that in the U.S., anti-vaxxers tend to cluster in wealthy, blue-state communities like Silicon Valley, New York City, Columbus, Seattle and it’s down-coast little sister Portland. It’s the reason too that the nonsense that animates the anti-vaxxers—the idea that vaccines are toxic or overprescribed or nothing more than a cash grab by big pharma and big government—is a lot likelier to gain traction in other wealthy countries around the world than in ones that have only recently done away with scourges like polio or are still struggling with them, and either way have images of sick or dying children still fresh in their minds.

“Polio is nonexistent in the states, so if you’re going to travel, it makes sense to do it,” said one Washington State resident interviewed by Seattle’s KUOW radio station on July 14. “We are doing vaccines based on our family’s needs, not based on what doctors say we need to follow.”

Never mind how abjectly ridiculous that thinking sounds if you shift its frame even a little: “We are fire-proofing our home based on our family’s needs, not based on what the fire department say we need to follow,” or “We are fastening our seat belts during turbulence based on our family’s needs, not based on what flight attendants say we need to follow.”

Never mind, too, that that the very reason polio is non-existent in the states is because people have been good about getting vaccinated and that, as an outbreak in an unvaccinated Amish community in 2003 showed, there is no virus in the world that isn’t just an incoming airline flight away. If it lands in a community where vaccine rates are low, it will find plenty of people to infect.

What’s more, while polio may indeed have been KO’ed in the states years ago, measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough and more are all very much still at large, and outbreaks of those diseases have been on the rise thanks to the anti-vaxxers. The vaccination rate for measles, mumps and rubella specifically is below 90% among Seattle kindergarteners, dangerously short of the 95% rate needed to keep communities as a whole protected.

For most people, living in the developed world is a mere accident of birth and geography—a demographic freebie that gets you started in life far ahead of people born in less lucky places. Privilege can be part of that first world birthright, as can wealth and freedom and the opportunity for good heath. But smarts, it seems, have to be earned. That, clearly, is something Nigeria and Rwanda could teach Seattle.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME space

Pluto Silhouette Reveals Surprising Atmospheric Haze

Pluto Haze Eclipse New Horizons
NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI Pluto sends a breathtaking farewell to New Horizons. Backlit by the sun, Pluto’s atmosphere rings its silhouette like a luminous halo in this image taken by NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft around midnight EDT on July 15, 2015.

NASA released stunning images on Friday of the dwarf planet's silhouette

In this parting image, the New Horizons spacecraft captured a darkened Pluto backlit by the sun—illuminating the hydrocarbon haze circling the dwarf planet for the first time.

In addition to showing an elegantly beautiful silhouette, the NASA image indicates that haze layers extend for up to 80 miles above Pluto’s surface. Scientists had predicted much less atmospheric haze, and were surprised by how much the sunlight revealed, NASA said in a press release.

“My jaw was on the ground when I saw this first image of an alien atmosphere in the Kuiper Belt,” said New Horizons Principal Investigator Alan Stern in the press release. “It reminds us that exploration brings us more than just incredible discoveries—it brings incredible beauty.”

The New Horizons probe took the photo with its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI), responsible for the historic photos of the dwarf planet. NASA released this image just hours after revealing a false color view of Pluto from New Horizons.

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