The search for the best observatory site in the world has lead to the discovery of what is thought to be the coldest, driest, calmest place on Earth - a place where no human is thought to have ever set foot. To search for the perfect site to take pictures of the heavens, a U.S.-Australian research team combined data from satellites, ground stations and climate models in a study to assess the many factors that affect astronomy - cloud cover, temperature, sky-brightness, water vapor, wind speeds and atmospheric turbulence.
The researchers pinpointed a site, known simply as Ridge A, that is 13,297 feet (4,053 meters) high up on the Antarctic Plateau on the continent at the bottom of the world. The study revealed that Ridge A has an average winter temperature of minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 70 degrees Celsius) and an extremely low amount of water in the air.
The site is also extremely calm, which means that there is very little of the atmospheric turbulence that elsewhere makes stars appear to twinkle. "It's so calm that there's almost no wind or weather there at all," said study leader Will Saunders, of the Anglo-Australian Observatory in Australia. All these elements combine to make the perfect recipe for an astronomical observation post: "The astronomical images taken at Ridge A should be at least three times sharper than at the best sites currently used by astronomers," Saunders said. "Because the sky there is so much darker and drier, it means that a modestly-sized telescope there would be as powerful as the largest telescopes anywhere else on earth."
The site would even be superior to the best existing observatories on high mountain tops in Hawaii and Chile, Saunders said. Researchers assert that a telescope at the site could take images nearly as good as those from the space-based Hubble telescope. Located within the Australian Antarctic Territory, the site is 89 miles (144 km) from an international robotic observatory and the proposed new Chinese 'Kunlun' base at Dome A, a higher point on the Antarctic Plateau.
By Gay Nagle Myers
Apple Leisure Group plans to invest $600 million in Mexico through its hotel division, AMResorts. The company intends to invest in six new resorts with a combined 2,800 rooms in Quintana Roo (Cancun and the Riviera Maya), Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta.
The developments will generate more than 4,000 jobs and an estimated $237 million in annual sales after the first year of operation, according to Alex Zozaya, president, Apple Leisure Group.
"AMResorts is fiercely committed to Mexico and believes the destination provides a strong opportunity for investors," he said. "With more than 20 properties across Mexico, AMResorts has seen firsthand the social and economic impact of our investments and is excited for the next growth phase."
AMResorts' brands are Secrets, Dreams, Sunscape, Zoetry, Now and Breathless.
In a speech at Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station on Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden proposed to spend $53 billion over the next six years to help promote the construction of a national high-speed, intercity passenger rail network. The proposal expands the $10.5 billion already spent on high-speed rail expansion since President Obama entered office, including $8 billion in the 2009 economic stimulus package.
The Administration wants to spend $8 billion on new high-speed rail systems in the coming year and another $45 billion in the next five years. The money would focus on local services running between 90 and 125 mph and express services that would run between 125 and 250 mph. When the president unveils his proposed $3.8 trillion budget for fiscal year 2012 next week, the details of the plan will be fully outlined. In his State of the Union address, Obama said that he was setting a goal of giving 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail within 25 years. The new investment would offer cities, states and private companies an application for seeking federal grants and loans to develop railway capacity.
The new Republican-controlled Congress is expected to resist the proposal. Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has already criticized the proposed expenditure. But some private groups are supporting the high-speed rail plan because it will create jobs and reduce the impact on the environment. Guillaume Mehlman, managing director of Alstom Transport's North American Region, said, "Alstom applauds the Obama Administration for proposing a $50 billion-plus investment in both high-speed and traditional passenger rail. “
In 2007, Alstom broke the world high-speed rail record at 357 mph and its trains have the capacity to routinely travel at 225 mph and above. Alstom Transport has 30 years of experience with high-speed rail, having built and maintained the TGV that has been widely used across Europe for decades, and more recently has rolled out its AGV trains that have distributed propulsion systems.
Since 1981, Alstom has sold 670 Very High-Speed trains. Alstom’s Very High-Speed trains are already operating in France, Spain, the U.K., Korea, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany, and the Netherlands. Over 1.7 billion Very High-Speed customer trips have been safely undertaken in Alstom trains over a total distance equivalent to the distance between the earth and the moon.
CANCUN –THE PERFECT DESTINATION TO ENCOUNTER THE FASCINATING SAILFISH
Cancun, Q. Roo January 31st, 2011 – From January to June, just south of Isla Mujeres, lies an ecological reserve you’ll witness a rarely known spectacle: massive sightings of Sailfish who take over the warm waters of Cancun. The Sailfish is one of the fastest growing species in the world (it can reach up to 68 mi/hr) and during these months, the waters of Cancun transform into grand display of the species. The sailfish can also jump up to 6 feet above the water while hunting for other fish and it’s also their way of letting others know that food is near. It expands its dorsal fin as a sign of warning.
A few years ago, the only information we had on this beautiful, metallic blue colored fish was focused on its prestige in sport fishing. But, it was Mexican diver, Alberto Friscione, who was in love with the species and proponed to expose this wonderful fish throughout Mexico. According to Friscione, the sailfish, a ferocious predator, more than feeding itself, appears as if it’s dancing on water, due to its swift movements and the use of its large bill among pray. By doing so, it creates small groups, driving them to the surface of the water, and eats them.
The spectacle is crowned when the sailfish opens its dorsal fin, known as sail, and changes drastically from an opaque tone to sparkles of silver and blue, a distraction to its prey and announcement to its species, that it’s going to attack to avoid hurting each other. The dance of the sailfish is one of the many “treasures” found in Cancun and its surrounding areas. The sight is just one of the few pleasures Cancun offers its visitors and ocean enthusiasts during these months, where visitors have the opportunity experience first hand these unique fish.
by Laura Del Rosso Tourism officials here have set a lofty goal: to propel Mexico into the top five of worldwide destinations by 2018. Mexico currently ranks 10th in international arrivals, according to World Tourism Organization statistics. “We have clear goals to position ourselves in the top five,” said Rodolfo Lopez, chief executive of the Mexico Tourism Board, during the first International Tourism Fair of the Americas, known locally as FITA.
Mexico currently attracts 8 million international visitors a year and would have to double that number, to 16 million to reach its target. “It’s a very ambitious task,” Lopez said. “This means that we must grow double digits every year for eight years. This may sound optimistic, but the good news is that the market is there.” Mexico has the culture, history, varied landscape and geography to make it into the top five, officials said. The question is whether the ongoing drug cartel violence will hamper its efforts to boost tourism.
“There’s a perception of violence, and that is our image abroad,” said Pedro Joaquin Coldwell, former tourism minister, who spoke at FITA. “It’s not easy to fight that perception.” But officials said the safety issue is a misperception and believe it is a short-term issue. They are focusing on the long term. “We know our consumers, and we know the barriers,” said Lopez. “If we understand them correctly, there is no reason Mexico cannot achieve these goals.”
The first step is this year’s $35 million North American TV, print and billboard campaign, called “The Place You Thought You Knew,” which promotes lesser-known destinations and Mexico’s rich history and culture. The campaign is designed to draw affluent, sophisticated visitors who are looking for more than the typical sun-and-surf vacation. So far this year, international arrivals are up 20 percent compared with last year. Lopez is part of a new team at the board, headed by former Sabre executive Gloria Guevara, the minister of tourism, who, as one of her first actions, launched a program titled “Rutas” that promotes lesser-known destinations.
Everything is a business nowadays, including finding your better half in a foreign country. ‘Marry a foreigner’ tours are being launched by Russian travel companies.
The first such tour will kick off this September, where Russian ladies will seek their grooms from Israel, according to a report by TourExpi. The tour covers dating and flirting in a Tel Aviv restaurant, and city tours of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.