AROUND THE WORLD
Survey seeks 10 million signals
SOCORRO, NEW MEXICO | The biggest U.S.
radio astronomy observatory, the Karl G.
Jansky Very Large Array (VLA), is embark-
ing on its biggest ever survey of the sky—a
7-year mission to find 10 million radio
sources, four times the number now known.
The VLA will search for cosmic explosions
that optical telescopes can’t often detect,
such as supernovae, gamma-ray bursts,
and colliding neutron stars. It will also find
the jets of particles spewed out by super-massive black holes at the cores of galaxies.
The veteran VLA conducted two other
surveys in the 1990s, but the new one will
be far more detailed, thanks to a wholesale
replacement of its 1970s-era electronics from
2001 to 2012. The new VLA Sky Survey will
use 5500 hours of observing time to scan the
entire visible sky three times.
U.S. monuments at risk
WASHINGTON, D.C. | In a memo leaked
this week to media outlets including
The Washington Post, U.S. Secretary of the
Interior Ryan Zinke advised President
Donald Trump to downsize four national
monuments, including Oregon’s Cascade-
Siskiyou, Nevada’s Gold Butte, and Utah’s
Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante,
which together encompass an area the size
of Connecticut. Zinke also recommended
changing management practices for six
other monuments to allow, in some cases,
logging, mining, and commercial
fishing. Two of the areas protect rare and
endangered marine animals and birds: I t takes a lot to declare an animal extinct. That’s because tracking down endangered species, such as the Christmas Island pipistrelle (Pipistrellus murrayi), can be difficult and costly. Now, 8 years after it was last sighted, the intensely studied bat is officially no more, according to the latest Red List of Threatened Species, put out last week by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and
Natural Resources. The pipistrelle was the sole echolocating species on
Australia’s Christmas Island, some 350 kilometers south of Java, making
it easy for scientists to detect the bats using ultrasonic devices that re-
cord their calls. It’s unknown what led to the decline, which accelerated
in the 1990s, but researchers suspect invasive predators such as snakes
and giant centipedes. After a survey in January 2009 indicated that just
20 bats were left, researchers planned a captive breeding program. But
a monthlong search turned up only one, which evaded capture and vanished on 27 August that year. None has been seen or heard since.
Christmas Island bat is officially no more
The Christmas Island pipistrelle was last seen in 2009.
“It’s just mystery after mystery after mystery.” Former CIA official Fulton Armstrong, to the Associated Press, about a series of unexplained “sonic attacks” on U.S. diplomats in Havana.
Utah’s Grand Staircase-Escalante is up for downsizing.
Edited by Catherine Matacic