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North Korea has been conducting tests at a rocket launch site, according to recent satellite images captured by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.
The US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University said its analysis of images “indicates that North Korea continues to develop long-range missiles”.
There had been at least two tests of rocket motors since a failed rocket launch in April, it said.
The 30 m (100 ft) rocket crashed into the sea shortly after take off.
Pyongyang said the launch was aimed at putting a satellite into orbit, but it was widely criticized by the US, South Korea and Japan as a banned test of long-range missile technology.
North Korea has been conducting tests at a rocket launch site, according to recent satellite images captured by the US-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University
“Since the failed launch, the North has conducted at least two, and possibly more, tests of large rocket motors at its Sohae Satellite Launching Station, the most recent in mid-September 2012,” a report on the institute’s 38 North blog said.
The tests appear to have involved “liquid-fuelled, first stage engines” for either North Korea’s existing satellite launch vehicle, or a new long-range missile first seen during a military parade this year, the institute said.
There had also been indications of construction activity on the rocket site’s upper gantry platform “required for future launches of long-range rockets”, it said.
The report suggested North Korea could be planning test activities once both the US and South Korean presidential elections are finished. The South Korean poll takes place in December.
“Whether the testing of large rocket motors or construction at the launch pad are in preparation for such activities remains unclear at this point,” it said.
Advances in the country’s missile technology are watched carefully in both Seoul and Washington because of fears that North Korea could one day use long-range missiles to deliver nuclear weapons.
It is well known that Earth is unique as the only planet in the solar system which can sustain life.
However, in other respects, Earth may not be quite as unusually as is often thought.
Astronomers studying Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, have described it as “a weirdly Earth-like place” when it comes to geology.
Titan boasts landscapes shaped by the flow of rivers – though they are rivers of liquid methane, not of water.
And, like Earth, the surface of Titan is surprisingly free of craters, implying that geological activity is constantly reshaping the moon, as also happens here.
The icy landscape of Titan was first discovered by Earth-bound researchers in 2004, when the Cassini-Huygens spacecraft which orbits Saturn first broke through the moon’s atmosphere.
Astronomers studying Titan, Saturn's largest moon, have described it as "a weirdly Earth-like place" when it comes to geology
Scientists had previously been unable to see the amazing rivers which carve out channels in the moon’s surface, as its atmosphere is so thick with methane and nitrogen that the landscape is not visible from Earth.
Intrigued by the discovery of the methane rivers, researchers from MIT and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville wanted to investigate the history of Titan’s geology.
However, despite the visible river networks, the astronomers found less erosion than they had expected, given that Titan has been orbiting Saturn for four billion years.
Similarly, when they looked for craters which could have been caused by meteorites, there were far fewer than on most other moons in the solar system.
In fact, the number of craters was more reminiscent to the situation on Earth, where plate tectonics and volcanic explosions have covered up much of the impact of foreign bodies on the planet.
“Earth’s continents are always eroding or being covered with sediment,” said Taylor Perron, assistant professor of geology at MIT.
“That may be the case on Titan, too.”
Discovering which factors were responsible for shaping Titan’s landscape could be a challenge, as the satellite images do not give a good impression of the ups and downs of the moon’s terrain.
“It’s almost like we were thrown back a few centuries, before there were many topographic maps, and we only had maps showing where the rivers are,” Taylor Perron added.
Despite the challenges, Taylor Perron said he expected the similarities between Titan and Earth would give scientists an ongoing insight into how the moon’s surface has changed over millennia.
“It’s a weirdly Earth-like place, even with this exotic combination of materials and temperatures.
“And so you can still say something definitive about the erosion. It’s the same physics.”
Saroo Brierley, an Indian boy who lost his mother in 1986, has found her 25 years later from his new home in Tasmania – using satellite images from Google Earth.
Saroo was only five years old when he got lost. He was travelling with his older brother, working as a sweeper on India’s trains.
“It was late at night. We got off the train, and I was so tired that I just took a seat at a train station, and I ended up falling asleep.”
That fateful nap would determine the rest of his life.
“I thought my brother would come back and wake me up but when I awoke he was nowhere to be seen. I saw a train in front of me and thought he must be on that train. So I decided to get on it and hoped that I would meet my brother.”
Saroo did not meet his brother on the train. Instead, he fell asleep and had a shock when he woke up 14 hours later. Though he did not realize it at first, he had arrived in Calcutta, India’s third biggest city and notorious for its slums.
“I was absolutely scared. I didn’t know where I was. I just started to look for people and ask them questions.”
Soon he was sleeping rough. “It was a very scary place to be. I don’t think any mother or father would like to have their five year old wandering alone in the slums and trains stations of Calcutta.”
The little boy learned to fend for himself. He became a beggar, one of the many children begging on the streets of the city.
“I had to be quite careful. You could not trust anyone.”
Saroo was only five years old when he got lost in 1986
Once he was approached by a man who promised him food and shelter and a way back home. But Saroo was suspicious. “Ultimately I think he was going to do something not nice to me, so I ran away.”
But in the end, he did get off the streets. He was taken in by an orphanage, which put him up for adoption. He was adopted by the Brierleys, a couple from Tasmania.
“I accepted that I was lost and that I could not find my way back home, so I thought it was great that I was going to Australia.”
Saroo settled down well in his new home. But as he got older the desire to find his birth family became increasingly strong. The problem was that as an illiterate 5-year-old he had not known the name of the town he had come from. All he had to go on were his vivid memories. So he began using Google Earth to search for where he might have been born.
“It was just like being Superman. You are able to go over and take a photo mentally and ask, <<Does this match?>> And when you say, <<No>>, you keep on going and going and going.”
Eventually Saroo hit on a more effective strategy. “I multiplied the time I was on the train, about 14 hours, with the speed of Indian trains and I came up with a rough distance, about 1,200km.”
He drew a circle on a map with its centre in Calcutta, with its radius about the distance he thought he had travelled. Incredibly, he soon discovered what he was looking for: Khandwa.
“When I found it, I zoomed down and bang, it just came up. I navigated it all the way from the waterfall where I used to play.”
Soon he made his way to Khandwa, the town he had discovered online. He found his way around the town with his childhood memories. Eventually he found his own home in the neighborhood of Ganesh Talai. But it was not what he had hoped for.
“When I got to the door I saw a lock on it. It look old and battered, as if no-one had lived there for quite a long time.”
Saroo had a photograph of himself as a child and he still remembered the names of his family. A neighbor said that his family had moved.
“Another person came and then a third person turned up, and that is when I struck gold. He said, <<Just wait here for a second and I shall be back>>. And when he did come back after a couple of minutes he said, <<Now I will be taking you to your mother>>.”
“I just felt numb and thought, <<Am I hearing what I think I am hearing?>>”
Saroo was taken to meet his mother who was nearby. At first he did not recognize her.
“The last time I saw her she was 34 years old and a pretty lady, I had forgotten that age would get the better of her. But the facial structure was still there and I recognized her and I said, <<Yes, you are my mother>>.
“She grabbed my hand and took me to her house. She could not say anything to me. I think she was as numb as I was. She had a bit of trouble grasping that her son, after 25 years, had just reappeared like a ghost.”
Saroo Brierley has found his mother 25 years later using satellite images from Google Earth
Although she had long feared he was dead, a fortune teller had told Saroo’s mother that one day she would see her son again.
“I think the fortune teller gave her a bit of energy to live on and to wait for that day to come.”
And what of the brother with whom Saroo had originally gone travelling? Unfortunately, the news was not good.
“A month after I had disappeared, my brother was found in two pieces on a railway track.” His mother had never known whether foul play was involved or whether the boy had simply slipped and fallen under a train.
“We were extremely close and when I walked out of India the tearing thing for me was knowing that my older brother had passed away.”
For years Saroo Brierley went to sleep wishing he could see his mother again and his birth family. Now that he has, he feels incredibly grateful. He has kept in touch with his newly found family.
“It has taken the weight off my shoulders. I sleep a lot better now.”
And there is something to make him sleep better – with memories of Slumdog Millionaire still fresh, publishers and film producers are getting interested in his incredible story.
Japan announces that will shoot down a North Korean rocket if necessary, as new satellite images appeared to show preparations for the April launch.
Japanese Defense Minister Naoki Tanaka issued the order to intercept the rocket if it threatened Japan’s territory.
Pyongyang says it will launch a satellite on a rocket between 12 and 16 April.
Satellite images taken on Wednesday indicate that work at the launch site is under way, says a US university.
Naoki Tanaka had issued an earlier order on Tuesday to the country’s defense forces to prepare ”destruction measures against ballistic missiles”.
On Friday, he told reporters in Tokyo that he had received cabinet approval to shoot down the rocket if necessary.
Japan began preparing missile defense systems last week.
Pyongyang said it plans to fire a rocket to put a satellite into orbit next month to mark the centennial of the birth of founding leader Kim Il-Sung.
The move has sparked international criticism. North Korea claims the launch is for scientific research and ”peaceful purposes”.
But the United States and North Korea’s neighbors insist it will be a disguised long-range missile test, contravening UN resolutions.
The resolutions were imposed after a similar launch in April 2009. Japan is particularly concerned as the last North Korean rocket was launched over the north of the country.
Japan announces that will shoot down a North Korean rocket if necessary, as new satellite images appeared to show preparations for the April launch
It is thought that the North Korean rocket will follow a new southern trajectory instead of a route to the east over Japan. It will now pass close to south-western Japan instead.
South Korea also warned earlier this week that it might shoot down any North Korean rocket that strayed into its territory.
US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell over the weekend said that the rocket may affect an area between Australia, Indonesia and the Philippines.
President Benigno Aquino III has expressed concern that rocket debris may fall on Philippine territory, and called on Pyongyang to abandon the launch.
US media reports say that the US is sending its sea-based X-band radar – a radar system that sits atop a floating platform – out into the Pacific to monitor the launch. Officials have confirmed the craft left Hawaii on 23 March.
The controversial launch also comes only weeks after North Korea agreed to return to talks on its nuclear programme in return for food aid from the US – a deal which is now on hold.
At the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul earlier this week, President Barack Obama warned Pyongyang that its planned launch would only increase its isolation and lead to further sanctions.
The new satellite images, taken by a private US firm, DigitalGlobe, show that preparations are proceeding at the Tongchang-dong launch site in North Korea.
An analysis published on the 38 North website by the US-Korea Institute at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) said that ”activity has been ongoing” at the site since last week.
”Unless some major setback occurs, the North Koreans will be able to launch during the declared launch window starting 12 April 2012,” said the article by the institute at the Johns Hopkins University.
Meanwhile, South Korean media is reporting that the North fired two short-range missiles, believed to be surface-to-ship missiles, on Thursday.
The test firing of the KN-01 missiles took place off the west coast in North Pyongan Province, the newspapers reported on Friday, citing military sources in South Korea.
The incident did not appear to be related to the upcoming rocket launch, the sources said.
Military officers believed that the move was a warning by Pyongyang to South Korean and US military, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper reported.
About 9,000 of possible new ancient sites have been discovered by archaeologists using computers to scour satellite images.
Jason Ur said he had found about the potential early human settlements in north-eastern Syria.
Computers scanned the images for soil discoloration and mounds caused when mud-brick settlements collapsed.
Dr. Jason Ur said surveying the same area on the ground would have taken him a lifetime.
Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researcher said: “With these computer science techniques, however, we can immediately come up with an enormous map which is methodologically very interesting, but which also shows the staggering amount of human occupation over the last 7,000 or 8,000 years.
“What’s more, anyone who comes back to this area for any future survey would already know where to go.
“There’s no need to do this sort of initial reconnaissance to find sites. This allows you to do targeted work, so it maximizes the time we have on the ground.”
About 9,000 of possible new ancient sites have been discovered by archaeologists using computers to scour satellite images
In the past, Dr. Jason Ur used declassified spy satellite photographs and the human eye to try to identify potential sites.
But over the last three years, he has worked with computer expert Bjoern Menze, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to create a software application able to classify a huge range of terrain.
Dr. Jason Ur said this had removed subjectivity and allowed them to look at a much larger area.
In all, about 9,000 possible settlements were identified across 23,000 sq km.
Ideally, Dr. Jason Ur said, some of these would be excavated, but the volatile political situation in Syria had forced them to put any ground searches on hold.
However, Dr. Jason Ur said that he hoped to conduct further research in the Kurdish provinces of northern Iraq, and follow that up with excavations that would be “a very rigorous testing of the model”.
Archaeological work in Iraq has not been popular in the past, but Dr. Jason Ur feels the time is right to identify heritage sites of importance and ensure they are not lost as the country presses on with widespread development of its towns and cities.