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Alaska’s brown bears are putting on a show

It’s not easy being a brown bear in Alaska. Territorial disputes, mating woes and the endless hunt for salmon infuse daily life with drama. Thanks to eight webcams set up in Katmai National Park, this drama is ready for prime time.

The bear-cam project, funded by the Annenberg Foundation, was launched for two weeks last July to expose people to the brown bear, an icon of the Alaskan wilderness. Katmai National Park, 275 miles west of Anchorage, is accessible only by float plane.

This year, eight cameras will broadcast their activities in the Brooks Camp area, where about 100 of the park’s 2,000 brown bears live. The webcams – one of them underwater – are set up along the Brooks River and at Brooks Falls, where many bears wade into the water to catch salmon traveling upstream. View the action at explore.org/bears.

– Washington Post

IRIS sheds new light on the sun’s power

NASA is getting an unprecedented close-up look at the sun, thanks to a new telescope.

NASA’s IRIS spacecraft, launched about a month ago, already is providing detailed pictures of the sun.

The telescope’s door opened in late July, and it began observing the lower solar atmospheres in never-before-seen detail. The early results were announced and hailed by the research team as exciting. Its predecessor, the SDO (Solar Dynamics Observatory) spacecraft, offered much less detail.

NASA’s science mission directorate chief, former astronaut John Grunsfeld, said it’s “a grand opening of a new era in solar physics.”

IRIS is short for Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph. It will continue its mission for the next two years.

Scientists say the observations will help shed light on the sun’s impact on Earth.

– Associated Press