This is the VOA Special English Technology Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com | http://facebook.com/voalearningenglish
The Hubble Space Telescope continues to make valuable discoveries after more than twenty years in orbit around Earth. Hubble recently showed a fourth moon orbiting Pluto. Astronomers temporarily named it P4. The moon is the smallest to be discovered around the icy dwarf planet. Astronomers estimate that the moon is from thirteen to thirty-four kilometers across. They first saw it in a Hubble photo taken on June twenty-eighth. The American space agency NASA launched the Hubble Space Telescope in nineteen ninety. Reaching that day took years of work. Ed Weiler is NASA's chief astronomer. Mr. Weiler has worked closely with the Hubble program since nineteen seventy-nine. He says that when the Hubble was launched, it represented an increase in the ability of other telescopes on Earth by a factor of ten. He says the last time in astronomy that something like this happened was when Galileo put the first telescope to his eye. NASA's first chief of astronomy was Nancy Grace Roman. Ms. Roman joined NASA in nineteen fifty-nine. She led the effort that resulted in the creation of the Hubble Space Telescope.She says astronomers had been wanting to get observations from above the atmosphere for a long time. Looking through the atmosphere is somewhat like looking through a piece of old, stained glass. The glass has defects in it, so the image is blurred from that.The Hubble telescope orbits about five hundred fifty kilometers above Earth. Ms. Roman says she still remembers the first images that it captured. For her, the image that was most striking was the center of a globular cluster. Each individual star and its color could be seen. The Hubble Space Telescope has helped expand our knowledge of the universe. It helped scientists estimate that the universe began about fourteen billion years ago. Earlier estimates had placed it between ten and twenty billion years old. The Hubble telescope also confirmed the existence of black holes. These are extremely dense masses believed to exist at the center of most galaxies. Their gravitational pull is so strong, they absorb light. The Hubble Space Telescope completed its one millionth scientific observation in July. NASA is building a new space telescope to look even deeper into the beginnings of the universe. For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal.
(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 29Aug2011)
This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, from http://voaspecialenglish.com
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says deforestation has decreased over the past ten years. But it still continues at a high rate in many countries. Deforestation is mainly caused by the cutting down of tropical forests to provide land for agriculture.
The worlds total forest area is just over four billion hectares.
About thirteen million hectares of forest were cut down or lost through natural causes each year in the last ten years. This compares with about sixteen million hectares per year during the nineteen nineties.
The FAO study covers two hundred thirty-three countries and areas.
The study found that Brazil and Indonesia have reduced their deforestation rates. The two countries had the highest loss of forests in
the nineteen nineties. In addition,
the study noted tree-planting programs in countries such as China, India, Vietnam and the United States.
These programs, along with natural expansion of forests in some areas, have added more than seven million hectares of new forests each year.
South America and Africa had the highest yearly loss of forests during the last ten years. South America lost four million hectares. Africa lost almost three and a half million hectares. However, Asia gained more than two million hectares a year in the last decade. In North America and Central America, the forest area remained about the same. In Europe,
it continued to expand, but at a slower rate than earlier.
Eduardo Rojas is assistant director-general of FAOs Forestry Department. He said for the first time, the rate of deforestation has decreased around the world. This is the result of efforts taken at local and international levels. Mister Rojas said countries have improved their forest policies and legislation. They have also provided forests for use by local communities and native peoples and for the protection of biological diversity.
He said this is a welcome message in two thousand ten the International Year of Biodiversity.
However, Mister Rojas said the rate of deforestation is still very high in many areas. He said countries must strengthen their efforts to better protect and manage their forests.
And thats the VOA Special English Agriculture Report. You can find transcripts, MP3s, podcasts and captioned videos at voaspecialenglish.com.
(Adapted from a radio program broadcast 06Apr2010)