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ESA’s CryoSat-2 begins transmitting data

PARIS, April 13 (UPI) — The European Space Agency says its recently launched CryoSat-2 satellite has delivered its first radar data.

The satellite, launched last Thursday, is Europe’s first mission dedicated to studying variations in the Earth’s ice cover from a polar orbit.

The ESA said the satellite’s orbit brings it closer to the poles than earlier Earth observation satellites, covering an additional 2.8 million square miles — an area larger than all 27 European Union member states put together.

CryoSat-2′s instruments will measure changes at the margins of the vast ice sheets that cover Greenland and Antarctica and marine ice floating in the polar oceans, ESA scientists said. By accurately measuring thickness change in both types of ice, they said CryoSat-2 will provide information critical to science’s understanding of the role ice plays in the Earth system.

CryoSat-2 is the third of the ESA’s Earth Explorer satellites to be placed into orbit. It follows the Gravity field and steady-state Ocean Circulation Explorer (GOCE) mission, launched in March 2009, and the Soil Moisture and Ocean Salinity (SMOS) mission, launched last November.

Migraine sufferers: Tune out the visual

GLASGOW, Scotland, April 13 (UPI) — Seeking a dark room at the onset of a migraine headache may help avert headache pain, Scottish researchers suggest.

Researchers at the Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland find even when not suffering a headache, those who suffer migraine headache were more likely to be distracted by visual noise when processing visual cues.

The study, published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual, finds people prone to migraine could identify a light disk about as well as the control group could. However, when the interference — similar to black and white “snow” on television — was added, those who suffer migraines performed significantly worse.

“Our visual environment is generally very busy and full of objects, many of which are important at some times but not at others. Normally, we can attend effortlessly to those items of interest and often do not even notice others,” study lead researcher Doreen Wagner says in a statement.

Wagner suggests visual “noise” overexcites nerve cells in the brain of migraine sufferer — making it harder to see the disk.

“It might be helpful to avoid such ‘noisy’ environments which may impair their performance, scenes overloaded with visual disgracers, for example computer screens and learning tools which have a lot of visual information on them,” Wagner said.

Cassini makes Titan and Dione double flyby

PASADENA, Calif., April 13 (UPI) — The U.S. space agency says its Cassini spacecraft successfully completed a double flyby this week of Saturn’s moons Titan and Dione.

NASA scientists said Cassini sent back what were described as “stunning raw images of fractured terrain and craters big and small on Dione, a moon that had only been visited once before by Cassini.”

The Titan flyby occurred April 5, and the Dione flyby took place April 7. During the Titan flyby, an unexpected autonomous reset occurred and Cassini obtained fewer images than expected. But the cameras were reset before reaching Dione, which was the primary target of the double flyby.

NASA said it’s particularly interested in determining whether Dione might be a source of charged particles found in the environment around Saturn and in material in one of its rings.

“A fortuitous alignment of these moons allowed Cassini to attempt this doubleheader,” the space agency said in a statement. “Cassini had made three previous double flybys and another two are planned in the years ahead. The mission is nearing the end of its first extension, known as the Equinox Mission. It will begin its second mission extension, known as the Solstice Mission, in October.”

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA and the European and Italian space agencies. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the mission for NASA.

Kidney cancer urine test might be possible

ST. LOUIS, April 13 (UPI) — U.S. medical researchers say they have identified a pair of proteins secreted in the urine that might lead to a urine test for kidney cancer.

Washington University School of Medicine scientists in St. Louis said their study is the first to identify proteins secreted in urine that appear to accurately reveal the presence of about 90 percent of all kidney cancers. Currently, there is no diagnostic test for kidney cancer, with about 80 percent of kidney tumors discovered incidentally, during a CT scan or ultrasound test that has been ordered for an unrelated abdominal complaint.

“Kidney cancer is a silent and frequently fatal cancer,” said Dr. Evan Kharasch, who led the study. “More than 80 percent of patients die within two years of diagnosis, and more than 95 percent die within five years because by the time the cancer is detected, it often has spread beyond the kidney. When it is identified early, however, kidney cancer is curable in a very high percentage of individuals.”

The scientists say much in the same way mammograms are used to screen for breast cancer and blood tests to screen for prostate cancer, there might be an opportunity to detect specific proteins in urine as a way to screen for kidney cancer.

The research is presented in the early online edition of the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

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