December 20, 2010

Winter solstice marked by Lunar Eclipse 2010

Tomorrow's Lunar eclipse (that is the 21st of December 2010) and winter solstice to coincide for first time in 372 years. The eclipse will fall on the shortest day of the year – the winter solstice – for the first time since 1638.

Ian Sample had this to say on the Guardian UK:
The skies over Britain will turn a dark shade of red tomorrow morning as the moon moves into the Earth's shadow in a rare lunar eclipse.

A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth and moon are almost exactly in line, with the moon and sun on opposite sides of our home planet.

The alignment will cause the full moon to appear much dimmer than usual, but sunlight passing through the Earth's atmosphere will give the lunar surface a deep reddish hue at dawn.

The eclipse is due to begin at 5.28am, as the moon enters the lightest part of Earth's shadow, known as the penumbra. In this early phase of the eclipse, the moon will appear yellowish in the pre-dawn sky.

A more significant dimming begins as the moon enters into the darker part of Earth's shadow at 6.32am and becomes completely eclipsed at 7.40am.

Unlike an eclipse of the sun, star gazers do not need protective eye equipment to observe a lunar eclipse.

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The partial eclipse begins when the Moon first enters the dark inner, umbral part of the Earth's shadow, and will become a total eclipse at 7.40am.

It will reach its maximum at 8.17am, and end at 8.53am.

December 17, 2010

On Cure for HIV

According to German doctors, an American man with HIV may have been cured of his infection by a bone marrow transplant in Germany.

In 2007, the man received a bone marrow transplant to treat his leukemia. The transplant — which treats leukemia by essentially rebooting the body's immune system and creating new white blood cells —also had the benefit of wiping out the HIV infection. Now, three and a half years later, the patient remains HIV-free, which suggests he is cured of the disease, the researchers said.

"I'm extremely excited about the result," said Jerome Zack, a researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies HIV infection and was not involved in the study. "It suggests that at least in this one individual, there's a long-term benefit to this approach."

In the transplant, the patient received bone marrow, which contains blood stem cells, from a donor with a rare mutation. The mutation essentially prevents the most common form of HIV from getting inside certain immune cells, called T CD4 cells, and wreaking havoc on the immune system. Afterward, the virus appeared to stop replicating in the patient's body, and he no longer needed HIV antiretroviral medication.

The bottomline: Researchers' claim that a man has been cured of HIV is exciting and suggestive, but not conclusive.

Read more of Rachael Rettner's story on

A preceding story "Possible Cure For AIDS On Horizon" was published last year on Febraury 25th, 2009 which stated:

In a spectacular display of medical serendipity, doctors have successful removed the HIV virus from a man by giving him a bone marrow transplant. Like others before it, this particular method seems to have arrived completely by accident; now, it seems researchers are compiling reports of patients becoming startlingly virus-free after receiving bone marrow transplants of a specific nature. The new case, which involves a 42-year-old American male, gives researchers the stimulation they need to discover gene therapy alternatives that could replace the antiretroviral drug cocktails in the long term – one relatively inexpensive treatment might have the power to clear up the viral problem for good.