Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Comet Borisov’ Category

THE GREAT METEOR PROCESSION OF 1913 AND OTHER GOINGS ON IN SPACE

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Around 9pm on 9 February 1913, the Great Meteor Procession. For several minutes a series of meteors streaked across the sky from Canada to the South Atlantic, crossing the US northeast. Unfortunately it was cloudy in the US northeast that night. So most of the witnesses were in Canada or on Atlantic ships. There have been other meteor processions in recorded history, so an unusual but not unique event. Most of us will never see one. It’s believed that this was a decent sized chunk of rock hitting Earth’s atmosphere at an angular sweet spot so to speak. A nice low angle so it slowly entered the atmosphere over thousands of miles and disintegrated as it descended. Some even could hear thunder like sounds as they passed, which due to the speed of sound shouldn’t have been possible. A topic for another day.

Sadly this was before the era of modern satellites and cameras, so all we have are eye witness accounts, such as the painting above. Some people got really excited obviously, but radio broadcasts were decades away, so no widespread anything. Most people would have been unaware of the procession until days or weeks afterwards. And while science can’t definitively explain the procession, there isn’t anything scientifically puzzling about it. Except for one thing. A small number of witnesses reported a second smaller meteor procession in the same location about 5 hours later. The Earth moves a long way through space in five hours, and it makes no sense that this second event was part of the first procession. Yet another procession in the same location as the first hours later would be astronomically unlikely. Say like flipping a coin and having it land on its edge twice in a row.

A FRB that repeats has been found, deepening the mystery of FRBs. discovered in 2007, FRBs, Fast Radio Bursts are incredibly powerful bursts of radio energy detected from across the Universe. Very few have been detected to date, their rarity and non repeating nature makes them tricky to study. Now we have one that goes through a regular cycle every sixteen days. So, woohoo, easier to study! And, crap, the best theories about FRBs posit they were created by cataclysmic events such as colliding stars. Back to the drawing board. Two quick notes, some sloppy reporting says this latest FRB is near Earth. It’s half a freaking billion light years away, so it’s near Earth only in a cosmic sense. Worse, some clickbait reporting implies the radio bursts are directed at Earth, implying the possibility of aliens. No, they are no more directed at us that if one sees a car a dozen miles away at night on a winding road occasionally brighten because the headlights were briefly pointed in your direction. And there is zero scientific speculation that FRBs are artificial. Unexplained doesn’t mean aliens did it.

Well, comet 2I/Borisov is not getting as much press as I expected. Probably because it’s not doing anything that can be spun as “I’m not saying it was aliens, but it’s aliens.” Comet Borisov is the second known interstellar object humans have observed passing through the Solar System, the first being asteroid like Oumuamua in 2017. Oumuamua had some odd characteristics never seen in an asteroid before, though nothing to indicate it was artificial. Borisov falls within the typical range of Solar System comets, the only thing out of the ordinary about it so far is its orbit. Which clearly places it as an interstellar interloper, it will pass through the Solar System once, never to return.

Alas, even though scientists spotted Borisov coming, unlike Oumuamua which was spotted only after it was on its way back into interstellar space, getting a probe to Borisov would be even more difficult than intercepting Oumuamua. So probes to either are highly unlikely at this point. Hopefully a future interstellar visitor will be spotted early enough and in a favorable trajectory, so that it could be visited by a probe. Being able to examine an interstellar object up close would be an astronomer’s dream, since it’s unlikely humans will be launching interstellar probes anytime soon. It’s safe to say that plans are being drawn up for just this sort of interception.

NASA is now planning to return humans to the Moon by 2024. In fact they plan to send the first woman to the Moon as well. In the early seventies, when only men were sent into orbit, it was still a man’s world in ways that are likely surprising to young people today. I’m glad NASA is returning to the Moon, hopefully there will be no tragedies because of the rush to get there while a certain politician is still in office. Trump is all about funding science if it will stroke his need for accomplishments, other science, he doesn’t want to know. So much more making America great again when it comes to science.

Sigh. Hope everyone is having a good week. Shares and comments appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Painting of the Great Meteor Procession of 1913 as seen from Toronto, Canada. Credit: Gustav Hahn. Public Domain under Canadian Copyright Law.)

Written by unitedcats

February 12, 2020 at 1:50 pm

ANOTHER INTERSTELLAR VISITOR, AND SO SOON!

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Comet-C2019Q4-Orbit-20190914

Back to science! (For now.) Space exploration more specifically, possibly my all time favorite branch of science. Well, second favorite. Molecular gastronomy is probably the ultimate science, though I’m really only interested in its results. Moving right along, Comet Borisov. It was discovered by Crimean amateur astronomer Gennadiy Borisov on August 29. He quickly realized it was a previously unknown object. His first calculations indicated it might come close to Earth, so he posted about it on the web. Other astronomers began observing Comet Borisov and determined it posed no danger to Earth. Phew, a 2 plus km comet hitting Earth would rival the worst impacts in Earth’s history. And within two more weeks astronomers had determined it was interstellar in origin, Borisov would sweep past the Sun never to return.

So far Borisov looks like a “normal” Oort Cloud comet. Its size is 2-16 km wide. The rest of this year it will be visible in the Northern Hemisphere, around December it will peak in brightness. After which it will head out of the Solar System, visible from the Southern Hemisphere as it departs our Solar System. It’s not going to come anywhere near any planets, and sadly will require at least an eight inch telescope to see. Poot, it would have been neat to lay eyes on an interstellar object, even if with binoculars.

Astronomers will no doubt point every available instrument at Borisov to learn whatever they can. Alas, a probe to it seems out of the question because of its velocity and direction of travel. If we had spotted it a few years earlier we might well have gotten a probe to it. Not surprisingly, since Oumuamua flew by in 2017, a lot of high IQ brainstorming has been done on how to intercept an interstellar flyby object.  In fact it still seems possible to send a probe to catch up with Oumuamua, and there’s been some talk of that. The big problem isn’t catching up with it, it’s being able to slow down enough to actually study it. Fodder for a future post.

Anyhow, I’m excited. Our second interstellar visitor in two years. I will post as more is discovered. Unlike Oumuamua, which was basically an unusual rock, Borisov seems pretty comet-like. So there likely won’t be much speculation about it being an alien probe or such. Except at the fringe of course, there’s never a fringe too far. So just for fun, here’s my theory on what the aliens are up too. Tongue seriously in cheek:

A few years back humans detected the very first known interstellar object flying through the Solar system. The odd asteroid-like Oumuamua. There was a certain amount of speculation that Oumuamua was artificial, but the science showed pretty clearly it was just a rock from the void. Oumuamua was discovered by the Pan-STARRS telescope, a telescope that just came on line in 2010. A telescope designed to watch the sky and spot small objects like Oumuamua. Before Pan-STARRS Oumuamua would have flown undetected through the Solar System. It was speculated that objects like Oumuamua are flying through the Solar System undetected all the time.

And now, a few years later, comet Borisov. Another Pan-STARRS find? Nope, big bright comet, of the type we have been spotting for centuries. Over 6,000 of them to date. And Borisov is the very first one of interstellar origin. It’s an interesting, but almost certainly meaningless coincidence. What are the odds? Well, at least 6,000 to one. However many rocks are flying through the Solar System, large interstellar comets are pretty rare. And speaking of odds, apparently the odds of Oumuamua passing so close to the Sun were like 100 million to one.

Then there wasTabby’s Star two years earlier in 2015. This was a nearby star that was dimming at irregular intervals, like nothing that had ever been seen before. At first there was speculation that the dimming might be caused by artificial orbital megastructures orbiting the star. It was pretty wild speculation, but fun while it lasted. Soon enough it was established that the dimming was caused by natural processes.

So in conclusion, in 2015, 2017, and 2019 humans have discovered unusual objects of interstellar origin, at least two of which hinted at the possibility of intelligent aliens. And the odds of these three-in-a-row almost simultaneous events are astronomical. (Sorry.) So … what if there are intelligent aliens watching us, and this is their way of breaking us in slowly to the idea? Presumably alien anthropologists are well versed on how catastrophic it can be for primitive societies to be contacted by technologically superior societies. At least if human history is any example. So if my hypothesis is correct, either something about Borisov will hint at alien origin, or something else interstellar will happen in 2021.

Maybe that’s when the mother ship arrives. Things always happen in threes though, so maybe Borisov is the mother ship. Queue music. Scientifically speaking, my guess is it will be comet like, but also unique in ways no one expected. Always a safe prediction when a brand new astronomical phenomena is investigated.

More on Saudi Arabia soon. I’m still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Pompeo is calling the attack an “act of war.” That can’t be good.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

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(Image: Borisov’s path through the Solar System. Note Borisov is travelling almost perpendicular to the plane the planets orbit on, so it will be well “below” Mars. Credit: NASA. This file is in the public domain in the United States because it was solely created by NASA. NASA copyright policy states that “NASA material is not protected by copyright unless noted”.)

Written by unitedcats

September 20, 2019 at 3:21 am