Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Archive for the ‘Space Exploration’ Category

IN OTHER NEWS …

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Well, the Super Tuesday Primary is over, and the fawning corporate media is falling all over itself proclaiming Biden the victor. And I can only agree. It will be Biden vs Trump in the fall, and Biden will more than likely lose. It’s almost as if the establishment doesn’t give a rat’s ass about anything other than corporate profit. And the loss will be blamed on Russians and Bernie supporters, further dividing the party and making sure that true progressive issues never get off the ground. Baring some big change, that’s my prediction for the 2020 POTUS election. God help us all.

Trump and the Taliban signed a peace deal. On the one hand, anything that smacks of the US backing away from its colonial wars is a good thing. On the other hand, it’s hard for me to see this as anything but an election year stunt. The agreement was reached and signed without the participation of the Kabul government, America’s ostensible ally, even though they were required to abide by its provisions. So predictably enough, it’s already falling apart. Basically Trump can now say he tried to get the US out of Afghanistan, but the Taliban wouldn’t hold up their end of the deal! Right. Mr Trump, you can pull American troops out of Afghanistan any time you want, the Taliban’s permission is not required.

Scientists have spotted the remains of the largest explosion ever detected. The “crater” (a bubble really)  it left in space could fit fifteen of our own Milky Way galaxies. Ginormous doesn’t begin to cover it, this explosion could have destroyed our own galaxy. Fortunately it’s nearly 400 million light years away, so no worries. Best guess is that it was produced by a, well, ginormous black hole somehow. Matter falling into a black hole can get really hot as it spirals towards it, and if enough matter gets hot enough, kaboom. Still stay tuned, astronomers still have a lot to discover. The doctor has a good post discussing various aspects of this discovery.

And in India, pogroms! Yes, Muslims are being targeted and murdered by Hindi mobs. So Trump wasted no time praising Mr Modi, the man whose policies inspired the violence. Mr Modi basically is trying to legally turn India’s Muslims into second class citizens. Who would have thought that a national leader stripping a minority of their rights and demonizing them might lead to violence? Oh, right. Sadly, it’s not just academic, religious extremists are working hard to turn the United States into a “Christian” theocracy where non Christians are second class citizens. I find that a lot scarier and more likely than Trump turning into the next Hitler. And I say “Christian” theocracy because the idea that Jesus would have been down with this is questionable at best. Christ taught love and inclusion, not hatred and exclusion.

In another Trump fail (aren’t you glad this isn’t another Covid-19 post?) Trump said that wait staff making $2.13 an hour are overpaid! Trump has always claimed American workers are overpaid, claiming that somehow that hurts America’s international trade. It’s all a crock of bull of course, American workers have been getting it in the shorts for decades, while the rich grow ever richer. Despite Trump’s lies, the situation for American workers hasn’t improved at all under Trump, as this site chronicles. America, land of duelling fantasies.

Greta Thunberg is still in the news. You would think someone trying to rally the planet to deal with a freaking planetary emergency would be universally popular, but no. Sadly the fossil fuel industry, the most insanely profitable industry the world has ever seen (supertankers are the Spanish treasure galleons of our time) has the money to buy entire political parties and whole governments. So Greta gets lots of death threats, and such things as this lovely little incident where a Canadian oil company gave its workers stickers portraying Greta being raped. She points out that oil companies stooping so low is a sign of desperation. Well, when you’re destroying the planet to keep a tiny handful of people ever and ever richer, I guess desperate measures are all they have. The global warming deniers love to claim the issue of human caused global warming isn’t settled … so what. (It is settled.) There’s people claiming evolution or the age of the Earth aren’t settled, hell, the planet is filled with people denying various scientific issues. Again, the doctor has a good post on them.

In local news, it looks like winter is over in Iowa. Nothing but nice weather in the pipeline for the next few weeks. Woohoo! Of course I still can’t walk more than 20 feet without excruciating pain, but at least I can look out the window and not see a sub arctic wasteland. Hope everyone is having a good week, comments and shares appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Facebook meme. Credit: Unknown, used without permission. I will happily attribute or remove it should the copyright holder come to light.)

Written by unitedcats

March 4, 2020 at 8:30 pm

BETELGEUSE IS UP TO SOMETHING

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Betelgeuse, the 11th brightest star in the night sky, may explode. Wait, what? Yerp, Betelgeuse, the left shoulder of the constellation Orion, is acting very strangely indeed. Over the past few months it has dimmed to less than 40% of its normal brightness, and is now the 24th brightest star in the sky.  The next clear night I’m going to go out and look for myself, Orion is one of the most noticeable constellations in the sky. Never thought it would change in my lifetime. This is, by the way, essentially unprecedented. While there are a few variable stars in the sky including Betelgeuse, never has a super bright star such as Betelgeuse suddenly dimmed this much, at least in recorded history. What the hell is going on here?

Short answer, astronomers don’t know, but it could mean Betelgeuse is about to explode. Betelgeuse is a very unstable and active star, it’s likely just blown a dust cloud or such our way. Still, a supernova? This is because Betelgeuse is a red giant star nearing the end of its red giant phase. And sometimes such stars go supernova. Betelegeuse is maybe 10-20 times the mass of the Sun, and large enough to encompass the orbit of Mars and maybe Jupiter. It’s about 700 light years from Earth, right next door astronomically speaking. Most astronomers think it’s unlikely the dimming means Betelgeuse is going to explode anytime soon, but it is within the realm of possibility. Only eight such explosions have been observed in history, so it’s not like scientists have had much opportunity to study them.

If it does go supernova, it will be quite a sight. Betelgeuse will be the brightest star in the sky, rivalling the Moon in brightness, and so bright as to be visible during the day. And it will last for months. Hopefully the skies here will clear long enough for me to look. Cloudy with sleet today, oh joy. On the plus side, 700 light years away means it probably poses no danger to Earth. We know this mostly because we have a pretty good idea of how common supernovas are, so we can calculate how often Earth has been close to a supernova. Fairly often in cosmic terms, and the planet hasn’t been sterilized yet. Losing the ozone layer would be the biggest danger, the effects would be bad, but life would go on. Phew. We have enough on our plate at the moment.

So two thoughts about this. First, boy, in the pre electric light world this would be a much bigger deal. If one of the stars in Orion had dropped to less than half its brightness in 1800, everyone on Earth would have known about it pretty quickly. And in many eras, it would have been considered an omen or such, the heavens were supposed to be immutable. People wouldn’t have known what to make of it. Pre 1700 or so, before outer space was discovered, people would have been really perplexed. Might have even caused witch burnings or wars. So, good thing it’s happening now, when people don’t believe in superstitious nonsense. Snort. No, the evangelicals who are waiting for Jesus to come back see this as another sign of the End Times. Stay tuned.

Which leads to my second thought, a somewhat eccentric thought trail. This Betelgeuse dimming event is the fourth odd and unprecedented event in the sky since Tabby’s Star dimming in 2015 suggested (albeit unlikely) alien megastructures. The second being Oumuamua and Comet Borisov. Tabby’s Star suggesting aliens, the next two being the first two confirmed interstellar visitors to the Solar System. And now an interstellar event visible to the naked eye, that rarely happens. One might even include the recently discovered repeating FRB, though that’s a stretch.

Connecting these events is no doubt pareidolia on my part. Seeing patterns where none exist. Thinking aliens might announce their presence by making changes in the sky isn’t an original idea. In fact the whole “the aliens are coming” trope seems pretty clearly to be the modern version of “Jesus is coming.”  Still, if the aliens suddenly arrive, I will become a famous blogger. The guy who saw the signs that the aliens were coming! The Nostradamus of our time! Fame and fortune would surely follow. And what a nightmare that would be. Fortunately it’s about as likely as Betelgeuse going supernova in our time.

On a more serious aliens vein, a case has been made to mainstream SETI (The search for extraterrestrial intelligence.) There are excellent reasons for doing so, both SETI and astronomy in general will benefit. The reason SETI has been left out in the cold is because it’s easy for science deniers and evangelicals to ridicule. Humans just love to shoot themselves in the face, we’re an odd species for sure.

I’m sorry this post is a day late, still helping a friend convalesce from an operation. She flies home soon though, and I will resume posting on a more regular basis. Take that as a threat or a promise I suppose. Have a great week everyone!

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Remnant of Cassiopeia Supernova of 1572. Credit: Pixabay, free for commercial use, no attribution required.)

Written by unitedcats

February 18, 2020 at 8:17 am

THINGS THAT GO POOF IN THE NIGHT

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Another week gone, poof. And another theory of planetary formation gone, poof. Actually, theories don’t go poof very often, and when they do it’s generally because a theory that better explains the evidence comes along. In this case, the original theory of planetary formation posited that planets were formed by violent collisions between clumps of matter in the disk of dust surrounding the Sun after it formed. It was never a super strong theory, because other star systems where planets are now forming are way too far away to get a good look at. The theory was largely based on computer modelling.

Well, about 15 years ago an astronomer came up with a new theory, that the collisions that formed planets during the Solar System’s formation were gentle, not violent. Computer modelling suggested this. Until recently we had no solid evidence one way or t’other, until January 2019. That’s when the New Horizons probe flew by Arrokoth, a trans-Neptunian object in the Kuiper Belt. Arrokoth is the furthest object yet visited by a probe, it’s basically leftover junk from the formation of the Solar System. And after a year of study, some scientists say it’s clear that Arrokoth supports the gentle collision theory of planetary formation.

Granted I suspect the issue isn’t fully settled, since we’ve only examined one object like Arrokoth. Still, this is how science works, it changes as evidence and understanding evolve. It’s just annoying now how Religious Right in their anti-science crusade always uses stuff like this to claim all sorts of science is unsettled, and if scientists were wrong about this, they could be wrong about anything! As if improving our understanding of the Universe is some sort of flaw in science. It’s the opposite, that science can and does correct our understanding of the Universe is one of science’s great strengths.

Speaking of things that go poof, 75 years ago today the Allied revenge bombing of the German city of Dresden was under way. The city of Dresden wasn’t a military target, and about 25,000 civilians were killed. Though at the time much higher estimates were floating around, encouraged by German propaganda. It was the first time there was serious criticism of the war effort against Germany, I mean, the Allies were claiming to be the good guys. How does one justify such an action? In February 1945 the war was over, organized German resistance was collapsing, the bombing of Dresden didn’t bring the end of the war any closer.

I say revenge bombing because if anything it was vengeance for the Nazi bombing of Coventry early in the war. Plenty of German cities had been carpet bombed already, seriously hampering Germany’s war effort. So it wasn’t a unique event, but the timing and the fact that Dresden was mostly known for its cultural heritage made it tricky to explain. And since war is the gift that keeps on giving for generations, today’s Nazis and Hitler apologists have seized on Dresden as a cause celebre for their efforts to demonize the Allies and make out Hitler and the Nazis as victims. History may be written by the winners, but the losers often manage to rewrite it anyhow. Like a certain nineteenth century armed rebellion in the US that is still glorified in some quarters.

Lastly, no going poof, but definitely in the night. On this day in 1990 the Voyager 1 probe took the famous “pale blue dot” photograph of Earth. Earth is a single pale blue pixel in the photo. It was taken from beyond the orbit of Neptune, part of a series of photos taken of the Solar System that day, the Family Portrait photos. There was no scientific reason for these photos, they were taken after Carl Sagan proposed the idea and campaigned for it for years. I agree with him, it was a great idea to inspire wonder at our place in the Universe, and to highlight the amazing progress science has made.

In an era of growing and increasingly sophisticated science denial, looking back at the 70s is sad. I never suspected Americans would go backwards and celebrate ignorance in my lifetime. At least not without a nuclear war or some such. Yet here we are, one of the loudest voices driving us back into superstition gets the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Go figure.

Have a great weekend everyone. Shares and comments appreciated.

Copyright © 2020 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: “Dresden, partial view of the destroyed city center on the Elbe to the new town. In the center of Neumarkt and the ruins of the Frauenkirche.” Credit: Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1994-041-07 / Unknown / CC-BY-SA 3.0 This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license. You are free:

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Under the following conditions:

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Written by unitedcats

February 14, 2020 at 2:44 pm

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

ON THIS DAY: APOLLO 17, SPINNING PRINCES, AND FATAL FALLING SOUP KETTLES

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On December 11, 1972, 47 years ago today, humans landed on the Moon for the last time. Two men of course, women were still pretty much at the back of the bus then, Eugene Cernan and  Harrison Schmitt. Command Module Pilot Ronald Evans remained in orbit, as well as five mice. Upon return to Earth they were all dissected, their consolation prize being they got to go down in history. The mice were dissected, not the men.

Of the three men, only one is still alive. Evans died young of a heart attack in 1990. RIP. The other two got to live lives as minor celebrities, morphing into their later years spent punching Moon landing deniers. Cernan passed in 2017, but at 84 Schmitt is still with us, faithfully carrying water for the anti-global warming crowd. Sigh. The gentle reader can be forgiven for any thoughts this may inspire. Schmidt claims global warming is all a hoax to increase the government’s size and control over Americans. Louder sigh. Dude, they don’t need a hoax to do that, our ruling parties have been doing both in spades for decades, no excuse asked for or given.

Moving right along, mission highlights are about as exciting as one could expect on a lifeless airless rock. Longest time out of the lander, furthest distance travelled on the surface, the greatest distance away from the lander. They utilized the LRV (Lunar Roving Vehicle) for these. They collected a lot of rocks and gravel. They also partially solved the light flash phenomena reported by previous lunar explorers, astronauts reported seeing flashes or streaks of light averaging 2 per minute while inbound, outbound, and in lunar orbit. Most noticeable when they were lights out and falling asleep. One of the astronauts on this mission always wore a cosmic ray detector, and thus as suspected, turns out the flashes were caused by cosmic rays. How, exactly, these cause visual phenomena is still unknown.

As for the Moon landing hoax people, they’re still going strong. I’m sure them and the flat Earthers have joint conventions now. I’ve pointed out the absurdity of both “theories” before, nothing new to add. Social beliefs, and pretty sure these fall into that category, are strongly resistant to logical argument. I’ll just relist this link for those that want to delve deeper into this silliness. The moon landing hoax no doubt inspired by this movie, notable for co-starring O.J. Simpson. In the movie he’s a murderee, not a murderer.

Well, that’s about all I can extract from this topic. What else happened on this day? In 1282 the Battle of Orewin Bridge where England crushed the last formal resistance to English rule in Wales. The Welsh leader, Llywelyn ap Gruffudd, wasn’t at the battle. One of the reasons it was lost. Worse, he arrived back at the battle scene just in time to be killed. He was the first and last Welsh Prince of Wales. No doubt he is spinning in his grave about Prince Cha Cha holding his office now.

In 1602 according to legend a cook in Geneva noticed armed men scaling the city’s walls. Thinking quickly, she dumped a pot of boiling vegetable soup on them, causing a commotion and helping to rouse the town. The falling pot itself killed one man. So this was the only known battle in history where the first salvo was boiling soup. Legends aside, the Catholic Duke of Savoy had sent a force to launch a surprise attack on the Protestant city. Roused by the soup commotion, the citizens of Geneva sallied forth and fighting side by side with the town militia, defeated the attackers. A number of prisoners were taken, several of them high born. To their dismay, since the Duke of savoy had repeatedly pledged peace with Geneva, they were summarily hung as bandits the next day. And until this day the city celebrates the festival of L’Escalade on this date. (Escalade is the scaling of defensive walls.)

And finally, on this day in 1962, Arthur Lucas became the last person to be executed in Canada. And with the abolition of the death penalty, major crimes spiralled out of control in Canada. Because we all know that fear of harsh punishment is the only thing keeping us in line. Snort. That was sarcasm. The death penalty is to satisfy blood lust, it’s deterrent effect is minimal to non-existent. Hell, a well publicized execution breifly raises the murder and suicide rate. Go figure. When informed that he would be the last person to be executed in Canada, Lucas said “Some consolation.”

As ever, comments, suggestions, and shares are appreciated.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Eugene Cernan driving the LRV. Credit: NASA, as such it’s free to use as long as it doesn’t imply sponsorship by NASA. No such sponsorship is meant or implied. Photo details here.)

Written by unitedcats

December 11, 2019 at 12:15 pm

THROUGH THICK AND THIN

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Aramco, the world’s most profitable company, is going to go public. Aramco is the Saudi Arabian oil company. Kinda a big deal, but only superficially. Basically when all is said and done, people who already have more money than they could spend in a dozen lifetimes will be even richer. Most of the world’s stock is already owned by the rich, and it’s just getting worse all the time. The petrodollar is the biggest bubble in history, gonna be loads of fun when it all crashes down. I plan on being long dead by the time that happens; it’s a good plan, it’s realistic, and I’m sticking with it.

I do however plan to stick around for the human return to the Moon. In 2024 if all goes well, though honestly that’s pretty optimistic. I came into this world with the launch of the world’s first artificial satellite, Sputnik, in 1957. Humans returning to the Moon makes a logical endpoint to my run. And if we haven’t returned to the Moon by 2024, why, I’ll live longer! I always try to have flexibility in my life plans. Makes it more believable when one says “I meant to do that!

For a bit of a different view on Trump’s current troubles, I recommend this read. I would have to agree with most of it, certainly far closer to the truth than CNN or Fox. I know it must be weird living in a country where the mainstream news narrative is simply a government propaganda organ. In America, we’ve done even better, we have two mainstream medias delivering a propaganda narrative to their respective watchers. Even George Orwell didn’t see this one coming. In any event, I have no idea how Trump’s troubles will turn out, but guaranteed the USA people will get the short end of the stick no matter what happens. Here’s one more good article on our endless wars, depressing.

Less depressing, more fun. The image at the top of the page, a Sailor’s Eyeball. One of the world’s largest single celled organisms. AKA Ventricaria ventricosa, it’s a type of algae. It can grow to the size of, well, an eyeball. And if squished, it just forms multiple eyeballs. Unlike most cells, Ventricaria ventricosa has multiple nuclei. Learn something new every day. For example, I just learned that nucleuses is an acceptable plural form of nucleus. Well, not to my spell checker apparently.

Cosmology has run into a little problem. OK, a big problem. In fact some are calling it a crisis, which is unfortunate. More on that in a second. The problem is that the Universe is expanding much faster than our understanding of the Universe can account for. Hopefully cosmologists and astronomers will figure out why. I say calling it a crisis is unfortunate, because in these days when science and reason are under assault, this is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. The cranks and religious science deniers will both use that term to claim that it means all of science is unreliable. If scientists can’t even figure out the basics of the Universe, they might be wrong about everything! And the woo and religious myth come marching in. Hell, the Universe’s extra expansion is probably driven by the ever expanding bubble of hot air and ignorance emanating from Washington.

I think I’m getting more cynical as I get older. Moving right along, no one complained about my Halloween Horror  post. Now I have to come up with next year’s, but one thing at a time. I did think of a good post for next April 1st. It involves, cats, DNA, treason, prison, and royalty. Lots of fun. Have a great week everyone.

(Copyright © 2019 Doug Stych. All rights reserved.

(Image: Ventricaria ventricosa Credit: Haplochromis “I, the copyright holder of this work, release this work into the public domain. This applies worldwide. In some countries this may not be legally possible; if so: I grant anyone the right to use this work for any purpose, without any conditions, unless such conditions are required by law.”)

Written by unitedcats

November 4, 2019 at 3:39 am

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