Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hot Storms of Jupiter

In March 2007 two enormous storms erupted on Jupiter. These eruptions appear to occur with a 15-17 year period; similiar storms were observed in 1975 and 1990. This time they were observed by the Hubble Space Telescope and our Infra Red Telescope Facility atop Mauna Kea. These storms always appear in pairs, like the twin jets of a Black Hole twisted on their journey from core to atmosphere. This adds to discovery of Hot Spots on Saturn's North and South poles. These jets are agreed to result from internal heat. Why do they form two narrow jets? The cores of giant planets are excellent places to seek a Black Hole. More in Space.com and the January 24 issue of NATURE.


Saturday, January 26, 2008


The January 15 edition of the New York Times asked this about "Boltzmann Brains." Big Brain Theory: Have Cosmologists Lost Theirs? The Times begins by saying this could be the weirdest and most embarrassing prediction in the history of cosmology, if not science. Dennis Overbye of the Times usually repeats whatever nonsense his favoured sources tell him, but his time even Overbye has lost his patience.

"If you are inclined to skepticism this debate might seem like further evidence that cosmologists, who gave us dark matter, dark energy and speak with apparent aplomb about gazillions of parallel universes, have finally lost their minds."

Overbye's comments also express impatience about "dark energy" and other epicycles. DE would be the force behind Boltzmann Brains, which is reason to believe there are no brains at all behind this. Mainstream cosmology continues its unrecoverable downward spiral, while the real discoveries occur out of the spotlight.

Follow the clues at the new Carnival of Space!


Thursday, January 24, 2008

Follow the Money

Wednesday the showman Richard Branson and the quiet engineer Burt Rutan unveiled their new design for Spaceship Two. Amid the lovely video, we must kick some tires before buying our ticket. The White Knight 2 carrier is the largest aircraft ever built by Scaled Composites. Have they calculated the dynamic loads on that thin central wing? Is the test schedule realistic?

Some of the most important parts of a rocket are the engines. Rutan's Scaled Composites has been fined for improper handling of nitrous oxide. The tragic explosion in July took the lives of 3 engineers. They've still not figured out what caused the accident. Spaceflight is still dangerous and expensive, but who would pass up a ride like this?

To make a small fortune in Space, one should start with a large fortune. Though about 200 people have paid deposits on flights, that only amounts to about 30 million dollars. Even if successful, Virgin Galactic is unlikely to see a profit for years. Where is the development money coming from? Virgin Galactic is just one visible part of Sir Richard's vast investment portfolio. His Virgin Group encompasses music, telecommunications, airlines, insurance, even some of Northern Rock.

It has taken some effort, but the days of Gordon Brown's Labour government are numbered. His Waterloo is not in Southern Iraq but Northern Rock. Brown has offered 55 billion pounds of public loans to bail out Richard Branson and the other Northern Rock shareholders. The voters are very unhappy with Gordon Brown.

The credit line, 5 times NASA's yearly budget, will be free for the investors to do with as they please. If their investments are profitable, Branson and others pocket 90 percent of the profits. If their investments fail, taxpayers are left holding the bag. Legally robbing the Bank of England would pay for many Space flghts. Branson's many profitable ventures assure that SS2 funding will fly.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


Michael Griffin spoke on another subject to the American Astronomical Society this month. After 1.5 billion has been spent by 15 nations. the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is sitting in a clean room without a flight to ISS. On December 14 Alan Stern told me personally that it was grounded for life. Recently Congress directed NASA to study getting AMS into Space. Some of Griffin's comments:

"AMS could be placed in orbit by other means, either as a free-flyer or delivered to ISS by means of automated systems, as with ISS logistics cargo. Such alternative means will not be cheap; current estimates are on the order of 400 million. NASA lacks the budget allocation for such a mission, so, should it be directed by Congress, it would have to "come out of hide". Astrophysics hide. Thus, I will be asking the National Academy to assess the priorities of the missions in the Beyond Einstein program set forth in their report last September, where the Joint Dark Energy Mission was recommended to be launched first, compared to the scientific priority of the AMS."

Among the insular world of scientists, an expensive mission to study imaginary "dark energy" is still popular. It would cost at least 1.1 billion and find nothing. AMS could be sent into orbit for relatively little and find the highest energy cosmic rays. A launch would please European and Japanese partners to no end. What will the scientists choose?


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

T Minus 7 Days in Florida

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giulani has landed in Florida and established a continuing presence. Friday he pledged unequivocal support for sending humans to the Moon and Mars. He has said that a five-year "gap" in human spaceflight is unacceptable, and vowed to close the gap. The Space program is very popular with Florida voters. Rudy's presidential strategy needs a win here one week from today, January 29. Americans saw in 2000 that a few votes in Florida can make a big difference.

Orion is facing rumours of 9-12 month delays, which would make the gap even longer. Closing the gap could mean increasing NASA's budget so that Orion takes flight sooner. If COTS can be made ready by 2011, as Elon Musk is planning to do, that would help close the gap and encourage private industry too. A system like Musk's Dragon would shuttle crews and cargo to ISS until Orion is ready. NASA is presently selecting other competitors for COTS.

AVIATION WEEK recently described a human mission to an asteroid as an "alternate vision" for the next president. Asked about the article, Michael Griffin replied, "As I have often stated, human missions to NEO's have no stronger advocate than I." All he needs is the authorisation. Though Space is not normally a big issue, in the 2008 election it could make a difference.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Antarctica is Hot

The Landsat 7 image of Antarctica, the most detailed view from Space yet.

Having found polar "hot spots" on Saturn and even its little Moon Enceladus, this blog has often wondered whether Earth's Antarctic is "hot" too. Beneath the ice we have found huge subsurface lakes, indicating a hideden source of heat. Last year Cassini found a lake the size of Lake Ontario at Titan's South Pole. Today in Nature Geoscience, researchers from the Antarctic Survey report that a volcano beneath the ice erupted 2000 years ago. It may still be active today.

The volcano in the Hudson Mountains must have created a plume 12 km high. It occurred close to the Pine Island Glacier, where movement of ice toward the sea has been accelerating inrecent years. Heat from such subsurface sources may even affect Earth's climate. One wonders whether the North Pole is also a hot spot.

In 1935 KING KONG producer Merian C. Cooper made a film of H. Ryder Haggard's SHE. In this version there is a tropical kingdom at the North Pole, warmed by a source of energy far greater than anything man has imagined. Many other fantasy stories have placed similiar oases here at the South Pole. We have a subconscious desire to seek hot spots in the cold places. If Earth's poles are indeed "hot spots," it is one more indication that our planet contains a tiny Black Hole.


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

First View of Mercury

The MESSENGER spacecraft flew by Mercury this week, sending the first closeups of the planet since Mariner 10 in 1975. This photo shows a side of Mercury never before seen. Even the planet closest to the Sun contains many mysteries. Recent observations confirm (as predicted) that Mercury is Hot! The planet's core may have formed around a tiny Black Hole, which would also power a magnetic field. MESSENGER will make 3 flybys of the planet before settling into orbit in March 2011.

This week Colony Worlds hosts the Carnival of Space!


Sunday, January 13, 2008


Thank you Kea and everyone for your patience with my video efforts. For the benefit of her and others, here is someone's audition for a TV show.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Black Holes Everywhere

A visitor to the American Astronomical Society meeting in Austin would find Black Holes nearly everywhere. They seem to be ubiquitous, forming the majority of the "dark" mass. From the big to the small:

Quasar OJ287 marks a Black Hole that may have 18 billion times the mass of the Sun! The quasar is 3.5 billion light-years away in the constellation Cancer. It is orbited by a smaller Black Hole that allows astronomers to estimate the mass. Formation of such massived Black Holes is one more indication that the speed of light has not always been the same.

Thin galaxies contain Black Holes too! Previously scientists thought that galaxies needed a thick central bulge for a Black Hole to form. "This finding challenges the current paradigm," said astronomer Shobita Satyapal, "The fact that galaxies without bulges have Black Holes means that the bulges cannot be the determining factor." Her group found these Black Holes in the infrared using the Spitzer Space Telescope.

A computer simulation suggests that our galaxy could contain "rogue" Black Holes with masses thousands of times that of our Sun. The very existence of such intermediate-mass Black Holes has been controversial. The simulation suggests that hundreds of these rogue Black Holes could be wandering in our galaxy. They would be very difficult to detect.

Using the Keck I and Canada-France-Hawaii telescopes atop Mauna Kea, astronomers have discovered that bright star BD-22 5866 is in really 4 stars orbiting one another in extremely tight ellipses. The inner pair has an orbital radius of only 0.06 astronomical units! The entire system has a maximum radius of 5.8 AU. Present theories can't account for stars forming so close to one another. The best explanation that astronomers can come up with is that the stars formed farther out and migrated inward. If stars formed around Black Holes, they could form extremely close and stay there indefinitely.

Black Holes everywhere, even underfoot? Readers of this blog know an opinion about that!

This week Dynamics of Cats hosts the Carnival of Space!


Monday, January 07, 2008

Enter the Dragon

Buzz Aldrin's novel THE RETURN prophetically began with a fatal accident aboard Shuttle Columbia. With NASA grounded by legal trouble, private enterprise steps into the void. The Shuttles will be grounded by the end of 2010, leaving a gap in US spaceflight. The gap may be filled by SpaceX's Dragon.

With the usual delays in NASA programmes, Orion may not fly until 2015 or later. Relying on Russian spacecraft to resupply ISS makes people uneasy. Who knows how much Russia will charge for gas? Concern about the "gap" led Representative Curt Weldon of Florida to propose flying the Shuttles until Orion is ready. An editorial in the wall Street Journal Asia makes a similiar proposal. This would cost at least 10 billion more, unlikely in today's budget.

Hello Rudy and others: Your strategy depends on getting as many Florida votes as possible on January 29. Space exploration is very, very popular in Florida. Now is the time to announce a Space policy. You can put your personal stamp on the Vision by adding a crewed mission to an asteroid. Like the movie ARMAGEDDON, this would be a big hit with the public.

NASA's COTS programme would subsidise private vehicles to ferry crews and cargo to ISS. Spaceflight is a risky proposition, unattractive to investors. Rocketplane Kistler failed to raise enough private capital. To make a small fortune in Space, it helps to start with a big fortune. With RPK out of the competition, the leader is Elon Musk's SpaceX.

The first flight of Falcon 1 in 2006 ended after 30 seconds. The second flight also failed to reach orbit, but achieved 90% of its design goals. A third flight, hopefully to reach orbit, will occur in 2008. SpaceX claims they are on track to fly Falcon 9 to ISS by the end of 2009, just in time to fill the gap. The Dragon spacecraft atop Falcon 9 would enable cargo and crews to reach ISS on an American vehicle. If Elon Musk captures the market for spaceflight, NASA can send him the reward via Paypal.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Arrested for Blogging

People have been arrested for blogging in China and Burma, and now this. The blogger called Lionheart expects to be detained upon his return to the United Kingdom. He has written on the dangers (especially to women) of radical Islam. Sections 18(1) and 27(3) of the Public Order Act of 1986 make it a crime to "Stir Up Racial Hatred by displaying written materiel." This law would violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution, but the UK lacks a formal Bill of Rights. Lionheart's posts are not racist, but plenty of people express hatred of women and Jews. Why doesn't the UK arrest a few of them? As odious as racial hatred would be, this prosecution threatens all bloggers.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Saturn Hot Spots

Full size mockup of Cassini spacecraft, with the Huygens probe attached.

Way back at the 2005 AGU meeting, we had data from Subaru that Saturn's South Pole is a "hot spot" with the warmest temperatures of the surface. Astronomers have long known that Saturn is a warm body, giving off 2.8 times as much heat as it receives from the Sun. Someone then speculated that Saturn's bulk hides the twin jets of an internal Black Hole. At the time, people thought the South Pole was warm because it is closer to the Sun. If that were true, then Saturn's equator would be the warmest region of all.

The January 4 issue of the journal Science reports that the North Pole, which doesn't face the Sun, is "hot" too. So much for being closer to the Sun! Something else inside Saturn is warming both poles. This ought to be considered good evidence for a Black Hole. Saturn's magnetic poles, which mark the singularity's spin axis, are nearly in line with the geographic poles. The Black Hole's jets, following magnetic field lines, travel outward toward the geographic poles.

The Northern jet is composed of electrons which spiral tightly around the field lines. The Southern jet is made of heavier ions, which travel around to the North and follow field lines back in. Earth's Van Allen belts work the same way, with concentric lanes of positive and negative particles travelling in opposite directions. At Saturn's North Pole, the incoming ion stream crowds in on the outgoing electrons. As nature shows us with the honeycomb, the best way to pack things together is in hexagons.

Paradoxically, could Earth's South Pole also be hot? A scientist's adventures in the southern hemisphere say very likely yes! Far from being solid ice, the Antarctic contains subsurface lakes like Vostok. The lakes are considered potential homes of life. To keep these lakes liquid, Earth's Antarctic ice sheet must contain sources of volcanic heat. The heat of Earth's volcanoes may also originate in a Black Hole.

The Universe contains wonders even beneath our feet. We know less about Earth's interior than we do about outer Space. At least telescopes can see into Space. Earth's mysterious interior could hold many surprises, even a Black Hole.

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Thursday, January 03, 2008

What Is Dark and Makes Jets

Someone has repeatedly predicted that twin jets from infant stars follow magnetic field lines, exactly like those from a hidden Black Hole. In the December 1 issue of Astrophysical Journal, observers report finding those spiralling jets. The jets from Herbig-Haro object HH 211 were observed in radio by the Submillimeter Array atop Mauna Kea. The jets extend more than 16,000 AU from the HH 211.

The "Angular Momentum Problem" is yet another puzzle of astrophysics. Since the time of Pierre Laplace, scientists have believed that stars collapse from rotating disks of gas. If the disk angular momentum were conserved, a star would spin itself apart before igniting. Where does the angular momentum go? In the November 1 issue of NATURE, astronomers from the Anglo-Australian Observatory put forth a model where the jets carry away angular momentum. Twin jets following magnetic field lines are telltale signs of a Black Hole.

Science has much to discover. After looking at the Universe for decades, humans have not figured out that Black Holes could form the seeds of stars. It may take decades for humans to figure out that a Black Hole is in the second last place they would expect, rising in front of our faces every morning.

Below is Herbig-Haro object HH 555. A tiny Black hole has collided with a gas cloud, trailing gas behind like a bullet fired through cotton candy. The telltale twin jets are very visible.

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Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year Challenges

The Edge foundation, which tries but fails to find the cutting edge of science, asked a numbrr of people what they have changed their minds about. From Edge World Question Center, physicist Paul Steinhardt is abandoning the inflationary paradigm. For those who don't know "inflation," it didn't occur so don't bother:

"What created the structure of the universe? Most cosmologists would say the answer is "inflation," and, until recently, I would have been among them. But "facts have changed my mind" — and I now feel compelled to seek a new explanation that may or may not incorporate inflation.

"One often reads that recent measurements of the cosmic microwave background or the large-scale structure of the universe have verified a prediction of inflation. This invariably refers to a prediction based on the naïve classical view. But if the measurements ever come out differently, this could not rule out inflation. According to the quantum view, there are invariably pockets with matching properties."

With a big nod to the wondrous Kea, DARPA has issued an ambitious set of mathematical challenges.

Mathematical Challenge Twenty-two: Settle the Smooth Poincare Conjecture in Dimension 4
• What are the implications for space-time and cosmology? And might the answer unlock the secret of “dark energy”?

Now DARPA is putting "dark energy" on lower case and parentheses. More people agree that it is probably not an ethereal repulsive energy, but could be something like a changing speed of light. The Poincare Conjecture indicates that the Universe is spherical. The Ricci flow can be simplified so that $\partial_t$ g_ij = -2 R_ij = 0. This leads to a lot of math, but it also leads to GM = tc^3. The New Year will be full of challenges!

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