Earth Has An Asteroid Buddy


In 2016 planetary astronomers at the University of Arizona Lunar and Planetary Laboratory discovered a small ( 100 meter ) object moving with Earth around the Sun. Dubbed 2016 OR3, initial science speculation wondered if it might be a piece of space junk, perhaps a rogue rocket booster caught in wobbly orbit occasionally intersecting Earth orbit.

Last week at the annual Division For Planetary Sciences  meeting in Provo, Utah Vishnu Reddy from University of Arizona laid speculation to rest, identifying 2016 OR3 as an asteroid, stating in part –

“2016 HO3 is a small near-Earth object (NEO) measuring no more than 100 meters (330 feet) across that, while orbiting the sun, also appears to circle around the Earth as a quasi-satellite. Only five quasi-satellites have been discovered so far, but 2016 HO3 is the most stable of them. The provenance of this object is unknown. On timescales of a few centuries, 2016 HO3 remains within 38 to 100 lunar-distances from us.”

“One way to visualize HO3’s orbit is by picturing a hula hoop dancer — the sun in this analogy — twirling two hoops around the hips at the same time, ever so slightly out of sync. While it orbits the sun, the object makes yearly loops around the Earth.

As a result, the object appears to orbit the Earth, but it is not gravitationally bound to our planet.”

2016 HO3 is seen at the top left corner of this animation made of ten 2mn long exposures in I band using MODS1 on the left side of LBT – The telescope is tracking the moving asteroid, so background stars (and even a couple of galaxies) are trailed. Image via LBTO.

Asteroid 2016 OR3 is hardly a harbinger of doom – orbiting politely at 38 – 100 lunar distance from Earth, it is a cosmic companion which now bears official designation of quasi-satellite. NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory said –

The asteroid’s orbit also undergoes a slow, back-and-forth twist over multiple decades. “The asteroid’s loops around Earth drift a little ahead or behind from year to year, but when they drift too far forward or backward, Earth’s gravity is just strong enough to reverse the drift and hold onto the asteroid so that it never wanders farther away than about 100 times the distance of the moon,” said Chodas. “The same effect also prevents the asteroid from approaching much closer than about 38 times the distance of the moon. In effect, this small asteroid is caught in a little dance with Earth.”

https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=6537

“Caught in a little dance with Earth” makes me smile. Not for knowing Earth has an asteroid buddy, but for affirmation everything in our universe is caught in a little dance.

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Canadian Hearts Fly At Half Mast


This morning Canada woke to news of a nation without Gord Downie, tonight our hearts fly at half mast.

Tears ran down Justin Trudeau’s face as he said goodbye to “Canada’s friend”. Speaking not as politician, but a man who understood and shared the collective sorrow of a nation.

Others can write biographical paragraphs detailing Tragically Hip front man Gord Downie’s life. Tonight, all I can do is watch and listen to an undeniable presence in Canadian music history. Starting softly with Ahead By A Century, then Bobcaygeon –

Eventually finding my way to Tragically Hip performing Grace, Too at Woodstock 1999. Love it, hate it, get it or don’t – know this clip epitomizes Gord Downie – poet, performer, unabashed storyteller, improvisational wizard, musical savant and embodiment of Canadian grace. Tonight Gord Downie walks among the stars, his constellation will shine for eternity.

CosmoQuest’s Image Detectives


NASA had me at CosmoQuest, Image Detective sweetened the pot. A NASA funded citizen science project seeks public help identifying geographic features in photographs taken from the International Space Station. ISS astronauts take scores of photographs, science needs citizen help in creating a searchable image database of natural and man-made global locations. All you do is sign up, look at images and identify features.

Astronomical Society of the Pacific (ASP) lead investigator Pamela L Gay said –

The astronauts’ photos of Earth are visually stunning, but more than that, they can be used to study our changing Earth. From erupting volcanoes, to seasonal flooding, these images document the gradual changes that happen to our landscape.

The trick is, we need to make these images searchable, and that means taking the time to sort through, analyze, and label (add metadata) the unidentified images within the database of 1.5 million plus photos.”

Jennifer Grier, Senior Education and Communication Specialist at PSI, CosmoQuest’s lead support scientist added –

This is a unique, powerful, and beautiful image data set that has already yielded excellent research science. But the data set needs the many eyes and minds of citizen scientists to reach its full potential as a publicly available, searchable catalog. With the additions that citizen scientists as detectives can make, professional research scientists will be able to conduct more research into our changing world, and do so much more effectively.”

Sign up at –

https://cosmoquest.org/x/beta/

Algerian desert from the ISS – http://hobbyspace.com/Blog/?p=14978

 

 

 

 

The Hardest Mandelbrot Zoom 2017


Opened YouTube tonight and found “The Hardest Mandelbrot Zoom 2017” under recommended viewing. Fractals leapt off the screen (thanks to https://geneticfractals.wordpress.com/) – admittedly, recognition and comprehension play in different leagues. Mesmerized by the elegance of fractal expansion, I vowed to grasp a foundation of understanding.

Mandelbrot zoom had to wait, instinct demanded clear definition of fractal. Nailing down fractal began with “In mathematics a fractal is an abstract object used to describe and simulate naturally occurring objects”. The key word being “abstract”, as in wrapping your head around a infinite curved line winding through space that appears one dimensional, but in truth harbors a surface defined in fractal dimensions. Further research insisted  “A regular line is conventionally understood to be 1-dimensional; if such a curve is divided into pieces each 1/3 the length of the original, there are always 3 equal pieces. In contrast, consider the Koch snowflake. It is also 1-dimensional for the same reason as the ordinary line, but it has, in addition, a fractal dimension greater than 1 because of how its detail can be measured. The fractal curve divided into parts 1/3 the length of the original line becomes 4 pieces rearranged to repeat the original detail, and this unusual relationship is the basis of its fractal dimension”.

Defining fractal called for a simple analogy, I found this – “imagine that you were to measure the trunk of a tree. We humans look at it at the largest scale let’s say that you wrapped a measuring tape around it. That tape would give you a decent estimate, let’s say 1 meter, but it wouldn’t be getting all the little bumps and crevices. If you were to have, say, a beetle crawling along the surface of the trunk, it would be going up and down those bumps, so it would measure a longer distance, maybe 3 meters. But even that beetle would just be walking over tiny little slits in the bark that are too small for it. If you had something even smaller (an extraordinarily tiny insect, for example), it would have to go up and down even more, and it could measure the distance around the tree at huge numbers, such as 100 meters. And this can continue for a long time, getting smaller and smaller, but seeing basically the same thing at each level, just a lot more of it. Of course, this breaks down when you get too small, since everything is composed of atoms, but for the scales where life occurs, tree trunks are actually fractal in nature.”

Back to YouTube’s recommended viewing of the Mandelbrot Zoom – according to Wikipedia the Mandelbrot set is a nod to mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot who coined the term fractal when he theorized mathematical definition of roughness and self-similarity in nature. Confused? Shake it off and immerse yourself in this clip. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense, all that matters is willingness to accept it exists. For those who need hard facts over abstract wonder, some links –

http://everything.explained.today/Fractal/

http://everything.explained.today/Mandelbrot_set/

Enough talk, sit back and watch the hardest Mandelbrot zoom …

Another Will McAvoy Ponder


 

The clip below isn’t new to this blog, I’ve lost count of how many times Will McAvoy’s scene from HBO’s short lived series The Newsroom  graced this page. I vow to post this over and over again. Not for the certainty most won’t bother to watch, but for the slim chance a handful of Americans might take sentiments of a television news anchor to heart.

Grab Them By The Pussy


America, you elected a swell president A year ago this week, a month before the election, you said “Meh” to “grab them by the pussy”. Nobody cried “fake news”, how could you – Trump’s abominable core was irrefutable. Amid the propaganda frenzy of “crooked Hillary”, did you think the world would overlook dismissal of a  “grab them by the pussy” president? How about your wives, daughters, sisters, mothers? Could Trump grab your daughter by the pussy provided he made America great again?

If you support Donald Trump watch this video. When you’re done, explain to your wives, daughters, mothers and sisters why a great nation condones exploitation of women as sexual objects. When you’re done, ask yourself if a man like this represents your core values. Have a word with yourself, explain to your sons they too can take advantage of women if they’re rich and powerful enough. A year after “grab them by the pussy” defined your president, ask yourself how excusing his loathsome sense of entitlement makes America great.