By definition science strives to provide answers arrived at by systematic analysis of nature and behaviour of the material and physical universe. Since the dawn of biological science, mystery of Zebra stripes have confounded science. Enter Tim Caro of University of California at Davis.
Tim Caro visited Hill Livery in England, a stable that keeps zebra alongside horses. Keen observation of zebra, horses and horses cloaked in zebra stripes revealed a simple explanation of why zebras are stripped – stripes confound hoards of biting flies. Apparently optics matter in the horsefly world. Swarms of horseflies hover without discrimination above horse and zebra, but stripes screw with horsefly minds, they can’t land on a striped hide.
Trust me when I say the International Astronomical Union (IAU) https://www.space.com/29696-international-astronomical-union.html rarely engages the public in astronomical matters. Truth is IAU arrogance rubs many a scientist the wrong way. IAU members have sole authority and discretion in naming astronomical objects and features, but for a stroke of IAU pen Pluto would still call itself planet. Cosmic nomenclature isn’t official until the IAU says so.
In summer 2018 science discovered twelve unknown moons of Jupiter, now the IAU wants help in naming five. Anyone can submit entries, but guidelines are strict. In keeping with Jovian propriety moons of Jupiter are named for characters in Greek or Roman mythology either descended from or lovers of Zeus. Ponder this before referencing ancient mythology – not all moons orbit Jupiter in the same direction. Those orbiting in the same direction (in this case 2 out of 5) require names ending in “a”, opposite rotation require names ending in “e”. Submissions can’t be similar to other cosmic bodies/features or be culturally offensive.
Its been a while since space weather graced this blog, far too long if you ask me. With that in mind, ponder a Sunday night space weather update.
As I write solar wind blows at 354.8 km/second, 1,967 potentially hazardous asteroids are identified within 100 LD (lunar distance) from our planet and 2 observable fireballs have been recorded in the past 24 hours. Despite a lull in solar activity courtesy cyclical expectations of solar minimum, a behemoth Earth facing hole in the Sun’s surface catapults solar wind in our direction. Contact with Earth’s magnetic field is anticipated on February 19 or 20th. Aurora watchers can expect geomagnetic storms.
Few people know what space weather is, let alone grasp how it impacts life on Earth. If you were a passenger on NetJets flight 795 from White Plains to Burbank last week, you received a radiation dose of x 68.4 that of radiation exposure at sea level. Space weather is real and it matters. Happy Sunday.
Adrien Mauduit, my favorite timelapse photographer, posted Winter Wonderland a few days ago. Shot over three months in Senja, Norway, no one better than Adrien to preface a Winter Wonderland….
“Within the arctic circle the winters can be harsh with long-lasting violent blizzards. However when the snow storm lets up and passes, it leaves a completely transformed landscape. All the familiar roads, trees, mountains and lakes are buried under a layer of deep snow taking on different sort of weird shapes. The flimsy birch trees are bending under the weight and look like they are welcoming your into a fairy-tale. The moon and the windless atmosphere play such an important role in creating a winter wonderland. Most of the sequences of this short timelapse film were shot during an interval of 3 days where the snow stuck to the branches. Senja’s ever-changing weather had the best of this fleeting environment very quickly but it took over 3 months to shoot all the scenes of this movie.
I really wanted the viewer to feel like they actually were in a dream straight from their winter childhood memory. Much like Narnia or Frozen you can just walk through the enchanted frozen forest, lie down in the scintillating fresh powder looking up at the branches contrasting with the blue sky and the northern lights, and all surrounded by the mountains and the sea. From the pink sunrises and sunsets of the winter polar days to the ice figures created on the frozen shore by the converging tides, not to mention the incredibly colorful displays of aurora borealis, get ready to experience an uplifting voyage through the magical astroscapes of Northern Norway.
All was shot with the Sony a7rII, Sony a7s and the Canon 6D Baader modified and a variety of bright lenses ranging from 14mm to 150mm. I used the Lonely Speck Pure Night and Matt Aust Light pollution filters to reduce light pollution and increase details on the deep-sky scenes and also the Vixen Polarie to track the stars and get cleaner shots. For motion control I used the Syrp 3-axis Genie I system and also the Vixen Polarie. All post production was made in Lr with the special timelapse plus plugin, Sequence for mac, TLDF, and final production was made in FCPX. I hope you like the movie as much as I liked shooting and processing it and I thank everyone of you for your support. All content is of course copyrighted AMP&F (except sountrack licensed through The Musicbed: Steven Gutheinz with ‘In the Balance’), and no footage can be used in any way without the author’s permission. Please contact me for media and purchase inquiry. Please share and comment if you liked the video and follow me for more videos like this one! More at adphotography-online.com.” – Adrien Mauduit
15 running shoes containing detached human feet washed up on British Columbia shores since 2007. News of the 15th broke on February 11, 2019 when West Vancouver police and the British Columbia Coroner Service issued a plea for public assistance in identifying the missing person who wore this Nike men’s size 9.5 sneaker with an OrthoLite insert. Trouble is number 15 landed on a West Vancouver beach in September, 2018, so why did authorities wait 5 months before going public?
Officially 10 of 15 detached feet are identified as belonging to 7 people who died by accident or suicide, 5 remain a mystery. Be that as it may, where are the rest of their bodies? Feet only detach from water logged bodies when they’re encased in a running shoe? Why a cluster of detached feet in Southwestern B.C.? Why 5 months between finding #15 and going public? Surely there’s a reasonable explanation, unfortunately what that might be remains ponderously elusive.
On February 12/13, 2019 comet Iwamoto makes a rare visit to our corner of the universe. Discovered in 2018 by amateur Japanese astronomer Massayuki Iwamoto, his namesake passes harmlessly at a distance of 45 million km. with astronomical magnitude of +6.5 – too faint for the human eye, easily observed by backyard telescopes. With a wonky elliptical orbit of 1,371 years, comet Iwamoto hasn’t said hello since 648 AD and won’t be back until the year 3390. Point your telescope toward constellation Leo around midnight on the 12th to catch a glimpse of Iwamoto.
Comet Iwamoto (C/2018 Y1) hails from beyond the Kuiper Belt. Officially this Extreme Trans-Neptunian Object (ETNOs) comes from a distance 5 times greater than that of Pluto to the Sun. Regarded as a “dirty snowball” –
“The most popular theory about the nature of comets was put forward by American astronomer Fred Whipple, often known as the “grandfather” of modern cometary science. Whipple believed they were like dirty snowballs – large chunks of water ice and dust mixed with ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide. As the snowball approached the Sun, its outer ices began to vapourise, releasing large amounts of dust and gas which formed the characteristic tails.
Today, largely thanks to data from Giotto and the Russian Vega spacecraft, we now know that Whipple’s model was fairly accurate. A comet nucleus resembles a fluffy snowball (usually only a few kilometres across) coated with a crust of black material and spouting jets of vaporised ice.”
On January 18, 2019 JAXA ( Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency ) successfully launched a small Epsilon-4 rocket at the Uchinoura Space Center. JAXA proudly declared it one of 7 planned micro-satellite launches deployed to demonstrate innovative technology. Which innovative technology you ask? GPS, solar radiation, weather? Nope! Ponder entertainment technology, embellishing firework extravaganzas with artificial meteor showers.
It seems Lena Okajima, president of Astro Live Experiences was smitten by an encounter with the Leonid meteor shower 20 years ago. Her vision – pack a satellite with hundreds of pellets, launch into Earth orbit, program release of pellets to simulate a meteor shower. Today AstroLive is poised to facilitate Okajima’s dream of meteors at your service. Pardon my ignorance for asking why JAXA considers artificial meteor showers valid aerospace exploration. Despite questionable mingling of entertainment and science, ALE has a vision and JAXA is on board.
As I write, an ALE satellite orbits 500 kilometers above Earth. Engineers at ALE say 500 Km is too high for controlled release of artificial meteors. As such ALE’s satellite will gradually decrease orbit over the year to a distance of 400 kilometers. The first artificial meteor shower is slated for sometime in 2020 over Hiroshima, Japan. Pressure driven gas tanks will shoot out 20-30 pellets per entertainment event, each pellet glowing brightly as it burns up in the atmosphere. ALE’s goal is to dominate night skies with meteor showers on demand. “We want to use the sky as canvas and create very beautiful things” said Okajima.
Few snippets of space news upset me as much as ALE’s determination to turn meteor showers into on demand entertainment. Twenty years ago Lena Okajima encountered Leonid and squealed look at the pretty lights. Rather than promote dark sky sanctuaries, cosmic education or productive research, she decides to cheapen cosmic wonder with artificial slight of hand.
If the Republic of Turkmenistan draws a blank you’re not alone. Geography of the former Soviet Union and Central Asia lean toward murky guesses at best. If it helps Turkmenistan is bordered by Kazakhstan to the northwest, Uzbekistan to the north and east, Afghanistan to the southeast, Iran to the south and southwest, the Caspian Sea to the west. Annexed by the Russian Empire in 1881, named Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic in 1925, Turkmenistan gained independence in 1991 upon dissolution of the Soviet Union. Today, with a population of barely 6 million, Turkmenistan is one of the most sparsely populated places in Asia.
In 1971 Russian geologists thought they’d found a substantial oil field near the village of Derweze, Turkmenistan (commonly know as Darvaza) Engineers quickly moved in, made camp and started drilling to assess oil reserves. What they found was a massive natural gas pocket, the ground collapsed swallowing drill rigs and the work camp. Worried lethal methane gas could poison nearby residents, authorities set the pit ablaze. They thought it would burn itself out in a few weeks. Over 50 years later, fire rages on.
Known today as the gate or portal to Hell, virtually all tourism in Turkmenistan is attributed to viewing the Darvaza Crater. No one knows how long it will burn, but geologists suggest it’s one of the largest natural gas reservoirs in the world.