Solar Sector Boundary Crossing Coincides With Historic 150th Anniversary


September 2nd marks a historic 150th anniversary. On this day in 1859 miners in Virginia woke at 3 am thinking glowing skies signaled sunrise. From the North Pole to Cuba, Hawaii, most of Mexico, parts of Central America and Colombia, China and Japan, brilliant auroras delivered a electromagnetic circus. All across Europe and North America telegraph wires sparked, stations caught fire, some operators reported sending and receiving messages even after disconnecting power lines.

150 years ago British astronomer Richard Carrington witnessed a unprecedented solar flare – today we know it as the Carrington Event. A similar event today would devastate life as we know it. Ponder weeks, months, possibly years without electricity, internet, ATMs, GPS, power to pump water and fuel, air, road or rail travel. Space weather is real and it matters.

Image result for carrington event

https://www.history.com/news/a-perfect-solar-superstorm-the-1859-carrington-event

On September 3rd space weather predicts a solar sector boundary crossing.

Our sun produces wind (currently 316.9 Km/second) blasts across the cosmos. Just like Earth, the Sun has a magnetic field – known as the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF).  Whipped into spiral rotation, wind driven IMF rotates in one direction. It divides into spiral sections pointing to and away from the sun along the ecliptic plane ( a direct line between Earth and the Sun). The edge of this swirling mass has a surface separating polarities of planetary and solar magnetism called the heliosphere current sheet.

http://spaceweather.com/glossary/imf.html

Earth’s magnetic field points north at the magnetopause (the point of contact between our magnetosphere and the IMF). If the IMF happens to point south at contact (scientific term, southward Bz) the two fields link causing partial cancellation of Earth’s magnetic field – in other words, opening a temporary door for solar energy to enter our atmosphere. Welcome solar sector boundary crossing – a phenomenon born of high solar wind and coronal mass ejections (CME’s – aka solar flares).

It takes 3 or 4 days for magnetism to sort itself out – during that time expect occasional high frequency radio wave disruption,  wonky GPS and cell phone service peppered with sudden power grid failure events. On the upside, we’re treated to kick ass auroras.

Space weather really does matter.

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Diamond Rain, Bergs and Liquid Floaters


Earthly diamonds begin as carbon deposits 100 miles or more below the surface. Location is everything – carbon heated to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, squeezed under pressure of 725,000 pounds per square inch, lucky enough to cool quickly by hitching a ride on upward flowing magma, become diamonds.

Science knows there’s more than one way to make a diamond. Just as bakers adjust recipes for high altitude cooking, the cosmos creatively adapts to unique circumstance. Earthly optimists turn lemons into lemonade, cosmic forces create diamonds from carbon in the unlikeliest  of places.

Science has speculated for some time that chilly cores of Neptune and Uranus glisten with diamonds. A few years ago science singled out 55 Cancri e, an exo-planet 40 light years from our solar system as a planetary body comprised almost entirely of diamonds. Recently, science said – “new data available has confirmed that at depth, diamonds may be floating around inside of Saturn, some growing so large that they could perhaps be called ‘diamondbergs,'”. Diomand-bergs, good grief! What does that even mean?

Apparently behemoth lightening storms on Saturn and Jupiter create elemental carbon in the form of soot and graphite. Falling deep into the atmosphere, heat and pressure produce diamonds of unfathomable girth. Deeper still, extreme heat and pressures melt solid gems into diamond rain. From diamond-bergs floating in a hidden sea of fluid hydrogen and helium, to other worldly ghost clouds of diamond rain a simple truth emerges – the universe sparkles, even in the shadows it knows how to bake a diamond.

https://www.space.com/23135-diamond-rain-jupiter-saturn.html

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Ponder The Preciousness Of Time


On June 15, Stephen Hawking’s ashes were interred at Westminster Abby between those of Darwin and Newton. During the ceremony 1,000 attendees chosen by ballot learned Hawking’s voice will be sent into space by the European Space Agency.

“The broadcast will be beamed towards the nearest black hole, 1A 0620-00, which lives in a binary system with a fairly ordinary orange dwarf star,” his daughter, Lucy Hawking, said.

“It is a message of peace and hope, about unity and the need for us to live together in harmony on this planet.”

Image result for stephen hawking ashes

Ponder the preciousness of time, a tribute to Stephen Hawking….

 

Insect Digesting Proof of Evolution


Regardless of determination to dismiss, avoid or walk away from slippery slopes leading to fundamentalist Christian jibber-jabber, every so often it pays to have an arsenal of politely dispatched counterpoints up your sleeve.Scientific proof of insect digesting genomes lingering in the soup of our current gene pool serves the purpose nicely.

Ancient mammal ancestors of all animal species, including humans, were insect eaters. 66 million years ago small insect digesting mammals darted between dinosaur toes. Able to escape asteroid induced dinosaur apocalypse by burrowing underground, formerly inconsequential bug eaters gave rise to life as we know it. Fickle as evolution may be, it saw no reason to deny humans chitinases markers, genetic enzymes capable of breaking down chitin, the hard outer shells of ingested insects.

Research published by Christopher Emerling of UC Berkeley in the journal Science Advances, based analysis of 107 different animal species genomes to conclude –

“One of the coolest things is, if you look at humans, at Fido your dog, Whiskers your cat, your horse, your cow; pick any animal, generally speaking, they have remnants in their genomes of a time when mammals were small, probably insectivorous and running around when dinosaurs were still roaming Earth,” said postdoctoral fellow Christopher Emerling. “It is a signature in your genome that says, once upon a time you were not the dominant group of organisms on Earth. By looking at our genomes, we are looking at this ancestral past and a lifestyle that we don’t even live with anymore.”

Evolution is why millions of people around the world digest insects. God unleashed a plague of locusts to punish humanity, evolution shrugged and sat down at the dinner table.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-05-inherited-bug-eating-ancestors.html#jCp

Image result for gene inherited from bug eating ancestors

A spectral tarsier (Tarsius tarsier) feeding on a grasshopper in Tangkoko National Park, Northern Sulawesi, Indonesia. Tarsiers have five chitinase genes to digest the high amount of chitin in their insectivorous diet, which likely …more

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-05-inherited-bug-eating-ancestors.html#jCp

Ponder Degrees Of Acuity


New research by Eleanor Caves at Duke University suggests most species view the world in less detail than us Comparison of visual acuity in 600 species of animals, birds, fish and insects conclude humans see fine detail elusive to most species. Based on spacing and density of light sensing structure in eye anatomy, the study measured acuity in terms of cycles per degree, translation – how many pairs of black and white parallel lines a species can discern within one degree of the field of vision before they turn into a smear of gray.

Average human eyes resolve 60 black/white cycles per degree of acuity. Anyone with less than 10 cycles per degree of acuity is legally blind. Most insects can’t see more than one degree of acuity. Fish and birds hover around half the visual acuity of humans. (One exception birds of prey – Australian web tailed eagles boast 140 cycles per degree )) Cats and dogs perceive 7 times less visual detail, slightly more than goldfish, significantly more than rodents.

Evolutionary perfection compensates lack of visual acuity with species specific tweaks of survival fancy. Sight as we know it is not the measure of life on Earth.

 

Image result for kitchen as seen by different animals

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/humans-see-world-100-times-more-detail-mice-fruit-flies-180969240/

 

The image on the left shows the wings of a map butterfly as they might look to a jay looking for a snack, and on the right, to another member of its kind, such as a rival or potential mate. Image courtesy of Eleanor Caves

The image on the left shows the wings of a map butterfly as they might look to a jay looking for a snack, and on the right, to another member of its kind, such as a rival or potential mate. Image courtesy of Eleanor Caves

Image result for eleanor caves acuity

A spider web as seen in bird vision (left), and fly vision (right). The zigzags on the spider’s web send a secret message to birds that their insect prey can’t see, even from less than a foot away. Image via Eleanor Caves.

Longer Days


Moons orbit planets, planets orbit the sun. Round and round they go forever locked in gravitational harmony. Sunrise, sunset, new moon, full moon, every day a 24 hour certainty. Foundations so fundamental we take them for granted. Not so fast – days haven’t always been 24 hours. Truth is, days are getting longer.

New astronomical research dubbed astrochronology suggests that recently as 1.4 billion years ago Earth completed a day in 18 hours. Science credits interaction of Earth/Moon tidal forces for lunar orbit spiraling away from Earth at 1.5 inches a year.

Gravity is a cosmic wonder, proximity of mass dictates rate of rotation. 18 hour day Earth was driven by a vastly closer Moon. Over time rotation slows as the Moon spirals away. Less pull, less spin, longer days.

https://www.space.com/40802-earth-days-longer-moon-movement.html?utm_source=sdc-newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20180606-sdc

 

This gorgeous photo of Earth with the moon in the foreground was captured on Oct. 12, 2015, by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft.

Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University

 

Ponder Mars Rover Curiosity Announcement


Mars rover Curiosity is on a mission to investigate Mars’ past ability to support microbial life. Exploration began when Curiosity touched down on the floor of 154 kilometer wide Gale Crater in August 2012. It didn’t take long for Curiosity core samples to indicate Gale Crater could have supported a habitable lake and stream system in the ancient past. At the centre of Gale, Mount Sharp rises 5.5 kilometers above the Martian surface. Curiosity reached the base of Mt. Sharp in September 2014. Curiosity set a course for the summit, collecting core samples along the way. All good until late 2016 when Curiosity lost the use of her robotic drill.

NASA engineers worked tirelessly to find a solution. On February 26, 2018 a test fix culminated in Curiosity boring a 1.3 centimeter deep hole. A few adjustments later the little rover that could drilled without hesitation.

This week NASA made a curious announcement. On Thursday June 7, 2018 at 2 pm EDT a live news conference will reveal something Curiosity discovered on Mars.

 

“NASA will hold a press conference Thursday, June 7, 2018, to announce a new discovery on Mars from the Curiosity rover. Here, Curiosity snaps a selfie while perched on Vera Rubin Ridge on Mars in February 2018.”

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

From https://www.space.com/40792-nasa-mars-rover-curiosity-announcement-june-2018.html

“The space agency revealed few details about what will be announced Thursday, but the “live discussion” will feature “new science results from NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover,” according to a NASA announcement. Why all the secrecy? “The results are embargoed by the journal Science until then,” NASA wrote in the statement.

That means NASA won’t release any details until the press conference, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT) on Thursday. You can watch the Mars announcement live on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV. The space agency did reveal the list of scientists who will be discussing the Mars discovery. [See Curiosity’s Greatest Mars Discoveries (So Far)]