Nazi Propaganda, Ultima Thule and Arrokoth

On January 1, 2019 NASA darling New Horizons made the farthest close approach fly-by of a cosmic object in human history. Tiny 2014 MU69, a Kuiper Belt object far beyond Pluto was dubbed Ultima Thule shortly before the historic encounter. Ancient geographers used the term ultima Thule in reference to distant territory or destination, northernmost region of the habitable world, remotes goals or ideals. Ultima Thule suited the apple of New Horizons eye. Beyond limits of the known world, a fitting moniker until Nazi propaganda compelled Ultima Thule to become Arrokoth.

2014 MU69 – Arrokoth (Sky, in the Powhatan and Algonquian languages)

Long before a Newsweek reporter mentioned Nazi party use of Ultima Thule in reference to a mythical homeland for Aryan people, NASA pondered implication by association, including its legal team in naming 2014 MU69. Ultima Thule was a fine name, but for media buzz over Nazi propaganda I never would have known neo-Nazis and far right extremists claimed it for their cause. Nor would I known a Swedish skinhead band named Ultima Thule attained three top twenty hits in their homeland.

Imperatives to rename Ultima Thule had little to do with common public knowledge of  Nazi propaganda, everything to do with alt-right association and use of Ultima Thule in their cause.

Ultima Thule renamed to avoid Nazi link

Open Contest To Name 20 New Moons Of Saturn

Today, Scott Sheppard of Carnegie Institution for Science launched a contest to name 20 newly discovered moons of Saturn. For those keeping score,  Saturn (now with 82 moons) leapfrogged past Jupiter (79 moons) to claim satellite supremacy.

Illustration is courtesy of the Carnegie Institution for Science, Saturn image is courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute. Starry background courtesy of Paolo Sartorio/Shutterstock.

Dust off history books, brush up on Norse, Gallic and Inuit mythology – between now and December 6, 2019 the contest is open to anyone who follows IAU rules. Follow link below to enter contest.

From Wikipedia –

In 1847 the seven then known moons of Saturn were named by John Herschel. Herschel named Saturn’s two innermost moons (Mimas and Enceladus) after the mythological Greek Giants, and the outer five after the Titans (Titan, Iapetus) and Titanesses (Tethys, Dione, Rhea) of the same mythology. Until then, Titan was known as the “Huygenian (or Huyghenian) satellite of Saturn” and the other moons had Roman numeral designations in order of their distance from Saturn. Subsequent discoverers of Saturnian moons followed Herschel’s scheme: Hyperion was discovered soon after in 1848, and the ninth moon, Phoebe, was named by its discoverer in 1899 soon after its discovery; they were named for a Titan and a Titaness respectively. The name of Janus was suggested by its discoverer, Audouin Dollfus.

Current IAU practice for newly discovered inner moons is to continue with Herschel’s system, naming them after Titans or their descendants. However, the increasing number of moons that were being discovered in the 21st century caused the IAU to draw up a new scheme for the outer moons. At the IAU General Assembly in July 2004, the WGPSN allowed satellites of Saturn to have names of giants and monsters in mythologies other than the Greco-Roman. Since the outer moons fall naturally into three groups, one group is named after Norse giants, one after Gallic giants, and one after Inuit giants. The only moon that fails to fit this scheme is the Greek-named Phoebe, which is in the Norse group.

  • Two of the newly discovered prograde moons fit into a group of outer moons with inclinations of about 46 degrees called the Inuit group. All name submissions for this group must be giants from Inuit mythology.
  • Seventeen of the newly discovered moons are retrograde moons in the Norse group. All name submissions for this group must be giants from Norse mythology.
  • One of the newly discovered moons orbits in the prograde direction and has an inclination near 36 degrees, which is similar to those in the Gallic group, although it is much farther away from Saturn than any other prograde moons. It must e named after a giant from Gallic mythology.

Black Hole Visualization

This week NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center released a black hole visualization. Jeremy Schnittman, astrophysicist specializing in computational modeling of black hole accretion flows enlisted computer software to animate black hole glory. From

Viewed from the side, the disk looks brighter on the left than it does on the right. Glowing gas on the left side of the disk moves toward us so fast that the effects of Einstein’s relativity give it a boost in brightness; the opposite happens on the right side, where gas moving away us becomes slightly dimmer. This asymmetry disappears when we see the disk exactly face on because, from that perspective, none of the material is moving along our line of sight.

Closest to the black hole, the gravitational light-bending becomes so excessive that we can see the underside of the disk as a bright ring of light seemingly outlining the black hole. This so-called “photon ring” is composed of multiple rings, which grow progressively fainter and thinner, from light that has circled the black hole two, three, or even more times before escaping to reach our eyes. Because the black hole modeled in this visualization is spherical, the photon ring looks nearly circular and identical from any viewing angle. Inside the photon ring is the black hole’s shadow, an area roughly twice the size of the event horizon — its point of no return.

“Simulations and movies like these really help us visualize what Einstein meant when he said that gravity warps the fabric of space and time,” Jeremy Schnittman, who created the images at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, said in a statement.

Simulated black hole.

Click in to see more angles. | The black hole is seen nearly edgewise in this new visualization from NASA. The turbulent disk of gas around the hole takes on a double-humped appearance. The black hole’s extreme gravity alters the paths of light coming from different parts of the disk, producing the warped image. “What we see depends on our viewing angle,” NASA said. Image via NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Jeremy Schnittman.

NASA creates stunning new black hole visualization

Timelapse Of The Future

From melodysheep –

We start in 2019 and travel exponentially through time, witnessing the future of Earth, the death of the sun, the end of all stars, proton decay, zombie galaxies, possible future civilizations, exploding black holes, the effects of dark energy, alternate universes, the final fate of the cosmos – to name a few.

This is a picture of the future as painted by modern science – a picture that will surely evolve over time as we dig for more clues to how our story will unfold. Much of the science is very recent – and new puzzle pieces are still waiting to be found.

To me, this overhead view of time gives a profound perspective – that we are living inside the hot flash of the Big Bang, the perfect moment to soak in the sights and sounds of a universe in its glory days, before it all fades away.  Although the end will eventually come, we have a practical infinity of time to play with if we play our cards right. The future may look bleak, but we have enormous potential as a species.

Featuring the voices of David Attenborough, Craig Childs, Brian Cox, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michelle Thaller, Lawrence Krauss, Michio Kaku, Mike Rowe, Phil Plait, Janna Levin, Stephen Hawking, Sean Carroll, Alex Filippenko, and Martin Rees.”

Hello Again, You Perfect Moon

Somewhere beyond rivulets of torrential rain assaulting the bedroom window, a full, plump harvest moon prickles with sunlit illumination. Consumed by late night melancholy, my heart aches for restorative lunar wonder. Doesn’t matter to me how often I’ve posted this video. I’ll do it again, and again and again because it makes me smile. This is my happy place – have you ever really seen the Moon?

Night Skies And Petroglyphs

From Harun Mehmedinovic and Gavin Heffernan at – Ancestral Nights. Filmed for Skyglow Project, a crowdfunded endeavor illustrating effects of light pollution on dark skies. Lose yourself in night skies and petroglyphs….

Carvings, structures and petroglyphs captured in this video represent ancient observance of night skies by Native Hawaiians, Paiute people of California and Puebloans of the Southwest.

Concentric white circles filling the sky over large rock with symbols carved into it.

“These petroglyphs and structures reflect the long standing interest in ancient astronomy which grew stronger as many of the tribes went from the hunter-gatherer to the agrarian societal orders. From references to the sun carved in the rock, and interest in using the sun to predict seasons (entire buildings built to serve as sundials and calendars, a critical element in the farming communities) to those of 13 moons (lunar annual calendar), to carvings of stars and constellations, interest in celestial bodies is ever present across the indigenous communities of the United States.” – Harun Mehmedinovic

Tardigrade Moon

On April 11, 2019 unmanned Israeli spacecraft Beresheet crashed into the Moon during a failed landing. Historians will mark this day as first unintentional Moon crash in 48 years, learn more at

That said, Beresheet might be credited with depositing life on the Moon. Robotic lander Beresheet carried a payload of 30 million digitized pages of information about human culture and society, human DNA samples and Tardigrades. Human DNA and Tardigrade were locked in resin, held in place by sticky tape onto which thousands more Tardigrade were placed.

Tardigrade, aka “water bear”, are the only known life form capable of surviving airless vacuums of space and lethal radiation levels. Remarkable yes, mind blowing when considered with additional facts – Tardigrade can survive six times the pressure of our deepest ocean, frozen to absolute zero (-273 C) or boiled above 150 C. Dehydrate a Tardigrade for years then add water, voila – business as usual. Eventually they succumb to old age, but don’t hold your breath, life expectancy is 200 years.

In the wake of Beresheet’s fiery demise, indestructible Tardigrade litter the lunar surface. Did they vaporize on impact? I care to think not – Tardigrade are the definition of extremophile, if anything can survive crash landing on the Moon, it’s a Tardigrade.

Moon Hoax Not

Shout out to for prompting this ponder. As nobodysreadingme points out – you can’t do a cover-up on this scale. A casual observation beyond reproach, he’s right – you can’t do a cover-up on this scale.

July 21, 2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong’s momentous first step on the Moon. Fifty years increasingly over shadowed by conspiracy wing-nuts. News flash – you can’t do a cover-up on this scale! For those inclined to gobble tabloid sawdust, persons swayed by internet jibber-jabber, people parroting fake Moon landing nonsense – snap out of it! You can’t do a cover-up on this scale.

What will it take to convince fake Moon landing conspiracy theorists otherwise? This video? Point by patient point analysis at the link below? Who am I kidding?

How about this? You can’t do a cover-up on this scale!

Send Your Name To Mars

NASA invites the public to send their name to Mars. Names submitted by September 30, 2019 travel on the next Mars Rover Mission, expected to launch summer 2020. NASA will use a electron beam to etch submitted names onto silicone chips. With lines of text smaller than one thousandth the width of a human hair, each dime sized chip can contain over a million names. Engraved chips ride along with Rover under a glass cover. From EarthSky –

After submitting your name, NASA will send you a souvenir boarding pass and “frequent flyer” points. Miles/kilometers are awarded for each flight, with digital mission patches available to download. 

Image of rad planet Mars with a rectangular white ticket on top of it.

Follow the link above to send your name to Mars.


May 18, 2019 Blue Moon Ponder

Since the dawn of my existence “once in a blue moon” defined rarity of two full moons in a calendar month. More than that, it served as impetus for cosmic wonder. Tonight I discovered the Blue Moon of May 18, 2019 is “seasonal”, meaning the third of four full moons in a single season. How rare can that be?

Twelve months in a year, each month roughly based on a single lunar orbit of Earth. Twelve months, four seasons, three months per season. Fine, I get it – four full moons in a season is rare, but someone could have told me “once in a blue moon” had alternate meanings! There was one on November 21, 2010 another August 20, 2013 and May 21, 2016. After May 18, 2019 we won’t witness another seasonal blue moon until August 22, 2021.

An article published in the March 1946 issue of Sky and Telescope magazine titled Once In a Blue Moon by James Hugh Pruett, cemented blue moon in popular culture. Referring to the 1937 Maine Farmer’s Almanac,  Pruett wrote –

“Seven times in 19 years there were – and still are – 13 full moons in a year. This gives 11 months with one full moon each and one with two. This second in a month, so I interpret it, was called Blue Moon.”

Despite the fact Pruett goofed in reference to astronomical details of 1937 moons (there were 12 that year not 13 ), the term Blue Moon was born. Me – I’m still coming to terms with the fact I’ve lived 59 years and never considered blue moon anything other than 2 full moons in a calendar month. Lesson learned.

Blue Moon: All you need to know

Link to detailed list of Blue Moon dates and designation –