Science

Mysterious light flashes on the Moon have been baffling researchers for decades

Astronomers have been excited by the Moon for eons, a level that has grown considerably as technological advancements gave humanity access to its surface, and helped researchers make observations from afar. And though there have been several notable lunar-related discoveries since man first walked on the Moon in 1969, there is still one phenomenon that has perplexed researchers for decades. Mysterious, random flashes of light coming from the Moon’s surface. Known as “transient lunar phenomena,” these mysterious, bizarre flashes of light can occur randomly, sometimes several times a week. Often times, they last for just a few minutes but have also been known to last for hours. There have been a number of explanations over the years, from meteors to moonquakes to UFOs, but none have ever been proven. A new telescope in Spain, though, may provide the answer. The lunar telescope, built by Hakan Kayal’s team at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany, will be pointed at the lunar surface for 24 hours a day and take videos and pictures if both of its cameras register a luminous phenomenon. “The so-called transient lunar phenomena have been known since the 1950s, but they have not been sufficiently systematically and long-term observed,” said Kayal, a professor of space technology at the university, in a statement. Observations of the transient lunar phenomena go back even further, to 1787, according to CNET. The news outlet also noted that Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins told NASA in 1969 about the strange occurrence. “There is an area that is considerably more illuminated than the surrounding area,” Collins told NASA mission control on July 15, 1969, one day prior to the landing on the Moon. “It just has — seems to have a slight amount of fluorescence to it. A crater can be seen, and the area around the crater is quite bright.” The telescope will be in a private observatory in Spain, which Kayal said was chosen over Germany because it offers “simply better weather conditions for observing the Moon.” Kayal also said observations from the remote-controlled telescope will be compared with those from the European Space Agency. “If the same thing was seen there, the event can be considered confirmed,” he added. The astronomer also said that interest in the bizarre lunar flashes is high due to renewed interest in the Moon, thanks to a new “space race” from private companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin, as well as advancements from domestic and foreign governments, including China. “Anyone who wants to build a lunar base at some point must of course be familiar with the local conditions,” Kayal said in the release. In January, China landed its Chang’e 4 lunar explorer on the far side of the Moon, becoming the first country to ever land on the side facing away from Earth. More recently, Blue Origin, led by Jeff Bezos, announced plans to send its Blue Moon lander to the celestial satellite. “It’s time to go back to the Moon,” Bezos said in a press conference last month. “This time to stay.”

Fascinating!!   🙂

Mathematicians Edge Closer to Solving a ‘Million Dollar’ Math Problem

Did a team of mathematicians just take a big step toward answering a 160-year-old, million-dollar question in mathematics? Maybe. The crew did solve a number of other, smaller questions in a field called number theory. And in doing so, they have reopened an old avenue that might eventually lead to an answer to the old question: Is the Riemann hypothesis correct? The Reimann hypothesis is a fundamental mathematical conjecture that has huge implications for the rest of math. It forms the foundation for many other mathematical ideas — but no one knows if it’s true. Its validity has become one of the most famous open questions in mathematics. It’s one of seven “Millennium Problems” laid out in 2000, with the promise that whoever solves them will win $1 million. (Only one of the problems has since been solved.) Back in 1859, a German mathematician named Bernhard Riemann proposed an answer to a particularly thorny math equation. His hypothesis goes like this: The real part of every non-trivial zero of the Riemann zeta function is 1/2. That’s a pretty abstract mathematical statement, having to do with what numbers you can put into a particular mathematical function to make that function equal zero. But it turns out to matter a great deal, most importantly regarding questions of how often you’ll encounter prime numbers as you count up toward infinity. We’ll come back to the details of the hypothesis later. But the important thing to know now is that if the Riemann hypothesis is true, it answers a lot of questions in mathematics. “So often in number theory, what ends up happening is if you assume the Riemann hypothesis [is true], you’re then able to prove all kinds of other results,” Lola Thompson, a number theorist at Oberlin College in Ohio, who wasn’t involved in this latest research, said. Often, she told Live Science, number theorists will first prove that something is true if the Riemann hypothesis is true. Then they’ll use that proof as a sort of stepping stone toward a more intricate proof, which shows that their original conclusion is true whether or not the Riemann hypothesis is true. The fact that this trick works, she said, convinces many mathematicians that the Riemann hypothesis must be true. But the truth is that nobody knows for sure. So how did this small team of mathematicians seem to bring us closer toward a solution? Click here to see the answer to that question, and read the rest of the article.

Fascinating!    🙂

‘Spaceplane’ that flies 25 times faster than the speed of sound passes crucial test

A ‘spaceplane’ that flies 25 times faster than the speed of sound has successfully passed a crucial testing milestone. The hypersonic plane is so fast it could jet from London to New York in less than 60 minutes and transport you from the UK to Australia in four hours. Oxford-based Reaction Engines has been working with the European Space Agency and the UK Space Agency, along with BAE Systems, to make the powerful aircraft. Reaction Engines has recently been testing a ‘pre-cooler’ for the plane, which is technology that would allow it to travel faster than ever before. The pre-cooler is critical in the plane’s development because it is required to stop the engine from melting by lowering the temperature of compressed air in the engine from more than 1,000°C to room temperature in one-twentieth of a second. Thousands of tubes inside the pre-cooler, which are thinner than human hair, contain liquid helium that can cool the air as it rushes past them. Until now, heat has been a limiting factor for how fast aircraft can travel, including Concorde which traveled at two times the speed of sound. This technology could now be combined with the spaceplane’s experimental engine, referred to as Sabre. Sabre is intended to be much lighter than a conventional rocket engine because it would carry less fuel-oxidant. It is being designed to draw oxygen into the engine to use for combustion from take off until it reaches just over 4,000 mph. After this point, the engine would need to burn liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen from on-board fuel tanks. The spaceplane would need to continue using this process until it reached 25 times the speed of sound to enter space. The company ultimately aims to create a reusable vehicle that has the fuel efficiency of a jet engine with the power of a rocket. Plans for the hypersonic plane don’t just include getting people around the world in a fraction of the time but also taking people or cargo into Space and back for just a fraction of the current cost.

Very cool!!    🙂

Joe Bastardi: Climate change agenda is being driven by hysteria, not facts

Throughout my 40 year career as a meteorologist, I have tried to live up to the responsibility I inherited from my predecessors. I was taught to strive for objective truth, irrespective of where the data would lead. Science is not a belief system based on feelings or subjective motives. It is about facts, evidence, theories and experimentation in search of a conclusion. The impassioned speech by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., to Congress last week revealed volumes about the intent and commitment of those pushing the Green New Deal. I can’t help but question if their positions are based on facts. Ocasio-Cortez’s statements about adverse climate effects and policy proposals reflect a lack of knowledge about energy policy and the geopolitical and financial impacts of abandoning fossil fuels in a quick and reckless manner. “The world is going to end in 12 years if we don’t address climate change,” she said earlier this year – a statement clearly designed to elicit panic but hardly based on fact. In this age of political hysteria, we must all educate ourselves on the facts – the actual science. Unfortunately, there seems to be a total lack of awareness about important issues that scientists like myself – who aren’t paid by research grants – are concerned about. Instead, climate science is being used as a political weapon, and the voices of scientists like me are being ignored or even vilified. I was under the impression that in the United States, all voices and arguments should be heard. Climate science is not settled science. If it was, why would there be a continuous flow of money to research it? For example, is AOC aware that in the fossil fuel era, in spite of a four-fold increase in population, deaths have plummeted? Or that personal GDP and life expectancy – true measurements of progress – have dramatically increased? Or that world prosperity is rising while poverty is falling? And does AOC know that in the geological history of the Earth, there is no apparent direct link between carbon dioxide and temperature? AOC is trying to capture the imagination of young people to exact a specific result – the adoption of policies that cripple our way of life and push us towards socialism. But the charts above are only a few examples of data that should cause us to pause and ask questions about the direction that the Green New Deal wants America to go in. We should also ask why there is such a hurry to get there. For every current event that is used to whip up hysteria, there has been a past event that was even worse, but that people either ignore or are ignorant about in the first place. Extreme weather has always occurred and will inevitably continue. If climate alarmists do not know about the many arguments that question the credibility of their ideas, how is it even possible for their ideas to be seriously considered? Much of what is being proposed in the Green New Deal should not only cause skepticism, but should be considered draconian and even geopolitically dangerous. The migration towards cleaner, alternative energy needs to be done in a methodical, sustainable and intelligent way, otherwise, the consequences could be far worse than anyone can imagine. Perhaps we should pause and consider why none of the global warming models from two decades ago have come to fruition. Perhaps we should slow down and think about the consequences of allowing our adversaries to supply the world with cheap energy, because one thing is for sure – wind farms and solar panels won’t get the job done. The objective reader should examine all sides of the climate debate and should ask himself: Are the consequences of acting hastily worse than not acting at all? I think many are skeptical of rushing forward. We must rein in the political hysteria and fear-mongering that is driving the climate change agenda.

Agreed!!  And well said, Joe.  Joe Bastardi is a pioneer in extreme weather and long-range forecasting and the chief meteorologist at weatherbell.com. He is the author of “The Climate Chronicles: Inconvenient Revelations You Won’t Hear From Al Gore — and Others.”       🙂

SpaceX Crew Dragon docks at International Space Station

A space capsule with a life-size test dummy named Ripley reached the International Space Station early Sunday in a test flight commissioned by SpaceX. The Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon flight docked at the space station around 27 hours after liftoff from NASA’S Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The flight is designed to demonstrate the possibility for ferrying astronauts in commercial aircraft. “The @SpaceX Crew Dragon is attached to the @Space_Station! It’s a first for a commercially built & operated spacecraft designed for crew! #LaunchAmerica,” NASA tweeted. “To be frank, I’m a little emotionally exhausted,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk told reporters barely an hour after liftoff. “We have to dock to the station. We have to come back, but so far it’s worked … we’ve passed the riskiest items.” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine called it “a big night for the United States of America.” The success of the launch drew a Twitter message from President Trump. “We’ve got NASA ‘rocking’ again,” the president wrote. “Great activity and success. Congrats to SPACEX and all!” “We’re on the precipice of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil again for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011,” said Bridenstine, who got a special tour of the launch pad on the eve of launch, by Musk. NASA has provided private companies like SpaceX and Boeing $8 billion to build and operate capsules to transport astronauts to and from the space station. Russian aircraft are the ones to ferry astronauts to the station. The only way astronauts can get to space are via Russian rockets, yet the cost of using them has steeply risen over the years. NASA currently pays $82 million per seat.” The dummy Ripley – named after the lead character in the “Alien” film series – was strapped in a seat inside the capsule, which can accommodate as many as seven astronauts. A small toy resembling Earth was left to float around. The flight is also packed with around 450 pounds of supplies. SpaceX already has made 16 trips to the space station using cargo Dragons. The white Crew Dragon is slightly bigger — 27 feet tip to tip — and considerably fancier and safer. Musk said the redesigned capsule has “hardly a part in common” with its predecessor.

Very cool!!  Go SpaceX!!    🙂

Mars Opportunity rover is dead, NASA confirms

NASA has finally plugged the plug on its Mars Opportunity rover, which has been silent on the Red Planet’s surface for eight months. “I declare the Opportunity mission is complete,” said Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate during a press conference on Wednesday. “I have to tell you, this is an emotional time,” he added. The rover reached Mars in 2004, but NASA lost contact with the vehicle last year following an epic dust storm that enveloped the red planet and prevented sunlight from reaching its surface. The last signal received from the $400 million solar-powered rover was on June 10, 2018. NASA made its last planned attempts to communicate with Opportunity late on Tuesday, but did not receive any response back. “I heard this morning that we had not heard back,” said Zurbuchen, explaining that the “beloved” rover remains silent. The missing vehicle was spotted three months later. On Sept. 20, the HiRISE high-resolution camera on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured an image of the rover in Mars’ Perseverance Valley. However, scientists were still unable to talk to the vehicle. Opportunity landed on Mars on Jan. 24, 2004 PST, just three weeks after its identical twin, Spirit, reached the Red Planet’s surface. Both outlived and outperformed expectations, on opposite sides of Mars. The golf-cart-sized rovers were designed to operate as geologists for just three months, after bouncing onto our planetary neighbor inside cushioning airbags. They rocketed from Cape Canaveral a month apart in 2003. Spirit was pronounced dead in 2011 a year after it got stuck in sand and communication ceased. “This is a celebration of so many achievements,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, during Wednesday’s press conference at the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Opportunity set records on the Red Planet. Rolling along until communication ceased last June, Opportunity roamed a record 28 miles around Mars and worked longer than any other lander. Its greatest achievement was discovering, along with Spirit, evidence that ancient Mars had water flowing on its surface and might have been capable of sustaining microbial life. Contact with Opportunity was lost during the fiercest Martian dust storm in decades. The storm was so intense that it darkened the sky for months, preventing sunlight from reaching the rover’s solar panels. The storm may have scrambled the rover’s internal clock, NASA explained on Wednesday, meaning that the rover would not know when to sleep, wake up, or receive commands. NASA has two other probes operating on Mars. The Curiosity rover, which reached the Red Planet in August 2012, has more than 12 miles on its odometer. NASA’s Insight Mars Lander reached the surface of the Red Planet in November 2018, ending a journey that lasted six months and more than 300 million miles. In November 2018, NASA announced that it has selected the location where its Mars 2020 rover will land on the Red Planet. The rover is expected to land on Mars Feb. 18, 2021.

Harvard prof doesn’t back down from claims that alien spacecraft may be zipping past Jupiter orbit

A distinguished Harvard University professor is not backing down from his claims that a piece of extraterrestrial spacecraft technology may be flying past the orbit of Jupiter at this moment. Avi Loeb, one of the top astronomy professors in the world, boasting of decades of Ivy League professorships and hundreds of publicized works in respected astronomy publications, is remaining defiant that the space object – dubbed as “Oumuamua” – first noticed by Hawaiian astronomers in 2017 could be from another civilization. “Considering an artificial origin, one possibility is that ‘Oumuamua is a lightsail, floating in interstellar space as a debris from an advanced technological equipment,” Loeb and his colleague Shmuel Bialy wrote in Astrophysical Journal Letters in November, according to the Washington Post. Since making the shock claim last year, many scientists have criticized Loeb for offering, in their view, the most sensationalist theory of what the object is. “Oumuamua is not an alien spaceship, and the authors of the paper insult honest scientific inquiry to even suggest it,” Ohio State University astrophysicist Paul M. Sutter wrote in a tweet. Other scientists are more diplomatic and haven’t publicly countered Loeb’s claims, only saying that the object is likely just some sort of rock, whether it’s a piece of an asteroid or a comet. But Loeb remains stubborn on this theory, and dismisses the claims that it’s a rock, noting that it’s moving too fast for an inert rock. He told the Post that the object is long yet no more than one millimeter thick, and that it’s so light that sunlight is moving the object out of the solar system. “Many people expected once there would be this publicity, I would back down,” Loeb says. “If someone shows me evidence to the contrary, I will immediately back down.” “It changes your perception on reality, just knowing that we’re not alone,” he continued.

Things that make you go, “hmmmm”   For more, click on the text above.      🙂