Space

Days on Earth Are Getting Longer, Thanks to the Moon

Days on Earth are getting longer as the moon slowly moves farther away from us, new research shows. The moon is about 4.5 billion years old and resides some 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) away from Earth, on average. However, due to tidal forces between our planet and the moon, the natural satellite slowly spirals away from Earth at a rate of about 1.5 inches (3.82 centimeters) per year, causing our planet to rotate more slowly around its axis. Using a new statistical method called astrochronology, astronomers peered into Earth’s deep geologic past and reconstructed the planet’s history. This work revealed that, just 1.4 billion years ago, the moon was significantly closer to Earth, which made the planet spin faster. As a result, a day on Earth lasted just over 18 hours back then, according to a statement from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “As the moon moves away, the Earth is like a spinning figure skater who slows down as they stretch their arms out,” study co-author Stephen Meyers, a professor of geoscience at UW-Madison, said in the statement. “One of our ambitions was to use astrochronology to tell time in the most distant past, to develop very ancient geological time scales. We want to be able to study rocks that are billions of years old in a way that is comparable to how we study modern geologic processes.” Astrochronology combines astronomical theory with geological observation, allowing researchers to reconstruct the history of the solar system and better understand ancient climate change as captured in the rock record, according to the statement. The moon and other bodies in the solar system largely influence Earth’s rotation, creating orbital variations called Milankovitch cycles. These variations ultimately determine where sunlight is distributed on Earth, based on the planet’s rotation and tilt. Earth’s climate rhythms are captured in the rock record, going back hundreds of millions of years. However, regarding our planet’s ancient past, which spans billions of years, this geological record is fairly limited, researchers said in the statement. This can lead to some uncertainty and confusion. For example, the current rate at which the moon is moving away from Earth suggests that “beyond about 1.5 billion years ago, the moon would have been close enough that its gravitational interactions with the Earth would have ripped the moon apart,” Meyers said. Using their new statistical method, the researchers were able to compensate for the uncertainty across time. This approach was tested on two stratigraphic rock layers: The 1.4-billion-year-old Xiamaling Formation from northern China and a 55-million-year-old record from Walvis Ridge, in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Examining the geologic record captured in the rock layers and integrating the measure of uncertainty revealed changes in Earth’s rotation, orbit and distance from the moon throughout history, as well as how the length of day on Earth has steadily increased. “The geologic record is an astronomical observatory for the early solar system,” Meyers said in the statement. “We are looking at its pulsing rhythm, preserved in the rock and the history of life.” The new study was published Monday (June 4) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Fascinating!!  🙂

NASA Curiosity rover unearths building blocks in 3-billion-year-old organic matter on Mars

The “building blocks” for life have been discovered in 3-billion-year-old organic matter on Mars, NASA scientists announced Thursday. Researchers cannot yet say whether their discovery stems from life or a more mundane geological process. However, “we’re in a really good position to move forward looking for signs of life,” said Jennifer Eigenbrode, a NASA biogeochemist and lead author of a study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science. The findings were also remarkable in that they showed that organic material can be preserved for billions of years on the harsh Martian surface. The material was discovered by the Mars Curiosity rover, which has been collecting data on the Red Planet since August 2012. The organic molecules were found in Gale Crater — believed to once contain a shallow lake the size of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee. For the past six years, “the Curiosity has sifted samples of soil and ground-up rock for signs of organic molecules — the complex carbon chains that on Earth form the building blocks of life,” according to Science. “Past detections have been so faint that they could be just contamination,” the journal said. Now, samples taken from two different drill sites on an ancient lake bed have yielded complex organic molecules that look strikingly similar to the goopy fossilized building blocks of oil and gas on Earth. The rover also discovered traces of methane in the Martian atmosphere, which was reported in a second paper in Science. This is significant because most methane on Earth, for instance, comes from biological sources. “The detection of organic molecules and methane on Mars has far-ranging implications in light of potential past life on Mars,” said Inge Loes ten Kate, a Utrecht University scientist in an accompanying article in Science. “Curiosity has shown that Gale Crater was habitable around 3.5 billion years ago, with conditions comparable to those on the early Earth, where life evolved around that time. “The question of whether life might have originated or existed on Mars is a lot more opportune now that we know that organic molecules were present on its surface at that time,” Kate said. NASA’s Thomas Zurbuchen said that “with these new findings, Mars is telling us to stay the course and keep searching for evidence of life. I’m confident that our ongoing and planned missions will unlock even more breathtaking discoveries on the Red Planet.” The nuclear-battery-powered Curiosity rover, a $2.5 billion mobile chemistry lab, launched in 2011. NASA calls Curiosity the “largest and most capable” rover ever to make contact with Mars. It’s about the size of a car, has a 7-foot-long arm and carries 10 science instruments, 17 cameras and a laser to “vaporize” rocks.

Fascinating!!  To see photos of Mars and more, click on the text above.     🙂

Aliens are real, but humans will probably kill them all, new paper says

If you’ve ever looked up into the unfathomable night sky and wondered, “Are we alone?” then you are not alone. About 70 years ago, physicist Enrico Fermi looked up into the sky and asked a similar question: “Where is everybody?” There are hundreds of billions of stars in the Milky Way galaxy alone, Fermi reckoned, and many of them are billions of years older than our sun. Even if a small fraction of these stars have planets around them that proved habitable for life (scientists now think as many as 60 billion exoplanets could fit the bill), that would leave billions of possible worlds where advanced civilizations could have already bloomed, grown and — eventually — begun exploring the stars. So, why haven’t Earthlings heard a peep from these worlds? Where iseverybody? Today, this question is better known as the Fermi paradox. Researchers have floated many possible answers over the years, ranging from “The aliens are all hiding underwater,” to “They all died,” to “Actually, weare the aliens, and we rode a comet to Earth a few billion years ago.” Now, Alexander Berezin, a theoretical physicist at the National Research University of Electronic Technology in Russia, has proposed a new answer to Fermi’s paradox — but he doesn’t think you’re going to like it. Because, if Berezin’s hypothesis is correct, it could mean a future for humanity that’s “even worse than extinction.” “What if,” Berezin wrote in a new paper posted March 27 to the preprint journal arxiv.org,”the first life that reaches interstellar travel capability necessarily eradicates all competition to fuel its own expansion?” In other words, could humanity’s quest to discover intelligent life be directly responsible for obliterating that life outright? What if we are, unwittingly, the universe’s bad guys? In the paper, Berezin called this answer to Fermi’s paradox the “first in, last out” solution. Understanding it requires narrowing down the parameters of what makes “intelligent life” in the first place, Berezin wrote. For starters, it doesn’t really matter what alien life looks like; it could be a biological organism like humans, a superintelligent AI or even some sort of planet-size hive mind, he said. But it does matter how this life behaves, Berezin wrote. To be considered relevant to Fermi’s paradox, the extraterrestrial life we seek has to be able to grow, reproduce and somehow be detectable by humans. That means our theoretical aliens have to be capable of interstellar travel, or at least of transmitting messages through interstellar space. (This is assuming humans don’t reach the alien planet first.) Here’s the catch: For a civilization to reach a point where it could effectively communicate across solar systems, it’d have to be on a path of unrestricted growth and expansion, Berezin wrote. And to walk this path, you’d have to step on a lot of lesser life-forms. “I am not suggesting that a highly developed civilization would consciously wipe out other lifeforms,” Berezin wrote. “Most likely, they simply won’t notice, the same way a construction crew demolishes an anthill to build real estate because they lack incentive to protect it.” For example, a rogue AI’s unrestricted drive for growth could lead it to populate the entire galaxy with clones of itself, “turning every solar system into a supercomputer,” Berezin said. Looking for a motive in the AI’s hostile takeover is useless, Berezin said — “all that matters is that it can [do it].” The bad news for humans isn’t that we might have to face off against a power-crazed race of intelligent beings. The bad news is, we might be that race. “We are the first to arrive at the [interstellar] stage,” Berezin speculated, “and, most likely, will be the last to leave.” Stopping humans from accidentally obliterating all rival life-forms would require a total culture shift spurred by “forces far stronger than the free will of individuals,” Berezin wrote. Given our species’ impressive talent for expansion, however, such forces could be hard to muster. Then again, this is all just a theory. The paper has yet to be peer-reviewed by fellow scientists, and even Berezin is rooting against his own conclusions. “I certainly hope I am wrong,” Berezin wrote. “The only way to find out is to continue exploring the universe and searching for alien life.”

And to continue investing in both civilian (i.e. NASA) and military (i.e. U.S. Air Force Space Command, and the U.S. Army’s Space & Missile Defense Command or SMDC), so that we are prepared  for the day, God forbid, one of these theories turns out to be right.  Just sayin..  Thanks to Brandon Specktor over at livescience.com for that thought-provoking piece.  Things that make ya go, “hmmm”…      🙂

NASA Chief Bridenstine Warns China Pulling Ahead of U.S. in Some Areas of Space Race

Sunday on AM 970’s “The Cats Roundtable” hosted by John Catsimatidis, newly appointed NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said China was pulling ahead of the United States in some aspects of the ‘space race.’ When asked about China, Bridenstine said, “They have been focused on the moon, and they have been focused on other aspects of space that maybe we have not been focused on.… They’ve got a lander on the moon now with a rover. This year they’re planning to land for the first time in history on the far side of the moon with a robot.” He added, “They are certainly doing things, maybe a little differently than us. I wouldn’t say they are ahead of us, maybe they’re ahead of us in some areas, and we are ahead of them in other areas. But they have a very methodical, planned out plan to do space exploration in a major way. And this president wants to see the United States of America lead again in space.”

And we need to..  For FAR too long we’ve been reactive.  It’s time we were proactive in space…and take the lead in all areas of space both civilian (i.e. NASA) and military (i.e. U.S. Air Force Space Command and the U.S. Army’s Space & Missile Defense Command or SMDC, both of which are in Colorado Springs, CO).

Astronaut Alan Bean, Fourth Person to Walk on the Moon, Dies at 86

Legendary astronaut Alan Bean, — the fourth person to walk on the moon — has died at the age of 86 Saturday, a NASA statement says. Bean, who passed away at Houston Methodist after battling a short illness, was a lunar module pilot on Apollo 12 in 1969, the second manned flight to land on the moon. In 1973, Bean was spacecraft commander of the second manned mission to Skylab, the first U.S. space station. The astronaut spent a total of 1,671 hours and 45 minutes in space. Astronaut Scott Kelly mourned Bean on Twitter, calling him a “spaceflight pioneer.” “Sad day. Not only did we lose a spaceflight pioneer, 4th man to walk on the moon, but also an exceptional artist that brought his experience back to Earth to share with the world. Fair winds and following seas, Captain,” Kelly tweeted. “Alan was the strongest and kindest man I ever knew. He was the love of my life and I miss him dearly,” said Leslie Bean, the moonwalker’s wife of 40 years, said in a statement. “A native Texan, Alan died peacefully in Houston surrounded by those who loved him.” “Alan and I have been best friends for 55 years — ever since the day we became astronauts,” said Walt Cunningham, a Lunar Module Pilot on the Apollo 7 mission. “When I became head of the Skylab Branch of the Astronaut Office, we worked together and Alan eventually commanded the second Skylab mission.” “We have never lived more than a couple of miles apart, even after we left NASA. And for years, Alan and I never missed a month where we did not have a cheeseburger together at Miller’s Café in Houston. We are accustomed to losing friends in our business but this is a tough one,” the astronaut added.

Sad to hear of Alan’s passing.  What a pioneer!  He was also a Naval aviator and achieved the rank of Captain in the Navy.  Thanks for all of your service in the air, and in space, Alan!  R.I.P.

Stunning space diamonds discovery: Mysterious meteorite came from ‘lost planet’

New analysis of a meteorite fragment from Sudan has found space diamonds, which scientists say came from a “lost planet” destroyed billions of years ago. Scientists at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland have discovered that the meteorite contains diamonds formed at high pressure in a “planetary embryo,” of a size between Mercury and Mars. The meteorite is part of a 13-foot-wide asteroid that entered Earth’s atmosphere on Oct. 7, 2008 and exploded 23 miles above the Nubian desert in Sudan. The asteroid, dubbed “2008 TC3,” scattered multiple fragments across the desert, 50 of which were later found. Analysis revealed that the fragments are largely “ureilites,” a rare form of stony meteorite that often contains clusters of tiny diamonds. “Current thinking is that these tiny diamonds can form in three ways: enormous pressure shockwaves from high-energy collisions between the meteorite ‘parent body’ and other space objects; deposition by chemical vapor; or, finally, the ‘normal’ static pressure inside the parent body, like most diamonds on Earth,” explained EPFL scientists, in a statement. Mystery, however, has surrounded the origins of 2008 TC3. Scientists at EPFL, working with researchers in France and Germany, used electron microscope technology to show that chromite, phosphate and iron-nickel sulfides are embedded in the diamonds. “These have been known for a long time to exist inside Earth’s diamonds, but are now described for the first time in an extraterrestrial body,” the scientists explained. The pressure needed to create the diamonds indicates that the “planetary embryo” was sized somewhere between Mercury and Mars, according to researchers. “Many planetary formation models have predicted that these planetary embryos existed in the first million years of our solar system, and the study offers compelling evidence for their existence,” they explained. “Many planetary embryos were Mars-sized bodies, such as the one that collided with Earth to give rise to the Moon. Other of these went on to form larger planets, or collided with the Sun or were ejected from the solar system altogether.” In research published in the journal Nature Communications, the experts write that the lost planet was likely destroyed by collisions about 4.5 billion years ago. In a separate project, scientists from the U.K. are set to scour the frozen wastes of Antarctica in an audacious attempt to uncover lost meteorites. In January, a meteor made headlines when it flashed across the sky in Michigan. The blazing fireball sent meteorite hunters scrambling to find fragments of the rare space rock. NASA notes that large rocky objects in orbit around the Sun are known as asteroids or minor planets, whereas smaller particles are known as meteoroids. When a meteoroid enters Earth’s atmosphere it is known as a meteor. Earlier this week an asteroid the size of a football field made a “surprise” flyby of Earth.

Very cool!!     🙂

‘I saw a UFO’ Buzz Aldrin PASSES lie detector test revealing truth about aliens

Moon walker Buzz Aldrin and three other astronauts have passed lie detector tests over claims they experienced alien encounters. The space travellers’ accounts of strange space sightings were examined under laboratory conditions. All four astronauts taking part passed the test, carried out using the latest technology. Experts say the results prove they were “completely convinced” signs of alien life they claimed to have witnessed during historic missions were genuine. Aldrin, Al Worden, Edgar Mitchell and Gordon Cooper all took part in the study. The Institute of BioAcoustic Biology in Albany, Ohio, carried out complex computer analyses of the astronauts’ voice patterns as they told of their close encounters. Although the technology is still top-secret, these studies are claimed to be more reliable than current lie detector tests and could soon replace those used by the FBI and police. One of the first tested was Apollo 11 pilot Buzz Aldrin, now 88 – the second human to set foot on the lunar surface in 1969. Aldrin has always maintained he spotted a UFO on the way to the moon, saying: “There was something out there that was close enough to be observed, sort of L-shaped.” BioAcoustic’s Sharry Edwards said tests reveal Aldrin is sure he saw the UFO even though his logical mind “cannot explain it”. Apollo 15 pilot Al Worden, 86, stunned Good Morning Britain viewers when he claimed to have seen extra-terrestrials. He believes we are all descended from ancient aliens. Voice recordings of fellow NASA pioneers Edgar Mitchell and Gordon Cooper, both now dead, were also analysed. Apollo 14’s Mitchell claimed to have seen several UFOs, while Cooper actually described trying to chase a cluster of objects. The tests revealed both men believed they were telling the whole truth.

Things that make ya go, “hmmm”      🙂