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Working in the Dark

Hurricane Matthew’s effects continue to be felt in the form of flooding, power outages and downed trees. I’m now told not to expect power for 4-6 days. The situation obviously impacts my ability to post here. I’ll try to keep up with comment moderation when possible. Will get things back to normal whenever the lights come back on.

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  • Harry R Ray October 19, 2016, 13:50

    OOPS: I meant “HD87646Ac(NEW BROWN DWARF)….”

  • Harry R Ray October 19, 2016, 14:06

    ON SECOND THOUGHT: I just found out that HD87646 Ab’ s ORBITAL PERIOD is 13.481 days. A CIRCULAR(eccentricity:0.05)orbit seems VERY UNLIKELY unless the Msini of HD87646Ac is very near the ACTUAL MASS, AND: HD87646Ac’s orbit must ALSO be VERY NEARLY CIRCULAR!

  • ljk October 19, 2016, 17:52

    A mixed bag day for ExoMars as it arrives at the Red Planet:


    Figures someone finally gives a Mars lander an appropriate, non-cutesy name and it runs into trouble. Let us see what tomorrow brings.

    And at neighboring Jupiter, Juno appears to be having its own technical troubles:


    At least things are going well in the manned space missions front, with a new crew and cargo vessel heading to the ISS, and China’s new two-man mission is now aboard their nation’s second orbital space station, Tiangong 2.



  • ljk October 20, 2016, 9:05
  • ljk October 20, 2016, 9:11

    The Opportunity rover apparently did not image capture Schiaparelli as it was plunging towards Mars:


  • ljk October 20, 2016, 9:18

    Either Stars are Strange, or There Are 234 Aliens Trying to Contact Us

    Published: 19 October 2016

    by Evan Gough


    To quote:

    The 234 stars in Borra and Trottier’s study aren’t random. They’re “overwhelmingly in the F2 to K1 spectral range” according to the abstract. That’s significant because this is a small range centred around the spectrum of our own Sun. And our own Sun is the only one we know of that has an intelligent species living near it. If ours does, maybe others do too?

    The authors acknowledge five potential causes of their findings: instrumental and data reduction effects, rotational transitions in molecules, the Fourier transform of spectral lines, rapid pulsations, and finally the ETI signal predicted by Borra (2012). They dismiss molecules or pulsations as causes, and they deem it highly unlikely that the signals are caused by the Fourier analysis itself. This leaves two possible sources for the detected signals. Either they’re a result of the Sloan instrument itself and the data reduction, or they are in fact a signal from extra-terrestrial intelligences.

    • Harry R Ray October 20, 2016, 13:28

      The OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of the SETI community favor “the Sloan instrument itself and the data reduction”, SPECIFICALLY the CALIBRATION of the instrument, as opposed to any kind of physical flaw, which the data reduction did not take into account. If this is the case, it will become obvious VERY SOON in the APF data. However, the BASIS for this shared opinion is NOT technical in nature, but; instead, that 254 out of 3,500,000 is EXTREMELY inconsistant with the Drake Equation(i.e. “an interstellar consortium” as one SETI scientist put it. If, however, these are, instead; BEACONS left over from one(or just a very FEW) no-longer-existant ET civilization(s), this argument is null and void! DON’T RUSH TO JUDGEMENT! WAIT FOR THE ATF DATA!!!

  • ljk October 20, 2016, 11:52

    ExoMars 2016 mission: Lander chute didn’t detach as expected, signal lost one minute before landing

    Published time: 20 Oct, 2016 09:09

    Edited time: 20 Oct, 2016 10:13

    Despite the Schiaparelli test-landing sequence not going completely as expected, the ESA considers its ExoMars 2016 mission a success. The lander stopped communicating with the TGO orbiter after detaching its parachute.

    The full article here:


    Well, except for that one little misstep in the probe’s descent design, Europe’s Mars lander mission went just great! And if it weren’t for the surface of the planet suddenly coming up on Schiaparelli so fast….

  • ljk October 21, 2016, 8:42

    ExoMars: Schiaparelli Analysis to Continue

    Posted by Ruth McAvinia

    2016/10/20 17:05 UTC

    The fate of the ExoMars lander, Schiaparelli, remains uncertain. European Space Agency mission controllers had been optimistic on Wednesday night that a definitive answer would be known by Thursday morning’s news briefing (watch it here). However, although some more details have been made public about the lander’s descent, it is not yet clear whether it hit the martian surface at a speed it could not survive.

    The entry, descent, and landing sequence was fully automated and should have consisted of clear phases. As it reached the atmosphere of Mars, the lander would slow down with atmospheric drag and heat up through friction, before opening a parachute, later jettisoning its heat shield, jettisoning the back half of the protective aeroshell along with the parachute, and firing thrusters shortly in advance of touchdown. The parachute and aeroshell should have been released at 1.2 kilometers from the surface, followed one second later by the activation of the thrusters bringing the lander down to around two meters before a final drop to the surface. The data suggest that the heatshield performed well. The parachute phase happened, and the thrusters fired at least briefly, but possibly not at the intended time or altitude.

    Full article here:


  • ljk October 21, 2016, 9:04

    The solar system’s weirdest asteroid has frozen water on its surface

    16 Psyche, a metallic relic of the early solar system, just got weirder:


    Long-term, hi-res tracking of eruptions on Jupiter’s moon Io:


  • ljk October 21, 2016, 12:12

    The Rocket Scientist Who Woke the Stars

    Greg Matloff wants to prove there is a universal consciousness by measuring the movement of heavenly bodies.

    Neel V. Patel

    October 20, 2016

    The nature of consciousness remains one of the great unsolved scientific mysteries. We have no clear handle on how consciousness manifests itself biologically or chemically or physically. We can’t even be certain that life, much less a functioning neural network, is a prerequisite for achieving that state. Panpsychism, the idea that consciousness is universal, has plenty of adherents and now one scientist with an unusual data set is saying that we need to take them seriously.

    That scientist, Greg Matloff, is not a crank. He is a guy who listens to the data. No one is more surprised than he is that the numbers suggest stars are actively altering and adjusting their paths through the heavens.

    Full article here:


    In case anyone is wondering why this article is here:


    To quote:

    In a paper published this fall in the Journal of Consciousness Exploration & Research, Matloff puts forth the case for that stellar momentum and velocity data collected from previous surveys of star movements illustrate instances in which stars do not move according to the current models we have to explain astrophysics. He thinks that if we take a step back, that data could actually be viewed as evidence that proto-consciousness can manifest itself in celestial objects as a way for the galaxy — and universe at large — to achieve a more elegant organization.

    In this context, stellar consciousness is basically an alternative theory to dark matter, the leading explanation for why stars in the outer regions of spiral galaxies like the Milky Way move faster than they should. Sometime around 2011, just before Matloff retired from full-time teaching, a student told Matloff that with the search for dark stretching into a ninth decade, and with explanations from scientists strewn all over the place, he believed the concept of dark matter was “bunk.”

  • ljk October 21, 2016, 13:50

    It would seem Schiaparelli did not have a happy ending:



    To quote from the ESA news:

    The other new feature is a fuzzy dark patch roughly 15 x 40 metres in size and about 1 km north of the parachute. This is interpreted as arising from the impact of the Schiaparelli module itself following a much longer free fall than planned, after the thrusters were switched off prematurely.

    Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometres, therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than 300 km/h. The relatively large size of the feature would then arise from disturbed surface material. It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full. These preliminary interpretations will be refined following further analysis.

    A closer look at these features will be taken next week with HiRISE, the highest-resolution camera onboard MRO. These images may also reveal the location of the front heat shield, dropped at higher altitude.

  • ljk October 24, 2016, 9:30

    The Planetary Society shows that the dark spot on Mars believed to be what was Schiaparelli is very likely from a high-velocity impact and possibly even explosion of the fuel tanks:


  • Harry R Ray October 26, 2016, 9:37

    FINALLY!!!! Green Bank observations of KIC8462852(COLLECTVELY Boyajian’s Star, its optical companion M Dwarf star, and a POSSIBLE “blend” background star starts TONIGHT!

  • DJ Kaplan October 26, 2016, 16:16

    Apropos of nothing: Just another reminder of why scientists have to be circumspect when suggesting the possibility of alien life:
    “Speaking with snopes.com by e-mail, Borra said that he and Trottier never used the word “probably” in their work. The actual paper never used that title, either (as is evidenced by the less sexy title of the final published version) and at no point in the study did the scientists maintain the signals were “probably” from aliens….”

    • ljk October 27, 2016, 9:22

      I just hope Breakthrough Listen and any other suitable SETI groups will follow up on this. While it is good to be cautious I also do not care for the tone of some SETI scientists who are taking their caution to the level of an early dismissal because the two fellows who reported these strange stars didn’t follow the so-called proper protocol.

      The truth is they tried to get noticed and get the word out and were rejected multiple times. So they went to the public. If they are wrong or making things up, then their error/fraud will be exposed, assuming it is properly studied. However, if they did discover something amazing and new, even if it is not ETI, then the longer science ignore them the bigger the intellectual and historical crime being committed.

      Those who declare themselves in “charge” of SETI seem to be dropping the ball lately, as has been seen already this year. They want be authorities? Then they need to do a much better job getting the astronomical community to cooperate when a potential new target is found. They also need to do a much better job handling publicity, so we don’t end up seeing more of these overblown and underinformed pieces of alleged journalism.

      • Harry R Ray October 27, 2016, 12:53

        I wonder why they ONLY chose galactic bulge-halo stars’ spectra to run their Fourier-Transform series on? Why not some disk stars. PARTICULARLY, why not Boyajian’s Star? What a commotion that would have raised if it had a “pulse” SIMILAR to the 234!!!! ALSO, we have no idea whether ALL of the 234 are solitary stars, or what percentage are binaries or higher multiples.

        • Harry R Ray October 31, 2016, 19:52

          Has anyone figured out the power requirements of emitting 5-6 SNR picosecond pulses EVERY MICROSECOND CONTINUOUSLY as opposed to the power requirements of emitting 5,000 SNR nanosecond pulses every few seconds, which is what TRADITIONAL OSETI astronomers look for?

  • ljk October 27, 2016, 13:29

    More detailed images of what is left of the ESA Mars lander Schiaparelli from MRO:


  • Harry R Ray October 28, 2016, 9:46

    WE HAVE IT ALL NOW! The LAST bit of data from New Horizin’s Pluto flyby has just been received. Does this mean that NH will go into hybernation again until it reaches its NEXT target?

  • ljk October 29, 2016, 12:59

    NASA’s GRAIL mission data provides clues about Moon’s geology

    October 28, 2016

    by Curt Godwin

    What does a 3.8 billion-year-old crater have in common with data from a pair of spacecraft that crashed into the Moon nearly four years ago? Both are helping to provide clues about the geology of Earth’s natural satellite.

    Though the Moon may be Earth’s nearest neighbor in space, that doesn’t mean it has long since given up its secrets. NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) twin spacecraft orbited the Moon for nearly a year, collecting a wealth of gravitational field data, before impacting the Moon’s surface on December 17, 2012.

    Researchers have been poring over the data collected from 1.2 miles (2 kilometers) above the enormous Mare Orientale impact basin, and have published two papers in the journal Science this week – one focusing on understanding the structures of large impacts, and the other detailing how Orientale formed and applying that information to create simulations accurately portraying the formation of the basin.

    Full article here:


  • ljk November 3, 2016, 12:40

    Wow, we’ve gone from a U.S. Presidential candidate being publicly mocked in 2012 for suggesting a manned lunar base by 2020 to major aerospace companies making similar suggestions and being taken seriously in just a few years. To someone who watched post-Apollo dreams get derailed over four decades ago with no real hope of resuscitation in one’s lifetime to virtually everyone right up to the present echoing JFK circa 1962, this seems nothing short of a miracle:


    Then we see that NASA may have a plan for sending humans to Mars, but articulating it is another matter:


    Let us be honest about a key point, though. As our space machines improve, and you know they will, the only real reason to send humans into the Final Frontier is for colonization purposes. People can say that an astronaut could do in one day on Mars what it has taken the robot rovers years to do (though I don’t think that is quite true any more), but the rovers do it for far less and without needing a literal ton of support equipment just to survive on the Red Planet. Plus as we may all recall, not even the creators of the MERs thought they would last more than 120 to 150 days, tops. This is a direct assessment from MER PI Steve Squyres himself. We have more than gotten our money’s worth from these brave little toasters.

    Romantic notions aside, if we are serious about scientific exploration in space, machines will always be the better, smarter choice. This especially goes for interstellar missions. Of course if someone with the money, clout, and resources wants to set up their own interplanetary colony or hollow out a planetoid and take off for Alpha Centauri, no one is going to really stop them (I think).

  • ljk November 4, 2016, 9:06

    Mars news…

    The demise of the ESA Schiaparelli lander, now in color:


    From the days when it was obvious that intelligent life dwelled on Mars, and of a superior nature at that:


    To quote:

    “As an amateur backyard astronomer I had stumbled upon a book by Percival Lowell detailing his Mars-canal observations of the late 19th and early 20th century. After I found the moon globe, I remembered the crazy Mars canal map in his book and wished to have a globe showing this map. The year 2014 was the turning point when things came together; my passion for Mars and its canals and the idea of building my own globe,” he explains.

  • ljk November 4, 2016, 9:10

    China now has the most powerful working rocket, the Long March 5:



    To quote:

    The heavy-lift rocket also means China is now capable of carrying out exciting deep-space missions. Next year the same Long March 5 variant as launched today will send the Chang’e-5 probe to the Moon to collect samples and return to Earth, something not attempted since the 1970s. The country’s first independent interplanetary mission – which boldly combines an orbiter, lander and rover in one shot – will head for Mars in summer 2020. China is also developing a deep space strategy for coming decades to make use of these new capabilities, including missions to the lunar far side and the poles.

  • ljk November 9, 2016, 12:08

    Carl Sagan would have been 82 years old today:


    The 20th anniversary of his passing is this December 20.