Another Interstellar Visitor?

C/2019 Q4 Borisov, candidate interstellar cometOn August 30th, 2019, Gennady Borisov, an optician and astronomer at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory, using equipment he built himself, discovered a dim (18th magnitude) object moving with respect to the distant stars.  Further observations indicated it was cometary in appearance, with a coma around its brightest spot and apparent short tail.  Orbital computations from the limited number of observations indicate that it was discovered at a distance of around 3 astronomical units (AU) (the mean radius of the Earth’s orbit) from the Sun, inbound toward a perihelion on December 10th near 2 AU.

As with ’Oumuamua (1I/2017 U1) in 2017, attempts to fit a typical elliptical or parabolic orbit to the observations failed, and the best fit was found to be a hyperbolic orbit with an eccentricity in excess of 3.  Such an object is not gravitationally bound to the solar system and must be of interstellar origin; after rounding the Sun, it will depart into interstellar space never to be seen again.  This is only the second such object to be observed.  From observations so far (and with less than two weeks of data, these figures will be revised as further observations are made), its inbound velocity to the solar system before it began to be accelerated by the Sun’s gravity was around 30 km/sec, which rules out a hyperbolic orbit due to interactions with solar system objects, as such perturbations cannot create a velocity greater than 3 km/sec.  Here is the Minor Planet Center Circular, MPEC 2019-R106, announcing the discovery, its apparent interstellar nature, and preliminary orbital elements based on the news that’s come to Harvard.... [Read More]

8+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Sixty Years Ago: First to the Moon

Luna 2, Soviet lunar impact spacecraftLast July, we celebrated Apollo 11, which performed the first manned landing on the Moon on July 20th, 1969.  This month marks the sixtieth anniversary of the first landing on the Moon, and the first spacecraft from Earth to touch another body in the solar system.

On September 12th, 1959, the Soviet Union launched Luna 2 toward the Moon.  This was the fifth Soviet attempt to launch a spacecraft to impact the Moon.  The first three failed during launch.  The fourth, Luna 1, missed the Moon by 5965 km and went into orbit around the Sun.  Luna 2, an identical spacecraft, was launched on a direct trajectory to the Moon by a booster designated 8K72, which used the R-7 ballistic missile (the same type which launched Sputnik) to launch an upper stage called Block E, which boosted the spacecraft toward the Moon.  The launch used a direct trajectory, Jules Verne-style, which did not enter either Earth or Moon orbit, but instead travelled directly from launch to impact on the lunar surface.... [Read More]

7+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Book Review: Civil War Two

“Civil War Two” by Thomas ChittumThis book was originally published in 1993 with a revised edition in 1996. This Kindle edition, released in 2018, and available for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, appears to be identical to the last print edition, although the number of typographical, punctuation, grammatical, and formatting errors (I counted 78 in 176 pages of text, and I wasn’t reading with a particularly critical eye) makes me wonder if the Kindle edition was made by optical character recognition of a print copy and never properly copy edited before publication. The errors are so frequent and egregious that readers will get the impression that the publisher couldn’t be bothered to read over the text before it reached their eyes.

Sometimes, a book with mediocre production values can be rescued by its content, but that is not the case here. The author, who served two tours as a rifleman with the U.S. Army in Vietnam (1965 and 1966), then fought with the Rhodesian Territorials in the early 1970s and the Croatian Army in 1991–1992, argues that the U.S. has been transformed from a largely homogeneous republic in which minorities and newcomers were encouraged and provided a path to assimilate, and is now a multi-ethnic empire in which each group (principally, whites and those who, like most East Asians, have assimilated to the present majority’s culture; blacks; and Hispanics) sees itself engaged in a zero-sum contest against the others for power and the wealth of the empire.... [Read More]

7+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Claws of the Red Dragon

Huawei and 5G logosSteve Bannon, former head of the Trump 2016 presidential campaign, chief strategist in the Trump White House, and executive chairman of Breitbart News, has produced a movie, Claws of the Red Dragon, a fictionalised account of the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese technology giant Huawei, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in December 2018.

Huawei, founded by Meng’s father, Ren Zhengfei, is described as “China’s largest private company”, and is the world’s largest telecommunications infrastructure provider and the second largest manufacturer of smartphones.  It is estimated that networks using its gear provide mobile communication services to one third of the Earth’s population; its global revenue in 2018 was estimated at US$ 105 billion.  Huawei is a leader in developing infrastructure for 5G mobile networks, which are viewed as a key component of the communications and computing infrastructure of the next decade.... [Read More]

7+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Saturday Night Science: Transit of Mercury, November 11, 2019

Transit of Mercury, 2003-05-07On November 11th, 2019, between 12:35 and 18:04 universal time (UTC), Mercury, the innermost planet, will pass in front of the Sun as seen from Earth: an astronomical spectacle called a “planetary transit”.  Planetary transits visible from Earth are relatively rare events: only the inner planets Mercury and Venus can ever pass between the Sun and Earth, and they are only seen to cross its disc when the plane of the planet’s orbit intersects the plane of the Earth’s orbit (the ecliptic) close to the time when the planet is at inferior conjunction with the Sun.  On most inferior conjunctions, the orbital planes do not align (or, in other words, are not close to a node crossing) and the planet “misses” the Sun, passing above or below it as seen from Earth.

Mercury’s orbit crosses the ecliptic around May 8 and November 11 at the present epoch, and so transits always occur within a few days of those dates.  The most recent transit of Mercury was on May 9th, 2016 (when, despite being clouded out for most of the event, I managed to briefly observe and photograph it through thin clouds), and the next transit will not occur until November 13th, 2032, so if you miss this one, you’ll have a thirteen year wait until the next opportunity.... [Read More]

5+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Vikram: India to the Moon

Indian Chandrayaan/Vikram lunar landerYou may recall that back on 2019-04-11 we covered the attempt by Israeli non-profit company SpaceIL to land its Beresheet spacecraft on the Moon.  The landing occurred, but with an impact velocity much greater than the hoped-for soft touchdown, dashing Israel’s hope to be fourth country to soft land on the Moon and, incidentally, thwarting plans for the tardigrade conquest of Earth’s natural satellite.

Now, it’s India’s turn.  Today, on 2019-09-06, India’s Vikram lander is scheduled to attempt a soft landing on the Moon between craters Manzinus C and Simpelius N near 70.9° south latitude, the southernmost point of any Moon landing.  The lander is part of the Chandrayaan-2 mission, which was launched on 2019-07-22 by the Indian Space Research Organisation from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre.  If the landing is successful, the lander will deliver a solar-powered rover, Pragyan, to the surface.  The main Chandrayaan spacecraft will study the Moon from a high-inclination 100 km orbit; it released the lander on Monday at 07:45 UTC.... [Read More]

6+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Red China in 1962

In 1962, NBC News aired a one-hour “White Paper” hosted by Chet Huntley titled “Red China”, which attempted to provide a look into what had been a largely closed society since the 1949 revolution, and especially since the start of the  “Great Leap Forward” in 1958.  The first half of the documentary traced the history of China from the time of the communist takeover in 1949 to the present using stock footage.

... [Read More]

10+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Airbus A320neo: A Matter of Balance

Airbus A320neoIn the never-ending effort to squeeze more passenger revenue from a given capital cost and fuel burn, Airbus is now making their A320neo and A321neo single-aisle airliners available with what they call the “Space-Flex” cabin interior option.  This relocates the galley and toilets, which were previously at the front of the cabin, to the very rear.  This, combined with relocation of some doors, allows six more passenger seats in economy without changing seat spacing, expanding standard seating to 189 and the certification limit to 194, which makes it a close competitor to the Boeing 737-8 / MAX 200, which is marketed for a two class configuration of 178 (12 business, 166 economy) with maximum certification for 200 passengers.

The toilets and galley are heavy, and placing them at the back of the plane shifts the centre of gravity aft near the point where the plane would be unstable.  This is particularly a problem in European two class configurations, where business has the same seats as economy but the centre seat is never occupied, resulting in less mass near the nose of the plane.... [Read More]

9+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Donald Trump Tweets KH-11 Spy Satellite Image

Yesterday, President Trump tweeted an annotated image of the Iranian launch site where an explosion apparently destroyed a satellite launch vehicle during launch preparations.

Continue reading “Donald Trump Tweets KH-11 Spy Satellite Image”

11+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Review: War Is a Racket

“War Is a Racket” by Smedley ButlerSmedley Butler knew a thing or two about war. In 1898, a little over a month before his seventeenth birthday, he lied about his age and enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, which directly commissioned him a second lieutenant. After completing training, he was sent to Cuba, arriving shortly after the end of the Spanish-American War. Upon returning home, he was promoted to first lieutenant and sent to the Philippines as part of the American garrison. There, he led Marines in combat against Filipino rebels. In 1900 he was deployed to China during the Boxer Rebellion and was wounded in the Gaselee Expedition, being promoted to captain for his bravery.

He then served in the “Banana Wars” in Central America and the Caribbean. In 1914, during a conflict in Mexico, he carried out an undercover mission in support of a planned U.S. intervention. For his command in the battle of Veracruz, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Next, he was sent to Haiti, where he commanded Marines and Navy troops in an attack on Fort Rivière in November 1915. For this action, he won a second Medal of Honor. To this day, he is only one of nineteen people to have twice won the Medal of Honor.... [Read More]

9+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Book Review: The Creature from Jekyll Island

“The Creature from Jekyll Island” by G. Edward GriffinAlmost every time I review a book about or discuss the U.S. Federal Reserve System in a conversation or Internet post, somebody recommends this book. I’d never gotten around to reading it until recently, when a couple more mentions of it pushed me over the edge. And what an edge that turned out to be. I cannot recommend this book to anybody; there are far more coherent, focussed, and persuasive analyses of the Federal Reserve in print, for example Ron Paul’s excellent book End the Fed. The present book goes well beyond a discussion of the Federal Reserve and rambles over millennia of history in a chaotic manner prone to induce temporal vertigo in the reader, discussing the history of money, banking, political manipulation of currency, inflation, fractional reserve banking, fiat money, central banking, cartels, war profiteering, bailouts, monetary panics and bailouts, nonperforming loans to “developing” nations, the Rothschilds and Rockefellers, booms and busts, and more.

The author is inordinately fond of conspiracy theories. As we pursue our random walk through history and around the world, we encounter:... [Read More]

12+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Mind Grenade

  Your browser does not support HTML5 canvas.  
     

What is this? Read the full story at Fourmilab.

Continue reading "Mind Grenade"

7+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

It’s in the Constitution!

U.S. Constitution: Article I, Section 10, idiot “it's”As the author of that most notorious document, “The Use of the Apostrophe in the English Language”, I’m always on the lookout for how that most humble of punctuation marks humbles the high, mighty, and pompous.  One of these days I’m going to make a “meme” (yes, I know that this is a corruption of the original meaning of the word) which shows the apostrophe key on a keyboard with the legend “The apostrophe key: its there to show readers if your an idiot.”  Indeed, nothing so distinguishes slapdash scribbling from words worth reading than confusion between “its” and “it’s”.  That’s because the rule distinguishing them is so easy to remember: “If you mean ‘it is’, or ‘it has’, write ‘it’s’. Otherwise, write ‘its’.”  In particular, the use of “it’s” when the possessive “its” is intended, which I call an “idiot ‘it’s’ ”, is the signature of the sloppy writing of a muddled mind.

Imagine my surprise when reading the official transcription of the U.S. Constitution published by the U.S. National Archives to find, in Article I, Section 10, paragraph 2, the following text:... [Read More]

9+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar

Lighter than Air

'Oumuamua (1I2017 U1), artist's conceptionIn October 2017, astronomers using the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii discovered a small object passing relatively near the Earth (33 million km, 0.22 astronomical units (AU), or about 85 times farther away than the Moon).  Initial attempts to fit an orbit to its path, tracked by a series of observations failed.  It was realised that the object is on a strongly hyperbolic orbit and is not gravitationally bound to the Sun: dynamically, it is not a part of the solar system—it is an interstellar object, the first to be observed, just passing through.  It was first considered to be a comet, but extended observations by large telescopes failed to detect any of the emissions of dust and gas which one would expect from a comet, especially one making its first close approach to a star in many millennia, and perhaps ever.  It was then re-classified as an asteroid.  Finally, it was given the designation 1I/2017 U1 and the informal name `Oumuamua, which means “scout” or “messenger” in the Hawaiian language.

Further observations deepened the mystery: `Oumuamua was discovered after it had made its closest approach to the Sun on September 9th, 2017 at a distance of 0.25 AU (inside the orbit of Mercury), and as it receded from the Sun, careful tracking of its position indicated it was not following a trajectory as would be expected from Newton’s laws, but rather losing velocity slower than gravitation would account for (or, in other words, it had an outward acceleration added to the deceleration of gravity).  This is often the case for comets, whose emission of gas and dust released due to heating by the Sun acts like a rocket to propel the body away from the Sun.  But that conflicts with the failure to detect any such emissions from `Oumuamua by telescopes and instruments with more than adequate sensitivity to observe emissions which could account for the acceleration.... [Read More]

13+

Users who have liked this post:

  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar
  • avatar