Archive for July, 2015

Saturday 25th July 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on July 25, 2015 by uppyalf

Pluto would appear to have glaciers of nitrogen ice, the latest pictures from the New Horizons probe suggest.
Scientists believe they see evidence of surface material having flowed around mountains and even ponding in craters.
The activity is certainly recent, they say, and may even be current.
But the mission team cautions that it has received only 4-5% of the data gathered during 14 July’s historic flyby of the dwarf planet, and any interpretations must carry caveats.
“Pluto has a very complicated story to tell; Pluto has a very interesting history, and there is a lot of work we need to do to understand this very complicated place,” said Alan Stern, the New Horizons principal investigator.
In a briefing at the US space agency’s HQ in Washington DC, he and colleagues then outlined a number of new analyses based on the limited data-set in their possession.
This is now the best true colour image of Pluto, twice as sharp as the one released just before the flyby
These included the observation that Pluto has a much more rarified atmosphere than previously predicted by the models.
This statement comes from measurements made by the probe as it was looking back at Pluto following the flyby.
It could tell from the passage of sunlight and radiowaves through the Plutonian “air” that the pressure was only about 10 microbars at the surface (1 microbar is about a millionth of the air pressure on Earth at sea level).
The other key detection was of hazes in the atmosphere. These are likely the consequence of high-up methane being broken apart and processed by sunlight into simple hydrocarbons like ethylene and acetylene, which then fall, cool and condense to form a mist of ice particles.
Some of this material will probably be further processed into more complex chemistry that rains on to the surface to give certain regions their characteristic reddish hue.
Just a small amount of heat from below could be enough to enable the very cold nitrogen, carbon monoxide and methane ices to flow

But it is the idea of glacial activity having occurred on Pluto that is most likely to capture public attention.
This is interpreted to have happened at the edges of what has become known as Sputnik Planum – the great plain in the western half of Pluto’s bright, heart-like feature just north of the equator.
High-resolution imagery from New Horizons’ Lorri camera records wavy patterns that look just like the flowing ice of glaciers viewed by satellites at Earth.
And if there was still warmth coming from Pluto’s interior then this could allow any surface ices to move and follow a slope, explained co-investigator Bill McKinnon from Washington University in St Louis.
“Water-ice at Pluto temperatures won’t move anywhere; it’s immobile and brittle,” he told reporters. “But on Pluto, the kind of ices we think make up the planum (nitrogen ice, carbon monoxide and methane ices) – these ices are geologically soft and malleable, even at Pluto conditions, and they will flow in the same way that glaciers flow on Earth.
“So, we actually have evidence for recent geological activity.”
His definition of “recent” was “no more than a few tens of millions of years”. “And what we know about nitrogen ice and what we can estimate about the heat-flow coming from the interior of Pluto – there’s no reason why this stuff cannot be going on today.”
The mission team says the ice appears to flow around the mountains and collect in craters
New Horizons continues to observe Pluto even though it has moved some 12 million km beyond the dwarf planet.
The probe is looking at the world as it makes its slow rotation (one Pluto day lasts 6.4 Earth days).
In about a week’s time, this observation will cease and the spacecraft will be spun up.
This will permit systems that ordinarily are used to help maintain three-axis stability to be turned off.
Their power sacrifice can then be diverted to the transmitter to boost its output.
In September, engineers will command New Horizons to start sending back all of the outstanding scientific data it gathered during the flyby.
This stored information will be brought down in a compressed form first of all, followed by an uncompressed return.
The whole process – encompassing all observations of Pluto and its five moons – will not be completed until late 2016.


Friday 24th July 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on July 24, 2015 by uppyalf

Nasa has released the first picture of the Earth that it has taken in 43 years.

The picture, which has come from a camera on board the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), is the first picture of the whole Earth that has been seen since 1972. All of the pictures since then have been produced by stitching together different pictures into a full image of the globe.

The new picture is a composite, of three separate images, but each of those images showed the whole planet. The camera takes ten images through the colour spectrum — going all the way from ultraviolent to infrared — and to make the new picture Nasa combined the red, green and blue pictures.

The photo was taken on July 6, 2015, and mostly shows North and Central America. It was taken by Nasa’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC), which is a four megapixel camera shooting through a telescope.


Have you got your Mug with our Mugs on yet?

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Thursday 23rd July 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on July 23, 2015 by uppyalf

‘Earth 2.0’ found in Nasa Kepler telescope haul

A haul of planets from Nasa’s Kepler telescope includes a world sharing many characteristics with Earth.
Kepler-452b orbits at a very similar distance from its star, though its radius is 60% larger.
Mission scientists said they believed it was the most Earth-like planet yet.
Such worlds are of interest to astronomers because they might be small and cool enough to host liquid water on their surface – and might therefore be hospitable to life.
Nasa’s science chief John Grunsfeld called the new world “Earth 2.0” and the “closest so far” to our home.
It is around 1,400 light years away from Earth.
I do believe the properties described for Kepler-452b are the most Earth-like I’ve come across for a confirmed planet to dateDr Suzanne Aigrain, Oxford University
John Jenkins, Kepler data analysis lead at Nasa’s Ames Research Center in California, added: “It’s a real privilege to deliver this news to you today. There’s a new kid on the block that’s just moved in next door.”
The new world joins other exoplanets such as Kepler-186f that are similar in many ways to Earth.
Determining which is most Earth-like depends on the properties one considers. Kepler-186f, announced in 2014, is smaller than the new planet, but orbits a red dwarf star that is significantly cooler than our own.
Kepler-452b, however, orbits a parent star which belongs to the same class as the Sun: it is just 4% more massive and 10% brighter. Kepler-452b takes 385 days to complete a full circuit of this star, so its orbital period is 5% longer than Earth’s.

The mass of Kepler-452b cannot be measured yet, so astronomers have to rely on models to estimate a range of possible masses, with the most likely being five times that of Earth. If it is rocky, the world would likely still have active volcanism and its gravity would be roughly twice that on our own planet.
The new world is included in a haul of 500 new possible planets sighted by the Kepler space telescope around distant stars.
Twelve of the new candidates are less than twice Earth’s diameter, orbiting in the so-called habitable zone around their star.
They have no idea what this planet is made of: It could be rock but it could be a small gassy ball or something more exotic maybeDr Don Pollacco, Warwick University
This zone refers to a range of distances at which the energy radiated by the star would permit water to exist as a liquid on the planet’s surface if certain other conditions are also met.
Of these 500 candidates, Kepler-452b is the first to be confirmed as a planet.
Dr Suzanne Aigrain, from the University of Oxford, who was not involved with the study, told BBC News: “I do believe the properties described for Kepler-452b are the most Earth-like I’ve come across for a confirmed planet to date.
“What seems even more significant to me is the number of planets in the habitable zone of their host stars with radii below two Earth radii; 12 is quite a few compared to the pre-existing Kepler planet catalogue.
“It bodes well for their attempts to provide a more robust measure of the incidence of Earth-like planets, which is the top-level goal of the Kepler mission.”


Scientists said that Kepler 452b might be entering a runaway greenhouse phase
While similar in size and brightness to the Sun, Kepler-452b’s host star is 1.5 billion years older than ours. Scientists working on the mission therefore believe it could point to a possible future for the Earth.
“If Kepler-452b is indeed a rocky planet, its location vis-a-vis its star could mean that it is just entering a runaway greenhouse phase of its climate history,” explained Dr Doug Caldwell, a Seti Institute scientist working on the Kepler mission.
“The increasing energy from its aging sun might be heating the surface and evaporating any oceans. The water vapour would be lost from the planet forever.”
“Kepler-452b could be experiencing now what the Earth will undergo more than a billion years from now, as the Sun ages and grows brighter.”
Dr Don Pollacco, from Warwick University, UK, who was not involved with the latest analysis, told the BBC: “Kepler data allows you to estimate the relative size of a planet to its host star, so if you know the size of the host, hey presto, you know the size of the planet.
“However, to go further – i.e. is it rocky? – involves measuring the mass of the planets and this is much more difficult to do as the stars are too far away for these measurements (which are incredibly difficult) to make.
“So in reality they have no idea what this planet is made of: It could be rock but it could be a small gassy ball or something more exotic maybe.”

Dr Chris Watson, from Queen’s University Belfast, UK, commented: “Other Kepler habitable zone planets may well be more Earth-like in this respect. For example, Kepler-186f is approximately 1.17 Earth radii, and Kepler-438b is approximately 1.12 Earth radii.
“In fact, at 1.6 Earth radii, this would place Kepler-452b in a category of planet called a ‘Super-Earth’ – our Solar System does not actually have any planet of this type within it! Super-Earths are hugely interesting for this reason, but one might then say, well, is it really ‘Earth-like’ given all this?”
He added: “When we look at the type of star Kepler-452b orbits, then it seems to be a star not too dissimilar to our Sun… The other Kepler habitable zone planets that have been discovered so far tend to be orbiting M-dwarfs – stars far cooler than our Sun, and therefore the planets need to orbit much closer to receive the same levels of heating.
“So it may be a potentially rocky super-Earth in an Earth-like orbit (in terms of host star and orbital distance). It’s this combination of the host star and orbit that set it apart in my opinion.”

Saturday 18th July 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on July 18, 2015 by uppyalf


ALf has always been a big fan of Pluto. He says it is a planet and whatever you strange Earth bods may think It has always been so. Pluto is Known to ALf as Huushersong. This is what the beings on Hateem ALfs home planet call Pluto. He has often stopped on Pluto when Hateem has had a really noisy celebration such as Quaaalificortor day in the 57th year of every 100 years. This celebration is often loud as it is a celebration of who can say the word Quaalificor the loudest and longest without taking a drink of Earth Tea. ALf says Pluto is very peaceful and if one wants Ice Tea there is plenty to go around…Ice that is.

During a week of revelations about the strange worlds at the edge of the solar system, I repeatedly heard a question that often comes up about space: “why bother?”
It’s a fair challenge. What is the point of spending taxpayers’ money on a venture to Pluto or some other frigid corner of the cosmos?
Or having some of our greatest brains devoted to studying alien rock and ice when they could be working on problems much closer to home?
And nobody should duck the question. So here goes: should journalists like me, along with camera crews, even cover an event like the New Horizons mission?
This was first brought home to me during the European Space Agency’s dramatic touchdown on a comet last November.
I thought the achievement was astounding and the excitement at the time was infectious. It even led to my first on-air hug.
But in the middle of it all, as my Twitter feed was in overdrive, I spotted a message from someone who was less than impressed. How would the knowledge gained from the venture, I was asked, benefit mankind?

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Clear rationale

And something similar happened a few days ago at the very moment that the first signals confirmed that the Pluto flypast had worked.
One person demanded to know why the money spent on the spacecraft had not been used to help hungry people here on Earth. Another suggested that the mission left him as cold as Pluto itself.
So what is the justification for making an effort to explore space?
Back in the Cold War, there was the obvious motive for the United States and the old Soviet Union of demonstrating technological prowess.
But since then the push to investigate the Solar System has been much more about basic research.
From conversations with several of the mission scientists in the past few days, it’s clear there’s a burning desire to explain things that have remained mysterious until now.
Fundamental questions
Some of these are fundamental – like how the planets formed or how the moons were created or why the solar system has such a bizarre outer zone inhabited by Pluto.
Others’ questions are more technical such as what processes are under way on Pluto’s surface to keep smoothing over the craters left by meteorites or whether there’s enough internal warmth to produce liquid water.
And for many people outside the field of planetary science, these issues might well be beguiling too – after all, they are essentially about the workings of our own neighbourhood in space.
The driver of the shuttle bus running between the Pluto press centre and the car park was among those fascinated by the mission – and the fact that after nine and half years of travel the New Horizons spacecraft arrived at its rendezvous 72 seconds early. To him, the feat was amazing in its own right.
But others still shrug their shoulders and ask what the fuss is about.
So when the “why bother?” question was put to me on air a few days ago, I found myself talking about our innate desire to explore.

I argued that our species has an instinctive curiosity. The same drive that urges us to climb to the brow of a hill in order to look over it also inspires a child to turn the next page.
And in the case of the chief scientist on the Pluto Mission, Alan Stern, it led him to repeatedly seek funding for his spacecraft when year after year he was rejected.
Persistence pays off?
So, I wondered, what would we have thought if Christopher Columbus or Captain Cook had spotted an unmapped coastline but turned away with a look of indifference and had not bothered to land?
To them, the lure of exotic new sights and undiscovered realms proved overwhelming. And nothing has changed.
The long trek to the edge of the Solar System paid off by producing staggering glimpses of alien worlds. When we all first saw the giant mountains of ice on Pluto and vast canyons on Charon, it took the breath away. And the images caught the imagination around the world.
The most powerful answer to the question “why bother?” may be the simplest: the thrill of witnessing discovery is its own reward.

David ShukmanScience editor

Birmingham. Oxford. Wells, Runnymede. Compton Verney.  Amsterdam. Brussels. Basingstoke. Saint Albans. Emesworth. Portsmouth. WOW!

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Sunday July 5th 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on July 5, 2015 by uppyalf

Stay tuned for more pictures and news of our travels as we have once again been on the road with OLD FART…Watching The Mouldy Buns…had fun time In Oxford..Birmingham.. And Amsterdam with all the boyz and girls and Dutch Uncles…and even Some of the Mouldy Buns themselves…Then went to see OLDE Custard head in St Albans and Portsmouth Basingstoke on Tuesday so stay tuned for all the updates once we settle back into doing nothing again for months on end…

We had a great picture taken with Julie God bless her cotton frock…