Archive for the Stuffed. Category

Saturday 7th November 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on November 7, 2015 by uppyalf


Alien Engineering Around Strange Star?

There’s a new big dipper in the nighttime sky.

No, it’s not a cozy constellation, but a distant, non-descript star that behaves like a shipboard semaphore, beaming flashes of light into the cosmic darkness that seem random, but may not be.

While the luminous output from everyday stars is relentlessly steady, this one occasionally dips its brightness as much as 20 percent, suggesting either that it is orbited by lumps of dust, rock or other opaque material, or – and hang onto your desk chair – there are residents in this stellar system who have deliberately built hardware of a size and extent big enough to intercept a substantial amount of their sun’s output. In that case, what we’re seeing is the consequence of a massive, alien construction project.

Seriously? Could this star, lovingly named KIC 846 2852 – a fairly ordinary stellar orb roughly half-again as big as our Sun and nearly five times brighter – be home to some advanced society that’s solving its energy crisis by constructing what’s called a Dyson sphere (or more practically, a Dyson swarm): a phalanx of solar panels that orbit their sun, turn oodles of starlight into electricity, and then beam that energy back to the home planet to power their fossil fuel-free lifestyle?

Well, that’s certainly a possibility. The idea of Dyson swarms (first proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson) is appealing enough to have tempted several astronomers to look for them throughout the Galaxy. They’ve done so by searching for the warm glow of infrared light that would waft off the back side of the solar panels. Their task is tricky however, because any dust floating in the space between the planets (and there’s always dust!) would mimic this infrared glow.

But KIC 846 2852 is different, because the evidence suggesting astroengineering is direct – there’s a clear-cut and periodic dimming of the starlight – a much more straightforward observation than trying to tease out a foggy bit of infrared light.

Given this intriguing behavior, shouldn’t we be checking out this star more carefully? Isn’t it possible that this is a home to true cosmic intelligence – not just pond scum in the watery recesses of a nearby world, but technically adept beings who might have something interesting to tell us … or at least spark endless conversation by becoming the first sentience discovered other than our own?

Of course. But history gently prods us to temper our enthusiasm by noting that the explanation for KIC 846 2852’s inconstant glare might be prosaic, rather than profound. This star is one of the 150,000 stellar targets examined by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. It was also one that was vetted in a citizen science campaign that used human eyeballs (as opposed to computer code) to hunt for unusual features. And indeed, what the humans found would likely have escaped notice by the software. The changes in brightness were highly variable and substantial, much as you might expect from a small swarm of moths attacking a street lamp.

The scientists who wrote the paper announcing this behavior gave their own take on what’s going on here – their own explanations for what these “moths” might be. Clumps of dust are a possibility, as is natural variability of the star itself, or even errors in the data processing.

But none of these seem to cut the mustard. The discoverers prefer another explanation: A small star, now visible about 100 billion miles away from KIC 846 2852, recently made a closer pass, and disturbed some outer solar system comets. Much as lifting a rock sends sow bugs scurrying, the gravitational tug of this star could have prodded otherwise inoffensive comets to careen towards the inner regions of the KIC 846 2852 star system, filling it with debris that’s causing the blinking.

That would be interesting, but obviously less exciting than finding a Dyson swarm. Still we must beware: Given our natural inclination to blame aliens for just about all unexplained phenomena on Earth, it’s inevitable we’ll give them credit even when they’re not involved. Pulsars, when first discovered, were dubbed “Little Green Men” by Cambridge astronomers. They turned out to be dead stars. CTA 102 – a quasar discovered in the early 1960s, was seen to change its brightness very quickly, and at least a few Soviet astronomers figured that clever extraterrestrials were sending coded messages to whoever was paying attention. In fact, it turns out that quasars just naturally blink and for reasons that have nothing to do with intelligence.

In addition, KIC 846 2852 is hardly a star system anyone would finger as “most likely to house aliens.” A few thousand degrees hotter than the Sun, this star would bleach the surface of any encircling planet with highly unfriendly ultraviolet light. In addition, it will take only 3 billion years for it to totally exhaust its natal supply of hydrogen fuel. It will die young. Keep in mind that it took 4-1/2 billion years for life on Earth to reach our own, modest technological level.

These are not show-stoppers: Maybe other planets can produce clever critters a lot faster than Earth did, and maybe the inhabitants are born with a number 50 sunblock epidermis.

And more generally, one shouldn’t let healthy skepticism degrade into unattractive pig-headedness, even if in this case the evidence for something revolutionary isn’t terribly promising. You have to follow up. And we are.

Since October 16, the SETI institute has been using its Allen Telescope Array to observe KIC 846 2852 over a wide range of radio frequencies (1 to 10 GHz), looking for any artificial signals. Keep in mind that this star system is relatively far, roughly 1400 light-years away. That’s more distant than the Orion Nebula, and getting there (if you feel the need) would require a 23 million year ride in our fastest rocket. But more to the point, any signals detectable here on Earth would have to be exceptionally powerful.

We’re continuing to analyze the data. In another week, our SETI team will once again observe KIC 846 2852 using some new receivers being affixed to the Allen Array – known as Antonio feeds – that will increase the sensitivity by a factor of two. Check this space.

Meanwhile, consider KIC 846 2852 as something suggestive of cosmic company, but no more than a suggestion.


Tuesday 29th September 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on September 29, 2015 by uppyalf

Nasa scientists find evidence of flowing water on Mars
Researchers say discovery of stains from summertime flows down cliffs and crater walls increases chance of finding life on red planet
Liquid water runs down canyons and crater walls over the summer months onMars, according to researchers who say the discovery raises the chances of being home to some form of life.
The trickles leave long, dark stains on the Martian terrain that can reach hundreds of metres downhill in the warmer months, before they dry up in the autumn as surface temperatures drop.
Images taken from the Mars orbit show cliffs, and the steep walls of valleys and craters, streaked with summertime flows that in the most active spots combine to form intricate fan-like patterns.
Scientists are unsure where the water comes from, but it may rise up from underground ice or salty aquifers, or condense out of the thin Martian atmosphere.
“There is liquid water today on the surface of Mars,” Michael Meyer, the lead scientist on Nasa’s Mars exploration programme, told the Guardian. “Because of this, we suspect that it is at least possible to have a habitable environment today.


The water flows could point Nasa and other space agencies towards the most promising sites to find life on Mars, and to landing spots for future human missions where water can be collected from a natural supply.
“Mars is not the dry, arid planet that we thought of in the past,” said Nasa’s Jim Green. “Liquid water has been found on Mars.”
Nasa announce that there are watery flows on the surface of Mars during the red planet’s summer months.
Some of the earliest missions to Mars revealed a planet with a watery past. Pictures beamed back to Earth in the 1970s showed a surface crossed by dried-up rivers and plains once submerged beneath vast ancient lakes. Earlier this year, Nasa unveiled evidence of an ocean that might have covered half of the planet’s northern hemisphere in the distant past.

Dark narrow streaks called recurring slope lineae emanate out of the walls of Garni crater on Mars. Photograph: Nasa/AFP/Getty Images
But occasionally, Mars probes have found hints that the planet might still be wet. Nearly a decade ago, Nasa’s Mars Global Surveyor took pictures of what appeared to be water bursting through a gully wall and flowing around boulders and other rocky debris. In 2011, the high-resolution camera on Nasa’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter captured what looked like little streams flowing down crater walls from late spring to early autumn. Not wanting to assume too much, mission scientists named the flows “recurring slope lineae” or RSL.
Researchers have now turned to another instrument on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to analyse the chemistry of the mysterious RSL flows.Lujendra Ojha, of Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and his colleagues used a spectrometer on the MRO to look at infrared light reflected off steep rocky walls when the dark streaks had just begun to appear, and when they had grown to full length at the end of the Martian summer.

Nasa faces contamination dilemma over Mars water investigations
Curiosity rover already on red planet cannot study streaks left by flowing water because it could be carrying bugs from Earth

Nasa scientists may still be celebrating their discovery of liquid water on Mars, but they now face some serious questions about how they can investigate further and look for signs of life on the red planet.
The problem is how to find life without contaminating the planet with bugs from Earth.
The Guardian view on the discovery of liquid water on Mars: cause for great celebration
Editorial: Now the search is on to find living organisms on the red planet. Even traces of primitive microbes would rank among the most important discoveries in history

Researchers at the space agency are keen for the Curiosity rover to take a closer look at the long dark streaks created by liquid water running down craters and canyon walls during the summer months on Mars.
But the rover is not sterile and risks contaminating the wet areas with earthly bugs that will have hitched a ride to the planet and may still be alive.
The vehicle has been trundling around the large Gale crater looking for evidence that Mars was habitable in the ancient past. It hasso far uncovered evidence of past river networks and age-old lakes.
However, the dark, damp streaks, called recurring slope lineae (RSL), are a different prospect. Because they are wet at least part of the time, they will be designated as special regions where only sterile landers can visit. But such a restriction could hamper scientists’ hopes of looking for current life on Mars.
“There will be heated discussions in the next weeks and months about what Curiosity will be allowed to do and whether it can go anywhere near the RSLs,” said Andrew Coates of University College London’s Mullard space science laboratory.
Nasa announces that there are watery flows on the surface of Mars during the red planet’s summer months.
“Curiosity now has the chance, for example, to do some closer up, but still remote, measurements, using the ChemCam instrument with lasers, to look at composition. I understand there is increasing pressure from the science side to allow that, given this new discovery.”
An organisation called the committee on space research (Cospar) draws up the rules on what is called planetary protection, which exist to prevent missions from Earth contaminating the pristine environments of other worlds. Landers that are searching for life must be exceptionally clean, and fall under category IVb, but those entering special regions are category IVc missions and must be cleaner still.
Curiosity was designed for category IVb, and under Cospar rules is not allowed to enter areas where water might be flowing. But that might be up for discussion. Nasa’s Jim Green argues that the intense radiation environment on Mars, in particular the ultraviolet light, might have killed any bugs Curiosity carried into space, and so may be clean enough to move into the sites.
A recent report from the US National Academy of Sciences and the European Science Foundation, however, suggests that UV light might not do the job, and could make matters worse. “Although the flux of ultraviolet radiation within the Martian atmosphere would be deleterious to most airborne microbes and spores, dust could attenuate this radiation and enhance microbial viability,” the report states.
Curiosity could inspect the flows from a distance, using its onboard laser to take more measurements of the dark streaks. But a more controversial option is to find a flat region at the bottom of one of the flows, and scoop up some Martian soil for analysis.
The next rover due to land on the planet is a joint mission named ExoMars from the European and Russian space agencies, set to launch in 2018. The plan is for the rover to drill up to two metres into the Martian soil to look for life past or present.
“For the ExoMars 2018 rover, the planetary protection is being very carefully looked at and a combination of baking and cleaning is planned to avoid any possible mishaps and make sure it is IVb so it can make the best possible life-searching measurements in the regions it can get to,” said Coates, who is leading the camera team on the rover.


Thursday 17th September 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on September 18, 2015 by uppyalf

Forest School at Compton Verney.

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On September 28, we will witness an astronomical event that hasn’t happened since 1982: a supermoon lunar eclipse.
A supermoon occurs when the moon reaches its full phase at the same time as it hits its closest approach to Earth.
The result is a stunning sight as it appears to be much larger and brighter than normal.
What is a supermoon?
“When the moon is farthest away it’s known as apogee, and when it’s closest it’s known as perigee,” explained Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
“On Sept. 28, we’re going to have a perigee full moon—the closest full moon of the year,” he said.

When can I see it?
The moon will be at its brightest at around 2am on the morning of September 28.
But what makes that night so important is that a second lunar phenomenon will also be taking place.
We will witness a lunar eclipse as the moon falls completely within the Earth’s shadow during its passage.
When the direct light from the sun is blocked, the moon will turn a reddish colour as it instead reflects the sunsets and sunrises happening on Earth.

The Blood Moon will also occur on September 28
The supermoon will become a so-called Blood Moon.
Is the world going to end?
This is the fourth Blood Moon of the year which those who believe the Blood Moon Prophecy says will bring on the apocalypse.
Many biblical theorists maintain the event will trigger the Rapture and the start of a seven-year-tribulation.
These theories, which are restricted to tiny minority of churches and groups, have been dismissed by scientists and are thought to be well wide of the mark.
Despite some claims, the apocalypse won’t occur on September 28
Fortunately for us, almost all asteroids are destroyed due to the extreme atmospheric friction heating they receive, breaking up into harmless shards that burn up before hitting the ground.
And, even NASA has dismissed claims of the end of days.
“The only thing that will happen on Earth during an eclipse is that people will wake up the next morning with neck pain because they spent the night looking up,” said Petro.
How long will it last and where can I see it?
The lunar eclipse will last for around one hour and 12 minutes.
It will be visible to Europe, North and South America, Africa parts of West Asia and the eastern Pacific.

NASA has ruled out an asteroid striking the Earth on September 28 – an impact supposedly foretold by the Blood Moon.
The space agency says it is constantly monitoring the heavens for signs of any incoming asteroids and has given the all-clear.
It uses an automated collision monitoring system called Sentry that continually scans an “asteroid catalogue” for the possibility of an impact.
“NASA knows of no asteroid or comet currently on a collision course with Earth, so the probability of a major collision is quite small,” said a spokesperson.
“In fact, as best as we can tell, no large object is likely to strike the Earth any time in the next several hundred years.”
Plenty of conspiracy theorists are concerned about the appearance of a Blood Moonon September 28 – an event they believe signals the end of days.
The hypothesis was originally made famous by Christian ministers John Hagee and Mark Biltz.
They said the ongoing “tetrad” – four consecutive lunar eclipses which began in April 2014 with six full moons in between – is the indicator of the end of earth as described in the Bible in Acts 2:20 and Revelation 6:12 .
Concerned stargazers believe the Blood Moon could signal the end.
In reality, a Blood Moon is a a rather spectacular sight caused by the reflection of sunlight on the Earth’s atmosphere – which is red to the naked eye.
So if you’re worried about impending doom, check out this handy guide to tell you everything you need to know.
What is a Blood Moon?
Fans of the Twilight books are already familiar with this term, but alas it has nothing to do with blood sucking vampires.
In fact a Blood Moon is a rather spectacular sight caused by the reflection of sunlight on the Earth’s atmosphere – which is red to the naked eye. The blood moon acquires a golden, copper, or even rusty-red color depending on where the sun is – and it’s usually low in the sky or near the horizon.

Asteroid before the impact in water

What is the Blood Moon Prophecy?
The hypothesis was originally made famous by Christian ministers John Hagee and Mark Biltz who said the ongoing “tetrad” – four consecutive lunar eclipses which began in April 2014 with six full moons in between – is the indicator of the end of earth as described in the Bible in Acts 2:20 and Revelation 6:12.
The pair insist some sort of tragic event is set to hit earth and possibly wipe it out – but the reality is this is not the first time we’ve had such a phenomenon. “The last time there was a tetrad was back in the 1900s, and to my amazement, they also fell on the feasts of Passover and Tabernacles,” explains Blitz. “When I noticed the years these phenomena occurred, my mind began reeling. The last two times there were four blood moons in a row, they happened, first, right after Israel became a nation in 1948, and then again when Israel retook Jerusalem in 1967.”
The “blood moon” theory is interpreted from the Book of Joel, which says: “the sun will turn into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes.”
Why all the doom and gloom?
Well, it’s complicated and it depends who you believe. Some say it signals a significant celestial event, others say it will trigger the second coming while more yet are predicting a catastrophic asteroid hit that will blow the planet to smitherines.
Rev Efrain Rodriguez is one self-proclaimed prophet who is so convinced he got a message from God – in fact, he was so sure of it, he wrote to NASA to warn them about his fears. He regularly updates readers of his Facebook page with stark warnings he says are from a deity – and for those who believe him – it’s a pretty bleak outlook.

If what he’s saying is true then it’s time to say goodbye to loved ones as he claims an asteroid up to 2.5miles wide will strike Puerto Rico and will go on to wipe out the world as we know it.
Rodriguez’s vision saw a massive asteroid “entering the airspace of the town of Arecibo in Puerto Rico, striking the sea between the island of Mona and Mayaguez and triggering a magnitude 12 earthquake.”
If it has any basis in fact, this claim would undoubtedly cause a planet altering event – as the world’s most powerful earthquake left 4,485 people dead and injured as well as 2 million homeless after it struck southern Chile in 1960. It was 9.5 on the Richter scale.

So when is this likely to happen?
While those behind the theory claim the so-called prophecies are set to strike a blow – but they can’t pin point an exact date.
The outcome of the end of days could actually be anywhere from September 21 to 28 – with some eyeing a final date of around September 23 or 24.
For those who are simply interested in watching the spectacle of the last lunar tetrad – the fourth eclipse in this trend will take place on the night of September 27 into 28.

What are the scientists saying?
If you’re not sure what to believe and think the prophecy could come true – you are in good company. However it might not be time to pack your survival kit just yet or call up Richard Branson to see if you can book a spot on his space craft either.
Such is the hysteria in America, NASA have taken the unusual step of issuing a statement to clarify matters.
Paul Chodas, from NASA’s Near-Earth Object office, has thrown out the claims.
“There is no existing evidence that an asteroid or any other celestial object is on a trajectory that will impact Earth,” he said. “In fact, not a single one of the known objects has any credible chance of hitting our planet over the next century. There is no scientific basis, not one shred of evidence, that an asteroid or any other celestial object will impact Earth on those dates.”

Monday 17th August 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on August 17, 2015 by uppyalf

Francisco Acosta Tostado, 68, says he crashed his bicycle into bushes as he tried to flee the craft as it pursued him from overhead A granddad claims aliens in an UFO tried to abduct him while he was out on a night bike ride.
Francisco Acosta Tostado, 68, says he crashed his bicycle into bushes as he tried to flee the craft as it pursued him from overhead.
Mr Tostado told authorities he was riding his bike on a highway in the city of Paso de Ovejas in Veracruz, Mexico, when the UFO flew so closeto him that it knocked him off his bike.
The pensioner was discovered on the floor with a wound to his head.
UFO: The UFO was spotted near Paso de Ovejas in Veracruz, Mexico
He told officials that he believed “aliens in the craft had been trying to kidnap” him, the Express reports.
Mr Tostado was spotted lying by the road by car mechanic Policarpio Carvajal who said he alerted emergency services.
The pensioner was reportedly ‘out of his mind’ when police arrived at the scene and was taken to a nearby hospital.
He is now too scared to venture outside for fear of the UFO returning.
A large number of UFO sightings coincided with attacks on cattle in the region in 2002.


We have had a busy old few days again going to Old Crocks pedey festival in a village called Cropredy where we hepled the kids design Kern Baby dolls with an arty farty Faye and some folks from Compton Verney.

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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…


Friday 29th May 2015

Posted in Stuffed. on May 29, 2015 by uppyalf

Wowza we have been o so busy over the past months since our last post we even got ourselves a job in an art gallery with OLD FART!

We visited Bletchley Park. Brighton, London, Littlehampton, Leicester. Seeing many many things and meeting many new friends.

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