SpaceJibe

November 12, 2013

Sun’s magnetic field will flip soon

Filed under: Cool, Global Warming, Inner Solar System, The Sun — bferrari @ 4:58 pm
The sun's magnetic field is gearing up to shift, a once in 11 year event, according to NASA officials. (NASA)

The sun’s magnetic field is gearing up to shift, a once in 11 year event, according to NASA officials. (NASA)

The sun’s polarity is getting closer to flipping. The star’s northern hemisphere’s polarity has already reversed, and the southern hemisphere should follow suit soon, scientists say.

Every 11 years or so, the two hemispheres of the sun reverse their polarity, creating a ripple effect that can be felt throughout the far reaches of the solar system. The sun is currently going through one of those flips in its cycle, scientists working at Stanford University’s Wilcox Solar Observatory, which has monitored the sun’s magnetic field since 1975, said.

“The sun’s poles are reversing, and this is a large-scale process that takes place over a few months, but it happens once every 11 years,” Todd Hoeksema, a solar physicist at Stanford said in a video about the polarity reversal. “What we’re looking at is really a reversal of the whole heliosphere, everything from the sun out past the planets.”

The polarity reversal builds up over time. A sunspot spreads out, causing the sun’s magnetic field to migrate from the equator of the star to one of the sun’s poles. As this change occurs, the sun’s magnetic field reduces to zero and then comes back with the opposite polarity, Hoeksema said in a statement. [Solar Max: Photos of the Active Sun in 2013]

“When that reverses it effects us here on Earth because not only do we see more cosmic rays, but there’s also more activity on the sun,” Hoeksema said. “That activity comes in and it affects the Earth’s magnetic field.”

The planet’s magnetic field affects technology on Earth like GPS systems and power grids, Hoeksema said. The uptick in solar activity can also create brilliant auroras on Earth and on certain planets of the solar system.

“We also see the effects of this on other planets,” Hoeksema said in a statement. “Jupiter has storms, Saturn has auroras, and this is all driven by activity of the sun.”

This part of the sun’s cycle is known as the “solar maximum.” The solar max marks the peak in the star’s activity. Usually, the sun’s polarity reversal happens during this period of the solar cycle, however, the reversal isn’t responsible for the increased number of solar flares and eruptions known as coronal mass ejections usually observed around solar max.

The increased activity acts as an indicator that the polarity reversal will occur, but it doesn’t cause the sun to become more active, Hoeksema said in an earlier interview with SPACE.com.

The polarity reversal probably won’t harmfully impact Earth, in fact, it could even protect the planet in some ways, scientists have said.

The sun’s huge “current sheet” — a surface extending out from the sun’s equator — becomes wavier as the poles reverse. The sheet’s crinkles can create a better barrier against the cosmic rays that can damage satellites, other spacecraft and people in orbit, scientists said.

Source

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September 7, 2012

Magnificent CME Erupts on the Sun

Filed under: Cool, Global Warming, Inner Solar System, The Sun — bferrari @ 6:05 pm
(NASA/GSFC/SDO)

(NASA/GSFC/SDO)

Click here to view an image showing the size of this CME compared to the size of Earth: bit.ly/RkYr7z

On August 31, 2012 a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere, the corona, erupted out into space at 4:36 p.m. EDT. The coronal mass ejection, or CME, traveled at over 900 miles per second. The CME did not travel directly toward Earth, but did connect with Earth’s magnetic environment, or magnetosphere, causing aurora to appear on the night of Monday, September 3.

Pictured here is a lighten blended version of the 304 and 171 angstrom wavelengths. Cropped

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.
Source

August 19, 2011

New Report: Aliens Will Fix Global Warming… Or Kill Us

This photo of 'Earthrise' over the lunar horizon was taken by the Apollo 8 crew in December 1968, showing Earth for the first time as it appears from deep space. (NASA)

This photo of 'Earthrise' over the lunar horizon was taken by the Apollo 8 crew in December 1968, showing Earth for the first time as it appears from deep space. (NASA)

If or when intelligent extraterrestrials discover us, it’s anybody’s guess what they’ll do. They might befriend us. They might eat us. As Carl Sagan once noted, they might find amusement in some talent we have that they lack and use us as entertainment, just as we keep sea lions in captivity because of their remarkable ability to balance rubber balls on their noses.

All of these scenarios and more are fleshed out in a new article in the journal Acta Astronautica by researchers at Pennsylvania State University. One possibility they’ve raised has garnered more attention than any other: An extraterrestrial civilization might notice our planet by detecting changes in the spectral signature of Earth — the light radiated by our planet and atmosphere — caused by greenhouse gas emissions. And they might frown upon our behavior.

If or when intelligent extraterrestrials discover us, it’s anybody’s guess what they’ll do. They might befriend us. They might eat us. As Carl Sagan once noted, they might find amusement in some talent we have that they lack and use us as entertainment, just as we keep sea lions in captivity because of their remarkable ability to balance rubber balls on their noses.

All of these scenarios and more are fleshed out in a new article in the journal Acta Astronautica by researchers at Pennsylvania State University. One possibility they’ve raised has garnered more attention than any other: An extraterrestrial civilization might notice our planet by detecting changes in the spectral signature of Earth — the light radiated by our planet and atmosphere — caused by greenhouse gas emissions. And they might frown upon our behavior.

The group’s thinking goes like this: From the rate of change of the chemical composition in our atmosphere, the aliens will deduce our rapid expansion and, because of that, possibly view us as a threat, thinking we’ll soon pursue resources on other worlds.

“If [they] doubt that our course can be changed, then they may seek to preemptively destroy our civilization in order to protect other civilizations from us,” the researchers write. (Several media outlets have inaccurately reported that NASA is behind the new report. One of its authors, astrobiologist Shawn Domagal-Goldman, recently began working at NASA, but wrote the paper with former colleague Seth Baum and others at Penn State, whose institution was solely responsible for funding their research.) [Look! Up in the Sky! A Recent History of UFOs]

“This is a highly unlikely scenario,” Jacob Haqq-Misra, a meteorologist and astrobiologist at Penn State and a co-author of the new paper, told Life’s Little Mysteries. “We’re not really saying this is going to happen, but it’s a possibility. The motivation for explaining this possibility is that we are doing this technology already. We are looking at other planets and their spectral signatures.”

Haqq-Misra explained that astronomers are currently capable of detecting spectral changes in light coming from large (Jupiter-size) planets up to 200 light-years away. In galactic terms, this is a very small neighborhood (the Milky Way is 100,000 light years across). However, more advanced civilizations would be capable of seeing much farther. “How far you can see depends on how big your telescope is,” he said. “So this is a realistic scenario: What if ET looked at Earth?” [Could Extraterrestrials Really Invade Earth, and How?]

In fact, we already know what they would see. “People have looked at Earth’s radiation reflected back to us from the moon, and you can actually observe the oxygen and methane and ozone in our atmosphere. So we know the spectral signature they would see, and the changes,” said Haqq-Misra, whose primary research involves studying the atmospheric changes caused by life.

That aliens would react negatively to seeing signs of our rapid expansion is only one hypothetical outcome, he explained. Perhaps aliens are actually nice. “They might think: These guys are not going to make it. They might need our help.”

“But, to delve into some alien sociology, we are extrapolating human civilization to some future point and saying what we might do,” Haqq-Misra said. Humans don’t work well with others whom we view as a threat. After all, we seem to have killed off all our prehistoric competitors.

Whatever the outcome, the new research is another reminder that you don’t survive long in this universe if you can’t figure out how to live within your means. “The bottom line is, if there are intelligent civilizations out there, they pretty much have to have figured out how to grow in a sustainable way,” Haqq-Misra pointed out. “We’re not doing that, and [other civilizations] might make some moral judgment on how we’re managing our resources.”

Source

January 20, 2011

New Reactor Harnesses Sun’s Energy Like Plants

Filed under: Gadgets, Global Warming — bferrari @ 3:53 pm
In the reactor, sunlight heats a ceria cylinder which breaks down water or carbon dioxide, just like plants do (CALTECH)

In the reactor, sunlight heats a ceria cylinder which breaks down water or carbon dioxide, just like plants do (CALTECH)

Researchers have unveiled a prototype reactor which mimics plant life, turning the Sun’s energy to make hydrocarbon fuel.

Developed by a team of scientists from the United States and Switzerland, The solar device uses the Sun’s rays and the metal ceria, or cerium oxide, to break down water or carbon dioxide into energy which can be stored and transported.

Harnessing the power of the sun has been but a pipe dream as conventional solar panels must use the power they generate in situ. With the ceria fueled reactor, this issue is solved.

The scientists, which include Caltech professor Sossina M. Haile and Swiss Institute of Energy Technology professor Aldo Steinfeld, wanted to figure out a way to harness the sun efficiently, without incredibly rare materials. They decided on ceria, a relatively abundant “rare-earth” metal with very special properties.

The reactor takes advantage of ceria’s ability to “exhale” oxygen from its crystalline framework at very high temperatures and then “inhale” oxygen back in at lower temperatures.

“What is special about the material is that it doesn’t release all of the oxygen. That helps to leave the framework of the material intact as oxygen leaves,” Haile explains. “When we cool it back down, the material’s thermodynamically preferred state is to pull oxygen back into the structure.”

Conceptually, the device has boundless potential with its ability to break down water into hydrogen fuel and oxygen or carbon dioxide into carbon monoxide and oxygen, key ingredients for the fuel cell component methanol. Because they are broken down thermochemically, the resulting fuel is easy to transport.

But the prototype is still in its infant stages and extremely inefficient, harnessing only 0.7% to 0.8% of the solar energy it absorbs with most lost through heat or re-radiation. The researchers are confident they can reach levels of around 20% which would make the device commercially viable.

Source

October 11, 2010

World-Changing Awesome Aside, How Will The Self-Driving Google Car Make Money?

Filed under: Cool, Gadgets, Global Warming — bferrari @ 9:26 pm
Minority Report?

Minority Report?

Google made a stunning revelation this morning: the existence of a secret self-driving car project. Even more amazing: it has been in testing for months, on actual roads across California, and things seem to be running smoothly. Fans of Total Recall, Minority Report, and Knight Rider are hyperventilating at the prospects. And while the technology is likely still a long way from being widely implemented (The New York Times piece on it suggests eight years), there is one big question: why?

Google’s answer seems to be a “betterment of society” one. “We’ve always been optimistic about technology’s ability to advance society, which is why we have pushed so hard to improve the capabilities of self-driving cars beyond where they are today,” Google engineer Sebastian Thrun, who spearheaded the project (and also runs Stanford’s AI Labs, and co-invented Street View), writes today.

That’s great. But Google is still a public company in the business of making money for its shareholders. So one can’t help but wonder what, if any, money-making prospects there are here?

The Google researchers said the company did not yet have a clear plan to create a business from the experiments,” according to the NYT. Further, they quote Thrun as saying that this project is an example of Google’s “willingness to gamble on technology that may not pay off for years.”

We know Google has a history of idealism — co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, in particular — but this project cannot come cheap. And the fact is that Google remains basically a one-trick-pony when it comes to making money. They are so reliant on search advertising revenues, that if something suddenly happened to the market, they’d be totally screwed. Android may prove to be their second trick, but it’s not there yet.

But there may be more to these automated cars than just an awesomely cool concept. At our TechCrunch Disrupt event a couple weeks ago, Google CEO Eric Schmidt gave a speech about “an augmented version of humanity.” He noted that the future is about getting computers to do the things we’re not good at. One of those things is driving cars, Schmidt slyly said at the time. “Your car should drive itself. It just makes sense,” he noted. “It’s a bug that cars were invented before computers.

If your car can drive itself, a lot of commuters would be freed up to do other things in the car — such as surf the web. One of Google’s stated goals for this project is to “free up people’s time”. That matched with Schmidt’s vision of mobile devices being with us all the time every day, likely will translate into more usage of Google.

That may sound silly and not worth all the R&D an undertaking as huge as this will require, but don’t underestimate Google. This is a company who cares deeply about shaving fractions of a second off of each search query so that you can do more of them in your waking hours. Imagine if you suddenly had an hour or more a day in your car to do whatever you wanted because you no longer had to focus on driving? Yeah. Cha-ching.

Arnold

Or imagine if your on-board maps where showing you Google ads. Or you were watching Google TV in your car since you didn’t have to drive. Or you were listening to Google Music with Google ads. It’s all the same. This automated driving technology would free you up to use more Google products — which in turn make them more money. Make no mistake, Google will enter your car in a big way. And automated driving would up their return in a big way.

And, of course, none of this speaks to what, if anything, Google would actually charge for such technology implementation. You would have to believe that if and when it’s available, this automated driving tech would be built-in to cars. Would car manufacturers pay Google for it and pass off some of the costs to customers? Or would this all be subsidized by the above ideas?

It’s way too early to get into that, I’m sure. And in 8 years, there will be things out there that we can’t even imagine right now. But it’s interesting to think about. The Google Car.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I have little doubt Google is being sincere in their broader hopes for such a technology. Here’s their key blurb on that:

According to the World Health Organization, more than 1.2 million lives are lost every year in road traffic accidents. We believe our technology has the potential to cut that number, perhaps by as much as half. We’re also confident that self-driving cars will transform car sharing, significantly reducing car usage, as well as help create the new “highway trains of tomorrow.” These highway trains should cut energy consumption while also increasing the number of people that can be transported on our major roads. In terms of time efficiency, the U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that people spend on average 52 minutes each working day commuting. Imagine being able to spend that time more productively.

That first part is awesome. If we could halve the number of traffic deaths each year, it would be world-changing. And if energy consumption could be cut, it could re-shape economies and save our future. But again, don’t gloss over the last part. Freeing up those 52 minutes a day to be productive — that’s a lot of potential money for Google.

And that’s great too. If Google can spend the time and money working on such amazing technology they should be rewarded for it. There’s no rule that says you shouldn’t be able to make money by changing the world. And Google can’t be praised enough for trying.

February 24, 2009

Failure hits Nasa’s ‘CO2 hunter’

Filed under: Global Warming, Government Policies, Space Exploration — bferrari @ 9:15 am

NASAs CO2 Hunter artist conception

NASA's CO2 Hunter artist conception

Nasa’s first mission to measure carbon dioxide (CO2) from space has failed following a rocket malfunction.

Officials said the fairing – the part of the rocket which covers the satellite on top of the launcher – had failed to separate properly.

Officials said the satellite had now crashed in Antarctica.

The Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO) was intended to help pinpoint the key locations on our planet’s surface where the gas is being emitted and absorbed.

Nasa officials confirmed the launch had failed at a press conference held at 1300 GMT.

The $270m mission was launched on a Taurus XL – the smallest ground-launched rocket currently in use by the US space agency.

Since its debut in 1994, this type of rocket has flown eight times, with six successes and two failures including this launch. But this is the first time Nasa has used the Taurus XL.

Nasa will now put together an investigation board to determine the root cause of the problem.

Onlookers watched the launcher soar into the sky from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 0951 GMT on Tuesday.

The first indication of a problem came in an announcement made by the Nasa launch commentator, George Diller.

“This is Taurus launch control. We have declared a launch contingency, meaning that we did not have a successful launch tonight,” he said.

“The OCO spacecraft did not achieve orbit successfully in a way that we could have a mission. They’re still looking at the telemetry data here very carefully. It appears that we were getting indications that the fairing was having problems separating.

“It either did not separate or did not separate in the way that it should, but at any rate we’re still trying to evaluate exactly what the status of the spacecraft is at this point.”

Separation of the fairing was one of the last technical hurdles faced by the satellite as it flew into orbit. Orbital said there had been no changes to the design of the fairing since previous launches.

John Brunschwyler, from Orbital Sciences Corporation, the rocket’s manufacturer, cast doubt on any suggestion of a link between the failure and a power glitch which occurred to the vehicle before launch.

“That was on a separate system, so I do not believe there was any connection,” Mr Brunschwyler told journalists at the Nasa press conference.

Dr Paul Palmer, a scientist from the University of Edinburgh, who was collaborating on the mission, told BBC News: “I am bitterly disappointed about the loss of OCO. My thoughts go out to the science team that have dedicated the past seven years to building and testing the instrument.”

Scientists had hoped the OCO mission would improve models of the Earth’s climate and help researchers determine where the greenhouse gas is coming from and how much is being absorbed by forests and oceans.

Rebuild question

Only about 50% of carbon emitted into the atmosphere, for example from fossil fuel combustion and land use, stays there. Most of the remainder is mopped up by the forests and oceans, which act as “sinks”.

However, there appears to be a large carbon sink missing.

“All eyes are now on the Japanese Gosat instrument to search for the missing carbon sink,” said Dr Palmer.

Gosat was launched in January from Tanegashima in Japan. It is also designed to monitor atmospheric greenhouse gases.

Nasa’s Glory satellite, which is designed to measure carbon soot and other aerosols in the Earth’s atmosphere, is due to launch on a Taurus XL from California in June.

But the space agency said it would not fly Glory until the cause of OCO’s failure had been investigated.

When the European Space Agency’s Cryosat spacecraft was destroyed on launch in 2006, officials decided to re-build it; the launch is scheduled for later in the year. However, the future of the OCO mission remains unclear at this stage.

The only other failure to hit a Taurus rocket occurred in September 2001, when the rocket dropped off its payload of two satellites at a lower altitude than had been intended.

Source

February 17, 2009

Ex-Astronaut: Global Warming Is Bunk

Filed under: Earth, Global Warming, Stupidity — bferrari @ 9:20 am

Harrison Schmitt, the only geologist/scientist to visit the moon. (NASA)

Harrison Schmitt, the only geologist/scientist to visit the moon. (NASA)

By Bob Ferrari

Harrison Schmitt may unceremoniously have been the last astronaut to visit the moon, but he is actually more famous for being  an actual life-long scientist. A geologist by trade he is a brilliant scientist in his own right and he has a lot to say about the human-caused global warming fabrication.

Foxnews

SANTA FE, N.M. —  Former astronaut Harrison Schmitt, who walked on the moon and once served New Mexico in the U.S. Senate, doesn’t believe that humans are causing global warming.

“I don’t think the human effect is significant compared to the natural effect,” said Schmitt, who is among 70 skeptics scheduled to speak next month at the International Conference on Climate Change in New York.

Schmitt contends that scientists “are being intimidated” if they disagree with the idea that burning fossil fuels has increased carbon dioxide levels, temperatures and sea levels.

“They’ve seen too many of their colleagues lose grant funding when they haven’t gone along with the so-called political consensus that we’re in a human-caused global warming,” Schmitt said.

• Click here to visit FOXNews.com’s Natural Science Center.

Dan Williams, publisher with the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, which is hosting the climate change conference, said he invited Schmitt after reading about his resignation from The Planetary Society, a nonprofit dedicated to space exploration.

Schmitt resigned after the group blamed global warming on human activity.

In his resignation letter, the 74-year-old geologist argued that the “global warming scare is being used as a political tool to increase government control over American lives, incomes and decision-making.”

Williams said Heartland is skeptical about the crisis that people are proclaiming in global warming.

“Not that the planet hasn’t warmed. We know it has or we’d all still be in the Ice Age,” he said. “But it has not reached a crisis proportion and, even among us skeptics, there’s disagreement about how much man has been responsible for that warming.”

Schmitt said historical documents indicate average temperatures have risen by 1 degree per century since around 1400 A.D., and the rise in carbon dioxide is because of the temperature rise.

Schmitt also said geological evidence indicates changes in sea level have been going on for thousands of years. He said smaller changes are related to changes in the elevation of land masses — for example, the Great Lakes are rising because the earth’s crust is rebounding from being depressed by glaciers.

Schmitt, who grew up in Silver City and now lives in Albuquerque, has a science degree from the California Institute of Technology. He also studied geology at the University of Oslo in Norway and took a doctorate in geology from Harvard University in 1964.

In 1972, he was one of the last men to walk on the moon as part of the Apollo 17 mission.

Schmitt said he’s heartened that the upcoming conference is made up of scientists who haven’t been manipulated by politics.

Of the global warming debate, he said: “It’s one of the few times you’ve seen a sizable portion of scientists who ought to be objective take a political position and it’s coloring their objectivity.”

Source

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