Event Horizon Part 1

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

A S T R O N O M Y  O F  T H E  A B S U R D

&  T H E  N E W  C O S M O L O G Y  OF

J O H N  D O B S O N  &  H A L T O N  A R P

(Part 1)

The first time I met John Dobson, he woke me up by pulling on my leg in the middle of the night in a small tent next to the Grand Canyon…. ”You must come see the rings of Saturn,” he implored.  That was around 1973, I think.  “You can sleep anytime, you must see the rings,” Dobson urged as I stumbled outside my humble shelter and adjusted my eyes from sleep to gaze through brightly-colored telescopes operated by an animated, ponytailed Dobson decked in baggy, hand-me-downs over his small frame. His aged yellow school bus, which was parked nearby and adorned with the words, “San Francisco Sidewalk Astronomers,” contributed to the party atmosphere of star-struck devotees being egged on by this Ken Kesey of the cosmological world.

Tommy & Dobson '81 Death Valley

Death Valley 1981 – John Dobson, far left standing and the author to his right. The “cannon” in the background is a 24.5″ Dobsonian John built in the late 60’s named “Delphinium” and was the largest portable telescope on the planet. Dobson’s son Loren is on the middle right.

While many are familiar with Dobson’s legacy as the godfather of modern amateur astronomy, few are aware of his contribution to 20th Century cosmology and his quixotic battle against that discipline’s present day  sacred cow – the Big Bang model of the universe. “The universe is mostly made up of hydrogen and ignorance,” Dobson once quipped on camera.   He would complain that the Big Bang had “too many problems” (i.e., everything created out of nothing), and that cosmologists now change the physics to match the model instead of changing the model to match the physics.(1)

Dobson’s own “pastoral” view of the cosmos envisioned a  recycled,  bounded system. “If the stuff recycles from the border [of the universe], we don’t have to have a beginning. It could be going like this all the time,” he explained. “The whole universe is alive,” he preached, adding that “since the Universe is made out of energy, it cannot have arisen by transformation, except from energy. It cannot arise from nothing. (2)

Fortunately for Dobson, he was not alone in his rage against the machine of entrenched scientific thinking. His cosmology had a coincidental and simultaneous connection to the work of American Astronomer Halton C. Arp, who like DobArp's book coverson had no love lost for the Big Bang theory, which he said could not account for abnormalities he observed in quasars and galaxies.  Both Dobson and Arp came to the conclusion that gravitational redshift as Dobson would say, “falls all over the paper,” and was no longer accurate in determining the distance and velocity of galaxies and stars.  (Before one quickly dismisses these arguments, it’s good to remember I’m not talking about lightweight guys – Dobson has an internationally marketed telescope named after him, and Arp,who published the seminal Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies in 1966,  was a personal assistant to Sir Edwin Hubble!)

S m o g  T e s t

einstein cross close-up

Einstein’s Cross/Lyman Alpha: Emission spectrum of atomic hydrogen is used in calculating red shifts.

These two old lions of astronomy cast a leery eye on Hubble’s redshift observation that galaxies from all directions appear to be moving, or expanding away, from us. Redshift, for those who might think it’s some kind of party dress, is the main cornerstone of how cosmologists measure the age of a Big Bang universe in which the displacement of known spectral lines moves towards the red-end of a galaxy’s visible spectrum.  (This is similar to the Doppler Effect in which a police siren rises in pitch as it approaches you and lowers in pitch as the sound trails away). This redshift idea was suggested by Hubble to explain why galaxies and stars seem to be moving away from us, forming an infinitely expanding cosmic balloon. Little did Hubble know that his musings would become commandments.  This process is still referred to as the Hubble Constant or Hubble’s Law.  Arp said that Hubble himself was not convinced that he even had it right, that maybe they were misunderstanding the interpretation of the redshift altogether. In fact, it has been argued that if Hubble had first seen the plots for quasars, he and other astronomers would never have concluded that the universe was expanding.

S t u m p  t h e  F r u m p s

Dobson S.F. #2

John Dobson, 1988 San Francisco – Photo: Tom Chargin

Dobson himself, who had the opportunity to show the granddaddy of Quantum Mechanics Werner Heisenberg (3) some stellar wonders through his homemade telescope back in the day,  also attempted to convince Stephen Hawking that cosmological “flies in the ointment” existed. Asking the revered physicist about the possibility of whether a “pre-geometry” could have existed instead of “nothing” (as the Big bangers maintain), a confused Hawking replied “I’m not sure it’s a meaningful question.”

It’s interesting to note that when Arp tried to publish and explain redshift anomalies in a paper submitted to the The Astronomical Journal back in 1977,  the editor at the time, Chandrasekhar, rejected the paper — un-refereed, like a professional ballgame having no umpire — scribbling in the left hand corner to this work of genius, “This is beyond my imagination.”  (Editor’s Note:  Probably beyond his small-mindedness, as well…)

They eventually gave Chandrasekhar the Nobel Prize and Arp a mop and a bucket.

U n i v e r s e  A c c o r d i n g  T o  A r p

“It is embarrassing, and by now a little boring, to constantly read announcements about ever more distant and luminous high redshift objects, blacker holes and higher and higher percentages of undetectable matter. (Past 90% it begins to make observations irrelevant.)”
Halton C. Arp

Halton Arp (NY Times)

Halton C. Arp – Photo, New York TImes

Arp’s revolutionary discovery of the cosmos was one in which high redshift objects that should be rapidly receding away are surprisingly next to low redshift celestial bodies closer to us . While this unconventional view of the universe threw the baby out with the bathwater on the established orthodoxy that redshift meant ‘fast and far away’  or recessional velocity, it did little to alter the minds of those clinging to older edicts believed to be carved in stone.  The academic world which Arp had so much disdain for, and ironically was a part of, just dragged the redshift baby back in, washed it off, gave it another name.  After all, Arp’s observations, if correct, would have pulverized the foundations on which most modern cosmology was built.  The mainstream scientific community was not going to stand for that in the same way the Church of the 17th century would not stand for Galileo’s observations and scientific inquiry.  Consequently, the modern-day high priests took Arp’s telescopes away and refused to have him published.(4)  Ultimately, the scientific powers that be conveniently forgot about Arp’s Discordant Redshift theories, blackballed him from major observatory access, belched fire out of their mouths and said “The Big Bang has spoken,” and went on teaching the same old flawed cosmology to a generation of scientists who never even bothered to ask who the man behind the curtain was.(5)

Arp probably could see the irony of it all; he just took it like Stan Laurel, staring down at his shoelaces being once again chided by Oliver Hardy, “Well Stanley this is another fine mess you have gotten us into ,,, Now we’ll be lucky if they let us look through a pair of binoculars.”

“It is sometimes said that nothing is known from astronomy which goes outside the range of currently known physics…if one accepts…the origin of the universe at some moment in time.  Then it is the phenomenon of ‘origin,’ which lies outside currently-known physics.”
Fred Hoyle – British Astronomer who coined the term, “Big Bang”

 

P r o x y  W a r s

ArpCloseup

Halton C. Arp – Photo, New York Times

Screen shot 2015-10-06 at 9.39.43 PM

Hubble pic of Stephan’s Quintet

This did not slow Arp down, however, as he turned to lesser known foreign observatories and amateur astronomers — once even getting a shot at Hubble Telescope “viewing” from a government ‘blue light special’ allowing 10% of time on Hubble out to amateur astronomers.  One lucky winner was a student of Arp’s and aimed the scope at Stephan’s Quintet (above) at Arp’s request. (I believe the powers that be got wind of that little subterfuge and NASA cancelled the whole amateur hour!)

C r o s s – E y e d

ngc7603

Bridge Over Hubble Water: Galaxy NGC 7603 clearly connected to its smaller companion galaxy NGC 7603B via a curved bridge of matter.

Despite these professional road blocks, Arp was able to determine that celestial bodies such as  Quasi Stellar Objects (QSOs) are not extremely distant high-redshifted objects as believed, but that they are in fact coming out of the nucleus of a nearby parent galaxy causing excited hydrogen filaments connecting these two objects comprised of vastly different redshifts.  Arp eventually found hundreds of these examples (see NGC 7603 to the right). (6).

Arp rejected the widely-held thought that observable phenomena such as Einstein’s Cross (see below) was a product of “gravitational lensing” in which one object appeared to be many instead of multiple objects (in this case quasars) surrounding a galaxy.  In fact,  British Astronomer Fred Hoyle, a leading critic of the Big Bang and an early proponent of a “Steady State” universe, computed the probability of such a lensing event to be less than two chances in a million.  In fact, Einstein’s Cross is just one in many instances where pairs and multiple quasars are associated with hundreds of low redshift galaxies, and taken as a whole, the chance of these occurring by pure coincidence (something the big bangers claim) Hoyle said would have exceeded one in a billion.  At the time Hoyle crunched these numbers, Arp was studying approximately 190 QSO’s, and decades later in 2010, The Royal Observatory in Edinburgh examined a survey of over 900 QSO’s, and found nothing contradicting Arp’s “Discordant Redshift Theory,” also now referred to as “Redshift Quantization.” In the meantime, NASA and the rest of the scientific community have accepted redshift as gospel, and have calculated these (or should I say ‘the’) quasars at more than a billion light years further away

Einstein’s Cross (above): You will be lucky to find any explanation of these Quasars from any scientific source other than they were “gravitationally lensed,” a fact Halton Arp disproved ages ago. – Tom Chargin

 

Meanwhile, John Dobson, who to the end (7) tirelessly defended Arp’s findings regarding what he thought were absurd assumptions on the part of Big Bang cheerleaders, would often say,

“The Big Bang cannot explain the existence of galaxies and stars, now that’s considered a very bad defect!  For a cosmological model that cannot explain the existence of what we see, well, that is considered very bad.”

Little did these two gentlemen realize the can of worms they had opened.

(To Be Continued) …

(1) Quotes from “A Sidewalk Astronomer,” a film by Jeffery Fox Jacobs, www.telescopepictures.com.
(2) From the the essay “Origins”  by John Dobson.
(3) Heisenberg, as in “Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty,” was a major cosmological figure, friend and contemporary of Albert Einstein, as well as one of the main fathers that ushered in the era of Quantum Mechanics
(4) Arp  was rejected again and again, by prestigious scientific journals across the board.  Nonetheless, he was eventually published, but not after many “illegal motion” calls by editorial referees who determine which ‘ideas and data’  get to play in the big game, i,e. published in journals like Nature and The Astronomical Journal.
(5) Arp was banned from using most large telescopes including Palomar and Mt. Wilson where he was once a staff researcher.
(6) Sources: Seeing Red, and Quasars, Redshifts and Controversies, both written by H. Arp.
(7) Both Dobson and Arp passed away just weeks apart from each other in 2014 and 2013 respectively.
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

Frankly Lamar, We Do Give a Damn

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

F r a n k l y  L a m a r ,  W e  D o  G i v e  a  D a m n

Let me clarify – the guys who interpret those lights on the Apollo mission photos as UFO craft are not tin foil hatters.

Screen shot 2015-10-10 at 10.17.24 PM

Hats off to Rep. Lamar Smith.

Screen shot 2015-10-10 at 10.16.35 PMYet there are and we do have a true Tin Foil Hatter of the Week.  In fact, this one entity could well be the Tin Foil Hatter of the entire year.  It’s none other than…Ta Da!  The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, headed by that champion of The Flat Earth Society and Mercenary-in-Chief ,Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas).  [Applause! … Kazoo band playing X-Files theme!]  (See “Gone with the Windbags”)

And hats all around for every Republican sitting on that NASA-obliterating, climate-change denying committee.

Screen shot 2015-10-10 at 10.08.42 PM

House Science, Space and Technology Committee hard at work.

How the Science Committee earned our top honor begins with a story that broke last week in Inside Climate News with details of a new Teabagging Inquisition being set up by the Committee to “torture” a lone but famed climate scientist, Big OJagadish Shukla, for merely suggesting in a private letter to President Obama that Big Oil has lied to the public about global warming.

Jagadish Shukla, Professor of Climate Dynamics speaking at the Building Sustainability and Resiliance Symposium. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Jagadish Shukla, Professor of Climate Dynamics speaking at the Building Sustainability and Resiliance Symposium. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Shukla, who runs a non-profit research organization called the Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES) located at George Mason University in Virginia, collected 20 signatures by climate scientists from NASA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Maryland and other highly regarded institutions, and asked the President if energy corporations could be investigated under the RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970) for purposefully casting doubt on the scientific evidence for climate change. Federal prosecutors used this act on Big Tobacco execs in the late 1990s.

Shukla’s letter was brought to the Committee’s attention when someone leaked it onto Faceybook, causing an “affronted,” enraged Congressman Smith to announce a House Special Investigative Hearing on…Let’s see here…I know we can get him on something… oh yeah! “Misuse of Federal Funds.”  Shukla received a damning letter from Smith on Oct. 1, telling him to gather all papers and emails, and report to the gulag! er, hearing.  Or else.

Shocked by Smith’s letter, Shukla said that he sent his query to Obama as a private, concerned citizen, and had nothing to do with any leak on Faceybook.  “Any allegations of inappropriate behavior are untrue,” he said.

Congressman Smith is obviously trying to cover his derriere and the pasty bare behinds of his Big contributing Oil buddies, for if there were a true investigation, it would not only uncover the lies pouring out of Big Oil, but also the astronomically huge and oily sums passed between the fossil fuel/fracking profiteers and Smith’s greasy grubbing hands.

Meanwhile, Smith and his committee would do well to pay attention to their own fellow lawmakers, which naturally they do not.  Congressional democrats are now imploring NASA to have their Earth monitoring satellites (the few left that Smith and his GOP colleagues haven’t ripped out of NASA’s budget) keep a wary eye on the poisonous algae blooms that have flourished exponentially in Lake Erie.

Algae blooms in Lake Eerie

Eerily familiar sight – NASA watches toxic algae flourish in Great Lake.

Big Ag pesticides and pollutants are routinely dumped into the waterways of the nation’s heartland, creating toxic algae year-round but which explodes during droughts and the stagnant summer months.  More than a year ago, 400,000 people in Toledo and southeastern Michigan had their drinking water imperiled because of the problem.  Among the senators asking for NASA’s help was (surprise!) a lone Republican, Senator Bob Portman of Ohio (the Ishi of moderate Republicans…).

NASA immediately put the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland on the job, and committed airborne equipment to more intensely monitor lake conditions.

Sorry.  No 24-hour earth monitoring geo-sats available, folks, not even to save our own asses.  Go ask Lamar Smith about it.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

Event Horizon – In the Beginning …

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

Editor’s note: Galactic Sandbox’s Event Horizon feature is dedicated to the late John Dobson, evangelist astronomer and telescope innovator extraordinaire, whose life and work influenced a generation of amateur star gazers as well as revolutionized the commercial telescope industry. Contributing columnist Tom Chargin was a protege and friend of this cosmic “Johnny Appleseed,” and sheds light on a lesser known (though no lesser aspect) of Dobson’s role as torch-bearer of the “steady state” theory of the universe with no beginning or end.  While the mainstream scientific community has declared this torch snuffed out, Galactic Sandbox offers this forum as an opportunity for serious thinkers to be presented with information that may not be readily available to the general public. Mr. Chargin welcomes all comments, observations, and thoughtful rebuttals, Enjoy! — Agnett Bonwit, Managing Editor

October 19, 2015

I N  T H E  B E G I N N I N G . . .

Screen shot 2015-10-12 at 8.18.59 AM

Illustrated “Big Bang”

Most of us take for granted that our universe started at an infinitely short moment almost 14 billion years ago with what is known as the “Big Bang.” However, few are aware that a controversy raged for decades during the 20th Century between two opposing camps regarding the past, present, and future of the cosmos. Centuries before that time, the birth of the universe was relegated to myth, religion, and philosophy; however during the period between 1920 and 1970 when cosmology was transformed into a bona fide branch of physics, scientists debated whether the universe originated billions of years ago as an explosion from an infinitely dense and infinitely small “superatomic” kernel of energy, or if we live in a “Steady State” infinite universe with no beginning and no end, in which matter is continuously being replenished in the space between galaxies.

Screen shot 2015-10-12 at 7.38.31 AM

Edwin Hubble

Both theories explained the outward expansion of the galaxies as discovered by luminaries including Edwin Hubble, and both theories had their strengths and weaknesses. For example, the Big Bang successfully accounted for the known bounty of hydrogen and helium in the cosmos, however it introduced the notion that creation seemingly popped out of nothing. The Steady State thesis avoided this stumbling block but replaced it with many little unexplained beginnings (those pesky matter particles spontaneously appearing out of thin air). In its favor, the Big Bang camp made one testable prediction: if the universe began in a super-sized hot blast, the cooled remnant of that radiation should still lurk in the metagalactic background, and scientists should be able to accurately calculate its microwave spectral distribution.

Map of cosmic microwave background radiation from data gathered by the Cosmic Background Explorer craft.

This is precisely what was discovered in the 1960s, and with the debut of the Hubble Telescope and other sophisticated space-based instruments in the late 20th and early 21st Centuries, the Big Bang theory prevailed over Steady State in this cosmological survival of the fittest. However, while almost all astronomers now adhere to the Big Bang (most to the point of being “gospel”), some nagging questions linger. Currently, however, there’s little incentive to rock the boat given the Big Bang theory is viewed as working “pretty well,”and that there is little professional challenge (either by attrition or design) to the status quo.

“Sleeping Beauty” or Black Eye Galaxy comprised of two counter-rotating disks. The celestial object is thought to have been created via a collision with a gas-rich satellite galaxy in a retrograde orbit, or the collection of gas clouds from intergalactic space.

In the upcoming “Event Horizon” articles, contributing columnist Tom Chargin will address these questions as he fleshes out some of the stories and personalities (some of whom he knew personally, including John Dobson of the Dobsonian telescope fame) behind this Big Bang/Steady State “Battle of the Cosmos.” In addition, Mr. Chargin will explore some of the sticky wickets that have threatened to derail the Big Bang juggernaut:

  • 1) Do redshifts1, or cosmological “recession” velocities, exist? If not, scientists could call into question the evolutionary aspect of the Big Bang.
  • 2) Hot potatoes such as the “Horizon Problem2” and the “Flatness Problem3”, while being explained away by “inflation,” still cast a shadow over Big Bang dominance.

Stay tuned next week ….

1 When wavelengths of the light are stretched by the expansion of space.
2 Scientists have struggled with the Horizon Problem in which different areas of the universe share the same temperature and other physical properties even though the transfer of energy can’t occur faster than the speed of light. 
3 Our universe apparently is flat, with a matter density and expansion rate that appears to be nearly perfectly balanced. This begs the question why minor variations haven’t increased dramatically over 14 billion years.

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

Truth and Other Consequences

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

October 12, 2015

By Kate Woods, Galactic Sandbox Writer-At-Large

B o o m t o w n  A l l  B u s t
The road to privatizing space is a bumpy one.  I mean that literally…if you take the Ghost-port, er, Spaceport America Visitor Center tour in New Mexico.

ghost spaceport

Road to nowhere – Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America in New Mexico has been silent since fatal crash nearly a year ago.

 

While SpaceX CEO Elon Musk is considered a restrictive fascist in the Texas town of Boca Chica, the people of the scrub desert town named Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, can’t feel much merrier about Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson.

monthly launch in Boca Chica

SpaceX rocket launch.

But instead of feeling like they are living in a police state as the folks of Boca Chica do – where katrillionaire Musk planted his rocket launch facility and promised a boom in tourism and fame, but instead gave them badges and shelter-in-place instructions during monthly launches — the residents of Truth or Consequences feel like a snake oil-selling grifter just fleeced them.

That’s because Truth or Consequences is located in one of the two poorest counties in New Mexico (and the nation) that contributed $76 million out of the $200 million forked over by the Land of Enchantment to Virgin Galactic’s fabled Spaceport, now just a vacant tumbleweed-strewn ghost-terminal since a fatal launch one year ago that suspended Branson’s dream of sending other katrillionaires and useless celebrities into space for a few minutes of weightlessness at $250,000 a pop, per person.

Truth or Consequences

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride – Truth or Consequences gets left at the alter for the second time.

It’s not the first time the town’s denizens have put their faith in celebrity.  In 1950, Truth or Consequences, then known as Hot Springs, took up an offer from popular radio show barker Ralph Edwards to host his weekly quiz contest from there if they renamed the town after his show.  At least that one sort of paid off.  A few road-trip tourists detoured through the town on and off over the years, and Edwards actually returned once a year until he died of heart failure in 2005.

Now after sacrificing millions to the useless futuristic terminal, Truth or Consequences’ 6,000 residents are still paying for it with exorbitant taxes, school closings and a failing town water system, which they cannot afford to fix.  The average income of residents is $15,000 a year; the town’s one traffic light is out, and storefronts are empty and boarded.

So how silent is Virgin Galactic’s Grand Central to infinity and beyond? Writer Caty Enders of The Guardian gives a first-hand account of taking the dilapidated “spaceport tour” on the edge of town.  I urge all Galactic Sandboxers to take the time and read it; it’s a poignant, hilarious tragi-comedy.

Screen shot 2015-10-10 at 6.23.25 PM

Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship 2 craft.

To illustrate how Richard Branson’s firm tapped into regular folks’ dream of traveling beyond the confines of Earth, a tour guide told Enders that while he couldn’t afford a Virgin Galactic ride to space, he entered a contest the firm held back in 2009 that gave points to people who “influence” others into buying Virgin space tickets with the end goal of accumulating the most points to win a free trip on Spaceship 2.  Apparently the program was discontinued, however the tour guide still has hope.  A spokesman from Virgin Galactic would not confirm to The Guardian if the contest ever existed.

Enders also talked to one of the lucky town natives who has a job, Jim Wagner, working in a hotel parts outfit:

Wagner agreed that people’s priorities have gone sour. “This county’s struggling, and we’re building a pipe dream for a billionaire,” he says, twirling an old Nokia flip-phone in frustration. “It just seems unfair.”

Screen shot 2015-10-10 at 6.49.14 PM

Starchild? – Justin Beiber never says never to spaceflight hopes.

Among Virgin Galactic’s less stellar celebrity ticket holders who still have faith in the firm’s “right stuff,” include no stuff “future astronauts” Katy Perry Aston Kutcher, as well as joy boy Justin Beiber and his manager (“Let’s shoot a music video in SPACE!,” twatted Beiber in 2013).  Virgin Galactic’s motto on their human spaceflight page is “Opening Space to the Rest of Us.” Really?

One small consolation: at least the town residents won’t have to bear with Beiber’s spoiled mug visiting their hamlet any time soon.

Pluto's blue skies

Out of the blue – New NASA pic shows Pluto’s astonishing colorful atmosphere.

N o t h i n ’  B u t  B l u e  S k i e s
Hot on the heels of its failed attempt to quash a news leak by one of its own, NASA announced last Thursday that the New Horizons craft has sent back images of Pluto proving that the dwarf planet’s surface holds patches of water-ice and that its skies are cobalt blue.

Apparently these tantalizing new Pluto details were halfway let out of the bag several days ago, when loose-lipped New Horizons project leader Dr. Alan Stern blurted out to a bunch of Canadian students, and, oops, a reporter from The Guardian, “This world [Pluto] is alive!  It has weather, it has hazes in the atmosphere, active geology.”

NASA unsuccessfully tried to plug the leak by squishing the fact that new discoveries were found.  Today they said, “what the hell,” and sent out a press release giving details of what Stern already let loose.

new image Charon

Pluto’s moon, Charon.

Unlike Earth’s blue skies that are caused by nitrogen, the cobalt empyrean effect on Pluto is caused by “tholins,” which are soot-like particles in a red haze.  The water-ice is red and could be caused by a mixture of the tholins with other chemicals like nitrogen and methane as it all recombines to form more complex molecules lower in the atmosphere and on the surface.

NASA also recently unveiled new high-resolution images of Pluto’s moon Charon, which indicate a “violent and colorful history.” At half the diameter of Pluto, Charon has a massive canyon four times as long as the Earth’s Grand Canyon and twice as deep in some places.

SpaceIL lander

SpaceIL robotic Moon lander.

H o n e y m o o n e r s
An Israeli team says it has penned a Moon shot launch contract on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, in its quest for the NASA/Google’s Lunar XPRIZE brass ring.  Tel Aviv-based SpaceIL has slotted its robotic Moon lander as the primary cargo aboard the unmanned SpaceX craft that will carried 20 other payloads, and is slated for blast off in the latter half of 2017 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Calif. The non-profit SpaceIL  plans to use the potential prize money to promote science and scientific education in Israel.

Griffin lander

Neither gloom of night … Astrbotic’s Griffin Lander to deliver “Moon Mail” to the lunar surface.

The Lunar XPRIZE will award $30 million to a private company if it’s the first to land on the moon.  While the contest website still says the deadline for the 16 entrants (so far) to secure a launch contract is Dec. 31, 2015, some news sources have said the deadline has been bumped up a year to Dec. 2016.

Just to play it safe, Astrobotic (a spin-off of a group of space scientists from the Carnegie Mellon Institute) also booked a flight to the Moon with SpaceX.  Astrobotic plans to send up its SUV-sized Griffin Lander that will deliver “MoonMail,” a service that the company plans to advertise on its site where for about 400 bucks, you can send a keepsake to the lunar surface…a lock of hair, a pet tag, a love letter, and so on.

Dream Chaser

Second Wind – Sierra Nevada’s “Dream Chaser” gets renewed life in ISS taxi competition.

D r e a m  J o b
Sierra Nevada Corporation’s good old “Dream Chaser” spaceplane is back in the running, this time for NASA’s Cargo Resupply Services 2 (CRS2) contract.  If it wins, the little shuttle-like ship would carry cargo to and from the International Space Station.

We haven’t heard much about this scrappy contender since it lost out to SpaceX’s “Dragon 2” carrier and Boeing’s CST-100 “Starliner” — the NASA contract winners the agency is relying on to soon shuttle crews to the ISS.

The Dream Chaser will have a second test run in early 2016, and yes, with its famous fuzzy dice hanging in the cockpit.  It would be nice if SpaceX didn’t hog all the NASA contracts or we will soon be calling our national space agency “MUSK CORP.”  Putrid.

Meanwhile, and though it hasn’t been publicly announced, NASA has quietly eliminated Lockheed’s bid in the cargo contract.  A small blurb in the Wall Street Journal alluded to the reason being high costs, although I can’t give details since the story was cut short because I refuse to subscribe to the rag.

asteroid hitting earth (by NASA)

The skies may someday may fall thanks to NASA budget cuts.

H e n n y  P e n n i l e s s
Not feeling very flush, NASA now says protecting Earth from killer asteroids is “a waste of time.” Aside from the fact that Congress has cut the budget for the agency’s asteroid hunting efforts down to a nub, NASA has officially “dropped” its association with the non-profit B612 Foundation.  B612 was trying to crowd-source fund its Sentinel spacecraft telescope, but apparently has fallen way short of the $450 million needed for the asteroid spotter.  Sentinel was to trail Venus and point towards Earth, giving us a line-of-sight on incoming planet-killers.  NASA was to provide “support” and advice for the mission, as well as use of its tracking systems.  But missed deadlines and under-funding made NASA turn its back on the mission.

Sentinel mission

Warped Drive – B612 Foundation’s funding quest for its Sentinel asteroid watcher falls short.

B612 says it will carry on with the quest, regardless.

On a related note, last Thursday, NASA “mentioned” that a two mile-wide asteroid was due to give Earth a close shave by this past Saturday.  NASA officials said rock chunk 86666, a quarter the size of Mount Everest and hurling through space at 40,000 mph, could “take out a large city” if it plowed through our atmosphere.  It is still millions of miles away, a NASA official yawned.

R o s e t t a  R o u l e t t e
And now for NASA’s weekly and ever-changing take on what those mysterious lights really are on dwarf planet Ceres:  Now it’s salt!

Ceres lights #20

Flash of insight – NASA can’t make up it’s mind on mysterious Ceres lights.

Since the Rosetta Mission successfully sent the Dawn probe to the biggest object in our Asteroid Belt earlier this year, NASA has changed its mercurial mind – at times weekly – on what appear to be bright lights on the surface of Ceres inside its Occator Crater.  At first NASA brainiacs said the mysterious glow was reflected ice, then,  “No, it’s shadows caused by the Sun,” “Wait, salt dunes,” “Now hold the phone; it’s refracted molecules,” …  Wait, wait, it’s  “bursts of energetic electrons.”

And this week we are at last full circle back to salt.

Positing a fresh perspective, Galactic Sandbox’s new feature writer Tom Chargin (Event Horizon coming soon) suggests the lights could well be a form of phosphorescent white algae.  We believe he has the best explanation so far, and some day will be proven right.

K o d a k  M o m e n t s
NASA has released thousands of never seen photos (by the public at large, that is) taken during all the Apollo missions, many in high-resolution.  It’s a stunning, massive archive.

Aldrin just released

Candid Camera – Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin smiles in newly-released archive pix.

There are plenty of interesting shots you wouldn’t expect, like astronauts shaving, unfamiliar pix of the Lunar Lander Module  (LEM), and expressive, candid snapshots of the pioneering Moon walkers that weren’t exactly typical of what the NASA PR machine would approve back in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.

Dust in the lens? – Archived Apollo photos reveal curious object.

But of course, UFO experts have pulled out three photos in particular they say “proves beyond a doubt” that an alien spacecraft was “watching” the landings and descents of the Apollo 11 LEM from a hovering position above a crater in the Sea of Tranquility.  Also, there’s a photo snapped during the Apollo 17 mission in 1972, that UFOlogists call the “rainbow craft.”  In truth, the alien craft looks eerily like the triangular football-sized UFOs that have been reported all over the world in the last two decades, particularly that massive UFO wave in Belgium.

In even more truth, those craft have been eye-witnessed in the ghost town of New Idria, Calif.  But that’s another story.

F r a n k l y  L a m a r ,  W e  D o  G i v e  a  D a m n

Let me clarify – the guys who interpret those lights on the Apollo mission photos as UFO craft are not tin foil hatters.

Screen shot 2015-10-10 at 10.17.24 PM

Hats off to Rep. Lamar Smith.

Screen shot 2015-10-10 at 10.16.35 PMYet there are and we do have a true Tin Foil Hatter of the Week.  In fact, this one entity could well be the Tin Foil Hatter of the entire year.  It’s none other than…Ta Da!  The House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, headed by that champion of The Flat Earth Society and Mercenary-in-Chief ,Congressman Lamar Smith (R-Texas).  [Applause! … Kazoo band playing X-Files theme!]  (See “Gone with the Windbags”)

And hats all around for every Republican sitting on that NASA-obliterating, climate-change denying committee.

Screen shot 2015-10-10 at 10.08.42 PM

House Science, Space and Technology Committee hard at work.

How the Science Committee earned our top honor begins with a story that broke last week in Inside Climate News with details of a new Teabagging Inquisition being set up by the Committee to “torture” a lone but famed climate scientist, Big OJagadish Shukla, for merely suggesting in a private letter to President Obama that Big Oil has lied to the public about global warming.

Jagadish Shukla, Professor of Climate Dynamics speaking at the Building Sustainability and Resiliance Symposium. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Jagadish Shukla, Professor of Climate Dynamics speaking at the Building Sustainability and Resiliance Symposium. Photo by Evan Cantwell/Creative Services/George Mason University

Shukla, who runs a non-profit research organization called the Institute of Global Environment and Society (IGES) located at George Mason University in Virginia, collected 20 signatures by climate scientists from NASA, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the University of Maryland and other highly regarded institutions, and asked the President if energy corporations could be investigated under the RICO Act (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act of 1970) for purposefully casting doubt on the scientific evidence for climate change. Federal prosecutors used this act on Big Tobacco execs in the late 1990s.

Shukla’s letter was brought to the Committee’s attention when someone leaked it onto Faceybook, causing an “affronted,” enraged Congressman Smith to announce a House Special Investigative Hearing on…Let’s see here…I know we can get him on something… oh yeah! “Misuse of Federal Funds.”  Shukla received a damning letter from Smith on Oct. 1, telling him to gather all papers and emails, and report to the gulag! er, hearing.  Or else.

Shocked by Smith’s letter, Shukla said that he sent his query to Obama as a private, concerned citizen, and had nothing to do with any leak on Faceybook.  “Any allegations of inappropriate behavior are untrue,” he said.

Congressman Smith is obviously trying to cover his derriere and the pasty bare behinds of his Big contributing Oil buddies, for if there were a true investigation, it would not only uncover the lies pouring out of Big Oil, but also the astronomically huge and oily sums passed between the fossil fuel/fracking profiteers and Smith’s greasy grubbing hands.

Meanwhile, Smith and his committee would do well to pay attention to their own fellow lawmakers, which naturally they do not.  Congressional democrats are now imploring NASA to have their Earth monitoring satellites (the few left that Smith and his GOP colleagues haven’t ripped out of NASA’s budget) keep a wary eye on the poisonous algae blooms that have flourished exponentially in Lake Erie.

Algae blooms in Lake Eerie

Eerily familiar sight – NASA watches toxic algae flourish in Great Lake.

Big Ag pesticides and pollutants are routinely dumped into the waterways of the nation’s heartland, creating toxic algae year-round but which explodes during droughts and the stagnant summer months.  More than a year ago, 400,000 people in Toledo and southeastern Michigan had their drinking water imperiled because of the problem.  Among the senators asking for NASA’s help was (surprise!) a lone Republican, Senator Bob Portman of Ohio (the Ishi of moderate Republicans…).

NASA immediately put the Glenn Research Center in Cleveland on the job, and committed airborne equipment to more intensely monitor lake conditions.

Sorry.  No 24-hour earth monitoring geo-sats available, folks, not even to save our own asses.  Go ask Lamar Smith about it.

***********************************************************************

L e t  t h e  G a m e s  B e g i n !

space race water slide

Slippery slope -Perestroika gets sopping wet in new  aquatic “Space Race” attraction.

 

Polin Waterparks has come out with a brand new super-duper waterslide called “Space Race,” where folks can compete with each other in a twisty rush to reach the end on two entwining slides.  “Hey, I’ll be Russia, you be Amerika!  Last one to the Moon is about to have a revolution.”

Based in, of all places, Istanbul, Turkey, Polin Waterparks was established in 1975, a few decades before the world went insane.  The company has built 2,500 water park projects in 93 countries worldwide.  See if your nearby water land has this!

B e s t  of  A l l  W o r d s

No Man's Sky _GlattrecSystem_

Universe of possibilities – Gamers are waiting with bated breath for No Man’s Sky release.

Outer space seems to be a raging theme now in video games, and a lollapalooza is on the horizon.  Galactic Sandbox took a peek at the website for No Man’s Sky, a wondrous adventure where you are free to explore a deterministically-created universe that includes over 18 quintillion ( that’s 1.8×1019) planets, one that oddly seems to parallel Earth’s Triassic Period with uniquely ”evolved” flora and fauna. You can choose to laser shoot competing space vehicle companies’ hardware out of orbit, or even land on, explore, and name planets and their inhabitants after yourself. (Editor’s note: I wouldn’t cross paths with Woodsosaurus Rex if I were you).  The inventors say they are working feverishly to make it available to the public, but alas, no specific launch date is set.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

The Fountainheads

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+

October 5, 2015

By Kate Woods, Galactic Sandbox Writer-At-Large

T H E  F O U N T A I N H E A D S

“Experts” are weighing in on the newly discovered salt water on Mars, and the opinions vary astronomically (to be droll) – from touting inevitable microscopic life to claims of cover-ups (yes, the conspiracy truthers are dusting off their tin foil hats). Regardless of what may be found at the end of the Martian rainbow, NASA officials are more determined than ever to send a crew of humans to the Red Planet by the next decade.

JPL Mars water

Hope springs eternal: NASA finds evidence of water flowing on Mars. Size of the water streaks (above)  fluctuates throughout the Martian year.

In the meantime, scientists are spitballing whether the perchlorates (hydrated salts) originate from the near non-existent humidity in the Martian atmosphere or from underground aquifers.  NASA has long known that water was trapped in the perma-ice at the poles, but has never confirmed, until last week, that the salty frost appears in dark lines seasonally. Dr. Bob Zubrin, a long-time advocate of human exploration on Mars, is convinced the brine water bubbles up from aquifers. This, he believes, is quite possible since salt water has a much lower freezing point than fresh H2O, in addition to the fact that while Mars averages a frigid -70°F, the equator can warm up to +70°F during the Martian summer.  Pre-eminent Astrobiologist Chris McKay of NASA Ames in Mountain View, CA adds that the water, to be liquid, is so salty nothing could live in it.  “The short answer for habitability is it means nothing,” he told the New York Times.

But wait!  There’s more.  Natural News (whatever you do, do not confuse it with the highly-regarded science publication Nature) says NASA has always known about the running water on Mars and has been trying to cover up the existence of microscopic life on the Red Planet since 1976 when the Viking Lander “discovered it.”

limbaugh_mars by Salon

In space no one can hear you scream .. Rush Limbaugh proposes far-out Mars theories. Photo: Salon.

But the Tin Foil Hatter of the Week goes to:  Ta Da!  That bloated windbag, cigar-chomping, radio crackpot provocateur (drum roll …trumpet blat … rim shot!) Rush Limbaugh, who claims the Mars water discovery is an Obama plot to “advance the liberal agenda,” since he knows they are going to entwine it with global warming on Earth.  Furthermore, and mark his words, NASA is now devoted to “Muslim outreach” and also doing unwarranted publicity for Matt Damon’s new movie, “The Martian,” which proves the Administration’s ongoing nefarious conspiracy with the liberal elite Hollywood cabal.

Talk about all wet. Oh, the humanity.

LunarXPrize

Eyes on the XPrize: 21st Century tycoons look to the Moon as a springboard for space age industrialization.

R o c k e t f e l l e r s
The space enterprise battle of the billionaires heats up with a new development in the race for Google’s Lunar XPRIZE, a $30 million pot for the company to first set up shop on the Moon, with another $30 million more in awards between NASA and Google to get there.

Moon Express, founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, just jockeyed into the lead when the start-up recently signed a launch deal with Los Angeles-based Rocket Lab to deliver three robotic lunar crafts to our pockmarked satellite, starting as early as 2017. (The XPRIZE competition requires entrants’ commercial craft to land, travel 500 meters across the lunar surface and send high-definition images and video back to Earth.)

Ultimately, the company plans to blaze a trail toward mining rare minerals from the Moon, including gold, cobalt, iron, palladium, platinum, tungsten and Helium-3, a gas that can be used in future fusion reactors to provide nuclear power without radioactive waste.  The Moon’s regolith (a fancy way of saying “dirt”) is chock full of Helium-3.

spaceflight sat broker

Spaceflight’s orbiting satellite pez dispenser, SHERPA .

Katrillionaire tech entrepreneur Naveen Jain, co-founder of Moon Express, says that launch advances have enabled his outfit to blast off via Rocket Lab for a mere $5 million, whereas, he added, a launch on fellow katrillionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket costs $50 million a pop.  Play nice, boys.!

Don’t worry about Musk – he’s laughing all the way to the bank after penning a huge deal last week in the booming satellite launch market.  Seattle-based Spaceflight is the customer, and will be doling out $65 million for a launch in 2017.

Musk’s Falcon 9 rocket will be launching Spaceflight’s 20 satellites from both the U.S. and foreign nations, a mix of commercial and governmental hardware, from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

T r e a s u r e  I s l a n d s

asteroid mining

Miner 49er bot excavates asteroid.

But speaking of mining the Moon, I came across a buried news blurb this week about a bill in the Senate that could pass any day now.  It would allow private companies to actually own the space targets they want to mine, specifically the Moon and asteroids.

First, I realize it seems like the lousy punchline of a bad joke to say that Congress might pass anything soon.  And we all know that when they do pass some nitwit law, it never bodes well.  Such is the case for this new bright and greedy idea that blatantly violates U.N. space treaty laws. (It’s also disconcerting to see potentially like-minded notions popping up, for example, on Moon Express’ website that cheerfully describes our nearest celestial neighbor as the “Eighth Continent.” Sadly, it’s one small step for profit, one giant leap to profiteering.)

Those international laws, signed by the U.S., Russia and many other nations specifically state that no country can own a part of outer space, including planets or asteroids.  They belong to everyone.

Absconding with minerals from someone else’s mining claim (in this case, the properties in question belong to the entire human race, and that doesn’t even include the alien shareholders of other planets in the multiverse) is what we miners call “high-grading.”  And a highgrader is the lowest form of life to the seasoned tunnel king who respects another man’s mining claim.

Planetary Resources Arkyd-6 test vehicle

Planetary Sciences’ asteroid prospecting test vehicle, Arkyd-6, is slated for launch later this year.

When the Outer Space Treaty was made in the 1960s, the diplomats for some reason could not foresee a “company” trying to own mining rights – or a property deed – to any entities floating out there.  A company called Planetary Resources is already trying to stake property rights on asteroid and Moon plots they plan to strip for minerals.  The bill would also allow space-mining companies to sue other parties if the assumed competitors attempt to “cause harmful interference to space mining ventures.”  Here we go.

The bill has already passed the House and is expected to pass the Republican-heavy Senate this month.  The only hope for a free Universe is a veto from President Obama.

F l y  M e  P a s t  t h e  M o o n
Surely, commercial asteroid miners’ ears perked up when they heard about NASA’s decision this week to sink $15 million in five different plans to study nearby asteroids and the planet Venus.

Screen shot 2015-10-04 at 3.41.54 AM

Past economy-class NASA missions include the Kepler telescope launched in 2009 to seek Earth-like planets orbiting other star systems.

The agency has culled five out of 27 proposals in their 13th small-class Discovery planetary science competition.  Of the five selected, two will study Venus’ atmosphere and topography and three will inspect nearby asteroids.  Each of the proposal teams will receive $3 million in seed money to develop their plans over a year, until NASA whittles it down to “one or two” in 2016, says the agency.  A total of $500 million will be allotted to the winner, or winners, (excluding launch and post-launch costs) which for now consists of teams from NASA Goddard in Greenbelt, Maryland, and the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA.

Among the proposals not selected was an excellent bid to study the “jinxed moons” of Mars, the potato-shaped Phobos and Deimos asteroids.  Tin-foilers have been blaming the pair for failed missions — especially the many doomed Mars shots from Russia.  Another mission entrant wanted to venture into the Kuiper Belt, to the icy dirt chunks and asteroids beyond Pluto.

D a w n ’ s  T h i r d  L i g h t
NASA continues to generate regular updates about the many mysteries of Ceres, which is currently being eyeballed by the Dawn spacecraft as part of the Rosetta Mission.

Screen shot 2015-10-03 at 5.30.17 PM

False color topographical map of Ceres’ Occator crater complete with enigmatic lights.

Now the flustered space agency is describing those bright lights emanating from the Occator crater on the surface of the dwarf planet as “bursts of energetic electrons” … yeah, the same thing that comes from a flashlight or any other artificial light source.  But they’ll be damned if they call it what it exactly appears to be in simple terms.

Galactic Sandbox is not advocating the idea that aliens are Morse-coding us from Ceres with Hollywood opening-premiere lights.  But it would be refreshing if NASA included in its many varied conclusions of this phenomena that it could possibly be made by something other than ice refraction, salt dunes, atmospheric swamp gas, or the latest “run up the flagpole and let’s see who salutes it” pitch:  bursts of energetic electrons possibly caused by the reflection of the Sun.

Screen shot 2015-10-03 at 5.34.01 PM

Ceres’ 4-mile high conical “pyramid” mountain (right center).

Still, the Dawn probe continues to find interesting wonders, such as a 4-mile high pyramid-shaped mountain – also in the Occator crater.  Because of the pyramid’s “strange and spooky” location, brace yourself for an onslaught of shrill cover-up hypotheses coming from the tin foil truthers (or false flaggers).

AstroSat 2

India’s Hubble mini-me to lock it sights on our Milky Way Galaxy’s massive black hole.

P e e r   P r e s s u r e
India’s scrappy space agency ISRO has joined a handful of other nations as it gazes deeper into the cosmos.  Last week ISRO took great pride in launching its “mini-Hubble” space telescope, called AstroSat, from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota (southern India).  It’s main focus will be on the super-massive black hole in the center of our Milky Way, but it will also eyeball pulsars, distant stars and white dwarfs.

Though the AstroSat is ten times smaller than the Hubble, it’s a big deal since it is the first space telescope ever made and launched by a developing nation.  The U.S., Russia, and Japan are the other (developed) nations that have space scopes out there.

Old Faithful: NASA has confirmed that Saturn’s 6th largest moon, Enceladus, has a sub-ice crust ocean responsible for water geysers erupting from the satellite’s south pole.

S e a  B r e e z e
Here’s something we’ve all known for a while, but NASA decided to “announce” it last week:  Saturn’s moon Enceladus has an ocean beneath its frozen crust!

Duh.

Yet we can give credit to NASA and perhaps more fittingly, the marvelous Cassini spacecraft, for making it official.  The planetary scientists knew there was water there, but thought it was a regional sea.  It turns out to be an entire ocean on Enceladus, responsible for geysers erupting on the moon’s south pole.

 

S u s p i c i o u s  M i n d

Elvis on Mars

The Martian King – Elvis lives!

And now for the big finale this week.  I hate to do this to you, but it’s finally happened:  Elvis has been spotted on Mars, and yes, by the Curiosity rover.  We knew it was just a matter of time before famed tin foil hatter, Scott C. Waring (our much respected peer and publisher of the online UFO Sightings Daily), spotted the long dead warbler, not just in a black sequined jumpsuit suit but again in the sparkly signature white polyester affair for which he is so well-known.

The brutal irony of it all is that Waring did not even realize it was Elvis!  He merely reported it as the TENTH “humanoid figure” he caught from Curiosity’s cameras (he must have a 24-7 live stream from a Curiosity-cam, constantly humming along in his basement office), indeed the tenth that he has reported to NASA.

And yet, NASA has ignored him, time and time again.  Can you imagine?

I’m all shook up

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+