Juno at Jupiter: Water and Life

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screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-10-45-42-amJuly 4, 2016
(Editor’s note: Below is a special 4th of July guest editorial by geologist Kemp Woods, who has been studying the nature of Jupiter’s atmosphere for over four decades. As a nod to today’s arrival of NASA’s Juno craft at the giant orb, as well as a salute to the upcoming summer Olympics, we present Mr. Kemp’s observations regarding the potential of finding water and some form of life on our Solar System’s “planet on steroids.” — Agnett Bonwit)

Juno at Jupiter: Water and Life

NASA’s Juno orbiter will reach Jupiter today, sliding into a polar orbit as it gets poised to collect data on the “gas giant’s” atmosphere, composition, layering, and much more.  The craft is expected to provide insights into the top 400 miles of the giant planet’s upper-most “cloud” band, including the nature and localities of Jovian water. These surveys and their results should be quite exciting.

NASA’s Juno craft will use a microwave sensor to detect the presence of water as it orbits 2,600 miles above Jupiter.

Which brings me to writing this brief essay concerning the existence of water and life on this “gas giant.”  Actually, to call Jupiter a “gas giant”  seems a bit inaccurate, considering we really don’t know what hides beneath those intricate, colorful, and magnificent clouds. Yet to this day I never hear of water nor life being possible on old Jove –scientists think it’s only the moons that may have these!  I must object for the following reasons:


Photo of Jupiter and its four biggest moons taken by the Juno spacecraft on June 21st at a distance of 6.8 million miles from the Jovian system.

#1: If any planet pulls in water Jupiter must be drenched with it. The comets, asteroids, and moonlets that have been sucked into the massive planet over billions of years would supply plenty.

#2: Jupiter’s  lightning storms are monumental and make Earth’s storms appear puny. Water, in copious amounts, accounts for this.  
#3: The Shoemaker-Levy comet, which split into dozens of impacting pieces, dredged up huge plumes of water. 
 #4: With all this water that has been trapped below the visible surface, you might wonder where it lies within Jupiter’s cross-section. For over forty years I’ve seen in the scientific literature findings of liquid hydrogen and helium layers, electric hydrogen and helium, a core, but no vast oceans of water. So where does the water go? Turn into steam? I think not. And what about the oxygen in water? Oh yeah, no mention of that either!!!

Juno’s Microwave Radiometer instrument will study the structure, movement, and chemical composition of Jupiter’s cloud cover to a depth of about 550 km, and will help determine the abundance of water and ammonia in the Jovian atmosphere.

#5: Jupiter’s great bands–these indicate a world-wide ocean having floating masses, such as ice, pumice, etc.

#6: Pressure/ Temperature graphs cannot show the state’s(gas, liquid, solid, plasma) of the complex chemicals found here. 

These are but a few reasons to expect oceans of liquid water on this beautiful  planet.  Consequently, with water comes the inevitable chance of life.  Here’s what I believe:

Jupiter’s upper atmosphere as seen by the Galileo probe, October 4, 1995

#1: Since Jupiter is the largest planet, it’s hard to imagine it not having life of at least microbial size. (I dare say macrobial life.) While scientists often go on about life to be found in the acidic, cooler, parts of Venus’ atmosphere–Jovian lifeforms are a better bet.   

#2: The colors and complex interactions of Jovian clouds surely look like the forces of life at work.
#3: Jupiter’s immense radiation belts would secure a safe environment for life.
#4:  Jupiter is a heat emitter–there’s bound to be a wide zone for life to thrive.
 #5:  Life is found abounding on Earth, even in extreme environments. 
 Ok. I’ve said enough for now–Juno will be relaying it’s results for many months to come.  We watch for now.
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On Thin Ice

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November 28, 2016

By Kate Woods, Galactic Sandbox Writer-At-Large
and Agnett Bonwit, Managing Editor

W i n t e r  B l u n d e r l a n d

crew-on-thin-iceHere’s something that turns my blood ice-cold with terror: Temperatures in the Arctic have soared 36 degrees above normal this fall, according to the Danish Meteorological Institute, and the global warming heatwave has thrown a massive monkey wrench into the region’s food chain (that is, wscreen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-54-12-amhat’s left of the Earth’s once icy northern expanse).

Meanwhile, Trump’s smug new science adviser and “head of NASA transition team,” Robert Walker, is gleefully telling space agency climate scientists that they are about to lose their jobs.  Global warming is “too politicized,” he says.

Gee, really?  But not by people like you, ya think, Bob??

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-57-51-amOh, Walker added a bright fake cherry to that crap-on-a-stick:  Incredulously, he blurted that HALF of the climatologists in the world doubt whether humans have caused any of the current global warming.  (To echo our unpopular president-elect’s most cerebral debate thought — WRONG. It’s more like one percent, Bob.)  Trump’s designated dope-on-a-rope then added that NASA has wasted time and research on Earth science monitoring when the agency should have been doing nothing but deep space missions.  (I screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-11-04-59-amguess the august space “guru” has failed to reach geek nirvana, and is blissfully unaware of the gaggle of NASA missions buzzing around the solar system, including the Pluto-exploring New Horizons spacecraft that’s now on its way to the Kuiper Belt some 18 billion miles away, as well as a handful of Mars rovers and orbiters, Cassini, Juno, and Dawn spacecraft, just to name a few.)

But let’s see what a real climatologist has to say about Bob’s twaddle.

“NASA undertakes Earth observation for three reasons,” said Professor Martin Siegert, glaciologist and Co-Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London.  “First, Earth observation requires the use of satellites and screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-11-10-25-amspace technology; second, the development of this technology can be refined for use in deeper space missions; and thirdly, Earth provides important analogues for other solar system bodies, and so their investigation is vital to our comprehension of processes elsewhere. Taking Earth Science away from NASA would thus be seriously detrimental to its function in deep space exploration.”

Sigh …

If only the President-Partially Elect were that thoughtful.  If only his appointed “science” advisers were!

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-57-35-amMeanwhile, as warm-water algae blooms take over the food chain at a time of year when there should be almost none, Trump and his groveling clumps are just going by the latest memo:  “Make it up as you go.  Hey, they can’t question a sort of soon-to-be president!  If you get stumped for numbers, lie and deny – and then tweet your useless twat.”

Like I have said, a lunar outpost sounds like home-sweet-home at this point.
♫ Thank You, Republicans! ♪   –  Kate Woods, Writer-At-Large


G o i n g  f o r  t h e  B r a s s  R i n g

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-38-48-amThe Saturn-inspecting Cassini spacecraft is entering its penultimate mission which entails flying high above and below Saturn’s poles in 20 “ring-grazing” orbits.  Launched in 1997, Cassini has been touring the Saturn system since arriving there in 2004, and has made several groundbreaking discoveries, including a global ocean within Saturn’s moon Enceladus and liquid methane seas on Titan.  In its screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-40-16-amsecond-to-last mission, Cassini will get a  gravitational assist from Titan and then slingshot back towards mother sphere Saturn where it will make 20 passes skimming past the outer edges of the rings. During these passes Cassini will sample ring particles and molecules of faint gases that are found close to the rings.
Cassini will fly its grand finale in April 2017, when it will plunge in and out of the space between the planet and its rings before nosediving into Saturn’s atmosphere on September 15, 2017.  Another “Deep Space” accomplishment for NASA!

M i s s i o n  I m p r o b a b l e

em-driveA rocket thrusting device that defies the laws of physics (as we know them….), and invented by NASA brains, has just passed its biggest hurdle from critics.  The “EM propulsion system” sailed through a peer review from like-minded scientists, and all of them – including the NASA aerodynamicists who seemingly by chance came up with the propulsion gizmo that could possibly take us to the stars– are at a loss to explain how the system works.

The EM drive consist of an asymmetrical cavity where microwaves bounce around with no where to go, and as Forbes writer Brian Koberlein describes it,

Since the microwaves are trapped inside the cavity, there is no propellant or emitted electromagnetic radiation to push the device in a particular direction, standard physics says there should be no thrust on the device. And yet, for reasons even the researchers can’t explain, the EM Drive does appear to experience thrust when activated.

Koberlien explains that the experimental methodology outlined in the peer-reviewed paper has the device tested in a near vacuum (as would be experienced in space), thus eliminating the possibility that the EM only works because it warms the surrounding air in Earth’s atmosphere, which results in a small amount of screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-47-39-amthrust.  Researchers found that the current version of the machine can pack a 1.2 +/- 0.1 millinewtons per kilowatt punch in a vacuum, which compared with the 60 millinewtons per kilowatt produced by fuel-fed ion drives, is rather weeny, however the EM system would run on electric power generated by solar panels, and future, more efficient drives would eventually match the power of ion rockets. How about that?  This means there is virtual hope for all science-minded beings to get off the planet faster than expected!  Way to go, NASA!  Let’s hope the Incoming Man-child-In-Chief doesn’t slash it.

E v e r y t h i n g  U n d e r  t h e  S u n


Sun, as taken from “NASA satellite.”

We wouldn’t normally report on a thing like this, however, since a number of news publications other than “The Inquisitor” reported on it, and since outer space news on Thanksgiving Weekend is apparently nonexistent, the staff of Galactic Sandbox figured it had to hand out yet another Tin Foil Hatter of the Week award.  This time it goes to The Daily Mirror of Great Britain for giving credence to an optical illusion.  Hip, Hip, Hooray!  The story was utterly devoid of any facts, of course, and moronically reported that a NASA craft that studies the Sun (no, it did not even name the craft/mission) “accidentally” got a shot of a mystery object traversing the Sun’s surface.  We wish we were making this up, but we ain’t.

screen-shot-2016-11-27-at-10-16-14-amWhile we’re at it, another tidbit on top of the trash heap is a YouTube video that is most likely an optical illusion but is being interpreted by the click bait “UFO experts” as a fleet of alien spacecraft taking off from our Moon. Not surprisingly, extraterrestrial sleuthing hack Scot Warring of UFOSightingsDaily proclaimed that “these objects are a form of protection from future Apollo missions landing on the moon. It may be owned by a species that’s not so friendly about sharing.”


Editor’s Note: Galactic Sandbox expresses its many thanks to Hilde for helping keep the lights on!

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Grave New World

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November 21, 2016

By Kate Woods, Galactic Sandbox Writer-At-Large
and Agnett Bonwit, Managing Editor

H o t  H e a d s

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-10-23-23-amNow that practically every scientist in the world knows that a newly-ensconced Trump Nation means no federal funding for global warming research (even cosmologists whose eyes are stuck on telescopes, their heads marinating in quantum physics, have finally awakened to the smell of burning landscapes), we are at last seeing a bit of push-back against the upcoming onslaught of anti-science threats coming from the landed hard right.

As always, it is too little, too late.


NASA Earth science missions in danger of being dropped.

Recently, NASA officials piped up against the reactionary purge.  At a press conference last week, NASA’s associate administrator for science Thomas Zurbuchen said, “Earth science helps save lives. It also helps grow companies and creates an awareness of environmental challenges that affect our lives today and tomorrow.”

Unfortunately, the tardy balking is akin to urinating in the wind at this point.  Trump “science adviser” and – surprise! – Washington lobbyist Robert Walker poured salt in the wound by holding his own presser, and said, “[Trump wants] to redirect NASA budgets towards deep space achievements rather than Earth-centric climate change spending.”


Solar System family portrait.

There’s no misreading these tea leaves.  It is clear that the Trump gang still does not understand (or for mercenary or other corrupt motives chooses not to understand) that Earth is a planet too, much like Mars and Jupiter.  In fact, someone, anyone, should let them know that Earth resides in the same solar system as those planets.


Filling the swamp: The “brains” behind Trump’s space policy is also the chair of the influential lobbying firm, Wexler & Walker.

But alas, it looks like in the last seconds of the fourth quarter, we have fumbled the ball to Team Trump (thank you Electoral College) that will attempt to stack the deck even higher against humanity’s survival.  In fact, by now, NASA head and former astronaut Charlie Bolden realizes that Trump is considering replacing him with an anti-science moron Oklahoman Congressman Jim Bridenstine (R-Bedlam).  And what’s more, Trump’s space guru Walker has threatened that the real estate grifter wants Earth science studies to be eliminated from NASA, and for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency to take over those “weather monitoring tasks.” This echos what his Orange Headness said during a rally in Florida during a more hopeful time a month ago when he declared that “I will free NASA from the restriction of serving primarily as a logistics agency for low-Earth orbit activity,”


According to a BuzzFeed report, North Pole ice levels are “freakishly low,” with scientists reporting frozen water amounts 28% below the Arctic Sea medium between 1981 and 2010 (see orange outline above), with temperatures as much as 36 degrees F. above normal.

Ultimately, political rhetoric or maneuvering is meaningless when one is confronted with Mother Nature.  Dr. Gavin Schmidt, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, gave the world a wake-up call when he “tweeted” out last week, “Planetary warming does not care about the election.”  That’s slapping it on the snout.  Schmidt explains – or at least tries to enlighten idiots such as Trump’s yes-men – that large parts of the Arctic super-heated in October, as much as 15.6 6°F (8.7°C) above the 1951–1980 mean temperature.  Scientists like Schmidt have been telling us for years that unless we act, our world will become a horrid hot house.  Even in his 2015 “Climate Central” study, Schmidt said there is “a vast and growing body of research,” indicating that “humanity is about to experience an historically unprecedented spike in temperatures.

What a wet blanket that guy is! Such negative stuff.  Sheeeeesh!  Let’s ignore these buzz-kills and simply “Make America Great Again.”  How’s that for putridity?

Sadly, this is the Brave New World. –  Kate Woods, Writer-At-Large


F u l l  S t e a m  A h e a d

worse-than-expectedAs we (Galactic Sandbox) predicted, Earth scientists are copping to the fact that they “low-balled” the acceleration rate of rising temperatures on Earth, and are now blowing their whistles that it is most likely too late for humans to “undo” the damage their out-gassing has done to the planet’s atmosphere.  According to Science Alert.com, climatologists from the U.S. and Germany have laboriously analyzed Earth’s temperatures for the last 784,000 years (using core drilling at the poles and from ocean depths), and have concluded that it may be too late to avoid a temperature rise of 13.25 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels by 2100.  (Previously, researchers estimated a rise of 8.6 degrees rise in Fahrenheit by 2100.)  As long as “Drill Baby, Drill” Republican climate-denying lawgivers are deciding which research gets funded or not, we will continue to get fed a picture that is purposely painted with roses and lollipops when it comes to how lovely fossil fuel energy is.

E l i m i n a t i o n   R o u n d

spacepoopIn keeping with the inanity of the world this week, we wanted our readers to know about this withering but world-shattering news flash:  NASA is throwing a contest to come up with a better feces disposal system for spacesuits.  We wish we were yanking your chain, but we aren’t. NASA is actually calling it the “Space Poop Challenge,” and there is $30,000 up for grabs for the winning inventor who comes up with a “fecal, urine and menstrual management system for spacesuits, that would work for up to six days.”  As it is now, astronauts have to wear diapers in their spacesuits whenever they are launching, landing or spacewalking.  The diapers are only good for a few hours, and once they are “soiled,” they have to remain on the derriere of the wearer until whatever task at hand is finished– and that can cause great discomfort, not to mention a bad case of diaper rash.  The submission deadline for the Space Poop Challenge is Dec. 20, and winners will be announced Jan. 31, 2017. You can see all the guidelines and rules on this website.

S l u s h  F u n


Pluto’s 1,000 kilometer-wide, nitrogen-covered Sputnik Planitia basin is located in the dwarf planet’s Heart-shaped northern region.

Pluto most likely has an icy ocean, scientists have declared in a new study published in Nature.  They believe it exists in a basin called Sputnik Planitia, which could be covered with a sheet of frozen nitrogen anywhere from two to six miles thick.  Sputnik Planitia is “a big, elliptical hole in the ground, so the extra weight must be hiding somewhere beneath the surface. And an ocean is a natural way to get that,” said Francis Nimmo, the study’s first author and a professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz.  Nimmo and his coauthor, professor Richard Binzel of MIT, deduced the existence of the ocean on the dwarf planet by calculating the way Pluto’s biggest moon, Charon, lines up to its mother sphere, producing a “gravitational anomaly.”

F a s t  a n d  C u r i o u s


Sun’s interaction with Earth’s magnetosphere.

Brainiacs at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center say they are mystified at finding electrons just outside the Earth’s magnetosphere that are zipping along near the speed of light.  The perplexed physicists cannot account for this type of acceleration so far outside the magnetosphere, and insist such a scenario should not exist.  “This is a puzzling case because we’re seeing energetic electrons where we don’t think they should be, and no model fits them,” says one of the researchers, David Sibeck. “There is a gap in our knowledge, something basic is missing,” he added. The discovery came out of the agency’s 2-year THEMIS mission, which consists of five orbiting probes that study the Earth’s violent and colorful auroras. The original THEMIS mission goal was to find out what triggers geomagnetic storms that can wreck havoc on Earthlings’ communications, but now it has opened a can of deeper quantum questions.

R a c e  A g a i n s t  T i m e

stephen-hawking-space-travelSince the U.S. is plunging into full-throttle plutocracy, and now that the new Republican powers that be will soon be gleefully dumping any climate change efforts that this nation has undertaken, some scientists are musing the dire prediction that famed physicist Stephen Hawking imparted to the world a few years ago:  Specifically, Hawking gives the human species, at best, only 1,000 years more on this planet before we screw ourselves out of a seat at the dinner table and go extinct.  We here at Galactic Sandbox think that Hawking is being generous, whereas others think not.

extinctionHawking cites a plethora of dangers that could bite humankind on the backside, including global warming, nuclear holocaust, even genetically engineered viruses – how about Frankenfood? – that could help bring homo sapiens down.  As 50 percent of Earth’s wildlife species have gone extinct in the past 50 years, some scientists believe we are in the midst of a sixth great extinction.  Hawking says the only way humans can survive is to colonize other worlds, and if we don’t develop the space travel technology to do it, then we can forget it.

However, before you buy your one-way ticket to anywhere-but-here, John Sterman, director of the MIT Sloan Sustainability Initiative, believes Hawkings premise may be too pessimistic.  Sterman opines that humanity has a choice, and while it might get dicey and “uncomfortable,” the species could do the right thing if it changes its greedy ways now.  screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-9-38-12-amWhile we applaud any constructive optimism, we fear that our planet is perilously close to having no time left (let alone a 1,000 years),  as illustrated by the eco think-tank Global Footprint Network, which estimates that humanity uses up the resources of 1.5 Earths every year at this point, which at a minimum sounds like we will gobble ourselves up in less than a millennia.

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November 14, 2016

By Kate Woods, Galactic Sandbox Writer-At-Large
and Agnett Bonwit, Managing Editor

T h e  G r e a t  W h i t e  D o p e s

earth-moon-trumpWoo-boy!  Was I ever wrong about Trump losing in a landslide.  But he did lose, so far, by almost 2 million votes.  What’s that you say?  He won the Electoral College vote?  So he is our next President??

That’s right.  Hillary Clinton won the popular vote:  As of last Friday, Clinton has a 1.7 percentage point popular vote lead over Trump. or roughly a 1.8 million tally edge with 7 screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-9-28-08-ammillion ballots left to be counted, all of which are from Democratic strongholds including California, Washington state, and New York.  But of the 538 Electoral College votes, Trump received 290 to Clinton’s 228 with  20 electoral votes up in the air since Michigan and New Hampshire are still too close to call (at least according to AP).  Am I the only person on Earth right now who is wondering why in hell we still have an Electoral College – an archaic piece of paranoid bureaucracy – the current iteration of which was invented by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison in the early 1800’s?

trump-and-little-nasaAnd what does a Trump Administration mean for NASA and all outer space endeavors?  While Galactic Sandbox has been trying to determine the answer to that in this column for the past few months, other news outlets are just now freaking out about it.  It seems that besides ripping 12 million people from their families and deporting them, aside from taking away the healthcare that folks working on minimum wage finally got, Trump’s space policy will end the Earth Science division at NASA.  Trump’s “space adviser” Robert S. Walker says climate change studies and weather forecasting are best left to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and that NASA will now have to focus purely on space exploration (Mars and the Moon, mainly).

On top of that, Trump’s science team has no plans to amend NOAA’s budget to pick up that slack.  I guess Trump and his gang of brainiacs don’t realize that NOAA’s expertise is in analyzing data from sats, not launching them.  It’s not too surprising: consider the fact that Walker is the former chairman of the House Science Committee – and we all know how bright those congressional science screen-shot-2016-11-13-at-9-33-59-amcommittee members are.  Not!

As we also reported, Trump has threatened to pull out of the globally agreed upon Paris Climate Accord aimed at reduce greenhouse emissions worldwide.  He also has vowed – and reiterated this week – to abolish the EPA.  And when that happens, the Trump White House better surround itself with anti-missile launchers and tanks because the environmental community will make Greenpeace whaler-ship blocking and environmental sabotage look like a game of tiddlywinks.


Untruther: Myron Ebell to head EPA transition.

But in the interim, before he scraps the EPA, Trump has already appointed a notorious Washington DC figure and climate change denier named Myron Ebell to head up the agency’s transition team.  Ebell seriously believes climate change is a notion brewed up by liberals to make government bigger.  He is also the head cheerleader rallying to open national parks and federal lands to logging, drilling, mining and fracking.  Apparently, they want to gut and hollow out the agency before scrapping it entirely.  Oh here’s a good one:  mainstream news just announced Sarah “Kill all Animals” Palin as a top contender for Secretary of the Interior, the agency that oversees national parks and federal land.

In other words, we are screwed.  There is no putting lipstick on this pig.  And I seriously doubt Trump is going to be kind to NASA either.  Even if he were to teach NOAA scientists how to build and launch sat-carrying rockets, his ignorance on anything to do with basic science precludes his ability to make any decent decisions about these agencies, our environment or our future. – Kate Woods, Writer-At-Large

S u p e r  S w o o n


Almost Supermoon, November 13, 2016. Agnett Bonwitt.

On Monday morning, in the wee hours of November 14, Moon-fans can catch their muse at its best with what is called the “supermoon,” which happens only once every 68 years.  It’s the closest full Moon of the year, but lunar experts are saying that this one is particularly extraordinary.  “This one is historically close,” said NASA scientist Noah Petro. “The moon hasn’t been this close to the Earth since January of 1948.” The “lunatics” add that this supermoon will be 14 percent bigger and 30 times brighter than the when the Moon is at its most distant, or “smallest.”

For you early birds, our nearest neighbor will be closest to Earth at 6:22 am EST, but will its fullest at 8:52 am EST, however this will not be visible to most of the country since this will be after Moonset.  The next time the Moon will be this close to Earth will be in November of 2034, Petro said.

Thanks to xkcd – Randall Munroe.

T r u m p ‘ s  L a t e s t  D u m p

bridenstineSpace News and other media blabbers are saying that Donald Trump, the literally unpopular president-elect (remember: he did not win the majority of votes in this nation), is considering as a replacement for NASA chief and former astronaut Charlie Bolden.  Ready?  It is….(drum roll)… Ta Da!!  Introducing that love-able idiot from Oklahoma, Republican Congressman Jim Bridenstine!  His qualifications?  None, of course!  Oh, except he is a Tea-bagger darling.  Bridenstine swore he would never serve more than three terms, but now that he’s about to enter his third go-around, he apparently loves the free money for not working, and the free everything he gets as a Big Cheese Congressman.  He originally backed climate change denouncer Texan Ted Cruz (R-Hell) for President, but bailed out the moment it seemed Cruz might lose to the sexual predator-in-chief from New York who stiffed 3,600 small contractor companies.  So it looks like Bridenstine may likely be the guy heading our nation’s space programs.  I know.  Remember, this too shall pass.

E i g h t  W a y s  t o  S u n d a y

cygnss-logoAnd speaking of the importance of Earth science….. In less than a month, an octet of small satellites (each about the size of a suitcase) will enable scientists to forecast the evolution of hurricanes over oceans.  NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) will be launched Dec. 12 and  once in operation, the eight sats will give precise updates on cyclones and hurricanes every 90 minutes instead of reporting every few days, as current single weather satellites do now.  The new mini-sats are far advanced from their predecessors and will be able to measure the roughness of the ocean and wind speeds above the seas.  Plus, the entire system cost only $169 million to build, launch and run.

F o i l e d  A g a i n

ufo-follows-trumpWe thought it would be especially appropriate to end this week’s edition with a Tin Foil Hatter of the Week award, and at first glance it should go to itechpost.com for regurgitating that old story about a UFO following Donald Trump’s helicopter at the Iowa State Fair when the Chiseler-Elect was campaigning last summer.  According to the UK’s Express “newspaper,” the witness snapped a photo of the tailing UFO as Trump allowed kids to ride on his private chopper.  The witness reported the sighting to the Mutual UFO Network, and MUFON is still analyzing the fuzzy picture.  The photo is as amorphous as any of Trump’s flip-flopping policies.  MUFON spokeman Roger Marsh said: “The object could be any number of things from a second helicopter to a bird.”  Indeed.


Jack Ohman, The Sacramento Bee.

While this is worthy of a raised eyebrow or two, we instead are bestowing our coveted Tin Foil Hatter of the Week award to something that genuinely chills us to the bone: to the Trumpster himself for his threat to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, his plan to allow climate-denier Myron Ebell to mess with what he hopes will be the soon-to-be-abolished EPA, and his gung-ho intentions to ban all environmental restrictions currently “straight-jacketing” oil and fracking corporations.  All hail to the Groper-Elect!

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Do Not Feed the Ego Monster

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November 7, 2016

By Kate Woods, Galactic Sandbox Writer-At-Large
and Agnett Bonwit, Managing Editor

M a n  i n  t h e  M i r r o r

james-webb-space-telescopeAfter 20 years of arduous development,  the stupendous cutting-edge James Webb Space Telescope (JWT) is complete and on schedule for launch in 2018. And as the 2016 presidential election comes to an inglorious photo-finish pile-up tomorrow, we at Galactic Sandbox are crossing our fingers and toes, hoping that the next presidential administration will have the vision to allow this engineering marvel to widen the window of the cosmos for humankind.

Well, let’s be more specific …

While Donald Trump has not specifically mentioned the JWT in any of his pea-brained “space policy” statements during the past 18 months, if he were to become president, we would be certain no one would hear about the project ever again because it would be quietly cancelled and dismantled, with its 18 gold-plated mirrors installed in the screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-3-02-17-pmOval Office so the Pompadour-In-Chief can keep track of his tiny hands. (Trump did unveil a last-minute “space treatise” in what is most likely a cynical attempt to draw in swing state Florida voters)

In fact, we doubt that Trump even knows what a space telescope is or what it’s used for.  But praise be to The Great Flying Spaghetti Monster, if all goes well, this should be the last week any of us have to listen to any more toxic hyperbole or insanity coming from the mouth of whom we will charitably call a human being.

Now back to the good stuff.

james-webb-mirrorConsidered the successor to the Hubble Telescope, the JWT is the largest space scope ever built, sporting 18 massive gold-coated mirrors – a collection area five times bigger than the Hubble’s (check out 10 fab things about James Webb scope). And unlike Hubble, it will collect infrared light, which will enable it to cut through obscuring cosmic dust to see the first stars and galaxies ever born in this universe.  It also will be able to analyze the atmospheres of exoplanets, helping in the search for life outside of Earth.

The JWT is slated to launch on an Ariane 5 rocket in October of 2018, and has cost $8.7 billion, a price well worth the wonders it will bring to light after it is placed at what’s called the Second LaGrange Point (or L2) – a million miles away from Earth, but still orbiting the Sun.

screen-shot-2016-11-07-at-3-12-08-pmOn Tuesday, after Hillary Clinton beats the unholy crap out of anti-science Trump (we hope), I know all of us here at the Galactic Sandbox will be breathing a sigh of relief… not just for the sake of our ears but for the sake of Big Science.  So if you haven’t voted by the time you read this, do so, and while we can’t tell you how to vote, ask yourself what kind of legacy you want to leave for future generations – a humanity with an ever-expanding universe at its gaze or a scorched, barren flat Earth?  Happy Election Week!

–  Kate Woods, Writer-at-Large and Agnett Bonwit, Managing Editor

Starshade – Thanks to xkcd, Randall Munroe.


Y e a r  o f  t h e  P i g

screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-9-25-09-pmIn a rare moment of candor, top Chinese officials last week criticized Donald Trump’s threat that if elected president, he would “cancel” the United States’ role in the Paris Climate Agreement. “If Trump were to insist on doing things his own way, then he would pay a heavy price both politically and diplomatically,” said Zou Ji, deputy directory of the National Center for Climate Change Strategy, reports Reuters. “The U.S. would suffer the greatest harm and of course, the rest of the world would also be implicated.” he added as part of his comments made on Friday. Earlier last week, Xie Zhenhua, head of the State Environmental Protection Administration and China’s lead negotiator for the U.N. climate change conferences, also lectured the Republican presidential nominee saying that leaders “need to be in line with screen-shot-2016-11-04-at-9-28-27-pmglobal development trends,” and that a “country’s progress would be affected as a result,” As Galactic Sandbox readers know,  Trump wants to topple the apple cart of the meager progress made toward reversing climate change while Hilary Clinton promises to uphold our end of the Paris Agreement, and plans to bypass global-warming tin foil hat deniers in Congress to create new anti-climate change legislation. Fortunately, in the colossally embarrassing event Trump is elected, it would be difficult for him to back out since accord signatories had taken into consideration the U.S. political system and its built-in change of leadership when negotiating the deal. Also, the difficulty for a Trump president to disentangle the U.S. from the agreement has been additionally compounded since the historic Paris accord officially became international law on Friday.

H o m e  o f  t h e  G r a v e

In case you still have doubts about about a Clinton or Trump presidency, the pioneering environmental group Sierra Club recently released a new report stating that if elected president, Donald Trump would be the lone world leader who rejects the science of climate changescreen-shot-2016-11-05-at-1-09-37-am and that fossil fuel consumption is the primary cause. The finding puts an exclamation mark on most green organizations’ contention that Trump and the U.S. Republican Party stand as solitary luddites in the world on their shameful denial regarding global warming. “World leaders change, but Donald Trump’s total ignorance of science remains the same. Electing a climate science conspiracy theorist such as Trump would make America a global laughingstock and embarrassment, all while relinquishing our leadership role in the world, said Sierra Club’s national political director Khalid PItts, according to The Hill. “The ice caps don’t negotiate, and neither do rising seas,” he noted, adding that “Donald Trump’s moral failure to acknowledge the climate crisis might very well mean planetary disaster if he is elected.”

A d d i n g  F u e l  t o  t h e  F i r e

A NASA advisory committee has issued an additional stern warning to Elon Musk’s commercial Space X venture over its proposed unorthodox method of fueling future crewed rockets, reports the Wall Street Journal. Last Dscreen-shot-2016-11-05-at-6-35-59-pmecember, the space agency’s blue ribbon nixed Space X’s plan to pump rocket fuel with astronauts already strapped atop of the company’s space taxi –  a practice that goes against decades of international space launch policy. Obviously still concerned in light of last September’s spectacular unmanned Space X rocket explosion that occurred during a routine fueling exercise, the committee last week reiterated its disapproval of the enterprise’s novel approach of using a supercooled powerful propellant that requires to be burned within a half hour of being dispensed. So far, the only response by Space X is that the firm “has designed a reliable fueling and launch process that minimized the duration and number of personnel exposed to the hazards of launching a rocket,” according to a company spokesman.

In a related development, Space X CEO Musk in a CNBC interview Saturday said he believes his firm has solved the riddle of the September 1 Falcon 9 blast, explaining that it was the “toughest puzzle” they ever had to solve. “It basically involves liquid helium, advanced carbon fiber composites, and solid oxygen … so cold that it actually enters [a] solid phase.” Musk is confident that launch activities will be able to resume next month.

E g g s t r a t e r r e s t r i a l

screen-shot-2016-11-05-at-8-53-11-amNASA’s hyper-industrious Curiosity Mars rover has located and examined with laser precision a golf-ball-sized object on the Red Planet that it has identified as an iron-nickel meteorite. While such objects are a common class of space rocks found on Earth and Mars, this particular sample, dubbed “Egg Rock” for its odd ovate appearance, is the first time a rover has used a laser-firing spectrometer to test such metallic orbs. And predictably, this is not the first time UFO “experts” are claiming that the “egg” is proof of life outside our own planet. While we couldn’t find exact links, there are various news reports citing head spinning ET devotees waiting for the egg to “hatch” and New Agers proclaiming the discovery may signal an “imminent ascension.”  (whatever that means) Tin foil hats all around!

B a c k  i n  t h e  S a d d l e


Image of the sunlit part of Jupiter and its stormy atmosphere was recently compiled by “citizen scientist” Alex Mai using data from Juno’s JunoCam. Raw Juno images can be found here.

NASA’s state-of-the-art Jupiter probe is now out of safe mode, and has successfully completed a maneuver that will take it to its next close flyby of the Gas Giant. According to the space agency, mission controllers are still investigating the cause of a system “reboot” that put the craft in temporary hibernation on October 18th. Scientists are crossing their fingers for the next science swing-by slated for December 11, when a gaggle of instruments including the JunoCam imager, will be collecting data.

S e r v i n g  U p  H u m a n k i n d

still-hawkings-docDon’t be so eager to contact ET.  That’s what celebrated physicist Stephen Hawking reiterates in his  new half-hour documentary, called “Stephen Hawkings’ Favorite Places.”

The black hole guru warns humanity that aliens could be up to no good once they arrive at Earth, saying they could end up being “rapacious marauders” out to colonize and rape the resources of planets.  In this new project (and with the help of special effects), Hawking whips around in an imaginary spacecraft to witness the Big Bang, the hawkings-cosmossupermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy, Saturn and its moons, and a potentially habitable planet scientists discovered called Gliese 832c.  Hawking says that someday we might receive a signal from Gliese 832c.  “But we should be wary of answering back,” he says.  “Meeting an advanced civilization could be like Native Americans encountering Columbus. That didn’t turn out so well.”  No.  It sure didn’t.

O f  N o t e  T h i s  C o m i n g  W e e k

  • Largest Supermoon in 70 years on the evening of November 13-14
  • National Geographic Mars mini series premiers tonight, November 7.
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