The final week of my annual February birthday month fund-raising campaign for Behind the Black has begun. I continue to be overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, including numerous donations and a surge of new subscribers willing to commit to donating anywhere from $2 to $25 per month. Wow! The numbers are too many to send out individual thank you’s, so please forgive me for thanking you all with this one announcement.


The campaign however must go on, especially because I have added more regular features to my daily workload. In addition to my daily never-ending reporting on space exploration and science, my regular launch reports, my monthly sunspot updates, the regular cool images, and the evening pauses I post each evening, I have now added a daily weekday post I have entitled "Today's blacklisted American." Its goal is not to discuss policy or politics, but to note the endless examples occurring across the United States where some jack-booted thug or thugs think it is proper and acceptable to censor, blackball, cancel, and destroy an innocent American, merely because that American has expressed or holds an opinion or is of a race or religion that is no longer considered acceptable to the dominant leftist and bigoted culture. I want to make clear to every American that a large number of your fellow citizens no longer believe in the enlightened concept of freedom of speech or the idea of treating each person by the quality of their character.


Instead, they wish to shut you up, and oppress you if you happen to disagree with them or have the wrong skin color. This evil must be exposed.


To continue to do this into the foreseeable future however I need your support. If you are one of those millions who read Behind the Black each month, please consider donating or subscribing. Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

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Data from Voyager 2 suggests it is entering interstellar space

New data since August from Voyager 2 now suggests it is finally leaving the heliosphere of the solar system and entering interstellar space.

Since late August, the Cosmic Ray Subsystem instrument on Voyager 2 has measured about a 5 percent increase in the rate of cosmic rays hitting the spacecraft compared to early August. The probe’s Low-Energy Charged Particle instrument has detected a similar increase in higher-energy cosmic rays.

Cosmic rays are fast-moving particles that originate outside the solar system. Some of these cosmic rays are blocked by the heliosphere, so mission planners expect that Voyager 2 will measure an increase in the rate of cosmic rays as it approaches and crosses the boundary of the heliosphere.

In May 2012, Voyager 1 experienced an increase in the rate of cosmic rays similar to what Voyager 2 is now detecting. That was about three months before Voyager 1 crossed the heliopause and entered interstellar space.

The scientists warn that there is great uncertainty here, and that the actual transition into interstellar space might take longer than with Voyager 1 since Voyager 2 is traveling in a different direction and is leaving during a different time in the solar cycle.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.


  • Steve Earle

    It still amazes me that of the 4 interplanetary/now interstellar probes that were launched in the 1970’s we are still in communication with 2 of them and only lost touch with another (Pioneer 10) just a few years ago.

    It further amazes me, and not in a good way, that we have only launched 1 more in all that time (New Horizons).

  • Wodun

    Building and launching them is a small pittance. The real costs are in transforming the data into something usable and in monitoring the spacecraft’s operations.

    Perhaps AI will help with the data processing. A great problem to have would be so many probes gathering so much data that it sits in a memory bank in a usuable format but that no human had time to go through it all.

    Of course, there isn’t much glory in that for PI’s. But it would allow for endless study and discovery in the future.

  • wayne

    Voyager’s Golden Record
    “Dark was the Night, Cold Was the Ground”
    Blind Willie Johnson; December 1927

    “Among those on the committee who chose the music for the disc was the cosmologist, astrophysicist and popularizer of all things astronomical Carl Sagan. The choices he and his colleagues made included the usual suspects — Bach, Beethoven, Mozart. But there’s also an odd little tune on the disc, recorded in 1927 by a Texan preacher and street-corner blues singer, Blind Willie Johnson. “Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground”, adapted from an 18th-century hymn, is wordless, consisting only of Johnson’s slide guitar and his resonant, gospely, moaning hum. The song was picked by Sagan, who said it concerns a situation Johnson — and humanity — faced many times: “Nightfall with no place to sleep”.

  • Col Beausabre

    Wodun is quite correct. My understanding is that we have data that has never been analyzed and is stored on types of media and in types of formats (analog!) such that it is virtually unreadable today as no one makes the needed hardware or replacement parts any more – if you are lucky enough to find what you need in an obscure corner – (or even if they were, no one knows how to fix a broken device or run it when fixed as the manuals were long since deep sixed) and no one is trained in the computer languages in question as they are long since obsolete. Not to mention the durability of some storage media such as tape, which deteriorates over time, making the physical existence of some data subject to an ever narrowing window.

    This gives some idea of the challenge

  • Edward

    Col Beausabre is also correct. NASA is like most organizations, and obsolete hardware and software is kept only for a certain amount of time before being discarded. It is expensive to keep stuff, and if it is never going to be used again, there is no reason to keep it. Fortunately, data is considered more valuable, but it is not well maintained (e.g. filed to modern file systems, especially before degradation sets in).

    Four years ago, an abandoned NASA spacecraft was attempted to by “pirated” by a group of citizens (with permission of its original owner, so it was not technically pirated). Talking to it was a problem, as the NASA systems were already gone. The group of citizens received quite a bit of help, from NASA, organizations, and fellow citizens.

    There’s a company we’re working with called Ettus Research, and they have a piece of hardware that has software that emulates all of the hardware equipment NASA used to have.

    Thank goodness that someone can emulate at least some of NASA’s obsolete equipment.

    This is not always the case. Britain tried a “Doomsday Project” to celebrate the “Doomsday Book” after the Norman conquest of England. The original 900-year old book still exists and can be read, with some interpretation of abbreviations and Latin, but the data collected on computer media for the celebration could hardly be read after a mere 25 years (where were PDFs when they were really needed?).

    In the proceeding quarter century, the technology became obsolete, making the content on the discs inaccessible to all but a few enthusiasts.

    Wodun wrote: “Of course, there isn’t much glory in that for PI’s. But it would allow for endless study and discovery in the future.

    Isn’t that why God gave us grad students?

  • commodude

    Col. Beausabre,

    You NEVER know what’s going to turn up at DRMO. I was poking around govdeals one afternoon and NASA was dumping a short ton of technical pieces, almost guarantee they wound up as scrap.

    I dearly hope there are NASA collectors who poke around that site.

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