The utter failure and total evil of government policies during the Wuhan panic

COVID mortality rates among children 10-14 in the UK
COVID mortality rates among children 10-14 in the United Kingdom,
comparing those who got the COVID shots versus those who did not

While stories about the ineffective and harmful consequences of the panic over the Wuhan flu continue to pour in on an almost daily basis, it is often better to step back and see these many stories in aggregate. By looking at the forest from a distance, a clearer picture frequently reveals itself that remains hidden if you only focus on studying the individual trees.

For example, the graph to the right, first published in January 2022, suggests strongly that giving young children the COVID shots only increased their mortality. This is just one story, however. Is it typical, or an outlier? You need to look at the larger picture to know.

Below I list and categorize the many science papers and news stories I have been collecting since my previous detailed two essays in May about the epidemic and its consequences (see: “The evidence keeps pouring in showing the utter failure of all COVID mandates” and “Are the COVID vaccines killing people over time? The data suggests yes.”). The totality of this data does appear shocking, especially because it makes evident the utter failure of almost every policy set by almost every government health official and elected politician since the Wuhan flu arrived in 2020.

First we must take another look at the new research about the mask mandates, policies that decades of research repeatedly showed would do nothing to protect anyone from COVID, and might even be unhealthy.
» Read more

Mirror comparable to Hubble’s ready for JPL balloon astronomy mission

engineers attach panels to the mirror's support structure.
Engineers attach mirror panels to the mirror’s support structure.

An Italian optics company, Media Lario, has now completed construction of the primary mirror — at 2.5 meters width slightly larger than Hubble’s primary mirror — to be used on a JPL balloon astronomy mission dubbed ASTHROS, targeting a December 2023 launch.

The ASTHROS primary mirror features nine panels, which are significantly easier to fabricate than a one-piece mirror. The bulk of the mirror panels consist of lightweight aluminum, formed into a honeycomb structure that reduces its total mass. The panel surfaces are made of nickel and coated with gold, which improves the mirror’s reflectivity at far-infrared wavelengths.

Once launched, the balloon will circle the south pole for up to four weeks, taking data on the gas distribution in several galaxies.

While that data will be worthwhile, the mission’s real goal is to test these technologies for future space-based astronomy missions. If this mission works, it will reduce significantly the cost and time necessary to make big telescope mirrors, while enhancing the robotic capabilities of such telescopes.

Astronomers: A supermassive black hole rotates far slower than expected

Quasar as seen across multiple wavelengths
Click for full image.

The uncertainty of science: Using Chandra astronomers have measured the rotation of a supermassive black hole in a distant quasar about 3.4 billion light years away and found that it spins at about half the speed of other less massive black holes.

Because a spinning black hole drags space around with it and allows matter to orbit closer to it than is possible for a non-spinning one, the X-ray data can show how fast the black hole is spinning. The spectrum — that is, the amount of energy as a function wavelength — of H1821+643 indicates that the black hole is rotating at a modest rate compared to other, less massive ones that spin close to the speed of light. This is the most accurate spin measurement for such a massive black hole.

The black hole, thought to weigh between 3 to 30 billion times more than the Sun and is the heaviest such object measured in this way, rotates at about half the speed of light. Why that rotation is less than other smaller black holes remains a question not yet answered, though astronomers suspect it is related to its formation history.

The image above is a composite showing this quasar across multiply wavelengths. X-rays are shown in blue, radio in red, and optical in white.

The lava tubes on the western slopes of Alba Mons as potential Martian colonies

Lava tubes on western flank of Alba Mons
Click for full figure.

In a new paper detailing work they first began in 2019, scientists have now carefully mapped the extensive lava tubes that appear to radially descend westward from the caldera of Alba Mons, the volcano on Mars that has the largest surface area but with a relatively low peak.

The mapped population of 331 lava tube systems has a mean length of 36.2 km, with a total length in the western flank geologic map quadrangle of ∼12,000 km. Individual lava tube systems extend up to ∼400 km, and it is likely that some of our mapped lava tubes are connected such that the total number is actually smaller and lengths (average and maximum) longer.

The map above, figure 10 of their paper, shows volcanic ridges as yellow, collapsed lava tube segments as red, and collapsed lava tube on the volcanic ridge as maroon. The wider map below, shows where this region is located, and gives the larger context.
» Read more

Scientists want your help cataloging the clouds on Mars

In order to fully identify all the clouds seen in the sixteen years of data collected by the cloud instrument on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), scientists have now organized a citizen-scientist project to catalogue those clouds.

The project revolves around a 16-year record of data from the agency’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which has been studying the Red Planet since 2006. The spacecraft’s Mars Climate Sounder instrument studies the atmosphere in infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. In measurements taken by the instrument as MRO orbits Mars, clouds appear as arches. The team needs help sifting through that data on Zooniverse, marking the arches so that the scientists can more efficiently study where in the atmosphere they occur.

You can join up by going here.

Science! Psychology researchers discover that kids make friends with those who sit next to them in school

Your tax dollars at work! Psychology researchers at Florida Atlantic University have found to their shock that the friendships school children form are strongly influenced by their seat assignments in class.

Results of the study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, revealed that friendships reflect classroom seat assignments. Students sitting next to or nearby one another were more likely to be friends with one another than students seated elsewhere in the classroom. Moreover, longitudinal analyses showed that classroom seating proximity was associated with the formation of new friendships. After seat assignments changed, students were more likely to become friends with newly near-seated classmates than with those who remained or became seated farther away.

You can read the actual paper here. The research itself was apparently funded by a grant from National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), apparently an agency within NIH, that stellar agency that pushed masks, lockdowns, and social distancing during the past two years based on zero data and contrary to research results going back decades.

It seems to me that this result would be obvious to any first grade teacher who is focused on teaching kids. It is also obvious to anyone who ever went to school and made friends there. To spend money on such research is utterly idiotic. Worse, it diverts funds from research that is considerably more important.

But no matter. What is really important is to get funding, no matter how trivial or useless the research. And our corrupt and bankrupt federal bureaucracy is most willing to oblige.

Scientists claim rocket launches are going to damage ozone layer

Junk science: This week NOAA government scientists published a paper claiming that the upcoming increase in rocket launches worldwide is a threat to the ozone layer and will also — my heart be still — promote climate change!

The study found that a tenfold increase in the amount of soot injected into the stratosphere every year would after 50 years lead to an annual temperature increase in that layer of 1 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 to 2 degrees Celsius). The stratosphere is the layer of the atmosphere just above the lowest troposphere. The study found that the projected warming would slow down subtropical jet streams, bands of strong wind circling the planet at the lower edge of the stratosphere that influence the African and Indian summer monsoons.

Warmer temperatures in the stratosphere would also degrade the protective ozone layer, which blocks harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun from reaching the planet’s surface.

The paper’s abstract also said this:

We show that the rocket black carbon increases stratospheric temperatures and changes the global circulation, both of which cause a reduction in the total ozone column, mainly in the northern high latitudes. Comparing the amplitude of the atmospheric response using different emission rates provides insight into stratospheric adjustment and feedback mechanisms. Our results show that the stratosphere is sensitive to relatively modest black carbon injections.

This is garbage science, and I wouldn’t bother posting a link to it if other news sources weren’t promoting it. These predictions — based on a very simple computer model — are nothing more than guesses, and are apparently designed to both attack the growing space industry as well as garner funding for more such junk science, as illustrated by this quote from the NOAA press release:

“We need to learn more about the potential impact of hydrocarbon-burning engines on the stratosphere and on the climate at the surface of the Earth,” said lead author Christopher Maloney, a CIRES research scientist working in NOAA’s Chemical Sciences Laboratory. “With further research, we should be able to better understand the relative impacts of different rocket types on climate and ozone.”

For almost a half century climate scientists — many working for government agencies like NASA and NOAA — have been publishing junk papers like this, predicting climate doom in only a few decades unless we do as they say, while funneling boatloads of cash into their pockets. Almost none of those predictions have turned out to be correct.

This report is equally suspect, especially because it touts the false statistic that “launch rates have tripled in recent decades.” The number of launches has not tripled from its long-term average since Sputnik. The only way you can get manufacture that fake statistic is if you compare last year’s total (134) with the launch numbers from the early 1960s, before the space race had even begun. And while the launch numbers are likely to rise dramatically in the coming years, the numbers will still be infinitesimal compared to other industries. Going from 50-100 launches to 200-500 launches is hardly the end of the world.

It really is far past time for the press and the general public to stop listening to these fake papers.

A thick and syrupy flow on Mars

A thick and syrupy flow on Mars
Click for full image.

Overview map

Cool image time! The photo above, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on March 5, 2022 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the scientists label as a “viscous flow feature,” which is another way of saying the flow was thick and syrupy.

Nor is such a flow unusual in this area of Mars. It is located in a region of chaos terrain dubbed Protonilus Mensae, which is also the central mensae region in the 2,000-mile-long strip in the northern mid-latitudes of Mars I label glacier country. The overview map above of Protonilus Mensae — covering about 500 miles in width — shows how common such flows are in this place. The black rectangles mark the locations of other cool images I have featured, as follows:

The red rectangle indicates the location of today’s cool image.

The glacial aspect of everything in this region is even more emphasized by the wider view provided by MRO’s context camera below.
» Read more

New research suggests flowing water existed intermittently on Mars from 2.5 to 3.6 billion years ago.

Based on a study of alluvial fans on Mars, river sediment thought to have been placed at the foot of mountains, scientists have concluded that liquid water could have been flowing from as 2.5 to 3.6 billion years ago.

“We’ve known for decades that Mars had rivers and lakes around 3.5 billion years ago, but in the past few years there has been a growing body of evidence that substantial amounts of liquid water continued to erode the Martian surface for hundreds of millions of years,” said Morgan, lead author on “The global distribution and morphologic characteristics of fan-shaped sedimentary landforms on Mars” that appears in Icarus. “Water-formed landforms, such as river deltas and alluvial fans, are the most unambiguous markers of past climate. So we conducted a global survey for these features and explored patterns in their distribution and morphologic properties.”

Morgan and co-authors including PSI Senior Scientist Alan Howard found that alluvial fans are found at lower elevations than the more ancient valley networks, suggesting that stable liquid water became restricted to lower, warmer regions as Mars cooled and dried.

…What is particularly interesting about the Martian fans is that many formed much later than the valley networks, which have long been considered the strongest evidence for surface water on early Mars. Valley networks largely date to around 3.6 billion years ago, but alluvial fans date to 2.5 to 3 billion years ago.

This research merely increases the fundamental geological mystery of Mars. While the surface evidence strongly tells us that liquid water once flowed on the surface, no climate model exists that satisfactorily makes that possible. The atmosphere appears to have always been too cold and thin for liquid water.

Psyche will not launch as scheduled

NASA officials yesterday confirmed that because of software issues its asteroid mission Psyche will not launch as scheduled this year.

Due to the late delivery of the spacecraft’s flight software and testing equipment, NASA does not have sufficient time to complete the testing needed ahead of its remaining launch period this year, which ends on Oct. 11. The mission team needs more time to ensure that the software will function properly in flight.

…As the mission team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California began testing the system, a compatibility issue was discovered with the software’s testbed simulators. In May, NASA shifted the mission’s targeted launch date from Aug. 1 to no earlier than Sept. 20 to accommodate the work needed. The issue with the testbeds has been identified and corrected; however, there is not enough time to complete a full checkout of the software for a launch this year.

NASA management will conduct a review to understand what caused the problem.

As for when Psyche can next launch and reach the asteroid Psyche, the next launch windows in ’23 and ’24 will not arrive at the asteroid until ’29 or ’30 respectively, a flight time that is about two years longer than what the ’22 launch would have been.

Perseverance’s first climb

Perseverance's first climb
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken by the high resolution camera on the Mars rover Perseverance on June 16, 2022, shortly after it began its first climb up from the generally flat floor of Jezero crater and onto the delta that once in the far past flowed through a gap into that crater.

I have rotated the image about 8.5 degrees to make horizontal the crater floor and the distant rim of the crater (barely visible through the atmosphere’s thick winter dust). This shows that the rover was then climbing what appears to be a relative low angle grade, hardly as challenging as the serious grades that Curiosity has been dealing with now for the past two years in the foothills of Mount Sharp. Nonetheless, Perseverance has begun climbing.

To see where the rover is see the overview map from the start of this week. Unfortunately, I have been unable to determine the direction of this photo. It could be looking west, south, or east, based on features inside Jezero Crater. I therefore cannot tell you the distance to the rim, which depending on the direction, could be from five to twenty-five miles away.

A major update from Curiosity’s science team

Panorama of Mars
Click for full image.

layered flaky rocks
Click for full image.

In a press release today, the Curiosity science team provided a major update on the rover’s recent travels in the mountain foothills of Gale Crater.

First and foremost was the new information about the rover’s wheels, which was buried near the bottom of the release:

The rover’s aluminum wheels are … showing signs of wear. On June 4, the engineering team commanded Curiosity to take new pictures of its wheels – something it had been doing every 3,281 feet (1,000 meters) to check their overall health. The team discovered that the left middle wheel had damaged one of its grousers, the zig-zagging treads along Curiosity’s wheels. This particular wheel already had four broken grousers, so now five of its 19 grousers are broken.

The previously damaged grousers attracted attention online recently because some of the metal “skin” between them appears to have fallen out of the wheel in the past few months, leaving a gap.

The team has decided to increase its wheel imaging to every 1,640 feet (500 meters) – a return to the original cadence. A traction control algorithm had slowed wheel wear enough to justify increasing the distance between imaging.

» Read more

A snakelike Martian ridge

A snakelike Martian ridge
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, rotated, cropped, and reduced to post here, was taken on November 22, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the science team labeled a sinuous ridge. Make sure you also look at the full image. The ridge goes on to the south, but then fades way as an almost perfect ramp, only to have another even more wiggly but thinner north-south ridge begin only a few feet to the west.

Sinuous ridges like this are found in many places on Mars. Almost always their origin is thought the result of a former river channel that became a ridge when the surrounding softer material eroded away.

That explanation however does not seem to work for this ridge. It has too many other inexplicable features. For example, note how the peak of the ridge smoothly transitions from sharp to flat-topped. It has a soft appearance that is strengthened by the gap near the top.

It is almost as if this ridge is a kind of elongated sand dune! And guess what: The overview map below gives that explanation some believability.
» Read more

A telescope using a liquid mirror about to become operational

Link here. The telescope, located in the Himalayas, is “an international collaboration between institutions in India, Belgium, Poland, Uzbekistan and Canada.”

The mirror works by rotating it so that its thin layer of liquid mercury forms a parabola.

The tradeoff is that the [telescope]is fixed in a single position, so it only observes one strip of the night sky as the Earth rotates below it. But since the telescope will be hyper-focused on just one area, it’s well-suited for spotting transient objects like supernovas and asteroids.

It appears the scientists will use it to study this same strip of sky over five years, hoping to detect changes in that time period.

This telescope is more a technology test than an actual observatory. Eventually the best place to put such a telescope — and much larger — will be on the Moon, and to do that requires some construction and testing beforehand.

InSight team decides to shorten lander’s life to operate seismometer longer

The InSight science team has decided to continue to operate the lander’s seismometer through August rather than turning it off at the end of June, even though that longer use will drain InSight’s batteries sooner and kill the lander shortly thereafter.

The previous plan would have allowed the lander to survive through the end of the year, but would have meant no earthquake data would have been gathered after June.

To enable the seismometer to continue to run for as long as possible, the mission team is turning off InSight’s fault protection system. While this will enable the instrument to operate longer, it leaves the lander unprotected from sudden, unexpected events that ground controllers wouldn’t have time to respond to.

“The goal is to get scientific data all the way to the point where InSight can’t operate at all, rather than conserve energy and operate the lander with no science benefit,” said Chuck Scott, InSight’s project manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California.

Apparently they have realized that it is now very unlikely that a dust devil will come by and clear the dust from InSight’s solar panels, so keeping the spacecraft alive longer — but getting no data — does not make sense.

Has work begun on a dedicated helicopter mission to Mars?

Overview map

The easternmost point in the Mars Helicopter traverse
Click for full image.

In my routine searches through the image archive for the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, I recently came upon several images labeled “Candidate Mars Science Helicopter Traverse” that I at first thought referred to Ingenuity’s extended mission in Jezero Crater.

A closer look however revealed these photos have nothing to do with Ingenuity or Jezero Crater. Taken in November ’21, January ’22, and March ’22, the images instead cover parts of the south rim of Valles Marineris, the solar system’s largest canyon, and appear to be research for a future dedicated Mars helicopter mission. The overview map above shows the location of these photos by the black dots. Three locations have each been imaged twice to produce a stereoscopic view that can precisely measure the topography.

The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, shows the easternmost image, taken November 3, 2021. Not only does it show ample flat areas, the picture captures an impressive avalanche flow coming down from that southern interior canyon slope.

All the images were requested by planetary scientist Edwin Kite of the University of Chicago. Though I tried several times to contact Dr. Kite to get more information, he unfortunately did not respond. It could be this work is still too preliminary and thus he does not wish to comment.

Nonetheless, the extent of the three sets of images give us a fair idea of the kind of missions Kite and others might be considering. From east to west the distance between the images is about four hundred miles, and covers a traverse of the southern interior slopes of Valles Marineris along that entire length. The photos look mostly at the base of the canyon’s slope, each showing clearly that a helicopter flying there would have plenty of landing spots.

Obviously this first dedicated Mars helicopter mission might not cover this entire distance. Right now these images could simply be the first tentative research on choosing potential landing areas. Regardless, it appears that at least one scientist has already concluded that Ingenuity has proven such helicopter missions make sense, and is beginning to target one of Mars’s most spectacular locations, Valles Marineris, for that mission.

Water and dry ice at the Martian north polar ice cap

water and dry ice at the Martian north pole
Click for original image. Click here for full image.

In our third Martian cool image of the day, we go to the north pole of Mars, as seen from orbit by the high resolution camera of Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). Taken on March 30, 2022 and cropped and reduced to post here, this picture shows some of the distinct and unique geological features found only on the polar caps of Mars. From the caption by Candy Hansen of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona:

Both water and dry ice have a major role in sculpting Mars’ surface at high latitudes. Water ice frozen in the soil splits the ground into polygons. Erosion of the channels forming the boundaries of the polygons by dry ice sublimating in the spring adds plenty of twists and turns to them.

Spring activity is visible as the layer of translucent dry ice coating the surface develops vents that allow gas to escape. The gas carries along fine particles of material from the surface further eroding the channels. The particles drop to the surface in dark fan-shaped deposits. Sometimes the dark particles sink into the dry ice, leaving bright marks where the fans were originally deposited. Often the vent closes, then opens again, so we see two or more fans originating from the same spot but oriented in different directions as the wind changes.

The top layer of translucent dry ice falls as dry ice snow during the winter, than sublimates away with the arrival of spring. Since this photo was taken in autumn, we are looking at features left over from the activity from the spring and summer.

Perseverance peers towards the rim of Jezero Crater

Perseverance peers through winter haze
Click for full image.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

In our second cool image from Mars today, the Mars rover Perseverance gives us its own long distance view of the dusty winter air inside Jezero Crater. The photo above, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on June 16, 2022 by the rover’s left high resolution camera, and looks to the southwest towards the crater’s western rim.

As with today’s previous cool image from Curiosity, we can see several ranges, each with distance faded more by the dust that hangs in the air during the winter on Mars. In the foreground right is the nearest cliff of the delta that flowed into Jezero over time in the past. Next is a knob and ridge line, also part of that delta flow but farther away. Third are some farther ridges that might have been part of that flow but maybe not.

Faintest of all are the highest mountains that form the western ridge of Jezero Crater, barely visible in the haze.

The blue dot in the overview map to the right marks Perseverance’s approximate position when the photo was taken. The yellow lines my guess as to the area covered by the photo. The green dot marks Ingenuity’s present position after its last flight, much closer to the delta that I had predicted.

Martian mountains, near and far

Navigation image
Click for full image.

Martian mountains, near and far
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, taken on June 18, 2022 by high resolution camera on the Mars rover Curiosity, provides a close-up of the area indicated by the arrow in the navigation camera image above taken three days earlier.

Because the rover had moved uphill slightly during those three days, the close-up can peek over what was the most distant ridge to see farther up Mount Sharp. (For context take a look at the overview map here.) All told, this close-up to the right shows four mountain ridges/ranges. First we have the ridgeline to the right, partly in shadow, which forms the right wall of the saddle that Curiosity appears heading for. Next we can see to the left the top section of the large 1,500 foot high mesa on the other side of the canyon Gediz Vallis. Note its many layers, all of which are going to become a major item of study as Curiosity gets closer.

Third we have a very rough and tumbled ridgeline, formed in a layer the geologists have dubbed the sulfate bearing unit. This layer tends to be very light in color, and more easily eroded. Curiosity is presently beginning to move into this layer as it climbs.

Finally there is the most distant ridge, which is simply the higher reaches of Mount Sharp though not its peak by a long shot.

The dusty winter air is quite evident by the chariscuro effect, causing the more distant ridges to appear more faded.

Note: This will be the first of three cool Martian images today. Stay tuned.

NIH to discriminate against whites in awarding research grants

Federal government: dedicated to segregation!
NIH: dedicated to racial discrimination

“Segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has now created a program to award about $20 million in grant money exclusively to black researchers, thus favoring research not because of its merit but solely because of the skin color of the grantee.

The program will create a new class of NIH’s standard R01 research grant designed to “encourage a more diverse pool of PIs [principal investigators],” said Walter Koroshetz, director of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), at a recent meeting. NINDS is launching the program, aimed at new PIs and those whose labs are at risk of folding, together with the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). In 2021, the three institutes partnered on a policy with similar aims that NIH later pulled because of concerns it would violate federal antidiscrimination laws.

The NIH attempted to create a similar bigoted grant program last year, but had to back off when critics pointed out its obvious illegality. Agency officials now claim this new program passes muster, because

…it aims to enhance diversity “in a very broad sense,” [NIH extramural chief Michael] Lauer says. An NIH spokesperson notes that although the program “encourages” applications from researchers in underrepresented groups, “it is not exclusive—all new investigators and at-risk investigators are eligible to apply.” (NIH defines “at-risk” as a PI who will have no NIH grants if their high-quality proposal isn’t funded.)

What a lie. We all know that the grant application will require each applicant to state their race, and the NIH will then automatically disqualify anyone who isn’t black. It will also conveniently never make public the actual racial breakdown of those who win grants from this program, in order to hide its bigotry.

Wavy crescent ridges on Mars

Wavy crescents on Mars
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right, cropped and reduced to post here, was taken on November 19, 2021 by the high resolution camera on Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). It shows what the science team has labeled “Crescentic forms,” which in some ways resemble crescents that I featured in a cool image back in November 2020.

Unlike those earlier crescents, today’s are linked together to form a longer wavy line. Furthermore, today’s crescents include some positive relief, with some parts standing above the surrounding terrain. The earlier crescents were entirely carved out of the ground, forming depressions.

And yet, the method of formation for both must be somewhat similar. I say this based on their location, as shown in the overview map below.
» Read more

Wildfire reaches Kitt Peak National Observatory

A wildfire has crested the peak and reached the Kitt Peak National Observatory, threatening a number of telescopes there.

Around 2:00 a.m. MST Friday morning the fire, contrary to the expectations of the firecrews, crested the southwest ridge where the Hiltner 2.4-meter Telescope, McGraw-Hill 1.3-meter Telescope, Very Long Baseline Array Dish and UArizona 12-meter Telescope are located. Because of the ongoing nature of the situation, it is currently not possible to assess whether any damage to the structures has occurred. We will report any damage as soon as possible.

Based on this report, however, it does appear that officials expect several of these telescopes to be damaged by the fire.

TESS discovers solar system of rocky super-Earths only 33 light years away

Astronomers, using the space telescope TESS, have discovered two rocky super-Earths orbiting a red dwarf star HD 260655, only 33 light years away.

Both planets are “super-Earths” – terrestrial worlds like ours, only bigger. Planet b is about 1.2 times as big around as Earth, planet c 1.5 times. In this case, however, neither world is likely to support life. The temperature on planet b, nearest to the star, is estimated at 816 degrees Fahrenheit (435 Celsius), [while] planet [has a temperature of] c 543 Fahrenheit (284 Celsius), though actual temperature depends on the presence and nature of possible atmospheres.

The star’s nearness as well as the fact that these planets transit across its face means further study can not only determine if they have atmospheres, it can also roughly measure the atmospheres’ make-up.

Rock growths on Mars!

Rock growths on Mars!
Click for full image.

Cool image time! The photo to the right was taken by the high resolution camera on the Mars rover Curiosity on May 15, 2022, and shows several incredibly strange vertical fingers of rock that appear to grow out of the ground. From the caption:

These likely formed as groundwater trickled through rock in the ancient past, depositing mineral cements over time; many years later, when the rock was exposed to the atmosphere, wind eroded the softer material around the cemented portions.

This formation explanation of course is only an educated guess. There are other possibilities, suggested by how cave formations grow over time, that are less likely but still must be considered. For example, maybe we are looking at a feature that grew upward as condensation from Mars’ once thicker and wetter atmosphere deposited new material on it over time.

Unfortunately, the image release does not provide a scale. My guess is that the longest finger is between six to twelve inches long, but it could be much smaller.

Russian scientists defy Rogozin, will not reactivate German instrument on Spektr-RG telescope

It appears that the Russian astronomers who use their instrument on the Spekr-RG space telescope are refusing to follow the orders of Dmitry Rogozin to reactivate the German instrument — dubed eROSITA — which the Europeans shut down in response to the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.

[T]he head of the Russian Space Research Institute, Lev Matveevich Zelenyi, spoke out against the unauthorized activation of eROSITA to Gazeta: “Our institute – all the scientists – categorically object to this. This objection is both for political and technical reasons.”

“This is not a Russian device. I can’t judge how realistic this whole thing is, I don’t know if our specialists have processing codes… But even if they have, it will be simply impossible to publish this data – no journal will accept it and will do it right,” he added.

Rogozin however appears adamant about taking over eROSITA. But then again, Rogozin blusters a lot, with many of this worst blusters having no bite behind them.

Lucy gets a bonus asteroid during its tour of the Trojans

Lucy's planned journey
Click for full image.

While doing observations in March of one of the eight asteroids the Lucy asteroid will visit in the two Trojan asteroid regions fore and aft of Jupiter, scientists discovered it had a companion, thus increasing the total asteroids to be seen close-up by Lucy to nine.

One of the Trojan asteroids on Lucy’s tour, named Polymele, has a companion. Scientists discovered an apparent satellite of Polymele during a ground-based occultation observation in March, when Polymele briefly passed in front of a star, temporarily blocking its light from reaching Earth. The occultation observations were intended to help the Lucy science team determine the shape of Polymele, which only appears as a point of light in telescope images.

“We got a really nice projected shape of Polymele, and then we were very surprised to detect an object about 200 kilometers (120 miles) away from Polymele,” Levison said last week in a presentation to NASA’s Small Bodies Advisory Group. “It’s 5 kilometers (3 miles) in diameter, and it’s sitting almost exactly in Polymele’s equatorial plane.”

Lucy’s science team has temporarily named the object Shaun, after “Shaun the Sheep” in the show “Wallace and Gromit.”

The graphic above, from the Lucy science team, shows the spacecraft’s planned journey during its mission.

Engineers continue their attempts to fully open one of Lucy’s two solar arrays. On June 9th they successfully used the array’s deployment motors again for a short burst to further open the array. The plan is to repeat these short bursts with the hope the array will eventually latch into its intended open position.

Curiosity: Into the mountains

Panorama on Mars, June 15, 2022
Click for full image.

Overview map
Click for interactive map.

Cool image time! The journey of Curiosity into the mountains of Gale Crater continues. The photo above, taken on June 15, 2022 by the rover’s left navigation camera, looks straight ahead at one possible route into those mountains.

The blue dot on the overview map to the right indicates Curiosity’s position. The yellow lines show the approximate area covered by the photo, by my estimate. The recurring slope lineae is a streak that comes and goes seasonally, and could be caused by some form of seepage. The marker layer, as indicated by the arrows, is a geological layer found at about the same elevation in many places on the flanks of Mount Sharp.

The red dotted line indicates the planned route of Curiosity, which it is presently striving to return to, having been forced to retreat from the Greenheugh Pediment because of its too-rough terrain.

For scale, Navarro Mountain is estimated to be about 450 feet high. Thus, the peak in the center of the panorama, which I think is the large mesa in the lower right corner of the overview map, is probably twice that height, about 1,500 to 1,700 feet high, and much higher than the two mesas that frame it on either side. Distance and perspective hide this difference.

When Curiosity finally gets inside Gediz Vallis and close to the side of that many-layered mesa, the view should be unbelievably amazing.

The science team has not yet revealed the precise route they plan to take to return to the planned route. While they may aim straight over the saddle in the photo above, I suspect they will instead bear west, following ground that is less steep.

DNA tests of 800-year-old gravesite in Kyrgyzstan suggest that region was source of Black Death

Based on DNA tests of several 800-year-old graves in northern Kyrgyzstan near Lake Issyk Kul, it appears that the Black Death that first appeared in Europe in the 1300s and killed as much as half its population came from this region initially.

Working with Slavin and Russian collaborators including Valeri Khartanovich of the Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, where the Issyk Kul skulls were stored, Spyrou extracted DNA from the pulp of seven individuals’ teeth and found three were infected with Y. pestis. She was able to reconstruct a high-quality genome of the ancient strain that killed them. That strain “fell exactly on the origin point of that big bang event” in the evolution of Y. pestis, Spyrou says. “That was incredibly exciting.”

The strain was closely related to ones found in rodents near Issyk Kul today. The authors suggest it spilled over to humans, perhaps from a marmot, which are abundant in the Tian Shan mountain region of northern Kyrgyzstan, southern Kazakhstan, and northwestern China.

What is fascinating most about this discovery is that we actually have the names of some of the Black Death’s first victims, read from their tombstones: ““This is the tomb of the believer Sanmaq. [He] died of pestilence.”

An eccentric debris disk circling a nearby star

Eccentric debris disk around star.

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, astronomers have discovered that the debris disk surrounding a star about 60 light years away, discovered in 2006 by the Hubble Space Telescope, is not circular, but instead forms an eccentric ring about the star.

The photo to the right combines the Hubble data (the blue background) and the ALMA data (the orange-yellow ring). The star is the bright spot in the ring, not in its center but at one of the ellipse’s two foci.

This level of eccentricity, MacGregor said, makes HD 53143 the most eccentric debris disk observed to date, being twice as eccentric as the Fomalhaut debris disk, which MacGregor fully imaged at millimeter wavelengths using ALMA in 2017. “So far, we have not found many disks with a significant eccentricity. In general, we don’t expect disks to be very eccentric unless something, like a planet, is sculpting them and forcing them to be eccentric. Without that force, orbits tend to circularize, like what we see in our own Solar System.”

In other words, there must be at least one hidden planet, maybe more, orbiting the star, its gravity forcing the disk into this shape.

Perseverance gets close to its first cliff

Perseverance's first cliff
Click for full image.

Time for some cool images from Perseverance! The rover, now on Mars for more than a year, has finally begun its journey up the delta of material that some time in the past flowed through a gap in the rim of Jezero Crater. In doing so, it has also finally got close to a nearby cliff, within fifty feet or so, and used its high resolution left mast camera (mastcam) to take the photos to the right. The first, cropped and reduced to post here, was a wider shot taken on June 10, 2022, with the red arrow pointing to the part of the cliff featured in the second image below, taken on June 12, 2022, after the rover had moved in closer. This second photo is also cropped and reduced to post here.
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