Solar Eclipse this Sunday the 21st


JAXA/ISAS/NAOJ

An annular solar eclipse (like this one imaged by JAXA’s Hinode spacecraft in 2010) happens when the Moon is at its furthest distance from Earth and passes in between the Earth and the Sun, leaving the Sun’s visible outer edges to form a “ring of fire,” or annulus, around the Moon. This kind of eclipse will happen this Sunday, 21 June. The ring of fire will be visible from central Africa and through Asia. Many other locations from southeastern Europe to the northern tips of Australia will experience a partial annular eclipse. Elsewhere, you can watch a live stream of the eclipse. Learn more about annular solar eclipses.

We won’t get to see this live in North America; but, click the 2nd link and you’ll find directions for a live feed on that page.

Interstellar traveller is ‘dark hydrogen iceberg,’

Three years after a mysterious cigar-shaped interstellar object was spotted hurtling through our solar system, sparking questions of alien spaceships and solar sails, a new study suggests this visitor may actually have been the cosmic version of a massive iceberg, formed in the birthplace of stars out of frozen hydrogen gas.

And it could be one of many

‘Oumuamua was our first visitor from a different solar system, discovered while already on its way out of our system, and it defied the known rules for asteroids and comets. Its oblong shape was interesting, but most baffling was its speed, which was faster than should’ve been possible if it was being propelled through space purely by gravitational force…

“It’s a frozen iceberg of molecular hydrogen,” Darryl Seligman, one of the paper’s authors, told UChigcao News. “This explains every mysterious property about it.

Hydrogen gas is “the dominant constituent of Giant Molecular Clouds,” which are enormous clusters of gases spanning hundreds of light years in size.

The densest parts of these clouds are where stars are born. The temperatures within these dense cores can also be some of the coldest in the universe. The paper suggests that “macroscopic bodies composed of frozen molecular hydrogen gas that are not incorporated into stellar systems,” are then “released into low-velocity dispersion galactic orbits,” meaning that objects such as ‘Oumuamua are some of the leftovers from the process of creating stars.

And, now that we’re capable of seeing and tracking an interstellar body like this – we’ll be watching out for more.

Four ways the pandemic might end


Akos Stiller/Bloomberg via Getty

As major cultural events are forgotten, workplaces, bars, and restaurants close, and prominent politicians around the world have been sickened, two simple questions about the novel coronavirus pandemic seem to rise above the rest: How long will this last? And how will it end?

William Haseltine, president of the global health think tank ACCESS Health International, who recently chaired the U.S.-China Health Summit in Wuhan, where the virus likely originated, has a theory.

There are four ways,” the doctor told The Daily Beast. “One, it peters out with the weather. Two, everybody gets infected, so it’s got no new places to go… so it ends—but that’s a pretty horrible ending. Three is a vaccine, which is about a year away. Fourth way is the most likely: We’re going to have a few drugs, within a few weeks to a few months, that prevent people from getting infected—like PrEP for HIV—and for treatment.”

Decent article. Not as stellar as listening to a thorough discussion with Dr. Haseltine. Happened to catch 10 minutes or so of an interview, yesterday, on BloombergTV. He’s almost as long-winded as me. His medical facts, his science is spot on.

There are at least 3 very readable articles on this coronavirus at his website [link in the paragraph above].

Levitated timepiece – and a new benchmark

A new mechanical “clock” has been created by an international team of researchers, led by scientists at the University of St Andrews, which could test the fundamental physics of gravity.

The levitated mechanical oscillator, created within a glass sphere the size of a single blood cell, was manipulated by light by the team to create an ultra-sensitive sensor which could measure temperature and pressure changes at the nanoscale.

This highly accurate clock could potentially detect gravity at smaller scales than previously possible and find potential evidence for deviations from Newton’s laws of gravity calling for new physics beyond what we currently understand…If this was actually a clock, it would be so accurate that it would only have lost half-a-millionth of a second in a whole day.”

I winder if Jeff Bezos knows about this clock, yet? Bet he’d want it for his collection, his research.

Fuzzy green “glacier mice”


Glacier mice in IcelandRuth Mottram

In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something unexpected…

Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.”…

…In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herdlike fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.

“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”

Similar “mice” are found on many glaciers around the world. And the whole picture, a complete understanding of how these “herds” move in unison, hasn’t yet been proven. They are being tagged – and tracked. They change direction sometimes. There are individual “mice” scientists have watched for years. RTFA. Stay in touch. The suspense is unbearable!

Penguin poop can make you loopy!


Click to enlarge

More than 1,600 kilometers east of the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica lies the Atlantic island of South Georgia. There, king penguins live in huge colonies. They spend their days chomping on krill, squid, and fish, feeding their chicks, and producing “guano.”

And that guano releases tremendous amounts of what’s better known as laughing gas, according to the study in Science of the Total Environment, which involved laboratory analysis of soil and guano samples.

“Penguin guano produces significantly high levels of nitrous oxide around their colonies. The maximum emissions are about 100 times higher than in a recently fertilized Danish field. It is truly intense—not least because nitrous oxide is 300 times more polluting than CO2,” explains Bo Elberling, professor in the University of Copenhagen’s department of geosciences and natural resource management.

Besides being a strain on the climate, the gas has an effect very similar to the sedative used in the dentist’s office, Elberling explains.

I can see all the stoners in Scandinavia lining up, now. Applying for jobs as “research assistants”.