Cassini Spacecraft Crashes into Saturn This Morning — Watch it live! Or Re-runs!


Click to enlarge

❝ Friday, Sept. 15, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft will wrap up 20 historic years in space, collecting data as it crashes into Saturn’s atmosphere and burns up like a meteor…Today’s stories on Cassini’s demise…

NASA will air a series of webcasts leading up Cassini’s final suicide plunge, which you will be able to watch here at Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV…

❝ Friday, Sept. 15

❝ 7:00 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. EDT (1100 to 1230 GMT): Live commentary about end-of-mission activities. An uninterrupted camera feed from JPL Mission Control, with mission audio only, will also be available during the commentary…

❝ About 8 a.m. EDT (1200 GMT): Cassini’s last science data, and final signal, should come down to Earth.

❝ 9:30 a.m. EDT (1330 GMT): Post-mission news conference from JPL…

❝ The $3.2 billion Cassini-Huygens mission — a joint effort of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency — launched in October 1997 and arrived in the Saturn system on June 30, 2004 (PDT)…

But nothing lasts forever. Cassini is nearly out of fuel; if it runs out completely, the probe’s handlers won’t be able to control it anymore. So they want to dispose of Cassini before things get to that point, which is why they’re sending the spacecraft on a death dive into Saturn on Sept. 15…

RTFA and wend your way through recent history of this space adventure. Hours of nothing but interesting articles, photos and video from serious science – as enjoyable as anything your intellect ever encounters.

Huge Solar Flare Disrupts GPS Satellites Globally


Image: NASA/GSFC/SDO

❝ The Sun’s impact on weather here on Earth is clear: It makes it hot or cold, it powers air currents, it causes water to evaporate making rain, et cetera. But with our increasing reliance on satellites and electronics, you can’t forget its more insidious effects — and some satellites got a taste of those…

Around 5:10 and 8:00AM eastern time, the Sun let out a hiccup and then a loud belch — the largest solar flare in twelve years. These large events are typically harmless to those on the ground, but this one could have potentially disrupted GPS communication yesterday morning.

❝ The flares came from part of the sun called AR 2673…The two flares fell into the X class of most powerful events, one registering an X2.2…and the second registering an X9.3…This second flare was the largest since 2005, and the eighth-largest on record.

These flares come as the Sun is weakening in its 11 year cycle, and X9.3 is especially intense as solar activity approaches its minimum. According to reporting by New Scientist, the storm temporarily disrupted GPS and radio communications…

❝ Space weather isn’t something you necessarily need to worry about, but it’s definitely something engineers and anyone involved with electronics needs to consider…

There’s even an “oops” moment where the article provides a rationale for Trump’s ignorant maundering about vote recording. Not that facts have much to do with his thought processes.

Fossil footprints challenge established theories — Don’t stop thinking on vacation!


Click to enlargeAndrzej Boczarowski

Newly discovered human-like footprints from Crete may put the established narrative of early human evolution to the test. The footprints are approximately 5.7 million years old and were made at a time when previous research puts our ancestors in Africa – with ape-like feet.

Ever since the discovery of fossils of Australopithecus in South and East Africa during the middle years of the 20th century, the origin of the human lineage has been thought to lie in Africa. More recent fossil discoveries in the same region, including the iconic 3.7 million year old Laetoli footprints from Tanzania which show human-like feet and upright locomotion, have cemented the idea that hominins (early members of the human lineage) not only originated in Africa but remained isolated there for several million years before dispersing to Europe and Asia. The discovery of approximately 5.7 million year old human-like footprints from Crete…overthrows this simple picture and suggests a more complex reality…

This discovery challenges the established narrative of early human evolution head-on and is likely to generate a lot of debate. Whether the human origins research community will accept fossil footprints as conclusive evidence of the presence of hominins in the Miocene of Crete remains to be seen,’ says Per Ahlberg.

RTFA for the reasoning behind these conclusions after the discovery in 2002 and further study begun in 2010. All because Gerard Gierlinski, a paleontologist at the Polish Geological Institute, kept his eyes and brain working while on vacation on Crete.

Future Hurricanes Likely To Be Worse Than Harvey

How powerful would Hurricane Harvey have been in 1880? How much stronger might it be in 2100?

❝ A single Hurricane Harvey has been more than anyone can bear. But to better prepare cities for future storms, researchers are preparing to re-watch Harvey thousands of times. They’ve already been studying earlier storms, and their conclusions don’t bode well for the decades to come.

❝ In the months and years after Superstorm Sandy’s 2012 assault on New Jersey and New York, Gary Lackmann, an atmospheric science professor at North Carolina State University, was asked how the event might be understood in light of human-driven global warming. He knew that the question everyone wants answered—did climate change cause the storm—wasn’t the right one. Hurricanes were around long before the industrial revolution. Two questions did, however, resonate:

How does climate change affect the frequency or intensity of huge storms?…

What would the weather pattern that sustained Sandy have spawned in a cooler past or a hotter future?…

RTFA for conclusions.

The body of Lackmann’s study ran before Hurricane Harvey. He’s adding that info to an ongoing evaluation. The more empirical data you have, the better. Especially in the political climate of crap “alternative facts” so loved by today’s conservatives.

Distant galaxy sends out 15 high-energy radio bursts

❝ Breakthrough Listen, an initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe, has detected 15 brief but powerful radio pulses emanating from a mysterious and repeating source – FRB 121102 – far across the universe.

Fast radio bursts are brief, bright pulses of radio emission from distant but largely unknown sources, and FRB 121102 is the only one known to repeat: more than 150 high-energy bursts have been observed coming from the object, which was identified last year as a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years from Earth.

❝ Possible explanations for the repeating bursts range from outbursts from rotating neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields – so-called magnetars – to a more speculative idea: They are directed energy sources, powerful laser bursts used by extraterrestrial civilizations to power spacecraft, akin to Breakthrough Starshot’s plan to use powerful laser pulses to propel nano-spacecraft to our solar system’s nearest star, Proxima Centauri…

❝ Regardless of FRB 121102’s ultimate source, when the recently detected pulses left their host galaxy, our solar system was less than 2 billion years old, noted Steve Croft, a Breakthrough Listen astronomer at UC Berkeley. Life on Earth consisted only of single-celled organisms; it would be another billion years before even the simplest multi-cellular life began to evolve.

The dominant life-form on Earth still is pretty simple-minded. When we get round to relying uniformly and consistently on scientific fact and evidence-driven conclusions, we may finally creep beyond Jack and the Beanstalk mythology and ritual.

Hurricane Harvey: Health Consequences of Mold


Not crop circles; but, mold patterns on a Louisiana ceiling after Katrina

❝ The flooding of Houston is a health catastrophe unfolding publicly in slow motion. Much of the country is watching as 50 inches of water rise around the chairs of residents in nursing homes and submerge semitrucks. Some 20 trillion gallons of water are pouring onto the urban plain, where developers have paved over the wetlands that would drain the water.

❝ The toll on human life and health so far has been small relative to what the images suggest. Authorities have cited thirty known deaths as of Tuesday night, while 13,000 people have been rescued…But the impact of hurricanes on health is not captured in the mortality and morbidity numbers in the days after the rain. This is typified by the inglorious problem of mold…

❝ Submerging a city means introducing a new ecosystem of fungal growth that will change the health of the population in ways we are only beginning to understand. The same infrastructure and geography that have kept this water from dissipating created a uniquely prolonged period for fungal overgrowth to take hold, which can mean health effects that will bear out over years and lifetimes.

The documented dangers of excessive mold exposure are many. Guidelines issued by the World Health Organization note that living or working amid mold is associated with respiratory symptoms, allergies, asthma, and immunological reactions. The document cites a wide array of “inflammatory and toxic responses after exposure to microorganisms isolated from damp buildings, including their spores, metabolites, and components,” as well as evidence that mold exposure can increase risks of rare conditions like hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic alveolitis, and chronic sinusitis…

❝ Under [Trump], the funding of science to better understand the health consequences of mold exposure stands to be slashed. Meanwhile, the significance of mold in human lives is expected to increase with rising sea levels and catastrophic weather events. The perennial intensification of severe weather patterns over the Gulf Coast has made flooding increasingly common, at least partly due to the warming of the ocean.

❝ The Environmental Protection Agency, which would typically be tasked with mitigating the health effects of mold in Houston…stands only less equipped now to deal with environmental mold contamination than it did in New Orleans [after Katrina].

❝ In Houston, short-term rescue funding is essential to saving lives, and supporting it is politically necessary. But most of the looming threats to human wellbeing will outlast the immediate displays of concern. They will play out when the water and the cameras are gone, and when emergency funds allocated to Houston are exhausted. Mold will mark the divide between people who can afford to escape it and people for whom the storm doesn’t end.

I’m waiting for the inevitable copout press conferences from Congress-creeps who will be “surprised” at the epidemic of respiratory and other ailments that will follow-on this weather event. They collaborate with fossil fuel-pimps like Trump, Ryan and McConnell on a day-by-day agenda committed to gutting science research and civic betterment.

RTFA for even more intimidating details.

1989 Ozone Treaty Proven to Reduce US Greenhouse Gas Emissions

❝ The Montreal Protocol, the international treaty adopted to restore Earth’s protective ozone layer in 1989, has significantly reduced emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals from the United States. In a twist, a new study shows the 30-year old treaty has had a major side benefit of reducing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S.

That’s because the ozone-depleting substances controlled by the treaty are also potent greenhouse gases, with heat-trapping abilities up to 10,000 times greater than carbon dioxide over 100 years.

❝ The new study is the first to quantify the impact of the Montreal Protocol on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions with atmospheric observations. The study’s results show that reducing the use of ozone-depleting substances from 2008 to 2014 eliminated the equivalent of 170 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. That’s roughly the equivalent of 50 percent of the reductions achieved by the U.S. for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over the same period…

❝ Previous studies have demonstrated that the Montreal Protocol has been more effective at curtailing global greenhouse gas emissions than any other international effort – even though climate change was not a consideration during the initial treaty negotiations in the late 1980s.

You know as well as I or anyone else that – as soon as our Fake President finds out about this – he’s going to make up some ridiculous excuse to try to abrogate the Montreal Treaty. Bad enough it demonstrates that political measures can positively affect some of the damage done to our biosphere by profit-pimps and greed. The treaty was signed into existence by a moderate Republican who understands the value of science..

State of the Climate – Give yourself a update in climate knowledge

❝ An international, peer-reviewed publication released each summer, the State of the Climate is the authoritative annual summary of the global climate published as a supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

❝ The report, compiled by NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate at the National Centers for Environmental Information is based on contributions from scientists from around the world. It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice, and in space.

❝ This is the twenty-seventh issuance of the annual assessment now known as State of the Climate [large .pdf]. Surface temperature and carbon dioxide concentration, two of the more publicly recognized indicators of global-scale climate change, set new highs during 2016, as did several surface and near-surface indicators and essential climate variables. Notably, the increase in CO2 concentration was the largest in the nearly six-decade observational record.

No jokes about light reading. Reports designed for peer review are heavy on scientific citations. But, I still feel good about the research I went through at the turn of the Millennium with documents published by the Max Planck Institute as they worked their way towards a definitive response to discussions about climate change.

Here’s a chance to keep up with one of the best American-based global sources.