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  1. #1371
    Fire from Within dara's Avatar
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    They are now on board.

  2. #1372
    Moderator at Work ilan's Avatar
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    Did galactic crash trigger solar system formation?
    EarthSky in SPACE | June 4, 2020

    The formation of the sun, the solar system and the subsequent emergence of life on Earth may be a consequence of a collision between our galaxy – the Milky Way – and a smaller galaxy called Sagittarius.


    The Sagittarius dwarf galaxy has been orbiting the Milky Way for billions of years. As its orbit around the 10,000 times more massive Milky Way gradually tightened, it started colliding with our galaxy’s disk. The three known collisions between Sagittarius and the Milky Way have, according to a new study, triggered major star formation episodes, one of which may have given rise to the solar system. Image via ESA.
    The formation of the sun, the solar system and the subsequent emergence of life on Earth may be a consequence of a collision between our galaxy, the Milky Way, and a smaller galaxy called Sagittarius, discovered in the 1990s to be orbiting our galactic home. That’s according to a new study published May 25, 2020, in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Astronomy.

    Astronomers have known that Sagittarius repeatedly smashes through the Milky Way’s disk, as its orbit around the galaxy’s core tightens as a result of gravitational forces. Previous studies suggested that Sagittarius, a so-called dwarf galaxy, had had a profound effect on how stars move in the Milky Way. Some astronomers even claim that the 10,000 times more massive Milky Way’s trademark spiral structure might be a result of the at least three known crashes with Sagittarius over the past six billion years.

    The new study, based on data gathered by ESA’s galaxy mapping Gaia spacecraft, revealed for the first time that the influence of Sagittarius on the Milky Way may be even more substantial. The ripples caused by the collisions seem to have triggered major star formation episodes, one of which roughly coincided with the time of the formation of the sun some 4.7 billion years ago.
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  3. #1373
    Moderator at Work ilan's Avatar
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    Black holes are like a hologram
    EarthSky in SPACE | June 5, 2020

    The theory of relativity describes black holes as being spherical, smooth and simple. Quantum theory describes them as being extremely complex and full of information. New research now proposes a surprising solution to this apparent duality.


    Who could forget this image? It’s the first direct image of a black hole, in the galaxy M87, released in April 2019. This long-sought image provided the strongest evidence to date for the existence of supermassive black holes and opened a new window onto the study of black holes, their event horizons, and gravity. Image via the Event Horizon Telescope Collaboration.
    We all remember that incredible image of a black hole that traveled around the world about a year ago. Yet, according to new research by scientists in Italy, black holes could be like a hologram, where all the information is amassed in a two-dimensional surface able to reproduce a three-dimensional image. In this way, these cosmic bodies, as affirmed by quantum theories, could be incredibly complex and concentrate an enormous amount of information inside themselves, as the largest hard disk that exists in nature, in two dimensions. This idea aligns with Einstein’s theory of relativity, which describes black holes as three dimensional, simple, spherical, and smooth, as they appear in that famous image. In short, black holes “appear” as three dimensional, just like holograms. The study which demonstrates it, and which unites two discordant theories, has recently been published in Physical Review X.

    The study comes from the SISSA, and from the International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) and the National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), all based in Italy.

    The mystery of black holes

    For scientists, black holes are a big question mark for many reasons. They are, for example, excellent representatives of the great difficulties of theoretical physics in putting together the principles of Einstein’s general theory of relativity with those of quantum physics when it comes to gravity. According to the first theory, they would be simple bodies without information. According to the other, as claimed by Jacob Bekenstein and Stephen Hawking, they would be “the most complex existing systems” because they would be characterized by an enormous “entropy,” which measures the complexity of a system, and consequently would have a lot of information inside them.

    The holographic principle applied to black holes

    To study black holes, the two authors of the research, Francesco Benini (SISSA Professor, ICTP scientific consultant and INFN researcher) and Paolo Milan (SISSA and INFN researcher), used an idea almost 30 years old, but still surprising, called the holographic principle.

    The researchers said:

    This revolutionary and somewhat counterintuitive principle proposes that the behavior of gravity in a given region of space can alternatively be described in terms of a different system, which lives only along the edge of that region and therefore in a one less dimension.

    And, more importantly, in this alternative description (called holographic) gravity does not appear explicitly. In other words, the holographic principle allows us to describe gravity using a language that does not contain gravity, thus avoiding friction with quantum mechanics.

    What Benini and Milan have done is:

    … apply the theory of the holographic principle to black holes. In this way, their mysterious thermodynamic properties have become more understandable: focusing on predicting that these bodies have a great entropy and observing them in terms of quantum mechanics, you can describe them just like a hologram: they have two dimensions, in which gravity disappears, but they reproduce an object in three dimensions.

    From theory to observation

    The two scientists explained:

    This study is only the first step towards a deeper understanding of these cosmic bodies and of the properties that characterize them when quantum mechanics crosses with general relativity.
    Everything is more important now at a time when observations in astrophysics are experiencing an incredible development. Just think of the observation of gravitational waves from the fusion of black holes result of the collaboration between LIGO and Virgo or, indeed, that of the black hole made by the Event Horizon Telescope that produced this extraordinary image.

    In the near future, we may be able to test our theoretical predictions regarding quantum gravity, such as those made in this study, by observation. And this, from a scientific point of view, would be something absolutely exceptional.
    Last edited by ilan; 06-05-2020 at 12:35 PM.
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  4. #1374
    Nascar Pool Diecast Winner Ryu's Avatar
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    good stuff Thanks ilan
    All information provided is for informational purposes only. Use at your own risk.

  5. #1375
    Moderator at Work ilan's Avatar
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    Welcome... Hard to get too much info on black holes. They're intriguing, to say the least.
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  6. #1376
    Moderator at Work ilan's Avatar
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    New study says dinosaur-dooming asteroid struck Earth at ‘deadliest possible’ angle
    Eleanor Imster in EARTH | June 3, 2020

    “For the dinosaurs, the worst-case scenario is exactly what happened … because it put more hazardous debris into the upper atmosphere and scattered it everywhere, the very thing that led to a nuclear winter.”


    Artist’s concept of the fiery meteor that struck Earth 66 million years ago, bringing the age of dinosaurs to an end. Image via Imperial College London.
    New computer simulations by an international team of researchers suggest the asteroid that doomed the dinosaurs, 66 million years ago, struck Earth at the “deadliest possible” angle. That is, these researchers say, it struck at an angle of about 60 degrees, thereby maximizing the amount of climate-changing gases thrust into the upper atmosphere. Such a strike would have unleashed billions of tons of sulphur into the air, blocking the sun, and triggering a nuclear winter that killed the dinosaurs and 75 percent of life on Earth at the time.

    All of this is according to a study published May 26, 2020 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications,

    The – from Imperial College London, the University of Freiburg, and the University of Texas at Austin – examined the shape and subsurface structure of the Chicxulub meteorite crater in what’s now Mexico. Afterwards, they used that geophysical data to create computer models of the event. Their computer simulations helped them diagnose the impact angle and direction of the incoming meteor. They said in a statement that the new models are:

    … the first ever fully 3D simulations to reproduce the whole event, from the initial impact to the moment the final crater.

    Gareth Collins, of Imperial College London is the new work’s lead author. Collins said:

    For the dinosaurs, the worst-case scenario is exactly what happened. The asteroid strike unleashed an incredible amount of climate-changing gases into the atmosphere, triggering a chain of events that led to the extinction of the dinosaurs. This was likely worsened by the fact that it struck at one of the deadliest possible angles.

    Our simulations provide compelling evidence that the asteroid struck at a steep angle, perhaps 60 degrees above the horizon, and approached its target from the north-east. We know that this was among the worst-case scenarios for the lethality on impact, because it put more hazardous debris into the upper atmosphere and scattered it everywhere – the very thing that led to a nuclear winter.

    The upper layers of earth around the Chicxulub crater contain high amounts of water as well as porous carbonate and evaporite rocks. When heated and disturbed by the impact, these rocks would have decomposed, says the study, flinging vast amounts of carbon dioxide, sulphur and water vapor into the atmosphere. According to the research:

    The sulphur would have been particularly hazardous as it rapidly forms aerosols – tiny particles that would have blocked the sun’s rays, halting photosynthesis in plants and rapidly cooling the climate. This eventually contributed to the mass extinction event that killed 75 per cent of life on Earth.

    It turns out that an impact angle of about 60 degrees is ideal for hurling as much vapour into the air as possible, Collins told New Scientist. If the asteroid ha came in from straight overhead, he said, the asteroid would have smashed up more rock but not sent as much into the atmosphere, and if it was more of a glancing blow, less rock would have been vaporized.

    The analysis by these researchers was also informed by recent results from drilling into the 125 mile (200 km) wide crater, which brought up rocks containing evidence of the extreme forces generated by the impact. Read about how the scientists conducted the study here.

    Bottom line: A new study suggests that the asteroid that doomed the dinosaurs struck Earth at an angle of about 60 degrees, which maximized the amount of climate-changing gases thrust into the upper atmosphere.
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  7. #1377
    Moderator at Work ilan's Avatar
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    Should Scientists Take UFOs and Ghosts More Seriously?
    John Horgan, Scientific American | May 18, 2020

    Journalist Leslie Kean investigates topics that many consider to be beyond the pale


    Leslie Kean: “Where is the curiosity among scientists about the mysteries of the unknown? The challenge they provide to the status quo should make their study even more compelling!” Credit: Tatiana Daubek
    Like many long-time readers of The New York Times, I was shocked when the staid old paper published, in 2017, a front-page article on Pentagon investigations of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. This article, plus a shorter sidebar and a 2019 follow-up, heartened those who believe that extraterrestrials have visited us and annoyed skeptics like my friend journalist Keith Kloor. Last December, I met journalist Leslie Kean, a co-author of the Times articles and sole author of the 2010 bestseller UFOs: Generals, Pilots, And Government Officials Go On The Record, at a week-long symposium on challenges to conventional scientific materialism, about which I wrote here. At the meeting, which took place at the Esalen Institute in California, Kean talked about the possibility of life after death, a topic she explores in her 2017 book Surviving Death: A Journalist Investigates Evidence for an Afterlife (which includes chapters from other contributors). Kean and I hit it off. I told her that, although I have a hard time believing in ghosts and alien visitations, I admire the courage and professionalism with which she investigates these topics. I also enjoy talking to smart people whose views diverge from mine, like renegade biologists Rupert Sheldrake and Stuart Kauffman. So last week, after the Times published yet another UFO story by Kean and her collaborator Ralph Blumenthal—which triggered more pushback from Kloor--I emailed Kean a few questions. – John Horgan

    Horgan: When I was a kid, I was obsessed with UFOs and the paranormal. Were you like that too?

    Kean: No, not until I was an adult. Although I do remember having mystical feelings about Santa Claus as a young child. It happened when I saw that my cookies, carefully placed next to the Christmas tree, had been nibbled on by Santa during his visitation into my world the previous Christmas Eve. It was solid evidence that something magic, something “supernormal” had actually occurred. This fantastical being who could be everywhere at once had been in my living room and left behind a physical bite mark to prove his existence. The authorities of the day, my parents, confirmed it. I felt momentarily transported, expanded, into a new level of connection to something big and mysterious. That may sound silly, but it was true. When I found out the truth about Santa later, I felt betrayed. Something precious had been taken away. My parents weren’t trustworthy because they lied to me. Maybe at some unconscious level this led me to want to find out what’s real and to prove the so-called authorities wrong. I’m not totally serious, but I suppose it’s possible.

    Horgan: When and why did you first decide to write about UFOs? Was there any particular triggering event?

    Kean: My serious interest in UFOs as a journalist began in 1999 when I was working as an on-air host and producer for public radio and publishing as a freelancer. I unexpectedly received an explosive 90-page report titled UFOs and Defense: What Should We Prepare For? by retired French generals, police, scientists and an admiral. The report intended to “strip the UFO phenomenon of its irrational layer”. The group had spent three years documenting official military and aviation UFO cases. Most stunning was their conclusion: that the “extraterrestrial hypothesis” was the most valid and logical one to explain the data. Of course there was no proof, only an hypothesis. The authors were concerned about the national security implications of the phenomenon and proposed that pilots be trained on how to respond to UFOs to avoid future mishaps or even dangerous accidents. Given the stature and credibility of the group, I thought this was a huge story. I published a lengthy article based on the report, known as the COMETA Report, for the Boston Globe in May, 2000, which required overcoming the reservations of a very nervous editor. [See links to the COMETA Report here and here.] That’s what set me on this path, and there was no turning back. And two decades later, I can hardly believe how things have changed. [See this Times story by Ralph Blumenthal for more background on Kean’s UFO coverage.]

    Horgan: One admirer of your book UFOs describes you as an “agnostic” on whether UFOs are actually piloted by aliens. When I met you at Esalen, you struck me as a believer, not an agnostic. Am I wrong?

    Kean: Piloted by aliens? I have an open mind, but no, I don’t believe that and have never said that. But I also will not rule it out. There are many possibilities on the table. I have made the point over and over that we do not know what these objects are, and that’s where things stand. My book concluded that a phenomenon exists, without question, named “unidentified flying objects” by the US Air Force in the 1950’s. It’s physical, and well documented, even by our government. But what these objects are is another question. That’s what everyone wants to know, and that desire has led to all kinds of speculation. On that question my 2010 book was agnostic, and it was recognized as such. These flying machines, whatever they are, might not even have any drivers at all for all we know.

    Horgan: What is the best single piece of evidence that UFOs have an extraterrestrial origin?

    Kean: The extremely advanced technology that the objects have displayed since the 1950’s. They demonstrate tremendous speed and accelerations, the ability to make sharp right-angle turns, stand still in midair, zoom off and disappear in the blink of an eye, and operate under water. They appear to defy the laws of aviation as we know it, since they have no wings or visible means of propulsion. The documentation goes back more than 60 years, when no one on this planet had technology like this. In some cases, experts, such as officials from the French Space Agency, had enough data to rule out all conventional explanations (meaning it wasn’t something natural or man-made). These cases represent only a small fraction of those reported, but they are the ones that matter. So, what are we left with?

    Horgan: What’s your view of alien abduction experiences?

    Kean: I find them fascinating and don’t know what to make of them. I know sane, intelligent people who report such events, and some even have physical evidence of them. Their lives have been turned upside down by these experiences. However, this is not something I have studied in-depth and it has never been the focus of my work as a reporter. I don’t feel qualified to draw conclusions about it. It points to the greater complexity of this issue which goes beyond any simple hypothesis.

    Horgan: Journalist Keith Kloor, writing in WIRED, calls your recent New York Times article on UFOs “thinly-sourced and slanted.” Astrophysicist Katie Mack, in Scientific American, says she doesn’t take alien spaceships seriously enough to debunk them. How do you respond to these critics?

    Kean: People are entitled to their opinions. As one of three people writing the Times stories, which include scrutiny by fact-checkers and multiple editors, I simply don’t agree with Kloor’s statement. We stand by all our reporting at the New York Times and will continue to cover the topic whenever we can. Our first story in Dec. 2017 reverberated around the world and has made the subject respectable for many who would not have touched it before. It opened the door to classified briefings on the Hill and a chain of events involving the Navy issuing new reporting guidelines and acknowledging the anomalies in the videos.

    I don’t think Katie Mack and I stand that far apart. She writes, “It’s not that we don’t think aliens exist. To the best of my knowledge, most of us do.” But the leap to alien spaceships in our atmosphere is another matter, for many reasons which she spells out. I respect her position. I have never claimed that UFOs are alien spaceships. Unfortunately, this is the takeaway for many people from our stories in the Times, even though this is not what is actually written and even though we include counter statements to this idea. So I would respond to Katie Mack that any question about alien spaceships misses the point. These are unknowns, plain and simple. But they are physically real. They interact with military pilots and commercial aircraft. Therefore, they deserve investigation.

    Horgan: Why did you write Surviving Death? Did your own paranormal experiences attract you to this topic?

    Kean: During the ten years I was investigating UFOs, I had been intrigued by the question of the possible survival of consciousness when we die. I had poked around into some of the research, especially the work of Ian Stevenson at the University of Virginia studying young children with verified past life memories. After completing work with a film company on a History Channel special based on my book, my publisher (Crown/Random House) invited me to write a second book. Before they made that invitation, I had just completed a draft of a proposal for a book on evidence for possible survival after death, and had planned to give it to my literary agent the very week that they contacted her. It was an amazing synchronicity.

    So, it wasn’t so much my own experiences that drew me to this, it was my interest in learning more and synthesizing the best, most rigorous material into one volume for the general reader, sort of like I had done for UFOs. This was another big mystery facing human beings: what happens when we die? It was the natural topic for me to pursue next, and it was a much bigger challenge than UFOs. Most of my “paranormal” experiences occurred during the time I was involved in the research, which began in 2012. I opened a door and didn’t know where it would take me. The experiences I had were beyond my imagination. They were life-changing. Some of them were precipitated by the sudden death of my younger brother in early 2013, a tragedy that deepened my quest for personal answers, as well as intellectual ones. So writing Surviving Death was a journey of discovery which unfolded while I was writing it, whereas UFOs represented a culmination of ten years of investigation without me ever seeing a UFO. The two books turned out to be very different as a result.

    Horgan: Do you ever worry that your claims about life after death will discredit your claims about UFOs, or vice versa?

    Kean: Yes, I was worried about that question regarding the material in Surviving Death. However, I didn’t make any “claims about life after death” that I felt could discredit me, at least in terms of reporting on research and drawing conclusions. I invited others to write their own chapters, and they said things that I didn’t say. My conclusion was that the evidence was suggestive, but not definitive, and I never claimed that we survive death. I pointed out that we all have our own criteria for “evidence” which is strongly impacted by personal experience.

    I “tested” mental mediumship, received what appeared to be after-death communications from my brother, saw an apparition, and experienced genuine physical mediumship. I thought about whether to make myself vulnerable by including these things. But I think my narrative would have remained one-dimensional and abstract without this personal element. So, I stepped inside this investigation through first-hand examination, and not just from the perspective of a detached observer who studies data and peers into a strange world from the outside. Yes, it could be professionally risky to expose these very personal events, but I felt it was my obligation to do so. It would have been dishonest to omit them, because they impacted my thinking and my effort to come to terms with many remarkable phenomena. However, I was also careful to step back from them, remaining as analytical and discriminating as I was with everything else. The tricky aspect lies in the interpretation of the extraordinary events, not in their reporting.

    So far, I have not felt that my work on UFOs has been discredited by my more recent endeavors. I approached Surviving Death with journalistic rigor, and this is its strength.

    Horgan: When we discussed ghosts and other supernatural phenomena at Esalen, you seemed to be a believer, not an agnostic. Can you clarify your position?

    Kean: It depends what you mean by a believer. Paranormal phenomena exist. People have capabilities and experiences that have been labeled “paranormal“. They seem to operate outside the limits of the current materialistic framework adapted by most scientists, while at the same time, nobody can explain what consciousness actually is. So the existence of “paranormal phenomena” is not a matter of belief. I find it astonishing that there are still some scientists who adapt the position that it can’t be, therefore it isn’t. I don’t have that choice, because I have witnessed many paranormal phenomena myself, and I know they exist. Those who don’t want to believe these things will dismiss them no matter what they read, and they are unlikely to open themselves up to their own encounters with these phenomena.

    I think believing comes into play when one tries to establish what the phenomena are, how they work, where they are generated from, why they occur - when addressing the bigger question of what they mean. Beliefs can operate on both sides of the spectrum, from extreme, black and white denial, as we see in so many skeptics, to extreme belief in an afterlife involving claimed “direct knowledge”. In fact, none of us knows very much about these big mysteries.

    Horgan: What is the best evidence you’ve seen for life after death?

    Kean: That is a huge question. The evidence that I have pulled together in Surviving Death comes from so many places, historical and contemporary, experiential and scientific. It’s the full gestalt that provides the best evidence. I think cases of very young children who report accurate details of a past life, complete with nightmares about the previous death and knowledge from the previous career, are compelling when the memories can be verified and the previous person is identified. If one does not accept rebirth as an explanation, then something else very “paranormal” is going on. Cases of responsive apparitions are also interesting - these “forms” demonstrate intelligence by reacting to multiple human observers, and sometimes provide information through telepathy about their lives on earth which are verified to be true. There are “actual-death” experiences, as resuscitation scientist Sam Parnia calls them, involving patients who are “dead” yet still return, even after spending hours as a corpse. Mediumship can also be evidential, especially when accurate information is provided that is not known to the recipient but is verified later by a family member. Even if this is a result of the medium’s own psychic abilities and does not involve communications from dead people, this is extraordinary in itself. The famous trance medium Mrs. Leonora Piper was studied by experts all over the world, including Willam James. In her sittings, scientists and other discriminating sitters had extensive conversations with their deceased friends and family.

    Drop-in communicators, who show up unexpectedly within a physical seance with no connection to any of the sitters or the medium, provide strong evidence for survival. In two famous cases, these communicators, who spoke through the entranced medium, provided detailed information about their lives on earth that were later verified. In the case of the Icelandic medium Indridi Indridason, the communicator spoke in a language unknown to the medium and provided the name Emil Jensen. Jensen’s identity was verified decades later by psychologist Erlendur Haraldsson, after searching through records in Copenhagen.

    There is a wealth of literature on all of this, and much more evidence. And I like to refer to the words of William James: “If you wish to upset the law that all crows are black, you mustn’t seek to show that all crows are black; it is enough if you prove one single crow to be white.” Everyone has to find their own white crow.

    Horgan: In Surviving Death, you say “there are still aspects of Nature which are neither understood or accepted, even though their reality has profound implications for understanding the true breadth of the human psyche and its possible continuity after death.” I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, and yet I am, I confess, skeptical of claims about alien visitations and life after death. Am I simply close-minded? Do you ever worry that you are too open-minded?

    Kean: You’re not closed-minded. Skepticism is a good thing. I too am skeptical about claims of alien visitations as being the simplistic answer to the UFO question. I was a skeptic about the afterlife when I began my work on that topic; it was my personal experiences that opened my eyes. I don’t know how many paranormal events you have witnessed or experienced that might have been totally baffling to you. But I know you have studied consciousness and related phenomena for years, and your skepticism is true for you, and who I am to judge that? Can one be too open-minded? Or are you talking about gullibility? I think I’m grounded, and good at discrimination. Ultimately conclusions about my approach are up to my readers and those who know my work.

    Horgan: Are there any pop-culture shows on UFOs and/or the paranormal that you especially like? Dislike?

    Kean: I dislike most of the ones I’ve watched, but there are many that I haven’t seen. I loved the movies Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable. I enjoyed the X-files until it veered too much away from UFOs and into monsters and freakier territory. I didn’t like the History Channel series Project Blue Book, premiering in early 2019, because of its distortions and ridiculous plot lines. Ralph Blumenthal and I critiqued that show for the New York Times and reported on the real story of Project Blue Book, the Air Force project investigating UFOs in the 50’s and 60’s. One of my favorite UFO movies was Unidentified Flying Objects, made in 1956, with some real people as themselves, which accurately reflected the Blue Book files at the time. I suspect younger people will think this is lame! But that movie was true to fact. Surviving Death is the basis for a six-part documentary series which will air this fall on a major streaming platform, so I guess it will become part of pop-culture.

    Horgan: Are there any other topics, besides UFOs and life after death, that you think scientists and journalists should take more seriously?

    Kean: It’s not so much “life after death” because that is not something science could ever definitely prove. It’s more about questions around the nature of human consciousness and its manifestations that appear to transcend the limitations of the brain, like a crossing over from the unseen world to that of the seen. Who are we really? Biological robots, or something else? I think all aspects of “superhuman” functioning - precognition, clairvoyance, telepathy, psychokinesis, and energy healing – should be taken seriously. They have been well documented. Where is the curiosity among scientists about the mysteries of the unknown? The challenge they provide to the status quo should make their study even more compelling! Sadly, it’s the opposite. I would also love to see more attention paid to mediumship, in all its forms, although I recognize this is not something that can be easily studied in the laboratory. More surveys on near-death experiences could be conducted, along with end-of-life experiences that occur within hospices. Some “parapsychologists” and other scientific investigators are doing brilliant work on all of this, but they are hampered by the mainstream scientific community’s irrational disrespect. Someday that dam will break.
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  8. #1378
    Moderator at Work ilan's Avatar
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    Biggest asteroid to pass close (and undetected) this year
    Eddie Irizarry in SPACE | June 11, 2020

    Asteroid 2020 LD passed within the moon’s distance on June 5, but wasn’t discovered until June 7. It’s the 45th known and the largest asteroid to sweep within a lunar-distance of Earth so far in 2020.


    We hear a lot about asteroids or comets passing close to Earth, but what does “close” mean? For a comet, it might mean millions of miles. For an asteroid, it might mean enormous distances as well, beyond the moon’s orbital distance of about a quarter-million miles. On the other hand, space rocks coming closer than our moon catch people’s attention, especially if the asteroids are good-sized! That was the case with asteroid 2020 LD, which swept closest to Earth on June 5, flying by at only about 80% of the moon’s distance (190,559 miles or 306,675 km). At around 400 feet (122 meters) in diameter, 2020 LD is the largest asteroid to have come within 1 lunar-distance this year … or last year … in fact, since 2011. And it also ranks as one of the biggest asteroids ever to fly this close to Earth, without being previously detected. That’s right. 2020 LD passed undetected on June 5. No one noticed it until 2 days later, on June 7.

    That’s when astronomers using the 0.5-meter ATLAS telescope at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, astronomers first noticed this Apollo type asteroid traveling at 60,826 miles per hour (97,890 km/h) relative to Earth.

    It was only after analyzing the space rock’s orbit that scientists realized its closest approach to Earth had happened two days before, on June 5.

    Asteroids fly between the moon’s orbit and Earth pretty frequently. You might be surprised at how frequently. The chart below – via The Watchers – shows the asteroids that have come that close from January 1 to June 9, 2020.


    Image via The Watchers.
    But 2020 LD isn’t your typical close-passing asteroid. Again, it’s the biggest asteroid to have passed within the moon’s orbit since 2011.

    Is a 400-foot asteroid a big one, in an absolute sense? Not particularly. On the scale of asteroids in general – those orbiting mostly in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter – we might say that 2020 LD falls somewhere between medium and small. The biggest asteroids are hundreds of miles in diameter. That said, asteroid 2020 LD is big enough to cause consider damage if it were to hit us. Consider, for example, the space rock that caused the 0.75-mile diameter (1.2-km diameter) Meteor Crater near Flagstaff, Arizona. That asteroid, which struck some 50,000 years ago, was estimated to be about 150 feet (about 46 meters) in diameter.

    Or consider the asteroid that entered Earth’s atmosphere as an amazing meteor over Chelyabinsk, Russia on February 15, 2013. The shock wave from that meteor broke windows in six Russian cities. The original asteroid was an estimated 66 feet (20 meters) in diameter.

    Did you know you can calculate the effects of any asteroid impact via this cool impact calculator created by Jay Melosh, an atmospheric scientist at Purdue Uniersity? You could take the numbers of the various asteroids mentioned in this article – and plug them into that calculator – and scare yourself handily! Visit the impact calculator.

    In the meantime, space rock 2020 LD is nothing to worry about. At this writing, 50 years is the length for which its orbit has been well calculated. It won’t come so close to Earth again as it did this month for at least that many years … and likely much, much longer.
    Last edited by ilan; 06-11-2020 at 12:20 PM.
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    Wowzer! Pluto spacecraft sees parallax for Proxima
    EarthSky in SPACE | June 15, 2020

    New images from the fringes of our solar system. The fast-moving New Horizons spacecraft sees a parallax shift – a different apparent position against the background stars – for Proxima Centauri.


    The New Horizons spacecraft, which visited Pluto in 2015, is really out there! This 2-frame animation shows Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to Earth. On the left, Proxima against the star background seen by the spacecraft. On the right, Proxima and its background as we see them from Earth. The difference is due to parallax, the same effect you see if you hold up a finger and close one eye, then the other. It’s a shift in perspective, caused by New Horizons’ great distance from Earth.
    For the first time, a spacecraft has sent back pictures of the sky from so far away that some stars appear to be in different positions than we’d see from Earth.

    More than four billion miles (6 billion km) from home and speeding toward interstellar space, NASA’s New Horizons has traveled so far that it now has a unique view of the nearest stars. Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator from Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in Boulder, Colorado, said:

    It’s fair to say that New Horizons is looking at an alien sky, unlike what we see from Earth.

    And that has allowed us to do something that had never been accomplished before – to see the nearest stars visibly displaced on the sky from the positions we see them on Earth.

    On April 22-23, the spacecraft turned its long-range telescopic camera to a pair of the “closest” stars, Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, showing just how they appear in different places than we see from Earth. Scientists have long used this “parallax effect” – how a star appears to shift against its background when seen from different locations — to measure distances to stars.

    An easy way to see parallax is to place one finger at arm’s length and watch it jump back and forth when you view it successively with each eye. Similarly, as Earth makes it way around the sun, the stars shift their positions. But because even the nearest stars are hundreds of thousands of times farther away than the diameter of Earth’s orbit, the parallax shifts are tiny, and can only be measured with precise instrumentation.
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    A monster quasar in the early universe
    Deborah Byrd in SPACE | June 26, 2020

    Astronomers just announced the most massive quasar yet known in the early universe. Its monster central black hole has a mass equivalent to 1.5 billion of our suns. The object has been given a Hawaiian name, Poniua’ena.


    Artist’s concept of a quasar, a very distant and exceedingly luminous object powered by a central supermassive black hole. Image via International Gemini Observatory/ NOIRLab/ NSF/ AURA/ P. Marenfeld/ UANews.
    Although quasars are found over a range of distances, most are exceedingly far away. The very distant quasars exist at a time shortly after the Big Bang, when our universe was young. Our current understanding of quasars is that they lie in the centers of young, active galaxies. The luminous, powerful and energetic quasars are thought to be driven by a process of accretion onto supermassive black holes. This week, astronomers announced the discovery of the most massive quasar yet known in the early universe. Its monster central black hole has a mass equivalent to 1.5 billion of our suns. By contrast, the quiescent and relatively sedate black hole at the heart of our Milky Way galaxy has a mass of only 4 million suns. In honor of the new quasar’s discovery via telescopes at the summit of Mauna Kea, the quasar has been given the Hawaiian name Poniua’ena, which means:

    … unseen spinning source of creation, surrounded with brilliance.

    The newly discovered quasar is formally designated J1007+2115. It’s the first quasar to receive an Indigenous name, created by 30 Hawaiian immersion school teachers during a workshop led by the A Hua He Inoa group, part of the ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center – an astronomy and culture education center – in Hilo, Hawaii.
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