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  1. #1151
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    Cool, nebulous ring around Milky Way's supermassive black hole
    National Radio Astronomy Observatory | 5 June 2019

    New observations reveal a never-before-seen disk of cool, interstellar gas wrapped around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way.


    New ALMA observations reveal a never-before-seen disk of cool, interstellar gas wrapped around the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. This nebulous disk gives astronomers new insights into the workings of accretion: the siphoning of material onto the surface of a black hole. The results are published in the journal Nature.

    Through decades of study, astronomers have developed a clearer picture of the chaotic and crowded neighborhood surrounding the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way. Our galactic center is approximately 26,000 light-years from Earth and the supermassive black hole there, known as Sagittarius A* (A "star"), is 4 million times the mass of our Sun.

    We now know that this region is brimming with roving stars, interstellar dust clouds, and a large reservoir of both phenomenally hot and comparatively colder gases. These gases are expected to orbit the black hole in a vast accretion disk that extends a few tenths of a light-year from the black hole's event horizon.

    Until now, however, astronomers have been able to image only the tenuous, hot portion of this flow of accreting gas, which forms a roughly spherical flow and showed no obvious rotation. Its temperature is estimated to be a blistering 10 million degrees Celsius (18 million degrees Fahrenheit), or about two-thirds the temperature found at the core of our Sun. At this temperature, the gas glows fiercely in X-ray light, allowing it to be studied by space-based X-ray telescopes, down to scale of about a tenth of a light-year from the black hole.

    In addition to this hot, glowing gas, previous observations with millimeter-wavelength telescopes have detected a vast store of comparatively cooler hydrogen gas (about 10 thousand degrees Celsius, or 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit) within a few light-years of the black hole. The contribution of this cooler gas to the accretion flow onto the black hole was previously unknown.

    Although our galactic center black hole is relatively quiet, the radiation around it is strong enough to cause hydrogen atoms to continually lose and recombine with their electrons. This recombination produces a distinctive millimeter-wavelength signal, which is capable of reaching Earth with very little losses along the way.

    With its remarkable sensitivity and powerful ability to see fine details, the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) was able to detect this faint radio signal and produce the first-ever image of the cooler gas disk at only about a hundredth of a light-year away (or about 1000 times the distance from the Earth to the Sun) from the supermassive black hole. These observations enabled the astronomers both to map the location and trace the motion of this gas. The researchers estimate that the amount of hydrogen in this cool disk is about one tenth the mass of Jupiter, or one ten-thousandth of the mass of the Sun.

    By mapping the shifts in wavelengths of this radio light due to the Doppler effect (light from objects moving toward the Earth is slightly shifted to the "bluer" portion of the spectrum while light from objects moving away is slightly shifted to the "redder" portion), the astronomers could clearly see that the gas is rotating around the black hole. This information will provide new insights into the ways that black holes devour matter and the complex interplay between a black hole and its galactic neighborhood.

    "We were the first to image this elusive disk and study its rotation," said Elena Murchikova, a member in astrophysics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and lead author on the paper. "We are also probing accretion onto the black hole. This is important because this is our closest supermassive black hole. Even so, we still have no good understanding of how its accretion works. We hope these new ALMA observations will help the black hole give up some of its secrets."
    ___________________________________

    This is really cool news because it is about our, the Milky Way's, black hole. The image above is an "indirect" image of Sgr A*, the black hole at the galactic center of our Milky Way.
    Last edited by ilan; 06-10-2019 at 12:21 PM.
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  2. #1152
    Moderator at Work ilan's Avatar
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    Satellites from Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Amazon could ruin view of the night sky, say astronomers
    Tom Huddleston Jr., CNBC | Mon, Jun 10 2019 11:21 AM EDT Updated Mon, Jun 10 2019 1:16 PM EDT


    SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launches carrying the Es’hail-2 communications satellite for the country of Qatar on November 15, 2018 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
    NurPhoto | Getty Images
    Tech giants like Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Amazon have plans to launch constellations of thousands of satellites aimed at providing global internet access. But astronomers are worried that adding the masses of satellites to Earth’s orbit could screw up our view of the night sky, as well as disrupt scientific research.

    The Astronomical Union International — the world’s largest organization of professional astronomers with over 13,000 members — issued a statement last week to complain about SpaceX’s launch of its first batch of satellites at the end of May. While that launch only sent about 60 satellites into orbit, SpaceX eventually plans a network of satellites, called Starlink, that would consist of nearly 12,000 satellites flying in low Earth orbit (within 1,200 miles of the planet’s surface). Roughly half of those satellites are reportedly expected to launch within the next six years.

    And SpaceX isn’t the only company launching satellite networks, as Amazon has a similar plan in the works, called Project Kuiper, that would put over 3,200 satellites in low Earth orbit over several years in order to provide broadband internet access around the world.

    In its statement, the IAU argues that an uncrowded night sky is “not only essential to advancing our understanding of the Universe of which we are a part, but also as a resource for all humanity and for the protection of nocturnal wildlife,” the statement reads. “We do not yet understand the impact of thousands of these visible satellites scattered across the night sky and despite their good intentions, these satellite constellations may threaten both.”

    The IAU’s statement came after some astronomers — both amateur and professional — took to social media following last month’s SpaceX Starlink launch to voice their own concerns. Dutch scientist Marco Langbroek tweeted a video showing the Startlink satellites streaking across the night sky, though reports noted that the satellites would eventually drift apart (and into higher orbit) rather than being clustered together.

    Soon after, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Jonathan McDowell, tweeted that the Starlink satellites were “brighter than we had expected,” while Southwest Research Institute planetary astronomer Alex Parker wrote in a tweet Langbroek’s video “gives me pause” because the satellites’ brightness.

    “If SpaceX launches all 12,000, they will outnumber stars visible to the naked eye,” Parker wrote on Twitter.

    Amazon did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It’s request for comment.

    In a statement provided to CNBC Make It, a SpaceX spokesperson said the company continues to monitor its orbiting satellites while noting that “the observability of the Starlink satellites is dramatically reduced as they raise orbit to greater distance and orient themselves with the phased array antennas toward Earth and their solar arrays behind the body of the satellite.”

    However, in a series of late-May tweets, Musk claimed that the current thousands of satellites in orbit pose little to no problems for astronomers, and that SpaceX is working to ensure its satellites will not hurt the view of the night sky. “We’ll make sure Starlink has no material effect on discoveries in astronomy,” Musk wrote. “We care a great deal about science.”

    In fact, Musk also said that he had asked SpaceX to reduce the brightness of future Starlink satellites, and SpaceX has worked with the U.S. National Science Foundation, which oversees the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, to help ensure that the Starlink satellites do not run afoul of “international radio astronomy protection standards,” the NSF said in a statement this week.

    “NSF is aware of concerns from the research community and looks forward to careful analysis of potential impacts on optical and infrared astronomy,” a spokesperson for NSF said in a statement provided to CNBC Make It. “NSF’s mission is to fund basic research, as well as the instruments and facilities that enable such research. We value input from stakeholders about possible impacts on any area of the research ecosystem and will work with our federal, private and academic partners to ensure research capabilities are safeguarded.”

    SpaceX and Amazon will eventually commercialize their satellite internet networks, with SpaceX CEO Musk predicting his company’s network could reap upwards of $30 billion per year in revenue.

    More than 2,000 satellites are currently estimated to be orbiting Earth, though roughly 1,300 of those are in low Earth orbit, according to data from the Union of Concerned Scientists.
    _____________________________________

    Hopefully, the all mighty dollar will not ruin the night sky and astronomical research. Unlike what we did with the oceans, we should not export pollution into outer space. - ilan
    Last edited by ilan; 06-11-2019 at 12:29 PM.
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  3. #1153
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    Powerful superflares could pose a threat to Earth
    Jake Parks, Astronomy | Tuesday, June 11, 2019

    Young and active stars often experience wildly strong eruptions. Now we know our older, calmer Sun may occasionally throw similar tantrums.


    NASA captured a solar flare April 17, 2016, in 4K quality.

    Astronomers have learned over the past decade that even large solar flares — powerful bursts of radiation — from our Sun are actually small potatoes compared to some of the flares we see around other stars. It’s now common to spot “superflares” hundreds to thousands of times more powerful than the Sun’s flares from stars hundreds of light-years away. Earlier this year, researchers even identified a star that emitted a turbocharged flare some 10 billion times more energetic than those typically seen bursting from the Sun.

    These superflares are mainly observed in young, active stars. But new research presented Monday at the 234th Meeting of the American Astronomical Society in St. Louis shows that even our middle-aged, relatively docile Sun is capable of producing some astoundingly powerful flares — albeit only once every one to two millennia. The work was also published May 3 in The Astrophysical Journal.

    “Young stars have superflares once every week or so,” said the study’s lead author, Yuta Notsu of the University of Colorado Boulder, in a press release. “For the Sun, it’s once every few thousand years on average.”

    Roughly speaking, about 30 to 50 percent of superflares produced by the Sun can strike the Earth, Notsu said. This means that we can expect a superflare about 100 times bigger than normal to strike Earth about once every 10,000 years or so.

    And we could be overdue. “Our study shows that superflares are rare events,” Notsu said. “But there is some possibility that we could experience such an event in the next 100 years or so.”

    Sizing up superflares

    To carry out the study, Notsu and his team first teased through data from the Kepler Space Telescope, which spent the past decade looking for planets by monitoring how stars change in brightness over time. Working from a sample of about 90,000 Sun-like stars, the researchers identified more than 1,000 superflares from about 300 stars.

    At first, they thought these stars would be rapidly rotating. That’s because quickly spinning stars tend to have strong magnetic fields that easily get tangled up, which is thought to kick off flares. But a fast spin is apparently not a requirement for strong eruptions. By bolstering their brightness data with size estimates from the Gaia satellite, the researchers were able to determine how fast their flaring stars were spinning. They found that, as expected, stars that rotate once every few days had superflares about 20 times as powerful as more slowly spinning stars like the Sun, which rotates about once every 25 days. However, Sun-like stars were still seen producing hazardous superflares.

    Brace yourself

    The confirmation that slowly rotating, Sun-like stars can still throw out powerful superflares is surely intriguing, but it’s also a bit nerve-wracking.

    “When our Sun was young, it was very active because it rotated very fast and probably generated more powerful flares,” said Notsu. “But we didn’t know if such large flares occur on the modern Sun with very low frequency.”

    There is one historical point of reference, though. In September 1859, a solar flare sent a wave of charged particles washing over our planet. It triggered one of the most powerful geomagnetic storms ever recorded: the Carrington Event. As the particles slammed into Earth’s protective magnetic field, they triggered beautiful aurorae that stretched as far south as Hawaii and Cuba. But the Carrington Event didn’t just produce pretty lights in the sky. It also wreaked havoc on telegraph networks spread across North America and Europe. In fact, there are reports of the cosmically overcharged telegraph lines starting fires and shocking telegraph operators during the event.

    If a moderate flare like the Carrington Event notably disrupted electronic systems in the mid-1800s, what would a superflare some 100 times stronger do today?

    “If a superflare occurred 1,000 years ago, it was probably no big problem. People may have seen a large aurora,” Notsu said. “Now, it’s a much bigger problem because of our electronics.”

    How big that problem will be is yet to be determined. “More accurate evaluations of the effects of superflares is a next urgent task,” Notsu told Astronomy, “but we can now expect things such as large-scale blackouts, satellite communication failure, and strong radiation in space,” which can do serious damage to instruments and astronauts alike.

    To prepare ourselves for what may be an inevitable strike by a superflare, Notsu says we need to work on protecting our electronics by investing in radiation shielding and backup systems.

    “This topic should [start to be considered] seriously from now on,” Notsu stressed.
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  4. #1154
    Moderator at Work ilan's Avatar
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    Moon to sweep by Jupiter and star Antares
    Bruce McClure in TONIGHT | June 14, 2019


    From around the world on the evenings of June 14, 15 and 16, 2019, look for the moon and then for the red supergiant star Antares and the giant gas planet, Jupiter. The moon – now in a waxing gibbous phase, moving toward full moon on the night of June 16-17 – will pass to the north of Antares and Jupiter.

    Despite the moon’s glare, you should be able to see Antares and Jupiter relatively easily. Antares counts as a 1st-magnitude star, and Jupiter is far brighter than any star (except our sun), outshining Antares by nearly 30 times. Remember, though, that Antares, being a star, shines by its light. Jupiter shines only by reflecting sunlight.

    As the Earth spins beneath the heavens, moving from west-to-east on its rotational axis, the moon, Antares and Jupiter will appear to parade westward across the sky throughout the night. However, this supposed motion of the moon, Antares and Jupiter is really a reflection of the Earth spinning on its rotational axis.

    What’s more, even as the moon goes westward throughout the night, it’s simultaneously moving eastward in front of the stars and bright planets of our solar system. Throughout the night, the moon moves about 1/2 degree (its own angular diameter) eastward in front of the constellations of the zodiac. In one day (24 hours), the moon journeys some 13 degrees eastward upon the zodiac.
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  5. #1155
    Moderator at Work ilan's Avatar
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    Something Appears to have Ripped a Huge Hole in the Milky Way and Scientists Don't Know Why
    Hannah Osborn, Newsweek | 5/16/19 AT 5:30 AM EDT


    Shutterstock

    Something appears to have torn a hole in part of the Milky Way's halo. The “dark substructure” was found via Gaia observations—a project set out to produce the most detailed 3D map of our galaxy—with Harvard scientist Ana Bonaca noticing a perturbation in a tidal stream.

    She presented her findings at the American Physical Society's April meeting.

    As first reported by LiveScience, Bonaca was focusing on tidal streams produced by stars escaping from globular clusters—normally found at the edges of a galaxy. The stellar halo of the Milky Way is full of these tidal streams.

    If there is nothing to disturb them, the streams are almost uniform in terms of their density. However, Bonaca noticed there was a hole in one. “The on-sky morphology suggests a recent, close encounter with a massive and dense perturber,” an abstract to her work reported.

    What this “perturber” is, however, is unknown. "It's a dense bullet of something," Bonaca told LiveScience. Telescopes failed to find the source—so what could it be?

    The hole is enormous, so whatever made it must also have been. "It's much more massive than a star,” she told the website. “Something like a million times the mass of the sun. So there are just no stars of that mass. We can rule that out. And if it were a black hole, it would be a supermassive black hole of the kind we find at the center of our own galaxy."

    The problem with this idea is that there are no signs of a supermassive black hole in the vicinity.


    At the moment, observations do not show any large luminous object (something made from ordinary matter, which reflects light) moving away from the hole. This led Bonaca to suggest the perturbation could have been made by dark matter. This is the mystery substance that makes up about 27 percent of the universe. Scientists know it is there because of the gravitational force it exerts on normal matter—but because it is “dark,” in that it does not reflect light, we cannot see what it is.

    “Observations permit a low-mass dark-matter subhalo as a plausible candidate,” Bonaca's abstract says.

    If it was a dense blob of dark matter that smashed through the tidal stream, it would be an exciting find for scientists, as it would provide them the opportunity of studying the elusive substance. The discovery of a dark matter “bullet” would also fit with current predictions about what dark matter is like—research suggests it is “clumpy,” in that it is not smooth and evenly distributed around the universe.

    Identifying a clump of dark matter “opens up the possibility that detailed observations of streams could measure the mass spectrum of dark-matter substructures and even identify individual substructures,” her abstract concludes.

    However, she says this still does not rule out a luminous object. "It could be that it's a luminous object that went away somewhere, and it's hiding somewhere in the galaxy," she said.

    Bocana's research is still in the early stages. She is yet to publish her findings in a peer-reviewed journal—however, LiveScience reports her presentation was welcomed by attendees.
    ________________________________________

    An interesting mystery with the perpetrator having "a million times the mass of the sun." The search is on for this stealthy monster! - ilan
    Last edited by ilan; 06-15-2019 at 12:59 PM.
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  6. #1156
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    What causes flashes on the moon?
    Paul Scott Anderson in ASTRONOMY ESSENTIALS | SPACE | June 16, 2019

    People have reported seeing Transient Lunar Phenomena – unusual flashes and other lights on the moon – for at least 1,000 years. Yet they’re still mysterious. Now a scientist in Germany is using a new telescope to try to solve the mystery.


    A “lunar flare” example of TLP – seen near the lunar terminator, or line between light and dark on the moon, on November 15, 1953, by Leon H. Stuart in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He caught the flash with an 8-inch telescope. Image via Leon H. Stuart.
    Even though it’s so close and has been visited by both robotic spacecraft and human astronauts, the moon can still be a mysterious place. There is a lot we still don’t know about our nearby neighbor, including what causes unusual flashes of light and other light phenomena on its surface. These brief light displays – also known as Transient Lunar Phenomena (TLP) – have been seen for centuries, but they’re still not entirely explained. Recently, a professor in Germany announced his new study to try to figure out, at last, what is creating these intriguing lunar phenomena.

    Hakan Kayal is Professor of Space Technology at Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg (JMU) in Bavaria, Germany. He wants to try to find the explanation(s) for these odd light phenomena. He and his team have built a new telescope in a private observatory in Spain. The new telescope started lunar observations in April 2019. It is in a rural area far from light pollution about 60 miles (100 km) north of Seville. As to why it is located in Spain, Kayal said:

    There are simply better weather conditions for observing the moon than in Germany.

    The telescope has two cameras that observe the moon, remote-controlled from the JMU campus in Germany. If a flash or other light source is detected, the cameras will trigger other actions from the telescope, but only if both cameras make the detection. Photos and video are automatically taken and recorded, and an email is sent to Kayal and his team.

    The software being used at Kayal and his team’s telescope is still being refined. Eventually, it’ll incorporate artificial intelligence – estimated to take another year to complete – so that then system will gradually learn to distinguish a moon flash from technical faults in the telescope or from objects such as birds and airplanes passing in front of the cameras. And what about those SpaceX Starlink satellites? They may also have the potential to create headaches for Kayal’s team. Reducing false alarms is a key objective for Kayal. He would later like to use the same kind of cameras on a satellite orbiting Earth, where there is no interference from Earth’s atmosphere. Kayal said:

    We will then be rid of the disturbances caused by the atmosphere.

    When a flash or other luminous phenomenon is detected, those results can then be compared to those from other telescopes used by the European Space Agency. According to Kayal:

    If the same thing was seen there, the event can be considered confirmed.

    Unconfirmed sightings of Transient Lunar Phenomena have been reported for centuries. One of the earliest recorded sightings took place on June 18, 1178, when five or more monks from Canterbury reported an “upheaval” on the moon shortly after sunset.

    There was a bright new moon, and as usual in that phase its horns were tilted toward the east; and suddenly the upper horn split in two. From the midpoint of this division a flaming torch sprang up, spewing out, over a considerable distance, fire, hot coals, and sparks. Meanwhile the body of the moon which was below writhed, as it were, in anxiety, and, to put it in the words of those who reported it to me and saw it with their own eyes, the moon throbbed like a wounded snake. Afterwards it resumed its proper state. This phenomenon was repeated a dozen times or more, the flame assuming various twisting shapes at random and then returning to normal. Then after these transformations the moon from horn to horn, that is along its whole length, took on a blackish appearance.

    Along with flashes, TLP have been reported as gaseous mists, reddish, green, blue or violet colorations, other brightening and even darkenings. There are currently two comprehensive catalogs, one of which has 2,254 events going back to the sixth century. At least one-third of those were seen in the Aristarchus plateau region.

    What are the possible explanations for TLP? One problem with finding explanations is that most reports are made by only one observer, or from a single location on Earth, making verification difficult.

    That said, current theories include outgassing, impact events, electrostatic phenomena, and unfavorable observation conditions in Earth’s atmosphere. At least some of them are likely caused by gases escaping the surface during moonquakes, according to Kayal:

    Seismic activities were also observed on the moon. When the surface moves, gases that reflect sunlight could escape from the interior of the moon. This would explain the luminous phenomena, some of which last for hours.

    Plus, we know some flashes are likely caused by meteorite impacts, which still occur quite often on the moon. One such likely event was seen on the night of January 20-21, 2019, when a meteorite hit the moon’s surface during a total lunar eclipse. It was caught in photos and on video as well as being seen by people just watching the eclipse. It was the first known instance of such a flash occurring during an eclipse.

    Astronomer Patrick Moore coined the term Transient Lunar Phenomena in 1968, in his co-authorship of NASA Technical Report R-277 Chronological Catalog of Reported Lunar Events 1540 to 1966.

    In the 1960s, NASA ran its own investigation of TLP, called Project Moon-Blink. The background was described as follows:

    There have been some puzzling reports over the years. Before 1843 astronomers listed Linne as a normal but steep-walled crater about five miles in diameter. In 1866 Schmidt, a famed astronomer, reported that Linne was not a crater at all but looked more like a whitish cloud. Later observers disagreed with both descriptions, saying it was a low mound about four miles across, with a deep crater one mile in diameter in its top. Much later – in 1961 – Patrick Moore, one of the foremost … lunar astronomers, was astonished that Linne appeared to be a normal crater about three miles in diameter. Moore examined it with two telescopes then called another astronomer. He examined it with a third instrument and reported a similar inexplicable appearance. The following night was cloudy, but the next night Linne appeared as Moore had always seen it, a gently rounded dome with a small crater on top. Moore attributed the changes to unusual lighting effects. During the [1950s], several incontrovertible observations have been reported of unusual color activity on or just above the lunar surface. These may be divided into two categories: those events localized to a few square miles of lunar area and those covering a significant portion of the lunar surface. Insufficient evidence exists at present to determine whether these two types of events are similar or dissimilar in nature …

    During NASA’s Clementine mission to the moon in 1994, several events were reported, four of which were photographed. But later analysis showed no discernible differences at the sites where the events were seen.

    The Lunascan Project in the 1990s and 2000s also cataloged TLP sightings, which can be read about in the website archives.

    Currently, observations of TLP are being coordinated by the Association of Lunar and Planetary Observers and the British Astronomical Association.

    While this mystery is yet to be fully solved, it seems apparent that there is likely more than one cause of TLP. Meteorite impacts, as have been observed are one, but they don’t explain all the reported sightings. Other causes may point to residual geologic activity on the moon, even though it has long been thought of as a dead world. It will be very interesting to see what scientists like Kayal find in the near future.
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    Senators receive classified briefing on UFO sightings
    Veronica Stracqualursi and Zachary Cohen, CNN Updated| 4:14 PM ET, Thu June 20, 2019


    Washington (CNN) A group of US senators, including the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence committee, received a classified briefing Wednesday about a series of reported encounters by the US Navy with unidentified aircraft, according to a congressional aide.

    "If pilots at Oceana or elsewhere are reporting flight hazards that interfere with training or put them at risk, then Senator Warner wants answers. It doesn't matter if it's weather balloons, little green men, or something else entirely — we can't ask our pilots to put their lives at risk unnecessarily," Rachel Cohen, the spokeswoman for Democratic Virginia Sen. Mark Warner, told CNN.

    Joseph Gradisher, spokesman for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, also confirmed the briefing took place in a statement to CNN on Thursday.

    "Navy officials did indeed meet with interested congressional members and staffers on Wednesday to provide a classified brief on efforts to understand and identify these threats to the safety and security of our aviators," he said.

    "Follow-up discussions with other interested staffers are scheduled for later today (Thursday, 20 June). Navy officials will continue to keep interested congressional members and staff informed. Given the classified nature of these discussions, we will not comment on the specific information provided in these Hill briefings," Gradisher added.

    The briefing was first reported by Politico.

    President Donald Trump recently confirmed that he was also briefed on reports of Navy pilots spotting unidentified flying objects. "I did have one very brief meeting on it," Trump told ABC News in an interview that aired Sunday. "But people are saying they're seeing UFO's, do I believe it? Not particularly."

    Several pilots told the New York Times in an article published in May about multiple encounters with UFOs with no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes.

    In April, the Navy introduced guidelines for its pilots to report unexplainable events so the military can keep track of what may, or may not, be happening. Politico first reported on this matter.

    A Navy official told CNN at the time that the Navy does not believe aliens have been flying around US airspace.

    But there have been "a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years," the Navy said in a statement.

    The Navy said these kinds of "incursions" pose both a security risk and safety hazard.

    "For safety and security concerns, the Navy and the USAF takes these reports very seriously and investigates each and every report," the statement said.

    CNN's Barbara Starr, Ryan Browne and Brian Todd contributed to this report.
    Last edited by ilan; 06-21-2019 at 11:03 PM.
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    Buried within the Apollo samples that came back to Earth were the clues of lunar origins
    David J. Eicher, Astronomy Magazine| Published: Friday, June 21, 2019

    Buried within the Apollo samples that came back to Earth were the clues of lunar origins.


    Astronaut Alan Shepard prepares rock collecting tool
    Apollo 14 Mission


    Among the fruits of more than 80 hours the Apollo astronauts spent on the lunar surface were the treasures that came home. All told, the explorers carted back 842 pounds (382 kilograms) of Moon rocks, some 2,200 separate samples from six different lunar sites. It took years, but properly interpreting these rocks gave us the biggest scientific result from the entire Apollo program: understanding how the Moon formed.

    Returning lunar samples was a priority from the beginning. One of the first things Neil Armstrong did after his descent down the ladder was to pocket a specimen as the original collected piece of the Moon. The missions that followed Apollo 11 were far more aggressive, returning a wide variety of Moon rock samples, effectively opening a window into lunar geology.

    From the outset, the Apollo astronauts used a variety of tools to collect their samples, including rakes, tongs, and scoops. Astronauts searched a variety of geological features, too, hoping to assemble a suite of lunar minerals and rocks of different ages.

    The youngest areas of the Moon are the mare, the lowlands, that filled with basaltic lava relatively late in the Moon’s formation. They typically consist of rocks that are 3.2 billion years old, whereas rocks from the older lunar highlands date to some 4.4 billion years ago. The youngest geological actions on the Moon, based on crater counts, probably were lava flows about 1.2 billion years ago. But, alas, we have no samples of these very young lunar rocks.

    What exactly do Moon rocks look like? They are mostly grayish, and include many basalts, and breccias (rocks made up of broken and reassembled pieces), and mafic plutonic rocks from the highlands. This last type formed underground and were pushed up by the forces that created the lunar mountain ranges.

    Mineralogically, most Moon rocks are pretty simple. Common lunar minerals include silicates, made up of silicon and other elements like calcium, aluminum, oxygen, magnesium, and iron. (Examples of silicates are plagioclase feldspars, pyroxenes, and olivine, the latter a mineral also commonly found in some types of meteorites.)

    As the Apollo missions matured, the astronauts could carry back larger volumes of samples. The Apollo 11 astronauts returned some 48 pounds (22 kg) of rocks; Apollo 12, 76 pounds (34 kg); Apollo 14, 94 pounds (43 kg); Apollo 15, 169 pounds (77 kg); Apollo 16, 210 pounds (95 kg); and Apollo 17, 243 pounds (110 kg). The Moon rocks were carefully wrapped and set into containers to prevent contamination, then sent away to a storage facility at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where they reside today. Well, mostly: Some Apollo samples are periodically loaned out to museums or for research, and sadly, some lunar samples have been stolen, or turned up missing.

    Along the trail of discovery, some Moon rocks have better stories than others. Genesis Rock, collected near Spur Crater by Jim Irwin and Dave Scott during Apollo 15, was originally considered extremely old because of its strange, whitish, fractured appearance. The thick rock, measuring about 3.5 inches (9 cm) across, was later determined to be 4.1 billion years old, not as old the astronauts had hoped. But the talk and analysis of Genesis Rock has made it the most famous of all lunar specimens.

    Another famous rock was collected during the last mission, Apollo 17, and designated sample 70017. It is a titanium-rich basalt from the Taurus-Littrow Valley, and after an initial analysis President Richard Nixon ordered the sample sliced up and distributed to the 50 States plus 135 foreign heads of state.

    After all of this effort and journey, what did the Moon rocks tell us? Ultimately, they revealed Apollo’s biggest story, the origin of the Moon itself. The most striking analytical finding showed the samples are eerily similar to Earth rocks in several ways. The signature detail was that oxygen isotopes sealed in Moon rocks — the “flavors” of oxygen atoms — matched those on Earth. This and other factors led to scientists in the 1970s proposing what came to be called the Giant Impact Hypothesis. Planetary scientists believe the Moon likely formed when a Mars-sized body, which they have named Theia, struck a newborn Earth some 4.5 billion years ago. The collision produced a ring of debris surrounding the young planet, which eventually accreted into the Moon. Much of the mass of Theia was absorbed into early Earth. This idea explains the tremendous similarities between Earth and Moon rocks.

    The collection of Apollo Moon rocks returned to Earth, mostly residing in Houston, has given planetary scientists their first detailed look at the geology of another world. As a result, they have a pretty good idea of how the Moon came to be. Thankfully, we can study lunar science in the peaceful current age, only imaging what a violent and dangerous place the early solar system was.
    ____________________________

    We're approaching the 50th anniversary of the first Moon landing on July 19. There are lots of TV specials in the following days. Check the NASA channel for their offerings. I know CNN has a special tomorrow, Sunday, June 23 at 9 p.m. ET. They usually do an excellent job with their documentaries, so I expect it to be well worth a watch.
    Last edited by ilan; 06-23-2019 at 12:13 AM.
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    Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were lost on the Moon. Really
    Charles Fishman, Compass | 22 June 2019

    Neither NASA nor the Apollo 11 astronauts knew exactly where they were when they landed on the Moon. Yet it didn’t impede the mission.


    One Giant Leap by Charles Fishman

    Once Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed Eagle on the Moon, the Apollo 11 astronauts and their spaceship were actually lost.

    Oh, Mission Control never lost radio contact with them. But NASA was never able to figure out where, exactly, on the Moon they had set down, while they were on the Moon. And NASA sure did try.

    The landing area on the Moon that had been picked out for Apollo 11 was about the length of Manhattan and twice as wide. In photo surveys, it looked plain, flat, and bland—not interesting for geologists but a safe place to land a spaceship, the first time human beings ever tried that on a place off of Earth.

    But up close, the Sea of Tranquility was anything but tranquil. As Armstrong and Aldrin flew down toward the Moon in their lunar module, Armstrong was looking out the window and the spot the autopilot was flying them toward was, as Armstrong described it, a crater the size of a football field, littered with boulders, some as large as cars.

    Not a comfortable place to try to land a gangly four-legged spaceship.

    So Armstrong took manual control of where the lunar module was flying to—the spaceship computer still did all the actual flying, but Armstrong was instructing it where to go and at what speed.

    In the end, he and Aldrin set down several miles from the original landing spot—on safe, level Moon ground, but not where they had planned to land. Armstrong, in particular, had studied photographs of the Sea of Tranquility in preparation for flying to it and knew the landmarks and the landscape of much of the area.

    Andrew Chaikin, in his account of the Moon landings, A Man On the Moon, describes Armstrong’s reaction to landing in unfamiliar Moon terrain: “As he looked out (at Tranquility Base), Armstrong wondered where he and Aldrin had landed . . . . (He) searched the horizon for some feature he might be able to identify, but found none.”

    There had been some worry inside NASA about whether, from Earth, they would be able to pinpoint the lunar module’s landing location. The Moon was mapped, but not in anything like fine, up-close detail; there were no constellations of tracking satellites around the Moon in 1969. “With a wry smile, (Armstrong) radioed Houston, ‘The guys who said we wouldn’t know where we were are the winners today.’ ”

    In the 22˝ hours Armstrong and Aldrin were on the Moon in Eagle, NASA never found them. Their crewmate, Michael Collins, was overhead, orbiting the Moon in the command module Columbia. The command module had a telescope as part of its navigation instruments, and Mission Control asked Collins to search for the lunar module—and his crewmates—every time he flew over.

    It was a bit of a wild request, even with a telescope: Collins was orbiting at 69 miles, looking down on a space bigger than Manhattan, trying to find a spaceship that, looking down from above, was just 31 feet across, with himself traveling at 3,700 mph.

    According to Chaikin’s account, Collins had just two minutes to search the landing area during each overflight—using coordinates radioed up from Mission Control and which he programmed into the command module’s computer for help aiming the telescope.

    “Each time (Collins) went around . . . Mission Control had a new set of coordinates for him to try.” But those search areas were often far off from each other, lending the effort a haphazard air. “It didn’t take Collins long to realize that no one had a handle on the problem. His search continued fruitlessly for the rest of his 22 solo hours.”

    Among the tools that proved in vain: Armstrong and Aldrin actually carried with them, in their lunar module cabin, 95 detailed paper photo-maps of the landing area, but as they looked out from the windows of the lunar module cabin, and then walked around, they were unable to connect any of the nearby features they could see with the features on those maps.

    One reason to know where you were on the Moon was to make navigating back to orbit–and the flight home–safer and easier. But even without those coordinates, on blastoff, the radar and computers in the lunar module and the command module had no trouble finding each other and guiding Armstrong and Aldrin back to rendezvous with Collins.

    NASA was later able to figure out where Armstrong and Aldrin had been, and the Apollo 11 landing site at Tranquility Base has been photographed by orbiting Moon probes, including the bottom stage of the lunar module, along with the sites of the other five Moon landing bases.

    The fact that no one actually knew, at the time, where Eagle had landed is a mostly overlooked fact of that first Moon landing, but it did make news at the time. “The Apollo 11 astronauts took off from the Moon today still uncertain of exactly where they had been,” opened the story in the New York Times. Still, the Times reassured readers, “It was abundantly clear that they had been on the surface of the Moon.”
    Last edited by ilan; 06-23-2019 at 12:39 PM.
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    Watch night launch of SpaceX Falcon Heavy June 24
    Eleanor Imster in HUMAN WORLD | SPACE | June 23, 2019

    Liftoff is targeted at 11:30 p.m. EDT, with a 4-hour launch window. SpaceX is calling the launch its most difficult ever, because the rocket must release 24 satellites into 3 different orbits.



    Animation of mission launch and satellite delivery, via SpaceX

    A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket is scheduled for launch on the night of Monday, June 24, 2019, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It’s the third launch, and first nighttime launch, for the Falcon Heavy, which SpaceX calls “the most powerful rocket in use today.” The launch window for the Falcon Heavy opens at 11:30 p.m. EDT on June 24 (03:30 UTC on June 25; translate UTC to your time), with a four-hour window in case of delays. The launch will air on NASA TV, with coverage beginning at 11 p.m. EDT (03:00 UTC on June 25). There’s a technical prelaunch briefing at that link, too, at noon EDT (16:00 UTC) on June 23.

    SpaceX and the U.S. Department of Defense will launch two dozen satellites into space during this Falcon Heavy flight. SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted that it will be SpaceX’s “most difficult launch ever,” because the rocket must release the 24 satellites into three different orbits.

    The mission is called Space Test Program-2 (STP-2). Among the 24 satellites on board the rocket are NASA missions to test the performance of non-toxic spacecraft fuel and an advanced atomic clock to improve spacecraft navigation.

    In addition, the rocket will carry 152 metal capsules packed with human ashes, arranged by a company called Celestis Memorial Spaceflights, which charges upwards of $5,000 to fly 1 gram of “participant” cremains into orbit.

    The rocket will also carry Lightsail 2, a solar-sail test mission – a little spacecraft literally powered by sunbeams – promoted by science star Bill Nye.
    __________________________

    The launch can be viewed from the following NASA page:
    Code:
    https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive
    -ilan
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