Science Tidbits 3

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Thu Dec 04, 2014 4:40 pm

A pretty mind-blowing article about possible art from Trinil. Our ancient ancestors (and their brethren) have been seriously underestimated. These finds really do end the notion that ancient hominids lacked the capacity for abstract thought (it became sexy for a while to think that Homo sapiens wiped out all other humans because they had the ability for abstract thought).
But putting bad theories to rest is one thing. Another is trying to imagine what these people were like. How much culture and learning and art have we lost over all those millennia?

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Fri Dec 05, 2014 12:41 am

They were "doodling." :D This was the beginning of the process that led to great art. :monalisa:

It's a shame that we'll never really completely know what they were like. Most of what they had was too perishable to survive. We'll only ever see a fraction of a percent of it. It's a shame that we can't just peek through time and observe them as they really were. Those little doodles led to everything we do.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Mon Dec 08, 2014 5:09 pm

The guy from Bad Astronomy gives a sobering and critical look at the launch of Orion and the SLS.
For the most part I agree. I've been pretty pessimistic the last several years about the space program. We once walked on the moon and now we struggle even to get into orbit. And I can't help it, but going from Shuttle to 70s style launch systems does look like a backward step.

In more upbeat news New Horizons has woken up.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Mon Dec 08, 2014 11:41 pm

I completely agree. There's no need for NASA to be designing and building vehicles at this point. Private companies are quite capable of doing that better. If NASA just purchased their services, they would not only save a fortune but promote the infrastructure for a permanent civilian presence in space.
Lupine wrote:In more upbeat news New Horizons has woken up.
And it woke up to the theme from Enterprise. :D Only seven months to go before the flyby. It doesn't say when the first images will start coming back, though. It says that the active part of the mission will last for twenty weeks. If the closest encounter is in the middle of that, we should start getting pictures around the first of May.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Tue Dec 09, 2014 4:27 pm

And with the encounter with Ceres I'm hoping 2015 will be an exciting year. :yes:

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Wed Dec 10, 2014 12:02 am

Oh, yeah, I'm dying to see Ceres. Not that Vesta wasn't cool, but Ceres is the king of the asteroids (and was called a planet for a while, like Pluto). Plus more news from Mars and on the Exoplanet front, so 2015 should be exciting indeed.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Wed Dec 10, 2014 4:31 pm

I think Ceres is classified as a "dwarf planet" now, though that definition is borderline meaningless. :mellow:

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Wed Dec 10, 2014 11:50 pm

Yeah, it's in the same class as Pluto and three or four other KBOs. But it's also still an asteroid. That whole planet definition thing is a fiasco.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Fri Dec 19, 2014 5:28 pm

Kepler is discovering planets again! :dance:

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Fri Dec 19, 2014 11:39 pm

Beat me to it. My Exoplanet app pinged me with this news today. It's a Super-Earth, but it's way inside the equivalent orbit of Mercury. Way too toasty for life. But it's great to see that Kepler is still going like the Energizer Bunny. :D
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Sat Dec 20, 2014 4:54 pm

^It's the best news to come out of space in a while. :yes:

And speaking of exo-planets here's a backyard project to put all others to shame :eek: . If I had a good camera and a better telescope mount I just might try this.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Sat Dec 20, 2014 8:33 pm

That's pretty amazing. It's nice to know that amateur astronomers are able to get in on the Exoplanet action. Now I'm wondering what took us so long to start finding these things. :lol:
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lord_Plecostomus » Fri Jan 02, 2015 7:29 am

RJDiogenes wrote:That's pretty amazing. It's nice to know that amateur astronomers are able to get in on the Exoplanet action. Now I'm wondering what took us so long to start finding these things. :lol:

Camera resolution and signal processing power. We hit the right combination finally and BAM.

Now we need to get the FTL thing down so we can go visit them.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Fri Jan 02, 2015 10:34 pm

Sadly, I am not so optimistic about FTL. I think the only way to go to the stars within a human lifetime is to increase the human lifetime.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Sat Jan 03, 2015 4:37 pm

I'm a bit more optimistic about possibly side-stepping Relativity someday. And even if it isn't it's certainly worth the try.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Sat Jan 03, 2015 8:24 pm

It's absolutely worth pursuing. The pure science and spin-off technologies alone will be worth it.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Sun Jan 04, 2015 4:25 pm

I got pinged about another new Exoplanet. It's a very hot Jupiter, so no chance of life, but I always check out the map, which overlays the habitable zone in green and a map of the solar system for perspective. I thought this one was interesting.

Image

It's a binary star and the planet in question is too close to the A component for the orbit to show at this distance, but look at the habitable zones and how the overlap. The habitable zone of the A component overlaps right into the middle of the B component. That wouldn't work. :D And even if you had a planet that cruised through the middle of the point where the green zones overlap-- which would be impossible considering the proximity of the stars-- the cumulative heat would be too high. They need to smarten up their algorithms for drawing habitable zones. :D
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Sun Jan 04, 2015 4:36 pm

I wonder though if a large body could form in the Lagrange points. If I'm looking at this right, L4 and L5 would be in the habitable zone.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Sun Jan 04, 2015 9:46 pm

Good point. I've often wondered that about the Lagrange points of a Superjupiter in the Goldilocks zone. It would be even more likely with a binary like this.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Tue Jan 06, 2015 11:24 pm

Today was a busy day for far-out space nuts like us.

First I got a couple of Hubble emails. An incredible picture of Andromeda and an improved view of The Pillars of Creation.

Then my Exoplanet app pinged me about a total of twelve new planet discoveries, several of which are very interesting:

HD 145934 b is in a picture-perfect circular orbit just inside the orbit of Jupiter, which is smack dab in the middle of the habitable zone. It's 2.3 Jupiter masses.

Kepler-439 b is between Mercury and Venus, which is just at the inner edge of the zone. No mass, but it is 2.24 Earth radii.

Kepler-440 b is just about at the orbit of Mercury, although perfectly circular, and is snugly in the center of the zone. No mass, but it's 1.86 Earth radii.

Kepler-442 b is, coincidentally, in exactly the same orbit as 440 b, but is toward the inner edge of a slightly larger zone. No mass, but it is 1.33 Earth radii. It is described as the most Earth-like planet yet found.

Kepler-443 b is, coincidentally, in a very similar orbit to the last two, but is at the very inner edge of a large habitable zone that would extend all the way out to Earth orbit. No mass, but it's 2.33 Earth radii.

HD 564 b is between the orbits of Earth and Mars, in a circular but slightly off center orbit. It is .33 Jupiter masses.

HD 108341 b is in a highly eccentric orbit that takes it from inside the orbit of Mercury to almost Jupiter. The habitable zone extends from inside the orbit of Venus to almost Mars. Its 3.5 Jupiter masses and its year is about three Earth years. It looks like it would only spend a month or two inside the inner edge of the zone and a couple of years past the outer edge. Considering its size, I wonder if the environment would be fairly stable deep inside the atmosphere and be conducive to life.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Wed Jan 07, 2015 5:16 pm

You beat me to the punch! :lol: I just read an article on Bad Astronomy about these planets. A bounty of planets!
Kepler 422b is quite exciting.

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Wed Jan 07, 2015 11:41 pm

Well, that's interesting. He says eight planets in the habitable zone. When I got pinged by my app, the message said eight planets in the habitable zone. But when I looked at them, only four of them were in the habitable zone, according to the maps. I just double checked 438b, and the map shows it well inside the inner edge of the green zone. Strange. :conf:

Although he also mentions how fuzzy the notion of a habitable zone is, so....
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Fri Jan 16, 2015 5:21 pm

An update on New Horizons! I'm a little disappointed that we might not see any real good images of Pluto until August, but this should still be a great moment.
Also the article refers to Pluto as a "planet". :D

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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by RJDiogenes » Fri Jan 16, 2015 11:43 pm

Then the writer is my friend. :D

Looks like my estimate of May 1st was a bit optimistic, but it does say that the "best ever" pics of Pluto will be taken by mid-May. :)

I had forgotten that Pluto has five moons. That boggles my mind.

But we still have a long road-- it will take sixteen months to download all the data from the flyby. I'm sure everybody on the team will be biting their nails, hoping that nothing malfunctions. And there's still the possibility of adding another KBO to the agenda.
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Re: Science Tidbits 3

Post by Lupine » Sat Jan 17, 2015 5:07 pm

Speaking of planets, Bad Astronomy has an article on a segment from QVC. I saw the clip on the Rachel Maddow Show Thursday night and it is simultaneously hilarious and depressing, though Phil Plait is fairly diplomatic about it.

And in other planetary news, here's an article about the possibility of super-earth sized planets beyond Neptune. I really hope that this is the case. First off it would be seriously cool, and also I'd love to see the IAU try to justify classifying a body 10-times Earth mass as a "Dwarf Planet"/asteroid (come on IAU, will you guys clean this mess up already).
Though the theory that Sedna might have been captured from another star would be cool as well.

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