Archive for the ‘Astrophysics’ Category

Writing from Australia Ian Wilson will be familiar to Talkshop regulars expounding his interest in astronomical connections with earth. He has three related recent articles and now a summary binding them together. Tim adds, the subject has a long history including false accusations of astrology by detractors; in this linked 1999 paper by a veteran scientist some of the origins and history is briefly mentioned and also that as data and computing power becomes available progress is being made. It mentions El Nino [paper see ref 1].  Strangers may need to get a conceptual understanding of the regular alignment of the earth moon and sun, where self evident effect on earth is the cyclic variation is ocean tidal height.

Over to Ian


If you are unfamiliar with this topic you may wish to read the following three post in order to understand this current covering post.

Observations of the Earth rate of spin (i.e. LOD) show that there are abrupt decreases in the Earth’s rotation rate of the order of a millisecond that take place roughly once every 13.7 days. These slow downs in spin occur whenever the oceanic (and atmospheric) tidal bulge is dragged across the Earth’s equator by the Moon. They are produced by the conservation of total angular momentum of the Earth, its oceans and its atmosphere.


Exceptionally detailed image of a young star 450 light years away reveals detail of proto-planetary disc with gaps. :

This image compares the size of the Solar System with HL Tauri and its surrounding protoplanetary disc. Although the star is much smaller than the Sun, the disc around HL Tauri stretches out to almost three times as far from the star as Neptune is from the Sun.

This image compares the size of the Solar System with HL Tauri and its surrounding protoplanetary disc. Although the star is much smaller than the Sun, the disc around HL Tauri stretches out to almost three times as far from the star as Neptune is from the Sun.

HL Tauri — a young star, about 450 light-years away, which is surrounded by a dusty disc [1]. The resulting image exceeds all expectations and reveals unexpectedly fine detail in the disc of material left over from star birth. It shows a series of concentric bright rings, separated by gaps [2].

“These features are almost certainly the result of young planet-like bodies that are being formed in the disc. This is surprising since such young stars are not expected to have large planetary bodies capable of producing the structures we see in this image,” said Stuartt Corder, ALMA Deputy Director.

When we first saw this image we were astounded at the spectacular level of detail. HL Tauri is no more than a million years old, yet already its disc appears to be full of forming planets. This one image alone will revolutionise theories of planet formation,” explained Catherine Vlahakis, ALMA Deputy Program Scientist and Lead Program Scientist for the ALMA Long Baseline Campaign.


Michele left a comment on suggestions but the surprise came later

Big Ar 2192 and flare X1.1 + CME


Note the Solex date: 14th October 2014, today is the 19th.

I looked at the Spaceweather archive for the 14th and of course the authors did not know what was about to happen

SOLAR SECTOR BOUNDARY CROSSING: High-latitude auroras are possible on Oct. 14th when Earth crosses through a fold in the heliospheric current sheet. This is called a “solar sector boundary crossing,” and NOAA forecasters estimate a 25% chance of polar geomagnetic storms when it occurs.


The size of the sun is of critical importance to solar studies yet this is poorly known, let alone if and how the size varies over time. Paper published this week in Astronomy & Astrophysics.


Fig.1. Left: solar radius measurements (red symbols) made since the seventeenth century (Rozelot & Damiani 2012). The mean value of all these measurements is close to 960 arcsec. Right: focus on solar radius measurements made since 1970. …

Fig.2. Evolution of the solar radius variations over time for ground instruments (Solar Astrolabe, DORAYSOL and SODISMII monthly mean at 782.2 nm), balloon experiment (SDS), and space instrument (MDI) vs. daily sunspot number time-series. For each series, the mean has been taken as reference value.

Fig.2. Evolution of the solar radius variations over time for ground instruments (Solar Astrolabe, DORAYSOL and SODISMII monthly mean at 782.2 nm), balloon experiment (SDS), and space instrument (MDI) vs. daily sunspot number time-series. For each series, the mean has been
taken as reference value.


Ground-based measurements of the solar diameter during the rising phase of solar cycle 24
M. Meftah, T. Corbard, A. Irbah, R. Ikhlef, F. Morand, C. Renaud, A. Hauchecorne, P. Assus, J. Borgnino, B. Chauvineau, M. Crepel, F. Dalaudier, L. Damé, D. Djafer, M. Fodil, P. Lesueur, G. Poiet, M. Rouzé, A. Sarkissian, A.Ziad, and F. Laclare

Paper access is available with registration.


The Talkshop has an interest in orbital periods, spin-orbit coupling, the equalisation by nature of the gaps between objects.


Rotational properties of the binary and non-binary populations
in the trans-Neptunian belt
A. Thirouin, K. S. Noll. J. L. Ortiz, and N. Morales
Published online 8th Sept 2014
Astronomy & Astrophysics (early access on registration)


We present results for the short-term variability of binary trans-Neptunian objects (BTNOs). …

A second older paper may be of interest



Alex H. Parker, JJ Kavelaars, Jean-Marc Petit, Lynne Jones, Brett Gladman, Joel Parker
Version 2 published late 2011
The Astrophysical Journal, open access copy,


One of the advantages of being billed by the most self important climate discussion website in the world as being a purveyor of ‘way out there theory’, is that I can publish whatever I like with no risk of further reputational damage. So when Stuart (Oldbrew) spotted that Miles Mathis has written a paper inspired by the same NASA material we have been discussing recently, I thought, why the hell not? Miles has been developing his ideas about a fundamental photon charge field underlying observed electro-magnetic phenomena for several years now, and has built up quite a corpus of work. This makes it difficult to absorb his stuff without clicking through to read his previous papers, and you soon find yourself in a labyrinth of ‘too many tabs’ open in your browser. Nonetheless, he is always entertaining, and thought provoking, even if it will be a while before we can see whether the predictions he makes based on his theory turn out to be correct. At least he has the guts to make definite predictions in the first place. None of your mealy mouthed ‘may’, ‘could’ and ‘perhaps’ ‘narrative scenario projections’ with Miles. He shoots fro the hip. Good lad. :)


First published September 6, 2014

One of my readers sent me a link to wonderful new data from NASA. Although NASA and the rest of
the mainstream are not so good when it comes to theory, they are quite adept at compiling data, so I
have to thank them in this case. Without their numbers I could do nothing.

It has been known for a long time that the main Solar cycle is about 11 years, but that is just an
average. It goes from a minimum of about 9 years up to about 14 years. Although some theories have
been presented, the cause of all three numbers is unknown. I will show you the correct answer here.
The reason I so quickly hit on the right answer is that I knew where to look. In my other long paper on
Sun cycles (ice ages), I have already shown that Jupiter is the cause of the secondary variance. In this
case we will see that Jupiter is the cause of the primary variance.


An important new(ish) paper from a team including Ken McCracken looks at the likely continuing slowdown in solar activity:


CharlesW. Smith1,2, K. G. McCracken3, Nathan A. Schwadron1,2, and Molly L. Goelzer2,4
1Physics Department, Space Science Center, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, USA, 2Institute for
the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, USA, 3Institute of Physical
Science and Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, USA, 4Department of Chemical Engineering,
University of New Hampshire, Durham, New Hampshire, USA

Recent papers have linked the heliospheric magnetic flux to the sunspot cycle with good
correlation observed between prediction and observation. Other papers have shown a strong correlation
between magnetic flux and solar wind proton flux from coronal holes. We combine these efforts with
an expectation that the sunspot activity of the approaching solar minimum will resemble the Dalton or
Gleissberg Minimum and predict that the magnetic flux and solar wind proton flux over the coming decade
will be lower than at any time during the space age. Using these predictions and established theory, we
also predict record high galactic cosmic ray intensities over the same years. The analysis shown here is a
prediction of global space climate change within which space weather operates. It predicts a new parameter
regime for the transient space weather behavior that can be expected during the coming decade.


How Weird Is Our Solar System?

Posted: August 24, 2014 by oldbrew in Astrophysics, solar system dynamics

Exoplanet: artist's interpretation [credit: NASA]

Exoplanet: artist’s interpretation
[credit: NASA]

Why haven’t exoplanet searches uncovered any solar systems similar to our own? Most appear to have fewer planets – although detection can be difficult – than ours, and often orbit a lot closer to their star than our planets do, plus there’s something else.

astrobites asks: ‘Earth and its Solar System compatriots all have nearly circular orbits, but many exoplanets orbit their stars on wildly eccentric paths. Is our home system strange? Or is our sense of the data skewed?’


Mars-Earth comparison [image credit: Wikipedia]

Mars-Earth comparison
[image credit: Wikipedia]

It’s an old question, and investigations are hotting up. reports: ‘On October 19, 2014, Comet Siding Spring will pass by Mars only 132,000 km away—which would be like a comet passing about 1/3 of the distance between Earth and the Moon.’

In other words, very close. And NASA’s MAVEN probe will arrive at Mars just in time to see the show.


A quantum of space hype at NASA?

Posted: August 8, 2014 by oldbrew in Astrophysics, innovation, Uncertainty

To boldly go... [image credit: Wikipedia]

To boldly go…
[image credit: Wikipedia]

Is NASA close to inventing a ‘quantum spaceship’?

The New Scientist quotes astronomer and blogger Phil Plait:

‘The internet has been buzzing about a paper published by a team of engineers at NASA claiming that they have built a device that creates thrust without propellant. There have been lots of articles written about it, it’s spawned a zillion tweets, and I’m getting plenty of emails asking me about it.’


imageAfter ten years, five months, four days and six and a half billion kilometres,  the Rosetta space probe has arrived in orbit around Comet 67P.


View from the Moon [credit: Wikipedia]

View from the Moon
[credit: Wikipedia]

First there was a report saying:
‘Computer model shows moon’s core surrounded by liquid and it’s caused by Earth’s gravity’

Of course the words ‘Computer model shows’ will ring a few alarm bells with some talkshop readers. Yes, it’s a theory based on a model, and the output of ‘climate models’ has led to many controversies so we may well be suspicious already.



From NASA:

Cassini took readings of the day-length indicator regarded as most reliable, the rhythm of natural radio signals from the planet. The results give 10 hours, 45 minutes, 45 seconds (plus or minus 36 seconds) as the length of time it takes Saturn to complete each rotation. Here’s the puzzle: That is about 6 minutes, or one percent, longer than the radio rotational period measured by the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft, which flew by Saturn in 1980 and 1981.

[Tallbloke notes that Venus has also slowed by an unexplained six minutes since 1997]

Cassini scientists are not questioning Voyager’s careful measurements. And they definitely do not think the whole planet of Saturn is actually rotating that much slower than it did two decades ago. Instead, they are looking for an explanation based on some variability in how the rotation deep inside Saturn drives the radio pulse.


imageThe New Scientist reports the discovery of many more electron eating bacteria.

Geobacter and Shewanella were the first, now a further eight have been identified.

Kenneth Nealson from the University of South California “electrons must flow in order for energy to be gained. This is why, when someone suffocates another person, they are dead within minutes. You have stopped the supply of oxygen, so the electrons can no longer flow”. Nealsons team have grown electric bacteria on battery electrodes. Bacteria can either “eat” electrons from the higher voltage, or “breathe” electrons to the lower voltage electrode


From, a new paper which looks at how dry atmosphere’s of some exoplanets could cast doubt on long cherished notions about planet formation. Current mainstream thinking is that big planets form a long way out and migrate inwards. Perhaps the opposite may be the case, and ‘hot jupiters’ form near the parent star and increase the size of their orbits asthay gain angular moentum. Supporting this possibility, a recent paper by Poppenhaeger on the electromagnetic coupling of proto-planetary discs with the host star posit a slowing the stellar rotation and a shift of its angular momentum to the forming planets.

hd189733Scientists searching for worlds outside of the Solar System say that three such planets — distant gas giants that resemble Jupiter — are surprisingly dry.

The atmospheres of these exoplanets, known as ‘hot Jupiters’, contain between one-tenth and one-thousandth water vapour than predicted, measurements from the Hubble Space Telescope show. The findings, published 24 July in Astrophysical Journal Letters1, are at odds with theories of how planets form.

Madhusudhan thinks that it is possible, but not likely, that clouds are skewing his results. The particles would have to be high in the atmosphere, above the water vapour, for this to be true. That would place the clouds in the thinnest part of each exoplanet’s atmosphere, but they could be too heavy to stay aloft. The clouds would also need to survive in the wide range of temperatures the three planets’ atmospheres span — 900–2,200 ºC — which models can’t yet explain. “There is just no candidate cloud composition or physics that can do it,” he says.


ImageReversals of the solar magnetic dipole in the light of observational data and simple dynamo models
V. V. Pipin., D. Moss, D. Sokoloff, and J. T. Hoeksema

Astronomy & Astrophysics, July 17th 2014

Context. Observations show that the photospheric solar magnetic dipole usually does not vanish during the reversal of the solar magnetic field, which occurs in each solar cycle. In contrast, mean-field solar dynamo models predict that the dipole field does become zero. In a recent paper it was suggested that this contradiction could be explained as a large-scale manifestation of small-scale magnetic fluctuations of the surface poloidal field.
Aims. Our aim is to confront this interpretation with the available observational data.


I came across this paper today while searching for the heat capacity of Venus near surface atmosphere, which is actually an ocean-like (in thermodynamic terms) supercritical fluid. It presages Harry Dale Huffman’s ‘rediscovery’ of the lapse rate calculation by four decades. Another paper, much more recent, (Bolmatov et al 2013) contains some theory which raises yet more questions about the reasons for Venus’ high surface temperature. So, greenhouse due to radiative proerties of co2 as Sagan claimed, lapse rate due to gravity and pressure as Nikolov and Zeller maintain, or the thermal properties of supercritical fluids and geothermal energy having a hard time escaping the lower atmosphere? Let the debate recommence!



While browsing Ian Wilson’s excellent Astro-Climate Connection blog, I found a graphic showing the coincidence of El Nino with the alignment of the Lunar line of nodes (declination cycle) and line of apse (orbital precession), with the Sun. I’ve taken the liberty of adding my Solar – El Nino hypothesis to it: the proposal is that El Nino tends to be initiated as the cycle starts to decline steeply and initiated again at solar minimum as it ‘bottom’s out’. I’ll reproduce Ian’s accompanying text below the break but to get to the point, here’s  the result:



From Ian Wilson’s Astro-Climate Connection blog:


The Moon’s orbit is tilted by approximately five degrees compared to the Earth-Sun plane. The net affect of this is that the strength of Lunar-tides at a given latitude on the Earth’s surface vary in strength over a cycle of 18.6 years. This 18.6 year Draconic cycle is also clearly evident in the small changes that take place in the rate of rotation of the Earth.


I’m of the opinion that before getting into the complexity of numerical modelling, it’s wise to put considerable effort into trying to understand the physical processes at work in the climate system, and the origins of the energy flows that drive them. David Evans’ recent series of posts over at Jo Nova’s site have generated a lot of interesting discussion (despite being roundly ignored by Anthony Watts at WUWT), and I think we can shed some light on the ‘mysterious 11yr lag’ between solar input and climate response.