Archive for the ‘Astrophysics’ Category

[update: Tyler Robinson has replied in comments  — Tim /update]

Talkshop contributor ‘Cementafriend’ has emailed me with an interesting critique of parts the 2013 Robinson & Catling paper Common 0.1 bar tropopause in thick atmospheres set by pressure-dependent infrared transparency 

. He is an engineer and tells me that:

I have had actual experience with combustion and heat transfer. I have designed burners for coal, gas, oil and waste fuel materials. I have measured CO2 in exhaust gases, down coal mines and even in the atmosphere.

The presence of OH in the atmosphere is due to the reaction CH4 +O3 > CH3OH +O2 (of course other organics can also be oxidised by O3 but the quantity of these is tiny).
The reaction claimed CH4 +OH> CH3 +H2O is not correct. CH3OH (methanol or methyl alcohol sometimes known as wood alcohol which is poisonous) can exist as a molecule. In water this can form the ions CH3+ and OH-.
CH3OH is highly soluble in water at ocean/lake surfaces and also in drops of water in clouds. However, there is little O3 in the atmosphere up to 11,000 km and that is why CH4 persists in the atmosphere now at around 1.7 ppm.

It seems that just as there are “Climate Scientists” making up false relations in physics, thermodynamics & heat transfer (luckily they have not touched mass transfer), there also seem to be “astrophysicists” and “astrochemists” making up new chemistry & reaction kinetics.


This paper needs discussion.

The Hockey Schtick has an article up on a just published 69 page paper.


The above comparisons indicate that Eq. (10b) rather accurately reproduces the observed variation of mean surface temperatures across a wide range of planetary environments characterized in terms of solar irradiance (from 1.5 W m-2 to 2,602 W m-2), total atmospheric pressure (from near vacuum to 9,300 kPa), and greenhouse-gas concentrations (from 0.0% to over 96% per volume).

Now rip the paper apart. What if anything about it is safe?


A paper of interest to some Talkshop readers

Spin-orbit coupling and chaotic rotation for circumbinary bodies
Application to the small satellites of the Pluto-Charon system



Alexandre C. M. Correia, Adrien Leleu, Nicolas Rambaux and Philippe Robutel
Open access, published 20 August 2015


We investigate the resonant rotation of circumbinary bodies in planar quasi-circular orbits. Denoting nb and n the orbital mean motion of the inner binary and of the circumbinary body, respectively, we show that spin-orbit resonances exist at the frequencies n ± k?/2, where ? = nb – n, and k is an integer. Moreover, when the libration at natural frequency has the same magnitude as ?, the resonances overlap and the rotation becomes chaotic. We apply these results to the small satellites in the Pluto-Charon system, and conclude that their rotations are likely chaotic. However, the rotation can also be stable and not synchronous for small axial asymmetries.


Oh my, The Sun, still is.


The Sunspots 2.0? Irrelevant. The Sun, still is.
By shaviv

After being asked by 5 independent people about the new sunspot number reconstruction and that it doesn’t show that the sun should have contributed any warming to the 20th century, I decided to write about it here. I have one word to describe it – irrelevant. It is also a good opportunity to write about new results (well, one that saw the light of day a few months ago) showing again that the sun has a large effect on climate. Yet, the world will still continue to ignore it. Am I surprised? No I’m not.


Hello Pluto

Posted: July 14, 2015 by Andrew in Astrophysics, solar system dynamics

imageAfter a nine year, three billion mile journey NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has reached Pluto (more…)

moon-cartoonWASHINGTON, May 28, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — NASA will host a media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 3, to discuss the Hubble Space Telescope’s surprising observations of how Pluto’s moons behave, and how these new discoveries are being used in the planning for the New Horizons Pluto flyby in July.

Participants in the teleconference will be:

  • John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington
  • Mark Showalter, senior research scientist at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California
  • Douglas Hamilton, professor of astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park
  • John Spencer, scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado
  • Heidi Hammel, executive vice president of the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy in Washington


Paul Vaughan has produced a six page .pdf document crammed with the fruits of his research into the ways in which solar variation affects Earth’s climate. Several of the observations and concepts coincide with the work we have been doing here at the talkshop over the last six years to unravel the mysteries of solar system dynamics and their effect on Terrestrial variation. Paul has applied his stats and visualisation skills and thorough approach to referencing, including direct links to data. This has resulted in a landmark document which readers will find both useful and inspiring. It demonstrates the progress that has been made in solar-terrestrial theory, (with hints about the underlying planetary solar relations too).




Relevant to current discussions on the talkshop concerning changes in Earth’s length of day (LOD) and the effect of planetary orbital resonances on the Moon’s orbital parameters and Earth climatic variation; this is a repost from Ian Wilson’s excellent Astro-Climate-Connection website. Ian very generously opens with a hat tip to this blog, (at which he is one of the ‘collaborators’ he mentions). 

Connecting the Planetary Periodicities to Changes in the Earth’s LOD
Monday, October 14, 2013 : Ian Wilson PhD

[(*) Some of the findings in this blog post concerning the connection between the Earth’s rotation rate and the planetary configurations have also been independently discovered by Rog “Tallbloke” Tattersall and his collaborators]

A. The Connection Between Extreme Pergiean Spring Tides and Long-term Changes in the Earth’s Rotation Rate as Measured by the Rate-of-Change of its Length-of-Day (LOD). (*)

If you plot the rate of change of the Earth’s Length of Day (LOD) [with the short-term atmospheric component removed] against time [starting in 1962] you find that there is a ~ 6 year periodicity that is phase-locked with the 6 year period that it takes the lunar line-of-nodes  to re-align with the lunar line-of-apse [see the first note directly below and reference [1] for a description of the method used to determine the time rate of change of LOD].

NB: The pro-grade precession of the lunar line-of-apse once around the Earth with respect to the stars takes 8.8504 Julian years (J2000) while the retrograde precession of the lunar line-of-apse line-of-nodes once around the Earth with respect to the stars takes 18.6000 Julian years (J2000). Hence, the lunar line-of-apse and the ascending node of the lunar line-of-nodes will realign once every:

(18.6000 x 8.8504) / (18.6000 + 8.8504)  = 5.9969 Julian years

Figure 1



NASA's next exoplanet hunter (TESS)  [image credit: MIT]

NASA’s next exoplanet hunter (TESS)
[image credit: MIT]

Try to imagine Saturn and Uranus orbiting the Sun in 8 and 12 days respectively. Far-fetched? In our solar system, yes, but something very similar has been observed in an exoplanetary star system, as was recently discussed by scientist and blogger Hugh Osborn, one of the co-authors of a study of the surprising 2-planet system.

In his blog post, Osborn notes re the March 2015 solar eclipse:
Calculating something so far ahead seems like an impressive feat but in fact astronomers can precisely work out exactly when and where eclipses will occur for not just the next hundred, but the next million years. Such is the way for most transiting exoplanets too, the calculations for which could probably be valid in thousands of years.

But a new planetary system, discovered by a team that includes Warwick astronomers (including me), doesn’t yet play by these rules. It consists of two planets orbiting their star, a late K star smaller than our sun, in periods of 7.9 and 11.9 days. The pair have radii 7- and 4-larger than Earth, putting them both between the sizes of Uranus and Saturn. They are the 4th and 5th planets to be confirmed in data from K2, the rejuvenated Kepler mission that monitors tens of thousands of stars looking for exoplanetary transits. (36 other planet candidates, including KIC201505350b & c, have been released previously).

But it is their orbits, rather than planetary characteristics, that have astronomers most excited. “The periods are almost exactly in a ratio of 1:1.5” explains Dave Armstrong, lead author of the study. This can be seen directly in how the star’s brightness changes over time. This lightcurve appears to have three dips of different depths, marked here by green, red and purple dips. ”Once every three orbits of the inner planet and two orbits of the outer planet, they transit at the same time”, causing the deep purple transits.


Proton flux jump and earthquake

Posted: May 12, 2015 by tchannon in Astrophysics

Tim writes: The radio brought news of another [two] severe Nepal earthquakes today with more damage and deaths.

I logged in to the Talkshop and glanced at the space weather graphic, a step rise in proton flux today, a distinct event..


Proton flux from NOAA

Checking with USGS

M7.3 – 18km SE of Kodari, Nepal
2015-05-12 07:05:19 (UTC)
M6.3 – 33km NNE of Ramechhap, Nepal
Timed 2015-05-12 07:36:53 (UTC)



Super-sized exoplanet rings [credit: Ron Miller / Astronomy Now]

Super-sized exoplanet rings [credit: Ron Miller / Astronomy Now]

They say ‘the diameter of the ring system is nearly 120 million kilometres’. Imagine the forces in play to keep all that in order. Astronomy Now reports:

Astronomers at the Leiden Observatory, The Netherlands, and the University of Rochester, USA, have discovered that the ring system that they see eclipse the very young Sun-like star J1407 is of enormous proportions, much larger and heavier than the ring system of Saturn. The ring system — the first of its kind to be found outside our Solar System — was discovered in 2012 by a team led by Rochester’s Eric Mamajek.

A new analysis of the data, led by Leiden’s Matthew Kenworthy, shows that the ring system consists of over 30 rings, each of them tens of millions of kilometres in diameter. Furthermore, they found gaps in the rings, which indicate that satellites (“exomoons”) may have formed. The result has been accepted for publication in the Astrophysical Journal.

Read the rest here.

Prediction using Titus-Bode Relation

Posted: April 15, 2015 by tchannon in Astrophysics

Ian Wilson suggests this paper ought to be aired.



Exoplanet Predictions Based on the Generalised Titius-Bode Relation
Timothy Bovaird, Charles H. Lineweaver

We evaluate the extent to which newly detected exoplanetary systems containing at least four planets adhere to a generalized Titius-Bode (TB) relation. We find that the majority of exoplanet systems in our sample adhere to the TB relation to a greater extent than the Solar System does, particularly those detected by the Kepler mission. We use a generalized TB relation to make a list of predictions for the existence of 141 additional exoplanets in 68 multiple-exoplanet systems: 73 candidates from interpolation, 68 candidates from extrapolation. We predict the existence of a low-radius (R < 2.5R ? ) exoplanet within the habitable zone of KOI-812 and that the average number of planets in the habitable zone of a star is 1-2. The usefulness of the TB relation and its validation as a tool for predicting planets will be partially tested by upcoming Kepler data releases.
— Open access PDF from there


Exoplanet link to Lucas number series

Posted: March 31, 2015 by oldbrew in Astrophysics
Tags: ,

Jupiter-sized exoplanet [Wikipedia]

Jupiter-sized exoplanet [Wikipedia]

Tallbloke has spotted a science paper about exoplanets where one system has two planets whose orbital periods are close to 11:4 ratio Lucas numbers.

Paper: ‘We also refine the parameters of two planets announced previously around HD 113538, based on a longer series of measurements. The planets have a period of 663± 8 and 1818 ± 25 days, orbital eccentricities of 0.14 ± 0.08 and 0.20 ± 0.04, and minimum masses of 0.36 ± 0.04 and 0.93 ±0.06 MJup.’
[MJup = mass of Jupiter]

The outer planet is slightly smaller than Jupiter and the inner one is about one third of it, by mass. Noting the uncertainties in the orbital periods, we can see how closely they relate to the Lucas ratio:
663/3 = 221 = 55 x 4, +1
1818/3 = 606 = 55 x 11, +1
difference = 55 x 7

This is very close to 4:11 orbit ratios with 7 conjunctions in that time period, 4-7-11.

Drill into Mars for clues to Earth’s climate

Posted: March 5, 2015 by oldbrew in Astrophysics, climate
River Thames in 1677

River Thames in 1677

New Scientist has a new angle on the Little Ice Age, asking: ‘Can Martian holes give climate clues?’

Digging a hole on another world may settle a nagging question about Earth’s climate.

From about 1300 to 1870, much of the Earth is thought to have endured a long cold snap dubbed the Little Ice Age. If such a freeze occurred, it is usually blamed on a dip in solar activity, but there are other suspects such as volcanoes.

If the sun was responsible, we should see evidence of it across the solar system, says Ralph Lorenz of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland. To settle the debate, he suggests digging a hole on Mars to see if it, too, had an ice age around that time.


Back in 1987, Robert M Wilson of NASA’s Space Science Laboratory in Huntsville published this paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research. It’s important to our solar-planetary theory because it shows that the Sun is bi-modal in terms of its solar cycle lengths. They cluster around  periods of a little over ten and a little under twelve years. These periods correlate to the periods of Jupiter-Earth-Venus syzygy cycles and Jupiter’s orbital period respectively. Leif Svalgaard vehemently denied this correlation when I pointed it out to him a few years ago.


The same correlation was noted by independent researcher Timo Niroma in 1989, who conducted his own survey and analysis of solar cycle lengths. He produced this simple ascii-art graphic to present his results.


Exoplanet analysis is a growing field of scientific study as data pours in from the likes of NASA’s successful Kepler probe.

The abstract of a new paper explains its focus on this data:
‘Mean motion resonances and near-resonances up to the outer/inner orbital period ratio’s value of 5 and the denominator 4 are tested for all adjacent exoplanet orbits.’

Without delving into the nuts and bolts of the analysis here, let’s look at the list of results (click on image to view details):

By Marian C. Ghilea (2015)

By Marian C. Ghilea (2015)

The column ‘resonance type’ shows the planet:planet ratios we’re interested in.
Clearly there are many examples, although ‘near resonances’ are also included.

From the author’s concluding remarks:
‘Performing a simple analysis, the resonance or near-resonance states present in all the multiplanetary systems known to date can be found numerically using a computer analysis tool.’

‘The first results, presented in this paper, suggest different resonance or near-resonance distributions for different planet categories. The resonance/near resonance numbers of 2/1 and 3/2 appear to be dominant for the planets with larger masses while the 5/3 resonance seems to be the most common for terrestrial planets and mini neptunes. For giant planets, the 2/1 resonances are dominating at larger distances from the host star while the 3/2 resonance is more common at close distances from it. Resonances for values higher than 5/2 are encountered
only for planets with masses larger than 10 (ME*)’ [*Earth masses].

We can see from this that these ‘near resonances’ crop up regularly in exoplanet systems just as they do in our solar system e.g. Jupiter-Saturn 5:2, Neptune-Pluto 3:2.

Whatever the mechanism(s) involved, the frequency of their appearance can’t be regarded as accidental.

See also the Wikipedia page on orbital resonance

H/T Oldbrew.

Golden rings of star formation

NGC 3081 is seen here nearly face-on. Compared to other spiral galaxies, it looks a little different. The galaxy’s barred spiral centre is surrounded by a bright loop known as a resonance ring. This ring is full of bright clusters and bursts of new star formation.


Kepler Space Telescope [NASA]

Kepler Space Telescope [NASA]

A very interesting report of a new science paper has appeared in the New Scientist:

‘William Ditto and his colleagues at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, compared the two strongest oscillations, or tones, made by the variable star KIC 5520878, using observations by NASA’s Kepler space telescope. They noticed that dividing the frequency of the secondary note by that of the primary, or lowest, note gives a value near the “golden ratio” – a number that shows up often in art and nature and is close to 1.618′

So is it real or did they perhaps just imagine it?
Let’s start with the abstract :

‘The unprecedented light curves of the Kepler space telescope document how the brightness of some stars pulsates at primary and secondary frequencies whose ratios are near the golden mean, the most irrational number.’


From It’s worth reading between the lines of this one to see the perplexed furrows on the brows of the ‘surprised’  scientists.

dynamoThe magnetic fields of planetary building blocks lasted for a surprisingly long time in the solar system’s early days, a new study suggests.

The magnetic fields of these big asteroids were apparently generated by the same process that drives Earth’s global magnetic activity, and could have persisted for hundreds of millions of years after the objects’ formation, researchers said.
The study team analyzed pallasites, iron-and-nickel meteorites believed to originate from an ancient rocky body about 250 miles (400 kilometers) wide. The pallasites contain tiny particles of ‪tetrataenite — a mineral that records a magnetic history of the parent body going back billions of years.


Solar system cartoon [NASA]

Solar system cartoon [NASA]

This is not a new idea but it seems to be gaining a bit more traction. Planetary bodies like Pluto-sized Sedna don’t seem to fit the accepted ‘rules’ of solar system dynamics. reports: There could be at least two unknown planets hidden well beyond Pluto, whose gravitational influence determines the orbits and strange distribution of objects observed beyond Neptune. This has been revealed by numerical calculations made by researchers at the Complutense University of Madrid and the University of Cambridge. If confirmed, this hypothesis would revolutionise solar system models.

Astronomers have spent decades debating whether some dark trans-Plutonian planet remains to be discovered within the solar system. According to the calculations of scientists at the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM, Spain) and the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) not only one, but at least two planets must exist to explain the orbital behaviour of extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNO).