Archive for the ‘Astrophysics’ Category

Jupiter is living up to its billing as a ‘planet on steroids’.

Planet Pailly

Last week, the Juno mission flew over Jupiter’s Great Red Spot and sent back some spectacular close-ups. But I’m not ready to talk about that. Not yet. I’m still catching up on the Juno news from two months ago.

Toward the end of May, NASA released a ton of fresh data from Juno, including new information about Jupiter’s auroras. Astro-scientists had previously known about two sources contributing to these auroras: the solar wind and the Io plasma torus. Now Juno may have discovered a third.

As Juno flew over Jupiter’s poles, it detected electrically charged particles flying up.

I can’t emphasize enough how weird this is. I wanted to write about it right away, but I held off doing this post because I was sure I must have misunderstood what I was reading.

Auroras are caused by electrically charged particles accelerated down toward a planet’s magnetic poles. These…

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Niagara Falls [image credit: Saffron Blaze / Wikipedia]

The author of this theory says “Jupiter and Saturn’s growth naturally pollutes the inner Solar System with water-rich planetesimals. In my mind the mechanism is very clear”. The theory does seem to bear a resemblance to this summary from the Hans Rickman Uppsala Astronomical Observatory.

Water on Earth, Mars and everywhere within the inner Solar System can be traced back to the rapid waist-expanding growth of Jupiter and Saturn, which knocked inwards a local population of icy planetesimals, as Sci-News reports.

This is according to a new model, which could also explain the current makeup of our modern asteroid belt.

Whilst Earth is often described as the blue marble, with over 70% of its surface covered in oceans, seas, rivers and lakes, water actually makes up less than 0.1% of our planet by mass.

Credit: NASA

Extreme ultraviolet radiation (EUV) is perhaps an aspect of solar activity that gets less attention than it should. The authors make the interesting point in their introduction to the research article that ‘Although the total solar irradiance at Earth varies very little, the relative variance in the EUV is as large as the mean irradiance. This EUV light interacts with Earth’s thermosphere and stratosphere and may affect climate in a “top-down” process in regions such as northern Europe’.

A pair of researchers with Aberystwyth University in the U.K. has used data from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory to learn more about how the sun’s corona behaves over differing stages of its 11-year cycle, reports Bob Yirka at

In their paper published on the open access site Science Advances, Huw Morgan and Youra Taroyan describe attributes of the sun they observed over time and what they discovered about the “quiet corona” and its possible impact on us back here on Earth.


As long time regulars at the Talkshop know, our ongoing research into the links between planetary motion and solar variation has occasionally borne fruit in unexpected ways. The ‘shorthand’ for the sum of all planetary vectors is the Sun’s motion with respect to the barycentre of the solar system. This is the path the Sun is forced to follow by the ongoing evolution of the motion of all the planets. We have found various tantalising near-correlations between aspects of this motion and solar activity levels suggestive of some kind of mechanistic linkage.

We have been ridiculed for years by the WUWT wankers among others for working on this theory. Various other solar researchers have attempted ‘disproofs’ of a planetary effect on solar activity too. They all tell us the planets are “too small and too far away to affect the Sun”.

Last year, we featured a post concerning the work of Shepherd, Zharkov and Zharkova, who have been coming at the solar variation problem from another angle. They resolved the solar-hemispheric components of the solar polar fields into two separate curves, representing shallow and deep solar ‘dynamos’.


Combining the curves together produces a good representation of changing solar activity levels. Their prediction is, like ours from our planetary model, for a big solar slowdown extending through the middle decades of this century. The mainstream climate scientists tried to get the press release revoked…




More than a year after “Part II” of a guest post from Talkshop contributor ‘Galloping Camel’ on the Moon’s equatorial temperature here is “Part III”.  Peter actually sent this to Tim Channon last year, but Tim became to ill to deal with it and forgot to throw it my way. In current discussion of Ned and Karl’s new paper, the issue of planetary surface temperature variation due to speed of rotation arose. Ned thinks it makes no difference. Peter’s model says it does, so now is a good time for discussion, as this impacts theoretical estimates for the temperature of ‘Earth with no atmosphere’.

Modeling the Moon

It has been claimed that the GHE (Greenhouse Effect) is 33 Kelvin because the Earth’s average temperature is 288 K compared to a temperature of 255 K assumed for an “Airless Earth”.  The Diviner LRO showed that the Moon’s average temperature is 197.3 K which makes one wonder how an estimate based on impeccable mathematics could be so wrong?   Vasavada et al. published a paper in 2012 that mentioned a one-dimensional model of the Moon’s regolith.  As I was unable to obtain details of this model I attempted to replicate it using Quickfield, a powerful FEA (Finite Element Analysis) program.  Results obtained using my model were published here.



Back in late 2011, the Talkshop splashed the story on a ‘Unified Theory of Climate’  developed by PhD physicists Ned Nikolov and Karl Zeller. They set out to show that the ‘greenhouse effect’ is not a phenomenon arising out of the absorption and reemission of outgoing long-wave radiation by the atmosphere (as thought for 190 years), but is a form of compression heating controlled by solar radiation and the total atmospheric pressure at the Earth’s surface. Pressure is in turn a product of the gas mass contained in a column of air above a unit surface area, and the planet’s gravitational effect on that mass.

It’s been a long and treacherous road involving many revisions and refinements of the original study. On several occasions the manuscript was rejected unread, but Ned and Karl have finally got their greatly improved and expanded paper published. This latest version is a tour de force strengthened by the rigors of criticism from an army of peer reviewers at several journals along the way.

Using dimensional analysis (a classical technique for inferring physically meaningful relationships from measured data), they show that the long-term global equilibrium surface temperature of bodies in the solar system as diverse as Venus, the Moon, Earth, Mars, Titan and Triton can accurately be described using only two predictors: the mean distance from the Sun and the total atmospheric surface pressure. This type of cross-planetary analysis using vetted NASA observations has not been conducted by any other authors. It represents the first and only attempt in the history of climate science to assess Earth’s surface temperature in the context of a cosmic physical continuum defined by actual planetary-scale observations. The result is a new insight that planetary climates are independent of the infrared optical depth of their atmospheres arising from their composition, and that the long-wave ‘back radiation’ is actually a product of the atmospheric thermal effect rather than a cause for it.



Much media attention on this new paper this week. Is there a surprise lurking in the details now that the orbit period of the seventh planet has been confirmed?.

What the numbers in the diagram show is the orbits per planet in a fixed period (top row), the conjunctions per planet pair in the same period (second row), and the ratios that represents (third row).

The number of conjunctions of any two planets is the difference between the two orbit numbers in a given period, which in this case is equivalent to just under 1446 Earth days (see data below).

Apart from the obvious symmetry of the ratios, something else arose from the science paper.


Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile, the largest astronomical project in the world –
Magellanic Clouds near top of image [credit: NASA / Ames]

It’s unimaginably vast: astronomers say ‘this structure is a 75,000 light-year long filament of gas and dust’. Trying to separate out the effects of gravity and magnetism here should be an interesting challenge.

A magnetic field appears to span the space between the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the two dwarf galaxies being consumed by our Milky Way Galaxy, reports Sky & Telescope via

For stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s easy to forget that the Milky Way is actively consuming two dwarf galaxies. Those in the Southern Hemisphere have a front row seat to watch our galaxy wreak havoc on the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC and SMC).

But there’s more to the story — the dwarfs are not only gravitationally interacting with the Milky Way but with each other as well.


The Lined Wolf

Let’s face it: KIC 8462852 (also Tabby’s Star or Boyajian’s Star) is a weird star. Since its unusual light variations were discovered by citizen scientists using data of NASA’s Kepler space telescope in September 2015 many, many things have been written by professional and amateur astronomers, science communicators and “searchers of mysteries”, as an interesting hypothesis about its behavior was that it could be signs of activity associated with intelligent extraterrestrial life constructing a Dyson swarm. Of course, this just run wild in general media, and many astronomers since them have been asked by journalist to talk about “Mysterious Tabby’s Star”.

In particular, this theme soon captured the attention of some of my friends at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC, Spain), as they weekly produce an amazing ~2h science communication podcast Coffee Break: Señal y Ruido (Signal to noise). I’m proud to participate in this podcast from…

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Exoplanets up to 90 times closer to their star than Earth is to the Sun.

Excellent – we outlined this ‘resonance chain’ (as they have now dubbed it) in an earlier post here at the Talkshop [see ‘Talkshop note’ in the linked post for details].

When NASA announced its discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 system back in February it caused quite a stir, and with good reason says

Three of its seven Earth-sized planets lay in the star’s habitable zone, meaning they may harbour suitable conditions for life.

But one of the major puzzles from the original research describing the system was that it seemed to be unstable.

“If you simulate the system, the planets start crashing into one another in less than a million years,” says Dan Tamayo, a postdoc at U of T Scarborough’s Centre for Planetary Science.


I’m not expecting much discussion of this post, I don’t understand it either, though I have run across KAM before in another context, and eventually some light may dawn that illuminates some relationship with our phi-solar system dynamics work. I’ll just leave it here for now so it doesn’t get lost. One random synchrony is that Gabriella Pinzari is at the same university as Nicola Scafetta. Maybe we can get him interested enough to talk to her about our theory.

The following message is a guest post by Boris Khesin. Boris summarizes the wonderful talk given by Gabriella Pinzari at the workshop.  –Jim Colliander

Ecliptic_plane_3d_viewGabriella Pinzari (30min talk) described her joint result with her advisor Luigi Chierchia on a recently found fix for the famous KAM theorem, or rather for its application to the stability of the Solar system.

Namely, the original KAM theorem in Arnold’s 1963 paper claimed the persistence of the Liouville tori for perturbations of integrable systems under some nondegeneracy assumption – some determinant must be nonzero. This was a perfectly correct statement proved in the paper. But Arnold applied it to the Solar system without properly checking that for that system the determinant is indeed nonzero. (More precisely, Arnold checked the non-degeneracy condition for the first nontrivial case, the planar three-body problem, and claimed that this could extend to the general case: spatial, arbitrary n.) However, it turned out to be identically zero in the spatial case.


Astrophysicist Ian Wilson has emailed me to ask for a brainstorming session at the talkshop to assist him. Ian writes:

“I was wondering if you or your colleagues (e.g. oldbrew) could help me work out the solution to the following lunar puzzle”


The Conundrum

The diagram below shows the Perigee of the lunar orbit pointing at the Sun at 0.0 days. In addition, the diagram shows the Perigee of the lunar orbit once again pointing at the Sun after one Full Moon Cycle (FMC) = 411.78443025 days. It takes more than 1.0 sidereal year (= 365.256363004 days) for the Perigee to realign with the Sun because of the slow pro-grade (clockwise) precession of the lunar line-of-apse once every 8.85023717 sidereal years.

1.0 FMC falls short of 15 anomalistic months (= 413.31824817 days) by 1.53381792 days (= 1.5117449198O). During these 1.5117449198 days the Perigee end of the lunar line-of-apse rotates by 0.17081406in a prograde direction, producing an overall movement of the line-of-apse (red line) of 1.34093086O (= 1.5117449198O – 0.17081406O) with respect to the Earth-Sun line (blue line).


The satellites won’t land as the surface pressure – 92 times that of Earth – and heat of Venus would destroy them. Instead they will look for a ‘mysterious substance’ thought to be lurking in its atmosphere.

NASA has spent $3.6 million to build 12 small satellites to explore the planet Venus in search of a mysterious substance that absorbs half the planet’s light, reports The Daily Caller.

The CubeSat UV Experiment (CUVE) mission will launch the satellites to investigate atmospheric processes on Venus. The 12 satellites vary in size. One is less than four inches across and weighs a few ounces. Another weighs 400 pounds.

The research team thinks its results are ‘difficult to understand in terms of dark matter’, reports The study was earlier reported here.

The distribution of normal matter precisely determines gravitational acceleration in all common types of galaxies, a team led by Case Western Reserve University researchers reports.

The team has shown this radial acceleration relation exists in nearby high-mass elliptical and low-mass spheroidal galaxies, building on last year’s discovery of this relation in spiral and irregular galaxies.

This provides further support that the relation is tantamount to a new natural law, the researchers say.

Dwarf galaxy NGC 5264 [image credit: ESA/Hubble]

Dwarf galaxy NGC 5264 [image credit: ESA/Hubble]

Dark matter faces quantised inertia. One of these ideas must leave town, or the galaxies, it seems.

British physicist Dr Mike McCulloch, who previously used quantised inertia to explain how the controversial electromagnetic space propulsion technology EmDrive works, says that he has new evidence showing his theory can also explain galaxy rotation, which is one of physics’ biggest mysteries, as the IB Times reports.

McCulloch, a lecturer in geomatics at Plymouth University’s school of marine science and engineering, says he now has even more evidence that his “new physics theory” about quantised inertia works, and that it makes it possible to explain why galaxies are not ripped apart without using theory of dark matter.

One of the biggest problems in physics today is how galaxies rotate. Galaxies are collections of millions of stars swirling around, and galaxies spin so rapidly that their centrifugal force should cause them fly apart, as there isn’t enough visible matter in them to hold them together by the force of gravity.

Aliens might be the ‘Hollywood solution’ but those tend to be fictional. On the other hand, plausible explanations are elusive.

Astronomers may have to think a little harder to solve the mystery of Boyajian’s star reports

In September 2015, Yale University’s Tabetha Boyajian and her colleagues reported that the star KIC 8462852 has dimmed dramatically multiple times over the past seven years, once by an astounding 22 percent. 

NASA’s planet-hunting Kepler space telescope spotted these dimming events. But the brightness dips of “Boyajian’s star,” as it has come to be known, were far too significant to be caused by an orbiting planet, so astronomers began thinking of alternative explanations.

Researchers have come up with many possible causes for the dimming, including a swarm of broken-apart comet fragments, variability in the activity of the star itself, a cloud of some sort in the interstellar medium between Kepler and Boyajian’s star, and, most famously, an orbiting “megastructure” built by an alien civilization to collect stellar energy.



The spacing of the three rings described has a ratio of 3:5:8 according to the data given (60:100:160 AU) by This Fibonacci pattern may be telling us something about planetary formation.

Rice University astronomers and their colleagues have for the first time mapped gases in three dark rings around a distant star. The rings mark spaces where planets are thought to have formed from dust and gas around the star.

All the rings around HD 163296 are devoid of dust, and the international team of researchers led by Rice astronomer Andrea Isella is sure that planets, probably gas giants with masses comparable to Saturn, are responsible for clearing the outermost ones.

But the inner ring has far more carbon monoxide than the other two, leading them to believe no planet exists there. That remains unexplained, he said.


Ex U.S. Naval Observatory astronomer and long-time talkshopper Gerry Pease has sent me a link to an update of the paper he wrote with Gregory Glenn which we discussed recently. It represents some important and novel work in our field of solar-planetary theory. Of particular interest is the tight phase and magnitude coherence of solar-barycentric torque over the last two Jose cycles.


Gerry writes:

v2 of  Long Term Sunspot Cycle Phase Coherence is now available at

Figure 2 has a corrected scale, Figure 3 has been added, Figure 4 replaces the previous Figure 3 with an improved overlay Figure, and Figures 3-33 have been renumbered as Figures 4-34. Less than one page of important additional explanatory text has been added, but I am confident that Talkshop readers will find the added information and improved charts well worth a read.


I’m working away for the next fortnight, with no internet access. So I thought I’d put up something for the bright denizens of the talkshop to chew on while I’m gone. Bode’s Law is a heuristic equation which gives the approximate distance to the first seven major planets plus Ceres. reasonably well, but then goes completely off the rails as you can see in Figure 1 below.



Figure 1 Titius-Bode equation (red) vs planets (blue)

I’ve always thought the Titius-Bode equation to be a fudge. It doesn’t relate to any physical concepts that have anything to do with orbits or gravity. So I’ve come up with something better.


A 'normal' binary system

A ‘normal’ binary system

Have fun trying to imagine how this solar system works, as iTech Post describes its unusual structure.

Astronomers have discovered the first binary-binary solar system. The discovery is said to have implications on the way people perceive the solar system was formed.

The discovered solar system has two stars as well and a planet revolving. The new binary system has been named HD 87646. It is made up of one star, a brown dwarf star, and a massive planet, according to Science Daily. The large planet is 12 times the mass of Jupiter while the brown dwarf is 57 times the mass of Jupiter. The two are in close proximity as well to the primary star.

What makes the system interesting is that it defies what people know how a solar system is. Typically astronomers think that the solar system formed out of a disk dust cloud, with the large outer planets farther out from the primary star. Yet with HD 87646 the objects are far closer than how the outer planets are in our solar system.