Archive for the ‘solar system dynamics’ Category


H/T The GWPF

Dr David Whitehouse reviews the history of solar cycle predictions in a new paper by the Global Warming Policy Foundation which is published today. The paper, entitled The Next Solar Cycle, And Why It Matters For Climate, can be downloaded here.
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London, 6 April: A former BBC science correspondent says that there remains a real possibility that unusual solar behaviour could influence the Earth’s climate, bringing cooler temperatures for the next decade.

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Encylopaedia Britannica on the Metonic cycle:

Metonic cycle, in chronology, a period of 19 years in which there are 235 lunations, or synodic months, after which the Moon’s phases recur on the same days of the solar year, or year of the seasons. The cycle was discovered by Meton (fl. 432 bc), an Athenian astronomer.

Calendar Wiki’s opening paragraphs on the Metonic cycle say:

The Metonic cycle or Enneadecaeteris in astronomy and calendar studies is a particular approximate common multiple of the year (specifically, the seasonal i.e. tropical year) and the synodic month. Nineteen tropical years differ from 235 synodic months by about 2 hours. The Metonic cycle’s error is one full day every 219 years, or 12.4 parts per million.

19 tropical years = 6939.602 days
235 synodic months = 6939.688 days

It is helpful to recognize that this is an approximation of reality.

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Some say it could be a remnant of the Great Comet of 1843.
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Spaceweather.com

March 24, 2020: No one knows how big the icy core of Comet ATLAS (C/2019 Y4) might be–possibly no wider than a few kilometers. One thing’s for sure, though, the comet’s atmosphere is huge. New images from amateur astronomers around the world show that ATLAS’s gaseous envelope has ballooned in diameter to ~720,000 km–about half as wide as the sun.

cometatlas_inset

“Comet ATLAS’s coma (atmosphere) is approximately 15 arcminutes in diameter,” reports Michael Jäger of Weißenkirchen, Austria, who took the picture, above, on March 18th. “Its newly-formed tail is about the same size.”

Other astronomers are getting similar results. 15 arcminutes = a quarter of a degree. Given Comet ATLAS’s distance of 1.1 AU on March 18th, that angle corresponds to a physical size of 720,000 km.

On the scale of big things in the solar system, Comet ATLAS falls somewhere between the sun (1,392,000 km  diameter) and Jupiter…

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Variation in solar activity during a recent sunspot cycle [credit: Wikipedia]


This seems worth another airing in the face of today’s insistent, but evidence-light, claims from climate obsessives that the world’s present and future weather is going to be largely determined by human activities.

If the energy from the sun varies by only 0.1 percent during the 11-year solar cycle, could such a small variation drive major changes in weather patterns on Earth? – asks Universe Today.

Yes, say researchers from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) who used more than a century of weather observations and three powerful computer models in their study.

They found subtle connections between solar cycle, the stratosphere, and the tropical Pacific Ocean that work in sync to generate periodic weather patterns that affect much of the globe.

Scientists say this will help in predicting the intensity of certain climate phenomena, such as the Indian monsoon and tropical Pacific rainfall, years in advance.

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Greenland ice sheet (east coast) [image credit: Hannes Grobe @ Wikipedia]


Of course the other question about the start of an ice age still remains.

New University of Melbourne research has revealed that ice ages over the last million years ended when the tilt angle of the Earth’s axis was approaching higher values, reports Phys.org.

During these times, longer and stronger summers melted the large Northern Hemisphere ice sheets, propelling the Earth’s climate into a warm ‘interglacial’ state, like the one we’ve experienced over the last 11,000 years.

The study by Ph.D. candidate, Petra Bajo, and colleagues also showed that summer energy levels at the time these ‘ice-age terminations’ were triggered controlled how long it took for the ice sheets to collapse, with higher energy levels producing fast collapse.

Researchers are still trying to understand how often these periods happen and how soon we can expect another one.

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Wikipedia says:

Dansgaard–Oeschger events (often abbreviated D–O events) are rapid climate fluctuations that occurred 25 times during the last glacial period. Some scientists say that the events occur quasi-periodically with a recurrence time being a multiple of 1,470 years, but this is debated. —

The 25 occurrences of 1470 years are represented in this synodic chart posted in the comments of our 2018 blog post:
Possible origin of Dansgaard-Oeschger abrupt climate events.

Re. the ‘debate’, let’s take a line from this paper:
On the 1470-year pacing of Dansgaard-Oeschger warm events
Michael Schulz
First published: 01 May 2002
Citations: 99
‘a fundamental pacing period of ~1470 years seems to control the timing of the onset of the Dansgaard-Oeschger events.’

Another study: Timing of abrupt climate change: A precise clock
Stefan Rahmstorf
First published: 21 May 2003

An analysis of the GISP2 ice core record from Greenland reveals that abrupt climate events appear to be paced by a 1,470-year cycle with a period that is probably stable to within a few percent; with 95% confidence the period is maintained to better than 12% over at least 23 cycles. This highly precise clock points to an origin outside the Earth system; oscillatory modes within the Earth system can be expected to be far more irregular in period.

[bold added]

However, researchers often admit defeat when looking for a viable mechanism to explain its regularity, or just say there isn’t one to date.

Kepler’s trigon – the orientation of consecutive Jupiter-Saturn synodic periods, showing the repeating triangular shape (trigon).


Returning to the synodics chart, a relevant number doesn’t appear in it. The Jupiter-Saturn conjunction of 19.865~ years is an important period in the solar system, and it returns to almost the same position after every three occurrences, as Johannes Kepler noted with his ‘trigon’, centuries ago.

We can work out the rate of movement per conjunction in degrees:
360 – ((360 / S) * J-S) = 117.147 degrees
(360 / 117.147) * J-S = 61.046482y (‘JS-360’)
[Data: https://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/?planet_phys_par ]

Then, from the chart:
1470*25 / ‘JS-360’ = 602.00029
Check: (602*360) / 117.147 = 1849.983 (1850 J-S, see chart)
Since ‘JS-360’ is almost exactly a whole number (602), the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction should be in its original position at the end of the 25 D-O cycles.

Adding 602 to the orbits of each planet = multiples of 25:
223(N) + 602 = 825 (25*33) = 1850-1025(S-N)
[33 = 74-41]
1248(S) + 602 = 1850 (25*74)
3098(J) + 602 = 3700 (25*74*2)

Another way to get multiples of 25:
Add 2 to each orbit number (see chart), and subtract 2 from 602.

More on the 602 number:
602 = 14*43
14*61.046482y = 854.651y
43 J-S = 854.197y
These two results are only about half a year apart, and we find:
43*43 = 1849 J-S
Add 1 = 1850 J-S completing the 25 D-O cycle.

43*61.046482y = 2625 years (2624.9987)
1470:2625 = 14:25 ratio
1470*25 = 2625*14 (hence 602 of ‘JS-360’ = 14*43)

Obliquity note:
28 D-O = 41160 years, a fair match to the expected 41 kyr period.
One paper refers to a fit between D-O and obliquity.
Others support the notion of a link — possibly a topic for another post.
(28*25*1470 = 1,029,000 years)

Example of a 1470 year period from Arnholm’s solar simulator — click on image to enlarge:

Showing Neptune, Jupiter, Saturn and Earth.
* * *
Another one — Jupiter, Neptune, Saturn

Earth
New laser technology delves into Earth’s history.
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Earth turned faster at the end of the time of the dinosaurs than it does today, reports Phys.org, rotating 372 times a year compared to the current 365, according to a new study of fossil mollusk shells from the late Cretaceous.

This means a day lasted only 23 and a half hours, according to the new study in AGU’s journal Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology.

The ancient mollusk, from an extinct and wildly diverse group known as rudist clams, grew fast, laying down daily growth rings. The new study used lasers to sample minute slices of shell and count the growth rings more accurately than human researchers with microscopes.

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Includes a beginner’s guide to the various types of sprite now known to occur.

Spaceweather.com

March 7, 2020: Sprite season is coming. Spring thunderstorms often produce the year’s first big bursts of upward-directed lightning. To get ready, Puerto Rican sprite chaser Frankie Lucena has prepared a chart to identify the different forms, including a newly-discovered type of sprite called “the Ghost.”

Frankie-Lucena-TLE_Chart_2020_1200dpi_1583176434

“This chart provides just a glimpse of what can be seen and photographed above very strong thunderstorms,” says Lucena. “I used actual images, enhanced and slightly modified to better show what they actually look like.”

“This is the first chart to show the Ghost and a Negative Sprite event,” he continues. “The Ghost is a green colored shadow that appears above some sprites. The green color is caused by electrons exciting oxygen molecules in the mesosphere, approximately 80 km high. A Negative Sprite is triggered by a -CG lightning discharge as opposed to a regular sprite which is triggered by a +CG lightning discharge.”…

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Image credit: beforeitsnews.com

The aim here is to show how the synodic periods and orbits of these three planets align with the so-called Grand Synod, a period of about 4628 years which has 27 Uranus-Neptune conjunctions and almost 233 Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions. Its half-period is sometimes referred to as the Hallstatt cycle (2314 years +/- a variable margin).

1. U-N ‘long period’
1420 Uranus-Neptune conjunctions = 1477 Neptune orbits
(for calculations, see Footnote)
1477 – 1420 = 57
Uranus-Neptune 360 degrees return is 1420/57 U-N = 24.91228 U-N long period = 4270.119 years

2. GS : U-N ratio
Grand Synod = 27 U-N = 4627.967 years (= ~233 Jupiter-Saturn conjunctions)
27 / 24.91228 = 1.0838028
1.0838028 * 12 = 13.005633
Therefore the ratio of 4627.967:4270.119 is almost exactly 13:12 (> 99.956% true)

3. Orbital data
Turning to the orbit periods nearest to the Grand Synod:
28 Neptune = 4614.157y
55 Uranus = 4620.927y
(Data: https://ssd.jpl.nasa.gov/?planet_phys_par )

4. Factor of 12
These periods fall slightly short of the 27 U-N Grand Synod (~4628 years).
However, multiplying by 12 and adding one orbit to each, gives:
28*12,+1 (337) Neptune = 55534.67y
55*12,+1 (661) Uranus = 55535.14y
27*12 (661 – 337) U-N = 55535.61y

Now the numbers match to within a year +/- 55535 years.
Also, the period is 12 Grand Synods (12*4628 = 55536y), or 13 U-N ‘long’ periods.

5. Pluto data
Pluto’s orbit period is 247.92065 years.
55535 / 247.92065y = 224.003
So 224 Pluto orbits also equate to 12 Grand Synods.


Therefore, a U-N-P synodic chart can be created for that period of time.

6. Neptune:Pluto orbits
Neptune has one more orbit in the period than an exact 3:2 ratio with Pluto – a planetary resonance.
224 P = 112*2
337 N = 112*3, +1
113 N-P = 112, +1

7. Phi factor
Uranus and Neptune both have one more orbit than this ratio:
660:336 = (55*12):(21*16)
55/21 = Phi²
12/16 = 3/4
Therefore the U:N ratio is almost (3/4 of Phi²):1

The U-N-P chart should repeat every 12 Grand synods i.e. every 55,535 years or so.
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Footnote
360 / Neptune orbit (164.79132) = 2.184581
2.184581 * U-N conjunction (171.40619) = 374.4507
374.4507 – 360 = 14.4507

Obtain nearest multiple of 360 degrees:
1420 * 14.4507 = 20519.9994
20520 / 360 = 57
1420 + 57 = 1477
1420 U-N = 1477 Neptune orbits
1420 + 1477 = 2897 Uranus orbits









Solar system [credit: BBC]

This new paper from our good friend Nicola Scafetta takes another look at the Sun’s cyclic behaviour and possible planetary influences on it, referencing various researchers whose work has appeared at the talkshop, along the way.
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Abstract
Gravitational planetary lensing of slow-moving matter streaming towards the Sun was suggested to explain puzzling solar-flare occurrences and other unexplained solar-emission phenomena (Bertolucci et al. in Phys. Dark Universe 17, 13, 2017). If it is actually so, the effect of gravitational lensing of this stream by heavy planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune) could be manifested in solar activity changes on longer time scales too where solar records present specific oscillations known in the literature as the cycles of Bray–Hallstatt (2100–2500 yr), Eddy (800–1200 yr), Suess–de Vries (200–250 yr), Jose (155–185 yr), Gleissberg (80–100 year), the 55–65 yr spectral cluster and others. It is herein hypothesized that these oscillations emerge from specific periodic planetary orbital configurations that generate particular waves in the force-fields of the heliosphere which could be able to synchronize solar activity.

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Obsessing over trace gases and toying with computer models won’t provide the answer.

PA Pundits - International

By Ronald Stein ~

Trying to imply that cooling is right around the corner when we’re watching record-breaking warm ocean temperatures to me seems a big stretch, but current facts and the history around the five previous ice ages that came and melted before fossil fuels became recognizable words may be worthy of reviewing.

The real climate crisis may not be global warming, but global cooling, and it may have already started. These events may not be an anomaly, but a predecessor of things to come:

  • Planting was one month late due to cold Spring weather across the Great Plains of North America in both 2018 and 2019.

  • In 2019 Spring was wet and cold and ~40% of the huge USA corn crop was not planted.

  • Summer 2019 was cold, and snow came early in the Fall, and the crop was a failure across much of the Great Plains.

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Mars from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope


Tales of the unexpected on Mars: ‘Day-night fluctuations and things that pulse in the dark’, and other mysteries. What’s unique to Mars?

New data gleaned from the magnetic sensor aboard NASA’s InSight spacecraft is offering an unprecedented close-up of magnetic fields on Mars, says Phys.org.

“One of the big unknowns from previous satellite missions was what the magnetization looked like over small areas,” said lead author Catherine Johnson, a professor at the University of British Columbia and senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute.

“By placing the first magnetic sensor at the surface, we have gained valuable new clues about the interior structure and upper atmosphere of Mars that will help us understand how it – and other planets like it – formed.”

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Saturn seen across a sea of methane on Titan by Huygens probe 2005


Some extracts from an article at Phys.org, bypassing the chemistry details. A research professor commented: “The process could be universal”. Interesting…
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Planetary scientists using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) revealed the secrets of the atmosphere of Titan, the largest moon of Saturn.

The team found a chemical footprint in Titan’s atmosphere indicating that cosmic rays coming from outside the Solar System affect the chemical reactions involved in the formation of nitrogen-bearing organic molecules.

This is the first observational confirmation of such processes, and impacts the understanding of the intriguing environment of Titan.

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The linked article contains more video material and images.
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In February 2020, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory—SDO—is celebrating its 10th year in space, reports Phys.org.

Over the past decade the spacecraft has kept a constant eye on the sun, studying how the sun creates solar activity and drives space weather—the dynamic conditions in space that impact the entire solar system, including Earth.

Since its launch on Feb. 11, 2010, SDO has collected millions of scientific images of our nearest star, giving scientists new insights into its workings.

SDO’s measurements of the sun—from the interior to the atmosphere, magnetic field, and energy output—have greatly contributed to our understanding of our closest star.

SDO’s images have also become iconic—if you’ve ever seen a close up of activity on the sun, it was likely from an SDO image.

SDO’s long career in space has allowed it to witness nearly an entire solar cycle—the sun’s 11-year cycle of activity.

Here are a few highlights of SDO’s accomplishments over the years.

Earth’s tilt moves back and forth between about 22 and 24.5 degrees

If there is a mean ratio of 5:8 it would be linked to the known variation of Earth’s tilt, which in turn causes variation in the precession and obliquity periods.

Encyclopedia Britannica’s definition says:
Precession of the equinoxes, motion of the equinoxes along the ecliptic (the plane of Earth’s orbit) caused by the cyclic precession of Earth’s axis of rotation…The projection onto the sky of Earth’s axis of rotation results in two notable points at opposite directions: the north and south celestial poles. Because of precession, these points trace out circles on the sky.

(Axial precession is another term for ‘precession of the equinoxes’).

Our 2016 unified precession post started with this quote from Wikipedia (bolds added):
Because of apsidal precession the Earth’s argument of periapsis slowly increases; it takes about 112000 years for the ellipse to revolve once relative to the fixed stars. The Earth’s polar axis, and hence the solstices and equinoxes, precess with a period of about 26000 years in relation to the fixed stars. These two forms of ‘precession’ combine so that it takes about 21000 years for the ellipse to revolve once relative to the vernal equinox, that is, for the perihelion to return to the same date (given a calendar that tracks the seasons perfectly).

Three linked precessions


In units of 1,000 years:
21 * (16/3) = 112
112 * (3/13) = 25.846~ (near 26)
25.846~ * (13/16) = 21
That was the number theory of the ‘unified precession’ post, i.e. a 3:13:8*2 ratio.

Where might the obliquity period, known to be somewhere near 41,000 years, fit into that?

Referring to the chart (above, right) and converting decimals to whole numbers:
AY – SY = 328 = 109*3, +1
SY – TY = 1417 = 109*13
AY – TY = 1745 (328 + 1417) = 109*16, +1
[327:1417:1744 = 3:13:16]

So that supports the number theory.

Starting out, I just updated the chart to include an entirely theoretical obliquity period of 8/5 times axial precession, linking it to the other known cycles as suggested by my 2016 comment to the unified precession post, here.

That post was a follow-up to: Why Phi? – some Moon-Earth interactions, which showed how:
The period of 6441 tropical years (6440.75 sidereal years) is one quarter of the Earth’s ‘precession of the equinox’.
Multiplying by 4: 25764 tropical years = 25763 sidereal years.
The difference of 1 is due to precession.

[NB Wikipedia quotes 25772 years (‘disputed – discuss’) for this precession cycle, but as it’s not a fixed number the question is: what is the mean period? Earth is currently around the mid-point of the tilt variation, moving towards minimum tilt i.e a shorter precession period. Astronoo says 25765 years.]

But then I came across two things: a paper by EPJ van den Heuvel, cited in Wikipedia, and another entry in Wikipedia (see below), that together suggested viable alternative numbers but with the same 5:8 ratio.

On the Precession as a Cause of Pleistocene Variations of the Atlantic Ocean Water Temperatures
— E. P. J. van den Heuvel (1965)

From the summary:
‘The Fourier spectrum (Fig. 8) shows two significant main periods, P1 = 40000 years and P2 = 12825 years*. The first period agrees well with the period of the oscillations of the obliquity of the ecliptic. The second period corresponds very well with the half precession period.’
[*But the specific periods found were: 42857, 39474 and 12825 years]

From Wikipedia – Axial tilt – long term (Wikipedia):
‘For the past 5 million years, Earth’s obliquity has varied between 22° 2′ 33″ and 24° 30′ 16″, with a mean period of 41,040 years. This cycle is a combination of precession and the largest term in the motion of the ecliptic.’

41040:12825 = 16:5 exactly. Since 12825 is the half precession period, the full period ratio is 8:5 as in the chart, but with slightly different numbers.

If this is correct, the 25764y period in the chart would need adjusting by a factor of 225/226:
25764 * (225/226) = 25650 = 2 * 12825

The Wikipedia obliquity period of 41040 years is divisible by 19, so is an exact number of Metonic cycles (2160), as is the revised axial precession of 25650 years (1350). So the alternative period equals a reduction of 6 Metonic cycles of axial precession. The idea of a role for the Moon in Earth’s obliquity has been put forward before.

Of course 225/226 represents less than half a percent of correction, so could be argued to be negligible.
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Now something else has turned up, written around the same time as two Talkshop posts already referred to:
The Secret of the Long Count, by John Martineau

In the ‘Long Count’ section of the article the writer also puts forward an argument for a (mean) 5:8 ratio of obliquity and axial (equinoctial) precession, using some historical context (see below).

So at least one other person has been thinking along the same lines. Note that 2,3,5,8 and 13 are Fibonacci numbers.


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The Secret of the Long Count

In the summer of 2012 I visited Carnac, accompanied by Geoff Stray. Howard Crowhurst runs an annual midsummer conference there and we had been invited to speak at the 2012-themed event. Halfway through his presentation, Crowhurst was describing his hunches surrounding megalithic awareness of the 41,000-year cycle, when he casually mentioned a startling fact:

The 41,000-year cycle very precisely consisted of eight Mayan Suns.

I did a double take. Eight suns, but five made precession! Startled, I cornered Geoff Stray. He had already come across the eight Suns figure for the obliquity cycle, but not realised the significance of 5:8, while Howard Crowhurst had been unaware of the fact that five Suns gave a value for Precession. We had cracked it.

One Mayan Sun is 5,125 years.

Five Suns give the Precessional Cycle

5 x 5125 = 25,625 years (current value 25,700 years, 75 years out)

Eight Suns give the Earth’s Obliquity Cycle.

8 x 5125 = 41,000 years (current value 41,040 years, 40 years out)

Five and eight! The two long cycles that most affect the Earth relate as 5:8 and are both encoded by the Long Count. The Maya must have known. No wonder they drew so many pictures of jawbones. Five and eight! The same two numbers displayed by human teeth are the same two numbers as those used by the plants all around us, and these are the same two numbers that connect us with our closest neighbour Venus, and the same two numbers that relate the two long cycles that affect Earth-bound astronomy.

[emphasis by the author]

From: The Secret of the Long Count, by John Martineau

‘The donkey goes on to the ice until it breaks’ – German proverb [image credit: evwind.es]


Intermittency, meaning unreliability, is of course guaranteed with wind and solar power. The problem being that some governments now proceed as though that doesn’t matter any more, preferring to trumpet absurd claims about ‘saving the climate’. If they persist, eventual power shortages look inevitable.
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Germany now generates over 35% of its yearly electricity consumption from wind and solar sources, says the Asia Times.

Over 30,000 wind turbines have been built, with a total installed capacity of nearly 60 GW.

Germany now has approximately 1.7 million solar power (photovoltaic) installations, with an installed capacity of 46 GW. This looks very impressive.

Unfortunately, most of the time the actual amount of electricity produced is only a fraction of the installed capacity. Worse, on “bad days” it can fall to nearly zero.

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Something happening in the “ignorosphere”.

Spaceweather.com

Jan. 29, 2020: A new type of aurora is rippling across Arctic skies. Citizen scientists who discovered it nicknamed it “The Dunes” because of its resemblance to desert sand dunes. A paper published in the Jan. 28th issue of AGU Advances describes the new form and the unexpected physics that causes it.

864572_1_unknown_upload_7036138_q0m4d8_1573153212Above: Aurora dunes over Laitila, Finland, on Oct. 7, 2018. Credit: Pirjo Koski. [more] Dune-shaped auroras form in a narrow altitude range 80 km to 120 km above Earth’s surface. Turns out, this is an extremely hard-to-study layer of Earth’s atmosphere. It’s too high for weather balloons, and too low for rockets.

“Due to the difficulties in measuring atmospheric phenomena between 80 and 120 km, we sometimes call this region ‘the ignorosphere‘,” says Minna Palmroth, Professor of Computational Space Physics at the University of Helsinki and the lead author of the study.

Sky watchers in…

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Oh. Ah.

Peddling and Scaling God and Darwin

dd

At the World Economic Forum in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, there seemed to be spat between Greta and Donald though they did not meet.

Image result for greta thunbergDonald Trump

As far as I can see one is “Drill, baby, drill”. and the other is stop using oil now i.e yesterday.

This article highlights the issues oil companies face, which are considerable.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-davos-meeting-oil/oil-industry-in-davos-torn-between-greta-and-trump-idUSKBN1ZM1Z6

The end is most interesting as it lays out the problems of going renewable ASAP along with electric cars. The obstacles to the energy transition are not the amount of wind or sun, or whether devices can be made to trap the energy, or the design of electric vehicles. The technology may be available now, but that does not make it possible.

It boils down to the availability of the metals required to do this. Here Richard Herrington just mentions cobalt and Copper

Richard Herrington, head of earth sciences at…

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Here we learn that the solar wind ‘has a sort of internal heater’, which may be short on scientific explanation but sounds interesting as far as it goes.
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There’s a wind that emanates from the sun, and it blows not like a soft whistle but like a hurricane’s scream, says Phys.org.

Made of electrons, protons, and heavier ions, the solar wind courses through the solar system at roughly 1 million miles per hour, barreling over everything in its path.

Yet through the wind’s roar, NASA’s Parker Solar Probe can hear small chirps, squeaks, and rustles that hint at the origins of this mysterious and ever-present wind.

Now, the team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which designed, built, and manages the Parker Solar Probe for NASA, is getting their first chance to hear those sounds, too.

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Earth-orbiting satellites beware!

Spaceweather.com

Jan. 16, 2019: Yes, there are explosions in Earth’s magnetic field. They happen all the time. Gusts of solar wind press against Earth’s magnetosphere, squeezing lines of magnetic force together. The lines criss-cross and reconnect, literally exploding and propelling high energy particles toward Earth.  Auroras are the afterglow of this process.

On Dec. 20, 2015, one such explosion occurred closer to Earth than anyone had seen before.  It has taken researchers 4 years to fully wrap their minds around what happened, and the results were published just this week in the Jan. 13, 2020, edition of Nature Physics.

Joseph-Bradley-_MG_8407_1450760666 Auroras in the aftermath of a near-Earth magnetic explosion on Dec. 20, 2015. Credit: Joseph Bradley of Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada

Lead author Vassilis Angelopoulos of UCLA explains: “Usually, these explosions happen at least 100,000 miles from Earth, far downstream in our planet’s magnetic tail. On Dec. 20, 2015, however, we observed…

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