Titbit: Voyager 1 punching through to ‘Deep’ space

After a couple of false alarms NASA is now 95 percent sure that Voyager 1 (launched 36 years ago) is either now just leaving our solar system and entering into deep space, or may have already left the solar system and is now currently in a zone sandwiched between our solar system and deep space.

Voyager 1 is some 18,535,000,000 kilometres from the Earth and is on the very edge of the front edge of the solar system.

Data streaming back to Earth from Voyager 1, which takes about 17 hours to reach us after it is sent by Voyager 1, indicates that Voyager is moving through this region between the solar system and interstellar space.

Assuming NASA has it right then Voyager 1 is about to become the first man-made object to leave our solar system and enter into the wider reaches of the Milky Way galaxy.


In a way this is more amazing than the Moon landing. Something man made that is sending back data is about to leave our solar system.


Kind of Exciting: Voyager About to Leave the Solar System

Back in 1977, before the Internet and before Microsoft Windows or Microsoft DOS even (for those that know what that even is), NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the USA) launched a probe into space called Voyager. It is known as Voyager I because they also launched another Voyager (Voyager II).

Unlike most other probes that man has sent out into space Voyager I did not have a particular planet or moon in our solar system as its destination. Voyager’s end-point mission was to simply continue zooming out into space away from the Sun until it managed to leave the realms of our defined solar system.

Voyager1Voyager has been zooming away from the Earth and the Sun at about 40,000 miles per hour (over 1,000 kilometres per second) now for 35 years and it has managed to reach a distance from the Earth of slightly over 121 astronomical units. An astronomical unit is, as one might imagine, a very long way. In fact it is the distance of the Earth from the Sun.

Voyager is so far away that radio signals from it back to mother Earth take over 15 hours to make the trip. So we don’t get any data that is sent back by Voyager until 15 hours after the probe has transmitted it.

So … what is the excitement?

The excitement is that the experts monitoring Voyager I think it is very close to leaving the solar system; possibly within months!

If they have decoded the data coming back from Voyager I correctly then a craft made by man and fired into space by man is about to leave the heliosphere of our solar system and enter into interstellar space.

If you want to read a little more about the travels of ‘Voyager I’ and its twin sister ‘Voyager II’ then you might like to check out the article “Get Ready, Because Voyager I is *This Close* to Leaving Our Solar System” here at the Atlantic site or here at the official NASA Voyager Interstellar Mission site (which is also where the hyperlink attached to the above image will take you).


Titbit: Asteroid 99942 Will Miss Us—But not by Much

Back in about 2004 those amazingly smart people who can calculate such things were pretty darn sure that asteroid 99942—code named Apophis—had a greater than 10 percent chance of smashing into the Earth on the 13th of April 2029. Given that Apophis has a diameter of about half a kilometre then if it were to hit the Earth it would have provided an impact explosion equivalent to about 800 megatons which is about 15 times larger than the biggest hydrogen bomb ever exploded.

It is kind of interesting that this asteroid was officially numbered 99942. If you ever watched the movie “7” you will know that 999 to some people is an interpretation of 666, which, to millions of other people, is the devil’s number. And 42, as almost every person in the Western World knows, is the answer to the question “What is the meaning of life and the universe and everything”.

Anyway, now it seems that those of us planning to be around in 2029 can relax. New data and more recent calculations show that 99942 is no going to be a collision threat when it comes back past the Earth in 2029.



Titbit: Surrounded by Satellites

The following picture is supposed to be an accurate depiction of all the satellites in space around the Earth in 2008 as viewed over the north pole.


No wonder we get the odd one falling out of the sky now and then.

How the heck do they find spots to launch new satellites into?

If you would like to see the full sized image, which is 2048 x 1448 (about 3.5 times the size of the image above) and 1.5MB, then click on the picture to open the larger image from the Abalook SmugMug portfolio. No password is required.


From the APOD: Galaxy NGC 6946 (Fireworks)

Just came across this on Digg. It comes from the Astronomy Picture of the Day site (here) where NASA posts some new astronomy related picture every day.

How awesome is this? This was photographed using the Subaru telescope at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan.

This is galaxy NGC 6946, otherwise known as the Fireworks galaxy.


The Fireworks galaxy is located 10 million light years from Earth and is 40,000 light years in diameter—which makes it about a third of the size of the Milky Way galaxy in which our tiny little planetary system lives.

That white powdery dust you can see in the spiral arms of the galaxy is made of of suns. Although the Fireworks galaxy is smaller than the Milky Way its density is higher so it is estimated to contain about the same number of suns as the Milky Way, which is about 300 billion. So there are 300 billion suns making up that powdery white dust.

With current space travel technology it takes about 77 years to travel one light year. Hence, should we decide to go over and have a closer look at NGC 6946 it would take us something like 770 million earth years to get there; and another 770 million to get back.


Crap! Maybe the Russians Were Right—Aliens Inbound

In the weekend papers, and I honestly cannot remember if it was Saturday’s “West Australian” or Sunday’s “Sunday Times”, there was a throw-away article about how some Russian newspaper knew how the world was going to end in 2012. Somehow they had worked out that there was a massive alien space ship in the outer reaches of our solar system. Somewhere out near Pluto.

AliensThis space ship is huge—so this Russian report said. It was 240 kilometers in diameter. That is some space ship. It makes the space ships imagined by George Lucas in Star Trek look almost puny. I doubt if even the Death Star was 240 kilometers in diameter.

So, as this Russian article goes, by sometime late in 2012 this space ship would arrive near Earth and was going to blast the planet with some electro-magnetic weapon that would kill off all our life support requirements (power, water, food, etc.,) and then once we had all died they would use the planet’s resources.

Okay. I read it. But I didn’t think too much about it. I think I might have told my son, but it was a joke.

But then today on Space.com there is the headline “Mysterious Planet-sized Object Spotted Near Mercury” !!!!! See the cutting above right and the headline below.


The article at Space.com, which the image above links to, provides a link that links over to a YouTube video that apparently shows a huge space ship parked alongside Mercury. The reason it can be seen is that it got caught by the reflective bounce of a coronal mass discharge from our Sun, otherwise it would not have been spotted.

No. I have not bothered to go to the YouTube link.

One problem is that the Russian newspaper article had the space ship out in the other direction on the very edge of our solar system near Pluto. This ‘sighing’ is in the wrong direction as Mercury is the other way; in towards the Sun.

I suppose it could be possible ‘they’ are coming from both directions?


Visualising Success Most Likely to Result in Failure

Most people my age will be familiar with the “truism” that to succeed you have to continually visualise success—or “keep your eye on the Princess”, as one of these courses keeps telling you (us). At least three times in my working life I have been required to attend compulsory programmes run by my employers that were based on this premise.

The longest programme or course along these lines that I had to attend was the Lou Tice “Investment in Excellence” package. This was run over about five weeks and from memory we had to attend two days full-time a week. The basis of the Lou Tice method is about focussing on what you want to achieve and NOT thinking about things that you don’t want to achieve.

Somewhere in my junk room are the dozen or so VHS tapes that every attendee was given who attended the “Investment in Excellence” course. From memory it cost my employer at the time about $1,000 per attendee to send us all along and this was back around 1985.

Needless to say I have never watched the programme tapes again since attending the facilitated training.

There are many other similar programmes and most of them are just as expensive to undertake.

Well, based on the latest research, it seems you should save your money—visualising success doesn’t work. In fact, worse than not working, the latest evidence indicates that visualising success is more likely to end in failure in achieving those goals than if you just let things happen at a natural pace.


Kappes and Oettingen ran a number of experiments over a lengthy period of time and the outcome was that in almost every experiment the groups ‘visualising success’ performed worse than those not thinking too much at all about succeeding.


So. That explains it then! This is quite obviously the reason why most things I have tried to achieve over the last 20 years (or so) have failed. I should not have been working so hard on visualising success.


Got it wrong again and didn’t find out until I was 58.

Have to stop visualising success now and see how that works out—although it could be too late. Smile


Interesting Notes About the Milky Way

Well I think they are.

As most people understand now, our solar system comprises of the Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and some other planets, with the sun at the centre holding it all together with gravity. Our solar system is located in a galaxy we call the Milky Way and is just one of about 100 billion solar systems (suns with some planets) that make up the Milky Way galaxy.

Like about 80 percent of the galaxies in the universe, as far we know, the Milky Way galaxy is more or less flat (in galactic terms), is a spiral galaxy with a number of spiral arms, and it is rotating in space (which is jus about true of everything in space—everything is rotating, being rotated around, or is rotating around something).

We are pretty sure our Milky Way galaxy has four primary central spiral arms. There are also two ‘separated’ arms; arms that do not fling out from the core of the galaxy but are sort of snapped off and separated. From what we can see and work out mathematically the solar system that our little plant is a part of is in one of these separated spiral arms and is located about a third of the way out from the centre of the galaxy.

We call the arm that our solar system is in Orion-Cygnus, the Orion-Cygnus spiral, or the Orion-Cygnus arm. This little separated arm is shown in the picture below although it is almost hidden by the name written above it. The location of our sun, and hence our solar system, is indicated by the yellow blob.


We are able to make very precise calculations about how fast our solar system is moving through space around the galaxy. Our solar system is orbiting the centre of the Milky Way galaxy at 486,000 miles per hour (632 times the speed of sound). But even at this break-neck speed our orbit path around the Milky Way is so big that it takes our solar system 226 million years to complete a single orbit.

To make this seem even more awesome, to put it another way, man has only existed on Earth for about 1/1250th or 0.0008 of a galaxy orbit! So since man has lived on the planet our solar system has only moved 1/1250th of the way around the Milky Way!

The centre of the Milky Way comprises of a massive black hole with a mass around 2.6 million times that of our sun.

As our solar system zooms around the centre of the Milky Way at 632 times the speed of sound it also wobbles up and down a bit, like when you spin a paper disk on a pencil and the paper flexes up and down. Each complete wobble cycle takes 64 millions years.


Solar Flares Disrupting Electronics

SolarFlareThe possibility of massive solar flares disrupting worldwide electronics has been in the news on and off for the last five or six years. Those extremely clever people who can forecast and measure solar flare activity have been telling us that they are expecting massive solar flares starting late in 2011 and peaking mid to late in 2012. Many of those in the “The World Will End in 2012” club have cited that the predicted solar flare activity in 2012 might be a contributor to “the end of the world”—along the lines of aircraft falling out of the sky, the Internet stopping, and nuclear bombs self-launching.

Well it seems this increased solar flare activity has started a bit early than it was supposed to. It is not mid-2011 yet but already a solar flare the size of Jupiter has erupted on the Sun. According to this article on News.com (here) this flare is today disturbing radio communications in China. Just exactly what disturbing radio communications means I am not sure. It could just mean that the Chinese are getting some really bad static on their CB radios; assuming they have CB radio in China.

FlaresTelegraphAnother article on Routers (click image at right to go there) points out that the solar flare cycle is an eleven year cycle. We are just coming out of the quietest 11 year period. This item indicates that while this recent solar flare, known as the Valentine’s Day Flare (it happened on Valentine’s day but the effects take three days to reach earth), was relatively large it is likely to only be about a fifth of the size of solar flares expected during 2012.

For a solar flare to cause problems it has to hit us. Considering we only swing around the sun in a very narrow plane the chance of a large solar flare hitting us full on is relatively low, but still high enough to be of concern. The worry is that an X3 or higher solar flare—the Valentine’s Day Flare was X1 or X—will line us up and hit us full on. The general scientific view is, that should this happen, the impact on worldwide electronics is likely to be extremely disruptive however it should not be catastrophic. But then we don’t really know, never having been in an era before where we rely on so  much electronic equipment for our day-to-day life and wellbeing.

With worldwide food shortages predicted (causing the cost of food to skyrocket), potable water running out, increasing environmental impacts from global warming, the possibility of a second hit from the Global Financial Crisis, and now the chance of being hit by an “extremely disruptive” solar flare, 2012 is shaping up to be what might be described as an interesting year.

But then, in one way or another, every year is interesting.


Titbit: Life Can Look Scary Close Up

The following was found on Cracked.com.

Tardigrade This is a picture of an actual critter.


It’s a very small critter that lives in amongst moss. That is a bit of moss it is leaning on.

It is called a Tardigrade.

It might be small but it is pretty awesome.

It can live for ten years without water, and can survive in a total vacuum for 10 days.

As if that wasn’t amazing enough it can stay alive in temperatures approaching absolute zero as well as in heat around 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

For more scary stuff up close go to this page at Cracked.com.