Flying cloud sparks UFO mystery

Flying cloud sparks UFO mystery

Soyuz back in service after failed launch

It in fact was a UFO mystery. The Russians apparently didn’t tell their own people about a failed launch. The “Flying Cloud” has been a mystery for several days before the Soyuz launch failure was announced in their own country. Go Russia! See what a history of disinformation and poor information distribution can lead to.

The Year of the Restless Sun calls this the year of the restless sun.

Honestly, it is an above average year. But, it can be considered highly because of two factors,

1) there hasn’t been any interesting solar events since about 2006, and really not much since 2003. Heck, I still consider the Bastille Day 2000 events as a benchmark, but the Halloween 2006 were exceptional. So, five years and nothing really worth mentioning. This year we had a handful, maybe six, x-class flares. They weren’t for the record books, but they existed, which beats out last year. (Where we had … I can’t remember… but like 100 sunspots or something? I mean dead-sun.)

2) we really have exceptional cameras pointed at the sun these days. The STEREO cameras turn every event into a watch-able movie. We’ll never know what the Carrington Flare looked like, but some po-dunk CME that didn’t even escape the sun was my wallpaper for two months.

image above from

soho page

Probably not worth arguing over. If OE was still in the business, I’d ask him what the solar peak was and he’d have it within a week. I expect the new models haven’t gotten anything right yet, and may not have it right now. I believe that we are already AT solar maximum, and further growth isn’t likely. We’ll see if 2012 has a hotter sun or a weaker sun than 2011. (Or, about the same.) In the picture above, you can just about see the Solar Jet streams about to converge on the equator. I can’t measure how long that will take, but when it does, the solar cycle starts sliding back toward minimum. It could be soon, The experts are still saying 2 years out. Hmm.

Merry Christmas!

Folks, it is great hanging out with my wife, Paul, and Tom at Blackstone in Nashville. Great Food, Beer, and Company. Paul celebrates another year of not getting caught with a student’s dead body in the trunk of his car. Tom continues research apace, I have a novel near completion, and Monica didn’t throttle me in my sleep.

I want everyone to know, I appreciate the blessings of having all these friends. I have a wonderful wife, good friends, and enough free time to finish a novel. Ok, it would be nice to get paid…especially around Christmas… but a little turmoil is good for the soul.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless us, Every one.

Science News

Bill Gates talking with China to develop reactor.

This is kind of depressing, kind of exciting. The small safe reactor programs have produced a lot of good designs. And I would like for any one of them to be built. 

Exciting – Bill wants a better reactor design that ever before, and has apparantly given China a big list of requirements. He is making a billion dollar investment. Look, I would rather reactors were built now than later, but if Bill wants to design, build, and promote his new mini-super safe reactor, wow, that is better than the US government has ever done. He might really do more to improve the conditions of the poor in Africa than anyone has ever done before.

He might, literally, be responsible for the generation of more real wealth than anyone in history.  It would be possible, given inexpensive labor and plentiful power, to turn Africa into an economic powerhouse, capable of lifting itself out of poverty.

ok. my depressing – Argonne National Labs used to do the best work in the world. We just don’t support Reactor design anymore. That the Chinese have exceeded us is … telling.

Picture provided by

Since I was pinged as a Kepler Hater, that link is the current status.

Look, everyone is worried about budgets. Now is the time to get some excitement going into the next congressional debates, hope they care enough to drop a megabuck on your program. Kepler is refining the science, drip by drip. It’s rough work. I don’t expect them to find a human-habitable world in three years or less. It may take decades with this technique. It is giving us some data, where to look, what to look at. If we had an infra-red observatory that could measure the temperature of that planet. A spectroscopic observatory that could give us an idea what its atmosphere held, then we would have results. I hope that NASA stays funded for exactly those sorts of missions.

Not (very likely to be) An Alien Spacecraft

Is this an alien spacecraft parked next to Mercury? Giant object the size of a planet has astronomers baffled

Read more:

The science guys have said that this is a problem from subtracting out Mercury from their multi-day pictures. Um… I worked on that stuff a long time ago. Most of those problems went out with the dino-cameras. What kind of problem with software could they be having?  (Or is there a giant object in orbit around mercury?) ok, I bet on a software issue, but dang, OLD problem.

Busy Week!

Sorry I haven’t posted in a week, but went to San Francisco for a job interview. I’ll not discuss my possible future employers to any great extent, but 1) awesome folks, 2) Loral Space flys a lot of satellites. I was impressed that they are working on six launches of geosynchronous satellites this year, all their products, but that is a better record than NASA.

Of course, to be fair, about all of NASA spacecraft launches are “one offs.” Objects that were designed for a specific mission which will probably never be repeated, and may have never been done before. This leads to a seven to ten year product cycle. Manned missions have a fifteen year product cycle. In a world of eight year political events, you just can’t get a mission off the ground.

Loral Space produces GEO satellites which run your TV, Radio, and soon your internet. There is a lot of similarity in those products. Doesn’t make the job easy, they are up their getting cooked by the outer Van Allen belts for upwards of eighteen years. Some have made it thirty years. Amazing work.

I went into one of their clean rooms to watch them prepare to extend a thirty meter boom for testing. BIG room. I saw the shake & bake facility, nothing cooking now, (*heh*). I was greatly impressed by their little birds.

SO, lets talk about NASA.  Rain (Director of Space Track for Dragon Con saw this link today.)
NASA’s Kepler Confirms Its First Planet in Habitable Zone of Sun-like Star

Planet may be a bit big, but it is a possible “life zone” that is better than most of the hell-holes the kepler technique is getting. The Kepler Technique looks for star dimming, which it then assumes is due to a planetary passage. Look, a life planet is going to have an orbit greater than six months, so … assuming it is parallel with our orbital plane (some odd math to determine the probability of that) we still would only get a signal for a small portion of that orbit, perhaps only a few days out of a year. (Unless the planet is HUGE, and orbiting within a few miles of the sun’s corona, in which case we get a good regular ten hour signal.)

This one isn’t close, 600 light years. I know, you wanted to compose a message and have the rocket city rednecks ping it off them with their new space communication laser… but it would be 1200 years to get a return signal…even if they were waiting by the phone. No, they haven’t been watching I Love Lucy (or Friends) reruns. They are closer than Omicron Persei Eight, if you are a Futurama fan, but we have a few hundred years before they can comment effectively on the difference in black and white and color tv versions of their favorite shows.

So… Pictures?  Ok, Merry Christmas, you damn Treckies.