Space

The WTF paper, Boyajian et al. (2015), made an observation about a peculiar pattern of semi-periodicity in the light curve of KIC 8462852:

Three detectors tracking gravitational waves emitted by a merger of two black holes have brought science a little closer to locating a gravitational wave's birthplace in space. 

Gravitational waves are ripples in space and time created when two massive, compact objects such as black holes merge. The new detections were made on August 14, 2017 by two gravitational-wave detectors in the United States - Hanford and Livingston at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), operated by Caltech and MIT - and by the Virgo Gravitational-Wave Observatory in Italy. This marks the fourth detection of a binary black-hole system.

Until recently, we hadn't observed brightening of Boyajian's Star (KIC 8462852) over time. There were documented instances of fading over time, some more convincing than others. It was as though the star is gradually fading until the day it finally disappears from view.


Simon et al. (2017) changed all of that. Using ASAS/ASAS-SN data, the researchers documented two apparent episodes of brightening in the last 11 years. It now seems Boyajian's Star has long-term variability that is likely periodic.

Since the apparent amplitude of the long-term magnitude signal is not small, it's reasonable to expect it should show up in century-long data, despite the noisy nature of this data. I have confirmed this expectation with simulations.

A while back I wrote my article "Can Giant Airships Slowly Accelerate to Orbit Over Several Days" . It lead to a lot of discussion and as usual whenever you discuss John Powell's ideas, there were physicists and aeroengineers saying it is impossible. So anyway as part of this I had an especially interesting online discussion over many days with James Fincannon on the Space Show blog and much of this article comes out of that discussion. Unlike many of those who get involved in these discussions on the topic, he actually did many detailed calculations and shared them on the blog.

The IAU famously decided that Pluto is not a planet any more, calling it a "dwarf planet" instead, along with Ceres. However, their definition works as well as it does only because of a historical accident of our solar system and the bodies we have discovered in it so far. There are good reasons for thinking it has a "use before" date too, as we'll see. We don't know when that date is, but we will probably reach a point where we can't use it any more, at some point in the next two or three decades. The "use before "date may well be sooner than that. So why not change right away?

This is an article by the space engineer and Mars colonization enthusiast Robert Zubrin, The Planetary Protection Racket claiming that we don’t need to protect Earth from Mars microbes or Mars from Earth microbes. This is not the first time he has said controversial things like this, and they are not taken seriously by the planetary protection experts. Let’s go back to summer 2000, when he put forward similarly forceful arguments in print that there is no need to protect Earth from Mars microbes

This is what he wrote back then:

I’m getting messages from scared people today. The fearmongers and charlatans are saying that a giant planet Nibiru is going to appear during this solar eclipse and is due to hit Earth or do a devastating very close flyby 33 days later on September 23. No! This is total BS and nonsense promulgated by people who couldn’t predict the date of a solar eclipse or where to watch it if their life depended on it.

To everyone who is still scared today - nothing is going to happen I assure you. It's just a shadow. You are getting scared of a small shadow 70 miles wide passing briefly over the surface of Earth. Meanwhile you experience an average of twelve hours of darkness every single night.

The Great American Eclipse of 2017 as seen from around Makanda IL, very close to the center-line of the eclipse,  and in the region of maximum duration of totality.  From here I will live tweet out and attempt to stream images.    

On August 21st, from west coast to east the United States will be treated to a rare event; an eclipse of the sun. Not just a partial eclipse either. Through the entire arc, a swath of land about 70 miles wide will have a total eclipse. There's been so much excitement that social media has made "path of totality" part of the lexicon. 
This will be my informal introduction to sim-transit-lc, an open source toolset I've been working on. The toolset is meant to be a general purpose light curve analysis and optimization system, but today we'll only be looking at one built-in transit type: ringed planets.

The D792 dip of Boyajian's star (or KIC 8462852) is one of the most peculiar ever recorded. It's not only considerably deeper than most exoplanetary dips, but it also doesn't have the usual V or U shape; plus it's asymmetric.