Space

Anonymous now has more credibility than all four big US cable news channels and the big newspapers combined.  This is due to the fact that while they and their sources are …anonymous.. they manage to find verifiable information.  This claim is different.   IF this is true there are only TWO ways NASA could have found proof of extraterrestrial life.  SETI has intercepted a convincingly strong source of intelligently engineered radio from a known habitable zone Kepler planet.

In the evening of May 30 a giant fireball lit up the skies south of Venice, Italy. The object, which was traveling very slowly along a south-north trajectory, was captured by three video stations in the area, plus observed by countless bystanders and recorded in pictures. The video data allowed to precisely measure the trajectory, which made it clear that the rock was headed straight toward the Venice metropolitan area, and that it would have landed there if it had not disintegrated in flight.

JP Aerospace is an interesting company - in the city of Rancho Cordova, CA., California, JP Aerospace, America's OTHER Space Program. Their aim is to develop ways to send airships up into the stratosphere - and more controversially, all the way to orbit with their "Orbital Airships" vision. The airships would accelerate very slowly, at a rate of perhaps a few centimeters per second increase in speed every second, over several days, until they reach orbital velocity. Can they, or can't they, or how far can they go?

Starburst galaxies are where stars are forming at such a breakneck rate that the galaxy is eating up its gas supply faster than it can be replenished. There are several different factors that can lead to such an ideal environment in which stars can form at such a rapid rate. Crucially, there has to be a sufficiently massive supply of gas. This might be acquired in a number of ways -- for example by passing very close to another galaxy, in a full-blown galactic collision, or as a result of some event that forces lots of gas into a relatively small space.
This evening I am blogging from a residence in Sesto val Pusteria, a beautiful mountain village in the Italian Alps. I came here for a few days of rest after a crazy work schedule in the past few days -the reason why my blogging has been intermittent. Sesto is surrounded by glorious mountains, and hiking around here is marvelous. But right now, as I sip a non-alcoholic beer (pretty good), chilling off after a day out, my thoughts are focused 500,000,000 kilometers away.
The umbrella term for the 68 percent of the universe that we can't detect and know nothing about has been given the umbrella term "dark energy." Like wormholes 30 years ago, it is more MacGuffin than science. You could call it aether or magic or any deity name and be just as valid.

But inference says something, or a variety of somethings, must be causing the universe to expand when gravity says it should contract. So dark energy it is.

Except maybe it isn't

This is an update to my article: How A "Dwarf Planet" Gas Giant Could Challenge IAU Definition - Pluto, Ceres, Haumea Etc Can All Be Planets. That article pointed out that we could discover a gas giant in our own solar system that satisfies the IAU definition of a "dwarf planet" as it wouldn't clear its orbit if it was far enough away. First, I should have pointed out there that the WISE search has not ruled out gas giants in the remote parts of our solar system.

I think the chances of the SpaceX mission around the Moon going ahead on schedule in 2018 is tiny. But on the remote chance it does, I would not fly on that mission, if you paid me a billion dollars. The problem is that they have to rely on many innovations working just right that are hardly tested. Their current Dragon spacecraft is only rated for re-entry from LEO (Low Earth Orbit) and not for the much faster re-entry from a trip around the Moon. That’s why they plan to use the larger Dragon 2 which has its first flight in 2018.

Ethan Siegel has just written an article, "The Science Has Spoken: Pluto Will Never Be A Planet Again", so this is a response to it. I'll argue that far from "story over", actually we could make a discovery tomorrow that would turn the whole thing on its head and make their definition untenable.  This will become particularly acute if we ever find a gas giant in the outer reaches of our solar system, too far away to clear its orbit. And we could find such a planet.

Vera Rubin who helped to discover one of the greatest mysteries of nature has died.    She was the mother of astronomical dark matter investigation.  I won't write about her accomplishments at length ...