Geomagnetic storm watch in effect following intense solar flare

The storm has the potential to drive the Northern Lights to lower latitudes

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On Thursday, the sun released a significant solar flare toward Earth, peaking at 11:35 a.m. EDT, scientists say.

Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation and, although harmful radiation from flares cannot pass through the Earth’s atmosphere to physically impact humans, when intense enough they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.

The flare was classified as an X1, with the X-class being the most intense. X10 flares are considered unusually intense.

This was the second X-class flare of Solar Cycle 25, which began in December 2019.

A video from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center covering activity between Oct. 25-28 showed the flare.

Two other eruptions included an eruption of solar material called a coronal mass ejection and an invisible swarm of solar energetic particles that were flung toward Earth, Goddard said.

Coronal mass ejections are large clouds of solar plasma and embedded magnetic fields released into space after a solar eruption. NASA notes that the fastest Earth-directed coronal mass ejections can reach our planet in as little as 15-18 hours.

The particles hit the Earth’s magnetic shield and can create a type of space weather known as a geomagnetic storm.

“One of the most common forms of space weather, a geomagnetic storm refers to any time Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere, undergoes sudden and repeated change,” NASA Science explains. “Geomagnetic storms can be caused by high-speed blasts of the solar wind and when a CME connects up with the magnetosphere. The sun’s magnetic fields peel back the outermost layers of Earth’s fields changing the very shape of the magnetosphere. Magnetic storms have measurable effects worldwide, such as radio communication blackouts and power grid failures.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Weather Prediction Center said Friday that a geomagnetic storm watch is in effect this weekend. Video

The center said impacts to technology from such a storm are generally nominal, but it has the potential to drive auroras further away from a normal polar residence. 

Auroras are displays of light in the sky typically occurring the northern and southern regions that happen when incoming charged particles from the sun strike oxygen and nitrogen some 60 to 200 miles up in Earth’s atmosphere, releasing a flash of light and heat. 

Electrons and protons released by solar storms can create bright auroras at lower latitudes.

Because of the latest flare, the Northern Lights may be visible over the far Northeast, upper Midwest and state of Washington – though it can be difficult to see it if you live near city lights.

Tardigrades could survive interstellar travel in extreme hibernation

Tardigrade
An illustration of a tardigrade3Dstock/Shutterstock

The first interstellar travellers from Earth may be a species that is no stranger to space exploration: tardigrades. These creatures grow only 0.5 millimetres long but are some of the most resilient animals known to science, even surviving in the vacuum of space.

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Until now, only five craft have left our solar system and none of them has carried biological life. It currently takes decades for craft to travel the 18 billion kilometres to interstellar space, but a NASA-funded research project is developing solar sail …

Why Tough, Tiny Tardigrades May Be the 1st Interstellar Travelers

A tardigrade in space.

A tardigrade in space? (Image credit: Dotted Yeti/Shutterstock)

People are gearing up to spread life from our solar system out into the cosmos. But the first life-forms to make that journey won’t be human beings, or even critters most folks would recognize. Instead, scientists plan to send tiny, chubby, pinch-faced tardigrades on the first living journey out past the Oort cloud (the ring of icy debris around our solar system) and into interstellar space.

Why tardigrades? Well, if you’ve heard anything about these eight-legged, dirt-dwelling “water bears” before, it was probably because they’re ridiculously resilient against ravages of the universe — ravages both foreign and domestic to our planet. Boiling doesn’t kill them. Neither does extreme pressure nor extreme cold. A study published online July 14 in the journal Scientific Reports suggests that even Earth-pummeling asteroids, nearby supernova blasts and powerful interstellar bursts of gamma radiation would fail to wipe the buggers out.

That hardiness, along with their small size — reaching only about a millimeter (0.04 inches) long — makes tardigrades ideal candidates to make a first cruise outside the solar system. These moss piglets, as they’re sometimes adoringly called, join C. elegans, a kind of mulch-dwelling nematode, as finalists to surf laser beams at relativistic speeds (or those approaching the speed of light) astride wafer-size spacecraft toward the far edge of the solar system, Space.com reports. The outer-space trip on laser-fueled wafers was borne out of NASA’s Starlight program, whose aim is to use photons to push tiny objects at extreme fractions of the speed of light toward neighboring stars.

C. elegans, meanwhile, make good candidates for the trip because scientists already have a huge wealth of data about their genetics and behavior. At just under 1,000 cells in their bodies, they are fairly simple to study; and despite their small size, they can observe their environment, learn from it and adjust their actions as a result. Also, like tardigrades, they can be frozen and revived.

It also helps, of course, that both species are on the far low end of the animal size scale. C. elegans are microscopic, and tardigrades are just on this side of visible to the naked eye. That’s plenty small enough to pack some onto miniscule spaceships for Earthly life’s first journey into the stars.

Though plans are still fluid, the Russian philanthropist and funder of the Breakthrough Starshot program Yuri Milner has said that the first interstellar trip could happen by 20 to 25 years from now, with one proposed target being our closest star system, Alpha Centauri.

The Truth About an ‘Alien Beacon’ at Proxima Centauri

Radio signal appeared to originate from the star Proxima Centauri, and provided a helpful drill for future searches.

A Mysterious 'Alien Beacon' Was Actually a False Alarm
Parkes radio telescope. Credit: Getty Images
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A radio signal detected by an Australian telescope in 2019, which seemed to be coming from the star closest to the Sun, was not from aliens, researchers report today in two papers in Nature Astronomy.

“It is human-made radio interference from some technology, probably on the surface of the Earth,” says Sofia Sheikh, an astronomer at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, and a co-author of both papers.

But the disturbance, detected by Breakthrough Listen—an ambitious and privately funded US$100-million effort in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI)—looked intriguing enough at first that it sent astronomers on a nearly yearlong quest to understand its origins. It was the first time that data from Breakthrough Listen triggered a detailed search, and the experience puts scientists in a better position to study future candidate detections.

“It’s really valuable for us to have these dry runs,” says Jason Wright, an astronomer at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. “We need these candidate signals so we can learn how we will deal with them—how to prove they are extraterrestrial or human-made.”

MYSTERIOUS BLIPS

Since 2016, Breakthrough Listen has used telescopes around the world to listen for possible broadcasts from alien civilizations. The programme has picked up millions of radio blips of unknown origin, nearly all of which could be swiftly classified as coming from radio interference on Earth, from sources such as mobile-phone towers or aircraft radar.

The 2019 signal was different. It was detected by the 64-metre Parkes Murriyang radio telescope in southeastern Australia and came from the direction of Proxima Centauri—the nearest star to the Sun, just 1.3 parsecs (4.2 light years) away. Proxima Centauri is of intense interest to SETI researchers, not just because it is nearby. The star has at least two planets, one of which orbits at the right distance for liquid water to be present on its surface—a prerequisite for life as it exists on Earth. A sibling initiative to Breakthrough Listen, known as Breakthrough Starshot, aims to send a tiny spacecraft to this planet in the future to look for life there.

The mysterious signal was first spotted last year by Shane Smith, an undergraduate student at Hillsdale College in Michigan, who was working as a research intern with Breakthrough Listen. Smith was combing through data that Parkes collected over six days in April and May the previous year. The telescope had been making observations in the direction of Proxima Centauri for 26 hours. It was not hunting specifically for aliens at the time, but was instead monitoring flares on the star’s surface, which could hurt the chances for life to arise on nearby planets.

The data included more than 4 million signals from the vicinity of the star, but Smith noted one signal near 982 megahertz that seemed to originate from the star itself and lasted about 5 hours. “I was excited to find a signal that matched all the criteria I was looking for, but I immediately remained skeptical of it and thought there had to be some simple explanation,” Smith says. “I did not ever think the signal would cause such excitement.”

Smith shared the information with his supervisor Danny Price, who posted it on a Breakthrough Listen Slack channel, and the team started investigating in earnest. “My first thought was that it must be interference, which I guess is a healthy attitude, to be sceptical,” says Price, an astronomer at UC Berkeley and the Breakthrough Listen project scientist in Australia. “But after a while I started thinking, this is exactly the kind of signal we’re looking for.”

The signal, named BLC1 for “Breakthrough Listen candidate 1”, was the first to pass all of the programme’s initial screening tests to rule out obvious sources of interference. “It definitely had me wondering ‘what if?’ for a bit,” says Sheikh.

She, Price and a large group of colleagues began working through possible explanations, from uncatalogued satellites to transmissions from planetary spacecraft. In Australia, the radio-frequency band around 982 megahertz is primarily reserved for aircraft, but the scientists could not identify any aeroplanes that had been in the area and could account for the signal—and certainly not one lasting 5 hours.

In November 2020, and in January and April of this year, the researchers pointed the Parkes telescope at Proxima Centauri to see if they could pick up the signal again. They could not.

Eventually, the team spotted other signals in the original data that looked a lot like the 982-megahertz signal but were at different frequencies. These signals had been tossed out by the team’s automated analysis as being earthly interference. Further analysis showed that BLC1 and these ‘lookalike’ signals were all interference from an unknown source. The signals had modulated and muddied one another, much as a guitar amplifier modulates and distorts a guitar note, which is what made it so difficult to identify BLC1 as interference.

EARTHLY ORIGINS

Because the signal didn’t re-appear in the 2020 and 2021 observations, it might have been coming from malfunctioning electronic equipment that got shut down or fixed, says Sheikh. The team suspects the equipment was relatively close to Parkes, perhaps within a few hundred kilometres. The frequency of the signal drifts in a way that is consistent with inexpensive crystal oscillators such as those commonly used in computers, phones and radios, says Dan Werthimer, a SETI astronomer at UC Berkeley who specializes in signal processing.

Working with another student, Sheikh is now using machine-learning algorithms to tease out what frequency the interfering equipment was transmitting at, which might help to track down its source. One lingering mystery is why the signal seemed to appear only when the telescope was pointed at Proxima Centauri. That might just be an unfortunate coincidence, if the cadence of the interference mimicked the cadence with which the telescope was looking at the star.

Radio interference has bedevilled other astronomical searches before, such as when flickering signals picked up at Parkes turned out to be the result of people microwaving their lunches. The famous ‘Wow!’ signal, detected in 1977 by a radio telescope in Ohio, was a powerful blip so intriguing that the observing scientist scribbled “Wow!” in the margins of the computer printout—but its origin could never be traced.

Alien searches have become much more sophisticated since then, Sheikh notes. “Many groups assumed that if you had a detection that only showed up when you were pointed at the source, that was it, break out the champagne, you’re done,” she says. “As technology changes, the way we vet signals also has to change—and that hadn’t come together until BLC1.” One of the Nature Astronomy papers features a detailed checklist to help astronomers determine whether their signal is truly from aliens or not.

“The Universe gives us a haystack,” says Ravi Kopparapu, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “It is our need to find the needle in it, and make sure that it is actually a needle that we found.”

A Star Turned Into A Black Hole Before Hubble’s Very Eyes

When a massive star expends its fuel, its core collapses into a dense object and sends the rest of its gas outward in an event called a supernova. What’s left is mostly neutron stars or black holes. And now, Hubble seems to have seen a supernova blink out — suggesting it captured the moment when a black hole took over.

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While some supernova events are explosive and leave clouds of debris for thousands of years (aka nebula) like SN 1054, the star in question seems to have begun to explode and then had all its gas sucked right back into the black hole at the center. This can happen when the core collapse of the star is especially massive. Rather than exploding, the gas collapses directly into the core of the star.


Only a few of these so called “massive fails” (yes, that’s what they’re calling them) have been spotted, so astronomers are cautious about the results. But this particular star, located in the galaxy NGC 6946, was bright enough to see from 22 million light years away and faded in an instant, suggesting a massive stellar-mass black hole was the driving culprit.

he American space agency NASA periodically shares spellbinding images of outer space, revealing ethereal and unseen sights in vivid and dreamy detail. On Friday, the agency shared previously unseen views of the NGC 6946 galaxy, better known as the ‘Fireworks Galaxy’, which witnesses frequent volatile supernovae that lends to the illusion of a fireworks display. The image shows a supernovae from the NGC 6946, one of ten observed in the galaxy, according to NASA. In comparison to NGC 6946, the Milky Way averages just one to two supernova events per century, the agency said in a statement.

The galaxy resides 25.2 million light-years away, along the border of the northern constellations of Cepheus and Cygnus (The Swan). The stunning images were captured by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, and shows the stars, spiral arms and other environments of NGC 6946 in phenomenal detail. It was captured by a pair ESA/Hubble & NASA researchers, A Leroy and KS Long, respectively.In the past century, eight supernovas have been observed to explode in the arms of this galaxy, called NGC 6946. Image: NASA/CXC/MSSL/R.Soria et al/AURA/Gemini OBs

In the past century, eight supernovas have been observed to explode in the arms of this galaxy, called NGC 6946. Image: NASA/CXC/MSSL/R.Soria et al/AURA/Gemini OBs

According to NASA, star gazers are able to marvel at NGC 6946 since it is a face-on galaxy, which means that observers see it facing them at all times. If the galaxy can be seen from the side, then it is known as an edge-on galaxy. The Fireworks Galaxy is an intermediate spiral galaxy, which means the structure of NGC 6946 sits between a full spiral and a barred spiral galaxy, with just a slight bar at its center.

NGC 6946 is also a starburst galaxy, which means that it undergoes an exceptionally high rate of star formation. The NASA Chandra Observatory has revealed three of oldest supernovas ever detected in X-rays of the galaxy.

Meteorites Found With Little Pieces of Other Stars

When Carl Sagan said, “We are all made of star stuff,” he didn’t just mean we were made up of parts of our own star. Other stars contributed to the material that built our solar system, and some of that “presolar” material is still present in a pristine form inside meteorites.  Now, a team led by Dr. Nan Liu at Washington University in St. Louis took a close look at some of the parts of meteorites that formed before the Sun.  They held some exciting surprises and answers.

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Scientists have known for a long time that meteorites contain presolar material. One of their most significant issues was separating that presolar material from the rest of the material that has merged as part of the meteorite’s formation. As with so many problems in science, this one was solved by throwing a powerful enough instrument at it.

Image of one of the presolar grains embedded in a meteorite captured by NanoSIMS.
Image of one of the presolar grains embedded in a meteorite captured by NanoSIMS.
Credit – Nan Liu Lab

NanoSIMS is a powerful mass spectrometer.  Dr. Liu and her team used an upgraded version with a more powerful plasma ion source to drive NanoSIMS, resulting in clear pictures of presolar grains they were interested in.  They used the ion beam itself to clear away other contaminants, such as aluminum, which were not formed as part of the presolar brain.

With a clear picture of the true materials in the grain, the team could start collecting valuable data.  One thing they looked for was the isotope ratios of carbon and nitrogen. C and N are two isotopes that can be directly studied in stars themselves.  Confirming their radios in a presolar meteorite will help inform stellar physicist’s models of the growth of carbon stars, a type of giant star that contains more carbon than oxygen.

There had been a sticking point in the stellar physics community about nitrogen ratios found in previous meteorites.  The new study clarifies that those ratios were likely skewed due to contaminants that Dr. Liu’s group removed with the ion beam.

Carbon and nitrogen weren’t the only isotopes the study was interested in thought.  Al-26, a radioactive form of aluminum, also captured their attention.  The ratio seen in the presolar grains was about twice the rate predicted by stellar evolution models.  Additionally, the overall isotope levels suggest that the temperature that formed the grains in a carbon star was likely higher than previously expected.

Sample meteor handled by researchers at Arizona State University.
Sample meteorite handled by researchers at Arizona State University.
Credit – ASU

That’s a lot of discoveries for a small piece of presolar material wrapped up in a meteorite.  But any data about previous stars is valuable, especially from samples that scientists can literally get their hands on. There are also plenty more meteorites out there that might hold other hints at the stellar formation process. 

Unexplained Results Intrigue Physicists at World’s Largest Particle Collider

Muons and electrons might not experience the same fundamental interactions, contrary to Standard Model predictions

Unexplained Results Intrigue Physicists at World's Largest Particle Collider
Visualization of the very rare decay of a beauty meson as observed by the LHCb experiment. Credit: CERN

Editor’s Note (10/19/21): On October 19, 2021, LHCb physicists unveiled two more small anomalies that continue a curious pattern of “missing” muons, which collectively hint that these exotic subatomic particles are being produced at lower-than-expected rates. With further validation, these results could become the most promising pathway toward new physics beyond the Standard Model.

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If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then consider a tantalizing new result beguiling the world’s particle physicists. Specifically, scientists are interested in fresh data from the LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty) detector, an experiment studying the decays of B-mesons—particles that contain beauty quarks. During a virtual session of the annual Rencontres de Moriond conference on Tuesday, nearly 1,000 physicists watched as the LHCb collaboration announced evidence for an unexplained discrepancy in the behavior of electrons and their heavier cousins, muons.

Under the Standard Model—the theory that describes elementary particles and the forces they obey, minus gravity—leptons such as electrons and muons are identical except for their mass. So B mesons should decay to a kaon and two muons at the same rate at which they decay to a kaon and two electrons. Yet LHCb is seeing a difference in this rare beauty decay: B mesons seem to decay to muons 15 percent less often than they do to electrons.

“It’s certainly intriguing, this new measurement,” says Monika Blanke, a theoretical physicist at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, who was not involved with the new research. “If it’s eventually confirmed experimentally, then there actually is something beyond the Standard Model that treats the lepton flavors differently.”

Physicists have long wondered if muons, electrons and other leptons possess differences besides their mass; the latest LHCb result suggests the answer might be yes. The finding has a statistical significance of 3.1 sigma, which meets the standard baseline for evidence in particle physics. Precisely speaking, 3.1 sigma means that in the absence of new physics, statistical fluctuations would still lead the researchers to see a discrepancy between electrons and muons of 15 percent or more once every 740 times they performed the experiment. Although this would seem to suggest the observed muon-electron discrepancy is almost certainly more than a mirage, the three-sigma effect, in fact, falls well short of the gold standard of discovery in particle physics: five sigma, which works out to running the experiment 3.4 million times before seeing a statistical fluke that large. (These figures are subtly but importantly different from a one-in-740 or one-in-3.4-million chance of being wrong.)

Why all the fuss about statistics? At LHCb and other experiments, numerous two- and three-sigma discrepancies between electrons and muons have popped up across the years. But so far, none of these results has held up: once more data were collected, the differences between leptons faded away, leaving the Standard Model triumphant.

“If it was only one, I wouldn’t be super excited. I’ve seen other anomalies go away,” says Gino Isidori, a theoretical physicist at the University of Zurich, who was not involved with the research. But he is encouraged by the latest LHCb result because it follows a pattern of other measurements that also hint at differences between electrons and muons. For Isidori and other particle physicists, that is reason enough for cautious excitement.

A THING OF BEAUTY

Located right on the border of France and Switzerland, LHCb is one of many detectors along  the Large Hadron Collider’s (LHC’s) 17-mile loop. Although LHCb also looks at the results from proton-proton collisions, its focus is on extremely rare decays, such as those of B mesons.

“Rare decays are a different way of trying to find heavy particles,” says Patrick Koppenburg, a particle physicist at LHCb. Instead of just smashing protons together and looking for signs of a new particle in the detritus, as the LHC did in its successful brute-force search for the Higgs boson, LHCb looks at minor variations in the one-in-a-million events. That is, a rare decay of a B meson does not directly yield new particles—muons and kaons are old hat—but the rate at which the decay happens can depend on heavy, as-yet-unseen particles influencing the outcome behind the scenes. In the 1960s, for example, rare decays of kaons hinted at the existence of the charm quark before it was directly discovered. LHCb is designed to tease out these needles from the haystack. But even so, the work is difficult and full of experimental uncertainties.

Then there are also theoretical uncertainties to consider: the Standard Model predictions that researchers compare their results against. Part of the excitement surrounding the latest LHCb result is that the specific B meson decay is “clean”—it has a very small theoretical uncertainty. Eliminating one source of error makes it much easier to see if the difference between electrons and muons is genuine.

Since the Standard Model’s inception in the 1970s, theoretical physicists have proposed models that explain this difference in the form of a new particle. Two of the top candidates are the Z’ (pronounced “zee prime”)—a variation on the existing Z boson —and the leptoquark, a particle that would link leptons and quarks. In the coming days and weeks, theoreticians will use the latest result to update their models—and, in fact, three preprint papers were already released within less than 24 hours of the announcement of the LHCb results.

But the physics of this rare decay is far from settled, and much more data are needed before a new particle can be claimed as the culprit. The best option for corroboration will be Belle II, a Japanese experiment. Mikihiko Nakao, a researcher involved in Belle II, expects it will take about five years to catch up to LHCb’s sensitivity.

Currently, LHCb is shut down for maintenance. But when it reopens with an upgraded detector next year, it could double all of the data taken over the past decade in just a single year, according to Koppenburg. In April upcoming results from Muon g-2, an experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., could also shed light on differences between leptons.

Physicists are aware that this latest result—a bump in the data—is quite possibly just a statistical fluctuation. Having been let down several times before, they are now careful to hedge their bets, trying to avoid conveying certitude or undue hype.

But if it is real—well, that would be beautiful.

Buzz Aldrin Shares What Happened To Him After Landing On The Moon

What Happened To Buzz Aldrin After Landing On The Moon

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Win McNamee/Getty Images

Neil Armstrong may have received most of the glory during the pioneering Apollo 11 mission. His “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” line is one of the most notable of the 20th century after all. But crewmate Buzz Aldrin was just as heroic on that historic voyage. And half a century later the astronaut opened up about how it feels to be forever known as the second man on the moon.

Project Apollo Archive / Flickr

As anyone old enough to have witnessed the monumental event will be able to remember, Aldrin, Armstrong and Mike Collins were launched into space in July 1969. The trio departed Earth from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida in a Saturn V rocket. As Aldrin recalled at a 50th anniversary gala, the initial journey was also a surprisingly smooth one. ×

Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG / Getty Images

Aldrin told the captivated audience at Los Angeles’ Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, “We did not know the instant of leaving the ground. We only knew it from the instruments and voice communications which confirmed liftoff. We sort of looked at each other and thought, ‘We must be on our way.’”

Project Apollo Archive / Flickr

Collins was given the task of manning Columbia – the command module – at the vital moment. His fellow two astronauts, on the other hand, reached their lunar destination in the four-legged module that was dubbed Eagle. Though unlike their launch, Aldrin and Armstrong’s descent to the moon was anything but smooth. 

Photo by NASA/ullstein bild via Getty Images

In fact, if it hadn’t been for the quick-thinking of pilot Armstrong, the pair’s module would have crashed into an array of lunar boulders. Thankfully, the computer guidance system directing them there was overrode by the astronaut. Apparently, Aldrin was responsible for communicating Eagle’s navigation data at the time to mission control.

GPA Photo Archive / Flickr

If that wasn’t enough, Aldrin and Armstrong also had to deal with the blaring alarms that suddenly started ringing out in the Eagle module. These alone could have put pay to the whole mission. Yet the pair once again managed to overcome the obstacle. In a typical display of understatement, Aldrin admits that he found the sounds just a little distracting.

NASA / Flickr

Referring to their incredibly dramatic descent, Aldrin said, “We knew we were continuing to burn fuel. We knew what we had, then we heard ‘30 seconds left.’ If we ran out of fuel, we knew it would be a hard landing. We saw the shadow cast in front of us. That was new – not something we saw in the simulator.”

Science Museum / YouTube

In a 2019 video for the London Science Museum, Aldrin reveals that he had to keep quiet during the nerve-wracking situation for Armstrong’s sake. He remembers getting increasingly stressed as the clock ticked down, admitting in the clip, “… I [didn’t] want to disturb Neil by saying, ‘Hurry up, hurry up!’”

Photo by NASA/ullstein bild via Getty Images

Eventually, Aldrin was able to tell mission control down on Earth that at least one of Eagle’s probes had met contact with the moon’s surface. Armstrong added, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.” But as Aldrin explains in the Science Museum clip, it was by the narrowest margin possible.

NASA / Flickr

Aldrin recalls, “We touched down. And I think the estimate – not because somebody put a dipstick in the fuel to see how much was left, but it was calculations and information onboard – we probably had about 15 seconds of fuel left.” Yet even then the intrepid pair weren’t out of the woods.

NASA / Flickr

After putting on their famous spacesuits and depressurizing the Eagle’s cabin, Aldrin and Armstrong initially struggled to get the module’s hatch open. Several frustrating attempts ensued but somehow the former remained calm. He told Sky at Night magazine in 2020, “We didn’t fly 240,000 miles to not explore the moon.”

Science Museum / YouTube

Luckily, Aldrin’s refusal to panic eventually reaped its rewards. He added, “I reached down and grabbed the corner of the hatch and flexed it back – there was a hiss of escaping oxygen, and it swung open. You do want to be a little careful about not bending that door, however.”

Photo by Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

You might not know that before touching base, the Apollo 11 crew sparked a conspiracy theory about UFOs. During their journey, the trio had asked mission control just how close they were to the upper stage rocket. Aldrin and co. had spotted a light that appeared to be following them. But they didn’t want to alarm anyone by asking explicitly what it was.

Project Apollo Archive / Flickr

Armstrong’s explanation for the mysterious light was the panels that had previously detached from the rocket. Though some theorists believe that something more extra-terrestrial could have been responsible. For his part, Aldrin dismissed these claims as nonsense in a 2016 interview with National Geographic magazine to promote his book: No Dream Is Too High: Life Lessons From a Man Who Walked on the Moon.

VAUDE / YouTube

Aldrin explained, “We assumed it was public knowledge and during an interview with the BBC I went through the whole story. The UFO people back in the United States became very angry with me – for not telling them first! We knew it wasn’t a UFO. But that doesn’t stop the story from spreading among people who are looking for anything that they can call a cover-up or a UFO.”

Project Apollo Archive / Flickr

In the same interview, Aldrin also confirmed that he’d taken some bread and wine on board to help celebrate Communion in outer space. Yet contrary to rumors, he hadn’t smuggled these items. Aldrin had actually been given permission from one of his superiors. The only stipulation was that he and Armstrong should refrain from discussing Communion when they reached the moon. 

NASA / Flickr

Aldrin expanded, “When the Apollo 8 crew read from Genesis on Christmas Eve some people complained that, as a government-funded institution, NASA should not be promoting religion. So, it wasn’t until years later that I felt okay about talking about it… Today, my philosophy is more like what Albert Einstein called a cosmic sense of a greater power involved in the creation of the universe. It’s very nonspecific.”

NASA / Flickr×

As you would expect, the three astronauts thought long and hard about such deep matters during their ground-breaking voyage. In his book, Aldrin reflects on the realization that alongside Armstrong and Collins, he was the only human being alive or dead not on Earth. He told National Geographic, “It certainly didn’t make me feel lonely, except to realize that we were as far away as people had ever been.”

Kevin Gill / Flickr

Aldrin added, “Once we were on the surface of the moon, we could look back and see the Earth – a little blue dot in the sky. We are a very small part of the solar system and the whole universe. The sky was black as could be, and the horizon was so well defined as it curved many miles away from us into space.”

Photo by NASA/Liaison / Getty Images

Though when it came to the most pivotal part of the mission, Aldrin only had the job on his mind. He told the 50th anniversary gala audience, “I sometimes think the three of us missed ‘the big event.’ While we were out there on the moon, the world was growing closer together, right here.”

Photo by Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG/Getty Images

So, how exactly did Aldrin and Armstrong celebrate when they finally landed on the moon and in one piece? Well, speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, the former revealed that they were rather understated. Aldrin said, “[Armstrong] remembers we shook hands, and I recall putting my hand on his shoulder and we smiled.”

manhhai / Flickr

Aldrin also stated that the famous “one step” quote was improvised, adding, “[Armstrong] thought of that. It wasn’t on the checklist.” He then recalled the moment that every aspiring astronaut can only dream of: his own first steps on the moon. Aldrin said, “I then got in position to come down… [I] came down the ladder, and jumped off – being careful not to lock the door behind me.”

manhhai / Flickr

Balancing wasn’t a problem, according to Aldrin, as he conducted various experiments while traversing across the surface of the moon. And he was still able to take in the beauty of his surroundings. At the time the astronaut described the lunar landscape as “magnificent desolation.” This phrase might not have caught on as much as Armstrong’s, but Aldrin remains proud of it.

Yutaka Tsutano / Flickr

In his interview with National Geographic, Aldrin explained, “If I had been the first to go down, I would’ve consulted philosophers or historians to help me come up with the right thing to say. But I wasn’t the first. So I just put together words that came to mind to represent the magnificence of the human achievement. Throughout history we’ve dreamed of the moon and wondered if people would ever go there.”

NASA / Flickr

Aldrin added, “The magnificence of our achievement for humanity was that we were there. But when I looked around I saw the most desolate sight imaginable. No oxygen, no life, just the lunar surface that hasn’t changed for thousands of years – and the blackness of the sky. It was the most desolate thing I could ever think of. And that’s why I said those words: the magnificence of the achievement and the desolation of where we were.”

Project Apollo Archive / Flickr

Armstrong and Aldrin remain two of only a dozen men to have ever stepped foot on the moon. Though as the astronaut who did it first, the latter’s name has always been more synonymous with the impressive feat. How does Aldrin feel about playing second fiddle to his one-time crewmate, then? Well, the astronaut claims that back in 1969 he thought nothing of it, telling National Geographic, “As the senior crew member, it was appropriate for him to be the first.”

Photo by Harmony Gerber / Getty Images

But it’s a different story now. Aldrin freely admits that it’s been hard seeing his own role relegated over the following decades. He added, “… After years and years of being asked to speak to a group of people and then be introduced as the second man on the moon, it does get a little frustrating.”

NASA/APOLLO 11 / Flickr

Aldrin wondered out loud, “Is it really necessary to point out to the crowd that somebody else was first when we all went through the same training, we all landed at the same time and all contributed?” This was a fair point, wouldn’t you say? Anyway, he concluded, “… For the rest of my life I’ll always be identified as the second man to walk on the moon.”

ThamesTv / YouTube

Of course, Aldrin was still showered with plenty of attention in the wake of the historic landing. He recalled, “When I returned from the moon I became a celebrity, a hero, with ticker tape parades and speeches. But that’s not really what I looked for or desired.” And he wasn’t the only member of the Aldrin family who struggled to cope with all the increased recognition.

Photo by Bettmann / Getty Images

Just like his grandfather and several cousins, Aldrin’s mother tragically committed suicide. The astronaut told National Geographic that she’d previously found the level of interest in his first space mission – Gemini 12 – hard to deal with. For its part, the moon landing only saw her discomfort intensified. Aldrin said, “My older sister and I both came to the conclusion that perhaps that, along with other things, caused her to take her life.”

Photo by PhotoQuest / Getty Images

Aldrin himself also came back to Earth with something of a bump. After leaving the world of NASA behind, the astronaut had planned to take a commandment of cadet role within the Air Force Academy. But apparently being the second man on the moon doesn’t count for much within the U.S. military, and Aldrin was passed over in favor of a former classmate.

Dave Doe / Flickr

Instead, Aldrin was hired as a test pilot school commander. This was despite the fact that he hadn’t undergone any test pilot training himself. Yet this sadly didn’t prove to be his calling. He told National Geographic, “I was interested in space, not airplanes. So, after a year, I decided to retire from the Air Force. I’d already left NASA and wasn’t anxious to join some corporation. So, I was not sure what the rest of my life would be like.”

Photo by Bryan Bedder / Getty Images for The Miami Project

A life consumed by the demon drink was what awaited Aldrin over the following years. His addiction is something the astronaut believes he may have inherited genetically. Aldrin added, “That brought me to consuming alcohol more and more and, of course, you can’t straighten out something in your head unless you have a clear mind.”https://9382f152e8e0875943a4a35cfaa0ee3f.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html

NASA / Flickr

Thankfully, Aldrin has managed to remain sober for nearly four decades. And he has one particular coping mechanism whenever things get a little tough. The spaceman explained, “If, occasionally, my mind gets the sense that the world around me is not doing what I’d like it to do, I may disappear for a day or even a week. That’s something I’ve needed to deal with.”

Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

Aldrin’s journey to the moon may have taken place more over 50 years ago. But even in his 90s, the space hero is still dreaming about other missions. And there’s one particular uncharted frontier that’s top of his list: the Red Planet. Aldrin acknowledges that he’s probably too old to witness this happen. Yet he’s still helping to put the wheels in motion. Yes, the astronaut’s legacy is being extended with the Buzz Aldrin Space Institute.

8i / YouTube

With the help of his son and the Florida Institute of Technology, Aldrin is creating an initiative dubbed Cycling Pathways to Mars. He explained, “First, we will have a low-Earth orbit cycler. The second cycler will be a base at the moon that America designs but other countries help build and land. Crews will stay there for six months or a year [and] then come back to Earth to start to train as the first crew to land on Mars.”

NASA/R.Arnold / Flickr

Aldrin remains confident that the United States will have paved the way for Mars travel within the next 20 years. But pioneering space missions aren’t his only goal. The NASA legend also hopes that his work will help bring together countries in a way that other programs haven’t done before. 

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Discussing his career in general, Aldrin told National Geographic, “Along the way, I discovered that I could contribute by using my innovation to think outside the box, in order to better serve my country. I took an oath to do that when I was 17 years old, and I’ve continued to be motivated by it – not by financial gain. I’m not driven by what comes back to me.”

Project Apollo Archive / Flickr

How exactly does Aldrin hope to bring unity to the world, then? He explained, “I’ve been spending a lot of time looking for ways to increase our peaceful associations with China – the way we did with the Soviet Union – with a joint mission in space. We can do that with the Chinese and with other nations in an equal, productive way that is even better than the Apollo program.”

Photo by Harmony Gerber / Getty Images

Who knows whether Aldrin will live to see his latest efforts come to fruition? But the spaceman seems content at what he’s already achieved. He concluded, “What more significant a life could a person ask for? It’s a very busy life, but it’s a tremendous opportunity for me to be of service to other people.”

NASA SAYS IT NEEDS NUCLEAR ROCKETS TO PUT PEOPLE ON MARS BEFORE CHINA

“THE US NEEDS TO MOVE AT A FAST PACE TO STAY COMPETITIVE.”

Nuclear Spacecraft

NASA officials say that the US needs to invest in nuclear-powered spacecraft if it wants to beat its geopolitical rivals to Mars. 

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The officials were testifying at a House Science, Space, and Tech subcommittee hearing on Wednesday, according to United Press InternationalThey urged lawmakers to invest resources into researching and developing nuclear-powered rockets, which could allow humans to reach the Red Planet in just three to four months — half the time it would take for traditional, chemical propelled rockets. 

“Our strategic competitors, including China, are indeed aggressively investing in a wide range of space technologies, including nuclear power and propulsion to fulfill their ambitions for sustained human lunar presence, as well as Martian and deep space science missions,” NASA senior adviser for Budget and Finance Bhavya Lal said at the subcommittee meeting, adding that the “United States needs to move at a fast pace to stay competitive and to remain a leader in the global space community.”

Off Target

This all comes on the heels of China allegedly testing a hypersonic nuclear-capable missile that took US officials by surprise. Though Beijing was quick to deny the claims, some still look at it as a “Sputnik moment“ because US intelligence had seemingly underestimated the country’s progress. 

Congress and NASA have stated that they want to get humans to Mars by 2033. However, Dr. Roger Myer, co-chair of the Committee on Space Nuclear Propulsion Technologies at the Academies of Sciences, threw cold water on that goal, saying that human Mars travel is “likely unobtainable by 2033.”

Meanwhile, Chinese officials have set 2033 as their target date to send taikonauts to Mars, Reuters reportsIf Lal is to be believed, China is well on track to get there in that timeline if they continue to invest in nuclear propulsion.

NASA and U.S. aerospace experts urged Congress on Wednesday to invest more quickly and heavily in development of nuclear-powered spacecraft Wednesday to stay ahead of such competitors as China.

The space agency believes spacecraft powered by a nuclear thermal rocket reach Mars in just three to four months, which is about half the time required by traditional, liquid propellant rockets.

“Strategic competitors including China are aggressively investing in a wide range of space technologies, including nuclear power and propulsion,” Bhavya Lal, NASA’s senior advisor for budget and finance, said during a congressional committee hearing Wednesday morning.

“The United States needs to move at a fast pace to stay competitive and to remain a leader in the global space community,” Lal said.

The hearing occurred before the U.S. House of Representatives Science Space and Technology Committee. Experts delivered testimony even as reports emerged that China had tested an orbital rocket to deliver potential nuclear weapons at supersonic speeds.

China acknowledged it tested a spacecraft in August, but said it did not contain nuclear weapons.

The committee took no action as it gathered information for upcoming federal budget proposals.

“If the United States is serious about leading in a human mission to Mars, we have no time to lose,” said U.S. Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who chairs the committee.

“Congress has prioritized development of nuclear space propulsion over the past several years, directing about $100 million annually for NASA to advance nuclear thermal propulsion capabilities with the goal of conducting a future in-space flight test,” Beyer said.

NASA and the Department of Energy awarded $5 million to three companies in July to produce a nuclear-powered spacecraft reactor design. NASA officials said much more funding is needed, although agency officials didn’t discuss dollar amounts Wednesday.

The key to developing such nuclear engines is to identify or develop materials that can withstand the heat and exposure involved, said Roger M. Myers, who chairs a committee on space nuclear engines for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

“The risks associated with [nuclear propulsion] are a fundamental materials challenge that we think is quite likely solvable,” Myers testified during the hearing.

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., asked if any “fundamental scientific limitations” exist for a crewed Mars trip by 2033, or if it was just a matter of Congress appropriating the needed funds for technology development.

NASA can overcome challenges for a human mission to Mars given the resources, but the propulsion method for such a spacecraft is only one issue NASA much confront, Lal said.

“Deep space transport is just one piece of getting to Mars. … We’ve landed small rovers there but a spacecraft carrying humans would be much bigger,” Lal said. “We also need to make sure that the environmental control and life support systems can keep [astronauts] alive for two to three years.”

‘Time traveler’ Alexander Smith claims he has ‘photo proof’ of 2118 city he visited on top-secret CIA mission

SNAP TO THE FUTURE 

A MAN who claims he is a time traveler says he has “photo proof” of what the world will be like in 2118.

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Alexander Smith has told how he made frequent trips back and forth in time as part of a “top secret” CIA mission in 1981 – and says he managed to take a snap to prove it.

 Alexander claims he visited 2018 in the 80s and took this photograph as evidence of his adventures through time
Alexander claims he visited 2018 in the 80s and took this photograph as evidence of his adventures through timeCredit: Apex TV
Credit: Apex TV

He claims he took the picture of the futuristic skyline while “visiting” the year 2118, an experience he said he “will never forget”.

Speaking to Apex TV, Alexander explained he was putting his life on the line by revealing details of his so-called voyages to the future.

But that didn’t deter the alleged former CIA agent, who went on to speak at length about global warming and aliens, who are apparently due to drop by earth “in a few decades”.

But at no point during the interview – in which he proudly brandishes his photo – does he explain exactly how he managed to pull off his amazing time travelling feat.

Speaking to YouTube channel Apex TV, Alexander said: “I visited the year 2118 as part of a top secret CIA mission.

“As to my knowledge, it was one of the first times that time travel had successfully been completed.

“I went to the future and then back to the past. This happened in 1981.”

Mr Smith, who claims he is opening himself up to danger by taking the interview, also reveals that when aliens arrive, they will visit the world’s top officials.


BACK TO THE FUTURE? These time travellers say they’ve been to the future… and here’s their ‘proof’


He added: “Aliens do visit us, there are intelligent extra-terrestrials that do come to Earth, this is in the mid 21st century.

“There is actually contact with intelligent extra-terrestrials long before it was revealed to the public.

“These aliens don’t necessarily live among us but they do visit from time to time.”

Alexander also claims to know the world’s greatest risk in the future.

He added: “There are many threats to the human race.

“The number one threat to humanity as we know it is global warming, rising sea levels as well as the increase in Co2 in our atmosphere.”

WORLD WAR III CLAIMS

The self-professed time traveller later shared further details of his so-called expeditions in another interview, where he said most of humanity will be confined to towering cities, like the one in his snap.

He believes a “conflict of interests” between the US and North Korea will spark World War III – but it will see the world become “a better place”.

“Borders began to become meaningless and the people began to have a love and appreciation for life – one which would inspire them not to inflict any type of harm upon their neighbour,” Alexander said.

And he said the rest of us will soon be able to see it for ourselves, as he claimed commercial time travel will be available as soon as 2028.

But he’s not the first alleged time travellers have cause a stir which their claims.

A man claiming to be from the year 2030 PASSED a lie-detector test – and has some alarming predictions about the future.

And we also shared the stories of the “time-travellers” who say they can really prove it.

‘Time Traveller’ Claims He Has ‘Photo Proof’ Of Trip To 2118

'Time Traveller' Claims He Has 'Photo Proof' Of Trip To 2118

A ‘time traveller’ has shared ‘photo proof’ of his trip to the year 2118. Check it out here:

Alexander Smith claims to have been sent to the future back in 1981 as part of a classified CIA experiment.

But perhaps fearful that people wouldn’t believe him, he made sure to get a snap of a city from almost 100 years into the future.

As you can see, the photo offers us a grainy glimpse at some greenish wonky-looking buildings.

So in terms of the photo ‘evidence’, all we’ve really gleaned from Alex’s jaunt is that they still have buildings in the future. Top work, mate.

It's like looking into the future. Credit: Apex TV
It’s like looking into the future. Credit: Apex TV

Also, as far as evidence goes, it’s not really the strongest, is it? He may as well have said he’s been to the moon and just held up a picture of the moon.

Still, regardless of whether we accept this photographic proof, Smithy certainly has a lot to say about the future.

Speaking to paranormal YouTube channel Apex TV, he said: “Aliens do visit us, there are intelligent extra-terrestrials that do come to Earth, this is in the mid 21st century.

“There is actually contact with intelligent extra-terrestrials long before it was revealed to the public.

“These aliens don’t necessarily live among us but they do visit from time to time.”

OK, so we’ve got aliens to look forward to, what else?

He continued: “There are many threats to the human race.

“The number one threat to humanity as we know it is global warming, rising sea levels as well as the increase in CO2 in our atmosphere.”

He certainly looks like a time traveller. Credit: Apex TV
He certainly looks like a time traveller. Credit: Apex TV

Yeah yeah, global warming – we know about that now, what else?

He said: “I asked them if there had been any wars between 1981 and this year, 2118, and a human looked at me, and she said, ‘I wouldn’t classify it as a war, it was more a conflict, a conflict of interests between two societies’.”

Ah, well that sounds good too. And oh yeah, the President is a robot, by the way.

Alexander said he was putting himself at risk by speaking out about all of this, but he said he thought it was wrong that time travel technology was being used ‘behind closed doors’.

I dunno mate, the process seems to have messed up your face quite badly, not sure if I really fancy it.

7 space mysteries that scientists can’t explain

2001 a space odyssey original

It’s no secret that space is full of mysteries.

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Our species has barely gone past our own planet’s moon, and only one of our probes, Voyager 1, has even left the solar system. Much of what we’ve learned about deep space has been pieced together from falling objects and views from telescopes.

Some of the famous (and chilling) space mysteries, like the face on Mars (it was shadows), or the black knight satellite “UFO” (it’s satellite debris), have been solved.

But space is rife with unexplained phenomena that put those two mere optical illusions to shame.

And some of the seven included in this slideshow could hold the key to understanding the universe.

Black holes

black hole

Black holes are the ultimate cosmic quicksand. They’re formed when a giant star collapses, imploding into a tiny area of such intense gravity, even the surrounding light is sucked in.

This means that although we’ve got a sense of how black holes work, we’ve still never actually seen one — they’re invisible to telescopes that pick up electromagnetic radiation, light, or X-rays. We can only guess what they look like on the inside.

The Giant Void

Giant Void

Unlike a black hole, the Giant Void isn’t a hole in space — instead, it’s curiously empty of both matter and dark matter. And also different from a black hole, light can pass through the void, though scientists believe it contains dark energy.

It’s not the only void in space, either, although it is the largest, with an estimated diameter of 1.3 billion light years.

Dark Matter

dark matter
The foggy haze is astronomers’ interpretation of where dark matter is located in this galaxy cluster. 

Dark matter is still a mystery, but we’re relying on it to help explain some of the unknowns of our universe — cosmologists believe as much as 27% of the universe is dark matter.

We’re more certain of what dark matter isn’t rather than what it is. It’s not made of black holes (the light warping that they’d cause isn’t present).

One theory: the dark matter of the universe is made up of primordial black holes.

Dark Energy

dark energy

In addition to the 27% of the universe that’s believed to be dark matter, a lot more is in the form of dark energy, which makes up about 68% of everything around us (the “normal” matter we all know and love is only 5% of the universe).

And like dark matter, we don’t know much about dark energy, but the current hypothesis is that it’s what’s behind the increasing expansion of the universe (whereas dark matter slows it).

Much of our understanding of dark matter and energy comes from the Cosmic Microwave Background, a snapshot of thermal radiation “soon” (380,000 years) after the Big Bang, when hydrogen atoms were first formed.

The Great Attractor

Great Attractor Skitch

There’s something really attractive 220 million light years away, and it’s dragging our whole galaxy towards it.

Ever since the Big Bang, the entire universe has been expanding, so it makes sense that our galaxy would be moving. But not in the direction it’s headed.

The cluster pointed out above is a gravitational anomaly known as the Great Attractor, and its brightness is due to its gravitational attraction. Some point to dark matter as the cause of this. And others claim that our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is blocking our view of whatever it is that’s pulling us towards it at 1.4 million mph.

Saturn’s mystery moon, “Peggy”

Saturn Moon Peggy

For a brief moment, Saturn had a tiny, mysterious little moon, named Peggy.

Back in 2013, NASA’s Cassini took this snapshot of Saturn’s rings, and caught a disturbance that astronomers believed was a new, little moon forming. The discovery shed light on how Saturn’s 67 other satellites developed.

Unfortunately, as NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab pointed out in a press release announcing the satellite, “the object is not expected to grow any larger, and may even be falling apart.” Peggy’s current status is unknown.

“Tabby’s Star,” KIC 8462852

KIC 8462852

The star KIC 8462852 doesn’t just have a snappy, memorable name, it’s also an unsolved anomaly 1,500 light years away.

There’s something big in the way of KIC 8462852, also known as “Tabby’s Star.” About 20% of the light the star emits is blocked from our vantage point. And it’s probably not a planet — even one as large as Jupiter would only block 1% of a star the size of KIC 8462852.

Some have suggested it’s a Dyson Swarm, a less complete version of  a megastructure known as a Dyson Sphere, which surrounds a star and harvests its energy output. We’ll probably get a better idea of what’s going on with the star when NASA launches the James Webb Space Telescope in 2018, but until then, “unknown alien megastructure” sounds like a pretty cool explanation.

THE MYSTERY OF JOHN TITOR: HOAX OR TIME TRAVELER?

A person named “John Titor” started posting on the Internet one day, claiming to be from the future and predicting the end of the world. Then he suddenly disappeared, never to be heard from again.

(PHOTO THEDREAMSKY/FLICKR)
(PHOTO THEDREAMSKY/FLICKR)
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This is our planet’s bleak future: a second Civil War splinters America into five factions, leaving the new capital based in Omaha. World War III breaks out in 2015, starting with Russia and the U.S. trading nukes and ending with three billion dead. Then, to top it all off, a computer bug delivers where Y2K sputtered, destroying our world as we know it. That is, unless an audacious time traveler successfully traverses the space-time continuum to change the course of future history.

In late 2000, that person signed onto the Internet.

A poster going by the screennames “TimeTravel_0” and “John Titor” on a variety of message boards, beginning with the forum at the Time Travel Institute, claimed he was a soldier sent from 2036, the year the computer virus wiped the world. His mission was to head back to 1975 in order to snatch-and-grab an IBM 5100 computer, which had the necessary equipment to fight the future virus. (His detour to the year 2000 was simply to get a little R&R while visiting his three-year-old self, ignoring every fabric-of-time paradox rule from time-travel stories.) Over the next four months, Titor responded to every question other posters had, describing future events in poetically-phrased ways, always submitted with a general disclaimer that alternate realities do exist, so his reality may not be our own. In between dire urgings to learn first aid and stop eating beef—Mad Cow was a serious threat in his reality—Titor provided a number of technical specs regarding how time travel worked, with overly complex algorithms and grainy, hard-to-make-out photos of his actual machine. (Which, yes, of course, was an automobile: a 1987 Chevy Suburban.) He even showed off his cool futuristic military insignia.

On March 24, 2001, Titor offered his final piece of advice (“Bring a gas can with you when the car dies on the side of the road”), signed off forever, and returned home. He was never heard from again.

TODAY, EVERYTHING POSTED ONLINE GETS A HEALTHY DOSE OF SKEPTICISM. LET’S CALL IT THE POST-SNOPES ERA. WE’VE BEEN CONDITIONED TO SUSPECT EVERYTHING.

IN 2003, TITOR FAN Oliver Williams—some may want to put “fan” in quotation marks, simply because of the numerous unsubstantiated theories that Williams himself is/was Titor—launched JohnTitor.com, which tracks Titor’s predictions and offers a compendium of all of his 151 posts. In 2004, members of George Mason University threw together a multimedia rock opera based on Titor. A summary of the tale at io9.com garnered over 103,000 hits in 2011. And, according to IMDB, a feature-length film about Titor is in the pipeline. What seemingly should have been dismissed as a four-month hoax, the work of some nerd killing time at his boring temp job, somehow turned into a phenomenon.

Since the beginning of the mysterious posts, Art Bell’s popular late-night radio program “Coast to Coast AM,” a nationally-syndicated show that covers pretty much everything that’d fit comfortably into an episode of The X-Files, has been the go-to place for all things Titor. George Noory, who replaced Bell in 2003, has continued carrying the torch, devoting entire episodes to the ongoing mystery, fielding inane questions from callers and somehow answering with a straight face. (Examples: “Is there any way that Titor could be a godsend, sent as an angel, to warn us?” and “Do you think there’s any possibility he was a space alien? I’ll hang up and listen.”) In 2006, a lawyer named Lawrence Haber, who claimed to represent Kay Titor, a woman alleging to be John’s mother, contacted Noory. An interview followed between Noory and Kay—with Haber acting as a phone go-between—and it ended up answering, well, pretty much nothing at all.

After that episode, the show intermittently tracked Titor’s proposed timeline, looking at current events like tea leaves, possible harbingers of a nuclear armageddon. But as the false predictions piled up—while many of Titor’s descriptions are vague enough to be considered “not yet disproved,” he did also claim there would be no Olympic Games after 2004—the search for Titor shifted from “Is this real?” to “Who deceived us?”

IN 2003, THE JOHN Titor Foundation, a for-profit Limited Liability Corporation, self-published John Titor: A Time Traveler’s Tale, which is essentially a bound copy of the message board posts. (Used copies of this are currently going for $130 a pop on Amazon.) The Italian investigative TV show Voyager took up the case in 2008, hiring a private eye to locate the folks behind the LLC, and a search led back to the aforementioned Lawrence Haber, who was listed as the company’s CEO. An investigation by amateur sleuth John Hughston, who also goes by the name “Razimus,” uncovered a mysterious P.O. Box in Celebration, Florida, belonging to the LLC. A group of friends with some downtime between gigs at their production company checked out the P.O. Box themselves but found nothing worthwhile. At some point, JohnTitorFoundation.com was created, offering some kind of nonsensical secret code to digital passersby. And just a week ago, Hughston released another video—this one 40 minutes long—in which he names Haber’s brother, Morey, as his prime suspect by using a side-by-side analysis of phrase-usage, which, to be kind, is not exactly a slam dunk.

(Weirder side note: In 2004, a computer engineer named Marlin Pohlman filed a patent for a time travel machine that “back-engineered” concepts in the Titor posts. This started another round of speculation that Pohlman, himself, was the original Titor poster. Last March, he was arrested for drugging and sexually assaulting four women.)

The search for Titor, then, has become more convoluted than Oliver Stone taking on the 9/11 conspiracy. A new piece of information comes out, a tech-savvy kid with some time to kill sees it, decides to give the puzzle a shot, and on and on it goes, the cycle never reaching an end. The trail burns hot, the trail goes cold, but the trail never disappears. There have been countless blog posts and armchair investigations—a Google search for “John Titor solution” bounces back with 325,000 results—but nothing’s come close to finding a worthwhile solution. An itch in the back of the throat remains, unscratched.

But why?

THE TITOR LEGEND PERSISTS BECAUSE NO ONE EVER CLAIMED TO BE BEHIND IT. NOW THAT WE WON’T BE FOOLED, WE NEED AN ANSWER. IT’S THE ZEIGARNIK EFFECT; WHEN SOMETHING’S NOT WRAPPED UP, IT PREOCCUPIES OUR MEMORY.

LAST MONTH, BRIAN DUNNING, a writer and producer specializing on the subject of skepticism, devoted an entire episode of his aptly-named podcast Skeptoid to the John Titor phenomenon, less focused on who it might have been and more about that question: why does something without any merit still have legs as an urban legend?

“Now that the number of unsubstantiated claims on the Internet is somewhat larger than the factorial of the square of all the large numbers ever conceived separated by arrow notation,” said Dunning on his podcast, “it would be a lot harder to achieve John Titor’s celebrity.”

Today, everything posted online gets a healthy dose of skepticism. Let’s call it the Post-Snopes Era. We’ve been conditioned—from everyone having access to Photoshop, to Punk’d and Jackass, to found footage films, to big budget viral marketing campaigns, to emails from faux Nigerian princes offering a portion of their riches if we simply send them our bank account number—to suspect everything. Every video of a cat performing a spectacular feat is met with at least one commenter decrying “FAKE!” The Titor story, from a time when we were all so innocent, a time that was less than 15 years ago, came right before things started to change.

And the Titor legend persists, in part, because no one ever claimed to be behind it. Now that we won’t be fooled, we need an answer. It’s the Zeigarnik effect; when something’s not wrapped up, it preoccupies our memory. Our skepticism needs a party responsible, a grand designer that allows it to make sense. When we find out—think the wizard behind the curtain in Oz, or whoever Jacob was supposed to be in that final season of Lost—the mystery ends. No one has claimed Titor, so the story continues.

There are some obvious connections for conspiracy theorists—the fracturing of governments, underground bunkers—but, for everyone else, there’s this: time travel stories are freaking cool. “This is a superpower that everyone would love to have,” said Dunning. “We all want John Titor to actually be from the future.” Who among us didn’t spend idle moments of our youth wondering about flying cars and hoverboards, or what life was like back in the Old West. In fact, when I asked Hughston, the sleuth blogger, why he was initially drawn to Titor, he said that he’d been “a big fan of time travel since about 1985,” the year Back to the Future was released.

But there’s also a much easier explanation. “The John Titor story is popular,” Dunning said, “simply because that happens to be one of the stories that became popular.” If Titor wasn’t leading conspiracy-minded white dudes in their post-graduate years of boredom and confusion down a rabbit hole of mystery, something else would. It’s Urban Legend Darwinism. Among all of the hoaxes, Internet rumors, ghost stories, and Satanic voices you can hear if you play the vinyl backwards, some have to become popular. Might as well be Titor.

There is one other (distant, remote, nearly scientifically impossible) possibility, though.

“ONE OF THE KEYS to cracking the Titor question,” starts an email by someone who goes by the name Temporal Recon, “is to just allow for the possibility that time travel very well could be true.”

The great thing about time travel: the story cannot be refuted. If events don’t happen as the traveler says, that’s because the traveler changed the timeline. “Many never even get off the ground in their research due to this very limiting view,” T.R. said. “They simply don’t believe that the human race will ever conquer time. ‘Ever’ is a very long time, Rick.”

There’s a particular point-of-view that seems to evolve within every amateur Titor investigator I encountered. As the puzzle fails to be solved, when no serious candidates present themselves, the goal of locating the hoaxster morphs ever so slightly, allowing in the possibility that maybe, just maybe, time travel could be real. “Look, of course John Titor didn’t travel through time,” they’ll say, only to dramatically shift with the addendum, “but let’s say he did.”

If you squint hard enough—and forget about the last four Olympics—things will always begin to resemble what you want to see, especially when reality’s only a minor quibble.

I mean, couldn’t the political differences that continue to separate America into red states and blue states be precursors to the Second Civil War?U.S.–Russian relations have been kind of strange lately, haven’t they?The history of 2015, when Russia and the U.S. nuke each other into oblivion, is still yet to be written!

Then T.R. writes a sentence that haunts me, one that will no doubt tip me over the edge on a course to try to solve the mystery, to locate the poster, or maybe a precocious kid now armed with a learner’s permit who once met his future self. Graphs and charts will mass, blanketing my small studio apartment, where I’ll only need a bare mattress in the corner, a pizza on the way, and a computer with browser tabs parked on obscure pages of note, set to auto-refresh. Friendships and relationships and family will drift into the ether; there are only so many hours in the day. Hands will blister, fingers will ink-stain, eyes will learn to scan for men in black suits, or white coats, or some combination thereof.

He writes: “And there are others.”

And down I’ll go, into the abyss.

Time Traveler from the Year 2027 Claims he is the Last Man on Earth

LAST MAN STANDING 

TikTok ‘time traveler from 2027’ shares video ‘proving’ he is ‘last person alive on Earth’ after apocalypse!

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A TIKTOK “time traveller” has shared new videos claimed to prove he is the last human alive on Earth after a mass extinction.

Javier, who says he is posting from the year 2027, filmed deserted streets in Spain lined with cars and buildings but no people.

'Time traveller' Javier filmed deserted city streets in Spain
‘Time traveller’ Javier filmed deserted city streets in SpainCredit: TikTok/@unicosobreviviente
He claims he is in the year 2027 and humanity is extinct
He claims he is in the year 2027 and humanity is extinct
He claims it is his 219th day as the only person on Earth
He claims it is his 219th day as the only person on EarthCredit: TikTok/@unicosobreviviente
Another vid shows him on a beach, filmed by a drone
Another vid shows him on a beach, filmed by a drone

It also shows him walking past flats and a children’s playground with no one in sight.

The footage is captioned: “Day 219 alone in the world.”

Another eerie clip appears to be filmed with a drone and shows him standing alone on a beach.

Javier shared the videos with his 6.4million followers on TikTok this week.

It follows similar videos showing deserted shopping centres and supermarkets in Valencia.

Javier, who goes by the name @unicosobreviviente (only survivor), posted his first video on February 13, claiming the city was deserted.

Javier captioned his video: “I just woke up in a hospital and I don’t know what might have happened.

“Today is February 13, 2027, and I am alone in the city. “

Another post says: “Humanity has been extinct.”

He continues: “There is no one in shopping centres”, along with footage of an empty clothes shop.

In another post, the “time traveller” asks for help from his followers.

He says: “I keep trying to find human life. I am starting to lose hope.

“Today I got something to eat. How long is this going to last? Mention in the comments who might be able to help me.”

https://www.thesun.co.uk/pollingwidgets/v3/polling

Some users have asked how come there is still electricity to power lights and escalators, and internet to post his videos on TikTok.

He replied that he wasn’t sure but “most likely there is a type of connection between 2021 and 2027”.

Javier also shares updates of his “life in the future” and claims he is “stuck” and is trying to find a way to come back to 2021.

'No one in shopping centres', Javier said in a previous video
‘No one in shopping centres’, Javier said in a previous videoCredit: tiktok @unicosobreviviente
'What could have happened?' he asks
‘What could have happened?’ he asksCredit: tiktok @unicosobreviviente
'No one at the beaches, the boats are adrift'
‘No one at the beaches, the boats are adrift’Credit: tiktok @unicosobreviviente

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New Evidence for the Strange Idea that the Universe Is a Hologram

What if everything around you, from the distant stars to your very hands, were a hologram?

Photo illustration by LLacertae / Flickr
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One of the great mysteries of modern cosmology is how our universe can be so thermally uniform—the vast cosmos is filled with the lingering heat of the Big Bang. Over time, it has cooled to a few degrees above absolute zero, but it can still be seen in the faint glow of microwave radiation, known as the cosmic microwave background. In any direction we look, the temperature of this cosmic background is basically the same, varying by only tiny amounts. But according to the standard “cold dark matter” model of cosmology, there wasn’t enough time for hotter and cooler regions of the early universe to even out. Even today we would expect parts of the cosmic background to be much warmer than others, but that isn’t what we observe.

One solution to this cosmological problem is known as early inflation. If the observable universe was extremely tiny in its earliest moments, it could have reached a uniform temperature very quickly. Afterwards, the theory says, the universe underwent a brief period of rapid expansion, eventually leading to the universe we observe today. We don’t have any direct evidence for early cosmic inflation, but because it would solve several issues in cosmology, it is a widely supported idea.

Recently, a team of astronomers looked at data from the Planck satellite, which gathered the most accurate measurements of the cosmic background thus far. They wanted to compare fluctuations across vast regions of the sky, known as low multipole moments, with the predictions of the standard cosmological model and a model that’s somewhat stranger, a holographic one. What if everything around you, from the distant stars to your very hands, were a hologram? Like Plato’s cave, our world of solid objects and three-dimensional space would simply be a shadow of a two-dimensional reality. On the human scale a holographic universe would be indistinguishable from the reality we expect, but on a cosmic scale there could be subtle differences we might be able to detect.

In the holographic view of cosmology, early inflation is driven by interactions of the quantum field, which would slightly change the appearance of the cosmic microwave background. This is particularly true for low multipole moments, and this difference makes it possible, at least in principle, to prove that the holographic principle is true. In their paper, published in Physical Review Letters, the team report the holographic model fitting the Planck satellite data slightly better than the standard model. The results don’t prove the universe is holographic, but they are consistent with a holographic model.

The idea that our universe might be holographic comes from string theory. Although string theory hasn’t been proven experimentally, its mathematical structure has an elegance and power that makes it appealing as a theoretical model. The holographic principle in string theory is just such an example. In its broadest form, the holographic principle states that anything you can know about a particular volume of space can be learned by looking at the surface enclosing the volume. Just as a hologram can contain a three-dimensional image within a sheet of glass or plastic, the universe could contain its vast volume within a surface.

For example, imagine a road 10 miles long that is “contained” by a start line and a finish line.  Suppose the speed limit on this road is 60 miles per hour, and we want to know if a car has been speeding. One way to do this is to watch a car travel the whole length of the road, measuring its speed the whole time. But another way is to simply measure when a car crosses the start line and finish line. At a speed of 60 miles per hour, a car travels a mile a minute, so if the time between start and finish is less than 10 minutes, we know the car was speeding.

If the holographic principle is true, then the universe can be viewed in two different ways: one of space and volume as we intuitively experience it, and one of a “surface” with one less dimension. This holographic duality is mathematically powerful because some laws of physics can be much easier to work with in one view than the other.

The structure of our universe is driven by the constant pull of gravity between stars and galaxies. In the present era, gravity is weak compared to other forces, and is described as a gravitational field in general relativity. In the dual holographic view, gravity is described as a quantum field that can interact strongly with mass. Since it is easier to calculate weak interactions than strong ones, the general relativity approach is more useful. However, in the early moments of cosmic time, when the universe was hot and dense, the gravitational fields of relativity were strong, so quantum fields of the holographic view might be easier to deal with.

The fact that both the standard and holographic models can account for early inflation supports the idea that the holographic principle applies to our universe. Cosmic inflation remains a mystery, but by viewing the universe as a hologram we might just be able to solve it.  

Here’s Exactly How Aliens Could Use Black Holes to Generate Energy

Scientists confirm a wild 50-year-old theory.

a black hole surrounded by light

Photo by Handout/Getty Images

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Forget even the most outlandish solar schemes—what if your local power plant were a black hole ?

That over-50-year-old theory began with an idea about what happens when you lower a tester into the mouth of a black hole. Physicists at the time thought they’d need an impossible machine to prove their theory, but now, researchers at the University of Glasgow have found a black hole lifehack.

The idea is simple … by quantum and black hole standards, at least. In the mouth of a black hole, the combination of infinite density and strangeness inside the black hole and the rapidly rotating outer ergosphere would make the dangling object travel faster than light in order.

Think of how a needle stays poised on the surface of a spinning vinyl record: the record is spinning rapidly while the needle stands still. In 1969, physicist Roger Penrose developed this theory and hypothesized that the object would have “negative energy.”

So where does power generation come in?

“By dropping the object and splitting it in two so that one half falls into the black hole while the other is recovered, the recoil action would measure a loss of negative energy—effectively, the recovered half would gain energy extracted from the black hole’s rotation,” the University of Glasgow explains in a statement. By playing off the different layers of wildly different mass, force, and more, an observer to this phenomenon could harness the energy deficit.

That observer would have to be advanced beyond anything humans can imagine today, like the makers of a hypothetical Dyson sphere or any other cosmic power structure. For this reason, the theory’s consequences have always been assigned to some alien civilization within the long timescale of the universe.

Two years after Penrose’s theory emerged, the soviet physicist Yakov Zel’dovich suggested a way to test it on Earth, but even his test required something beyond what humans could engineer: a cylinder like the one in the theory, spinning nearly as fast.

Now, researchers have found a way to subvert the conditions of the original test using sound instead of light. The Glasgow team writes:

“This concept, which is a key step towards the understanding that black holes may amplify quantum fluctuations, has not been verified experimentally owing to the challenging experimental requirement that the cylinder rotation rate must be larger than the incoming wave frequency. Here, we demonstrate experimentally that these conditions can be satisfied with acoustic waves.”

Sound waves travel much more slowly than light and occupy a much lower range of frequencies. The scientists cite the Doppler effect, which accounts for how sound distorts as a passing car honks its horn, for example. They positioned a ring of speakers around a rapidly rotating, sound-absorbing foam disc.

“What’s happening is that the frequency of the sound waves is being doppler-shifted to zero as the spin speed increases. When the sound starts back up again, it’s because the waves have been shifted from a positive frequency to a negative frequency,” researcher Marion Cromb explains in the statement. Then the sound began again and registered as 30 percent louder—because the negative frequency waves had stored energy, the way Penrose and Zel’dovich predicted.

The results aren’t just the stuff of science fiction, either.

“These experiments address an outstanding problem in fundamental physics and have implications for future research into the extraction of energy from rotating systems,” the researchers write. “We’re keen to see how we can investigate the effect on different sources such as electromagnetic waves in the near future,” researcher Daniele Faccio adds in the statement. 

Lunar craters could reveal past collisions with ancient black holes

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Black holes born in the big bang could be the dark matter physicists have sought for decades – if they exist. Now there’s an audacious plan to find the scars they would have left as they punched through the moon.

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IF YOU hovered above the surface of the moon and studied it up close, you wouldn’t necessarily see anything special. There would be craters, of course, some dusty slopes and a few featureless, ancient volcanic plains. If you were in the right place, you might get a glimpse of Neil Armstrong’s footprints. But if you knew what to look for, you may find something much more extraordinary than all of this. Hiding on the lunar surface could be a scar left behind by a tiny black hole.

We aren’t talking about any old black holes, but remnants from the dawn of the cosmos. Known as primordial black holes, these theoretical beasts are thought to range in size from the width of a single atom to that of our entire solar system. If they exist, they may explain some of our universe’s greatest mysteries, from the origins of supermassive black holes found at the centres of galaxies to the mysterious planet-like mass at the edge of our solar system. They might even account for dark matter – the roughly 85 per cent of the universe’s mass that we are unable to see, but know must be there in some form.

As yet, there is no evidence that these black holes exist. But now, two physicists have come up with an audacious plan to change that. They want to scour the lunar surface in search of craters left behind as these black holes slammed into – and indeed through – the moon. “It sounds a little bit wild,” says Matthew Caplan at Illinois State University. “But you never know until you check.”

Six of the Weirdest Asteroids Ever Found

Here are some of the strangest asteroids we’ve encountered so far.

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Exploring the solar system is a massive feat for humankind.  But we are good at it.  In fact, we seem to be better equipped and willing to explore what lies beyond Earth’s frontiers than exploring our planet or its oceans. Today, we have better maps of Mars than we have of the ocean floor.

And as we continue exploring the solar system, we encounter strange things.

The more we learn about the solar system, the more we understand that our cosmic neighborhood is full of strange things.

In this article, we take a look at some of the strangest Asteroids that have been found to date.

4 Vesta, the largest Asteroid

Vesta is a colorful world; craters of a variety of ages make splashes of lighter and darker brown against its surface. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.
Vesta is a colorful world; craters of various ages make splashes of lighter and darker brown against its surface. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain.

4 Vesta is huge. It is considered the largest asteroid discovered to date in the solar system and was first identified on March 29, 1807, by Heinrich Wilhelm Olbers.

Vesta measures 578 km by 458 km. The supermassive asteroid has a magnitude of +5.4 to +8.5.

With a clear sky and some luck, Vesta can be easily observed with binoculars.

4 Vesta is so massive that it contributes an estimated 9% of the asteroid belt mass. Until a few years, the largest asteroid was considered Ceres. However, this cosmic body was reclassified as a dwarf planet, given its size.

216 Kleopatra

216 Kleopatra is one of the strangest-looking asteroids in our solar system.

Shaped like a bong, the asteroid orbits in the central region of our solar system asteroid belt and has a diameter of around 138 kilometers. 216 Kleopatra could be a contact binary.

In 2008, scientists discovered two smaller moons around the asteroid, which were named Alexhelios and Cleoselene.

The odd shape and the existence of its two moons are thought to have been the result of an oblique impact that occurred around 100 million years ago.

624 Hektor

This massive space rock is considered the largest  Jupiter trojan in the solar system. It has an extremely elongated shape, equivalent in volume to a sphere of approximately 225 to 250 kilometers in diameter.

This asteroid is considered one of the most elongated bodies of its size ever discovered in the solar system, at approximately 403 km in its longest dimension.

Just like 216 Kleopatra, this asteroid has a  12-km-diameter moon named Skamandrios.

24 Themis

This is a three-dimensional model of 24 Themis created based on light-curve inversions. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 4.0.
This is a three-dimensional model of 24 Themis created based on light-curve inversions. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 4.0.

Discovered on the 5th of April, 1853 by Annibale de Gasparis of Naples, 24 Themis is one of the largest asteroids in the asteroid belt. It stands out as the first asteroid to have ice on its surface. Observations in 2009 confirmed the existence of massive amounts of ice,  as well as organic molecules.

Observations revealed that the surface of the asteroid is completely covered in ice. The ice may be replenished by an ‘unknown’ reservoir located beneath the surface.

Because 24 Themis is located relatively close to the sun (~3.2 AU), the widespread ice on the asteroid’s surface is somewhat puzzling.

‘Oumuamua

An artist's impression of the huge cigar-shaped object called 'Oumuamua.
An artist’s impression of the huge cigar-shaped object is called ‘Oumuamua.

Oumuamua is surely the strangest asteroids humankind has ever spotted.

Not only is this asteroid from another solar system, but it is also the very first interstellar visitor spotted by mankind.

What makes this asteroid even more puzzling is that for the last 12 months, there has been great speculation about the asteroid’s true origin.

In fact, the head of Astronomy at Harvard has even theorized that ‘Oumuamua may actually be, not an asteroid, but an alien spacecraft sent to our solar system by an advanced alien species.

2015 TB145

Image Credit: NAIC-ARECIBO/NSF.
Image Credit: NAIC-ARECIBO/NSF.

This is perhaps the stranges looking asteroid of them all, and it has been dubbed the ‘Skull-Shaped Asteroid.’

Approximately 650 meters (2,000 feet) in diameter, the asteroid often passes relatively close to Earth. The asteroid was first observed on 10 October 2015 by Pan-STARRS. Astronomers argue that given its high orbital inclination and eccentricity, 2015 TB145 may actually be an extinct comet that has shed its volatiles after numerous passes around the Sun.

How NASA’s Lucy Mission Will Visit More Asteroids Than Any Other Spacecraft.

Lucy: The First Mission to the Trojan Asteroids

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animation of movement of inner planets, Jupiter and Jupiter's Trojans

During the course of its mission, Lucy will fly by seven Jupiter Trojans. This time-lapsed animation shows the movements of the inner planets (Mercury, brown; Venus, white; Earth, blue; Mars, red), Jupiter (orange), and the two Trojan swarms (green) during the course of the Lucy mission.Credits: Astronomical Institute of CAS/Petr Scheirich (used with permission)More animations

Time capsules from the birth of our Solar System more than 4 billion years ago, the swarms of Trojan asteroids associated with Jupiter are thought to be remnants of the primordial material that formed the outer planets. The Trojans orbit the Sun in two loose groups, with one group leading ahead of Jupiter in its path, the other trailing behind. Clustered around the two Lagrange points equidistant from the Sun and Jupiter, the Trojans are stabilized by the Sun and its largest planet in a gravitational balancing act. These primitive bodies hold vital clues to deciphering the history of the solar system.

Lucy will be the first space mission to study the Trojans. The mission takes its name from the fossilized human ancestor (called “Lucy” by her discoverers) whose skeleton provided unique insight into humanity’s evolution. Likewise, the Lucy mission will revolutionize our knowledge of planetary origins and the formation of the solar system.

Lucy will launch in October 2021 and, with boosts from Earth’s gravity, will complete a 12-year journey to eight different asteroids — a Main Belt asteroid and seven Trojans, four of which are members of “two-for-the-price-of-one” binary systems. Lucy’s complex path will take it to both clusters of Trojans and give us our first close-up view of all three major types of bodies in the swarms (so-called C-, P- and D-types).

The dark-red P- and D-type Trojans resemble those found in the Kuiper Belt of icy bodies that extends beyond the orbit of Neptune. The C-types are found mostly in the outer parts of the Main Belt of asteroids, between Mars and Jupiter. All of the Trojans are thought to be abundant in dark carbon compounds. Below an insulating blanket of dust, they are probably rich in water and other volatile substances.

No other space mission in history has been launched to as many different destinations in independent orbits around our sun. Lucy will show us, for the first time, the diversity of the primordial bodies that built the planets. 

diagram showing orbital path of Lucy

This diagram illustrates Lucy’s orbital path. The spacecraft’s path (green) is shown in a frame of reference where Jupiter remains stationary, giving the trajectory its pretzel-like shape. After launch in October 2021, Lucy has two close Earth flybys before encountering its Trojan targets. In the L4 cloud Lucy will fly by (3548) Eurybates (white) and its satellite, (15094) Polymele (pink), (11351) Leucus (red), and (21900) Orus (red) from 2027-2028. After diving past Earth again Lucy will visit the L5 cloud and encounter the (617) Patroclus-Menoetius binary (pink) in 2033. As a bonus, in 2025 on the way to the L4, Lucy flies by a small Main Belt asteroid, (52246) Donaldjohanson (white), named for the discoverer of the Lucy fossil. After flying by the Patroclus-Menoetius binary in 2033, Lucy will continue cycling between the two Trojan clouds every six years.Credits: Southwest Research Institute

Something strange is sending radio waves from the center of the galaxy

Source of the signals are unknown and do not correspond to any known natural phenomena

An irregular radio source has been discovered in the direction of the galactic centre.
Illustration of radio waves coming from the galactic centreSebastian Zentilomo
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Strange radio signals are coming from the direction of the centre of the galaxy and we aren’t sure what is emitting them. They turn on and off seemingly at random, and their source must be unlike anything else we have seen before.

The source of this radiation has been nicknamed “Andy’s object” after Ziteng Wang at the University of Sydney in Australia, who goes by the name Andy and first discovered the radio waves. He and his colleagues spotted the emissions six times in 2020 using the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder radio telescope. They made further observations with the MeerKAT radio telescope in South Africa.

The researchers found that the object occasionally flared for up to a few weeks, but was dark most of the time. When it finally lit up again in February this year, several months after the initial detection, they pointed some of the most powerful non-radio telescopes we have at it and saw nothing. “We’ve looked at every other wavelength we can, all the way from the infrared to optical to X-rays, and we see nothing, so it doesn’t seem to be consistent with any kind of star that we understand,” says David Kaplan at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, who was part of the research team.

The fact that it wasn’t visible in any other wavelengths ruled out several possible explanations for this object, including normal stars and magnetars, which are neutron stars with powerful magnetic fields.

Whatever Andy’s object is, the polarisation of the radio waves coming from it indicates that it probably has a strong magnetic field. During flares, its brightness varied by up to a factor of 100, and those flares faded extraordinarily quickly – as fast as a single day – facts that suggest the object is small.

But no astronomical body we know of fits all of those strange traits. “It’s an interesting object that has confounded any attempt we have to explain it,” says Kaplan. “It could turn out to be part of a known class of objects, just a weird example, but that’ll push the boundaries of how we think those classes behave.”

NASA Planning Mission To Asteroid Containing Metals Worth $10,000 Quintillion

Thats right, NASA is going to take a close look at the $10,000 Quintillion Space Rock!

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NASA is planning a mission up to an asteroid that is hurtling around in our solar system, and it could be a seriously lucrative mission if it is a success.

In fact, the number in terms of the potential value of the precious metals that the asteroid may be composed of is simply baffling, because it’s supposedly worth more than $10,000 quintillion.

That’s not even worth doing the UK conversion for, as it’s such an unfamiliar and massive number.

OK, if we must, it’s around £8,072 quadrillion. Does that help at all?

To put that into context, it’s got 22 zeros after it. Written down, it looks like this – 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.

It’s worth enough to make everyone currently living on earth a billionaire. That’s a lot of money.

Anyway, the asteroid with this unfathomable wealth of precious metals stashed away on it is called Psyche 16, and it was actually discovered back in March 1852.

Here's a shot of Psyche 16. Credit: NASA
Here’s a shot of Psyche 16. Credit: NASA

The 124-mile space rock is set to become the primary focus of a NASA mission which is set for lift off in August 2022.

If it does go ahead, the craft would arrive on the asteroid about four years later, because – you know – everything in space is a long way away.

This would be the first mission that humans have sent to somewhere that is made out of metal, rather than rock and ice, as NASA said: “Unlike most other asteroids that are rocky or icy bodies, scientists think the M-type (metallic) asteroid 16 Psyche is comprised mostly of metallic iron and nickel similar to Earth.”

It turns out that those sorts of metals in that quantity are worth a hell of a lot

Of course, there is the question of how you would extract that worth, given that it’s floating around in space some four years travel away, but that’s something that NASA will presumably intend to scope out on this prospective mission.

So, the asteroid sits between Mars and Jupiter and is thought to have been the ‘remnants of a protoplanet’ that was destroyed in hit-and-run collisions when the solar system formed’, according to the Daily Mail.

An artist impression of the spacecraft that will be sent to Psyche 16. Credit: Nasa
An artist impression of the spacecraft that will be sent to Psyche 16. Credit: Nasa

Researchers on a recent study said: “The findings are a step toward resolving the mystery of the origin of this unusual object, which has been thought by some to be a chunk of the core of an ill-fated protoplanet”.

Katherine de Kleer, assistant professor of planetary science and astronomy at Caltech, added: “We think that fragments of the cores, mantles, and crusts of these objects remain today in the form of asteroids.

“If that’s true, it gives us our only real opportunity to directly study the cores of planet-like objects.”

Also, it might be worth an unimaginable amount of money, so it’s probably worth taking a closer look.