Mars Perseverance rover takes a selfie with Ingenuity helicopter ahead of historic flight

The Mars vehicle is scheduled to fly no sooner than April 11

To the delight of social media users, NASA’s Perseverance rover used a camera on the end of its robotic arm to snap a selfie with the Mars Ingenuity helicopter this week ahead of its historic flight mission.

Shown about 13 feet apart in the pictures taken on April 6, 2021, or the 48th Martian day of the mission, the rover used its WATSON (Wide Angle Topographic Sensor for Operations and Engineering) camera on the SHERLOC (Scanning Habitable Environments with Raman and Luminescence for Organics and Chemicals) instrument.

​​NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet (3.9 meters) from the rover. This image was taken by the WASTON camera on the rover’s robotic arm on April 6, 2021, the 46th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

​​NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover took a selfie with the Ingenuity helicopter, seen here about 13 feet (3.9 meters) from the rover. This image was taken by the WASTON camera on the rover’s robotic arm on April 6, 2021, the 46th Martian day, or sol, of the mission.Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS

In a release, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) said Wednesday that the selfie had been constructed using 62 individual images — taken in sequence — that were stitched together.

It noted that the Curiosity Mars rover, which landed on the red planet in 2011, takes similar “selfies.”

Ingenuity, which has been released on the Martian surface, is scheduled to attempt the first-ever powered and controlled flight of an aircraft on another planet no sooner than April 11.

Once the team at JPL is ready, Perseverance will relay the helicopter’s final flight instruction from mission controllers, according to NASA.Video

If all final checks and atmospheric conditions look good, the helicopter will lift off climbing at a rate of 3 feet per second and hover at 10 feet above the surface for up to 30 seconds.

After data and potentially images from the rover’s Navigation Cameras and Mastcam-Z are downloaded, the Ingenuity team will determine whether the flight was a success. 

The results will be discussed by the team at a media conference that same day.

A Bill Gates Venture Aims To Spray Dust Into The Atmosphere To Block The Sun. What Could Go Wrong?

The Sun setting into a pall of forest fire smoke over Alberta from fires in BC and elsewhere
The Sun setting into a pall of forest fire smoke over Alberta from fires in BC and elsewhere, on … [+] UNIVERSAL IMAGES GROUP VIA GETTY IMAGES

Microsoft’s billionaire founder Bill Gates is financially backing the development of sun-dimming technology that would potentially reflect sunlight out of Earth’s atmosphere, triggering a global cooling effect. The Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment (SCoPEx), launched by Harvard University scientists, aims to examine this solution by spraying non-toxic calcium carbonate (CaCO3) dust into the atmosphere — a sun-reflecting aerosol that may offset the effects of global warming. 

Widespread research into the efficacy of solar geoengineering has been stalled for years due to controversy. Opponents believe such science comes with unpredictable risks, including extreme shifts in weather patterns not dissimilar to warming trends we are already witnessing. Environmentalists similarly fear that a dramatic shift in mitigation strategy will be treated as a green light to continue emitting greenhouse gases with little to no changes in current consumption and production patterns.

SCoPEx will take a small step in its early research this June near the town of Kiruna, Sweden, where the Swedish Space Corporation has agreed to help launch a balloon carrying scientific equipment 12 miles (20 km) high. The launch will not release any stratospheric aerosols. Rather, it will serve as a test to maneuver the balloon and examine communications and operational systems. If successful, this could be a step towards a second experimental stage that would release a small amount of CaCO3 dust into the atmosphere.

David Keith, a professor of applied physics and public policy at Harvard University, recognizes the “very many real concerns” of geoengineering. It is true that no one knows what will happen until the CaCO3 is released and then studied afterward. Keith and fellow SCoPEx scientists published a paper in 2017 suggesting that the dust may actually replenish the ozone layer by reacting with ozone-destroying molecules. “Further research on this and similar methods could lead to reductions in risks and improved efficacy of solar geoengineering methods,” write the authors of the paper.

Breaking News
Santa Clara, California 27 September, 2014 Global March Against Chemtrails and Geoengineering MOMENT EDITORIAL/GETTY IMAGES

The exact amount of CaCO3 needed to cool the planet is unknown, and SCoPEx scientists similarly cannot confirm whether it is the best stratospheric aerosol for the job. Early research suggests that the substance has “near-ideal optical properties” that would allow it to absorb far less radiation that sulfate aerosols, causing significantly less stratospheric heating. This is the purpose of the experiment: once a safe, experimental amount of CaCO3 is released, the balloon will fly through it, sampling atmospheric reactions and recording resulting dynamics. Frank Keutsch, the project’s principal investigator, does not know what the results might bring. The perfect aerosol would not immediately tamper with stratospheric chemistry at all: “The only thing it would do is scatter maximum sunlight and hence cool down the planet.”

Proponents of geoengineering have cited the global cooling effects of volcanic eruptions that result from the introduction of sulfuric ash into the atmosphere. The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia resulted in the “year without a summer,” while the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines lowered global average temperatures by 0.5° C. Deliberate introduction of similar particles could potentially counter decades of greenhouse gas emissions. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggested the SCoPEx procedure could lower global temperatures by a full 1.5° C for no more than $1-10 billion a year.

Volcanic Activity Increases At Mount Merapi
YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA – JANUARY 07: Lava runs down from Mount Merapi as the volcanic activity … [+] GETTY IMAGES

Again, these temperature decreases bring with them serious risks. Freezing temperatures in 1815 led to failed crops in near-famine conditions. British scientists have cited stratospheric aerosols from volcanic eruptions in Alaska and Mexico as the potential cause of drought in Africa’s Sahel region. Major disruption of the global climate could bring unintended consequences, negatively impacting highly populated regions and engineering another refugee crisis.

David Keith has proposed the creation of a “risk pool” to compensate smaller nations for collateral damage caused by such tests, but such a payout might be little comfort to those displaced by unlivable conditions. The United States, Brazil, and Saudi Arabia blocked a 2019 United Nations assessment of global geoengineering plans. International cooperation will be required to assess the risks, winners, and losers of any such experiment, and how best to proceed with all in mind.

Considering the unknown risks attached to solar geoengineering, OECD members should continue in their efforts to develop economically attractive renewable energy technology, even as it supplements such efforts with limited and careful research and experimentation.

The Giant, Underestimated Earthquake Threat to North America

The enormous fault off the coast of the Pacific Northwest has been silent for three centuries. But after years of detective work, geologists have discovered that it can unleash mayhem on an epic scale.

Map of US Topography - Shutterstock

(Credit: titoOnz/Shutterstock)

A magnitude-9 earthquake hit the Tohoku region of northeastern Japan, triggering one of the most destructive tsunamis in a thousand years. The Japanese — the most earthquake-prepared, seismically savvy people on the planet — were caught off-guard by the Tohoku quake’s savage power. Over 15,000 people died. 

Now scientists are calling attention to a dangerous area on the opposite side of the Ring of Fire, the Cascadia Subduction Zone, a fault that runs parallel to the Pacific coast of North America, from northern California to Vancouver Island. This tectonic time bomb is alarmingly similar to Tohoku, capable of generating a megathrust earthquake at or above magnitude 9, and about as close to Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver as the Tohoku fault is to Japan’s coast. Decades of geological sleuthing recently established that although it appears quiet, this fault has ripped open again and again, sending vast earthquakes throughout the Pacific Northwest and tsunamis that reach across the Pacific. 

What happened in Japan will probably happen in North America. The big question is when.about:blankabout:blank

On a foggy spring morning just before sunrise, 27 miles northwest of Cape Mendocino, California, a pimple of rock roughly a dozen miles below the ocean floor finally reaches its breaking point. Two slabs of the Earth’s crust begin to slip and shudder and snap apart.

The first jolt of stress coming out of the rocks sends a shock wave hurtling into Northern California and southern Oregon like a thunderbolt. For a few stunned drivers on the back roads in the predawn gloom, the pulse of energy that tears through the ground looks dimly like a 20-mile wrinkle moving through a carpet of pastures and into thick stands of redwoods.

Telephone poles whip back and forth as if caught in a hurricane. Power lines rip loose in a shower of blue and yellow sparks, falling to the ground where they writhe like snakes, snapping and biting. Lights go out and the telephone system goes down.

Cornices fall, brick walls crack, plate glass shatters. Pavement buckles, cars and trucks veer into ditches and into each other. A bridge across the Eel River is jerked off its foundations, taking a busload of farm workers with it. With computers crashing and cell towers dropping offline, all of Humboldt and Del Norte Counties in California are instantly cut off from the outside world, so nobody beyond the immediate area knows how bad it is here or how widespread the damage.

At the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) lab in Menlo Park, seismometers peg the quake at magnitude 8.1, and the tsunami detection centers in Alaska and Hawaii begin waking up the alarm system with standby alerts all around the Pacific Rim. Early morning commuters emerging from a BART station in San Francisco feel the ground sway beneath their feet and immediately hit the sidewalk in a variety of awkward crouches, a familiar fear chilling their guts.

Then another little rough spot on the bottom of the continent snaps off.

The fault unzips some more.

The outer edge of California snaps free like a steel spring in a juddering lurch — nine feet to the west. The continental shelf heaves upward, lifting a mountain of seawater.

The fault continues to rip all the way to Newport, Oregon, halfway up the state. The magnitude suddenly jumps to 8.6. A power surge blows a breaker somewhere east of town and feeds back through the system, throwing other breakers in a cascade that quickly crashes the entire grid in Oregon, Washington, and parts of California, Idaho, and Nevada. A brownout begins in six more western states. The wire line phone systems crash in lockstep.

Then another fragment of rock deep underneath Newport shears away. The fault unzips the rest of the way to Vancouver Island. The quake now pins seismic needles at magnitude 9.2. High-rise towers in Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria begin to undulate. The shock wave hammers through sandy soil, soft rock, and landfill like the deepest notes on a big string bass. The mushy ground sings harmony and tall buildings hum like so many tuning forks.about:blankabout:blank

On I-5, the main north-south interstate highway, 37 bridges between Sacramento and Bellingham, Washington, collapse or are knocked off their pins. Five more go down between the Canada–United States border and downtown Vancouver. Nineteen railway bridges along the north-south coastal mainline of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway are wrecked as well. The runways of every major coastal airport from Northern California to Vancouver are buckled, cracked, and no longer flyable.

After 50 cycles of harmonic vibration — skyscrapers swaying rhythmically from side to side in giddy wobbles — dozens of tall buildings have shed most of their glass. In some downtown intersections the cascade of broken shards has piled up three feet deep.

Shock waves have been pummeling the Pacific Northwest for four minutes and thirty-five seconds now, and it still isn’t over. After 64 cycles, enough welds have cracked, enough concrete has spalled, enough shear walls have come unstuck that some towers begin to pancake. The same death spiral everyone saw in New York on 9/11 happens all over again. Smaller buildings, but more of them. Dozens of towers go down in the four northernmost of the affected cities.

In the five major urban areas along the fault, tens of thousands of people have been seriously injured. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, are dead. More than a third of the oncoming shift of police, firefighters, paramedics, nurses, and doctors do not show up for work. They are either stranded by collapsed buildings, bridges, and roadways, injured or dead themselves, or have decided to stick close to home to make sure their own families are OK before going to work. People who survive the collapses must do their own search and rescue for family members, friends, and neighbors still trapped in the rubble. Help will come eventually, but who knows when?

People in the United States and Canada, if they think at all about earthquake disasters, probably conjure up the San Andreas fault in the worst-case scenario. In California, as they wait for “the Big One,” people wonder which city the San Andreas will wreck next — San Francisco or Los Angeles? But if by the Big One they mean the earthquake that will wreak havoc over the widest geographic area, that could destroy the most critical infrastructure, that could send a train of tsunamis across the Pacific causing economic mayhem that would probably last a decade or more — then the seismic demon to blame could not possibly be the San Andreas. It would have to be Cascadia’s fault.

One year after Japan’s devastating Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, scientists are still trying to figure out how the world’s most organized and earthquake-ready nation could have been taken so much by surprise. They were hit by an earthquake roughly 25 times more powerful than experts thought possible in that part of the country. How could the forecast have been so wrong? The short answer is they didn’t look far enough back in geologic time to see that quakes and tsunamis just this big had indeed occurred there before. If they had prepared themselves for a much larger quake and wave, the outcome might have been entirely different.

Cascadia Fault Infograph - Chris Goldfinger

(Credit: Courtesy Chris Goldfinger)

Exactly the same is true of the Cascadia subduction zone — an almost identical geologic threat off the west coast of North America. When it was first discovered, many scientists thought Cascadia’s fault was incapable of generating giant earthquakes. Now they know they were wrong. They just hadn’t looked far enough into the past.

The Cascadia subduction zone is a crack in the Earth’s crust, roughly 60 miles offshore and running 800 miles from northern Vancouver 
Island to Northern California. This fault is part of the infamous Pacific Ring of Fire, the impact zone where several 
massive tectonic plates collide. Here, a slab of the Pacific Ocean floor called the Juan de Fuca plate slides eastward and downward, “subducting” underneath the continental plate of North America.

When any two plates grind against each and get stuck, enormous stress builds up until the rocks fracture and the fault rips apart in a giant earthquake. Two other segments of the Ring of Fire ruptured this way — Chile in 1960 at magnitude 9.5, the largest quake ever recorded on Earth, and Alaska’s horrible Good Friday earthquake of 1964, at 9.2 the strongest jolt ever to hit the continent of North America.

Cascadia, however, is classified as the quietest subduction zone in the world. Along the Cascadia segment, geologists could find no evidence of major quakes in “all of recorded history” — the 140 years since white settlers arrived in the Pacific Northwest and began keeping records. For reasons unknown, it appeared to be a special case. The system was thought to be aseismic — essentially quake free and harmless.about:blankabout:blank

By the 1970s several competing theories emerged to explain Cascadia’s silence. One possibility was that the Juan de Fuca plate had shifted direction, spun slightly by movement of the two larger plates on either side of it. This would reduce the rate of eastward motion underneath North America and thus reduce the buildup of earthquake stress. Another possibility was that the angle of the down-going eastbound plate was too shallow to build up the kind of friction needed to cause major quakes.

But the third possibility was downright scary. In this interpretation, the silence along the fault was merely an ominous pause. It could be that these two great slabs of the Earth’s crust were jammed against each other and had been for a very long time — locked together by friction for hundreds of years, far longer than “all of recorded history.” If that were true, they would be building up the kind of stress and strain that only a monster earthquake could relieve.

In the early 1980s, two Caltech geophysicists, Tom Heaton and Hiroo Kanamori, compared Cascadia to active quake-prone subduction zones along the coasts of Chile and Alaska and to the Nankai Trough off the coast of Japan. They found more similarities than differences. In fact, they found that the biggest megathrust events in these other zones were directly related to young, buoyant plates’ being strongly coupled to the overlying landmass at shallow angles — which fit the description of Cascadia perfectly. Bottom line: If giant ruptures could happen there — in Chile, Alaska, or Japan — the same would probably happen here, in the Pacific Northwest.

The problem, as Heaton explained it to me, was that there was no direct physical sign of earthquakes. All the comparison studies in the world could not prove unequivocally that Cascadia’s fault had ruptured in the past. What everyone needed and wanted was forensic evidence. In the breach, significant doubt and strong disagreement had separated the scientists into opposing camps. “There was plenty of skepticism out there among geophysicists that the zone really was capable of doing this stuff,” confirms paleogeologist Brian Atwater of the U.S. Geological Survey at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The only thing that could put an end to the back-and-forth debate would be tangible signs of past ruptures along the entire subduction zone. If the two plates were sliding past each other smoothly, at a constant rate, and without getting stuck together, then there should be a slow, continuous, and irreversible rise in land levels along the outer coast. On the other hand, if the two plates were stuck together by friction, strain would build up in the rocks and the upper plate would bend down along the outer edge and thicken inland, humping upward until the rocks along the fault failed. In the violent, shuddering release of strain during an earthquake, the upper plate would snap to the west, toward its original shape. The clear signal — the geodetic fingerprint — of a large subduction earthquake would be the abrupt lowering of land behind the beaches when the upper plate got stretched like taffy, snapped to the west, and then sank below the tide line.about:blankabout:blank

That was something Atwater figured he could probably measure and verify — or disprove. “When they said the Pacific Coast was rising three millimeters a year relative to Puget Sound, I said, ‘Aha! Three meters per thousand!’ ” He would go out to the coast and find out whether a 3,000-year-old shoreline was now 30 feet above sea level, simple as that.

In March 1986 Atwater drove west 
from Seattle toward Neah Bay and Cape Flattery, on the northwestern tip of Washington State, and started searching the beaches, tide marshes, and river estuaries for clues about whether the outer coast had risen or dropped.

Copalis River Ghost Forest - USGS

The “ghost forest” of dead cedar trees at the Copalis River on the Washington coast is evidence of a major quake three centuries ago. (Credit: Brian Atwate/USGS)

Neah Bay was as good a place as any to start because the land all around it is so close to sea level it was highly likely he would be able to spot even slight changes in shoreline elevation. Atwater spent a few rainy days on the marshy floor of this valley. At first he poked holes with a core barrel and came up with nothing unusual, just signs that sand and silt had built the marsh by filling a former bay. But late one afternoon, with the tide down, he tried his luck digging into the muddy bank of a stream that emptied into the marsh. Several swipes of his army shovel exposed something odd a few feet below the top of the bank, beneath a layer of sand from the bay. It was a marsh soil, marked by the remains of a plant he recognized: seaside arrowgrass.

Pretty quickly he recognized what he was looking at — evidence that land formerly high enough above the highest tides for plants to be living on it had suddenly dropped down far enough for the plants to be killed by saltwater.

This subsidence of the landscape had apparently happened very quickly. That uppermost layer of sand, above the peaty soil, had been dumped on top quickly enough to seal off the arrowgrass from the air and keep it from rotting. These plants were hundreds of years old, but they were still recognizable.about:blankabout:blank

Was it physical proof that the ground here had slumped during an earthquake, that the plants of a marsh or forest meadow had been drowned quite suddenly by incoming tides and perhaps buried under the sands of a huge tsunami? Could this finally be a real smoking gun?

The deeper Atwater dug, the more he found. During that summer he and two coworkers uncovered evidence of at least six different events — 
presumably six different earthquakes — that had each caused about three feet or so of down-drop.

He returned to the coast in 1987 with David Yamaguchi, who had a Ph.D. in forestry from the University of Washington and was working on a project for the USGS to use tree-ring dating to figure out when Mount St. Helens had eruptedprior to 1980. Together they found groves of weather-beaten, moss-draped dead western red cedar tree trunks standing knee-deep in saltwater, what became known as ghost forests. Western red cedar doesn’t grow in saltwater; these trees had presumably been killed when forest meadows subsided following an earthquake and were swamped with saltwater.

Yamaguchi’s first effort to use spruce stumps to establish a time of inundation and death had failed because, with all the rot, there were not enough rings left to count. Western red cedar, however, was more durable than spruce. Using live trees for comparison, Yamaguchi was able to establish that the cedars had rings up until the early 1690s. The earthquake that killed these cedars must have happened some time soon after then, and later samples from the roots of these trees confirmed that they were killed in the winter of 1700.

What Brian Atwater had discovered in estuaries along the Washington shore, Alan Nelson of the USGS and a team of international colleagues found as well in Oregon and British Columbia in 1995. He and 11 other scientists invested considerable time and effort — including 85 new radiocarbon-dated samples — to obtain the most accurate time line possible. They found that all the ghost forests and marsh plants along the Pacific Northwest coast had been killed at the same moment in time as the land dropped down and was covered by tsunami sand, roughly three centuries ago. If the coastline had slumped in river mouths and bays that were many miles apart, the quakes must have been very big. Atwater was pretty sure they were bigger than anything that had happened during Washington’s written history.

But across the Pacific, written history extends further into the past. Kenji Satake of the Geological Survey of Japan and colleagues soon discovered another piece of the puzzle. They found records from the year 1700 of a 16-foot-high tsunami that struck the eastern seaboard of Japan — apparently out of nowhere, since there was no mention of a local earthquake. Taken together, the evidence strongly suggested that Cascadia’s fault was the source of the giant wave.

Together, Atwater, Yamaguchi, Satake, and their colleagues had sleuthed out precisely when Cascadia had last yawned open. Atwater’s tsunami sands gave a carbon date some time between 1690 and 1720. Rings from the cedar trees narrowed the date to the winter of 1699–1700. Finally, Satake’s written records of a tsunami hitting villages all along eastern Japan nailed the date: Cascadia’s last monster quake happened on January 26, 1700, at 9 p.m. They had cracked the case — except in this detective story, the culprit would almost certainly strike again.

The evidence amassed since then suggests that in fact, Cascadia has generated powerful earthquakes not just once or twice, but over and over again throughout geologic time. A research team led by Chris Goldfinger at Oregon State University (OSU) used core samples from the ocean floor along the fault to establish that there have been at least 41 Cascadia events in the last ten thousand years. Nineteen of those events ripped the fault from end to end, a “full margin rupture.”

It turns out that Cascadia is virtually identical to the offshore faults that devastated Sumatra in 2004 and Japan in 2011 — almost the same length, the same width, and with the same tectonic forces at work. Cascadia’s fault can and will generate the same kind of earthquake we saw last year: magnitude 9 or higher. It will send a train of deadly tsunami waves across the Pacific and crippling shock waves across a far wider geographic area than all the California quakes you’ve ever heard about.

Based on historical averages, the southern end of the fault — from Cape Mendocino, California, to Newport, Oregon — has a large earthquake every 240 years. For the northern end — from mid-Oregon to mid-
Vancouver Island — the average “recurrence interval” is 480 years, according to a recent Canadian study. And while the north may have only half as many jolts, they tend to be full-size disasters in which the entire fault breaks from end to end.about:blankabout:blank

With a time line of 41 events the science team at OSU has now calculated that the California–Oregon end of Cascadia’s fault has a 37 percent chance of producing a major earthquake in the next 50 years. The odds are 10 percent that an even larger quake will strike the upper end, in a full-margin rupture, within 50 years. Given that the last big quake was 312 years ago, one might argue that a very bad day on the Cascadia Subduction Zone is ominously overdue. It appears that three centuries of silence along the fault has been entirely misleading. The monster is only sleeping.



Making Contact

String theorist and science populariser Michio Kaku believes that the James Webb Space Telescope will find life on other planets — but he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to reach out to any potential aliens. 

The professor of theoretical physics at City College, New York spoke to The Guardian about his trepidations in an interview about his upcoming book “The God Equation.” He says he believes that we are on track to discover alien life within a century.

“Soon we’ll have the [Webb] telescope up in orbit and we’ll have thousands of planets to look at,” Kaku said to The Guardian, “and that’s why I think the chances are quite high that we may make contact with an alien civilization.”

When Montezuma Met Cortés

However, the string theorist and best-selling author doesn’t believe that we should be so quick to reach out to other lifeforms even if we did find them.

“There are some colleagues of mine that believe we should reach out to them. I think that’s a terrible idea,” he said to The Guardian. “We all know what happened to Montezuma when he met Cortés in Mexico so many hundreds of years ago. Now, personally, I think that aliens out there would be friendly but we can’t gamble on it. So I think we will make contact but we should do it very carefully.”

He doesn’t make it clear who is Montezuma and who is Cortés between the aliens and humanity — and, frankly, we’re not sure what’s scarier. 

New data from NASA updates Apophis risk of impacting earth

NASA has recalculated the risk of Asteroid Apophis hitting Earth

This May 18, 1969 photo made available by NASA shows Earth from 36,000 nautical miles away as photographed from the Apollo 10 spacecraft during its trans-lunar journey toward the moon. In March 2021, the U.S. space agency announced that new telescope observations have ruled out any chance of the asteroid Apophis colliding with Earth in 2068. (NASA via AP)
This May 18, 1969 photo made available by NASA shows Earth from 36,000 nautical miles away as photographed from the Apollo 10 spacecraft during its trans-lunar journey toward the moon. In March 2021, the U.S. space agency announced that new telescope observations have ruled out any chance of the asteroid Apophis colliding with Earth in 2068. (NASA via AP)

Pasadena, Calif. – You can relax. The end of the world is not coming for at least another 100 years. At least it won’t happen because of a giant rock hurtling through space.

NASA tracks near-Earth objects (NEO) to calculate the risk of a catastrophic impact with an asteroid.

Most asteroids are made of materials leftover from the creation of our solar system.

Asteroid 99942 Apophis is one such object.

Born in the asteroid belt between Jupiter and Mars, Apophis is a 1,000-foot-wide chunk of rock, nickel and iron that wobbles around the Sun in just under an Earth year.

NASA became interested in the asteroid in 2004 when scientists noticed it seems to be wobbling closer and closer to Earth.

Those scientists were worried about a close call in 2029, but have since said we’re out of danger.

NASA made new observations when Apophis came close to Earth on March 5, 2021.

They were able to calculate the asteroid with what NASA calls “extreme precision,” ruling out an impact with Earth for another century.

“A 2068 impact is not in the realm of possibility anymore, and our calculations don’t show any impact risk for at least the next 100 years,” said Davide Farnocchia of NASA’s Center for Near-Earth Object Studies in a NASA press release.

He went on to say, “With the support of recent optical observations and additional radar observations, the uncertainty in Apophis’ orbit has collapsed from hundreds of kilometers to just a handful of kilometers when projected to 2029. This greatly improved knowledge of its position in 2029 provides more certainty of its future motion, so we can now remove Apophis from the risk list.”

So rest easy. We won’t be living the scenes of movies like Deep Impact or Armageddon. At least, not soon.

Astronauts Really Could Carry M16s on the Moon

In For All Mankind, U.S. Marines pack heat in space. That could happen in real life, too—with a catch.


  • The second season of the Apple TV+ series For All Mankind shows U.S. Marines in space using M16s.
  • Astronauts probably wouldn’t use real M16s in space—but they could still use guns.
  • Low gravity and crazy temperature swings would make traditional guns inoperable in space.

The Apple TV+ sci-fi series For All Mankind, set against the backdrop of the Cold War, just introduced a new element: space guns.

The ongoing second season of the acclaimed series, which imagines an alternate history in which the Soviets beat NASA to the moon and the global space race never ended, depicts spacefaring U.S. troops using M16s. In real life, however, a weapon like the M16 would be extremely difficult to operate in space.

Using weapons in the extremes of space, including wild temperature swings and low gravity, would present challenges for both those who design and carry the weapons.

In For All Mankind, NASA, stung by its crushing defeat in the space race, redoubles its efforts to take the lead against the Soviets. That includes sending women into the Apollo program and building a giant, sea-launched cargo rocket called “Sea Dragon.”This content is imported from YouTube. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

By the 1980s, the first American lunar colony, Jamestown, is firmly established on the moon, supplied by regular Space Shuttle missions. The seizure of an American lithium mine by Soviet cosmonauts triggers the deployment of five U.S. Marines to the Jamestown colony, all armed with space versions of the M16A2 rifle.

The M16 was obviously designed to function on Earth, in Earth gravity, within a band of temperatures normally found on Earth. The rifle can work in deserts in temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or higher and in “extreme cold weather,” the U.S. Army says. (That’s as specific as it gets.)

While those conditions seem broad by Earth standards, in space, it’s a different story.

Gravity itself will vary, from zero-gravity conditions far from planetary bodies to one-sixth of Earth’s gravity on the moon. Temperatures on the moon can swing wildly, from a high of 260 degrees Fahrenheit to minus 280 degrees.

gi on patrol

A U.S. soldier with the 1st Cavalry Division on patrol, Vietnam, 1971.CHRISTOPHER JENSENGETTY IMAGES

Gravity would affect all aspects of the M16, from how bullets are seated in the magazine to how the buffer spring would bounce the bolt carrier group back and forth inside the weapon. The internal action of the M16 is precisely timed, and a change in gravity would throw everything off.

Changing the mass of various internal parts, spring weights, and even the type and amount of gunpowder used might make a lunar M16 workable—but it would require a lot of testing under lunar conditions. One concern: The M16 uses gunpowder gases to cycle the weapon. Just how would that hot, pressurized gunpowder gas behave in low gravity?This content is imported from {embed-name}. You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site.

Bullets in principle should work fine, since they use their own propellant and don’t rely on oxygen. But again, the big issue here would be gravity.

Under Earth gravity, an M16 bullet starts a slow, inexorable drop as soon as it exits the barrel, one that eventually ends up with the bullet plowing into the ground. Earth’s gravitational influence means a terrestrial M16 bullet will drop 24 inches at 400 yards. While a bullet fired under lunar gravity would still eventually plow into the lunar soil, at one-sixth gravity, the same bullet would fly a flatter, steadier trajectory for far longer.

There’s no wind in space or on the moon, so there would be no need to calculate for windage at longer ranges. At 400 yards, wind at 10 miles per hour will blow an M16 bullet 21 inches off course—enough to miss a man-sized target. A lack of wind will make it easier to hit a target, at least in the horizontal axis.

soldier in the saudi desert

The M16 can work in Earth environments as diverse as searing deserts and freezing tundra, but that’s nothing compared to conditions on the moon.HISTORICALGETTY IMAGES

Temperatures would prove to be another challenge. Engineers could probably develop a lubricant that operates within a 500-degree band, but Space Marines would need to be careful with their rate of fire. A gun already heated to 280 degrees Fahrenheit would start to have heat issues more quickly than one on Earth, including bullet propellant igniting in the chamber before the trigger is pulled (“cooking off”) and even melting rifle parts.

And then there’s a problem totally unique to the moon: moon dust. The dust, a fine coating of lunar soil found up to 60 miles above the moon’s surface, could get into a rifle’s internals and cause it to jam. The M16 is particularly vulnerable to jamming, and is even equipped with a dust cover to prevent dust, dirt, and sand from entering the weapon before it’s fired. How would you keep moon dust out of an M16 during combat?RELATED STORYEverything You Actually Need to Know About Guns

For All Mankind does give the space M16s some thought. On the show, the rifles are white and silver, colors that let them blend in with the moon dust, and they’re equipped with collapsing stocks and optical sights.

Real M16s in the 1980s featured fixed stocks and lacked optical sights. Collapsing stocks would be more ergonomic for shooters in large, bulky spacesuits. The raised optical sight, meanwhile, would be easier for an astronaut in a space suit to use, but a laser sight would allow the space shooter to shoot accurately without aiming.

m16 for all mankind


Our reality has been spared a world with space rifles, but with the establishment of the Space Force and the increasing militarization of space, it seems inevitable that small arms will eventually make their way into space and beyond.

NASA researchers discover first X-rays from Uranus

Researchers analyzed previous observations of the ice giant

Astronomers at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory have detected X-rays from the planet Uranus for the first time.

Researchers used observations of the ice giant taken in 2002 and 2017 to detect the radiation as part of a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of Geophysical Research. 

In an examination and with further analysis, they saw clear detection of X-rays from the first observation and possible flare of X-rays from those 15 years later.

The scientists believe that the sun could be the driving force causing Uranus to emit the X-rays. 

Uranus at approximately the same orientation as it was during the 2002 Chandra observations. 2017 HRC Composite Image (Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXO/University College London/W. Dunn et al; Optical: W.M. Keck Observatory)

Uranus at approximately the same orientation as it was during the 2002 Chandra observations. 2017 HRC Composite Image (Credit: X-ray: NASA/CXO/University College London/W. Dunn et al; Optical: W.M. Keck Observatory) (NASA)

Astronomers have previously observed that both Jupiter and Saturn scatter X-ray light from the sun. 

However, while the study’s authors say they believe the X-rays detected would also be from “scattering,” another source of X-rays is also likely.

Like Saturn, they say, Uranus’ rings could be producing the X-rays itself or even the planet’s aurora — a phenomenon created when high-energy particles interact with the atmosphere.

“Uranus is surrounded by charged particles such as electrons and protons in its nearby space environment,” the Chandra X-ray Observatory wrote in a release. “If these energetic particles collide with the rings, they could cause the rings to glow in X-rays.”

X-rays are emitted in Earth’s auroras and Jupiter has auroras, as well, though X-rays from auroras on Jupiter come from two sources.

However, a nearly identical NASA release notes that researchers remain uncertain about what causes the auroras on Uranus.

The agency wrote that the unusual orientations of its spin axis and magnetic field may cause the planet’s auroras to be “unusually complex and variable.”

The rotation axis of Uranus is nearly parallel to its path around the sun — unlike the axes of other planets in the solar system — and while Uranus is tilted on its side, its magnetic field is tiled by a different amount.

“Determining the sources of the X-rays from Uranus could help astronomers better understand how more exotic objects in space, such as growing black holes and neutron stars, emit X-rays,” NASA wrote.

Uranus is the seventh planet from the sun in the solar system. It has two sets of rings around its equator. Its diameter is four times that of Earth.

Because Voyager 2 was the only spacecraft to ever fly by Uranus, astronomers rely on telescopes like Chandra to learn more about the cold planet that is made up almost entirely of hydrogen and helium.

We May Never Find Life on Mars—And That Could Be a Good Thing

Perseverance, the Fermi Paradox, and the Great Filter.

Jezero deposits.jpg
Layered sediments like these in Jezero Crater may be good places for Perseverance to search for evidence of life. Should we wish the rover luck? (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ ASU/ MSSS)

Over these past few weeks, we’ve all been stunned by the beautiful images returned by the Perseverance rover on Mars. One of that mission’s main purposes is to find traces of past life on the Red Planet, and the rover has already started traveling around Jezero Crater in pursuit of that goal.

For me as an astrobiologist, no discovery would be more exciting. Yet there are other ways of looking at it. In a 2007 essay, Nick Bostrom, Director of Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute, wrote that while the discovery of life on Mars would be of tremendous scientific significance, it would be really bad news for the future of the human species.

A re-evaluation of Bostrom’s argument seems timely now that we’re actually getting closer to determining if life ever existed on Mars. Why would a “yes” answer freak out Bostrom? As often happens when considering the possibility of extraterrestrial life, it comes back to the Fermi Paradox—also called the Great Silence. Despite our best research efforts, we have not found any firm signs of intelligent alien life, even though there are myriads of planets out there, many of them likely habitable. A huge number of these must have formed well before our own Solar System, so if the evolution of technically advanced alien species is not incredibly hard, shouldn’t there be evidence of advanced aliens all around us? But there is not.

That means there must be a “Great Filter”—a kind of evolutionary hurdle that prevents most, or maybe all, life forms from becoming a “cosmic” species. And this Great Filter—also proposed by economist Robin Hanson—must be very effective. In Bostrom’s words: “There are billions of potential germination points of life, and you end up with a sum total of zero alien civilizations that developed technology to the point where they become manifest to us Earthly observers.”

We don’t know at what evolutionary step this Great Filter comes into play. It may be at the very beginning, making it exceedingly rare for life to originate in the first place. It could come at any of the major evolutionary transitions, such as the “invention” of the eukaryotic cell or multicellular life. Maybe the hurdle of technological advancement is very hard to clear. Or perhaps the filter lies in our future—the scariest scenario, because it means that doom might be just ahead of us!

If we were to find life on Mars that has an origin independent from Earth—not just our long-lost microbial “cousins”—it would lead us to believe there are probably millions of planets all over the galaxy where life originates, and therefore, that the Great Filter must be located later in the evolutionary timeline. If we find eukaryotic life on Mars or even simple multicellular life like nematodes, it would mean that neither of these evolutionary transitions are the Great Filter either. William Bains and I have argued that once life originates, there are multiple ways for it to achieve these types of transitions given enough time, although the rise of technological intelligence may be rare since it has happened only once in Earth’s 4.5-billion year history.

Thus, if Perseverance or other follow-up missions discover evidence of alien life on Mars, this implies that the Great Filter happens at the point where humans became technologically advanced, or that it lies in our future. If the former is true, that makes our species truly special. Could we really be that unique? I have my doubts when I see other intelligent species on our planet, some of which, such as octopi, apes, and crows, could be said to be in a kind of pre-technological stage. On the other hand, in writing the book The Cosmic Zoo with William, I couldn’t escape the feeling (yes, I know, scientists and feelings) that there is something very special about us humans.

But if the latter is true, and we technological humans are not incredibly rare in the galaxy, the outlook for our species, and indeed for life everywhere, is very gloomy. We’re talking about an existential threat—bigger than Coronavirus or even climate change—that could set us back decades, or even hundreds of years. It would be something capable of taking out all (or nearly all) technologically advanced species. This is why Bostrom hopes we don’t find alien life on Mars, or anywhere else. It would mean we’ve already made it through the Great Filter—perhaps when life first arose on our planet, against great odds.

But that would also leave us in a barren, almost lifeless universe. This is a real possibility, but personally I don’t think it’s likely. My preferred scenario is that we are indeed a truly exceptional species. Or that technologically advanced aliens are in fact all around us, and for some reason we haven’t seen them. In the end, though, the universe is as it is, and not as we wish it to be.

First interstellar comet may be the most pristine ever found

First interstellar comet may be the most pristine ever found
This image was taken with the FORS2 instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope in late 2019, when comet 2I/Borisov passed near the Sun. Since the comet was travelling at breakneck speed, around 175 000 kilometres per hour, the background stars appeared as streaks of light as the telescope followed the comet’s trajectory. The colours in these streaks give the image some disco flair and are the result of combining observations in different wavelength bands, highlighted by the various colours in this composite image. Credit: ESO/O. Hainaut

New observations with the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) indicate that the rogue comet 2I/Borisov, which is only the second and most recently detected interstellar visitor to our Solar System, is one of the most pristine ever observed. Astronomers suspect that the comet most likely never passed close to a star, making it an undisturbed relic of the cloud of gas and dust it formed from.

2I/Borisov was discovered by amateur astronomer Gennady Borisov in August 2019 and was confirmed to have come from beyond the Solar System a few weeks later. “2I/Borisov could represent the first truly pristine comet ever observed,” says Stefano Bagnulo of the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium, Northern Ireland, UK, who led the new study published today in Nature Communications. The team believes that the comet had never passed close to any star before it flew by the Sun in 2019.

Bagnulo and his colleagues used the FORS2 instrument on ESO’s VLT, located in northern Chile, to study 2I/Borisov in detail using a technique called polarimetry. Since this technique is regularly used to study comets and other small bodies of our Solar System, this allowed the team to compare the interstellar visitor with our local comets.

The team found that 2I/Borisov has polarimetric properties distinct from those of Solar System comets, with the exception of Hale-Bopp. Comet Hale-Bopp received much public interest in the late 1990s as a result of being easily visible to the naked eye, and also because it was one of the most pristine comets astronomers had ever seen. Prior to its most recent passage, Hale-Bopp is thought to have passed by our Sun only once and had therefore barely been affected by solar wind and radiation. This means it was pristine, having a composition very similar to that of the cloud of gas and dust it—and the rest of the Solar System—formed from some 4.5 billion years ago.

By analysing the polarisation together with the colour of the comet to gather clues on its composition, the team concluded that 2I/Borisov is in fact even more pristine than Hale-Bopp. This means it carries untarnished signatures of the cloud of gas and dust it formed from.

“The fact that the two comets are remarkably similar suggests that the environment in which 2I/Borisov originated is not so different in composition from the environment in the early Solar System,” says Alberto Cellino, a co-author of the study, from the Astrophysical Observatory of Torino, National Institute for Astrophysics (INAF), Italy.

Olivier Hainaut, an astronomer at ESO in Germany who studies comets and other near-Earth objects but was not involved in this new study, agrees. “The main result—that 2I/Borisov is not like any other comet except Hale-Bopp—is very strong,” he says, adding that “it is very plausible they formed in very similar conditions.”

“The arrival of 2I/Borisov from interstellar space represented the first opportunity to study the composition of a comet from another planetary system and check if the material that comes from this comet is somehow different from our native variety,” explains Ludmilla Kolokolova, of the University of Maryland in the US, who was involved in the Nature Communications research.

Bagnulo hopes astronomers will have another, even better, opportunity to study a rogue comet in detail before the end of the decade. “ESA is planning to launch Comet Interceptor in 2029, which will have the capability of reaching another visiting interstellar object, if one on a suitable trajectory is discovered,” he says, referring to an upcoming mission by the European Space Agency.

An origin story hidden in the dust

Even without a space mission, astronomers can use Earth’s many telescopes to gain insight into the different properties of rogue comets like 2I/Borisov. “Imagine how lucky we were that a comet from a system light-years away simply took a trip to our doorstep by chance,” says Bin Yang, an astronomer at ESO in Chile, who also took advantage of 2I/Borisov’s passage through our Solar System to study this mysterious comet. Her team’s results are published in Nature Astronomy.

Yang and her team used data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), in which ESO is a partner, as well as from ESO’s VLT, to study 2I/Borisov’s dust grains to gather clues about the comet’s birth and conditions in its home system.

They discovered that 2I/Borisov’s coma—an envelope of dust surrounding the main body of the comet—contains compact pebbles, grains about one millimetre in size or larger. In addition, they found that the relative amounts of carbon monoxide and water in the comet changed drastically as it neared the Sun. The team, which also includes Olivier Hainaut, says this indicates that the comet is made up of materials that formed in different places in its planetary system.

The observations by Yang and her team suggest that matter in 2I/Borisov’s planetary home was mixed from near its star to further out, perhaps because of the existence of giant planets, whose strong gravity stirs material in the system. Astronomers believe that a similar process occurred early in the life of our Solar System.

While 2I/Borisov was the first rogue comet to pass by the Sun, it was not the first interstellar visitor. The first interstellar object to have been observed passing by our Solar System was ‘Oumuamua, another object studied with ESO’s VLT back in 2017. Originally classified as a comet, ‘Oumuamua was later reclassified as an asteroid as it lacked a coma.

Did The Soviet Union Discover Aliens In The Deepest Lake In The World?

Under the waters of Lake Baikal in 1982, 7 Russian divers are exploring the world deepest freshwater lake on a research mission, but 50 metres underwater, strange humanoid creatures appear and in an attempt to capture one of them, all the divers are pushed up to the top by an unknown force. Who were these creatures and what can we learn from this encounter?

Curious reports of extra-terrestrials pulling Steven Spielberg to Siberian jewel Baikal.

True or not about Spielberg’s interest, the lake is perhaps the biggest focus of UFOs in Russia. Picture:

Since ancient times, the vast Lake Baikal has been known as deeply mysterious, but in the closing years of the Soviet era, and since, it has been the location of a number of alleged sightings of aliens and UFOs. 

Initially these were covered-up by the authorities of the USSR, but later they were revealed by the Russian media.

In recent days there have been unconfirmed reports in Russia that American director Steven Spielberg is planning a documentary based on these weird and unexplained accounts. At the time of writing, this appeared to be a hoax, though it was unclear who planted stories in the Russian media. 

True or not about Spielberg’s interest, the lake is perhaps the biggest focus of UFOs in Russia. 

The versions of extra-terrestrial activity at Baikal – edged by mountains and containing one-fifth of the world’s unfrozen freshwater – relate to supposed aliens seen by military divers in its depth, and large ‘spaceships’ hovering over its grey, moody expanses. 

Some of the images here show what two photographers claimed were UFOs buzzing the lake, while others are mock-ups from NTV based on descriptions of an incident at Kudara-Somon, in Buryatia, exactly a quarter of a century ago. 

A number of sightings also indicate bright ‘cigar-shaped’ objects in the sky flying over Baikal, as in the top picture.

UFO on Baikal

UFO on Baikal

NTV channel mock-up of ‘flying saucer’ based on accounts by residents of Kudara-Somon village in 1990. Pictures: NTV 

A case for which there were no images, but an intriguing description, occurred at Kurma, Irkutsk region, in 17 April 1987. The words that follow are from Valery Rudentsov, a local resident of  nearby Shida village:

‘There was 13 of us. At about 12.20am, one of our guys went out into the yard, a few seconds later runs, and calls all of us out. He stood in the centre of the yard and pointed his finger at the sky. 

‘Diagonally from his gesture – 150 metres above us –  hung a huge flying saucer. From the centre of the plate went a phosphorescent purple ray. And at the edges of the plate were yellow portholes, almost like in our rural houses. The diameter of the plate was 70 metres. We saw it so clearly and for a long time, someone even suggested he throw a stone at it … 

‘The weather was amazingly quiet, no sound was heard from the hanging saucer, although behind us was the village of Kurma – there was the noise of a dog barking, the lowing of cows. We were spellbound.

‘It was a full moon and the visibility was so clear that no one of us could doubt the reality of what we saw. And then the plate slid smoothly away, sailed along the shore of the bay and further slipped into the hills of Olkhon. Neither before nor after have I ever met such a thing.

‘But since that time it has been a kind of sacrilege to me – not to believe in UFOs. My friend Alexander, a hunter, and his colleagues who lived there for 20 years, often see UFOs – and all is fine, he is still alive. So if to speak about glowing balls or ‘cigars’, we constantly see these on the shores of Lake Baikal. They exist.’

The case highlighted by NTV channel was on 16 May 1990 in the village of Kudara-Somon, in Kyakhtinsky district, some 300 km from Ulan-Ude, capital of the Republic of Buryatia.

Margarita Tsybikova

Marina Zimireva

Marina Zimireva

Margarita Tsybikova recalls the UFO’s visit to Kudara-Somon. Marina Zimireva shows where the ‘flying saucer’ landed. Pictures: NTV 

Olga Fedorova, a local resident, recalled: ‘At some moment everything turned yellow. My daughter came home from school. I looked – her face was yellow.’

The explanation soon became clear, according to accounts from villagers. 

Vasily Timofeev spoke of a flying saucer. ‘Its diameter was around 30 meters, it shone brightly. But I did not see a clear image of metal or something like this.’

Another resident Margarita Tsybikova said: ‘From this dish came down people in shiny, shimmering costumes.’ Olga explained: ‘There were people, as far as I remember, three people in shining yellow suits. Seems there were people, yes.’

Marina Zimireva, who also says she witnessed this extraordinary sight, said: ‘It was some kind of circle, it can be said, it was like a disk. It turned on the edge and and, well, windows were visible.

‘I personally decided for myself that they were people. They had some human image. They were the same – straight, slender, they had arms and legs. And their gait was the same as ours. A little lower down there were three in orange suits. They went down from the disk like a man  – the steps were very visible.’

Then, as they recounted the strange event, the ‘aliens’ saw the people watching them. They returned to their spaceship and flew away. 

The USAs Most Secret Plane — TR-3B Patent is Now in the Public Domain


The TR-3B is Code named Astra. The tactical reconnaissance TR-3B first operational flight was in the early 90s. The triangular-shaped nuclear-powered aerospace platform was developed under the Top Secret, Aurora Program with SDI and black budget monies. At least 3 of the billion-dollar-plus TR-3Bs were flying by 1994. Aurora is the most classified aerospace development program in existence. The TR-3B is the most exotic vehicle created by the Aurora Program. It is funded and operationally tasked by the National Reconnaissance Office, the NSA, and the CIA. The TR-3B flying triangle is not fiction and was built with technology available in the mid-80s. Not every UFO spotted is one of theirs.


The TR-3B vehicles outer coating is reactive to electrical Radar stimulation and can change reflectiveness, radar absorptiveness, and color. This polymer skin, when used in conjunction with the TR-3Bs Electronic Counter Measures and, ECCM, can make the vehicle look like a small aircraft or a flying cylinder–or even trick radar receivers into falsely detecting a variety of aircraft, no aircraft, or several aircraft at various locations. A circular, plasma filled accelerator ring called the Magnetic Field Disrupter, surrounds the rotatable crew compartment and is far ahead of any imaginable technology.

Sandia and Livermore’s laboratories developed the reverse engineered MFD technology. The government will go to any lengths to protect this technology. The plasma, mercury based, is pressurized at 250,000 atmospheres at a temperature of 150 degrees Kelvin and accelerated to 50,000 rpm to create a super-conductive plasma with the resulting gravity disruption. The MFD generates a magnetic vortex field, which disrupts or neutralizes the effects of gravity on mass within proximity, by 89 percent. Do not misunderstand. This is not antigravity. Anti-gravity provides a repulsive force that can be used for propulsion. The MFD creates a disruption of the Earth’s gravitational field upon the mass within the circular accelerator. The mass of the circular accelerator and all mass within the accelerator, such as the crew capsule, avionics, MFD systems, fuels, crew environmental systems, and the nuclear reactor, are reduced by 89%. This causes the effect of making the vehicle extremely light and able to outperform and outmaneuver any craft yet constructed–except, of course, those UFOs we did not build.

The TR-3B is a high altitude, stealth, reconnaissance platform with an indefinite loiter time. Once you get it up there at speed, it doesn’t take much propulsion to maintain altitude. At Groom Lake, there have been whispered rumors of a new element that acts as a catalyst to the plasma. With the vehicle mass reduced by 89%, the craft can travel at Mach 9, vertically or horizontally. My sources say the performance is limited only the stresses that the human pilots can endure. This is a lot, really, considering along with the 89% reduction in mass, the G forces are also reduced by 89%.


The TR-3Bs propulsion is provided by 3 multimode thrusters mounted at each bottom corner of the triangular platform. The TR-3 is a sub-Mach 9 vehicle until it reaches altitudes above l20,000 feet–then God knows how fast it can go! The 3 multimode rocket engines mounted under each corner of the craft use hydrogen or methane and oxygen as a propellant. In a liquid oxygen/hydrogen rocket system, 85% of the propellant mass is oxygen. The nuclear thermal rocket engine uses a hydrogen propellent, augmented with oxygen for additional thrust. The reactor heats the liquid hydrogen and injects liquid oxygen in the supersonic nozzle so that the hydrogen burns concurrently in the liquid oxygen afterburner. The multimode propulsion system can; operate in the atmosphere, with thrust provided by the nuclear reactor, in the upper atmosphere, with hydrogen propulsion, and in orbit, with the combined hydrogen\ oxygen propulsion.

What you have to remember is, that the 3 rocket engines only have to propel 11 percent of the mass of the Top Secret TR-3B. The engines are reportedly built by Rockwell. Many sightings of triangular UFOs are not alien vehicles but the top-secret TR-3B. The NSA, NRO, CIA, and USAF have been playing a shell game with aircraft nomenclature – creating the TR-3, modified to the TR-3A, the TR-3B, and the Teir 2, 3, and 4, with suffixes like Plus or Minus, added on to confuse further the fact that each of these designators is a different aircraft and not the same aerospace vehicle. A TR-3B is as different from a TR-3A as a banana is from a grape. Some of these vehicles are manned and others are unmanned.

It all becomes apparent in Belgium where, after frequent sightings of flying lights and a mid-air near-miss by UFO, at one point Belgian Air Force, anxious to identify the origin of the phenomena, authorized F16 scrambles under the condition that the visual observations on the ground were confirmed by the local police and detection on the radar.

One of the consequences of such a decision was that on 31 March 1990 at 00:05 hr, two F16 were scrambled from Beauvechain airbase and guided towards the radar contacts.

A total of 9 interception attempts have been made that night. On six occasions the pilots established a lock-on with their air interception radar. Lock-on distances varied between 5 and 8 NM. On all occasions targets varied speed and altitude very quickly and break-locks occurred after 10 to 60 seconds. Speeds varied between 150 and 1010 knots. On three occasions both F16 registered simultaneous lock-ons with the same parameters. The two F16 were flying approximately 2 NM apart. Owing to the night conditions, no visual contact could be established by either of the F16 pilots.

Astronomers capture new polarized view of a black hole

Team of more than 300 researchers produced first-ever image of a black hole in April of 2019

Former NASA astronaut Mike Massimino explains what can be learned from the groundbreaking discovery.

Scientists from the international Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) collaboration announced Wednesday that they had been able to map the magnetic fields around a black hole using polarized light waves for the first time, releasing a stunning image of the supermassive object at the center of the Messier 87 (M87) galaxy.

The team of more than 300 researchers had produced the first-ever image of a black hole – from 55 million light-years away – in April of 2019. 

The researchers published their most recent observations in two separate papers in The Astrophysical Journal, which they say are key to understanding how the M87 galaxy is able to “launch energetic jets from its core.”

From data first collected in 2017, the scientists discovered that a significant fraction of the light at the black hole’s near-horizon region was polarized.

Light becomes polarized when passing through certain filters or when it is emitted in hot regions of space that are magnetized.

For the first time, EHT scientists have mapped the magnetic fields around a black hole using polarized light waves. With this breakthrough, we have taken a crucial step in solving one of astronomy’s greatest mysteries.

For the first time, EHT scientists have mapped the magnetic fields around a black hole using polarized light waves. With this breakthrough, we have taken a crucial step in solving one of astronomy’s greatest mysteries. (EHT Collaboration)

Astronomers were given a sharper look around the black hole, and the ability to map the magnetic field lines in the surrounding area, by examining how the light around it was polarized.

“These 1.3 mm wavelength observations revealed a compact asymmetric ring-like source morphology. This structure originates from synchrotron emission produced by relativistic plasma located in the immediate vicinity of the black hole,” the group stated in its observational publication. “Here we present the corresponding linear-polarimetric EHT images of the center of M87. We find that only a part of the ring is significantly polarized. The resolved fractional linear polarization has a maximum located in the southwest part of the ring, where it rises to the level of ~15%.”

The group also noted that the polarization position angles are arranged in an almost “azimuthal pattern.”

The azimuth is the angle between a fixed point like true North, measured clockwise around the observer’s horizon, and a celestial body.

The team wrote that it had performed “quantitative measurements of relevant polarimetric properties of the compact emission” and found “evidence for the temporal evolution of the polarized source structure” over the course of a week.

The data was then carried out by using multiple independent imaging and modeling techniques.

In an accompanying release, the collaboration explained that the energy jets emerging from M87’s core extend at least 5,000 light-years from its center. 

While most matter near the edge of a black hole falls into it, some of the surrounding particles are blown out in the opposite direction in jets.

Astronomers still don’t fully understand this process, nor how matter falls into the black hole, but the new EHT image provides information about the structure of the magnetic fields just outside the black hole.

Only theoretical models with strongly magnetized gas could explain the event, the release says.

“All astronomical objects from the Earth to the Sun to galaxies have magnetic fields. In the case of black holes, these magnetic fields can control how rapidly they consume the matter falling onto them and how they eject some of that matter into narrow beams traveling at close to the speed of light,” Geoffrey C. Bower, EHT project scientist at the Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics in Hawaii, told Fox News via email on Thursday. “We showed that the fields are indeed strong enough to play an important role in how this black hole eats its lunch.”Video

The EHT collaboration is an evolving network of telescopes across ChileSpain, Antarctica, GreenlandFrance, Hawaii, Arizona and Mexico.

In order to observe the M87 galaxy, the collaboration linked eight telescopes to create the EHT: a “virtual Earth-sized telescope” with resolution “equivalent to that needed to measure the length of a credit card on the surface of the Moon.”

“This setup allowed the team to directly observe the black hole shadow and the ring of light around it, with the new [polarized-light] image clearly showing that the ring is magnetized,” the release said.

“No one has ever made this kind of image before,” Bower said. “Remarkably, the data forming this image is the same that was used to make the iconic first image of a black hole released two years ago. We took two years to analyze the data in a new way that allows us to separate the polarizations of light, a process like putting polarized sunglasses on our telescope.”

Upcoming UFO report will be ‘difficult to explain,’ former national intelligence official says

A former top national intelligence official hinted that an upcoming government report on UFOs will include information that cannot easily be explained.

“There are instances where we don’t have good explanations for some of the things that we’ve seen, and when that information becomes declassified, I’ll be able to talk a little bit more about that,” former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe told Fox New’s Maria Bartiromo on Friday.

Ratfcliffe said some UFO sightings have been declassified in the past, but a report to be released by the Pentagon and other federal agencies will present more information to the American people.

“There have been sightings all over the world,” Ratcliffe said. “And when we talk about sightings, the other thing I will tell you, it’s not just a pilot or just a satellite or some intelligence collection. Usually, we have multiple sensors that are picking up these things.”

Ratcliffe said elements that are hard to explain in the unreleased sightings include movements that are hard to replicate or traveling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier without creating a sonic boom.

The report is expected to be released on June 1, Bartiromo said later in the program.


warp drive

Image: Adrian Mann

After appearing for decades in science fiction, then moving into an actual theory, a new patent for an updated warp drive was published last year to no fanfare. Like many other false starts in cutting-edge research, the patent may represent the next step in the expanding theory, or it could mean the practical, real-world design of a functioning warp drive is on the horizon.


After first publishing his groundbreaking 1994 warp drive concept in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity, Mexican Mathematician and Physicist Miguel Alcubierre received significant positive and negative feedback. Most applauded his solution, which did indeed appear to create a working theory on how a warp drive might allow faster than light travel without violating the laws of physics. In contrast, others zeroed in on the incredible amount of energy needed to propel his theoretical spacecraft.

The warp drive was further refined in 2007 by engineer H. David Froning Jr., who, among other things, previously worked for the U.S. Air Force, Boeing, and McDonnell Douglas. He published those refinements in 2008 and later released a 2019 book on his research.

Both theories took a giant leap forward in 2011 when a paper published by NASA scientist Harold G. “Sonny” White further improved upon Alcubierre’s designs, dramatically reducing the amount of exotic matter needed to fuel the hypothetical drive from a Jupiter sized amount to something akin to the size of the NASA Voyager 1 probe. While this is still a significant volume and well beyond our current ability to manufacture, this dramatic reduction in fuel requirements seems to indicate that a real-world warp drive may one day be feasible.

One practical attempt to build a drive is being made by Nebraska University Adjunct Professor David Pares and his company, Space Warp Dynamics. He posted a recent series of tests to YouTube; however, his company’s Indiegogo campaign to build such a device has only reached 3% of the target goal. Their website and Facebook pages show only incremental advancements since. Interestingly, the company’s website notes that Pares was “Inspired by his own craft sighting, at the age of 16,” although no other details of this sighting are provided. Apart from that, little is known about this project.


In April of 2020, two engineers from Chicago, Jessica Gallanis and Eytan Halm Suchard published a patent application for a drive using the updated Harold White designs. A device aptly named the Alcubierre-White Warp Drive. Barely a month into the COVID 19 shutdown, the patent’s publication seemed to sneak under the radar, with a lone report by Read Multiplex in December of 2020 (one that sits behind a paywall).

In the summary portion of the patent, Gallanis and Suchard explain how “the invention uses two Alcubierre gravitational walls to achieve a warp drive effect as means of propulsion while surrounding or enclosing a cavity or space where passengers can travel.” 

This design is consistent with Alcubierre, who’s solution they point out “suggested a method for changing the metric of space-time and creating a space-time warp bubble such that while from outside the bubble, the bubble can advance in superluminal speed, from within the bubble the speed is much lower than the speed of light.”

The patent also notes the work of Froning, who they say observed how, “if sufficient warping is achieved, ship speed is slower than light speed within the region that surrounds it-even if it is moving faster-than-light with respect to Earth.”

“I had never personally heard of the Alcubierre drive until 2013,” Suchard admitted on a two-hour telephone interview with The Debrief to discuss his device, how the design came about, and how realistic building his patented Warp Drive was.

warp drive
Two-dimensional visualization of an Alcubierre drive, showing the opposing regions of expanding and contracting spacetime that displace the central region. (Image: AllenMcC)

A software engineer by trade, Suchard was working on handwriting and signature recognition software when he had a revelation that would lead to his patented design. 

“It occurred to me that we should be able to describe all physical phenomena as geometry. And that space-time was merely an emergent property, which is diametrically opposed to [Albert] Einstein’s approach.”

The Israeli-born engineer said this revelation launched him into a more in-depth study of things like dark matter, loop theory, quantum gravity, and ultimately, to the idea of a warp drive. 

“I first stumbled across Alcubierre in 2013,” Suchard explained, a discovery that led to him spending the next three years trying to rectify his new take on classical physics with Dr. White’s theory. “I knew from my own calculations that energy itself must create gravity, and by extension anti-gravity,” he said. “And that this had to be the solution to Alcubierre.”

By 2017, Suchard’s wife and fellow engineer Jessica Gallanis told him that his theoretical work was sound, and it was time to try to file a patent. Unfortunately, the first try was unsuccessful. “They wouldn’t take it,” he said of the response by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). “I think they didn’t understand the physics.”

Suchard said he spent the next two years going back and forth with the USPTO until, in 2020, they finally made a concession. “By then, they did not refute the fact that the patent is based upon a valid working theory, but still said I would need a physical device to prove the physics.” As a result of this concession, they accepted the application, leading to the 2020 publication.

Artist’s concept of a spacecraft using an Alcubierre Warp Drive. (Image: NASA)


When asked where his patent will go from here, Suchard was particularly critical in his response. “I don’t trust anyone else to do the experiments,” he said, “because too many do them in the wrong way.” To do those experiments, Suchard also admits that his expertise is not enough. “I would need other physicists involved. An RF engineer, a materials scientist, and many others with expertise in [areas like] heat dissipation, x-rays, and other related fields.” 

Suchard also noted the significant amount of funding needed for this research and that such funding is not presently on the horizon.

The Debrief reached out to Dr. Jason Cassibry, a professor at the Propulsion Research Center at the University of Alabama Huntsville. He, and one of his students, Joseph Agnew, a researcher at the Propulsion Research Center, explained that there were problems with Suchard’s theory. 

Cassibry and Agnew told The Debrief in an email that the use of highly concentrated magnetic fields to create gravity wells is a common aspect of warp drive theory.

“I’ve seen a number of people try to relate high-frequency electrical oscillations to warp drive. Based on some of the papers I’ve looked at, there is indeed a relation between highly concentrated magnetic field energy, like in a huge solenoid, and a positive gravity well. But the amount of energy required to be detectable is quite large, and, although doable, that experiment has not been run yet,” Agnew explained. 

Agnew explained that the biggest problem is the “‘negative energy or ‘anti-gravity well’” part of the system that makes it an Alcubierre drive and not just a gravity well. Both Agnew and Cassibry concurred that aspects of the patent did jive with previous warp drive models; however, since there was no experimental data, it would be impossible to determine if the drive would work. 

“I’m skeptical,” Agnew stated, “since it cites as-yet-unobserved phenomena as its basis for operation.”

Dr. Cassibry echoed Agnew’s sentiment, adding, “I hope that someday, someone discloses an invention or a technology along with a demonstration of a real system, such as a video of a working propulsion system lifting itself off the ground, no strings attached. Short of that, experimental measurements, even on a subscale test, are highly valuable and encouraged. Short of experimental evidence, I will remain skeptical of any and all papers and patents.”

The Debrief reached out to the NASA Ames Research Center for comment from Dr. White on this potentially groundbreaking patent and any work he may still be doing in this field. Their representative told The Debrief that White retired from the organization last year. They also indicated that the warp mechanics program he ran at Ames is no longer in operation as it was shuttered at the same time he left. 

The Debrief tried to contact Dr. Whte at his new venture, the Limitless Space Institute, which appears to be continuing his Warp Drive research. They did not respond to requests for comment.

The patent by Suchard and Gallanis is still awaiting approval, and it is an approval Suchard is not expecting any time soon. Still, he says, the theory is sound, and if he were able to put together the team of experts he envisions, he thinks building a warp drive may be possible. Like most potential breakthrough propulsion theories, Suchard’s take on energy and gravity is unique. Still, unlike Alcubierre and White, he has taken that theory to the next step with an actual patent application. Time will tell if it ever leads to the real thing, but the work by other researchers in the field and the improvements to Alcubierre’s original theory made along the way may mean that warp speed may be closer than we think.

Carbon-ring molecules tied to life were found in space for the first time

Discovered in an interstellar cloud, the compounds are more abundant than predicted

Green Bank Telescope
The 100-meter-wide Green Bank Telescope (pictured) in West Virginia detected the first definitive radio signature from space of ringed, organic molecules known as PAHs.

Complex carbon-bearing molecules that could help explain how life got started have been identified in space for the first time.

These molecules, called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs, consist of several linked hexagonal rings of carbon with hydrogen atoms at the edges. Astronomers have suspected for decades that these molecules are abundant in space, but none had been directly spotted before.

Simpler molecules with a single ring of carbon have been seen before. But “we’re now excited to see that we’re able to detect these larger PAHs for the first time in space,” says astrochemist Brett McGuire of MIT, whose team reports the discovery in the March 19 Science.

Studying these molecules and others like them could help scientists understand how the chemical precursors to life might get started in space. “Carbon is such a fundamental part of chemical reactions, especially reactions leading to life’s essential molecules,” McGuire says. “This is our window into a huge reservoir of them.”

Since the 1980s, astronomers have seen a mysterious infrared glow coming from spots within our galaxy and others. Many suspected that the glow comes from PAHs, but could not identify a specific source. The signals from several different PAHs overlap too much to tease any one of them apart, like a choir blending so well, the ear can’t pick out individual voices.

Instead of searching the infrared signals for a single voice, McGuire and colleagues turned to radio waves, where different PAHs sing different songs. The team trained the powerful Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia on TMC-1, a dark cloud about 430 light-years from Earth near the constellation Taurus.

interstellar cloud TMC-1 with the pleiades cluster in the background
The interstellar cloud TMC-1 (top, black filaments) appears as a dark streak on the sky next to the bright Pleiades star cluster (right

Previously, McGuire had discovered that the cloud contains benzonitrile, a molecule made of a single carbon ring (SN: 10/2/19). So he thought it was a good place to look for more complicated molecules.

The team detected 1- and 2-cyanonaphthalene, two-ringed molecules with 10 carbons, eight hydrogens and a nitrogen atom. The concentration is fairly diffuse, McGuire says: “If you filled the inside of your average compact car with [gas from] TMC-1, you’d have less than 10 molecules of each PAH we detected.”

But it was a lot more than the team expected. The cloud contains between 100,000 and one million times more PAHs than theoretical models predict it should. “It’s insane, that’s way too much,” McGuire says.

There are two ways that PAHs are thought to form in space: out of the ashes of dead stars or by direct chemical reactions in interstellar space. Since TMC-1 is just beginning to form stars, McGuire expected that any PAHs it contains ought to have been built by direct chemical reactions in space. But that scenario can’t account for all the PAH molecules the team found. There’s too much to be explained easily by stellar ash, too. That means something is probably missing from astrochemists’ theories of how PAHs can form in space.

“We’re working in uncharted territory here,” he says, “which is exciting.”

Identifying PAHs in space is “a big thing,” says astrochemist Alessandra Ricca of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., who was not involved in the new study. The work “is the first one that has shown that these PAH molecules actually do exist in space,” she says. “Before, it was just a hypothesis.”

Ricca’s group is working on a database of infrared PAH signals that the James Webb Space Telescope, slated to launch in October, can look for. “All this is going to be very helpful for JWST and the research on carbon in the universe,” she says.

Where would a major tsunami strike? California’s Malibu, Venice and Long Beach, get ready

Where would a major tsunami strike? Malibu, Venice and Long Beach, get ready

When state geologists went looking for the hypothetical origin of the worst tsunami that could strike Southern California in 1,000 years, they found it in the Aleutian Trench off the Alaskan coastline.

A magnitude 9.3 underwater earthquake there could generate a wave that would hit Southern California several hours later and inundate portions of Malibu, Santa Monica, Venice, Marina del Rey, Long Beach and the two busiest ports in the nation.MalibuNew zonesCurrent zonesRestaurants near the shore as well as a portion of Malibu Creek are included in new tsunami evacuation zone maps for Malibu.Santa MonicaA number of luxury condos and townhomes in Santa Monica are included in the new plans.Venice and Marina Del ReyThe updated plans include a handful of upscale townhome complexes in Santa Monica as well as a few blocks in Marina Del Rey, which include single-family homes as well as a number of apartments and hotels.

That was the worst-case scenario, but there were plenty of other possibilities for catastrophe. Earthquakes along undersea faults near Catalina and Anacapa islands — as well as submarine landslides off of the Palos Verdes Peninsula — could generate tsunamis capable of flooding those same areas in just minutes.

To help local emergency officials prepare, the California Geological Survey has released new maps that show the extent of flooding the worst tsunamis could produce in Los Angeles County.

The maps are being released during Tsunami Preparedness Week, when coastal residents are reminded to get ready for disasters that may or may not occur in their lifetimes.

In some ways, that 1,000-year quake in Alaska would be the easy one to respond to: there would be hours to evacuate after an official warning was issued.

But there would be little to no time between an official warning and massive flooding in the smaller offshore quakes, said engineering geologist Nick Graehl, who helps local agencies plan evacuation strategies.

“You’re going to feel that strong ground shaking,” Graehl said of the closer quakes. “You don’t wait for that official warning. You feel that earthquake, you go. And you go to a safe area, and you stay there until there’s an official all-clear.”

In the case of tsunamis, the recommended mode of evacuation is by foot, not automobile, according to senior engineering geologist Rick Wilson.

“We’ve done some studies with U.S. Geological Survey and found if people get in their cars and try to drive out of areas like Marina del Rey and Port of Los Angeles, Port of Long Beach, they’ll be stuck in traffic, and they won’t get out in time,” Wilson said. “So the recommendation is for people to evacuate on foot. If they do that, almost everybody can get out of the zone in this critical worst-case scenario that we’re looking at.”

The best preparation would be for people to check the map, find an evacuation route, and practice it, Graehl said.

“We’re encouraging people to maybe take a tsunami selfie at higher ground,” Graehl said.

The new maps are revisions of earlier work that predicted the flooding from a 500-year flood.

The Tohoku earthquake that caused a devastating tsunami in Japan a decade ago provided the basis for the update, said state geologist Steve Boylen.

“Japan had sea walls that they had built for a 500-year event,” Boylen said. “The 1,000-year event topped over that.”

In Southern California, the two standards did not produce dramatically different results.

The new maps, built on a probability analysis, “reinforce where we believe the line was back in 2009, but we have added an additional buffer to be extra cautious with the errors and uncertainties in the modeling,” Wilson said.New zonesCurrent zonesImage shows the Belmont Shores area and areas west of the Los Angeles River in Long Beach, as well as some areas in east Wilmington, are included in the new tsunami evacuation zones.

A Times analysis of the changes since 2009 shows that Long Beach has the largest additions. Much of the Belmont Shore neighborhood and locations north of Colorado Lagoon and Los Cerritos Channel, as well as west of the Los Angeles River, are included in the 2021 evacuation zone areas.

The map shows about two dozen blocks of Hermosa Beach that are included in the new plans.Also, roughly two dozen blocks along Beach Drive, an upscale area in Hermosa Beach, have been added.

The updated plans include a handful of upscale townhome complexes in Santa Monica as well as a few blocks in Marina Del Rey, which include single-family homes as well as a number of apartments and hotels.

While not extending too far inland in Malibu, the new maps include a number of retail locations and restaurants, as well as a local museum.

The maps are designed to support city and county evacuation plans, which can vary widely due to local conditions.

In the Naples area of Long Beach, for example, there is an elderly population that requires extra attention from the city’s emergency management teams, Graehl said.

With its pier and beachfront, Santa Monica has a large daytime population of tourists and beachgoers who would need to be notified.

Santa Monica visitors as well as residents can sign up for emergency alerts on the city’s website or by text, said Chief Resiliency Officer Lindsay B. Call.

“These maps are incredibly important tools to enable emergency managers to provide the best education to our local residents,” Call said.

The new maps incorporate a philosophical shift in how the agency hopes to support local emergency planning. Some of the squiggly topography lines on previous maps have been pushed out to the nearest major street, so that evacuation zones could be more easily described to the public.

The Los Angeles County maps are part of a phased release of statewide maps, which is expected to be completed by early 2022.

Updates for Del Norte, Humboldt, and Mendocino counties are currently online, and California Geological Survey plans to release new maps for Monterey, San Mateo, and Alameda counties on March 23.


The last time a volcano erupted on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula was almost 800 years ago. So consider this a 1-in-800-year shot: “On March 24th, I photographed the Geldingadalur volcano with auroras dancing overhead,” reports Christopher Mathews.

Breaking 8 centuries of quiet, the volcano erupted last week on March 19th. Lava oozing through the ground was bright enough to see from Earth orbit as incandescent fountains illuminated the dark landscape.

Mathews immediately began planning his photo shoot. “The night the Geldingadalur volcano erupted, I began scouting locations for this shot,” he says. “There were good auroras over the weekend, but cloud cover blocked them–a huge disappointment. Last night an unexpected snow squall appeared, blotting out the sky and even the eruption itself–another heart-breaker. But then, around midnight, the skies cleared and auroras promptly lit off over the volcano.”

We won’t have to wait 800 years for the next shot. Historical accounts and ancient lava flows show that whenever Geldingadalur has experienced a significant uptick in seismic activity, intermittent eruptions follow for 100 years or so. This eruption could signal a re-awakening.

“It was a magical sight,” says Mathews, “one I took especially to heart because it happened to be my birthday!” Talk about birthday candles…

3 asteroids zoom closer than moon in less than 24 hours

Asteroids 2021 FO1, 2021 FH and 2021 FP2 had close approaches to Earth on March 23, 2021 (UTC). 2021 FO1 is ~14 feet wide (~4 meters) and will fly about 200,000 miles away (321,869 km) from Earth. 2021 FH is ~52 feet wide (~16 meters) and will fly about 146,000 miles away (~234,964 km). 2021 FP2 is 8.2-19 feet wide (2.5-5.7 meters) and will fly about 201,000 miles away. *Update: Data on Asteroid 2021 FP2 was released after we posted the video on asteroids 2021 FO1 & 2021 FH.

Three asteroids are making close approaches to our planet today (March 23), but don’t worry; the small rocks pose no threat as they drift by Earth, passing closer than the average distance between our planet and the moon.

The largest of the three space rocks, a house-size asteroid called 2021 FH, passed by Earth today at approximately 12:52 p.m. EDT (1652 GMT) at a distance of roughly 145,940 miles (234,870 kilometers), or 0.61 times the average Earth-moon distance. NASA estimates the asteroid’s diameter is between 39 feet and 89 feet (12 meters to 27 meters), or about the length of a semi-truck.

Details about its orbit have been published online by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Small-Body Database Browser, a database of all known small worlds in our solar system. The International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center also sent a circular to the community with observations from various astronomers around the world, including updated orbital elements.

These three orbit diagrams show the paths of the near-Earth asteroid 2021 FO1, 2021 FH and 2021 FP2, which are making close approaches to Earth on March 23, 2021.
These three orbit diagrams show the paths of the near-Earth asteroid 2021 FO1, 2021 FH and 2021 FP2, which are making close approaches to Earth on March 23, 2021. (Image credit: NASA JPL/

Small asteroids and comets pass by Earth on the regular, and in fact, this isn’t the only small world that went by our planet this week. The newly discovered 2021 FO1, now cataloged by JPL, zoomed by Earth quite safely on Monday, March 22 at 11:05 p.m. EDT (Tuesday, March 23 at 0305 GMT). 

The newfound world was quite a bit smaller – roughly 11 feet to 25 feet (3.4 to 7.6 meters) in width. At its closest approach, 2021 FO1 was about 199,850 miles (321,640 kilometers), or 0.84 times the average Earth-moon distance. (For comparison, the moon’s distance from our planet averages roughly 239,000 miles, or 384,000 km.)

And tonight at 6:35 p.m. EDT (2235 GMT), another asteroid called 2021 FP2 is expected to make a close flyby of Earth, passing within 200,780 miles (323,120 km) of our planet — just a little bit farther than 2021 FO1. NASA’s Minor Planet Center lists about a dozen more near-Earth asteroids that will fly by our planet this week, but none will be closer than the moon. 

Whether you lead an experienced enterprise or run a growing start-up, Ohio is good for business.SEE MORE

NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office and a suite of partners around the world keep track of small asteroids through telescopic observations, and over several decades of observations by scientists, no imminent problems have been found yet. Earlier this month, the infamous Apophis asteroid made a flyby of our planet; scientists have ruled out any threat to our world from Apophis in 2029. 

Upcoming Pentagon report will detail ‘difficult to explain’ UFO sightings

Upcoming Pentagon report will detail ‘difficult to explain’ UFO sightings

A forthcoming government report will reveal evidence of UFOs breaking the sound barrier without a sonic boom and other “difficult to explain” phenomena, the former Director of National Intelligence said.

John Ratcliffe, the top intelligence official under President Donald Trump, was asked about incidents involving unidentified flying objects on Fox News Friday.

“There are a lot more sightings than have been made public,” he told host Maria Bartiromo. “Some of those have been declassified.”

90,000 UFO reports across the USA

“And when we talk about sightings,” Ratcliffe continued, “we are talking about objects that have been seen by Navy or Air Force pilots, or have been picked up by satellite imagery that frankly engage in actions that are difficult to explain.”

“Movements that are hard to replicate that we don’t have the technology for. Or traveling at speeds that exceed the sound barrier without a sonic boom.”

A new Pentagon report will also detail any threats posed by the aerial phenomena and whether foreign adversaries are suspected of controlling them.

“Weather can cause disturbances, visual disturbances,” Ratcliffe said.

“Sometimes we wonder whether or not our adversaries have technologies that are a bit further down the road than we thought or than we realized. But these are instances where we don’t have good explanations for some of the things that we have seen.”

Ratcliff’s remarks came several months after the Pentagon declassified three well-known UFO videos, acknowledging that the footage was shot by US Navy pilots.

In the interview, Ratcliffe said, the sightings, which have been reported across the globe, extend beyond “just a pilot or just a satellite, or some intelligence collection.”

“Usually we have multiple sensors that are picking up these things … some of these are unexplained phenomena, and there is actually quite a few more than have been made public,” he said.

The Pentagon report is expected to be released by June 1, Bartiromo said during the interview.

That’s after Trump in December signed the $2.3 trillion COVID-19 relief and government funding bill, which started a 180-day countdown for the Pentagon and spy agencies to say what they know about UFOs.

Ratcliffe said he had hoped to release the information before the administration’s departure from the White House in January, but “we weren’t able to get it down into an unclassified format that we could talk about quickly enough.”

The First Real Images Of Neptune – What Have We Discovered?

About 4.5 billion kilometers away from our blue home planet is the giant planet Neptune. For many years it was simply not possible for humans to observe the bluish shimmering celestial body at close range. This was to change in 1989. At that time, NASA sent the space probe Voyager 2 into space, which provided mankind with the first real images of our galactic neighbor. In our contribution today, we would like to take a closer look at Neptune together with you. In doing so, we will also take a look at some breathtaking photos of the celestial body, which will leave you in pure astonishment.

1989: Voyager 2 makes its closest encounter with Neptune, passing just 3,000 miles above the cloud tops of the most distant planet in our solar system. The Voyager 2 space probe has been our most productive unmanned space voyage. It visited all four of the outer planets and their systems of moons and rings, including […]

1989: Voyager 2 makes its closest encounter with Neptune, passing just 3,000 miles above the cloud tops of the most distant planet in our solar system.

The Voyager 2 space probe has been our most productive unmanned space voyage. It visited all four of the outer planets and their systems of moons and rings, including the first visits to previously unexplored Uranus and Neptune.

What did the space probe discover about Neptune?

Originally it was thought that Neptune was too cold to support atmospheric disturbances, but Voyager 2 discovered large-scale storms, most notably the Great Dark Spot. It turned out to have a much shorter duration than Jupiter’s persistent Great Red Spot. Neptune not only has storms, it happens to have the fastest winds in the solar system.

The space probe was plotted to perform a close encounter with Triton, the larger of Neptune’s originally known moons. Along the way, Voyager 2 found six new moons (.pdf) orbiting the planet.

Voyager 2 found four rings and evidence for ring arcs, or incomplete rings, above Neptune. That means all four of the gas giants in our solar system have rings. Neptune’s, however, are very meager compared to the magnificent rings around Saturn.

In the late 19th century, astronomers thought that an unseen Planet X was influencing the orbits of Uranus and Neptune. The observed positions of the two planets and their calculated positions differed. Among those astronomers convinced of the existence of Planet X was Clyde Tombaugh. In 1930 while scanning areas of the sky for Planet X, he found Pluto.

When Voyager 2 flew by Neptune, it took very precise measurements of Neptune’s mass and found it to be about 0.5 percent less massive than previous estimates. When the orbits of Uranus and Neptune were recalculated using the more accurate mass figure, it became clear that the imprecise number for Neptune — and not the gravity of an unseen planet — had caused the observed orbital discrepancies.

After the International Astronomical Union demoted Pluto from planetary status in 2006, Voyager 2’s 1989 Neptune flyby became the point when every planet in our solar system had been visited by a space probe.
(All you Pluto-is-a-planet advocates can still argue for reinstatement, but you will have to bring a few more celestial objects into the planet category along with Pluto.)

The twin Voyager space probes were launched in 1977. Voyager 2 was actually launched first, on Aug. 20. Voyager 1 left two weeks later on Sept. 5. (Voyager 6 was never launched, much to the chagrin of Star Trek fans.) Voyager 1’s trajectory was a faster path, getting it to Jupiter in March 1979. Voyager 2 arrived about four months later in July 1979. Both then sped on to Saturn.

Neptune was Voyager 2’s final planetary destination after passing Jupiter (closest approach July 9, 1979), Saturn (closest approach Aug. 26, 1981) and Uranus (closest approach Jan. 24, 1986).

After its encounter with Neptune, the spacecraft was rechristened the Voyager Interstellar Mission by NASA to take measurements of the interplanetary magnetic field, plasma and charged-particle environment. But mostly it’s searching for the heliopause, the distance at which the solar wind becomes subsumed by the more general interstellar wind. Voyager 2 is headed out of the solar system, diving below the ecliptic plane at an angle of about 48 degrees and a rate of about 300 million miles a year.

We may be able to communicate with Voyager 2 for another 10 years, when its radioactive power sources are predicted to become too weak to supply electricity to run the craft’s critical systems. Then it will be out of our solar system and out of touch, racing to parts unknown and untold.