To Travel on The Moon

NASA Awards $57M Contract to Build Roads on the Moon

NASA awarded a $57.2 million contract to develop construction technologies to build infrastructure on the moon.

NASA awarded a $57.2 million contract to develop construction technologies to build infrastructure on the moon. PHOTO BY CARLOS FERNANDEZ

By Kirsten Errick,

The award will go toward developing technologies to build infrastructure like landing pads and roads on the surface of the moon.

As NASA continues its exploration under Artemis, it needs new technology to improve infrastructure on the moon.

In an effort to meet this need, NASA awarded ICON—an advanced construction technology company best known for 3-D printed homes—a $57.2 million contract to develop construction technologies to build infrastructure on the moon—including landing pads, habitats and roads. The contract goes through 2028.

Tuesday’s contract is under Phase III of NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research program. It is a continuation of a prior SBIR dual-use contract with the Air Force, which NASA partially funded. The award will fund ICON’s Project Olympus to engage in research and development for space-based construction systems to support further space exploration.

“In order to explore other worlds, we need innovative new technologies adapted to those environments and our exploration needs,” Niki Werkheiser, director of technology maturation in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, said. “Pushing this development forward with our commercial partners will create the capabilities we need for future missions.”

The new award will help ICON’s Olympus construction system, “which is designed to use local resources on the moon and Mars as building materials,” according to the announcement.

ICON will use a lunar gravity simulation flight to bring its technology into space. The company will also utilize samples of lunar regolith—a layer of debris covering the moon’s surface—to examine their behavior in simulated lunar gravity; this will help inform construction approaches. ICON noted that the technology “will help establish the critical infrastructure necessary for a sustainable lunar economy including, eventually, longer term lunar habitation.”

“To change the space exploration paradigm from ‘there and back again’ to ‘there to stay,’ we’re going to need robust, resilient and broadly capable systems that can use the local resources of the moon and other planetary bodies,” Jason Ballard, ICON co-founder and CEO, said. “The final deliverable of this contract will be humanity’s first construction on another world, and that is going to be a pretty special achievement.”

ICON will work with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Moon to Mars Planetary Autonomous Construction Technologies project.

The award will expand ICON’s commercial activities and its work with NASA. For example, ICON 3-D printed a 1,700-square-foot Martian habitat simulation—the Mars Dune Alpha—that will be used for NASA’s Crew Health and Performance Analog mission in 2023.

As NASA looks to have astronauts return to the moon and eventually travel to Mars, the agency is also looking at creating a sustainable presence in outer space and establishing a long-term presence on the moon. As a result, building infrastructure on the moon is a necessary component towards that goal.


Actually, It’s Getting Colder

What Lies Ahead? The Grand Solar Minimum

by Tyler Durden
Wednesday, Mar 03, 2021 – 19:20

Submitted by Luke Eastwood

We are all aware of the environnmental crisis that humanity (and all life on Earth) faces, characterised by the term ‘climate change’. Much of the current thinking in the scientific community is promoting the idea that our planet is rapidly warming due to excess CO2 (carbon dioxide) gas produced by humans in the last few centuries, and the last 70 years in particular.

While there is a very strong and hard to deny case to suggest that human activity is the main cause of environmental destruction, the premise that it is due primarily to CO2 emissions is beginning to look somewhat flawed. I am well aware that the previous sentence is likely to draw a lot of negative attention and criticism, with accusations of ‘climate denier’ being thrown at me. However, the situation is not that simple as to be a case of ‘global warming’ being the main influence or no influence at all.

The reality of the situation is complex. In my opinion the main drivers of the  environmental crisis are many, but put in simple terms – destruction of wild habitats, pollution due to industrialisation, over-use of soils, over-population, erosion of soils leading to desertification or barren, infertile landscapes, monoculture agriculture and climate fluctuations. Notice that I did not use the term ‘climate change’ which in the current scientific norm implies warming.

While the planet has undoubtedly warmed up, in part due to human activity and CO2 production, the current popular thinking completely ignores historical CO2 levels beyond the last millennium and also the primary input on temperatures on this planet and all eight of the planets in this solar system. That input, although largely ignored at the moment, is of course our sun, which on average generates 3.8 x 1026 Joules (energy) per second. Human energy usage per year is around 5 x 1020 Joules, which is about 1 million times less than the Sun produces during 1 second! In fact, in the whole of human history we have used less energy that the Sun produces in that 1 second.

So, given the above, it stand to reason that the energy of the Sun must have a significant effect on the energy available on this planet and the heat energy (temperature) that is captured by it, as it rotates around the Sun. If we look at the history of Earth, particularly through the use of ice-core samples, we can see that the temperatures on our planet follow a very distinct pattern. On a macro level this can be observed as a huge cycle of glacials (ice-ages) and interglacials, with the ice ages lasting many times longer than the interglacial (warm) periods.  We are currently in an interglacial, which began approximately 11,500 years ago and it is estimated that it will end some time within the next 50,000 years.

On a micro level, the Sun undergoes cycles of around 11 years  known as the solar magnetic activity cycle, which has been studied and recorded by humans for approximately 400 years. During each cycle the number of sunspots peaks and falls in a recognisable pattern. However, this pattern of approx. 11 years is itself part of a much longer solar pattern of solar minimums and solar maximums. For instance the Medieval maximum (grand solar maximum) lasted from 1100-1250 (warm period) and the famous Maunder Minimum (grand solar minimum) lasted from 1645-1715 (cold period). The later was known as a mini  ice age due to the particularly drastic drop in global temperatures that affected crop-growth and led to bitter winters for a period of 70 years.

Scientists that study the sun are well aware of these periodic cycles both on the 11 year scale and on the larger scale of 70–100 years, known as the Gleissberg cycle. We have just finished a solar maximum cycle of around 70 years and are now heading into a both a new 11 year cycle and a new grand solar minimum cycle that will reach its lowest (coldest) point some time between 2030 and 2040.  You don’t need to take my word for it – this has been confirmed by NASA and by the National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA). NOAA predictions of sunspot and radio flux appears to show a ‘full-blown’ grand solar minimum (GSM) which will last from the late-2020s to at least the 2040s

This means that the coming solar minimum is going to be not only a grand solar minimum, but perhaps the worst one since the Maunder Minimum in the 1600s. One would expert this to have been front-page news, but outside of the scientific community this information is virtually unheard of and little understood. One must ask – why is this the case? The simple answer to this question is that the solar predictions destroy the current scientific and cultural narrative of ‘Climate Change’ in the form of warming.

There will indeed be climate change in the coming decades, but for the next 10 to 40 years it is going to get colder, not warmer! The same thing will happen on the 7 other planets in this solar system, because the main factor affecting planetary temperatures is the activity of the Sun. Given that so much time, effort and money has been invested in ‘global warming’ as a premise for change in how human society is run, it is very much an “inconvenient truth” that is beginning to arrive just at the time when we are beginning to take more affirmative action on environmental issues.

The controversial news that the Earth (and all 7 other planets) will cool down in the next 10-40 years is politically highly inconvenient and that is why it is being kept quiet. Getting rid of fossil fuels, caring for our environment, lowering industrial output, ending industrial farming and reducing livestock, plus a gradual reduction in the human population are all excellent goals.  Unfortunately the rationale for doing this, that has been sold to the public, is most likely entirely misguided.  The net effect of this false premise may well be that environmentalists and main-stream public scientists will look like fools by the end of this decade. The cooling of planet Earth may well be seen as justification to abandon environmental concerns and reform of our economic systems, which would be a terrible tragedy.

In order to avoid this highly likely total embarrassment, world governments and the scientific community need to admit that the coming dip in solar energy output is going to lead to the cooling of our planet for at least 2 decades, possibly 4 or 5 or even 7 decades!  This is not conspiracy, this is not mis-information or propaganda – this is proven, verifiable fact which can be validated by current solar observation, previous observation of sun cycles for 400 years and ice-core samples stretching back millions of years.

As someone who has been involved in the environmental movement since I was 16, when I joined a conservation group at college, I am very concerned about how this plays out. If the public feels that they have been lied to it may lead to a backlash and a disinterest in environmental issues. The reasons I outlined at the beginning of this article are more than sufficient for humanity to change its modus operandi. One does not need to concoct highly improbable narratives about the world ‘burning up’ within decades to justify environmental activism. In fact the coming GSM is likely to produce similar negative effects to predicted ‘global warming’, such as habitat loss, loss of farming land, a drop in food availability, migration, social unrest and possibly other problems too.

It is time that the whole ‘climate change’ theory was re-assessed and the known solar activity cycle as observed by NOAA and NASA taken into account. To fail to do so is total folly and only creates another problem, that will come back to haunt us if the grand solar minimum is ignored.  We do need to take better care of our world and learn to live far more harmoniously within it, but we need to base our actions on good science and not on misleading or inaccurate information.


Heyday for ET as No One is Watching

COVID-19 forces Earth’s largest telescopes to close

More than 100 of Earth’s largest telescopes are now closed, and astronomers are worried about the pandemic’s long-term impacts on their field.
Earth’s largest optical telescope, the Gran Telescopio Canarias, is closed due to COVID-19. Many others have also closed.
Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias

The alarm sounded at around 3 a.m. on April 3. An electrical malfunction had stalled the behemoth South Pole Telescope as it mapped radiation left over from the Big Bang. Astronomers Allen Foster and Geoffrey Chen crawled out of bed and got dressed to shield themselves from the –70 degree Fahrenheit temperatures outside. They then trekked a few thousand feet across the ice to restart the telescope.

The Sun set weeks ago in Antarctica. Daylight won’t return for six months. And, yet, life at the bottom of the planet hasn’t changed much — even as the rest of the world has been turned upside-down. The last flight from the region left on Feb. 15, so there’s no need for social distancing. The 42 “winterovers” still work together. They still eat together. They still share the gym. They even play roller hockey most nights.

And that’s why the South Pole Telescope is one of the last large observatories still monitoring the night sky.

The world’s largest optical telescopes, shown here, have shut down in droves in recent weeks (open sites are in green). The Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas is the largest optical telescope left observing. Construction has also halted at the Vera C. Rubin Observatory site in Chile.
Astronomy/Roen Kelly

An Astronomy magazine tally has found that more than 100 of Earth’s biggest research telescopes have closed in recent weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What started as a trickle of closures in February and early March has become an almost complete shutdown of observational astronomy. And the closures are unlikely to end soon.

Observatory directors say they could be offline for three to six months — or longer. In many cases, resuming operations will mean inventing new ways of working during a pandemic. And that might not be possible for some instruments that require teams of technicians to maintain and operate. As a result, new astronomical discoveries are expected to come to a crawl.

“If everybody in the world stops observing, then we have a gap in our data that you can’t recover,” says astronomer Steven Janowiecki of the McDonald Observatory in Texas. “This will be a period that we in the astronomy community have no data on what happened.”

Yet these short-term losses aren’t astronomers’ main concern.

They’re accustomed to losing telescope time to bad weather, and they’re just as concerned as everyone else about the risks of coronavirus to their loved ones. So, for now, all that most astronomers can do is sit at home and wait for the storm to clear.

“If we have our first bright supernova in hundreds of years, that would be terrible,” says astronomer John Mulchaey, director of the Carnegie Observatories. “But except for really rare events like that, most of the science will be done next year. The universe is 13.7 billion years old. We can wait a few months.”

The prospects get darker when considering the pandemic’s long-term impacts on astronomy. Experts are already worried that lingering damage to the global economy could derail plans for the next decade of cutting-edge astronomical research.

“Yes, there will be a loss of data for six months or so, but the economic impact may be more substantial in the long run,” says Tony Beasley, director of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory. “It’s going to be hard to build new telescopes as millions of people are out of work. I suspect the largest impact will be the financial nuclear winter that we’re about to live through.”

Closing the windows on the cosmos

Through interviews and email exchanges with dozens of researchers, administrators, press officers and observatory directors, as well as reviewing a private list circulating among scientists, Astronomy magazine has confirmed more than 120 of Earth’s largest telescopes are now closed as a result of COVID-19.

Many of the shutdowns happened in late March, as astronomy-rich states like Arizona, Hawaii and California issued stay-at-home orders. Nine of the 10 largest optical telescopes in North America are now closed. In Chile, an epicenter of observing, the government placed the entire country under a strict lockdown, shuttering dozens of telescopes. Spain and Italy, two European nations with rich astronomical communities — and a large number of COVID-19 infections — closed their observatories weeks ago.

Even many small telescopes have now closed, as all-out shutdowns were ordered on mountaintops ranging from Hawaii’s Mauna Kea to the Chilean Atacama to the Spanish Canary Islands. Science historians say nothing like this has happened in the modern era of astronomy. Even during the chaos of World War II, telescopes kept observing.

As wartime fears gripped Americans in the 1940s, German-born astronomer Walter Baade was placed under virtual house arrest. As a result, he famously declared Mount Wilson Observatory in California to be his official residence. With the lights of Los Angeles dimmed to avoid enemy bombs, Baade operated the world’s largest telescope in isolation, making groundbreaking discoveries about the cosmos. Among them, Baade’s work revealed multiple populations of stars, which led him to realize that the universe was twice as big as previously thought.

In the decades since, astronomers have built ever-larger telescopes to see fainter and farther-off objects. Instruments have become increasingly complex and specialized, often requiring them to be swapped out multiple times in a single night. Enormous telescope mirrors need regular maintenance. All of this means observatory crews sometimes require dozens of people, ranging from engineers and technicians to observers and astronomers. Most researchers also still physically travel to a telescope to observe, taking them to far-flung places. As a result, major observatories can be like small villages, complete with hotel-style accommodations, cooks and medics.

But although observatories might be remote, few can safely operate during a pandemic.

“Most of our telescopes still work in classical mode. We do have some remote options, but the large fraction of our astronomers still go to the telescopes,” says Mulchaey, who also oversees Las Campanas Observatory in Chile and its Magellan Telescopes. “It’s not as automated as you might think.”

‘You don’t know what you missed’

Some of the most complicated scientific instruments on Earth are the gravitational-wave detectors, which pick up almost imperceptible ripples in space-time created when two massive objects merge. In 2015, the first gravitational-wave detection opened up an entirely new way for astronomers to study the universe. And since then, astronomers have confirmed dozens of these events.

The most well-known facilities, the twin Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory (LIGO) — located in Washington state and Louisiana, both pandemic hot spots — closed on March 27. Virgo, their Italian partner observatory, shut down the same day. (It’s also located near the epicenter of that country’s COVID-19 pandemic.)

More than 1,200 scientists from 18 countries are involved with LIGO. And no other instruments are sensitive enough to detect gravitational waves from colliding black holes and neutron stars like LIGO and Virgo can. Fortunately, the observatories were already near the end of the third observing run, which was set to end April 30.

“You don’t know what you missed,” says LIGO spokesperson Patrick Brady, an astrophysicist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. “We were detecting a binary black hole collision once a week. So, on average, we missed four. But we don’t know how special they would have been.”

The gravitational-wave detectors will now undergo upgrades that will take them offline through at least late 2021 or early 2022. But the pandemic has already delayed preliminary testing for their planned fourth run. And it could prevent future work or even disrupt supply chains, Brady says. So, although it’s still too early to know for sure, astronomy will likely have to wait a couple of years for new gravitational-wave discoveries.

Then there’s the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT). Last year, the EHT collaboration released the first-ever image of a black hole. And on April 7, they published another unprecedented image that stares down a black hole’s jet in a galaxy located some 5 billion light-years away. But now, EHT has cancelled its entire observing run for the year — it can only collect data in March and April — due to closures at its partner instruments.

Around the world, only a handful of large optical telescopes remain open.

The Green Bank Observatory, Earth’s largest steerable radio telescope, is still searching for extraterrestrial intelligence, observing everything from galaxies to gas clouds.

The twin Pan-STARRS telescopes on the summit of Hawaii’s Haleakala volcano are still scouting the sky for dangerous incoming asteroids. Both instruments can run without having multiple humans in the same building.

“We are an essential service, funded by NASA, to help protect the Earth from (an) asteroid impact,” says Ken Chambers, director of the Pan-STARRS Observatories in Hawaii. “We will continue that mission as long as we can do so without putting people or equipment at risk.”

The 10-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope at McDonald Observatory in Texas is now operating with just one person in the building.
Marty Harris/McDonald Observatory

The last of large telescopes left open

With observatory domes closed at the world’s newest and best telescopes, a smattering of older, less high-tech instruments are now Earth’s largest operating observatories.

Sporting a relatively modest 6-meter mirror, the biggest optical telescope still working in the Eastern Hemisphere is Russia’s 45-year-old Bolshoi Azimuthal Telescope in the Caucasus Mountains, a spokesperson there confirmed.

And, for the foreseeable future, the largest optical telescope on the planet is now the 10-meter Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) at McDonald Observatory in rural West Texas. Astronomers managed to keep the nearly-25-year-old telescope open thanks to a special research exemption and drastic changes to their operating procedures.

To reduce exposure, just one observer sits in HET’s control room. One person turns things on. And one person swaps instruments multiple times each night, as the telescope switches from observing exoplanets with its Habitable Zone Finder to studying dark energy using its now-poorly-named VIRUS spectrograph. Anyone who doesn’t have to be on site now works from home.

“We don’t have the world’s best observatory site. We’re not on Mauna Kea or anything as spectacular,” says Janowiecki, the HET’s science operations manager. “We don’t have any of the expensive adaptive optics. We don’t even have a 2-axis telescope. That was [intended as] a massive cost savings.”

But, he added, “In this one rare instance, it’s a strength.”

The supervising astronomer of HET now manages Earth’s current largest telescope from a few old computer monitors he found in storage and set up on a foldout card table in his West Texas guest bedroom.

Like the Hobby-Eberly Telescope, the handful of remaining observatories run on skeleton crews or are entirely robotic. And all of the telescope managers interviewed for this story emphasized that even if they’re open now, they won’t be able to perform repairs if something breaks, making it unclear how long they could continue operating in the current environment.

The 48-inch Samual Oschin Telescope is the workhorse of the Zwicky Transient Facility at Palomar Observatory in Southern California.

‘We will miss some objects’

The Zwicky Transient Facility (ZTF) utilizes the robotic, 48-inch Samual Oschin Telescope at Palomar Observatory in Southern California to produce nightly maps of the northern sky. And, thanks to automation, it remains open.

The so-called “discovery engine” searches for new supernovas and other momentary events thanks to computers back at Caltech that compare each new map with the old ones. When the software finds something, it triggers an automatic alert to telescopes around the world. Last week, it sent out notifications on multiple potentially new supernovas.

Similarly, the telescopes that make up the Catalina Sky Survey, based at Arizona’s Mount Lemmon, are still searching the heavens for asteroids. In just the past week, they found more than 50 near-Earth asteroids — none of them dangerous.

Another small group of robotic telescopes, the international Las Cumbres Observatory network, has likewise managed to stay open, albeit with fewer sites than before. In recent weeks, their telescopes have followed up on unexpected astronomical events ranging from asteroids to supernovas.

“We are fortunate to still be keeping an eye on potential new discoveries,” says Las Cumbres Observatory director Lisa Storrie-Lombardi.

But, overall, there are just fewer telescopes available to catch and confirm new objects that appear in our night sky, which means fewer discoveries will be made.

Chambers, the Pan-STARRS telescope director, says his team has been forced to do their own follow-ups as they find new asteroids and supernovas. “This will mean we make fewer discoveries, and that we will miss some objects that we would have found in normal times,” he says.

NASA’s DART spacecraft is scheduled to launch in 2021 on a mission to visit the binary asteroid Didymos. Astronomers need additional observations to help plot the course.

‘It’s stressing them out’

Astronomer Cristina Thomas of Northern Arizona University studies asteroids. She was the last observer to use the 4.3-meter Lowell Discovery Telescope before it closed March 31 under Arizona’s stay-at-home order.

Thomas warns that, in the short term, graduate students could bear the brunt of the lost science. Veteran astronomers typically have a backlog of data just waiting for them to analyze. But Ph.D. students are often starved for data they need to collect in order to graduate on time.

“It’s stressing them out in a way that it doesn’t for me. We’re used to building in a night or so for clouds,” Thomas says. “If this goes on for months, this could put [graduate students] pretty far behind.”

One of Thomas’ students was set to have observations collected for their dissertation by SOFIA, NASA’s airborne observatory. But the flying telescope is currently grounded in California, leaving it unclear when the student will be able to complete their research. And even when astronomy picks back up, everyone will be reapplying for telescope time at once.

But the damage isn’t only limited to graduate students. An extended period of observatory downtime could also have an impact on Thomas’ own research. Later this year, she’s scheduled to observe Didymos, a binary asteroid that NASA plans to visit in 2021. Those observations are supposed to help chart the course of the mission.

“The big question for us is: ‘When are we going to be able to observe again?’” Thomas says. “If it’s a few months, we’ll be able to get back to normal. If it ends up being much longer, we’re going to start missing major opportunities.”

The Keck Observatory telescopes in Hawaii use high-tech adaptive optics equipment that changes their mirrors’ shape 1,000 times per second to counter the twinkling caused by Earth’s atmosphere. Keck instruments also need to be chilled below freezing to reduce noise. If the warm up, cooling them down can take days or weeks.
W. M. Keck Observatory/Andrew Richard Hara

Can’t just flip a switch

The same qualities that brought observational astronomy to a standstill in the era of social distancing will also make it tough to turn the telescopes back on until the pandemic has completely passed. So, even after the stay-at-home orders lift, some observatories may not find it safe to resume regular operations. They’ll have to find new ways to work as a team in tight spaces.

“We are just starting to think about these problems now ourselves,” says Caltech Optical Observatories deputy director Andy Boden, who also helps allocate observing time on the Keck Observatory telescopes in Hawaii. “There are aspects of telescope operations that really do put people in shared spaces, and that’s going to be a difficult problem to deal with as we come out of our current orders.”

Astronomers say they’re confident they can find solutions. But it will take time. Tony Beasley, the NRAO director, says his team is already working around a long list of what they’re now calling “VSDs,” or violation of social distancing problems. Their workarounds are typically finding ways to have one person do something that an entire team used to do.

Beasley’s research center operates the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, as well as the Very Large Array in New Mexico and the global Very Long Baseline Array — all of which are still observing, thanks to remote operations and a reimagined workflow.

Although the new workflow is not as efficient as it was in the past, so far there haven’t been any problems that couldn’t be solved. However, Beasley says some work eventually may require the use of personal protective equipment for people who must work in the same room. And he says they can’t ethically use such gear while hospitals are in short supply.

But Beasley and others think interesting and valuable lessons could still come out of the catastrophe.

“There’s always been kind of a sense that you had to be in the building, and you’ve got to stare the other people down in the meeting,” he says. “In the space of a month, I think everyone is surprised at how effective they can be remotely. As we get better at this over the next six months or something, I think there will be parts where we won’t go back to some of the work processes from before.”

Modern-day cathedrals

Despite best efforts and optimistic outlooks, some things will remain outside astronomers’ control.

Right now, researchers are completing the 2020 Astronomy and Astrophysics Decadal Survey, a kind of scientific census. The guiding document sets priorities and recommends where money should be spent over the next 10 years. NASA and Congress take its recommendations to heart when deciding which projects get funded. Until recent weeks, the economy had been strong and astronomers had hoped for a decade of new robotic explorers, larger telescopes, and getting serious about defending Earth from asteroids.

Engineers prep NASA’s Mars InSight lander for launch to the Red Planet. It is currently stationed on Mars investigating the planet’s deep interior.
(Credit: NASA)

“Many of NASA’s most important activities — from Mars exploration to studying extrasolar planets to understanding the cosmos — are centuries-long projects, the modern version of the construction of the great medieval cathedrals,” Princeton University astrophysicist David Spergel told the website last year as the process got underway. “The decadal surveys provide blueprints for constructing these cathedrals, and NASA science has thrived by being guided by these plans.”

However, many experts are predicting the COVID-19 pandemic will send the U.S. into a recession; some economists say job losses could rival those seen during the Great Depression.

If that happens, policymakers could cut the funding needed to construct these cathedrals of modern science — even after a crisis has us calling on scientists to save society.


Let’s Talk Astrology

5 Myths and Misunderstandings About Astrology – Debunked

July 29th, 2020

By Nikki Harper

Staff Writer for Wake Up World

Astrology can be a controversial subject, with fervent followers and equally fervent detractors. As an astrologer, you quickly get used to people dismissing your subject out of hand. After all, it’s all made up nonsense, right? And there are 13 signs, anyway, not 12. And it’s ridiculous to claim that planets millions or even billions of miles away are causing us to act in a certain way. And they say the sun is a planet when it isn’t. And they say our fate is predetermined, with no free will. And they tell you the earth is at the center of the universe. And anyway the signs don’t even line up with where they used to be. And I’m a Leo but I hate drama. And I’m married to a Gemini and they say that Leo and Gemini aren’t a good match. And why in the world would one twelfth of the whole world’s population be going to have a bad day next Thursday?

Actually, neither I nor any astrologer I have ever dealt with has said or believes these kinds of things, all of which are based on fundamental misunderstandings of what astrology is and what it claims to do. I make no effort to convince anyone that astrology can be a useful psychological and spiritual tool; that’s up to each of us to discern for ourselves. If you’re cautiously interested in astrology, though, but have been put off by some of these myths and misunderstandings, here’s a rundown of the top five astrology myths – debunked. Understanding where astrologers are coming from may help you better decide whether this is something you’d like to pursue or not.

1 – There are 13 Signs, not 12 and I’m Now an Ophiuchus Not a Scorpio!

No, there aren’t, and no, you’re not. This myth periodically resurfaces and is usually attributed to NASA having ‘discovered’ a new constellation and thereby created or discovered a new zodiac sign. The last time this did the rounds on social media was only a couple of weeks ago.

NASA have not discovered a new constellation, or a new zodiac sign. Astrology signs are NOT, repeat NOT, the same as astronomical constellations. Ophiuchus is a very large constellation which has been visible for thousands of years. It does sit between the astronomical constellations of Scorpio and Sagittarius, but that does not mean it was missed out of the zodiac – did you know that there are actually 88 officially recognized constellations in the night sky? It’s not like astrologers just accidentally missed out Ophiuchus, silly astrologers! For this myth to make any sense at all, NASA would had to have discovered 76 new ‘zodiac signs’ and rewritten the history of astrology altogether. Which they, um, didn’t.

Astrology signs, zodiac signs, sun signs – call them what you will – are effectively units of measurement which were named after a selection of constellation, but have nothing more concrete than that to do with the constellations of the same name. Each astrology sign measures 30 degrees of the ecliptic. We may say that Mars is currently at 12 degrees Leo – but this is just a shorthand, symbolic way of saying that Mars is currently at 132 degrees of the ecliptic. The signs could really have been named anything, they’re just measuring/marking these twelve 30 degree sectors. The ‘discovery’ (not) of a new astronomical constellation is therefore completely irrelevant.

2 – The Astrology Signs Don’t Match Up with the Constellations Anyway

This is actually true – but the corresponding assertion that ‘therefore astrology is nonsense’ has no basis. The truth behind this misunderstanding is quite complex. It’s partly to do with the fact we covered above, that astrology signs are NOT the same as constellations. It’s also to do with something called the precession of the equinoxes. This is an astronomical phenomena which has been known since at least 300BC. When the sun rises on the morning of the vernal equinox in March each year, astrologers say that this marks 0 degrees Aries, and the start of an astrological new year. This is the point from which we start to count those 30 degree sectors in the sky. Once upon a time, thousands of years ago, the sun would indeed have risen at this time in front of the astronomical constellation called Aries.

However, due to a wobble in the earth’s axis (the precession of the equinoxes), the point at which the sun rises on the vernal equinox gradually shifts, over the course of 25,800 years, against the background of different astronomical constellations. In this modern age, when the sun rises on the vernal equinox, it is against the backdrop of the astronomical constellation of Pisces, not Aries. Here’s a short video explaining how it works:

What does this tell us about astrology? Nothing much. Because, remember, the astrological signs are shorthand for those 30 degree sectors around the ecliptic. These sectors always begin at the point of the vernal equinox, with the first 30 degree named Aries, the second 30 degrees named Taurus, and so on. That the vernal equinox now takes place aligned with the astronomical constellation of Pisces is interesting, but not broadly relevant.

Then only way the precession of the equinoxes is relevant to astrology is in the concept of astrological ‘ages’. Because the vernal equinox point is now against the backdrop of Pisces, we say we are in the astrological age of Pisces. Thousands of years ago, it was the astrological age of Aries. At some point, it will become the much talked-about astrological age of Aquarius – but astrologers cannot agree on when this will happen, or if it has already happened, because it depends on where you define the boundaries of the astronomical constellations. In his book World Horoscopes, respected astrological researcher Nick Campion lists six pages worth of suggested dates collated from the research of other astrologers, ranging from as long ago as 1447 through 2012 to as far ahead as 3597! Besides, not all astrologers even agree that astrological ‘ages’ are a thing, so….

3 – Astrologers Believe that Planets Somehow Cause Things to Happen on Earth

Nope. We don’t. No astrologer I’ve ever dealt with believes that there is a cause and effect at play here. The astrologer’s creed is ‘as above, so below’. Astrology is a symbolic language, above all else, and the basic concept is that the dance of the planets (and yes, we do know that neither the Sun nor the Moon are actually planets)  and the complex angles they create between one another symbolically REFLECTS the prevailing energy on earth.

In other words, astrology works on the principle that there is a relationship between celestial events and events on earth, but it is not a cause and effect relationship. Nothing to do with gravity or electromagnetism or any other physical effect.

4 – Astrology Claims to Predict the Future (Thereby Negating Free Will)

No, it doesn’t. Astrology cannot predict the future, because each of us has free will and can shape our own future. However, because we can predict the exact movements of the planets, which are believed to reflect the energies co-occurring at time on earth, we can and do try to predict what kinds of energies might be at play at any given point in the future.

My old astrology tutor used to liken it to a weather forecast. We can tell you whether it’s likely to be raining in the middle of next week. But whether you choose to hunker down at home, swearing and brooding, or whether you choose to go out and dance in the rain – that is free will. That is up to you.

But what about horoscopes, telling you that next Thursday you will meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger? Of course, it’s not realistic to say that one twelfth of all humanity will experience the same thing on any given day – which is why sun sign horoscopes, as entertaining as they may be, are of extremely limited use. They’re popular, and if well written with proper astrological insight they can sometimes be revealing, but typically only for people whose sun sign is very strong and who were also born in roughly the middle of that sun sign period (because of the way most horoscopes are calculated). Horoscopes are popular, which is why astrologers keep writing them, but no astrologer I know would pretend that they are 100% accurate for everyone, or anything more than a well-meant generalization.

5 – Astrology is Only About Sun Signs – But I Don’t Feel Like a Gemini

No, no, no. Astrology does not classify the whole of humanity into twelve classes which define your whole life. At the time you were born, every planet was somewhere in the sky above you. Depending on the date and time and place of your birth, we create a map of the planetary locations for that time and place. This is your birth chart. Your birth chart has every planet in it, somewhere. And for a proper astrology reading, the birth chart as a whole must be considered, and the nuanced interplay of dozens of different positions, angles and movements must be carefully synthesized and interpreted.

The sun is indeed considered to be a powerful part of a birth chart, but far from the only part. The Ascendant is also important – the sign rising in the east at the moment of your birth. So is the midheaven – the sign directly overhead. So are the positions of the moon and all of the other planets, and in particular the angles they form between one another. In many charts, the sun is in the end not even the most dominant or powerful force in a chart; in many others, its importance is heavily mitigated by other factors.

If you’re ‘a Gemini’, that just means that the sun was in Gemini when you were born. If you don’t think you act or feel or behave like ‘a typical Gemini’, you’re probably right, and there are umpteen potential reasons for that, depending which other factors are stronger in your individual chart.

It’s for this reason, by the way, that all of the ‘Gemini goes well with Virgo but not with Leo’ stuff in relationship guides must be taken with an enormous pinch of salt. Because we are all unique, diverse individuals, each with our own blessings and faults, the truth is that any sun sign may go well with any other sun sign – or not. Human relationships are far too complex to be reduced to sun signs. Relationship astrology – synastry – can do a good job of analyzing a given relationship and finding ways to help it thrive, but that is done via detailed comparison of both individuals’ whole birth charts, and of the astrological factors affecting both of them in that time period.

If you feel that astrology doesn’t resonate with you, then of course that’s fine, nobody compels you to find it interesting or useful. However, I hope to have at least cleared up some of the most common reasons people give for dismissing astrology; it is a far more complex and nuanced art than most of its detractors understand, and it does not actually make most of the claims for which its critics so despise it.

About the author:

Nikki Harper is a spiritualist writer, astrologer, and Wake Up World’s editor.


Dark Energy On the Rise

The universe’s dark energy may be growing stronger with time, study suggests

While we aren’t really sure what dark matter and dark energy are, the final data released from ESA’s Planck mission confirms it apparently does exist. Buzz60

Dark energy, a mysterious invisible force believed to play a role in how the universe expands, may be growing stronger over time, according to a new study.

Dark energy, discovered 20 years ago by scientists measuring the distances to supernovas, or exploding stars, is described as an energy of empty space that never changes over space and time. Researchers believe it represents about 70 percent of the total universe.

The study published this week in the peer-reviewed British journal Nature Astronomyinstead measures the distances to quasars, bright celestial objects located in the center of galaxies.

Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton observatory, researchers found the expansion rate of the universe is different from the model using supernovas.

“We observed quasars back to just a billion years after the Big Bang, and found that the universe’s expansion rate up to the present day was faster than we expected,” Guido Risalti, a study co-author from the department of physics and astronomy at the University of Florence in Italy, said in a statement. “This could mean dark energy is getting stronger as the cosmos grows older.”

Elisabeta Lusso of Durham University in the United Kingdom said because this technique for assessing dark energy is new, researchers took extra steps to make sure it was a reliable way to measure. “We showed that results from our technique match up with those from supernova measurements over the last 9 billion years, giving us confidence that our results are reliable at even earlier times,” she said.

Researchers say they used quasars to measure because they have a much farther reach compared to supernovas.

Adam Riess, a professor of physics and astronomy at Johns Hopkins University, said while the discovery would be “a really big deal” if confirmed, quasars have not proven to be historically reliable.

“People have not really used them as precision measuring tools for the universe because they have a very large dynamic range,” said Riess. “We don’t have a lot of confidence when we see one, we know how luminous it ought to be.”

Robert Kirshner, a Clowes Research Professor of Science, Emeritus at Harvard University, said that while the results of the study could prove true, there is no other evidence to date showing dark energy has changed with time.

“The thing that’s attractive about (their work) is that quasars are brighter, so you can see them farther back,” said Kirshner. “But you do worry the quasars from the early universe are not quite the same as the ones nearby.”


What’s In Your Air?

NASA Satellite Imagery Reveals Shocking Proof Of Climate Engineering

Dane Wigington

In regard to difficult to accept and unpleasant truths, a picture is worth a thousand words. The photo images shown below were captured from NASA satellite sources, they are truly alarming. These images provide shocking and undeniable proof of the ongoing global climate engineering/geoengineering/solar radiation management assault on our planet and its life support systems. Highly toxic heavy metals and chemicals that are systematically sprayed into our atmosphere from jet aircraft as part of the geoengineering / solar radiation management (SRM) programs, are manipulated with extremely powerful radio frequency signals. These signals are transmitted from countless locations around the globe from various types of transmission platforms (ionosphere heater installations like HAARP, SBX radar, NEXRAD, etc.). The impact of the microwave transmissions on cloud formations is profound and highly visible (square cloud formations are created under some scenarios).

In the series of NASA satellite images below, many variances of radio frequency cloud impacts can be observed. The degree to which the ongoing climate engineering/climate/intervention/weather warfare is disrupting Earth’s atmosphere and life support systems is already beyond catastrophic and rapidly escalating all over the globe.

Click to enlarge any of the images below


Off of east coast of Australia


West coast of Africa


California coast


Off of Africa’s west coast


Off of Africa’s west coast


Off of Africa’s west coast


South of Spain in the Alboran Sea


Off of Africa’s west coast


Off of Africa’s west coast


The northwest coast of Australia


Off of Africa’s west coast


Off of Africa’s west coast


Eastern Pacific ocean west of Baja California


The Southern Ocean near Antarctica

Hurricane suppression/manipulation is one aspect/agenda of the climate engineers. 85% of the hurricanes that impact the US originate from Africa. Low pressure systems migrate toward the west, off of Africa’s coast. A great deal of climate engineering/intervention takes place in this region, thus a number of the satellite images shown in this post were captured there. In the attempt to mask the climate intervention activity, the cyclone suppression occurring off the coast of Africa is officially blamed on “dust”. Of course there is no acknowledgement of the ongoing climate engineering atrocities. The quote below is an excerpt from a FOX news article.


Though some may feel that cyclone suppression is beneficial, such interference with Earth’s natural rhythms and systems has a long list of catastrophic downstream effects. Available data indicates that in other scenarios the climate engineers are actually augmenting and steering cyclones to serve their own agenda. “Hurricane Matthew” may be an example of weather warfare on an unimaginable scale. Is hurricane Matthew being heavily manipulated and steered by the climate engineers? The evidence continues to stack up. Below is a satellite photo clearly showing atmospheric “waves” surrounding hurricane Matthew. has labeled these as “gravity waves”, but is that what these visible “waves” actually are? No. The satellite photos already shown in this post inarguably reveal heavy atmospheric manipulation from extremely powerful radio frequency/microwave transmissions and atmospheric aerosols. These transmissions leave a signature pattern on high level cloud formations that are saturated with electrically conductive heavy metal nanoparticles which are dispersed from jet aircraft as part of the ongoing climate engineering insanity.


Does the photo above really show “gravity waves” surrounding hurricane Matthew? Or does it show the signature pattern of extremely powerful radio frequency/microwave transmissions interacting with aircraft dispersed atmospheric aerosols? The latter is the case, both of these elements / factors are a core part of climate and storm manipulation and steering. Photo:

For those that want to examine the most complete climate engineering presentation from Geoengineering Watch, view the video below.

The global power structure long ago made the choice to subject our planet (and the entire web of life that it supports, including the human race) to an unimaginably massive and destructive climate intervention/weather warfare assault. This decision was made without the knowledge or consent of global populations. If we stand by and allow the decimation from the climate engineering insanity to continue, very soon Earth’s life support systems will be beyond any recovery. This is not speculation, but a mathematical certainty. Help us with the most critical battle to expose and halt the climate intervention/weather warfare assault, all of us are needed in this fight. Sharing credible data from a credible source is key, make your voice heard.

May be freely reprinted, so long as the text is unaltered, all hyperlinks are left intact, and credit for the article is prominently given to and the article’s author with a hyperlink back to the original story.


As If Things Weren’t’ Bad Enough

The meteor shower that brought Tunguska is due in June

That disastrous rock may now looks to have been a Beta Taurid passenge

  • Analysis of the Tunguska tree-fall patters suggests a familiar source for the asteroid that caused it
  • Its timing also fits perfectly with a late June annual meteor shower
  • Nonetheless, it’s more interesting than dangerous. Put down that helmet.

It’s just after seven in the morning on June 30, 1908 as a man sits on the front porch of a trading post in Vanavara, Siberia. That is, until a sudden blast of heat at 7:17 hurls him from his seat. It comes from a huge asteroid exploding about 28,000 feet above the Podkamennaya Tunguska River 40 miles away.

Suddenly in the north sky… the sky was split in two, and high above the forest the whole northern part of the sky appeared covered with fire… At that moment there was a bang in the sky and a mighty crash… The crash was followed by a noise like stones falling from the sky, or of guns firing. The earth trembled.

Such asteroids are not that rare — scientists estimate they happen about every 300 years. There was one over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk in 2013, and though smaller at 11,000 tons than the Tunguska rock, it nonetheless injured 1,200 people and caused damage to buildings up to 58 miles away.

It seems like we now know how the Tunguska asteroid got here. Physicist Mark Bosloughof Los Alamos National Laboratory recently presented, at the American Geophysical Union fall meeting, a new analysis of the tree-fall pattern in the Tunguska area. It suggests that the rock may have arrived during the annual Beta Taurid meteor shower. The next one’s in June 2019. (There’s another Taurid shower each October.) A quote from the presentation: “If the Tunguska object was a member of a Beta Taurid stream … then the last week of June 2019 will be the next occasion with a high probability for Tunguska-like collisions or near misses.”

The Tunguska event


The Tugnuska asteroid , a 220-million-pound space rock, is believed to have been traveling at about 33,500 miles per hour, heating the air around it to 44,500° Fahrenheit before it exploded, flattening trees for about 800 square miles. As NASA puts it: “Eighty million trees were on their sides, lying in a radial pattern.” The timing for being a Beat Taurid is about right, too, since it arrived in their typical late-June window.

The first scientific investigation occurred 19 years after the event, led by Leonid Kulik of the St. Petersburg Museum. Don Yeomans, of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Office describes what Kulik found when he arrived in the area: “At first, the locals were reluctant to tell Kulik about the event. They believed the blast was a visitation by the god Ogdy, who had cursed the area by smashing trees and killing animals.” Kulik was able to follow the flattened trees to identify “ground zero. “Those trees,” according to Yeomans, “acted as markers, pointing directly away from the blast’s epicenter.” And eventually, “when the team arrived at ground zero, they found the trees there standing upright — but their limbs and bark had been stripped away. They looked like a forest of telephone poles.”

The Taurus

(Big Think/NASA)

The Taurus’ elliptical orbit

The Earth encounters the Taurids twice a year due to the belt’s odd orbit, which is roughly on the same plane as ours. We pass through it twice a year, as the belt carries Taurid materials toward the sun in October, and away from the sun in June. It’s also a very elliptical orbit that gets as close to the sun as Mercury, but also stretches far beyond Earth’s orbit.

The October encounter is visible in our autumn night skies, but the June visit occurs during daylight so it’s not as visible. Its passengers are primarily spotted via radar.

Some years we encounter denser regions of the Taurid stream than others, and 2019 is one of those years, with scientists saying we’ll be seeing more incoming material than any year since 1976. That year, Apollo-mission seismometers installed on the moon’s surface recorded an unusually high number of Taurid impacts.

The odds of another Tunguska blast early this summer


Neither Bosloughof of anyone else predicts a Tunguska-style event in June, but if the new calculations are correct, it’s just the meteor shower in which it probably arrived back in 1908. According to physicist Peter Brown, who presented the new analysis with Bosloughof, “This is not something that should be keeping you up at night.” Paul Chodas, of the Center for Near Earth Object Studies, says, “There are no objects in our catalogue that have any significant impact probability in the next 100 years.”

In fact, if there are any near misses this summer, as Bosloughof says, our best odds of finding out if the Beta Tarids did, in fact, carry any Tunguska-sized asteroids would be to spot them in telescopes them as they streak away through space from a much-relieved Earth.


Looking for a Job?

Want to save the Earth? NASA posts job ad for ‘planetary protection officer’ (and it comes with a $187,000 salary)

  • NASA job opening is offering $124,406 to $187,000 yearly salary for 3-5 yr job
  • The space agency will be accepting applications for the position until Aug 14
  • This officer works to ensure no contaminants are brought to space, or back

As the limits of human and robotic space exploration stretch further than ever before, a small group of officials tasked with ‘planetary protection’ are hard at work ensuring contaminants from Earth don’t hitch a ride to other planets, or vice versa.

Between NASA and ESA, there are just two full-time Planetary Protection Officers in the world – and now, NASA is hiring for the position.

The space agency is offering up to $187,000 salary for whoever is selected to fill the sole vacancy, and will be accepting applications until August 14.

As the limits of human and robotic space exploration stretch further than ever before, a small group of officials tasked with ‘planetary protection’ are hard at work ensuring contaminants from Earth don’t hitch a ride to other planets, or vice versa

As the limits of human and robotic space exploration stretch further than ever before, a small group of officials tasked with ‘planetary protection’ are hard at work ensuring contaminants from Earth don’t hitch a ride to other planets, or vice versa


To be eligible for the position of Planetary Protection Officer, candidates must:

  • Have at least 1 year of ‘broad engineering expertise’ in a top level civilian government position
  • Be a ‘recognized subject matter expert,’ with advanced knowledge of planetary protection, and demonstrate experience ‘planning, executing, or overseeing elements of space programs of national significance’
  • Possess ‘demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions’
  • Have a degree in physical science, engineering, or mathematics, or a combination of education and experience equivalent to such a degree

Currently, the title belongs to Catharine Conley, who has been NASA’s Planetary Protection Officer since 2014, Business Insider reports.

According to the job opening, which is offering $124,406 to $187,000 salary, the position is initially appointed for 3 years and has potential to extend another 2.

Whoever is chosen will be tasked with overseeing planetary protection and maintain the policies as they apply to NASA missions.

These efforts aim to ensure the prevention of any unintentional contamination.

‘Planetary protection is concerned with the avoidance of organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic space exploration,’ the inquiry explains.

‘NASA maintains policies for planetary protection applicable to all space flight missions that may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft, which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration.’

According to Business Insider, the PPO stems from the US ratification of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

This states that space missions must have less than 1-in-10,000 chance of contaminating the planetary bodies being explored.

The job requires frequent travel, as the PPO may have to examine instruments and gear ahead of launches.

Whoever is chosen as Planetary Protection Officer will be tasked with overseeing planetary protection and maintain the policies as they apply to NASA missions. These efforts aim to ensure the prevention of any unintentional contamination

Whoever is chosen as Planetary Protection Officer will be tasked with overseeing planetary protection and maintain the policies as they apply to NASA missions. These efforts aim to ensure the prevention of any unintentional contamination

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What’s Going on on Europa?

Nasa to reveal ‘surprising activity’ on Jupiter’s moon Europa (but it says it is NOT aliens)

  • The press briefing will be held at 14:00 ET (19:00 GMT) on Monday
  • Nasa researchers will present images taken by the Hubble telescope
  • Experts think it could be related to plumes of water vapour seen in 2012
  • Many had speculated that the announcement would reveal the first signs of extraterrestrial life beyond Earth, but Nasa dismissed this on Twitter

Nasa is expected to make an announcement about ‘surprising activity’ on Jupiter’s moon, Europa, on Monday.

Many speculated that Nasa could finally be announcing evidence of life beyond Earth.

The space agency, however, has poured cold water over these claims, tweeting that the much anticipated announcement will not be related to aliens.

Jupiter's sixth-closest moon Europa is one of the most interesting bodies in our solar system when it comes to the hunt for extra terrestrial life. Now Nasa has released a cryptic message saying 'surprising' evidence about the moon will be announced on Monday

Jupiter’s sixth-closest moon Europa is one of the most interesting bodies in our solar system when it comes to the hunt for extra terrestrial life. Now Nasa has released a cryptic message saying ‘surprising’ evidence about the moon will be announced on Monday

Jupiter’s sixth-closest moon Europa lies 500 million miles from the sun and has an ocean lying beneath its surface which makes it one of the most likely places in the solar system for life to thrive.

The press briefing will be held at 14:00 ET (19:00 GMT) on Monday, and broadcast in a live video stream.

‘Astronomers will present results from a unique Europa observing campaign that resulted in surprising evidence of activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean on Europa,’ Nasa officials wrote.

Nasa categorically stated in a later tweet that the discovery, which is due to be revealed on Monday is 'NOT aliens'

Nasa categorically stated in a later tweet that the discovery, which is due to be revealed on Monday is ‘NOT aliens’


Nasa researchers will present results from a Europa observing campaign.

The campaign found ‘surprising evidence of activity that may be related to the presence of a subsurface ocean’.

The images to be presented were taken by the Hubble space telescope.

The press briefing will be held at 14:00 ET (19:00 GMT) on Monday, and broadcast in a live video stream.

The images presented will have been taken by the Hubble space telescope.

Because Europa has the potential to have more liquid water than we have on Earth, some had speculated that the surprise reveal could be evidence for life.

The 1,900-mile-wide (3,100 km) moon harbors a huge ocean of liquid water beneath its icy shell.

Astronomers think this ocean is in contact with Europa’s rocky mantle, making all sorts of interesting chemical reactions a possibility.

Instead of direct evidence of life, however, experts have said it is more likely to be a step towards finding it.

The announcement could be related to faint plumes of water spotted on the moon back in 2012.  This graphic shows the location of water vapor detected over Europa's south pole in December 2012

The announcement could be related to faint plumes of water spotted on the moon back in 2012.  This graphic shows the location of water vapor detected over Europa’s south pole in December 2012


Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is slightly smaller than Earth’s moon.

Europa orbits Jupiter every 3.5 days and is tidally locked – just like Earth’s Moon – so that the same side of Europa faces Jupiter at all times.

It is thought to have an iron core, a rocky mantle and a surface ocean of salty water, like Earth.

Unlike on Earth, however, this ocean is deep enough to cover the whole surface of Europa, and being far from the sun, the ocean surface is globally frozen over.

Many experts believe the hidden ocean surrounding Europa, warmed by powerful tidal forces caused by Jupiter’s gravity, may have conditions favourable for life.

This is an artist's concept of a plume of water vapour thought to be ejected off the frigid, icy surface of the Jovian moon Europa, about 500 million miles (800 million km) from the sun

This is an artist’s concept of a plume of water vapour thought to be ejected off the frigid, icy surface of the Jovian moon Europa, about 500 million miles (800 million km) from the sun


Paul Hertz, director of the Astrophysics Division at Nasa Headquarters in Washington.

William Sparks, astronomer with the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore.

Britney Schmidt, assistant professor at the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.

Jennifer Wiseman, senior Hubble project scientist at Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The announcement could be related to faint plumes of water spotted on the moon back in 2012.

Hubble used a spectrograph to see normally invisible plumes of water vapour, shown in pictures as blue pixels above the moon.

‘By far the simplest explanation for this water vapour is that it erupted from plumes on the surface of Europa,’ lead author Lorenz Roth of Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio said at the time.

‘If those plumes are connected with the subsurface water ocean we are confident exists under Europa’s crust, then this means that future investigations can directly investigate the chemical makeup of Europa’s potentially habitable environment without drilling through layers of ice.

‘And that is tremendously exciting.’

Bill McKinnon, a planetary scientist at Washington University in St. Louis, told Business Insider the announcement is likely to be connected to these plumes.

‘A plume confirmation would be a great thing,’ McKinnon added, but ‘I have no insider knowledge.’

Hubble’s instruments were not designed to see any of Europa’s geology or study what elements are present in the plumes, so an announcement of this kind is unlikely.

Baby Planets & Earth’s Formation

‘Infant’ Alien Planet Discovery Shakes Up Ideas About How Worlds Form

Astronomers say ‘K2-33b’ is just 5 million to 10 million years old.

  • David Freeman Managing Editor of Impact & Innovation, The Huffington Post
  • Astronomers have found what they say is the youngest fully formed exoplanet ever seen, and it’s shaking up ideas about how planets form.

    “This discovery is a remarkable milestone in exoplanet science,” Erik Petigura, a postdoctoral scholar at Caltech in Pasadena, California, and coauthor of a paper about the finding, said in a written statement. The discovery, he said, could help explain the origins of Earth “and eventually the origin of life.”

    More than 3,000 exoplanets (planets outside our solar system) have been found to date, and just about all are believed to be at least a billion years old. But the newly identified exoplanet, a body roughly six times the size of Earth that’s located about 470 light-years from Earth in the constellation Scorpio, is just 5 million to 10 million years old.

    “You might think of it as an infant,” Trevor David, an astronomer at Caltech and the paper’s lead author, said of the exoplanet in a written statement.

    And age isn’t the only thing unusual about K2-33b, as the exoplanet has been dubbed. It’s locked in an extremely tight orbit around its host star. How tight? K2-33b is roughly 10 times closer to its star than Mercury, the innermost planet of our solar system, is to the sun.

    This diagram shows the K2-33 system and its planet K2-33b as compared to our own solar system. The planet is nearly 10 times closer to its star than Mercury is to the sun.

    The fact that such a young exoplanet is so close to its star is surprising, because astronomers had theorized that it takes much longer than 5 million to 10 million years for a star’s gravitational forces to pull a planet into such a tight orbit. Or as Petigura told The Huffington Post in an email, K2-33b “is inconsistent with a whole class of theories that predict planets migrate on timescales of hundreds of millions or billions of years.”

    So what does explain the infant exoplanet? There are a couple of possibilities, according to David: K2-33b could have been tugged inward rapidly by the very disk of gas and dust from which it formed (a process known as disk migration), or it could have formed in its current location (a process called “in situ” planet formation).

    “The implication is that now both disk migration and in situ formation have more evidence for support,” David said via email. “The slower migration scenario that we ruled out might still be relevant in some cases, but we can at least say that it is not the only way to produce a close-in planet.”

    Petigura added: “No single discovery is going to answer all our questions about how the earth formed, but as we find more young planets we’ll get a clearer picture of how planet formation proceeds in general, which is important for understanding the formation of the earth and the origin of life.”

    K2-33b was discovered with the help of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and Hawaii’s W.M. Keck Observatory.

    The paper was published online June 20, 2016, in the journal Nature.