Tag: Puerto Rico

Surface of Venus revealed by new radio telescope data


Excerpt from smnweekly.com
By David M. DeMar

New radio telescope data from the National Radio Astronomy Observatory has revealed for the first time ever just what Venus has under its thick veil of clouds that otherwise occlude its surface from view.
25 million miles distant from us, Venus looks to the naked eye – or through a light telescope – much like a cloudy marble, thanks to the thick cloudbanks of carbon dioxide ringing the planet. However, the surface underneath, long a mystery to planetary scientists, has been laid bare thanks to the work of Puerto Rico’s Arecibo Observatory radio transmitter and the Green Bank Telescope, a radio telescope located in West Virginia and operated by the National Science Foundation.
The two facilities worked together with the NRAO in order to uncover the hidden surface of Mars. Arecibo sent radar signals to Venus, where they penetrated the thick atmosphere and bounced off the ground. The returning radio signals were picked up by the GBT in West Virginia in a process known as bistatic radar; the result is a radar image that shows craters and mountains strewn across the surface of Venus at a surprisingly high resolution.
The image is bisected by a dark line, representing areas where it’s particularly difficult to receive useful image data through the use of bistatic radar. However, scientists are intending to compare multiple images as time goes by in order to identify any active geologic processes on the surface of Venus such as volcanic activity.
It’s no particularly easy task to compare radar images in search of evidence of any change in this manner says Smithsonian senior scientist Bruce Campbell, but the work will continue. Campbell, who works at the National Air and Space Museum in the nation’s capital and is associated with the center for Earth and Planetary Studies, added that combining images from the latest NRAO endeavor and others will yield large amounts of data on how the surface of Venus might be altered by other processes.
The radar data, and a scientific paper based on it, will be published in April in Icarus, the scientific journal dedicated to studies of the solar system.

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Should Humanity Try to Contact Alien Civilizations?

Some researchers want to use big radio dishes like the 305-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to announce our presence to intelligent aliens.

Excerpt from space.com
by Mike Wall

Is it time to take the search for intelligent aliens to the next level?
For more than half a century, scientists have been scanning the heavens for signals generated by intelligent alien life. They haven't found anything conclusive yet, so some researchers are advocating adding an element called "active SETI" (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) — not just listening, but also beaming out transmissions of our own designed to catch aliens' eyes.

Active SETI "may just be the approach that lets us make contact with life beyond Earth," Douglas Vakoch, director of interstellar message composition at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, said earlier this month during a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Jose.

Seeking contact

Vakoch envisions using big radio dishes such as the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to blast powerful, information-laden transmissions at nearby stars, in a series of relatively cheap, small-scale projects.

"Whenever any of the planetary radar folks are doing their asteroid studies, and they have an extra half an hour before or after, there's always a target star readily available that they can shift to without a lot of extra slough time," he said.

The content of any potential active SETI message is a subject of considerable debate. If it were up to astronomer Seth Shostak, Vakoch's SETI Institute colleague, we'd beam the entire Internet out into space.

"It's like sending a lot of hieroglyphics to the 19th century — they [aliens] can figure it out based on the redundancy," Shostak said during the AAAS discussion. "So, I think in terms of messages, we should send everything."

While active SETI could help make humanity's presence known to extrasolar civilizations, the strategy could also aid the more traditional "passive" search for alien intelligence, Shostak added.
"If you're going to run SETI experiments, where you're trying to listen for a putative alien broadcast, it may be very instructive to have to construct a transmitting project," he said. "Because now, you walk a mile in the Klingons' shoes, assuming they have them."

Cause for concern?

But active SETI is a controversial topic. Humanity has been a truly technological civilization for only a few generations; we're less than 60 years removed from launching our first satellite to Earth orbit, for example. So the chances are that any extraterrestrials who pick up our signals would be far more advanced than we are. 

This likelihood makes some researchers nervous, including famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

"Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach," Hawking said in 2010 on an episode of "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking," a TV show that aired on the Discovery Channel. "If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?"

Astrophysicist and science fiction author David Brin voiced similar concerns during the AAAS event, saying there's no reason to assume that intelligent aliens would be altruistic.

"This is an area in which discussion is called for," Brin said. "What are the motivations of species that they might carry with them into their advanced forms, that might color their cultures?"

Brin stressed that active SETI shouldn't be done in a piecemeal, ad hoc fashion by small groups of astronomers.

"This is something that should be discussed worldwide, and it should involve our peers in many other specialties, such as history," he said. "The historians would tell us, 'Well, gee, we have some examples of first-contact scenarios between advanced technological civilizations and not-so-advanced technological civilizations.' Gee, how did all of those turn out? Even when they were handled with goodwill, there was still pain."

Out there already

Vakoch and Shostak agreed that international discussion and cooperation are desirable. But Shostak said that achieving any kind of consensus on the topic of active SETI may be difficult. For example, what if polling reveals that 60 percent of people on Earth are in favor of the strategy, while 40 percent are opposed?

"Do we then have license to go ahead and transmit?" Shostak said. "That's the problem, I think, with this whole 'let's have some international discussion' [idea], because I don't know what the decision metric is."

Vakoch and Shostak also said that active SETI isn't as big a leap as it may seem at first glance: Our civilization has been beaming signals out into the universe unintentionally for a century, since the radio was invented.

"The reality is that any civilization that has the ability to travel between the stars can already pick up our accidental radio and TV leakage," Vakoch said. "A civilization just 200 to 300 years more advanced than we are could pick up our leakage radiation at a distance of several hundred light-years. So there are no increased dangers of an alien invasion through active SETI."

But Brin disputed this assertion, saying the so-called "barn door excuse" is a myth.

"It is very difficult for advanced civilizations to have picked us up at our noisiest in the 1980s, when we had all these military radars and these big television antennas," he said.

Shostak countered that a fear of alien invasion, if taken too far, could hamper humanity's expansion throughout the solar system, an effort that will probably require the use of high-powered transmissions between farflung outposts.

"Do you want to hamstring all that activity — not for the weekend, not just shut down the radars next week, or active SETI this year, but shut down humanity forever?" Shostak said. "That's a price I'm not willing to pay."

So the discussion and debate continues — and may continue for quite some time.

"This is the only really important scientific field without any subject matter," Brin said. "It's an area in which opinion rules, and everybody has a very fierce opinion."

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Recent Disappearances & Strangeness in the Bermuda Triangle

Excerpt from paranormal.lovetoknow.com By Michelle Radcliff The Bermuda Triangle is an area of mostly open ocean located between Bermuda, Miami, Florida and San Juan, Puerto Rico. The unexplained disappearances of hundreds of ships and air...

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Extraterrestrial Neighbors? Study Says Blast Of Unknown Radio Waves Came From Outside Our Galaxy

Excerpt from  npr.org On a graph, they look like detonations. Scientists call them "fast radio bursts," or FRBs, mysterious and strong pulses of radio waves that seemingly emanate far from the Milky Way. The bursts are rare; they normall...

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Richard Branson shelves submarine plan to take tourists to bottom of oceans


Excerpt from

It is one of the world’s last frontiers and has seen fewer human visitors than the moon. And that – for the time being at least – is how it shall stay.

Sir Richard Branson has shelved plans for a submarine to take tourists to the bottom of Pacific’s Mariana Trench, after technical problems hobbled the grand ambitions of his much-trumpeted Virgin Oceanic project.

The news is a second blow to Branson’s adventurer dreams in a matter of months, after a Virgin Galactic space rocket crashed on a test flight in California’s Mojave Desert, killing a pilot.
Virgin Oceanic’s DeepFlight Challenger was launched in 2011 with the entrepreneur’s familiar fanfare. Under the plans, wealthy passengers or “aquanauts” up would pay up to $500,000 (£318,126) for a five-dive package labelled as “the last great challenge for humans”.  

As well as exploring the Mariana Trench – a  36,000ft-deep abyss is deeper than Mount Everest is tall, with access so risky and complicated that it has had just three human visitors since its formation nine million years ago – the submarine was due to dive the Puerto Rico trench 28,000ft below the surface of  the Atlantic, the Molloy Deep in the Arctic, South Sandwich Trench in the Southern Ocean and Diamantina trench in the Indian Ocean.
But yesterday the Sunday Telegraph reported that Deepflight, the company contracted to build the submarine, could not support the project because their vehicle could only be safely used for one dive.
The underwater mission appears to have stalled indefinitely. The Virgin Oceanic website – which had promised “five dives, five oceans, two years, one epic adventure” – no longer exists, reportedly taken down earlier this year.

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Are we sending aliens the right messages?



Artist Carrie Paterson has long dreamed of beaming messages far out to the emptiness of space. Except her messages would have an extra dimension – smell.

By broadcasting formulae of aromatic chemicals, she says, aliens could reconstruct all sorts of whiffs that help to define life on Earth: animal blood and faeces, sweet floral and citrus scents or benzene to show our global dependence on the car. This way intelligent life forms on distant planets who may not see or hear as we do, says Paterson, could explore us through smell, one of the most primitive and ubiquitous senses of all.
It is nearly 40 years since the Arecibo facility sent messages out into space (Wikipedia)

Her idea is only the latest in a list of attempts to hail intelligent life outside of the Solar System. Forty years ago this month, the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico sent an iconic picture message into space – and we’ve arguably been broadcasting to aliens ever since we invented TV and radio.

However in recent years, astronomers, artists, linguists and anthropologists have been converging on the idea that creating comprehensible messages for aliens is much harder than it seems. This week, Paterson and others discussed the difficulties of talking to our cosmic neighbours at a conference called Communicating Across the Cosmos, held by Seti (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). It seems our traditional ways of communicating through pictures and language may well be unintelligible – or worse, be catastrophically misconstrued. So how should we be talking to ET?

Lost in translation?

We have always wanted to send messages about humanity beyond the planet. According to Albert Harrison, a space psychologist and author of Starstruck: Cosmic Visions in Science, Religion and Folklore, the first serious designs for contacting alien life appeared two centuries ago, though they never got off the ground.

In the 1800s, mathematician Carl Gauss proposed cutting down lines of trees in a densely forested area and replanting the strips with wheat or rye, Harrison wrote in his book. “The contrasting colours would form a giant triangle and three squares known as a Pythagoras figure which could be seen from the Moon or even Mars.” Not long after, the astronomer Joseph von Littrow proposed creating huge water-filled channels topped with kerosene. “Igniting them at night showed geometric patterns such as triangles that Martians would interpret as a sign of intelligence, not nature.”

But in the 20th Century, we began to broadcast in earnest. The message sent by Arecibo hoped to make first contact on its 21,000 year journey to the edge of the Milky Way. The sketches it contained, made from just 1,679 digital bits, look cute to us today, very much of the ‘Pong’ video game generation.  Just before then, Nasa’s Pioneer 10 and 11 space probes each carried a metal calling card bolted onto their frame with symbols and drawings on the plaque, showing a naked man and woman.

Yet it’s possible that these kinds of message may turn out to be incomprehensible to aliens; they might find it as cryptic as we find Stone Age etchings.

Antique tech

“Linear drawings of a male and a female homo sapiens are legible to contemporary humans,” says Marek Kultys, a London-based science communications designer. ”But the interceptors of Pioneer 10 could well assume we are made of several separate body parts (i.e. faces, hair and the man’s chest drawn as a separate closed shapes) and our body surface is home for long worm-like beings (the single lines defining knees, abdomens or collarbones.).”

Man-made tech may also be an issue. The most basic requirement for understanding Voyager’s Golden Record, launched 35 years ago and now way out beyond Pluto, is a record player. Aliens able to play it at 16 and 2/3 revolutions a minute will hear audio greetings in 55 world languages, including a message of ‘Peace and Friendship’ from former United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim. But how many Earthlings today have record players, let alone extraterrestrials?
Our sights and sounds of Earth might be unintelligible to an alien audience (Nasa)

Time capsule

Inevitably such messages become outdated too, like time capsules. Consider the case of the Oglethorpe Atlanta Crypt of Civilization – a time capsule sealed on Earth in 1940, complete with a dry martini and a poster of Gone With the Wind. It was intended as a snapshot of 20th Century life for future humans, not aliens, but like an intergalactic message, may only give a limited picture to future generations. When, in 61,000 years, the Oglethorpe time capsule is opened, would Gone With The Wind have stood the test of time?

This message was taken into the stars by Pioneer - but we have no idea if aliens would be able to understand it (Nasa)

Kultys argues that all these factors should be taken into account when we calculate the likelihood of communicating with intelligent life. The astronomer Frank Drake’s famous equation allows anyone to calculate how many alien species are, based on likely values of seven different factors. At a UK Royal Society meeting in 2010 Drake estimated there are roughly 10,000 detectable civilisations in the galaxy. Yet Kultys points out that we should also factor in how many aliens are using the same channel of communications as us, are as willing to contact us as we are them, whose language we hope to learn, and who are physically similar to us.

Another barrier we might consider is the long distance nature of trans-cosmos communication. It means that many years ‒ even a thousand ‒ could pass between sending a message and receiving a reply. Paterson sees romance in that. “Our hope for communication with another intelligent civilisation has a melancholic aspect to it. 
We are on an island in a vast, dark space. Imagine if communication… became like an exchange of perfumed love letters with the quiet agony of expectation... Will we meet? Will we be as the other imagined? Will the other be able to understand us?”

Ready for an answer?

Anthropologist John Traphagan of the University of Texas in Austin has been asking the same question, though his view is more cautious. "When it comes to ET, you'll get a signal of some kind; not much information and very long periods between ‘Hi, how are you?’ and whatever comes back. We may just shrug our shoulders and say 'This is boring’, and soon forget about it or, if the time lag wasn't too long, we might use the minimal information we get from our slow-speed conversation to invent what we think they're like and invent a kind concept of what they're after.”

(20th Century Fox)
The aliens in Independence Day (1996) did not come in peace (20th Century Fox)
While we have been sending out messages, we have not been preparing the planet for what happens when we get an interstellar return call. First contact could cause global panic. We might assume those answering are bent on galactic domination or, perhaps less likely, that they are peaceful when in fact they’re nasty.

Consider how easy it is to mess up human-to-human communications; I got Traphagan’s first name wrong when I e-mailed him for this article. An apology within minutes cleared up the confusion, yet if he had been an alien anthropologist on some distant planet it would have taken much longer to fix. He later confessed: "I could have thought this is a snooty English journalist and our conversation might never have happened."

Even if Earth’s interstellar messaging committees weeded out the typos, cultural gaffes are always a possibility. These can only be avoided by understanding the alien’s culture – something that’s not easy to do, especially when you’ve never met those you’re communicating with.

Rosy picture

So, what is the best way to communicate? This is still up for grabs – perhaps it’s via smell, or some other technique we haven’t discovered yet. Clearly, creating a message that is timeless, free of cultural bias and universally comprehensible would be no mean feat.

But for starters, being honest about who we are is important if we want to have an extra-terrestrial dialogue lasting centuries, says Douglas Vakoch, director of interstellar message composition at Seti. (Otherwise, intelligent civilisations who’ve decoded our radio and TV signals might smell a rat.)

The golden discs aboard the Voyager spacecraft require aliens to understand how to play a record (Nasa)

“Let's not try to hide our shortcomings,” says Vakoch. “The message we should send to another world is straightforward: We are a young civilisation, in the throes of our technological adolescence. We're facing a lot of problems here on Earth, and we're not even sure that we'll be around as a species when their reply comes in. But in spite of all of these challenges, we humans also have hope – especially hope in ourselves."

Yet ultimately what matters, says Paterson, is that they stop and consider the beings who sent them a message; the people who wanted to say: “Here are some important things. Here’s our DNA, here is some maths and universal physics. And here is our longing and desire to say “I’m like you, but I’m different.”

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How can there be ice on Scorching Mercury? NASA Report

NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washingtonnasa.govMESSENGER Finds New Evidence for Water Ice at Mercury's Poles Mercury's North Polar Region Acquired By The Arecibo Observatory A Mosaic of MESSEN...

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So is Pluto a Planet Again or Not?

Illustrated image of Pluto

ByScott Sutherland Meteorologist, theweathernetwork.com

Friday, July 18, 2014, 12:24 PM - For over 75 years, tiny Pluto enjoyed its status as the most distant planet in our solar system, but in 2006, it was demoted down to a 'dwarf planet' and its title was passed on to Neptune. Now, though, the editor of Astronomy magazine is sounding the rallying cry to re-open the debate about Pluto's nature, which could potentially redefine what it means to be a planet.

In 2006, when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) set down an official definition for what a 'planet' is, they came up with three rules:
1) The object must be in orbit around the Sun,
2) The object must be massive enough to be a sphere by its own gravitational force. More specifically, its own gravity should pull it into a shape of hydrostatic equilibrium, and
3) It must have cleared the neighborhood around its orbit.

Everything in the solar system technically orbits around the Sun, of course. Something like the Moon doesn't qualify, though, even though it's massive enough to be roughly spherical and its 'neighborhood' is as clear as Earth's is, because it only goes around the Sun as a consequence of being in orbit around Earth. Same goes for the moons of the other planets. Asteroids and comets don't qualify because they're not big enough to become spherical by their own gravity. Even Ceres (which is roughly spherical) doesn't make the cut, because it's in the asteroid belt, thus its 'neighborhood' isn't clear.
Pluto suffers the same problem as Ceres. It's definitely in orbit around the Sun (or at least the common gravitational focus it shares with Charon is in orbit around the Sun). It is massive enough to be a sphere. It just isn't considered to have cleared its neighborhood. So, not a planet, at least by the IAU rules.

However, while the first two rules are pretty clear and easy to determine, third isn't. According to Prof. Abel Méndez, of the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo, "there is no standard 'cleared' metric." It seems that due to the very existence of the Kuiper Belt, Pluto loses its status. However, exactly how cleared does the neighborhood have to be? There are millions of near-Earth asteroids flying around us, and there are even some asteroids that are locked into the same orbit as Earth ('Earth trojans'). There are even more asteroids near Mars' orbit, due to its proximity to the asteroid belt. Jupiter has an extremely large collection of asteroids in its orbit, both preceding it (the Greeks) and following behind (the Trojans).
Even discounting these cases, as it is, when you go further out into the solar system, it gets harder and harder for an object to clear its neighborhood. This is simply because it makes fewer orbits around the Sun compared to objects closer to the Sun, and thus it encounters the other objects in its orbit far less often. Consider Earth, going around the Sun once every year, with Pluto orbiting every 247 years. So, whereas Earth has made roughly 4.5 billion trips around the Sun since it formed, Pluto has only made 18 million similar trips (if it formed at roughly the same time).
As Astronomy magazine editor David Eicher said: "At the Pluto-like distance of 40 astronomical units — 40 times farther away from the Sun then we are now — Earth would not clear its orbit of asteroids, and so would Earth then not be classified as a planet?"
Also, since recent evidence has pointed to the fact that there may be two super-Earth-sized objects out beyond Pluto, both of them would be considered 'dwarf planets' as well, despite one potentially being 10 times the mass of Earth and the other being up to 100 times the mass of Earth.
So, when it comes to Pluto, what's the case for making it a planet again? Based on the facts above and Eicher's own thoughts:
1) the definition of what 'cleared the neighborhood around its orbit' is, itself, unclear
2) it seems unjustifiable that an object even larger than the Earth would not be considered a planet, simply because it orbits far out in our solar system
3) an object's intrinsic characteristics should dictate what kind of object it is, not its location.

Indeed, if you take the IAU's definition and attempt to apply it to all objects we know about, the multitude of worlds that we've discovered outside our solar system aren't technically planets, despite being large enough and even if they've cleared their orbit, because they don't orbit around the Sun.
So, perhaps it's time to revise the IAU's definition, not only to reconsider Pluto for planetary status, but also to make the definition applicable to a wider range of objects. Even if they changed the first rule to have 'a star' instead of 'the Sun' and changed the emphasis of the third rule to be that the object is large enough compared to the rest of the objects in its orbit to be capable of clearing its neighborhood (given enough time), it might be a much better set of conditions to measure everything against.
As Astronomy's editors offer up their time and efforts to host a renewed debate about Pluto, what do you think about its status? Should it be a planet again, remain as a dwarf planet, or perhaps something else? Leave your ideas in the comments below.


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Joint Psychic Exercise

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Have the Weather Rangers been keeping hurricanes away?


David Wells' weather modification researchers apparently have been quietly using their inexpensive, homemade devices to steer and diminish hurricanes. Alberto Feliciano in Puerto Rico appears to have the best position for facilita...

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Russian Navy UFO records say aliens love oceans


EDITOR’S NOTE: We found this story on the “Russia Today” news network and decided to post it. Reading UFO news from a country not closely aligned with the United States is always interesting. The original article was...

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SETI@home needs your help!

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