Monthly Archives: January 2008

Consumerism – Collision Course

Our consumerism is not on a future collision course with the biosphere, it collided the day consumerism was defined and implemented as the economic standard and unit of measure for success. The theory and practice itself is based off a system that is so obviously unsustainable that a grade school student has enough knowledge to label it foolish and ignorant.

We have collided as a species with our only home and are in the process of following through. Sustainability will become our new measuring tool but only in the sense that it dances in relation to consumption. We need to look at our planet and life a different way. Everything we need to survive and flourish is abundantly available to us as long as we work within the confines of common sense.

Life, by definition, struggles to fill every void of our natural world, there is enough to go around. Irrational consumption, waste, and complete lack of respect for life, or respect of life with conditions, are the demons that form the foundation of our troubled world. We must let go of the assumption that Wal-Mart and Visa are providing us a true glimpse of things to come. They are not.

This unstoppable machine we call “the American way” will not abruptly stop and change course, it will break apart and fail.

We need to redefine our values and our role in the universe.

via One Planet, One Life & The Sixth Mass Extinction.


Dead Airman’s Death Bed Affidavit on Roswell Crash

Dead Airman’s Affidavit: Roswell Aliens Were Real

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Sixty years ago, a light aircraft was flying over the Cascade Mountains in Washington state, at a height of around 10,000 feet.

Suddenly, a brilliant flash of light illuminated the aircraft.

Visibility was good, and as pilot Kenneth Arnold scanned the sky to find the source of the light, he saw a group of nine shiny metallic objects flying information.

• Click here to visit’s Space Center.

He estimated their speed as being around 1,600 mph — nearly three times faster than the top speed of any jet aircraft at the time.

Soon, similar reports began to come in from all over America.

This wasn’t just the world’s first UFO sighting — this was the birth of a phenomenon, one that still exercises an extraordinary fascination.

Military authorities issued a press release, which began: “The many rumors regarding the flying disc became a reality yesterday when the intelligence officer of the 509th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force, Roswell Army Air Field, was fortunate enough to gain possession of a disc.”

/**/ The headlines screamed: “Flying Disc captured by Air Force”.

Yet, just 24 hours later, the military changed its story and claimed the object it had first thought was a “flying disc” was a weather balloon that had crashed on a nearby ranch.

The key witness was U.S. Army Maj. Jesse Marcel, the intelligence officer who had gone to the ranch to recover the wreckage.

He described the metal as being wafer-thin but incredibly tough.

It was as light as balsa wood, but couldn’t be cut or burned.

These and similar accounts of the incident have largely been dismissed by all except the most dedicated believers.

Astonishing new twist

But last week came an astonishing new twist to the Roswell mystery.

Lt. Walter Haut was the public-relations officer at the base in 1947 and was the man who issued the original and subsequent press releases after the crash on the orders of the base commander, Col. William Blanchard.

Haut died in December 2005, but left a sworn affidavit to be opened only after his death.

Last week, the text was released. It asserts that the weather-balloon claim was a cover story and that the real object had been recovered by the military and stored in a hangar.

He described seeing not just the craft, but alien bodies.

He wasn’t the first Roswell witness to talk about alien bodies.

Local undertaker Glenn Dennis had long claimed that he was contacted by authorities at Roswell shortly after the crash and asked to provide a number of child-sized coffins.

When he arrived at the base, he was apparently told by a nurse (who later disappeared) that a UFO had crashed and that small humanoid extraterrestrials had been recovered.

But Haut is the only one of the original participants to claim to have seen alien bodies.

UFO pieces handed around

Haut’s affidavit talks about a high-level meeting he attended with base commander Col. William Blanchard and the Commander of the Eighth Army Air Force, Gen. Roger Ramey.

Haut states that at this meeting, pieces of wreckage were handed around for participants to touch, with nobody able to identify the material.

He says the press release was issued because locals were already aware of the crash site, but in fact there had been a second crash site, where more debris from the craft had fallen.

The plan was that an announcement acknowledging the first site, which had been discovered by a farmer, would divert attention from the second and more important location.

The clean-up operation

Haut also spoke about a clean-up operation, where for months afterward military personnel scoured both crash sites searching for all remaining pieces of debris, removing them and erasing all signs that anything unusual had occurred.

This ties in with claims made by locals that debris collected as souvenirs was seized by the military.

Haut then tells how Colonel Blanchard took him to “Building 84” — one of the hangars at Roswell — and showed him the craft itself.

He describes a metallic egg-shaped object around 12-15 feet in length and around 6 feet wide.

He said he saw no windows, wings, tail, landing gear or any other feature.

Haut “saw the alien bodies”

He saw two bodies on the floor, partially covered by a tarpaulin.

They are described in his statement as about 4 feet tall, with disproportionately large heads.

Towards the end of the affidavit, Haut concludes: “I am convinced that what I personally observed was some kind of craft and its crew from outer space.”

What’s particularly interesting about Walter Haut is that in the many interviews he gave before his death, he played down his role and made no such claims.

Had he been seeking publicity, he would surely have spoken about the craft and the bodies.

Did he fear ridicule, or was the affidavit a sort of deathbed confession from someone who had been part of a cover-up, but who had stayed loyal to the end?

The U.S. government came under huge pressure on Roswell in the ’90s.

In July 1994, in response to an inquiry from the General Accounting Office, the office of the secretary of the Air Force published a report, “The Roswell Report: Fact Versus Fiction in the New Mexico Desert.”

Weather balloon “cover story”

The report concluded that the Roswell incident had been attributable to something called Project Mogul, a top-secret project using high-altitude balloons to carry sensor equipment into the upper atmosphere, listening for evidence of Soviet nuclear tests.

The statements concerning a crashed weather balloon had been a cover story, they admitted, but not to hide the truth about extraterrestrials.

A second U.S. Air Force report concluded that the claims bodies were recovered were generated by people who had seen crash-test dummies dropped from the balloons.

Skeptics, of course, will dismiss the testimony left by Haut.

After all, fascinating though it is, it’s just a story. There’s no proof.

But if nothing else, this latest revelation shows that, 60 years on, this mystery endures.

Pluto’s Climate Change

Pluto is undergoing global warming, researchers find

October 9, 2002

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.–Pluto is undergoing global warming, as evidenced by a three-fold increase in the planet’s atmospheric pressure during the past 14 years, a team of astronomers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Williams College, the University of Hawaii, Lowell Observatory and Cornell University announced in a press conference today at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) Division for Planetary Sciences in Birmingham, AL.

The team, led by James Elliot, professor of planetary astronomy at MIT and director of MIT’s Wallace Observatory, made this finding by watching the dimming of a star when Pluto passed in front of it Aug. 20. The team carried out observations using eight telescopes at Mauna Kea Observatory, Haleakala, Lick Observatory, Lowell Observatory and Palomar Observatory. Data were successfully recorded at all sites.

An earlier attempt to observe an occultation of Pluto on July 19 in Chile was not highly successful. Observations were made from only two sites with small telescopes because the giant telescopes and other small telescopes involved lost out to bad weather or from being in the wrong location that day. These two occultations were the first to be successfully observed for Pluto since 1988.

Elliot said the new results have surprised the observers, who as recently as July thought that Pluto’s atmosphere may be cooling. “From the July data, we knew that Pluto’s atmosphere had changed since 1988, but the August data allowed us to probe much more deeply into Pluto’s atmosphere and have given us a more accurate picture of the changes that have occurred,” he said.

Jay Pasachoff, an astronomy professor at Williams College, said that Pluto’s global warming was “likely not connected with that of the Earth. The major way they could be connected is if the warming was caused by a large increase in sunlight. But the solar constant–the amount of sunlight received each second–is carefully monitored by spacecraft, and we know the sun’s output is much too steady to be changing the temperature of Pluto.”

Pluto’s orbit is much more elliptical than that of the other planets, and its rotational axis is tipped by a large angle relative to its orbit. Both factors could contribute to drastic seasonal changes.

Since 1989, for example, the sun’s position in Pluto’s sky has changed by more than the corresponding change on the Earth that causes the difference between winter and spring. Pluto’s atmospheric temperature varies between around minus 235 and minus 170 degrees Celsius, depending on the altitude above the surface. The main gas in Pluto’s atmosphere is nitrogen, and Pluto has nitrogen ice on its surface that can evaporate into the atmosphere when it gets warmer, causing an increase in surface pressure. If the observed increase in the atmosphere also applies to the surface pressure–which is likely the case–this means that the average surface temperature of the nitrogen ice on Pluto has increased slightly less than 2 degrees Celsius over the past 14 years.

Marc Buie, an astronomer at Lowell Observatory, has been measuring the amount of sunlight reflected by Pluto. “The pressure increase can be explained if the average amount of sunlight reflected by the surface has decreased, which means that more heat is absorbed from the sun,” he said. “This could be the reason that the pressure has been pumped up.”

David Tholen, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii who measured the size of Pluto in the late 1980s using a series of occultations and eclipses involving Pluto’s satellite, noted that even though Pluto was closest to the sun in 1989, a warming trend 13 years later shouldn’t be unexpected. “It takes time for materials to warm up and cool off, which is why the hottest part of the day on Earth is usually around 2 or 3 p.m. rather than local noon, when sunlight is the most intense,” Tholen said. Because Pluto’s year is equal to about 250 Earth years, 13 years after Pluto’s closest approach to the Sun is like 1:15 p.m. on Earth. “This warming trend on Pluto could easily last for another 13 years,” Tholen estimated.

Pluto and Neptune’s largest moon, Triton, are presently about the same distance from the sun, and each has a predominantly nitrogen atmosphere (with a surface pressure 100,000 times less than that on Earth), so one might expect similar processes to be occurring on these two bodies.

A 1997 occultation of a star by Triton revealed that its surface had warmed since the Voyager spacecraft first explored it in 1989. On Triton, “Voyager saw dark material rising up as much as 12 km above the surface, indicating some kind of eruptive activity,” Elliot said. “There could be more massive activity on Pluto, since the changes observed in Pluto’s atmosphere are much more severe. The change observed on Triton was subtle. Pluto’s changes are not subtle.”

Researchers study faraway objects through occultations–eclipse-like events in which a body (Pluto in this case) passes in front of a star, blocking the star’s light from view. By recording the dimming of the starlight over time, astronomers can calculate the density, pressure and temperature of Pluto’s atmosphere. Observing two or more occultations at different times provides researchers with information about changes in the planet’s atmosphere. The structure and temperature of Pluto’s atmosphere was first determined during an occultation in 1988. Pluto’s brief pass in front of a different star on July 19 led researchers to believe that a drastic atmospheric change was under way, but it was unclear whether the atmosphere was warming up or cooling down.

The data resulting from this occultation, when Pluto passed in front of a star known as P131.1, led to the current results. “This is the first time that an occultation has allowed us to probe so deeply into Pluto’s atmosphere with a large telescope, which gives a high spatial resolution of a few kilometers,” Elliot said.

From MIT, in addition to Elliot, researchers involved were physics seniors Katie Carbonari, Erica McEvoy and Alison Klesman; Kelly Clancy, technical assistant in earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences (EAPS); EAPS graduate student Susan Kern, MIT graduate Joyance Meechai (S.B. 2000); David Osip, EAPS research scientist; Michael Person, EAPS graduate student; and aeronatucs and astronautics junior Shen Qu.

NASA is still deciding whether to send a spacecraft to Pluto, the only planet not yet observed at close range. The Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission in the New Horizons Program, if approved, would be launched in 2006 and would reach Pluto 10 years later. This mission will seek to answer questions about the surfaces, atmospheres, interiors and space environments of the solar system’s outermost objects, including Pluto and its moon, Charon.

Researchers are looking forward to observing additional Pluto occultations in the years before the Pluto-Kuiper mission flies by Pluto. Of particular interest is the prospect of using SOFIA, a 2.5-meter airborne telescope being built by NASA in collaboration with the German space agency, for Pluto-occultation events when it begins operating in 2004. Edward Dunham, who leads the occultation effort at Lowell Observatory, also is leading a team that is building HIPO, a SOFIA instrument designed specifically to observe occultations. The combination of HIPO and SOFIA will provide very high-quality data on a much more frequent basis than is possible using ground-based telescopes alone.

“This is a very complex process, and we just don’t know what is causing these effects” on Pluto’s surface, Elliot said. “That’s why you need to send a mission.”

This work is funded by Research Corporation, the National Science Foundation, and NASA’s Planetary Astronomy Program.

Mars and its Global Climate Change

Odyssey Studies Changing Weather And Climate On Mars
December 08, 2003

Image of Mars south polar layered deposits captured by Odyssey

View all science images for this press release

Mars may be going through a period of climate change, new findings from NASA’s Mars Odyssey orbiter suggest.

Odyssey has been mapping the distribution of materials on and near Mars’ surface since early 2002, nearly a full annual cycle on Mars. Besides tracking seasonal changes, such as the advance and retreat of polar dry ice, the orbiter is returning evidence useful for learning about longer-term dynamics.

The amount of frozen water near the surface in some relatively warm low-latitude regions on both sides of Mars’ equator appears too great to be in equilibrium with the atmosphere under current climatic conditions, said Dr. William Feldman of Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M. He is the lead scientist for an Odyssey instrument that assesses water content indirectly through measurements of neutron emissions.

“One explanation could be that Mars is just coming out of an ice age,” Feldman said. “In some low-latitude areas, the ice has already dissipated. In others, that process is slower and hasn’t reached an equilibrium yet. Those areas are like the patches of snow you sometimes see persisting in protected spots long after the last snowfall of the winter.”

Frozen water makes up as much as 10 percent of the top meter (three feet) of surface material in some regions close to the equator. Dust deposits may be covering and insulating the lingering ice, Feldman said. He and other Odyssey scientists described their recent findings today at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

“Odyssey is giving us indications of recent global climate change in Mars,” said Dr. Jeffrey Plaut, project scientist for the mission at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

High latitude regions of Mars have layers with differing ice content within the top half meter (20 inches) or so of the surface, researchers conclude from mapping of hydrogen abundance based on gamma-ray emissions.

“A model that fits the data has three layers near the surface,” said Dr. William Boynton of the University of Arizona, Tucson, team leader for the gamma-ray spectrometer instrument on Odyssey. “The very top layer would be dry, with no ice. The next layer would contain ice in the pore spaces between grains of soil. Beneath that would be a very ice-rich layer, 60 to nearly 100 percent water ice.”

Boynton interprets the iciest layer as a deposit of snow or frost, mixed with a little windblown dust, from a cold-climate era. The middle layer could be the result of changes brought in a warmer era: The ice down to a certain depth dissipates into the atmosphere. The dust left behind collapses into a soil layer with limited pore space for returning ice.

Information from the gamma-ray spectrometer alone is not enough to tell how recently the climate changed from colder to warmer, but an estimated range might come from collaborations with climate modelers, Boynton said.

Other Odyssey instruments are providing other pieces of the puzzle. Images from the orbiter’s camera system have been combined into the highest resolution complete map ever made of Mars’ south polar region. “We can now accurately count craters in the layered materials of the polar regions to get an idea how old they are,” said Dr. Phil Christensen of Arizona State University, Tempe, principal investigator for the camera system.

Temperature information from the camera system’s infrared imaging has produced a surprise about dark patches that dot bright expanses of seasonal carbon-dioxide ice. “Those dark features look like places where the ice has gone away, but thermal infrared maps show that even the dark areas have temperatures so low they must be carbon-dioxide ice.” Christensen said. “One possibility is that the ice is clear in these areas and we’re seeing down through the ice to features underneath.”

Odyssey’s high-energy neutron detector continues to monitor seasonal changes in the amount of carbon-dioxide ice deposited in polar regions, allowing tests of atmosphere-circulation models, said Dr. Igor Mitrofanov of the Institute for Space Research, Moscow, Russia.

Measurements by an instrument for monitoring the radiation environment at Mars show the level of radiation hazard that Mars-bound astronauts might face, including levels during a period of unusually intense solar activity, said Dr. Cary Zeitlin of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute, Houston.

JPL manages Mars Odyssey for NASA’s Office of Space Science, Washington. Investigators at Arizona State University, Tempe; University of Arizona, Tucson; NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston; the Russian Aviation and Space Agency, Moscow; and Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, N.M., built and operate Odyssey science instruments. Information about the mission is available on the Internet at:

Jupiter’s Global Climate Change

New Storm on Jupiter Hints at Climate Change
By Sara Goudarzi
Staff Writer
posted: 04 May 2006
01:00 pm ET

A storm is brewing half a billion miles away and in a rare event, astronomers get to watch it closely.

Jupiter is growing a new red spot and the Hubble Space Telescope is photographing the scene. Backyard astronomers have been following the action, too.

“Red Spot Jr.” as it is being called, formed after three white oval-shaped storms-two of which were at least 90 years old-merged between 1998 and 2000.

A similar merger took place centuries ago and formed the bigger and legendary Great Red Spot, a storm twice as big as Earth and almost 300 years old.

Close look

Close inspections of Red Spot Jr., in Hubble images released today, reveal that similar to the Great Red Spot, the more recently developed storm rises above the top of the main cloud deck on Jupiter.

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Little is known about how storms form on the giant planet. They are often described as behaving similar to hurricanes on Earth. Some astronomers believe that the spots dredge up material deep below Jupiter’s clouds and lift it to where the Sun’s ultraviolet light chemically alters it to give it a red hue.

The latest images could provide evidence that Jupiter is in the midst of a global change that can modify temperatures by as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit on different parts of the globe.

The study was led jointly by Imke de Pater and Philip Marcus of University of California, Berkeley.

“The storm is growing in altitude,” de Pater said. “Before when they were just ovals they didn’t stick out above the clouds. Now they are rising.”

This growth signals a temperature increase in that region, she said.

Marking change

The global change cycle began when the last of the white oval-shaped storms formed south of the Great Red Spot in 1939. As the storms started to merge between 1998 and 2000, the mixing of heat began to slow down at that latitude and has continued slowing ever since.

The movement of heat from the equator to Jupiter’s south pole is expected to stop at 34 degrees southern latitude, where Red Spot Jr. is forming.

This will create a big wall and stop the mixing of heat and airflow, the thinking goes. As a result, areas around the equator become warmer, while the poles can start to cool down.

Neptune’s moon Triton’s Global Warming

MIT researcher finds evidence of global warming on Neptune’s largest moon

June 24, 1998

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — We’re not the only ones experiencing global warming. A Massachusetts Institute of Technology researcher has reported that observations obtained by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based instruments reveal that Neptune’s largest moon, Triton, seems to have heated up significantly since the Voyager space probe visited it in 1989. The warming trend is causing part of Triton’s surface of frozen nitrogen to turn into gas, thus making its thin atmosphere denser.

While no one is likely to plan a summer vacation on Triton, this report in the June 25 issue of the journal Nature by MIT astronomer James L. Elliot and his colleagues from MIT, Lowell Observatory and Williams College says that the moon is approaching an unusually warm summer season that only happens once every few hundred years. Elliot and his colleagues believe that Triton’s warming trend could be driven by seasonal changes in the absorption of solar energy by its polar ice caps.

“At least since 1989, Triton has been undergoing a period of global warming. Percentage-wise, it’s a very large increase,” said Elliot, professor of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and director of the Wallace Astrophysical Observatory. The 5 percent increase on the absolute temperature scale from about minus-392 degrees Fahrenheit to about minus-389 degrees Fahrenheit would be like the Earth experiencing a jump of about 22 degrees Fahrenheit.

Triton is a simpler subject than Earth for studying the causes and effects of global warming. “It’s generally true around the solar system that when we try to understand a problem as complex as global warming — one in which we can’t control the variables — the more extreme cases we have to study, the more we can become sure of certain factors,” Elliot said. “With Triton, we can clearly see the changes because of its simple, thin atmosphere.”

The moon is approaching an extreme southern summer, a season that occurs every few hundred years. During this special time, the moon’s southern hemisphere receives more direct sunlight. The equivalent on Earth would be having the sun directly overhead at noon north of Lake Superior during a northern summer.

Elliot and his colleagues believe that Triton’s temperature has increased because of indications that the pressure of the atmosphere has increased. Because of the unusually strong correlation between Triton’s surface ice temperature and its atmospheric pressure, Elliot said scientists can infer a temperature increase of 3 degrees Fahrenheit over nine years based on its recent increase in surface vapor pressure. Any ice on Triton that warms up a little results in a big increase in atmospheric pressure as the vaporized gas joins the atmosphere.

Scientists used one of the Hubble telescope’s three Fine Guidance Sensors in November 1997 to measure Triton’s atmospheric pressure when the moon passed in front of a star. Two of Hubble’s guidance sensors are normally used to keep the telescope pointed at a celestial target by monitoring the brightness of guide stars. The third can serve as a scientific instrument.

In this case, the guidance sensor measured a star’s gradual decrease in brightness as Triton passed in front of it. The starlight got dimmer as it traveled through Triton’s thicker atmosphere and then got cut off completely by the moon’s total occultation of the star. This filtering of starlight through an atmosphere is similar to what happens during a sunset. As the sun dips toward the horizon, its light dims because it is traveling through denser air and because the sun’s disk gets “squashed.”

By detecting that Triton’s atmosphere had thickened, astronomers were able to deduce that the temperature of the ice on Triton’s surface has increased. “This pressure increase implies a temperature increase,” Elliot wrote. “At this rate, the atmosphere has at least doubled in bulk since the time of the Voyager encounter.” Like the Earth, Triton’s atmosphere is composed mostly of molecular nitrogen, but its surface pressure is much less than that of the Earth–about the same as that 45 miles high in the Earth’s atmosphere.

In their Nature paper, Elliot and his colleagues list two other possible explanations for Triton’s warmer weather. Because the frost pattern on Triton’s surface may have changed over the years, it may be absorbing a little more of the sun’s warmth. Or changes in reflectivity of Triton’s ice may have caused it to absorb more heat. “When you’re so cold, global warming is a welcome trend,” said Elliot.

About the same size and density as Pluto, Triton–one of Neptune’s eight moons–is 30 times as far from the sun as the Earth. It is very cold and windy, with winds close to the speed of sound, and has a mixed terrain of icy regions and bare spots. Triton is a bit smaller than our moon, but its gravity is able to keep an atmosphere from completely escaping because it is so cold. Its composition is believed to be similar to a comet’s, although it is much larger than a comet. Triton was captured into a reverse orbit by Neptune’s strong gravitational pull.

Other astronomers who participated in this investigation are MIT research assistant Heidi B. Hammel and technical assistants Michael J. Person and Stephen W. McDonald of MIT; Otto G. Franz, Lawrence H. Wasserman, John A. Stansberry, John R. Spencer, Edward W. Dunham, Catherine B. Olkin and Mark W. Buie of Lowell Observatory; Jay M. Pasachoff, Bryce A. Babcock and Timothy H. McConnochie of Williams College.

This work is supported in part by NASA, the National Science Foundation and the National Geographic Society.

Mars Ice Melt

Mars Melt Hints at Solar, Not Human, Cause for Warming, Scientist Says

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Mars, too, appears to be enjoying more mild and balmy temperatures.

In 2005 data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide “ice caps” near Mars’s south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of space research at St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.

“The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars,” he said.

Solar Cycles

Abdussamatov believes that changes in the sun’s heat output can account for almost all the climate changes we see on both planets.

Mars and Earth, for instance, have experienced periodic ice ages throughout their histories.

“Man-made greenhouse warming has made a small contribution to the warming seen on Earth in recent years, but it cannot compete with the increase in solar irradiance,” Abdussamatov said.

By studying fluctuations in the warmth of the sun, Abdussamatov believes he can see a pattern that fits with the ups and downs in climate we see on Earth and Mars.

Abdussamatov’s work, however, has not been well received by other climate scientists.

“His views are completely at odds with the mainstream scientific opinion,” said Colin Wilson, a planetary physicist at England’s Oxford University.

“And they contradict the extensive evidence presented in the most recent IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] report.” (Related: “Global Warming ‘Very Likely’ Caused by Humans, World Climate Experts Say” [February 2, 2007].)

Mars North Pole image

Amato Evan, a climate scientist at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, added that “the idea just isn’t supported by the theory or by the observations.”

Planets’ Wobbles

The conventional theory is that climate changes on Mars can be explained primarily by small alterations in the planet’s orbit and tilt, not by changes in the sun.

“Wobbles in the orbit of Mars are the main cause of its climate change in the current era,” Oxford’s Wilson explained. (Related: “Don’t Blame Sun for Global Warming, Study Says” [September 13, 2006].)

All planets experience a few wobbles as they make their journey around the sun. Earth’s wobbles are known as Milankovitch cycles and occur on time scales of between 20,000 and 100,000 years.

These fluctuations change the tilt of Earth’s axis and its distance from the sun and are thought to be responsible for the waxing and waning of ice ages on Earth.

Mars and Earth wobble in different ways, and most scientists think it is pure coincidence that both planets are between ice ages right now.

“Mars has no [large] moon, which makes its wobbles much larger, and hence the swings in climate are greater too,” Wilson said.

No Greenhouse

Perhaps the biggest stumbling block in Abdussamatov’s theory is his dismissal of the greenhouse effect, in which atmospheric gases such as carbon dioxide help keep heat trapped near the planet’s surface.

He claims that carbon dioxide has only a small influence on Earth’s climate and virtually no influence on Mars.

But “without the greenhouse effect there would be very little, if any, life on Earth, since our planet would pretty much be a big ball of ice,” said Evan, of the University of Wisconsin.

Most scientists now fear that the massive amount of carbon dioxide humans are pumping into the air will lead to a catastrophic rise in Earth’s temperatures, dramatically raising sea levels as glaciers melt and leading to extreme weather worldwide.

Abdussamatov remains contrarian, however, suggesting that the sun holds something quite different in store.

“The solar irradiance began to drop in the 1990s, and a minimum will be reached by approximately 2040,” Abdussamatov said. “It will cause a steep cooling of the climate on Earth in 15 to 20 years.”

Japan and UFOs

Japan’s Top Government Spokesman: UFOs ‘Definitely’ Exist

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

TOKYO — Japan’s air force has never spotted a UFO, but the country’s top government spokesman said Tuesday he “definitely” believes they exist.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura was speaking to reporters in response to demands lodged by an opposition lawmaker for an inquiry into “frequent reports of UFO sightings.”

The government said in an official reply that it had “not confirmed sightings of unidentified flying objects believed to be from outer space.”

Still, “I definitely believe they exist,” Machimura said as reporters erupted in laughter.

• Click here to visit’s Space Center.

In a written response issued Tuesday to opposition Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker Ryuji Yamane, the government said the air force had often spotted “birds and other objects beside aircraft,” but no UFOs.

Tokyo keeps a vigilant watch over Japanese airspace and is ready to scramble fighter jets to intercept suspicious airborne objects, the government reply said.

Pluto’s Global Warming

Global Warming on Pluto Puzzles Scientists
By Robert Roy Britt
Senior Science Writer
posted: 09 October 2002
01:25 p.m. ET

In what is largely a reversal of an August announcement, astronomers today said Pluto is undergoing global warming in its thin atmosphere even as it moves farther from the Sun on its long, odd-shaped orbit.

Pluto’s atmospheric pressure has tripled over the past 14 years, indicating a stark temperature rise, the researchers said. The change is likely a seasonal event, much as seasons on Earth change as the hemispheres alter their inclination to the Sun during the planet’s annual orbit.

They suspect the average surface temperature increased about 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit, or slightly less than 2 degrees Celsius.

Pluto remains a mysterious world whose secrets are no so easily explained, however. The warming could be fueled by some sort of eruptive activity on the small planet, one astronomer speculated.

The increasing temperatures are more likely explained by two simple facts: Pluto’s highly elliptical orbit significantly changes the planet’s distance from the Sun during its long “year,” which lasts 248 Earth years; and unlike most of the planets, Pluto’s axis is nearly in line with the orbital plane, tipped 122 degrees. Earth’s axis is tilted 23.5 degrees.

Though Pluto was closest to the Sun in 1989, a warming trend 13 years later does not surprise David Tholen, a University of Hawaii astronomer involved in the discovery.

“It takes time for materials to warm up and cool off, which is why the hottest part of the day on Earth is usually around 2 or 3 p.m. rather than local noon,” Tholen said. “This warming trend on Pluto could easily last for another 13 years.”

Stellar observations

The conclusion is based on data gathered during a chance passage of Pluto in front of a distant star as seen from Earth. Such events, called occultations, are rare, but two of them occurred this summer.

In the occultations, which are like eclipses, astronomers examined starlight as it passed through Pluto’s tenuous atmosphere just before the planet blotted out the light.

The first occultation, in July, yielded limited data because of terrestrial cloud cover above key telescopes. Marc Buie, an astronomer at Lowell Observatory, scrambled to observe the event from northern Chile using portable 14-inch (0.35-meter) telescope. Afterward, Buie said he was baffled by what seemed to be global cooling of Pluto’s atmosphere punctuated by some surface warming.

Then on Aug. 20, Pluto passed in front of a different star. The latter event provided much better data captured by eight large telescopes and seems to clarify and mostly reverse the earlier findings.

The results were compared to studies from 1988, the last time Pluto was observed eclipsing a star.

James Elliot of MIT led a team of astronomers who coordinated their observations and presented the findings today at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society’s (AAS) Division for Planetary Sciences in Birmingham, Ala.

Elliot said the Aug. 20 occultation was the first that allowed such a deep probing of the composition, pressure and the always-frigid temperature of Pluto’s atmosphere, which ranges from -391 to -274 degrees Fahrenheit (-235 to -170 degrees Celsius).

Volcanoes on Pluto?

Elliot hinted at the possibility of another factor fueling Pluto’s warming trend.

He compared Pluto to Triton, a moon of Neptune. Both have atmospheres made mostly of nitrogen. In 1997, Triton occulted a star and astronomers found that its atmosphere had warmed since the last observations were made in 1989 during the Voyager mission. Back then, Voyager found dark material rising above Triton, indicating possible eruptive activity.

“There could be more massive activity on Pluto, since the changes observed in Pluto’s atmosphere are much more severe,” Elliot said. “The change observed on Triton was subtle. Pluto’s changes are not subtle.”

There is no firm evidence that Pluto is volcanically active, but neither is there evidence to rule out that possibility. Even the Hubble Space Telescope can barely make out Pluto’s surface.

Elliot added that the process affecting Pluto’s temperature is complex. “We just don’t know what is causing these effects,” he said.

Let’s go there

Elliot and others believe this poor understanding of our solar system’s tiniest planet is grounds for sending a robot to investigate. Pluto is the only planet not visited by a spacecraft.

NASA has shelved a mission that would explore Pluto and the Kuiper Belt of frozen objects in which it resides.

Congress, however, appears to view the mission as worthy of some funds. A House budget panel this week followed the lead of the Senate in approving $105 million for the mission. If final approval comes, NASA would be compelled to undertake the project.

Interestingly, while Pluto’s atmosphere has been growing warmer in recent years, astronomers have argued that a Pluto mission must launch by 2006, lest it miss the opportunity to study Pluto’s atmosphere before it completely freezes out for the winter.

Tentative mission plans call for a robotic probe that would not reach Pluto for several years, making a flyby sometime prior to 2020 prior to investigating other objects deeper in the solar system.

Meanwhile, astronomers are looking forward to a space telescope called SOFIA, slated to begin operations in 2004. SOFIA will carry an instrument designed specifically to observe occultations and is expected to be employed when Pluto passes in front of other stars in coming years.

The Pluto observations this summer were funded by NASA, the Research Corporation and the National Science Foundation. Observations were made using the telescopes at the Mauna Kea Observatory, Haleakala, Lick Observatory, Lowell Observatory and the Palomar Observatory.

Japan and UFOs

Defense Minister Ishiba Considers Japan‘s Options in UFO Attack

By Stuart Biggs

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Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) — Japan’s Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba is considering how his Self-Defense Forces could respond to an attack by space aliens while adhering to limits on military action under the country’s war-renouncing Constitution.

Ishiba is the second Cabinet member to profess his belief in unidentified flying objects after Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura suggested on Dec. 18 they are the only explanation for “unexplainable” things like the Nazca Lines, pre-Columbian etchings in the desert south of Lima, Peru.

Ishiba said yesterday a Japanese military response, such as those in the Godzilla movie series, would require legal review and said he is studying ways Japan could deal with an attack. Ishiba said his comments represent a “personal view,” and not Defense Ministry policy, according to the transcript of the press conference published on the ministry’s Web Site.

“There are no grounds for us to deny there are unidentified flying objects and some life-form that controls them,” Ishiba said. “Few discussions have been held on what the legal grounds are” for a military response.

Ishiba said that, if the aliens arrived in Japan in peace, a military response would not be legal under the terms of Japan’s pacifist Constitution. He also said he was concerned about communication difficulties if a UFO landed.

“If they descended, saying `People of the Earth, let’s make friends,’ it would not be considered an urgent, unjust attack on our country,” he said. “How can we convey our intentions if they don’t understand what we are saying?”

Japanese politicians, and the local media’s, recent interest in UFOs stems from a parliamentary question from opposition lawmaker Ryuji Yamane about the government’s policy on UFOs. The government is not doing any UFO research or preparing for a response if UFOs fly over Japan, according to a report by Kyodo News on Dec 18.

“I haven’t seen one myself,” Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda said when asked by reporters about UFOs on Dec. 18.

To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Biggs in Tokyo at .

Last Updated: December 21, 2007 00:20 EST

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