Monthly Archives: September 2010

Albert Einstein’s Aether

Concerning the Investigation of the State of Aether in Magnetic Fields: by Albert Einstein
“When the electric current comes into being, it immediately sets the surrounding aether in some kind of instantaneous motion, the nature of which has still not been exactly determined. In spite of the continuation of the cause of this motion, namely the electric current, the motion ceases, but the aether remains in a potential state and produces a magnetic field. That the magnetic field is a potential state [of the aether] is shown by the [existence of a] permanent magnet, since the principle of conservation of energy excludes the possibility of a state of motion in this case. The motion of the aether, which is caused by an electric current, will continue until the acting [electro-] motive forces are compensated by the equivalent passive forces which arise from the deformation caused by the motion of the aether itself.”

Einstein observes that the potential state of the Aether is shown by the existence of a permanent magnet, just as in the cathode ray tube and ferrofluid experiments above.

“The most interesting, but also the most difficult, task would be the direct experimental study of the magnetic field which arises around an electric current, because the investigation of the elastic state of the aether in this case would allow us to obtain a glimpse of the mysterious nature of the electric current. This analogy also permits us to draw definite conclusions concerning the state of the aether in the magnetic field which surrounds the electric current, provided of course the experiments mentioned above yield any result.”

The “elastic state” of the Aether refers to the Aether’s fluid behavior and its ability to return to a previous state without deformation. The insights into the “mysterious” nature of the electric current refers to the two different types of charges identified in the Aether Physics Model. Not only does electricity have a bipolar electrostatic charge, but it also has a bipolar electromagnetic charge. These two types of charges interact with each other in seemingly peculiar ways. Einstein could not have known it during his time, however, the two types of charges are the actual carriers of the forces quantified in his later developed, General Relativity theory.

“I believe that the quantitative researches on the absolute magnitudes of the density and the elastic force of the aether can only begin if qualitative results exist that are connected with established ideas. Let me add one more thing. If the wavelength does not turn out to be proportional to [sic], then the reason (for that) has to be looked for in the change of density of the moving aether caused by the elastic deformations; here A is the elastic aether force, a priori a constant which we have to determine empirically, and k the (variable) strength of the magnetic field which, of course, is proportional to the elastic forces in question that are produced.”

The elastic Aether force Einstein presumes has been quantified in the Aether Physics Model as the Gforce. And, in fact, we have developed simple force laws for the electromagnetic charge, which are similar in structure to the Coulomb electrostatic force law and the Newton gravitational law. We also show that each of these force laws, including our strong force laws, directly involve the Gforce (elastic Aether force as Einstein called it). The total of all these simple and related force laws comprise the Unified Force Theory of the Aether Physics Model.

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Embracing the Unfamiliar…HISTORY

as awareness embraces the unfamiliar
our universe now no longer similiar
could it be that humanities history
is also not what was thought to be

imagine this……….
“During the Mesozoic, proto-Saturn (Ouranos) orbited the Sun in what is now the asteroid belt. It was probably the only body orbiting the Sun, its immense size locking it into a binary system which astronomers believe to be the more usual solar system formation. Earth and other satellites orbited proto-Saturn, which dominated the skies to the almost complete exclusion of the Sun and other celestial bodies; in comparison, the Sun was an insignificant body, proto-Saturn being the main source of heat and light. 
The Earth was dominated by the large single super-continent Pangaea, with the World Mountain at its epicentre, and surrounded by a fresh-water shallow Sea. Only a non-rotating synchronous orbit, with the super-continent locked into and facing proto-Saturn, would account for this stability. 
The climate was sub-tropical with high humidity. The synchronous (syn-, chronous: ‘together with Saturn’?) orbit meant constant light and heat, and hence no variation in temperature. There were no tidal forces in the large shallow Sea, and hence no sedimentation. There were no seasons and hence minimal tree rings. 
Birds, mammals and our ancestors inhabited the planet during the Mesozoic and coexisted with the dinosaurs .
In much the same ways as our diversity exists today, cultures varied from the sophisticated, who lived towards the World Mountain, to the primitive who lived towards the edges of the super-continent. Giantism was common in this era of reduced gravitation and size and bulk were no disadvantage. 
The Earth and original satellites of proto-Saturn separated some 15,000-20,000 years ago and the Golden Mesozoic Age came to an end. Proto-Saturn separated into many parts, to form the gas giants Neptune and Uranus. Proto-Saturn became Saturn. Some of the smaller debris became moons of the outer planets and much remained in the original orbit as the asteroid belt. The events were witnessed by the peoples of the Earth and became the basis of the ancient catastrophic mythologies , beginning with the Genesis event ‘Let There be Light’. During separation, Earth was saturated with radiation from proto-Saturn, which caused much mutation and was the catalyst for new sequences of evolution for many generations. The same radiation rendered all forms of radiometric dating useless, causing grossly exaggerated time-scales. 
Separated from proto-Saturn, planet Earth commenced rotation and the charge focused on the World Mountain dispersed. The Earth lost its inherent stability and, with the new centrifugal force, the super-continent separated and ‘drifted’, changing the pear-shaped Earth into its present shape. The dispersion of the charge, together with piezo-electro effects in the rocks, enabled the separation to take place in hours, rather than millions of years. 
The survivors of the catastrophe found themselves in a completely new environment: lower temperatures, seasons, diurnal variations, a changed atmosphere and an apparently greater gravitational effect. This was neither the environment, nor the ‘solar’ system, in which life had evolved.”


the Super Harvest Moon – September 23rd

Sept. 22, 2010:  For the first time in almost 20 years, northern autumn is beginning on the night of a full Moon. The coincidence sets the stage for a “Super Harvest Moon” and a must-see sky show to mark the change of seasons.
The action begins at sunset on Sept 22nd, the last day of northern summer. As the sun sinks in the west, bringing the season to a close, the full Harvest Moon will rise in the east, heralding the start of fall. The two sources of light will mix together to create a kind of 360-degree, summer-autumn twilight glow that is only seen on rare occasions.

The Harvest Moon of Oct. 3, 2009, photographed by Catalin M. Timosca of Turda, Romania.

Keep an eye on the Moon as it creeps above the eastern skyline. The golden orb may appear strangely inflated. This is the Moon illusion at work. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, a low-hanging Moon appears much wider than it really is. A Harvest Moon inflated by the moon illusion is simply gorgeous.

The view improves as the night wears on.

 

Northern summer changes to fall on Sept. 22nd at 11:09 pm EDT. At that precise moment, called the autumnal equinox, the Harvest Moon can be found soaring high overhead with the planet Jupiter right beside it. The two brightest objects in the night sky will be in spectacular conjunction to mark the change in seasons.

The Harvest Moon gets its name from agriculture. In the days before electric lights, farmers depended on bright moonlight to extend the workday beyond sunset. It was the only way they could gather their ripening crops in time for market. The full Moon closest to the autumnal equinox became “the Harvest Moon,” and it was always a welcome sight.

This one would be extra welcome because it is extra “Harvesty.”

Usually, the Harvest Moon arrives a few days to weeks before or after the beginning of fall. It’s close, but not a perfect match. The Harvest Moon of 2010, however, reaches maximum illumination a mere six hours after the equinox. This has led some astronomers to call it the “Harvestest Moon” or a “Super Harvest Moon.” There hasn’t been a comparable coincidence since Sept 23, 1991, when the difference was about 10 hours, and it won’t happen again until the year 2029.

A Super Harvest Moon, a rare twilight glow, a midnight conjunction—rarely does autumn begin with such celestial fanfare.

Enjoy the show!


New Physics? Fundamental Cosmic Constant Now Seems Shifty — CONSTANTS VARY (???)

This is a good example of why science is so crazy now…they have begun to claim that CONSTANTS vary…

New Physics? Fundamental Cosmic Constant Now Seems Shifty
Recent observations of distant galaxies suggest that the strength of the electromagnetic force – the so-called fine-structure constant – actually varies throughout the universe. In one direction, the constant seemed to grow larger the farther astronomers looked; in another direction the constant took on smaller values with greater distance.


If confirmed, this revelation could reshape physicists’ understanding of cosmology from the ground up. It may even help solve a major conundrum: Why are all the constants of nature perfectly tuned for life to exist?


…A changing constant


Astrophysicists have been studying the fine-structure constant – known as the alpha constant – for years, searching for hints that it might change. Some projects have found evidence that the constant does vary, while other probes confirmed the constant’s constancy. [The Greatest Mysteries in Science]



…For Flambaum and others, it seemed like too much of a coincidence that the universe’s constants – which includes the alpha constant and others like the value of the strength of gravity, or the strength of the strong interaction that binds atomic nuclei together – should be perfect for building stars and planets and life.


“Now we have an explanation,” Flambaum said.”If fundamental constants vary in space, we just appear in the area of the universe where constants are good for us.”
http://www.space.com/scienceastronomy/fine-structure-constant-varies-space-100915.html

They are talking about the alpha constant, or the fine-structure constant.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-structure_constant 
In physics, the fine-structure constant (usually denoted α, the Greek letter alpha) is a fundamental physical constant, namely the coupling constant characterizing the strength of the electromagnetic interaction. The numerical value of α is the same in all systems of units, because α is a dimensionless quantity…

…Physicists have pondered for many years whether the fine structure constant is in fact constant, i.e., whether or not its value differs by location and over time. Specifically, a varying α has been proposed as a way of solving problems in cosmology and astrophysics…

…The anthropic principle is a controversial explanation of why the fine-structure constant takes on the value it does: stable matter, and therefore life and intelligent beings, could not exist if its value were much different.


New Thought on Planetary Formation

I don’t know why I think of things like this, or how it comes into my mind, but I figured out a way to create planets that has never before been proposed, that I am aware of.

Briefly, stars create water merely from certain light wavelengths http://www.esa.int/esaCP/SEMW76EODDG_index_0.html …water attracts to water especially with high voltage and ‘vacuum’ (Water Bridge Experiment) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FhBn1ozht-E. Interstellar cloud comes across star…whatever the mechanism of initiation, whether it already be an object caught by star, or one entering that gets caught, a conduit is formed through cloud, much like a magnetic flux tube http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2008/30oct_ftes/ …denser the cloud, faster the transfer to orbiting objecthttp://www.astronomycafe.net/qadir/q1372.html. If it even needs an orbiting object to have a conduit. Maybe, actually I think this is more likely, elements get transfered from star to densest part of passing cloud column, making it ever denser and also trapped in sun’s gravitational electric/magnetic field. Presto, a proto-planet is born. And, after eons of going in and out of passing clouds, further formation occurs…with all necessary life ingredients coming and/or being transfered from the sun itself…including, INCREDIBLY, water.

So, we go from planets being formed able to sustain life as an extreme rarity…to…inevitability…

This needs to be worked out, but on its surface, there is ABSOLUTELY NO glaring fallibilities of formation this way. Now that we know about interstellar clouds and EU and the attraction that is created through energy…a missing piece would be the accumulation of water. But now that it is known that stars create water vapor, and the Water Bridge experiment…


How do you create water in Space? – Just Add STARLIGHT

Recipe for water: just add starlight

2 September 2010
ESA’s Herschel infrared space observatory has discovered that ultraviolet starlight is the key ingredient for making water in space. It is the only explanation for why a dying star is surrounded by a gigantic cloud of hot water vapour.
 
Every recipe needs a secret ingredient. When astronomers discovered an unexpected cloud of water vapour around the old star IRC+10216 in 2001, they immediately began searching for the source. Stars like IRC+10216 are known as carbon stars and are thought not to make much water. Initially they suspected the star’s heat must be evaporating comets or even dwarf planets to produce the water.

Now, Herschel’s PACS and SPIRE instruments have revealed that the secret ingredient is ultraviolet light, because the water is too hot to have come from the destruction of icy celestial bodies.  

Herschel
Herschel

“This is a good example of how better instruments can change our picture completely,” says Leen Decin, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Belgium, the lead author of the paper about this work. The superb sensitivity of Herschel’s instruments has revealed that the water around IRC+10216 varies in temperature from about –200°C to 800°C, which indicates that it is being formed much closer to the star than comets can stably exist.

IRC+10216 is a red giant star, hundreds of times the Sun’s size, although only a few times its mass. If it replaced the Sun in our Solar System, it would extend beyond the orbit of Mars.
It is 500 light years away and while it is barely detectable at visible wavelengths, even in the largest telescopes, it is the brightest star in the sky at some infrared wavelengths. This is because it is surrounded by a huge envelope of dust that absorbs almost all its visible radiation and re-emits it as infrared light. It is in the envelope that the water vapour has been found. But how did the water get there?
The vital clue was found by Herschel. Observations had already revealed the clumpy structure in the dusty envelope around IRC+10216. The Herschel water detection made the astronomers realise that ultraviolet light from surrounding stars can reach deep into the envelope between the clumps and break up molecules such as carbon monoxide and silicon monoxide, releasing oxygen atoms. The oxygen atoms then attach themselves to hydrogen molecules, forming water.
“This is the only mechanism that explains the full range of the water’s temperature,” says Decin. The closer to the star the water is formed, the hotter it will be.
Decin and her colleagues now plan to extend the observations to other carbon stars. “We are very hopeful that Herschel will find the same situations around those stars too,” she says.
On Earth, carbon compounds and water are the key ingredients for life. Now, thanks to Herschel, we know that both can be made around IRC+10216, and that the secret ingredient for water is ultraviolet light from surrounding stars.

The Earth and Heliosphere – Brief





How do the Earth and Heliosphere respond?

Our planet is immersed in this seemingly invisible yet exotic and inherently dangerous environment. Above the protective cocoon of Earth’s lower atmosphere is a plasma soup composed of electrified and magnetized matter entwined with penetrating radiation and energetic particles. The Earth’s magnetic field interacts with the Sun’s outer atmosphere to create this extraordinary environment.
Our Sun’s explosive energy output forms an immense, complex magnetic fields structure. Hugely inflated by the solar wind, this colossal bubble of magnetism known as the heliosphere stretches far beyond the orbit of Pluto, from where it controls the entry of cosmic rays into the solar system. On its way through the Milky Way this extended atmosphere of the Sun affects all planetary bodies in the solar system. It is itself influenced by slowly changing interstellar conditions that in turn can affect Earth’s habitability. In fact, the Sun’s extended atmosphere drives some of the greatest changes in the near-Earth space environment affecting our magnetosphere, atmosphere, ionosphere, and potentially our climate.
Related missions:
*Sort missions by clicking Launch DateA-Z, or PHASE column headers.
DIVISION NAME LAUNCH DATE PHASE
Heliophysics ACE

Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) observes particles of solar, interplanetary, interstellar, and galactic origins, spanning the energy range from solar wind ions to galactic cosmic ray nuclei. This mission is part of SMD’s Explorers Program. This mission is part of SMD’s …
1997082708-27-1997 3Operating
Heliophysics AIM

Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) is a mission to determine the causes of the highest altitude clouds in the Earth’s atmosphere. The number of clouds in the middle atmosphere (mesosphere) over the Earth’s poles has been increasing over …
2007042504-25-2007 3Operating
Heliophysics CINDI/CNOFS

The Coupled Ion-Neutral Dynamics Investigations (CINDI) is a mission to understand the dynamics of the Earth’s ionosphere. CINDI will provide two instruments for the Communication/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) satellite, a project of the United States Air Force. This mission …
2008041604-16-2008 3Operating
Heliophysics Cluster-II

Cluster is a European Space Agency program with major NASA involvement. The 4 Cluster spacecraft are providing a detailed three-dimensional map of the magnetosphere, with surprising results. This mission is part of SMD’s Heliophysics Research program.
2000071607-16-2000 3Operating
Heliophysics FAST

Fast Auroral Snapshot Explorer (FAST) studies the detailed plasma physics of the Earth’s auroral regions. Ground support campaigns coordinate satellite measurements with ground observations of the Aurora Borealis, commonly referred to as the Northern Lights. The science instruments on board …
1996082108-21-1996 4Past
Heliophysics Geotail

The GEOTAIL mission is a collaborative project undertaken by the Japanese Institute of Space and Astronautical Science (ISAS) and NASA. Its primary objective is to study the tail of the Earth’s magnetosphere. The information gathered is allowing scientists to model …
1992072407-24-1992 3Operating
Heliophysics Hinode (Solar-B)

Hinode (formerly known as Solar-B) is a Japanese ISAS mission proposed as a follow-on to the highly successful Japan/US/UK Yohkoh (Solar-A) collaboration. The mission consists of a coordinated set of optical, EUV and X-ray instruments that are studying the interaction …
2006092309-23-2006 3Operating
Heliophysics IBEX

IBEX will be the first mission designed to detect the edge of the Solar System. As the solar wind from the sun flows out beyond Pluto, it collides with the material between the stars, forming a shock front. This mission …
2008101910-19-2008 3Operating
Heliophysics MMS

The Magnetospheric Multiscale mission will determine the small-scale basic plasma processes which transport, accelerate and energize plasmas in thin boundary and current layers – and which control the structure and dynamics of the Earth’s magnetosphere. MMS will for the first …
2014081408-14-2014 2Development
Heliophysics Polar

Polar is the second of two NASA spacecraft in the Global Geospace Science (GGS) initiative and part of the ISTP Project. GGS is designed to improve greatly the understanding of the flow of energy, mass and momentum in the solar-terrestrial …
1996022402-24-1996 4Past
Heliophysics RBSP

The RBSP mission will provide scientific understanding, ideally to the point of predictability, of how populations of relativistic electrons and ions in space form and change in response to variable inputs of energy from the Sun.
2012051405-14-2012 2Development
Heliophysics RHESSI

Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscope Imager (RHESSI) studies solar flares in X-rays and gamma-rays. It explores the basic physics of particle acceleration and explosive energy release in these energetic events in the Sun’s atmosphere. This is accomplished by imaging …
2002020502-05-2002 3Operating
Heliophysics SOHO

Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) is a solar observatory studying the structure, chemical composition, and dynamics of the solar interior. SOHO a joint venture of the European Space Agency and NASA. This mission is part of SMD’s Heliophysics Research program.
1995120212-02-1995 3Operating
Heliophysics Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO)

The Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) is the first mission and crown jewel in a fleet of NASA missions to study our sun. The mission is the cornerstone of a NASA science program called Living With a Star (LWS). The goal …
2010021102-11-2010 3Operating
Heliophysics Solar Probe Plus

Solar Probe Plus will be a historic mission, flying into one of the last unexplored regions of the solar system, the Sun’s atmosphere or corona, for the first time. This mission is part of SMD’s LWS Program.
1Under Study
Heliophysics THEMIS

Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) is a study of the onset of magnetic storms within the tail of the Earth’s magnetosphere. THEMIS will fly five microsatellite probes through different regions of the magnetosphere and observe …
2007021702-17-2007 3Operating
Heliophysics TRACE

Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE) observes the effects of the emergence of magnetic flux from deep inside the Sun to the outer corona with high spatial and temporal resolution. This mission is part of SMD’s Heliophysics Explorers program. This …
1998040104-01-1998 4Past
Heliophysics TWINS A & B

TWINS will provide stereo imaging of the Earth’s magnetosphere, the region surrounding the planet controlled by its magnetic field and containing the Van Allen radiation belts and other energetic charged particles. This mission is part of SMD’s Explorers Program. This …
2008031303-13-2008 3Operating
Heliophysics Ulysses

The Ulysses Mission is the first spacecraft to explore interplanetary space at high solar latitudes, orbiting the Sun nearly perpendicular to the plane in which the planets orbit. This mission is part of SMD’s Heliophysics Research program.
1990100610-06-1990 4Past
Heliophysics Wind

Wind studies the solar wind and its impact on the near-Earth environment. This mission is part of SMD’s Heliophysics Research program.
1994110111-01-1994 3Operating


SOLAR PROBE PLUS – Plunging a Probe into the Sun

Dwayne C. Brown
Headquarters, Washington     
202-358-1726 
dwayne.c.brown@nasa.gov   

Sep. 02, 2010
 

RELEASE : 10-208

 
 

NASA Selects Investigations for First Mission to Encounter the Sun

 
 

WASHINGTON — NASA has begun development of a mission to visit and study the sun closer than ever before. The unprecedented project, named Solar Probe Plus, is slated to launch no later than 2018.

The small car-sized spacecraft will plunge directly into the sun’s atmosphere approximately four million miles from our star’s surface. It will explore a region no other spacecraft ever has encountered. NASA has selected five science investigations that will unlock the sun’s biggest mysteries.

“The experiments selected for Solar Probe Plus are specifically designed to solve two key questions of solar physics — why is the sun’s outer atmosphere so much hotter than the sun’s visible surface and what propels the solar wind that affects Earth and our solar system? ” said Dick Fisher, director of NASA’s Heliophysics Division in Washington. “We’ve been struggling with these questions for decades and this mission should finally provide those answers.”

As the spacecraft approaches the sun, its revolutionary carbon-composite heat shield must withstand temperatures exceeding 2550 degrees Fahrenheit and blasts of intense radiation. The spacecraft will have an up close and personal view of the sun enabling scientists to better understand, characterize and forecast the radiation environment for future space explorers.

NASA invited researchers in 2009 to submit science proposals. Thirteen were reviewed by a panel of NASA and outside scientists. The total dollar amount for the five selected investigations is approximately $180 million for preliminary analysis, design, development and tests.
The selected proposals are:

— Solar Wind Electrons Alphas and Protons Investigation: principal investigator, Justin C. Kasper, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Mass.

This investigation will specifically count the most abundant particles in the solar wind — electrons, protons and helium ions — and measure their properties. The investigation also is designed to catch some of the particles for direct analysis.

— Wide-field Imager: principal investigator, Russell Howard, Naval Research Laboratory in Washington. This telescope will make 3-D images of the sun’s corona, or atmosphere. The experiment will also provide 3-D images of the solar wind and shocks as they approach and pass the spacecraft. This investigation complements instruments on the spacecraft providing direct measurements by imaging the plasma the other instruments sample.

— Fields Experiment: principal investigator, Stuart Bale, University of California Space Sciences Laboratory in Berkeley, Calif. This investigation will make direct measurements of electric and magnetic fields, radio emissions, and shock waves that course through the sun’s atmospheric plasma. The experiment also serves as a giant dust detector, registering voltage signatures when specks of space dust hit the spacecraft’s antenna.

— Integrated Science Investigation of the Sun: principal investigator, David McComas of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio.
This investigation consists of two instruments that will monitor electrons, protons and ions that are accelerated to high energies in the sun’s atmosphere.

— Heliospheric Origins with Solar Probe Plus: principal investigator, Marco Velli of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Velli is the mission’s observatory scientist, responsible for serving as a senior scientist on the science working group. He will provide an independent assessment of scientific performance and act as a community advocate for the mission.

“This project allows humanity’s ingenuity to go where no spacecraft has ever gone before,” said Lika Guhathakurta, Solar Probe Plus program scientist at NASA Headquarters, in Washington. “For the very first time, we’ll be able to touch, taste and smell our sun.”

The Solar Probe Plus mission is part of NASA’s Living with a Star Program. The program is designed to understand aspects of the sun and Earth’s space environment that affect life and society. The program is managed by NASA’S Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., with oversight from NASA’s Science Mission Directorate’s Heliophysics Division. The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., is responsible for formulating, implementing and operating the Solar Probe Mission.

For more information about the Solar Probe Plus mission, visit:


For more information about the Living with a Star Program, visit: 


 
– end –

Space Clouds and the Icing of Earth

RELEASE : 05-066

 
 

NASA Study Suggests Giant Space Clouds Iced Earth

 
 

Eons ago, giant clouds in space may have led to global extinctions, according to two recent technical papers supported by NASA’s Astrobiology Institute.

One paper outlines a rare scenario in which Earth iced over during snowball glaciations, after the solar system passed through dense space clouds. In a more likely scenario, less dense giant molecular clouds may have enabled charged particles to enter Earth’s atmosphere, leading to destruction of much of the planet’s protective ozone layer. This resulted in global extinctions, according to the second paper. Both recently appeared in the Geophysical Research Letters.

“Computer models show dramatic climate change can be caused by interstellar dust accumulating in Earth’s atmosphere during the solar system’s immersion into a dense space cloud,” said Alex Pavlov, principal author of the two papers. He is a scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The resulting dust layer hovering over the Earth would absorb and scatter solar radiation, yet allow heat to escape from the planet into space, causing runaway ice buildup and snowball glaciations.

“There are indications from 600 to 800 million years ago; at least two of four glaciations were snowball glaciations. The big mystery revolves around how they are triggered,” Pavlov said. He concluded the snowball glaciations covered the entire Earth.

Pavlov said this hypothesis has to be tested by geologists. They would look at Earth’s rocks to find layers that relate to the snowball glaciations to assess whether uranium 235 is present in higher amounts. It cannot be produced naturally on Earth or in the solar system, but it is constantly produced in space clouds by exploding stars called supernovae.

Sudden, small changes in the uranium 235/238-ratio in rock layers would be proof interstellar material is present that originated from supernovae. Collisions of the solar system with dense space clouds are rare, but according to Pavlov’s research, more frequent solar system collisions, with moderately dense space clouds, can be devastating. He outlined a complex series of events that would result in loss of much of Earth’s protective ozone layer, if the solar system collided with a moderately dense space cloud.

The research outlined a scenario that begins as Earth passes through a moderately dense space cloud that cannot compress the outer edge of the sun’s heliosphere into a region within the Earth’s orbit. The heliosphere is the expanse that begins at the sun’s surface and usually reaches far past the orbits of the planets. Because it remains beyond Earth’s orbit, the heliosphere continues to deflect dust particles away from the planet.

However, because of the large flow of hydrogen from space clouds into the sun’s heliosphere, the sun greatly increases its production of electrically charged cosmic rays from the hydrogen particles. This also increases the flow of cosmic rays towards Earth. Normally, Earth’s magnetic field and ozone layer protect life from cosmic rays and the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet radiation.

Moderately dense space clouds are huge, and the solar system could take as long as 500,000 years to cross one of them. Once in such a cloud, the Earth would be expected to undergo at least one magnetic reversal. During a reversal, electrically charged cosmic rays can enter Earth’s atmosphere instead of being deflected by the planet’s magnetic field.

Cosmic rays can fly into the atmosphere and break up nitrogen molecules to form nitrogen oxides. Nitrogen oxide catalysts would set off the destruction of as much as 40 percent of the protective ozone in the planet’s upper atmosphere across the globe and destruction of about 80 percent of the ozone over the polar regions according to Pavlov.

For information about NASA and agency programs on the Internet, visit:http://www.nasa.gov


Collapse of the Earth’s Upper Atmosphere

A Puzzling Collapse of Earth’s Upper Atmosphere

July 15, 2010:  NASA-funded researchers are monitoring a big event in our planet’s atmosphere. High above Earth’s surface where the atmosphere meets space, a rarefied layer of gas called “the thermosphere” recently collapsed and now is rebounding again.

Thermosphere (atmosphere, 200px)

Layers of Earth’s upper atmosphere. Credit: John Emmert/NRL. [larger image]
“This is the biggest contraction of the thermosphere in at least 43 years,” says John Emmert of the Naval Research Lab, lead author of a paper announcing the finding in the June 19th issue of the Geophysical Research Letters (GRL). “It’s a Space Age record.”
The collapse happened during the deep solar minimum of 2008-2009—a fact which comes as little surprise to researchers. The thermosphere always cools and contracts when solar activity is low. In this case, however, the magnitude of the collapse was two to three times greater than low solar activity could explain.
“Something is going on that we do not understand,” says Emmert.
The thermosphere ranges in altitude from 90 km to 600+ km. It is a realm of meteors, auroras and satellites, which skim through the thermosphere as they circle Earth. It is also where solar radiation makes first contact with our planet. The thermosphere intercepts extreme ultraviolet (EUV) photons from the sun before they can reach the ground. When solar activity is high, solar EUV warms the thermosphere, causing it to puff up like a marshmallow held over a camp fire. (This heating can raise temperatures as high as 1400 K—hence the name thermosphere.) When solar activity is low, the opposite happens.
Lately, solar activity has been very low. In 2008 and 2009, the sun plunged into a century-class solar minimum. Sunspots were scarce, solar flares almost non-existent, and solar EUV radiation was at a low ebb. Researchers immediately turned their attention to the thermosphere to see what would happen.
Thermosphere (graphs, 550px)

These plots show how the density of the thermosphere (at a fiducial height of 400 km) has waxed and waned during the past four solar cycles. Frames (a) and (c) are density; frame (b) is the sun’s radio intensity at a wavelength of 10.7 cm, a key indicator of solar activity. Note the yellow circled region. In 2008 and 2009, the density of the thermosphere was 28% lower than expectations set by previous solar minima. Credit: Emmert et al. (2010), Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L12102.
How do you know what’s happening all the way up in the thermosphere?
Emmert uses a clever technique: Because satellites feel aerodynamic drag when they move through the thermosphere, it is possible to monitor conditions there by watching satellites decay. He analyzed the decay rates of more than 5000 satellites ranging in altitude between 200 and 600 km and ranging in time between 1967 and 2010. This provided a unique space-time sampling of thermospheric density, temperature, and pressure covering almost the entire Space Age. In this way he discovered that the thermospheric collapse of 2008-2009 was not only bigger than any previous collapse, but also bigger than the sun alone could explain.
One possible explanation is carbon dioxide (CO2).
Thermosphere (cooling, 200px)

An NCAR video shows how carbon dioxide warms the lower atmosphere, but cools the upper atmosphere. [more]
When carbon dioxide gets into the thermosphere, it acts as a coolant, shedding heat via infrared radiation. It is widely-known that CO2 levels have been increasing in Earth’s atmosphere. Extra CO2 in the thermosphere could have magnified the cooling action of solar minimum.
“But the numbers don’t quite add up,” says Emmert. “Even when we take CO2 into account using our best understanding of how it operates as a coolant, we cannot fully explain the thermosphere’s collapse.”
According to Emmert and colleagues, low solar EUV accounts for about 30% of the collapse. Extra CO2 accounts for at least another 10%. That leaves as much as 60% unaccounted for.
In their GRL paper, the authors acknowledge that the situation is complicated. There’s more to it than just solar EUV and terrestrial CO2. For instance, trends in global climate could alter the composition of the thermosphere, changing its thermal properties and the way it responds to external stimuli. The overall sensitivity of the thermosphere to solar radiation could actually be increasing.
“The density anomalies,” they wrote, “may signify that an as-yet-unidentified climatological tipping point involving energy balance and chemistry feedbacks has been reached.”
Or not.
Important clues may be found in the way the thermosphere rebounds. Solar minimum is now coming to an end, EUV radiation is on the rise, and the thermosphere is puffing up again. Exactly how the recovery proceeds could unravel the contributions of solar vs. terrestrial sources.
“We will continue to monitor the situation,” says Emmert.

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