Wil je een videoclip bekijken en stoort het X-files-deuntje jou daarbij. Schakel het deuntje gewoon uit door in deze kolon, helemaal beneden op de 2 witte balkjes in het blauwe cirkeltje te klikken, tot een pijltje verschijnt. Veel kijk- en luisterplezier en bedankt voor jouw bezoek.
The purpose of this blog is the creation of an open, international, independent and free forum, where every UFO-researcher can publish the results of his/her research. The languagues, used for this blog, are Dutch, English and French.You can find the articles of a collegue by selecting his category. Each author stays resposable for the continue of his articles. As blogmaster I have the right to refuse an addition or an article, when it attacks other collegues or UFO-groupes.
Deze blog is opgedragen aan mijn overleden echtgenote Lucienne.
In 2012 verloor ze haar moedige strijd tegen kanker!
In 2011 startte ik deze blog, omdat ik niet mocht stoppen met mijn UFO-onderzoek.
UFO'S - MET HET LAATSTE NIEUWS OVER UFO'S BOVEN BELGIË EN IN ANDERE LANDEN...
UFO's in België en de rest van de wereld In België heb je vooral BUFON of het Belgisch UFO-Netwerk, dat zich met UFO's bezighoudt. BEZOEK DUS ZEKER VOOR ALLE OBJECTIEVE INFORMATIE ww.ufo.be.
Verder heb je ook het Belgisch-Ufo-meldpunt en Caelestia, die prachtig, doch ZEER kritisch werk leveren, ja soms zelfs héél sceptisch...
Voor Nederland kan je de mooie site www.ufowijzer.nl bezoeken van Paul Harmans. Een mooie site met veel informatie en artikels.
MUFON of het Mutual UFO Network Inc is een Amerikaanse UFO-vereniging met afdelingen in alle USA-staten en diverse landen.
MUFON's mission is the analytical and scientific investigation of the UFO- Phenomenon for the benefit of humanity...
Je kan ook hun site bekijken onder www.mufon.com.
Ze geven een maandelijks tijdschrift uit, namelijk The MUFON UFO-Journal.
Since 02/01/2013 is Pieter not only president (=voorzitter) of BUFON, but also National Director MUFON / Flanders and the Netherlands. We work together with the French MUFON Reseau MUFON/EUROP.
Mars has sand dunes, as Earth does. But now, NASA’s Odyssey orbiter has revealed something odd: a large dune field shaped roughly like a hexagon. The finding is expected to provide more clues as to how dunes form in Martian winds.
Unusual dune field on a crater floor in Terra Cimmeria, part of the heavily cratered southern highland region of the planet Mars. The interesting patterns of the dunes themselves are contained within a boundary that is roughly hexagon-shaped.
Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University.
Mars can be a weird place sometimes. Although there are many of the same atmospheric and geological processes as on Earth, they can take on unusual forms not seen on our planet. The Mars rovers have discovered, for one example, verythin and delicate rock formationsthat are common in Mars’ lower gravity and thinner atmosphere (although similar ones can be found on Earth as well). Mars is also covered in sand dunes, much like those in earthly deserts. NASA’sMars Odysseyorbiter recently took photos of a dune field that – unlike any dune field seen on Earth – has a strange-looking, roughly hexagonal shape. It’s not a perfect hexagon, but close enough to make you take notice.
The dune field is on a crater floor in the Terra Cimmeria region, 68 degrees south of the equator, towards the south polar cap. This location on Mars, scientists believe, figures into the appearance of the dune field. As explained on ASU’s Flickr page:
Dunes at high latitudes – near the polar caps – are affected by seasonal frost and ice. The interactions with frost/ice reduces the amount of movement of sand grains within the dunes. This changes the morphology of near-polar dunes when compared to dunes at lower latitudes where ice/frost do not occur as frequently.
Wider view of the strange hexagonal dune field on Mars. Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Arizona State University.
There are also many dust-devil tracks visible in the images. Dust devils are common on Mars, just as they are on Earth, despite Mars’ thinner atmosphere. They have even been photographed in-action by the Spirit, Opportunity and Curiosity rovers, as the dust devils raced across the Martian landscape.
Lori Fenton is a planetary aeolian geomorphologist at SETI Institute. She studies wind-formed features such as sand dunes. She commented on the hexagonal dune field on Twitter:
Southern high latitude dunes seriously get their freak on. Nobody has yet tried to understand them. They know they're too cool for us anyway.
A dune field on a crater floor in Terra Cimmeria. From Mars Odyssey, which has been in orbit for 18 years.
Yep. @jmars_gis has got your back, here's a view. If you look at the whole dune field, it's not entirely hexagonal. I also included another crater nearby that also has an odd-shaped dune field. DTM is from MOLA, rainbow goes from elevations 300 to 2700 m. pic.twitter.com/vcDnu3kupW
As to how the dune fields formed the way they did, Fenton expressed some ideas via Twitter:
Yeah, the crater shape is one factor shaping the dune field, and it also affects incident winds (blocks them or enhances them). The dunes this far south are partially stabilized, which interferes with that interpretation (which is already complex).
Dunes are common on Mars, just as they are in deserts on Earth, and come in various shapes and sizes. Smaller sand drifts are also common. Most of the landers and rovers on Mars have seen dunes and drifts up close, a chance to study them in detail as to their composition and how they can form – even up to about 20 feet (6 meters) tall, like ones in the Bagnold Dune Field seen by Curiosity – in such a thin atmosphere.
Close-up view of the dunes themselves, from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.
Image via NASA/JPL/University of Arizona.
What makes these new dunes seen by Odyssey so peculiar is the overall shape of the dune fields themselves. Scientists, including Fenton, will examine them closely to figure out the processes involved in their formation.
Fenton had also recently written about another dune field on her blog that has similar crisp edges, but a different shape. She proposed two ideas for how these types of southern latitude dune fields – slower and more eroded – form:
1. (Less interesting) Dunes and ripples are forming and moving at high southern latitudes, but because of the ground ice, they do so more slowly than dunes at lower latitudes. They’re born that way, baby. (On second thought, that’s still interesting, because it means high latitude dunes would then record wind patterns over a longer time period than low latitude dunes. But they’d be hard to interpret.)
2. (More exciting) Dunes and ripples in the high southern latitudes formed long ago, in a climate state where the ground ice wasn’t yet formed, and have since become mostly locked in place. We’re essentially looking at fossil dunes. That means their shape would record ancient wind patterns, which we could compare with modern winds to see how the climate state on Mars has changed. It means we could use dunes to study climate change on Mars.
The huge, near-perfect hexagon at Saturn’s north pole, as seen by the Cassini spacecraft in 2014.
Image via NASA.
And what about that hexagonal shape? Are we surprised? Yes and no. Hexagons can be found in other places in nature. Another striking example is the jet stream formation at Saturn’s north pole, which is a massive, near-perfect hexagon centered at the pole itself. It’s absolutely astonishing.
Bottom line: These odd dune fields seen by the Odyssey orbiter – with one having a roughly hexagonal shape – are an interesting puzzle for planetary scientists, and are expected to help provide more clues about wind-driven dune formation processes on Mars.
An Israeli moon lander just took to the skies, but we'll all have to wait nearly two months for its historic touchdown try.
The robotic lander, called Beresheet,launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocketyesterday evening (Feb. 21) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. If everything goes according to plan, Beresheet will zip around Earth for about six weeks in ever-widening orbits before heading toward its final destination. The craft will arrive in lunar orbit in early April and attempt a landing on the 11th of that month.
Beresheet will end up putting about 4 million miles (6.5 million kilometers) on its odometer when all is said and done. That's more than any other moon-landing mission, said the spacecraft's builders, the nonprofit group SpaceIL and the company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
Beresheet's lengthy stay in Earth orbit may seem surprising. After all, China's Chang'e 4 farside lander reached lunar orbit just 4.5 days after its Dec. 7 liftoff (though Chang'e 4 didn't actually touch down until Jan. 2).
But the 5-foot-tall (1.5 meters) Beresheet cannot take a direct path to the moon, project team members said, because the lander shared a rocket ride with two other payloads. Also aboard the Falcon 9 last night were an Indonesian communications satellite and an experimental U.S. Air Force craft, both of which are making Earth orbit their home.
"This is Uber-style space exploration," SpaceIL co-founder Yonatan Winetraub said Wednesday (Feb. 20) during a prelaunch news conference.
The strategy is cost-effective, helping keep Beresheet's total price tag, including launch, at about $100 million — quite low for a mission to another world. But there is a trade-off.
"The problem with that is, it doesn't allow us to choose the orbit completely," Winetraub added. "We have to consider the requirements from the other payloads" on the rocket.
And you can't just jet straight off to the moon from Earth orbit, Winetraub said; the two celestial bodies must be lined up properly before Beresheet — whose name means "in the beginning" in Hebrew" — can make its move.
"The moon is coming around, and we're doing our own orbit, and we need to synchronize everything," Winetraub said. "For that, we need to do something that's called 'phasing loops,' to make sure that the moon comes around in the right position so you can capture with it. And that takes time."
Mission team members won't just be sitting on their hands while they're waiting for this sync-up. The time in Earth orbit will allow them to test Beresheet's various systems and make sure they can track and communicate with the spacecraft. [The 21 Most Marvelous Moon Missions]
"Only after we will be sure that everything is OK, we will jump — make the lunar-capture maneuver, what we call it — and jump to the moon," Yigal Harel, the head of SpaceIL's spacecraft program, said during Wednesday's news conference.
The touchdown process will be fully automated and take about 20 minutes, team members said. Beresheet will land on the moon's near side, within the large basaltic plain called Mare Serenitatis ("Sea of Serenity").
A successful touchdown would be a huge deal. Beresheet would become the first privately funded craft to land on the moon. And the SpaceIL/IAI team would be the first nonsuperpower entity to pull off the feat: To date, only the Soviet Union, the United States and China have done it.
Beresheet will study the local magnetic field during its lunar approach and its two-Earth-day mission on the moon's surface. It will also investigate lunar craters, project team members have said. But the main mission goal is to inspire young people, especially kids in Israel, to become more interested in science, technology, engineering and math.
Indeed, team members have already met with many kids around the world, to bring the mission — and spaceflight in general — down to Earth.
"It is rocket science, but our goal is to show them that it's not magic — it's something they can understand," SpaceIL co-founder Kfir Damari said during Wednesday's briefing. "If they can understand that, and if they can meet engineers and hear their story and see that they come from all different kinds of backgrounds, they can understand that they themselves can be those who will build the next spacecraft."
Beresheet is toting an Israeli flag and a time capsule. Among the capsule's contents is the "Lunar Library," a collection of materials that includes the full English-language version of Wikipedia. The library is a project of the Arch Mission Foundation, which aims to help preserve human knowledge and culture by storing bits and pieces of it in off-Earth locales.
Beresheet began life as a moon-race robot. SpaceIL is a former competitor in the Google Lunar X Prize, a $30 million contest to put a robot on the moon and have it perform a few basic tasks. The Prize ended in 2018 without a winner, but SpaceIL — and several other former teams, including the American company Moon Express — have kept developing their moon missions. µ
Mike Wall's book about the search for alien life, "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated byKarl Tate) is out now.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Israel's first space mission is on its way to the moon!
A used SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launchedan Israeli moon landeralong with an Indonesian communications satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida tonight (Feb. 21). After deploying its two payloads into orbit, the Falcon 9's first stage returned to Earth and aced a landing (the third for this booster) on SpaceX's drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You," which was stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.
Liftoff occurred at 8:45 p.m. EST (0145 Feb. 22 GMT) just as the moon rose above the horizon here.
Although the primary payload for this mission was Indonesia's satellite, named Nusantara Satu, the tiny moon lander that hitched a ride with the satellite as a secondary payload stole the show today. It became not only the first Israeli spacecraft to venture beyond Earth's orbit, but also the first-ever privately funded moon mission.
Today's launch was a momentous occasion for Israel, a small country that has never launched a mission into space, save for a handful of communications satellites and Earth-observation satellites that never left Earth's orbit.
The lander, named Beresheet (meaning "in the beginning" in Hebrew), was built by the Israeli nonprofit organization SpaceIL, which began working on this mission in 2011 as a contestant in the Google Lunar X Prize. That international competition offered $30 million to whichever privately funded team could land a robotic spacecraft on the moon. When none of the teams were able to reach that goal before the deadline, the competition ended without a winner. But that didn't stop SpaceIL from pursuing its goal.
"We have a vision to show off Israel's best qualities to the entire world," Sylvan Adams, a SpaceIL donor and Canadian-Israeli philanthropist, said during a pre-launch briefing in Orlando, Florida, on Wednesday (Feb. 20). "Tiny, tiny Israel is about to become the fourth nation to land on the moon, and this is a remarkable thing because we continue to demonstrate our ability to punch far above our weight and to show off our skills, our innovation [and] our creativity in tackling any difficult problem that could possibly exist."
If the mission is successful, Israel will be both the fourth nation and the fourth-largest nation to land on the moon, he added.
Beresheet will spend seven weeks making its way to the moon, swinging by Earth a few times and using our planet's gravity to build the momentum it needs to get to its destination. If Beresheet successfully executes a soft landing on the lunar surface, Israel will become the fourth nation to achieve such a landing on the moon, following in the footsteps of the world's "space superpowers" — the United States, Russia and China.
The first soft landing on the moon was achieved by the Soviet Union's Luna 9 spacecraft in 1966. NASA's Surveyor 1 spacecraft touched down on the lunar surface later that year. China joined the scene in 2013 with its Chang'e 3 lander and Yutu rover.
"We thought it's about time for a change, and we want to get little Israel all the way to the moon," Yonatan Winetraub, a co-founder of SpaceIL, said during the briefing. "This is the purpose of SpaceIL."
When Beresheet approaches the lunar surface, it will aim to touch down in a region called Mare Serenitatis, meaning "Sea of Serenity." The spacecraft will survive for only about two days before running out of power. During that time, it will study the moon's magnetic fields and take photos of the lunar surface — along with some out-of-this-world selfies, Yigal Harel, head of the SpaceIL Spacecraft Program, said in the briefing.
Once Beresheet's two days are up, the dead spacecraft won't be entirely useless. Mounted on the spacecraft is a laser retroreflector, a mirroring device that requires no power and can be used for space-to-ground communications via NASA's Deep Space Network (DSN). NASA contributed the device to this mission as part of an agreement with SpaceIL that would allow the startup company to utilize the DSN for its moon mission.
The retroreflector is not the only payload on board Beresheet that is designed to stand the test of time. SpaceIL has also included a time capsule in the spacecraft packed with digital files that hold information about the spacecraft and a variety of Israeli memorabilia. That includes a copy of Hebrew Bible, Hebrew songs, artwork created by Israeli children and a photo of Ilan Ramon, Israel's first and only astronaut.
Inside the time capsule is an enormous digital database known as the Arch Lunar Library, a project of the nonprofit Arch Mission Foundation. The library contains "millions of documents from all around the world, different dictionaries [and] encyclopedias" on three laser-etched coins each about the size of a nickel, Winetraub said. "It's going to be the most densely packed artifact to reach the moon from information point of view, and it's going to stay there for future generations to see what is it like on Earth here in 2019."
While Beresheet may be dominating the publicity for today's launch, the mission wouldn't be heading to the moon if it weren't for Indonesia's Nusantara Satu satellite and SpaceX's ability to offer ride-share missions. "We can't afford a full rocket ... so we basically do a ride share," Winetraub said. "This is Uber-style space exploration, so we're riding shotgun on the rocket."
Also known as PSN-6, Nusantara Satu is a geostationary communications satellite built by the California-based aerospace company SSL for Pasifik Satelit Nusantara, Indonesia's first private telecommunications company.
"Nusantara Satu is Indonesia's first high-throughput satellite that will serve to improve internet connectivity in the region," SpaceX officials said in a statement. "Additionally, the satellite's C-band and Ku-band transponders will be used for voice and data communications and video distribution throughout the Indonesian archipelago.
One booster, three missions
Beresheet and Nusantara Satu launched on a used Falcon 9 booster that had already traveled into space for two separate missions. Its maiden flight was for the Iridium-7 mission on July 25, 2018, when it launched 10 new Iridium communications satellites into orbit. After the booster stuck a drone-ship landing in the Pacific Ocean, SpaceX refurbished it and used it to launch Argentina's SAOCOM-1A Earth-observation satellite 11 weeks later. After successfully delivering SAOCOM-1A into orbit, the booster returned to Earth once more to touch down at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
This is the second Falcon 9 booster to execute three successful launches and landings. In December 2018, a twice-flown booster launched 64 small satellitesinto orbit for the SSO-A Smallsat Express mission. That booster landed on SpaceX's West Coast drone ship, named "Just Read the Instructions," and could be refurbished for a historic fourth flight. By reusing rocket boosters, SpaceX aims to reduce the cost of spaceflight.
Email Hanneke Weitering at email@example.com or follow her @hannekescience.
Wallace’s giant bee is about four times larger than a honeybee.
Credit: Global Wildlife Conservation.
After being missing in the action for more than four decades, Wallace’s giant bee (Megachile pluto) has been found in a remote part of Indonesia. The huge insect with enormous jaws — about the size of a human thumb — is the largest bee species in the world.
The ‘flying bulldog’
The giant bee, also known as the ‘flying bulldog’, was first discovered by British naturalistAlfred Russel Wallace, famous for independently proposing the theory of evolution through natural selection alongside Charles Darwin. When Wallace first came across the beefy insect in Indonesia’s North Moluccas islands in 1858, he described it as a “large black wasp-like insect, with immense jaws like a stag-beetle.”
Despite its conspicuous size, Wallace’s giant bee likes to keep to itself. For more than a century it hadn’t been spotted by Western scientists, only to be seen again by entomologist Adam Messer in 1981, who called it the ‘king of bees’. The lack of sightings, despite scientists’ best efforts, coupled with wide scale habitat loss, has led many to believe that the insect had gone extinct. Although Indonesia has abundant flora, it’s also a country where regulations are weak and forests are being cut down for agriculture.
But then Clay Bolt, a specialist bee photographer, did the unimaginable: he found Wallace’s giant bee, where many others had failed before him. Several months prior to the discovery, Bolt was introduced to a museum specimen of the giant bee by Eli Wyman, an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History. The two quickly bonded through their shared interest of seeing the bee in the wild and hatched a plan for an expedition.
Natural history photographer Clay Bolt takes the first ever photos of a living Wallace’s giant bee.
Credit: Simon Robson.
In January, the two had arrived with a search party in Indonesia where they explored the rainforest in North Moluccas. For a week, the crew braved extreme heat, humidity, and thunderstorms, as they looked for the giant bee’s nests that are typically carved into termite mounds in trees. They were down to their last day with nothing to show when a guide spotted a promising low-lying termite mound. When they peeked inside the resin-covered enclosure, the explorers thought they had spotted a snake. To everyone’s surprise, they found that the creature making a racket inside was a Wallace’s giant bee. They quickly blocked the nest’s exit and collected the bee.
“We were just basically freaking out after so many years of planning and almost giving up hope,” Bolt told Earther. “It was an incredible moment to realize that we came all this way, other people have looked for it, and here we were: filthy and sweaty and we somehow found this insect. For me, it was a moment of tremendous gratitude and humility that I was a part of this moment and this team.”
Rediscovering the giant bee is certainly a breakthrough — yet the real tough part is only just beginning. Now, researchers will have to work on plans designed to protect the species, which will require more studies that might estimate how many individuals are left and what the state of their habitat is. The fact that the bees live in very remote locations is reassuring, but there is still a lot we don’t know about this elusive species.
“I hope this rediscovery will spark future research that will give us a deeper understanding of the life history of this very unique bee and inform any future efforts to protect it from extinction,” Wyman said in a statement.
Virgin Galactic’s supersonic space plane, the VSS Unity, took off on its fifth test flight today. Mothership WhiteKnightTwo released the suborbital space plane at around 44,000 feet — and VSS Unity reached a new maximum altitude of 55.85 miles (89.9km.)
The second generation SpaceShipTwo, dubbed VSS Unity, reached an altitude of 51.4 miles (82.7 km) during its fourth test flight in December 2018. This time, the space plane traveled with a much heavier payload — close to full commercial weight — and a third crew member, Beth Moses, the first woman to enter space on a commercial US spacecraft.
“Although we passed a major milestone in December, we still have a way to go in testing the many factors that can affect a flight,” reads a press release. “So, for this flight, we will be expanding the envelope to gather new and vital data essential to future tests and operations, including vehicle center of gravity.”
Take a look at the flight path our SpaceShipTwo will take during our fifth supersonic powered test flight. The flight window opens again tomorrow. More info on our flight test program can be found here https://virg.in/UpU
Former Navy Officer Tells The Truth Behind Antarctica
Former Navy Officer Tells The Truth Behind Antarctica
A naval officer came clean about the biggest secrets he saw in the no-fly area in Antarctica. Among everything, he mentioned an enormous gap in the ice within a region they were traversing with the medical emergency. He also carried a group of scientists who vanished for an entire period of two weeks and were terrified after that.
Antarctica is a place that never stops surprising with its secrets. Starting from the mystery of its ancient past and ending with the numerous alleged accounts suggested during the years, this remote continent remains to be a real enigma.
According to many authors, Antarctica is a place full of secrets beneath its surface. They further claim that this is the exact reason this place is so isolated from the public.
One of the theories circling around this continent is that once, it was resided by an ancient civilization.
Much evidence supports the hypothesis that the icy continent wasn’t as frosty as it is now in the distant past. On the contrary, it could have had a blooming vegetation and people could have lived there, building advanced structures.
The main question, however, is why Antarctica has become the heart of all kinds of fascinating conspiracy theories? We will try to explain this question with the simplest answer. This continent is the most detached place on Mother Earth, thus, people can’t just easily go there and study its past.
Moreover, there are multiple ancient maps that illustrate Antarctica not as we see it today but rather iceless.
For instance, the 1513’s map by Turkish Admiral Piri Reis is one of the most polemical of them all, still causing debates in our contemporary society even today.
This map, namely, draws Antarctica which was only, in fact, discovered between 1818-1820.
According to the mainstream claims, the first journeys to the continent happened in 1820. The Russian travel’s leaders were Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen and Mikhail Lazarev, while the British journey’s leaders were Edward Bransfield and an American sealer Nathaniel Palmer.
On the other hand, the first landing likely happened one year later, when the American sealer Captain John Davis set foot on the icy surface.
Norwegian Ronald Amundsen ultimately reached the Pole on December 14, 1911. He managed to defeat the British Robert Falcon Scott during a dramatic contest.
What the stories above have in common is that they all originate, less or more, from recent times.
Then again, the maps we mentioned date back 5 centuries ago, yet, they clearly do depict the continent. Some of them even show it without ice.
In 2012, a satellite picture of the icy continent was the reason for the rise of many unanswered questions. It showed a bizarre oval-shaped structure arranged in such a remote place on Earth.
Measuring 400-feet across, this structure imposed the dilemma whether it emerged naturally or it was man-made.
Anyway, this structure is just a part of the whole collection of many unusual things that exist there.
And they only add to the stories of numerous informants who claim the society doesn’t own a clue about the real deal going on in Antarctica.
What is mentioned as a ‘truly shocking and astonishing video on extremely strange events in the Antarctic continent’ has recently been uploaded to YouTube, prompting a large discussion?
“A naval officer tells us what he remembers, including seeing a huge opening in the ice in a no-fly area they were crossing with a medical emergency on board. Then he ferried a group of scientists who had disappeared for two weeks, and has specifically been warned not to refer again to this subject. As he put it, they looked scared. When they returned to McMurdo, their gear was isolated and they were flown back to New Zealand in special plane. He discusses what he saw and experienced in detail. This is the most provocative story about what is going on in Antarctica ever presented anywhere.”
WETENSCHAPHet ruimtetoerismebedrijf Virgin Galactic heeft vandaag vanuit de Amerikaanse Mojave-woestijn opnieuw en met succes een supersonische test verricht met zijn ruimteschip SpaceShipTwo, zo was op Twitter te volgen.
Het moedervliegtuig Eve steeg met het SpaceshipTwo op in de Mojavewoestijn om het ruimtevliegtuig op 40.000 voet zoals een bom los te laten. Het ruimtevliegtuig bereikte op eigen kracht tegen drie keer de snelheid van het geluid 93 kilometer hoogte, of boven de grens van de ruimte zoals die in de VS is vastgelegd: 80 kilometer hoogte. Het toestel had die arbitraire grens ook al in december bereikt, en streek na rechtsomkeert te hebben gemaakt probleemloos weer neer in de Mojave-woestijn.
Het SpaceShipTwo, alias Unity, voerde voor het eerst drie mensen mee: naast de piloten Dave Mackay en Michael Masucci ook astronautentrainer Beth Moses. Haar rol was niet alleen om voor het eerst een derde opvarende te zijn, maar ook om delen van de cabine te testen vooraleer Virgin Galactic zijn eerste klanten even in de ruimte laat vertoeven.
Het ruimtevliegtuig van de Britse miljardair Richard Branson kan naast de twee piloten zes passagiers vervoeren. Volgens zender CNBC kost een ticket 250.000 dollar en hebben er al meer dan 600 mensen een contract ondertekend. Al met al leunde het gewicht kort aan bij wat het bij een commerciële vlucht zal zijn, aldus Branson.
De Unity voerde tijdens zijn vijfde supersonische vlucht ook vier wetenschappelijke experimenten van het Amerikaanse ruimtevaartbureau NASA mee.
The enigma of how the 'bluestones' arrived at Stonehenge was said to have been solved last week when experts claimed the blocks had been transported to Wiltshire from Pembrokeshire.
The team pinpointed two sites in the Preseli Hills - Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin - where the researchers said the stones had been quarried before being dragged 140 miles (225 km).
But their assertions have been branded 'all wrong' by another team of scientists which claim there are no traces of man-made 'engineering features' at the site which would indicate it was a quarry.
Last week, a team of experts claimed Stonehenge's bluestones had been transported from Pembrokeshire in south west Wales by our prehistoric ancestors, having been originally used for a different monument. An image of what they claim is the prehistoric quarry is shown above
It has long been thought the bluestones, which form Stonehenge's inner ring came from Wales, and were transported to Wiltshire using primitive Stone Age technology.
And last week, a team of archaeologists and geologists led by academics from University College London (UCL) claimed Stonehenge was originally built in Pembrokeshire, hundreds of years before the monument was taken down and rebuilt in its current location.
The UCL team said it has discovered two prehistoric quarries in the county, 140 miles (225km) away from Stonehenge, which appear to be the origin of the bluestones used to build the monument.
Carbon dating suggests the stones were dug out 500 years before the famous monument was erected in Wiltshire.
One archaeologist suggested that the new evidence shows Stonehenge was 'a second-hand monument', with the site where its stones were quarried being 'the Ikea of Neolithic monument building'.
But their assertions have been branded 'all wrong' by another team of earth scientists who claim there are no traces of man-made 'engineering features' at the site. A stock image of Stonehenge is shown
The group does not accept the idea of a Neolithic quarry in the Preseli Hills and said the supposed signs of 'quarrying' by humans at Craig Rhos-y-Felin (pictured) were entirely natural
WHY SCIENTISTS CLAIM UCL-LED RESEARCH IS 'ALL WRONG'
Dr Brian John, Dr Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd and John Downes said there are 'no traces of human intervention' at the two sites in the Preseli Hills, indicating it wasn't a quarry used for Stonehenge.
In particular, they said there is no evidence to prove how the site was used - with no artefacts, bones or tools discovered at the site.
They believe rhyolite deposits linking the site and Stonehenge don't prove the stones were carried to Wiltshire by humans, but that the fragments may have been moved there by glaciers.
The team claims the UCL archaeologists behind the report may have inadvertently created certain features during five years of 'highly selective sediment removal'.
Their study says: 'It is suggested, on the basis of careful examinations of this site, that certain of the "man-made features" described have been created by the archaeologists themselves through a process of selective sediment and clast removal.
'An expectation or conviction that "engineering features" would be found has perhaps led to the unconscious fashioning of archaeological artifices.'
In particular, the researchers said they had discovered a series of recesses in the rocky outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin that match Stonehenge's bluestones in size and shape.
They even said they found similar stones that the prehistoric builders extracted, but left behind, and 'a loading bay' from where the huge stones could be dragged away.
But these claims have been disputed by a separate team writing in the the journal Archaeology in Wales.
Dr Brian John, Dr Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd and John Downes said there are 'no traces of human intervention in any of the features that have made the archaeologists so excited'.
Writing on his blog, Dr John said: 'We have no argument with the geological work that links this site with Stonehenge.
'But we cannot accept the idea of a Neolithic quarry here without firm evidence - and in our considered opinion there is none.
'The archaeologists admit that there are no artefacts, bones or tools at the site.'
Specifically, the group does not accept the idea of a Neolithic quarry in the Preseli Hills and said the supposed signs of 'quarrying' by humans at Craig Rhos-y-Felin were entirely natural.
They also believe the archaeologists behind the report may have inadvertently created certain features during five years of 'highly selective sediment removal'.
'This site has been described by lead archaeologist Prof Mike Parker Pearson as "the Pompeii of prehistoric stone quarries" and has caused great excitement in archaeological circles,' the report said.
'The selection of this rocky crag near the village of Brynberian for excavation in 2011-2015 was triggered by the discovery by geologists Richard Bevins and Rob Ixer that some of the stone fragments in the soil at Stonehenge were quite precisely matched to an unusual type of foliated rhyolite [a type of extrusive rock] found in the crag.
They also believe the archaeologists behind the report may have inadvertently created certain features during five years of 'highly selective sediment removal'. A picture of the UCL-led dig is shown
The UCL team claims the stones were transported 140 miles (225km) from Pembrokeshire to Salisbury Plain in around 2900 BC, but the conflicting study said debris used to link the sites was caused by glaciers
'This led the archaeologists to conclude there must have been a Neolithic quarry here, worked for the specific purpose of cutting out monoliths for the bluestone settings at Stonehenge.'
But Dr John is convinced the rhyolite debris at Stonehenge, studied by both groups, instead comes from glacial erratics.
These are stones and rocks that were transported by a glacier and then left behind after the glacier melted - which were eroded from the Rhosyfelin rocky crag.
This happened almost half a million years ago by the overriding Irish Sea Glacier and the fragments were then transported eastwards by ice towards Salisbury Plain, he explained.
The study continued: 'It is suggested, on the basis of careful examinations of this site, that certain of the "man-made features" described have been created by the archaeologists themselves through a process of selective sediment and clast removal.
'An expectation or conviction that "engineering features" would be found has perhaps led to the unconscious fashioning of archaeological artifices.
'While there appears to be no landform, rock mechanics or sedimentary evidence that this was a Neolithic quarry site devoted to the extraction of bluestone' for use at Stonehenge, or anywhere else.
But the team accepts there may have been temporary Mesolithic, Neolithic or later camp sites here over a very long period of time at the site.
The team accepts there may have been temporary Mesolithic, Neolithic or later camp sites here over a very long period of time at the site. The 'quarry' site is shown above
Commenting on the UCL-led research, Dr John said: 'The new geological work at Rhosyfelin and Stonehenge is an interesting piece of 'rock provenencing' - but it tells us nothing at all about how monoliths or smaller rock fragments from West Wales found their way to Stonehenge. Here, Workers sort through stones at the site
Commenting on the UCL-led research, Dr John said: 'The new geological work at Rhosyfelin and Stonehenge is an interesting piece of "rock provenencing" - but it tells us nothing at all about how monoliths or smaller rock fragments from West Wales found their way to Stonehenge.
'We are sure that the archaeologists have convinced themselves that the glacial transport of erratics was impossible. We are not sure where they got that idea from.
'On the contrary, there is substantial evidence in favour of glacial transport and zero evidence in support of the human transport theory.'
'We think the archaeologists have been so keen on telling a good story here that they have ignored or misinterpreted the evidence in front of them.
'That's very careless. They now need to undertake a complete reassessment of the material they have collected.'
Further excavations of the 'quarries' are planned for 2016.
'We think the archaeologists have been so keen on telling a good story here that they have ignored or misinterpreted the evidence in front of them,' Dr John said. Craig Rhos-y-felin (pictured) is set in the picturesque Pembrokeshire countryside
THEORY ROCKS WERE USED ORIGINALLY FOR ANOTHER MONUMENT AND TRANSPORTED FROM PEMBROKESHIRE BY ANCIENT PEOPLE
A team of archaeologists and geologists, led by academics from UCL, last week claimed Stonehenge was originally built in Pembrokeshire, hundreds of years before the monument was taken down and rebuilt in its current location.
They said they have discovered two prehistoric quarries in the county, 140 miles (225km) away from Stonehenge, which appear to be the origin of the bluestones used to build the monument, with carbon dating suggesting the stones were dug out 500 years before the famous monument was erected in Wiltshire.
One of the quarry's excavators compared it to a 'Neolithic Ikea' because of the way the raw materials were used elsewhere. An aerial view of the site is shown
The stone is formed into 'pillars' which would have made it easy for ancient men to chisel them off
They said a series of recesses in the rocky outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, in Pembrokeshire, match Stonehenge's bluestones in size and shape.
And that they found similar stones that the prehistoric builders extracted, but left behind, and 'a loading bay' from where the huge stones could be dragged away.
Professor Mike Parker Pearson of UCL, the director of the project, said: 'We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn't get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC.
'It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that's pretty improbable in my view.
'It's more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire.'
He said it was a 'possibility' that the evidence could mean Stonehenge is older than previously thought.
The function of Stonehenge (stock image) remains a long-standing mystery, although it is believed to have something to do with religious ceremonies revolving around the solstice.
But he added: 'We think it's more likely that they were building their own monument, that somewhere near the quarries there is the first Stonehenge and that what we're seeing at Stonehenge is a second-hand monument.'
The research was published in the journal Antiquity alongside a new book by the Council for British Archaeology, titled Stonehenge: Making Sense of a Prehistoric Mystery.
There is also the possibility that the stones were taken to Salisbury Plain around 3200 BC and that the giant sarsens in the outer ring, which come from within 20 miles of the site, were added much later.
The function of Stonehenge remains a long-standing mystery, although it is believed to have something to do with religious ceremonies revolving around the solstice.
Stonehenge is the gift that keeps on giving employment to minions of archeologists, historians, reality show hosts and the like by keeping its origin, purpose and other mysteries mysterious. Every once in a while, a piece of the Stonehenge puzzle is solved – usually closing one hole but, unlike conventional puzzles, opening a few more. One puzzle that would seem to be easy to solve is finding the original quarry where the stones were cut. And yet, it’s taken until now to find that quarry (make that quarries) … where the monument’s smaller bluestones came from. A second piece of the puzzle may also have been solved – how they were transported to their final standing place. What new holes have these pieces opened? Anxious archeologists with bills to pay are awaiting.
“What’s really exciting about these discoveries is that they take us a step closer to unlocking Stonehenge’s greatest mystery – why its stones came from so far away. Every other Neolithic monument in Europe was built of megaliths brought from no more than 10 miles away. We’re now looking to find out just what was so special about the Preseli hills 5,000 years ago, and whether there were any important stone circles here, built before the bluestones were moved to Stonehenge.”
In press release from University College London and a paper published in Antiquity, UCL Archaeology professor and study leader Mike Parker Pearson explains that the bluestones (found in the inner horseshoe and outer circle of Stonehenge) have now been proven to come from almost 180 miles away in Wales from the stone outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-feli. These outcrops are made of natural vertical pillars of stone with cervices or vertical joints that would have made things easy for Neolithic carvers to simply insert wedges, pound, yell “Look out!” and watch them fall. Being incredibly hard stones, breakage was minimal.
That obviously was the easy part. The rest of this contract involved getting the bluestones from the Preseli hills to Salisbury. While much credence has been given to the theory that the heavy stones were floated up the Bristol Channel and along the Bristol Avon towards Salisbury on rafts (similar to the way pyramid stones were transported in Egypt), study co-author Professor Colin Richards (University of the Highlands and Islands) says the researchers found the remnants of man-made stone and earth platforms at the bottom of the outcrops.
“Bluestone pillars could be eased down onto this platform, which acted as a loading bay for lowering them onto wooden sledges before dragging them away.”
And co-author Professor Kate Welham (Bournemouth University) points out that the quarries are on the north side of the Preseli hills which gives a relatively flat route for them to be pulled on rollers by cattle and men overland all the way to Salisbury Plain.
Even this far is a long way to pull these giants.
Pulled from Wales to Salisbury? Perhaps that’s the new hole opened by fitting this study’s “the bluestones are definitely from Wales” piece into the Stonehenge puzzle.
Rest easy all you archeologists, historians and druid priests – your jobs are safe … for now.
It was 2 in the morning on a placid summer night of 1996 in Catalonia, Spain, and the only activity inside the luxurious country house of Rafael Farriols was focused inside his semi-circular study, located at the top floor. There, Farriols had locked himself in after his family had retired to bed, and was circling around his broad work table, whispering. But he wasn’t praying or conducting a meditating practice; instead the elderly Catalonian gentleman was doing something far more unconventional: trying to communicate with extraterrestrials, as they had expressly invited him to do so in a letter he had just received in the mail.
Rafael Farriols, during a UFO conference
Just by these early brushstrokes of the larger picture I’ll be trying to paint, you might be left with the impression that the man was just another crackpot, and yet nothing could be further from the truth. Rafael Farriols (1928-2006) was a respected, bright and wealthy industrialist from Barcelona, who had successfully applied his studies in chemistry in order to make his company one of the biggest exporters of acrylic plastic in Europe. He was an animal lover and his fortune allowed him to raise horses, raptor birds and other kinds of exotic pets. He also had a passion for photography and philosophy; but without a doubt the reason his name transcended the frontier of his business interests and numerous friends was his active interest in “platillos volantes”(flying saucers), a mystery which found fertile ground in Spaniard soil, with regular news of sightings and even close encounters of the 3rd kind reported by newspapers printed all across the Iberian peninsula ever since the modern age of UFOs began –and even way before that, as dogged Spanish researchers have found out, when looking for witnesses of those elusive objects and their occupants amid remote villages where people could barely read or write, and such sightings were often regarded as supernatural portents rather than otherworldly visits.
One such researcher is Juan José Benítez, an author I’ve mentioned in previous articles, who has published more than 50 books about UFOs and other topics. It is in one of those books that Benítez mentioned the incident with Farriols –who was a dear friend of his– as part of a larger tapestry of weirdness, deception and half-truths that constitute the infamous UMMO affair. Just like Roswell symbolizes the ‘American-ness’ of the UFO narrative —“Them aliens crashed in the desert and we retrieved the wreckage, Yee-ha!”— UMMO is perhaps the most Spanish example of alleged contact with Extraterrestrials you will be able to find in the Literature –“Rediez! The extraterreshtrialsh want to keep correshpondenze with me”– which is probably why to this day what most people in the anglophone side of UFOlogy know about this fascinating series of cases is just the iconic )+(glyph, faintly reminiscent of the astrological symbol of Uranus, or a Cyrillic letter
Explaining the whole UMMO enchilada (um, paella?) would take way too many pages and it’s not the real point of the present article, so to make a really REALLY long story short: in February 8th of 1966 a newspaper from Madrid published the story that a landing of a UFO had reportedly taken place in the neighborhood of Aluche two days earlier. The ground of the site was burned, and later inspections found deep rectangular impressions with a weird cross mark in the middle, along with faint traces of radioactivity. One of the witnesses, a man by the name of José Luis Jordán Peña, wrote a letter to the press describing the sighting of the object, which had the typical shape of a flying saucer except for one detail –a strange, dark emblem in its underside that resembled a vertical line between two inverted parenthesis symbols.
Around the same time several individuals in Spain started to receive letters with postage stamps from all over the world, displaying a similar marking as a form of a rubber stamp. Among them was Fernando Sesma, a flying saucer enthusiast who in 1954 had created the “Sociedad de Amigos del Espacio”(Society of Space Friends) and was very interested in the topic of contactees. Sesma said that in January of 1965 he received a call from an unknown individual with a strong foreign accent, who told him he would soon receive “items of an extraterrestrial order.” Sesma’s dream of interacting with entities from other planets had come true, and soon he would be joined by other similar contactees, who began a series of regular salons at the Café Lion in the Madrilenian street of Alcalá, to exchange impressions on the astonishing information they were getting through the post mail. Among them was Jordán Peña, the Aluche witness mentioned above.
The authors of the lengthy typewritten letters introduced themselves as extraterrestrial emissaries who had come from a planet called UMMO, orbiting the red dwarf star Wolf 424, located in the constellation Virgo (some 14.2 light years away from the Earth). Unlike most Contactee cases, these nordic-like visitors were more than forthcoming in describing themselves, their culture and technology to their astonishing recipients using highly detailed explanations that were peppered with words supposedly written in the aliens’ native tongue —OYAGAA was for example the name they had given to planet Earth, and all the rest of the Ummite language made anyone sound as if they were suffering a stroke if spoken out loud.
Here, it seemed, was the holy grail UFO enthusiasts had been waiting for. Instead of the psychic means like channeling employed by American contactees –which was too resemblant of spiritual mediumship, for the taste of both the scientifically-oriented and the religiously conservative– to get in touch with the Venusian space brothers who seemed to be only interested in spreading the gospel of interplanetary peace among the warmongering people of Earth (rather than dabbling in the finer points of advanced Cosmology) the rational explorers from UMMO were more pragmatic and preferred to get in touch with their chosen ones (the recipient of the letters eventually expanded from Madrid to Barcelona, and then to France, Argentina and Italy) through more conventional methods; aside from the mail, sometimes they would also use the phone to call their contacts, like they did with Sesma, and their voices sounded nasal and aphonic; the explanation being that Ummites were so advanced their main form of communication was telepathy (duh) and so their vocal cords were severely atrophied. The Ummites were even incapable of typing their long epistles themselves, due to their high sensitivity in the fingertips, so they had to rely on terrestrial secretaries who were handsomely paid for their transcribing services, as well as their discretion.
(The above clip is an alleged recording Farriols made of a telephone call with a ‘Ummite’ in 1969)
These extraterrestrials’ science and theorems, delivered in an extremely dry and technical style and accompanied by elaborate hand-drawn diagrams and illustrations, seemed not to be too far-fetched and in conflict with our own scientific knowledge. Even the stern admonitions of the Ummites to nottake their revelations at face value had a certain whiff of plausibility, since that sounded like the kind of cautionary approach real aliens would take during a gradual acclimation program, in order to establish a formal relationship with humanity without causing a total social disruption by their arrival. At least that was what I believed when I first read about UMMO as a very young boy in the pages of a 1978 book written by Alejandro Vignati, a little-known Argentinian UFOlogist –their computers, for example, stored vast quantities of information in quartz crystals instead of magnetic disks; something that sounded like Flash Gordon stuff in the late 1960’s, but is now a reality as incredibly as it may sound.
I even thought the photos of a white disk sporting the now-famous )+( symbol, allegedly taken near a castle in San José de Valderas on June 1st, 1967, were indisputably authentic, even though they had been sent to the press by an anonymous photographer (a clear red herring, but back then I hadn’t learned of such things). This particular close encounter of the second kind, by the way, had actually been announced by the Ummites on a previous letter received by their “OYAGAAbrothers” in Madrid the previous month, and near the place where the disk had supposedly touched ground a mysterious metallic tube was said to have been found by a local child who carelessly opened it, revealing a green plastic film inside it marked with the typical UMMO logo. The San José de Valderas case was seen as confirmation by the Madrilenian circle that the documents were real, and it attained international attention thanks to the book “Un Caso Perfecto” (A Perfect Case) originally published in 1969 (a second, revised edition was printed in 1973), co-written by legendary UFOlogist Antonio Ribera and Rafael Farriols, the same Catalonian industrialist I introduced in the first paragraph of this article, who eventually became a key figure in the UMMO affair and a recipient of many letters himself –when Ribera passed away, Farriols became the repository of all his UMMO files, and he also ended up buying the original San José de Valderas negatives for the pricey sum of $30,000 pesetas.
“Don’t believe in us, and don’t disseminate these letters to the masses” was the counter-intuitive mantra repeated again and again in the UMMO letters. And yet, how could their growing number of adepts not believe, when they had been chosen as grassroots liaisons between our world and a superior civilization? How could they not shout the good news to the winds?? The popularity of the UMMO topic grew, more books were written, and conferences were organized where the true converts and the mere curious gathered, much to the annoyance of ‘serious’ UFO investigators who thought the whole thing was pure nonsense –an echo of the contempt NICAP and other groups in the United States always showed to the contactees (and later to abductees) because they stole the media spotlight and scared away the few scientists genuinely interested in the phenomenon.
In his book “The Invisible College” (1975) Vallee devotes the entire fourth chapter to UMMO (“The Function of OEMII”) where he speculates whether it could have been some sort of experiment in socio-psychological manipulation, perpetrated perhaps by a military intelligence group. His reasoning was backed by the analysis of the metal and plastic samples from the San José de Valderas case, which had been obtained by Farriols through a third party –the man who had allegedly obtained them and told the story of the kid who found the metal cylinder, Antonio Pardo, was never interviewed– and were sent to the Spanish National Institute for Space Research (INTA) whose president happened to be an uncle of Farriols. The laboratory analysis concluded the metal was a very pure (99%) alloy of nickel, and the plastic film was polyvinyl fluoride, which was only manufactured by the DuPont company with the commercial name of TEDLAR, and was used by NASA (and the military!) due to their very special chemical and dielectric properties. So even though the material was not found to be of otherworldly origin, neither it was something you could purchase in any hardware store in Madrid.
The years passed. The supply of new letters ebbed and flowed, which was explained as the result of the Ummites leaving and returning to Earth. Unlike most contactee groups, there was never a centralized leader who was the sole repository of information, and the mail recipients formed groups that would later dissolve or split –one of those groups, Eridani, was presided by Jordán Peña, who took a very skeptical approach to UMMO and UFOs in general. Also unlike typical contactee groups in the United States, there was never any grand prophecy foretelling a massive arrival of OAWOLEA OUEWA(the alien word for their lenticular spacecraft) at the major cities of the world. The Ummites were bound by a strict ‘cosmic law’ –a sort of ‘prime directive’– which forbade them from overtly meddling and interfering with human society.
Only once or twice did the UMMO affair took an apocalyptic spin, by warning their followers in one of their collective messages (meant to be read during a general assembly at a predeterminate date) that there was a very high chance of a global nuclear conflagration due to the Yom Kippur war of 1973, and they even offered refuge to their terrestrial allies inside a nuclear shelter they had prepared under the Sierra de Gredos mountains in Salamanca; the catch though, was that each follower could only bring nine other companions to the extraterrestrial base, mortifying those who took the warning seriously and were waiting for final confirmation from the Ummites, while trying to determine who among their friends and family to save, and who to leave behind! Fortunately this ‘orange alert’ did not devolve into a true tragedy, and to my knowledge no one ended up committing suicide or selling all their possessions, like in the book “When Prophecy Fails” –perhaps because the Ummites didn’t claim to know the future with absolute certainty, so instead their predictions were the result of mathematical and sociopolitical probabilities. Or maybe because all those typewritten “don’t believe us!” had actually sunk in after all…
By 1993, when nobody cared about the Space Brothers of the ’60s and the UFO scene started to be monopolized by Roswell, alien abductions and Area 51, José Luis Jordán Peña –the skeptical president of the Eridani group, and one of the witnesses of the Aluche landing– gave the biggest ‘mea culpa’in the history of Spanish UFOlogy, by claiming he was the sole mastermind behind the entire UMMO affair. It was him, he announced, who had written all the letters and drawn all the diagrams illustrating them. Not only that, but he also claimed to have fabricated the Aluche landing, and hoaxed the San José de Valderas photos using a small model made out of translucent picnic plates and suspended through a thin nylon wire.
“Case closed!” announced the hard-line skeptics… Or was it?
In UFOlogy the will to believe is only superseded by the will to disbelieve, depending on where you stand on the issue of alien life. No matter how tenuous and improbable a debunking explanation may turn out to be, that’s always a better alternative than opening the Pandora’s Box of a true anomaly for people who adopt the “it can’t be, therefore it isn’t” posture (what we call “big ‘S’ skeptics”). Remember the Belgian flap of the 1990’s? It only took one person to claim he had been the one who had faked that famous ‘triangle UFO’ photo, which has been considered by some to be one of the best graphic evidences in history –without providing ANY sort of evidence to back up his claim, mind you– for skeptics and the media to buy it without question, and use that as an excuse to dismiss the entire series of sightings of unidentified objects that occurred in that country, which were reported by both citizens as well as civilian and military authorities.
A similar thing happens with the self-proclaimed culpability of Jordán Peña, who could very well be compared to Richard Doty both in infamy as well as trustworthiness. Without providing any claim of evidence whatsoever, he bragged that his little ‘social experiment’ as he called it, had been supported and financed by none other than the CIA (“Joder, tío!”). They were the ones who had provided the scientific expertise needed to fabricate the illusion of the highly advanced UMMO technology, and who also mailed the forged letters at post offices scattered all around the world, in order to give them more believability.
The Aluche landing marks and burned ground? He and a couple of friends –who were the ones who entered a bar to report their alleged sighting of the flying saucer– dug up the rectangular prints using a beach bucket and burned the ground with a blow torch, he said; he had even acquired a small amount of radioactive sand (provided by the CIA, of course) that he spread around the site. The problem is Jordán Peña leaves out the fact that he and his accomplices were not the only witnesses of the landing: they were also some soldiers who claimed to have seen the object that day. Even after the incident, Jordán Peña and his wife received the visit of a man in uniform who claimed to be an officer of the Spanish Air Force, to interrogate him about the event. The officer told him he had also seen the object, which completely surprised Jordán. How could this military officer claim to be a witness of something he had made up? He thought. The officer advised Jordán not to talk about the incident any further “because it could all be the work of the Americans.” To complete the MIB tone of the incident, the man gave Jordán Peña a card with phone number where he could be reached, but months later when Jordán tried to call the officer, he found out the name and number were completely fictitious! Was the CIA ‘experimenting’ with their own operative?
With regards to the San José de Valderas photos, Jordán Peña claimed to have traveled to the site a few days beforehand with one of his accomplices (Vicente Ortuño) and took the photos of the model when there was no one in the area, they processed the photos themselves and sent them to the press anonymously. ‘Antonio Pardo’ –the guy who supposedly took photos of the nickel cylinder and sent them to the press with the metallic and plastic samples– had been him using an alias, and the samples had been fabricated by “the Institution” as he referred to the CIA. But once again, Jordán dismisses the fact that there were more witnesses that observed a strange object with an orange glow that evening, who were interviewed by Antonio Ribera and Rafael Farriols for their book “Un Caso Perfecto.” Were they all liars? “Yes,” said Jordán, dismissing the whole thing all too conveniently.
Which leaves of course the big, lenticular-shaped elephant in the room? WHY did he do it?? “I wanted to study the behavior of sects, masochistic conducts and leader figures,” he told Juan José Benítez when he interviewed him years later. “It was clear to me the UFO subject was a fallacy –meaning a deception or lie intended to harm a person. Thus was born UMMO as an experiment to prove the extraterrestrial issue was just another falsehood.” Which is why the name he coined sounded just as the Spanish word for ‘smoke’ (humo).
With this in mind, Jordán said, is that he put himself in touch with two American anthropologists, to see if they would be interested in helping him both professionally and financially with his social experiment –he was after all, a lay person with no scientific degrees in psychology. According to him, one of the academics rejected the idea and considered it completely unethical. The other one was not as dismissive but didn’t agree to it either; yet months later –according to Jordán’s testimony to Benítez– that same anthropologist (who was never named) contacted him again out of the blue, telling Jordán his proposal had been discretely sent to the CIA, who had conducted a study of his profile and background (in the 1950’s he had worked for Fé Católica, an intelligence service run by the Jesuit order) and the Intelligence organization was willing to fully support his project.
What could the Yankees possibly get out of his little UFOlogical deception, though? According to him, the “Institution” was capable of sending ciphered messages within the letters to infiltrated agents behind the Iron Curtain –East Germany and Romania, predominantly. Even though such a notion does not sound totally implausible, to this day there’s never been anynews of UMMO letters received in Germany.
‘Project UWW’, which was supposed to be the codename given to the contactee deception, ended in 1989 “coinciding with the fall of the Berlin wall,” in the words of Jordán. Yet it’s far more likely the real reason the UMMO megalomaniac stopped sending letters to the still-expectant UMMO fans was the fact that in 1988 he suffered from a stroke caused by a brain clot which left half of his body paralyzed (hemiplegia), rendering him incapable to keep typewriting the letters or drawing the Ummite diagrams –perhaps it was a fitting punishment, that the man behind the guttural language of UMMO ended up having a difficulty to properly communicate phonetically for the rest of his life…
José Luis Jordán Peña, after he suffered his stroke
Juan José Benítez interviewed Jordán Peña several times for many months, as it is stated in his book “El Hombre que Susurraba a los Ummitas” (The Man who Whispered to the Ummites), and it is clear from his ‘testimony’ that the man was a pathological liar with delusions of grandeur, who kept changing his story again and again –on one occasion he told Benítez his first meeting with CIA representatives took place by late 1965, but on another occasion he said the offer to support the UMMO project happened on November of 1966. Sometimes he explained the San José the Valderas maquette was held with a fishing pole held by Vicente Ortuño, and another time he said the model was supported by a frame resembling a soccer goal. As Ortuño, his old accomplice, told Benítez: “Jordán makes a sport out of lying.”
Should we dismiss then the idea that the CIA could have been involved in the UMMO deception? Here’s where things get even more messy: you see, contrary to what Jordán claimed, people were still getting letters allegedly sent by the Ummites after 1989. One of them was none other than Rafael Farriols, who still thought Jordán’s ’93 confession was not enough to explain the whole UMMO affair. He had, after all, used some of the scientific descriptions explained in those documents to attain a couple of patents; other scientists and engineers, like Jean-Pierre Petit –senior researcher at National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) as an astrophysicist in Marseille Observatory– to this day still find the UMMO ideas to be very ingenious and too advanced for their time.
On July 15, 1996, Farriols received a letter signed by “OOLEEOO 2, son of EEWAANII 1”, who had just been stationed on Spain with the mission of re-establishing liaisons with the old network of like-minded Earthlings with whom his Ummite comrades had been in touch in years past. OOLEEOO 2 was requesting Farriols’s aid in this matter, and should he accept, he had but to express it by way of openly voicing it out loud inside his studio, as they had instructed him how to do so on previous communications –the Ummites had not only told Farriols they had conveniently tapped his phones (which he seemed to be okay with him) but also that they had installed a minuscule microphone inside his studio with which they could listen and record his voice.
The letter also warned him about a new outbreak of equine fever, and urged him to take the necessary precautions. Remember Farriols was an animal lover and horse breeder, and at that particular date he was considering the possibility of exporting some of his horses to Germany, so that equine fever recommendation was certainly an interesting ‘coincidence’. But what really caught Farriols off guard was that in the letter the UMMO beings were praising him for his book “El Hombre, El Cosmos y Dios” (Man, the Cosmos and God) even though they politely encouraged him to re-examine the paragraphs he’d written with regards to Marx’s theories and Gauss’s mathematical theorem. What Impressed Farriols wasn’t the fact his buddies from the Virgo constellation had taken the trouble to read his book –what else are you gonna do to pass the time during an interdimensional trip, right?– or that they were correct in their assessments regarding the Marx and Gauss segments (he later corrected them) but the fact that the book hadn’t even been published yet! The manuscript, which was kept as a word processing file inside his computer, had yet to be sent to his publisher for approval, and the only hard copies in existence had shared with a small circle of close friends and family members. How could Jordán Peña (who never set foot inside Farriols’s country home) have known of its existence??
Home of Rafael Farriols. Notice the UMMO symbol at the top of the round study
Which brings us full circle to the beginning of our story: with Farriols pacing around his studio, completely alone, gently whispering questions to his Ummite friends, instead of uttering them out loud like he had done so on other, numerous occasions. Perhaps this time he was ‘testing’ to see if, despite all evidence to the contrary, this crazy adventure that had consumed so many decades of his life wasn’t a total fabrication spawned by a sick individual. Well, proof that there was something else afoot came in the form of a new letter –received on August 26th, 1996– in which the Ummites courteously requested of him to formulate his answer to their previous query at a tone of voice louder than 17 decibels, since they could hardly hear him the last time! How could anyone have known that this time he whispered his response?
When confronted with the question, Jordán responded to Benítez: “It was the CIA the ones who were spying on Farriols. They have the means to detect voices by way of the vibrations in the glass of windows.” In his book (published in 2007) Benítez didn’t sound too convinced by this explanation, and attributed it to yet another one of Jordán’s lies. But thanks to the Snowden’s revelations of 2013 we now know using laser beams in order to snoop conversations inside closed rooms is more than possible. When googling ‘laser microphones’Wikipedia tells you the first concepts existed since 1947 (using infrared beams, since the laser wasn’t invented until the 1960s) and a US patent for a device that uses a laser beam and smoke or vapor to detect sound vibrations in free air was issued in 2009.
Could the CIA have the same technology 13 years earlier? That’s highly probable. Could it have been used to spy on a harmless Spanish civilian who thought he was in touch with benevolent aliens? That sounds more unlikely, but not entirely impossible. What these spooks might not have known, though, is that all the windows in Farriols’s studio were not made out of glass. Instead, the plastic industrialist had used bullet-proof acrylic that was 20 millimeters thick (¾”) which also insulated the room against outside noises. Could that have rendered his voice to low for the glass-calibrated laser microphone employed by the CIA?
What about the ‘hacked’ computer and the ‘leaked’ book? In 1996 the Internet was in its diapers yet email was already a reality. Although Benítez never mentions whether Farriols’s PC was connected to a modem or not, the idea of accessing the contents of an Internet-less computer is not within the realm of possibility. Again, in the case of a man whispering things to imaginary (or imaginal) extraterrestrial beings, it is not so much a matter of ‘How’ but ‘Why’. Why the hell bother?
Psy-ops shenanigans or true anomalous phenomena, Farriols went to his grave believing there still remained a kernel of truth at the heart of his beloved UMMO. He published his book, which I hope to get my hands on some day, and eventually died of lung cancer (his Ummite friends, unfortunately, never warned him of the dangers of tobacco). At the top of his countryside home there always remained the cryptic symbol as a proof of enduring loyalty. Where he managed to get the inspiration from said symbol, and what else was buried beneath the mountain of lies and deceit he had built for more than 4 decades, is something Jordán Peña –who himself passed away in 2014– never satisfactorily answered in the eyes of his critics. Such a mountain seems so big, so murky and so fetid most UFO investigators today dare not to touch it with a ten-foot pole; those are the kind of naive individuals who still dream of that unquestionable silver bullet –a ‘perfect case’, like in the title of Ribera and Farriols book– that will finally set the record straight on the reality of UFOS, and let them say “I told you so!” to their critics (Tic-tac anyone?)
Jordán Peña´s obituary. The incluson of the UMMO symbol was his son’s idea, and not according to some post-humous wish
But unfortunately for them, not only is there no such thing as a ‘perfect’ case in the world of UFOlogy, but those things they call ‘imperfections’ are –paraphrasing Robin Williams’s character in “Good Will Hunting”— the ‘good stuff’ for the open-minded Fortean.
Because the open-minded Fortean acknowledges that, despite the fact the UMMO letters are more than likely a hoax, that does not discount the fact that the UMMO symbol has been reported in dozens of other genuine UFO cases all around the world –a point for which Benítez provided ample evidence in his book. Some of those cases even preceded the UMMO activity of 1966-1967, but the best example of is without a doubt the famous Voronezh encounters of 1989 –when ‘project UWW’ officially ended, according to Jordán– in which the witnesses (most of them children) reported the )+( emblem. Even Jacques Vallee himself acknowledged this confounded contradiction in one of his later books as an example of the trickster-like nature of the phenomenon. And HEREis where we might start getting some answers…
Drawings from the Voronoezh witnesses
If we accept the more-than-likely possibility that one or more intelligence agencies were involved in the UMMO affair –perhaps the CIA or maybe even the KGB, which would actually help to explain Jordan Peña’s cagey attitude and proclivity to change his story, since being in bed with the communists would have been an unforgivable sin in the ultra-conservative Spain of Francisco Franco– perhaps said agency or agencies were the ones who encouraged Jordán to use the UMMO symbol in the first place; a theory Benítez himself puts forward in his book.
But here I’m daring to go even one step forward than Benítez, and speculate that perhaps the REAL purpose of the project was not to discredit the UFO phenomenon and the UMMO symbol, as Benítez believes, but to actually MANIFEST genuine UFO events! In which case the symbol could be used as some sort of ‘marker’ to try to determine which activity was the direct result of the experiment, and which one was ‘natural’ or ‘uncorrelated’.
In this outlandish hypothesis hereby proposed, I’m not only invoking the ideas I’ve learned by reading such books as “Mutants and Mystics” and “The Super Natural”, but also the parapsychological possibilities explored in the famous ‘Philip experiment’ as well as the ‘Entity Letters’ experiences, which have been the subject of previous Mysterious Universe episodes. I ask you: what could be the result of so many people starting to devote so much time and energy focusing on a given belief system, which was syncretized by a particular symbol which may have already had a deep, esoteric significance? Could that actually translate into actual ‘eclosions’ of trueparanormal energy? Critics would say that such a theory would be discredited by the fact that at the time of the Aluche and San José de Valderas case, not too many people were cognizant of the UMMO affair to begin with; to which I would reply those are only contradictions from a primitive ‘linear’ interpretation of Time –psychic investigations in phenomena like remote viewing, however, have amply proven Time does not flow on a straight line as we would normally perceive it, and even cutting-edge physics theories are comfortable with future events affecting the past.
Not only that, but in this kind of framework –as will surely be appreciated by seasoned MU fans– hoaxes are an important (but misunderstood) component in the scaffolding of high strangeness phenomena.
In the Philip experiment and Alexandra David-Néel’s famous story of the tulpa she allegedly created, the invented thoughtforms started to get a life of their own, and got out of the control of their originators until they sought to ‘starve’ their creations of energy. Could the UMMO Frankenstein monster seek to set itself free from its arrogant maker, and look to subsist within the minds and energy of the still-faithful followers of the Ummite doctrine? At this point I’m willing to bet the Discordian friends of Robert Anton Wilson, Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley, would have giggled at how the Trickster sought to prick Jordan Peña in the ass with a H-like shaped fork once or twice, as I have mentioned on previous paragraphs.
And with this final stroke I see this UMMO portrait complete and ready to be hung. I hope you found it enjoyable enough –if you got this far, chances are you probably did!– and as a final admonition I will leave you with this: Do not throw the entirety of this affair in the wastebasket, for hoaxes do have a frustrating role to play in the unfolding of these confounding mysteries. And be on the lookout, because you never know when and where that pesky old symbol (sigil?) will pop its cryptic head once again in the future –remember: signs don’t shout. They whisper.
Hayabusa-2: Japan spacecraft touches down on asteroid
Hayabusa-2: Japan spacecraft touches down on asteroid
By Paul Rincon - Science editor, BBC News website
A Japanese spacecraft has touched down on an asteroid in an attempt to collect a sample of rock from the surface.
The Hayabusa-2 probe was trying to grab the sample from a pre-chosen site on the asteroid Ryugu just before 23:00 GMT on 21 February.
The spacecraft reached asteroid Ryugu in June 2018 after a three-and-a-half-year journey from Earth.
Hayabusa-2 is expected to return to Earth in 2020 along with its rocky hoard.
During sample collection, the spacecraft approached the 1km-wide asteroid with an instrument called the sampler horn. On touchdown, a 5g "bullet" made of the metal tantalum was fired into the rocky surface at 300m/s.
The particles kicked up by the impact should have been be caught by the sampler horn.
"We made a successful touchdown, including firing a bullet," said Hayabusa-2 project manager Yuichi Tsuda.
"We made the ideal touchdown in the best conditions," he said.
The spacecraft began descending from its "home position" of 20km above the asteroid's surface in the early hours of 21 February (GMT) - several hours later than planned.
Ryugu belongs to a particularly primitive type of space rock known as a C-type. The near-Earth asteroid (NEA) is a relic left over from the early days of our Solar System.
Prof Alan Fitzsimmons, from Queen's University Belfast, told BBC News: "We think we understand how carbon-rich asteroids migrate from the asteroid belt to become near-Earth asteroids, but the samples from Ryugu will allow its history to be explored.
"After the Rosetta mission, it's now clear that most of Earth's water did not come from comets in the early days of the Solar System. We believe carbon-rich (C-type) asteroids may have significant amounts of water locked up in their rocks. It's possible such asteroids may have brought to Earth both the water and the organic material necessary for life to start.
"These samples will be crucial in investigating this possibility."
Hayabusa-2 had earlier dropped a small, reflective, beanbag-like "target marker" on to Ryugu. This was used as a guide as the spacecraft descended to the rough surface of the asteroid.
Controllers were aiming for the centre of a circle, some 6m in diameter, located about 4-5m away from the target marker.
The Japanese space agency (Jaxa) had originally planned to carry out the touchdown operation in October last year. But the asteroid's surface was found to be much more rugged than expected, with numerous, hefty boulders making it hard to find a location that was large and flat enough to sample.
Controllers had hoped they would have an area of about 100m in diameter to target. But because of the surface properties, this had to be reduced to a 6m circle for what team members are calling a "pinpoint touchdown".
The sampler horn that extends out from the bottom of the spacecraft has a length of 1m. It's therefore vital that there are no boulders more than 50cm in height at the landing site, to reduce the chances that the body of the spacecraft could hit a rock.
Unexpected surface properties also have the potential to affect the amount of material collected. Before arriving at Ryugu, researchers had expected the surface to be covered in a powdery layer of fine-grained material - the regolith.
In fact, the upper layer turned out to be akin to gravel, consisting of rocky chunks that are centimetre-sized or larger.
Prof Fitzsimmons told BBC News: "This was a surprise, as other near-Earth asteroids we have visited previously have shown areas dominated by small particles.
"It might be due to the carbon-rich composition, as the previous NEAs are composed of silicate rock, which are more Earth-like. But the shape of Ryugu also implies it was spinning much faster in the past, so it's possible this could have affected the particles' sizes in some fashion."
Scientists carried out additional tests in Japan to determine whether the sample material could still be gathered by the spacecraft.
They used a container of artificial gravel with a similar size distribution to that on Ryugu. In a vacuum chamber, they fired a tantalum bullet identical to that used by Hayabusa-2 into the gravel.
According to Jaxa, the results of the test exceeded expectations, with the tantalum projectile yielding fragments of rock in size ranges that should easily pass through the sampler horn.
This suggests that Hayabusa-2 should have been able to collect a sample.
In September, Hayabusa-2 deployed two robotic "hoppers" that propelled themselves across the surface of Ryugu, sending back images and other data.
Then, in October, the "mothership" despatched a French-German instrument package called Mascot to the surface.
Later this year, perhaps in March or April, Jaxa plans to detonate an explosive charge that will punch a crater into the surface of Ryugu.
Hayabusa-2 would then descend into the crater to collect fresh samples of material that have not been altered by aeons of exposure to space.
"We know that the surfaces of asteroids are changed over time by bombardment with energetic particles from the Sun and interstellar space," said Alan Fitzsimmons.
"Yet studies with telescopes show that this 'space weathering' affects the surfaces of carbon-rich asteroids differently to those mostly made from more rock-like silicate minerals. We don't know why this is, and the fresh sub-surface samples from Ruygu will play a very important role in understanding how this happens."
Earth’s atmosphere is leaking. Every day, around 90 tonnes of material escapes from our planet’s upper atmosphere and streams out into space. Although missions such as ESA’s Cluster fleet have long been investigating this leakage, there are still many open questions. How and why is Earth losing its atmosphere – and how is this relevant in our hunt for life elsewhere in the universe?
Given the expanse of our atmosphere, 90 tonnes per day amounts to a small leak. Earth’s atmosphere weighs in at around five quadrillion (5 × 1015) tonnes, so we are in no danger of running out any time soon. However, understanding Earth’s atmosphere, and how it escapes to space, is key to understanding the atmospheres of other planets, and could be crucial in our hunt for habitable planets and extraterrestrial life.
We have been exploring Earth’s magnetic environment for years using satellites such as ESA’s Cluster mission, a fleet of four spacecraft launched in 2000. Cluster has been continuously observing the magnetic interactions between the Sun and Earth for over a decade and half; this longevity, combined with its multi-spacecraft capabilities and unique orbit, have made it a key player in understanding both Earth’s leaking atmosphere and how our planet interacts with the surrounding solar system.
Earth’s magnetic field is complex; it extends from the interior of our planet out into space, exerting its influence over a region of space dubbed the magnetosphere.
The magnetosphere – and its inner region (the plasmasphere), a doughnut-shaped portion sitting atop our atmosphere, which co-rotates with Earth and extends to an average distance of 20,000 kilometres – is flooded with charged particles and ions that are trapped, bouncing back and forth along field lines.
At its outer Sunward edge the magnetosphere meets the solar wind, a continuous stream of charged particles – mostly protons and electrons – flowing from the Sun. Here, our magnetic field acts like a shield, deflecting and rerouting the incoming wind as a rock would obstruct a stream of water. This analogy can be continued for the side of Earth further from the Sun – particles within the solar wind are sculpted around our planet and slowly come back together, forming an elongated tube (named the magnetotail), which contains trapped sheets of plasma and interacting field lines.
Weaknesses in our magnetic shield
However, our magnetosphere shield does have its weaknesses; at Earth’s poles the field lines are open, like those of a standard bar magnet (these locations are named the polar cusps). Here, solar wind particles can head inwards towards Earth, filling up the magnetosphere with energetic particles.
Just as particles can head inwards down these open polar lines, particles can also head outwards. Ions from Earth’s upper atmosphere – the ionosphere, which extends to roughly 1,000 kilometres above the Earth – also flood out to fill up this region of space. Although missions such as Cluster have discovered much, the processes involved remain unclear.
“The question of plasma transport and atmospheric loss is relevant for both planets and stars, and is an incredibly fascinating and important topic. Understanding how atmospheric matter escapes is crucial to understanding how life can develop on a planet,” said Arnaud Masson, ESA’s Deputy Project Scientist for the Cluster mission. “The interaction between incoming and outgoing material in Earth’s magnetosphere is a hot topic at the moment; where exactly is this stuff coming from? How did it enter our patch of space?” Initially, scientists believed Earth’s magnetic environment to be filled purely with particles of solar origin. However, as early as the 1990s it was predicted that Earth’s atmosphere was leaking out into the plasmasphere – something that has since turned out to be true.
Observations have shown sporadic, powerful columns of plasma, dubbed plumes, growing within the plasmasphere, travelling outwards to the edge of the magnetosphere and interacting with solar wind plasma entering the magnetosphere.
More recent studies have unambiguously confirmed another source – Earth’s atmosphere is constantly leaking! Alongside the aforementioned plumes, a steady, continuous flow of material (comprising oxygen, hydrogen, and helium ions) leaves our planet’s plasmasphere from the polar regions, replenishing the plasma within the magnetosphere. Cluster found proof of this wind, and has quantified its strength for both overall (reported in a paper published in 2013) and for hydrogen ions in particular (reported in 2009).
Overall, about 1 kg of material is escaping our atmosphere every second, amounting to almost 90 tonnes per day. Singling out just cold ions (light hydrogen ions, which require less energy to escape and thus possess a lower energy in the magnetosphere), the escape mass totals thousands of tonnes per year.
Cold ions are important; many satellites – Cluster excluded – cannot detect them due to their low energies, but they form a significant part of the net matter loss from Earth, and may play a key role in shaping our magnetic environment. Solar storms and periods of heightened solar activity appear to speed up Earth’s atmospheric loss significantly, by more than a factor of three. However, key questions remain: How do ions escape, and where do they originate? What processes are at play, and which is dominant?
Where do the ions go? And how? One of the key escape processes is thought to be centrifugal acceleration, which speeds up ions at Earth’s poles as they cross the shape-shifting magnetic field lines there. These ions are shunted onto different drift trajectories, gain energy, and end up heading away from Earth into the magnetotail, where they interact with plasma and return to Earth at far higher speeds than they departed with – a kind of boomerang effect.
Such high-energy particles can pose a threat to space-based technology, so understanding them is important. Cluster has explored this process multiple times during the past decade and a half – finding it to affect heavier ions such as oxygen more than lighter ones, and also detecting strong, high-speed beams of ions rocketing back to Earth from the magnetotail nearly 100 times over the course of three years.
More recently, scientists have explored the process of magnetic reconnection, one of the most efficient physical processes by which the solar wind enters Earth’s magnetosphere and accelerates plasma. In this process, plasma interacts and exchanges energy with magnetic field lines; different lines reconfigure themselves, breaking, shifting around, and forging new connections by merging with other lines, releasing huge amounts of energy in the process.
Here, the cold ions are thought to be important. We know that cold ions affect the magnetic reconnection process, for example slowing down the reconnection rate at the boundary where the solar wind meets the magnetosphere (the magnetopause), but we are still unsure of the mechanisms at play.
“In essence, we need to figure out how cold plasma ends up at the magnetopause,” said Philippe Escoubet, ESA’s Project Scientist for the Cluster mission. “There are a few different aspects to this; we need to know the processes involved in transporting it there, how these processes depend on the dynamic solar wind and the conditions of the magnetosphere, and where plasma is coming from in the first place – does it originate in the ionosphere, the plasmasphere, or somewhere else?”
Recently, scientists modelled and simulated Earth’s magnetic environment with a focus on structures known as plasmoids and flux ropes – cylinders, tubes, and loops of plasma that become tangled up with magnetic field lines. These arise when the magnetic reconnection process occurs in the magnetotail and ejects plasmoids both towards the outer tail and towards Earth.
Cold ions may play a significant role in deciding the direction of the ejected plasmoid. These recent simulations showed a link between plasmoids heading towards Earth and heavy oxygen ions leaking out from the ionosphere – in other words, oxygen ions may reduce and quench the reconnection rates at certain points within the magnetotail that produce tailward trajectories, thus making it more favourable at other sites that instead send them Earthwards. These results agree with existing Cluster observations.
Another recent Cluster study compared the two main atmospheric escape mechanisms Earth experiences – sporadic plumes emanating through the plasmasphere, and the steady leakage of Earth’s atmosphere from the ionosphere – to see how they might contribute to the population of cold ions residing at the dayside magnetopause (the magnetosphere-solar wind boundary nearest the Sun).
Both escape processes appear to depend in different ways on the interplanetary magnetic field (IMF), the solar magnetic field that is carried out into the solar system by the solar wind. This field moves through space in a spiralling pattern due to the rotation of the Sun, like water released from a lawn sprinkler. Depending on how the IMF is aligned, it can effectively cancel out part of Earth’s magnetic field at the magnetopause, linking up and merging with our field and allowing the solar wind to stream in.
Plumes seem to occur when the IMF is oriented southward (anti-parallel to Earth’s magnetic field, thus acting as mentioned above). Conversely, leaking outflows from the ionosphere occur during northward-oriented IMF. Both processes occur more strongly when the solar wind is either denser or travelling faster (thus exerting a higher dynamic pressure).
“While there is still much to learn, we’ve been able to make great progress here,” said Masson. “These recent studies have managed to successfully link together multiple phenomena – namely the ionospheric leak, plumes from the plasmasphere, and magnetic reconnection – to paint a better picture of Earth’s magnetic environment. This research required several years of ongoing observation, something we could only get with Cluster.”
Applying what we learn to other planets Learning more about our own atmosphere can tell us much about our planetary neighbours – we could potentially apply such research to any astrophysical object with both an atmosphere and a magnetic field. We know that planetary atmospheres play an essential role in rendering a planet habitable or lifeless, but there remain many open questions.
Consider the diversity seen in the planets and moons of our solar system, for example. In our small patch of the universe we see extreme and opposite worlds: the smog-like carbon dioxide atmosphere of Venus, the much-depleted tenuous atmosphere of present-day Mars, the nitrogen-rich atmosphere of Saturn’s moon Titan, the essentially airless Jovian moon Callisto, the oxygen-bearing atmosphere of Earth.
How do we know if these planets could support life, or whether they may once have done so? Mars, for example, is thought to have once had a thick, dense atmosphere that has been considerably stripped away over time. Although the Red Planet is unlikely to be habitable today, it may well have been so in the past.
“Understanding more about our own atmosphere will help us when it comes to other planets throughout the Universe,” said Escoubet. “We need to know more. Why does Earth have an atmosphere that can support life, while other planets do not?”
Cluster is a unique mission; it comprises four spacecraft – a format that NASA recently used for their Magnetospheric Multiscale (MMS) mission, launched in 2015 – which allow continuous study of Earth’s magnetic field and the solar wind from multiple locations and orientations. Cluster has been operating since 2000, and in that time has compiled a wealth of information about our magnetic environment across various periods of solar and terrestrial activity.
“Additionally, Cluster’s orbit is truly unique amongst all current missions; the fleet is on a polar orbit, meaning they can explore our planet’s dynamic polar regions – specifically the cusps and polar caps – up close and in unprecedented detail,” added Escoubet.
“Overall, long-term space missions like Cluster are helping us to understand a whole lot more about our planet, its atmosphere, and atmospheric loss in general – which in turn will help us to understand the solar system in which we live.”
WETENSCHAPDe sonde Hayabusa2 is erin geslaagd om vrijdagochtend Japanse tijd kort neer te strijken op asteroïde Ryugu. Dat zegt het Japanse ruimtevaartagentschap Jaxa, dat de delicate missie met extreme voorzichtigheid aanpakt.
“We moeten nog de diverse gegevens analyseren die we geleidelijk aan binnenkrijgen vooraleer we kunnen bevestigen dat het een succes is, maar we denken dat dit het geval zal zijn”, zei een Jaxa-woordvoerder. De asteroïde Ryugu bevindt zich op 340 miljoen kilometer van de aarde, wat verklaart waarom het enige tijd duurt voor de gegevens in het controlecentrum van de missie binnenkomen.
De Hayabusa2 zette de landing op Ryugu donderdag in om 13.15 uur, 5.15 uur in België, met enige vertraging. Maar de sonde raakte de asteroïde uiteindelijk één uur eerder dan gepland. Zoals de bedoeling was, bleef ze maar enkele seconden op Ryugu. Het zou pas binnen een paar dagen moeten duidelijk worden of de stalen die van de bodem zijn gemaakt bruikbaar zijn.
Drie jaar en tien maanden
Het avontuur van de Hayabusa2 begon op 3 december 2014. De sonde begon toen aan een lange reis van 3,2 miljard kilometer, een reis die nog lang niet voorbij is.
Het duurde exact drie jaar en tien maanden om de bestemming te bereiken. In juni 2018 stabiliseerde de sonde op 20 kilometer van Ryugu, een zeer oude asteroïde in de vorm van een diamant, die ten tijde van de vorming van het zonnestelsel zou ontstaan zijn.
De sonde wierp in oktober een kleine Duits-Franse robot af op de asteroïde, Mascot. Die werkte meer dan 17 uur om de samenstelling van de bodem van het primitieve rotsachtige lichaam te analyseren. Gehoopt wordt om zo beter de vorming van het zonnestelsel te begrijpen.
Het ultieme doel is om de kennis over ons zonnestelsel te versterken “om beter het ontstaan van leven op aarde te begrijpen”, zegt Jaxa.
I was looking through a gigipan photo of Mars and discovered loads of old cement rock structures that had small light blue tiles affixed to them. There were at least a two dozen of them. I am posting only a few. This is not sapphires because they don't grow this way, perfectly sized and perfectly spaced. There is no logical explanation for such an occurrence in nature, its just not possible. So the only logical explanation is that someone created a wall or floor with these tiles. Now those tiles sit in ruins of whats left after hundred of thousands of years. NASA knows it they reveal the truth to the public, it will also be revealed to companies that want to benefit and send rovers, rockets and basically beat NASA to Mars to claim rights to areas of it for mining, scavenging, or whatever. Just like Elon Musk is doing right now.
- Gemiddelde waardering: 0/5 - (0 Stemmen) Categorie:Ruins, strange artifacts on other planets, moons, ed ( Fr, EN, NL )
UFOS, Warp Drives, and Stargates Are On The Secret List Of Pentagon Research Projects
UFOS, Warp Drives, and Stargates Are On The Secret List Of Pentagon Research Projects
The United States Defence Intelligence Agency has one great fear, and that is someone, somewhere has a secret advantage in the form of an unknown weapon that could wipe out the world’s superpower or even the world itself. So, it takes the talk of UFOs, warp drives and stargates seriously. In fact, it spent some serious money on it.
DIA went full secrecy and formed teams to deeply examine every single outlandish idea it encountered, according to files released under a freedom of information request.
Project on Government Secrecy director Steven Aftergood of Federation of American Scientists said that these kinds of topics need more money than you know to pursue.
The existence of research projects on nuclear-powered deep space propulsion, wormholes through space, invisibility cloaking, biomaterials and among others involving the likes of NASA, DARPA and private firms investigating these subjects are already known. However, their potential ties to black money of US Defence Department wasn’t.
In 2008, for example, NASA had serious studies on the potential of interstellar warp drive engines. In 2013, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of NASA had engaged in serious studies on creating a warp field. Conspiracy theorists argued that it was a farfetched idea for NASA to be studying these subjects but not so much if DIA prodded and funded them.
Conspiracists believe the secret research funding of the DIA is a murky affair when it comes to spending defence funds. The New York Times wrote a report in 2017 revealing that much of the Pentagon’s $US22 million of black money research into UFOs could not be traced.
Hippocamp was first seen in photos taken by Hubble in 2013. But its presence — situated close to a much larger moon known as Proteus —posed a mystery: Why hadn't Hippocamp coalesced with or been cast aside by Proteus, an irregularly shaped, 260-mile-wide moon that is roughly 1,000 times more massive?
But after several years of sleuthing — including a fresh look at photos of the Neptune system taken by Hubble and NASA's Voyager 2 spacecraft — astronomers led by Mark Showalter of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, determined that Hippocamp is a piece of Proteus that had been sheared off from the larger moon when a comet struck it billions of years ago.
"The origin scenario we discussed in the paper is consistent with everything we know about the history of the Neptune system," Showalter told NBC News MACH in an email. "It is the only workable scenario that we have identified. On the other hand, if somebody else in the astronomy community comes up with an alternative explanation, we would love to hear about it."
It's a big backstory for such a puny moon, but other astronomers agree it's probably the correct one.
Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in an email that the explanation made sense. She called it “a fascinating hypothesis for the tiny moon’s origin — with solid support from Hubble data gathered over the last few years."
Hundreds of moons have been found in our solar system. But the Proteus-Hippocamp pair "provides a dramatic illustration that moons are sometimes broken apart by comets," Jack Lissauer, a scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, and a coauthor of the paper, said in a written statement.
The discovery of Hippocamp brings to 14 the number of moons discovered in orbit around Neptune. There are seven inner moons, including Hippocamp, along with six outer moons and Neptune's largest moon, Triton.
Triton is a bit of an oddball because it's the only moon in the solar system with a so-called retrograde orbit, meaning it orbits in the opposite direction of its planet's rotation.
Showalter said that we've learned just about all we can about Hippocamp, at least for the time being. But he added that if NASA or the European Space Agency were to put a spacecraft in orbit around Neptune or its planetary neighbor, Uranus, "we could learn more in a few days that the sum total of everything we have ever learned about either planet so far!"
The World's 8 Best Places To Hunt For Extraterrestrials And Search For UFOs
The World's 8 Best Places To Hunt For Extraterrestrials And Search For UFOs
It was a clear summer afternoon in Lake Tahoe, California in the late 70's when I saw my first UFO. The rough-hewn cigar-shaped craft hovered for a long period of time at a distance over the lake. It was so obvious that all of my neighbors joined me on the street watching it until it suddenly disappeared. Despite over a dozen witnesses, it was never reported, most people keep UFO experiences to themselves for fear of being labeled crazy. According to the National UFO Reporting Center, there were over 4,881 reported sightings in the United States in 2017, imagine how many were not reported.
What was once a subject of clandestine conversation has now become an international fascination with tourists visiting famed sighting areas and governments from around the world organizing extensive exploration. Even the U.S. Pentagon admitted it ran a secret program to investigate sightings by military pilots of countless unidentified flying objects. The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program officially ended six years ago, but many believe the program is still active.
My fascination with the unknown compelled me to explore unique areas from around the world where visitors can discover the mysteries of the universe, as well as be entertained by historical sightings. Here are my 8 favorite locations for your own out of this world experience.
Alien landscape in ChileCASCADE TRAVEL
Chile is often mentioned as the country with the highest recorded number of UFO sightings. Due to its low humidity, high altitude ridges, and clear skies with little pollution, Chile has become a favorite among UFO-seekers from around the world.
The country has even launched the CEFAA (Committee for Studies of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena (CEFAA), a government body which investigates UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon) under the control of the Chilean Air Force.
Cerro Paranal in the Chilean Atacama DesertESO PHOTO AMBASSADOR YURI BELETSKY
Located in the Atacama Desert of Chile, ESO’s Paranal Observatory is one of the best astronomical observing sites in the world and is the flagship location for Europes ground-based astronomy. It contains several major telescopes including the Very Large Telescope, the Visible and Infrared Survey Telescope for Astronomy, and the VLT Survey Telescope.
The ESO Hotel and La Residencia adjacent to Paranal Observatory provide accommodation for staff and media only. Tourists are not allowed to stay overnight. In order to visit the observatory, it is a two-hour drive from Cerro Moreno airport and opens on weekends only with an advance reservation.
The Alma Observatory at Chajnantor PlateauCARLOS PADILLA -AUI -NRAO
ALMA Observatory is the most ambitious radio observatory on Earth. Unlike optic telescopes, radio telescopes are designed to capture radio waves emitted by sources in space. This is a segment of the electromagnetic spectrum that allows researchers to take a closer look at the Universe. ALMA has 66 antennas: fifty-four 12-meter diameter antennas and twelve 7-meter diameter antennas.
It is open every Saturday and Sunday to members of the public who want to visit its facilities located in northern Chile (30 miles from San Pedro de Atacama). Visitors get to see the ALMA Operations Support Facility (OSF), where ALMA personnel work and where you can observe the control room, laboratories, and the antenna transporter. The area of Chajnantor Plateau (where the massive number of antennas are located) are not open to visitors.
San Clemente, Chile is considered to be the unofficial UFO capital of the world. Researchers say that hundreds of UFO sightings have been reported there, as much as one per week. So popular is the area that the Chilean tourism board established an official UFO trail in 2008. The 19-mile trail runs through the Andes mountains covering sights where close encounters have been reported. Included in the experience are Colbún Lake, which has proved popular with UFOs because of its high mineral content, along with various areas highlighting historic sightings. But the trail's must-see location is El Enladrillado, a huge, bizarre flat area formed by 200 perfectly cut volcanic blocks that were reportedly laid by ancient civilizations. It takes four hours to get to the location on horseback and is believed by many to be a landing pad for extraterrestrials.
Elqui Domos Astronomical Hotel is a small 10-year-old hotel located in the heart of the Elqui Valley, a narrow valley stretched in between the Andes Mountains. The hotel is equipped with a restaurant, an astronomical observatory, an outdoor pool and 11 air-conditioned and centrally-heated rooms. The rooms are divided into 7 geodesic domes and 4 observatory-style cabins.
The domes have a private bathroom, a living room on the first floor and a bed on a mezzanine floor, from where you can uncover the roof of the domes and search the skies.
The Elqui Valley is well known for its perfectly clear skies and nice weather, as well as for its great potential for UFO spotting and studying astronomy.
Take this excursion on horseback to the Andes along the trails of the local cowboys, an adventure that will take you through a natural and wild landscape under a perfect blue sky and along the Cochiguaz river. You will be accompanied by a trained guide who will educate you on the skies using a 12" telescope while sitting around a campfire and drinking pisco sours.
The next morning is a trip to the scientific observatory of Cerro Tololo, which includes a visit to the observatory’s facilities and a guided tour introducing the research done at the complex. That evening check-in to a hotel in Vicuña before a night tour to the observatory.
Mysterious patterns have appeared in the fields of Wiltshire, just one mile from the equally bizarre Stonehenge. Many sightings have occurred here including a large disc-shaped object hovering above the site. The prehistoric monument includes a ring of massive stones dating back to around 3100 BC and is listed as a World Heritage site. Supporters of the theory that ancient aliens built the landmark also consider the area a landing pad for spaceships or a location marker for extraterrestrials.
Sign for Little A'Le'Inn and flying saucer near Area 51. (Getty Images)
AREA 51, NEVADA (S4 Papoose Mountain Facility)
This U.S. military installation is located almost 100 miles north of Las Vegas and is commonly known to UFO conspiracy theorists as a location the U.S. government refused to acknowledge. They believe that the area is a storage facility for the examination of a crashed alien spacecraft including its occupants both living and dead as well as materials recovered at Roswell. They also believe the area is used to manufacture aircraft based on alien technology.
Some UFOlogists are now claiming a secret underground facility has been discovered in the base of the Papoose Mountains, in Lincoln County, Nevada, where recovered alien space crafts and extraterrestrial beings are kept hidden away and no longer at Area 51.
This tour takes you to locations near the famed Area 51, departing from Las Vegas for nighttime explorations. Area 51 is a highly classified remote detachment of Edwards Air Force Base so visitors are limited on how close they can get.
Sedona, Arizona is one of America's most popular destinations for spotting U.F.O.s. Nightly tours go out with visitors equipped with night vision glasses, binoculars, and telescopes. The amount of activity recorded is staggering including reported sightings of; Orbs, portals, aliens, and even Bigfoots all within the high desert.
The mysterious Bradshaw Ranch also draws numerous tourists. Located deep within the national forest, it is reported to have been confiscated by the U.S. Government because it housed one of the most powerful inter-dimensional portals on the planet. Visitors are not allowed in the National Forest at night, but several tour operators will take you there and stay until dusk. According to accounts, it’s in the last hour of twilight when many of these phenomena take place. There are even more outrageous reports of a top-secret underground base at the ranch as well as an elaborate tunnel system, possibly used by both extraterrestrials and the U.S. military.
This tour begins with a two-hour meditation walk starting at the Amitabha Stupa, Sedona’s most spiritual vortex. Guides will take you through a guided meditation and even offer a paranormal video tour. After sunset, you can visit a well known hot spot of UFO activity where the company guarantees sightings of UFO’s, using special night vision goggles.
UFOs are not an uncommon sight in Wycliffe Well. They are known to appear at the beginning of the dry season, from May to October. Wycliffe Well is located in the Northern Territory along the Stuart Highway between Alice Springs and Tennant Creek and considers itself the UFO capital of Australia. Wycliffe Well is said to be one of the top five UFO hotspots in the world and guarantees a sighting every couple of days. Visitors can stay in cabins at the Wycliffe Well Holiday Park located 236 miles from Alice Springs.
Ural Mountains Perm Anomalous Zone (Shutterstock)
M TRIANGLE, RUSSIA
This famous Perm Anomalous Zone is located in a remote area near the Ural Mountains in Russia. The M Triangle is one of the most mysterious places in the world and was discovered in the 1980s. Reports of watches that stop, and bright glowing and colored lightning appearing in the sky. Ufologists consider this a sign of underground fractures where strong energy emits. This wave duct for electromagnetic energy usually results in color, sound, and other phenomena.
The village of Molyobka sits on the border of the Perm and Sverdlovsk regions. Opposite the village, on the left bank of the Sylva River, is the famous Molyobka Triangle. When Perm geologist Emil Bachurin found a circular, 206-foot impression in the snow in the 80's, the location quickly became a location for enthusiasts to explore Yetis, UFOs, shining spheres, and plasmoids.
The area is currently developing a UFO park, and local businesses are building hotels and observatories for tourists as well as installing gravity meters, infrared cameras, and magnetic-field sensors. UFO tourism is also popular in nearby Tolyatti, where visitors can see some of the world’s largest crop circles.
Joshua Tree SunsetCONTACT IN THE DESERT
JOSHUA TREE, CALIFORNIA
Joshua Tree is on 29 Palms Highway, about a three-hour drive from LAX. The area is known to have many underground waterways all featuring a high mineral content. Joshua Tree National Park was once home to 300 mines and includes a unique white crystal quartz hill behind Giant Rock. Visitors often go searching for the hidden alien base that is rumored to be located somewhere beneath the expansive desert.
UFOlogists believe that Joshua Tree sits on the 33rd North parallel just like Roswell. The research behind the 33rd North parallel provides the location for the most UFO sightings.
Dr. Steven Greer is a controversial UFOlogist who founded the Center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CSETI) and the Disclosure Project, which seeks the disclosure of allegedly suppressed UFO information. Each week-long expedition is limited to about 25 and includes an intensive training program with Dr. Greer. At night the group meets under the stars for 4-5 hours to make contact using Greer's CE-5 Contact Protocols. During the intensive training program, visitors learn how to make contact with ET civilizations and how to really become an Ambassador to the Universe.
For the past five years, UFO researchers ranging from professionals to fans converge on the California High Desert for a long weekend of lectures and workshops on the unexplained. The Woodstock of UFOlogy is a weekend of education into the Science of UFOs & Extraterrestrial Life, Ancient Aliens, Human Origins, Crop Circles, Government Disclosure, UFO Sightings and Interplanetary Living.
UFO Festival in RoswellROSWELL UFO FESTIVAL
ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO
Roswell has been at the heart of the UFO scene since July 1947 when the military announced it had found the remains of a crashed UFO in the desert nearby. Ever since the legendary Roswell UFO crash of July 1947 alien conspiracy theorists have claimed the remains of a flying saucer, and even dead aliens, were secretly taken into storage.
Visits to the crash sites are difficult to navigate deep in the desert, so many tourists visit the Roswell Spacewalk and the International UFO Museum and Research Center.
Every Fourth of July weekend the city of Roswell organizes the UFO Festival, a celebration of all things extraterrestrial. Thousands of people meet on Main Street for the Comic-Con of UFO devotees. Costume contests, and a long weekend of lectures and book signings put on by Roswell’s International UFO Museum.
PROFESSIONAL ALIEN EXPLORATION
Aside from the numerous tourist locations around the world, the scientific community is ramping up efforts to discover the unknown and to hopefully make contact with extraterrestrials. The following are the top satellite and research programs that are currently active with a few offering tourists to visit their facilities.
A planned space telescope for NASA's Explorers program, designed to search for exoplanets using the transit method is planned to launch in March 2018. The conclusion is that Europa or Enceladus are both possible life planets as well as the discovery of Kepler-452b. It is the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of a star that is similar to our sun. And, in 2015, NASA announced strong evidence that liquid water flows intermittently on present-day Mars.
The James Webb Space Telescope is a large infrared telescope with a 6.5-meter primary mirror. The telescope will be launched on an Ariane 5 rocket from French Guiana in Spring 2019 and will study the formation of solar systems capable of supporting life on planets like Earth.
(NExSS) is a NASA research coordination network dedicated to the study of planetary habitability. The goals of NExSS are to investigate the diversity of exoplanets and to learn how their history, geology, and climate interact to create the conditions for life.
Project Breakthrough Co-Founders Mark Zuckerberg (L) and Yuri Milner
Billionaire Yuri Milner, physicist Stephen Hawking, and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg have launched the $100 million Breakthrough Listen program. The program is focused on astronomical observations in search of evidence of intelligent life beyond Earth. It is by far the most comprehensive search ever undertaken for artificial radio and optical signals encompassing a complete survey of the 1,000,000 nearest stars, the plane and center of our galaxy, and the 100 nearest galaxies.
The CNES French Space Agency service is funded by the French government. Its mission is to collect reports of UFO or UAP (Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena) sightings that have occurred over the French territory, to provide an explanation when possible, and to answer questions from the public.
SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence is located in Mountain View, California and seeks evidence of life in the universe by looking for some signature of its technology. More than 90 scientists work at the Institute looking for life beyond Earth. The Allen Telescope is sometimes available for tours and is located 350 miles North of the Institute.
Great Refractor Telescope in CaliforniaUC OBSERVATORY
UC Santa Cruz and UC Berkeley have given the Lick Observatory's 40-inch Nickel Telescope a new pulse-detection system capable of finding laser beacons from civilizations many light-years away. The automated planet finder (APF) is the world's first robotic telescope capable of detecting rocky planets that might support life in other solar systems. Located one hour from San Jose in the Santa Clara Valley, visitors are allowed inside the dome of the36-inch great refractor Thursday-Sunday.
Operated by the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii. A strange oblong asteroid named Oumuamua was recently detected by Pan-STARRS through its collection of telescopes perched high above the Hawaiian island of Maui. The SETI Institute began scanning Oumuamua with its Allen Telescope Array on Nov. 23, 2017. So far, they have spent 60 hours checking for transmissions over a wide range of frequencies. Another SETI project, Breakthrough Listen, will soon devote 10 hours to investigating Oumuamua using a large antenna in West Virginia.
Chinas five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), is located in a rural part of China’s Guizhou province and will be used to try to solve some of the universe’s biggest mysteries. One of its primary missions is to detect communication signals or messages from alien civilizations.
New NASA Team Tackles Next Challenges in Detecting Life Beyond Earth
New NASA Team Tackles Next Challenges in Detecting Life Beyond Earth
The question, "Are we alone?" has been a subject of speculation for centuries. The answer may soon lie within the grasp of science.
Decides of research have led scientists to look deeply into the nature of life itself — what it is, how it began on Earth, and what other worlds might also support it. A shift in focus is now emerging as scientists recognize that with a strategic push the possibility of detecting life beyond Earth could be on the horizon.
To support NASA’s growing emphasis on detecting life beyond Earth, NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley has established the Center for Life Detection Science. CLDS brings together a diverse group of researchers at Ames and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland to tackle the next set of challenges science must overcome to be able to one day detect life beyond Earth.
“We now have the scientific and engineering expertise to address this profound question with the clarity of scientific evidence — and we have a great community of scientists ready for that grand challenge,” said Tori Hoehler, the principal investigator of CLDS and a researcher at Ames
The center’s formation comes at a critical moment in the field of astrobiology, the study of the origin of life and its potential in the universe. A recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine found that NASA should ramp up efforts to develop technologies capable of detecting life beyond Earth to use on future missions. The report, intended to help NASA develop its science strategy and research goals for the next 20 years, also urged the agency to seek collaboration with a diverse expertise outside of traditional space sciences to get more out of space mission opportunities.
In this spirit, the center is playing a foundational role in establishing a new consortium of researchers from within and outside of NASA with expertise in the physical sciences, biology, astrophysics and more. The Network for Life Detection, or NfoLD, will drive research in ways that inform where NASA should best invest its resources and the design of future missions with the capabilities of detecting life.
CLDS is joined by competitively selected teams from Georgetown University in Washington, DC and Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, Georgia to comprise the founding membership of NfoLD.
The Laboratory for Agnostic Biosignatures asks how we can recognize life “as we don’t know it.” Led by principal investigator Sarah Stewart Johnson of Georgetown University, this team of international researchers will lay the groundwork for detecting biosignatures of lifeforms that could be very different than those found on Earth, allowing for yet-to-be-conceived biochemistries that could produce exotic biomolecules.
The Oceans Across Space and Time team will investigate the possibilities of past or present life in the oceans of the icy, outer moons of our solar system, or on ancient Mars. By studying the conditions of aquatic systems that control their habitability, the team, led by principal investigator Britney Schmidt of Georgia Tech, will determine possible means of detecting biological activity in those systems.
Meanwhile, the center is connecting this new community of NfoLD researchers by building an interactive repository of information where researchers can explore and debate approaches in life detection that may one day be used to search for evidence of life on other worlds.
“The search for life beyond Earth cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach,” said Hoehler. “To give ourselves the best shot at success, we need to develop tools and strategies that are tailored to detecting life in the unique conditions of other worlds, which are very different not only from Earth but also from each other.”
NfoLD’s three founding teams are expected to be joined in the coming year by dozens of new teams that are pursuing life detection-themed science or technology development. It represents a relatively new organizing model supported by NASA, called a research coordination network. NASA’s Astrobiology Program organized its first successful one in 2015 — the Nexus for Exoplanet System Science, which was formed to study the habitability of planets beyond our solar system. NfoLD is the second one to come online with at least three more expected to form in future years in areas of astrobiology.
Top Image: This image is an artist's conception of what life could look like on the surface of a distant planet. Credit: NASA
For news media: Members of the news media interested in covering this topic should get in touch through the NASA Ames media contacts page.
There are lots of reasons why colonizing space seems compelling. The popular astronomer Neil deGrasse Tysonarguesthat it would stimulate the economy and inspire the next generation of scientists. Elon Musk, who founded SpaceX, argues that “there is a strong humanitarian argument for making life multiplanetary…to safeguard the existence of humanity in the event that something catastrophic were to happen.” The former administrator of NASA, Michael Griffin, frames it as a matter of the “survival of the species.” And the late astrophysicist Stephen Hawking hasconjecturedthat if humanity fails to colonize space within 100 years, we could face extinction.
To be sure, humanity will eventually need to escape Earth to survive, since the sun will make the planet uninhabitable in about 1 billion years. But for many “space expansionists,” escaping Earth is about much more than dodging the bullet of extinction: it’s about realizing astronomical amounts of value by exploiting the universe’s vast resources to create something resembling utopia. For example, the astrobiologist Milan Cirkovic calculates that some 1046 people per century could come into existence if we were to colonize our Local Supercluster, Virgo. This leads Nick Bostrom to argue that failing to colonize space would be tragic because it would mean that these potential “worthwhile lives” would never exist, and this would be morally bad.
But would these trillions of lives actually be worthwhile? Or would colonization of space lead to a dystopia?
In a recent article in Futures, which was inspired by political scientist Daniel Deudney’s forthcoming book Dark Skies, I decided to take a closer look at this question. My conclusion is that in a colonized universe the probability of the annihilation of the human race could actually rise rather than fall.
The argument is based on ideas from evolutionary biology and international relations theory, and it assumes that there aren’t any other technologically advanced lifeforms capable of colonizing the universe (as a recent study suggests is the case).
Consider what is likely to happen as humanity hops from Earth to Mars, and from Mars to relatively nearby, potentially habitable exoplanets like Epsilon Eridani b, Gliese 674 b, and Gliese 581 d. Each of these planets has its own unique environments that will drive Darwinian evolution, resulting in the emergence of novel species over time, just as species that migrate to a new island will evolve different traits than their parent species. The same applies to the artificial environments of spacecraft like “O’Neill Cylinders,” which are large cylindrical structures that rotate to produce artificial gravity. Insofar as future beings satisfy the basic conditions of evolution by natural selection—such as differential reproduction, heritability, and variation of traits across the population—then evolutionary pressures will yield new forms of life.
But the process of “cyborgization”—that is, of using technology to modify and enhance our bodies and brains—is much more likely to influence the evolutionary trajectories of future populations living on exoplanets or in spacecraft. The result could be beings with completely novel cognitive architectures (or mental abilities), emotional repertoires, physical capabilities, lifespans, and so on.
In other words, natural selection and cyborgization as humanity spreads throughout the cosmos will result in species diversification. At the same time, expanding across space will also result in ideological diversification. Space-hopping populations will create their own cultures, languages, governments, political institutions, religions, technologies, rituals, norms, worldviews, and so on. As a result, different species will find it increasingly difficult over time to understand each other’s motivations, intentions, behaviors, decisions, and so on. It could even make communication between species with alien languages almost impossible. Furthermore, some species might begin to wonder whether the proverbial “Other” is conscious. This matters because if a species Y cannot consciously experience pain, then another species X might not feel morally obligated to care about Y. After all, we don’t worry about kicking stones down the street because we don’t believe that rocks can feel pain. Thus, as I write in the paper, phylogenetic and ideological diversification will engender a situation in which many species will be “not merely aliens to each other but, more significantly, alienated from each other.”
But this yields some problems. First, extreme differences like those just listed will undercut trust between species. If you don’t trust that your neighbor isn’t going to steal from, harm, or kill you, then you’re going to be suspicious of your neighbor. And if you’re suspicious of your neighbor, you might want an effective defense strategy to stop an attack—just in case one were to happen. But your neighbor might reason the same way: she’s not entirely sure that you won’t kill her, so she establishes a defense as well. The problem is that, since you don’t fully trust her, you wonder whether her defense is actually part of an attack plan. So you start carrying a knife around with you, which she interprets as a threat to her, thus leading her to buy a gun, and so on. Within the field of international relations, this is called the “security dilemma,” and it results in a spiral of militarization that can significantly increase the probability of conflict, even in cases where all actors have genuinely peaceful intentions.
So, how can actors extricate themselves from the security dilemma if they can’t fully trust each other? On the level of individuals, one solution has involved what Thomas Hobbes’ calls the “Leviathan.” The key idea is that people get together and say, “Look, since we can’t fully trust each other, let’s establish an independent governing system—a referee of sorts—that has a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. By replacing anarchy with hierarchy, we can also replace the constant threat of harm with law and order.” Hobbes didn’t believe that this happened historically, only that this predicament is what justifies the existence of the state. According to Steven Pinker, the Leviathan is a major reason that violence has declined in recent centuries.
The point is that if individuals—you and I—can overcome the constant threat of harm posed by our neighbors by establishing a governing system, then maybe future species could get together and create some sort of cosmic governing system that could similarly guarantee peace by replacing anarchy with hierarchy. Unfortunately, this looks unpromising within the “cosmopolitical” realm. One reason is that for states to maintain law and order among their citizens, their various appendages—e.g., law enforcement, courts—need to be properly coordinated. If you call the police about a robbery and they don’t show up for three weeks, then what’s the point of living in that society? You’d be just as well off on your own! The question is, then, whether the appendages of a cosmic governing system could be sufficiently well-coordinated to respond to conflicts and make top-down decisions about how to respond to particular situations. To put it differently: If conflict were to break out in some region of the universe, could the relevant governing authorities respond soon enough for it to matter, for it to make a difference?
Probably not, because of the immense vastness of space. For example, consider again Epsilon Eridani b, Gliese 674 b, and Gliese 581 d. These are, respectively, 10.5, 14.8, and 20.4 light-years from Earth. This means that a signal sent as of this writing, in 2018, wouldn’t reach Gliese 581 d until 2038. A spaceship traveling at one-quarter the cosmic speed limit wouldn’t arrive until 2098, and a message to simply affirm that it had arrived safely wouldn’t return to Earth until 2118. And Gliese 581 is relatively close as far as exoplanets go. Just consider that he Andromeda Galaxy is some 2.5 million light-years from Earth and the Triangulum Galaxy about 3 million light-years away. What’s more, there are some 54 galaxies in our Local Group, which is about 10 million light-years wide, within a universe that stretches some 93 billion light-years across.
These facts make it look hopeless for a governing system to effectively coordinate law enforcement activities, judicial decisions, and so on, across cosmic distances. The universe is simply too big for a government to establish law and order in a top-down fashion.
But there is another strategy for achieving peace: Future civilizations could use a policy of deterrence to prevent other civilizations from launching first strikes. A policy of this sort, which must be credible to work, says: “I won’t attack you first, but if you attack me first, I have the capabilities to destroy you in retaliation.” This was the predicament of the US and Soviet Union during the Cold War, known as “mutually-assured destruction” (MAD).
But could this work in the cosmopolitical realm of space? It seems unlikely. First, consider how many future species there could be: upwards of many billions. While some of these species would be too far away to pose a threat to each other—although see the qualification below—there will nonetheless exist a huge number within one’s galactic backyard. The point is that the sheer number would make it incredibly hard to determine who initiated a first strike, if one is attacked. And without a method for identifying instigators with high reliability, one’s policy of deterrence won’t be credible. And if one’s policy of deterrence isn’t credible, then one has no such policy!
Second, ponder the sorts of weapons that could become available to future spacefaring civilizations. Redirected asteroids (a.k.a., “planetoid bombs”), “rods from God,” sun guns, laser weapons, and no doubt an array of exceptionally powerful super-weapons that we can’t currently imagine. It has even been speculated that the universe might exist in a “metastable” state and that a high-powered particle accelerator could tip the universe into a more stable state. This would create a bubble of total annihilation that spreads in all directions at the speed of light—which opens up the possibility that a suicidal cult, or whatever, weaponizes a particle accelerator to destroy the universe.
The question, then, is whether defensive technologies could effectively neutralize such risks. There’s a lot to say here, but for the present purposes just note that, historically speaking, defensive measures have very often lagged behind offensive measures, thus resulting in periods of heightened vulnerability. This is an important point because when it comes to existentially dangerous super-weapons, one only needs to be vulnerable for a short period to risk annihilation.
So far as I can tell, this seriously undercuts the credibility of policies of deterrence. Again, if species A cannot convince species B that if B strikes it, A will launch an effective and devastating counter strike, then B may take a chance at attacking A. In fact, B does not need to be malicious to do this: it only needs to worry that A might, at some point in the near- or long-term future, attack B, thus making it rational for B to launch a preemptive strike (to eliminate the potential danger). Thinking about this predicament in the radically multi-polar conditions of space, it seems fairly obvious that conflict will be extremely difficult to avoid.
The lesson of this argument is not to uncritically assume that venturing into the heavens will necessarily make us safer or more existentially secure. This is a point that organizations hoping to colonize Mars, such as SpaceX, NASA, and Mars One should seriously contemplate. How can humanity migrate to another planet without bringing our problems with us? And how can different species that spread throughout the cosmos maintain peace when sufficient mutual trust is unattainable and advanced weaponry could destroy entire civilizations?
Human beings have made many catastrophically bad decisions in the past. Some of these outcomes could have been avoided if only the decision-makers had deliberated a bit more about what could go wrong—i.e., had done a “premortem” analysis. We are in that privileged position right now with respect to space colonization. Let’s not dive head-first into waters that turn out to be shallow.
Phil Torres is the director of the Project for Human Flourishing and the author of Morality, Foresight, and Human Flourishing: An Introduction to Existential Risks.
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Ik ben Pieter, en gebruik soms ook wel de schuilnaam Peter2011.
Ik ben een man en woon in Linter (België) en mijn beroep is Ik ben op rust..
Ik ben geboren op 18/10/1950 en ben nu dus 68 jaar jong.
Mijn hobby's zijn: Ufologie en andere esoterische onderwerpen.
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