Monday, August 1, 2016

A New Direction

by Stephanie Osborn
1 August 2016

Effective today, I'm taking Comet Tales in a new direction.

Many of you know me as an author. Many know me as a scientist. Oddly, many do NOT know me as BOTH.

So I'm going to show y'all how it works! Starting today, Comet Tales is going to feature the latest information in solar weather, and space weather and news! Alongside that will be information on my latest book releases, and any titles of mine that pertain to the space news of the day!

I won't be posting on a completely regular basis; rather, I'll post on an as-needed basis to ensure you have the most up-to-date information I've got! That might be once a day, it might be once a week, depending on what's happening. It may be a longish post, detailing and explaining a solar event, or it may be a link to a detailed article, with a few comments. So keep up with the blog! Follow me, and you'll always know the latest going on in the space above our atmosphere!

Today's space news:

Asteroid Bennu

We've got a little time, but asteroid 101955 Bennu could cause problems in about 120 years:

It's unlikely but not impossible.

Can we do anything about it? Yes.

Travis S. Taylor and I discussed that in our nonfiction book, A New American Space Plan. There are many possible ways to redirect an asteroid or comet, and we cover them all in our book. Check it out!

Sunspots/Solar Activity

Also we have yet another day with no visible sunspots. If the active sunspots that rotated off about 5 days ago have survived, they would seem to be the only spots on the solar surface. The most recent imagery from the STEREO website (which is NOT on the Solarham website, which has begun updating less and less frequently in recent weeks) indicates that they have indeed survived and are nearing the center of the solar farside disk.

Spot group 2570, which showed up to end the last no-spot run, dissipated on Saturday; another short-lived binary spot group showed up on Sunday but didn't even stay around long enough to be numbered, and now, officially August 2nd GMT/UTC, we are back to no spots.

If I count the "dinky" spots as being essentially no spots, then 30 out of the last 63 days have had little to no sunspots visible (47.6%). 22 out of 63 were unequivocally spotless (34.9%).

And yes, I do know a thing or two about this -- my graduate work was in spotted variable star astronomy. I have an ebook out about solar variability called The Weather Out There Is Frightful, and it talks about spots, flares, coronal mass ejections, the solar cycle, extended minima, and more. 

~Stephanie Osborn


Uncle Lar said...

Nicely done Stephanie!
I hope this serves to fill the void created when you had to stop the weekly Cosmic Weather Report shows. Hope it helps in promoting your very excellent books as well.

Stephanie Osborn said...

Thank you very much, Uncle Lar! Yes, the weekly shows were eating up so much time and energy that I needed for writing my books, that I had to quit. Most people didn't realize I was researching, writing scripts, editing and updating scripts, recording, editing the recording, adding the background theme music, etc. each and every week. It took easily a minimum of a full work day -- which for me doesn't stop at 8 hours, but is more like 12-14 -- to get it all done. And I was wiped when I got it out the door each week.

But at the same time, lots of people enjoyed the information. By making these more succinct, and on an as-it-happens basis, it takes off the stress of a weekly deadline, and it still enables me to discuss it with friends and fans!

Plus, for those interested in how some of this stuff can land in the real world, I plan to point out this or that book that I've written or to which I've contributed, so folks can read and see how I used it.

Stephanie Osborn said...

FYI, everyone. Based on some comments about the asteroid situation on Facebook, I ran some quick calculations.

Bennu has a mass ~6-8x10^10kg, or 13-18x10^11 lb.
Velocity at impact (assuming impact) would be over 12.5km/s, almost 30mph. KE of impact would therefore be in the vicinity of 1300MT.

Compare that to the Chelyabinsk bolide, at a higher closing speed of about 19km/s, but a much lower mass of ~1.2x10^7kg. Had the Chelyabinsk asteroid impacted, it would have had KE at impact of about half a megaton.

Stephanie Osborn said...

Chicxulub, the dinosaur extinction impactor, was on order of 1x10^15-4.6x10^17kg, with a KE at impact of ~310 million MT. said...

I'm a reader. I'd much rather read news and science than listen or watch, so I'm glad this is good for you, too.

Stephanie Osborn said...

Excellent! This should work nicely, then!

Uncle Lar said...

Hopefully, Bennu will serve to call attention to the need for a robust ability to not only detect threats from space, but have a means to deal with them. An ocean strike, probability 4 in 5, would create a tsunami that would utterly destroy all coastal regions of that body of water. And in all likelihood, land or water, put enough material into the upper atmosphere to give the Earth another year without a summer. The last one of those was from the Tambora eruption in 1815. In 1816 there was literally no summer in the entire northern hemisphere.

Stephanie Osborn said...

That is a definite consideration. And all entirely correct. I'd have to sit down and run some calculations to get a feel for just how big the tsunami, but the term "megatsunami" would certainly apply.

More, it is not a matter of IF, it is a matter of WHEN. We WILL be hit. It's simply determining which one has our name on it and when it's gonna hit. We will be very wise to prepare well in advance. Movies notwithstanding, it takes a lot longer than a couple-six months to divert a comet or asteroid.

Uncle Lar said...

We know we've been hit in the past. There is ample evidence in the Earth's geological features. So we know it will happen again. Knowing something is coming is critical, but being able to do something about it is essential. To cause major damage a big rock has to strike the surface more or less intact. If it's broken up into small pieces we get the world's best light and fireworks show and a certain amount of relatively minor damage from any bits that do not entirely burn up on entry. Or depending on velocity and vector a threatening object could with a nudge or two be redirected into a safe solar orbit or sent on a one way trip into the sun itself.

Stephanie Osborn said...

Well, breaking it up isn't necessarily always the best thing either. That has the potential for creating what amounts to a cosmic shotgun blast, and actually spreading out the impact site. You'd have to ensure that all of the pieces were no bigger than around fist-sized and smaller, which is awfully difficult to do.

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