Beautiful and Unexplained Mars Aurora

(Image: University of Colorado)

Mars is quite a wonderful little planet. Obviously, it’s one of the best potential places to find extra-terrestrial organisms (or, at least, fossilized specimens) within the Solar System. Early on in it’s life it would’ve been quite similar to Earth with water flowing on the planet. And now we’re seeing an aurora on it that we can’t quite explain yet (we’ve seen Martian auroras before, but we COULD explain those ones through the same process we can explain Earth’s auroras, namely highly charged particles from the sun interacting with Earth’s magnetic field). As Jacob Aron from the New Scientist explains:

The new aurora, dubbed “Christmas lights” by the team because it occurred from 18 to 23 December last year, is different. It was seen in many different parts of the northern hemisphere and at much lower altitudes than previous auroras. “We’re seeing it not connected to magnetic regions,” says Jakosky. “We don’t know if it is occurring only at the places we’re observing, or if it is globally distributed.”

The timing lined up with a spike in electrons streaming in from the sun at high enough energies to penetrate down into the atmosphere, suggesting this had a hand in creating the aurora, but exactly how it occurs is unknown. The MAVEN team is now planning to look at the entire hemisphere when the spacecraft is in the shadow of Mars, facing the sun, but it is a risky move as MAVEN is not designed to look straight at the sun. “We have to be really careful because we have to turn off some protective measures,” says Jakosky. “If we screw it up we’re going to burn out the instrument.”

They also detected a cloud of dust, which was at least 200km’s above the surface, that stayed for the duration the spacecraft had been operating. Perhaps it’s dust that falls from one of Mars’ moons (Phobos and Deimos), or perhaps it’s coming from the random bits and bobs that float through the Solar System (like comets or asteroids) or it could even be coming from the planet itself (although we don’t know of a mechanism that would bring dust from the surface to such heights). But they don’t know, more research and observation are needed.

The beauty of the solar system is wonderful. I can’t wait to find out more.

Advertisements
Quote

Christopher Pyne Pines For Australian Science (Though Not Enough To Save It)

So I was reading an article on the Guardian about Australian science being squeezed, like a mob boss squeezes a small fruit stall owner, and this particular quote by Pyne struck me:

“The funds for NCRIS only exist because of savings elsewhere in the higher education package.

“The way for Labor to support NCRIS, which they themselves defunded, is to support the higher education reforms.

“Labor needs to stop playing politics and enter negotiations with the government because it will be on the heads of Labor, the Greens and the crossbenchers if it closes,” he said.

It’s a small statement, well, relatively small at least, but the thing that strikes me is that it’s just so…goddamn…political…

You see, Pyne is giving the excuse, or the ‘argument ender’, to his base. He’s saying, “Look, it’s everyone else’s fault if this travesty of a budget cut to Australian science comes to pass! (It’s just coincidental that in order to stop this travesty of a budget cut to science, everyone else has to agree to my travesty of a budget cut to education.)”

This, as I said, is to give his base something to argue back against with people who disagree about his actions. It doesn’t matter, of course, that what he really means is, “I want my education cuts to pass and until they do, I’m going to hold my scythe next to the string that is holding Australian science up! And if, dog forbid, you don’t agree with me before I cut the string and Australian science plunges into this convenient volcano…Well then you only have yourselves to blame!”

Continue reading

Is Scott Walker Secretly Tony Abbott?

Abbott-Walker Mutant

Scott Abbott, or perhaps it’s Tony Walker…

From a comment on a Dispatches From the Culture Wars post titled Scott Walker Proves His Foreign Policy Chops by raven (raven wrote the following comment, not the blog post):

Walker certainly didn’t do much for Wisconsin. His track record on the economy and budgets is simply terrible.

In terms of recovery from the Bush Great Recession, they rank low, 35. Wisconsin is running a $280 million deficit this year and projected $1 billion for each of the next two years.

Meanwhile the adjacent state, Minnesota has a Democrat governor who raised taxes. They are rated 5th in recovery and running a $1 billion budget surplus.

Walker must have to keep talking about union busting because he’s only done three things, cut state services, trashed the state’s budget and economy, and demolished a few unions.

Hmmm, so not only is Scott Walker’s foreign policy woeful (saying that Reagan busting up the 1981 strike of air traffic controllers was the most significant American foreign policy decision in his lifetime…) but his conservative policies (cutting state services, “incidentally” increasing debt in the service of the rich and attacking workers rights) have sent Wisconsin down the drain, directly next to a state run by a democrat, with liberal (not our liberal…God I hate how they’ve corrupted that word) policies that is in excellent health.

Continue reading

Murdoch, Faux News and Wild Propaganda

This is a frustrating, terrifying and insightful look into the propaganda machine that has been built by Rupert Murdoch. The hundreds of news channels, cable channels, papers and magazines that Murdoch owns (and fills with his personal right-wing anti-fact agenda) reaches a STAGGERING 4.7 billion people. Holy. Fucking. Shit. Power corrupts, ultimate power corrupts ultimately and being able to force your biased viewpoints down the throats of more than half of the worlds population is pretty fucking similar to what I would call ultimate power.

As David Brock, the President/CEO of Media Matters for America, says about Murdoch/Faux News:

He doesn't believe in objectivity, he has contempt for journalism I think. They wanted all news to be a matter of opinion because opinion can't be proven false. And I think that's very dangerous because if people don't have a set of facts they can agree on, I think it's difficult to reach a consensus on what's correct public policy.