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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Space News Updates

NASA Torn over AGW

GOES-15 satellite in assembly. This satellite, launched in 2010, studies the Earth's weather and climate for NASA.

The struggle over Global Warming takes on a new dimension. Three years ago, President Obama gave NASA a new directive to build new satellites to study the problem of Global Warming, and to use its resources to push the government's agenda of using AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming, meaning "man-caused") to legislate new rules against energy providers and new rules to change how Americans live. This agenda would cause many job losses and cost the American taxpayer hundreds of billions of dollars, in an attempt to "stop" Global Warming. Appointed by President Obama, NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden (former shuttle astronaut and BIG fan of Barack Obama) has accepted this mission enthusiastically and directed NASA resources and facilities to cooperate in this endeavor. This effort has been pushed relentlessly by NASA's Goddard Space Center director Jim Hansen, who recently said that Global Warming is morally equivalent to slavery, and earlier said that people denying Global Warming should be prosecuted! Hansen has been politically active beyond his NASA responsibilities, working as an environmental advisor for AL Gore during his run for the Presidency (and well paid for the effort), as well as being arrested several times since 2009 for actively protesting energy issues such as the Keystone pipeline.

Well, things are getting tougher for NASA to follow the President's lead and the failing push for Global Warming belief. Yesterday, 49 NASA astronauts, scientists and employees sent Adminstrator Bolden a letter of complaint, stating that NASA should "refrain from including unproven remarks in public releases and websites." The group is concerned that NASA's Earth studies have not proven yet that Man-made carbon dioxide release is causing Global Warming, and in fact that there is a great unsettled debate about if it is actually happening. This contradicts the politicalized belief in AGW, and its adherents who claim that the science is "settled". You can read more of the letter and its argument here: http://washingtonexaminer.com/politics/washington-secrets/2012/04/astronauts-condemn-nasa’s-global-warming-endorsement/469366

In fact, NASA's own studies are now showing that the Global Warming danger does not even exist! Data from NASA satellites, climate stations and new studies are showing that there actually hasn't been warming for the last 15 years. Even Britain's own East Anglia Climatic Rwsearch Unit (which has previously been a HUGE proponent of AGW) now supports the studies which show the SUn itself has largely been a culprit in the cycles of warming and cooling over the centuries. Now, it seems the Sun is entering a period of little sunspot activity, which relates to the 11-year solar cycles. If the Sun continues in this direction, we may even see unusual COOLING in the climates which is reminiscent of several "mini-ice-ages" recorded in the last 500 years. To read more about the new studies, go here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2093264/Forget-global-warming--Cycle-25-need-worry-NASA-scientists-right-Thames-freezing-again.html

So what is NASA to do? Well, for one thing, they might consider firing Jim Hansen, who has been very controversial and in fact embarrassing to the agency. He continually takes money from pro-AGW political groups (such as Al Gore) and his recent arrests do nothing for the reputation of NASA. Second, how about actually performing some science? Pay attention to the actual data coming in and stop "spinning" it to match the demands of the White House.

Harrison "Jack" Schmidt, one of the signers of the petition. He was the only scientist among the astronauts to explore the lunar surface on Apollo 17.

Dodging Solar Storms

Coronal Holes (false color). Credit: SDO/AIA. Thanks to Spaceweather.com.

Every morning I like to check the weather reports. Not just local weather, but also the "weather" in space. Not only do we face threats from Near-Earth-orbiting asteroids, rogue asteroids, meteor showers, and cosmic radiation, but we have a giant nuclear fusion generator only 93,000,000 miles away pumping out stellar winds and radioactive storms that could damage life on Earth. It's interesting that the active events in our solar system have been linked to weather descriptions on Earth.

Thanks to Dr. Tony Phillips, you can watch out for our interplanetary space weather, too. He's created the website http://www.spaceweather.com to bring you the latest news in space storms and potential hazards to Earth. Over the years, as I've visited the site each day, I've really come to understand better the overall picture of our solar system's "weather" cycles and how it all affects us here on planet Earth.

Take sunspots, for example:

Woops! No big Spots!

Every day you can monitor the surface of the Sun that faces the Earth. Sunspots are linked to magnetic solar storms which can emit large blasts of energy towards the Earth. More significantly, recent studies of sunspot populations over time has revealed that the amount of sunspots often has influence on the amount of cosmic radiation hitting the Earth, and even how much cloud cover we have, therefore impacting Global Warming. Forget about the minimal natural effect carbon dioxide has on the climate, the Sun is the real culprit!

And then there's coronal holes. As seen in the top picture, we study x-rays from the sun to monitor these gaping holes in the Sun's plasma, and we've learned how magnetic lines flowing from the holes directs the Solar Wind. That wind also has its affect upon our atmosphere. Thank goodness for our own magnetic fields, which shield us from the Sun's expulsion of solar particles.

Currently, it seems the surface of the Sun is quiet with regard to Sunspots, but coronal holes exist and solar flares could erupt towards Earth at any time. On Spaceweather.com, you can look at predictions for the Sun's interference with our magnetic fields, and when a large coronal mass ejection occurs, you can read warnings of when the storms will hit Earth and expected damage that could be done. Some storms have been able to knock out power grids, interfere with satellite communications, threaten radiation damage to astronauts, and worse. It was increased solar activity which caused the rapid loss of altitude of the famous Skylab space station in the early 1970's eventually causing it to enter the Earth's atmosphere far earlier than planned.

Of course we also get the magnificent Aurora Borealis, the Northern lights. With the change in seasons, we now approach the time when the rising Sun will be up in the Arctic circle for 6 months, and the night lights (interaction of solar particles with the Earth's magnetic fields) will not be visible again until Winter. The past winter has seen tremendous northern lights activity, even being spotted as far south as Northern Utah on rare occasions.

Make a visit to SpaceWeather.com. Check out why there may be little sunspot activity for now, how that may affect us on Earth, and how it relates to the Sun's 11-year cycle.

So don't just think about if there might be some rain this morning or if there's a dangerous storm front approaching. Watch out for spaceweather!
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