Geeking Science: Uranus Magnetic Field Flips

Image from Nasa

Worlds are opening up as we look to the stars and find planets. Many of the exo-planets found are gas giants, so the little information we have about our Big Buddies in the Solar System is becoming more and more valuable.

On June 27, 2017, Xin Cao and Carol Paty article “Diurnal and seasonal variability of Uranus’s magnetosphere” appearing in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space physics released to some minor shock and awe. Uranus’s magnetosphere is messed up. Not only is its spin axis 98 degrees off – making the planet’s path around the solar system more of a roll than a hover, but Uranus’s magnetic field is tilted at a 60 degrees angle.

The crazy rolling field twists around every day letting solar winds in some of the time, no doubt creating spectacular Borealis for whatever lives on the surface trying to figure out where the north and south poles are. The balance of the time, the magnetosphere pulls off the fan dance, hiding the naked gaseous surface from the winds.

How does the atmosphere of the gas giant remain in the gravity field instead of being blown into space by the winds?

And how many of the gas giants we have discovered outside our system dance like a drunken marble around their suns?

One way to find out is studying our Big Buddies a little more. Uranus’s only visitor has been Voyager 2 in 1986. NASA has possible missions heading that way next decade, maybe; feel free to write your Congressmen to make them a little more possible. I wonder what new mystery Uranus is going to reveal if we drop by again.


Abstract for Diurnal and seasonal variability of Uranus’s magnetosphere. (Last viewed 11/10/2017 – link did not work on 11/16/2017).

Uranus is Even Freakier Than We Thought by Rae Paoletta, 6/23/2017. (Last viewed 11/10/2017).

Geeking Science: Planet of Mystery

Logo from the Planet of Mystery GoFundMe

I am lucky enough to live in a small city with a planetarium – one which had an amazing astronomer named Jim Craig running its programming for over 20 years. This guy geeks science so hard he would go to writer’s conventions state-wide and be on science panel after science panel on his weekends off, because science. He has a tattoo of NASA. When he was let go from the day job, he immediately pounded feet to his computer and started making those astronomy videos he used to make for the planetarium and local school system at home. He named his new production company “Planet of Mystery” and started creating its first program “Red Planet Rising”. The aim is to have low-cost videos available to planetariums, science centers, schools, and other people and entities interested in life, the universe, and everything.

I think if you cut Mr. Craig, he would bleed starlight.

Unfortunately starlight doesn’t pay the bills, or, more specifically the computing power to crunch the videos in any meaningful time frame. If you’re interested in helping out a proven educator provide low-cost quality videos, please consider the Planet of Mystery GoFundMe campaign. Even $10 can make a difference.

The link for the GoFundMe campaign is:

Blog: Recycling


I noticed my town asked for the shredding to not go into single-stream recycling bin. What’s up with that? They want us to take it to shred day. Really,  who has time for that?

Turns out they have great reasons: 
(1) Shredding breaks up the paper into very short fibers which downgrades the quality of the paper and they get less money for it. Since it is mixed in and clings with all the other paper, any bundle with shredded paper now is the lowest quality. Towns are trying to lower taxes through recycling, and so the shredding is money out of the taxpayer pocket, out of your pocket.
(2) Remember I just mention shred clings? Yeah, it clings to the machinery doing the separation of all the single-stream recycling, breaking them down more often, kicking paper dust in the air as an environmental (and fire) hazard to workers, and really screwing up everything the minute it gets wet. All this means the machinery is stopped more often for maintenance and needs replacing more often. Where does the maintenance and replacement money come from – well, hopefully the selling of the recycling materials. But it also means that less money gets put back into the tax bucket so the bucket has to be filled by other means, like property taxes. Again, money out of your pocket.

We all have learned plastic bags don’t go into recycling – for the same reasons as shred. Now I need to add shred to the list of “no-go’s” in my head and take it to the special shred day.

A really good video on recycling is below. It taught me crushing cans and plastic bottles is also undesirable. 

Geeking Science: Faster

Fast, Faster, Fastest

Unless faster-than-light travel becomes a reality, the true reality of space will be very long voyages.

Those who ply humanity’s trade routes have pulled long transients for time immemorial. Christopher Columbus took two months on his voyage and faced mutiny. The silk road from China to Rome took two long years out of a merchant’s life. The longest regularly schedule plane flight of today takes seventeen hours as of February 2017 (from Doha, Qatar to Auckland, New Zealand). Cargo ships can take nearly 30 days to go across the Pacific, and one traveling from Europe to Australia can push 40 days.

The closest exo-planet humanity has found at this time is 4.25 light years away. Traveling at half the speed of light, without speed up or slow down taking into consideration, would take eight and a half years, one way. Just reflect on how much you have accomplished in the last eight and a half years, how far you traveled, matured, learned, and changed. Now imagine doing all that with other people in the space of a space shuttle’s crew module, 2,325 cubic feet. Allowing for a 8-foot ceiling that is 291 square feet. Putting that in perspective, RVs run about 400 square feet.

Fast – 0.0037% the speed of light

Half the speed of light is generous, when one considers the fastest humans ever traveled occurred during Nasa’s Apollo 10 mission that topped out at 24,790 mph – 0.0037% the speed of light. Plans exist for developing technology capable of reaching up to 10% the speed of light. (See “How Fast Could Humans Travel Safely Through Space?” published by BBC in 2015.) At 10% the speed of light, not counting acceleration and deceleration, Proxima Centauri’s system, including one very special rocky planet in the Goldilocks zone, is just 44 short years away.

Faster – 0.0246% the speed of light

Before humanity arranges for some of its members to take The Big Trip, unmanned space craft will be sent. At this time, Juno holds the speed record for spacecraft when she rushed to see what her husband Jupiter was doing with all his moon affairs. She pushed 165,000 mph – 0.0246% the speed of light (seven times faster than humans ever moved in a sustained manner). Plans are in the making to get an unmanned spacecraft up to nearly 3 times that, within the next two years. (See “What’s the Fastest Spacecraft Ever?” published by LiveScience.) Two years feels like tomorrow when thinking about the fifty-year plan for getting humans up to 10%.

Fastest – 0.0671% the speed of light

And that two-year plans has a countdown. See more about the Parker Solar Probe here:



“Astronomers have found the closest exoplanet to Earth” – (Last viewed 11/17/2017) –

“How fast could humans travel safely through space?” – (Last viewed 11/17/2017) –

“Space Shuttle Basics” – specifically for the crew module on the space shuttle – (Last viewed 11/17/2017) –

“What’s the Fastest Spacecraft Ever?” – (Last viewed 11/17/2017) –