Archive for the ‘Ocean’ category

Event Horizon for the Human Race—Moving Beyond Our Own Boundaries

April 11, 2019

The Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) on Hawai’i’s Mauna Kea and Atacama’s Large Submillimeter Array (SMA) answered some cosmic prayers this week.

Event Horizon Discovery by Global AstroSci Team

Summit of Mauna Kea at 13,000ft has ideal microclimate for Harvard-Smithsonian Event Horizon 8-telescope array

The Submillimeter Array of eight radio telescopes alongside the James Clerk Maxwell Observatory on the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawai’i have sent earthling skywatchers skyrocketing with delight, as they released their first picture of Messier-87—a super-dense neutron region or ‘black hole’ in Virgo galaxy this week.

Hawai’i is crucial to Event Horizon (EHT)’s world network. Its high volcanic setting provides cloud-free receiving/bending of its own multiple signal—from three points in an array of eight new [radio]telescopes, top, with Mauna Kea Observatory’s James Clerk Maxwell 49-foot dish telescope, and reusing CalTech’s nearby CSO ‘redundant’ observatory.

Previously co-funded by Great Britain, Canada and Netherlands, EHT is presently co-sponsored by Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Massachusetts with the Academia Sinica, and a consortium of astrophysics interests from Taiwan, China, Japan, South Korea and Chile. EHT is in international partnership with the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan, together with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea). Vital cooperation is the link with the Republic of Chile—where ALMA‘s 66 high-precision antennae are located on the Chajnantor plateau, at 5000 meters altitude/one mile high in northern Chile.
(ALMA)=Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array

Event Horizon Telescope —EHT— world’s 1st super-array captures its first picture of ultra-dense neutron region M-57 in constellation Virgo

The Event Horizon Telescope—EHT—is a global array of radio telescopes involving dozens of institutions and astrophysicists round the world. Breakthrough discovery by the EHT is an image of Messier 87 (M-87)’s supermassive neutron black hole at the center of the Virgo galaxy cluster, 55 million light years away. This neutron-dense region contains 6.5 billion times the mass of our Sun.

Affectionately named ‘black holes’ are extremely compressed cosmic objects, containing extraordinary amounts of mass packed densely into a tiny region of space. This mass is shrouded by an event horizon—a boundary beyond which nothing—not even light—can escape its electromagnetic/gravitational pull.

They affect their surroundings in extreme ways, including warping spacetime and heating surrounding material to hundreds of billions of degrees. Albert Einstin in his 1915 Theory of General Relativity predicted that a black hole would cast a circular shadow on its bright, glowing material. The newly-released image of M87 from EHT reveals this shadow.

Light emitted from inside the event horizon can never reach the outside observer. Likewise, any object approaching the horizon from the observer’s side appears to slow down and never quite pass through the horizon—its image becoming more and more redshifted as time elapses. This means that the wavelength of the light emitted from the object is getting longer as the object moves away from the observer. The traveling object, however, experiences no strange effects and does, in fact, pass through the horizon in a finite amount of ‘proper’ time.

As high as the Swiss Alps, Mauna Kea hosts climate-immune radiotelescope array for worldwide science cooperative

Black hole event horizons are widely misunderstood. Common, although erroneous, is the notion that black holes vacuum up material in their neighborhood, where in fact they are no more capable of seeking to consume than any other gravitational attractor. As with any mass in the universe, matter must come within its gravitational scope for the possibility to exist of capture or consolidation with any other mass. Equally common is the idea that matter can be observed falling into a black hole. This is not possible either.

Astronomers can detect only accretion disks around black holes, where material moves with such speed that friction creates detectable high-energy radiation. Matter from these accretion disks is forced out along the axis of spin of the black hole, creating visible jets where the streams interact with matter—such as interstellar gas—or if they happen to be aimed directly at Earth.
J.A.Peacock Cosmological Physics, 1999

A distant observer—or world-class telescope array—will never actually see something reach the horizon. Instead, while approaching its edge, the object will seem to go ever more slowly, while any light it emits will be further and further redshifted.

Earth-size Telescope Dish
In order to see a black hole for the first time, the Event Horizon Telescope team hooked up an array of radio telescopes in Hawai’i, Central and South America (Atacama), Europe, Greenland and Antarctica, with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) dish in Cambridge, MA.

EHT signals from global telescope network create earth-size dish receiver, beamed Mauna Kea HI to Cambridge MA for image resolution by the EHT team

Using a technique known as very long baseline (vLBI) interferometry, the CfA-MIT team took precisely-timed data from each radio telescope, combining them to produce images comparable with what an Earth-hemisphere-sized dish would capture. The resulting virtual telescope has the highest resolution of any instrument ever built on earth, in orbit within the Solar System—or even beyond the Heliopause where Voyagers I & II entered Interstellar Space.

We’re a melting pot of astronomers, physicists, mathematicians and engineers. That’s what it took to achieve something once thought impossible.
Katie Bouman, PhD CfA elec.engineer/computer sci
Co-author six papers in Astrophysical Journal Letters

EHT’s image reveals that this enormous black hole—large enough to engulf the solar system—anchors a jet that extends outwards for tens of thousands of light years.

Hawai’i’s Mauna a Wakea—white mountain—multiple telescope array at 13,803feet on the dormant volcano played crucial role in Event Horizon success

There are already plans to expand the EHT: to enable the team to make time-lapse movies of the dynamics of this (newly-discovered) living system, and to discover how the jet draws its energy from this negative source.

Creating the EHT was a formidable challenge which required upgrading and connecting a worldwide network of thirteen pre-existing telescopes deployed at a variety of challenging high-altitude sites. These locations included volcanoes in Hawai`i and Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, the Chilean Atacama Desert, and Antarctica.

All Very Baseline Interferometry
Event Horizon observations use a technique called very-long-baseline interferometry (VLBI) which synchronizes 13 telescopes around the world, using earth’s rotation to form one huge, Earth-size telescope observing at a wavelength of 1.3 mm. This lets EHT achieve an angular resolution of 20 micro-arc-seconds—enough to read a newspaper in New York from a sidewalk café in Paris.

From Chile’s Atacama high desert to Spain’s Sierra Nevada to Mauna Kea’s multiple array, telescopes worldwide combined to bring new images beyond human expectation and belief

Resolution of the EHT image depends on separation distance between the telescopes—the baseline—and the short-millimeter radio wavelengths captured around the world. EHT’s finest resolution is achieved by the longest baseline, which for M87 stretches from Hawai’i to Spain and Greenland to Antarctica. To optimize long baseline sensitivity—or make detection possible—the team developed a specialized system which combines all signals from Mauna Kea’s SMA dishes, letting Hawai’i act as a single EHT station.

Beaming-coordinating signals from night-time (western) half of the globe employs optimum use of precious telescope time when the other—Asian—hemisphere is in daylight.

After separately recording signals at all thirteen telescopes, data are flown to a single location and combined by computer to create an image by a virtual Earth-size telescope—first of its kind.

Petabytes, Raw Data and Red Shift
Lindy Blackburn, EHT data processing team leader and coauthor explains that EHT holds millions of gigabytes of data from many telescopes that weren’t originally designed to work together. ‘We developed multiple pathways to process and calibrate data, using new algorithms to stabilize the Earth’s atmosphere and to align the signals from all sites within trillionths of a second precisely.’

Rapidly spinning supermassive hole surrounded by its accretion disc of rotating leftovers from Sun-like star ripped apart by the hole’s tidal force, courtesy ALMA Large Array, Atacama

Telescopes contributing to this result were ALMA*, APEX, the Spanish IRAM 30-meter telescope, the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope, the Large Millimeter Telescope Alfonso Serrano, the Submillimeter Array, the Greenland Submillimeter Telescope, and the South Pole Telescope. Petabytes of raw data from all telescopes were combined by highly specialized supercomputers hosted by the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Munich, and MIT Haystack Observatory, Cambridge, MA.
*Atacama Large Millimeter-Submillimeter Array in Andes high desert, Chile

Global teamwork meant a close collaboration by astrophysicists, technicians and researchers around the world—and a first for science.

Construction of the EHT and this week’s observations represent the culmination of decades of close technical theoretical work. Thirteen partner institutions worked together to create the EHT, using both pre-existing infrastructure and support from a variety of world agencies. Key funding was provided by the US National Science Foundation (NSF), EU’s European Research Council (ERC), and funding agencies in East Asia, above.

On a planetary level, we sci-fi addicts thank the team for rising above national barriers and creating something previously only dreamed of.

On a Cosmic level—look out—unlimited data incoming.
©2019 Siderealview

Whales, Nuclear ‘Wessels’ and Ocean Clean-Up

July 11, 2018

WHALES, NUCLEAR WESSELS AND OCEAN CLEAN-UP
ALAMEDA—Chequered History or Check-Mate?

Alameda—where they keep the Nuclear Wessels, according to Pavel Chekov, in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, 1986

With a flourish of ceremonial shovels, construction began last week on the site of the (closed) U.S. Naval Air Station, on what will become Alameda’s first major market-rate multi-family development in four decades. Alameda Point sits on the North shore of San Francisco Bay, with strategic connections to Oakland, the Sacramento River and the Bay Area.

Manila Bay whale sculpture made entirely from plastic beach waste in Philippines, image courtesy Greenpeace

It will be familiar to vintage Star Trek fans for its connection with whales, nuclear generators and Space. Alameda has tolerated empty lot syndrome since the ‘nineties—vast spaces where appropriate development could enhance the former NAS site, but records of clean-up procedures are causing concern. The Navy contractor’s method of landfill and dumping radio-active soil and ground liquids has been questioned.

Developers for the project assure that testing and re-certification will continue, as old naval buildings and pavement are torn up to make room for the new 70-acre development, known as Site A: it will include 800 residential units, up to 600,000 square feet of commercial space and a ferry terminal that will connect to San Francisco—plus parks and open space.

According to U.S. Navy’s Environmental Coordinator for the Alameda cleanup, Cecily Sabedra:

“Tetra Tech was the contractor who performed environmental investigation and cleanup tasks throughout the former NAS Alameda, including Site A. The Navy’s internal-review safeguards and the regulatory-review process indicate Alameda data are accurate and the work completed to date at Alameda is protective of human health. Quality assurance and quality control measures, including field oversight and data review by Navy personnel and regulatory agencies, have been and continue to be in place at Alameda to verify data are representative of site conditions.”

From Cold War Seaplane Landing to Wildlife Reserve

Old Alameda Naval Air base runways for U.S. fleet flight deck and seaplane landings, now rare bird lagoon

Tetra Tech was deeply involved at another portion of the 2,800-acre Alameda Naval Air Station property, Site 2, which is deemed a toxic Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The station was an active military installation for fleet aviation activities from the 1930s to the 1990s. Former jet runways, and anchorage for Cold War sea planes and Navy submersibles can still be seen.

In Tetra Tech’s 200-page remedial action work plan, submitted to the Navy and other U.S. government agencies in 2013, Site 2 contained radium-226 and other radioactive materials. In the 1940s, workers coated instruments such as dials using a radio-luminescent paint containing the isotope. Rags and paint brushes were then discarded at the site.

Over a period of sixty years, the land had been a dumping ground for other materials like asbestos, pesticides, sandblasting grit, medical waste and tear gas agents. In ‘cleaning’ the area, Tetra Tech bulldozed in a multi-layer soil mix, to cover the old landfill.

Wilderness will Find a Way—Wildlife Move Back In

Osprey landing on rusty light-stand nest to feed young, in former Seaplane Lagoon

Site 2—owned by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs—will remain closed for the ‘foreseeable future’.

Since becoming redundant in the 1990s, Mother Nature has stepped in to reclaim such wasteland: now home to several endangered species of birds. Harbor seals have moved back into the lagoon and this is third year a pair of ospreys have nested on the old light stand at the entrance to Seaplane Lagoon.

After an impasse was reached in 2004 between the U.S. Navy and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (aka Fish & Game) for creation of a national wildlife refuge, the property was offered to the Department of Veterans Affairs (V.A.). The V.A. plans to build an outpatient clinic and columbarium on 112 acres of its land, but the other 511 acres of V.A. land will remain undeveloped. The undeveloped area is where egrets and endangered California Least Terns come to nest early April to mid-August each year.

Wild Mountain Lion Migrate Across 101

Baby cougar faces future from her den in Thousand Oaks, Santa Monica mountains

Megalopolis concerns are with a family of cougar kittens in Thousand Oaks, CA.—being monitored/tagged by National Parks Service researchers—where as grown wildcats they will have to cross Highway 101 to find new breeding grounds—the nearest wild forest being several hundred miles to the north. Cougar have had to adapt to urban sprawl before. Most famous is Parks’ Service favorite, “P-22” who crossed several freeways in Santa Monica, headed south into Los Angeles and took up residence in downtown Griffith Park.

He’s still there. What a Cool Cat.

San Francisco’s former military HQ, the Presidio, with its unparalleled view of the Golden Gate Bridge, has become a model for native plant species and habitat restoration since 1994. That year, the U.S. military machine turned its back on war and handed the land over to the National Parks Service. It subsequently created the Presidio Trust which now oversees 80% of the park. Here endangered and indigenous plant life is being nurtured back to profusion by Parks’ botanists, with a little nightly help from vole, gopher, racoon, fox and coyote. The bears left a long time ago—ages before it was a military stronghold.

Chernobyl nuclear hazard sign after April 26, 1986 explosion blanketed Europe in radio-active fog for a week


Encouragingly, wildlife in Chernobyl, a former 50,000-population density town in Ukraine within a 1,000-sq.mile forest (4300km2 Chernobyl Exclusion Zone) are moving through the irradiated landscape in droves, and showing little sign of becoming mutants. European research teams have been tracking population growth of wolves, bear, mountain lion and multiple migrating birds for over a decade, and proclaim so far no adverse genetic change.

Crop Circles Echo a Nuclear Warning

Nuclear warning by crop circle? Latest to appear in Wiltshire field near Stonehenge, drone shot courtesy Nick Bull

Even our crop circling Alien friends seem concerned for our welfare. The latest—July 8th, 2018—depicting a nuclear device—appeared overnight in unharvested wheat in Coneybury Hill, near Stonehenge, Wiltshire. Whereas Salisbury farmers were formerly stressed over public trespass and crop trampling, they now tolerate drone fly-overs and crop circle photography has taken an upswing.

There are positive aspects to our human concern for proliferating the planet with our own waste. As we become aware of our past destructive habits, like dumping plastic in the ocean—the city of New York only stopped dumping municipal waste by barge into the Atlantic in 1992—we discover alternative methods of clean-up.

Within the last five years Woods Hole, Massachusetts marine microbiologists have recorded a reduction in marine plastic waste in world oceans.

They are convinced it is being eaten.

Leave it to the Micro-Plankton
NOAA has recorded a massive 90% drop in ocean pollution statistics worldwide since 2011, declaring there is no Pacific garbage patch.

Marine bacteriologists are convinced, however, that, as plastic degrades through sunlight and the wave action of salt water into the tiniest fragments, this plastic confetti becomes the preferred diet of micro-organisms who attach to such clustered ‘reefs’ of food, extracting toxins in their digestion.

Casualty on Huntington Beach—at least he pecked his way through the bag

”Plastic-eating bacteria help explain why the amount of debris in the ocean has levelled off, despite continued pollution. But researchers don’t yet know whether their digestion produces harmless by-products, or whether it might introduce toxins into the food chain.”
Tracy Mincer, Marine Microbiologist Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

If NOAA’s “missing 90%” of microscopic plastic fragments in the oceans is being eaten—mostly by bacteria and other microbes—these little microscopic helpers will continue to eat the plastic. If we can reduce the amount of plastic going into the oceans, via our beaches, they may eventually eat it all up.

Wouldn’t that be a world initiative worth achieving?

Seattle and Starbucks have banned the use of plastic utensils and cups; and Hawai’i has agreed to ban all commercial sunscreens as of January 2021, to help slow coral reef decay.

If we continue with responsible water cleanup worldwide—as some humanitarian philanthropists are currently showing the way—we ‘oldies’ may emerge from the “Plastic Age” unscathed, sooner than our grandchildren predict.

Then we, the guilty, messy generation, can turn the tables on our former selves and become our own success story.
©2018 Siderealview


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