Sonntag, 4. Mai 2014 - 18:42 Uhr

Raumfahrt - Vorbereitungen für Start von Ariane-V-VA220


Rounding out the on-going Ariane 5 mission preparations was this week’s delivery to French Guiana of launcher components for Arianespace’s Flight VA220. Arriving aboard the MN Colibri sea-going vessel, these elements were unloaded at Paricabo port for transfer to the Spaceport – where they are to be assembled for flight.


Launcher components for Ariane 5’s Flight VA220 were delivered to Paricabo port in French Guiana aboard the MN Colibri, which is one of two sea-going ships used to carry Arianespace vehicle components from Europe to South America.

Quelle: arianespace

Tags: Launch Ariane-V-VA220 


Samstag, 3. Mai 2014 - 21:45 Uhr

Astronomie - Felsbrocken in der Nähe von ESO- Observatorium La Silla in Chile


This image shows an ancient sun-scorched boulder near ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile, on the outskirts of this desert at a height of some 2400 metres above sea level.

Visible on the boulder are several petroglyphs — rock engravings — depicting men and llamas. Llamas have historically been very important to South American cultures, being used as both a source of food and wool, and also as a pack animal for carrying goods across the land. The importance of llamas was reflected in the beliefs of the pre-Columbian people who inhabited the region — the Inca herders worshipped a multicoloured llama deity by the name of Urcuchillay, who was said to watch over the animals. The name Urcuchillay was also given to the constellation of Lyra (The Lyre) by the ancient Inca astronomers.

The llama is honoured yet again in the Inca constellations. These constellations were formed from dark patches on the bright plane of the Milky Way, rather than from bright, prominent stars — as is the Western tradition. One of these dark constellations was known as Yacana (The Llama), which stretches from the galactic centre towards the Southern Cross, its eye being our stellar neighbour Alpha Centauri.

This image was taken by Håkon Dahle, an accomplished professional astronomer. He submitted the photograph to the Your ESO Pictures Flickr group. The Flickr group is regularly reviewed and the best photos are selected to be featured in our popular Picture of the Week series, or in our gallery.


Quelle: ESO


Samstag, 3. Mai 2014 - 21:25 Uhr

Astronomie - Astronomen beobachten zirkulare Licht Polarisation von einem entfernten Schwarzen Loch



Gamma-ray burst 121024A, as seen on the day of burst by ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile. Only a week later the source had faded completely. Credit: Dr Klaas Wiersema, University of Leicester, UK and Dr Peter Curran, ICRAR.


For the first time an international team of astronomers has measured circular polarisation in the bright flash of light from a dying star collapsing to a black hole, giving insight into an event that happened almost 11 billion years ago.

Dr Peter Curran from the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) was part of the team that observed Gamma-ray Burst 121024A – a bright flash of light emitted by a dying star collapsing to a black hole – and found a surprising detail in the light they collected.

The research was published today in the prestigious journal Nature.

“Gamma-ray Bursts are so powerful that we can see them clearly at extraordinary distances,” Dr Curran said.

“But this one was an unusual case, its light had a strange feature – it was circularly polarised.”

If light is polarised it means the waves are moving in a uniform way as they travel – either bouncing up and down or left and right for linear polarisation, or in the case of circular polarisation, corkscrewing around in a spiral motion.

Dr Curran said 3D movies make use of circular polarisation by feeding a different image to each eye through special glasses, giving the illusion of depth while watching a film.

“Most light in the natural world is unpolarised, the waves are bouncing around at random,” he said.

“But the light from this Gamma-ray Burst looked like it was part of a 3D movie – it was about 1000 times more polarised than we expected.

“This means that the assumptions we’ve been making about Gamma-ray Bursts need to be completely reconsidered – assumptions of how electrons are accelerated to the incredible speeds we observe.

“Our results show that Gamma-ray Bursts are far more complex than we thought.”Gamma-ray Bursts are the brightest objects in the entire Universe, only lasting a fraction of a second, but sending out as much energy in that time as the Sun will in its entire life.

These bursts are emitted by dying stars collapsing to black holes that form jets of material travelling at over 99.995 per cent of the speed of light.

“These extreme objects are like super-powered versions of the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, except very far away in space,” Dr Curran said.

“We can use them to study microscopic electrons and how they behave in extreme environments, at a great distance – in this case, 18,500 million light years away, at a time when the Universe was just a fraction of its current age.

“This is the first time we’ve found circular polarisation in the light from a Gamma-ray Burst, but we think we’ll find it in more bursts in the future, so we can start to pin down what’s actually happening when these bright flashes of energy are released.”

ICRAR is a joint venture between Curtin University and The University of Western Australia that receives funding from the State Government of Western Australia.

Quelle: ICRAR


New gamma-ray burst findings surprise astronomers

Astronomers have found that they must think again about what happens during the most powerful explosions in the Universe, known as gamma-ray bursts (GRBs).

Previous theoretical models of the behaviour of these monster blasts are mostly invalid, a new observational study of one event reveals.

A GRB, which makes a normal supernova look like a firecracker in comparison, is thought to occur when a really massive star, rotating very quickly, collapses into a black hole.

Due to its rapid spin, it produces jets of material that fire out from the top and bottom of its axis at a speed approaching that of light.

The first GRB was detected by American Vela satellites while watching for Soviet nuclear tests in 1967 at the height of the Cold War. It was quickly recognised that they were coming from deep space, but their source was a complete mystery.

Then after the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory was launched from the Space Shuttle Atlantis in 1991, it was seen that the short-lived bursts were happening randomly across the whole sky. This told astronomers that they must be occurring outside our own Milky Way galaxy.

In 1997 an Italian–Dutch X-ray astronomy satellite called BeppoSAX detected an afterglow from a GRB that showed the burst must have happened at a vast distance of more than six billion light-years and so must have been huge in size.

The new study, published today in the journal Nature, raises questions about the behaviour of such afterglows, which can last anything from days to weeks following the initial burst. It was led by scientists at the University of Leicester in the UK, adied by colleagues from the Niels Bohr Institute in Denmark.

They analysed a burst labelled GRB 121024A that occurred 10 billion light-years away, was detected on 24 October, 2012, by NASA's Swift satellite and which lasted just over a minute. Using the Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile, they checked to see what happened to the glow remaining after the burst, and in particular how the light was polarized.

Dr Klaas Wiersema, of Leicester’s Department of Physics and Astronomy, said: “We know that the afterglow emission is formed by a shockwave, moving at very high velocities, in which electrons are being accelerated to tremendous energies. These fast moving electrons then produce the afterglow light that we detect.

“However, how this acceleration process actually works is very hard to study on Earth in laboratories, or using computer simulations. What we do, is study the polarized light of the afterglow using large optical telescopes, and special filters, that work much like the filters in Polaroid sunglasses.”

Dr Wiersema explained that light is a wave. When light is linearly polarized, it means that the wave vibrations lie in a plane, and when light is circularly polarized, it means that that this plane rotates on the sky.

He said: “Different theories for electron acceleration and light emission within the afterglow all predict different levels of linear polarization, but theories all agreed that there should be no circular polarization in visible light. This is where we come in: we decided to test this by carefully measuring both the linear and circular polarization of one afterglow, of GRB 121024A, detected by the Swift satellite.

“Using the VLT, we measured both the linear and circular polarization of an afterglow with high accuracy. Much to our surprise we clearly detected circular polarization, while theories predicted we should not see any at all.

“We believe that the most likely explanation is that the exact way in which electrons are accelerated within the afterglow shockwave is different from what we always thought. It is a very nice example of observations ruling out most of the existing theoretical predictions—exactly why observers like me are in this game!”

Dr Wiersema added: “We are the first team to realize the importance of trying these technically difficult circular polarization measurements at visible wavelengths—most people simply assumed it wouldn’t be worthwhile doing as theory predicted levels too low to be detectable. The detection of far stronger circular polarization than expected makes it a particularly surprising result.

“We believe that this detection means that most of the current theories of how electrons get accelerated in afterglows need re-examining.”

Quelle: SEN


Update: 3.05.2014


Gamma-ray burst challenges particle acceleration theories


Artist’s impression of a gamma-ray burst (GRB) and its jets. Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/S. Wiessinger

For the first time circular polarisation has been observed in the afterglow of a Gamma-ray burst (GRB) - the explosive death of a massive star. The light from the afterglow is 10,000 times more strongly circularly polarised than expected. The current theoretical models that describe particle acceleration in a GRB are unable to explain this surprising observation. The study, by a team that includes astronomers from the University of Amsterdam, has been published online in Nature on 30 April 2014.

GRBs are powerful, transient explosions in the distant universe that occur when a massive star explodes and a black hole is formed. The GRB lasts a few minutes, but the afterglow remains observable in visible light for a few days. The afterglow is formed when the jets of matter that are launched from the black hole collide with the surrounding matter, and create a shockwave which involves particle acceleration.

From the observation of the afterglow of GRB 121024A it turns out that the light is not only linearly polarised - it propagates in one plane - but also circularly polarised - it propagates around an axis and follows a path like a corkscrew. This circular polarisation has been measured for the first time for a GRB and is 6 to 7 times weaker than the linear polarisation, but much stronger than predicted.

"This finding is a huge surprise to us. According to theoretical models the circular polarisation is too weak to be measured, but apparently particle acceleration and the role of the structure of the magnetic field in jets is not fully understood", says Alexander van der Horst from the University of Amsterdam (UvA). First author Klaas Wiersema adds: "We believe that this detection means that most of the current theories of how particles get accelerated in afterglows need re-examining".

GBR 121024A was detected with the SWIFT-satellite on 24 October 2010. The afterglow was observed with ESO’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile during the following two days. Although the afterglow was not exceptionally bright and its linear polarisation was of average strength, the team was able to measure circular polarisation against all expectations. UvA astronomer Michiel Min: "It is a challenge to measure circular polarisation in the afterglow of GRB’s because the right telescope and instrument are required. We have been very lucky this time. In this case we were able to point the VLT and its FORS2 instrument at the source directly."

Jets are a common phenomenon in the universe. They are not only present in GRBs, but also in sources like Active Galactic Nuclei. "The formation of jets in similar objects remains a mystery. These unique observations of circular polarisation help us to understand them better", says Ralph Wijers (UvA).



Samstag, 3. Mai 2014 - 16:06 Uhr

Astronomie - seltene Ultra-High- Energie- Sternexplosion genannt Gamma- Ray Burst (GRB ) 130606A gab Einblick in kosmisches Mittelalter


Burst snapper.The Subaru Telescope in Hawaii captured light from the distant gamma ray burst 130606A.

Near the beginning, the universe was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. That's because until about a billion years after the big bang, there were no galaxies or stars to illuminate the heavens, which were then filled primarily with neutral hydrogen gas. But a rare ultra–high-energy stellar explosion called a gamma ray burst (GRB) has offered a new glimpse into this obscure period—the so-called cosmic dark ages—and may help nail down precisely when it ended. A study of the explosion's afterglow suggests that such neutral hydrogen abounded a billion years after the big bang, so the dark ages weren’t quite over then, a team of Japanese astronomers reports.

The dark ages lasted until the first stars and galaxies formed from gathering clumps of gas and their light broke apart, or reionized, the hydrogen atoms. (Today, the vast majority of hydrogen in intergalactic space is ionized.) To find out when that happened, researchers want to measure how much neutral hydrogen was still around at various times in the universe’s past.

One way to do this is to detect the so-called 21-centimeter radiation, a faint radio signal emitted by neutral hydrogen. But the radio telescopes able to do this are not yet accurate enough to see that far back into the past. Astronomers can also look at the light from quasars, which are very bright galactic nuclei, to search for the absorption of telltale wavelengths of light by nearby neutral hydrogen surrounding the quasar. (Ionized hydrogen does not absorb optical radiation.) But quasar spectra can be harder to interpret because quasars reside in large galaxies and will likely have ionized much of the gas around them anyway.

A third way is to study GRBs, very rare but exceedingly powerful explosions that occur when a large, rapidly rotating star collapses and causes a supernova or hypernova. The explosion shoots a narrow beam of radiation into space which, if it is pointed toward Earth, appears as a flash of gamma rays in the sky that lasts seconds or minutes, followed by a longer lasting afterglow at longer wavelengths. As with a quasar, radiation from a GRB afterglow can be used to search for neutral hydrogen in the explosion's neighborhood. GRBs are potentially cleaner as sources of light because they originate in small galaxies or away from galaxies altogether.

Tomonori Totani, an astronomer at the University of Tokyo, and colleagues got a lucky glimpse of just such a GRB. GRB 130606A was detected last June by NASA’s Swift satellite. As is common for such an event these days, telescopes the world over swiveled to catch some of its light, including Japan’s Subaru Telescope in Hawaii. Because it was very bright, Subaru’s Faint Object Camera and Spectrograph was able to measure the spectrum of its afterglow precisely. What made this GRB special was that it was very distant, with a redshift of 5.913, which means that it exploded when the ever-expanding universe was just one-seventh its current size and only 1 billion years old.

From the GRB's spectrum, the researchers calculate that 10% of the intergalactic gas surrounding the burst consisted of neutral hydrogen, they report in a paper to be published in June in the Publications of the Astronomical Society of Japan. The abundance of neutral hydrogen suggests that the reionization process that ended the dark ages was not yet complete at that time.

“It's an interesting result, and the best constraint on the Epoch of Reionization coming from a [GRB],” writes astrophysicist Avery Meiksin of the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom in an e-mail. But better data has come from a quasar discovered in 2010. Its redshift of 7.1 puts it just 770 million years after the big bang. Extensive analysis of its spectrum showed nearby gas to be at least 10% neutral hydrogen, and similar analysis would be needed to draw firm conclusions from this GRB, Meiksin says. "I'd say the main significance of this result is that it's a GRB, which promises that there will be more data similar to it in the future,” he adds. Rennan Barkana, an astrophysicist at Tel Aviv University in Israel, agrees that the very high-quality spectrum provides "mild evidence" of neutral hydrogen, but there are many uncertainties. He says that evidence from GRBs is “very promising.”

“The main limitation of this kind of study is the low event rate of such bright GRBs at sufficiently high redshift,” Totani writes in an e-mail. But that situation will likely improve in the next decade as the next generation of gigantic telescopes, such as the Thirty Meter Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope, come online, Totani says, as they should be able to spot much fainter and, hence, more abundant GRBs.

Quelle: AAAS


Samstag, 3. Mai 2014 - 15:45 Uhr

UFO-Forschung - Der Beginn der belgischen UFO-Welle 1989 - Teil-6


In defense of the psychosociological hypothesis – Another reply to Auguste Meessen / by Jean-Michel Abrassart

If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it. (Epictetus)
In his 2011 article, The Belgian Wave and the photos of Ramillies , Auguste Meessen tries to answer some of the recent critics made by several skeptics (namely Roger Paquay, Tim Printy and myself) concerning the work done by the pro-extraterrestrial hypothesis (ETH) group SOBEPS (now COBEPS) on the Belgian UFO wave. I have read the previous replies made by my skeptical colleagues in the last issue of SUNlite. Several very important points have already been made by them. I will try not to repeat them here. I’d like to focus instead on some of the logical fallacies and bad reasoning used by the physicist to try to convince people that the psychosociological hypothesis (PSH) cannot explain the Belgian UFO wave.
During his long UFOlogical carrier, this physicist has always confused his own speculations with “facts” and his opinions with “the truth”. His abstract starts in a very telling way, when he writes, “We restore the truth”. Everybody should be wary about a scientist claiming to “restore the truth” instead of simply replying to his contradictors. That kind of vocabulary is more typical of apologetic religious discourses than scientific ones. Auguste Meessen seems to be like Pope John Paul II, and wants to show us – the infidels – the “Splendor of Truth”.
Since the very beginning of his interests in the UFO subject, Auguste Meessen showed a naïve conception of human psychology. From a scientific standpoint, his influence over the years on the SOBEPS group was mostly negative, pushing them more and more toward the pseudo-scientific side of the fence. In this article, Auguste Meessen claims again that:
The psychosocial hypothesis can thus not account for the Belgian wave and all UFO observations do not result from errors or illusions!
The Belgian physicist is of course entitled to have his own opinion on the matter, but he seems to think that if he claims something loudly enough it will make it true. This is wishful thinking: there will scientific method that if SOBEPS really had proven that the Belgian UFO wave could only be explained by extraterrestrial spacecraft, Auguste Meessen & Co. would have made the cover of Nature a long time ago and would have probably won a Nobel Prize soon after that. We should also point out that all his publications did not appear in peer-reviewed science journals – as they should be in order to take part of the scientific process – but either in Inforespace (SOBEPS newsletter) or more recently on his own web site. To my knowledge, Auguste Meessen’s only peer-reviewed publication close to the subject of the Belgian UFO wave was “Le phénomène OVNI et le Problème des Méthodologies” , an article about the methodology of UFO research published in the Revue Française de Parapsychologie, a very confidential parapsychological French publication (edited by a very controversial parapsychologist named Yves Lignon), and even there it was only has a rebuttal to an earlier publication by Marc Hallet criticizing his work! Of course, some would probably not hesitate to call upon some kind of conspiracy theory to rationalize that fact instead of considering that simply SOBEPS work failed to convince the scientific community. All that to say that the condescending tone of Meessen’s publications is not matched at all by his scientific track record on the subject or, for that matter, by the evidences he can show to support his views.
He’s grossly misrepresenting, as usual, the skeptical position. Let’s take only one example of this:
The attitude of so-called “skeptics”, claiming that UFOs cannot exist, simply obstructs clarification, but purely speculative statements are also inadequate.
To put it bluntly, I do not know of any skeptic who claims that UFOs cannot exist. Those are only the skeptics that exist in Auguste Meessen’s imagination. To the contrary, we say that you know you are a skeptic when you understand what the U of UFO stands for: UFOs are just “objects” (actually many stimuli can – and do – generate a UFO observation, and sometimes stimuli are not even necessary) that subjects see and fail to identify. Since UFO testimonies exist, UFOs obviously do exist. There is an unhealthy slip of language in the physicist’s senalways be critical thinkers who won’t be convinced by his weak argumentation. Yelling insults at them won’t change that fact, on the contrary. Sometimes, like during the recent COBEPS conference (14 mai 2011 at Perwez, Belgium), Auguste Meessen tries to claim that he’s not a proponent of the ETH. This is simply not true. In his paper Où en sommes-nous en ufologie ? he wrote that he believes that there was a flying-saucer crash at Roswell, that UFOlogists should reconsider (of course in a more positive light) Ray Santilli’s autopsy movie and that there is a US government conspiracy to hide the truth. In the same article, he also speculates about Grey’s telepathic abilities or the fact that Men in Black, the chupacabra and contactees (like George Adamski or Billy Meier) are – according to him - part of a sociological experiment conducted by aliens. Thus when Auguste Meessen tries to argue that he’s not an ETH-proponent, I must confess that I’m really unconvinced.
It is obvious to anybody familiar with thescientific method that if SOBEPS really had proven that the Belgian UFO wave could only be explained by extraterrestrial spacecraft, Auguste Meessen & Co. would have made the cover of Nature a long time ago and would have probably won a Nobel Prize soon after that. We should also point out that all his publications did not appear in peer-reviewed science journals – as they should be in order to take part of the scientific process – but either in Inforespace (SOBEPS newsletter) or more recently on his own web site. To my knowledge, Auguste Meessen’s only peer-reviewed publication close to the subject of the Belgian UFO wave was “Le phénomène OVNI et le Problème des Méthodologies” , an article about the methodology of UFO research published in the Revue Française de Parapsychologie, a very confidential parapsychological French publication (edited by a very controversial parapsychologist named Yves Lignon), and even there it was only has a rebuttal to an earlier publication by Marc Hallet criticizing his work! Of course, some would probably not hesitate to call upon some kind of conspiracy theory to rationalize that fact instead of considering that simply SOBEPS work failed to convince the scientific community. All that to say that the condescending tone of Meessen’s publications is not matched at all by his scientific track record on the subject or, for that matter, by the evidences he can show to support his views.
He’s grossly misrepresenting, as usual, the skeptical position. Let’s take only one example of this:
The attitude of so-called “skeptics”, claiming that UFOs cannot exist, simply obstructs clarification, but purely speculative statements are also inadequate.
To put it bluntly, I do not know of any skeptic who claims that UFOs cannot exist. Those are only the skeptics that exist in Auguste Meessen’s imagination. To the contrary, we say that you know you are a skeptic when you understand what the U of UFO stands for: UFOs are just “objects” (actually many stimuli can – and do – generate a UFO observation, and sometimes stimuli are not even necessary) that subjects see and fail to identify. Since UFO testimonies exist, UFOs obviously do exist. There is an unhealthy slip of language in the physicist’s sentence between UFOs and extraterrestrial spacecraft (these words seem to be used in a synonymous fashion by him, which is also very telling), but I also don’t know any skeptic who claims that extraterrestrial spacecraft cannot exist. What skeptics really say is that there is no proof of extraterrestrial spacecraft visiting the Earth. There are some discussions about the a priori plausibility of the ETH, involving the Fermi paradox and other things like that, but skeptics are skeptics a posteriori, after looking at the UFO literature and assessing the presence or absence of proof.
In his article, Auguste Meessen uses the rhetorical strategy know as the reversal of the burden of proof. He states:
He (Jean-Michel Abrassart) simply postulates that all UFO observations have to result from perceptual errors or imagination, facilitated by rumor propagation. He cannot and could never prove that this is true.
An emeritus professor in physics should know that it is not to skeptics to prove a negative. It is to claimants to prove their claims. In the UFOlogical context, it is Auguste Meessen who makes extraordinary claims, not me: he is thus the one who has the burden of proof, not skeptics. And as the late Carl Sagan elegantly put it: “Extraordinary claims need extraordinary proof”. Needless to say, we haven’t seen anything in his writing (or in any other SOBEPS team writings) that proves the ETH. To prove it, you would need either (a) a sample of biological material that is beyond doubt from extraterrestrial origin and/or (b) a sample of technological material that is beyond doubt from extraterrestrial origin. Auguste Meessen has presented none of those to the scientific community. He mainly has witness testimonies, AKA anecdotes. But, as skeptics often say, the plural of anecdotes is not data.


Let’s examine now the most insulting part of the article, when he’s calling into question my ethic as a psychologist. Contrary to what Auguste Meessen claims, I simply never said that:
Jean-Michel Abrassart did that for the beginning of the Belgian wave, since he claimed that the two gendarmes – who attentively observed an unconventional flying object during more than two hours – are not trustworthy. He stated even that they have “fantasy-prone personalities” and called them “schizotypical”. A psychologist who qualifies persons in such a way, without any thorough examination and without even having talked with them, violates all professional ethics.
I actually wrote:
However, there is nothing to suggest that, because a person is a policeman, this disqualifies him from having a fantasy-prone personality or even from being schizotypical. Now, the SOBEPS never submitted them, or any other witness to the Belgian Wave, to any kind of psychological testing. After all, it’s not worth looking into the psychology of witnesses when the only thing you’re after is proof in favor of the extraterrestrial hypothesis!
I was thus referring to the current state of scientific literature. One of my main points in my previous article (that August Meessen simply didn’t address) was that we don’t know anything about the psychology of Von Montigny and Nichols (or any other witness of the Belgian UFO wave for that matter), because SOBEPS did such a bad job investigating the wave. Because of their prior belief in the ETH, they didn’t think that it was important to document the psychology of witnesses. Thus, we miss today a lot of very important information to really understand why and how this wave happened. Auguste Meessen doesn’t have anything (except his own opinion) to back up his claim that because the witnesses are two policemen, then we should take them more seriously than the usual witness, so he’s only making an ad hominem attack against me, hoping that it will convince his readers that he has good arguments in this debate. We shouldn’t be fooled by such lazy thinking.
Auguste Meessen also likes to use mathematics and diagrams to impress his readers. This is a rhetorical strategy that skeptics call “math intimidation”. This tactic can only work on the layman who doesn’t know much about the scientific method and/or the UFO phenomena. I asked Nicolas Gauvrit, a mathematician, to look at his new argument against the psychosocial contagion. You’ll find his analysis on page 12. Mathematics based on bad reasoning doesn’t prove anything.
During the recent COBEPS conference, Meessen stated that skeptics believe that the Belgian UFO wave was a rumor effect. If you read my paper about the beginning of the wave, you know that I never spoke of a rumor. On the contrary, I talked about a psychosocial contagion, as defined by the late Philip J. Klass. This is just a straw man argument. Meessen tries to refute the SPH by posing how he thinks a sociological contagion should work (as a rumor effect), then he shows mathematically that the Belgian UFO wave didn’t work that way (even if nobody claimed that), before finally concluding (what he already believed in the first place anyway) that he has falsified the SPH. Of course, everything relies on how he, as a physicist and ETH-proponent, thinks that a sociological contagion should work. If a sociological contagion can happen in some other fashion than the way he thinks, then he’s rejecting the SPH on baseless ground. An important point you should note is that he doesn’t refer to any research at all in psychology (or any other human sciences) about other sociological contagions or mass hysteria: he seems to think that he doesn’t need to read the scientific literature on the subject to knowhow it should work. The only paper he refers to is the one published by another SOBEPS team member, Michel Bougard (a chemist and ETH-proponent), in Vague d’ovnis sur la Belgique I (VOB I): “Media et phénomène OVNI. Approche statistique sur un éventuel effet de rumeur” . We can thus say confidently that the mathematical model applied by August Meessen in his article has never been applied successfully to any other sociological contagion, to show that it describes it properly. His whole attitude shows not only his lack of expertise in psychology, the fact that he doesn’t shy away to make bold claims in fields in which he has no qualification whatsoever, but also his deep disdain of human sciences. Of course, his model is fairly simplistic, when social phenomena are known to be messy and complex. It is obvious that objective phenomena – like for example what kind of mundane stimuli can been seen in the sky at what time – will influence the sociological contagion. A mass hysteria doesn’t happen in a vacuum, where one testimony simply generate other testimonies in a straightforward causal way. The Belgian UFO wave wasn’t a rumor effect. There are mediating variables, like for example the quantity and quality of media coverage, that will fluctuate on top of the objective amount of observations at any time according to journalists interest in the subject, the number of observations that were not collected by SOBEPS, the mundane activity in the sky at any given time, the weather that will influence if something can be seen or not, and so on. On the other hand, other aspects of the wave, like the geographical localization of it clearly points to a sociological contagion – but the Belgian physicist only considers aspects that conform to his prior belief.
Auguste Meessen still doesn’t understand the importance of the time of the reporting to SOBEPS versus the time of the alleged observation. He writes:
Moreover, we notice in figure 1 that UFO observations occurred already before the official start of the Belgian wave on November 29, 1989, but these observations remained unreported until later on. The reason is that these witnesses could not make sense of what they saw!
One of my main point in my previous article is that observations that have been collected after the media started talking about the wave cannot be considered independent because they have been (and I think heavily) influenced by the media before the time of the reporting. The physicist states that these witnesses simply could not make sense of what they saw. It shows that he still underestimate the power of suggestions on human testimonies. When those witnesses saw the news in the media, it didn’t just help them understand what they saw, it reshaped their memories of what they saw and their subsequent testimonies. The quote above supports my position much more than the one of the physicist, even if he completely fails to see it.
One of the favorite arguments of proponents is the alleged consistency of the testimonies. He writes:
This is confirmed by its later evolution and by the fact that so many witnesses consistently reported a new type of UFOs.
Auguste Meessen tries here to convince us that the fact that the Belgian UFO wave displayed triangle-shaped UFOs instead of the classical flying saucer is an argument in favor of the extraterrestrial origin. It’s a neat rhetorical trick, when you think that in fact it fits a lot better with the PSH! First, does he really think that extraterrestrials have changed design for the wave? Before they liked saucer-shaped craft, but in 1989 there was a new fashion in alien spaceship design? Or is it a new species, the Grey enjoying the saucer shape but the newcomers preferring the triangular one? And let’s not forget that Kenneth Arnold saw objects in a boomerang shape, but the flying saucer took off in testimonies only after a mistake made by a journalist (see the article “The Truth Is, They Never Were ‘Saucers’” by Robert Sheaffer for more on this). Anyone who looks objectively at the UFO phenomena knows that the consistency argument doesn’t hold any water. For example, “The Field Guide to UFOs” has eight categories of shape reported in UFO testimonies: lights, spheres, discs, ellipses, cylinders, rectangles, triangles and shape shifters. The change at the beginning of the Belgian UFO wave happened following the pattern we all have seen in science-fiction. And of course, there have been triangular-shaped UFOs in science-fiction a long


time before the beginning of the Belgian UFO wave. Secondly, triangles are easier to generate by misperception, because any tree points in the sky who are not in line look by definition like a triangle. Witnesses tend to fill in the gaps and usually see a black shape between the dots. The triangular shape is much better suited than the saucer one for a psychological contagion. Thirdly, that shape was reported a lot by witnesses because it was the shape they could see in the media all the time. Fourthly, the alleged “consistency” of the testimonies Auguste Meessen is talking about also comes from the way SOBEPS investigated cases. I’m quoting here Jacques Scornaux, addressing this very point in an interview he gave to me for the podcast “Scepticisme scientifique : Le balado de la Science et de la Raison” (my translation):
Since they [author’s note: the SOBEPS team] received thousands of phone calls, they had to select some of them. They couldn’t investigate every single case. Thus some cases were removed on the only basis of what the witness said on the phone. When the witness described a simple ball of light in the sky, they didn’t do any inquiry because of the lack of time. On the other hand, if the witness talked about a triangle on the phone, then someone would investigate. That’s how triangular cases became – through a very simple process – the majority. Again, I believe they did that innocently. They didn’t realize that the proportion of triangles was artificially augmented that way, by the way messages left on the answering machine were selected. (…) And thus the proportions of different kinds of observations (…) were altered unconsciously by the action of the SOBEPS.
To conclude, I will simply say that, even if it’s highly unlikely that he would listen to me, I would strongly advise Auguste Meessen to turn down the condescending tone and to stop making claims that he can’t back up. He should especially stop claiming that he has proven beyond any reasonable doubts that the psychosocial hypothesis can’t explain the Belgian UFO wave, because it is clearly not the case.
Select Sources:
Meessen, A. (2011). “The Belgian Wave and the photos of Ramillies”. Available on Auguste Meessen’s web site (
Meessen, A. (2000). “Où en sommes-nous en ufologie?” Inforespace, n°101, p. 4-56.
Meessen, A. (1998). “Le phénomène OVNI et le Problème des Méthodologies”. Revue Française de Parapsychologie, vol.1 n°2, p.79-102.
Hallet, M. (1997). “ La prétendue Vague d’OVNI belge…” Revue française de parapsychologie, vol. 1, n°1, p. 5-23.
SOBEPS (1994). Vague d’OVNI sur la Belgique I – Un dossier exceptionnel. SOBEPS.
Bougard, M. (1994): “Media et phénomène OVNI. Approche statistique sur un éventuel effet de rumeur “, Vague OVNI sur la Belgique (VOB2), SOBEPS, p. 323-386.
Sheaffer, R. (1997). “The Truth Is, They Never Were ‘Saucers’ “. Skeptical Inquirer, vol. 21, n°5.
Stacy, D., Huyghe, P. (2000). The Field Guide to UFOs: A classification of various unidentified aerial phenomena based on eyewitness accounts. New York: HarperCollins.
Jacques Scornaux’s interview, in Scepticisme scientifique: Le balado de la Science et de la Raison, épisode #67: “La vague belge d’ovnis”, 11 septembre 2010.


An example of mathematical intimidation in UFOlogy


The UFOlogist and anti-skeptics August Meessen published recently on the Internet an article about the Belgian UFO wave. His goal in it was to refute arguments from skeptics, according to whom many UFO testimonies during that wave can be explained very well within the sociopsychological hypothesis theoretical framework: misinterpretations associated to sociological and media effects can lead to that phenomenon. According to skeptics – advocating this approach – misinterpretations (i.e. to take a balloon for a flying saucer or to think that a secret military aircraft is an alien spaceship), when they generate enough media coverage, lead to more mistakes of the same type and also to testimonies from people that thought first that they had seen something mundane but to whom it is suggested that the extraterrestrial hypothesis is plausible.
Amongst the different arguments put forward by Meessen, we can find, at the bottom of page 4, the unsupported claim that the sociopsychological hypothesis need the evolution of the number of testimonies to follow a logistic distribution, aka a solution to the differential equation dN/dt = aN(1-bN), where N is the number of testimonies, and a and b parameters.
This claim by Meessen seems weird, or at least based on very shaky ground.
What Meessen proposes is to use in 1. order to represent the number of testimonies a Verhulst model. But this model has not been design to model the spread of beliefs but the evolution of populations in a given area. The hypothesis that supports it in part in demographics is that when the population increases, it is blocked when it reaches the limit (carrying capacity) above which the space becomes insufficient. The situation is completely different when it comes to beliefs, which tends on the contrary to increase when there are more believers...
The Verhulst 2. model is not, in any case (including demographics), a theoretical necessity. This law is purely an empirical law, as you can read in J.S. Cramer (2003) “The origins and development of the logit model” (available on the internet here :, an article about the history of the function and of the logistic distribution.
And lastly, they are mathematical 3. models that could be a priori adapted to the situation, but that Meessen doesn’t even discuss. Those are contagion models. Nevertheless, those models, created to modelise the evolution of diseases, but also of beliefs or socio-economical behaviors, are still heavily debated by specialists. There is no emerging agreement, as you can read in Doddsa & Watts “A generalized model of social and biological contagion” (available on the internet here:, an article presenting some of those models.
In conclusion, it is clear that the claim made by Meessen is completely unsupported, and is only a case of “mathematical intimidation”: the author counts on the lack of knowledge of the reader to impress him with mathematical formulae. We can also ponder why the name of Verhulst or the words “logistic distribution” are not written even once. Is it to avoid that the reader could easily have more information on the subject?
Editor note: I have to humbly admit that a great deal of the math involved here is beyond my limited education. The documents listed here are mathematically “intimidating “ to those who are not familiar with the materials.

Quelle: SUNlite 4/2011


Samstag, 3. Mai 2014 - 14:41 Uhr

UFO-Forschung - UFO-Absturz bei Roswell 1947 ? Teil-13


Repeating Roswell myths


Billy Cox recently made a blog entry where he recounted Congressman Schiff’s “investigation” into the Roswell story. In that entry, he repeated two of, what I refer to as, “Roswell myths”. The first statement Cox repeated as a fact was:
...all 1947 records in question from Roswell Army Air Field had been illegally purged. And there was nobody left in the command chain to grill about it. “The GAO believes the outgoing messages were probably destroyed more than 40 years ago,” Schiff told Ecker.
The problem with this statement by Schiff and repeated by Cox is there was absolutely nothing illegal about the destruction of the messages. The only problem with the destruction of the messages was there no documentation of the destruction. Robert Todd pointed this out in his CowPflop quarterly of March 8, 1996. There he stated that the Chief Archivist at the National Personnel Records Center, W. G. Siebert, produced regulations that clearly stated that the records were authorized to be destroyed because they were only required to be retained for two years!
The other myth Cox repeated was the same old story about the USAF shifting its story about Roswell:
What Schiff did accomplish was to force the USAF to adjust its cover story for the third time, from the original “flying disc” press release, to a case of mistaken identity with a weather balloon, to its current disposition as a classified high-altitude atom-bomb ballon-train sniffer known now as Project Mogul.
This is not an accurate portrayal of known facts. There is no evidence that anything was a “cover story” and the USAF has not changed its position on the matter. His “changing cover story” of three times apparently starts with the 509th bomb group reporting theyfound a crashed disc. This was followed by a weather balloon explanation at Fort Worth, which was finally “altered” to Project MOGUL. However, the first statement of a “crashed disc” was not an official AF (or at the time AAF) statement. It was a press release issued by the Roswell Army Air Field and done without authorization from the upper chain of command. The explanation at Fort Worth was based on what was presented to General Ramey and seen in the photographs. What one sees in the images are remnants of weather balloon(s) and radar reflector(s). The USAF report, in 1994, still states that the debris in the photographs was from weather balloon(s) and radar reflector(s). All they did was change the source of those balloon(s) and reflector(s). In 1947, it was thought they came from a single balloon and reflector. In 1994, it was determined these materials probably came from a balloon flight launched by the NYU team at Alamogordo in early June as part of Project MOGUL. This involved many weather balloons and multiple reflectors of the same type seen in the Fort Worth photographs. They produced such a large quantity of materials at the Foster Ranch that it can explain why some felt that the debris could not have been produced by a weather balloon.
Roswell proponents repeat these “myths” over and over again to the masses hoping their words will be repeated in turn. It is desired that such a repetition will make it appear that this is a fact when it really is not.


A crashed Horton jet??
File this one under the wild and unverifiable Roswell stories category. Annie Jacobsen wrote a book about Area 51, where she described a story told to her by an unidentified source that stated the source of the Roswell incident was Russian. According to the source, the Russians built a Horton jet and then flew it to the US with a bunch of young pilots that looked like aliens. Jacobsen apparently found this source highly reliable but really provided no information to back up the story told by the witness. She obviously has not learned from Roswell research in the past.
I recall people saying Frank Kaufmann (among a host of others) was highly reliable as well. One should verify such stories before proclaiming them to be reliable. There is no evidence the Russians ever built a Horton Jet and that such a craft had the range to fly from the Soviet Union to New Mexico (a distance of over 3,000 miles). If they did build such a craft in 1947 with such an extensive range, why were they busy reverse engineering the B-29? The story just begged to be debunked and both skeptics/crashed spaceship proponents peppered the web with arguments why this was just completely out of touch
When ABC interviewed the source, they found somebody who seemed to be confused and contradicted the story Jacobsen described. They confronted her with this information and Jacobsen basically stated that is not what the witness told her. Like many of the Roswell stories and authors, the story was not verified and, when checked, was found to be flawed. For all the Roswell proponents who went about debunking this story, maybe they need to look at their own little house of cards and see what real evidence they have that supports their cherished witness testimonies.
There were a myriad of book reviews on various UFO skeptic and proponent blogs complaining about the book. You know you crossed the line, when you have both sides criticizing your research. Peter Merlin provides a good review in this issue and if you are interested, Dwayne Day proposed a possible explanation as to how the story might have originated. It seems that this tall tale is just another one of those “rumors” that somebody heard from somebody else, who knew a person, who was a very credible friend that knew somebody who should have known.

Quelle: SUNlite 4/2011


Samstag, 3. Mai 2014 - 14:30 Uhr

UFO-Forschung - IFO-Universität: Der Mond


How could the moon be a UFO? It does not seem to happen often but, under the right conditions, people can be fooled by the moon. I haven’t seen any such cases in any of the MUFON/NUFORC databases but I did not look very hard. One needs to know when and where to look.
In my copy of the MUFON investigators field manual (3rd edition), Raymond Fowler states:
A rising or setting red-hued moon is sometimes reported as a UFO, especially in its gibbous phase. Atmospheric refraction and light dispersion can cause the moon’s shape to be distorted and unrecognizable to a frightened witness...The situation can become even more aggravated if the observer is viewing it through eyeglasses, windows, screens, curved windshields, etc. As in the case of stars and planets, viewing the moon on the horizon, or through clouds or fog, or from a moving vehicle can give the illusion of being chased by a huge glowing object.1
The rising and setting moon can create interesting shapes. I recently saw a photograph on the web of a square shaped moon rising in Alaska. A temperature inversion had distorted the moon significantly. It is possible that somebody, who did not bother to look a few minutes later, might declare they saw a UFO simply because it did not look like the moon.

During the Michigan UFO flap of 1966, there was a photograph published in the media that supposedly showed UFOs over the farm of Frank Mannor in Dexter. It is interesting to read that the photograph was a time exposure of ten minutes. A quick check of a planetarium program for the date and time in question reveals that the UFOs were, more than likely, Venus and the moon.

A setting moon can look really strange to a person under the right conditions. The sequence above comes from some photographs I took of a setting crescent shows the reddish-yellow color and how the trees can hide portions of the disk giving it an odd shape. When it sets, it can appear to “rapidly disappear/move away” from the observer.
According to Allan Hendry, a similar scenario caused a group of police officers to chase the moon:
In case 100 police officers in separate cars were convinced that the setting moon was moving away from them at fantastic speed “while setting on Main street” at 3:25 AM. The police sped up to 60MPH to chase it, but to no avail.2
Hendry also points to a case, which did not require the moon to be setting or rising. In this case, a waitress and two other people reported a UFO that mysteriously disappeared after being visible for fifty minutes:
A waitress in California got home at 3:57 AM when she saw a saucer “twenty-five feet in diameter” with red, green, and blue flashing lights and a cloud haze around it. This report had a lot of other provocative elements going for it:
1) The waitress called two more adult witnesses, who also filled out reports describing the saucer.
2) Two lights were seen next to the saucer that looked like stars but pulsated different colors like the object.
3) The saucer hovered stationary over a hospital for fifty minutes and then shot straight into the sky very rapidly. Surprisingly, the two “stars” disappeared at the same time.
4) A loud humming noise was heard throughout the observation. At the end, the hum got louder and changed into a high-pitched loud beeping sound just prior to the “rapid ascent”
5) The lights were seen dimming and brightening in the parking lot of the Grossmont Hospital over which the saucer hovered, “as if it were sucking energy from them.”
6) Animal reactions included her parakeet screeching and her dogs howling and barking.
7) Physiological reactions were present here too; while watching the saucer the waitress felt as if she were in a trance and could hardly speak. She felt drained of energy and it was an effort to move around for the next forty minutes.
Sounds pretty good right? Attempts at identification and further corroboration were falling through. A local field investigator checked with the Miramar RAPCON and Gillespie field but no radar observation of anything unusual was noted. The local police department received no calls. The La Mesa police department claimed to have had two calls but sent no car. All police helicopters were down at the SD helicopter base at that time, and a check with the Grossmont Hospital personnel revealed that nothing unusual was noted at the “scene” of the drained power. Remembering that Mars and Jupiter were “scheduled” to be positioned very close to each other at that date, I checked my star charts and astronomy magazines to determine whether Mars and Jupiter could be that pair of stars seen next to the saucer. Imagine my shock when I discovered not only the Mars-Jupiter pair in the direction and bearing provided by all of the witnesses, but a horizontally oriented crescent moon positioned exactly where they put the saucer right next to the “stars”! Searching through the reports of all the adult witnesses, I confirmed that none of them had reported seeing the moon at the same time as the object although they said it was “clear” out! Yet all of the witnesses put the direction and bearing of the “saucer” right where the moon should be. Also, they all agreed that its apparent size fell somewhere between “one half” and “two times” the moon’s width.
Remarkable? Remember that the witnesses had described a cloud or haze around the moon. Obviously, that same haze was responsible for the brightening and dimming of the hospital parking lot lights a half mile away, the saucer’s colors, and the eventual obscuring of the moon, Mars, and Jupiter resulting in the sudden disappearance. Now it is no longer surprising that Mars and Jupiter disappeared at the same time as the saucer... It must be concluded then that the other effects, such as the beeping noises and animal reactions, must be ascribed to other causes.3
Dr. Jill Tartar mentioned an experience where the moon, partially hidden by clouds, appeared as a UFO to her at one point. She did not file a UFO report simply because she took the time and effort to identify it. Dr. Tartar took a lot of grief from UFOlogists for this but are her observations really worthy of ridicule? Imagine how the police officers and the waitress responded when Hendry had to tell them they were fooled by the moon. I wonder if they stated, “I know what I saw and it wasn’t the moon”?!!
Notes and references
Fowler, Raymond ed. 1. Third edition MUFON Field Investigators manual Mutual UFO Network, INC. Seguin, Texas April 1983 p.62
Hendry, Allan. 2. The UFO Investigators Handbook. London: Sphere Books Ltd. 1980. P. 45

Quelle: SUNlite 3/2011

Tags: IFO-Universität: Der Mond 


Samstag, 3. Mai 2014 - 12:15 Uhr

Raumfahrt - SpaceX Klage vor Bundesgericht fordert USAF Raketen Käufe



This January satellite launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla., was the required third flight in SpaceX’s bid to qualify its Falcon 9 rocket for U.S. Air Force launches.


Feeling stymied in its efforts to freely compete for U.S. national security launches, SpaceX has filed suit in federal court to protest the award, without bidding, of at least 22 flights during the next five years to a rival rocket maker.

Access to the Pentagon’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program could mean billions of dollars more in business for SpaceX, and a heavier flow of rockets sent to the company’s McGregor development site for testing.

The company also is complaining about the use of Russian engines on one of the rival rockets, at a time when tensions between the United States and Russia are rising.

The suit was filed Monday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington.

SpaceX said in a Monday statement that the filing was precipitated not just by the block-buy single-source purchase in December 2013 from the United Launch Alliance consortium but by the cutting of at least half of the 14 launches that were supposed to remain available for SpaceX to bid on.

“This exclusive deal unnecessarily costs U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars and defers meaningful free competition for years to come,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in announcing the lawsuit Friday. “We are simply asking that SpaceX and any other qualified domestic launch providers be allowed to compete in the EELV program for any and all missions that they could launch.”

Begun in 1995, the EELV program led to the development of Lockheed Martin’s Atlas V and Boeing’s Delta IV rockets.

The two companies competed against each other until 2006, when in an effort to reduce government costs they joined their rocket businesses into the United Launch Alliance. Since then, ULA has been the sole provider of rockets for the Pentagon and agencies such as the National Reconnaissance Office.

A 2012 Department of Defense directive called for opening the EELV program to competition, and SpaceX has been vying for DOD launches since then, putting its next-generation Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket — which first launched in September 2013 — through the qualification process.

SpaceX asserts that the ULA’s flights cost the government more rather than less, while its own Falcon 9 rockets could fly for a quarter of the cost — saving about $300 million a launch.

ULA disputes those figures and points to its record of reliability.

“EELV continues to be the most successful DOD acquisition program of the past few decades,” the consortium said in a statement responding to the lawsuit. “Launches have been delivered on schedule, meeting or exceeding all performance requirements, and exceeding cost reduction goals.”

At issue is a block buy in December 2013 locking in the purchase from ULA of 36 engine cores — each core a rocket first stage, with heavier payloads requiring three engine cores at once. These launches, more than 20 all told, would take place through fiscal year 2019 or later.

The stated purpose was to save money, but it came less than three weeks before SpaceX’s third and final EELV qualification flight, launching a Thai communications satellite.

While the Air Force has yet to complete its examination of data from the launch to deem the Falcon 9 qualified, under a Pentagon directive seeking to hasten competition the fact that SpaceX submitted that data is supposed to open the bidding process for future EELV launches to the company.

Fourteen launches are supposed to remain available for SpaceX to bid on — a figure cited by ULA in its statement — but SpaceX said in its statement that those have been vanishing, cut down to seven and possibly to just one, as the Air Force said they fall under the block-buy contract instead.

Whether those launches do fall under the contract is difficult to say because its text has not been made public, with SpaceX saying in its statement that it received no response to its request for the contract’s terms under the Freedom of Information Act.

Another point of contention is the Atlas V’s use of the RD-180 rocket engine, built by a company whose majority owner is the Russian government. Deputy prime minister Dimitry Rogozin, who oversees Russia’s space industry, is among those close to Russian President Vladimir Putin who are under U.S. financial sanction after Russia sent troops to reclaim the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine.

“In light of international events, this seems like the wrong time to send hundreds of millions of dollars to the Kremlin,” Musk said Friday. “Yet, this is what the Air Force’s arrangement with ULA does, despite the fact that there are domestic alternatives available that do not rely on components from countries that pose a national security risk.”

The ULA has said it has a two-year supply of RD-180 engines and could start production of an American version if needed.

The fight between the two rocket makers has been waged in Congress for some time, with Musk and ULA CEO Mike Gass trading barbs at a March 5 Senate hearing. SpaceX said it learned a day later of the cutback in launches available to it.

On the same day as Musk’s announcement, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., released letters that he had written to Deborah James, the civilian head of the Air Force, seeking further information about the block buy and the reduction in launches available for competition, and to Defense Department Inspector General Jon Rymer requesting an investigation into the process.

SpaceX said in Monday’s filing that it is only challenging sole-source awarding of launches with single cores. Its potential entrant for larger launches, the three-core Falcon Heavy, is still in development.

Quelle: Waco Tribune


Update: 3.05.2014


Air Force Barred From Using Russian-Made Rocket Engines


In light of recent sanctions against Russia, SpaceX won its bid to block Boeing and Lockheed Martin from buying any more Russian rocket engines for the U.S. Air Force.
     The U.S. Court of Federal Claims issued a preliminary injunction barring the Air Force and the United Launch Alliance - a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin - from buying rocket engines built by NPO Energomash, a corporation owned and operated by the Russian government.
     Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, the California-based company co-founded by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk, filed a complaint last week protesting the Air Force's "exclusive deal" with Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
     SpaceX said the contract "funnels hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars to Russia's military-industrial base," despite recent sanctions.
     Calling the deal "dangerous, fiscally irresponsible, and offensive to American values of open competition and fairness," SpaceX asked the federal claims court to force the Air Force "to conduct full and open competition" for all future rocket orders.
     Judge Susan Braden agreed that the Air Force's use of Russian-made rocket engines violates U.S. sanctions on certain Russian officials, specifically Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, head of Russia's space program.
     Last month the Obama administration also banned the export of "any high technology defense articles or services" in response to Russia's aggression in Ukraine.
     Braden's order, issued Wednesday, bars the United States and a United Launch Alliance subsidiary from "making any purchases from or payment of money to NPO Engeromash or any entity ... that is subject to the control of Deputy Prime Minister Rogozin."
     "[I]n this court's judgment, the public interest and national defense and security concerns that underlie [the] Executive Order ... warrant issuance of a preliminary injunction in this case," Braden wrote.
     Her order excludes existing purchase orders and money already paid to NPO Energomash.
     The government's deal with United Launch Services is part of the Air Force's Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, the fourth-largest program in the defense budget, estimated to cost $70 billion through 2030.

Quelle: Courthouse News Service



Samstag, 3. Mai 2014 - 11:49 Uhr

Astronomie - SDO sieht Riesen Plasma-Tornado-Wirbel auf der Sonne




Frams: NASA-Video


A NASA spacecraft has captured spectacular video of an enormous plasma "tornado" spinning off the sun.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory probe, or SDO, watched the dark-hued twister churn and ultimately erupt over the course of one day, from April 29 to 30. Mission scientists used the spacecraft's imagery to create an 18-second-long video of the dramatic solar tornado.

"The suspended plasma is being pulled and stretched by competing magnetic forces until something triggers the breakaway," NASA officials wrote on SDO's Facebook page, assuming the voice of the spacecraft. "This kind of activity is fairly common on the sun, but we have only been able to view them at this level of detail since I began operations just four years ago."

The plasma appears dark in this ultraviolet-light view because it is cooler than the material surrounding it, NASA officials added.

The $850 million Solar Dynamics Observatory launched in February 2010 on a five-year mission to study the variations in solar activity that influence life on Earth. The probe uses three different instruments to observe the sun, gathering data that is helping scientists better understand the solar magnetic field and space weather.

Over the course of its operational life, SDO has recorded many stunning images of solar flares, coronal mass ejections and other sun phenomena.

In September 2011, for example, the spacecraft recorded video of another solar tornado — this one five times the size of Earth — swirling across the sun, twisting at speeds of up to 186,000 mph (300,000 km/h). (For comparison, tornado wind speeds here on Earth max out at around 300 mph, or 480 km/h.)

Solar activity waxes and wanes on an 11-year cycle. The sun is now in an active phase of the current cycle, which is known as Solar Cycle 24. However, the sun has been notably quiet during Solar Cycle 24, and scientists say the current maximum is the weakest in the last century or so.

Quelle: NASA


Samstag, 3. Mai 2014 - 11:30 Uhr

Raumfahrt - NASA-CNES Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) Mission 2020




NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, left, and Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) President Jean-Yves Le Gall sign an agreement to move from feasibility studies to implementation of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission, Friday, May 2, 2014 at NASA Headquarters in Washington.


NASA-CNES Move Forward with Global Water and Ocean Surface Mission


NASA and the French space agency Centre National d'Études Spatiales (CNES) have agreed to jointly build, launch, and operate a spacecraft to conduct the first-ever global survey of Earth's surface water and to map ocean surface height with unprecedented detail.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall signed an agreement Friday at NASA Headquarters in Washington to move from feasibility studies to implementation of the Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission. The two agencies began initial joint studies on the mission in 2009 and plan to complete preliminary design activities in 2016, with launch planned in 2020.

"With this mission, NASA builds on a legacy of Earth science research and our strong relationship with CNES to develop new ways to observe and understand our changing climate and water resources," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "The knowledge we'll gain from SWOT will help decision makers better analyze, anticipate, and act to influence events that will affect us and future generations."

SWOT is one of the NASA missions recommended in the National Research Council's 2007 decadal survey of Earth science priorities. The satellite will survey 90 percent of the globe, studying Earth's lakes, rivers, reservoirs and ocean to aid in freshwater management around the world and improve ocean circulation models and weather and climate predictions.

This new agreement covers the entire life cycle of the mission, from spacecraft design and construction through launch, science operations, and eventual decommissioning. NASA will provide the SWOT payload module, the Ka-band Radar Interferometer (KaRIn) instrument, the Microwave Radiometer (MR) with its antenna, a laser retroreflector array, a GPS receiver payload, ground support, and launch services.

CNES will provide the SWOT spacecraft bus, the KaRIn instrument’s Radio Frequency Unit (RFU), the dual frequency Ku/C-band Nadir Altimeter, the Doppler Orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite (DORIS) receiver package, satellite command and control, and data processing infrastructure.

NASA and CNES began collaborating on missions to monitor ocean surface changes in the 1980s. From the TOPEX/Poseidon mission launched in 1992 to the Jason-1 mission launched in 2001 to the Jason-2/Ocean Surface Topography Mission launched in 2008, the collaboration has produced critical information on sea-level rise as well as El Niño causing world-wide impact.

The SWOT mission will use wide swath altimetry technology to produce high-resolution elevation measurements of the ocean surface and the surface of lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands. A more complete inventory of Earth's lakes and the changing amount of water they hold will yield improved assessments of how climate-induced changes can impact freshwater resources worldwide. Only 15 percent of lakes around the world are currently measured from space. SWOT will inventory a majority of medium to large lakes as well as the discharge volumes of rivers.

SWOT will be able to measure the ocean's surface with 10 times the resolution of current technologies. This will allow scientists to study small-scale features that are key components of how heat and carbon are exchanged between the ocean and atmosphere. The higher resolution of SWOT observations also will enable researchers to compute the velocity and energy of ocean circulation. A better understanding of small-scale ocean currents and eddies is also important to impacts on coastal regions such as navigation, erosion and dispersing pollutants.







Quelle: NASA




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