I Didn’t Know a Star Could Move that Fast….

I hardly ever get to do math. Mind you, this isn’t real math, but it involves large numbers, a white dwarf and a black hole.

I’ll start here: Science Daily just announced that a team from Michigan State University using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, NASA’s NuSTAR, and the Australia Telescope Compact Array, have apparently found a white dwarf orbiting a black hole.

That’s not necessarily news if that was all there was to report, but the key finding is that the distance between the white dwarf and the black hole is only about two and a half times the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

I’ll let that set in. A star is hanging out within spitting distance of a black hole. And, the star hasn’t fallen into the black hole’s event horizon yet. The team from Michigan State believes that the star won’t fall in anytime soon.

How can that be?

Answer: The star apparently makes one full orbit every 28 minutes.

Yes, it’s orbiting VERY fast — like more than 8 million miles/hour fast.

So, I promised math.

* Average Distance from Earth to Moon = 239,228 miles
* Two and one-half times that distance (which is the distance between the dwarf and the black hole) = 598,070 miles
* Circumference of a circle = C = 2 π r
* Thus the orbit of the dwarf around the black hole is = 2 π (598070) = 3.76 million miles
* If the dwarf travels that distance in 28 minutes, then it’s speed is greater than 8 million miles/hour.

That’s just astounding.

We are in a Dangerous Moment….

I’m putting this here because 140 characters are just not enough to do this justice….

From a New York Times Editorial published in Sunday’s issue:

Let’s begin with what the public can know for certain. President Trump had no evidence on Saturday morning when he smeared his predecessor, President Barack Obama, accusing him of ordering that Trump Tower phones be tapped during the 2016 campaign. Otherwise, the White House would not be scrambling to find out if what he said is true.

Just contemplate the recklessness — the sheer indifference to truth and the moral authority of the American presidency — revealed here: one president baselessly charging criminality by another, all in a childish Twitter rampage.

The Times reported on Sunday that the F.B.I. director, James Comey, was so alarmed by Mr. Trump’s fact-free claim — which implicitly accused the F.B.I. of breaking the law by wiretapping an American citizen at a president’s behest — that he was asking the Justice Department to publicly call it false. In other words, the F.B.I. director was demanding that Justice officially declare the president to be misleading the public.

This is a dangerous moment, which requires Congress and members of this administration to look beyond partisan maneuvering and tend to the health of the democracy itself.

…sigh.

Ret. Gen. Breedlove Talks about the Strength of Three Branches of Government and about Russia

epa/OLIVIER HOSLET

Today, NPR’s “Morning Edition” aired an interview with retired General Philip Breedlove, who was the supreme allied commander in Europe from 2013 to 2016.

The interview can be found here and below and is worth listening to in its entirety.


Two points stood out for me in his remarks:

1. General Breedlove’s report of how he and others sought to reassure our allies regarding 45’s presidency — and how those reassurances matched up with the actual results of these last 40 days. General Breedlove:

…back during the campaign, when questions were being raised, we reminded our great European partners that in the United States there are three parts of our government – the judiciary, the legislative and the executive – and that the powers are divided on purpose. And that was so that no one branch could run off.

And so what we talked to them about has very much played out, and it’s reassuring. They have seen the legislative become very much involved in the process. They have seen the judiciary become very much involved, concretely, in the process. And so what our European allies have seen is that America works.

I too find this reassuring.

2. When asked about his thoughts regarding Russian sanctions he replied in a manner that I found to be spot on. General Breedlove:

[W]e do, in the future, need to have a conversation with and try to move forward with Russia…what we don’t need is to do that in a manner that seems to approve or not hold [Russia] accountable for some pretty wrong actions that they have taken across the past, starting in ’08 with the invasion of Georgia and then in ’14, the invasion of Crimea, and then subsequently, the invasion of the Donbass – and frankly, some of the way they have conducted their self in Syria. These are all things that we cannot allow to stand or allow to be affirmed or approved in any way in any deal that we might make in the future.

I am heartened to find dialogue that is firm but not inflammatory. Pursuing dialogue that moves us toward Russia without condoning behavior we don’t like is a goal I support.

Who have you found in and around 45’s administration that is impressing you?

Preparing for Life on Mars

Today the NYTimes published a 360° video about a NASA-funded study of isolation designed to help scientists better understand the requirements for a mission to Mars.

Official information about the HI-SEAS (Hawai’i Space Exploration Analog and Simulation) Project can be found on the University of Hawaii website.

An NPR Article on a prior HI-SEAS mission can be found here.

Of course, if NASA wants to know about living on Mars, they could always just ask Matt Damon.

SEVEN Planets Around the Trappist-1 Red Dwarf Star. SEVEN!

Image Credits: NASA-JPL/Caltech

The discovery is just astounding. All of these planets are likely candidates for water. At least three are in the “goldilocks” zone — meaning those planets might have surface water in liquid form.

Of course, they are 40 light years away…which means we’re probably not visiting there anytime soon.  Nevertheless, on a celestial scale, those planets are the same thing as down-the-block neighbors.

More info on the NASA site.