Free Floating Planets

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope has spotted a number of ‘free floating’ planets in deep space. The telescope discovered four rogue planets with a similar mass to Earth. However, none of them were attached to our solar system.

NASA Exoplanets shared the names of the two planets and wrote that it added to the total of 4,424 found exoplanets. The two planets were named Kepler-129d and GJ849c. (July 2021)

Free-floating planetary mass ‘may represent the end-states of disrupted exoplanetary systems’, according University of Manchester researchers.

Annular Solar Eclipse (2021)

On 10 June 2021 there was an annular solar eclipse, when the Moon is too far from the Earth to completely cover the disc of the Sun. The Moon was only two days past apogee (its farthest distance from the Earth) and so a ‘ring of fire’ appeared around the Moon.

Not many people were around to see it though, as it was only fully visible in very northerly latitudes. The ground track where the full eclipse was visible began in Arctic Canada, then passing across northwestern Greenland, the Arctic Ocean (it crossed the North Pole), finishing off in the far corner of northeastern Siberia.

The width of any solar eclipse path is always narrow (this time 527 km across), but a partial eclipse was visible over a much wider area of the northern hemisphere. I was able to briefly see a ‘bite’ taken out of the Sun from Northern England when it was behind some thick cloud, but it was only a very quick glance.

Important Note: Never look directly at the Sun.

See also: A Very British Eclipse

We are all hypocrites!

When it comes to pollution and climate change, we’re all hypocrites!

But being a hypocrite doesn’t mean that we can’t make our feelings known, and it doesn’t mean that the message of environmental protesters is invalid.

There’s no inconsistency here, because this is so bound up with our whole way of life. Believing that criticism of those protesting will make the problem go away is futile. Radical change is needed.

As individuals we can only do so much, corporations and governments have to make the changes for the wellbeing of the planet.

While we live in a consumer society, one that is generally uncaring for the environment, we’re all hypocrites when demanding change. Yes, we can make small changes on an individual basis, but the main change has to come from governments and corporations – probably with government incentives etc.

Even Greta Thunberg can’t be completely unhypocritical while the system remains unchanged, but genuine virtue signalling combined with small personal initiatives have their place.

Whataboutery gets us nowhere and can easily become an excuse for inaction.

The Discovery of Uranus (1781)

On this day (13 March) in 1781 William Herschel discovered Uranus, the seventh planet from the Sun. Initially, he believed it to be a comet, but by 1783 Herschel accepted it as the first planet to be discovered since antiquity. The planet is too faint to see with the naked eye unless the location is exceptionally dark.

He was born in Hanover on 15 November 1738. After a period as a musician in the Hanoverian Military Band, Herschel emigrated to England When he was nineteen. After initially acting as a musician in Sunderland, Newcastle, Leeds and Halifax, he eventually moved to Bath and became organist at the Octagon Chapel. He became increasingly interested in astronomy, constructing his own telescope, with which he discovered Uranus.

Herschel later moved to Slough, where he continued his astronomical work and discoveries, assisted by his sister, Caroline, a considerable astronomer in her own right. He made many other discoveries, including infrared radiation. A crater on the Moon is named after him, as is minor planet 2000 Herschel.

Note: Much of the information in this blog post comes from this book.

Our names are on Mars!

The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover recently landed successfully on Mars and immediately started sending photos, videos, and information back to Earth. You can follow the mission here.

Before the mission launched we sent our names to NASA and these are now on Mars, the above photo is Pollyanna’s boarding pass. Who knows if our children will ever make it to Mars, but if they do, their names will already be waiting for them!

The Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover will search for signs of ancient microbial life, which will advance NASA’s quest to explore the past habitability of Mars. The rover has a drill to collect core samples of Martian rock and soil, then store them in sealed tubes for pickup by a future mission that would ferry them back to Earth for detailed analysis. Perseverance will also test technologies to help pave the way for future human exploration of Mars. Source

Coronavirus Vaccination

To say I was excited when I received my vaccination appointment would be an understatement.

However, you would be wrong to think I’ve been living in fear since March 2020, although I’ve had a measure of concern because of my age, susceptibility to chest infections, and underlying asthma (although well-controlled). And, even though I’m generally fit and healthy, I’ve been scrupulous in protecting myself and my family from coronavirus.

Our surgery was really well organised, and the longest wait was fifteen minutes afterwards (in a marquee) to make sure I was OK. I received my first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and I’ll get my second dose in twelve weeks time.

I do encourage you to have the coronavirus vaccine when your turn comes, please ignore all the rubbish that’s spoken and written about them.

The coronavirus vaccines are based on decades of scientific progress and practice. Yes, the development has been speeded up because we’re in a crisis, but scientific corners haven’t been cut. Remember, the flu vaccine is a new vaccine every year, and is based on the same scientific foundations. Be grateful for the 24/7 commitment to this cause, and please don’t spread misinformation. See here.

As a friend pointed out: The only corners that have been cut are the waiting for funding for each step through the process (it’s been made available immediately instead of waiting until the next financial period or whatever), and the hunt for a suitable selection of people to test the vaccine on (they have been inundated with volunteers). It just shows what can be done when there is the motivation.

Five Covid-19 vaccine false theories – debunked

Mars Perseverance (Album)

To commemorate the new Mars Perseverance Rover landing on February 18, 2021, Aural Films presents a collection of new music inspired by the Mars Mission composed by 37 artists from around the world. Listen to this extended soundtrack of more than 4 hours of new music celebrating the Mars Perseverance Rover landing.

All proceeds from this project will be donated to the Feeding America project who are working to support over 25 million people that do not have food. Please lend a hand by purchasing this album to help others and get over 4 hours of great space music for your support.

Read more (with links) here: Mars Perseverance

Social Distancing Reflections

There are so many health benefits of human contact and hugs, and these benefits have been denied many during the current coronavirus pandemic. In addition, dating for single people is fraught with difficulties, and it’s a total nightmare for tactile individuals.

As Virgina Satir, a respected family therapist said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” It concludes that hugs are having a great role in improving our life’s quality. In addition, hugs also have many health benefits you have never expected before. Source

You can easily find out more by clicking on the above link (and Google is your friend), and it’s well worth doing so. I might blog about it sometime, but it’s not the main subject of this post.

One friend commented that being safe (in lockdown) isn’t the same as being alive, because alive isn’t the same as thrive. I know that many can identify with this inability to thrive in lockdown. She also said, “I’ve never felt so alone in my entire life. I’m losing both good and bad parts of me. I’ll never be the same after this”.

Since the start of pandemic I’ve been reflecting on how social distancing might affect our long-term human interaction, especially with strangers. Initially, I discouraged handshaking in Wallsend Corps, greeting each other by touching elbows. This was met with a mixture of amusement and anxiety, the latter due to the uncertainly of what the future might hold, but it wasn’t long before the first lockdown was announced.

A phrase I coined at the start of the pandemic was: Social distance with emotional and spiritual connection. If I could go back twelve months I would change it to: Physical distance with emotional and spiritual connection, as this better reflects my considered thoughts. We need all the social connection we can get within the restrictions. But laptops, tablets and Zoom meetings have their obvious limitations, we need actual human contact to thrive. That said, video calls have been a lifesaver for many.

Another friend said, “Our [adult] son has profound and multiple learning disabilities including autism. He is in a care home. He is non-verbal and touch is how he communicates whether it’s to hug you, hit you or take you to something he wants. Needless to say social distancing hasn’t been good for him. When he sees us to wants to come over to us but can’t. Socially distanced walks with a carer bringing him in the wheelchair to make sure we don’t get close to him is the best way to deal with. Once when on the walks he tried reaching out to stroke a dog that came up to but had to be pulled away. When the dog came up it was lovely to see his smile but heart breaking to see his disappointment when he wasn’t allowed to touch the dog. I dread to think how all this is affecting him long term. However one lovely thing when we’ve done video calls with us, he will touch the screen to acknowledge us.”

I’m not coming to an overall conclusion, but these are personal reflections. We all know how physical distancing is affecting us and our loved ones, but we can’t be sure of the long-term effects. Will we remain ‘distant’ from others, even when we go back to some sort of normality? Reaching out to others, with its associated physical contact, is vital for us to thrive individually and collectively. May we never lose this.