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Cheese Ends, 20230918


Welcome to another addition of cheese ends.

(Picture from here.)

Water on the Moon

The moon has hematite.

What’s interesting about this is hematite is a form of rust—a product of iron interacting with oxygen and water. The moon is airless. How did it get there?

Chandrayaan-1 has a Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument (adorably known as M3.) that detects the spectra that reflects off minerals. It detected the spectra of minerals on the poles of the Moon. In so doing, scientist Shuai Li found the signature of iron oxide in the form of hematite. Without air, hematite on the Moon is… unexpected. (Cue Spock raising his eyebrow.)

The model proposed by LI and others was that oxygen from Earth’s upper atmosphere was drawn out by the Earth’s trailing magnetic fields, the magnetotail. Then, when the orbit of the Moon intersected this area, oxygen was deposited, driving the formation of hematite. However, hydrogen from the same source was also deposited. Hydrogen inhibits hematite formation. It turns out the magnetotail inhibits hydrogen during certain phases of the Moons orbit, allowing oxygen to be deposited directly.

But there also needs to be water. It’s considered that fast moving dust particles could dislodge water particles could release water deposited on the surface, freeing them to interact with the oxygen and the iron to form hematite. Or, possibly, the energy of the protons of the solar wind could have a role. More research was needed.

This was back in 2020.

In September 2023, the same team discovered water formation in the same magnetotail where the oxygen was coming from. The high energy electrons of the magnetotail allow formation of water molecules directly, without any contribution from the solar wind. When the Moon passes into the magnetotail, it is shielding from the solar wind but not from solar photons, giving an the magnetotail an opportunity to deposit water on the Moon’s surface.


The big news recently is India’s landing of a surface probe and rover on the south pol of the Moon. This is terrific for a few reasons. For one thing, human beings actually landed a probe on the south pole: something that has never been done. For another, this brings the number of countries that have successfully landed any working probe on the Moon’s surface to four: China, USA, Russia, and India.

Spreading the wealth is a good thing.

Chandrayaan-3 recently completed is 14-day mission—the length of a lunar day—and the data is still being digested. I looked for more information and found scraps so I’ll delay a deeper discussion until there is more data forthcoming.

China Expands its Deep Space Network

It takes big, sensitive radio telescopes to keep in contact with probes and human operations in space. Radio isn’t that great at carrying information compared to higher frequencies and the transmissions are limited by the equipment sent.

China has been using its Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) network to both track its material and to investigate black holes, the dynamics of our galaxies, and the like. The VLBI technique tracks receipt of signals in time. In this way, a virtual telescope of the size of the separation between the telescopes can be achieved.

I want to talk about this for a moment. Not the achievements of India and China directly, but the way we’re stovepiping the process. Each country has its own space process. There’s a fair amount of cooperation that can be helped or hindered by the country of origin. Russia is now cozying up to China and North Korea using its space program as the proverbial carrot. China is largely going its own way. India breaks both ways. Europe mostly cooperates with the USA but not always.

Science is based on complex competitive/cooperative relationships. Scientists and teams compete with one another to gain information and cooperate to achieve those goals at the same time. This process utterly depends on the free flow of information. Restrict that flow in the name of national prestige and science itself is restricted.

There are also economic issues involved. It took the cooperation of many countries to build the ISS and the Large Hadron Collider. When the USA tried to go it alone with the Superconducting Super Collider, we failed. The cost was too high. We couldn’t get cooperation from other countries because it was promoted as an American product.

There’s a limit to how much a single country—USA, China, or any other—can do. No single country is responsible for the gross domestic product of the world. The world GDP is estimated as 105 trillion dollars for 2023. The US component is about 27 trillion and China’s about 19 trillion. As technology becomes more evenly dispersed, that world GDP is going to increase and both the US and China relative contribution will lessen. The cost of the LHC  was about 5.1 billion dollars. That’s not even visible in the world GDP.

True space exploration, the founding of settlements across the solar system, cannot be achieved by a single country. It’s only a way of exporting conflict and failure.

Okay. Enough soap boxing.

Planet of Iron

Gliese 367 is a red dwarf star about 31 light years from Earth. It has been named Ananuca. GL 367 b—or Tahay—is an exoplanet that is orbiting close to it. It has an orbital period of only 7.7 hours. It’s so close it’s tidally locked and its atmosphere has been stripped away. What’s left is a rock that only presents one scarred face to its sun at all times.

What’s interesting about it is that it is very dense—nearly twice as dense as Earth—as if it were essentially just an iron core orbiting its sun.

Two hypotheses suggest themselves. It’s possible that Tahay was once a significantly larger planet with an appropriately larger iron core but some cataclysm ripped the outer covering off. Or, Tahay was born in a particularly iron rich section of the initial proto-planetary disk. Planetary origin models don’t handle either scenario all that well.

Summer of 2023 Hottest on Record

Yeah. Things are getting hotter. More and more energy is being driven into the land, sea, and air. More bigger and stronger storms, deeper droughts, heavier floods, happened. More are coming. When you put more and more energy into a system, that energy gets expressed. I can’t believe this is a surprise to anybody.

This is one of those things that have to be done together. Me: I’d like the luxury to send people elsewhere in the solar system rather than being force into it because we burnt our planet to the ground.

It amazes me this has become so political. It’s like standing in the crosswalk of a busy street arguing the existence of the car coming to run us down.



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