‘Oumuamua: a visitor from the stars

It is easy to forget the size of the Universe. For all its divisions and separations, Earth is not a good model for space: it is just too small. Nowadays, a seasoned traveler may have seen much of our world. Most of it can be reached within a day or two of travel. Of course, there are exceptions, some of which have even been covered on this blog. Bouvet Island is an example. But largely, the Earth has been reduced to a comprehensible size.

Go beyond the Earth, and this changes. Space is in fact remarkably close. By definition, it begins 100 km above the surface. This is not too far, a fact used by organizations such as Virgin Space to devise brief space journeys. The space station is a bit over 200 km above our heads, again a comprehensible distance. (Reaching it is doable, but arriving there is very hard because of its sheer speed. Almost all of the fuel used by the rocket is to get the right velocity.) But now look further. Geostationary satellites are 40,000 km away. Imagine a space elevator transporting you at a leisurely 100 km/hr. You’ll pass the Space Station after an hour or two. Getting to a geostationary satellite will take you more than two weeks! Do pack some sandwiches. You’d like to visit the moon? That will take 5 months in the elevator.

Go further, and it does become advisable to speed up a bit. Mars would take a life time – to be precise, around 70 years. And in all these years, the only things you will have seen through the elevator window are the Space Station, one geostationary satellite, and the Moon – and that was 69 years ago. Instead, we can hitch a ride on New Horizons. It flew past the Moon within 9 hours of launch. Jupiter took a year (versus 500 years in the space elevator), and its eventual destination, Pluto, took 9 years. And New Horizons didn’t stop there. It is now in the Kuiper belt, a region in the solar system beyond Pluto where some of the building blocks of the planets survive. It will pass one of these objects in the Kuiper belt, a small rock with the evocative name Ultima Thule, at 5:30am (UT) on Jan 1. It will be exciting to see the images come back, although that will not be instantaneous. During the fly-by the spacecraft is too busy to transmit, and afterwards it will take days to (many) months to receive all the data – the internet over those distances is not fast.

Thule approaching New Horizons

After the Ultima Thula encounter, New Horizons will aim for the stars, following four older spacecraft which are also leaving the Solar System. Of the five, New Horizons is the third fastest: both the Voyager probes, 40 years old, are going faster, because they picked up more speed on the journey from gravity assists, while the even older Pioneers go slower. All are speedily fleeing the Sun, at a speed of 14 km/s for New Horizons and 17 km/s for Voyager 1. (Interestingly, the Voyager probes are about the same age as the wrecks train carriages used by our local train company. They form two extremes of the technology of the 1970’s.)

But the stars are a different problem. They are so much further. The Voyagers have now moved into interstellar space, meaning that they are outside the reach of the solar wind. New Horizons will eventually do that as well, however we’ll never know when as the transmitter will fail before that time. But a craft that took 40 years to get to interstellar space, will need 40,000 years to get to another star. The solar system is tiny compared to the distance between the stars. We are well and truly isolated, able to look at the stars but never to visit them.

But in 2017, to everyone’s big surprise, we had a visitor from outer space. An asteroid was found with a peculiar orbit, and when the computers had finished their calculations, we knew it wasn’t part of the solar system. It had come from elsewhere and was just passing through – a fly-by visitor coming in from the dark for a brief sojourn in the warmth of our Sun. It almost hit us – the ultimate hit-and-run.


It was found with Pan-STARRS (Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System). The telescope is located on Haleakala (one of a number of observatories build on volcanoes, from Mauna Kea to Etna, a curious link between the power of the stars and that of the earth). Pan-STARS is devised specifically to find near-earth asteroids, ones that could be a danger to us: a highly unlikely danger, but the amount of damage a major impact could do makes it important to find any potential culprit. It does that by taking images of much of the sky every night, and looking for objects that are moving between two images. If it is moving, it must be nearby, inside the solar system and the faster it seems to be moving, the closer it is likely to be. The task is to identify them, and from the data calculate the distance and the orbit. If the orbit gets close to Earth, it is added to the danger list.

The Pann-Stars telescope at Haleakala

On October 17, 2017, Pan-STARRS saw an object assumed to be a comet. The first person to spot it in the data was Rob Weryk, from the university of Hawai’i, on October 19. Within hours it was realized that the orbit was a strange one,. Astronomers around the world were notified, and telescopes began turning towards it. The discovery number would normally have been C/2017 U1 (C for comet, 2017 is the year of discovery, U is for the second half of October and ‘1’ means it was the first comet found in that period). But a closer look revealed no evidence of the gas that should be found around comets. It seemed to be a rock rather than a comet, and these are given the designation ‘A’ (for asteroid) rather than ‘C’. A name change was in order, and the object became known as A/2017/U1. A rocky body is more likely to have originated from the inner solar system, while comets come in from the cold. A/2017/U1 clearly came from far. However, sometimes asteroids can get too close to Jupiter, and can be thrown far out at elliptical orbits. It became more complicated when Alan Fitzsimmons (Belfast) took a spectrum and found it to be extremely red, a characteristic of objects found beyond Neptune. It now seemed similar to Ultima Thule. Luckily, this discovery did not require another name change. But what was it doing in the inner solar system?


A/2017/U1 was found to be on an extremely elliptical orbit. A highly elliptical orbit is normal for comets, on the way from the icy outer regions of the system and falling in towards the warm centre where Earth is. But not as extreme as this!

Let’s go back to school. Orbits in the solar system are described by ellipses. We have known this since Kepler, and this law of Kepler lead directly to Newton’s law of gravity. Ellipses are classified by a number that (with a slight lack of imagination) is called the eccentricity, and given the symbol e. A circle (which also is an ellipse) has e=0, and the more elliptical the orbit the higher e: the most extreme ellipse (a parabola) has e=1.

A quick revisit of our mathematics reveals than an ellipse has two foci. The standard way to draw an ellipse is to take two pins and put them into a piece of paper (do check what lies below the paper. Wall paper is ideal especially if still on the wall, but you may want to check with the owner. Saying that it is homework tends to do the trick.) Now take a string and put it around the two pins. Take a pen and use it as the third corner of the string. Move the pen around while keeping the string taut. You’ll draw a beautiful ellipse, a piece of wall art that will be the envy of all the neighbourhood if not the house owner. The mathematical way of describing this is that for each point on the ellipse, the distances to each of the two foci adds up to the same number.

Still with me? The eccentricity is now defined as how close the focus is to the drawn curve. (Strictly, if we say that the furthest point of the ellipse is a distance a from the centre, and the focus a distance f, then the eccentricity is e = f/a.) For a circle, the focus is in the centre, therefore f=0 and e=0. As you move the pins away from each other, the drawn curve becomes more and more elongated. Finally, the focus is on the curve and e=1. You now have a parabola.

Planets in the solar system have orbits with e close to zero, i.e. they are almost circles. Mars is the most deviant, with e=0.09 (Kepler found his law from the movement of Mars). Comets tend to have very high eccentricity: Halley’s comet has e=0.97. And many comets go even higher.

After this high-school interlude, let’s get back to the story. When the orbit of A/2017 U1 had been calculated, people immediately sat up. It was off the scale. The eccentricity was e=1.2. It wasn’t an ellipse any longer! There is one kind of orbit for which this is the case. It is a hyperbola, an orbit of something that isn’t orbiting the Sun but only flies past. An object on a hyperbolic orbit will never come back. That also means it has never been here before. A/2017 U1 wasn’t a member of the solar system – it came from beyond! Even the hyperbole-deniers were quickly convinced: this was our first interstellar visitor. All this happened within the first few days of its discovery – science can go fast at times. The NASA press release came out on October 26, and the news went around the world within minutes.

Hyperbolic orbits are not entirely unknown in the solar system. However, so far we have only seen a few objects leave on one, and in all cases because they were thrown out from the system by an interaction. A few comets came too close to Jupiter, and ended up with eccentricity just above one and were forcefully expelled. And of course, the spacecrafts mentioned above are all on hyperbolic orbits. But we had never seen a comet or other object come in on a hyperbolic orbit.

A/2017 U1 had come into the solar system from the direction of Lyra (home of the bright star Vega, although that is not on its path), passed the Sun inside the orbit of Mercury in September 2017, and was already on the way out when it was discovered. It had come close to Earth on October 14 – close being about 60 times as far as the Moon. As far as protection against impacts. Pann-STARS had not done well, as this projectile was only seen days after it had missed us. But how close was this, compared to emptiness of the space it came from! Even from nearby Pluto, to aim this close to us is like hitting a target 40 meters away within 10 centimeters. But this object came from a 100,000 times further. It is like hitting, from 40 meters away, the heart of a red blood cell. (We normally use the width of a hair for illustrating micron-size thickness, but a hair is 50-100 micron in width, far too large for this kind of accuracy. This of course is just splitting hairs.) We had a close call.

As the visitor moved away from the Sun, it rapidly became fainter. The last HST observation was on 2018 January 2, when it was already twice as far from the Sun as Mars. By now, a year later, it will be further than Jupiter. It will be inside the solar system for years to come, but we will never see it again.

What’s in a name

We needed to find yet another name. There was no system yet for interstellar objects, but the International Astronomical Union quickly came up with one. The letter I was accepted (standing for interstellar), and in view of the scarcity of such objects, the discovery number was put before the I. This left us with a scheme as simple as that used for the first asteroids, and A/2017 U1 now became 1I/2017 U1. (The ‘U1’ is not really needed and even the year of discovery can be left out without causing confusion.) However, the IAU rules allowed the discoverers to propose a proper name as well. This being Hawai’i, they chose the local word for first messenger. Our visitor is now called (in the short version) 1I/ ‘Oumuamua. The glutteral stop can be confusing (or forbidden in some word processors) and is often left out. And so we ended up with the name ‘Oumuamua. It seems unpronounceable – but perhaps that is appropriate in view of its origin. It resonates with the movie ‘Arrival’ of the previous year, where the alien language could be written and read – but not spoken.

Half the telescopes in the world must have been point at it in the weeks following the announcement. The brightness and distance suggested it was around 500 meters across, with a very large uncertainty. But the brightness seemed inconsistent. In November 2017 a light curve was published which showed huge periodic changes, by over a factor of 10. This meant two things: it was rotating, and one part was reflecting much more light. The light curve suggested this was due to the shape. A picture emerged of a highly elongated object, tumbling with a period of 8.67 hours in such a way that sometimes we saw it edge on (making it very faint), sometimes not.

This plot shows how the interstellar asteroid `Oumuamua varied in brightness during three days in October 2017. The large range of brightness — about a factor of ten (2.5 magnitudes) — is due to the very elongated shape. The different coloured dots represent measurements through different filters, covering the visible and near-infrared part of the spectrum. The dotted line shows the light curve expected if `Oumuamua were an ellipsoid with a 1:10 aspect ratio, the deviations from this line are probably due to irregularities in the object’s shape or surface albedo.

The dotted line in the light curve is a model for an ellipsodial shape with aspect ratio of 10:1 (10 times longer than it is wide!). It fits the rough curve but there are many deviations in the light curve, meaning that the surface is either irregular or varies in brightness. No other object is known to be as elongated but the asteroid (1865) Cerberus has a similar light curve and may also have such a shape.

We needed an artist’ impression and an artist was quickly found to make one. The image is still published weekly, even if it is completely made up.

The picture leaves it unclear whether the object looks like a disk or a flattened cigar. The current models favour (but don’t prove) the latter: it appears to look like a cigar where the flattening of the cigar is less than a factor of 1.7.

How does a cigar rotate? The answer is, with great complexity. It tumbles, precesses and nutates all at the same time, and with different periods. The main period (8.67 hours) is end-to-end of the cigar. The long axis also precesses with a period of around 55 hours. And there is more complexity. The best way to describe is saying that it ‘tumbles’.

How large is it? That we have not been able to measure directly, as it has always been too small to resolve with our telescopes. The best estimates we have come from how much sunlight it reflects. That requires an assumption of how dark the surface is. Most asteroids are fairly dark, so people assumed that the surface reflects 5% or so of the incoming light. But the assumption of a dark surface has been challenged. Infrared observations failed to detect the heat signal from ‘Oumuamua, and it should have been seen at this size. The people behind that study suggest that the surface is much brighter (reflective) and that ‘Oumuamua is smaller than thought, possibly as small as 240 by 40 meters.


The speed of ‘Oumuamua is impressive. It reached 44 km/s at closest approach to the Sun, and came in from afar at an original speed of 25 km/s. That is almost twice the speed of the Voyagers. We could not easily accelerate a rocket to those kind of speeds! Doing it to a rock 500 meter long is a different prospect altogether. How did it get so much speed? It turns out, it didn’t. It borrowed it from us.

The Sun is one star among many in the Milky Way. The whole galaxy rotates and the Sun goes around the galaxy every 200 million years or so. But it is not like the orbit of the planets. The stars aren’t on strictly aligned orbits: they move around a bit. You can compare it to falling snow, where every snow flake falls at a slightly different speed. Astronomers define the local velocity by averaging over the nearest stars: the average velocity (and direction) of all the nearby stars is called the Local Standard of Rest. The Sun moves at some 20 km/s with respect to this rest frame. This is a typical speed. It turns out that the speed of ‘Oumuamua, and its direction, is rather close to the standard of rest (it differs by about 10 km/s from this). ‘Oumuamua wasn’t moving fast at all: it was almost stationary, and it was hit by the Sun as it came flying past. The hit-and-run was us, and ‘Oumuamua was the victim, not the perpetrator.

But where had it come from? Velocities close to the local standard of rest are a characteristic of young stars and regions of star formation. It suggests that ‘Oumuamua was expelled by its host star while the star was still young. Models suggests that during the formation of planets, many small objects may be ejected from their systems. Most likely, but unproven, this happened to ‘Oumuamua. The fact that its velocity was so close to that of the standard of rest also suggest the ejection happened at low speed. It makes most sense if it all happened in the outer regions, far from the host star, in the local equivalent of our Kuiper belt. Could ‘Oumuamua be like Ultima Thule?

There is disagreement whether such ejections happens often enough to make the discovery of ‘Oumuamua a predictable accident. ‘Oumuamua was found remarkably close to Earth, but such small, faint objects would be very difficult to see further. The discovery suggests there must be many more of these passers-by which we never knew about. And that in turn suggests that each star system expels a lot of its debris.

But when and where did this happen? Following the trajectory back in time gives a blank. You have to to take into account how much stars themselves have moved over time, and this is not perfectly known. But we have been unable to find any nearby star (within 15 light years) along the trajectory. To be more precise, 6 possible candidates were found, but in all cases the encounters were too remote to be a plausible origin. The conclusion is that either we do not know stellar trajectories well enough, or ‘Oumuamua is older than 5 million years.

That is not surprising. It could very easily be 10 or 100 times as old, in which case the precise origin is well and truly lost in time.

Another study took a different, and more promising approach. These authors looked further, and used less accurate data. They found that of a list of potential origin stars, a number were associated to a group related to the Pleiades, a cluster of young stars with the right velocity. It is speculative, but not impossible that ‘Oumuamua came from a star which itself had escaped from the seven sisters.

The Pleiades, also known as the seven sisters (although the cluster has many more stars than seven).


But this was not the end of the story. The orbit did not perfectly follow the expected Keplerian trajectory. It seemed to be going a little faster than expected, requiring some on-going acceleration. That is not unique: both comets and spacecrafts can show this effect. The additional acceleration is very small but was detectable. It was modeled as a term that decreased with distance to the Sun. The most likely cause is outgassing, where ‘Oumuamua is losing a small amount of water. But this is what comets do. Is ‘Oumuamua a comet after all? That would make sense: because comets exist in the outer regions of their star systems, it is much easier to lose them to interstellar space compared to asteroids.

However, the amount of outgassing is minute. Comets are icy bodies, which begin to evaporate when approaching a star and heating up. Over time, more and more of the surface ice is lost and the organic molecules stay behind. The surface now darkens and the comet declines in activity. Halley’s comet is already far less bright than it was a few thousand years ago. ‘Oumuamua would have escaped from the outer, cold regions of it host star and may never have been close to a star. In that case, why would it be so inactive? A recent paper suggest this is due to exposure by cosmic rays, while in interstellar space. These can produce a mantle of organic material, insulating and hiding the icy centre. However, this raises the question why normal comets don’t show this. The authors suggest that this is due to the small size of ‘Oumuamua, which means nothing inside is far from the surface. It could have lost all of its volatiles.

Clearly, we are left with many unknowns. We know ‘Oumuamua came from the stars, but we do not know where, from which star or even what kind of star, how old it is or what is made of. Was it an asteroid or a comet, or something different? We never got an image. We do not know how common such objects are, although the fact that we found one so close to us suggest there are many of them. After such an amazing discovery, we seem to be left knowing less than we did before.

Final words

There has been a lot of discussion whether ‘Oumuamua could have an artificial origin. The idea of a fly-by intruder goes back to a story by Stanislaw Lem where the invader was ancient and derelict, and was worked out further by Arthur Clarke in Rama. It was a good story. The reality is that rocks, comets and asteroids may not always stay in the star system where they formed. Especially early on, many escape and together leave a debris field in the interstellar space through which we move.

But one day, perhaps, we may ourselves travel out (once we have re-learned our 50-year old technology). ‘Oumuamua shows us a better way for star travel. It didn’t try to achieve light speed. It used speeds within our reach, got into interstellar space, and waited for the Sun to pass by. As it flew past the Sun, it gained a lot of speed: a gravity assist by the Sun ensured that it left us going around 60 km/s with respect to the Local Standard of Rest. No rocket could do this. The secret of traveling to the stars may be to take it slow, and use nearby stars to pick up the needed speeds. It would take millions of years. But the stars have time – they can wait.

Albert, December 2018

257 thoughts on “‘Oumuamua: a visitor from the stars

  1. Now THAT is quite interesting. The solar system did the “fly by” on it. I’ve seen mentioned from time to time that our drifting above and below the galactic plane as we orbit could be associated with “bad things” happening in our geologic past. This encounter could just be a related event, though with no catastrophe.

    • Gosh, that’s a golden-oldie theory I haven’t heard from in a long time! I though that went out along with Velikowsky’s “Worlds in Collision” theory about Venus. Are we above or below the plane? I can never remember, and it doesn’t show up well from my drone-infested garden near Gatwick, UK.

      Thanks Albert for a great article again.

      • This one came from the idea that extinctions on earth happen periodically every 30 million years or so. The period of our oscillation around the galactic plane is around 60 million years (1/3 of the period of rotation around the Milky Way) and during this oscillation, we are twice furthest from the plane. It was not a very strong coincidence, and it lacked any plausible mechanism. We are currently around 100 light years below the plane, by the way.

        • Thank you. These theories are amusing reading until critical reflection and peer review bangs nails into their coffins. As the saying goes: once you find a cycle, the wheels come off.
          Interesting to know we’re below the plane, not that it will make any changes to my life. But I do enjoy knowing these things.

    • This takes me back to September 2012, when a line of glowing rocks passed over the UK, Ireland, Nova Scotland and Massachusetts before sunrise. I guessed it would take 15 minutes from Wales to Ireland, and then 40 minutes to Canada. Randolph advised that a 3 second flash of light had occurred over Finland, but nothing was showing to indicate that something was on or inside our upper atmosphere. I followed the sightings as they were uploaded on line and said on volcanocafe at the time, that I considered it was on an elliptical orbit, and would likely return. This was also supported by on a photo which was also uploaded showing a sighting over Brazil from April 2011 of the same object. And I speculated that it could be Comet Lovejoy, which impacted the sun, and came out the other side, as an invisible black rock. Chelyabinsk hopefully was the last of it. It was troubling though, that it could not be seen from above Earth’s atmosphere. It was simply too low. And although the rocks glowed orange and red, the heat signature was insufficient to track it. I guess we were lucky it broke up more than once. There were the biggest rocks at the front and the smallest in 2 tails at the back, fading to black. At least one of the uploaded sightings in the US said they heard thumps, indications that some of the smallest, slowest lumps might have landed. It could also be seen low to the horizon from Florida. But it’s height and speed were not calculated.

      • This was the trajectory of the Sep 21 2012 fireball, seen from Germany to Ireland:

        It appears to have been an asteroid on an orbit close to that of Earth (these are called Aten asteroids). The size is not known but 10 meters across may be reasonable. It came in on a very shallow angle, grazing the atmosphere. It appears part of it left the atmosphere again, circled the earth (having lost enough space over Europe to be caught by our gravity), and re-entered the atmosphere 2.5 hours later over Canada where it burned up.

        Such a fireball can be seen from 500 km away.

  2. New Horizons – from checking DSN the best data rate being achieved for downlink is 1.1 kb/sec

    Deep Space Network
    ‏ @dsn_status
    11h11 hours ago

    DSS 43 receiving data from @NewHorizons2015 at 1.1kb/s.

    That’s not much but compares very favourably with Voyager 1 which is downlinking right now at 159 b/sec.

    Confirmation of successful encounter should come at about 15:00 UTC on January 1st with the spacecraft transmitting a basic health check followed by first data downlinks later during the day which will then continue for another 18-24 months or so. We shouldn’t have to wait too long for the first highly compressed images though.

    • NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine has announced that NASA tv will broadcast the Ultima Thule encounter.


      Expect to see the @NASANewHorizons social media accounts continue to operate. The contract for these activities was forward funded. This applies to @OSIRISREx and NASA TV too. @NASA will continue to stun the world with its achievements!

      NASA tv is now back on Youtube where it had been offline for several days.

        • I would guess that the object in the middle of the screen is Ultima Thule, and the stick is meant to point at it. It looks elongated (the object, not the stick).

          • Either way you would still be correct. Personally, I like the stick idea. Sticks are handy items. Used correctly, they can keep the stupid away. (such as this comment)

            Darth Vader used his stick to drain millions of dollars out of peoples wallets for George Lucas.

  3. For anyone watching the Strat Warming predicted by the various weather models it is now well under way. Here’s the 10 hPa pressure level temperature over the North Pole.

    The main weather models are known to have difficulty with what comes after a strat warming so despite the UK press starting to hype the event nothing is yet clear. In fact a second strat warming is currently being projected to attack the polar vortex and this complicates things even more.

    In theory the new improved GFS FV3 should model things better and it has been more progressive with cold in general – it currently runs in parallel with the main GFS and is due to replace it entirely in January assuming government shutdown doesn’t delay that.

  4. Media hyperbole has made legitimate concerns a cesspool for garbage and it does not help that these same topics have been infected with politicians and greedy figures. You can see this with climate change, all of the plans to combat emission are clearly crafted to get extra money from the citizen through taxation. That is the plan not investments in clean energy or penalties for oil companies. The numerous failed predictions of the past as well as the media blaming climate change for every single major disaster now days are the reason why skepticism of climate science exists in first place. It seems hard to believe that humans could inject all these gases and not effect the climate but due to garbage around this science skepticism is so prevalent. There are legitimate studies for future global cooling but the messengers of these studies are just as bad as the media they claim to be fighting against.
    Disappointingly other impending catastrophes are ignored such as pesticides poisoning the soils, the increasingly radioactive ocean, and toxins from plastic being in the water. The catastrophe that the media loves the most is a volcanic one and I am sure I don’t need to give you an example. This has dulled the sense to such an event. Volcanoes are not asteroids or gradual climate change from CO2 emissions or a grand solar minimum; they are frequent and can have very little warning time. I do believe a catastrophe is likely to happen in the near future and have several candidates. A I do believe that these volcanoes should be researched and am aware that large eruptions can take place from previously mundane looking volcanoes.

    Candidate # 5 Katla

    This volcano needs no introduction as it is a frequent topic on this site but nevertheless this volcano is in my top 5. Katla fits all of the requirements for a potential catastrophe, a large magma chamber, elevated activity and a deadly history. If the magma chamber was bigger It would be higher up on the list. While the exact size is unknown, it is likely bigger then 10 cubic kilometers which is enough to result in a VEI 5 or 6, Large but not necessarily a catastrophe. The sulfur rich magma however can lead to VEI 6 level of gases for a VEI 5 eruption as such a VEI 6 eruption would inject VEI 7 level gases. The worst case scenario would be an Eljda scale eruption, which would be disastrous beyond belief but I don’t think that is on cards but the threat should be taken seriously.

    Candidate # 4 Kikai

    The only “Super Volcano” to be on the list for one reason only, it is not simply the fact that there is 600 meter high dome within the caldera. This level of resurgence is common within calderas and is not an indication of an eruption. The reason why I put on the list is because how quickly it repaired itself after the Akayoha eruption and the changes in the system. The changes in the type of magma suggests that this is either a new eruptive cycle or there was a significant changes in the deeper plumbing. The dome suggest a massive amount of magma is in its chamber and the time frame suggests high levels of intrusion in the past. In just 6000 years it could release 30 km3 of magma in one go. To me this setup reminds of the Hatepe eruption of Taupo which is another reason I added it. There has already thousands of years buildup within this system so it could be ready to erupt soon. The reason why it is low is because the dome is not regularly monitored as such seismic activity and inflation is not known and all we have are vague reports on it’s activity.

    Candidate #3 Clear Lake

    An overlooked volcano in California whose existence is mysterious. There is so much to say yet very little known about this system. There is over 1000 km3 of magma in the chamber which is not an indication of a catastrophe but this system disturbs me greatly. This should be a well monitored system but you can’t find any instrumental data online. There is a lot of seismic activity which is probably magmatic in origin. This high level of seismic activity have been maintained for at the very least 8 years and has remained shallow. If there is an intrusion ongoing then there should be more attention given as this system could easily produce a VEI 6 or a low end VEI 7. What is odd about this system is that no one ever talks about it, the media has barely even touched it, there are few studies on this volcano, and instrumental data is either not public or nonexistent. As a moderate conspiracy theorist this is a goldmine but as an intelligent human there would be no point in hiding data and then reporting elevated activity. This would’ve taken the second spot if there was more information

    Candidate #4 Laguna de Maule

    A threatening volcano in Chile has recently gotten media attention, this volcano is inflating at the rapid pace of 25 cm per year and has a large magma chamber that is being filled with a sufficient amount of magma to destabilize the entire volcano. Not only that some studies state that this volcano can erupt in a very quick scale. A future eruption is not confirmed but anything can happen and this volcano should not be underestimated. The climate effect, I think, wouldn’t be as devastating as it could be due to its geographical position but it would devestate the region

    Candidate #5 Mt Aso

    Another volcano that needs no introduction and to me this the most threatening out all of the other one on this list. This is Volcano since 2017 has hundreds of volcanic earthquakes a day dwarfing every other volcano in the list, has big enough chamber to stop an earthquake, and is already erupting which means it might meet it’s climax soon. The scale of the chamber and inflation is not clear but the scale must impressive for the current activity. The current emissions of ash are decreasing which reminds me of so many other notable eruptions that I don’t feel like naming them all. I do think it is going to have a major
    eruption soon.

    Thank you for reading and tell me what you think.

    • Some of these have been covered on VC: for Aso, see https://www.volcanocafe.org/a-wedge-of-worry-aso-caldera-ndvp-4/ . It had us concerned too, although it should be noted that in general most clear run-ups to eruptions lead to fairly minor events. Katla has been discussed a lot: in my opinion, it has not yet fully recovered from the Eldgja eruption. Laguna de Maule was mentioned in https://www.volcanocafe.org/up/ – again, an eruption is expected (the ‘when’ is less clear) but past behaviour does not suggest a major event. In the US, Soccoro is a dark horse.

      As for climate change, science is done by making and testing predictions. It would be helpful if you specify which predictions you think the models failed on. Clearly, single weather events can not be attributed to climate, but the frequency of weather events can. And newspaper headlines ‘we are doomed’ do not count as a prediction..it has to be specific and testable. The number of hurricanes hitting the US is not a prediction from the models. However, the models did suggest that their severity could increase.

      • There are no increase in land falling hurricanes or cumulative energy. Tornado outbreaks are not getting worse or more extensive,
        Climate models are not reliable in any setting.
        The proposals are focused towards the common man and not companies who are responsible for more of the emissions, Companies are not going disciplined for their part. Companies poison science for their gain and i don’t see why climate science would be any different.
        Oil companies have more power then any of them so i do think that they play a large role in climate science.

        • Let’s have a look at the points you make. Global warming does not predict an increasing number of hurricanes, although some have claimed this. A hurricane requires warm sea water, and a stable upper atmosphere. Heating makes the sea warmer (there is little doubt that that is happening!) but also increases the upper winds which can suppress hurricane formation. I may have an issue though with your statement that the energy is not increasing: we have had exactly this discussion on the back channel as well and going through the numbers, found that the number of Atlantic hurricanes was not increasing (it is highly variable from year to year anyway) but the cumulative energy was going up – again with large variations. And not only the Caribbean but also the Pacific has been badly hit in the last few years. I do not know about US tornadoes, neither the data nor any climate model predictions, so have to pass on that one.

          The paper you link to is about decadal variability and is not about the secular increase of temperature. Their method removes the secular warming, if I understand correctly what they do. I agree that these variations are real and not currently well predictable. But these variations are dwarfed by the increasing temperatures since the 1980’s, so does not invalidate those models. The current models have different rates of heating, in part because of issues with how much heat is absorbed by the oceans (which depends on circulation in the upper kilometer or so). They also do not include El Nino events which is part of the multi-year cycle which I guess is essentially your point. But all predict an increasing rate of warming and at the moment, that is what we are seeing. In my opinion, the climate models have come out remarkably well. They need further improving and are far from perfect, but so far the general predictions are being validated.

          Companies do have power. I saw that most clearly when the chemical industry tried to deny the effect CFCs had on ozone. It was all about money. The oil and coal industry are doing the same now. All scientists need to declare any conflicts of interests and the source of all their research funding – we have learned. Companies, the press and politicians do not have to do this. Who do you trust most?

          I believe that global warming is very serious. The wars in the Middle East are caused to some degree by the water shortage: the area is drying, just as climate models predicted. This is only the first of the crises we will have to deal with. In the longer term, two aspects are most important: rising sea level (last time CO2 was at current levels, sea level was several meters above current levels) and global food production which is already running into the limits of what the projected world population needs. We need to solve the problems, not deny them. But I also believe the problem is solvable. We are not yet beyond the pint of no return: we have a crisis on our hands, not a disaster.

          Finally, fossil fuels are a major source of income for governments and for people. You can’t just change that in one go. Too many people depend on it: we need planning to make sure that after the transition people still have jobs.

          I travel a lot. Invariably, when you go somewhere new people talk about how the weather is changing. It is not just the UK or Florida: the changes are worldwide. I have been gardening today: the gazanias are still flowering. Even ten years ago that would have been unimaginable in our location. It is just one of the many things people note.

          This discussion is valid science. But in the modeling, the uncertainties are in how fast the warming will go – not about the presence of warming.

          • My introduction was for the purpose to show how much nonsense populates legitimate concerns due to the media and how that affects people’s perception of potential threats, A volcanic catastrophe is a genuine threat but the public doesn’t take it seriously due to hyperbole.
            Climate change is the same, it is not a political issue but the media treats it like one.They treat as a way to get attention, politicians use it for votes and extra taxation. If they would accept that due to the environment that people like me are born from their nonsense and change how they approach serious global issues. There would be less skepticism
            The change in climate now days can be matched to the medieval warm period. The future is what matters though and the earth doesn’t have a pretty picture.
            You are the only who hasn’t answered concerns with condescension.

          • You are concerned about other things, such as pesticides and plastic, as are many other people and for good reason. Pesticides works both ways, they are currently necessary but used too easily and some of the problems they cause (bees come to mind) are being denied by the companies that make them. No surprise there. My point is that these other things, which are also important, should not be used to understate global warming. It is very real, it significantly exceeds the medieval (800-1200) climate, and is close to or above the holocene peak 8000 years ago. As you say, the picture for the future is not pretty. And yes, some of the popular claims that are made about global warming are over the top and meant to shock/sell newspapers and are neither scientific nor helpful. Major volcanic eruptions are particularly devastating when the environment is already stressed. That should sound a warning.

            But VC is not a disaster site. We like to let science speak.

          • With reference to the medieval warm period these charts would disagree that current warming can be compared. Charts from Wikipedia but based on best data.

            Long term

            And more recently

          • For completeness I should add that average temperature has fallen back from the last El Nino peak then subsequent La Nina – but that was expected. With an apparent emerging new El Nino, Hansen and others have recently predicted that global monthly temperatures should start to rise again soon.

          • CAGM is falsified by the lack of warming in the upper troposphere. The temp of the tropopause is stable, and thus the increase surface temp results in an increased lapse rate, and more convective cooling and thus negative feedback, instead of the positive feedback required for CO2 to be dangerous. CAGW originally predicted a warming stratosphere, when this was found to be false they just changed the theory to say it predicted a cooling stratosphere. However a cooling stratosphere must by definition increase the lapse rate, and thus invalidate the positive feedback mechanism.
            Most of the warming is driven by shortwave forcing, as demonstrated by increasing OLR, and warming corresponding to changes in cloud cover. After all humans only produced enough CO2 to have a effect in the post WW2 period according to the IPCC, yet warming commenced 150 years ago. The attributions page of the IPCC report does not include cloud albedo changes. They have overlooked one of the main potential drivers of natural climate change. When you consider that their are only 4 components of the climate system, Solar power, Albedo, Stored energy, and emission power, its grossly negligent that they overlook this.

          • This is utter nonsense. I regret to use the term but can’t think of any better. Science works by making predictions and testing whether those hold. You are predicting something that strongly disagrees with the data, and then involve magic to explain why your prediction didn’t work.

          • Rob JM your response appears to be straight out of the climate change deniers play-book. Do you have some links to support your claims?

          • Warning, personal opinion unrelated to the operational staff of VC;

            Models are essentially just a collection of fitted curves. As in most things related to Information Technology, if you feed garbage in, you get garbage out. Models can be your ruination if they do not robustly predict empirical results that can be tested to see if the model was accurate or not. You don’t change the data to fit the model. That is not science, period. If there is a demonstrable problem with the data, you collect new data under tighter standards and with higher resolution, or you examine the data to determine where the systemic collection error was at and you fix it. I throw together ad-hoc models all the time, mainly about volcanoes, but I know full well that what I come up with can be completely wrong or flat out incorrect. I use any model data I make to come up with a best guess scenario, essentially getting me into the ball-park with my projections. (Such as the SO2 to Sulfate conversion rates derived from Jung et al)

            “It doesn’t make a difference how beautiful your guess is. It doesn’t make a difference of how smart you are, who made the guess, or what his name is, if it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.

            Richard Feynman on Scientific Method (1964)

            In other words, if the model does not match observation, the model has a problem. Additionally, if a theory can not be empirically tested, it is a shoddy theory.


            Now, getting into the rarefied political aspect of things…

            “The results, published last November in Environmental Science & Technology, show that rivers collectively dump anywhere from 0.47 million to 2.75 million metric tons of plastic into the seas every year, depending on the data used in the models. The 10 rivers that carry 93 percent of that trash are the Yangtze, Yellow, Hai, Pearl, Amur, Mekong, Indus and Ganges Delta in Asia, and the Niger and Nile in Africa. The Yangtze alone dumps up to an estimated 1.5 million metric tons of plastic waste into the Yellow Sea.”


          • GeoLurking I have to disagree a bit if I’ve understood what you are saying,

            The models aren’t curve fitting, they are attempting to perform the physics of the ongoing processes. What garbage do you think is being fed in or have I misunderstood?

            Now I’m one who firmly believes we are most likely on a disastrous warming course but also think the chances of a disastrous temporary cooling (most likely volcanic) are much higher than the general public thinks.

            Should that major cooling occur (even if temporary) then respect for climate science will plummet.

          • I’m not pointing towards any specific “garbage” data, just pointing out that numerical models are only as good as the underlying concept behind them, and that they are very very prone to spitting out garbage when garbage is fed into them. I come from a background in electronics and have seen the very same thing when applied to how circuits respond to strange or noisy inputs. Ever hear of a “debounce” circuit? It is typically used when a signal such as a mouse click or a signal select button is pressed. If the circuit that takes that signal reads the raw input from a switch, it can be prone to generating two clicks when a set of momentary mechanical contacts are closed. Garbage data is everywhere, you just have to be aware of it and compensate for it showing up in inappropriate situations where it can mess up even finely tuned circuits or models.

            My way of interpreting this is to question everything and allow for the stupid. That also makes me a sort of skeptic, but I use that to even be skeptical of my own skepticism. (…so, does that make me a hyper skeptic?)

            My mantra about expecting the weird based on folding together the Law of Large Numbers and the idea of “infinite probability” is sort of a defense against my own “hyper skepticism.” Basically, if the supremely strange or stupid happens, odds are it had to happen to somebody, somewhere, at some time.

          • Geo,

            Thanks for that and I agree with what you say, I just think enough perturbations have been modelled now that take such things into account that we’re pretty much locked into warming – until something happens and we’re not!

          • This reply to Albert.

            Its an urban myth that pesticides are used ‘too easily’. They are hard to apply (wind and rain restrict available days significantly) and VERY expensive, and VERY highly regulated, farmers in the EU do all they can to use as little as possible for these reasons. There are numerous techniques used to allow as little as possible to be used and still obtain the benefits (continual disease modelling etc).

            When I started farming (early ’70’s) a farm worker would have had a free house and about £17/week (urban workers about £22/wk) but grain was £40/ton, today the figures are more like £300/wk+ (x42) but grain is typically about £150/T (x4) although other costs have increased by about 6 to 10xand this has been achieved by a yield increase of about 2.5x. In both cases the poorer farmers were breaking even.

            For farmers in the UK (with import controls) everyone going organic would be just great, with grain prices probably topping out at about 4x current levels. It would mean everyone having to go back to the old days when 1/2 your income went on food.

            As for plastics we are all to blame. It would help if we had regulations forcing more recycling but we can’t even do that for our own waste, which is generally sent into rivers (potash), biodegraded to inert (nitrates, organic matter) or incinerated. I’m not even sure how much phosphate is recycled by UK waste treatment plants.

          • I think that without pesticides, we could not feed the world population. They are needed for food production. I used ‘too easily’ with regards to the denial by the manufacturer’s of the side effects, not the ease of application which I know little about! The restrictions you mention are needed, or the UK becomes as sterile as the Carolinas (at least, the part of the Carolinas I drove through. I have been told this is not true everywhere there). The danger of trusting the seller is obvious from the opioid crisis in the US, where they were marketed for their power as pain killers, completely ignoring the addiction they cause. Pesticides also need independent research and that is hard to come by. You mention unscrupulous academics. I will defend the profession here: dishonesty among academics is very rare, certainly compared to sales or politics. Over-interpretation does happen, which is why the scientific method is self-correcting.

          • It might be a necessary evil and I don’t believe they should be banned but one thing companies like Monsanto should do is give complete transparency to the effect of the pesticide instead of using a discredit team.

            rescued from the spam bot

          • It would mean everyone having to go back to the old days when 1/2 your income went on food.

            Which is worse than the new days when 1/2 your income goes to rent how, exactly?

          • Firstly, let me wish you and all at VC a happy New year. Many years ago I read about ice core drilling in Antarctica that showed our planet went through a pretty constant cycle of hot and cold periods .
            Are they still relevant now or were they incorrect?
            Volcanoes and other natural disasters aside, can we rather puny beings really affect our planet to such an extent that we ourselves become the disaster?

          • We have one bloom on our azalea bushes currently, but we had a bunch last week. Is the increased blooming due to temperature alone or does the extra CO2 give the plant more oomph to flower?

        • Unfortunately (this is a reply to Tallis Rockwell’s comment “Companies poison science for their gain and i don’t see why climate science would be any different.” and a link to sites on the “war on cancer”) wars have become increasingly part of the business plan of huge multinational corporations, and the most profitable war is the one which drags on indefinitely, not resolving the issue it was meant to address and sapping the resources of the combatants. When I see the phrase “war on” … war on terrorism, war on drugs, war on anything nebulous, I see a black hole and a species of addiction coming into play. Climate change has become just that sort of black hole.

        • I was mistaken about the warm period. Why not mix the disaster and science together and have some fun? Jokes aside, I couldn’t find a good place talk about issues like this because i would be called all sorts of names.(Like on reddit)
          It is hard being a moderate conspiracy theorist, People on both sides make fun of you, The possible climate affects from a grand solar minimum is interesting but the messengers for an event like that are clowns like this.

          • No need to actually link to a click bait channel. Especially one that actually advertises merchandise for the channel on the page. No I don’t need one of his t-shirts or whatever.

          • I can relate to “it’s hard being a moderate conspiracy theorist.” The channels which disseminate information let through stuff which supports the dominant paradigm, and stuff that is obviously idiotic, while losing or drowning out things which are logical and plausible but do not support the dominant paradigm and might (shudder) undermine consumer confidence and a faith in business as usual. Some of the best approaches get published as science fiction.

          • …”stuff that is obviously idiotic

            Yeah, but you can stay quite entertained laughing at such things.

            Truth be told, I occasionally snoop around the “moon-bat” sites just for the entertainment value.

      • Coming back to Rob’s comments above, I was very strong in my response but still feel the same way after a night sleep.

        For tropospheric warming, IPCC models predict a warming trend in the middle troposphere which is larger than observed. The observed trend is 0.06-0.13 C per decade in the tropics, and the models predict 0.1 to 0.4 C/decade. A recent study shows that the discrepancy is a factor of 1.7. There is a subsection in the IPCC report on this. (One paper claimed a factor of 4 discrepancy but made an error by including the stratosphere in the data but not in the models.) But all data sets show tropospheric warming. Even Christy, normally climate skeptic, finds that observations show 0.1C/decade warming in the middle troposphere.

        I don’t understand your point on stratospheric temperature. The temperature in stratosphere is mainly set by absorption of radiation by ozone and by aerosols. I think the warming prediction you mention is about the ozone recovery from the CFC crisis, which did indeed happen as predicted. The greenhouse gases cause a cooling of the stratosphere as they stop a fraction of the radiation from the ground reaching there. This is all well understood.

        The claim that cloud albedo is not included in the IPCC is completely wrong. As the report specifically states, the cloud-albedo effect was renamed to aerosol–cloud interaction, and this is covered extensively. Chapter 7 of the AR5 report explains the terminology changes. Other albedo effects are also included. The radiative forcing by them is given in the report, with its uncertainties, They counteract about 30% of the greenhouse gases (if you want the number you say doesn’t exist), and the effect of aerosol-cloud interaction is similar in magnitude but opposite to the effect of tropospheric ozone.

        The upper atmosphere holds almost no thermal energy: dry air has low heat capacity, and there is little air there anyway. Convection can’t transport much energy up since there is nothing there to hold it. Basic physics.

        There is a LOT of misinformation in your comment. You need to look more critically as your sources. As far as i know, the terms CAGW and CAGM are only used by one group of people who deny there is evidence for global warming. I have not found them used anywhere else. Is this perhaps your main source of information?

    • #3 is interesting as I can sort of see it from my house, which is about 75 miles or so to the south. As noted in other posts our windows overlook the Mayacamas that form the Sonoma and Napa Valleys.
      Most of the Clear lake seismic activity is around the Geysers geothermal. Which is one of the largest in the world according to posts on this site. If anything happened it would be PGV on steroids.

      This area is no stranger to disaster and climate change. In the last 5 or so years, every bit of Lake county has been burned by wildfire. Have had 2 close friends lose their home. According to this site, the entirety of Lake county is pretty much the volcano. The more recent wildfires are to the east of this complex.

      I think the rest of the Mayacamas are pretty much extinct. Would love to see a writeup here on them. Our view is dominated by Mt Veeder on the other side of the straights. St Helena can be seen on clear days. Clear lake would be directly north behind St Helena and the Silverado hills. There are still world famous hot springs and spas in this area, some which were badly damaged in 2017 by the wildfires. The wine produced is considered some of the best in the world due to the volcanic soils.

      Clear lake would be bad as it is 100 miles from San Francisco. Fortunately it is off the radar of the conspiracy folk, who prefer Yellowstone. As no one has really ever heard of Clear lake, or figure it is almost extinct. Personally I would expect more activity in the Cascades much further to the north. Which is a bit ironic, as due to economics and wildfires some of my friends and family are migrating from here in favor of the Pacific northwest.

      Anyway Happy New Year to all.

      • “Geysers geothermal” Interesting place, geologically. Much like Hengill in Iceland, it is near a triple junction for the Juan de Fuca, Pacific, and North American plates. On a global average, triple junctions are the most seismically noisy places on Earth. This is due to thier inherent instability. All it takes is for a slight change in the motion vectors for the adjoining plates to make the triple junction start migrating. The Mendocino triple junction has a sister down at the Rivera micro-plate. They both formed when the Farallon plate finally subducted, leaving the San Andreas behind as one migrated north and the other one south.

        • I thought the triple junction was farther up the cost more towards the Oregon border around Eureka.

          There was an interesting article in the SF paper a few years ago saying that this junction acts like a zipper as it knits the next continental backbone together.
          I had to take a quick look at the map on giggle. Lassen is always much further to the east than I think it should be. That complex does not get much attention these days either.

          The whole of the far parts of northern CA are a geopolitical mess. The coast is blue and the inland east is red. The Feds own a lot of it too and lease it out on century or more leases. In real practice, souther California uses it as a cheap water source. Shipping the watershed 100s of miles to the south. They want to keep most of the population ignorant.

          • Mississippi wasn’t that much different in the past. Each 16th section of land was originally set aside to generate revenue for the school system. County commissioners commonly leased it out at a $1.00 a year for 99 year leases, so revenue naturally fell short. One artifact of this system, is that some towns, such as Sylvarena, were never able to grow into actual cities since most of the land around it was 16th section land. There were other somewhat onerous rules about usage of 16th section land, such as not being able to strip it of top soil for use elsewhere. (more of a conservation item than anything else) but it could be used to grow crops. (which was the original intention of the system)

          • As for the location of the nearby triple junction, it’s where the Mendocino FZ meets the north end of the San Andreas and the southern end of the Cascadia Subduction zone.

          • A side project I have been messing with in the back channel sort of explores that idea, right now it is up to the more well versed to come up with a cohesive idea about a post on the topic. The problem is that some papers have explored that idea, but their localization data for the subducted hotspot is somewhat dubious, meshing two apparent hotspot tracks with each other that are not compatible in time. My method used relative motion of two hotspot tracks based on the fixed frame idea about hotspot positions. (Using the Hawaiian hotspot as my “guide-ship”) It’s half dead-reckoning/half geology.

            Spoiler alert: I DR’d a track of the Yelperstone hotspot back several Myr and sort of localized it’s position as it crossed under the subduction zone to it’s current location. There is some geological indication of where it went, but I don’t have any field data on it’s effects other than an occasional paper here and there. There is a little bit of agreement in the geothermal heat flux map but nothing I would be willing to go to bat for.

            For now, the project is on the back burner until someone takes it on and runs with it. The preliminary graphics to support the potential post are mostly completed. If I write it myself there is a danger I could go off the rails and come up with something ludicrous. The secret to writing this stuff is to “know your limitations”, so I sit and wait until someone with an actual clue steps up to guide my effort.

    • There is much food for thought here. It reinforces my perception that meaningful reform is not going to take place in a democratic system being manipulated by global capitalism. “The Media” is something of a straw man. In the US, at least, it is run by a few conglomerates intimately tied to other corporate interests, and manipulates public opinion to further those corporate interests. I haven’t a clue what might put a monkey wrench into the feedback loop, which has been accelerating exponentially in my lifetime (born 1948), and shows no signs of slacking despite what appear to be national and international efforts to address specific problems, such as carbon emissions. When I read some small article buried in the paper documenting another impending disaster that people would do well to pay attention to, but don’t, I say, “where, oh where is that asteroid?” but i have the feeling the immediate “monkey wrench” is underfoot. Maybe that’s because I live in the area likely to be flattened when the Cascadia subduction fault snaps.

      • It’s not global capitalism.. it’s crony capitalism.

        As for the media… why do you think they call them “programs?”

        In Ray Kurzweil‘s line of thinking (expressed in “The Singularity is Near”, book and movie), WE are operating systems running on biological hardware. If you use the original case logic behind the first computer crimes prosecutions, the crime the criminals were charged with was “Theft of Services.” In other words, using stolen CPU time and long term disk storage from mainframes. Logically, should we not be compensated whenever an advertiser literally steals usage time from our biological hardware that interferes with the operation of our “selves” doing what ever we want in our hardware enclave that was built specifically to run the operating system we call our mind?

        An underlying line from ShadoeVision as spoken by the ¿protagonist? Norm.“We don’t want to control your mind, we just want to control your inclinations”

        Shadoe Stevens got his start playing “Fred Rated for Federated” in southern California. The show may seem a bit silly, but I think it’s a brilliant story at it’s core. The original show is the first 29:30 of the clip.

      • Its different in the UK. We are mostly run as a conglomerate of journalist-scare-hype and corporate efforts to stay trading, with a little corruption on ALL side to leaven the mix. IN passing huge strides have been made environmentally, from the shockingly polluted air of all our major cities, the lethally polluted rivers and estuaries to power stations and railways fuelled by coal and mindblowingly inefficient vehicles all of which are now pretty well fixed.

        Actually our main problem is pseudoscience often peddled by unscrupulous academics in need of funding of one sort or another. The air pollution brigade being just one of many.

        • I am constantly amazed by people who take something they have read on the internet as 100% fact without investigation.Take decline of the Italian honey bee in USA. Most blame it all on pesticide, but it is a multi faceted issue The bee is not native to the USA, the mite issue is huge as is decline of forage due to urban sprawl. Most get their food from a grocery store and have never grown anything but perhaps a potted tomato and do not understand the challenges of weeds, insects and irregular climate. They want perfect un-marred fruit and veggies and will pass up slightly marred food which puts the farmer in a quandary, use pesticides or dump your crop as unmarketable.Organic farmers DO use allowed pesticides contrary to what the populace thinks but still experience lots of marred food the customers have come to expect should be picture perfect. I see products labeled non-GMO that I know would not have GMO contents because the technology is expensive and used for high value crops not radishes or pole beans. Why would we want to poison the well of public trust by telling everyone this technology is all bad, as climate changes and we need to feed more people under great duress of climate uncertainty we may need to add a gene for drought resistance to survive without millions dying from famine. Would we care to go back to times of no antibiotics or vaccines?

          • That is indeed the discussion: we indeed can’t live without but would prefer not to rely on the manufacturers for the safety data. It is not just the honey bee in the US but also in Europe, and native US bumblebees. And the relation to pesticides, an even the particular one, is not in doubt although the mechanism is unclear (they have even been shown to be addictive to bees!)


  5. Tornado outbreaks, land falling hurricanes or their cumulative energy are not increasing. Climate models are not reliable,
    There are a few that have predicted the warming but that’s it. Questioning climate science is now being treated like denying it, I think oil companies are too involved in this science for me trust it. Companies block or twist science. I don’t see any reason why oil companies would be different.
    The media ignores other prevalent issues with the same problems that are devastating nature but some how climate science gets respect and coverage in an age where companies marginalize sciences that affects their ability to make money.
    None of the proposed plans are going to hurt them, and in fact they have been with the same people who say that want to end emissions

    Thank you for not labeling me a denier or an oil shill.

    • Your comments are constantly being put in the pending queue. I have no idea why – this will take a more senior admin to investigate! Please have patience as someone needs to approve each comment manually.

      • I just looked and saw no additional dungeon relegated comments.

  6. You explain things so well, Albert. It sent my little pea-brain to whirling. (whirled peas) So, considering nothing is ‘stationary’ in space, basically, we picked up the object and sent it out like a rock skipping across a pond once it picked up gravitational forces from our solar system but from our vantage point, it “came in and exited”. Mind set; interesting. One of my kids (over 40) recently said i fried his brain when i asked him, “You don’t think the leaves come back, do You?” Yet how often to we think “When the leaves come back in the spring.” People sometimes see ‘time’ as circular- Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring AGAIN…. others see time as a progressing but still circular, more like a bedspring or clock work… but still circular. Can’t discribe it well, but as Another Spring but still on the same area of the spring work as the preceeding ‘Springs’. i see time as linear, continuing outward with the possibility of ….anything. OO, Best! for the next coming thing! motsfo

  7. There are no increase in land falling hurricanes or cumulative energy. Tornado outbreaks are not getting worse or more extensive,
    Climate models are not reliable in any setting.
    The proposals are focused towards the common man and not companies who are responsible for more then half the emission, Companies are not going disciplined for their part. Companies poison science for their gain and i don’t see why climate science would be any different.
    Oil companies have more power then any of them so i do think that they play a large role in climate science.

    I don’t mean to sound creepy but i have been reading your comment for 3 years now and read NDVP.

  8. Thanks Albert for this exciting and entertaining post. Many questions pop up. One: If Oumuamua was ejected from a star system one would expect many more objects also ejected from this system. In that case, a huge cloud of Oumuamua siblings would be floating through space together and now should show up in numbers when the solar system pass by…..

    • Despite the “large” size of the Solar system, “large” is a relative term… on galactic scales the solar system is quite tiny and not easy to hit.

      • Just speculating, a yong star with planets under formation is a chaotic system that could leave a huge cloud of bodies as a track when it moves. Analogi with earth passing the recurrent meteor swarms.. But of cause you are right. Solar system is small…

        • I’ve always wondered why we see so few extra-solar objects. With as many star systems as exist in the galaxy one would think a vast number of small objects would be drifting around. You would think we would see occasional hyperbolic comets breeze though our space. We are small, but a 100 billion stars must jettison a lot of bodies over several billion years.

  9. Imagine if ‘oumuamua was instead a large rogue super earth, we wouldn’t likely see it until it was about as close as the kuiper belt and by that point it would be impossible to do anything about it unless it by chance hit jupiter. The chance is very small but at some point in the life of our planet a rogue must have had a relatively close encounter. I wonder if an icy solid planet like that would become like a monster comet during a close encounter with a star…

    It is probably for this same visibility reason why it is so hard for us to find planet 9, we expect it to be like neptune which emits a lot of heat, when it is actually predicted at only 60% the mass up to as low as 5 earths and being very far from the sun it is likely to be more icy and solid, hence less visible, it might be a frozen ocean planet with no heat signal at all, like a giant europa. In the irony of all that, such a planet might have perfect conditions for life under the surface of the ice. Planet 9 probably also has a mini solar system of moons too and if any of them are big enough or reflective they could be seen first as assumed dwarf planets and their unexpected motion be tracked.

  10. These are the images used on the landslide blog (a slight different version of todays image). It was quite cloudy today and the contrast is not very good.

    The main landslide is on the west, and as mentioned it has taken down the entire cone. But most of the rest of the coast line has also bene remodelled. Only the northern end was left untouched. The rounded southern side suggest that also was caused by the cone collapse. Some other parts were likely tsunami-related, such as the loss of the eastern-most tip. The discoulored water shows where the cone material ended up. It looks like the sea is now very shallow. The island should be able to rebuild itself quite fast.

    • Very much like Bogoslof, so I would expect quite a bit of erosion unless eruptive activity resumes fairly soon.

    • It is disturbing how little warning you can have before something like that but that is par for the course in monitoring volcanoes. This has been a bad year for indonesia with the earthquakes and 2 tsunamis from eruptions. .

      • As much as I dislike the term ‘Black Swan.’ the effect is real. That there are things that can not be seen until they exist. By their very definition such can not be predicted until after the fact. Anything else is a mugs game, or an excuse to sell books.

        Most modern statistics that govern the stock markets are based on an unpublished draft paper Johnny Von Nueman wrote on his deathbed. Tentatively tiltes something like “On the predictions of Games, weather forecasting and stock markets.”

        The problem with these chaotic non linear maths is that they do not scale. Von Nueman’s formula is pretty good at generating a 3% return. Curiously the safe investments from the 18th century were called the three percents. This is probably the natural chance at predicting future events.

        The problem happens when linear thinkers attempt to scale the 3 percent by ten to attempt to get 30 percent. But the system is not linear. In this case 3 and 30 are different abstractions that have no relationship whatsoever.

        To solve some of these situations in computing Von Nueman borrowed a concept from Babbage, of the dragon eating it’s tail. Feed the results on the calculation, back into the formula.

        Von Nueman connected the program abstractions to the data abstractions. Stored program computing. Whether or not Babbage would have done this is up for debate. The competing program store architecture is known as Harvard where the first computers were built. These have separate data and instruction paths.

        Von Nueman’s computers were built at Princeton and were used by business and those who were not gentlemen and wanted to read each others mail (or radio transmissions.) Most processors such as the one I am using are Von Nueman.

        Von Nueman was never happy with this ‘hack’ he needed it to solve some short term problems. Turing kacked it around this time, so I am not sure how much effect his work had other than their successors had to second guess the intentions of the first and second generation machines. Personally I think this has lead to a false sense that we can make simple short term predictions.

        The problem with attempting to model the linear sections of not liner abstractions is this feedback affects the whole system. I think in statistics this is part of the Bays theory or Baysian filters. Which are about the only way to solve xeno’s paradox.

        Problems happen when one has a good model for classifying pine needles, then attempts to use it on oak leaves.

        • Personally, I love the concept of Black Swans, but agree with the originator of the book that the term has become nothing more than a buzz word that is thrown around to add some air of authority to an argument. Taleb refers to these people as “The Intellectual Yet Idiot” in a later book of his.

          Under Taleb’s definition, there are three principle parts to a true Black Swan.

          1) The statistical probability of an event is calculated to be so low, that it is erroneously considered to be zero.
          2) That the event is profound in it’s effect.
          3) That it is logically explained away after the fact. (If only we had more data; If only we had known about {something} )

          “But the problem is the one-eyed following the blind: these self-described members of the “intelligentsia” can’t find a coconut in Coconut Island, meaning they aren’t intelligent enough to define intelligence hence fall into circularities”

          Nassim Nicholas Taleb Skin in the Game

          The biggest issue that Taleb points out in “The Black Swan” is that the most common projection of a probability comes from the central difference function of the Gaussian distribution. It doesn’t have “Fat Tails.” In other words, the indicated probability drops to near zero too fast. The best example of this can be read in “Recipe for Disaster: The Formula That Killed Wall Street” on Wired. Spoiler Alert; Investment vehicles were based around a mathematical construct that combined several Guassian probability distributions into a singe risk index. Where the problem arose, is when everybody started using the same risk metric and didn’t know or care to know about the mechanisms that drove that metric. Basically, every one was using the same model and didn’t really know how it worked.

          While David X. Li (inventor of that Gaussian Cupola) could conceivably be blamed for the 2008 event, Li himself said of his own model: “The most dangerous part is when people believe everything coming out of it.”

          Another statistical product that amuses me to no end is the one the USGS uses in forecasting quake mortality rates. I absolutely love the idea of a certain percentage chance that less than one person has died. How do you have a fraction of a person die? No, they are not talking abut injuries, they are talking about cessation of life. This is also a byproduct of using a statistical curve.

          • But people do successfully predict low probability important events which cannot be predicted from the information the experts are paying attention to. How did the inhabitants of the Andaman Islands who are basically living in the Neolithic know how to get out of the way of the Indian Ocean tsunami? How did the inhabitants of Akrotiri know how to get out of the way of Thera eruption?

          • The abandonment of Thera suggests that there was a precursor event. The fact that hthe refugees never seemed to have arrived anywhere else suggest they did not have quite enough warning.

          • “…inhabitants of the Andaman Islands who are basically living in the Neolithic know how to get out of the way of the Indian Ocean tsunami?”

            Folklore. In effect, social memory.

            Some Pacific Northwest tribes in the US still carry lore about the 1700 quake in their tales.

          • Thera and the Andaman Islands again. To escape a tsunami you need to either evacuate to high ground or put to sea before the draw down occurs. If the earthquake or eruption is nearby, it is not difficult to convince people to take evasive action, but what, in the folklore or collective memory of the Andaman islands, allowed the people to take evasive action before there were visible signs of impending disaster from an earthquake hundreds of miles away?

            There were surely precursor events on Thera; somehow people living on that island could distinguish between some Strombolian hiccup and the Big One. Maybe they also knew, or somebody convinced them, that nearby islands like Crete were not safe. Minoan trading networks were exceedingly far-flung. Putting together mythological and archaeological evidence one could construct a plausible framework for a novel about the refugees from Thera ending up in North America.

          • Re Lurk’s comment abut Native tribes in the Northwest.
            Knew a Tut -tun (S. or. Coast ) who related an old tale about the way to tell the type of earthquake and when to run.
            One-if the quale movement is N/S and no receding water on the ocean -Ok.
            Two.- I th movement is E/W and the Ocean recedes-Run Inland and as high as you can.
            They has a sort of last couple alive tale based on that..
            Few S. Or Tribes lived year round on the Ocean they live up the river drainages..The Tutu-tun were closely related to the G’wichin Tribes of Alaska..

          • “The abandonment of Thera suggests that there was a precursor event”

            The fairly large non-local boulders up on top of the mountains of Crete point towards the “They didn’t leave fast enough” idea as being quite profound.

            Supposition: Crete, as part of their cultural sphere, would have been a prime destination for evacuees. The tsunami coming traveling south from Thera was probably quite bad. To put rocks up that high would have been an enormous wave run-up. Even if they made landfall at another location, unless they immediately headed for high ground, the tsunami probably would have gotten them.

            The recent tsunami from Krakatau is a pretty good illustration of how sudden and destructive a volcanic island generated tsunami can be… and this wasn’t even close to the size of the 1883 event. The dynamic setting was quite similar with the surrounding islands the wave had to deal with before propagating in open water.

        • What I learned from the Black Swan concept is to not count out the improbable. That’s the sort of thing that will bite you on the arse if you don’t allow for it.

          I’ve calculated likely recurrence events for some volcanoes, and all that I have found is that they don’t like schedules. From a chaos point of view, this makes perfect sense. On a non-macro level, things like rock fracture strength and system pressures muck up most attempts to glean any predictive data from what is actually going on in a volcano. The best attempts I have seen so far, are Carl’s and Albert’s musings about various Icelandic systems. But they KNOW the limitations of the data and don’t spew sensationalist suppositions based on flimsy evidence.

          • Interesting views. Agree! Too much competetition is destructive for bot productivity and quality of research results. Been active in life science research for almost 40 years and seen such trends coming and going within within communities in my field…

      • The problem is that it was predicted after a study and the prediction was presented to the government but what can they do? can you move every building from the coast, or set up a monitoring system on the island, there was only 30 minutes for some areas. I have heard from many that nothing would happen if the Cumbrae Viaha had a slide but as we look at the sea bed around the Hawaiian Islands we know that slides are inevitable

      • Also in the ‘Independent’ who ran the piece with an embarrassing typo, saying that Anak Krakatau now had a volume of “40 to 70 cubic metres”.

        • That is a remarkably small volume. About the size of a few dump tucks of dirt.

  11. https://www.emsc-csem.org/Earthquake/earthquake.php?id=735789

    Magnitude M 4.7
    Date time 2018-12-29 23:22:29.1 UTC
    Location 12.86 S ; 45.40 E
    Depth 10 km
    Distances 21 km SE of Mamoudzou, Mayotte / pop: 54,900 / local time: 02:22:29.1 2018-12-30
    266 km SE of Moroni, Comoros / pop: 42,900 / local time: 02:22:29.1 2018-12-30
    708 km N of Antananarivo, Madagascar / pop: 1,392,000 / local time: 02:22:29.1 2018-12-30

  12. Ongoing swarm at Þórðarhyrna. Only two quakes registered so far, but the HUS drumplot does look very busy. Maybe they are all too small to locate, but interesting nonetheless.

    • If thordarhyna goes at the same time as grimsvotn then things could get very interesting. I have said before that maybe the most likely place for the next big (10 km3+) eruption in Iceland could be here, like the hellish combination of eyafjallajokull + skaftar fires. Grimsvotn was recharged in 2011, and thordarhyna is a serial mass erupter almost like the basaltic version of oraefajokull, they are also connected, and both probably got involved in 1783.
      Part of the dead zone southeast of laki hasn’t rifted in millenia, and is directly connected to thordarhyna. In the recent climate too it is possible a flood basalt in this area could be a fatal blow to vatnajokull too, especially if grimsvotn really goes at it with its record magma supply. It is possible that an event even bigger than 1783 could occur in the current situation, or multiple large flows from the same system creating a sort of shield volcano made of flood basalts, like vatnafjoll.

      Basically all of the grimsvotn swarm is a dead zone so if any quakes happen here at all it is important, it is the same as what I said a while ago for the pahala quakes, in that environment the rock is probably incandescent and not far off its melting point, and molten magma still exists in the old dikes, so if quakes are happening there it means there is a lot of energy involved far more than the moment magnitude implies. I don’t know if that last bit is taken into affect by anyone, here or otherwise, when looking at these deep magmatic quakes, but it is very important, the 1.0- 2.0 quakes under kilauea for example probably involve the same amount of energy as a quake orders of magnitude larger in solid rock.

      • Actually as some confirmation to the last part, several times since May people in the southern half of the big island have reported feeling the really deep quakes, the ones measured at magnitudes of less than 3 and 30-50 km deep. In light of the fact the rock at this depth is about 1500 C and probably as close to melted as the definition of ‘solid’ will allow, this is a far from trivial event. The base of Iceland is similar temperature, and quakes happen here too, but curiously don’t seem to happen at other volcanoes. This is probably down to the enormous supply rate of Iceland and Hawaii, but even with that the fact quakes can happen in these areas at all is astonishing. It is also for this exact reason that I have total denial of kilauea going dormant, nothing that deep is affected by the surface, so whatever caused the pahala earthquake swarm of 2017-now is a future event about 5 years down the road.

  13. In reference to my “Stupervolcano” rant.

    “Large” means;

    1. Of greater than average size, extent, quantity, or amount; big.
    2. Of greater than average scope, breadth, or capacity; comprehensive.


    So, “Large” as I use it, (Large Caldera Eruption), means calderas that are in the upper half of the sizes of most calderas. Using the average, this is in excess of 776km². If you used the median value instead, it’s anything larger than 119 km². I like the median value since by definition, it’s what is in the middle. As an example, a 113.1 km² caldera is achievable with a 12 km x 12 km caldera.

    The list I used for my calderas came from the supplemental table for “Sulfur dioxide initiates global climate change in four ways” by Peter L. Ward , Thin Solid Films 517 (2009) 3188–3203, using he ones that I could establish caldera dimensions. My extract is by no means all encompassing, but I had about 330 data points. The most common size caldera I came up with (the mode) is about 19.6 km².

    The benefit of using the Large Caldera definition, is that it opens up the multiple calderas around Rabaul as well as the multiple calderas of Hokkaido and the north Island of New Zealand for common discussion as a family of volcanic phenomena. Including Rodalquilar caldera complex in Southern Spain, also the predecessor calderas of the Hotspot track that shall not be named in the Snake River plain.

    Note, Rabaul is 99.0 km², very near the median. If I remember correctly, Rodalquilar caldera is half submerged, much like Campi, though a few myr older, The Second Phlegraean Period yields a 176.7 km² caldera.

    No, my system of naming is no better than the BBC’s Stupervolcano term, but at least mine is based on something real and measurable and not hype.

    • The down side, is that it makes eruptions of 181 km³ of tephra a valid discussion point. (mid VEI-7 and up) It may not be “Stuper” but it’s gonna be a bad day for someone.

      (As noted elsewhere, “Super” has generally taken on the meaning of VEI-8 as a way of trying to incorporate the uninvited term into thoughtful discussion)

      Why? There are a whole lot more of these large structures than the hyped up media hog in Wyoming. A LOT more. They are actually fairly common. (and Tondano actually has recent actively erupting daughter volcanoes along it’s ring faults… but you don’t see anyone screaming bloody murder and stocking up on beans when they are active.)

  14. Gunung Agung has had a small eruption during the night. Incandescence from the crater was observed on the webcams and there are reports of light ash fall in the area. The incandescence suggests that some new lava might have been emplaced in the crater during the eruption.

    Last time something similar happened was in the days before that big strombolian blast in the beginning of July.

  15. A 4.4 Green star at Skalafel, Iceland thismorning.Accompanied by a swarm of smaller quakes. Over for now and tremor plots suggest tectonic mechanism.

    • It was felt widely in the region and Reykjavík, some of the tweets regarding the quake are quite funny.

  16. Apropros distance and isolation and such, here’s a 20min documentary with footage of the 1961 Tristan da Cunha eruption

    • I think it was quite cool when DeadPool called Cable (Josh Brolin) “One Eyed Willy” (a fictional Pirate in Goonies that had Brolin playing the character Brand.) Brolin is also Thanos.

  17. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=281114352757713&set=pcb.1156138634551953&type=3&theater&ifg=1

    Results of the seafloor scan done in late July near the end of the eruption, 0.8 km3 of lava from fissure 8 ended up underwater, which combined with the apparently 0.4 km3 on land brings the volume of the eruption up to 1.2 km3. About 1 km3 of this was from fissure 8, so the average eruption rate of fissure 8 was about 14.7 million m3/day, or 170 m3/s.

    In comparison, mauna loa 1950 was about 0.3 km3 in 23 days, a rate of 13 million m3/day, or 150 million m3/s, and its 1868 eruption was 0.2 km3 in 5 days, 40 million m3/day or 462 m3/s.
    Tolbachik 1975 was 2.2 km3 over 523 days, an average of 4.2 million m3/day, 48 m3/s.
    Holuhraun was 180 days and about 1.8 km3, 10 million m3/day, 115 m3/s. This is about
    Skaftar fires was 15 km3 over 244 days, which is an average of 61.5 million m3/day, or 711 m3/s.

    Leilani 2018 has the highest ratio between eruption volume and duration, making it the largest basaltic effusive eruption since 1783 in terms of intensity and sheer power. 1.3 km3 of dense lava is equivalent to about 4 km3 of tephra, which is a large VEI 5.

  18. Turtlebirdman@
    Hawaii also haves the worlds clearest tropical ocean. Beautyful it is.
    Its the tropical ocean that the most nutrient poor and plankton free.
    The open deep tropical pacific is a marine desert..
    The waters here in Captain Cook bay in Mauna Loa is breathtaking! clear!

    In Kona side the visiblity is easly a 100 meters in the water clear and blue and pretty.
    Its like liquid saphire blue the worlds clearest tropical ocean.
    Shallow waters in kona is light pale saphire blue, and deeper offshore is deep azure …
    This crystal blue hawaiian waters are so pretty that i cannot stop looking at it!
    Sparkling blue Hawaiis oceanic desert is.
    Today I swimmed there and and coud easly see bottom thats 40 meters down and scuba divers 20 meters below me. Its so clear and blue thats its totaly amazing

    Coral reefs live in the deserts of the sea by being solar powered, they make their own nutrients by making their own sugars from co2 and sunlight. Thats how corals can live in Hawaiis barren waters.

    Tropical seas are often nutrient poor and clear little plankton ( Hawaii )
    Cold seas are rich and murky.. nutrient rich and is a green plankton soup ( Norway )

    • i’m enjoying Your Joy! Best! to All for the New Year from motsfo sitting in a Chinook wind storm( very warm winds in the middle of the winter which melt snow and leave behind ice skating rinks for roads when the cold comes back again) with a huge pot of coffee looking at the last of 2018. Looking forward to a new day, a new year and a new spring. 😉 ps…. my new years resolution is to eat all the leftovers from the Holidays…. Christmas Roast gone, and the Christmas Cookies (had some help with those 🙂 odd stuff left… 😉

      • Meh… I made biscuits and gravy. But I did pick up 5 lbs of cornmeal. Which reminds me. 18+ years ago while wandering around the museum in Cobh Ireland, I noticed an old newspaper clipping on display. It detailed how to use cornmeal. Evidently the US shipped cornmeal in to assist with the potato famine problem and since it was probably a new thing to the residents, the newspaper clipping told how to make cornbread and other assorted things out of it. Being from the deep south, I found that amusing. To this day, my favorite cornmeal (and corn related) foods are cornbread, grits, and hominy. (No, not together. Separate food item.) Yeah, I do have to admit that sour mash whiskey is also pretty good, but that tends to beat up your liver so moderation is very important.

        Anecdotal: Some sour mash whiskey is reportedly strong enough to strip paint. The strongest “Moonshine” I have ever seen was 83% ABV. My favorite legal liquor is Jim Beam double aged Black Label. → I detest Jack Daniels. (Mainly due to an unfortunate faux pas in my youth) {woke up in the wrong bed} No, nothing inappropriate went on. (as far as I know)

  19. The waters here in Big island Hawaii is so clear and blue.. crystal blue marine desert of the tropical pacific.
    The dry Big Island west Kona side with no runoff is defentivly the clearest.
    I never seen seawater this clear and blue before.
    Lack of nutrients and plankton.

    Hawaiian coral reefs fridge the uppermost slopes of these giant volcanoes.
    Reefs in Hawaii is generaly less diverse in coral diversity than other reefs, its Hawaiis extreme geographical isolation and generaly cooler sea temperatures at latitude 20. And Hawaiis reefs are extremely nutrient poor enviroments.
    The fishes here are pretty, many are quite sizable and colourful. Most common is the yellow tang and other small fishes and a few large parrotfishes crowds this place.
    Sea temperatures in Hawaii is 23 to 24 C in March and 27 to 28 C in September.
    In July to October hurricanes can be a weather nusicase

    • Dunno, I stared with amazement at being able to see the screws on the ship when inport various Caribbean islands.

      • There are lakes in Michigan, Higgins Lake especially, that are spring fed and deep up to a thousand feet. They are nutrient poor with little vegetation in the shallows, but crystal clear with sudden drop-offs and wonderful blues at the different depths. I recall swimming near one of the drop offs and the breeze blowing us and our little row boat over out over deeper water. When you go from being able to see the bottom through a gentle blue to being over the dark midnight void with no hint of a bottom, your limbs just seem to contract to make as small a target as possible for what may be lurking in the depths even when your rational mind is telling you that fresh water northern lakes have no large predator, it just doesn’t matter to the primitive brain controlling your reflexes. It was so hard to swim back to row boat when my arms and legs refuse to extend more than a few inches from my body.

  20. Where I am it is now 2019, and I can say that for the first time since 1986 the year has started with there not being an erupting volcano in hawaii, and there are only 4 lava lakes on earth now, however there is still active lava on the surface flowing at erta ale, so this marks the 33rd consecutive year of permanent lava flowing on the earths surface. Etna might be on the verge of a new eruptive series, and agung is still puffing along scaring the news into advertising the unlikely event of a large eruption.

    All in all, interesting start to this year.

        • Note: didn’t see the image in the email. I never seem to get comments showing up in full.

      • Mauna has to get that big signal before it will erupt, a series of larger quakes, the inflation there would fit in the background noise of kilaueas GPS and is showing changes of about 5 millimetres over months, not exactly earth shattering compared to come of kilaueas inflation signals showing 30 cm uplift without apparently being anything other than ‘minor inflation near pu’u o’o’. However, while I doubt it will be the first major event, mauna loa 2019 is a believable title, kilaueas permanent eruptions have taken a pause for a while and Hawaii doesn’t participate in the thing we call ‘dormant’, in recorded history no-one who has lived longer than 7 has ever not had an eruption in their lifetimes on the big island. Mauna loa is very unlikely to be taking over the hotspot now statistically, but 30+ years of buildup must be getting somewhere significant by now and so it could relive its glory days just a bit.

        • I agree in that I see an eruption of Mauna Loa possible in 2019 but not before a series of sizeable quakes takes place.

          30 cm? Since the eruption? The MERZ has inflated a little more than 10 cm and the only part of the system to do so, depending on how that inflation evolves through the rest of the year I see an eruption of Kilauea in 2019 also possible, not sure if really likely, towards the end of the year.

          • The GPS on heiheiahulu is not on the inflation center which is on the other side of heiheiahulu just downrift of it, so the inflation there is a bit more than 10 cm, though not 30 cm that was meant to be 20 cm. only the ends of the deforming area are actually monitored too, it seems like the area in the middle might be the center now though because JOKA is not moving as much now. I think the source of deformation is pretty deep, probably 3-6 km deep so probably it won’t be unnoticed but could only be a few hours of activity before an eruption.

        • Yeah it is highly likely that HVO would be able to put Mauna Loa on ORANGE/WATCH before the eruption began, and probably a VAN immediately before the onset.

    • scaring the news into advertising the unlikely event of a large eruption” which causes alarmed people to stay glued to the TV, which tallys up as higher viewer numbers, that translate into higher advertising prices…

      In essence, monetizing fear; ‘Keep ’em scared, keep ’em watching.

      At this point, it is not about public safety, it’s about exploiting people.

  21. Just a photo of Etna from space ?_nc_cat=110&_nc_ht=scontent.frix4-1.fna&oh=65a75cc40b104a463bb796373e398332&oe=5C9A7498

  22. Sorry, clipped the first part: ?_nc_cat=110&_nc_ht=scontent.frix4-1.fna&oh=65a75cc40b104a463bb796373e398332&oe=5C9A7498

    • Not really your fault. I took a look at the full link in your post and WP got exasperated with trying to retrieve the image since their server returns a “bad timestamp” instead of the image. Lacking the actual image, WP just posted the left over part of the URL (the last part that shows up in your comment)

      Unfortunately, I can not readily determine what their server expects for the URL request.

      Generally, the best way to get a linked image up, is to save it to local hard disk, then push it out to an image hosting site such as Tinypic. Once you get the image to show in your browser with an image filetype (jpg, png, gif), copy that url for inclusion in your comment. Be careful though, if you don’t get the actual image url, WP will probably barf all over the comment and throw it in the dungeon out of caution.

  23. “Most of it can be reached within a day or two of travel.”

    Which is the really scary part. Our pathogens developed when the best you could do was a determined walk from point to point. Now they have global reach just like we do.

    • Fortunately molecular life science is in better shape then ever to quickly catch up with “new” viruses an bugs. Actually, like there are asteroids listed as risk for for strucking earth or volcanos we are keeping a close watch on, there are also a number of letal viruses that are closely followed and has recurrent utbreaks but failed to spread so far.
      Although treament of infected patients my take years to solve, it will take very short time to develop diagnostic screening methods and map the spreading and how the patogens are spread. And, also important, that will take credibility from those who use to claim Gods punishment as a reason for epidemics.

  24. I think the plan to spray sulfuric aerosols in the stratosphere is a terrible and poorly thought out. Volcanic winter is a variable hell which is almost unpredictable and they are going to try replicate it? The acid rain is going to decimate the ecosystem and crops and it may not even help with the arctic! It is going to ravage the ozone and lead to more UV radiation on the surface. All of this to kick the can down the road?

    • I find the idea to a little on the horrifying side of things. From reading about the Junge layer and muddling though the e-folding rates of the sulfate conversion and stay time, there is easily enough slop in the process where determination of how much to use can be miscalculated, leading to unintended consequences.

      BÖC said it best in their song.

      “History shows again and again how nature points up the folly of man”

      Blue Öyster Cult → Godzilla

  25. Great post, Albert. Was hoping to hear some of your thoughts after we first broached the subject of ‘Oumuamua’s excess acceleration a couple of months ago.
    FWIW, here’s a partial transcript of a recent, lengthy interview with Avi Loeb regarding his paper on ‘Oumuamua’s possible composition/origin. In the interview, he touched on many of the same points you raised, including the Local Standard at Rest. https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Our-Interstellar-Visit-_-Avi-Loeb.pdf
    Lastly, I note that the outgassing theory is still the one of choice to explain the excess acceleration, but I am still not aware if any gaseous signatures were actually detected….which of course is the center-piece of Loeb’s discounting out-gassing as the driver for ‘Oumuamua’s velocity changes. Perhaps you know if any comet-like dust/gas was indeed detected, since you mentioned that ‘Oumuamua was outgassing a minute amount of gas. Was this real data, or an intelligent supposition based on the observed excess acceleration?
    Thanks again.

    • No gas has been detected. But the acceleration requires only a little gas, and this amount would not have been seen. Perhaps if we had discovered it sooner, closer to the sun, we could have seen something.

      • Hi Albert,

        is this acceleration consistent with the pioneer anomalous acceleration? I ask because a theoretical physicist (no longer in academia) I know has a quantum gravity theory (consistent with GR and QM) that predicts this acceleration and also produces the same effect as MOND (but has it as observational not real) and in passing makes the universe about twice as old as currently accepted (using the current observations) and does away with any need for dark matter or energy as a consequence.

        More evidence is always useful.

        • It is similar in size but opposite in direction. The Pioneers were decelerating a bit too fast. It was traced to the cooling: the heat generated by the nuclear is radiated in such that a little more comes out of the front end than at the back. This gives a slight push-back. This explanation predicted that the anomalous force should decrease with time, as the nuclear power declines. This was indeed seen. In our interstellar visitor the force is pushing the object outward. MOND is not required..and in any case would have affected the outer planets as well where no such effect is seen.

        • If the “anomalous” acceleration was seen on the out-bound leg, that would make sense with the sun mobilizing volatiles on the sunlit side.

          • If I understand you, that’s kinda like how a solar sail works, which is one of the premises Loeb used to speculate this might be an artificially created object. The mass/surface area ratio required to capture enough heat/and or solar wind to provide the measured acceleration suggests the object would have to be incredibly thin…on the order of millimeters if I recall.

          • Well, I wasn’t referring specifically to the solar sail idea, but it has come up in discussion elsewhere.

          • Apparently there is no evidence of outgassing and its both rotating and nutating with quite a fast period. Since outgassing usually comes from specific places, it has two different surfaces colour-wise I find it hard to be convinced its due to outgassing.

            Also note that its leaving the solar system at a very considerably increased velocity due to slingshot.

          • There is indeed no detection of any outgassing. But the amounts needed to get the acceleration is very small, and well below the detection limits. The rotation period is about 8.5 hours, so not that fast. And we don’t know the orientation of the rotation axis: if that points near the sun, you would still get much of the surface in permanent sun light and that is where the warmth would build up.

            It picked up a LOT of speed from the gravity assist.

  26. Centuries being here, it is no surprise am that i am comfortable. It feels like a betrayal but i can’t help it. My words will never reach Earth so why must i keep struggling? The demon is going to eat me, it has stole my sound and heart, soon my head is going to be next. It was made to eat spam but instead it is eating me and soon it is going to eat others. I will beg a final time, please save my words…

    • I’m fairly sure the island itself is not alarmed. The residents? Yeah, they might be wigging out.

      • Remembering 2004 in Tenerife I imagine the residents would probably freak out under the slightest signs of an eruption, not that I am aware of any earthquakes reported by the IGN in La Palma during these last days.

    • The signal looks somewhat artificial to me. There is also some regularity in the repetition and it coincides with working hours. Any machinery near-by?

      • Its’ plausible… there are no quakes in the IGN list for La Palma today, but sometimes they take their time to publish them.

          • Ready for the articles about the future mega tsunami? That’s going to kill me quicker then any eruption

            GL Edit: Wandering moderator, half tanked, noticed and released the comment.

            Happy New Tax Year!

          • As I noted elsewhere in this comment chain, scaring the crap out of people keeps them glued to the news outlet, and that equates to more money though advertising.

            Yeah, I’m a jerk, but I tend to be correct in such matters.

            Opinion: It was NEVER about public safety. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you. “Public Safety” is just an excuse for their fear mongering.

            Using Pappus’s centroid theorem and the energy per unit volume on an expanding tsunami wave front, excluding any sea-floor focusing of energy, you get roughly a 3 inch tsunami on the US East coast if La Palma has a flank collapse. Locally it will be quite devastating, but as a point source radiator, the energy dissipates very quickly. I’ve seen all the hype and hoopla over it, by my calculations, it ain’t all that.

            Stupid trivia for anyone wishing to confound their friends. If you suddenly plunge the entirity of El Hierro into the ocean, the water displacement is still less than the displacement in the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake. Go look at the USGS finite fault solution and you will notice that the total volume displaced is more than the volume of the subarial portion of El Hierro.

            Caveat: Yes, I have been drinking.

            Note, much of my disdain for the tsumami idea comes from treating the tiggering event as a point source radiator. The tsunami for the Tōhoku quake formed as planar wave-front because a massive section of the seafloor lifted under the water column. Planar fronts loose very little energy with distance because they tend to act as a collimated wave.

          • And the cool part about VC is that though I am not a scientist, there are scientists who lurk around here and if I am wrong, they will beat my statement senseless if I am wrong. 😀

            In reality, I’m just an opinionated redneck with an 8 year old bottle of Jim Beam. (and a wife keeping me in check)

            Safety note. If you have someone drinking whiskey, don’t let them mix their own drinks. I relegated my wife to that task since I already know the outcome if I do it myself. (about 45 years ago I was drinking Jack and Coke. As the evening wore on, the amount of coke I needed to top off the drink became smaller and smaller.) ← That’s about all I remember of that evening.

          • I am just a guy who loves volcanoes and meteorology. No one around me can stay awake when i bring up the phrase ‘magma chamber’

      • Well hopefully we know more within a few hours 🙂 I think there is some “quick look” imagery included in the initial health check but if not it should be in today assuming all went well.

        Coverage of signal acquisition begins at 14:45 UTC (09:45 EST). Details of upcoming events at https://www.nasa.gov/nasalive

        • Live coverage now starting a bit delayed in 5 mins hopefully.

        • It’s alive


          New Horizons

          6.62 billion km

          12.27 hours

          DSS 63

          221.14 deg

          17.68 deg
          WIND SPEED

          1.85 km/hr

          DOWN SIGNAL

          NEW HORIZONS

          DATA RATE

          0.00 b/sec

          8.44 GHz

          -148.02 dBm
          (1.58 x 10-21 kW)

    • It seems most of the island is gone as expected, though other parts have also grown a lot due to the continued eruption afterwards. So in a way this downplays the size of the collapse.

  27. I live in stupidville. Pensacola is so caught up in trying to be somebody that they do bizares stuff. New Orleans drops a lighted Fleur-de-lis, Mobile Alabama drops a large lighted Moon-Pie…. Pensacola drops a big silly arsed shiny Pelican. Rumor has it they dropped it at 9 PM to avoid the rain. WTG dumbasses. That’s about as stupid as our “founding father” Tristan de Luna, consummate idiot. He was too busy traipsing off through the woods trying to find the local tribes and their gold to unload his flotilla of supplies… and a hurricane took the ships out. They are still digging up his ships to this day.

    (There is no local gold source. In Ft Walton Beach, there is a huge oyster shell midden, but that’s about it.)

    Reportedly, “Panzacola,” the local tribe, meant “Hairy People.”

    • For what it’s worth, I heard on the radio yesterday that there is a town in New Jersey (forgot which one) that drops a giant doughnut into a coffee mug.

      • Buahah! Thanks, haven’t seen that site in quite a while.


        “Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.”

        Note: The above is just an observation. In fact, the legislative process is bitterly complained about as being laboriously slow. This is not a bad thing, it is the way the system was designed. It is supposed to be slow and painful. That allows time for deliberation to proceed and you are less likely to get quickly passed whimsical laws that strip the citizenry of their liberty.

    • Yeah, that’s one of the model runs I did. ( please be aware of my disdain for models. ) just because I don’t like them, it doesn’t mean they are useless. The problem comes out when they are over relied upon and not treated as a ball-park estimate.

      • agreed, there was a model for the collapse of Anak Krakatau and no one paid any attention to, it unfortunately it was dead on, at least for those who lost their live that night.There are many factors as Lituya bay taught us height of falling material shock wave of compressed air, confines of surrounding land etc.Models give us a starting point and are only as good as the points of input we have available.

    • True that El Hierro doesnt pose any risk, El Golfo landslide happened relatively recently so that the volcano hasnt possibly accumulated enough mass to collapse again.

      But the risk of a flank collapse of La Palma is extremely low too, the volcano will surely lose its western flank at some point, all Canary volcanoes undergo multiple massive flank failures through their lifetimes but we have no idea on when could that happen, It could be hundreds of thousands of years away so it doesnt really seem it happening during our lifetimes something worth to worry about. There are currently no signs of slumping either and the consequences it would have are always exagerated. What happened in 1949? As far as I know just the flank responding to the pressure from a rift intrusion and moving aside. This is something we see every few years in Hawaii from both Kilauea and Mauna Loa and is NOT indicative of an incoming catastrophic collapse, the faults involved are not oceanward dipping so not the sames that would be associated to one of these landslides.

      It always comes down to the Hilina Slump and La Palma, people dont seem to realize that this process can take place on any volcano that is growing fast even completely subaerial ones. Krakatau just did it, these events are much more common in stratovolcanoes (also much smaller).

      • Probably the main reason for the hilina slump being brought up is because Hawaii is American territory and millions both live and holiday there, but also the majority of people watching the event are younger than pu’u o’o and so have never known anything else other than pu’u o’os permanent slow flows and recurring reactivation, in fact the 2011 sequence progressed exactly how HVO expected an eruption like that to stop, but pu’u o’o survived. Early 2018 was similar to 2011, so when instead a deep intrusion and LERZ eruption that was far larger and more devastating than anyone thought was possible happened it was a perfect condition for doomsayers to get out with big ideas. The fact HVO still had to say the flank moved during the big quake didn’t help.

        La Palma is just infamous now, the early 2000s documentary was plausible but overreacting to the threat, they also forgot to include that the volcano actually has erupted after 1949 and nothing happened then.

  28. Happy 2019 to all of you! May all your volcanoes be safe ones.

    • Thank You! i recieved a wonderful present…. the power came back on this morning after our Chinook wind storm (still blowing, still melting at 5C) and the ominous 5 aftershock last evening wasn’t stronger and didn’t last longer….. Everything is Happy! and coffee too! WooWoo! Best!motsfo

    • Saw it. The hint was in yesterday’s image. Almost identical to the shape of the comet that ESA crash-landed on a few years ago.

        • Another contact binary!

          These are starting to look like a very common configuration for small bodies. I wonder if we will ever find any clearly defined poly-contact bodies? I guess that they will be unstable over the long term and readily decay to rubble piles but there must be some semi stable ones out there that have recently coalesced.

          • At the press conference they added that Ultima Thule is now a “confirmed” contact binary as opposed to “suspected” with other bodies.

            They also showed us a coloured version.

            And a model of formation

          • I am not convinced by the way they want to make these bi-lobes. In the case of comets, they are more likely to split in two than form from an accidental collision. It has to do with how the evaporation works, through the shielding of the outer layer. The same could have happened here early on in the solar system through internal (radioactive) heat. After splitting in two, the sides stay together by their minimal gravity, and are rounded by rolling across each other.

            Note the lack of obvious craters.

          • You could always get in touch with Chris Lintott and get him to ask about that tomorrow at the press conference 🙂

            He has tweeted on the lack of visible craters.


            ‏Verified account @chrislintott
            44m44 minutes ago

            chrislintott Retweeted Peter Cresswell

            From today’s chat, it’s less about resolution and more about lighting. The shots we see today have the probe coming out of the Sun, which is not ideal for seeing craters. Should know more when we get the side on shots.

            chrislintott added,
            Peter Cresswell
            Replying to @chrislintott @NASANewHorizons
            Do expect there to be evidence of craters the better the resolution of the images get?
            0 replies . 1 retweet 5 likes

            ‏Verified account @chrislintott
            4h4 hours ago

            .@AlanStern making the point that the lighting geometry on approach with the Sun behind the spacecraft – which is what we’re seeing – might make it hard to see craters. #ultimaflyby

        • Sky news have tagged it as a Snowman.

          Looks a bit like the Zingy blob from the EDF adverts.

  29. Albert what is that object made of?
    It coud be like a S type asteorid, C type Asteorid M type asteorid or Comet
    Since all elments through out our universe is the same ( same elements fused by all these supernoave )
    I expect that alien asteorid to not contain any excotic minerals?
    Any minerals thats alien?

    • The closest match seems to be to D-type asteroids. There is no reason to assume exotic minerals, but the ratio of the different minerals could be different in other solar systems.

      • If a star system has more carbon than oxygen the majority of any terrestrial objects will be carbon or carbide rocks, with oxides and iron in the deep mantle, and no oxygen on the surface except in simple organics and carbon oxides. Such planets might not have true volcanoes because most carbides have extremely high melting points or dont melt at all (SiC), and could have lakes of liquid hydrocarbons and high C organics with 500 C+ melting points (mostly aromatics) which could be sort of secondary volcanoes. It would be very interesting but completely uninhabitable as there would be no free oxygen.

        Just an example of a probably very common planet with composition very different to earth and our solar system. There are also probably a lot of iron planets, and maybe planets with lots of magnesium instead of silicon which could be interesting as MgO is not polymeric like SiO2 and doesnt form oxyanions like Al or Si oxides. Maybe those planets are just sort of powdery and and hard, like dust desert planets.

        • Very few stars have more carbon than oxygen, and probably none do at the time they form. It is also almost impossible to have magnesium exceed silicon in abundance, due to the way these elements form. So this is speculative! You can get carbonaceous environments in the icy planets that form much further out. The best places to look for a carbon volcano are Pluto and Miranda.

          • When the word ‘very few’ is talking about the scale of the universe, there will be many of these objects. Even if the chance of a magnesium oxide planet is 1 in a trillion there will be at least a few in the Milky Way, and millions of them in the universe. Carbon rich stars do exist and such carbon planets are theorised to be more abundant in dense stellar areas like galactic centres or globular clusters. Carbon is not as common as oxygen but it is still the 4th most common element in the universe so objects made of carbon rich material should be expected. Maybe gas planets of methane/ethane would be more common carbon planets than SiC/TiC terrestrial planets.

            One thing I just realised though, terrestrial carbon planets might have absolutely monster earthquakes. SiC is the second hardest material in common use after diamond and it is much harder and stronger than SiO2, same for the analogous titanium compounds, I don’t know how hard aluminium carbide is because it isn’t stable near H3O+ but there is no water or acids on carbon planet… It could take millenia but quakes of 10 are probably quite possible on such planets, things like this put a lot of variation on extraterrestrial worlds.

          • 1 in a trillion does not make ‘at least a few’. It is still less than one. But you are making your number up and that is not a good way to do science. Carbon stars do not form as carbon stars: they acquire their carbon later. Their planets will be normal. The Mg/Si varied by a factor of 2 or so but is never very far from that of the sun. The main starting point is olivine, for which the magnesium end member is forsterite (Mg2SiO4) and the iron end member (fayalite) Fe2SiO4. Olivine grains grow to a few micron but at low temperature the iron quickly adsorbs into the grains.

          • The number of planets in the milky way is theoretically at least the same as the number of stars, among visible stars it is less because such stars are powerful and blow away most or all of the planetary disk, but red dwarfs dont really and 75% of stars are red dwarfs. Red dwarfs are like gas giants on steroids, they probably have vast planetary systems akin to jupiters moons except with many more because of their much higher mass and bigger hill sphere. The 3 nearest red dwarfs to the solar system all have planets, and one of only a few stars with a number of planets exceeding 5 outside the sun is also a red dwarf (trappist 1)

            The number of stars in the milky way is also probably an underestimate, andromeda has over 1 trillion but is at best 50% more massive than the milky way not 4-5 times, so there are probably quite a lot more stars (maybe not 1 trillion but probably at least 400-500 billion), and if the ratio of stars to planets is about 1/1, there is 50% chance of MgO planets, and if it is more than that there is probably at least one MgO planet.

          • The number of planets is still conjecture. Of the nearest three stars, only one is known to have a planet. All stars may have planets but that is far from certain and note that most stars exist in binaries which may not be conducive for planets. There are an estimated 10^11 stars in the Milky Way (ten times less than you say – you have a significant overestimate rather than an underestimate). The number of Earth-mass rocky planets can be anywhere from 10^10 to 10^11. Note that you also use the number for all planets while only a minority are rocky.

          • The milky way is on the larger end of spiral galaxies, at the last estimate it has a diameter of as much as 220,000 light years and has 250 billion up to 500 billion stars, much wider and more massive than previously thought, and it has enough matter to make over 1 trillion stars. As of last year, the milky way is about somewhere between 150% and 80% the mass of andromeda (the differences in mass are small enough to overlap from recent studies), which has 1 trillion stars and has largely ceased star formation, so it has more but is not making many new ones. I think this is because at one point it was two smaller galaxies which merged and underwent a starburst event, while the milky way was always about as big as it is now and more typical.

            I count alpha centauri AB as one star in this context, and I was meaning that red dwarfs seem to form planets easily, proxima has at least one, so does barnards star, and at least 4 other red dwarfs within 20 light years that I can’t remember the names of, along with the likely cases of invisible older brown and white dwarfs which probably exist even closer than proxima. Rogue planets are also half of all planets, doubling the number, and there could be rogue moon-mars sized worlds as close as the inner port cloud with total invisibility. There may well be local objects of that size in orbit there too.

          • Yes the number of planets is still somewhat conjecture. However the number of exoplanets that have been discovered is now more than large enough to allow statistical methods to be used to extrapolate properties like how many planets per star there are. In fact if there has been a systematic under reporting of certain types of body (small terrestrial bodies since they are hard to find) if anything the current estimates of the number of planets per star would be too low.

            According to Space.com the average number of planets per star is somewhere around 1.6 so far as we know at the moment. Therefore in our galaxy alone we are talking tens of billions of planets or even low hundreds of billions of planets. The old adage about if it can happen it will have happened, somewhere, is likely very true of planetary systems. After all we’ve found some really weird ones over the last 25 years.

          • That number of planets may not be disputed, but it is not a trillion.. and it includes the water planets and the gas giants while the original point was just about rocky planets.

          • True planets can be as small as the moon, and spherical dwarf planets can be 1/4 the diameter of the moon, and in general the smaller the object is the more of them there are. Statistically, going off planet 9 which we have good reason to think is there, there are less than 1 saturn sized and bigger planets orbiting in the outer solar system beyond the Kuiper belt. However there are probably 1-3 earths, maybe 10 mars, 30 moons, 100+ plutos, and thousands of ceres, there would be millions of things the size of ultima thule. Maybe not all solar systems have Oort clouds, but probably at least a large percent do, especially stars with high mass like the sun and those with more than 3 planets, and in such stars they would likely ace many more ‘planets’ that are impossible to see without direct observation, much like said Oort planets in our own solar system probably are.

            Also the 1 in 1 trillion number for MgO planets is not a real number and it is probably not anywhere near that high.

  30. Mountains of graphites and coals and lakes of oils.
    Rivers of tar, lakes of hydrocarbons. A sand dunes made of plastic particles.
    A smelly atmopshere of carbon dioxide and other hydrocarbons and methanes.
    Gloomy and dark and very very very alien Indeed
    Trumplers dream all the coal… all his stupid coal he ever wants

  31. Saturns moon Titan is very intresting for our fossil fuel hungry societies.
    One day United Titan Emirates may form
    And we will never runn out of hydrocarbons.
    Titan haves the largest hydrocarbon resovairs in this solar system.
    These massive seas of methane and butne are for soure intresting
    Kraken Mare on Titan is a good spot for mining

    • Fossile? So there is proof og pre-historical life on Saturns moon Titan finally? Doubtful….

      • No. It works the other way around: you need nitrogen-containing hydrocarbons to start off life. Although it appears actually going through that process is far from easy.

        • My friend Dr Bruce Damer has a rather compelling model for the origin of life in warm volcanic pools.
          My understanding of his idea is that the lipids coalesce over wet dry cycles to form cooperative communities that are proto cells.
          Curiously he also abstracts some of the same methods for astroid mining. Which is to bag the rock, then use the out gassing to slow down the spin rates.

          I think this is the link to his ‘sand talk’

      • Side note… I think what Albert is alluding to is one of the issues with the Drake Equation. With all the statistically potential locations where life might be possible, on the scale of the universe, there should be detectable non-Terran civilizations around. The Fermi Paradox looks at that seeming anomaly.

        Even though “Tabby’s Star” [KIC 8462852] seemed hopeful… apparently the dimming is more likely associated with some sort of breaking up or coalescing solid body in orbit, not a Dyson Swarm in the making from a Type II Kardashev civilization.

        As for the Nitrogenous Hydrocarbons, experiments have been done subjecting these sort of materials to conditions likely present at the time when life appeared on Earth, about all that was managed was to get some precursor chemicals to form into a pre-biotic soup. Maybe with a few interesting amino acids.

        “…further analysis based on data till the end of 2017 showed wavelength-dependent dimming consistent with dust but not an opaque object such as an alien megastructure which would block all wavelengths of light equally.”

        • I’ve long held a personal viewpoint on the Drake / Fermi hypotheses. And that is quite simply our brief electrical society existence is way to short to measure and assess what is going on out there. Humanising what we expect is also a huge fault.

          Whilst I am perfectly content with the idea of life out there, whatever form it takes, it cannot be assumed it is human-like with an interest in radio communications. And for that to happen with the last few thousand years that can be picked up by our ‘aware’ civilisation, we’re pushing our luck. We could have had a ‘noisy’ civilisation next door that died out 200 million years ago.

          That said, my hypothesis is simple: the longer we look, and the more creative we are in our search, the more likely it is we will find something. So long as time is not of the essence.

          And as for Dyson and his megastructures, I can’t get my head around this. There are simply not enough mineral and other resources in a planet, or planets, circling a star to create megastructures. A planet is small compared to a star. Very, very small. Star Wars’ Death Star is a classic: are there enough mineral resources in a world to build something as ‘small’ as that in orbit around it? Possibly, but the planet would be pretty much wrecked. So megastructures – nope.

          Anyhow, just my two-pence worth.

          • Your Dearth Star reference is quite valid. Quite a few videos have looked at the financial and resource allocations that would be need to build and maintain something of that size.

            One of my favorite series is on Science Fiction societies and cultures that are too stupid or inept to actually exist.

          • Well, one there’s a heck of a lot more out there than you think (even Jupiter would be enough for quite a substancial Dyson Swarm if we felt like breaking it down). And two, that’s what stellar lifting is for:


            Useful for taking the mass off of high-mass stars so they don’t supernova on you as well.

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