The Moon, the Moon! Mount Marilyn and the Merry Men of Apollo 8

Apollo 8 launch, 21 December 1968. Image from NASA

The space race had seemed a bit pointless. The first orbiting satellites were mainly there to demonstrate the capability of the carrying rockets – whose real task was to deliver missiles to whoever was deemed to be the enemy. Jodrell Bank became famous not by detecting the first Sputnik – anyone with a radio could have done that – but by detecting the carrying rocket, thus proving its value as the UK’s primary missile early-warning system. The first astronauts were brave test pilots sitting on top of a missile aiming at the horizon while deciding whether its task of the day lay in putting its cargo above it, into orbit, or below it, into collision with the ground – each one a real-life Dr Strangelove. Even worse, the US was falling rather badly behind in this pointless space race and the US space program had difficulty getting off the ground, literally so in the case of the 1957 Vanguard TV-3 rocket, which reached a record altitude of just over 1 meter, before falling over and exploding. Amazingly, the (unmanned) satellite it carried survived and send its desperate signals from behind the bush where it landed. The press called it the ‘kaputnik’ – the world just laughed. (Vanguard was a good example of how not to do it; out of 11 launch attempts only 3 succeeded.) President Kennedy galvanised the nation by declaring the target to be a man on the Moon – having lost the near-Earth race, he redefined the goals. The famous part of his speech was that these should be the goals not because they are easy but because they are hard, thus claiming the Soviet Union had only won the ‘easy’ race.

Looking back, 60 years after the beginning, we see that both sides lost. The Soviet Union crippled its space program trying to match the US goals, and although even now it still has a fairly reliable rocket, it no longer does much useful (i.e. non-military) in space. The US made it to the Moon, but at what cost. The expenditure caused race riots, and after reaching the goal that was set, the program was rapidly abandoned. The US has been floundering in space ever since. The space shuttle was a mistake, and the space station a white elephant. We could have been on Mars, except for those two projects. Next year it will be 50 years since the first men orbited the Moon. No one has even been further, a sad indictment of the backwards travel since those heady days when anything seemed possible. We no longer could land people on the Moon even if we wanted to: that technology has been abandoned and lost. The US can’t launch anyone into space: it has to hitch rides on Russian rockets. We went too quickly, and after the Moon, started to pursue status rather than dreams, using dead-end technology. As one person expressed it: I always knew I’d see the first person on the Moon. I never dreamt I’d see the last. Both the first man and the last man on the Moon have now died. And still we haven’t found our way back.

There have been robotic missions to the Moon, ranging from a Chinese lander to US and Indian orbiters. If nothing else, the robots in space have become more international than the humans ever were. But they haven’t come close to the magic of the early days. Adventure should be for humans, not solely for robots.

Apollo 8

The Apollo program had a terrible start. Everything was newly designed, but nothing seemed to work. The early tests were littered with problems, some minor, but some major. The disaster that followed could perhaps have been foreseen: during a test the crew module caught fire, and the crew quickly suffocated in the toxic fumes. The Apollo program survived, after major redesigns. Apollo 13 later showed how many undiscovered technical issues were still left. There were three unmanned launches to test various aspects of the rocket as well as the heat shield. These were numbered Apollo 4 through 6, the ground failure being given the honourary Apollo 1 designation. There were also four manned tests launches, Apollo 7 through 10, before the actual landing.

The first of these, Apollo 7, was launched in October 1968, a long-duration test lasting 11 days. Apollo 8 was meant to test the lunar module, the LEM (on view in the Smithsonian in Washington), but it was badly delayed leaving the mission with nothing much to do. The idea to change Apollo 8 to a lunar mission, in August 1968, arose from this dilemma. The NASA chief, James Webb, was very negative but came around fairly quickly. The decision was kept secret, by a NASA weary of potential problems. Only after the Apollo 7 was a success, giving some confidence that the system was performing, was the change in plan announced to an electrified world, on November 12, 1968. (Although deliberate leaks had been made for some weeks to ‘prepare the ground’.) The USSR in the mean time had put various animals in orbit around the moon, including bizarrely two tortoises who survived the return and re-entry. They were thought to be close to sending a human cargo next, but in fact were planning nothing of the sort. The Soviet program had had a major set back with the death of Yuri Gagarin, just before he was due to take over as chief of the space program. The people in charge in the USSR thought that there was a 75% chance of failure for Apollo 8. The USSR, more risk-averse, never attempted manned missions beyond low earth orbit. They had a point: of the three Saturn V launches up to that point, two had worked well but one had had several problems. An unmanned trial might have been preferable, but for all its sophistication, the Apollo spacecraft was not fully automated and could not do the scheduled tests unmanned. In hindsight, the failure rate of Apollo missions was 10% (14 launches with 1 failure and 1 partial failure) – completely unacceptable even in those days. The race to the Moon was that important.

Apollo 8 was a leap into the unknown; the jump in distance from Earth was staggering. Apollo 8 would travel 1000 times further away than any previous manned flight. It was as if the Wright brothers on their second flight had attempted to circumnavigate the globe. Those were days of madness.

Where giants walked..

The three astronauts undertaking the mad mission were Frank Borman, James (Jim) Lovell, and William (Bill) Anders. Borman could have been the first man to walk on the Moon, but he opted to retire from the space program after Apollo 8. Jim Lovell became famous as the unflappable commander of Apollo 13. Bill Anders was part of the back-up crew for Apollo 11 but also never went to space again. All three still survive.

In the end, the astronautical madness paid off, with a success that exceeded all expectations. There were a few minor glitches during the Apollo 8 mission. The hatch window frosted over and could not be used, and two other windows had similar visibility issues: the sealant used leaked water. This left only three windows useful for photography, and the Moon and Earth were not often visible through these. The telescope used for locating stars (used for orienting the spacecraft prior to a burn of the rocket to adjust the trajectory) had some problems, and visibility was obscured by venting from the booster rocket; the back-up, a modernized version of the sextans, was found to be more accurate. After all, those were pre-computer days. But these were minor haggles. Perhaps potentially more serious, after separating from the booster rocket, while they were already on the way to the Moon, the astronauts managed to set themselves on a collision course with the booster, rather than moving away from it as was intended. Ground control helped them to fix this.

On Christmas eve, the crew disappeared behind the Moon, and during the radio silence they fired the rocket to bring them into an orbit around the Moon. It was a relief to ground control to hear them re-appear at the right time, and to know that the rocket had worked fine! In truth, anything could have happened. Later that day was the famous Christmas broadcast from space which earned the crew the immortality of an Emmy award.

The rest of the mission was exciting, with unbelievable views of the Moon, but also uneventful. Apart from testing out the in-flight systems, a major task of the mission was photography of selected areas of the Moon. For this, the crew had Hasselblad 500 EL cameras, with 80-millimeter and 250-millimeter (telephoto) Zeiss lenses. The cameras had been modified so that they could be used by astronauts in pressure suits. The film was in magazines that could easily be replaced mid-roll. During the orbiting, the back side of the Moon was in the light and thus best placed for photography; they also obtained good images at low illumination angles of the selected landing sites. Both colour and black and white film was used, with a variety of sensitivities, but for the lunar photography black and white was preferred as this gave better resolution. In any case, the lunar surface was rather lacking in colour even using Kodak ektachrome.

They left the lunar orbit as scheduled and flew back to Earth. The landing was perhaps the most dangerous part: they had to get rid of an incredibly high velocity, much higher than any manned mission before, by braking through the atmosphere. The heat shield was designed to cope with the extreme temperatures which occured while the spacecraft was enveloped in a bubble of plasma, and in fact one of the unmanned trials had deliberately done a re-entry at an accelerated speed to make sure it worked. The astronauts later talked about the white light which penetrated the cabin – presumably through the defrosted windows! The landing in the sea was bookwork; they landed in stable position 2 (position 1 is the right way up) but quickly righted themselves. Forty minutes later the rescuers came: NASA ruled that recovery was only allowed during daytime hours so they had to wait for sunrise. The mission which made the Moon part of our Earth ended by waiting for the Sun.

In hindsight, with the advantage of 50 years of subsequent history, the biggest impact from Apollo 8 came from an unscheduled opportunity. For the first two lunar orbits the craft was oriented such that the windows looked backward. During the 3rd orbit it was rotated the other way, and suddenly the astronauts saw their very first Earthrise. It was unbelievably impressive and they immediately started to take unscheduled, but black and white, pictures. Only Bill Anders managed to get two colour pictures; the first of these two became an icon of the age. The Apollo-8 astronauts were the first ones to really see the Earth as just a planet, small enough (four times the width of the full Moon) to impress the fact we only have one world. But how could they possible convey that impression to people back on Earth? An image needs a context, a contrast. The first colour photo they took of the rising Earth did that as no other, showing the small, dazzling globe rising over the stark greyness of the Moon. It is ranked as among the 100 most influential images ever taken, on par with works of art such as the migrant mother of the great depression. To me, most of the other ninety-nine are just history – Earthrise depicts our future. It helped spark the phenomenon of Earth Day: as I write this, visiting Hong Kong, two Chinese students, two floors below me, are collecting signatures in support of ‘Earth Hour’. Apollo 8 left a legacy throughout the world, not just in the nation that built and sent it. We visited our satellite to show-case our ability, and in this way we exported our rivalries, our competitions, and our struggles for supremacy. In return, the Moon presented us with space-based vision, and a sense of our humanity. This image was Apollo’s gift to Earth.

Earthrise. Click on image for full resolution. (Source: NASA)

For more photographs of Planet Earth, see Views of Distant Earth.

Island in the mare: Mount Marilyn

One of the tasks of Apollo 8 was to check out the site for the landing mission, and identify landmarks along the approach route. The mission found that the major craters which had been planned to be used were just too large to be easily identified from lunar orbit. Smaller features were more useful. Many of the pictures they took were for that purpose.

Mount Marilyn, photographed from Apollo 8. Source: NASA.

Jim Lovell, in the role of navigator, identified one particularly useful feature, easily recognised from space and on the route towards the likely landing site. It was a small mountain with a triangular appearance. NASA obliged by putting it on its route maps. Lovell called it Mount Marilyn, in honour of his long-suffering wife. And this was the name adopted by NASA.

Mount Marilyn became an important landmark, used by Apollo 8 (on their later orbits), Apollo 10 during the test decent to the surface (they stopped at 14 km altitude – the astronauts must have been so tempted to undershoot and land!), and finally for the real thing, Apollo 11. At that time, Aldrin’s words were We’re going over Mount Marilyn at the present time, and it’s ignition point. It was used to check the orbit insertion at the moon: at the lowest approach it should be visible through the window – if so, they could fire the engine to slow down and circularize the orbit. If not, the astronauts were off-course and in trouble. Of course, GPS was still undreamed of. The Apollo astronauts really did travel to the Moon using a map!

Map made by NASA. The dashed lines indicate the approach trajectory to be used for Apollo 11. Click on image for full resolution. Source: Mt. Marilyn: Navigating to the Surface,

Click on image for full resolution. Source: NASA

Mount Marilyn is located on the boundary between two dark mares, Mare Tranquilitatis and Mare Fecunditatis. Its irregular surface peaks at 1400 m above the surrounding basalt plains. It is a sizeable mountain! The mountain is easily recognizable because of its projected shape. At the northern end there is a deep impact crater. This was where the descent to the surface would begin. The photograph is of the Apollo 10 command module (called Charlie Brown), and it is taken from the Lunar Module (called Snoopy) shortly after they separated. It shows the now-familiar triangle of Mount Marilyn in the background (north is to the left; the scene is 80 km wide). Comparison with the NASA trajectory map shows that they were indeed close to the central (drawn) line of approach, on course for a landing they were not allowed to complete.

Lunar volcanism

We understand the craters on the Moon very well. In the days of Apollo, there was still discussion whether the multitude of craters had come from impacts or from volcanism. Now we know: there is (or rather, was) volcanism on the Moon but it didn’t leave craters: the craters came from impacts of objects ranging from tiny specks of dust to sizeable asteroids. Anything that flies directly at the Moon will hit it, and the resulting explosion forms a crater. On Earth, smaller meteors, up to a few meters, are intercepted by the atmosphere and do not reach the ground. This prevents small craters, and as a result Earth only has larger craters – any terrestrial impact crater less than 100 meter across is an ‘alternative fact’. The Moon has no atmosphere and as a result is pock-marked in a way that the Earth never was. But not all areas were equally hard hit. The back side of the Moon is terrible, covered in rough craters of all sizes, resembling the worst case of acne you have ever seen. The mammoth of lunar craters is the Aitken basin, at the south pole. The front side has some regions similar to the back, but also has the smooth dark areas called the mare – seas of the Moon. Their surfaces have far fewer craters. Why this dichotomy, and how did the mare manage to repel or heal impacts?

It turns out that, as on Earth, beauty is for the young. The mare are smoother and less cratered, because their surfaces are younger than the rest of the Moon. They have suffered less from flying debris by not being around during the early, worst days of the bombardment.

We now think that the various mare originated from a brief period about 4 billion years ago, called the Late Heavy Bombardment – a time when a disturbance in the solar system send huge asteroids and comets towards the centre. The storm of impacts left large craters on the Moon, some thousands of kilometer across. Where are they now? They in turn were obliterated, not by subsequent impacts but by self-inflicted damage. They had damaged the lunar crust and left thinned crust, cracks, and ring faults. For some time there were large pools of magma below the lunar crust: the damage done allowed magma to come up and pour out as lava. These were true flood basalt events, flooding the large impact basins and leaving a smooth surface. The phase of intermittent volcanism may have lasted a billion years or more. At the end, we had the dark, smooth, basaltic mares, forming the ancient feature of the man in the Moon – a name that mocks our own inability to actually go there.

NASA movie of the evolution of the Moon, and details of its craters and volcanism. Click on image to run. Time: 6 minutes


Why are there no mares on the back side of the moon? It turns out that the crust is thicker on the back, and therefore the huge impacts did less damage there and the volcanism failed to break through. Why is the crust thicker there? That is not known. One suggestions is that major impacts removed crust from the front side (this is a slightly circular argument). An intriguing option is that it arose from the formation of the Moon itself. It is thought to have formed from a Mars-sized planetoid slamming into Earth, at a shallow angle, and ejecting much of the earth’s surface layers into orbit. The Moon coalesced from the orbiting debris. But the Earth would have been left with a boiling surface of molten rock, radiating heat. The radiation heated the side of the young Moon facing Earth. The back side cooled faster and through a slightly complicated process ended up with a thicker crust. Thus, the front side of the Moon was a victim of Earth shine! That would have been some photograph.

Mount Marilyn is a survivor. It is the old surface, possibly thrown up by the major impacts and dating to at least the Late Heavy Bombardment. When the flood basalts came, it was high enough to be left sticking out above the lava, like a nunatak above a glacier. Its smaller neighbours are now deeply buried, but Mount Marilyn still shows us the pre-volcanic surface, an ancient amidst the young.

Image from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Click for full resolution. Source: Mark Robinson,

Secchi crater, from The crater can also be seen on the LRO image.

What is in a name?

Sadly, the name Mount Marilyn did not survive. It turned out that the wider region already had a name: the mountain chain it is related to is called Montes Secchi, and within this chain various peaks were assigned greek letters, on a map dating from the 1930’s. Mount Marilyn was assigned the greek letter Theta. The name Secchi comes Fr. Angelo Secchi, a 19th century astronomer and Jesuit, with doctorates both in physics and in theology. He well deserves his fame, from decades of working at the forefront of the science of his day; he was the first to classify stars and is the discoverer of carbon stars. He also worked in meteorology, oceanography, and in his spare time (what spare time?) surveyed the Appian Way. Secchi has a crater named after him both on the Moon and on Mars (and also an asteroid). The one on the Moon, partially buried, is close to the mountain chain and the mountain chain took its name from the crater. Thus, Secchi now has both hills and holes as his legacy, befitting a surveyor. The lunar Secchi crater is in the northwest of Mare Fecunditatis. The crater was flooded and buried by the lava of the mare, leaving only part of the crater wall above the flows. Thus, Secchi crater is older than the lava, but it must be younger than mare-forming impact as it is located inside of the basin. This makes Mount Marilyn older than Secchi crater – but in its name it became subservient.

The convention of using greek letters was abandoned in 1973. This was done by the organisation in charge of naming the Moon’s surface features, the International Astronomical Union (IAU). This august body which meets once every three years (in August) has a committee which assigns the official names to all areas of the solar system apart from Earth. It has validated the name Montes Secchi for the mountain chain, but the individual peaks no longer have names or numbers. With one exception: for unclear reasons, the one greek letter surviving on their maps is Theta. Thus, Mount Marilyn is officially still called Theta Secchi. (Some have suggested that Theta Secchi actually refers to the crater on the north side of the mountain. The IAU map is not clear on this. The craters were designated using the roman rather than the greek alphabet, but if an exception was made here it might explain why Theta survived the bonfire of greek characters.)

An attempt was made in 2013 to get the IAU to adopt Mount Marilyn as the accepted name, but this did not succeed, possibly because it did not follow the right procedures in the IAU. But perhaps it is time to renew the challenge. After all, the name Mount Marilyn was used on NASA maps and thus has some claim to legitimacy. It also has a claim to historical importance, as the place where Apollo 11 entered its lunar orbit, in preparation of what Neil Armstrong called a small step. When the greek letter naming was abandoned, Theta should have been removed too, and this would have freed up the name. Secchi has enough named after him, and as a Jesuit wouldn’t mind sharing. The next meeting of the IAU, where names can be adopted, is in August 2018. The IAU should discuss there whether for this one mountain to adopt the name Mount Marilyn, in view of its historical significance. The rules of the IAU which describe how to propose names, specify strict limitations on commemoration of people in Solar System names, including the requirement that those people should have been deceased for at least three years, although that convention has not been followed for asteroids. But in this case of Mount Marilyn, the name commemorates not a person, but a mission, a stepping stone in the history of space exploration. Feel free to write to the IAU!

In 2018 it will be fifty years since the legendary flight of Apollo 8 to the Moon. In the mean time, we seem to have stepped back from the stepping stone and turned our back on the Moon. This is indeed a backwards step. The Moon, in the images and experiences of Apollo 8, taught us about humanity and about our place in the world. That Jim Lovell named a mountain after a loved-one is part of this humanity, a sign post to what we can do and could still be. The crew and families of Apollo 8 gave us a world. Please don’t let this world be lost. I would encourage you, sometime when the Moon is up and the sky clear, to go out and take a good look at this forbidding world (perhaps using binoculars if you have a tripod), to see what we have given up. One day we will turn around, start to look outward again, and go back to the future. Until that day, the least we can do is to name a mountain. It will give a little bit of the Moon back to the merry men of Apollo 8 – and their maid Marilyn.

/Albert, March 2017

A recent high resolution image of Mount Marilyn. Mark Robinson,

85 thoughts on “The Moon, the Moon! Mount Marilyn and the Merry Men of Apollo 8

  1. Thanks for another great article, Albert. I enjoy my new interest in astronomical volcanism.

    For those that like 3dBulge:

      • Herðubreið continues with the stack of EQs. I’ll be keeping an eye on her. 🙂

        I also find interesting the deep EQ that looks like it’s at the “elbow” from Bard.

        17.03.2017 08:19:46 64.590 -17.172 19.3 km 1.3 99.0 17.9 km ESE of Bárðarbunga

        Thanks for posting it Bill.

        • Those deep quakes are at ‘unknownabunga’ as I like to call it, just to the east of the dyke elbow as shown on this map:

          • Now, I’m just a layman. I have no tangiable knowledge about geology but could it be that the same dike that was created when the Holuhraun eruption happened continued moving? Look at herðubreið? Seems like it’s in that exact trajectory.

            I also like that tindfjallajökull just let out a little moan, it also belongs to the EVZ system. Yeah it’s been quiet for very long, it’s obvious the pressure is moving in a different direction.

            The unrest lately could also just be due to snowmelt, but it’s got me concerned and I never get concerned, I get excited.

          • No Vanadis, this is completely different dyke running from a completely different point of origin to a different place of terminus.

          • Thank you for clearing that up for me Carl 🙂 I’ve been a lurker here since I was lucky enough to a chance to visit the Fimmvörðuháls eruption with my family. I’ve not been the same since… something about hearing that deep deep raspy whoosh just before a burst of lava. Nature is magnificent and I am deeply fortunate to live with these spectacular mountains and volcanoes practically in my backyard.

            I took so many beautiful pictures and videos that day, I treasure them, it was the best day of my life 🙂

          • You should really write a piece about your visit to Fimmvörduhals 🙂

          • Well I put the album up on the volcanocafe FB page. Maybe one day I’ll share my experience from a more personal perspective 🙂

  2. Wonderful review article on lunar geology and the history of the US space program. Thank you for posting this.People who are interested in the sociological aspects of US science policy might find this article of mine relevant:

    found in the dungeon of quarantine – admin

    • Interesting articles. If science is the new religion, where does that put the Tea party? The new atheists? And at the other extreme, I do know some science fundamentalists. And I think we do still teach our young people independent thought, subject to academic rigour, so I am not as pessimistic as you!

  3. Eh, you’re a bit of a pessimist with the moon. We’re about a year and a half (maybe two years) away from manned lunar orbit again (if SpaceX time occurs). Honestly, probably not that much further for lunar landings, given the ability of the Dragon2 capsule to propulsively land on most solid surfaces in the solar system. We’ll be back, sooner rather than later.

    • Have to agree. There’s a lot of interest at the moment in going the moon.

      Personally though I don’t think that things will really take off until people see a.way of going out beyond low orbit and making some serious cash.

      It’s not that I don’t think that the science isn’t interesting and important, I just think more of it’ll get done when people start see returns on the investment.

      It’s why I think that the upcoming mission to 16 Psyche might be so important.

      It’s a straight demonstration of how much wealth there might be out there, if people invest enough to make it worthwhile.

    • I know their plans, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8 by repeating it. It is risky. Is their hardware ready? One accident involving people could kill the entire project. I am worried that they try to got too fast for the sake of publicity. But if they can do it it is brilliant.

      • The Chinese do seem pretty intent on putting people on the moon in the foreseeable future.

        And, rightly or wrongly, the People’s Republic do tend to value individual people’s lives a lot less than we do in the west.

        Space is always going to be dangerous. If we aren’t going to accept that lives are going to be risked and lost, in a game of high stakes and big rewards, the lives of well paid, volunteer adventurers, then we may as well stop now. And sit back and watch as other countries, other cultures, seize control of the high frontier.

        Put in the holding queue by the aksimet deamon – sorry (admin)

      • Basically, yeah. They’ll be using their Falcon Heavy launcher, which is mostly tested already thanks to it using the same hardware as the F9 (just two more strapped to it), the various components of the Dragon capsule are all tested, along with most of the support equipment. They seem to be planning on using a slightly modified F9 second stage for their service module, which has the bugs worked out (since they’ve stopped making solid explodium by accident), and theoretically they could even land on the moon if they felt like being nuts, as the Dragon capsule has enough deltaV to land and take off from the moon and return to earth. All the components are all in place, it’s just a problem of finishing man-rating the Dragon capsule through test flights for the crew modifications to the ISS, and launching a crew up.

        As for the wealth generation in space, I would like to refer you to this wonderful thing known as the IPTS (also known as the Big %^&*ing Rocket).

        500 tons to LEO in one go sounds like enough to actually get some ENGINEERING on in space. (aka: that’s more mass in one go than the entire current ISS)

  4. I’m assuming that “each one a real-life Dr Strangelove” refers to the idiot riding the warhead down to the target. But that was actually the bomber’s commander and pilot, Major T. J. “King” Kong. Played by Slim Pickens.

    • I haven’t seen this in, like forever. The pilot is a young James Earl Jones. A long way from “Luke I am your father” 🙂

    • I had forgotten who it was in the movie that actually rode the bomb. But that is the picture I had in mind of the Gemini astronauts going to space on what was effectively an ICBM. With the same guiding system – it wasn’t entirely risk free!

      • If you can ever find the book “Some birds don’t fly” you will be in stitches. It tells a few stories about the Wac-Corperal missile development programs and other things of the era. Including an unfortunate surface to air missile shot that took out a condor.

    • What a lot of people who see Dr Strangelove don’t realise is that this orchestra of errors results in the inadvertant destruction of the secret end-of-the-world device, thus saving the world. The opposite of what is expected!

  5. IMo
    18.03.2017 06:22:04 65.141 -16.424 7.1 km 3.3 99.0 5.1 km SW of Herðubreið

    • Downgraded to 2.9 now.

      3Dbulge this morning, unverified quakes included. Busy at Herdubreid!

      credits IMO/Baering

      • And upgraded again to M3.3 in the specialist remark about the earthquake swarm 🙂

        • I think that remark was written before it was downgraded.

          Released out of the spam box for unknown reasons. /Admin

          • Could be that it was the first login from a new device. Same thing happened when I got a new computer at work.

            This comment was also quarantined.. -baffled admin

          • Aksimet immediately replied: “No, that’s not it. You’re going to the dungeon, mister!”

            And again.. this is fun

          • I’ll just stay in the dungeon until I have something interesting to write about. Apparently someone likes me down here 😀

            We’ll try to find a volunteer to keep you company

          • Tomas A, please continue to comment. Sometimes it takes a while to spank som sense into the algorithm of Akismet. But it is self-learning so in the end it should stop harassing you.

          • Akismet doesn’t seem to be learning yet. Might be an idea to reset his user account: Tomas may be registered twice.

          • No worries, I’ll keep trying. I’d actually like to comment more often, but usually life gets in the way 🙂

            Released once more! – Admin

          • It takes a few Days and several attempts.
            And if needs be I have a trick up my sleave that I has used Before when Akismet refuses to learn.
            If Tomas A continues for 3 more Days and it does not stick I will Contact him directly on the given email (baring that it is a correct Contact mail) and fix the problem manually.

          • Testing, testing… Currently on my desktop at work. Will this end up in the dungeon?

            Yep! Even the rats are getting fed up with you sat in here… – Admin

        • Carl, I talked to the rats and they are okay with the extra company, as long as they watch their step and pay attention to any stray tails. The also said the mural is a bit gaudy.

          • I think you just took the record of the most confusing comment this week. 🙂

            I am though happy that your rats and their stray tails get some Company 🙂

  6. I would have written an article if Albert’s had not been so fresh and delicious out of the press…

    For those who enjoy more unusual Icelandic volcanoes Herdubreid is currently the spot to keap an eye on. In 1998 an intensive and large intrusion started at the hilariously named Upptyppingar volcano. That intrusion has since then moved to Herdubreid where it met an old iceage magma system under the volcano proper and a feeding system formed at depth making way for new magma.
    During the last couple of days an intense earthquake swarm has been taking place with an M3.3 as the largest event. By now the magma has risen to 3km depth and may if this seismic unrest continues come to the surface. Regardless if an eruption occurs now or not, it is quite likely that an eruption will occur in the upcoming years.
    Herdubreid is one of the world’s most pristine and perfectly shaped Tuya volcanoes.

    • Thanks, Carl.

      Iceland afficianados will be familiar with FutureVolc, but new (to me, at any rate) is that the public access version now shows (via Layers) the location of the last 48 hours’ earthquakes, and a click on each blob brings up each one’s details. A nice complement to the IMO’s pages. Thank you, FutureVolc.

      • It may end, it could also pick up speed in a Little while. We will have to wait and see.

    • I am not a person easy star struck, but Aldrin is one of those people that just put’s you in awe.

      I met him briefly outside mission control at Kennedy while I was sneaking a faggie prior to STS-95. I still remember his Words as he looked out over the vista: “Son, soon we will not see spectacles like this no more.”
      I find that his sentiment goes quite well with your wonderful piece Albert, and I guess you had more use of the payload of STS-93 than I had Albert.

      • I guess if you are the first person to pee on the moon, you can be forgiven your grammar. Aldrin visited us two years ago but sadly I was away. I met the crew of the STS-61 which fixed the Hubble, one of whom I had met before. It was on their post-mission tour. (The institute put on a bus to ferry them between the lecture theatre and the building, all of 500 meters apart. The captain thought that was too much and in a very un-American way decided to walk. We kept him company. I believe (but could be wrong) that the pilot took the bus. I was quite proud of the students: no one asked the woman astronaut what it was like to be a woman in space. They saw it as normal.)

        • I have pondered the grammar over the years. I am not sure if it is some Americanism, or if it is due to Aldrins Swedishness…
          It was a weird feeling, it is like every other person I have met had a 10 or 16A powerline and he was equiped with a 256A powerline. It was like he very quietly and mild-manneredly shone from within. I do not know how to really put it better.
          I met a lot of later austronauts, but they just did not have “it” in the same way.

          • It may have come with age. He was very honest about the mistakes he made in his life, and when he came out the other end he has changed.

          • Oh, I mean’t it in a positive way.
            I am filled with the deepest respect of the man.

    • I don’t think cyclers are necessary. SpaceX has a new launch system that can send close to 100 people and 500 tons to Mars in less than 3 months that I listed up above. They’re already working on testing the limits of some of the components in it, and they’re expecting to launch by 2022.

  7. Hello \o

    I’m still here lurking around even though i haven’t been active here lately. But, as i see that this article is about space, or more specific the moon, then i have something i want to show you that is about space and the moon.

    I just released this preview video one day ago from a space simulator called ‘Space Engine’ that i think someone of you have heard about.

    My full length video will soon come out that will be a little over 18 minutes long.

    This simulator is really really good when it comes to exploring the universe. If you are intrested in it, you can find more info about it here:

    The fun thing with this simulator is that there is only one single guy developing this simulator. And that’s pretty impressive.

    Sorry if this is a bit off topic, but i think more peoples should know more about this fantastic space simulator as i know someone here is intrested in space and that 🙂

    • Thanks!

      From that link:

      “…about 20 minutes after arriving, a burst of white steam emerged from the lava – it didn’t make much of a noise or look especially threatening – but the guides started asking people to move.

  8. And relevant to some of the sub conversations on this thread. It also matches what I remember from the public briefings on the topic at the time. (yeah, I was a kid, but not an overly stupid one. I was a bit of a science nut)

    • Haven’t heard from lunar-landing deniers for ages. Of course, nowadays we have actually have photographs of the landing sites taken from orbit, showing the debris, the lander base (which stayed behind) and the tracks. The images also showed one thing missing: the flag planted by Apollo 11 isn’t there on the pictures. It may have been too small to show, but the film from the take-of shows the flag affected by the rocket exhaust. It seems it may have blown over during the take-off, planted too close.

  9. I think the New Madrid read albert’s post and now wants some attention. Bardswell, Ky has had 3 earthquakes in the past 4 days. On the 15th a MG 3.6 and 2.6. Today (the 19th) a MG 3.1

    Lost and found in the Dungeon. /Admin

    {Need more cookies! → resident garden gnome}

  10. Fantastic lecture by Dr Eric Cline on the bronze age collapse.

    Though he mentions that there is “no smoking gun” towards the end of the video, I think there was. Thera (Santorini) is perfectly positioned and timed to cause the initial motivation for the “Sea Peoples” (as identified by Hieroglyphics) to start fanning out to news lands.

    Fire off a VEI-7 or so in the middle of a culture, it’s a pretty sure bet that they aren’t gonna be sticking around. My take is that Thera substantionally weakened Minoan culture and the geopolitical turmoil from that and the filling of the of the power gap began the whole cascade failure of the existing system.

    • The YD guys think there is a cometary contribution to the collapse. As it turns out, volcanoes are relatively steady, in that they happen on a continuing basis with larger eruptions being less common than smaller ones. You really want to muck up the works, throw in a few large caliber impact events simultaneous with large eruption(s). An example from Bob Kobres. There are more out there. Cheers –

    • I can see the comet impact theory being coupled to destroying Clovis culture, but not the Bronze age collapse. A bit too far removed in time. The biggest issue with the YD comet idea is the replication of nano-diamond extraction from the black mat, and whether they are nano-diamonds at all. Plotting out the long axis of the Carolina Bays yields at lest two separate points of origin if they were a comet breaking up. Naysayers always claim there is no associated crater. Well, the Bays could account for a scatter cone of remaining icy material. Also, there is no associated crater for this.

      or this

      “so heavy that it was necessary to build its display stand so that the supports reached directly to the bedrock below the museum.”

      • I am afraid this is a ‘no’ (trust me – I am an expert at destroying civilization with comets). First, there is no need to explain the YD – there is a good and generally accepted explanation. Second, there is no evidence for a major impact in the holocene. Third, it takes a very large comet (or even asteroid) to damage civilization. A volcano would need at least 50 km3 to do extensive damage – a few times larger is better. A comet would need to be of similar size, i.e. 4 km diameter or more. This would give an impact crater close to 80 km across. I think we would have known. Thera (and the other one) is a much more plausible bronze killer.

        • Ehum?
          80km across is equivalent to 50km3 caldera formation? I get to be roughly 251km3 of ejecta. A tad larger. But then I am definitely not an expert on destroying civilizations with Comets.
          (but I wish I had that on my business card, talk about becoming a Bond-villain)

          • Impact craters are typically 20 times the size of the impactor in diameter. I assumed that the dust comes from the impactor: a comet tends to explode up in the atmosphere. For one this size that is not true, of course, so you should add some rock from the hole itself. Although not tephra as that requires magma. But take the Nordlinger ries, for instance, Europe’s biggest crater (in fact a double crater). It is 24 kiometer across, and 14 million year old. As far as we know, no significant climate effect came from it.

    • It is also good to remember that Thera eruption stood for just 30 percent of that years amount of ash and other volcanic aerosoles. The remaining 70 percent was harked out of Aniakshak.
      On the whole, a perfect double-whammy to cause decline in bronze-age civilizations around the globe.

    • To make bronze, you need tin and copper, and as I understand it, the classical world didn’t have any accessible tin deposits close to any accessible copper deposits. As a result extensive trade networks were needed (or else large empires), and decent transportation, to produce bronze.

      Giant refugee flows and political instabilities, not to mention giant pumice rafts clogging up formerly-navigable seaways, would have put a crimp in that, crippling their key technology, and could easily have brought civilization to a precipice. No more bronze, no more bronze age.

  11. A couple of plots for reference to the ongoing swarm at Herðubreið

    I have attempted to focus these plots on historical quakes in the area of the current swarm

    Plot of quakes by depth over time and trendline

    Plot of quake energy over time and trendline

  12. Hello everbody. Interested in this Herdubreid swarm. The area has been receiving deep intrusions some quite some time over the past few years.

    Curiously I dreamt this night, for the second night in a row, that a new lava (fissure) eruption had just started in Iceland and it was all over the news (in Iceland) and over volcanocafe. I find it interesting that my subconscious dreams about this for a second night, even if this week I did not think a single thought about volcanoes. I remember back in 2011, I dream that Grimsvotn erupted just the night before Grimsvotn erupted, so I pay attention to when I have dreams about volcanoes. 😀 Other than this, I rarely dream about volcanoes (I write my dreams down every day) This was the first time ever I dreamt about volcanocafe

    • I am also wishing that Upptyppingar (near Herdubreid) erupts.

      The translation from Iceland to English is a great one. A penis in erection.

      So this would fit great around the world news…

    • A question, which I accept it may not be possible to give an answer to.
      A friend’s daughter is in Iceland at the moment, and although she’s nowhere near there, parents will worry. So pre-empting that, is there any way of guessing what form any eruption might take?
      Yes I understand, it’s a big “If”, and even “If” actually happens there’s no way of knowing when, because it could do a Hekla, or it could still rumble for years, or it might go back to sleep.
      But in the event that there are any news reports it would be good if I could pass on any informed conjecture, although I am confident their daughter is entirely safe, as she’s currently photographing waterfalls some way West of Vatnajokull.

      • If an eruption would occur it would almost certainly be a Tourist eruption that would cause no problems at all and constitute no risk for her. And even if there was a major explosive eruptions she would be in no danger at all as long as she follows the directions from the relevant authorities.
        So, a minor risk for no danger at all is the correct answer. 🙂

    • I am having doubts that this swarm is magmatic in origin or atleast purely magmatic.
      Ian’s plots are great, but there is only so much you can pull from 2D plots.

      I have plotted the swarm in full 3D yesterday and will add latest data today. It kinda shows the bigger picture. It looks much more tectonic in origin, tho it could be also M-T with possibility or melt filling the cracks. The magnitudes are weak tho.

      Will make a video “analysis” today or tomorow.

  13. Good article Albert. I totally agree it should be named Mt. Marilyn. The historical event is reason enough for me. Long before I became addicted to volcanoes, I was a stargazer. I would watch whenever they would show the take-offs on tv. Then came the day Apollo 11 took off, I was a young teen with my eyes glued to the tv watching like so many others. Trying to be patient waiting each day for them to land on the moon. I imagine many others like me worried that something could go wrong. It’s hard to believe this July it’ll be 50 years since that happened. I used to use the family binoculars to look at the night sky to whatever I might see. Now I have a telescope. My youngest daughter knew all the planets in our solar system & quite a few Messier objects before she started going to school. We’ve went to many stargazing gatherings & many visits to the Cincinnati Observatory. It’s hard to believe she’s going to graduate from college this May. Time does seem to fly.

    Here’s the website to the Cincinnati Observatory. It has the oldest and still public used telescope in the United States. They have two telescopes. I always love using the oldest one though. It’s a 1843 Merz and Mahler 11 inch Refractor. It is really beautiful. It’s made of wood and brass. The other is a 1904 Alvan Clark and Sons: 16-inch Refractor.

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