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Thursday, July 26, 2018


Day 85 of the Lower Puna Eruption, starting the 12th week of this activity, and the primary volcano headline was:  Activity in Kilauea Volcano summit area continues to build.  Down to Puna, the flow is within 500 yards of the Pohoiki ramp.


Yesterday, my posting on neutrinos attracted the fewest readers in recent times.  I guess arcane science about fundamental particles is not in the scope of their interest.

Well, sorry, but today I continue with neutrinos, but for a different reason.  I've been carrying two books in my car and golf bag for a decade, and earlier this year, finally finished both of them.  Let's see how you will enjoy my series of blogs reviewing those publications.  I predict an all-time low.  Also in that photo are two recent Scientific American magazines, where came an article responsible for this posting today.

Most of the reading I do occurs between the first and second holes at the Ala Wai Golf Course because sometimes there could be five groups waiting to tee off.  I could easily spend more than half an hour here.  So, long ago I decided to read something.  Thus the photo above.  Those were the two books and, yesterday the May issue of Sci Am.  To my surprise, the article was Messenger from the Sky, by Ann Finkbeiner (left).
A NEUTRINO HIT ON SEPTEMBER 22, 2017, AT 4:54 P.M. EASTERN TIME. THE NEARLY MASSLESS ELEMENTARY particle barreled through the sensors of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, an experiment buried in the Antarctic ice. This neutrino was rare, carrying an energy of more than 100 tera electron volts, about 10 times the energy reachable by particles inside the most powerful accelerators on Earth. Thirty seconds later IceCube’s computers sent out an alert with the neutrino’s energy, the time and date, and roughly where it came from in the sky. 

My interest was piqued, for yesterday morning I had posted on neutrinos and showed a photo of IceCube (scroll down to that article).  Why I'm continuing with this subject is the train of events that reveals the excitement and intrigue of astrophysics research:
  • Said Erik Blaufuss (right) of the finding, It's a pretty event--let's send it out there.  This was then 8:09 PM their time at the University of Maryland.  This was a public notice over one of astronomy's heads-up networks about this particle, now called Ice Cube-170922A.  The hope was that some astronomer would see this info and look at the same area of the sky from where came the neutrino.  Maybe they'll find the galaxy or whatever responsible for this neutrino.
  • Mind you, not only are there these neutrinos, but since 2015, other sensitive instruments which can detect rolling waves of gravity were also built.  Finding both neutrinos and gravity waves at the same time is a very recent development called multimessage astronomy.
  • Keep in mind that astronomers heretofore have only looked at light, which is an electromagnetic wave, terrible, because it can get reflected, absorbed and misdirected, obscuring source information.  Now, with neutrinos and gravitational waves they have two different kinds of pure messages coming at the speed of light.  Nothing stops them or gets in the way.  And they specifically come from colliding black holes or  collapsing supernovae or neutron stars that  previously were largely invisible.
  • So, four days after Blaufuss sent out the IceCube notice,
scientists at the Swift Observatory’s x-ray space telescope reported that since the alert they had counted nine things emitting x-rays in the area of the sky that IceCube-170922A came from. 
  • Two days later, on September 28, at 6:10 AM:
the Fermi orbiting telescope (right), sensitive to gamma wavelengths, reported gamma rays at the same position as both IceCube-170922A and Swift’s second x-ray source.
  •  Sarah Buson of the Fermi team from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center said it was very exciting:
The neutrino was exactly on top of the gamma, the first time we had such a nice coincidence. 
  • That same day, scientists on a survey called ASAS-SN (yes, pronounced assassin), operating at optical wavelengths (which we can see with our own eyes), announced that this spot had been brightening over the past 50 days and the brightest it had seen in several years.
  • On September 29, the next day, at 9 AM, another optical telescope found that spot to be a blazar, a supermassive black hole at the center of a galaxy, where matter falling into it results in jets of ionized matter aimed straight at us.
  • On October 17, the Very Large Array in New Mexico, operating at radio wavelengths confirmed the light was coming from a blazar's jet.
  • This spot, now known as the Texas source, was the first where a high-energy neutrino coincided in space and time with a high-energy gamma ray photon.
  • Francis Halzen (right), principle investigator for IceCube made the observation that over the whole sky, the number of high-energy neutrinos and the number of gamma-ray photos are roughly the same, so the obvious thing is that they are coming from the same sources.
  • As an aside, the first non-light messenger, in February of 1987, came from Supernova 1987A, a dying star whose core collapsed and exploded, for 25 neutrinos in Japan, the U.S. and Russia were detected.  Three hours later, optical light came from that shock wave.  By November x- and gamma- rays arrived from new heavy elements created in the explosion.  The Texas source, thirty years later, was only the second such event.

Above is supernova Cassiopeia A.  Here, from that Scientific American article is this beautiful play-by-play graphic:

Astronomers long ago determined that colors can evoke public support.  You might need to click on the above to actually read it.  Whether you understand or appreciate any of this neutrino stuff, isn't science wonderful?

For some, if not many, what a waste of tax dollars.  No food is being placed on their table.

But life should be more than just surviving.  We have imagination.  Educate or befuddle your friends by sending them this posting.

I started with golf at Ala Wai, so let me end here.  This past week on the 17th hole I had my longest drive in a quarter century.  My longest ever occurred at the final hole of the Kapalua Golf Course, which went more than 300 yards.  How?  Well, its all downhill with a following wind.  I might add that Tiger Woods' blasted a drive here in 2002 that went 498 yards.  But back to my 17th, I should add that the wind helped, and, so too, perhaps, the concrete cart path.  That white spec next to my golf cart is my ball just short of the 100 yard marker.  At tee-off, my golf watch read 356 yards.

I can't end with golf.  Let me finish with something celestial.  Good for part of the world, terrible for Hawaii and the USA.  Tomorrow night, our Moon will be full and there will be a lunar eclipse, turning the moon blood-orange. 

However, when this occurs, beginning 7:15AM in Honolulu, the Moon will be below the horizon.  This will take place over a five-hour period, with totality for 103 minutes, the longest of the 21st century.  On this day, the Moon will be the farthest from Earth for the year, and will look smaller than normal.  However, Mars will be close to the Moon and even in Hawaii at night you can see this planet, and it will be about the closest to Earth for the 26-month cycle of Mars, meaning that Mars will be at its brightest.


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