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One Year Mission to the ISS



F = MA



Comet Ison’s Demise

44 Origin of Life On Earth

62 Climate Change - A Global Catastrophe or a Figment of our Imagination? 66 Antarctica

My Favorite Motions 73



83 Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity Celebrates 10 Years Working on Mars 90 Our Return to the Moon 98 Mauna Kea Observatories, Hawai

102 In the News

top image provided by Caroline Scott



Special Thanks

John Garrett

Cian O’Regan


T: @irishspaceblog

Denise Hemphill aka Zantippy Skiphop


T: @ZantippySkiphop

Anthony Ryan T: @AntRyanET

Caroline Scott

W: AntRya.nET

T: Astro_Caz

Julian Onions T: @julianonions W:

Knowledge Observatory T: @KnowledgeObsAst W:

Henna Khan T: @henna_khan W:

Dan Lucus T: @dan__lucas



Contact: E: TWITTER: @DavesAstronomy W: WELCOME to another Icy Science magaizine. This quarter we are packed with Astronomy, Space and plenty of Science. Form a look at our origins to climate change. We have another look at numbers and a look at the last year on he ISS. From the cold of space to the freezing cold of Antarctica. We visit a Stargazing Live event with the Knowledge Observatory and a look at humankinds retun to the moon.




ONE YEAR MISSION TO THE ISS In March 2015, one astronaut and one cosmonaut will launch from Kazakhstan to spend one year living and working in space aboard the International Space Station. NASA astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian Federal Space Agency cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko, will launch atop a Soyuz rocket from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan along with fellow cosmonaut Gennady Padalka, scheduled for March 2015. Kelly and Kornienko will live aboard the orbiting complex for one year, before returning to Earth in 2016.

Kornienko and Kelly will spend one year living on the International Space Station in 2015 The one year mission will allow scientists to see how the human body will adapt to the microgravity living and working conditions found aboard the ISS, as well as examining the psychological effects of living off the planet for one year. The scientific community will also be carefully watching how Kelly and Kornienko re-adapt to life back on Earth after spending a year in low-Earth orbit. Changes in vision are just one of the many side effects that have been observed in some astronauts returning from long-duration ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


spaceflights, and researchers want to learn more about its root causes and develop countermeasures to minimize this risk. The duo will also have to combat bone and muscle loss (which happens to every astronaut when they fly in space for several months) by exercising for 2.5 hours each day, using the station’s treadmills, bike machine known as CEVIS(stands for Cycle Ergometer with Vibration Isolation and Stabilization System) and a weights machine called ARED(stands for Advanced Resistive Exercise Device). For a six month mission, astronauts can lose up to 15% muscle volume. Just in case you were wondering, this will not be the first time human beings will be sent into orbit for a year-long mission. In 1994, cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov spent over 437 days living aboard the Russian space station Mir, before returning to Earth in 1995. Despite suffering from a clear decline in morale for the first two months of his mission, Polyakov was able to regain his pre-flight mood for the rest of the mission.

Scott Kelly with Robonaut 2 during Expedition 26 Upon returning to Earth in his Soyuz capsule after a successful mission, Polyakov decided he would rather walk the small distance from his spacecraft to a nearby reclining chair, demonstrating that humans would be able to walk on the surface of Mars after several weightless months in transit from Earth. This extra-long duration mission showed that the human body could deal with the strains and stresses of living in space for such an extended period of time. However, Kelly and Kornienko will be the first space farers to spend a year living on the International Space Station.



Recently I began asking astronauts who have spent time living and working aboard the ISS about the one year mission, and what they thought the biggest challenges will be for Kelly and Kornienko. ESA astronaut and Expedition 26/27 Flight Engineer Paolo Nespoli, who spent six months living on the ISS in 2010 & 2011, told me that now is a good time to an attempt a mission of this nature: also asked Doug Wheelock, who, like Nespoli, lived aboard the ISS alongside Scott Kelly, about his thoughts on the upcoming mission, and what challenges would be faced by the one year crew. He went on to say that the biggest obstacles would be dealing with the mental stresses of living off the planet for such a long time: Finally, I recently spoke with Expedition 35/36 Flight Engineer Chris Cassidy, who returned from the International Space Station back in September 2013, about his thoughts on the one year mission:

“In my experience on coming home day, as we were closing the hatch I thought to myself “What would I think if I was halfway done right now? How would I feel? What would I need? To be honest I felt a little accumulative fatigue- when you’re living at your workplace, and you can’t shut the door to work and go home in the evening and kick back and watch Monday Night Football- you’re there all the time and it eventually catches up to you”.


I feel we need to know more about what happens to the body and what happens to the mind when you stay in space for a long time, so I think that now is a good time and I think we should do it. DOUG WHEELOCK SAYS I think the greatest challenge will be managing the physiology & psychology of isolation, emotion, & senses... it is critical to stay in the moment


Cassidy, who completed a total of three spacewalks, or EVAs, during his most recent flight, also had a few ideas regarding how the crew doesn’t become fatigued with the heavy workload that comes with living aboard the orbiting outpost, suggesting a longer weekend from time to time in the second half of the mission:

“I think my recommendation would be in months 7 through 12, the second half of the year is to have a three day weekend every month because you really need a good recharge. Sunday is a really good day to have a recharge, and to have an extra Sunday thrown in the mix every now and then would go a long way”. All in all, it appears that everyone in science and space exploration fields are confident about the one year mission. Both Kelly and Kornienko have lived aboard the ISS before, so it’s fair to say that we have a very experienced crew on our hands, logging a total of 356 days in space between them. It is hoped that data recorded from this 2015 mission will assist teams on the ground in their understanding of the effects of long terms weightlessness on the body, and what it may be like for humans if they were sent on a mission to Mars in the future. After Kelly and Kornienko return to Earth in 2016, we will no doubt, be one small step closer to the human exploration of the Red Planet. GODSPEED........

Words: Cian O’Regan Images: Wikipedia & NASA ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


Binocular Astronomy, 2nd Edition Binocular Astronomy, 2nd Edition goes far deeper than similar books into the varying optical characteristics of binoculars, giving newcomers and advanced astronomers the information needed to make informed choices on purchasing a pair. It also covers relevant aspects of the physiology of binocular (as in “both eyes�) observation. The first edition of this book was praised for its suggested objects for observation and especially for the finder charts for each object. In this second edition, this section is expanded in three ways. There are new objects, more information on each object, and a re-organization of the objects for binoculars for easier selection. Binocular Astronomy, 2nd Edition puts an emphasis on understanding binoculars and their use. The additional content reflects the latest developments in technology, new testing techniques, and practical ideas for binocular use. It also responds to the substantially positive reviews of the first edition, and is now even better suited to its target readership. It is available in print and Kindle editions. Springer:

Amazon UK Print: Amazon UK Kindle: Amazon USA Print: Amazon USA Kindle:





Image Credit: Ant Ryan ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


    IT’S FIBONACCI’S BIT - SEEDING THE UNIVERSE WITH 0 AND 1                                     Abstract. John Wheeler suggested that information is fundamental to physics, resulting in the very nature of what we observe. However, any information that passes beyond an event horizon becomes empirically lost. What happens to it? Here, I explore the fundamentals of how information is exchanged in reality, how it changes, and any potential for it to be destroyed. Remarkably the Fibonacci sequence, appearing so often in nature, is revealed from this voyage, bringing with it possible answers to Wheeler’s question.

Wheeler’s 0’s and 1’s John Wheeler suggested that everything we observe in the known Universe (the it) is less fundamental than the information that produces it (the bit); bit short for Binary Digit, in turn owing to the Binary code used to store information in computing. I ask could the Universe have a base 2 system with 0 and 1 at its foundation. Wheeler was also known for popularising the term ‘Black Hole’, which is a great place for Quantum Gravity to emerge and information to hide. I suggest in this essay that the foundations for reality begin with emergence of 0 and 1 dimensionality at a singularity resulting in the Universe we live in and in which information is processed.



Fibonacci’s 0 and 1’s By definition, the first two numbers in the Fibonacci sequence are 0 and 1, and each subsequent number is the sum of the previous two. The sequence Fn of Fibonacci numbers is defined by the recurrence relation:

Fn = Fn-1 + Fn-2 with seed values

F0 = 0, F1 = 1 Both the Fibonacci sequence and Wheeler’s foundational question rely upon 0 and 1. Despite Wheeler’s 0 and 1 being mainly symbolic, the basic idea of 0 and something as alternative answers to yes/no questions lends to information. Likewise, Fibonacci begins with something and nothing. Fibonacci numbers occur in mathematics as the sums of shallow diagonals in Pascal’s triangle, they can be found in different ways in the sequence of binary strings, and are related to the Golden ratio. Every second Fibonacci number is the largest number in a Pythagorean triple. All positive integers can be written as a sum of Fibonacci numbers. Fibonacci sequences appear in biological settings, in two consecutive Fibonacci numbers, such as branching in trees [1], arrangement of leaves on a stem, the fruitlets of a pineapple [2], the flowering of artichoke, an uncurling fern and the arrangement of a pine cone [3]. The Fibonacci numbers are also found in the family tree of honeybees [4]. Perhaps it isn’t too much of a leap of faith to include reality’s relationship with information, “It from Bit”, as another of Fibonacci’s attributes.



The link between Fibonacci and Wheeler may seem speculative however I will show a logical relationship which the Fibonacci sequence has with both information and reality. A thought experiment: Descent into a Black Hole (and back out) Interaction, observation and being observed, is key to all of physics, and information is at the heart of this. Normal 4-dimensional space-time comprises 3 spatial dimensions which allow the passage of information, as time passes, between separate points in space-time. That is, a particle, for instance, can observe, inwardly receiving information 3-dimensionally, while outwardly revealing information 3-dimensionally. Using this train of thought, at a Black Hole’s event horizon, information is not so free in all spatial directions – no pathways lead outwards. Information can be received 3-dimensionally from outside, but no information from inside the black hole can be received. Likewise at the event horizon information can be revealed 3-dimensionally towards the singularity, but nothing can be revealed outwards away from the black hole, because no pathways point outwards. The only direction where information can be both received and revealed is 2-dimensionally across this 2-dimensional horizon. Once inside the Black Hole, pathways tend towards greater and greater spaghettification, before the 0-dimensional space is reached at the singularity, at some critical point, information can only be revealed 1-dimensionally. Finally at the singularity itself, information can only be received from that point 1-dimensionally. At the singularity information cannot be received nor revealed because there are, by definition, 0-dimensions of space at that unique point. Hence, we can envisage information having discrete and limited environments for its passage. 0 and 1 emerge as dimensionalities concerned with the singularity itself – quite binary, and, as we know, the seed values for Fibonacci.



Figure 1 shows that as we descend into a Black Hole, different “altitudes” present information with unique processing limitations, to the order, 3, 2, 1, 1, 0 dimensions respectively; this matches the Fibonacci sequence. Figure 1. How information is exchanged following the Fibonacci sequence when moving into and “out” of a Black Hole.

We know that the Fibonacci sequence continues past 0: -3, 2, -1, 1, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3 [5]

At the singularity, knowing that no pathways move outwards from anywhere beyond the event horizon, we imagine what becomes of any attempt for information to escape. This is where Fibonacci really assists in explanation. The sequence itself allows -1 + 1 = 0, a simple quantum fluctuation akin to a vacuum. I would suggest that this is what naked singularities do. In larger supermassive black holes with the presence of an event horizon, this takes the ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


sequence nearly full circle to have 2, -1, 1, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3 dimensional arenas for information to exchange. They are all unique, for example the positive sequence 2 represents the event horizon when heading into the black hole, the negative sequence 2, is the result of building new event horizon – conserving dimensionality when the sequence follows through to this point. The final part -3-dimensions, again conserves dimensionality by giving the Universe outside the Black Hole information, confirming that a bit of 3-dimensional space has fallen in, so the Universe gets -3 back out. Entropy The Universe seems to want information to fall into a Black Hole; entropy is perhaps the driving force for this. A simplex is the smallest convex set containing n+ 1 vertex for n-dimensions, such as a 2-dimensional triangle containing 3 vertices. I posit utilising n+1 to explore entropy, as a representative of the respective dimensionality’s order. If we assign the n-dimensional n-simplex, then the number of vertices n+1 increases with “decay” from VFn  VFn-1 + VFn-2 working backwards through Fibonacci’s sequence. In other words, as information falls into a Black Hole, its entropy increases more than the decrease in entropy for the outside Universe. Table 1 shows an increase in disorder moving from VFn  VFn-1 + VFn-2 This is always an increase of 1 for the positive Fibonacci sequence. However once Fn = -1 becomes part of the vertex result the simple relationship is lost. To continue to achieve the +1 decay results, we must reach a strange conclusion that dimensions with negative Fibonacci numbers give a simplex vertex number of 0, i.e. the mean of the positive and negative vertex numbers. If we consider just the negative dimensions with negative vertex simplex numbers,



we get a reduction in entropy, which we’d expect mathematically. This would result in a -1 change, or fall in entropy. Assuming positive simplex numbers based on an axiom that dimensions can’t be negative, then entropy increase would be large. However, if we take the mean of both these results, we increase entropy by +1 as before. I would suggest that in real terms, considering negative dimensions to exist only as quantum fluctuations of a singularity (0-dimension), which would then naturally favour positive dimensionality asymmetrically, producing a natural arrow of time. However, all these outcomes, once 0-dimensionality is reached (and exceeded) give three strangely diverse quantum like results, such as:


The singularity does not release information at all, because continuing on Fibonacci’s sequence

results in an entropy decrease. ii)

The singularity can release the same amount of information that it receives, as entropy continues

to increase as previously. iii)

The singularity is capable of releasing vast amounts of information. This would occur if the Black

Hole was losing a lot of mass, which brings us to Hawking Radiation.



Hawking Radiation The presence of -1 dimensionality evokes the possibility of Hawking Radiation, where the Black Hole can lose mass and according to this approach, information. For the negative dimensionality, it is only when we consider both the positive and negative simplex vertex numbers that we achieve increase in entropy consistent with that of the positive part of the sequence. Decay from Fn = 0 ďƒ +1 -1 would seemingly result in annihilation back to 0, but +1 also has the capability to decay to 0 +1. Notice the repeating nature of the -1, 1, 0, 1, 1 part of the sequence, which allows Black Holes without the 2-dimensional event horizon (naked singularities) to very quickly lose mass. The other route involving



2-dimensionality retains the self-replicating +1. Larger Black Holes should lose less mass, as there is less chance to lose 1 and maintain -1 (Hawking Radiation) the more 2-dimensionality it has. However, when information escapes in this manner, it should mean that it is conserved, albeit unrecognisable from before it was massively altered inside the Black Hole. Fn = 2 dimensionality in the negative sequence decays to Fn = -3 and 5, but the simplex vertex product VFn increases from 3 to 6 (an atypical increase of +3), not following the simple +1 pattern for the mean. The lower result is an entropy decrease of 1, while the upper result would increase entropy by VFn = 7, resulting in loss of mass from the Black Hole. Hence, it seems decay onward to 5-dimensions isn’t favoured either symmetrically or asymmetrically, giving 3-dimensionality a limit in our reality and in information exchange.

Conclusion Fibonacci, It and Bit appear equally fundamental, as the sequence gives information to reality on how information can be exchanged - a sort of “chicken and egg” relationship. Dimensionality number is conserved during “decay”, adhering to the reversal of the Fibonacci sequence, while showing an increase in entropy via n-simplex vertex number. This means that information is also conserved, but left much less ordered, when entering a Black Hole. At 0-dimensions information can’t be processed. But the sequence 1  0, 1 reproduces 1, so that information is never destroyed. Utilising this approach to understand information’s relationship with reality has shown potential to help in our further understanding of the asymmetry of time. Any information remaining inside the Black hole is not destroyed and the original dimensionality is always conserved by following the Fibonacci sequence; it may just be in some instances that it may take an infinite amount of time for information to escape. This system also lends itself to a spatially 3-dimensional Universe emerging from 0-dimensionailty, because ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


information exchange is limited to 0, 1, 1, and 2-dimensionailty within a Black Hole, which is hidden from the 3-dimensionality outside. In this respect Black Holes are analogies to the holographic principle in reverse. References [1] Douady, S; Couder, Y (1996), “Phyllotaxis as a Dynamical Self Organizing Process” (PDF), Journal of Theoretical Biology 178 (178): 255–74,doi:10.1006/jtbi.1996.0026 [2] Jones, Judy; Wilson, William (2006), “Science”, An Incomplete Education, Ballantine Books, p. 544, ISBN 978-0-7394-7582-9 [3] Brousseau, A (1969), “Fibonacci Statistics in Conifers”, Fibonacci Quarterly (7): 525–32 [4] The Fibonacci Numbers and the Ancestry of Bees [5] Knuth, Donald (2008-12-11), “Negafibonacci Numbers and the Hyperbolic Plane”


Science Fiction & Fact Writer. Atheist. Would be Physicist; did wrong degree. Quantum Gravity. Animal Loving. Vegetarian. Fan of #DrWho #GoT et al. UK · AntRya.nET FOLLOW ANTHONY ON TWITTER



F = ma This is perhaps the second most iconic equation in physics, after E=mc2 which pretty much everyone has heard of, this is the next most likely one you’ll have heard of. It’s famously embodied as Newton’s second law. However it’s really not an obvious law at all. So lets start by defining terms - we have: ●

F - the force, basically you can think of this as how hard you have to push something. The standard

unit of force is the newton - appropriately enough. ●

m - the mass - mass is a tricky thing, as it can sort of mean two things. You can get away with thinking

of it as the weight of something and whilst not precise, it will do for most everyday cases. ●

a - acceleration - and this tells you how quickly you get quicker (or slower),



So - this is saying that force, mass and acceleration are all intimately related. An equation is a balance, so if you add something to one side you have to balance it on the other side, or if there is more than one thing on a side you can trade one off at the expense of the other.

So lets say we have a mass of 1kg, around about a bag of sugar. What does this formula tell you about things? It says if you give it a push, it will accelerate. If its standing still it will start to move. Now this is all well and good, but it doesn’t meet with our everyday experience.



Place a bag of sugar on the table, and gently push it. The sugar starts to move, BUT crucially when you stop pushing it, it generally stops moving. Now if F=ma is true, this shouldn’t happen. We should give it a push, and it will start to accelerate, say from 0 m/s to 1 m/s to 2 m/s. If we push it harder, we might get it to 3 m/s, but it will still stop in short order.

So this looks much more like F=mv - (v is velocity - or speed in everyday language) the harder you push something the faster it goes, and it you keep pushing with the same force, it will keep going at the same speed.

That isn’t what Newton said though, according to him a quick push will set something in motion, and it will move along happily for ever after. In fact this is his first law, which roughly translates (partially) as something at rest will stay at rest unless you give it a push.

Our everyday experience is clouded by a hidden force, the force of friction. This is a force that resists motion. It can be friction between a bag of sugar and a table, a wheel and the road, or an aircraft and the air. All these act to resist the motion. In a perfect vacuum, say out in space, this is all so much easier to see. Give an astronaut a push, and he will keep moving, which is both wonderfully liberating (I imagine) and a pain in the neck after a while.

So anyway, it took insight to see that real equation is F=ma and not F=mv, and to then do experiments where friction is factored out to prove it.



Given we’ve got the equation, we can see lots of things. In a car, if you want to play first away from the traffic lights (which is getting better acceleration) you can do two things. You can give it a bigger push, with a larger engine. Otherwise you can reduce the mass, make it out of lightweight materials. Of course, a bigger engine is often heavier, so you get more force, but more mass. This is even more crucial in things like aircraft, where you’re wanting to counteract the force of gravity too.

Now this REALLY comes into its own when you consider a rocket. Its true for most powered things, but even more so for rockets. Most of a rockets weight is its fuel. However as the rocket launches it burns up its fuel. So assuming the engines generate a constant thrust (force) things are going to change.

Lets assume the rocket is generating 1 newton of thrust, and weighs one kg. We can work out how fast it will accelerate F=m*a 1=1*a solve for a - well it has to be 1. So this rocket will accelerate at 1 m/s/s. However, a short time later, it may have burnt ½ a kilogram of fuel. So now the rocket weight ½ a kg. So now it’s 1=½*a solve for a - its now 2 m/s/s. When it’s burned ¾ of a kilogram of fuel, its now 1=¼ *a



solve for a, and now its accelerating at 4 m/s/s. So this is why it’s called rocket science! It’s a continuing variable equation, which needs calculus to solve it fully. However what’s true of a rocket is also true of anything that moves. So your car takes more force to move when it’s full of petrol, or when it is full of passengers, or full of luggage, or even just yourself if you’ve put on some pounds over Christmas. Words: Julian Onions





BBC Stargazing LIVE event Our 2014 Stargazing LIVE event, which took place on January 11th 2014 at The Heath Business and Technical Park, was a 12 hour day and evening extravaganza of stargazing!

TKO Ambassadors Jacqueline Lightfoot and Emma Doward, the welcoming face of our events, work tirelessly at the front of house.



Our ‘Astronomy for Everyone’ programme was designed specifically to engage the local community in Halton and more particularly families and complete beginners to give them the opportunity to explore, investigate and have a go at what has become a hugely popular activity. Publicity and marketing It was, without doubt, challenging to deliver an event so early in January, with schools, businesses and the general public focusing on Christmas. In the weeks leading up to the event many places were closed, just at the time when we would normally be promoting and making contact with those we wished to engage.

We did have the advantage of the publicity generated by both being accepted as part of the BBC Stargazing LIVE events around the country and the screening of the Stargazing LIVE shows, now hugely popular with the general public. We hit the shops the weekend after New Year kindly supported by Karl Clawley, the manager of the Runcorn Shopping Centre and we spent 2 days with our telescopes, planisphere’s, books and our fabulous TKO Ambassadors John Liggins and Emma Doward.



The tremendous interest and excitement shown by the children and adults alike made it a very rewarding weekend. We lost count of the number of people who exclaimed that they had ‘bought a telescope recently or had one in the loft but had no idea how to use it’ or ‘I have always wanted to know what to look for, I would love to learn more’. All those that we spoke to expressed delight in having the opportunity to learn and to experience observing the sky with help from astronomers. Andrew was able to promote the day on his monthly Astronomy show on Halton Community Radio, a show with worldwide listeners! We hand delivered 500 flyers to local schools, groups, libraries, shops and businesses and again worked Twitter and Facebook hard, to spread the word.



We had also invited Brownie packs from Runcorn to attend, providing a chance to gain their Stargazing badge. They enthusiastically took up the opportunity and a well organised crowd of 30 in the morning and 25 in the afternoon livened up our day immensely!

Dear Sue Can you give our thanks to all those who were involved in organising and presenting the event today. We took a group of 8 Brownies this morning and had a great time. It was both educational and fun. Everyone was so helpful and engaged with the Brownies really well. There were plenty of activities to do. We loved the planetarium particularly and covered so much of the stargazers badge work just at that one ‘experience’

Thank you again Barn Owl with 7th Runcorn Brownies

On the day Our programme for the day included short presentations of 20 – 25 minutes on subjects chosen for their appeal to a wide audience of adults and children. We wanted to encourage as many people as possible to enjoy the presentations, ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


not to be intimidated and feel that they were ‘high brow and too academic’.

Just to say that I thought it was great to see so many families and individuals at the stargazing event on Saturday. Considering that this was the first such event in Runcorn, I thought the turnout was pretty good.

I was very happy to be able to support the event, and it goes without saying I’m more than happy to support any future such events. Anything that helps to inspire & enthuse kids, and raise their life opportunities & expectations is a good thing! Email - Dr Paul Sapple



The presentations, given by our own Andrew Davies, Adele Horton and Neil Phillipson from Astronomia, Dr Paul Sapple from the University of Liverpool and Gerard Gilligan from the Liverpool Astronomical Society, were an overwhelming success. With a full house and groups of children sitting on the floor, the only mistake we made was underestimating the timings of each session. We had deliberately kept sessions short to maintain interest but neither presenters nor audience wanted to stop and by the afternoon sessions we were over running by an hour. Mind you no-one was complaining!



In addition to the presentations we had an events hall full of activities.

Stacey Haberghan, Dr Jon Marchant and the team from the National Schools Observatory at Liverpool John Moores and from the Ogden Trust, had a wonderful array of activities and hands on science. With the Moonsaic activity,



celebrity match-up quiz, Liverpool Telescope, other wavelengths, spectroscopes and lamps, plasma ball and the scale of the solar system activity. Adults and children were fascinated by the displays and experiments and all delighted by the chance to have a go.



Miss Molyneux and the Balshaw Science Ambassadors and Emperors captivated children and adults alike, with flying teabags, edible constellations, straw rockets and balloon kebabs, their skill and passion always a huge hit with the audience!

The planetarium was so incredibly popular that Paul and Alan from STFC ran 11 full capacity sessions from 10.00 am until 8.30 pm! Such stamina and patience and so many delighted visitors!



Our own amazing TKO ambassadors Jonathen and John were the perfect double act in our beginner’s corner. Offering help, advice and an opportunity to have a go with a wide variety of telescopes and providing useful tips and hints and lessons on using a planisphere, they had a permanent crowd of attentive learners.



Adele and Neil from Astronomia had a varied selection of beginner telescopes and binoculars and a superb range of books and astronomy resources. There was plenty of sound advice for those seeking to buy their first telescope and help for those who were just starting their journey into the fascinating world of astronomy.



We were so incredibly lucky that by lunchtime, the skies cleared and the sun shone so that Neil’s solar observing presentation was delivered outside with the solar scope. So popular was the session that Neil was press ganged into doing it all again later in the afternoon!

paula tancock ‫@‏‬paulatan1972 Jan 11 @KnowledgeObs Had a great day today, found out lots of interesting facts ! Many thanks



Our own Knowledge Observatory stand had information about our astronomy course and the family club we hoped to start. We spoke to many people who were so keen to get going that we may not be able to delay the start until after Easter. We have more than enough applications to start at least one local course after Easter and a hugely enthusiastic group of people to begin a family astronomy club. We are thrilled with such interest and will investigate potential venues for both the course and the club in a central Runcorn location. In addition, we had provided some of our astronomy teaching resources and material, quizzes, word search, puzzles, games and activities. The 1000 piece jigsaw proved too difficult for even the most accomplished puzzlers so we shall invest in a few less complex options for the next event!



In the evening We had kept the evening session flexible with presentations and activities on hand should the weather not be kind enough to allow night sky observing. Incredibly, the sky stayed clear through the whole evening and the quadrangle provided an excellent place to set up all the telescopes and we were delighted with the minimal light pollution despite being in town. We had asked visitors to bring their own telescopes and our team helped to set them up and provided advice and assistance in getting the best out of them. I was exhilarating to hear the ‘Oohs’ and ‘Aahs’ as many visitors were able to see Jupiter through their own telescopes for the very first time.



Live observing with a group of fascinated beginners is fantastically rewarding. The questions come thick and fast and despite having advertised finishing at 10.00pm the scopes were still up long after 11.00pm! We were joined by two local Police officers, now converts to astronomy and who have signed up for a new local club!

We had over 350 local people through the door

‘Just wanted to say a huge thank you for today’s

and the feedback has been staggering. We

event, it was absolutely brilliant from start to

have, without doubt, had a significant impact

finish. My family and I learned a lot (the pre-

on the uptake of astronomy in our community.

sentations were fantastic - please pass on our

And the good news?

thanks to the other speakers), and seeing the bands on Jupiter through one of the tele-

‘We are doing it all again on Saturday the 8th

scopes was just wonderful! We got home and

March for National Astronomy Week’

have spent the last hour or so wrapped up in the garden checking out Jupiter’s moons, the Orion nebula, the Seven Sisters cluster, and the Moon with our 15x70 binoculars... I think we may be adding a telescope fairly soon! Thanks again for an inspiring day.’ (email Michaela)



Comet Ison’s Demise. The Comet Ison fever reined right up to its torn demise on the morning of November 28th 2013. I imaged the Sun’s Orb breaking the horizon over the sea surf at the volcanic Island of Fuerteventura North coast of Corralejo. My efforts to capture an image or a glimpse of comet Ison survival and path around the Sun was not to be. The Sun’s gravitational forces and pull proved too much for Ison to defy and hold together to give us the comet of the century. We can only wait for another comet to encounter our domain and give us a chance of viewing an awesome spectacle in the future. Sherwood Observatory Nottinghamshire. Images taken in prder from the top 07:29:52 07:30:00 07:30:28

Words & Images: Michael Knowles.



Origin of Life on Earth Life is: “A self-sustained chemical system capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution” – Gerald Joyce, NASA scientist, 1994 There are three possibilities with regards to the origin of life: 1.

Life arose from non-life through natural processes on Earth


Life arose elsewhere in the Universe and was transported to earth


Life arose on Earth through supernatural intervention

This article explores the possibility and evidence for the tantalizing idea that life arose and evolved from nonlife and through natural processes.



Building blocks of life: The most basic building block of life is a chemical element. There are 6 elements which play a central role in the fundamental structure of all life on Earth. These are Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus and Sulphur. Elements come together to form molecules wherein the atoms are held together by chemical bonds. Carbon element is considered as the back bone of all life on earth as it can easily bind with other atoms to form molecules. This is why we are called carbon based life. Some examples of molecules are amino acids and sugars. When simpler molecules attach to each other to form long chains, more complex molecules are formed. Amino acids form proteins while nucleic acids form DNA. All life on earth is made up of cells. These are microscopic structures which allow for chemical reactions between molecules to occur for the functioning of life. Image Source: webquest/intro.html



There are three major functional parts in a cell: 1.

Energy system - This consists of proteins which provide energy

through molecular chemical reactions to perform functions of life.


Information System (DNA) - This is the genetic code which

allows cells to grow and to reproduce. This information is transferred from one generation to the next.


Membrane - A membrane encloses all the chemical reactions

of molecules within a cell. It is made from structures called lipids. Requirement for life to arise: 1.

Raw material for life – Elements

The elements hydrogen and helium were formed at the time of the Big Bang, when the universe was created. All heavier elements are created inside the core of massive stars through the process of nuclear fusion. When these stars die in a supernova, they seed clouds of gas and dust with these heavier elements, which in turn collapse to form new stars and planets. 2. Water For simple molecules to come together to form more complex molecules, we need a liquid to help them move around, such as water. ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014





Energy source

Life needs an energy source for metabolism. The story of Origin of life Study of zircon grains in Western Australia suggests that water was present as early as 4.4 billion years back on Earth.

The story of Origin of life Study of zircon grains in Western Australia suggests that water was present as early as 4.4 billion years back on Earth. Amino Acids to form Proteins: There are three possible sources for organic molecules such as amino acids: 1. Urey-Miller Experiment – Image Source

Urey-Miller Experiment – This has been one of

the earliest experiments conducted to test the idea that sun-light driven chemical reactions on primitive Earth might have produced the building blocks of life. In the experiment a flask of water was heated to produce water vapour. The water vapour was then passed through another flask which contained gases



to simulate the primitive atmosphere of Earth. Electric sparks were provided across the chamber to provide energy for the chemical reactions. After about a week of this experiment, it was found that amino acids and organic molecules had formed in the container. 2.

Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) – These

molecules are found in interstellar medium, in comets and in meteorites and could be the basis of the earliest form of life on Earth. 3.

Comets/ Meteorites – Murchison meteorite

which fell in Australia in 1969 has been found to be rich in organic molecules. Over 14,000 molecular compounds and 70 amino acids have been found in the meteorite. It is possible that these building blocks of life arose on

Murchison meteorite Image Source: http://en.wik ipedia. o r g / w i k i / Murchison_meteorite

some other parent body and were transported to Earth from elsewhere

Nucleic Acids to form DNA/ RNA: A more primitive form of DNA (Dioxyribonucleic acid) is the RNA (Ribonucleic acid). RNA can self assemble into ribozymes which can carry out chemical reactions including self replication.



A more primitive form of DNA (Dioxyribonucleic acid) is the RNA (Ribonucleic acid). RNA can self assemble into ribozymes which can carry out chemical reactions including self replication.

RNA as a predecessor to DNA. Image source:



RNA is much simpler to manufacture than DNA as it only has a single strand. It is possible that the first life on earth was RNA based which later evolved into DNA based life. What we would like to know is how the first self-replicating strands of RNA came about. Experiments show that several silicate minerals can act as catalysts to enable complex, organic material to self assemble. These inorganic molecules have a particular mineral structure and the oldest zircon grains confirm that these were abundantly available on Earth about 4.4 bn years back. Moreover, these silicate minerals contain layers of molecules to which organic molecules can easily attach to. When organic molecules attach to the mineral surface in this way, they can be forced into such close proximity that they react with each other to form long chains of molecules. Laboratory experiments have confirmed that natural processes such as this can easily manufacture strands of RNA up to a few dozen bases in length. Scientists have discovered an RNA strand only 5 bases long which can act as a ribozyme. In this way it is possible that simple ribozymes could have been formed, which then acted as a catalyst for forming more complex self – replicating RNA molecules.



Membranes For molecules such as amino acids and nucleic acids to form proteins and DNA respectively, it was required for the molecules to be concentrated together for extended periods of time and also to be protected by harmful ultra violet radiation from the Sun. Some of the possible locations where molecules could have been concentrated for chemical reactions to take place are deep sea vents, impact craters, beaches, and volcanic hot springs. But even if we have the simple molecules coming together to form proteins and DNA/ RNA, we still need a structure to hold these molecules together to enable chemical reactions. Else the molecules will just dissipate The third important structure of a cell is a membrane. This is formed by lipids. Lipids have a head and a tail structure. The head is attracted to water whereas the tail is repulsed by water. When lipids are put in water, they spontaneously form an enclosed membrane, trapping organic molecules within it to facilitate chemical reactions Image: Lipids forming Cell Membranes Source: ar-001.htm



Lipids have amazing properties. They can selectively allow certain molecules to pass through them. They can also store energy in the form of electrical voltages across their surfaces which can be discharged to facilitate reactions inside them. In some cases they can grow so big in size that they become unstable and split into smaller spheres.

This is how the first crude proto-cells could have been formed on Earth with simple strands of RNA being trapped within a lipid pre-cell.



Protocell with small RNA strands trapped inside a membrane. Image Source:

Several proto-cells of various molecular chemical combinations could have been formed. Evolution ensured that the ones which adapted best to their environment replicated faster while others perished. The ones which survived eventually evolved into DNA based life.



Evidence: In order to reconstruct the story of the origin of life we study the geological records of Earth. However, no rocks from the first half billion years after earth’s formation have survived. What we know comes from limited geological clues and laboratory experiments. Three lines of fossil evidence suggest that life arose quite early on earth, earlier than 3.5 billion years back. 1.

Stromatolites – These are rocks which have a distinct structured layer. They

are formed in shallow waters by the trapping and binding of sedimentary grains by mats of microorganisms. The oldest stromatolites which imply fossil remnants of early life are about 3.5 billion years old. However, this line of evidence has been under some controversy as geological processes of sedimentation can also mimic their layering.




2. Microfossils

Microfossils from the Apex Chert, a rock formation in Australia having an age of 3.5 bn yrs Source:

More rigorous tests need to be performed on microfossils before any definitive conclusion is made towards evidence of early life on earth as mentioned in article below. Article link:



3. Chemical Signature/ Isotopes There are two commonly occurring carbon isotopes – carbon-12 and carbon-13. Life prefers to use the lighter isotope of carbon which is carbon-12. Inorganic carbon sample always contains a small proportion of carbon-13. On an island off the coast of Greenland, rocks about 3.8 bn years old with lower carbon-13 isotope have been found suggesting a biological origin. However these rocks have been subjected to high pressure and heat. So this line of evidence

alone is not conclusive.

While each line of evidence individually is subject to controversy, all three put together give us important clues about the

origin of life on earth.



Astrobiology course on (


Book: Life in the Universe by J. Bennett, S. Shostak (


WORDS: HENNA KHAN Mumbai, India Owner at Universe Simplified - - Astronomy/ Science Educator, Skeptic, Travel Freak, Proponent of Disrupt Education ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014








Image: NASA ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014




Climate Change - A Global Catastrophe or a Figment of our Imagination? Climate change is a natural phenomena. Like many processes on Earth it is cyclical. It has been occurring for millions of years and will continue to do so for millions more. Hurrah I hear the skeptics cry out. Finally a scientific piece supporting our position publicly. But hold on, Donald Trump shouldn’t crack open his champagne just yet. The debates surrounding climate change are based around whether or not we are having an impact on the climate and whether or not we should act. Most skeptics agree that climate change is happening, however they argue that it is purely natural and our lifestyles have had no impact on global warming or our climate whatsoever. Supporters however, argue that, although a naturally occurring process, our CO2 emissions are dramatically increasing the rate at which global warming is occurring. They point to rising ocean temperatures, melting ice caps, and increasingly irratic weather patterns as evidence - all ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


of which skeptics deny as concrete and argue inconclusive results which can be interpreted in any number of ways. Unfortunately for them however, this just isn’t the case. In 1988 an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established with the aim of independently reviewing all evidence pertaining to climate change in order to advise on what action, if any, was needed. So where do they stand? Well, they have concluded with greater than 90% probability that most of the observed warming since the mid-20th Century is due to human activity. Their projections suggest that warming over the 21st Century was at a more rapid rate than at any point over at least the last 10,000 years.

So if it is obvious to Scientists that something is happening as a result of human activity, why is there even need for a debate? If the evidence is so clear, how can there be skeptics? The answer to that of course is simple enough... Money! It would be very cynical of me to point out that the majority of the argument against climate change comes from multi-billion dollar global corporations hell bent on profiteering at any cost, but could that be right? Could these skeptics be fighting a propaganda war to keep their bank accounts healthy at the cost of the natural world? In its simplest form, the debate on climate change can be summarised as follows:•

There are two possible scenarios, either our actions are increasing global warming and wreaking

havoc on our climate, or we are having no additional impact. This means that global warming is either true, or it is false. •

For each scenario there are two out outcomes. Either we act, or we don’t act on climate change.

The table below outlines the consequences of each outcome in each scenario in order to highlight what I believe to be the fundamental reasoning behind the need for a debate on climate change. ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014





Cost outweighed by benefit

Cost - global depression, social/economic/political systems all fail

Life carries on


Global Catastrophe - sea Life carries on level rises, temperature rises, atmospheric changes, pollution, breakdown of economy etc.

As you can see, the consequences of making the wrong decision could be catastrophic. If we don’t act and our theories are correct, it could be the end of life as we know it. However, if we act when there was no need we could trigger recession on an unprecedented scale with global ramifications. Obviously there’s every chance we could make the correct decision, but clearly for some, the financial cost of getting it wrong is just too high a price to pay for the continued future of humanity.

WORDS: DAN LUCUS Dan is a regular writer on ICy Science, you can find Dan on Twitter @dan__lucas





nternational Space Station astronaut Andre Kuipers captured spectacular aurora blazing over Antarctica



Antarctica Antarctica is the earth’s most southerly continent. It is a cold, windy and a dry wilderness. Despite its remote and challenging conditions life has evolved here. The region is a fundamental part of our planets climate and eco system. Antarctica has some of the biggest seasonal changes on the planet. The coastal regions in summer can hover around freezing while the interior can drop to -20 ° C. Limited plant life will grow during the summer months; however winter brings harsh bitter cold. The coldest surface temperatures have been recorded here with a staggering -89.2 ° C.

So how does Antarctica differ from the Arctic? The arctic is mostly frozen sea surrounded by land it is a semi enclosed sea. Antarctica is land surrounded by sea. Arctic Antarctica



Wildlife There is quite a diverse selection of wildlife. Limited but still able to grow are a few planets, which some flower. The most well known wildlife is of course the Penguin. The penguin is one of the few creatures that can live, breed and survive the cold harsh conditions. There are three species of birds that breed in the Antarctic. Other wildlife that make their home here or at least for some part of the year include, whales, Colossal Squids, fur seals, Other organisms that live in the Antarctic region are fungi, mosses, liverworts, algae, bacteria and phytoplankton.

Climate& Temperature Summer: The summer months are December to Feb/March, there are temperature variations across the continent, generally on coastal areas the temperatures are around freezing and can sometimes be positive. The interior however is much colder; this is due ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014

Above: Image from Below: Orca (Killer Whales)


to its elevation, higher latitude and distance from the sea. Temperatures in the interior never really get above -20 째C. Winter: Coastal regions can range between -10 and -30 째 C, the sea around the continent freezes adding and increased land mass. The interior can fall below -60 째C, with the coldest temperature recorded at the Russian station Vostok in 1983 at -89.2 째C.

Antarctica has just two seasons. Because the Earth in space is tilted which never changes, during the summer the Antarctic is bathed in sunlight, however in winter the reverse happens and it is in constant darkness.

Did you know Antarctica is a desert?

Aurora australis lights up the winter sky at the South Pole Station, Antarctica. Image Source: Below:

Despite its bright white appearance there is very little snowfall in Antarctica. What snow has fallen becomes layered and forms ice sheets. Snow mainly falls in the coastal regions with limited snow in the interior However in recent years snow fall has increased and this can be down to global warming of the planet.



Winds Antarctica winds can be moderate however gales and hurricane winds do happen, the winds distribute any snow fall which over a period of time adds to the ice sheets.

Sea Ice The sea ice plays an important role in the global climate system and eco system. Sea ice is seasonal and occurs mostly during the cold dark winter season, the ice significantly expands the areas land mass. Both the arctic and Antarctic sea ice drives the vertical ocean circulation system, which redistributes heat between the equator and the poles. This movement carries nutrients around the seas and oceans. Sea ice modulates exchanges of heat, moisture and gases between the atmosphere and the ocean. The ice itself is less salty than the sea water, salt or brine creates tubes in the underside of the ice, the brine filters down in to the sea, the salt water sinks creating a circulation. Algae grow in the brine ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


tubes. Krill feed

Climate Change Recently a research ship got stuck in the Antarctic sea ice, despite reports that thick ice formed around the ship this is actually untrue. The ship got stuck in area where the floating sea ice was more densely populated; this made it more difficult for the ship to navigate through. Climate and climate change, are complex in Antarctica, geologically the region has two distinctive regions, East Antarctica and west Antarctica. Separated by the Trans Antarctic Mountains but connected by the vast ice sheet. The vast expanse makes climate change less uniform than that of the Arctic, where climate change effects can be seen more dramatically. The interior ice sheets and glaciers over the past decades have shown significant ice loss, this is mainly in west Antarctic. However in the Ross Sea area there has been increased sea ice. The Ross see is situated in West Antarctica bordering the Trans Antarctic Mountains. Possible ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


causes could be the melting ice sheets; fresh water flowing into the sea area is diluting the salty sea water, when sea ice freezes the salt is rejected in the form of brine. By diluting the sea water it raises the freezing temperature. As we now water non salty water freezes at 0 째 while salty water starts to freeze at -1.9 째C. (NOAA) Increased snow fall has been recorded in Antarctica especially in East Antarctica. Snowfall is contributed by warmer temperatures, increased air humidity causes precipitation and if conditions and temperatures are right, we have snowfall. Below Image of a formed Brine Tube, formed in the sea ice.



My Favorite Motions I’m an observer of Earth’s orbit, my favorite motion. I do this by observing where the sun and moon rise and set throughout the year, whether the horns of a crescent moon tilt high or low, or how high the ecliptic is. Tracking these motions has paid off at least twice: Once it made me realize that a partial lunar eclipse would peak while the moon sets behind a high ridgeline I live under, and at 4:40 am the following morning, I took this picture from my yard:

Perhaps I guessed and got lucky. Regardless, understanding Earth’s orbit offers useful tools of prediction, but more important (the second payoff), it pulled me into studying climate science. Understanding Earth’s orbit is as much a subject for climatologists as it is for astronomers. In astronomy, detections of exoplanets, for example, must be corrected for Earth’s motion. In climatology,

past climate change must be interpreted with regard to Earth’s changing orbit. The orbit parameters of interest are tilt, eccentricity, and precession. Due to tugs from the sun, moon, and other planets, these parameters change on scales of thousands of years, comparable in scale to major shifts in Earth’s climate.



Figure 1: Orbital paramters tilt, eccentricity, and precession (Not to scale).

Changes to Earth’s orbit alter

the distribution of sunlight between the northern and southern hemispheres. Understanding the effect of subtle shifts in this energy distribution gives clues to how sensitive Earth’s climate is to small, gradual changes. Tilt is easy for anyone to observe, as it is primary driver of seasons and of the changes of the sun and moon. For climate, the degree of tilt determines how extreme the difference between seasons can be. For example, in Figure 2, the two worlds may have the same sun and the same orbit, but would have drastically different seasons because of the differences in tilt:

Figure: Right- Earth today with a hypothetical Earth having a 90 degree tilt (not to scale) ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


Such a difference in season could also result in drastically different global climates, where one is habitable by humans and the other isn’t. Eccentricity is less obvious to the casual observer but easy to observe with a telescope suitable for solar observations (that is, has a proper solar filter). If you observe the sun in January, it will appear larger than the same observation in July (see Figure 3).

While tilt and eccentricity are discernable from shortterm observations, precession requires long term

Figure 2 Above : Earth today with a hypothetical Earth having a 90 degree tilt (not to scale)

Figure 3: Apparent difference in the size of the sun at aphelion and perihelion (orbit is not to scale)



observations. Astronomers know precession as the change in orientation of the Earth’s rotational axis. It makes our star charts go out of date every 25 years and has moved boundaries of the constellations so that they no longer follow the current lines of declination and right ascension. I’ve observed discrepancies in the cycle attributed to precession, and so I speculate their is common confusion over the concept. This is not surprising, for “precession” has different meanings depending on whether one is an astronomer or a climatologist. When people say precession occurs on a cycle of 26,000 years, they probably mean astronomical procession; if they say a cycle of 19,000 to 23,000, then they’re probably refering to climatic precession. So what is precession? It is the counter-motion you get when you try to change the rotational axis of a gyroscope. Earth is the gyroscope whose axis currently points toward Polaris. Earth’s equator is the wheel of the gyroscope. The gravitational tugs of the sun and moon are trying to pull the equator into line with their orbits. As a result, Earth’s pole follows a circular path that repeats roughly every 26,000 years (see Figure 4). Whereas astronomical precession is Earth’s moving axis of rotation, climatic precession combines the moving ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014

Figure 4: Precession of Earth’s rotational axis (not to scale)


axis with the changing eccentricity of Earth’s orbit. As shown in Figure 5, Earth’s orbit is an ellipse, not a true circle, and so the amount of solar energy Earth receives varies throughout the year.



Currently, Earth’s perihelion occurs near the northern hemisphere’s winter and the southern hemisphere’s summer. Thus, the southern hemisphere in summer gets a little more solar energy than the northern hemisphere gets in its summer and the reverse happens in Winter. Northern hemisphere winters get a little more solar energy than southern hemisphere winters. Note that the points of solstice are determined by the direction of the tilt, and perihelion and aphelion are determined by eccentricity. The solstices do not have to occur near perihelion and aphelion. Now, consider precession. Precession determines the placement of seasons in relation to Earth’s orbit. Figure 6 shows the seasons as quarter sections of Earth’s orbit: Figure 6: Earth’s seasons shown as a 4-color ring (not to scale)



The solstice is the point were Earth’s axis points toward or away from the sun (toward or away depending on which hemisphere you’re in). Now if this direction of tilt changes (precesses), the points of solstice and equinox move as shown in Firgure 7: Figure 7 Right: Precession moves solstices and equinoxes clockwise. As the solstices and equinoxes mark the seasons, the seasons move, rotating clockwise. Figure 8 shows the seasons, equinoxes, and solstices rotated clockwise. Imagine precession as all of these orbit elements rotating clockwise, for a complete loop every 26,000 years.

Figure 8: Seasons shown as a 4-color ring moving clockwise with precession



Now if climatic precession considered the movement of the axis only, earth’s solstices would realign with Earth’s semimajor axis every 26,000 years. However, this doesn’t happen because the orientation of the semimajor axis is also moving, but in counterclockwise direction. Gravitational tugs from other planets, primarily Jupiter, change the degree of eccentricity and rotate the semimajor axis. Given time, these opposite motions move aphelion from the southern hemisphere’s summer to the northern hemisphere’s summer and back again at cycles that vary from 19,000 to 23,000 years. Figure 9: Seasons moving clockwise with semimajor axis moving counter-clockwise induce a climatic precession cylee that varies between 19,000 and 23,000 years.



This is is climatic precession, and it is linked to major shifts in Earth’s climate from glacial to warm interglacial states. An area of intense study is understanding how this happened to the Eemian period 125,000 years ago, and how it triggered the most recent deglaciation starting about 21,000 years ago. And this only scratches a surface of this topic. The forces changing the orbit do vary, and that’s why precession varies from 19-23,000 years. It would take sophisticated calculations beyond my abilities to describe the exact motions, but it is not difficult to appreciate the effect and understand how the data can be used in published climate science. Efforts to link orbit and climate have a long history. In the 1840s, Joseph Adhemar proposed that the ice-sheet in Antarctica could be linked to the southern hemisphere winter occurring at aphelion: a “smaller” sun resulting in less sunlight which could sustain colder temperatures. In the 1870s, James Croll offered an alternative hypothesis: Because Earth travels more slowly as it approaches aphelion, the southern winter was longer by 8 days than the northern winter, thus the southern hemisphere spends more time farther from the sun. In the 1930s, Milutin Milankovitch turned the idea around by suggesting that orbital parameters creating cool summers and warm winters at high northern latitudes may explain the rise and fall of ice sheets. This theory is currently held by climatologists. But the solar energy changes and the timing of these changes is a small part of the climate picture. These energy changes alone are not enough to explain the shifts in climate over the past million years. Calculating orbital changes gives climatologists an estimate of how much energy was in the original push, but the rest of the momentum came from Earth itself. Changing the distribution of sunlight changes the distribution of icesheets, which can disturb the motion of ocean currents, which can alter the amount of CO2 the oceans absorb, which can lead to increases in atmospheric CO2, which in turn magnify the initial push. The Earth’s responses to the initial push is greatly simplified here. Full coverage is an on-going topic in several professional journals, where climatologists address numerous questions yet to be answered, such as why ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


some interglacials vary in dura-

Some recommended links from Skeptical Science on climate science history and orbit:

tion, why some are warmer than others, and why orbital changes sometimes fail to trigger global climate change. Though there are

History of Climate Science:

questions, there are also enough answers to know how Earth can react to a change in energy, whether that change is from orbit

History of Climate Science – Interactive Timeline: cshistory.php

or CO2. I invite anyone interested

Milankovitch Cycles: www.Milankovitch.html

in Earth’s orbit to discover what this topic shares with climate science, to better understand the basis for climate forecasts, and to

The Last Interglacial (first of a 5-part series): www.skepticalscience. com/LIG1-0706.html

better evaluate the necessity policies needed to anticipate these forecasts.


John Garrett is an illustrator who draws for Skeptical Science and promotes astronomy through the Temecula Valley Astronomers (



Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity Celebrates 10 Years Working on Mars By: Nicole Willett, Education Director, The Mars Society With all of the hype surrounding the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity, it is easy for the public to forget the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity. The twin rovers were each launched by a Delta II Heavy Lifter rocket in the summer of 2003. The Opportunity Rover landed using the airbag method in Meridiani Planum

their own challenges. Sadly for the MER team, although Spirit

on January 25, 2004 three weeks after the

also far exceeded its mission, the last contact with Spirit was

Spirit Rover landed. This very industrious

in 2010. In honor of Opportunity and her twin, Spirit, a new

rover was planned for only a 90 day surface

museum exhibit has opened at the Smithsonian Institution.

mission and has now gone 39 times past its

Huge wall size panoramas of Mars give visitors a sense that they

planned mission. On January 25, 2014 the

are on the surface of the planet. The exhibit also has a full scale

Opportunity rover completed 10 full Earth

model of the rover as its centerpiece. The name of the exhibit

years on Mars. The two rovers have made

is “Spirit and Opportunity: 10 Years Roving Across Mars� The

many wonderful discoveries and they paved

museum officials stated that the purpose of the exhibit is to

the way for Curiosity. Each rover has a dis-

combine art and science in a multimedia experience that visi-

tinct personality and each have encountered

tors will be immersed in. (



Ten years ago Opportunity bounced to a stop and landed in Eagle Crater. The landing site was named Challenger Memorial Stadium in honor of the astronauts who perished in the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986. Eagle Crater is a small crater with a layered outcropping of geological features. This was a serendipitous place for a landing, some stating it as an astronomical “hole-in-one”. In keeping with NASA’s “follow the water” goal on Mars, the JPL website states the following: “Understanding the history of water on Mars is important to meeting the four science goals of NASA’s long-term Mars Exploration Program: •

Determine whether Life ever arose on Mars

Characterize the Climate of Mars

Characterize the Geology of Mars



• Prepare for Human Exploration� To accomplish these goals, Opportunity carries a plethora of scientific instruments and cameras. The rover carries a panoramic camera, a hazard camera, and a microscopic imager. It also hosts a suite of spectrometers (an instrument that utilizes the electromagnetic spectrum to analyze data), and a rock abrasion tool (RAT). Many of these instruments are at the end of a robotic arm that extends to sample and analyze the rocks, soils, and minerals. Images: Top Opportunity Left: Jelly Donut



As the rover traverses the many craters on Mars and stops and analyzes each area, she has made many discoveries. A major discovery at the landing site, as stated by NASA scientists, is that the area was at one time soaked with water. This was determined by the vast number of spherules found at the site that were later determined to be hematite. The spherules were nicknamed “blueberries” due to their shape and distribution. Also, in the false color images they appeared to be a bluish hue. Hematite is found on Earth and is known to be formed in the presence of water over a long period of time. It is a mineral form of iron oxide. This was a major discovery for the MER team. An unexpected discovery was Heat Shield Rock. This is a Martian meteorite discovered near the heat shield that had fallen to the Squyres speaking at the Mars Society 16th Annual Convention-The Mars Society

ground after the rover landed. This will always be known as the first discovery of a meteorite on another planet. The meteorite was pretty easy to spot against the background of Martian soil and rocks. The “weathering” on a meteorite is quite distinct compared to any indigenous matter. Ironically the mission has been extended so long, in part due to the weather on Mars. The rover’s power source is in the form of solar panels. The surface of Mars is covered in fine dust and is very windy. Several times over the course of the mission, the solar panels have been covered in dust. The weather on Mars often includes dust devils. These dust devils have been responsible for clearing the dust covered solar panels, thereby,



rejuvenating the power to the rover. This was an unexpected and happy event for the team. Opportunity has also made astronomical observations. These include the transits of both natural satellites, Phobos and Deimos, across the face of the Sun. The rover’s cameras have also photographed the Earth, which appears as an indistinct bright object in the Martian sky. This reminds us of how small we really are. Some of the major craters that Opportunity has visited include, Endurance Crater, Erebus Crater, Victoria Crater, and Endeavour Crater. More recently at Endeavour Crater, Opportunity discovered a bright vein of gypsum. This has been nicknamed “Homestake Vein”. The identification of this substance is more strong evidence of water on Mars in the past. Another recent discovery, in September 2012, at Endeavour Crater is a very dense accumulation of spherules that are different than the hematite spherules previously discovered. It is stated that the spherules in question have a soft middle and crunchy outer layer. They are still being investigated as to what their composition is. Opportunity has endured a harsh climate and survived, perhaps thrived. When I asked Dr. Steve Squyres, NASA’s Principal Investigator of the MER mission, about the health of Opportunity at the 16th Annual Mars Society Convention in August 2013, he stated that with the exception of a few minor issues, the overall health is good and that each day with Opportunity is a gift. ( The credit for this must be given to the hundreds or thousands of passionate scientists who designed, developed, and implemented this mission. The Opportunity Rover is managed by a team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Ca. On January 16, 2014, NASA held a special event to celebrate the 10 year anniversary of the Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) Spirit and Opportunity. Though we had our last communication with Spirit in March 2010, Opportunity is still roving and discovering. Squyres, spoke at the event held at CalTech and revealed the latest big news was that a jelly-donut-like rock seemed to have appeared out of nowhere near the rover. Squyres described the rock as white around the edges with a dark red-center which has the size and appearance of a jellydonut. He stated that his team was very surprised and when they did the preliminary analysis they discovered it was composed of sulfur, magnesium, and manganese. They are discussing the possibilities of how the rock arrived next to the rover, two leading theories are that it was flung from under the wheel of ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


the rover or that it is a piece of impact ejecta from a nearby meteorite impact. A third possibility may be that a dust devil carried it across the landscape and it landed by the rover. More detailed analysis of the rock is ahead for the MER team. There is more to behold from Opportunity in the future, stay tuned‌‌

Blueberries on



Brian B Ritchie “This is my first RGB Jupiter, done with the C8 and ZWO ASI120MM and the Baader filter wheel at f.15. Seeing was a bit mushy. Also the colours seem a bit off. Otherwise I’m quite happy for a first attempt”.



Our Return to the Moon The lander of Chang’e 3 took a panoramic shot of Mare Imbrium, the Sea of Rains, with the little rover, Yutu, off on an early jaunt. Photo credit: CNSA and Ken Kremer.

China’s Chang’e 3 lunar mission landed on the moon this past December, 2013. This is very likely the first step in humankind’s continual active presence on the surface of the moon. Mare Imbrium, the landing spot, is the largest basin on near side of the moon, just to the south and west of the north pole at 44 degrees North. China’s first two moon missions, Chang’e 1 and Chang’e 2, orbited the moon to determine the best terrain and elements of interest for a landing area. Based on that data, and the data collected by the orbiters of other countries, Mare Imbrium was chosen over the original target area of Sinus Iridum (Bay of Rainbows). The landing spot is an area of lava flows that are darker than some flows nearby, and this may be one of the prime reasons this area was chosen. The darker lava rock on the moon is rich in titanium, which is associated with helium-3, a potential fusion energy source.



Photo credit: Lick Observatory ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


Lunar map showing relative amounts of titanium dioxide. Photo credit: CNSA/CLEP It’s estimated that the moon is so rich in helium-3, it could potentially be the Earth’s mining site for our future energy needs. The distribution of titanium dioxide (highest in the red areas on the map) is considered a good proxy for the distribution of helium-3, since titanium dioxide traps helium-3 blown in with solar winds. This helium-3 has been blown onto the moon and captured by the titanium dioxide for billions of years, so there is likely enough helium-3 to fuel the Earth for a very long time, if the fusion technology becomes practical. Research into fusion has advanced recently, with successful fusions of deuterium--helium-3, and of helium-3 with itself. There are still some problems in building practical fusion reactors, but countries like China, and private enterprises, are actively considering how to mine the moon’s helium-3 and bring it to Earth, to be ready to profit once the practical technology is in place. There may also be a lot of water ice between rock and dust particles away from the poles, due to the presence of helium-3. It’s been recently shown by astromaterials scientist Hope Ishii and her colleagues that particles in Earth’s plasmasphere capture helium-3 from the solar wind, and this helium joins with oxygen in the particles to form miniscule water amounts between the particles. If this is happening on the moon, the particles would look dry to our eye but the water could possibly be extracted for use. ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


Water forming in particles of interplanetary dust. Photo credit: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. (Right) The poles are the most interesting spot for future prospectors, because of the huge amounts of water ice there. A lot of the technology being developed right now by space entrepreneurs is focused on the kind of support needed to build infrastructure which will be needed for mining water ice and for habitation on the moon. This is going to happen, and soon - while the main mission of Chang’e 3 is for doing scientific

The lander of mission Chang’e 3. Photo credit: CASC/China Ministry of Defense (Below)

research, the landing marks the beginning of what will probably become a continual human and machine presence on the moon. The experience of Chang’e 3’s soft landing and of the proven ability for the robots to mostly survive the lunar night are two of the biggest feats sought by commercial companies. It’s possible that the color camera on the lander did not survive the lunar night, but lessons from failures are also valuable to engineers. The data from the mission will be used by private enterprises to help them decide the best places and methods for mining, and many have already booked support services with ICY SCIENCE | QTR 1 2014


commercial spaceflight companies. Within the next few decades, humans, their robots, and their needed infrastructure will begin to have a steady presence on the lunar surface. China’s Chang’e 3 mission arrived on the moon on December 14, 2013. Chang’e 3 is the landing stage of China’s multi-stage moon mission, and includes an instrumented lander and rover. Both the lander and rover have tested and used some of the equipment, and then hibernated for their first two-week long lunar night. Once the sun returned they got back to work, and according to the Chinese press things seemed to be working fine. On January 24, 2014 the lander powered down to hibernate for the second lunar night phase, but before the rover could do the same, something went wrong in communication with the Chinese scientists, and so its instruments and solar panels couldn’t be protected before the night came with its -180 C temperature. It had been hoped that the Yutu rover would provide ground-truth for data collected by the orbiters of China and other countries, but if Yutu doesn’t survive the night, this will need to wait for Yutu’s backup rover in the Chang’e 4 mission, which will be launched in 2015. The Yutu rover has these mineral and rock analyzing instruments: Ground Penetrating Radar, Panoramic Camera, Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer, and Visible/near-Infrared Imager. These are some of the same kind of instruments aboard the Curiosity rover, which is studying the geology in its own area on Mars. Hopefully the Chang’e 4 rover will get to use these instruments much more than Yutu did! Yutu rover. Photo credit: CNSA/CCTV



Photo of Earth, taken by the Chang’e 3 lander. This is the first picture of Earth taken from the moon in almost 40 years. Photo credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences.

A photo of Earth’s plasmasphere, taken with the camera on the Chang’e 3 lander’s Lunar Ultraviolet Telescope. Photo credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences.



On board the working lander is the Lunar Ultraviolet Telescope which will be used to study the Earth’s plasmasphere. China is cooperating with the International Lunar Observatory Association to share access to the Chinese telescope in exchange for time on the ILOA’s telescope, the International Lunar Observatory. A small version of the ILO, the ILO-X, will be launched aboard the Moon Express inaugural flight to the moon in 2015. The larger 2-meter ILO-1 will be delivered by Moon Express to the moon’s south pole in 2017. The ILOA will use China’s Lunar Ultraviolet Telescope for a program they call Galaxy, Astronomical Imaging for Global 21st Century Education. The ILOA’s own ILO-1 is planned to be the start of a lunar base for research, prospecting, and future human habitation. So far the plans for the ILO include the Galaxy First Light Imaging program, and access for professional and amateur astronomers on a commercial basis. The smaller ILO-X will be accessible on the internet and available for citizen science projects. So with the mutual, and in part open-access use of these telescopes, we still have the kind of cooperation that sees the moon as belonging to all humans, even in this new phase of big commercial interest in the moon. Private enterprise is helping nations to move past a few proprietary barriers. This may be simply in the slip stream of the drive for profits since private companies are taking advantage of the lack of rules for themselves that keep countries from claiming parts of the moon.

An artist concept of the International Lunar Observatory, shown after landing near the moon’s south pole in 2017 by the Moon Express spacecraft. Photo credit: ILOA/Moon Express



Bye, Yutu. Photo credit: China News.





Mauna Kea Observatories, Hawaii onight is the final of 6 nights at Mauna Kea Observatories, where I have been an observer on the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT) at Mauna Kea Observatories. Mauna Kea has the world’s largest observatory with a number of telescopes operated by various countries and operating in various wavebands. JCMT is a submillimetre-wavelength telescope run by the UK. It has a 15 metre primary mirror and is the largest submillimetre telescope in the world.

Observers from the UK can come to JCMT for scientific research, and are joined by Hawaii-based telescope operators who know how to run the telescope and how to fix it if anything goes wrong. The telescope is located at an altitude of 4092 metres, and there are accommodation facilities a little further down the mountain at Hale Pohaku (HP) at 2804 metres altitude. Because of the high altitude and the health concerns that come with it, observers are required to acclimatise for 24 hours at HP before travelling to the summit to work on the telescopes. This is where all astronomers from the various telescopes sleep during their stay; there are lodges with bedrooms and a main facility with a cafeteria and pool tables, ping pong, dart boards etc.





On a typical night, staff for each telescope will meet to have dinner at around 5pm at HP then travel up to the summit of the mountain. We then work throughout the night and come back at around 8am to have breakfast and then go to sleep. Since JCMT is not an optical telescope, sunrise does not affect us. However, submillimetre telescopes are heavily affected by precipitation, and cannot operate when this level is too high. Last night it snowed heavily at the summit and all telescopes were closed for the night. I have included some photos from these last few nights – I hope you enjoy them.

Caroline Scott Caroline Scott is a final year Astrophysics PhD student at Imperial College London, and is currently doing a Predoctoral Fellowship at the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics and a Research Fellowship at Harvard’s Institute of Applied Computational Science. Twitter: Astro_Caz





IN THE NEWS ESA/NASA the spacecraft Rosetta woke up after 957 days in hibernation. Earth got its first communication which arrived at the ESA operations centre in Damstadt, Germany at 19:18 local time. The signal was also received by ground stations at the Goldstone,calif and Camberra,australia part of NASA’s Deep Space Network.

Supernova, cigar galaxy A supernova was discovered in M82 also known as the cigar galaxy. It is 12 million light years from Earth. It is the closest star explosion detected in more than 20 years. Discovered by a team led my Steve Fossey at the University of London Observatory. The team included stuedents, Ben Cooke, Tom Wright,Matthew Wilde and GuyPpollock.

The spacecraft is heading towards comet67P/ Churyumov-Gerasmonko.

SpaceX On Jan 6 2014 SpaceX sucessfully lunched the THAICOM 6 satellite. The launch could be seen live on the interenet.



Science Science daily reports that deaths in Penguin chicks is directly relted to climate change. Chicks are dying from the worlds largest Magellanic penguin colony. Heavy rains, food shortage all a result from climate change are contributing to the checks deaths. SOURCE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON

The BBC reported that Neanderthals gave us disease genes. Neanderthals are our closest extinct relatives. Found in southwestern to central Asia and Europe. It is thought that modern humans have around 2.5% Neanderthal DNA.

From Icy Science comes out monthly micro digital magazine LOOK UP IN WONDER a guide to the night sky, ISS monthly update and something for the kds.





Icy science qtr 1 2014 ezine  

The next edition id out, this quarter we look at our origins. Climate change and the impact on our planet, another look at numbers and much...

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