Yo, Brian Stelter!
When I was a kid, I got nicknamed “Bald Eagle” because I actually was getting notably thin “up there.” Of course today “Bald Eagle” might be a cool nickname, but in junior high school, it definitely was not a cool thing.
Fast forward to today, and now here I am over twenty years older than you are, and even in spite of that poor start, I have better hair than you do.
And I am not a piss-guzzling, shit-gobbling communist “journalist” (what a sick joke) either.
On both accounts you must absolutely hate looking into the mirror.
And Oh By The Way probably more people read my posts than watch you bloviate on air. And yes, I know your ratings dropped again. One would think there’s be a limit to that…you can’t drop below zero, can you?
RINOs an Endangered Species?
According to Wikipoo, et. al., the Northern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum cottoni) is a critically endangered species. Apparently two females live on a wildlife preserve in Sudan, and no males are known to be alive. So basically, this species is dead as soon as the females die of old age. Presently they are watched over by armed guards 24/7.
Biologists have been trying to cross them with the other subspecies, Southern White Rhinoceroses (Rhinoceri?) without success; and some genetic analyses suggest that perhaps they aren’t two subspecies at all, but two distinct species, which would make the whole project a lot more difficult.
I should hope if the American RINO (Parasitus rectum pseudoconservativum) is ever this endangered, there will be heroic efforts not to save the species, but rather to push the remainder off a cliff. Onto punji sticks. With feces smeared on them. Failing that a good bath in red fuming nitric acid will do.
But I’m not done ranting about RINOs.
The RINOs (if they are capable of any introspection whatsoever) probably wonder why they constantly have to deal with “populist” eruptions like the Trump-led MAGA movement. That would be because the so-called populists stand for absolutely nothing except for going along to get along. That allows the Left to drive the culture and politics.
Given the results of Tuesday’s elections, the Left will now push harder, and the RINOs will now turn even squishier than they were before.
I well remember 1989-1990 in my state when the RINO establishment started preaching the message that a conservative simply couldn’t win in Colorado. Never mind the fact that Reagan had won the state TWICE (in 1984 bringing in a veto-proof state house and senate with him) and GHWB had won after (falsely!) assuring everyone that a vote for him was a vote for Reagan’s third term.
This is how the RINOs function. They push, push, push the line that only a “moderate” can get elected. Stomp them when they pull that shit. Tell everyone in ear shot that that’s exactly what the Left wants you to think, and oh-by-the-way-Mister-RINO if you’re in this party selling the same message as the Left…well, whythefuckexactly are you in this party, you piece of rancid weasel shit?
Justice Must Be Done.
The prior election must be acknowledged as fraudulent, and steps must be taken to prosecute the fraudsters and restore integrity to the system. (This doesn’t necessarily include deposing Joe and Hoe and putting Trump where he belongs, but it would certainly be a lot easier to fix our broken electoral system with the right people in charge.)
Nothing else matters at this point. Talking about trying again in 2022 or 2024 is pointless otherwise. Which is not to say one must never talk about this, but rather that one must account for this in ones planning; if fixing the fraud in the system is not part of the plan, you have no plan.
This will necessarily be piecemeal, state by state, which is why I am encouraged by those states working to change their laws to alleviate the fraud both via computer and via bogus voters. If enough states do that we might end up with a working majority in Congress and that would be something Trump never really had.
Lawyer Appeasement Section
OK now for the fine print.
This is the WQTH Daily Thread. You know the drill. There’s no Poltical correctness, but civility is a requirement. There are Important Guidelines, here, with an addendum on 20191110.
We have a new board – called The U Tree – where people can take each other to the woodshed without fear of censorship or moderation.
And remember Wheatie’s Rules:
1. No food fights
2. No running with scissors.
3. If you bring snacks, bring enough for everyone.
4. Zeroth rule of gun safety: Don’t let the government get your guns.
5. Rule one of gun safety: The gun is always loaded.
5a. If you actually want the gun to be loaded, like because you’re checking out a bump in the night, then it’s empty.
6. Rule two of gun safety: Never point the gun at anything you’re not willing to destroy.
7. Rule three: Keep your finger off the trigger until ready to fire.
8. Rule the fourth: Be sure of your target and what is behind it.
(Hmm a few extras seem to have crept in.)
While We Wait…and Wait…and Wait, for The Storm
Well, I probably should change out Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony.
Here’s the first movement of Mozart’s 40th Symphony, played by an orchestra in Georgia.
…no, the other Georgia, the one whose capital is Tbilisi. (And yes there is no vowel between the T and the b, and they pronounce it with no “uh” in between. It’s actually not hard. The same language sometimes strings six or seven consonants in a row.)
Mozart didn’t number his symphonies, and for the first part of his life he did not keep track of everything he composed. Later on, he did. But it seems like every few years or so someone opens a drawer in a piece of antique furniture and–lo and behold!–there is an early Mozart symphony in there, one previously unknown. Some are fakes, of course.
When someone first undertook to number Mozart’s symphonies sequentially, there were 41 known; and the later ones’ dates were known because Mozart had started keeping track. So this is his second to last symphony.
As early ones were found in someone’s antique desk, they got numbered 42, 43, and so forth out of order, and so now you will see references to symphony #55. [Also, #2, #3, and #37 aren’t actually his, but were attributed by mistake.] But do not be fooled, his last three symphonies were numbers 39, 40 and 41–there’s a document trail. He wrote them all fairly close together in 1788, in fact he went straight from writing #40 to writing #41 without some other intervening work. He probably never heard them performed.
They’re all well worth listening to. His style was getting more expressive and dramatic. In his earlier life a symphony had to follow rules and not be too outrageous. And the 40th had plenty of stuff in it that was outrageous–by the standards of the 1780s, anyway. The effect at the time was of dropping an Iron Maiden track into the playlist of an “easy listening” station. (Just having it be in a minor key was “out there.”)
Beethoven, of course, continued the trend. That storm movement from last week? It would never have been tolerated in the 1780s.
Mozart died in 1791, about six decades too early; he wasn’t even forty yet. Beethoven’s 5th and 6th symphonies came along in 1808. The two never met. Beethoven was planning to study under Mozart in 1790, but something or other (I don’t remember what) caused that to fall awry, and the next year…it was too late.
If Mozart had lived, would he have been right beside Beethoven, breaking all the rules but doing so with genius? This last trio of Mozart’s are an argument in favor. Mozart was clearly chafing a bit under the conventions of his day.
For comparison here’s a randomly-chosen early symphony, #14…the entire thing is barely 20 minutes long and that’s long for its time. In 1771, when this was written, a symphony wasn’t a major work. I like his symphonies as a class, but people used to Beethoven might find a lot of his early ones to be very…hum drum.
This week, 3 PM MT on Friday, markets closed for the weekend
At the end of the week: Things are up, net, for this week in gold/silver/platinum land, however everything went down today from higher levels..
How To Find Extrasolar Planets
There are basically three methods used to find extrasolar planets, though there are a couple of oddball exceptions to that.
But I have to get a couple of preliminaries out of the way, first.
With respect to this particular topic, I’m going to be throwing around “astronomical units.” An astronomical unit was originally defined to be the average distance between Earth and the Sun; it’s a holdover from the days when we had no idea what that distance actually was, but could readily determine the distances between everything in the solar system, in terms of that distance. So we could say that Jupiter was 5.2 AU from the Sun, and that was useful information, even if we didn’t know how much an AU was. Of course now we have very accurate measurements, accurate enough that we finally decided in 2012 to define the AU in meters (which technically decouples it from the Earth-Sun distance–if we end up refining that measurement at some future, our defined AU could be not quite the distance from Earth to the Sun).
In any case, an AU is: 149,597,870,700 m or roughly 150 million kilometers (a somewhat round number) or 93 million miles. And having said that, I probably won’t talk about kilometers or miles ever again in this article, unless it’s a totally different context (like the size of a planet).
Because the scientists themselves invariably use AUs as their yardstick when working inside a planetary system.
The light year–the distance light travels in a year–is a much longer distance: 9,460,730,472,580,800 or roughly 10 trillion kilometers/6 trillion miles. In this particular case, this is a unit they use mostly for talking to us rubes..they generally prefer the parsec (~3.26 light years). Either unit is suitable for talking about distances to other stars; the nearest stars being a bit over four light years away.
Comparing the two units a light year is about 63,240 AU.
Which right there be a big hint. If an AU is a good unit to measure planetary systems with, and it’s about 1/60,000th the size of a good unit to measure the distances between stars (and hence their planetary systems, if they have them)–proportionally speaking the distance between planetary systems is HUGE in comparison to the sizes of the systems themselves. And it’s true: If the Earth’s orbit (which has a diameter of 2 AU) were the size of a ping pong ball (2 AU = 40mm) the nearest star would be over five kilometers away. Even figuring the solar system (including Kuiper Belt objects) at 100 AUs in diameter, that’s still a LOT of space between planetary systems.
OK, leaving distances behind us for now, masses have a similar phenomenon. Astronomers never talk in kilograms or pounds. Instead, they talk in earth masses, Jupiter masses, or when dealing with stars, solar masses. Because if they didn’t they’d be throwing around numbers like 1.9 x 1027 kg (the mass of Jupiter). Literally astronomical numbers. And they’re a pain.
That’s three different units, so let me inter-relate them. Jupiter has 317.8 times the mass of Earth. The sun has 1047 times the mass of Jupiter. So the Sun has 332,950 earth masses in it. Those are fairly big leaps, one to the next, which is why astronomers will tend to use whatever unit makes the most sense at the moment.
Finally, there’s the matter of angular distance. The moon (and sun), as seen from the earth, cover circles half a degree across. In other words, if you could somehow stretch a string from the right edge of the moon, down to you, then another string to the left edge, then take out a protractor and measure the angle between the strings…it would be about half a degree. A degree is subdivided into 60 minutes of arc, so the angle is also expressable as 30 arc seconds. A minute of arc is about the width of a quarter seen at a hundred yards.
A minute of arc can in turn be subdivided into 60 arc seconds, and now you’re getting very narrow. Arc seconds start pushing close to how fine a telescope can resolve things. But astronomers do talk about milliarcseconds (thousandths of an arc second). They tend to use these units a lot, too. (It’s something that can be directly measured, right off a photograph of the night sky for instance. To get actual distances between two objects that are, say, 24.7 arc seconds apart, we need to know how far away the objects are)
OK, on to the detection methods. I said that most extrasolar planets have been found with one of three methods. I’m also going to list a fourth method that seems like it ought to work…but never did work out very well.
The blindingly obvious one, of course, is to simply point a telescope at some star and look. Are there planets near it?
I said “blindingly” for a reason, though.
Astronomers can figure out what it’d be like to try to see Earth this way, from some other star. Even from a relatively close distance like 25 light years, it’s damned near impossible.
The earth shines solely by reflected sunlight. And it’s small enough, and far enough away from the Sun, that it only intercepts a billionth of the light the sun cranks out, continuously. So even if it reflected all of the light that hit it, it couldn’t possibly be more than a billionth as bright as the Sun.
At that distance, an AU (our distance from the Sun remember) is much less than a second of arc in the sky. So we need to spot something a billionth as bright as the sun, basically right next to the sun, even as seen in our sharpest telescopes.
This has been compared to trying to spot a firefly, flying next to a Las Vegas searchlight…all the way from New York.
But if you think about it…a large planet–at least the size of Jupiter–further away from a star might be doable, if you can somehow mask the star itself so its light doesn’t blind the telescope.
It’s a bit of a simplification to refer to a planet orbiting a star. Or for that matter, a moon orbiting a planet…or anything else in such a context.
Whatever the two things are, they actually both orbit about their center of gravity–also called the barycenter. If a moon has 1/81th the mass of the planet it orbits, the center of gravity is a point 1/82nd of the distance from the planet to the moon. That might actually be inside the planet, but it’s not at the center of the planet. (And that’s the number for the Earth/Moon system.)
Here’s an example, with the barycenter inside the larger body.
In principle, we should be able to detect a dark body (like a planet) orbiting a star–if we can see the star wobble.
The wobble would be extremely small. Obviously the closer the star the better. But there’s a complicating factor: The stars aren’t stationary. They do move around up there, they just do it slowly enough we don’t notice. However some constellations have noticeably changed shape since the Greeks first mapped them; this is especially the case when one of the bright stars in the constellation is bright because it’s close to us. Obviously, it will appear to move faster across our sky the closer it is, given an actual speed (in kilometers/second).
This is called proper motion and it’s measured in terms of the arc across the sky. And really it’s only one component of a star’s motion–its the component of the motion that’s perpendicular to our line of sight. Movement toward or away from us doesn’t show at all, and it’s called radial motion.
The star that is moving across our sky the fastest is one that’s not visible to the unaided eye; it’s called Barnard’s star (or Barnard’s Arrow), and it’s moving at .802 arc seconds per year. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a huge proper motion.
So this method should work on nearby stars, but they will be the stars with the highest proper motion. So we would need to plot the position of the star over a couple of years, and see if, instead of traveling in a straight line, it’s drawing curclicues in the sky, like someone writing “eeeeeeeee” in cursive. If so, we can figure out how long it takes for the invisible planet to orbit the visible star–the time it takes to draw one of those cursive “e”s. You can even tell the eccentricity (how narrowly elliptical it is, versus being nearly circular) of the orbit from the exact shape of the “eeeeee.”
If there is an identical star-and-planet pair twice as far away, the “eeeee” drawn on the celestial sphere will be half as big. This method is very sensitive to the star’s distance.
Besides requiring a relatively close star, this method would work best for a planetary system whose orbits are face-on to us. If they’re tipped in some oblique plane relative, then less of the planetary motion (and balancing motion of the star) is perpendicular to us, so there will be, apparently, less wobble to detect. And we might not be able to assess that. A face-on small planet could have the same apparent effect as a much more massive planet, in an orbit that’s nearly edge-on.
This method was tried a lot in the mid 20th century and perhaps earlier, and failed–there were some claims of finding planets around nearby stars with it, but none of them are accepted today.
Conceptually, this one is very, very simple. Here’s a photograph I took about ten years ago, that will serve as an illustration of how this one could work:
That is our Sun, photographed through a filter like those given out for viewing eclipses. There’s a dark spot; that’s the planet Venus, which does cross directly in front of the Sun as seen from Earth twice every hundred years or so. The next such occurrence will be in 2117.
Imagine watching an event like this from several light years away. What would you see?
You wouldn’t see the Sun’s disc, not from that far away, and you certainly wouldn’t see the dark dot of the planet crossing in front of it. But what you would see, if you had an accurate enough light meter, is a slight drop in the brightness of the star as the planet crossed in front of it.
And the amount of the drop will indicate how big the planet is in relation to the star. This is the only one of these methods that will show us the size of the planet.
If we wait around for the next transit, we know the period of the planet, i.e., the length of its year. (Of course, if there are two or even more planets transiting from time to time, we need to watch for a longer time until we can see the overlapping patterns and sort them out.)
You could even tell if the planet had an atmosphere, based on how the light brightness drops as the planet begins to cross in front of the star. A fairly sharp transition indicates no atmosphere, a slight dimming at the very beginning indicates the planet has an atmosphere that reduced the star’s brightness ever so slightly before the actual opaque body of the planet got into the act.
With a spectroscopic analysis (the whole running-the-light-through-a-prism-and-looking-for-absorption-lines thing) you might even get some notion of what’s in the atmosphere.
Also, you can wait for the planet to pass behind the star and see what changes. It would be a very tiny dimming–after all the planet will be a billionth as bright as the star–but you could look at the difference in the light, not just how bright it is, but spectroscopically–and learn something about the temperature and composition of the planet.
So long as the star is close enough that we can see it easily (in a telescope of course), it doesn’t matter how far away it is. (Of course if the star is so far away we can barely detect it at all to begin with, then we won’t be able to measure the tiny drop in brightness involved.)
So this is a very versatile method, but it has one really big disadvantage: It won’t work unless the planetary orbital plane is edge on to us. And almost all of them shouldn’t be–they’ll be at some random tilt. So there could be fifteen planets orbiting some star but if their orbits are in any configuration other than edge-on, we’d never have even a hint of them. Also, to truly work well, this method must be done from a space telescope–the Earth’s atmosphere introduces too much noise (the highly technical term for the noise is “twinkling”) that would overwhelm the very slight difference in brightness we are looking for.
Method number 4 brings our old friend the Doppler shift to the table. Please note, this is a “real” Doppler shift, due to approach/recession speed of the star, not the cosmological red shift due to the stretching of space. So we’re about to use Smokey’s means of measuring your speed, on the star.
Here’s a video explaining why Doppler shift happens (in case you need a review):
One objection you might have, is that if a star emits a continuous spectrum, how can you tell it red-shifts as it moves away from us? Sure, the light that would be reddish-orange looks a little bit redder. but there’s other, slightly more orange light that gets redshifted to replace the original reddish-orange light.
This is a very good objection, but it’s based on a premise that’s not quite true; stars don’t emit a perfectly continuous spectrum. Their atmospheres absorb certain very specific wavelengths, leaving gaps in the spectra, and we can measure where those gaps are.
The gaps should be at certain exact frequencies. But if the star is heading towards or away from us, those gaps shift. We’re actually measuring the red (or blue) shift from the gaps. So if we measure where the gaps are and they’re not quite where we’d measure them in the lab, we know the entire spectrum has shifted either towards blue or red.
Most of what we know about stars comes from studying their spectra–and we know quite a lot about them. If you’re a professional astronomer, this is a big part of your life.
Returning to exoplanets: This is really another way to detect a planet by noticing the star’s wobble, except that this time, we’re using the Doppler shift to measure the wobble. We can watch the star’s radial (toward or away from us) speed over a period of time, and note any sort of periodic variation. For example some star might be moving towards us at 12.5 kilometers per second. But if we measure it repeatedly over time, and one year it’s moving at 12.510 kilometers per second, but six years later, it’s moving at 12.490 kilometers per second, but then six years later, it’s back to 12.510 kilometers/second…well then we can infer that there’s a 0.01 kilometer/second or 10 meter/second wobble…that takes twelve years to cycle.
This is precisely how Jupiter would affect our Sun, by the way: a ten meter per second “signal” over a space of about 12 years.
We can measure Doppler shifts to within about a meter per second, so we could detect Jupiter by this means. But we have to watch for a long enough time that the planet completes a couple of orbits, otherwise we don’t know what part of the Doppler shift is from the simple straight-line motion of the star, and what part is induced “wobble” from the planet(s) orbiting the star. And if there are multiple planets, the signal is more complicated.
The earth, unfortunately, only induces a ten centimeter (or so) per second wobble in the Sun…which means we couldn’t detect it by this method.
The good news is this is another method that can work on distant stars. As long as we can take a spectrograph of it, we can use this method…if we have the patience to wait for a planetary orbit or two.
Once we know the size and period of the wobble, we can figure out how massive the planet is…well, sort of. Allow me to explain.
The detected red-and-blue shifts will be greatest if the planetary orbit is edge on to us. That way (ignoring for the moment the actual overall radial motion of the star) the planet will be travelling directly towards us on one side of its orbit (and the star will be receding–red shift), and directly away from us on the other side (and the star will be approaching–blue shift). But if the orbit is tilted at a 60 degree angle to us, instead of 0 degrees, the signal will be half as strong. The same planet, at the same distance from the star, will produce only half as much of a blue/red shift in its star.
This method won’t tell us that inclination, so when we get a signal and use it to determine the planet’s mass, it’s a minimum value. The planet could be twice as massive as we measured–but in an orbit with a 60 degree tilt, rather than edge on. It’s called the “sin I” error because the error depends directly on the sine of the inclination angle, I.
The First Extrasolar Planet Detection
So which of these methods was used in 1992 when the first extrasolar planets were detected?
Well, none of the above, actually.
That first extrasolar detection came completely out of left field, from a place no one would have dreamed to go looking. This is a classic example of serendipity: some scientists saw something odd they couldn’t explain…and when they followed up on it, they got a nice little surprise.
On February 9, 1990, Polish astronomer Aleksander Wolszczan used the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico and discovered a new pulsar, which eventually became designated “PSR B1257+12” (meaning it was at 12 hours, 57 minutes right ascension, declination +12). The pulse length is 6.22 milliseconds (9650 RPM). And the pulsar is 2600 light years away, meaning that the signal we get from it today left the pulsar almost a century before Leonidas was born.
A pulsar is a neutron star (and a neutron star is the corpse of a dead star, the supernova “leftover” of a star that wasn’t quite massive enough to form a black hole) spinning about an axis and sweeping us with at least one of the two beams of energy focused by its extremely intense magnetic field, in exactly the same way a light house beam sweeps past. Only much, much faster.
Over time, as the pulsar radiates energy away, it will spin slower an slower, but in the short term it’s an extremely regular signal.
Except that this particular pulsar’s signal wasn’t quite so regular; it seemed to shift a bit in period over time. Why would this be?
It turns out, this pulsar is orbited by planets. The shift in interval between pulses is due to a bit of red shift/blue shift like wobble; as the pulsar moves towards us, its pulses seem to be spaced more closely, as it moes away, they are spaced further apart. Even though the phenomenon is similar, this isn’t quite a normal Doppler shift, because it’s the interval between pulses, rather than the frequency of steadily-emitted light, that is affected.
This was quite a surprise. The usual assumption is that any planets orbiting near a star that goes supernova will be destroyed. And I don’t mean “destroyed” as in “all life on the planet will be killed,” I mean “destroyed” as in “the entire ball of rock will be gone.” But perhaps something different happened here.
Astronomers are pretty sure the planets (there are at least three of them) are not original but formed after the neutron star was created. In this particular case, it is believed by many that this particular pulsar is the result of the merger of two white dwarfs, not of a supernova.
Wolszczan discovered two of the planets himself in 1992, a third planet was discovered in 1994.
These planets, and the pulsar itself actually got named, and in all cases the names suggest death and graveyards, appropriate since the pulsar itself is the corpse of a star. Or two, if the merger theory is correct.
The pulsar itself is now named Lich, after a sort of mythical undead creature, similar to a zombie.
Poltergeist and Phobetor (“Frightenter”) were the first two planets discovered. They weigh in at 4.3 and 3.9 Earth masses, respectively, at distances of 0.36 and 0.46 AU. Draugr (named for an undead creature from Norse mythology) is the third planet discovered, but it’s closer to Lich at 0.19 AU. Its mass is a mere 0.02 Earth masses, making it by far the lightest extrasolar planet discovered to date. These were originally labeled B, C, and A respectively (in order of distance from Lich), before the current convention was established; now Draugr is labeled ‘b” and Poltergeist and Phobetor ‘c’ and ‘d.’
There are some hints of an asteroid belt in this system, or possibly a Kuiper belt.
Now this is a very bizarre system, totally unexpected. The discovery hit us out of left field, and for three years the only planets known other than the ones orbiting our own sun…were orbiting a neutron star. Did I mention this is bizarre?
I personally cannot imagine a more grim, inhospitable place to visit, and apparently neither could the people who named the pulsar and its planets. Awash in the flickering beam of instantly-lethal radiation (the sort that vaporizes your eyeballs and melts your body) from the corpse of a star, this is merely a Hell where the fire is particle beams instead of burning sulfur. And it is a cold Hell, too; even Draugr, the closest, is expected to have a surface temperature of -7 C.
You wouldn’t suffer for more than a second or two.
More “normal” extrasolar planets would have to wait until 1995…but even with them, there were some real surprises.
Obligatory PSAs and Reminders
China is Lower than Whale Shit
To conclude: My standard Public Service Announcement. We don’t want to forget this!!!
Remember Hong Kong!!!
Zhōngguò shì gè hùndàn !!!
China is asshoe !!!
China is in the White House
Since Wednesday, January 20 at Noon EST, the bought-and-paid for Joseph Biden has been in the White House. It’s as good as having China in the Oval Office.
Joe Biden is Asshoe
China is in the White House, because Joe Biden is in the White House, and Joe Biden is identically equal to China. China is Asshoe. Therefore, Joe Biden is Asshoe.
But of course the much more important thing to realize:
Joe Biden Didn’t Win
Qiáo Bài dēng méi yíng !!!
Joe Biden didn’t win !!!