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  • Writer's pictureMatt Russell

#172 - Solar Orbiters and Other Dark Matters

This week we chat about Solar Orbiter, the Pale Blue Dot and Quantum Inertia. Happy Valentines Everyone.

Here I stand, atoms with consciousness, matter with curiosity. A universe of atoms, an atom in the universe.

Richard Feynman.

Shout Out to Justin Roberts and Justin Young, legends at the ACE level making this show possible. This week paying for my trip to Hoxton to debate a Flat Earther on LADBible


Don’t forget you can come and take part in a Space Conference, where I shall be chairing a talk Workers of the outer space unite. - Bridging the gap between government, R&D and manufacturing. - 5th March in London near st pauls. This conference is a unique opportunity not only to discuss and experience the future of this industry but also to meet and network with key industry leaders.


30 Years Ago today

Pale Blue Dot is a photograph of planet Earth taken on February 14, 1990, by the Voyager 1 space probe from a record distance of about 3.7 billion miles, part of a Family Portrait series of images of the Solar System.

The term "Pale Blue Dot" was coined by Carl Sagan in his reflections of the photograph's significance, documented in his book of the same name,

On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam

Earth's apparent size is less than a pixel; the planet appears as a tiny dot against the vastness of space, The camera turned around to take the photo, at the request of Carl Sagan

After taking the Family Portrait, managers commanded Voyager 1 to power down its cameras, the spacecraft was not going to fly near anything else of significance for the rest of its mission, while other instruments that were still collecting data needed power for the long journey to interstellar space

Why is it Pale Blue

  • primarily because of Rayleigh scattering of sunlight in its atmosphere. In Earth's air, short wavelength visible light such as blue light is scattered to a greater extent than long wavelength light such as red, which is the reason why the sky appears blue from EarthEarth's plentiful atmospheric oxygen, which comes from photosynthetic life forms, causes the atmosphere to be transparent to visible light, which allows for substantial Rayleigh scattering

  • The ocean contributes to Earth's blueness, but to a lesser degree than scattering

  • Earth is a pale blue dot, rather than dark blue, because white light reflected by cloud combines with the scattered blue light.



NASA has selected four Discovery Program investigations to develop concept studies for new missions. Although they're not official missions yet and some ultimately may not be chosen to move forward,

The selections focus on compelling targets and science that are not covered by NASA's active missions or recent selections. Final selections will be made next year.

Each of the four nine-month studies will receive $3 million

"These selected missions have the potential to transform our understanding of some of the solar system's most active and complex worlds. Exploring any one of these celestial bodies will help unlock the secrets of how it, and others like it, came to be in the cosmos." Thomas Zurbuchen

Trident would explore Triton, a unique and highly active icy moon of Neptune, to understand pathways to habitable worlds at tremendous distances from the Sun, see Podcast 135

VERITAS (Venus Emissivity, Radio Science, InSAR, Topography, and Spectroscopy) to map Venus' surface to determine the planet's geologic history and understand why Venus developed so differently than the Earth, using synthetic aperture radar,

DAVINCI+ (Deep Atmosphere Venus Investigation of Noble gases, Chemistry, and Imaging Plus) to analyze Venus' atmosphere to understand how it formed and evolved and determine whether Venus ever had an ocean

IVO would explore Jupiter's moon Io to learn how tidal forces shape planetary bodies


The Golden Age of Solar Astronomy is starting. Hot on the tail of Parker Solar Probe

Successful Launch of the Cosmic Vision level spacecraft the Solar Orbiter (SoLO)

  • Launch date 10 February 2020, 04:03 UTC [5]

  • Rocket Atlas V 411 (AV-087) [6][7]

  • Launch site Cape Canaveral, SLC-41

  • Science to start in Novembre 2021, planned to last 7 years.

The objective of the mission is to perform close-up, high-resolution studies of the Sun and its inner heliosphere. The new understanding will help answer these questions:

  • How and where do the solar wind plasma and magnetic field originate in the corona?

  • How do solar transients drive heliospheric variability?

  • How do solar eruptions produce energetic particle radiation that fills the heliosphere?

  • How does the solar dynamo work and drive connections between the Sun and the heliosphere?

During closest approach SolO will only be about 60 solar radii (42 millions km, or 0.28 astronomical units) from the Surface of the sun! (PArker is only 9.9 Solar Radii!!!

13 times the radiation flux that it would experience from Earth's orbit temperatures rising as high as 520°C.

“The main body of the spacecraft takes cover behind a multi-layered 3.1 m by 2.4 m heatshield,” explained Pierre Olivier, Solar Orbiter’s safety engineer.

The spacecraft and its instruments, have a sandwich structure of high-temperature multi-layer insulation foil coated with "Solar Black". A pigment once daubed onto prehistoric cave paintings a type of black calcium phosphate processed from burnt bone charcoal. That is CoBlasted onto the Titanium.

Metals that have a surface oxide layer (like Aluminium) have that layer blasted off while at the same time this blasting grit is doped with the Solar Black, by a company Called Enbio from based at the University College Dublin campus

Another Enbio product, ‘Solar White’ is also being tested for other elements of Solar Orbiter exposed to the Sun, including its main antenna, instrument booms and solar array attachments.

“We’ve found that the Solar Black works well as a ‘tie layer’ foundation on metal, allowing us to place another layer on top – in this case a carefully tailored conductive white ceramic,” John O’Donoghue, Managing Director of Enbio.

Orbit will be pretty cool

  • Resonant orbit around the Sun with Venus

  • With each gravity assist manoeuvre at Venus that SolO will perform every third orbit around the Sun, its inclination will increase slightly

  • At the end of the Extended Mission Phase (in 2030), SolO will have reached an inclination of about 30° with respect to the solar equator.and permit high-latitude and close-up studies of the Sun

  • At nearest approach, SolO's velocity will come close to the angular velocity of the Sun, allowing for extended observations of a given region on the Sun.


10 in Total

Heliospheric in-situ instruments (4)

  • SWA - Solar Wind Plasma Analyser (United Kingdom): Consists of a suite of sensors that will measure the ion and electron bulk properties (including, density, velocity, and temperature) of the solar wind,

  • EPD - Energetic Particle Detector (Spain): To Measure the composition, timing and distribution functions of suprathermal and energetic particles

  • MAG - Magnetometer (United Kingdom): It will provide in situ measurements of the heliospheric magnetic field with high precision.

  • RPW - Radio and Plasma Wavesalyzer (France): Experience unique amongst the Solar Orbiter instruments in that it makes both in situ and remote-sensing measurementsRPW will measure magnetic and electric fields at high time resolution using a number of sensors/antennas, to determine the characteristics of electromagnetic and electrostatic waves in the solar wind

Solar remote-sensing instruments (6)

  • PHI - Polarimetric and Helioseismic Imager (Germany): To provide high-resolution and full-disc measurements of the photospheric vector magnetic field and line-of-sight (LOS) velocity

  • EUI - Extreme Ultraviolet Imager (Belgium): To provide image sequences of the solar atmospheric layers above the photosphere

  • SPICE - Spectral Imaging of the Coronal Environment (France): To perform extreme ultraviolet imaging spectroscopy to remotely characterize plasma properties of the Sun's on-disc corona

  • STIX - Spectrometer Telescope for Imaging X-rays (Switzerland): To provide imaging spectroscopy of solar thermal and non-thermal X-ray emission from 4 to 150 keV

  • METIS (Multi Element Telescope for Imaging and Spectroscopy) Coronagraph (Italy): To simultaneously image the visible, ultraviolet and extreme ultraviolet emission of the solar corona and diagnose, with unprecedented temporal coverage and spatial resolution, the structure and dynamics of the full corona

  • SolOHI - Solar Orbiter Heliospheric Imager (United States): To image both the quasi-steady flow and transient disturbances in the solar wind

Responses to last week dark matter

"Prof McCulloch tells me that he hopes QI will feature in your next podcast, and adds that QI goes much further & shows properly that information theory predicts galaxy rotation exactly without Dark Matter". rival theory at uni Plymouth

First thing I noticed is that QI is a little bit like MOND or other modified gravity theories, without the downside of being damaged by the Bullet Cluster Picture,

A quick primer on QI

Ever heard of Unruh effect

The Unruh effect was first described by Stephen Fulling in 1973, Paul Davies in 1975 and W. G. Unruh in 1976.

Remember that you are literally at the centre of your own visible universe, in other words, your universe has an event horizon, what happens on the other side of this bubble ...stay on the other side of the bubble, it’s the trouble at Hubble scale, or put another way There is an event horizon in the universe where light or indeed any information, cannot and will never be able to reach you

Enter Virtual articles.

Space can’t be a vacuum, virtual particle appear in positive and negative pairs, borrowing energy from the quantum vacuum, and the annihilate each other repaying that debt pretty quickly, like really good debtors, the universe seems like it would have harsh borrowing terms!!

Remember Stephen Hawking had an amazing insight; what if the pairs of particles should pop into existence right by the edge of a blackholes event horizon, and one were to fall in and the other was to escape, this means that the energy, would have to be paid back by the black hole, a sort of generous wealthy middle man, but slowly the blackhole would run out of money and will evaporate, right at the end extremely angrily in a flash of radiation as it realised it had been duped by the virtual particles.

So as we said we also have a type of event horizon, what if the virtual particles were being made at the edge of your visible or more accurately causal Universe? Could the same happen, that at this edged there is energy trading by the universe in your frame of reference? If so there would be a type of radiation, like hawking radiation, coming at you.

Are they accepted, lots of physicists like the idea, and can’t see the problem, others don’t. Some have even claimed to have seen it!!! See Smolyaninov, Igor I. (24 November 2008). "Photoluminescence from a gold nanotip in an accelerated reference frame". This experiment does not seem repeatable though!

Casimir Effect

So we need to think about another highly accepted phenomena here; the Casimir effect predicted in 1948

It involves these virtual particles again. Remember that particles are also waves (wave-particle duality) A certain wavelength of wave can only exist if there is room for the wave that wave ...length, Meaning if you have two (non-charged) plates very close together, only certain types of virtual particles can come into existence, those capable of existing in this gap. As there will be more on the other side of these plates as there is more room for more types of virtual particles, the plates will have more Virtual particles smashing into them form the one side than the other, thus exerting more force one way than the other, very much like pressure. In fact, at separations of 10 nm – about 100 times the typical size of an atom – the Casimir effect produces the equivalent of about 1 atmosphere of pressure.

Combine all this

If you accelerate then your event horizon bubble is moving with you and you start to see beyond the original horizon in the direction of travel and less than the original horizon behind you you are in Rindler Space with new Rindler Horizons, This means that more Unruh radiation will be fitting in the gap between you and the front horizon and less in the area behind you and that Rindler horizon. Sound familiar, we have a sort of Casimir effect at the Hubble distance!!! And there is a slight pressure impeding your acceleration, or inertia if you will.

So if you have a star accelerating around a galaxy, maybe it is experiencing this quantised inertia and this force is keeping it accelerating and whizzing off into space, thus sticking the galaxies together with this new Quantised inertia force, rather than the force of dark matter, so Dark Matter not required!!!!

A lot of scientists are calling Psuedoscience on this one, I think actually unfairly. Afterall Dark matter itself as a concept is an ad hoc piece of reasoning added to a theory in response to observations which falsify it, at worse a hypothesis which adds no empirical content and hence is unfalsifiable, unlike this theory.

This is super controversial, I think, mainly because you have to dumb the Lamda-CDM model and some off Einsteins work to believe it, so you can see physicists reticence. Prof McCulloch did himself no favours by linking this with things like the EMDrive which are extremely on the edge of accepted science. I think the downside of both is that we need to rule out lots of mundane reasons why we see the effects we do, using conventional physics (Ockham’s Razor) and for some of the things this theory said it predicted already have been. Pioneer Spacecraft, for example, was showing a weird type of inertia, but it was the thermal recoil of the power supply. EMDrive's measured thrust is lower than this theory predicts and there is a list of reasons for the thrust that needs to be eliminated first, but

as sherlock holmes said when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

Thanks to the Skylon Patrons

Bob Hodges

John Benac

Julio Aprea

Kaarel Siim

Sven Neuhaus

Darren Fooks

Patrick Haywood

Mark Scheuern

Stas Shusha

Christopher Andreasen

Rob Annable

Audun Vaaler

Antony Peggs

Matt Gilliland

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