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#221 - Conscious Stars - Kelvin Long

This week, Matt and Chris chat about Lagrange, close calls, Planetary Nebulas, Loneliness space apps, Gravitational Lenses, and the second half of the Kelvin Long interview about conscious stars.



As long as algebra and geometry have been separated, their progress have been slow and their uses limited; but when these two sciences have been united, they have lent each mutual forces, and have marched together towards perfection.

1736 – Joseph-Louis Lagrange

Italian-French mathematician and astronomer (d. 1813) exactly 23 years before Robbie Burns, century after Newton.

Incredible time in maths and physics - Lagrange was a student of Euler and Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert and went on to teach the mighty Fourier!!!!,

  • Largely self-taught and did not obtain a university degree

  • Lagrange did not sleep much. He got into the lifelong habit of keeping himself awake for long hours of work with the aid of tea and coffee

  • At age 20, his vision was to unite all of mechanics using only one fundamental principle:“I will deduce the complete mechanics of solid and fluid bodies using the principle of least action.”... he did The single uniting principle turned out to be virtual work rather than least action. He first used virtual work in 1763 in a paper discussing the libration of the moon.

  • Heavily involved in the metric system

  • Heavily involved in the search for an accurate Longitude

  • The greatest Classical Mechanic since newton, Lagrangian mechanics transforming Newtonian mechanics into a branch of analysis

  • Calculus of variations. Lagrange invented the method of solving differential equations known as variation of parameters, applied differential calculus to the theory of probabilities and worked on solutions for algebraic equations

  • He proved that every natural number is a sum of four squares.


He studied the three-body problem for the Earth, Sun and Moon and the movement of Jupiter's satellites and in 1772 found the special-case solutions to this problem that yield what are now known as Lagrangian points. The Lagrange, or libration, points relate to areas where the gravitational effects of two masses equal the centripetal force necessary for a smaller mass to move with them. There are five such points for each two-bodied system where the mass ratio between the two masses is greater than ~25. This applies to both the Earth-Sun and Earth-Moon systems and many others in the solar system. Think Trojans around Jupiter and the Lucy mission going this year



25 January 1994 – The spacecraft Clementine by BMDO and NASA is launched.


Named Clementine after the song "Oh My Darling, Clementine" as the spacecraft would be "lost and gone forever" following its mission.

Its objective was to test 8 distinct sensors and spacecraft components in long-term exposure to space and to make scientific observations of both the Moon and the near-Earth asteroid 1620 Geographos. Observation of the asteroid was not made due to a malfunction in the spacecraft.

Instruments included UV/Visible Camera, a Near Infrared Camera, a Long Wavelength Infrared Camera, a High-Resolution Camera, two Star Tracker Cameras, a Laser Altimeter, and a Charged Particle Telescope. The S-band transponder


Norway section



25 January 1995 – The Norwegian rocket incident: Russia almost launches a nuclear attack after it mistakes Black Brant XII, a Norwegian research rocket, for a US Trident missile.

  • The Norwegian rocket incident, also known as the Black Brant scare, occurred on January 25, 1995, when a team of Norwegian and US scientists launched a Black Brant XII four-stage sounding rocket from the Andøya Rocket Range off the northwestern coast of Norway.

  • It was detected by the Olenegorsk early-warning radar station in Murmansk Oblast, Russia

  • The rocket carried scientific equipment to study the aurora borealis over Svalbard and flew on a high northbound trajectory, which included an air corridor that stretches from Minuteman III nuclear missile silos in North Dakota all the way to the Russian capital city of Moscow

  • The rocket eventually reached an altitude of 1,453 kilometres, resembling a U.S. Navy submarine-launched Trident missile. Russian nuclear forces were put on high alert fearing a high-altitude EMP gamma-ray nuclear attack that could blind and confuse Russian radar as a precursor to an actual attack

  • Tracking the trajectory took 8 of the 10 minutes allotted to the process of deciding whether to launch a nuclear response to an impending attack; a submarine-launched Trident missile from the Barents Sea would be able to reach mainland Russia in 10 minutes

  • Russia's nuclear briefcase the Cheget was brought to Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who then had to decide whether to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike against the United States. Yeltsin activated his "nuclear keys" for the first time,

  • The first and thus far only known incident where any nuclear-weapons state had its nuclear briefcase activated and prepared for launching an attack

  • Russian observers determined that there was no nuclear attack and did not retaliate.

  • The Norwegian and U.S. scientists had notified thirty countries, including Russia, but due to a mixup, they had not got that message to radar operators.



25 January 1983 - IRAS - First Infrared orbital observatory Launched on a delta 3910 from Vendenburg.



  • first-ever space telescope to perform a survey of the entire night sky at infrared wavelengths, Over 250,000 infrared sources were observed at 12, 25, 60, and 100-micrometre wavelengths

  • 10 Month Mission, a joint project of the United States (NASA), the Netherlands (NIVR), and the United Kingdom (SERC)

  • The precursor to the Infrared Space Observatory (1990s) and the Hubble Space Telescope's NICMOS instrument. Spitzer Space Telescope.

  • IRAS was the first use of superfluids in space, 73 kilograms (161 lb) of superfluid helium kept the telescope at a temperature of 2 K (−271 °C; −456 °F),

  • over a quarter million discrete targets were observed during its operations

  • IRAS discovered six comets, out of a total of 22 discoveries and recoveries of all comets that year

  • Discovered Planetary disks round stars (confirmed late using Hubble data)

  • announcement on 10 December 1983 of the discovery of an "unknown object possibly as large as the giant planet Jupiter and possibly so close to Earth that it would be part of this solar system" - They were pretty much all distant galaxies

  • 1 object, however, was an "intergalactic cirrus".

Space Word of the Week

"intergalactic cirrus"



Infrared cirrus or Galactic cirrus are Galactic filamentary structures seen in space over most of the sky that emit far-infrared light.

The name is given because the structures are cloud-like in appearance.

These structures were first detected by the Infrared Astronomy Satellite at wavelengths of 60 and 100 micrometres.

The most common shape of cirrus is filamentary, which can be smooth or clumpy at IRAS resolution. In certain regions, the cirrus takes a more rounded form.

The origin of the cirrus is not yet known, but in its present state it is perhaps a relatively simple laboratory for studying the interaction of dust, gas, magnetic fields, and interstellar radiation due to the low optical depth, distance from stellar formation and evolution processes, and infrequency of shock signature


Great interactive map of all 50 Gravitational waves event., including sound waves, brilliant diagram that demonstrates the mass of these events, the epoch, Created by Nadieh Bremer | VisualCinnamon.com


Rocket news

SLS rocket failed to complete its hot-fire test.

The core stage of NASA's stopped after just 67.2 seconds, firing should last for 485 seconds.

17th Jan Was a successful launch of NASA's ELaNa 20 mission, Second flight and first successful launch of Virgin LauncherOne. First commercial company to reach orbit with an air-launched, liquid-fueled rocket. Question is will we see Cosmic Girl come to Cornwall!!!!



20th Jan Starlink launch First time that a Falcon 9 first stage booster (B1051) is re-flown and recovered for the 8th time and shortest turnaround for a booster so far (38 days). Another Flight set for 29th

23rd Jan Dedicated SmallSat Rideshare mission to sun-synchronous orbit, designated Transporter 1, ELaNa 35 will launch aboard Spaceflight Industries' Sherpa-FX1 as part of Spaceflight's SXRS-3 mission Sherpa-FX1 will also host two onboard payloads: Celestis Horizon space burial flight and TAGSAT-1. ION Satellite Carrier, The 60 cm cubic dispenser allows for several combinations of 1U, 2U, 3U, 3U+, 6U, 6U+, 12U and 12U+ Cubesats A record 143 satellites were deployed, exceeding the previous record. PSLV had 104

Starship gets two mobile spaceports. SpaceX has acquired two former oil drilling rigs to serve as floating spaceports for its Starship launch system,

Good story over at Bad astronomy.

StDr 56, a possible planetary nebula in the constellation of Triangulum

Amateur astronomers Marcel Drechsler and Xavier Strottner, comb through surveys of the sky looking for planetary nebulae. This is number 56 in the catalogue and is about the size of the full moon in the night sky.



Planetary Nebula: Called planets because that’s what they looked like, but they having nothing to do with planets. Blame Herschel

A Star, like our sun, up to about 8x, start to puff up when it’s running out of fuel (red giant) and this outer gas shell starts to get carried away, by the stellar wind, in a bubble, away from the remaining ultrahot dense white dwarf stellar remnant (planetary nebula nucleus (PNN),, this stellar remnant gives off soo much UV energy that it excites the expanding gas bubble creating a lovely glowing nebula, of which there are some beauties like the Cat eye, helix, Lion, ring, lemon slice, nebula and other Hubble highlights. Bigger stars go one bigger like the crab nebula which is a supernova remnant.

StDr is tentatively called the Goblet of Fire Nebula, but a bit of a mystery surrounds it. It is very beautiful, but it’s unclear which of the two White Dwarfs captured by Gaia in the centre are responsible. One is 3800 Light years away making the nebula unlikely large at 33 light-years across, while the other is 1130 Light years away, making a more reasonable 10 Light years which means the progenitor star must have been massive to have such a big bubble even still!! Usually, it would take a supernova remnant to get that big.

One way to find out is to measure the spectrum of light, if this is done with enough accuracy you can tell what speed the bubble is expanding, if that is in the hundreds of thousands of times second territory then we are talking about a supernova, if it’s in the tens of Km/s then it’s probably a planetary nebula.

Astrophotographer Robert Pölz took it in Austria using a 10” telescope and it's a total of 60 hours of exposure time. An exposure accurate enough to do spectral analysis requires a massive observatory and more exposure time.

Discovering New Strong Gravitational Lenses in the DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys

X. Huang

Machine Learning Finds More Gravitational Lenses Than All Astronomers Combined ever

Using a supercomputer to trawl through data from the DESI (Dark Energy Spectroscopic Instrument) Legacy Imaging Surveys revealed more than 1,200 new gravitational lenses,

The 8th data set was collected at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory (CTIO) and Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO), These surveys together cover approximately one-third of the sky visible from the northern hemisphere, a ninth and final one just released

Only 1 in 10,000 massive galaxies are expected to show evidence of strong gravitational lensing

machine-learning known as a deep residual neural net, They compiled a training sample that consists of known lensing systems as well as non-lenses in the Legacy Surveys and the Dark Energy Survey. They had to think about things like the lensing images often being in better resolution than other images so they had to compensate so the algorithm didn’t favour just deeper images. After applying the trained neural networks to the survey data, they visually inspect and rank images with probabilities above a threshold.

To analyze the data, Xiaosheng Huang from the University of San Francisco and team used the National Energy Research Scientific Computer Center’s (NERSC) supercomputer at Berkeley Lab. “The DESI Legacy Imaging Surveys were absolutely crucial to this study; not just the telescopes, instruments, and facilities but also data reduction and source extraction,” explains Huang. “The combination of the breadth and depth of the observations is unparalleled.”

With the large number of lens candidates now on hand, researchers can make new measurements of cosmological parameters such as the Hubble constant. The key will be to detect a supernova in the background galaxy, which, when lensed by a foreground galaxy, will appear as multiple points of light.



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