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Researchers spotted a radio signal so strong, it might just be the work of aliens … maybe

On May 15, 2015, astronomers in the Russian Republic of Karachay-Cherkessia spotted a strange radio signal coming from the direction of a star, HD164595, located fewer than 100 light years away, in the Hercules constellation. The researchers speculated that it could be either a Kardashev I or Kardashev II civilization.

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The Seven Superuniverses, “The Urantia Book”, 1955.

The Urantia Book (sometimes called the Urantia Papers or The Fifth Epochal Revelation) is a spiritual and philosophical book. The exact circumstances of the origin of The Urantia Book are unknown. The book and its publishers do not name a human author. Instead, it is written as if directly presented by numerous celestial beings appointed to the task of providing an “epochal” religious revelation.

According to Urantia Papers, there are seven superuniverses in the grand universe, and they are constituted approximately as follows:
1. The System. The basic unit of the supergovernment consists of about one thousand inhabited or inhabitable worlds. Spheres not suitable for creature habitation are not included in this group. These one thousand worlds adapted to support life are called a system. Each inhabited planet is presided over by a Planetary Prince, and each local system has an architectural sphere as its headquarters and is ruled by a System Sovereign.
2. The Constellation. One hundred systems (about 100,000 inhabitable planets) make up a constellation. Each constellation has an architectural headquarters sphere and is presided over by three Vorondadek Sons, the Most Highs. Each constellation also has a Faithful of Days in observation, an ambassador of the Paradise Trinity.
3. The Local Universe. One hundred constellations (about 10,000,000 inhabitable planets) constitute a local universe. Each local universe has a magnificent architectural headquarters world and is ruled by one of the co-ordinate Creator Sons of God of the order of Michael. Each universe is blessed by the presence of a Union of Days, a representative of the Paradise Trinity.
4. The Minor Sector. One hundred local universes (about 1,000,000,000 inhabitable planets) constitute a minor sector of the superuniverse government; it has a wonderful headquarters world, wherefrom its rulers, the Recents of Days, administer the affairs of the minor sector. 
5. The Major Sector. One hundred minor sectors (about 100,000,000,000 inhabitable worlds) make one major sector. Each major sector is provided with a superb headquarters and is presided over by three Perfections of Days, Supreme Trinity Personalities.
6. The Superuniverse. Ten major sectors (about 1,000,000,000,000 inhabitable planets) constitute a superuniverse. Each superuniverse is provided with an enormous and glorious headquarters world and is ruled by three Ancients of Days.
7. The Grand Universe. Seven superuniverses make up the present organized grand universe, consisting of approximately seven trillion inhabitable worlds plus the architectural spheres and the one billion inhabited spheres of Havona. The superuniverses are ruled and administered indirectly and reflectively from Paradise by the Seven Master Spirits. The billion worlds of Havona are directly administered by the Eternals of Days, one such Supreme Trinity Personality presiding over each of these perfect spheres.

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HUNT FOR NINTH PLANET REVEALS NEW EXTREMELY DISTANT SOLAR SYSTEM OBJECTS

In the race to discover a proposed ninth planet in our solar system, Carnegie’s Scott Sheppard and Chadwick Trujillo of Northern Arizona University have observed several never-before-seen objects at extreme distances from the Sun in our solar system. Sheppard and Trujillo have now submitted their latest discoveries to the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center for official designations. A paper about the discoveries has also been accepted to The Astronomical Journal.

The more objects that are found at extreme distances, the better the chance of constraining the location of the ninth planet that Sheppard and Trujillo first predicted to exist far beyond Pluto (itself no longer classified as a planet) in 2014. The placement and orbits of small, so-called extreme trans-Neptunian objects, can help narrow down the size and distance from the Sun of the predicted ninth planet, because that planet’s gravity influences the movements of the smaller objects that are far beyond Neptune. The objects are called trans-Neptunian because their orbits around the Sun are greater than Neptune’s.

In 2014, Sheppard and Trujillo announced the discovery of 2012 VP113 (nicknamed “Biden”), which has the most-distant known orbit in our solar system. At this time, Sheppard and Trujillo also noticed that the handful of known extreme trans-Neptunian objects all cluster with similar orbital angles. This lead them to predict that there is a planet at more than 200 times our distance from the Sun. Its mass, ranging in possibility from several Earths to a Neptune equivalent, is shepherding these smaller objects into similar types of orbits.

Some have called this Planet X or Planet 9. Further work since 2014 showed that this massive ninth planet likely exists by further constraining its possible properties. Analysis of “neighboring” small body orbits suggest that it is several times more massive than the Earth, possibly as much as 15 times more so, and at the closest point of its extremely stretched, oblong orbit it is at least 200 times farther away from the Sun than Earth. (This is over 5 times more distant than Pluto.)

“Objects found far beyond Neptune hold the key to unlocking our solar system’s origins and evolution,” Sheppard explained. “Though we believe there are thousands of these small objects, we haven’t found very many of them yet, because they are so far away. The smaller objects can lead us to the much bigger planet we think exists out there. The more we discover, the better we will be able to understand what is going on in the outer solar system.”

Sheppard and Trujillo, along with David Tholen of the University of Hawaii, are conducting the largest, deepest survey for objects beyond Neptune and the Kuiper Belt and have covered nearly 10 percent of the sky to date using some of the largest and most advanced telescopes and cameras in the world, such as the Dark Energy Camera on the NOAO 4-meter Blanco telescope in Chile and the Japanese Hyper Suprime Camera on the 8-meter Subaru telescope in Hawaii. As they find and confirm extremely distant objects, they analyze whether their discoveries fit into the larger theories about how interactions with a massive distant planet could have shaped the outer solar system.

“Right now we are dealing with very low-number statistics, so we don’t really understand what is happening in the outer solar system,” Sheppard said. “Greater numbers of extreme trans-Neptunian objects must be found to fully determine the structure of our outer solar system.”

According to Sheppard, “we are now in a similar situation as in the mid-19th century when Alexis Bouvard noticed Uranus’ orbital motion was peculiar, which eventually led to the discovery of Neptune.”

The new objects they have submitted to the Minor Planet Center for designation include 2014 SR349 [http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/mpec/K16/K16Q41.html], which adds to the class of the rare extreme trans-Neptunian objects. It exhibits similar orbital characteristics to the previously known extreme bodies whose positions and movements led Sheppard and Trujillo to initially propose the influence of Planet X.

Another new extreme object they found, 2013 FT28 [http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/mpec/K16/K16Q39.html], has some characteristics similar to the other extreme objects but also some differences. The orbit of an object is defined by six parameters. The clustering of several of these parameters is the main argument for a ninth planet to exist in the outer solar system. 2013 FT28 shows similar clustering in some of these parameters (its semi-major axis, eccentricity, inclination, and argument of perihelion angle, for angle enthusiasts out there) but one of these parameters, an angle called the longitude of perihelion, is different from that of the other extreme objects, which makes that particular clustering trend less strong.

Another discovery, 2014 FE72 [http://www.minorplanetcenter.net/mpec/K16/K16Q43.html], is the first distant Oort Cloud object found with an orbit entirely beyond Neptune. It has an orbit that takes the object so far away from the Sun (some 3,000 times farther than Earth) that it is likely being influenced by forces of gravity from beyond our solar system such as other stars and the galactic tide. It is the first object observed at such a large distance.

TOP IMAGE….An illustration of the orbits of the new and previously known extremely distant Solar System objects. The clustering of most of their orbits indicates that they are likely be influenced by something massive and very distant, the proposed Planet X. Image is courtesy of Robin Dienel.

LOWER IMAGE….An artist’s conception of Planet X, courtesy of Robin Dienel.

smithsonianmag.com
Why the Universe Needs More Black and Latino Astronomers
Astronomy has one of the worst diversity rates of any scientific field. This Harvard program is trying to change that
By Joshua Sokol

Alton Sterling. Philando Castile. Pedro Villanueva. Anthony Nuñez.

These four names—all recent black and Latino victims of police violence—stare out at a college classroom full of budding astronomers. Written above them on the chalkboard is the now-familiar rallying call “Black Lives Matter.” It’s a Friday morning in July, and John Johnson, a black astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, has written these words as part of the day’s agenda. Later this afternoon, they’ll serve as a launching point for a discussion about these specific killings and the implications of systemic racism.

It’s something you might expect in an African American history class, or maybe a class on social justice. But this is a summer astronomy internship. Most astronomy internships are about parsing through tedious telescope data, battling with an arcane computer language in a basement, or making a poster to present at a conference: skills meant to help you get into grad school. The point of this class, which is made up entirely of African-American and Latino college students, is something very different.

The Banneker Institute is an ambitious new program meant to increase the number of black and Latino astronomers in the field—and to ensure that they are equipped to grapple with the social forces they will face in their careers. Undergraduates from all over the country apply to the Institute, which pays for them to live and work at Harvard for the summer. During the program, they alternate between specific research projects, general analysis techniques, and social justice activism—hence the names on the chalkboard.

Johnson, who studies extrasolar planets and is pioneering new ways to find them, started the program two years ago as a way to open up a historically rarefied, white, male enterprise. In 2013, Johnson left a professorship at Caltech to move to Harvard, citing Caltech’s lackluster commitment to diversity.

His own interest in the topic, he says, came out of the same basic curiosity that drives his research. “I’m really curious about how planets form,” says Johnson, whose research has helped astronomers revise their attitudes about planets around dwarf stars, which are now considered some of the best places to search for life. “The other thing I want to know the answer to is: Where are all the black folks? Because the further I went in my career, the fewer and fewer black people I saw.”

When he looked up the diversity statistics, Johnson became even more convinced: first that a problem existed, and then that something needed to be done about it. Not just for the sake of fairness, but for the advancement of the field.

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Aurora over Icelandic Fault

(via APOD; Image Credit & Copyright: Juan Carlos Casado (TWAN, Earth and Stars) )

Admire the beauty but fear the beast. The beauty is the aurora overhead, here taking the form of great green spiral, seen between picturesque clouds with the bright Moon to the side and stars in the background. The beast is the wave of charged particles that creates the aurora but might, one day, impair civilization. Exactly this week in 1859, following notable auroras seen all across the globe, a pulse of charged particles from a coronal mass ejection (CME) associated with a solar flare impacted Earth’s magnetosphere so forcefully that they created the Carrington Event. A relatively direct path between the Sun and the Earth might have been cleared by a preceding CME. What is sure is that the Carrington Event compressed the Earth’s magnetic field so violently that currents were created in telegraph wires so great that many wires sparked and gave telegraph operators shocks. Were a Carrington-class event to impact the Earth today, speculation holds that damage might occur to global power grids and electronics on a scale never yet experienced. The featured aurora was imaged last week over Thingvallavatn Lake in Iceland, a lake that partly fills a fault that divides Earth’s large Eurasian and North American tectonic plates.