Never one to shirk from gutter humor in times of stress and anxiety, I was amused to read a recent article from Popular Science that “…our image of Uranus hasn’t advanced substantially beyond the featureless blue beachball captured by Voyager 2’s vintage instruments in 1986.”
Uranus is an odd planet. Where others spin, Uranus rolls, tipped on its side with its poles pointing generally toward or away from the sun. Its magnetic field is bonkers too, offset from the planet’s center and tipped at a wild 60 degrees to the side. Planetary astronomers are blind to that magnetic field from Earth, although the Hubble Space Telescope can occasionally catch an indirect glimpse via Uranus’s auroras—which can shine far from the poles.
Last year, while combing through NASA’s archives of the Voyager 2 mission, two planetary scientists noticed something earlier analyses had overlooked—a blip in Uranus’s magnetic field as the spacecraft cruised through a magnetic bubble of sorts. They spotted a special 60-second long section of Voyager 2’s 45-hour flyby where the magnetic field rose and fell in an instantly recognizable way.
They deduced that it might be a plasmoid. Plasmoids are charged globs of atmosphere blown out into space when the solar wind whips around planets. Losing such blobs can dramatically transform a world over a long period of time, and studying them can provide insight into how planets live and die.
The Voyager team initially assumed the magnetic wackiness was linked to the Uranus’s belly flop position, but when the spacecraft flew by Neptune (which stands up straight) three years later it saw the same apparent mismatch between the planet and its field. Now researchers assume that something about the worlds’ inner workings must set their magnetic fields apart.
The article was titled:
“Uranus blasted a gas bubble 22,000 times bigger than the Earth.”
In other words:
I know, I know. I have been absent and have failed to fulfill my complement of bitching and grousing.
I will return to that subject but first – another trip, this time to three US National Parks; the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier. My wife and I took this trip in May, starting at the Grand Tetons then moving north first through Yellowstone and then Glacier. Taking the trip early in the season meant some chanciness in the weather. The Grand Tetons had some rainy weather but we got an improvement in Yellowstone and Glacier. We also got a look at a number of critters including black bears and a grizzly. More on that later.
First up, the Grand Tetons.
The first four pictures are the classic one (though a bit cloudy) of the Snake River in the foreground and the Tetons in the background. The Tetons are unusual in that, unlike most mountain ranges (the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Cascades and Sierra Nevada’s), they rise directly from a flat valley without any foothills. It’s all due to tectonic activity and the fact that one tectonic plate is moving directly under another and, as one plate rises, erosion levels the valley floor. At times, it is as though there is a flat valley floor and the Tetons are huge fake drapery to convince you that there are mountains.
During our visit, we took the boat ride across Jenny Lake and the next picture shows the approach to the landing dock. A hike with a 600 foot in elevation change took us to hidden falls (next picture).
A Mormon community attempted to establish a farming community in the latter part of the nineteenth century and this barn is often captured in photographs of the now abandoned buildings of that community.
Next is a picture taken from our bedroom balcony at the Jackson Lake Lodge and the last is one on our departure to Yellowstone as the weather cleared.
[Next up is Yellowstone.]
My wife and I recently returned from a trip to China. We flew out on Saturday morning January 19th non-stop to Shanghai and returned on Saturday, February 2nd after a non-stop flight from Beijing. We were part of the Worldwide Explorers’ photography tour (https://www.worldwide-explorers.com/ ; https://www.worldwide-explorers.com/blog ) – a very small group, only six of us plus three guides, one of whom was our Chinese interpreter.
We went from Shanghai to three “water towns,” old villages east of Shanghai unchanged for a thousand years. Then we went east to Zhangjiajie, China’s first national park, a UNESCO heritage site and the location for the movie Avatar. When we returned to Shanghai, the photo tour was over but we had hired the Chinese interpreter as our guide for Beijing. We took a bullet train from Shanghai to Beijing and then got to see the Forbidden City, the Beijing Zoo and the Great Wall before heading back.
China is a fascinating country; it should have a sign when entering that says “country under construction.” Everywhere we went, even in the rural areas, buildings were either being built or torn down. Sometimes it was hard to tell which one it was. Shanghai is a city of contrasts – the very modern skyscraper city, the elegant old Bund and, just a few blocks away, the old, old back streets of an earlier Shanghai. The water towns were very interesting. I expected to arrive at them in a rural setting. Instead, we drove and stopped in a city, walked to an entrance beyond which was this older, hidden village – canals and all – surrounded by a modern city. Very strange.
I could have spent days at the Forbidden City. Supposedly, it has buildings whose rooms total 9,999. Even during the off-season (January), it was very crowded. By contrast, we went to a sparsely visited section of the Great Wall. Most of the pictures you see of the Great Wall are probably taken around Badaling. This section has been completely restored and is only a short hike (5 minutes) from taxi to wall. We went to Simitai which is much less traveled and also not restored. We had an hour hike to get to the wall but we were the only ones there.
A few pictures of Shanghai at night; more photos of the trip will follow.
Posted in Uncurmudgeonized
Tagged ancient water towns, Beijing, China, commentary, Forbidden City, Great Wall of China, life, news, Shanghai, travel, Worldwide Explorers, Zhangjiajie
Pontius Pilate, 21st century version:
“What is truth?” said jesting Donaldus Pilate.
“’Truth isn’t truth’1 because ‘over time, truth develops’2 and results in ‘alternative facts.’3”
- Rudy Giuliani, Donald Trump’s TV lawyer
- Jay Sekulow, Donald Trump’s personal lawyer
- Kellyanne Conway, Counselor to the President