Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Astronomy roundup

There's a disease going round.

While on the one hand, the degree of uncertainty that is in almost all science is thrown in to relief by this:

Astronomers are rubbing their eyes after discovering that a galaxy assumed to have been a giant for the past 23 years is in fact a dwarf, according to new observations.
And on the other hand, we read that:
"Global warming on Neptune's moon Triton as well as Jupiter and Pluto, and now Mars has some [scientists] scratching their heads over what could possibly be in common with the warming of all these planets ... Could there be something in common with all the planets in our solar system that might cause them all to warm at the same time?"
On, er... the third hand we note that there is one area of science that is absolutely certain. Can you guess what it is?
[some] scientists have alternative explanations for the anomalous warming on each of these other planetary bodies.

The warming on Triton, for example, could be the result of an extreme southern summer on the moon, a season that occurs every few hundred years[*], as well as possible[**] changes in the makeup of surface ice that caused it to absorb more of the Sun's heat.

Researchers credited Pluto's warming to possible eruptive activity and a delayed thawing from its last close approach to the Sun in 1989.

And the recent storm activity on Jupiter is being blamed on a recurring climatic cycle that churns up material from the gas giant's interior and lofts it to the surface, where it is heated by the Sun.
That's right. All this is to support the absolute certainty of anthropic global warming:
"Solar activity continues to be one of the last bastions of contrarians," [Penn State meteorologist Michael] Mann said. "People who don't accept the existence of anthropogenic climate change still try to point to solar activity."
Meanwhile, back in the sane world, Richard Feynman's astrophysicist sister Joan has published a paper titled "Has Solar Variability Caused Climate Change that Affected Human Culture?"(this via the very excellent blog The Reference Frame)

[*] - You'll remember the stunning pictures of the summer on Triton, taken a "few hundred years" ago.

[**] - A regrettable note of uncertainty there.

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