Friday, October 11, 2013
Gifts From The Cosmos
A charred black pebble found in the Egyptian desert may be a piece of a comet that shattered near Earth about 28 million years ago. If so, the stone would offer a first close-up glimpse of rock that formed at the very edges of the solar system.
The 30-gram stone was discovered by Egyptian geologist Aly Barakat in December 1996 in a part of the Sahara desert near the border with Libya. The 6000-square-kilometre region is famous for being strewn with fragments of pale green glass, thought to have formed millions of years ago during a meteorite strike. Ancient Egyptians used a piece of this Libyan desert glass to make a scarab for King Tutankhamen's burial jewellery.
Barakat thought the darker stone might be a kind of black diamond called carbonado, so he sent a sample to Marco Andreoli at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa.
Years of analysis revealed that the rock may be something even rarer: the first large-scale piece of a comet. Until now, scientists had found only grains of cometary material in Earth's atmosphere and in carbon-rich dust in Antarctic ice. NASA's Stardust spacecraft also returned a few dust grains from comet Wild 2 in 2006.
"We can study material from the outermost solar system for the first time," says Jan Kramers, a member of Andreoli's team at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. "This is actually quite exciting." - New Scientist
Lon 2 Cents: In the metaphysical world, these black-dark green glass remnants are referred to as 'tektites'. This also includes highly-prized green Moldavites and light golden Libyan Desert Glass...often used by Reiki healers and spiritual alchemists (like myself). If you'd like to read more, go to Tektite Information Page...Lon
Tektites A Cosmic Mystery
The Book of Stones: Who They Are & What They Teach
Collecting Rocks, Gems and Minerals: Identification, Values and Lapidary Uses
It's Raining Diamonds
Diamonds are forever, unless you’re on Saturn or Jupiter. Loads of the super-hard precious stones may be floating among the gas giants’ fluid layers and melted into liquid further into their depths, say a pair of planetary scientists.
The research, being presented at the Division for Planetary Sciences conference this week in Denver, sprang from very humble beginnings — soot in Saturn’s atmosphere, said Kevin Baines, a planetary scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and one of the work’s coauthors.
Baines, who works on the Cassini mission’s Saturn-orbiting spacecraft, was studying thick yellowish ammonia clouds in Saturn’s atmosphere when he noticed other extremely dark clouds cropping up as well.
“It’s almost like clockwork in the southern hemisphere, where we were studying these thunderstorms,” Baines said. “Whenever you have a thunderstorm you get both these types of clouds.”
The dark stuff turned out to be soot, bits of pure carbon with no internal structure trapped in frozen ammonia, Baines said. But where was this soot coming from? He and planetary scientist Mona Delitsky of California Specialty Engineering in Pasadena came up with an idea.
Saturn’s atmosphere is mostly hydrogen, Baines said, but there’s about a half percent of methane, a molecule made up of carbon and hydrogen. During a thunderstorm, lightning can fry that methane to a crisp, releasing the hydrogen and reducing the carbon to little black bits. The researchers think those bits of soot are blown up into the ammonia clouds during the thunderstorms.
“So we have this reservoir of carbon dust and so the natural question is, what happens to the carbon dust eventually?” Baines said. “Eventually it’s going to drift on down.”
The researchers think that as the soot particles fall slowly through Saturn, they start to find one another and glom together. These bits of pure carbon may also act as seeds that pull the carbons out of the methane molecules they meet, growing over time.
By the time they’ve floated several hundred miles into the planet, the growing heat and pressure crush the carbon into graphite, where the atoms are arranged into two-dimensional structures layered on top of one another. While it has some crystalline order, graphite’s still pretty soft. Those two-dimensional layers rub off easily, which is why it’s so useful as pencil lead.
Then about 3,700 miles down into the atmosphere, roughly the distance from Earth’s surface to its core, the pressure rises to 100,000 times that of Earth at sea level. It’s so powerful that it crushes the graphite into carbon’s three-dimensional crystalline form, diamond. These diamonds grow into large pebbles as they bob around in the planet’s fluid layers, Baines said.
The diamonds precipitate down through Saturn’s layers for another 22,400 miles or so, Baines said. (Keep in mind, Earth’s diameter is a mere 7,918 miles.) But at that point, the temperature is so high that even the diamonds can’t take it anymore, and they melt.
This entire process probably takes a long time, Baines estimated, perhaps on the order of a thousand years.
What would a melted diamond look like? It’s unclear, given that diamonds are defined by their crystalline structure, Delitsky said, though scientists have some ideas.
“When diamond melts, the liquid kind of retains some diamond-like geometry,” she said.
The idea that diamonds may reside in the bowels of other planets is not a new one, Baines said. The ice giants Neptune and Uranus have high enough pressures near their cores to forge the precious stone, but not enough heat to melt it.
But Saturn — and Jupiter, which is even more massive than its ringed neighbor — may showcase a novel way that a planet could potentially be making the diamonds, he added.
As for whether Earthlings could one day go and mine the diamonds, sending sturdy robots to scoop the gems out of Jupiter and Saturn’s layers, it’s somewhere in the realm of possibility, Baines said, maybe in 500 years’ time. And it might not be the most financially practical endeavor.
“It’s conceivable that that could happen, but it would be very expensive,” he said.
But if someone did, he added, a single shipment could flood Earth’s diamond market. - LA Times
Godspeed Scott Carpenter
Scott Carpenter, the second American to orbit the Earth, was guided by two instincts: overcoming fear and quenching his insatiable curiosity. He pioneered his way into the heights of space and the depths of the ocean floor.
‘Conquering of fear is one of life’s greatest pleasures and it can be done a lot of different places,’ he said.
His wife, Patty Barrett, said Carpenter, 88, died in a Denver hospice on Thursday of complications from a September stroke. He lived in Vail. Carpenter followed John Glenn into orbit, and it was Carpenter who gave him the historic send-off: ‘Godspeed John Glenn.’ The two were the last survivors of the famed original Mercury 7 astronauts from the ‘Right Stuff’ days of the early 1960s. Glenn is the only one left alive.
We Seven: By the Astronauts Themselves
The Right Stuff (30th Anniversary Edition) [Blu-ray]
Calvin Parker Jr. Says Pascagoula Abduction, Crab-Clawed Aliens, Changed Life
Charles Hickson never regretted the notoriety that came his way after he told authorities he encountered an unidentified flying object and its occupants 40 years ago on the banks of the Pascagoula River. Until his death in 2011, Hickson told his story to anyone who would listen.
But Calvin Parker Jr., the other man present for one of the most high-profile UFO cases in American history, has never come to terms with what he still says was a visit with gray, crab-clawed creatures from somewhere else. He says the encounter on Oct. 11, 1973, turned his life upside down.
"This is something I really didn't want to happen," Parker told The Associated Press as the 40th anniversary of the encounter approached.
Parker was unnerved by initial crush of unwelcome attention, with newsmen and UFO enthusiasts overrunning Walker Shipyard, where he and Hickson worked. He tried to dodge the spotlight for decades, moving frequently before returning to Mississippi's Gulf Coast in recent years.
The incident made headlines, sparked a wave of UFO sightings nationwide and became one of the most widely examined cases on record. Skeptics ranged from the deputies who first interviewed the men to an author who sought to poke holes in the story, and Parker himself has had conflicting thoughts about whether he was visited by aliens or demons.
Parker, now 58, was 18 when he went fishing with Hickson on a tranquil Thursday night after work.
As they dangled their lines without much luck, the two said a UFO with blue lights swooped down. They told of a zipping noise made by the object.
Hickson, then 42, said three creatures with leathery gray skin and crab-like claws — he thought they were robots — took them by the forearms and levitated them aboard the craft. He said something that looked like a large floating eye appeared to examine him.
Parker says he was conscious but paralyzed.
"They gave a thorough, I mean a thorough, examination to me just like any doctor would," he said.
And then they were back on the shore, where it all began. The UFO was gone and Parker said they tried to collect themselves. Hickson needed three shots of liquor from a bottle in his car to calm his nerves before deciding to report what happened.
At the Jackson County Sheriff's Department, deputies initially suspected both men were drunk. Then-Capt. Glenn Ryder, who still works for the sheriff's office, said he laughed at the report, but met with the men. Parker and Hickson stuck to their story.
After the formal interview, deputies left Hickson and Parker together in a room with a hidden tape recorder, hoping to catch them in a lie.
"Me and the other investigator got up and left to let them talk, to see if they were going to say, 'Well, we got them fooled,' but they didn't," Ryder said. "They were really concerned."
On the tape, Hickson tells Parker, "It scared me to death too, son. You can't get over it in a lifetime. Jesus Christ have mercy."
"I don't know what happened to them," Ryder said. "I wasn't there with them, but I know you don't fake fear, and they were fearful. They were fearful."
The next afternoon, the story was splashed across the front pages of newspapers in Pascagoula and Gulfport. Overnight, Pascagoula became a magnet for news reporters and UFO investigators.
Widespread interest in UFOs began in the 1940s with an incident at Roswell N.M., in which UFO enthusiasts believe the government got its hands on a crashed UFO and alien bodies. The government spent decades denying it.
In the 1960s, interest flared anew with a series of reports, including the purported alien abduction of New Hampshire couple Betty and Barney Hill in 1961. The widespread attention to the Pascagoula encounter set off a new round of reports.
In south Mississippi, hundreds of reports overwhelmed authorities in the two weeks after the Hickson-Parker encounter.
There were hoaxes and humor too. A Long Beach, Miss., taxi driver told police a being with pincers tapped on his window, a story he admitted days later was fake.
A Mobile, Ala., television station said it would record a UFO appearance predicted by a psychic between Mobile and nearby Pascagoula. Roughly 1,000 cars converged on the spot, where nothing happened.
An Ocean Springs alderman proposed an ordinance making it illegal to operate a UFO at more than twice the speed of light on U.S. 90, the coast's main drag. Mayor Tom Stennis voted against the ordinance, joking he didn't want to discourage tourism.
UFO skeptic Philip Klass believed Hickson and Parker's report was a hoax. In his book "UFOs Explained," he noted Hickson changed some details of his story and claimed a polygraph operator whose test Hickson passed wasn't up to the task. Parker later passed a lie detector test himself.
Hickson would go on to appear on talk shows, give lectures and interviews, and self-publish a book in 1983 titled "UFO Contact at Pascagoula." He reported three more encounters in 1974, and said the aliens communicated to him that they were peaceful.
"The only thing he wanted to do was let everybody know we were not alone," said Eddie Hickson, his son. "He didn't care if you believed him or not. If you wanted to listen, by gum, he'd tell you."
"He could never understand why he was chosen," the younger Hickson added. "But he never once told me that he wished it had never happened. Never."
Parker said the intrusions by curiosity seekers have become less frequent over the years, but have never really let up. "You don't never have no privacy," he said.
Parker married later in 1973 and eventually took oil industry and out-of-state construction jobs to escape the attention.
"By the time you get somewhere and they figure out who you were, I'd just go," he said. "I'd just go find another job somewhere."
Parker attended some UFO conventions, and was once hypnotized by Budd Hopkins, a noted UFO investigator. He briefly tried to capitalize on his story in 1993 by starting a Louisiana company called UFO Investigations where he and partners would produce television segments on the subject.
Parker moved to Moss Point in 2006 and in 2010 suffered a stroke that limited him physically. He's on disability aid now, but sometimes boats by the site of the encounter when he goes fishing. He said that just recently he met a woman at a gas station who already knew who he was.
"I'm always recognized," he said.
There's no historical marker on the river bank noting the encounter, and stores don't sell UFO souvenirs. But local people remember — though often with skepticism and jokes.
For his part, Parker said he's had conflicting thoughts over the years about that night in 1973. At one point, he wasn't even sure the creatures were aliens. They might have been demons, he said.
"I'm a firm believer in God and where there's good, there's bad," Parker said. - THP
Into The Unknown: The Pascagoula Alien Abductions
Alien Dawn: A Classic Investigation into the Contact Experience
Real Aliens, Space Beings, and Creatures from Other Worlds
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