Big Black Hole – How big is the picture?

It is making the news in various places that we have the first picture of a black hole… sort of. The part I find interesting is the size of the hole and of the picture, yeah, the size of the picture is impressive. More so than it looks

First Image showing Einstein predicted black hole. 4/2019

The black hole is in the constellation Virgo. The app Skyview (Android and iOS) or will help you find Virgo in the night sky. But you can’t see the black hole with your eyes. At 55 million lightyears away the hole which is 6.5 billion times heavier than our sun (10 billion kilometers in diameter – the diameter of Neptune’s orbit is 9 billion km) is too small to see.

To photograph it 8 radio telescopes located in Hawaii, Spain’s Sierra Nevada, the Chilean desert, and on the Antarctic ice sheet were used to create a huge virtual telescope. Each scope took images totaling about a petabyte of data (or 1 million megabytes). At that size, it was faster to fly the stacks of disks via FedEx to Massachusetts and Germany for processing by a supercomputer called a correlator rather than try to ‘upload’ the information. According to a petabyte of data would take 15,770 hours on an OC3 (155Mbps) connection (over 2 years). Continue reading

Space the Final Frontier, or Not

Do you know anything about the United Nations Outer Space Treaty, passed in 1967? Did you know it forbids the claiming of territory beyond Earth? Even if you get there, spending billions, you cannot own the land/asteroid. Cutting off any assurance you can recover your costs or gain any reward.



That relegates space exploration to governments and large corporations. Government has once again killed creative incentive.

Bob Zimmerman writing for the Federalist in Jumpstart Space Settlements suggests repealing the treaty and replacing it with the American Homestead Act of the 1800’s. That resulted in the rapid expansion of America into the west.

The keyword is ‘rapid’. The act provided for a return on investment. I suppose few people know that the rail line from the east to the west was incentivized by allowing the rail roads to claim two sections of land on each side of every mile of rail laid.

Land with all the possibilities of hidden wealth is an incredible incentive. The UN Treaty eliminates that incentive. So, for 50-years space exploration has remained in the hands of the governments and wealthy.

In the 1800’s moving west was thought too expensive for the poor. With the promise offered by the Homestead Act that changed. Will we do something similar with space?

NASA Refocused?

You may not realize that US$1.9 billion of NASA’s 2016 budget (US19+ billion) was going to climate study. If my sources can be believed. The 2017 NASA Transition Authorization Act (S. 442 – link) supposedly reallocates the funding. Figuring out exactly how is unclear, at least to me. But, the words ‘climate’ and ‘weather’ do not appear in the text of the bill. Nor are all dollars assigned a place other than NASA.

Following this bill gets bit confusing. Sen. Ted Cruz introduced a bill prepared in the Obama days: S.3346 – National Aeronautics and Space Administration Transition Authorization Act of 2016. It got tabled as the 114th session of Congress (2015-16) ran out of time. Continue reading

Wanna go to Mars?

SpaceX is talking about going to Mars by 2024, if things go well… 8 years from now. You will supposedly be able to buy a one-way ticket for US$550,000… and what’s the return trip going to cost?

The reusable booster is a nice touch. There are lots of plans in the works for going to the moon and Mars to build colonies and a few suggesting Venus is a better choice. Continue reading