Total Pageviews

Thursday, 14 December 2017

NASA: Eighth Planet Circling Distant Star

Artificial Intelligence, NASA Data Used to Discover Eighth Planet Circling Distant Star

The Kepler-90 system is the first to tie with our solar system in number of planets.
With the discovery of an eighth planet, the Kepler-90 system is the first to tie with our solar system in number of planets.
Credits: NASA/Wendy Stenzel
Dec. 14, 2017
RELEASE 17-098
Our solar system now is tied for most number of planets around a single star, with the recent discovery of an eighth planet circling Kepler-90, a Sun-like star 2,545 light years from Earth. The planet was discovered in data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.
The newly-discovered Kepler-90i – a sizzling hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 days – was found using machine learning from Google. Machine learning is an approach to artificial intelligence in which computers “learn.” In this case, computers learned to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets. 
NASA will host a Reddit Ask Me Anything at 3 p.m. EST today on this discovery.
Our solar system now is tied for most number of planets around a single star, with the recent discovery of an eighth planet circling Kepler-90, a Sun-like star 2,545 light years from Earth. The planet was discovered in data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope.
Credits: NASA
“Just as we expected, there are exciting discoveries lurking in our archived Kepler data, waiting for the right tool or technology to unearth them,” said Paul Hertz, director of NASA’s Astrophysics Division in Washington. “This finding shows that our data will be a treasure trove available to innovative researchers for years to come.” 
The discovery came about after researchers Christopher Shallue and Andrew Vanderburg trained a computer to learn how to identify exoplanets in the light readings recorded by Kepler – the miniscule change in brightness captured when a planet passed in front of, or transited, a star. Inspired by the way neurons connect in the human brain, this artificial “neural network” sifted through Kepler data and found weak transit signals from a previously-missed eighth planet orbiting Kepler-90, in the constellation Draco.
While machine learning has previously been used in searches of the Kepler database, this research demonstrates that neural networks are a promising tool in finding some of the weakest signals of distant worlds.  
Other planetary systems probably hold more promise for life than Kepler-90. About 30 percent larger than Earth, Kepler-90i is so close to its star that its average surface temperature is believed to exceed 800 degrees Fahrenheit, on par with Mercury. Its outermost planet, Kepler-90h, orbits at a similar distance to its star as Earth does to the Sun.
“The Kepler-90 star system is like a mini version of our solar system. You have small planets inside and big planets outside, but everything is scrunched in much closer,” said Vanderburg, a NASA Sagan Postdoctoral Fellow and astronomer at the University of Texas at Austin.
Shallue, a senior software engineer with Google’s research team Google AI, came up with the idea to apply a neural network to Kepler data. He became interested in exoplanet discovery after learning that astronomy, like other branches of science, is rapidly being inundated with data as the technology for data collection from space advances.
“In my spare time, I started googling for ‘finding exoplanets with large data sets’ and found out about the Kepler mission and the huge data set available,” said Shallue. "Machine learning really shines in situations where there is so much data that humans can't search it for themselves.”
Kepler’s four-year dataset consists of 35,000 possible planetary signals. Automated tests, and sometimes human eyes, are used to verify the most promising signals in the data. However, the weakest signals often are missed using these methods. Shallue and Vanderburg thought there could be more interesting exoplanet discoveries faintly lurking in the data. 
First, they trained the neural network to identify transiting exoplanets using a set of 15,000 previously-vetted signals from the Kepler exoplanet catalogue. In the test set, the neural network correctly identified true planets and false positives 96 percent of the time. Then, with the neural network having "learned" to detect the pattern of a transiting exoplanet, the researchers directed their model to search for weaker signals in 670 star systems that already had multiple known planets. Their assumption was that multiple-planet systems would be the best places to look for more exoplanets.
“We got lots of false positives of planets, but also potentially more real planets,” said Vanderburg. “It’s like sifting through rocks to find jewels. If you have a finer sieve then you will catch more rocks but you might catch more jewels, as well.”
Kepler-90i wasn’t the only jewel this neural network sifted out. In the Kepler-80 system, they found a sixth planet. This one, the Earth-sized Kepler-80g, and four of its neighboring planets form what is called a resonant chain – where planets are locked by their mutual gravity in a rhythmic orbital dance. The result is an extremely stable system, similar to the seven planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system.
Their research paper reporting these findings has been accepted for publication in The Astronomical Journal. Shallue and Vanderburg plan to apply their neural network to Kepler’s full set of more than 150,000 stars.
Kepler has produced an unprecedented data set for exoplanet hunting. After gazing at one patch of space for four years, the spacecraft now is operating on an extended mission and switches its field of view every 80 days.
“These results demonstrate the enduring value of Kepler’s mission,” said Jessie Dotson, Kepler’s project scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley. “New ways of looking at the data – such as this early-stage research to apply machine learning algorithms – promises to continue to yield significant advances in our understanding of planetary systems around other stars. I’m sure there are more firsts in the data waiting for people to find them.”
Ames manages the Kepler and K2 missions for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, managed Kepler mission development. Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corporation operates the flight system with support from the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. This work was performed through the Carl Sagan Postdoctoral Fellowship Program executed by the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute.
For more information on this announcement, visit:
For more information about the Kepler mission, visit:

What Is In Strange & Mysterious Beasts?

I was told that it was probably a good idea not to reveal all of the contents of the new book. Fair enough. It is 324 pages with lots of photographs.  If you have read one of my previous books then I will point out that this new look at the chupacabra is expanded on.  I have managed to draw some conclusions on certain previously unidentified beasts.  

I am guessing that the conclusions in the chapter on the Shunka Warak'in and the famous stuffed and mounted specimen are going to really upset some cryptozoologists.

In High Strangeness and UFO Contact? I looked at the faults in Ufology and how the subject needed drastic overhauling and I do the same here regarding mystery animal research which seems to be full of charlatans and liars out to make money rather than look for the truth. I try to give anyone approaching the subject matter some advice and guidelines but 'cryptozoology' and 'cryptozoologist' are two words they ought not to use.

Strange & Mysterious Beasts is the smaller format book while Mysterious & Strange Beasts is the standard larger A4 format. 

IGNORE the "only ships from North America" as that is just a site message error

I need to point out that, much though I really do want to avoid this, US taxes are not leaving me much in the way of profit from sales.  I really do not want to increase book prices since I think that at the moment they are fair (considering what a purchaser gets and the amount of my work that gets plagiarized).  I am told that it has to be an option, however, I have until 1st February, 2018 to decide.

Anyway, enough publisher waffle, here are some of the contents:
The Monster of the Forest of Mouliere   
The Beast of Lyonnais   
The Beast of Cevennes, Gard and Vivarais      
The Beast of Sarlat    
The Beast of Gevaudan     
British Man Beasts     
Bigfoot and Werewolves in the West Midlands    
The Strange Creature in Repton Woods   
Bigfoot Returns – To Kent!       
The Curious and Frightening Case of the Hull Werewolf       
The Gnome of Girona     
The Caponi Close Encounters and Photographs       
Return of the Shark Killing Thing –a Possible Identification    
The Dingellchough Mystery Creature  
The Unidentified Corfu Sea Creature           
Strange Sea Creature Found In Persian Gulf     
The Devil of Gatagon      
The Supernatural Invasion: Slender-man and Black Eyed Kids    
The Sheep Killer of Niali      
Mystery Creature of the Bay of Flamanville   
Things Caught on Camera –Fact and Fiction    
The Bat Creatures      
The Owl-man   
The British Pig-man and Snake-man    
The Pictish Beast              
Shunka Warak'in –A Hyena Too Far?   
The Chupacabra

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Strange cigar-shaped object in our solar system ‘could be an alien probe’, scientists say

Last month, for the first time ever, astronomers spotted an object which had entered our Solar System from interstellar space – a strange ‘cigar’ up to 1,200ft long.
Now researchers from the Seti – Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence – project are to scan the object, to see if it’s actually an alien probe.
It’s certainly a mysterious asteroid – scientists initially thought it was a comet, but reclassified it.
Researchers from the Seti project Breakthrough Listen are to ‘listen’ to the asteroid using the Green Bank radio telescope in West Virginia.

A statement said, ‘Researchers working on long-distance space transportation have previously suggested that a cigar or needle shape is the most likely architecture for an interstellar spacecraft, since this would minimise friction and damage from interstellar gas and dust.
‘While a natural origin is more likely, there is currently no consensus on what that origin might have been, and Breakthrough Listen is well positioned to explore the possibility that Oumuamua could be an artifact.’
Scientists believe that it was travelling through space for millions of years before arriving near our Sun, according to results published in Nature.
On 19 October 2017, the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope in Hawai`i picked up a faint point of light – and scientists realised that its orbit showed that it came from the space between the stars.
At first scientists thought it was a comet, but it was reclassified as an asteroid and named 1I/2017 U1 (`Oumuamua).
Scientists suggest that Oumuamua is dense, possibly rocky or with high metal content, lacks significant amounts of water or ice, and that its surface is now dark and reddened due to the effects of irradiation from cosmic rays over millions of years.
It is estimated to be at least 400 metres long.
To avoid confusion because the image above IS NOT a photograph, here is the actual photo

Raw image straight from ESO's Very Large Telescope. 1I/2017 U1 (‘Oumuamua), the interstellar asteroid, is the tiny dot at the centre, above the brighter star. Though actually faint, in this image the asteroid appears bright.

Nasa schedules press conference as it announces breakthrough in mission to find Earth-like planets

Nasa will be holding a press conference to reveal a major breakthrough from its planet-finding telescope, it has announced.
The Kepler space telescope is tasked with finding other planets — some of which exists in a ‘habitable zone’, meaning they could support life.
The press conference, which will be live-streamed on its agency’s website, will take place on Thursday (December 14).
Nasa has said little else about its latest discovery, although added it was made with the help of Google artificial intelligence.
It is thought the announcement will revolve around exoplanets – Earth-sized planets that orbit around their own stars.
These are considered the best hope of finding alien life.
Nasa said that four engineers and scientists would take part in the press conference, including Paul Hertz, who leads Nasa’s astrophysics division, a senior Google software engineer, and two scientists.
Nasa launched the Kepler telescope, named after a 17th century German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, in 2009.
It is designed to survey a portion of the Milky Way to discover these Earth-size exoplanets.
It concluded its original mission in 2012 after finding a total of 2,337 exoplanets and 4,496 more ‘candidates’ in 30 habitable zones.
In 2014, Kepler began a new exoplanet-hunting mission, K2, which has confirmed the existence of 178 exoplanets to date..
K2 is also “introducing new research opportunities to study young stars, supernovae and other cosmic phenomena.”
In February, Nasa said it had found the “holy grail” – an entire solar system that could support life.

Sunday, 10 December 2017

Strange and Mysterious Beasts -completed

Just to update everyone.  The book is completed.  I am looking at a couple other subjects to include but as it stands, today, the manuscript is 293 pages and 91,034 words.  I haven't counted the photographs, maps and so on therefore I have no idea as to total!

I will not be making many friends. I have looked at various accounts of strange and mysterious beasts (wow, and that is the title of the book!) both old and new and whether I found any true mysteries as I had hoped you will have to wait and see.  However, I have reached a somewhat "controversial" conclusion about the shunka warak'in and that rather famous photograph plastered around the internet.

Although complete the book will not be published until January, 2018, well ahead of schedule and that is the joy of being your own publisher.

When the book is released a full list of contents will be published on this blog but the scope of the book is global!

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

super-size black hole harkening back to almost the dawn of creation.
This illustration provided by the Carnegie Institution for Science shows the most-distant supermassive black hole ever discovered, which is part of a quasar from just 690 million years after the Big Bang. (Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science via AP)
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Astronomers have discovered a super-size black hole harkening back to almost the dawn of creation.
It’s the farthest black hole ever found.
A team led by the Carnegie Observatories‘ Eduardo Banados reported in the journal Nature on Wednesday that the black hole lies in a quasar dating to 690 million years after the Big Bang. That means the light from this quasar has been traveling our way for more than 13 billion years.
Banados said the quasar provides a unique baby picture of the universe, when it was just 5 percent of its current age.
It would be like seeing photos of a 50-year-old man when he was 2 1/2 years old, according to Banados.
“This discovery opens up an exciting new window to understand the early universe,” he said in an email from Pasadena, California.
Quasars are incredibly bright objects deep in the cosmos, powered by black holes devouring everything around them. That makes them perfect candidates for unraveling the mysteries of the earliest cosmic times.
The black hole in this newest, most distant quasar is 800 million times the mass of our sun.
Much bigger black holes are out there, but none so far away — at least among those found so far. These larger black holes have had more time to grow in the hearts of galaxies since the Big Bang, compared with the young one just observed.
“The new quasar is itself one of the first galaxies, and yet it already harbors a behemoth black hole as massive as others in the present-day universe,” co-author Xiaohui Fan of the University of Arizona’s Steward Observatory said in a statement.
Around the time of this newest quasar, the universe was emerging from a so-called Dark Ages. Stars and galaxies were first appearing and their radiation ionizing the surrounding hydrogen gas to illuminate the cosmos.
Banados suspects there are more examples like this out there, between 20 and 100.
“The newfound quasar is so luminous and evolved that I would be surprised if this was the first quasar ever formed,” Banados said. “The universe is enormous and searching for these very rare objects is like looking for the needle in the haystack.”
Only one other quasar has been found in this ultra-distant category, despite extensive scanning. This newest quasar beats that previous record-holder by about 60 million years.
Still on the lookout, astronomers are uncertain how close they’ll get to the actual beginning of time, 13.8 billion years ago.
Banados and his team used the Carnegie’s Magellan telescopes in Chile, supported by observatories in Hawaii, the American Southwest and the French Alps.

Ashamed to say that I missed this: Hope Ryden, Wildlife Protector and Photographer, Dies at 87

I have added a few photographs and apologies to any unidentified(c) holders


Hope Ryden developed a passion for photography during breaks abroad as a Pan Am flight attendant in the 1950s. Credit Barbara Hill

Hope Ryden, whose lifelike photographs of North American beavers, coyotes, mustangs and other wildlife helped elevate them into poster animals for conservation campaigns, died on June 18 in Hyannis, Mass. She was 87.

The cause was complications of hip surgery, her brother, Ernest E. Ryden, said.

An English major who later developed a passion for photography during breaks abroad as a Pan Am flight attendant, Ms. Ryden, in 1961, joined Robert Drew & Associates, a noted documentary production company, where she and her colleagues were in the vanguard of cinéma vérité filmmaking.

By the early 1970s, she had become a full-time naturalist and animal-rights advocate, publishing books for adults and children lushly illustrated with her own photographs.

Her advocacy was credited with encouraging Congress to pass legislation in 1971 protecting the populations of wild horses and burros in the West; their numbers had dwindled to an estimated 17,000 in 1970 from a peak of two million. She also helped persuade New York’s Legislature to name the beaver the official state mammal in 1975.

Ms. Ryden wrote two dozen books on wildlife, including “America’s Last Wild Horses” (1970), “God’s Dog: A Celebration of the North American Coyote” (1975), “Bobcat Year” (1981) and “Wild Animals of America ABC” (1988).

In “Lily Pond: Four Years With a Family of Beavers” (1989), she described beavers’ sociable dam-building, kit-rearing and playful shoving matches, observed in Harriman State Park in Rockland County, N.Y.

Ms. Ryden wrote two dozen books on wildlife, including “America’s Last Wild Horses” (1970).

“Like Japanese wrestlers, the contenders would square off, grip one another’s loose ruff with their black satiny hands, and then drive forward with all their might until the stronger one propelled the weaker backward into deep water,” Ms. Ryden wrote.
“Breast-to-breast, cheek-to-cheek, heads tilted skyward, eyes rolled upward so that only membranes showed,” she continued, “their resemblance to samurai warriors was uncanny, both in bodily shape and in the martial strategies they employed. They inflicted no wounds; theirs was a contest of strength, not an outlet for vengeance.”
Hope Elaine Ryden was born on Aug. 1, 1929, in St. Paul, Minn. Her father, E. E. Ryden, was a Lutheran minister who helped unify four denominations to form the Lutheran Church of America. Her mother, the former Agnes Johnson, was an organist and pianist.

In addition to her brother, she is survived by her husband, John Miller.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1951 from the University of Iowa, she was a fashion model in addition to her work as a flight attendant. In 1958, she was a crew member aboard Pan Am’s inaugural trans-Atlantic jet passenger flight.
Ms. Ryden spent more than 25 years as a writer, director and producer of documentary films, beginning with Drew Associates and also working for ABC News.

Among her first documentaries was “Jane” (1962), which profiled the actress Jane Fonda at 25 as she prepared for her starring role in “The Fun Couple” on Broadway. The show flopped, but the documentary, produced by Ms. Ryden and directed by D. A. Pennebaker, became a classic of fly-on-the-wall filmmaking.

In 1965, she and her production team, including the cinematographer Abbot Mills, immersed themselves in the lives of Richard and Mildred Loving, the Virginia couple who challenged the state’s law against interracial marriage.


Ms. Ryden’s devotion to animal rights often extended to creatures that had been spurned as varmints by sheep ranchers, pet owners and backyard gardeners. Credit Penguin Random House

Ms. Loving, a black woman, and Mr. Loving, a white man, had been sentenced to a year in prison for violating an anti-miscegenation statute that was still valid in Virginia and two dozen other states. In 1967, the United States Supreme Court declared the Virginia law unconstitutional, voiding all race-based restrictions on marriage.

Ms. Ryden’s footage was not immediately screened publicly, but was incorporated into “The Loving Story,” an Emmy Award-winning documentary released in 2011, in which she also appeared.

Her other documentaries included one that followed two Peace Corps nurses in Malaya and another on a Boston man who saved some 9,000 animals in Suriname from starvation or drowning.

She devoted her later years to animal-rights advocacy, passionately objecting to the treatment of wild horses as livestock to be slaughtered wantonly.
In addition to her books, Ms. Ryden wrote for National Geographic, Audubon, Smithsonian and The New York Times Magazine.

Her commitment to animal rights earned her a place in the pantheon of scientific adventurers embraced admiringly by Kay Redfield Jamison, a psychiatrist and author, in her book “Exuberance: The Passion for Life” (2004).

Ms. Ryden’s devotion to the cause often extended to creatures that had been spurned as varmints by sheep ranchers, pet owners and backyard gardeners.

The resurgence of the Eastern coyote, for example, reminded her of “a sunflower that has penetrated a cement sidewalk,” she once wrote, adding that “the event suggests that man’s strangulation grip on nature may not yet be fatal.”

A version of this article appears in print on June 27, 2017, on Page B12 of the New York edition with the headline: Hope Ryden, 87, a Photographer And Protector of Wildlife, Is Dead. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe