For sale to the highest bidder: A 12-pound chunk of the moon
By MARK PRATT
Wednesday, October 10
BOSTON (AP) — Anyone who can’t make it to the moon to gather a few lunar rocks now has the opportunity to buy one right here on Earth.
A 12-pound (5.5 kilogram) lunar meteorite discovered in Northwest Africa last year is up for auction by Boston-based RR Auction and could sell for $500,000 or more during online bidding that runs from Thursday until Oct. 18.
It is “one of the most important meteorites available for acquisition anywhere in the world today,” and one of the biggest pieces of the moon ever put up for sale, RR said.
The rock classified as NWA 11789, also known as “Buagaba,” was found last year in a remote area of Mauritania but probably plunged to Earth thousands of years ago.
The meteorite is actually composed of six fragments that fit together like a puzzle. The largest of those pieces weighs about 6 pounds.
Most lunar meteorites found are the size of a walnut or golf ball, said Geoff Notkin, star of television’s “Meteorite Men” and CEO of Aerolite Meteorites, which is selling the rock.
“As soon as we saw this, we knew it was extraordinarily unusual,” he said. “This is close to a once in a lifetime find.”
It is also one the few known lunar meteorites with what experts call “partial fusion crust,” caused by the tremendous heat that sears the rock as it descends through the atmosphere.
“It actually toasted on the outside,” Notkin said.
Another thing that makes it different from most meteorites is that it is “unpaired.” Sometimes different pieces of the same meteorite are discovered at different times, and those examples are known as “paired.” An “unpaired” meteorite is more desirable to collectors and perhaps more valuable to science.
The meteorite would be a nice addition to any natural history museum, but don’t be surprised if a private collector snaps it up, said Robert Livingston, RR’s executive vice president.
“This is the only way a private collector can get their hands on a piece of the moon because the moon rocks brought back by astronauts are U.S. government property,” he said.
Neil Armstrong and the America that could have been
October 11, 2018
Director, Writing Center, University of Richmond
Joe Essid does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
University of Richmond provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
According to a Gallup Poll from 1999, only 50 percent of those surveyed could even name Neil Armstrong as the first man to land on the moon.
How might the moon walker fare 19 years later?
The film “First Man,” starring Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, may boost public recognition of Armstrong’s name and career. But his fate after his “giant leap for all mankind” mirrored that of public interest in the moon landings and, broader still, trust in government, which has steadily eroded since the early 1970s.
It may be hard to imagine today, but from the early 1960s until Apollo 11, Congress essentially gave the space agency blank checks to fulfill the Kennedy administration’s goal of a man on the moon by 1970. In the mid-1960s, NASA received over 4 percent of the federal budget. Today, it’s funded with less than 0.5 percent of the budget.
While the research ostensibly went to figuring out how to safely transport men to and from the moon, many technologies spun off from this program: high-temperature coatings, new fabrics and microelectronics, all of which we use in our day-to-day lives.
Furthermore, for a few ephemeral years, a factious nation thought of itself as a space-faring people. With a populace hurting from the Tet Offensive, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and the riots of 1968, the moon landing managed to make us stop arguing – albeit briefly – and look up at the sky.
Yet less than a year later, no television network bothered to carry the Apollo 13 astronauts’ live broadcast on their way to the moon. That sudden public disinterest after the first landing – and the erosion of any sense of national purpose – still puzzles students in my first-year seminar “The Space Race.”
America quickly turned its back on Apollo and began its long, painful slide into Watergate and Vietnam. By the end of the 20th century, conspiracy theories about the moon landing abounded – that the astronauts had never left Earth’s orbit; that Stanley Kubrick had played a role in faking the Apollo landings on a sound stage.
Soon enough, Apollo’s triumph became little more than a slogan for our growing cynicism about government: “If they can put a man on the moon, why can’t they fill the potholes?”
As for Armstrong, he went on to teach aerospace engineering at the University of Cincinnati. Though he did some advertising campaigns for Chrysler and a few other firms, he mostly kept a low profile.
Those once mesmerized by NASA’s stillborn plans for lunar bases and manned flybys of Venus wanted more – so much more – out of Armstrong.
When he was chosen for Apollo 11, Armstrong was already one of the most talented test pilots in history. As Andrew Chaikin notes in his book “A Man on the Moon,” Armstrong “got his pilot’s license before he learned to drive,” then in the 1950s and ‘60s actually flew the X-15 rocket planes, supersonic fighter aircraft and Gemini capsules that my NASA-obsessed peers glued together in 1:48 scale, following Sputnik in 1957.
After walking on the moon and right into the afterglow of fulfilling JFK’s promise, what more could America’s “first man” have done?
What if he had run for Senate? President? Could he have convinced an increasingly cynical and weary nation that Apollo was indeed a giant leap to something in space even greater?
Tom Wolfe, author of the epic account of the U.S. space program, “The Right Stuff,” argued that “NASA had neglected to recruit a corps of philosophers.” Wolfe hoped that wordsmiths with the ability to excite and inspire might be the ones flying into space.
Wolfe liked the vision and ambition of Wernher von Braun, architect of the Saturn V moon rocket, who famously said, “I have learned to use the word ‘impossible’ with the greatest caution.” Unfortunately, the engineer had a bit of an image problem related to his Nazi past.
Armstrong, for his part, wasn’t the best with words. Even as he made his initial small step off the ladder, he seemed to wrestle with his tongue. Or the radio link to Earth garbled his sentence. We’ll never know.
When I saw Armstrong in 1996 at the University of Richmond, he let Spaceship One designer Burt Rutan and Apollo 17 Commander Gene Cernan do most of the talking. When Armstrong did speak, in the precise and succinct way one expects from a careful engineer, the crowd seemed to lean forward. It was him.
In our era of incessant self-promotion and celebrity billionaires, I wonder if there’s a place for a humble yet insanely focused national hero like Armstrong.
Ryan Gosling’s portrayal may offer a glimpse of the Neil Armstrong we never really knew. Perhaps the film will inspire moviegoers with the sort of ambitious visions NASA had in the mid-1960s.
At the very least, it will remind us of a time when government functioned well enough to achieve something momentous. Could the same be done for reversing the effects of climate change? Or the more humble job of rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure?
For now, fixing potholes seems to be a job left for Domino’s Pizza.
Rule Changes Approved by Ohio Wildlife Council
COLUMBUS, OH – Changes to bag and size limits for fish in certain bodies of water were among the regulations approved by the Ohio Wildlife Council at its scheduled meeting on Wednesday, October 10, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).
Black Bass Fishing
Several changes were approved for black bass (largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass) in the Lake Erie sport fishing district. Currently, the season for black bass in the Lake Erie sport fishing district is closed from May 1 through the last Saturday in June. New rules changes will remove this closure to provide a year-round open season for black bass, providing anglers more opportunities. Additional rule changes will establish a daily bag limit of one black bass with an 18-inch minimum size limit from May 1 through the fourth Saturday in June to continue to protect the fishery. Outside of this period, the existing black bass regulations of a five-fish daily limit with a 14-inch minimum size limit will still apply.
Multiple changes were approved to crappie size and bag limits at certain site-specific waters. The 30-fish daily bag limit and the 9-inch minimum size limit for crappie will be removed at the following lakes and reservoirs: Acton, Clendening, Argus, Highlandtown, Knox, Madison, Nemesia, Rush Creek, and Springfield lakes; C.J. Brown, Clear Fork, Griggs, and West Branch reservoirs. Removal of these regulations is expected to improve the crappie fisheries at these locations as well as provide anglers more opportunities to harvest fish from these areas.
Additional proposed rule changes include allowing camping at K.H. Butler Wildlife Area in Gallia County; increasing the annual fee for watercraft docking permits at ODNR Division of Wildlife owned docks; and changes to ginseng harvest requirements.
A complete list of proposed and approved rules changes can be found at wildohio.gov.
The Ohio Wildlife Council is an eight-member board that approves all ODNR Division of Wildlife proposed rules and regulations. The council votes on the proposed rules and season dates after considering public input.
Council meetings are open to the public. Individuals who want to provide comments on a topic that is currently being considered by council are asked to register at least two days before the meeting by calling 614-265-6304. All comments are required to be three minutes or less.
ODNR ensures a balance between wise use and protection of our natural resources for the benefit of all. Visit the ODNR website at ohiodnr.gov.
How meteorologists predict the next big hurricane
Updated October 10, 2018
Professor of Meteorology, Florida State University
Associate Professor of Meteorology, Florida State University
Mark Bourassa has received support from NASA and NOAA.
Vasu Misra receives funding from NOAA, NSF, NASA
Florida State University provides funding as a member of The Conversation US.
Hurricane Michael, an unprecedented Category 4 hurricane, has made landfall in the panhandle region of Florida.
Hurricanes can cause immense damage due to the winds, waves and rain, not to mention the chaos as the general population prepares for severe weather.
The latter is getting more relevant, as the monetary damage from disasters is trending up. The growing coastal population and infrastructure, as well as rising sea level, likely contribute to this increase in costs of damage.
This makes it all the more imperative to get early and accurate forecasts out to the public, something researchers like us are actively contributing to.
Hurricane forecasts have traditionally focused on predicting a storm’s track and intensity. The track and size of the storm determine which areas may be hit. To do so, forecasters use models – essentially software programs, often run on large computers.
Unfortunately, no single forecast model is consistently better than other models at making these predictions. Sometimes these forecasts show dramatically different paths, diverging by hundreds of miles. Other times, the models are in close agreement. In some cases, even when models are in close agreement, the small differences in track have very large differences in storm surge, winds and other factors that impact damage and evacuations.
What’s more, several empirical factors in the forecast models are either determined under laboratory conditions or in isolated field experiments. That means that they may not necessarily fully represent the current weather event.
So, forecasters use a collection of models to determine a likely range of tracks and intensities. Such models include the NOAA’s Global Forecast System and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts global models.
The FSU Superensemble was developed by a group at our university, led by meteorologist T.N. Krishnamurti, in the early 2000s. The Superensemble combines output from a collection of models, giving more weight to the models that showed better predicted past weather events, such as Atlantic tropical cyclone events.
A forecaster’s collection of models can be made larger by tweaking the models and slightly changing the starting conditions. These perturbations attempt to account for uncertainty. Meteorologists cannot know the exact state of the atmosphere and the ocean at the time of the start of the model. For example, tropical cyclones are not observed well enough to have sufficient detail about winds and rain. For another example, the sea surface temperature is cooled by the passage of a storm, and if the area remains cloud-covered these cooler waters are much less likely to be observed by satellite.
Over the past decade, track forecasts have steadily improved. A plethora of observations – from satellites, buoys and aircraft flown into the developing storm – allow scientists to better understand the environment around a storm, and in turn improve their models. Some models have improved by as much as 40 percent for some storms.
However, forecasts of intensity have improved little over the last several decades.
That’s partly because of the metric chosen to describe the intensity of a tropical cyclone. Intensity is often described in terms of peak wind speed at a height of 10 meters above the surface. To measure it, operational forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami look at the maximum, one-minute average wind speed observed at any given point in the tropical cyclone.
However, it’s extremely difficult for a model to estimate the maximum wind speed of a tropical cyclone at any given future time. Models are inexact in their descriptions of the entire state of the atmosphere and ocean at the start time of the model. Small-scale features of tropical cyclones – like sharp gradients in rainfall, surface winds and wave heights within and outside of the tropical cyclones – are not as reliably captured in the forecast models.
Both atmospheric and ocean characteristics can influence storm intensity. Scientists now think that better information about the ocean could offer the the greatest gains in forecast accuracy. Of specific interest is the energy stored in the upper ocean and how this varies with ocean features such as eddies. Current observations are not sufficiently effective at placing ocean eddies in the correct location, nor are they effective in capturing the size of these eddies. For conditions where the atmosphere doesn’t severely limit hurricane growth, this oceanic information should be very valuable.
Meanwhile, forecasters are pursuing alternative and complementary metrics, like the size of tropical cyclones.
This is an updated version of an article originally published on Sept. 12.