Ceres, Dawn, Pyramids & Craters

NASA’s spacecraft Dawn has been on a mission to the planet Ceres which is located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. Compared to Earth’s diameter of almost 8,000 miles, Ceres seems tiny with a diameter of less than 600 miles. It is so small that despite its official designation as a minor-planet, there are still those who will call it an asteroid or a dwarf planet. To put it in perspective, the entire surface of Ceres is about the same size as India or Argentina. Whatever the moniker, the dear reader gets the point. Still, UFO and ET enthusiasts like to believe that Ceres was once home to an intelligent otherworldly species that liked to build pyramids. The gringa can only say, “Um, not.”

Why is the gringa so sure of herself in raining on their parade? Let’s take a look at some of the geographical and geological characteristics of this teensy-weensy little world:


First of all, just take an up close and personal look at the pitiful pitted little thing. It has more impact craters than an eight-year-old ginger gringa had freckles. It seems pretty obvious to me that with global environmental disasters happening on a regular basis, it is very unlikely that life would flourish in such a place. Not to mention any surviving life having the opportunity to pursue advancements.


Ceres, in many ways, is pretty much a clone of our desolate moon, an enormous rock with a lot of ice. With no evidence or traces of ever having vegetation, any ETs most assuredly would have starved to death. Unless, of course, it was a civilization that could survive on the nourishment of clay seasoned with ammonia and a splash of salt and iron.


It’s highly unlikely that water as we Earthlings know it ever existed on Ceres. Although there is alot of ice, enough even to indicate the possibility of an ocean at one time, it wouldn’t have been a salty brine like we are accustomed to, inhabited with sharks and whales and penguins and such. It most likely would have been a caustic sea of ammonia and sulfuric acid. So, unless those ETs had skin of steel and enjoyed a dip in antifreeze, any recreational activities of a Ceres civilization would have been strictly limited to land-lubbing.

Details, Details, Details

If the gringa has sufficiently convinced you that no one was building pyramids on Ceres way back when, let us move on to the details that are still interesting despite lacking any ET spin.

In the late 1700s Johann Elert Bode suspected a planet existed between Mars and Jupiter. However, the official discovery of Ceres is credited to Giuseppe Piazzi in 1801 who first claimed it was a comet. It was later classified as a planet but then redesignated as an asteroid in the 1850s. It seems scientists still haven’t made up their minds because it can be called any number of names when referred to by different people. The gringa doesn’t so much care. It makes no difference to me. Ceres is just Ceres, a planet named after the Roman goddess of agriculture despite the fact that not a single ear of corn or blade of grass has ever been grown on its surface.

Over thousands of years meteors and comets have slammed into Ceres, creating hundreds of craters. A few of them are distinctly bright, containing either minerals with reflective properties or light reflecting off of ice. It is theorized that underneath the crusty and dusty surface of Ceres is a layer of water and ice that, by volume, is more than the fresh water found on Earth. This has led to scientists entertaining the notion that if living organisms once lived in the sea of Ceres, it is possible that through the many cosmic impacts throughout history some biological material may have been ejected into space and made its way to Earth. So, ETs on Ceres? The gringa thinks not. ETs from Ceres on Earth? It’s possible.


Ceres is too dim to be seen with the naked eye except on extremely dark sky conditions. The best way to peek at Ceres is through a pair of binoculars or a telescope. The best time to see Ceres is fast approaching, from August through April. Observers in mid northern latitudes should look toward the low southern sky after nightfall. It is best to view on a night when the Moon is in waning stages. Look toward the Sagittarius constellation and Ceres will arc slowly westward and approach the border of the Capricorn constellation.

If you have a fancy telescope you can enter coordinates and the telescope will do the hard work of locating and tracking for you. But if you only have binoculars, it is still easy enough to locate and track Ceres so don’t be discouraged.   For some help in finding Ceres, online astronomy clubs are a great resource.  The gringa wishes you the greatest success in taking a peek at Ceres!





Image Source:  www.skyandtelescope.com









The Eastward Wobble, The Dance of the Earth

In April of this year NASA released findings related to the Earth’s melting ice sheets. Often when the gringa things about climate change, warming temperatures and melting ice sheets, the only thing I consider is how sea levels will rise. It never occurred to me that ice sheet disintegration may result in a more wobbly world.

Think about the traditional children’s toy, the spinning top. It’s a bit like our world. As it slows its spin it begins to wobble. As ice sheets melt and the balance of Earth begins to shift, we will, indeed, experience a global wobble. Scientists officially define this as a “periodic wobble and drift of the poles”. All the gringa wants to know is, “What exactly does this mean for me? Am I going to fall on my patootie trying to walk to my car?”

NASA asserts that over the past sixteen years Antarctica and Greenland, combined, have averaged about 400 billion tons of ice loss annually. Before the year 2000, as Earth spun on its axis it had a gentle drift toward Canada (westward). Because of ice loss, now the drift is about 75 degrees in the opposite direction, eastward. This happens because as ice converts to water and moves elsewhere, the distribution of Earth’s mass changes. What this means exactly is that the location of the North and South poles will change. In other words, Earth’s axis is relocating.

Now, the traditional location of Earth’s North Pole may have to be renamed to the Northeastern Pole. Earth’s axis is like an invisible pin stuck through the Earth from North to South. The Earth spins on the tip of the pin, rotating with a slight wobble that is normal. However, if the geographic location of the Poles change, complete topographical and satellite telemetry systems have to be adjusted to accommodate this change. For the average person, this means that your GPS is going to deliver you to the wrong place!

Scientists have long known that the Poles shift by a few centimeters from time to time as a part of Earth’s natural climate adjustment cycles. But what we are dealing with now is much more dramatic. Experts estimate that the shift is averaging about ten centimeters Eastward annually. Our great-great-grandchildren may have to adjust Christmas stories to have Santa Claus living in Russia or Norway.

Although scientists understand that as ice continues to melt the Earth will adjust by shifting its axis to the place where it has lost mass, even their best predictions are really just a guess. This is an extremely complex problem. It’s not just melting ice sheets that affect the process but also loss of groundwater in above ground reservoirs and underground aquifers (which underground aquifers cannot be accurately measured) as well as glacier melt and glacier movement. Many glaciers float about the ocean as they please.

The Earth’s ice and water storage formula affects polar drift. Yet many of the variables in the formula cannot be measured or can change their individual affect. So, scientists are left scratching their heads, doing the best with what they’ve got, and hazarding their best guess on what humanity can expect.

Ice melt is not the only thing that can bump the North Pole to a different location. Enormous earthquakes and devastating tsunamis can do the job as well. Indonesia’s great earthquake moved the North Pole eastward by about 2.5 centimeters and also lengthened Earth’s day cycle by 2.68 microseconds. No wonder I’ve been so tired lately! The gringa is filled with wonder at how humans remain at the mercy of nature despite all of our technological advances.

Sources: www.nasa.gov


Image Credit:  www.worldatlas.com



Life In A Bubble

There are many different reasons to be interested in the science of climate change. Maybe you are a lover of nature, like the gringa. Maybe you are a doomsday prepper, anticipating worldwide failures of critical natural resources necessary for humanity’s survival. Perhaps you are a problem solver, interested in creating solutions to help us all survive. Or you could be an author of science fiction and fantasy and the realities of climate change provide a plethora of creative resources. Whatever the reason, then you will find the possibility of life in a bio-sphere bubble interesting to ponder.

Tucson, Arizona was recently host to an environmental event sponsored by One Young World, a group of leaders in innovative climate change survival solutions, particularly Biosphere 2 (Earth is #1).  The event featured experts in science, international diplomacy, political science and commercial industry who are all interested in humanity’s need for sustainable sources for food and energy. The speakers whom event attendees were, perhaps, most interested in were probably the former astronaut and individuals who have been living in Biosphere 2.

If a person was to take a tour of Biosphere 2, you might be expecting a sterile, technical, enclosed life support environment like the International Space Station. However, you will probably be pleasantly surprised to find a faux ocean the size of an Olympic swimming pool surrounded by a bamboo forest. As you continue exploration, you will stumble across a desert recreation complete with species of ants and cockroaches.

The Biosphere idea was birthed more than two decades ago. In 1991 the dream was realized when eight individuals, four women and four men, donned their uniforms and entered the three acre terrarium smack dab in the middle of an Arizona desert where they would live confined for twenty-four months.

The habitat was constructed thanks to the generosity of a wealthy Texan who wants a place of safe retreat when the Apocalypse crashes down around our ears. He shelled out about $150 mill to recreate miniaturized versions of South America’s rainforest, the African Savannah, and a single ocean. The Biosphereans worked for two years to determine if this earthly microcosm would interconnect, survive and become a self-sustaining world producing oxygen and food.

Beneath the multiple geodesic domes of steel, glass and plastic transplanted nature began to fail the moments the doors were sealed. Precious oxygen was leaking and making its escape to the outside world. Despite the threat of suffocation, the Biosphereans soldiered on. They planted crops near the ocean. A sophisticated underground bellows system created wind. But small crops of oxygen producing plants and man-made breeze were not enough to make the habitat a survivable, much less pleasant, environment. For the sake of science the Biosphereans persevered through two years of oxygen deprivation yet finally called it quits when survival was only possible by pumping in outside-sourced oxygen.

But was this experiment really a failure? Of course not. It was a very valuable learning experience. Think of all the research that was accomplished on learning how vegetation, geography, water and air movement, and fresh water sources can all be successfully recreated and the knowledge of certain mistakes not to repeat in the process.

The Biosphere 2 is not a total physical loss either. The University of Arizona will continue studies on how to succeed in a biosphere lifestyle. Part of the property will be open to the public and re-christened “Land Evolution Observatory”. The university will launch a project that, over the span of a decade, will attempt to perfect the methods the Biosphereans began. The gringa considers these self-sacrificing and brave Biosphereans to be the pioneers of the Millennia.

The Biosphere story also has a romantic twist. The gringa, madly in love with her caveman, loves a good romance and is happy to learn that two of the individuals fell in love during their confinement together and married as soon as they had regained their freedom to the outside world. The couple, speaking to the Tucson audience, explained how profound their sense of inter-connectedness to their environment became. Daily they tracked carbon and oxygen levels, strongly aware that their survival depended on the right balance.  They felt aware, moment by moment, of each breath they took and each CO2 exhalation they made. The reality of the co-dependence the humans, plants, animals and insects all had with one another was always at the forefront of their mind.

When former astronaut Ron Garan addressed the audience, he discussed his six month stint enclosed in the self-sustained environment of the International Space Station. It was a profound experience that increased his environmental awareness and how tiny, fragile and singular our Earth is. His individual life perspective was completely changed as he worked beside the two Russian cosmonauts he shared duties with. Upon his return to Earth, he dedicated himself to collaboration with projects that will promote the survival of humans and the planet we call home. The only planet, mind you, that we have.

He recounted one of his most poignant experiences. It was the moment he returned to Earth. He peeked out the window of the capsule, saw a landscape of rocks, flowers and grass. His immediate mental and emotional response was, “I’m home” despite the fact that this American was actually in Kazakhstan. Once you’ve been off world, any square inch at any spot on the globe is home, regardless of politics, religion, nationality or ethnicity. The gringa finds this philosophy beautiful and inspirational. And I hope that we all figure it out together, how to save our home.

Source & Image Credit:  www.newsweek.com



How Climate Change Affects Vacation Priorities

So, when the climate change poop hits the fan, who is going to be in for the worst ride? What parts of the world should I vacation at now because they will be uninhabitable in the future? Exactly where will be the safest place for the gringa and the caveman to diddle away their golden years?

Well, we better get busy and visit all the beach hotspots that are alive and kicking right now. With sea levels rising, the coastal cabanas of today will be reef material tomorrow. And, considering that climate change creates erratic and extreme weather patterns such as: heavy rain here, drought there, devastating tornadoes everywhere; well, there is no uniform model of what’s going to change where or when. The only concrete expectation right now is what models predict about low elevation islands and coastal beachlands. They are pretty much going to be history, some maybe within my lifetime.

Other areas scientists expect to change dramatically are regions that have a delicate ecosystem balance and are already experiencing hyper-sensitivity to environmental stressors. These areas include:

  • Arctic, specifically the tundra region
  • Boreal forest belt – This is the conifer forest that stretches across North America, particularly dense in the Pacific Northwest
  • Tropical Rainforest
  • Alpine regions
  • Steppes of Asia and the Americas
  • Prairies of Asia and the Americas
  • Deciduous forests of South America and Australia

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the Earth. The permafrost layer is melting. Glaciers are getting smaller and sea ice is disintegrating. The wildlife of the Arctic will probably be a loss to the world. They depend on a habitat that is going to grow too warm to support their needs. The indigenous people of this region will experience a loss of their culture that is strongly dependent on the wildlife and natural geography. The humans will have the adaptation advantage that the wildlife and fauna do not have. But the loss of their culture is still something to mourn over.

The boreal forests of North America are important carbon sponges for the earth. What will a degree or two warmer mean? As temperatures warm the center of the United States, the boreal forest will shift northward. Predictive models sees the United States losing its boreal forest as it relocates to Canada and Alaska. So, we won’t lose them, they will relocate. That’s good news in the aspect that at least the Earth will retain a critical carbon filter.

Researchers in tropical rainforests mark trees and track them for years, measuring them to see how they are responding to climate change. A group in the Bolivian Andes are studying a swath of diverse trees and plants that thrive in a limited temperature range. As temperatures rise, so do the trees. New, baby trees are growing uphill. Just as the North American model predicted a forest migration, the same is expected of the tropical rainforests. They will abandon the lowland jungle regions and migrate up the mountainsides, seeking cooler temperatures.

Alpine regions are going to experience the same forest creeping phenomena. As glaciers continue to recede, alpine plants will continue to move upwards looking for cooler temperatures and water. However, eventually, when all the glacier water has melted and run off or evaporated, this critical component of the annual water budget will be gone forever. Plants and trees dependent upon it will eventually be extinct. So Alpine ecosystems will not only migrate, they will migrate to a slow death.

The upside of forest migration is that the Earth is trying to compensate and save herself. The downside is that the migration process is slower than the warming process. This means there will still be catastrophic loss of tropical rainforest and alpine habitat. This will affect the wildlife dependent on these ecosystems as well as their indigenous people.

Experts predict the possibility of losing over half of the steppe habitats due to the effects of climate change. They are not modeling a migration of fauna, but a loss. Steppes are critical grazing areas. As the steppes experience habitat loss, growing smaller, overgrazing occurs on the remaining areas. The effects then are coupled: climate change related drought and overgrazing. Things look dire for the future of the steppes and the animals and shepherds and ranchers who depend on them. The steppes could become the Earth’s future Sahara’s.

Unlike a conifer boreal forest or tropical rainforest that are green year round, a deciduous forest becomes barren in the winter season as the trees lose their leaves. Deciduous forests exist in tropical and temperate climates. Climate change models predict warmer winters affecting deciduous forests. This could lead to tree loss from pests and disease. In regions where devastating drought occurs, there will be higher tree loss. When a tree dies in the forest it also becomes fuel. In regions experiencing drought related tree loss, the dry conditions and increased fuel of more dead trees makes conditions ripe for voracious wildfires. So, if the drought or the bugs don’t wipe out the deciduous forests, the wildfires probably will.

The gringa thinks the list of vacation priorities should go something like this:

  • Arctic expedition
  • Steppe pack-mule trip
  • Deciduous and Alpine forest camp outs
  • Beach parties around the world
  • Tropical rainforest excursion
  • Bigfoot safari in the boreal forests of the Pacific Northwest

I don’t think climate change is going to sound the death knell for planet Earth and mankind. The gringa does believe it will be the end of many species of animals and plants that are with us today. It is also highly likely that entire cultures will be wiped out when they lose the habitats they rely upon. And usually species loss does not mean a gaping hole is left behind. Usually, another species fills the gap or a species evolves and adapts. So, the key word to focus on is “change”. It’s climate “change” not climate “loss”. But the change is as significant as the past disappearances of entire civilizations such as the Maya or entire animal classes like the dinosaurs.

At this point, I believe the consensus among scientists is that we have passed the tipping point. There is no going back and “fixing” things. We simply have to ride the lightning and deal with it. So, if a person is able and so inclined, they need to enjoy the world as we know it today and document it for the children of the future.


Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Credit: http://www.notenoughgood.com


Alien Airports of Nazca

Studying the extra-terrestrial link with ancient Egypt was so much fun the gringa has decided to continue along this same line but head over to the other side of the globe. Did extra-terrestrials have contact with the ancient Incan or pre-Incan civilizations of today’s Peru? Since the gringa’s beloved caveman is from Peru, this subject is especially close to my heart. I’ve always known the caveman’s a bit strange. Perhaps that’s because he’s not from around here. Let’s find out together.

One feature of Peru that is a favorite of ancient alien theorists to point to as supportive evidence of their belief that pre-Incan civilization was in contact with extra-terrestrials is the Nazca lines located south of Lima. For miles elaborate lines etched into the earth stretch across a flattened mountaintop region, covering an area of about sixty square miles. Ufologists describe it as an ancient airport for aircraft. Although there are straight lines that resemble an airstrip, there are also etched into the earth images of animals and geometric patterns. What the heck is all of this for? What were those crazy people doing over a thousand years ago? Who were they? What were their beliefs? What was their culture like?

Most people are familiar with the Incan Empire when the country of Peru is mentioned. However, the Nazca lines were not created by the Incas. The Nazca lines date back to around 500AD, the time period of the coastal cultures of Moche (Mochica) and Nazca. Their cultures are most notable for their warfare characteristics. Moche and Nazca art is filled with images of warriors.

The Moche civilization existed at the right time but they were in the wrong place, too far north. The Moche lived in a region with its southernmost border over 750km (over 450 miles) north of Nazca. Mochica territory stretched from the northern Piura Valley to the southern Huarmey Valley.

That leaves the actual Nazca civilization that had its heyday from 200BC until around 600AD. These folks were in the right place at the right time. Their most important cities were Cahuachi, the religious center, and Ventilla, the center for government, markets and residents. Cahuachi is ground zero for the Nazca lines.

Nazca civilization was known for more than just the famous lines. They also made beautiful pottery and textiles. Nazca was not just one kingdom under one ruler. It was actually a cooperative of chiefdoms who worked together in the interest of their individual groups of people with a Shaman as the spiritual leader. In all, the Nazca population is estimated to have been around 25,000 people.

Since Nazca is located in the coastal desert region of southern Peru, the evidence of wool in their textiles indicates that they engaged in trade with the people further inland of the Cusco region where llama, alpaca and vicuna were raised in the colder, higher altitude climate of the Andes. There is also evidence of trade with rainforest tribes by the presence of feathers from exotic bird species in headdresses discovered in ancient Nazca archaeological sites.

peru geology map

These geographical connections are important because many of the Nazca lines depict images of creatures that did not live in the coastal desert such as the monkey and hummingbird. Contact with civilizations where these animals exist explains why they are featured in Nazcan art. It is also important to note that many of the etchings overlap, some being created earlier and later etchings overlapping them. So, there was no clear, well-thought out “plan” of how all of the images should be arranged. Poor planning if the intent was a high-tech space-port as far as the gringa is concerned.

Polytheistic and pantheistic, The Oculate Being was the principal god of the Nazcas. Mr. Oculate could fly, sported large, googly eyes (the better to be “all-seeing” with), and had Sun-like and serpent-like features and characteristics.



The Nazca lines are geoglyphs etched into the coastal desert floor. They served many purposes, none of which had anything to do with spaceships. Many were connected to sacred ceremonial sites. Others designated the location of an underground water source, which, being a coastal desert, was a critical site. Many were sort of like the labyrinths of Europe. They were designed to be walked as a form of religious meditation or en masse in a formal religious procession. There is also speculation that they could represent a calendar due to astronomical orientation of many of the lines. The images were not created to entertain extra-terrestrials with clever geological art as they approached Nazca for a landing. The images were created to appease the Oculate Being who resided in the sky.

Shamans, rather than priests, were Nazca’s religious leaders. Ceremonies usually involved the Shaman getting high on a psychedelic drink. He would be costumed to impersonate the spirit or deity who would possess him during his psychedelic “trip”. A sampling of a few Nazcan rituals:

  • Using severed head war trophies in human and agricultural fertility rites
  • Music and feasting for harvest celebrations
  • Pilgrimages and marched festivals to bring offerings to the gods at their numerous shrines (shrines were not man-made temples but, rather, certain geographical features or landscapes the Nazcans considered sacred, such as the Pampa de San Jose or the Cerro Blanco mountain)

Religious rituals and festivals centered around agriculture, water and fertility. They built sophisticated aqueduct systems to irrigate their agricultural areas which are still used today. They worshipped nature, the sea, the sky, the earth and water.  Nazcans had shrines dedicated to each deity they worshipped.

With Cahuachi, the religious center, in close proximity to the Nazca lines, the gringa believes the lines are religious expressions. If the purpose of the lines was to be a spaceport for visiting alien dignitaries, it is more likely the lines would have then been closer to Ventilla, Nazca’s urban and government center.

Considering the geology of Peru’s coastal desert, the lines were relatively easy to create. But, as they are actually only visible when airborne were the ancient Nazca people capable of constructing something on such a large scale? Were they advanced mathematicians? How well did they perform where geometry is concerned?

A Canadian archaeologist conducted an exercise to prove that creating these large-scale elaborate geoglyphs is not that difficult. Being a coastal desert, it was easy for ancient Nazcans to get clear sight lines. So, working from a masterful drawing and supervised by a competent mathematician/engineer, teams of Nazcans could accurately recreate a small scale drawing upon the desert floor the size of a football field. To “etch” the line into the earth it was a simple matter of removing the surface materials that were darker due to oxidization and reveal the lighter desert floor underneath. And, judging from the ruins of ancient pyramid structures, Nazca had no shortage of competent mathematicians and engineers.

If you travel in Peru’s coastal desert regions and get off the touristy, beaten path, you’ll be surprised to find that lines are all over the place. Many of them are footpaths. They are not as distinct as the Nazca lines because they are not purposely created as the Nazca lines were. They simply form naturally as the local people tramp from one place to another. Often, walking across the coastal desert is the only way to get from point A to point B.

The caveman and the gringa visited Supe Puerto, a Peruvian coastal desert town. We tramped numerous footpaths as we explored. Below is a screenshot of a lighthouse we trekked to. It was a half day hike from town. The image is at maximum enlargement from Google Earth. However, if you peer closely, you can make out the faint tracing of the footpath hugging the edge of the cliff, following its line with a leg branching off toward the lighthouse. Later, in the middle of the night after our lighthouse adventure, the poor caveman woke up the gringa. He had a nightmare about us falling off the edge of that cliff.

Screenshot (1)

So, the gringa is pretty convinced the caveman is not a descendant of extra-terrestrials. He’s just a regular old Earthling like the gringa. But he is still strange in his own endearing ways.

Sources & Image Credits:







Google Earth