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

news.nationalgeographic.com

Image Credit:  www.worldatlas.com

 

 

A New Moon For A New Age


Most people think Earth’s moon is old news. However, what the public may not realize is that NASA has a rover active on the Moon, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LRO). The gringa will call the rover “Elroy” for your reading pleasure.

Elroy has a new exhibit on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. that reveals that our Moon is anything but boring. What with Mars and black holes and parallel universes getting so much attention, it’s easy for our little ol’ Moon to get lost in the mix. The gringa wants to give it some glory that is long overdue.

One thing that is interesting about the Moon is that it undergoes such frequent change. It seems to get blasted all the time by meteors and such. The images on display in the exhibit show the formation of new impact craters (kind of scary when the gringa considers its proximity to home! The Moon may very well be our shield!). Recent volcanic activity has also been detected. And, most curious of all, is evidence that the Moon’s core may be cooling which has caused it to shrink and crack the crust of the Moon’s surface.

Elroy is a busy little rover. So busy, in fact, that there are too many images for this single exhibit. So, in addition to the favorites that were selected for display, there is a large screen which projects lunar images that are updated daily.

Since 2009, in addition to a fabulous photography collection, Elroy has also collected environmental and geological data with the seven other instruments he is equipped with. Elroy’s mission is to map the entire surface of the Moon. Even the legendary “dark side” of the Moon.

You see, one reason the Moon remains so mysterious is because it has a “backside”. Yes, we never get to see the Moon’s rear-end. We always see only one physical side of the Moon. Now, this is not because the Moon hangs suspended in space and never rotates. It’s just that it has a rather peculiar rotation cycle.

Millions of years ago the Moon spun around much faster. The pull of Earth’s gravity has caused it to slow down. So much so that its rotation cycle now matches its orbit cycle.  These cycles take 27.3 Earth days. However, observed from Earth it takes 29.5 days. (Don’t expect the gringa to get into that mystery here! You can research it yourself by clicking on… Understanding the moon phases). So, since the orbit and rotation cycles are exactly matched, as the Moon travels about the Earth, at night, when we see it, the same side is always presented to Earth.

However, for serious stargazers with top-notch telescopes, you can get a peek at a sliver of the hidden aspects of the Moon. Since the Moon is not “round and flat” like a coin but is actually elliptical, like a ball, at just the right time there is a speed differential when the Moon is farthest from Earth, thereby its rotation speeds up a bit because of a little less gravity drag. This causes what scientists call a “rocking” motion and an extra nine percent of the Moon’s surface is visible. But now, thanks to Elroy, all Earthlings can see just exactly what is on the Moon’s backside which is not “dark” after all, except during the cycle of a full moon when the Earth is blocking all sunlight.

Only two years into its mission NASA declared Elroy a complete success. Over four billion measurements were used by Elroy to complete a topographical map of the entire Moon. Elroy’s instruments determined that the coldest spot in our entire solar system is right smack on the Moon. It is found inside the shadows of Hermite crater which is located near the north pole. It is a bitter minus 415 degrees Fahrenheit. The gringa hopes Elroy was wearing his mittens.

Elroy is not just taking photos and temperature readings. The rover is also looking for water deposits, such as ice, and searching for fuel resources such as hydrogen. In preparation for future manned Moon missions, environmental radiation levels are also recorded.

So, the next time you gaze up at the Moon, give Elroy a salute. He is still on the job!

 

Sources: www.nasa.gov, www.moonconnection.com

 

Image Source: http://www.nasa.gov

 

 

 

 

 

Beneath the Ice & Snow


What is the meaning of the discovery of the pyramids of Antarctica? Is this even true? The gringa scratches her head, quite skeptical but still curious. Where did my snooping take me?

First, I went to Google and did a search on my topic. Out of the many crazy things that popped up, I selected the few options that looked as if they may have some credibility. This is what I found out:

In 1910-13 a British Antarctic expedition led by R.F. Scott referred to “Pyramid Mountain”. It was a pyramid shaped mountain with an elevation of 6,955 ft/2,120 meters, almost one mile high. Trusty ol’ Google Earth, generated by NASA imaging technology, was the gringa’s next stop.

I attempted to get directions on Google Maps/Earth view from Antarctica to Pyramid Mountain. Even when I zoomed in as much as possible, it still looked nothing like a pyramid and nothing like any of the photos above that claim to be the reported “pyramids of Antarctica”. The search continued.

I then removed the word “Mountain” from my directions. I then asked Google to give me directions from Antarctica to Pyramid, Antarctica. I was redirected to “Pyramid Peak”. I zoomed. I saw. I was disappointed. None of the above pictures could have been this location. The gringa moves on undeterred.

I then do a Google search for “GPS coordinates for pyramids of Antarctica”. I get:

  • 77°47′S 160°40′E77.783°S 160.667°E

That is supposed to be the coordinates for Pyramid Mountain. I GOT NUTHIN’! BUT!… I shan’t give up!

I go back to my coordinate search results. I find a questionable YouTube video but it features one of the above photos and claims to have the GPS coordinates, which are:

  • 71° 56′ 55.29″ S 23° 20′ 42.94″ E

These coordinates take me to what appears to be a ridgeline of a mountain range. And is supposed to be the source of the above photo that is a distinct, black pyramid formation discovered about 16 miles inland by Russian scientists. At maximum zoom the gringa doesn’t believe it.

My last ditch effort was to go to good, ol’, trusty Wikipedia. I went to its listing of Pyramid Peak and clicked on the GPS coordinate link and it took me to a Google map location and images that look exactly like the very distinct black pyramid above.

So, now that I have verified the images are real, does it matter? Is there a story there?

NASA hasn’t seemed interested in the matter. The gringa sees no documentation or data among reputable Universities. It seems the only folks talking about it are the ufologists. Perhaps people should take a cue from NASA. NASA would like nothing more than to discover and engage with an extra-terrestrial civilization. If they are willing to invest the time and money to travel to Mars to find something worth talking about don’t you think they would take a peek at Antarctica if there was really something there?

So, no, the gringa does not think there are ancient structures of pyramids in Antarctica. I don’t believe aliens or ancient civilizations lived there in glory way back when. I don’t believe that the Nazis or their ilk snuck down there in submarines and constructed secret military bases.

I do believe that some writers will beat this dead horse for all it’s worth for the purpose of a hoax, a bit of fun, at the expense of vulnerable people. Some people speculating on these images as actual pyramids have claimed that they were produced not by NASA but by Integrated Ocean Drilling program, an international underwater exploration group who study Earth’s history through ocean research of the seafloor, its sediment and underwater environment.

The gringa went through all of their media images and also did a search on their website, www.iodp.org, of all things Antarctica. Although I did find some interesting things, nothing was there that indicated these were their images or that they suspected pyramids existed on Antarctica as the by-product of a long lost terrestrial or extra-terrestrial civilization. The images are NASA satellite produced and NASA considers them no big deal.

Although the gringa will remain a healthy skeptic on the subject of pyramids built by ancient Antarctic civilizations, I will not declare that it is absolutely impossible. Until all the ice and snow is removed and I can see it with my own two eyes, I will consider the possibility, however doubtful. After all, stranger things have happened.

 

Sources: www.iodp.org, www.thedailyjournalist.com, www.en.Wikipedia.org

 

Photo credit: www.skeptics.stackexchange.com, www.lamentiraestaahifuera.com