In my little round-up of northern lights and space news yesterday I forgot to mention that it seems Virgin Galactic it taking its time testing its launch and flight capabilities. This article indicates that they will try their first rocket powered flight sometime later this year and that commercial operations could be as far as two years away. I wonder what is slowing things down. I was expecting private tourist flights already late this year. SpaceShipTwo doesn’t seem too much different from SpaceShipOne. Then again, I am not an aerospace engineer, so I probably underestimate the difficulty of flying a ship to the edge of space or beyond. I am sure safety is of paramount concern. One accident early in the operation of private spaceships could derail the whole industry. The private space industry requires paying happy customers. It is different than NASA where accidents are tragic but the funding keeps flowing.
Also, today is the day when the biggest solar flare in the last 5 years is supposed to strike the earth, although, I will remind everyone that space weather forecasting is quite tricky, so if nothing happens and there are no northern lights, I wouldn’t be surprised. If the flare hits as expected, then keep you eyes to the northern horizon late tonight. There is a chance the clouds could clear up enough after midnight to allow us to view the potential auroras.
In the world of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) there is never a shortage of news and research and I try to bring a few different themes to the blog. Just yesterday I came across some opinions from a climate scientist that has a similar viewpoint to my own. That is Judith Curry from Georgia Tech (mentioned previously in the blog). Some people would probably like to pigeon-hole her as a hard core skeptic, “denier”, “flat-earther”, “environmental terrorist”, or what-not, because she withdrew her support for the IPCC, but in this recent article I think you will find a balanced and nuanced view of the science and politics. It is worth the read if you follow the AGW story. In contrast to my focus on technological progress and alternative energy, Professor Curry worries a bit more about bias. I also think it is something the IPCC might take too lightly. When most alternative theories and conflicting data is shoved to the sideline, there is a high danger of group think (within the IPCC). Errors can be compounded.
Have a good Thursday! Meteorologist Justin Loew.
This post was written by jloew on March 8, 2012