HAMNET Report 28 January 2018

Writing in Tech Times this week, Samriddhi Dastidar mentioned NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which will go on a historic journey in the summer of 2018, skimming through the fiery atmosphere of the sun.

The probe will see the spacecraft get seven times closer to the sun’s surface than any other man-made object in human history.

The Parker Solar Probe, which will travel at 725,000 kilometres per hour, is going to reach within 6.4 million kilometres of the solar surface. It may seem like a long distance away from the sun but even at that length, the spacecraft will face a temperature of 1,700-degrees Celsius.

Simultaneously, it has the monumental task of keeping the lab equipment intact within its room-temperature interiors. Incidentally, this excessive temperature is high enough for iron to melt.

The spacecraft will be launched from Florida. It will pass Venus, which will give it a gravitational boost to swing into a series of orbits around the sun. The probe will travel through the sun’s atmosphere known as the corona, with each close approach.

The spacecraft will have a Solar Probe Cup, which will collect samples from the barrage of high energy particles that escape from the sun by poking out from behind the heat shield. Test lead Annette Dolbow called it the bravest little instrument on the probe.

The spacecraft will also have a cooling system, which will function like a radiator and have 5 litres of pressurized water. The system will be unlike any other ever used on a spacecraft before, especially because there is a combination of water and electronics.

The mission will help scientists learn why the atmosphere of the sun is hotter than its surface and how high-energy particles get expelled into space from the corona.

The answers to these mysteries are relevant to life on Earth. Disruptions in the atmosphere of the sun can produce coronal mass ejections that are huge explosions of ionized gas as well as solar flares that are bursts of radiation.

When CMEs interact with the magnetosphere of Earth, they induce electric currents that could reach the ground and damage power grids. Solar flares, meanwhile, disrupt radio communications and result in radiation poisoning to any astronauts in space who are not protected by the magnetic field of the planet. The prediction of such events requires researchers to know more about the sun.

“These are questions we were trying to answer from 93 million miles away,” said Eric Christian, a Goddard physicist, and an investigator attached to the probe. “But the fact is, you’ve got to go where the action is in order really to understand what’s happening.”

Essex Ham News reminds us that the latest edition of TX Factor, Episode 20, has been released this week.. You’ll note a revamp of the introduction to the show, to celebrate the 20th episode.

In this latest episode of the online TV show dedicated to amateur radio, here’s what’s being featured: Yaesu Fusion Repeater DR2;  SOTAbeam’s “Click2Tune for Icom” lead;  Graham from bhi demonstrates the ParaPro EQ20 DSP;  and Jon shows the SDRplay RSP1A SDR receiver. Just Google the words TX Factor, and look for episode 20.

Southgate Amateur Radio News advises us a week in advance that, on Wednesday, Jan. 31st, the second full Moon of January will pass through Earth’s shadow, producing a rare ‘Blue Moon Lunar Eclipse.’

The Moon won’t look blue, however. Researchers are predicting a bright orange eclipse–a forecast based on studies of recent volcanic activity. Volcanoes, climate change, and lunar eclipses are linked in ways that might surprise you.

More information about this, along with eclipse observing tips, are highlighted in Wednesday’s edition of Spaceweather.com.

And here is a gloomy forecast for you. A global catastrophe is but two minutes away, according to the Doomsday Clock, which measures, metaphorically, how long the world has left before it succumbs to a man-made disaster.

Managed by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a group of scientists and academics, the clock was moved 30 seconds on Thursday. The clock’s hands had been at two-and-a-half minutes to midnight in 2017.

Rachel Bronson, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists CEO, said this year that nuclear weapons and the unpredictability of nations holding them were a major consideration.

“All of the major weapons states are investing in their nuclear arsenals,” said Robert Rosner, research professor in the Department of Astrophysics and Physics at the University of Chicago.

“North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests demonstrated an acceleration in building a new generation of weapons of mass destruction. In South Asia, the emphasis on missile capabilities grows.

“The nuclear arsenals of all of the major weapons states are being updated and imbued with enhanced capabilities. The Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Review appears likely to increase the types and roles of nuclear weapons in US defence plans,” he added.

For decades the clock has been used as an ominous reminder of how close humanity is to destroying the world. Midnight represents total disaster or an apocalypse.

Originally decided on by Bulletin Editor Eugene Rabinowitch, the clock is now in its 71st year. It’s settings are now based on an academic board’s view on the advancement of nuclear arms, climate change and artificial intelligence.

The Doomsday Clock originally featured in a magazine back in the 1940s, when the development of nuclear arms first became a global fear. In its first outing the clock read seven minutes to midnight. The furthest away from midnight it has ever been came in 1991 after the end of the Cold War – when it struck 17 minutes to midnight.

Thank you to RT News for those notes.

Finally, in this week’s chapter of water woes in Cape Town, combined dam levels are down by 1.4 percentage points, to 27.2% full. Day zero is now set for 12 April, though City Officials say all taps won’t run dry simultaneously. 149 Points of Distribution have so far been identified, but set-up at the sites will start as late as possible, in case, by some miracle, queuing for water can be avoided. Judging by the weather forecasts for the next 10 days, that miracle is not going to happen!

This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.