This has been a week of very strange space news, and of course, the centerpiece of these stories has been President Obama's executive order concerning space weather, a story we'll get back to later this week. But I want to set that story in the context of some other very strange stories that have emerged this week. The first of these stories was shared by Mr. T., and there are a few things that struck me as "odd" which I'll indulge in today's high octane speculation:
As the article notes, the reason we have not "discovered" these two new moons is that they are "hidden" in the gas giant's rings:
Now a duo of planetary scientists from the University of Idaho have re-examined this data to show that there's something strange going on in two of Uranus' 13 rings, called Alpha and Beta.
These rings display a previously unnoticed wavy pattern, suggesting that they're being pulled at by two tiny moons.
"These patterns may be wakes from small moonlets orbiting exterior to these rings," the researchers write in their paper on the pre-print site arXiv.org.
So why didn't Voyager 2 see these moons as it zipped past?
The researchers suggest these moons are so tiny, and also so dark, that they would have blended into the background for the spacecraft. Being "dark" means they barely reflect any light, as is the case with most of the moons in the area, and also Uranus's dark rings.
But the two Idaho researchers, Rob Chancia and Matthew Hedman, have crunched the numbers, and suggest that the pattern they detected in the Alpha and Beta rings are similar to those caused by the pull of some of Uranus's other moons, such as Cordelia and Ophelia.
They predict that, if these two new moons exist, they would only measure between 4 and 14 km (2 to 9 miles) across.
There you have it: the moons weren't discovered because (1) they're in the rings, (2) would have appeared "dark" to the passing Voyager probe, and (3) are, as moons go, very small.
But I have to wonder: why did it take so long for planetary scientists to notice the unusual wave mechanics of Uranus' rings? And with this question, comes another: what prompted these scientists to study Uranus's rings in the first place? The article provides no clue as to the process of reasoning behind it.
So here comes my high octane speculation of the day. Indeed, this is such wild speculation that I want to call attention to the fact that there is nothing in the article that suggests the link and connection that I am about to suggest. Years ago, the NASA scientist Norman Bergrun wrote a book Ringmakers of Saturn, in which he suggested that the photographs of the Voyager craft of the anomalies in the rings of Saturn were in fact, gigantic spaceships. While his argument and the pictures themselves were somewhat fuzzy, Bergrun proposed that whatever Voyager saw, it was seeing things that appeared to be embarked on some sort of gigantic engineering project at that planet. Part of his reasoning was that some of these objects appeared to be scooping up the dust of the rings and emitting giant electrical arcs. I remain skeptical about Bergrun's ideas, but they cannot be excluded simply because they are radical.
Few paid attention to Bergrun at the time, but it is worth noting that recently Russia Today (RT) devoted some time covering Bergrun's theories, which invites its own high octane speculations, for it was Dmitri Medvedev, fully a month before the Chelyabinsk meteor event, who stated that Russia should build out its space defenses to defend the country against asteroids. During that interview, Mr. Medvedev also stated that Russia could use thermonuclear weapons or "other" weapons whose nature was unspecified to destroy such weapons. In the context of his remarks, the possibility that one might actually weaponize asteroids by moving them and directing them to target was raised. Sounds far out, right? Except when one recalls that current plans for mining asteroids include the idea that one might go out and literally capture them by scooping them up, and bringing them to the Moon for mining. If one can propose moving small asteroids for mining, one can move them for bombardment.
Which brings us back to Bergrun, for the possibility exists that one might apply a Bergrun-like analysis of the phenomena at Uranus. And if that high octane speculative possibility exists, then perhaps we might be looking at some sort of interplanetary "engineering" project in the outer planets, perhaps even a mining project of some sort.
The question is: who is doing it?
See you on the flip side....