Wonky Planet Discovery and Algae Against War

The theory of planetary formation is now being questioned.

A discovery of a planet that orbits its parent star in reverse of its spin is certainly an oddity; only three have been discovered to date.

Now planetary scientists are scratching their heads about how this phenomenon can occur:

Astronomers have found an extrasolar planet with an “outlandish orbit” that circles its star either backwards, or at an angle of around 90º to the orientation of the star’s rotation.Planets in our own Solar System orbit in the same plane and direction as the Sun’s own rotation. This led astronomers to propose the ‘nebula hypothesis’ – whereby planets form from a flat, swirling disk of gas around a proto-Sun.

Now two teams of astronomers – one in Japan and the other in the U.S. – have independently discovered a planet about 1,000 light-years away, which orbits its star either in reverse or at an angle of more than 86º.

Predicted but never seen

Such objects have been predicted in models of Solar System formation, whereby a companion star or gravity from another planet knocks it out of orbit. However this strange phenomenon has never been observed until now.

The exoplanet, HAT-P-7b, is 1.8 times the mass of Jupiter and orbits a star about 1.5 times the mass of the Sun. Out of the more than 400 exoplanets discovered so far, only three are known to have misaligned orbits, but none as widely divergent from their Sun’s orbital plane as this one.

Details of the discovery (made using Hawaii’s Subaru Telescope) were published in October by both astronomers led by Norio Narita, from the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan in Tokyo, and a second team led by Joshua Winn from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston, USA.

Blue-shift

The teams calculated the distant planet’s orbit by looking at how its transit affected the spectrum of light from its rotating star. As the surface of the star spins towards us, its light is blue-shifted (the light spectrum is shifted towards the blue end of the spectrum) due to the Doppler effect (where light is squashed or stretched depending on its motion towards or away from us).

The other side of the star spinning away from us is red-shifted, so astronomers expected to see a blue- then red-shift pattern. But because of the interference of the dark body of the transiting planet, this pattern is reversed in HAT-P-7’s case.

“The extraordinary orbit of HAT-P-7b presents an extreme case for theories of planet formation and subsequent orbital evolution,” write Winn and colleagues in their paper.

It just goes to show that Humanity must spread out to the stars to visit these sites personally, instruments and probes just don’t cut it!

Outlandish planet has wonky orbit

hat tip

One of the biggest arguments in the memestream is whether global warming/freezing/climate change is man-made or natural.

The petro-chemical/hydrocarbon industry runs our planet de facto and global wars are occurring this very minute in order to secure these resources for certain nations/empires, the very same resources that are contributing to ‘anthropic’ climate change.

But what if a very suitable substitute came along that was able to use the same infrastructure as the above industry with no muss, no fuss and most inportantly, no wars?

One of the nascent industry’s biggest and most well-heeled players, Sapphire Energy, announced last week that it would be producing 1 million gallons of diesel and jet fuel a year by 2011, double its initial estimates.

The La Jolla, Calif.-based company – with big-name backers like Bill Gates and the Rockefeller family – says it will be producing more than 100 million gallons a year by 2018 and 1 billion gallons a year by 2020 – enough to meet almost 3 percent of the U.S. renewable fuel standard (RFS) of 36 billion gallons.

But there’s a hitch: Federal law makes no room for algae-based fuel in the RFS. The 2007 energy law caps corn ethanol production at 15 billion gallons a year by 2015 and has the remaining 21 billion gallons of renewable fuels coming from advanced biofuels, including 17 billion gallons from cellulosic biofuels and biodiesel.

“There needs to be policy work done to incorporate these new concepts like algae, which is an organism that actually consumes large amounts of carbon in the process of creating a liquid transportation fuel,” said Tim Zenk, vice president of corporate affairs at Sapphire.


Sapphire is working to get lipids(oils) from various strains of algae, which would then be fed directly into the current refining cycle, as any other crude product. Source

Algae-based fuel producers use sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to convert carbon dioxide into sugar, which the algae metabolize into lipids, or oil. The industry says it can do so using non-potable water and without converting more forests into farm fields – thus addressing major criticisms of corn- and soy-based biofuels.

Sapphire says its technology is unique because it produces a fuel that can be used with existing U.S. pipelines, refineries, cars, trucks and airplanes. “We are 100 percent convinced that the only way to address climate and energy security is to use the same infrastructure we already have,” Zenk said.

Zenk said his company is supported by major oil companies. Its newly appointed president, C.J. Warner, is a 10-year BP executive.

“They really like us because we’re providing them with what they do today, which is refining crude oil,” Zenk said. “It’s not ethanol, it’s not biodiesel. It has the same molecules as gas, diesel or jet fuels.”

The company’s jet fuel was tested earlier this year by two of three airlines testing the commercial use of algae-based fuels in flight. Continental Airlines reported that the Boeing 737-800 test flight on Jan. 7 was successful. That test was the first commercial airline test of algae-based biofuel.

“Continental’s primary role in the demonstration was to show that the biofuel blend would perform just like traditional jet fuel in our existing aircraft without modification of the engines or the aircraft,” said Holden Shannon, Continental’s senior vice president for global research and security, during a congressional hearing last month. “This is important because … the current engine and airframe technology is unlikely to change materially for many years, so it is crucial that alternative fuel be safe for use with the current aircraft technology.”

Zenk said the test flight showed that algae fuel gets better mileage than petroleum-based jet fuel. “We noticed a 4 percent increase in energy density in the fuels because of the lower-burning temperatures in the engine itself, which resulted in greater fuel mileage,” he said.

But more work needs to be done. Both Zenk and Shannon noted the long certification process to approve jet fuels for commercial aviation. Still, the airline industry thinks it could be using biofuels in its flights on a large scale within three to five years. And Sapphire said its “drop in” transportation fuels – jet fuel, gasoline and diesel – will be ready for commercial deployment in three years.

“Fuel from algae is not just a laboratory experiment or something to speculate on for years to come,” said Brian Goodall, Sapphire’s vice president of downstream technology, in a statement. “We’ve worked tirelessly, and the technology is ready now.”

Indeed, creating fuel from algae is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Petroleum crude oil used today to create gasoline, jet fuel, plastics and other substances was once pond scum – albeit 500 million years ago.

At that time, the Earth’s atmosphere contained 18 times more carbon dioxide than it does today, which resulted in a giant algal bloom. The algae grew over a period of 100 million years and then died. After time, temperature and pressure worked their magic, and that algae became the crude oil extracted today from the Rocky Mountain West and other reservoirs around the world.

“Once we figured this all out and applied modern biology to it – genetics, genetic engineering, molecular biology – it allowed us to think creatively about how to speed up the evolution of that product, that commodity that we value today, by about 500 million years,” Zenk said.

Many things come into play; the military-industrial-congressional-complex/military keynesism for example.

Will the American Federal Empire give up a main portion of their economic engine (war) in order to switch to a ‘renewable’ fuel source in the midst of a ‘great recession’ ?

Doubtful.

Is Algae the Biofuel of the Future?

source

hat tip

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