(Published on October 6, 2015)

By Benjamin Vermette


300-Year-Old Science Mystery Solved

Why is Iapetus half-light, half-dark? This question has been in the minds of scientists since 1671, the year when astronomer Giovanni Cassini discovered a new, faint moon orbiting along Saturn’s western side.

Cassini tried to follow this newly discovered satellite in its orbit, but the moon was completely invisible when it was on Saturn’s eastern side. The following year, the same happened. Cassini saw Iapetus on Saturn’s western side, but not on the eastern side. It was only in 1705, after more than three decades of telescope evolution and improvement, that Cassini was able to see the moon on both sides of Saturn, even though it was six times fainter on the eastern side than on the western side.

Why? In 2007, more than 300 years after Giovanni Cassini saw his first glance of Iapetus, the Cassini space probe arrived at Saturn and started to observe the mysterious moon from up close.  What it found there was spectacular. Iapetus was in fact two-toned, with one hemisphere about fifteen times more reflective than the other.

But again, why? Iapetus is not like Saturn’s other moons, as it orbits the gas planet twice as far out. 

Iapetus's orbit around Saturn. (wikipedia)

Iapetus's orbit around Saturn. (wikipedia)

Even further from Saturn than Iapetus is Phoebe, a failed comet that was captured by Saturn’s gravity long ago. Phoebe has been emitting a stream of particles for a long time, and this stream has even formed a ring of particles around Saturn. This dust and ice ring has been found to be very large — in fact, large enough so that it ‘touches’ Iapetus’s orbit — and less dense than any other ring discovered so far. Phoebe and its ring particles circle Saturn clockwise, however, Iapetus revolves counter-clockwise. What this means is that Iapetus gets hit by some of the particles emanating from Phoebe’s ring, like bugs on a windshield. So one side of Iapetus is darkened by those black particles from Phoebe’s ring, while the other hemisphere stays clean.

In other words, the darkened side of Iapetus is hotter (because it’s black), than the bright side (which is colder). When ice hits the ‘black’ side, it boils down from its solid phase and evaporates back into outer space, which is why the dark side stays black. The ice can only survive on the ‘white’ side of Iapetus because no ice can stay and take shelter on the ‘black,’ hot hemisphere. And this is why there’s a bright side and a dark side.

If science wants an answer, it will get it, even 300 years later.

Evidence Of Alien Life Found On Comet 67P

On November 12, 2014, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Philae lander accomplished a first in humanity’s history: it performed a soft landing on the nucleus of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, a celestial body about 500 million kilometres from Earth. 

Photograph of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by Rosetta's Philae Lander. (wikipedia) 

Photograph of 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko taken by Rosetta's Philae Lander. (wikipedia) 

And in late August 2015, scientists claimed that the Philae lander had made contact with alien life — at least in the view of two leading scientists in charge of this mission.

In fact, according to The Guardian, astronomer and astrobiologist Chandra Wickramasinghe of the University of Cardiff and his colleague Max Willis believe that features on comet 67P are best explained by the hypothesis of alien life living under the crust. Calm down, it’s not an intelligent civilization with an evil plan to destroy humankind; it would just be microbial life.

Upon landing, the Philae lander confirmed the presence of an organic-laden black crust on 67P. Since all organic matter originates from once-living organisms, Wickramasinghe and Willis maintain that the matter in the crust came from some sort of alien microbial life.

To strengthen their arguments, Willis and Wickramasinghe declared that the presence of frozen lakes on the comet means that water — a prerequisite key for life — exists on 67P.

Unfortunately, the Philae lander is not equipped with special instruments to confirm the presence of microbes on its home comet; it was originally planned to do so, but this aspect got cancelled during the project’s approval phase.

At best, if these claims are right, they prove that we are not alone in the universe. However, if they are (and they are likely to be) wrong, they prove that there is organic matter on a random comet, and that it must have come from somewhere …

A Twice-In-A-Lifetime Event Occurred On September 27

A total lunar eclipse happens a couple of times per year. But a lunar eclipse combined with a supermoon is much more unique, and this is what we call a Super Blood Moon.

First of all, what is a lunar eclipse?

As you may know, the Earth revolves around the Sun while the moon revolves around the Earth. A total lunar eclipse is when the Earth gets between the Sun and the Moon, thereby creating a shadow over the Moon and giving the Moon a little red tint. This happens two or three times a year.

What’s the difference with a solar eclipse? This is when the Moon gets between the Earth and the Sun, causing a shadow to move over the Sun in daytime here on Earth. These are much more unusual.

And what is a supermoon?

The Moon goes around the Earth in an elliptical orbit. Logically, this causes the Moon to sometimes be at its most distant point from the Earth (apogee) and sometimes at its closest point (perigee). A supermoon occurs when the Moon is at its perigee (closest to us) so it appears to us up to 14% larger in diameter. Surprisingly, the difference in size is barely noticeable to the naked eye.

However, when you see a very large moon on the horizon, it’s probably not a supermoon as it only appears larger due to an optical illusion.

On September 27, a total lunar eclipse occurred when the Moon was a supermoon. Combined, these two phenomena are so rare they only took place 5 times since 1900, the last time being in 1982.  

Super Blood Moon captured from Upton, Merseyside. (wikipedia)

Super Blood Moon captured from Upton, Merseyside. (wikipedia)

I hope you didn’t miss the show, because the next time a Super Blood Moon will happen will be in 2033.

September Was The Month When The World Didn’t End

Brace yourselves brave humans, because between September 22, 2015, and September 28, 2015, a massive asteroid will violently hit our home planet and destroy life as we know it! But wait … I’m still alive! We’re still alive! We survived!  

Once again, an online community of biblical conspiracy theorists claimed our end. But this time people went so crazy that NASA needed to call a press conference to clarify everything.

In fact, the self-proclaimed prophet Reverend Efrain Rodriguez had, since 2010, constantly warned NASA about an upcoming deadly asteroid. Rodriguez said that a message from God revealed to him the imminent apocalypse where an asteroid would have hit the ocean near Puerto Rico and cause a massive earthquake and tsunami, killing everyone in North and South Americas.

Rodriguez also claimed that President Obama was briefed on the subject and that a major intervention to protect the "rich and powerful" had been made.

A meeting between the French foreign minister and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry in May 2014 would also have been a proof of the September 2015 disaster: "We have 500 days to avoid climate chaos. And I know that President Obama and John Kerry himself are committed on this subject and I’m sure that with them, with a lot of other friends, we shall be able to reach success on this very important matter," said the French foreign minister.

And of course, conspiracy theorists exploited this statement as far as they could; especially on the online blog called Coercian Code – Dark Times Upon Us, which declared: “This was the public announcement to the world of what is coming on September 24 2015, the end of the 500 day count, when the Abyss will open and the days of darkness will begin.”

Without surprise, we "survived" this prophetic announcement, as we did in 2000 and in 2012.

Fools are everywhere. Fortunately, science is too, to set things right from wrong.