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ESA's Cluster Spacecraft Makes Shocking Discovery 137

A recent observation by the ESA's Cluster Spacecraft was able to finally prove a 20-year-old theory. "On 24 January 2001, the four Cluster spacecraft were flying at an approximate altitude of 105 000 kilometres, in tetrahedron formation. Each spacecraft was separated from the others by a distance of about 600 kilometres. With such a distance between them, as they approached the bow shock, scientists expected that every spacecraft would record a similar signature of the passage through this region. Instead, the readings they got were highly contradictory. They showed large fluctuations in the magnetic and electric field surrounding each spacecraft. They also revealed marked variations in the number of solar wind protons that were reflected by the shock and streaming back to Sun."
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ESA's Cluster Spacecraft Makes Shocking Discovery

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  • Could a solar near-magnetosphere bow-shock wave be the cause of long-delayed echoes []? These are echoes of radio signals that are no multiple of the distances to likely objects. The average ham who is active on HF hears about one a year.


    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by i_like_spam ( 874080 )
      Why is this discovery so shocking if there is a 20-year-old theory that explains the observations?

      Usually the most shocking discoveries are the ones not described by any theories.
      • A comment made near the end of TFA may help explain why it's so "shocking":

        Although the conditions that cause the reformation of a shock wave are rare around the Earth, they are common around these other celestial objects.
        I would interpret this, in context with the rest of the article, to mean that the phenomenon measured by the Cluster doesn't normally happen around Earth. After all, we've been sending spacecraft out past the moon since long before 2001, so these can't be the first to get a chance to measure the region. I believe the point of the article was that these fluctuations were predicted in 1985, but until 2001, none of the measurements of Earth's bow shock supported the theory. The ESA was fully expecting similar readings this time around, but "shockingly" got readings that proved the 20-year-old theory. --K
        • by crumley ( 12964 ) * on Monday May 14, 2007 @08:09PM (#19123671) Homepage Journal
          I think as much as anything this observation didn't happen before, because Cluster is the first mission to fly spacecraft in relatively tight formation in the correct location. Even with with Cluster, orbital dynamics are such that magnetopause and bow shock crossings do not happen that often, so there is not that much data on them.

          As for shocking, I think that is just a bad joke. Though these are nice results, I don't think that anyone is that surprised by them.

        • but "shockingly" got readings that proved the 20-year-old theory.

          Sorry to nitpick, but it supports the theory, but doesn't "prove" it.

          I'm sure that's what you meant, though.

          - RG>
          • Sorry to nitpick, but it supports the theory, but doesn't "prove" it.

            There's an archaic meaning for "prove" that means "test", as in "the exception that proves the rule".

            I would likewise say I was sorry to nitpick, but that would be insincere of me.
      • by 10Neon ( 932006 )
        It is a pun on "bow shock," the phenomenon that was observed by the spacecraft.
    • Bruce, Many regions of the magnetosphere [] seem like possibilities for LDEs, including the bow shock or the magnetopause. There are articles looking into these possible sources linked to from one of the pages [] your search pops. The consensus seems to be that magnetospheric causes are unlikely.
    • Very interesting Bruce! I've not heard of these before but I'll be on the listen from now on. Thanks!

      -Joe W7COM
    • The average ham who is active on HF hears about one a year. I'm an average ham. I'm active on HF. I've been on the air for almost 20 years. I've never heard one. I've read about them, but I've never heard one.
    • To memory, there's one second of lag when talking to someone on the moon on the radio. One to 40 seconds would mean that unless there are multiple reflections that go unheard, whatever is doing the reflecting is located 1 to 40 times further away than the moon.
  • by joeflies ( 529536 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @04:49PM (#19120881)
    Wesley Crusher testified that the squadron was in Diamond Slot formation around Titan.
  • So.... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Audent ( 35893 ) <[audent] [at] []> on Monday May 14, 2007 @04:51PM (#19120913) Homepage
    WTF does that mean?

    I am SO not a rocket scientist.
    • Re:So.... (Score:5, Funny)

      by eln ( 21727 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @05:02PM (#19121139)
      I think it means we're going to have to send a tachyon pulse into that thing in order to reverse the polarity and stabilize the anomaly.
      • by plams ( 744927 )
        Score:4, Informative?! Have I slept for a few years and not noticed that technobabble has made it into mainstream physics? Is positron emission really the key to artificial intelligence? Is alternating between two velocity states while remaining at neither for longer than Planck time, 1.3 x 10^-43 seconds, the secret behind superluminal travel? Do all aliens really look like humans with play-doh on their heads?!!
    • Re:So.... (Score:5, Funny)

      by Jarjarthejedi ( 996957 ) <> on Monday May 14, 2007 @05:04PM (#19121173) Journal
      It means that the Starboard Manifold Coupling may overload due to Heisenberg Waves unless we can patch the Quantum Foam Warp Reactor Sealant before the Borg board us!
      • by Altus ( 1034 )

        Quantum Foam.... thats that expanding stuff they sell in cans at the Home Depot right?
        • ...that expanding stuff they sell in cans at the Home Depot right?

          No, silly! It's an old form of contraceptive. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. The field collapses when the female achieves orgasm, which is why it is so ineffective.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Red Flayer ( 890720 )
      It means that solar radiation hitting the earth's magnetic field acts like waves hitting the walls of your bathtub when you turn the faucet on. You get waves, not a ridge of water at the wall.

      In short, these bowshocks will shrivel your sack if you stay in to observe them too long.
    • was the rocket scientists who didn't know, so that means you ARE a rocket scientist!
    • Don't cross the streams. It would be bad.
  • Poor Wesley... (Score:3, Informative)

    by gzerphey ( 1006177 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @04:52PM (#19120933)
    I'm sorry but did anyone else think of a Kolvoord Starburst? []
    • by hellfire ( 86129 )
      I'm sorry but did anyone else think of a Kolvoord Starburst?

      At least one other person was as dorky as you. I'm sure many more will follow.

      PS: that other person wasn't me ;P
      • Yep, it was my first thought too, and I was going to post something about it, but it looks like I've been beaten to it.
    • by kindbud ( 90044 )
      No, no one but you thought of that.

      Feel better?
  • So What does it all mean, Basil?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      So What does it all mean, Basil?

      That Manuel has been drinking the sherry again. And he found the good stuff this time?

  • The great thing about science out in space is that it yields BOTH amazing results AND really neat pictures.
  • I find it hard to say that this finding is recent ... I mean it was done in 2001 ... Right? Don't care anyway.
    • Unlike Fox News, CNN, and the rest of the mainstream media reporters, researchers in science fields often do investigation into their findings.

      The research was published in March. I think most of the time however was spent deciding a title, "Nonstationarity and reformation of high-Mach-number quasiperpendicular shocks: Cluster observations"
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The data discussed in the article were from 2001, but the final analysis was only just published this year.

      Before the data from the spacecraft could be analyzed by the scientists, the data had to be calibrated and checked for anything weird that could have been introduced when they were transmitted from the spacecraft to the ground. The scientists who did this study probably used data from several instruments on board the spacecraft - the magnetic field instrument, electric field instrument, electron detec
  • The boundary of pretty much everything we see is turbulent.
    I would not expect a static fixed line.
    From ferns to coastlines to mandelbrot sets, throughout the solar system and around galaxies and out into the universe at large.
    • That's an interesting observation. I suppose that that's why they're boundaries. In pure mathematics, we often have categories which neatly transition into each other with a set of "clean" rooms. The physical world, while represented by mathematics, would seem to be the "dirty" version of it, with turbulence and messiness at these transition points.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by MollyB ( 162595 ) *
      Would you grant an exception to 0 K (-273.15 C) []?

      (btw, my spell checker insists on "turbulent")
      • Mine would as well if I had bothered to enable it for that field :)

      • >Would you grant an exception to 0 K (-273.15 C) []?

        I dunno, if someone said that lizards can't fly, would you grant an exception for black dragons?

        Might want to read the first paragraph of that link you posted.
        • by MollyB ( 162595 ) *
          I read the whole entry, you insensitive clod! Don't "I dunno" *me* with your spurious comparison of abstract theoretical limits and their physical unattainability to dragonian flight.
          Don't forget that penguins can fly, too; they just do it underwater!
          To be fair, I was joking, maybe even subconsciously trolling. My bad... 8)
          • >To be fair, I was joking

            I figured. I just liked the OP's comment too much. IMO chaos theory is teh balls.
      • by jd ( 1658 )
        A point has zero dimensions, which means the real component of the Hausdorf Dimension cannot be strictly less than the real component of the Euclidian Dimension (it can only be equal), which in turn means that you cannot have zero-dimensional fractals.

        There is a case for the existence of imaginary components to dimensions (it's how you avoid a singularity at the big bang), but it is unclear to me if an object at 0K would remain a point if viewed from a different perspective. This is important. For all fra

  • Uh.. yeah (Score:5, Informative)

    by orclevegam ( 940336 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @05:08PM (#19121241) Journal

    Well, I understand more or less what the article is about (although they said it in a very long winded way), but I'm thinking unless you're a astrophysicist, are studying particle physics, or possible electro-magnetic phenomena then this is a rather dry article.

    It's my understanding based on the article that what they discovered (or more accurately proved) was that the bow shock produced by the solar wind colliding with earths magnetosphere is not actually a single giant bow shock, but more like a whole bunch of continually reforming bow shocks stacked on top of each other. Of course, I'm not a physicist, so I could be wrong in that interpretation. Also, it doesn't seem as if this discovery has any immediately applicable implications but is more of a hey, that's kind of neat, type thing.

  • by justthinkit ( 954982 ) <> on Monday May 14, 2007 @05:16PM (#19121377) Homepage Journal
    "PhysOrg" means Physics, right? Well then, show me the numbers. And probably a graph or two. FFS, since when does "highly contradictory" pass for information?

    Were the differences well within the error bars? I'm going with the latter until someone pastes a link with meat on its bones.
    • Were the differences well within the error bars? I'm going with the latter until someone pastes a link with meat on its bones.
      Here you go. []
    • by crumley ( 12964 ) *
      Here is a link [] to the original press release, with better images. Like the AC said, for more details you can get the journal article. It doesn't seem to be up on any of the usual pre-print archives.
    • as a part of Bush's Gettin' Busy initiative, all the recordings were made by Alberto Gonzales. Immediately following the completion of the article, a very shiny object passed the office window and cleared Mr. Gonzales' memory. Again. Luckily, we were able to get him partially house trained again, but it's taking more and more effort. I swear to god, if that guy pees on the rug again, I'll duct tape a shiny object to his forehead and drop him off in the desert somewhere...
    • you must be new to this country. Here we take tax dollars from the public, spend it doing some research, and also spend it paying some scientific publishing agencies to publish articles and data, which then charge the public money to view the articles, and the profits are kept by the agencies with no royalties to either the researchers or the public that paid for it. Enjoy your double penetration with no lube.
  • by cashman73 ( 855518 ) on Monday May 14, 2007 @05:19PM (#19121407) Journal
    This must be the homeworld of the Ori, and this must be a sign of the enlightenment! "Those who reject the path to enlightenment must be destroyed."

    "Hallowed are the Ori."

    • And now that the Homeworld of the Ori has been revealed, we Vorgons will bring the Ori the gleaming crystal of Abulai to worship and exalt. The great faith of the Vorgons will show the Ori the One True Way to the promised afterlife in Zuud.
  • by Anonymous Coward realign the deflector dish.
  • How is proving a 20 year old theorem a "shocking discovery"? Sure, an unexpected realisation/proof of an old theory, but surely not a discovery. ...Oh, wait, this is /. Nevermind
    • by Rycross ( 836649 )
      I'm pretty sure its just a really bad pun. Shocking - bow shock, gettit?
    • If you RTFA, you'd notice that the headline on is "Cluster spacecraft makes a shocking discovery", and that they're making a pun on the term "bow shock". But hey, this is /., and you're just being typically dumb. Your best bet is to pretend that you were just trolling.

Beware of Programmers who carry screwdrivers. -- Leonard Brandwein