Now for some cool space stuff to remind us of that fact...
One of the very best podcasts around is Science & Futurism with Isaac Arthur - a series of wonderfully detailed and cogent explorations about super-science possibilities that dissects almost every aspect you can list regarding interstellar travel, alien motivations, star drives, terraforming or the Fermi Paradox. This one - on “black holes as weapons” - naturally refers to my own novel Earth (which he flatteringly calls his Book of the Month about 27 minutes in). But I highly recommend the entire series.
A video shows that the speed of light – blazing fast to us on Earth – kinda crawls in sci fi terms, taking 3 grinding minutes to reach Mars at its closest. And that’s “the fastest speed there is.”
Things are turning doubtful for Planet Nine. Which means the next planet out from us may be Proxima Centauri b, so well appraised by the new Chilean ESPRESSO radial velocity scope that researchers found that Proxima b is 1.17 times the mass of Earth. It orbits its star in just 11.2 days. Similar amounts of sunlight, engendering ‘goldilock’ thoughts… though small red stars are flare stars, so Proxima b receives about 400 times the amount of harsh flare radiation as Earth receives from its Sun. Life would be... different.
The Devonian extinction 359 million years ago seems likely to have happened from a stripping of the protective ozone layer.
Was ‘Oumuamua the Interstellar weird-visitor an elongated chunk of hydrogen ice? It’s claimed that could explain many of its unusual properties.
The UAE hopes to build the Mars Scientific City, as part of the Emirates Mars Mission to establish a human colony on the Red Planet by the year 2117. The city will sprawl across 177,000 square metres (1.9 million square feet), an area about twice the size of Alcatraz Island. Funny how there’s no mention of lessons learned from Biosphere 2.
The space station is getting a brand spanking new toilet that will recover and recycle water from feces. “Our future goals are to stabilize and dry the metabolic waste to make it microbially inactive and possibly reuse that water, reduce the amount of consumables for the potty.” Ah, technical terminology.
Joel Sercel’s TransAstra Corp. Aims to leverage some modest NIAC grants to mine water – and thus propellant – from both asteroids and deposits in sunless craters at the lunar poles. Their tall tower innovation -- Sun Flowers -- will make affordable solar power feasible in dark icy places near the Moon's poles while doomed Beatle rovers powered by the Sun Flowers will use microwaves to vaporize and then capture frozen water ice near the poles so that it can be converted to high performance rocket propellant.
Stunning images of Jupiter in infrared, compiled from Earth and the Juno Spacecraft.
A tiny Chinese satellite in lunar orbit captured incredible images of a over South America last year. How cool that an image from near the limb of the moon spots the moon’s own shadow eclipsing daytime on the Earth.
==Beyond our solar system ==
New Horizons has traveled so far that it now has a unique view of the nearest stars. "It's fair to say that New Horizons is looking at an alien sky, unlike what we see from Earth," said Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator "And that has allowed us to do something that had never been accomplished before — to see the nearest stars visibly displaced on the sky from the positions we see them on Earth." The Voyagers couldn’t do such fine parallax so this is a milestone.
Sara Seager and her colleagues now study examining how E. coli bacteria and yeast - prokaryotes and eukaryotes - would react to a hydrogen atmosphere. Both reproduced normally, but at lower and slower rates than in oxygenated air. Simply amazing and lends credence to the notion of “hydrogen civilizations” based on worlds like Jupiter. “Sentient hydrogen breathers have even made appearances in some rationally-based science fiction, such as the Uplift novels of David Brin.” Thanks, though the possibility also appeared in works by Poul Anderson’s, Greg Bear and Clifford Simak.
Of course then there’s the pressures… and providing water and energy…
In Existence I pose a future when humanity sends out probes beyond 550 astronomical units to peer back, past the rim of the sun and use the solar gravitational lens to explore a dangerous cosmos. Astronomers already use g-lens lineups to gain valuable samples from very distant times and locales. Now comes a model suggesting that the rims of black holes might refract bits of light from *every* direction right at us on Earth. Meaning some singularities out there may be telling stories about… everywhere, all the time. Oh, the instruments to gather that light and then separate/deconvolute those samples into anything useful aren’t available. In fact, they will be almost godlike, compared to our own current methods. But so? We’ve made such leaps before. More pertinently, have others, already?
Even more pertinently, how do we save and boost a civilization that’s confident, good-enough and capable of rising to such challenges?
Yeah, solar g-spot missions are suddenly all the rage at NIAC!
And here’s another paper on the topic. “Photometric Limits on the High Resolution Imaging of Exoplanets Using the Solar Gravity Lens.”
One of you wrote in: “Golly! Where was I reading about this a few years ago? ;^)” Golly, indeed.
In my novel Existence, there’s a point when millions of tiny probes are sent forth to discover the state of the cosmos in unique ways. One possible discovery? If the gravitational disturbances caused by purported “Planet 9” – which has never been observed – are caused by a midget black hole. Such a swarm of micro probes may be the only way to find out.
And if these were common… reviving the MACHO theory for dark matter… then we’d also get a pretty good explanation for the failure to detect any interstellar travel.