We’ll Find We’re Not Alone – a poem by Kate Rauner



Hydrothermal vents are able to support extremophile bacteria on Earth and may also support life in other parts of the cosmos.

We will find we’re not alone,
The proof is at our finger tips.
We have the means, robotic craft
Extend our touch on epic trips.
We know where round the Sun to look,
Know how to search for traces.
Moons and planets wait for us,
Within our reach are many places.
No wormholes, warping space required,
No need for hyperdrives.
Technology is here today
To find unearthly lives.
With chemistries like ours – or strange,
Not likely grays or bug-eyed men,
Expected small, but bodies huge
Are not beyond imagining.
Mars only lost his oceans
A million years ago.
Solar winds stripped air away,
And with it, oceans go.
But liquid water blankets
Some moons of Jupiter.
Beneath their crusts of ice,
Hordes of life may stir.
To feed on broth by magma brewed
May be an easy strategy.
Get energy not from the Sun,
But twisted tides of gravity.
And Callisto,
Or methane lakes on Titan,
Life free from H2O.
Geysers may toss microbes high,
Bouquets to passing hands,
Till we can pierce a mile of ice
To meet them in their lands.
To find that life is commonplace
Will not diminish me,
But will expand my mind and soul
And all that I can be.

“I believe we are going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth in the next decade and definitive evidence in the next 10 to 20 years,” Ellen Stofan, chief scientist for NASA, said at a public panel Tuesday in Washington. “We know where to look, we know how to look, and in most cases we have the technology.” latimes.com

That would be amazing, astounding, awesome… and that’s just the “a” words I can think of. Extraterrestrial life is discussed in many places, for example, solarsystem.nasa.gov , jpl.nasa.gov , or wikipedia extraterrestrial life

For me, even a real microbe will be better than all the movies put together – reality always trumps fantasy.

Born of Earth and Jupiter – a #poem by Kate Rauner

zeiss projector

Zeiss projectors, like this one at Kiev Planetarium, allow planetarium visitors to see a scientist’s view of the solar system and the universe.

Two thousand planets have been found
By our current generation.
Five hundred systems, like our own,
Escaped their sun’s damnation.
Most planets are much closer
To their stars and therefore hotter,
With a thousand times thicker air
Than the Sun’s rocky daughters.
And super-Earths are common,
Ten times larger than our own.
Perhaps with days that equal years,
So different from our home.
Most gaseous giant planets
Orbit their stars nearer.
Why we have no super-Earth
At last emerges clearer.
The proto-Jupiter that formed,
To proto-Earth was hostile.
And, five billion years ago,
It stole away our volatiles.
It scrambled inner rocky worlds
And smashed the proto-Earth to bits;
Tossed half of it into the Sun,
The rest then reformed planets.
This left our world, our remnant Earth,
Thinly veiled in wispy air.
Self-organizing, growing life
Could then arise and evolve there.
Surviving heat and pressures vast,
Life on extra-solar worlds
May not resemble any forms
That upon our Earth unfurled.
We may not discern our distant kin
Nor understand life’s game.
It’s hard enough to love our own
And we are all the same.

Kevin J. Walsh and his colleagues detail their findings this week in the journal Nature. space.com. “A wandering Jupiter may have wreaked havoc on the large inner planets of our early solar system, leaving behind an apparently rare configuration of planets.” [csmonitor.com] Whether that rareness holds up as we develop way to discover smaller planets remains to be seen.

The Smell of Life #poem #poetry #NASA #Mars #science

Methane can be made by lifeCuriosity_Rover_Arm_Camera
Or hydrothermal systems,
By microbes in the regolith
Or from the rocks, if not them.
Methane doesn’t last for long
Floating in the atmosphere.
Tens of decades, then it’s gone,
Reacting in the sunlight there.
What Curiosity has found,
Unexpected and delighted,
A whiff arising from the ground
Has scientists excited.
It doesn’t mean that there is life
Or that there was in past
It means we have a lot to learn
Before we’ll know at last.
What difference would it make to us?
Bugs aren’t likely to converse.
Even if they share our Sun,
Are we better off or worse?
I for one would thrill to know,
To find conclusive data.
Even if it pays no gold,
Life will always matter.

by Kate Rauner

A couple wisps of methane found on Mars. It might be geochemistry, and there’s more to learn about that, too. But it could indicate the existence of life. Stay tuned.

Huffingtonpost, NYtimes, and many other sources

False Summit #hiking #travel #poem #poetry #outdoors #summer #nature

The valley’s in darknesstrail sign by Kate Rauner
Where lingering mist
Follows the river
Through each shaded twist.
The chill at a sunrise
In damp morning air
Just raises excitement
In each prickling hair.
The mountain above me
Is pink in the dawn
And it will be mine
Before day is gone.
A path through the trees
Is clear to my eyes,
Feel my muscles
Warm as I climb.
Sharp scent of the trees,
The hum in the air,
Songs from the birds
Follow me where,
Still below tree line,
I set my own rate.
Here comes the hard slog,
I make my own fate.
A pack’s on my back
But I’m traveling light.
Nothing will slow
My march to the heights.
My throat turns to dust,
So I drink as I move,
Snack from my pockets,
There’s no time to lose.
The path becomes narrow,
The trees become thin.
They lean down the mountain
Away from the wind.
A patch of bright lichen
Enlivens the trail,
Crystals in rock,
A bevy of quail,
The chirp of a pica
A hawk overhead,
They don’t impede,
They drive me instead.
I’ll carry the ache
Till I reach the top,
Place boot before boot,
I never will stop.
Trudging gets harder,
Muscles complain,
Rocks slip underfoot,
Unforgiving terrain.
Breath becomes ragged,
I push through the pain,
Embrace the discomfort,
The sweat and the strain.
Now I approach it,
The peak I discern,
My goal’s within reach,
All that I’ve earned.
A last tired scramble,
A scrape to the knee,
Heave over the ridge
And what do I see?
Mountains on mountains
Reach higher than high,
March to the horizon,
Scraping the sky.
I’m worn and I’m footsore,
But barely begun.
The mountains are endless.
I’ll never be done.
Seen from my poor perch
The outlook is vast.
In long evening shadows
I laugh and I laugh.

By Kate Rauner
Inspired by hiking in the Rockies. And by living life.

Life on Europa – a Poem

deep sea tube worms

Endlessly squashed by Jupiter’s mass

Tides in rocks that flow like glass,

Heat from the core bursts up through the floor

And mineral teas brew deep in the seas.

 viper fish

Sulfur and phosphates are only in traces

But rich with precursor acids and bases,

Organic foams that slither and roam

While transparent tubes trap colloidal foods. Continue reading

Europa May Be the Best Place to look for Neighbors

Europa InteriorA new science fiction movie, Europa Report, is out this summer.  Early reviews say the movie makers have tried to present a realistic depiction of this Jovian moon.  In real life, NASA is trying to develop a cryobot that could penetrate Europa’s ice-covered surface and search for life.  Reports have said that Europa’s ocean could harbor life, and some have theorized that it is the most likely place to find life in the solar system.  Life on Earth in deep ocean vents could offer a model of life in Europa.  The tidal forces Jupiter creates in its moons would offer plenty of energy for chemosynthetic life to exist far removed from sunlight.

Europa model - Champagne_vent_white_smokers

Earthly deep ocean vent

Robotic missions don’t seem to be exciting enough for Hollywood movies, but I would love to see a real cryobot submersible swimming through Europa’s oceans searching for life.  That would be exciting enough for me, especially if the mission found life.