Water, Water Everywhere in the Galaxy #exoplanet #space #NASA

exoplanet populationsScientists have shown that water is likely to be a major component of those exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars) which are between two to four times the size of Earth…

Hopefully atmosphere observations in the future — of thick steam atmospheres — can support or refute the new findings.   Goldschmidt Conference

Many of these detected exoplanets are larger than Earth, but it sounds like a lot of that extra mass is water – up to 50% of the planet’s weight, while water on Earth is only 0.02%. Our watery blue world is a desert in comparison.

It makes me wonder… if our Sun had more heavy elements, would Earth be larger? Would it have captured more of the solar system’s water? Would you and I be fish?

We have earlier generations of stars to thank for any watery world including our own. Hydrogen is, of course, everywhere – the most abundant element starting from the Big Bang. But heavier elements owe their existance to fusion within stars and subsequent nova and supernova explosions. That includes oxygen. So water seems to be common in the galaxy.

 

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It’s International Asteroid Day – not “Happy” more like “Pensive” #space #asteroid #NASA#asteroid

Map of 20 years of small asteroid strikes

Frequency of small asteroids roughly 1 to 20 meters in diameter impacting Earth’s atmosphere, over 20 years. Bigger the dot, more reports. These mostly bur up in the atmosphere.

Commemorate the Earth’s largest recorded asteroid impact today, International Asteroid Day.

In 1908, a powerful asteroid struck the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in a remote Siberian forest of Russia. The event leveled trees and destroyed forests across 770 square miles, which is equal to the size of three-quarters of the US state of Rhode Island. The impact threw people to the ground in a town 40 miles away.
The first step is to detect and track Near-Earth Objects that might, some orbit, hit us. NASA will be looking for asteroids as small as 50 meters across, but if we find one, what will we do? Suppose NASA tells us something like, there’s a 40% chance that a given rock will impact the Earth in 75 years? If we get over 10 years warning, maybe that’s enough time to get our act together.
The chance of a major impact is small, but the consequences are huge, so how much should we spend? Maybe we won’t do much of anything for a long time. We accept low frequency/high consequence risks all the time. Ask anyone living on a major earthquake fault or at the base of a volcano. Taking the risk usually pays off. But a really big impact risks more than one island or coastline. It’s hard for us to come together by the millions to address such a thing, but maybe that’s what visionaries are for. Remember the dinosaurs.

How to Explore a Planet? You Need to be Airborne! #poem #poetry #NASA #MAR2020 #drone

NASA concept - helicopter on Mars

NASA concept of a helicopter on Mars

Small
Autonomous
Rotorcraft,
About to leave for Mars.
No, it cannot fly through space.
It hitchhikes for the ride.
Once its rover host
Touches down
And backs off quite a ways,
Will relay orders from the Earth,
To test it makes the grade.
Can solar cells keep it charged,
And keep it warm at night?
Can it rise three meters high
On a ninety second flight?
Then we’ll have a helicopter
On another world.
As thrilling
A capability
As any that I’ve heard.

Kate Rauner

It may seem like a small step, but Mars’ atmosphere is like flying 100,000 ft above Earth’s surface, about three times the height of commercial airplanes. Many outlets cover this element of the Mars 2020 mission, including Reuters

Breathtaking Goodbye to an Amazing Mission and a Scifi Hello #Cassini #Saturn #scifi #sciencefiction

Cassini's Grand Finale - artist's conceptionCassini’s last transmission arrived on Earth at 1146 GMT on September 15 as it plunged to a fiery end in Saturn’s atmosphere. The spacecraft had run out of fuel, but only after orbiting the ringed planet for an incredible 13 years. NASA sent it to burn up in Saturn’s atmosphere rather than risk contaminating any of the moons – which may harbor life.

We know more about Saturn than ever before – its storms, hexagonal jet streams, rings, and a seemingly endless supply of moons. We also know that an American agency can cooperate with the European Space Agency, the Italian Space Agency, and astronomers around the world for two decades on a single mission (more if the design phase is included.)

Cassini’s mission lasted over twice as long as expected. The Huygen probe that piggybacked along made the first landing ever accomplished in the outer Solar System and the first landing on a moon other than our own.

Along the way, Cassini confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity, measured the length of Saturn’s day, studied its fantastic rings, and discovered the amazing variety of its moons – including water geysers from warm water oceans and lakes of liquid methane. It showed scientist and citizen alike that the Saturn system is beautiful – a beautiful pinpoint in a beautiful universe.

If you think the money could have been better spent – tell me, do you believe humanity’s problems come from a lack of money? More likely, they arise from a lack of heart – or maybe from a lack of soul. Cassini gives us wonder, joy, and beauty. It feeds our souls. If you don’t feel that, if you don’t look up in wonder, I’m sorry for you.

One of the greatest legacies of the mission is not just the scientific discoveries it makes, and what you learn about, but the fact that you make discoveries so compelling, you have to go back. space.com

I couldn’t resist sending a cult to colonise Saturn’s moon, Titan.

Read more at wikipedia, watch for ongoing discoveries as scientists study Cassini’s data, and hold your metaphorical breath until we return, or join the scifi colony today.

IKEA in Space – Spinoffs from Mars and We Aren’t Even There Yet in Person #Mars #NASA #colonization

Humans have set foot on the Moon

We’ve all heard about the technology spinoffs from NASA to our everyday lives. Things like memory foam, freeze-dried food, firefighting equipment, emergency “space blankets”, DustBusters, cochlear implants, various computer and medical technologies, turning trash into oil, and putting better bubbles in our beer. (Oddly enough – not some things you’ve often heard mentioned – not Tang, Velcro, or Teflon.)

In this age of budget cuts, NASA wants you to know these spinoffs contribute to America’s economy by generating billions of dollars in revenue and creating thousands of jobs.

Now IKEA, the maker of cheap and chic furniture, is sending some of its designers on a trip to the Mars Society’s simulation habitat in Utah.

Truthfully, this sounds more like hype than research. The designers will only spend three days playing colonists. If they really want a feel for living in cramped quarters with little privacy or comfort, I’d recommend at least a month. But maybe contemplating a few conveniences for future explorers will help today’s apartment dwellers.

Less trendy but more important spinoffs are coming too – exploring farming on Mars may help us get more nutritional bang for our energy buck in drought-stricken regions on Earth. In the meantime,

…if IKEA can design a clothing storage system that works well inside a Martian habitat, it can certainly design a clothing system that works well inside your horrible apartment in Brooklyn.

Watch for their new collection in 2019.

Until humans step foot on the Red Planet, science fiction is your only route to Mars. Try my on Mars series – the first colonist take a one-way trip in the near-future. Start with Glory on Mars – Emma wants to explore and make a home on Mars with the first dozen colonists, but something is terribly wrong on the Red Planet.

You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords.

Eureka – Maybe #Mars #searchforlife #poem #poetry #NASA

Big Joe, part of Viking's research on Mars

Big Joe, a Martian rock Viking One studied

Earth first touched planet Mars
On the Golden Plain,
When forty years ago
The search for life began.

Where barren outflow channels
From the Tharsis ridge
May once have carried water,
Where something might have lived.

Viking One took images,
Surveyed the dunes nearby
And analyzed geology
Beneath the pinkish sky.

Its tests for life seemed negative,
But we don’t understand
Why something used the nutrients
Dripped on a bit of sand.

We’ve learned so much in forty years,
We found Martian organics,
Maybe Viking did discover
Cryptobiotics.

by Kate Rauner

It’s possible we have seen life processes on Mars. Thanks to phys.org for covering Gilbert V. Levin’s and Patricia Ann Straat’s paper “The Case for Extant Life on Mars and Its Possible Detection by the Viking Labeled Release Experiment.”

In which they reconsider the results of the Viking LR experiment in light of recent findings on Mars and recent proposals for inorganic substances that may mimic the observed metabolism-like processes. They argue that none of the proposed abiotic substances sufficiently explains the Viking results, and that Martian microbes should still be considered as the best explanation of the results. In Astrobiology, October 2016, 16(10): 798-810. DOI: 10.1089/ast.2015.1464

Not proven – but – wow.

My books include science fiction stories of the first colony on Mars and collections of my science-inspired poetry, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. Read one today.

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Why is the Night Sky Dark? #star #science #mystery #astronomy

hubble_probes_the_early_universeThere are billions of stars in every direction. Even more than we used to think – photons aimed straight at us from every point in the sky. As NASA puts it,

the trouble with an infinite universe is that no matter where you look in the night sky, you should see a star. Stars should overlap each other in the sky like tree trunks in the middle of a very thick forest. But, if this were the case, the sky would be blazing with light.

This is the famous Olber Paradox. Though articulated in the 1800s for an infinite steady-state universe, it still offers a puzzle today. The universe may not be infinite, but it’s very very big with very very many stars. Why do I see so much dark sky between stars?

Because the universe is expanding, the light that reaches us is subject to a phenomenon called “redshift…” the wavelengths of light [stars] emit appear to stretch out. Go far enough, and the light will redshift below the level discernible by the human eye, and eventually telescopes.

Some of this radiation shows up as background light, a faint diffuse glow of light that appears to have no source. The rest, however, disappears before it ever reaches us.

Thanks to Astronomy.com for the explanation. Try to remember this for when some little kid asks. Of course, when a kid asked “why is the night sky dark?” the best answer may be “It isn’t.” The sky, that is – isn’t – it isn’t dark. Human eyes simply don’t register the emmissions. There really is a pervasive radiation from the Big Bang. So cool.