Welcome to the latest edition of Carnival of Space. This week’s collection of articles looks into our political past, explores deep space and looks at what the future may hold for humans. Let’s get started.
First up is an article about the political history of the Apollo program:
Universe Today brings us our next trio of articles, starting with a look at supermassive black holes:
In a galaxy four billion light-years away, three supermassive black holes are locked in a whirling embrace. It’s the tightest trio of black holes known to date and even suggests that these closely packed systems are more common than previously thought.
The violent blazer 3C 454.3 is throwing a fit again, undergoing its most intense outburst seen since 2010. Normally it sleeps away the months around 17th magnitude but every few years, it can brighten up to 5 magnitudes and show in amateur telescopes.
What does it mean to be human when considering long term spaceflight? , Next Big Future takes a in-depth look into just that question:
Transhumanism is overly fixated on technology for the individual. etting big technology like reusable space craft, Spiderfab robotic construction in space, cheap nuclear fission and nuclear fusion for energy and propulsion would enable the survival of humanity against any natural disaster.
A Kardashev 1.5 civilization (ie with nuclear fusion propulsion and molecular nanotechnology) could not be killed even by a sun going Nova. Spaceships and powered asteroids could move away from the star and use water and materials in asteroids and comets.
The Enhancement of people and plants for space and for long duration space travel would be what matters, not temporary status inequality or democratic systems.
In the long run, getting and using the technology for easy and cheap interplanetary movement and then having the resources of a solar system (trillions of times what is on Earth) is what is needed to enable going interstellar.
A solar system economy trillions of times larger is one where individuals can reach greater heights. Earth is like a tiny Pacific island and the World is the solar system. A spacefaring, super high technology economy is where we will need enhanced people and systems.
Being able to do this is what can make human civilization immortal.
Enhanced individuals need to be within a technological civilization in order to keep getting the treatments for longevity. They must be within an immortal (growing, thriving and learning) technological civilization.
Next up, the Chandra X-Ray website brings us a pair of intriguing stories to read:
2012 VP 113, just to the right of center and shown in color to demonstrate motion.
So here we are again, friends…sorry that it’s been so long since the last blog, but a lot has been going on lately and it’s had our attention on other things.
How many of you remember Arthur C. Clarke’s book (and movie) 2010: The Year We Make Contact?
It had 2 themes, as I recall – science (of course) and political relations.
As you most likely know by now, relations between the US and Russia are not the best right now. In fact, they’re not unlike the relations Clarke portrays in his writing. It’s also getting enough attention from other sources that I’m not going to delve into it any further here, except to say that scientists are supposed to be smarter than that.
So what does that leave?
Science (which is what scientists should be concerning themselves with in the first place). While we’ve not confirmed life on any of Jupiter’s moons, we did make a great discovery of another kind recently.
What was discovered?
That would be 2012 VP113, a dwarf planet like Pluto.
Personal side note: Pluto is still a planet by tradition – take that, Mike Brown!
Informally referred to as “VP”, it was discovered on March 26th, 2014 by Scott Sheppard and Chad Trujillo at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in northern Chile.
But wait! If it was discovered in 2014, why does it have a 2012 designation? Because it was observed for 2 years before scientists were certain of what it is. The initial observation actually occured on November 5th, 2012.
What sets VP apart, though, is the size of its orbital path. Right now, it’s about 83 AU’s from the Sun, giving it the largest orbit of any known object in the Solar System. That distance makes it a potential member of the Kuiper Belt, and definitely a Trans-Neptunian Object (TNO). Some scientists even speculate that it might be a captured Rogue Planet.
What I’m really hoping comes from this, however, is that it leads the IAU to reverse the previous ruling and give Pluto back planet status.
In space, life is a lot of hard work with a great view. But, when there’s a Dragon spacecraft coming your way at the International Space Station, you’d better be ready to grapple it with a robotic arm. For if there’s a crash, you will face “a very bad day. Universe today’s second article take at look at what goes into catching a Dragon.
Follow an Astronomy trip through the some of the most beautiful terrain on planet Earth. CAMBODIA POST #6 is the last in a series of 6 posts on Astronomy in Cambodia. Enjoy all the posts and pictures on Links Through Space.
Another request we’ve had recently for a blog entry comes from user Vardhan, who would like to know about an amazing phenomenon called a Black Hole.
The following, then, is an excerpt from Out There – A Small Guide to a Big Universe, a book written by our own Joe Latrell and Steve Shurtleff:
The Earth, along with all the other planets in our Solar System, revolves around the Sun because of gravity. This is the same force holding you to planet Earth. We also know that galaxies revolve around their cores because of gravity, and lots of it. So what is at the center of a galaxy that has so much gravity that it causes an entire galaxy to revolve around it?
The answer is a rather scary object called a Black Hole. A Black Hole is an area of space where there is so much mass in such a small area that its gravity sucks in everything nearby, including light. Because of that, we can’t see a Black Hole directly, but we can tell that it’s there because of the effect it has on the space around it, the same way we can’t see the wind but we can see tree branches sway back and forth because of it. A Black Hole creates very dark areas surrounded by lots of radiation as matter twists and collides with itself as it falls farther and faster into the center.
If an astronaut was to travel toward a Black Hole, he or she would first notice that they were accelerating toward a very dark area, surrounded by things that started to appear more and more distorted. Even time would start to do weird things as they got closer. At some point, they would cross an invisible line called the Event Horizon, which is the point at which they wouldn’t be able to escape the Black Hole’s pull. Think of it as a hole that you can’t climb back out of. As the astronaut got closer still, their spaceship, and eventually they themselves, would begin to get stretched into a long, thin strand, kind of like a noodle, which in time would vanish into the center of the Black Hole, a very small point that scientists often call a Singularity. In fact, some scientists refer to this process of getting stretched as “spaghettification.” It sounds like a goofy and strange thing to have happen, but some scientists even think it might be fun, though they’d only get to try it once.
So is the Earth in danger from a Black Hole? Will we get turned into a massively long string of spaghetti? No, not really. Scientists estimate that the nearest Black Hole, called V404 Cygni, is about 7,800 light-years from Earth, far too distant to be a threat to us here on Earth.
And Black Holes are only one type of many wonders that await us.
Welcome to the Carnival of Space. Each week we explore the universe around us from Earth to the Moon and beyond. This week brings us many great and diverse articles from around the globe.
Sit back and enjoy the show!
First up we have a pair of articles from Universe Today discussing different aspects of Mars. One looks at the people daring to take a one way trip, the other looks at the evidence regarding a specific meteor impact.
Moving on, we have a trifecta of space information provided by The Next Big Future. Two of the articles look at Escape Dynamics and their work. The third article looks at Elon Musk’s dream of getting to Mars.
There has been a lot of talk about water having once flowed on Mars. Rovers currently on the planet have discovered many places showing that water once flowed. The Meridian Journal looks at the evidence for water flowing on Mars right now.
The Carnival of Space is brought to you by a dedicated group of space enthusiasts. Check out previous issues and visit the host sites regularly. There is a lot going on in the Universe. The Carnival is a good way to keep up.
The rocket standing there on the pad, a great number of eyes watching it in anticipation. The occasional glances at the sky to make sure the weather cooperates. The sound of the Flight Director’s voice as he or she counts down to the moment the engines fire and the craft begins to ascend.
Ironically, this also is a reminder of our greatest limitation pertaining to space travel. Current rocket engines just won’t do for long-distance exploration.
Now, as you know, Photos to Space recently extended an open invitation to all of our readers to suggest ideas for blog topics, and our first suggestion comes to us from Timothy York, who wants to know about ideas for overcoming this snag.
So what are some of the methods on the drawing board to take us into deep space?
The Diametric Drive: Negative Mass particles would be used to create higher gravity in front of a spacecraft than exists behind it, causing the craft to move towards the area of higher gravity.
Pitch Drive & Bias Drive: Similar to the Diametric Drive, though the gravitational displacement would be generated from fixed points rather than aboard the craft itself.
Alcubierre Drive: Not unlike the Warp Drive presented on ‘Star Trek’, Alcubierre Drives use Negative Mass to “contract” space in front of a spacecraft and “expand” space behind it, propelling the craft forward at what would appear to be faster-than-light travel.
Differential Sail: Similar to the sail on a seagoing vessel, the Differential Sail would use manipulated changes in vacuum pressure to drive a spacecraft.
Wormholes: Though hypothetical (for now), a wormhole is a sort of secret passage through space and time that would allow great distances to be covered with relatively little motion.
Woodward Effect: Postulated by James Woodward, this theorizes that changes in the mass of particles in a closed loop can be utilized to serve as a sort of never-ending fuel supply.
Reactionless Drives: An entirely theoretical means of propulsion that would allow for thrust with no energetic reaction, but would violate known laws of physics.
EmDrive: Another theoretical system that uses electricity to generate directed microwaves from a magnetron to induce thrust.
Photon rocket: In a twist on a standard rocket, the fuel is converted into a directed stream of photons to propel a craft.
There are other drive systems being proposed and modeled, of course.
While they all have the potential to be the means for us to get to other planets in our own solar system, and maybe even end up being the method by which we get to other stars, in reality only one of them needs to work for us to venture past our little corner of the neighborhood.
So how did the scientists who propose these systems get these ideas?
It’s very easy to forget that there is no such thing as “standing still”. Sure, we can choose not to go anywhere at any given moment, but that lack of motion is relative only to the patch of ground we may be standing on. Though we may not be actively moving, the Earth is spinning at about 1,000 mph.
Also, as we know, the Earth isn’t standing still, it’s orbiting the Sun at just over 67,000 mph.
You may have heard the expression that “we may never pass this way again”. It’s true.
Everything in the Universe is moving in some way or another, and even whole galaxies are in constant motion. And even though the Universe is mostly empty space, collisions can and do happen.
In fact, we’re headed for a rather large collision right now.
Ok, so maybe it won’t be a collision so much as a dramatic and somewhat catastrophic merger, but the Milky Way galaxy and Andromeda, the nearest spiral galaxy, are going to become one – about 4 billion years from now.
When the time comes, it’s unlikely any stars from our galaxy will impact any Andromedan stars just based on the distances between them, which is why they’ll most likely just come together to form one large elliptical galaxy. Scientists even believe that a 3rd galaxy, M33, may even begin to orbit the resulting galaxy, though it’s possible that it also will be absorbed, meaning that the 3 largest galaxies in our Local Group would become one.
So what will happen to our solar system when the time comes?
It appears most likely that the Sun and its planets will end up in a higher orbit of the new galactic core than it has now, but there’s also a chance that our solar system could be ejected altogether and begin to drift away on its own.
However, there’s no reason for us to be concerned.
The merger will take place so far in the future that humans as we are now won’t exist – we will either have evolved into something completely unknown, we will have moved beyond the Earth, or we will have long since become extinct.
That may sound bleak, but keep in mind that the Universe is constantly changing. Maybe not very quickly, but nothing stays the same forever.
For now, though, all we have is educated speculation.
Not to state the obvious, but Sol isn’t the only star out there. However, it is the one we’re most familiar with, which makes sense, given how completely we depend on it. And it doesn’t matter where on the planet you are, it’s true for all humans, despite how different most people are from one another.
Stars can make the same claim. There’s a vast difference between them, and while they have some common traits, no two are completely identical.
In fact, some stars couldn’t be any more different from our Sun.
For example, VY Canis Majoris, which is about 3,900 light years from Earth, and is the largest known star to date.
We know that about 1.3 million planets the size of Earth would fit inside our Sun. Well, about 6.8 billion Suns would fit inside VY Canis Majoris. If VY Canis Majoris was to take the place of our Sun, it would envelope all the planets out to, and including, Saturn.
Put another way, VY Canis Majoris has a radius that’s about 1,800 larger than Sol’s.
It’s also unusual in that it’s atypically bright for a star that large.
But it’s in that way that it fits right in with the rest of the Universe. If there’s one thing nature does well, it’s present us with the strange and exotic.
Maybe stars like VY Canis Major are the embodiment of the dreams of the cosmos.
When I came to work for Photos to Space, a little over a year ago, I honestly had no idea what I would be doing. I knew that Joe was already involved in it, and what the purpose of PtS is, but I didn’t know how I would fit in, or what I could offer.
At first, it was mostly research, gathering data, and doing some light proofreading. After a few weeks, though, he asked if I wanted to give some writing a try, to which I agreed, despite not knowing how well it would turn out.
It met with enough approval that we decided to start writing a book which eventually became ‘Out There’, which became available for sale back in August.
We wrote ‘Out There’ mostly with kids in mind, though we wanted it to appeal to all ages.
It didn’t occur to me that it would lead to any public speaking, but it did.
Last Friday (January 10th), I had the chance to speak to some youngsters at a private school in Colorado Springs. I had some time to prepare in advance, so Joe saw to it that I had a good supply of stickers and posters to give away, and had a few copies of ‘Out There’ to hand out as well.
I made sure that I had an outline of topics to go over, but once the talk began, the kids were so sharp that it soon turn very free-form, and the guide was mostly set aside. It became easiest just to listen to them and respond, letting them run the show. After all, this was about inspiring them, not just rambling at them.
Besides, I’ve always been far more inclined to listen than talk anyway.
In the end, it was a great way to spend an afternoon. Naturally, some of the children were more interested in space than others, but everyone, including me, got something out of the experience.
Needless to say, there’s a good chance it won’t be the last time.
So what is it I really hope the kids got from it and will get in the talks to come?
That’s it for the Carnival this week. We hope you enjoy the variety of reading materials from around the globe. Remember the Carnival of Space runs weekly. Tune in next week for another dose of Space based goodness.