Posts Tagged ‘space’


Space Tree, I love you

As promised, pictures of the Space Tree.
space_tree_sign space_tree_andy_andrew space_treeThe UofA prefers to call it a “Moon Tree”, but I don’t think you can call it a Moon Tree unless it actually came from the moon.


Planet X is Coming

Astronomers continue to search for Planet X, that hypothetical planet hidden in the darkness of space somewhere beyond the orbit of Neptune and Pluto. There is no doubt in my mind that Planet X exists; astronomers just haven’t seen it yet. There are just too many places for a massive planet to hide.

What remains a mystery, and continues to fire the imagination of our greatest thinkers, is what kind of a planet Planet X really is. Could it be a gas giant like Jupiter or Saturn? Storms raging endlessly in the twilight world? Or is it made of rock and ice like Pluto and Mars?

In either case, Planet X is surely a giant. Readings from Pioneer 10 and 11 as they raced out of our solar system indicate that they passed by an object large enough to disturb their trajectories. Planet X’s gravity could have that effect on the satellites as they cruised by. Early readings of Neptune indicated small discrepancies in its orbit, perhaps caused by a massive object nearby.

In my mind, there is only one logical conclusion: Planet X is neither made of rock or of gas. Planet X is, in fact, an intelligent creature. Biding his time in the furthest reaches of the solar system, Planet X, known by his own kind as Morduulon the Repulsive, orbits the sun waiting for the right moment to reveal himself.morduulon-solar-system-in-danger Morduulon the Repulsive is part of a race known as the Planet Devourers. They find a solar system, lurk in the shadows and slowly eat each and every planet, saving the delicious sun for last. Morduulon has been eating planets in our system for hundreds of millions of years. There used to be an impressive 23 planets in our system until Morduulon snacked his way through 14 of them.

Pluto is on his menu right now: before being the dwarf planet, Pluto was a huge chunk of rock roughly the size of 200 Earths. With two swift bites, Morduulon diminished Pluto to its current size. All that remains is a crumb for Morduulon to toss into his gaping maw before he moves on to Neptune.

Among Planet Devourers, Morduulon the Repulsive is one of the worst. He came by his nickname honestly. Instead of eating a planet in one bite, as is the custom, he’ll draw his meal out over centuries. Should that planet be inhabited, Morduulon will watch with blood red eyes as the miniature occupants scurry and scamper over each other in fear. He will sit back and laugh at the devastation he has wrought. And his laugh…none have heard such horrors as the laugh of Morduulon the Repulsive. One thousand deaths at sea compare favorably to one guffaw of Morduulon’s.morduulon-solar-system

We must begin planning now if we’re to beat Morduulon. Sure, some people will say Morduulon is Neptune’s problem, so let Neptune deal with him. Not so! Once Neptune is a bit of indigestion in Morduulon’s stomach, Uranus is not long for this universe. Then Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars are the only barriers between us and the cavity-infested mouth of Morduulon. Let me tell you, those planets are no match for Morduulon.

Before we know it, our lovely moon will suddenly disappear. Then we’ll smell the rancid breath that will permeate Earth until we are nothing but half-chewed morsels in the foulest intestinal tract the universe has ever known.

Morduulon the Repulsive may respond to nuclear weapons. He may respond by laughing or by acting as if they are tickling him. He will not respond in terror and run away like a wee baby Comet Devourer. No, if we are to beat Morduulon we must find a hero to fly a spacecraft directly into his digestive system. From there, our hero must find Morduulon’s one weakness – and trust me, he only has one – and destroy the Planet Devourer.morduulon-eats-a-planet
It will not be an easy task. Our hero will not return alive. Our hero must make peace with the fact that, when he destroys Morduulon, he too will be blown into a million tiny pieces that will float in the outer reaches of our solar system for all eternity. Our hero must do this selfless act for the rest of us, with no hope of seeing the parades we’ll hold in his honor and the ballparks we’ll name after him. Our hero must be truly heroic.

Heed my words, dear readers. One among us must face this unspeakable evil for the good of all humanity. Our very survival is at stake. Planet X is coming.morduulon-the-repulsive

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29.5

 Backlit_SaturnOn this day, twenty nine and a half years ago, I was born. Also twenty nine and a half years ago, Saturn was in the exact same spot as it is today. Saturn’s orbit is 29.5 Earth years. If I was born on Saturn, I would only be a one-year-old.

Does anyone know how to sing “Happy Birthday” in Saturnian?saturn+rings+moon

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forget mars

A lot has been made of NASA’s on-again, off-again plans for returning people to the Moon and then sending the first human to Mars. Personally, I’m not a big fan of human space exploration right now. Sure, given limitless resources it would be awesome to see a human stepping onto the Red Planet, or to see oxygen-filled domes on the surface of the Moon. But we’re not in that position right now.

NASA has done us more good in the last 50 years than most other government agencies. Scientific advances, cultural significance…NASA is undoubtedly essential to our country and to the world. Yet every year they’re asked to do more with less. “Do this thing no one else has ever done before, and do it for less money than last year,” the federal government says. Then the Pentagon gets another twelve billion dollars no questions asked.

Given NASA’s budget restrictions, it shouldn’t be focused on people. It should be focused on increasingly ambitious landers and satellites. Two obvious candidates are the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. Here’s why: the Moon is a barren rock. We established that long ago. It’s got some ice, but so does Antarctica. Mars is totally awesome, but it too is a barren rock. It’s got some ice and may even have water under its sandy surface. But so what? That’s basically a bigger Moon.

Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Titan both have giant oceans. Real liquid. They may have real life forms living in those oceans, right this second. Europa’s ocean is underneath a layer of ice, but it may be heated by thermal vents coming up from the planet’s core. We’ve already found life on our sea floor living near thermal vents, so it wouldn’t be such a jump that life could exist elsewhere in the Solar System in the same way. Titan is even better: it’s got oceans right there on the surface. Isn’t all that a bigger deal than digging for ice on Mars?

Fortunately, there are plans for sending probes to both Europa and Titan in the coming decades. There will be an orbiter for Europa which will scan the surface. Titan may get a twofer: a hot air balloon that will fly through its atmosphere as well as a lander that will ride the waves of Titan’s seas. I can’t wait until the 2030’s when these two projects will be sending back information to Earth.

In the meantime, though, if NASA is forced to spend the majority of its limited resources on manned missions to barren worlds, we won’t see as many exciting projects like the ones discussed above. I mean, there are lots of rocks out there. Why don’t we try for as many as possible?

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friday robots in space, again

On a starship somewhere outside the Oort Cloud, a crew of highly skilled, amiable robots go about their daily chores.  Will they reach their destination?  Not likely.  They’re just chillin’.

If they see Voyager, they’ll say hello.friday-robots-5-14-10

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Mars Rover at Falling Rock

Mars Rover

A little known fact: the first Mars Rover was field-tested in Falling Rock National Park.


inktober week 5