Tag Archives: astronomy

On the planet about to visit our solar system!

It’s true! A planet is going to make a fly by.  According to Kottke, the minor planet 2014 UN271  is about to visit our solar system. By 2031 it should be about as close to the sun as Saturn is!

I hope we can get some good views of it while it is in the area.

For more on it, see the Kottke article. He also has links to more pieces on it.

(Photo by Guillermo Ferla on Unsplash )

Solutions to the Fermi Paradox?

Fermi’s Paradox in a nutshell:

‘We’d estimate that there are 1 billion Earth-like planets and 100,000 intelligent civilizations in our galaxy.’ So there must be aliens. Why haven’t we heard from them?

If this fascinates you, check out this list of solutions to the Fermi Paradox.

You may not be convinced there is an answer to this problem, but for some, they will be.

(Image of Enrico Fermi from Wikimedia)

Three great pieces on Venus, the Milky Way, and black hole visualization

This piece on the Milky Way photographer of the year is filled with amazing photos of…well, you can guess. (One of the photos is above).
This is a good piece on the efforts to study Venus. It won’t be easy to do, but it will be rewarding.
Finally, this piece on how black holes are visualized is excellent.

In praise of amateurs, young and old

Are you an amateur? Do you sometimes feel you can never accomplish anything doing something you love? Then here’s three good stories on amateurs doing great things you want to read:

  1. High school students discover exoplanets during mentoring program 
  2. Decades-Old Graph Problem Yields to Amateur Mathematician
  3. How older amateur athletes are staying fit through the pandemic

Not all amateurs can accomplish great things, but never let anyone tell you that amateurs are incapable of great things. Because surely they are. Go on, pursue the thing you love. Great things may result.

(Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash)

The worst technology failures of 2020, including one not considered a failure but could be the worst of all

This piece (Worst technology failures of 2020) by MIT Technology Review has a list of the bigger technology failures of 2020. Some of them, like Quibi and facial recognition abuses, are well known.

One listed here may be the greatest technology failure of them all, though for many it is not considered a failure at all. That is the unregulated pollution of space with tiny satellites. As the article states:

Since prehistory, humankind has looked upwards for awe and inspiration, to imagine what forces created the world—and which might end it. But now, that cosmic view is being contaminated with the reflections of thousands of inexpensive commercial satellites put aloft by companies like Amazon, OneWeb, and SpaceX, who want to cover the Earth with internet connections. Sixty satellites can swarm out of a single rocket.

To see what I mean, check out this picture from the article:

Telescope views from earth are being marred with the light of all these satellites. This is today’s problem. Tomorrow’s problem is going to be all the other pollution, light or otherwise, which is going to result from the rush to put things in space. Science is getting wrecked by this.

Already astronomers are thinking of putting telescopes on the dark side of the moon to escape such problems. But without regulation, who knows if even this will be successful? To hear Elon Musk yammer on, he’s just going to be throwing who knows what into space. He’s already launched one of his stupid cars into the atmosphere. Hardly the guy you can trust to be responsible when it comes to deciding what should go into space.

Here’s hoping that in the rush to do more and more space development (a good thing)  there is also an effort to make sure it is well thought and regulated (also a good thing).

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The problem with colonizing other worlds…

The problems with colonizing other worlds can be read here:  Humans Will Never Colonize Mars.

It’s a bucket of ice water to dump on the head of anyone who optimistically thinks it will happen. It may happen, centuries from now.  More likely places like Mars will be colonized by robots that will do a lot of the activities we once expected humans to do.

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The Grand Canyon is now a Dark Sky Park

Here’s something to add to your bucket list: visit a Dark Sky Park. This is about how the Grand Canyon has become one: The Grand Canyon is now a Dark Sky Park.

In the article is a good slideshow with a list of other such parks. Well worth visiting.

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Where are all the aliens? A guide to thinking about this.

If you have ever wondered that, then read this: Where are all the aliens? — Quartz

It brings together all the ideas behind this and describes them simply and clearly.

A fine appreciation for Stephen Hawking can be found…


… here: Stephen Hawking Is Still Underrated – The Atlantic. 

I like this piece because it takes you into his science and what makes his work great without having you be an expert in the field yourself. You might still struggle with it, but it is a worthwhile struggle.

Rest in peace, Stephen Hawking. You may be gone, but the work you did lives on and will lead to more great work being done by other scientists that come after you.

SpaceX tries to disrupt and partner with NASA at the same time

It’s not explicitly stated, but if you read this: If you think NASA is frustrated with SpaceX, you’re probably right in Ars Technica, then you may draw the same conclusion. It seems SpaceX is taking advantage of its partnership with NASA to position itself to get the point where it can get by without it and eventually compete with the space agency.

If that was not the case, then I would expect SpaceX to stick to missions that were separate from NASA and supportive of NASA. Instead they seem to be trying to compete with NASA for the same missions.

It’s a tricky call for SpaceX: if they are not careful, they could ruin their partnership and find themselves without a steady source of income to fund their ambitions. I’m all for both NASA and SpaceX both being viable for the long term. Let’s hope that happens.

You too can be like Elon Musk (@elonmusk) and fund a lunar mission

Really. There is a kickstarter going on right now you can contribute to: LUNAR MISSION ONE: A new lunar mission for everyone. by Lunar Missions Ltd 

The team there says….

We plan to send an unmanned robotic landing module to the South Pole of the Moon – an area unexplored by previous missions.

We’re going to use pioneering technology to drill down to a depth of at least 20m – 10 times deeper than has ever been drilled before – and potentially as deep as 100m. By doing this, we will access lunar rock dating back up to 4.5 billion years to discover the geological composition of the Moon, the ancient relationship it shares with our planet and the effects of asteroid bombardment. Ultimately, the project will improve scientific understanding of the early solar system, the formation of our planet and the Moon, and the conditions that initiated life on Earth.

I think this is the most fantastic Internet project I have seen yet. I highly recommend you check it out.

Thanks to Kottke for pointing it out.