M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

Spectacular image of Jupiter’s auroras and moons

August 23, 2022
MThomas

Courtesy NASA. Note that the blue, white, green, yellow, and orange colors are artificial, only added to make features revealed by infrared stand out for human eyes. You can see the planet’s rings, aurora, and two “tiny” moons (at left; they’re not really that tiny!).

“We’ve never seen Jupiter like this. It’s all quite incredible,” said planetary astronomer Imke de Pater, of the University of California, Berkeley, who helped lead the observations.

“We hadn’t really expected it to be this good, to be honest,” she added in a statement.

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/science/james-webb-space-telescope-shows-jupiters-auroras-tiny-moons

The above is supposed to be in “quote” format, but WP really messed up this feature when they switched to so-called “block” mode (which I can’t stand).

Anyway, the image is fairly spectacular, from the new James Webb Space Telescope which is positioned 1 million miles away from Earth (i.e., in the second LaGrange point, or L2).

Looking for aliens in all the wrong places?

August 12, 2022
MThomas

Our search for alien life is getting serious. With better telescopes and a growing scientific consensus that we’re probably not alone in the universe, we’re beginning to look farther and wider across the vastness of space for evidence of extraterrestrials.

But it’s possible we’re looking for too few signs in too few places. Having evolved on Earth, surrounded by Earth life, we assume alien life would look and behave like terrestrial life.

https://www.thedailybeast.com/alien-hunters-need-to-start-rethinking-the-definition-of-life?

I agree that we are biased, simply based on the basics of what we understand as (carbon-based) life (i.e., ourselves).

And I agree — in principle — that scientists need to keep an open mind when looking for other life forms on exoplanets.

However, they also need to retain a sense of skepticism.

Continue Reading

International asteroid day!

June 30, 2022
MThomas

Today is “International Asteroid Day”!

Who knew?

Asteroids hold large amounts of valuable minerals and metals. That is what International Asteroid Day is raising awareness about on 30 June.

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/science-environment-61985813

Amino acids found in material brought back by Hayabusa-2

June 6, 2022
MThomas

More than 20 types of amino acids have been detected in samples Japan’s Hayabusa2 space probe brought to Earth from an asteroid in late 2020, a government official said Monday, showing for the first time the organic compounds exist on asteroids in space.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2022/06/9a7dbced6c3a-amino-acids-found-in-asteroid-samples-collected-by-hayabusa2-probe.html

This lends support to the hypothesis that life on Earth was brought to it during the Late Heavy Bombardment period – in which meteors brought not just water but the building blocks of life…

Now imagine if someone were to find an asteroid with addition proteins NOT found on Earth… (i.e., my novel’s scientific premise…)

Super Flower Blood Moon coming soon

May 15, 2022
MThomas

I love the “illustrative diagram” note for people who might complain this is not scientifically accurate due to scale.

…if you are lucky enough to live Western Europe, parts of northwestern Africa, and some of the Americans…

As for why the Moon appears red…

“You’ll actually be seeing every sunrise and every sunset occurring around the Earth at once. All of that light will be projected on to the Moon.” (Dr Gregory Brown, Royal Observatory

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-61423765

And if you happened to be standing on the Moon at the time, you’d see a blood ring encircling the Earth in front of you (ah, assuming you were not on the other side of the Moon).

Come on. Somebody has got to figure out how to get a picture of that.

“Make Uranus mission your priority” –uh, for what practical reason?

April 30, 2022
MThomas

Researchers think an in-depth study of Uranus can help them better understand the many similarly sized objects now being discovered around other stars.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-61155725
Uranus’s strange tilt is probably due to getting smacked by a very large body a long time ago…

Uranus is weird. It has rings. It has 13 moons, some of which may harbor life beneath their icy surfaces.

It has a funny name.

I get it. But learning more about how its formation affects planet formation is just not that important.

“Pure” researchers probably are interested, but frankly, if NASA wastes its time doing this, they will miss the opportunity to settle the Moon and Mars, mine asteroids for valuable resources, and explore other moons like Titan and Europa.

China will get there first.

Pure research is all fine and dandy, but it’s also incredibly expensive — taxpayer dollars should be spent on projects with more tangible benefits.

US government’s plans for the Moon included — using nukes to dig tunnels??

April 25, 2022
MThomas

“Perhaps most intriguing among the documents are the several dozen Defense Intelligence Reference Documents (DIRDs), which discuss the viability of various “advanced technolog[ies].” This collection includes reports on “traversable wormholes, stargates, and negative energy,” “high-frequency gravitational wave communications,” “warp drive, dark energy, and the manipulation of extra dimensions,” and many other topics that will sound familiar to fans of science fiction.”

https://www.livescience.com/us-government-report-nuke-the-moon

Looks like the AATIP wasn’t simply searching for aliens…

When planets align! Eh. Again.

April 24, 2022
MThomas

https://www.nj.com/news/2022/04/parade-of-planets-4-planets-to-line-up-in-sky-this-weekend-joined-by-moon-next-week.html

(Note: You won’t be able to see the planets actually looking like these photoshopped images…unless you happen to have a really powerful telescope in your backyard.)

Not sure why I first got this info from a site based in New Jersey. The info about what time of day and in what part of the sky is only relevant to people living in the NJ_NYC area.

Still, it’s an interesting phenomenon that occurs once every few years…

2005. 2016. 2020. And 2022. Not exactly a regular pattern, it seems.

And, no, there is no “spiritual significance” to a planetary alignment. It’s an illusion, an imaginary lining up of the solar system that doesn’t affect you personally. Sorry.

But it’s still fun to watch. Er, if you enjoy getting up before dawn (I don’t).

According to nj.com, “The planetary parade of sorts will occur when Jupiter, Venus, Mars and Saturn all appear to be lined up in a row above the horizon during the pre-dawn hours — starting Saturday morning, April 23. The alignment will also be visible during the next few mornings, and April’s crescent moon will soon join the parade, according to experts from LiveScience and AccuWeather.”

Yeah, lots of web sites are covering this. At least the one I linked above doesn’t have automated videos, flashing ad gifs, and other random pop-ups that drain your smartphone battery.

Click here for more info about the next great alignment (not as impressive as the so-called “Great Conjunction” a couple years ago, but we’ll see more planets in June and July): https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2022/04/17/planets-align-april-venus-mars-jupiter-saturn/7351117001/

Largest comet ever seen barreling through the solar system

April 18, 2022
MThomas

C/2014 UN271 on the far right has a nucleus 50 larger than the average comet.

“Its size, which NASA noted is larger than the state of Rhode Island, is an estimation because the comet is still too far away for Hubble to tell for certain.”

https://www.businessinsider.com/largest-comet-ever-seen-barreling-toward-inner-solar-system-nasa-2022-4

Note that the original title was “…toward the Inner Solar System”…and yet the article goes on to explain that it won’t come any closer than a billion miles from the Sun, “‘slightly farther than the distance of the planet Saturn,’ NASA said in a statement.

Uh. The inner solar system is *no where near* Saturn. Try again, fear-mongers.

Sigh.

Anyway, it really is the proverbial “tip of the iceberg,” since this was seen with Hubble, and we have yet to see just what the new James Webb telescope can do. The Oort Cloud is a big place. There must be millions upon millions comets just waiting to be discovered.

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