M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

The Death Star has an inner ocean

January 22, 2022
MThomas

New analysis of one of Saturn’s moons suggests that it may harbor a liquid ocean. No, not the usual suspects – the new culprit is Mimas, the little moon with a big crater, which gives it more than a passing resemblance to the ‘Death Star’ from Star Wars.

https://www.sciencealert.com/evidence-for-a-liquid-ocean-has-been-uncovered-in-saturn-s-death-star-moon

Add Mimas to Europa and Enceladus as possible moons harboring ET.

Like, IWOW —-

Should Pluto and Ceres be “planets”?

January 3, 2022
MThomas

Demoted by the IAU in 2006, the Once and Future “9th planet”

…a study announced in December from a team of researchers in the journal Icarus now claims the IAU’s definition was based on astrology — a type of folklore, not science — and that it’s harming both scientific research and the popular understanding of the solar system.

I’m not sure I agree that moons of Jupiter and Saturn should be classified as “planets,” but frankly I see little difference between “dwarf planets” and “planets.”

Plus it wrecks the song I learned to remember the order…

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/pluto-planet-debate-rages-rcna8848

World’s largest space telescope has liftoff

December 26, 2021
MThomas

The James Webb Space Telescope – Hubble’s successor – has successfully lifted off.

Now starts the “two weeks of terror” as it gets into position and unfolds. Fingers crossed! 🤞

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59782057

Bringer of Light, Chapter 31: Ceres – The mining station (Part 1)

December 25, 2021
MThomas

Captains Clarissa Kragen, Gennaji, and Ildico square off. But something’s not quite right…

When she jumped out of the Artemis cargo hold, waving goodbye to the Hopper and her crew aboard her, Riss had experienced a familiar dread. Even the quantum entanglement cabling tether, which she knew would guide her, could not eliminate the fear that, somehow, she would veer off into the endless vacuum of space.

The blackness rushed up to meet her, envelop her.

And she embraced it. Eyes and arms wide open.

Unlike her dreams, this time a wave of acceptance seemed to pass through her.

She had walked where none had gone. She had become part of a greater whole. The darkness was within her as well as without.

She laughed, the noise sounding only inside her helmet.

Now, finally, she understood the exhilaration her navigator must feel in his vidgames. Relaxed, she toggled her suit rear thrusters. The entry port to the mining station rapidly approached, and Riss realized she had never seen the port from outside a ship. It looked so huge, and yet so tiny and fragile.

Was that all that kept the forces of chaos at bay? The only barrier preventing the internal atmosphere of Ceres from escaping, suffocating and freezing everyone inside? Surely, they could create something of more substance.

Suddenly she could sense the gravitational field of the dwarf planet. Faint, but present. Like ribbons extending, overlapping. All she had to do was tug on them a little…

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Trace Gas Orbiter finds traces of hydrogen underground in the Valles Marineris

December 16, 2021
MThomas

A.k.a., the “Great Canyon of Mars”

The original article title?

“Astronomers Detect Secret Water Reserves in The Largest Canyon in The Solar System”

Science isn’t quite as catchy. The hydrogen may indicate water in the form of permafrost 3 feet and more under the surface.

The high-hydrogen region is about the size of the Netherlands, and overlaps with Candor Chasma, one of the largest canyons in the Valles Marineris system.

Looks like there may be some competition for who gets to land near here first…

https://www.sciencealert.com/hidden-water-has-been-found-in-the-soil-of-mars-grand-canyon

Bringer of Light, Chapter 30: Ceres – The Sagittarius

December 11, 2021
MThomas

Gennaji prepares to take his vengeance.

Finally. His time had come.

In the expansive cargo hold, railgun at the ready, Gennaji waited. At any moment, Ildico would give the signal, and he would blast the Artemis with radiation. Its systems disabled, he would board it, find Riss, and do what the Ceres Mining Council should have done years ago.

Deliver judgment.

At his side, cabled into place, stood Andrej.

He wasn’t sure how much he could trust the man, to be honest. As a capable defender, yes. At the helm, yes.

When it came to supporting his revenge?

Gennaji clenched a fist. He would not allow another man’s personal feelings to get in the way of his revenge.

Lena.

If only he, himself, had been allowed into the Mining Council!

But, no, that wasn’t the plan. Ildico had promised him justice.

Fortunately, the Mining Council had quickly agreed to their joint demands. He had no idea where she’d managed to find two additional hunter crews willing to support them. But evidently the Pleiades was not the only ship with a grudge against Riss. At least, that’s what it seemed like, to Gennaji. What other reason could there be?

In the meantime, he wondered what to say to Sergey the next time they met. If they met. The old captain might not forgive any action taken against his adopted daughter.

Gennaji felt for the hollow point. Safe and secure in his left arm sleeve pocket. He grimaced. Soon, he would discover whether it had been worth spending depleted funds on.

Karel’s voice filled the cargo hold.

“Someone just left the Artemis on a tether. Whoever it is appears to be headed for the mining station port.”

“That must be Clarissa,” Gennaji growled. “So, she gave in, in the end. Too bad.”

He unbolted the railgun and moved to the comm panel unit. At a nod, Andrej undid the tethers from his wrists. It was just as well, Gennaji though with a chagrin. 

She hadn’t called his bluff. There was no way he could have used the railgun anyway. Not if he wanted to keep his ship in one piece.

Bluster. He shook his head. Sergey would not have approved. But this was revenge.

All was fair, Sergey, he thought as he completed his final systems check. He turned to the equipment cabinet, yanked out two suits, and tossed one to Andrej. He toggled the comm again.

“Ory, Andy and I are preparing to Hop down to Ceres. Once we’re out, re-establish the solar shield.”

“Captain, we can’t possibly match the Artemis in a one-on-one fight.”

Gennaji frowned. “I know that. I doubt she’ll attack with these odds against her. Still, keep on eye on it. I wouldn’t put anything past that crew of vipers.”

“Captain,” Karel’s voice cut in. “Do you want me to prepare a ballbuster?”

“No. Too close to Ceres. We can’t risk it.”

“Then?”

“Hand to hand, Karel.” Gennaji grinned in anticipation. “If we’re lucky.”


Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 31: Ceres – The mining station (Part 1). Things may not actually go according to Ildico’s plan, and Riss has a few surprises for Gennaji.

The DART has lift-off

November 24, 2021
MThomas

twitter.com/nasa/status/1463315612042678279

Technically, the two asteroids the DART is aiming at are a “binary” (they orbit each other).

The BBC’s explanation is pretty good.

They don’t even mention Bruce Willis until the final sentence.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59327293

Bringer of Light, Chapter 28: Ceres – The Artemis

November 13, 2021
MThomas

Facing five Hunter ships surrounding the entrance to the Ceres mining station, Riss makes her decision.

“Well,” Enoch said, a note of urgency in his voice, “what do we do now?”

Riss stared calmly at the viewscreen. Five ships faced them. Four were those she knew well. The Sagittarius, the oldest, could not match the Artemis’s speed or shields. Gennaji could not use any nuclear weapons this close to allies, unless he wanted all of them to lose power as well as bathe all of Ceres in a wave of radiation.

The Corvus looked like it’d seen better days. Recent damage was still visible on its left side and rear. Idly, Riss wondered if it were captive, and not ally. Athene and Haephestis, she knew could not best the Artemis on their own.

But it was five against one. She didn’t like those odds. As strong as Artemis was, the battle wouldn’t last long. Especially with the Pleiades at point.

Surrender herself, or be destroyed. A simple ultimatum.

“If you do give yourself up, you know he’ll just destroy us anyway,” Sanvi pointed  out.

Riss nodded. “Probably they’ll try, at least.”

She sat back. Five more minutes to make a decision.

“Coop, are you sure one of those ships has ditrium on it?”

“Yes. And that’s the fourth time you’ve asked me, Riss.”

She sighed. Ditrium. She’d gone all the way to Transneptunian to find ditrium, in the hopes she could do for Mars what Sergey had done for Luna.

And make a tidy profit, naturally. But somehow now money didn’t seem as important.

Not important at all, she realized. Not to her. Not to her crew. But to Gennaji—

“Coop,” she said. “Do you know the chemical composition of gold?”

“What kind of question is that?” the geist responded, offended. “How could I ever call myself a geologist if I didn’t—”

He gasped, then grinned.

“Do you think you could give a demonstration for our friends out there?”

She could swear a slightly wicked gleam entered his eyes.

“As the Russians say, ‘When money speaks, the truth stays silent’,” he said with a grin.

Riss laughed. “And as the Sufis say, ‘Three things ruin a person: greed, envy, and pride.’ Let’s see if we can go for all three.”

“You’ve been reading my mind,” the geist said shaking his head. “I’ll never get used to that.”

She shrugged. That was, probably, what both of them had actually done inadvertently. Which apparently they could all do, if they concentrated hard enough. She needed to rely on that new ability now, more than ever.

“Enoch,” she ordered, “inform Sagittarius that I’ll meet them on Ceres to surrender myself. In the meantime,” she pivoted to Sanvi and Coop, “we need to find that ditrium. Coop, you need to put your heads together. Let Sanvi and Enoch know as much as you know about the composition of various heavy metals; copper, silver, gold, even iron and lead.”

She unstrapped herself from the command chair and swam to the corridor exit. “You may need to merge again.”

“Merge?” asked the geist. He looked back and forth from Sanvi to Enoch. 

The navigator shrugged. “Good a term as any, I guess.”

“When you’re done, join me on Ceres,” Riss said from the exit. “I’ll return the Hopper to you once I get close enough.”

“But then how will you—” Sanvi queried. “Ah.”

Riss laughed. It’d been a while since she felt free, despite the risk. Despite the danger. 

It felt good.

She stuck her head back into the command center and pointed at her ear. “Use the helmet comm to keep in touch. I feel like going for a walk.”


Next: Bringer of Light, Chapter 29: Ceres – Weng. Sam wonders (not for the last time) how he got involved and what his role is.

Water Bears in Space! Uh. Again.

November 12, 2021
MThomas

Hang on, I think I’ve seen this before…

Oh.

Not such a great idea, then, to send them on an interstellar cruise

Bringer of Light, Chapter 25: Transit – Transjovial to Happy Hunting Grounds

September 25, 2021
MThomas

Riss and the crew of the Artemis have experimented with their strange new understanding of the universe – both physical and emotional. Still far away from Ceres or Mars and unable to contact those who may have been similarly affected by the asteroid, the crew has to find a way to traverse the vast space that lies ahead…

The banging on the door came again. A muffled shout from the corridor side.

Enoch?

Riss opened her eyes. Her feet were firmly stuck to the floor of her cabin. Having forgotten to remove her magboots. She was standing, swaying in place. Yawning, she stretched her arms over her head.

“Open.”

The geist practically fell through the opening doorway. Caught from behind by the navigator.

“Riss, are you, are you okay?”

“Yeah, fine, fine, Coop.” She turned to the fridge unit. “Water.”

The fridge rolled out, door opened. A pack of water came to her hand.

Cooper’s eye widened slightly. He straightened himself, brushing off Enoch’s grasp. “You seem to have everything under control.”

She laughed. “Sorry to make you all worry. Did I oversleep?”

“The opposite, actually,” Sanvi called out. Riss could see her now, leaning against the corridor wall with her arms crossed. 

Sanvi nodded at Enoch. “Somebody has been demanding that we try the pitaya experiment again.”

Enoch shrugged. “I got hungry.”

Riss looked between the two of them. Suddenly she felt an enormous bond among them. Her friends. Her crew. It was as if she could see a glow around their rough edges.

Especially Sanvi.

She took a deep breath and smiled.

“I have a different idea. Let’s try to make the Artemis go faster.”

“Faster?”

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