M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

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.

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.

Why do all the planets orbit the sun in the same direction?

April 16, 2022
MThomas

Note: not to scale (duh). Thanks, Getty. Uh, is this really the best way to show the solar system? (There…are…NINE..planets!)

Think of pizza dough flattening into an enlarging disk as it’s tossed. Because the cloud had an initial rotation, this same direction of spin has persisted…

https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/solar-system/a39729213/why-do-all-the-planets-orbit-in-the-same-direction/

So basically the answer is simply that that’s the way they all started out.

Some moons, however, do have retrograde orbits. I.e., they orbit in the opposite direction around their respective planets. Some small asteroids and comets also have retrograde orbits due to their small mass being easily affected by larger cosmic objects.

But Ibet now you’re all thinking of pizza… 🍕

Let’s make rocket fuel with E. Coli!

April 12, 2022
MThomas

In short, the algae will use sunlight to transform CO2 into sugars that are then enhanced by bio-engineered E.coli into 2,3-butanediol. Interestingly, 2,3-BDO is not entirely conceptual as it currently exists and is mainly used to produce rubber components. It has just never been thought of as fuel before.

https://www.universal-sci.com/article/producing-rocket-fuel-on-mars-using-microbes?utm_campaign=Universal-Sci%20Weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_source=Revue%20newsletter

Neat. So all the astronauts have to do is bring, uh, how much algae we talking here?

The article doesn’t say, but it does mention a by-product of the process: Oxygen!

That would seem rather helpful. Mars or bust?

Meet the man who was Shatner’s eye

March 28, 2022
MThomas

www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2022/03/22/star-trek-movie-shatners-eyeball/

The iconic “retina scan” scene in Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan was not Shatner’s own eye.

It was an “eye double” software engineer.

(As the man himself says, your iPhone can take a more detailed picture these days, but it was high tech for 1982…)

Psyche! It might not be as heavy as we thought

March 4, 2022
MThomas

A new study suggests that 16 Psyche, one of the most intriguing and most valuable asteroids we know of, could be covered in iron-spewing volcanoes.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiecartereurope/2022/02/24/the-iron-giant-asteroid-worth-more-than-our-global-economy-may-have-an-explosive-secret-say-scientists

Psyche is an asteroid that was probably once the heart of a planet in the early system, one that didn’t survive the violent process of planet formation.

Yep — that “worth more than the global economy” rock in space.

But we’ll have to wait a few years to find out if it’s “less metal and more hard rock” — the Psyche Mission rockets off in August 2022 and the probe won’t arrive for four more years.

How do we find ET? Look for pollution…

February 24, 2022
MThomas

CFCs in the atmosphere above the North Pole.

“We give off waste heat (from industry and homes and so on) and artificial light at night, but perhaps most significantly, we produce chemicals that fill our atmosphere with compounds that wouldn’t otherwise be present. These artificial atmospheric constituents just might be the thing that gives us away to a distant alien species scanning the galaxy with their own powerful telescope.”

https://phys.org/news/2022-02-webb-telescope-civilizations-air-pollution.html

Or, as Futurism puts it: “SCIENTISTS ALREADY PLOTTING HOW James Webb COULD DETECT ALIEN CIVILIZATIONS WHOA.”

Just. Settle down, wouldja. Sheesh.

Scientists have proposed aiming the James Webb space telescope the Trappist system, specifically Trappist-1e.

Really hope this isn’t what they find…

Ready to ride the laser to Mars?

February 11, 2022
MThomas

“The laser, a 10-meter wide array on Earth, would heat hydrogen plasma in a chamber behind the spacecraft, producing thrust from hydrogen gas and sending it to Mars in only 45 days. There, it would aerobrake in Mars’ atmosphere, shuttling supplies to human colonists or, someday perhaps, even humans themselves.”

https://phys.org/news/2022-02-laser-mars.html

The only problem is that there’s no way to slow the thing down right now…”aerobraking” using current technology would cause gees of 8 or above for several minutes and temperatures hot enough to cook whatever’s in the ship to a nice toasty crisp.

Not even the G-Force would survive! Well, OK, maybe. (But only if they reverted to their original Japanese name – “Gatchman.”)

But what if robots could design a receiving station with lasers to “catch” the ship and slow it down…?

Hmmm. Sounds like a science fiction work in progress…

Purple rocks on Mars

February 5, 2022
MThomas

SuperCam showed that the coatings are enriched in hydrogen and sometimes magnesium. In addition, images from Mastcam-Z suggest that they also contain iron oxides. Both the hydrogen and iron oxides point to past water being involved in the formation of the coatings. That shouldn’t be too surprising, perhaps, since this area in Jezero Crater used to be a lake a few billion years ago.

https://earthsky.org/space/purple-rocks-mars-perseverance-rover-desert-varnish/

The rocks resemble so-called desert varnish, which protect microbes from the sun’s radiation. It’d be interesting to find out whether cyanobacteria that once existed on Mars did this…but the four billion year old question is, how did those bacteria get there in the first place?

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