M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

Hey, Bennu, gimme a “High-Five”!

October 20, 2020
MThomas

Why are 3D objects always compared to the Empire State Building?

Researchers understand it to be what they call a carbonaceous asteroid, meaning its rocks still retain a lot of the chemistry that was present when the Sun and the planets came into being more than 4.5 billion years ago. Hence the desire to bring some of its material home for analysis in sophisticated Earth laboratories.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-54592163

If it’s a spinning top, I don’t see how showing it in comparison to the Eiffel Tower will help us understand how big it is…

Then again, usually media compare things like this to a football field (US) or a football pitch (UK). Or they say things like “as long as [insert type of moving vehicle here] end to end.”

Honestly, just say “510 m3” and leave it at that. All we care about is what the probe will do: Vacuum up and bring back at least 60g of materials from the beginning of the solar system.

Now how about THAT, Hayabusa-2?

OK, granted, this is not related to Bennu. And we’re not dragging an asteroid back “in the 2020s” just yet, Spectrum. But it’s still neat. https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/space-robots/heres-how-nasa-will-grab-an-asteroid

Get your telescopes out, the solar system’s largest volcano is here!

October 9, 2020
MThomas

The volcano is about the size of Arizona with a volume 100 times larger than that of Mauna Loa’s, Earth’s largest volcano, NASA says. “In fact, the entire chain of Hawaiian islands (from Kauai to Hawaii) would fit inside Olympus Mons!”

Brighter than Jupiter this October! And the closest Mars will be until 2035.

(The photo is from Forbes, but the information was better on The Telegraph.)

“Weird space” beyond the heliosphere

October 3, 2020
MThomas

“When you look at different parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, that area of space is very different from the blackness we perceive with our eyes,” says Michele Bannister, an astronomer at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, who studies the outer reaches of the Solar System. “Magnetic fields are fighting and pushing and tied up with each other. The image you should have is like the plunge pool under Niagara Falls.”

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200908-the-weird-space-that-lies-outside-our-solar-system?ocid=ww.social.link.email

Where are your nuclear wessels?

August 11, 2020
MThomas

nuclearrockets

Astronauts on a trip to Mars would be exposed to very high levels of radiation which can cause serious long-term health problems such as cancer and sterility. Radiation shielding can help, but it is extremely heavy, and the longer the mission, the more shielding is needed. A better way to reduce radiation exposure is to simply get where you are going quicker.

Hmm. So putting them in a ship with a giant nuclear fission reactor is safer?

I think somebody may want to come up with a backup plan…

BZsV.gif

https://www.space.com/nuclear-powered-rockets-to-explore-solar-system.html

SpooQy-1 action at a distance!

June 30, 2020
MThomas

“In the future, our system could be part of a global quantum network transmitting quantum signals to receivers on Earth or on other spacecraft,” says Aitor Villar, lead author of the study. “These signals could be used to implement any type of quantum communications application, from quantum key distribution for extremely secure data transmission to quantum teleportation, where information is transferred by replicating the state of a quantum system from a distance.”

OK, OK, so it’s not the first time quantum entanglement has been demonstrated. But it sure is the smallest. Only 20 cm by 10 cm!

Now we only need a few thousand of these things and a way of somehow making tangled photons actually carry encrypted messages…

(Sorry, thinking of the SF novel I should have published by now…still figuring out the last two chapters!)

See more at New Atlas (note: I seriously doubt the CubeSat actually looks like that picture when it’s doing its thing).

The Once and Future Rings of Mars

June 17, 2020
MThomas

deimos-mars-moon-super-169

The researchers looked at Phobos, which loses height as it interacts with Martian gravity over time. Eventually, its orbit will be too low and Mars will essentially rip it into pieces that form a ring around the planet. It’s estimated that this will happen within 50 million years.

So say goodbye to fear, but dread may stick around a while longer…

https://amp.cnn.com/cnn/2020/06/03/world/mars-rings-moons-scn/index.html

It’s a Nice Model you’ve got there, Mars. Be a shame if something happened to it…

January 12, 2020
MThomas

“Without this instability, Mars likely would have had a mass closer to Earth’s and would be a very different, perhaps more Earth-like, planet compared to what it is today.”

Damn you, Jupiter and Saturn! Why couldn’t you have just stayed in your orbits and left Mars alone? (Shakes fist futilely at night sky.)

— Read on www.universal-sci.com/headlines/2018/5/10/the-giant-planets-in-the-solar-system-stunted-the-growth-of-mars

Interstellar Travel Tech — oh, Really?

April 27, 2019
MThomas

Interstellar

“It is time to venture beyond the known planets, on toward the stars.”

Yes, I agree, but I don’t see how any of the ideas in this article will help us achieve that goal. I think the problem is the reliance on conventional means of propulsion. Clearly some sort of bending of space/time is needed to leave the solar system faster than, say, a decade, let alone reach other star systems.

Dawn already used an ion engine (way too slow). The solar gravitational lens is neat but it won’t take us there physically. The “space-based laser” idea is funky but impractical.

Getting off Earth should help (Moon Base, Mars, somewhere else like Triton). Escaping our own planet’s gravity well takes way too much effort. But after that, it’s time to forget about rockets and start thinking of truly “wacked out” ideas.

For starters, Discover, how about dumping your absolutely awful page design? Yeesh, this page is hard to read.

http://discovermagazine.com/2019/apr/new-technologies-could-let-us-explore-beyond-the-solar-system

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