M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

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 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.

Bringer of Light, Chapter 29: Ceres – Weng

November 27, 2021
MThomas

As Riss prepares to surrender herself to Gennaji and Ildico, Sam helplessly watches the scene unfold…

From the command seat of his tiny shuttle, Weng silently watched the face off between the Artemis and the ships of the new Ceres Mining Council. He wished he knew what they were saying.

He also wished Gen were still in the shuttle with him.

Weng grimaced. He still didn’t trust the clone, but he would feel much safer if someone obviously as highly ranked as Gen were in the shuttle. It would reduce the chance of his becoming yet another target.

Apparently, however, this was all going to plan. He mentally recalled the conversation he had with Gen just prior to arriving at Ceres.

“Gen, why are there five hunter ships here? Are we getting ready for a fight?”

“Not to worry, Sam,” Gen had told him. “There will be no fight.”

“How can you be sure?”

“Because we control the Seven Sisters, and without them, there is no fight.”

“The Seven what?”

Continue Reading

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.

Bringer of Light, Chapter 27: Luna

November 13, 2021
MThomas

As Riss and the Artemis face off against the Ceres Mining Council, Sergey has been locked in a room in the Lunar Base during a coup, awaiting his fate…

Bardish sat down heavily and rubbed his ankles. After pacing the room for what seemed the tenth time, he began to wish there were a coffee machine. At least drinking soya junk would give him something to do.

The door opened. He immediately stood.

Three uniformed police officers entered, followed by Sanchez, then a plain-clothes woman he thought he recognized. Someone from the company where his good-for-nothing future son-in-law worked? Used to work, he silently corrected.

“Lieutenant Sanchez,” Bardish said, nodding.

Sanchez returned the nod. “Captain. My apologies for the delay. Please, have a seat.”

Bardish grunted. “I have been sitting for some time. I prefer to stand.”

“Have it your way.”

The lieutenant motioned for the woman to sit at the table across from Bardish. Two of other officers stayed on either side of the lieutenant. The third left, presumably to guard the door from the outside.

“Captain Bardish, we need to ask you a few questions.”

“About what?”

“It appears as if you have received an outside communication from an external belligerent hostile to Luna Base operations.”

“I—I received what?” Bardish sputtered. He could feel his face turning red, clenched his fists.

“Here is the evidence,” Sanchez said. He produced a pad and handed it to the retired captain. “There was a secret message. Buried in another message. It contained a Chinese quantum jùli jiāmi. Addressed to you, in the subroutine of a ping from Ceres to ask for supplies.”

“A Chinese quantum…what?”

Continue Reading

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

The spacecraft-killing anomaly over South America

October 6, 2021
MThomas

Over the years, the SAA has been responsible for several spacecraft failures and even dictates when astronauts can and can’t perform spacewalks. As the space around Earth becomes filled with an increasing number of craft, what does the SAA mean for the future of spaceflight?

https://astronomy.com/news/2021/02/hidden-spaceflight-danger-the-south-atlantic-anomaly?utm_source=asyfb&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=asyfb&fbclid=IwAR1LeNgz7Eynvjw3_AmU232xwz9WbJpSMOmid7NTEE9qm4VxYpdcNmVDc8Q

This post is from back in February 2021, but I just stumbled across it this morning and thought it was an interesting read.

Learn something new every day!

This part caught my eye…

Radiation is a colorless, tasteless, and odorless enemy…

…and I couldn’t help thinking…

Iocaine powder?!?

It’s okay. I’m immune 😂

Anyway, the article linked above is food for thought. Whenever electronic objects pass through the SAA, which is where the loops of the Van Allen Belt dip perilously close to the Earth, the electronics get a massive amount of radiation and go haywire.

Seriously expensive to shield stuff up there — and as more and more satellites (and people) go up, so does the risk.

AstroCrete…a “blood-curdling” building technique for Mars

September 18, 2021
MThomas

The blood, sweat, and tears of pioneering astronauts could literally turn Mars regolith into building materials.

First, however, they’d need to get the 3D printers there…

https://www.republicworld.com/technology-news/science/astronaut-biocomposite-materials-could-grow-successful-settlements-on-mars-study.html

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