M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

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

Children of Pella — to post or not to post?

September 14, 2020
MThomas

OK, so I admit it — I’m way behind in finishing my SF novel, Bringer of Light (you can read the prologue here).

I had hoped to get the draft done by January, then work on edits in the spring and publish it in summer.

But a little COVID happened to the world, and believe it or not I got a little sidetracked by, uh, life. And a family history project about a love triangle (kind of).

(During our two-month quasi-lockdown-not-sure-what-this-is-stuck-home-with-two-kids thing, I did get pretty good at the Mars terraforming game. Highly recommended.)

So now I’m thinking, to kickstart my writing life back into action, why not post the chapters I have so far? There are about 35 of them, tend to be short, and since I’ve been struggling with the ending, might help generate some ideas for getting to the expected final scene.

Sound like a good weekly post?

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

Giant asteroid flying by Earth next week looks like it’s wearing a face mask

April 24, 2020
MThomas

On April 29, an asteroid estimated to be 1.2 miles wide will fly by Earth, but it’s not on a destructive path. And new images of the asteroid make it appear as though it’s wearing a face mask.

😷

— Read on edition.cnn.com/2020/04/23/world/asteroid-1998-or2-face-mask-scn-trnd/index.html

SpaceX to launch 🚀 May 27

April 18, 2020
MThomas

Hmm, this doesn’t look much like a dragon… 🐉 🤔

(First NASA manned launch in a decade. First NASA launch by a private company. We’ll likely see many, many more.)

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52333932

Quasar winds with record energy levels were seen fleeing a distant galaxy

April 1, 2020
MThomas

“The most energetic outflow came from a quasar called SDSS J1042+1646 with 5×1030 gigawatts, or 5 million trillion trillion gigawatts. For perspective, a nuclear reactor puts out about one gigawatt of energy, while the total energy of all Milky Way stars is about 1028 gigawatts.”

Tired of corona-related news. Time to relax with a completely science-based, “you are somewhat insignificant in the greater scheme of things” post.

Enjoy.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/quasar-winds-record-energy-levels-seen-fleeing-distant-galaxy/amp?__twitter_impression=true

I Only Wanted to See You Under the Iron Rain…

March 14, 2020
MThomas

IronRain

Wasp-76b, as it’s known, orbits so close in to its host star, its dayside temperatures exceed 2,400C – hot enough to vaporise metals.

Hmm….this reminds me of…let me think for a minute…wait, I got it…

Anakin-TooHot

Yeah, that’s the one. I think.

(Seriously, check it out. Not even the Jedi could possibly handle an actual “inferno” planet.)

Nasa’s 2020 rover: Can we finally answer the big question about Mars?

March 8, 2020
MThomas

“So, let’s bring the samples back. So if those extraordinary claims are made, they can be verified.”

One likely extraterrestrial form of life might resemble a terrestrial form: the stromatolite.

They basically look like big rocks. I visited one site in Western Australia in 2003 with a group of Japanese students who were told by a local guide that the stromatolites were “3.5 billion years old.” (They’re not, but they do look like what life might have looked like at that point.”

So NASA is sending another rover to see if they can find evidence of a similar life form.

Sorry. No Slurm (yet?).

— Read on www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/science-environment-51544476

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