Photos of the Earth and the Moon together

Thursday, 27 April, 2017

We’ve all seen the iconic 1968 Earthrise photo taken by Apollo 8 crew member, William Anders.

Yet it’s not the only incredible image that features both the Earth and the Moon, as seen from the depths of space. As a matter of fact, I linked to one such photo on Tuesday.

And if you’re looking for more, or other, images of the Earth-Moon system, check out the impressive collection that The Atlantic has put together.

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The Earth and Moon from between the rings of Saturn

Tuesday, 25 April, 2017

Earth from Saturn, by Cassini, via NASA

Here’s a view you don’t see every day, Earth, and the Moon – the very faint dot to the left of Earth – as seen from between gaps in the rings of outer planet, Saturn.

This will be one the last batch of images from the Cassini space probe, before it is set on a collision course with the ringed planet. See a larger version of the photo here.

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Are aliens altering a star’s light spectrum so the universe can see them?

Wednesday, 19 April, 2017

Broadcast signals, radio and television for instance, might be one way an extraterrestrial intelligence could go about advertising its presence. For all the perils of doing so, of course.

The thing with regular broadcast signals though, is they degrade the further they move from their source. Ideas that any inhabitants of any planets orbiting Regulus – a star eighty light years distant – may be able to tune into TV shows first broadcast on Earth eighty years ago are fanciful, to put it mildly.

How then to tell the rest of the universe you’re there, if signal degradation is a concern? Altering the light spectrum of your host star may be a possibility.

Przybylski’s Star is about three hundred and seventy light years from the Sun, but its optical spectrum is baffling astronomers, on account of the presence of certain heavy elements that should not be there.

The star is laced with oddball elements like europium, gadolinium, terbium and holmium. Moreover, while iron and nickel appear in unusually low abundances, we get short-lived ultra-heavy elements, actinides like actinium, plutonium, americium and einsteinium. Hence the mystery: How can such short-lived elements persist in the atmosphere of a star?

How indeed? Some people have speculated that an alien intelligence is somehow adding in these unusual elements, as a way of drawing attention to themselves. It all sounds a bit complicated though. Why don’t they make a few TV shows, and broadcast them on a strong signal, instead?

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The night sky in five million years, wait around, see if it isn’t so…

Tuesday, 18 April, 2017

Do you enjoy watching paint dry?

If so, you’re going to love this animation, depicting the movements of stars in the night sky, or our view of the Milk Way, over the next five million years. Except, it’s not like watching paint dry, with five million years uncoiling over about four minutes, it is quite absorbing.

Unlike several thousand years, five million years is a little more than a blip in terms of cosmic timescales, and it’s interesting to see how the appearance of the Milky Way, or what we can see of it, alters significantly.

I wonder if there’ll be people around in five million years to see how things actually turn out?

Via Bad Astronomy.

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Who is up for a final spin on Cassini before it crashes into Saturn?

Friday, 7 April, 2017

In September the Cassini space probe, which has spent thirteen years studying Saturn, with its fuel supplies nearly exhausted, will set itself on a collision course with the ringed planet.

Before diving into Saturn’s atmosphere, and disintegrating in the process, Cassini is scheduled to make twenty-two plunges into the region between the planet and its rings, an area that has been little explored to date.

I wouldn’t mind being on board for one or two of those passes, though obviously not the final one. Much as I like Saturn, I have no desire to become part of it.

And in honour of its work, a selection of Cassini’s best Saturn photos, compiled by Gizmodo.

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Now we can see the whole of the Moon, the far side included

Wednesday, 5 April, 2017

The Moon takes the same amount of time to make one complete rotation on its axis, as it does to orbit the Earth. This means we only ever see one side of the Moon, with its far side forever facing away from us. The Moon is said to be tidally locked, as a result.

Thanks to NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) probe, which has been busy photographing the Moon since 2009, some of the resulting images have been put together in this animation, and those of us unable to leave the planet can now see, quite literally, see the whole of the Moon.

Even for a “greyscale” world, the Moon is still stunning to behold.

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The Mars Generation, a documentary about the new explorers of Mars

Tuesday, 4 April, 2017

A trailer for the The Mars Generation, a Netflix produced documentary, about people of approximate high school age, who look forward to travelling to Mars, and establishing human colonies there, and sooner rather than later.

Our true place is among the stars. There’s no doubting the passion driving these aspiring explorers of the red planet, despite the many hazards.

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Seven places in the galaxy where we might, find extraterrestrial life

Monday, 3 April, 2017

Seven places in the universe, or more the point, Milky Way galaxy, where alien life may exist. Three of these places are within the solar system. Another is about four light years away, and another two have been the subject of much media interest in recent times. One place, the seventh one, I’d not heard of until now.

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The true size of the solar system, seen with an animation

Tuesday, 28 March, 2017

A proposal to reclassify what a planet is, may see the planet count of our solar system jump from eight, to one-hundred-and-two bodies. The latter number would certainly make the Sun’s family sound large. But what is the size of the solar system in terms of the amount of room it occupies in interstellar space?

From a human’s perspective, the answer again would be big. Enormous, most likely. An animation, by Imgur member Disclaimered, depicts the solar system as the crew of a departing starship might see it on their way out of it. It offers some sense of scale. The clustering of white lines, visible at about the ten second mark, are dwarf planets.

According to one estimate, there may be ten thousand such bodies, situated beyond the orbit of Neptune, in orbit around the Sun. Ten thousand dwarf planets. That’s a staggering number. The solar system is big, no matter what way you look at it.

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Let’s talk about sex, baby, the good and bad things that may be. On Mars

Monday, 27 March, 2017

Whether or not people have had sex in space, to date, remains unknown. Space agencies insist no one has, but who is to know for sure?

At the moment though, our off-planet exploits have been strictly for work purposes. Even crews aboard the International Space Station, who are in orbit for months at a time, and presumably have some leisure time, are still officially working.

But what about when we start colonising other parts of the solar system? Certainly people settling on Mars, which I’m sure will happen eventually, won’t be on a holiday, but they’ll be leading relatively normal lives. In so much as that will be possible, as the first human inhabitants of another body in the solar system, of course.

There will be no avoiding the issue of sex in space, and away from Earth, in that situation though. Surprisingly it’s a vexed problem, as this video, by London based designer and animator, Tom McCarten, sets out.

Safe for work, the clip at least, but possibly not the subject matter.

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