Here’s looking at you

Video: Life on an Eyeball Planet? It’s Possible

By: SciShow Space



Eyeball planets are a nickname for planets that are tidally locked to their parent star., meaning the same side always faces the star. This name comes from the way the side facing the star would be a baked desert, the side facing away from the star would be a frozen wasteland, and there could be concentric circles of in between zones.

An example of a tidally locked celestial body is our own Moon.

This concept is pretty inhospitable to life, however it’s possible that a Eyeball planet orbiting a Red Dwarf, with a strong magnetic field, in the habitable zone, and with water and an atmosphere, could support life with temperatures between 50 and -50 celcius.

For these planets, life could exist in the area between the two sides. However, it would need to be able to deal with very little light, and very strong winds. Also, there would be no day/night cycle, something on which almost all life on Earth has some kind of reliance.

Lord of the Rings

Video: Has Saturn Had More than One Ring System?

By: SciShow Space



Data from Cassini shows that Saturn may be losing it’s rings at a rate of 5k to 25k kilograms per second. This phenomenon is called ring rain and at that rate the rings will be gone within a 100 million years.

It’s also theorized that perhaps the rings are less than 100 million years old. This is troublesome because many theories about how they formed require them to be much older.

It’s possible that we’re seeing a cyclical behavior where the larger planets destroy and recreate ring systems.

Even after the rings have disappeared, Saturn will still have some rings that are the result of other processes.

Pancakes and Walnuts

Video: MU69 is Flat, and No One Knows Why

By: SciShow Space



MU69 is made of two bodies that are pancake and walnut shaped instead of spheres. This was unexpected as it doesn’t confirm with the current theory that planets were created by matter collecting in the protoplanetary disk and creating larger and larger spheres.

Data from Gaia shows that the Andromeda galaxy is set to collide with the Milky Way in about 4.5 billion years, which is 600 million years longer than the previous estimate.

It’s unlikely the two galaxies will have a direct head on collision as previously thought. They’ll go a bit past each other before circling back to form a single galaxy.

When the Greek Alphabet turns menacing.

Podcast: Space Radiation

By: Astronomy Cast



There are four main types of radiation one can encounter:

Alpha particles: Protons. Blocked by the skin. Potentially dangerous if inhaled or consumed.

Beta particles: Electrons.

Gamma rays (and X Rays): Photons.

Charged nuclei: Galactic cosmic rays and solar events.

On earth we’re mostly safe from these because of our magnetic field and atmosphere but in space travel and the surface of other worlds they’re extremely dangerous. Astronauts on long flights have a much higher risk of cancer.

The Van Allen Belts that surround Earth contain a lot of these particles and are a risk to electronic equipment that passes through them.

Solar flares are extremely dangerous for unprotected humans and electronics. The Apollo missions were lucky that the Sun stayed quiet and didn’t release any major flares in our direction during them.

There are various ideas for shielding spacecraft (surrounding them with water or soil, or generating magnetic fields) but none are really feasible with current technology.

The best bet for explorers on other worlds is living underground.

Balloons would never be the same.

Video: The Impossible Element Hiding in the Sun

By: SciShow Space



The first periodic table didn’t include space for the noble gases – since they don’t react with anything they’re very hard to detect through chemistry.

Helium was discovered in space due to a solar eclipse in the 1860s before it was discovered on Earth in 1895 through radioactive decay of Uranium.

By looking at light through a prism, scientists discovered that you can distinguish different types of light by looking at its spectrum.

Light generated by burning different element has a unique collection of dark lines. This is due to each element absorbing light at specific wavelengths. This is governed by quantum mechanics. Atoms absorb photons at different wavelengths, and this behavior is unique to each element.

The solar eclipse allowed scientists to get a spectrum that included Helium from the Sun’s corona by blocking out the main spectrum.

We use spectroscopy to learn about composition of all kinds of things that emit or reflect light. We can even study the atmospheres of planets orbiting other stars.

If it weren’t for Nixon, we’d have humans that were born on Mars by now

Book: How We’ll Live on Mars

Author: Stephen L. Petranek


Werhner von Braun was a Nazi SS Officer who was taken to the US after the war and wrote a book called Das Marsprojekt which has been an instrumental piece of work outline the necessary steps for travel to Mars to this day.

Nixon’s decision to scrap the Apollo program in favor of the Space Shuttle program was the turning point of advancing our space exploration capability. The military wanted the Shuttle Program as a way to launch and repair spy satellites.

It’s likely the first humans on Mars are going to be the result of private enterprise, not government agencies.

Mars could be a gateway for asteroid mining, either for rare mineral extraction back to Earth or back to Mars.

Large mirrors in space reflecting more sunlight to Mars’ surface is one of the most feasible ways to warm up parts of the planet and start a greenhouse effect cycle of getting more carbon dioxide and water vapor in the air to build even more heat.

My thoughts:

Even though the book is only four years old, a lot of the dates are already incorrect. None of the private companies are as far along as they predicted they would be. As someone else who is aggressively futurist I can relate to the disappointment of technology not being as far along as I want it to be.

If we had kept NASA’s budget at 4% of government spending and kept up the focus we had during the Apollo program, we’d have humans on multiple planets and moons across the solar system by now, and be awash in rare resources and probably much more advanced technology and energy generation methods. Such a shame.

It was cool reading this after the Red Mars Trilogy to get a bit more hard science and see some real life progress being made on Mars missions.

Life, uh, finds a way

Podcast: Planetary Protection Protocols

By: Astronomy Cast



Based on how likely a destination is to have life on it, there are different levels of cleaning and decontamination spacecraft must undergo before being launched.

The idea is that we don’t want to carry life with us that could potentially be an invasive species on a different planet and destroy or otherwise negatively impact native life.

When the protocols were first written up, we weren’t aware of the potential for life on many places we now think it could reside, such as Titan, Ceres, or even the gas giant planets.

Also, the methods used to clean some of the earlier Mars missions such as Viking I and II would not have necessarily have killed some of the extremophile life we now know exists.

Tardigrades are awesome.