It’s a Harsh Galaxy   4 comments

I’m not really an astronomy buff, but I have some interest in outer space. Like many a science fiction writer and reader before me, I believe that man’s best hope for long time survival as a species is to  get off of planet Earth and spread out through the galaxy. Writers have invented hundreds, perhaps thousands, of ways to get to the stars, and I would dearly love it if the human race could/would actually accomplish one of them. But, I don’t think it’s going to happen, and that makes me kind of sad.

Back in 1969 I was optimistic. Americans went to the Moon.  It was a small step for a man, but a giant leap for all Mankind. 

Why is the flag rippling? Is their wind on the moon?

Now, it’s 41 years later and we still don’t have a colony or even a moonbase yet.  The science fiction writers of the early and mid-twentieth century all thought we’d be on Mars by now with habitats in the asteroids at the very least.  It didn’t take the Spaniards this long to get people over to the New World in 1492.

The reason seems pretty clear. It is not economically worth the effort to have people living on the moon. The place is airless, lifeless, and probably economically worthless. This is our nearest neighbor in space and it’s a bad place to go or be, no matter how nice it looks in our night sky.

Back yard on the Moon

Okay, the truth is we don’t want to spend much time on the Moon. What a dump! It’s unliveable. (The part of me that hasn’t given up hope still wants someone to pay the price and establish a Moon colony, but I don’t see it happening.) How about Mars?  It’s pretty close, and it has atmosphere and water–not much, but some.

Yay. We managed to put a couple of golf cart robots on Mars.

What a gorgeous place! Beautiful Mars! That’s as good as it gets in our solar system. Can you honestly see people living there?

Venus is closer than Mars and has lots of atmosphere. The world is practically Earth’s twin. What does it look like on the surface?  This is art, not photography. We don’t have any cameras that can survive on the surface of Venus.

It rains sulphuric acid on Venus and is 900 degrees in the shade.

Nope, nobody is ever going to be living on Venus.

The gas giant planets are out.  Men are never going to live on gas giants. They have some pretty interesting moons of their own. They are beyond our reach right now as far as space travel goes. The most Earthlike is Titan.

A bit smoggy, but not that much worse than Los Angeles.

Of course, the main drawback with Titan is the surface is 200 degrees below zero and everything on the moon would kill you. 

I started this blog with the idea of talking about extrasolar planets. Lately I’ve been cruising the internet looking for new articles about planets discovered outside our own solar system.  It totally amazes me that our telescopes are powerful enough to  detect  solar wobbles or even gigantic planetary disks at a distance of  scores of light years.  I’d like to take a second to salute our astronomical artists for their amazingly imaginative images of planets beyond our own solar system.  Here follows a series of such images.

Astronomers have discovered a number of other solar systems. I believe more than 400 exo-planets have now been found  None of the solar systems look very much like ours. Check out this great chart that I found.

This is the nearest extrasolar planet directly detected to our sun. Most of the others have been deduced by measuring the dimming of a star’s light, or by gravitic wobbles.  And here I quote from the web page where I found the information. “The planet “HD 189733b” orbits a star that is a near cosmic neighbor to our sun, at a distance of 63 light years in the direction of the Dumbbell Nebula. It orbits the star very closely, just slightly more than three percent of the distance between Earth and the sun. Such close proximity keeps the planet roasting at about 844 Celsius (about 1,551 Fahrenheit), according to the team’s measurement.

The planet was discovered last year by François Bouchy of the Marseille Astrophysics Laboratory, France, and his team. The discovery observations allowed Bouchy’s team to determine the planet’s size (about 1.26 times Jupiter’s diameter), mass (1.15 times Jupiter), and density (about 0.75 grams per cubic centimeter). The low density indicates the planet is a gas giant like Jupiter.”

Super hot gas giant.

As far as I can tell, astronomers actually think the nearest interstellar neighbor planets are at Epsilon Eridani B, about 10.5 light years from Earth.  Here’s a fanciful picture and some comments in quotes from the web page.

“It’s actually a system of planets, not unlike how we like to call our own solar system. The name “Epsilon Eridani” stands for the parent star, or their “sun,” and it has two probable planets orbiting it: one confirmed (Epsilon Eridani b) another yet unconfirmed (Epsilon Eridani c), making it the closest planetary system at just over 10 light years from the solar system. It even has not one but two asteroid belts, an inner one between Epsilon Eridani b and the star and an outer one between b and c, and also a dust ring beyond c’s orbit believed to be produced by extrasolar comets bumping into each other.  Read more: http://www.funonthenet.in/forums/index.php?topic=163150.0#ixzz0uzQPUBVl

There are lots of great pictures of extrasolar planets on the internet–all pure imagination.  Scientists have not discovered anyplace we could actually live, even if we could get there. If you google extrasolar planets, you are bound to be entertained and informed, even as I am every day.

This looks like a great place to live. Alas, it is pure imagination. The nature of gas giant planets is such that I don’t think there is any chance of earthlike moons actually orbiting them.

I think this might be from the movie Avatar. It's not real, but sure is pretty.

I admit that this blog has rambled a bit. I’m not ready to do my Troll Con blog, so I thought I’d fill in with some pretty pictures from outer space. This is actually a form of amusement for me–searching the internet for the wonders of astronomy (and you say, get a life, Atroll).  Next time, we’ll come back to Earth  for fun.

End

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Posted July 28, 2010 by atroll in Uncategorized

4 responses to “It’s a Harsh Galaxy

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  1. Thank you. 🙂

  2. Enjoyed the off topic (?) post. I also feel that the future of the Human Race is in space. We need to take a long view attitude and begin putting outposts on other planets and in the asteroid belt. Not because it’s economically profitable but because of the knowledge we will gain from the experience. Older technologies will be refined and improved; new technologies will be invented. Eventually, the ingenuity of mankind will find a way to make it profitable.

    While current methods of research make the discovery of earth like planets unlikely, the Kepler project may very well discover earth like planets. It will take a long term view to make such discoveries useful.

    I’m not optimistic that mankind will “do the right thing” but I continue to hope.

  3. You have boldly gone where no troll has gone before.

  4. Great article! Don’t sweat the life bit…it’s all good, whether you’re tossing a ball around or exploring astronomy! The only certainty about our future in space is that it will be stranger and more interesting than anything we can imagine, and will only happen if we manage to conquer our overriding lack of unity and a cultural disdain for inquisitiveness that works against the essential need for humans to exhibit and act on curiosity. We’ll get there….some day….

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