Mar 13, 2017
Posted by Odette Gregory in categories: astronomy, energy, environmental, physics
Recent advances in lasers suggest that we may see rockets propelled by light earlier than we had imagined. NASA scientist Philip Lubin and his team are working on a system that would use Earth-based lasers to allow space travel to far-away places in just a fraction of the time needed with current technology.
Using earth based lasers to push along a spacecraft instead of on board hydrocarbon-based fuel could dramatically reduce travel time to Mars, within our lifetime. Currently, it takes five months for a space craft to reach Mars. But, with photonic propulsion, it is likely that small crafts filled with experiments will reach Mars in just 3 days. Large spaceships with astronauts and life support systems will take only one month, which is about 20% of the duration of a current trip.
What’s next? Lubin believes that we may be able to send small crafts with scientific experiments to exoplanets as fast as 5% light speed in, perhaps, 30 years. Eventually, he claims that the technology will carry humans at speeds up to 20% light speed.
I am not an astronomer or astrophysicist. I have never worked for NASA or JPL. But, during my graduate year at Cornell University, I was short on cross-discipline credits, and so I signed up for Carl Sagan’s popular introductory course, Astronomy 101. I was also an amateur photographer, occasionally freelancing for local media—and so the photos shown here, are my own.
By the end of the 70’s, Sagan’s star was high and continuing to rise. He was a staple on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, producer and host of the PBS TV series, Cosmos, and he had just written Dragons of Eden, which won him a Pulitzer Prize. He also wrote Contact, which became a blockbuster movie, starring Jodie Foster.
Sagan died in 1996, after three bone marrow transplants to compensate for an inability to produce blood cells. Two years earlier, Sagan wrote a book and narrated a film based on a photo taken from space.
“Later this year, during what passes for summer in Antarctica, a group of Chicago scientists will arrive at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole research station to install a new and enhanced instrument designed to plumb the earliest history of the cosmos.”
“After Chile’s heaviest rain in 20 years, the Atacama Desert has been transformed into a 600-mile-long bed of flowers.”
“Should astronomers be allowed to build the TMT on Mauna Kea? This question raises concerns that we, as practising astronomers, see as a reoccurring issue within the scientific community.”
Next January Stephen Hawking will be 74 years old. He has lived much longer than most individuals with his debilitating condition. In addition to being an unquestionably gifted cosmologist, he has invited controversy by supporting the pro-Palestinian, Israel-BDS boycott and warning about the dangers of alien invaders who tap into our interstellar greetings
Antisemitism, notwithstanding, this man is a mental giant. He is Leonardo. He is Einstein. Like them, his discoveries and theories will echo for generations beyond his life on earth. He is that genius.
Forty years ago, when Stephen Hawking still had mobility, he delivered a paper on a mystery regarding information-loss for entities that cross the event boundary of a black hole.
In the mid 1970s, Astronomers were just discovering black holes and tossing about various theories about the event horizon and its effect on the surrounding space-time. Many individuals still considered black holes to be theoretical. Hawking’s analysis of the information paradox seemed extremely esoteric. Yet, last month (Aug 2015) , at Sweeden’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Hawking presented a possible solution to the paradox that he sparked.
While NASA has already shown us Pluto’s best images yet, the administration is anything but done blowing our minds. What you see above is an enhanced high-resolution color view of Pluto, created with a combination of blue, red and infrared images. NASA says this photo, taken by New Horizons spacecraft, highlights Pluto’s diverse landforms and shows us its complex geological and climatological story — as much as scientists have been able to figure out, anyway. Over the past few months, NASA’s shared many things related to Pluto, including a closer look at its desolate surface and icy mountain range.
As a follow-up to Shailesh Prasad’s thought provoking video (just below this article), I offer two equally impressive visualizations of the scope and magnificence of our universe. These videos are the epitome of a teachable moment. And it’s fun, too!
Check out this simple, one-button interactive Scale of the Universe by Cary Huang. Simply pull a slider left or right to zoom in or out. It covers the Universe from 1027 meters down to 10–35 meters (from the entire universe to the Plank length and quantum foam).
Unlike the classic film by Charles & Ray Eames (more about that later), the zoom doesn’t really take viewers closer or further away. Rather, it compares relative size by allowing users navigate by magnitudes (a circle indicates each power-of-ten).
“It has sold millions of copies, is perhaps the greatest novel in the science-fiction canon and Star Wars wouldn’t have existed without it. Frank Herbert’s Dune should endure as a politically relevant fantasy from the Age of Aquarius.”