Rock On

Immigrants to the Solar System
& a Stone That Predates Humans

No one knows how many of them are out there. They travel light, fast, and come from lifetimes of distance. Surveillance may catch a few, but this is too vast a place to easily spot them. Some fear them like the end of times. Others call them refugees, or vagrants, or immigrants.
They’re asteroids, meteorites, shooting stars. They may come to visit: one zipped by Earth’s orbit last year, on its way out of the Milk Way. But long ago, Jupiter captured another; it’s now a permanent resident. Like those that come crashing to die among us, they’ll keep on coming.
The fear, of course, is that they do have the potential to end our civilization. Just like that, and there’s damn little, or pretty much nothing, we can do about it. Geological data, i.e., extracted from rocks, plus statistical probability, prove that such a literally earthshaking possibility does exist.
Twice in the past an incoming high-speed ball wiped nearly all life on the planet, changing evolutionary history in the process. So we try to keep track of them, but even if we could see them all at a safe distance, we’ll probably would’t have time for anything but to go mad, and then die.
Not Oumuamua, though, the object that crossed incognito our zenith last September. When it reached the sun, we knew that it couldn’t possibly be from within our system, like all the others, race-ending or not. When it left it, it’d become the very first interstellar little world to came and say hi. Or rather, a Hello, Goodbye. I must be going.

THE THIRD ROCK FROM THE SUN
Of course, Shakespeare was right. So was Carmichael, and so was Sagan. After being given such a noble provenance, linking us straight to the most distant heavenly body we will never get to see, who wants to have anything to do with an errant piece of rock? But it’s been said, they’re inevitable.
In fact, without denying we’re shinning stars and all that, life may have been brought down to this Pale Blue Dot, which once thought of itself as the center of the universe, by a lowly slice of outwordly dust, teeming with what would blow air through our nostrils. Hey, cheer up. We’re all rock stars.
Or whatever. The hominids who act as if they own the place they know nothing about, and are just about to put it on fire, couldn’t bear thinking that they don’t count. But in reality, they don’t. (more)
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Read Also:
* The Undreamed World
* World Snatchers
* It’s Fly By Us

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Infinity & Beyond

Voyagers Leave Solar
System, Promise to Call

Talking about the little, multi-million dollar, engine that could. The Voyagers twin spacecraft, launched 35 years ago next August and September, are about to reach a place full of cliches but still vastly unknown: the interstellar space, the area beyond the imaginary trajectory of even the farthest member of the Solar System. Literally, it’s about to get to where no one has gone before.
The small crafts don’t even register on the world’s most powerful telescope screens and NASA scientists track them both by complicated astronomical calculations. But their math indicates that, yup, Voyager 1 is almost at the Heliosphere, and #2 is coming up soon after. Bye bye cruel world that mostly forgot about us, then. Except that we haven’t.
Sorry, there won’t be any cake waiting for you guys, to mark the occasion, and even our messages will get to you ever more apart from each other. They now take almost 17 hours to get to you, but fear not; Continue reading

The Heavenly & the Disturbing

Venus’s Last Trip Across the Sun (in a
Century) & the Annual Dead Duck Day

It’s not unusual for two scientifically relevant events to happen in the same day. But while the transit of Venus in front of the Sun is the rarest of the two, the anniversary of Dead Duck Day packs a surprisingly, chock-full-of-meanings punch.
Venus won’t be seen in this neck of the Solar System before everybody alive today, and probably their immediate children, will be long dead. But what happened to a dead duck, 17 years ago, has became the holy grail to a whole branch of animal behavior research.
Beyond sharing the same date, though, these events have little else in common. But as astronomers and biologists expect to learn a bit more about the orbits of heavenly bodies and the life of mallard ducks, we should all benefit from their insights.
Before we too learn something about what’s happening today in the sky, where thousands will be tracking the rendezvous of Venus with the Sun, and at least in the Netherlands, where those fateful ducks met, a few words of caution.
First, about the Sun. The tragic Greek hero Icarus perished because his feather and wax wings melted as he flew too close to it. Well, for us, flightless mortals, we can’t even look at the Sun. So protect your eyes if Continue reading

The Uninvited

2012? If Doomsday Does Come,
2040 May Be a Much Better Year

The supposed end of the Maya Calendar, said by some to be a sure bet that the world will end Dec. 21 of this year, has predictably attracted the wide array of messianic nuts and opportunistic religious leaders with but one thing in their minds: to pick your pockets.
They shouldn’t bother trying to find signs, in some flawed translation of a pre-written language era, of what they clearly revel in declaring that it’s all your fault. That’s because science has already plenty of possible (useless) explanations for the causes of our eventual doomsday.
Chief among them are asteroids, those high-speed rocks that periodically seem to get our address in space right, and grant us with a catastrophic visit. Doom, thy name is 2011 AG5, which, if astronomers’ are right, has some pretty good odds of hitting us mid-sentence.
But if it seems that they’ve been more frequent lately, that’s just an illusion. For even though our ability to detect and tract the big bad ones is still unreliable and spotted at best, we are catching more and more of them in the act of conspiring against our civilization.
Still, we have been very lucky indeed: those that have managed to trick our watch and get close, so far, have all missed us, thank goodness. Continue reading

Gas Giant


Neptune’s Anniversary Marks
Its First Orbit Around the Sun

The god of water and sea was discovered in an icy corner of the Solar System, exactly 164.79 years ago, on Sept. 23, 1846.
The crooked number of its first anniversary since it has been detected by Englishman John Adams and Frenchman Urbain Le Verrier, is counted by the years it takes the blue giant to complete an orbit around the sun.
It’s one of the many still mysterious, still foggy things about Continue reading

Sun’s Hidden Sister?

Giant Planet or a
Speck of Stardust?

Just in time for another solar flares cycle, comes news that a giant gas planet may be hidden in the outskirts of our solar planet. But the possibility that there’s such a hidden heavenly body, which was quickly named Tyche, for the Greek goddess Continue reading