This week the SETI institute announced they were going to check the newly discovered Earth-size world 1400 light years away, Kepler 452b, for radio transmissions. I don’t think they’ll find any. Here’s why. The problem is that near-Earth size, insolation and orbit – which is all we know just now – doesn’t necessarily mean Earth-like. The planet was… More Why the new ‘Earth 2.0’ is more likely to be Venus 1.1
I was asked the other week, on Facebook, why Jupiter doesn’t just fly off into space. You know, it’s so enormous, surely the Sun can’t hold it. Actually, it can. Jupiter is around 300 times the mass of Earth, sure – but it’s only 0.09 percent the mass of the Sun. Not only can the Sun… More The Sun’s big. Really big. And really grippy.
I never fail to boggle at the convenience of social media. Even as the southern hemisphere is swathed in a wet and dark winter, a friend of mine on tour in north Sweden has been extoling the experience of the midnight sun on Facebook. More a sort of taunt, really, for those of us stuck… More It’s winter in New Zealand. I blame Earth’s axial tilt.
Yesterday’s Pluto flyby’s been one of the most amazing unmanned space moments of the last half century – up there with the Voyager probes and with the Mars rovers. It’s also only the beginning. Over the next sixteen months the probe will transmit the data it picked up during that super-fast cruise through the Pluto system.… More Why the Pluto flyby means we need to re-think our view of the solar system
Back in the early twentieth century the Solar System was a simple place. Four small planets (three of them possibly inhabited) huddled close to the Sun, girdled by an asteroid belt widely supposed to be an exploded planet. Beyond lay four gas giants with their own moons (also likely inhabited). In and around them orbited various comets.… More How Pluto got (wrongly) demoted to ‘dwarf’ planet
The world’s in Pluto frenzy this month. NASA’s SOFIA observatory aircraft has been operating out of Christchurch, New Zealand, to capture data on Pluto’s atmosphere via star transit spectrometry – and on 14 July, some 3662 days after leaving Earth, the New Horizons probe will storm past Pluto and its family of moons. It’s our first visit… More Pluto frenzy is upon us this month
Efforts are under way to crowd-source a message for putative future aliens, to be uploaded to the New Horizons probe after it completes its historic mission to Pluto and (possibly) another object in the Kuiper belt. New Horizons is the fifth object we’ve sent on a one-way journey out of the solar system, and the… More What would YOU say to aliens before the apocalypse hits us?