One of the genius moments in Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey comes when Dave Bowman, locked out of the Discovery in a ‘pod’, without his suit helmet, re-enters anyway, via the emergency airlock. He’s unprotected in vacuum – but he doesn’t die instantly, or freeze, or explode the way people usually do in movies when… More What happens when you wake up naked in outer space…
This week’s news in the Astronomical Journal that Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin of CalTech have predicted a ninth planet got the usual barrage of silly media headlines about ‘discovery’. The thing is, Brown and Batygin haven’t found anything. They’ve hypothesised that there’s a planet. And they are not the first to wonder about some… More Planet 9 won’t be as big as Uranus. Really.
Would anybody who lived on Pluto be called a ‘Plutocrat’, or something? I might not be the first to ask this question – I think Heinlein did it in Have Spacesuit, Will Travel, where his hero ended up being kidnapped by the Wormface aliens and taken to Pluto. Being Heinlein, the story was a lot better than… More Would a denizen of Pluto be a Plutocrat?
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