Cool Things Col. Hadfield Taught Us About Space Livin'

Colonel Chris Hadfield is pretty much the modern face of space exploration. In this video and others that have been uploaded to YouTube, he demonstrates the awesomeness of zero gravity and the various peculiars of space living, answering age-old questions asked by children everywhere: How do you sleep in space? How do you wash your hands? What food do you eat?

Video Source: “Cool Things Col. Chris Hadfield Taught Us About Space” Uploaded by Mixtape Master on YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=uy50lRbOpW8

If The Planets Took The Place of Our Moon…

Ever wonder what the view of Mars would be if it were as close to us as our moon? Would it glow a belligerent red in our night sky and confuse moths the world over? How about Neptune: would it cast a seductive blue glow over the body of your lover as she lies recovering from a delicious round of rodgering? Now imagine Jupiter, our solar system’s largest planet with moons that are twice/thrice the size of ours… what would they all look like if they had to take the place of our moon, without cataclysmically affecting life on our planet? This video answers that question…

Video Source: Uploaded by yeti dynamics to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=usYC_Z36rHw

 

 

Scientific Songs of Praise: Ho Ho Ho!

It doesn’t matter whether you’re Christian or not; if you have a sense of humour, you’ll LOVE these. Scientific Songs of Praise applies sciencey lyrics and spectacular space imagery to those boring old stuffy Christmas carols we all know, turning them into something magnificent. I’ll be sharing a few of their videos leading up to Christmas, just to get you into the yuletide spirit!

Solar Light (Silent Night) Gospel – Scientific Songs of Praise #6

Video Source: By Scientific Songs of Praise, YouTube channel https://youtu.be/3OnyiR2CKBU?list=PLqAaxjrofZ64FCCyUJVce-75uFQpXXYXP

Want more, daddy? You can check out their Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/scientificsongs

Run For Cover! Awesome Meteorite Footage

Few things fascinate us quite like our worst nightmares and while we may not actively think about devastating meteorite impacts punching an inconvenient hole into our day, such an event would certainly serve to put things into perspective for us! For example, cold coffee, traffic jams and your imbecile boss are not the end of the world. A meteorite impact could be.

Let’s take a look at some spectacular footage of space objects having fender benders with our planet.

Meteorite Soars into Tyumen, Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg, Russia, Feb 13th 2013: A Compilation of the Internet’s Best Clips

Meteor Footage Video Source: Uploaded by LifeBeyondEarth on YouTubeChannel https://youtu.be/UqrA007yZWQ

Want to hear a joke? The Russian meteorite in this video was considered “small.” Gosh, NASA scientists and their size issues! First Pluto and now this?

Eight months after this meteorite collided into the Earth, it was finally extracted from its resting place in Lake Chebarkul. It weighed a staggering 570 kg, which explains the damage it did to more than 3,000 nearby buildings and 1,000 people. The blast of this meteorite was estimated to carry the equivalent punch of 300,000 tonnes of dynamite.

Beautiful Time Lapse Video of Geminid Meteor Shower, December 30th, 2012

Meteor Footage Video Source: Uploaded by Kenneth Brandon (Dark Sky Chaser) on YouTube Channel https://youtu.be/S_jdfyp8pL0

Every December, the heavens rain down Christmas upon avid sky-watchers and star enthusiasts in the form of the beautiful, glittering Geminid Meteor shower. In this video, photographer Kenneth Brandon filmed the entire event and then sped it up so that we can truly appreciate why this event is actually called a “meteor shower” in the first place. In the first sequence, we see the star trails in addition to the meteors, which in reality are probably no bigger than grains of sand. In the second sequence, the meteor trails have been rendered persistent by some nimble filming techniques. Gorgeous!

The End of the World Asteroid Impact: Animated Conjecture By JDC Creation

Meteor Footage Video Source: Uploaded by JDC Creation on YouTubeChannel https://youtu.be/pe3s2G8ulBc

Now THIS is something to start your day with! What happened if a gigantic asteroid smacked into Earth and Bruce Willis wasn’t available to stop it? This video. This animated short video provides us with front row seats to the end of the world.

Life on Mars: Relocation, Relocation, Relocation!

Planet Mars with Rising Sun

Every single morning, when my alarm drops a hydrogen bomb into the middle of my sexy dreams, I lie in bed entertaining fantasies of further sleep. What would I do to be able to sink back into the cotton wool comfiness of my sub-consciousness for another half hour? In my irrational sleep-addled state, a lot! So, sign me up for the first commercial flight to Mars because with days that are not 30 minutes, but 40 minutes longer than on Earth, my desperate desire for extra sleep would be granted!

Curiosity Weighs 899 kg

Luckily There Aren’t Any Cats on Mars

On the 5th August of 2012, the Mars rover ‘Curiosity’ made a successful landing on the powdery, rock-strewn surface of the Red Planet. A part of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, Curiosity’s primary objective is to explore the real estate on Mars and the possibility of humans inhabiting it at some time in the not-so-distant future.

Curiosity Mars Rover self-portraitA self-portrait of the Mars rover, Curiosity. #Selfie.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Malin Space Science Systems. Derivative work including grading, distortion correction, minor local adjustments and rendering from tiff-file: Julian Herzog – http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov/catalog/PIA16239

This sophisticated piece of machinery (see above image) cost NASA $2.5 billion to build and is designed to investigate features of Mars’ geology and climate during the course of its two-year long investigation. More specifically, the aptly-named ‘Curiosity’ will be looking for “ancient organic compounds,” according to NASA Ames Research Centre’s planetary scientist, Carol Stoker. This would help us understand the history of Mars, Earth’s sister planet,’ as a previous or even current supporter of life

All of the high tech gadgetry aboard the ‘Curiosity’ is essentially geared to measure the presence, nature and concentration of organic compounds that are possibly locked within the planet’s dry soils. After two years of exploration, ‘Curiosity’ will hopefully have answered our many pressing questions about the habitability of Mars. This could bring us closer, much closer, to planning an alternate future on the Red Planet… just in case we gas ourselves out of our own home in the solar system.

Or, you know, Bruce Willis chickens out of his mission to blow up an Earth-bound asteroid.

Meet The Red Planet! 

Planet Mars

Hey, hi, how are ya?

Astute academics such as Dr. Richard Zurek, Chief Scientist in the Mars Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), have strong reason to suspect that Mars was once home to living organisms and that the Curiosity mission will indeed yield fruit. The presence of frozen water at the poles, an atmosphere that consists almost entirely of carbon dioxide, geological features that appear to have been carved and shaped by running water and a climate that is not wholly intolerable, indicate that out of all other known planets and moons in our solar system, Mars is or at least was the most accommodating of life.

What we want to know is whether we too could one day inhabit this arid red landscape… and if so, what would life on Mars be like?

Planet Profile: Mars

Mars planet

Etymology: Thanks to its blood-red colour, Mars was named by ancient civilizations after the Roman God of War.

Diameter: 6,787 kilometres

Average distance from Sun: 227,936,640 kilometres.

Rotation period (length of day): 1.026 Earth days

Orbital period (length of year): 686.98 Earth days

Menstrual period: huh?

Tilt of axis: 25° (Earth’s is approximately 23.4°)

Maximum surface temperature (tanning weather): 37°C

Minimum surface temperature (cuddle weather): -123°C

Best view from Mars: Olympus Mons, which is 27 kilometres higher than surrounding lava plains.

Atmospheric constituents: (1) 95% carbon dioxide, (2) 3% nitrogen, (3) 1.6% argon and (4) other trace gases. Methane was recently discovered there, too.

Your Martian Calendar and Climate

Because of Mars’ distance from the sun, 227,936,640 km on average, it takes quite a bit longer for it to bumble its way around the fiery focal point of our solar system. This means that a Martian year is much longer than an Earth year; approximately twice as long, in fact. There are 687 days in a year on Mars. Thanks to the planet’s tilted axis, however, there are still two primary seasons: summer and winter. This doesn’t really matter though. With average year-round temperatures of -60°C (-80°F) you’re still going to need to take a very warm jacket and maybe a pair of mittens, too. There are a few balmy days to look forward to… in summer, the mercury in Mars’ equatorial regions can actually hit 20°C (70°F), punctuated by days of a roasty toasty 37°C (98°F).

In spite of the cold, Mars is a desert planet, much like Tatooine, the one Star Wars’ Anakin Skywalker comes from… wait, hold on… did I just say that out loud? It never rains on Mars’ rust-red landscape and the only break you get in the distant and diluted sunshine is high level, coruscating congregations of ice-crystals; similar in fact to the cirrus clouds we get here on Earth. Bitterly cold winters aside, Mars would seem to be a rather affable place to settle.

Wouldn’t it?

Not always! When the horizon darkens and the wind picks up, it’s time to hit to road, Jack. Mars’ raging dust storms are the most tempestuous in the entire solar system.

Mars 2001 sandstorm NASA

In 2001, the Hubble Space Telescope captured the complete transformation of Mars as an enormous dust storm swept over the entire globe’s surface. These storms are driven by winds of up to 160 km/hr and can last weeks or even months. On the up-side, with nothing else to do other than stay inside, this would hurry along the population of Mars…

Martian Tourist Attractions

Once you get bored of admiring endless vistas of red nothingness and of tripping over the legions of sharp rocks that are ubiquitous to Mar’s dusty, empty landscape, you will need to take in a few of the planet’s more redeeming features. Thankfully, there are plenty of those. Mars offers some spectacular natural attractions that make the Grand Canyon look like a butt crack and Earth’s biggest volcano, Mauna Loa, look like a bug bite. Albeit a bad one.

Olympus Mons is Mars’ largest mountain/volcano/OMG-look-at-THAT!! At a lofty 27 kilometres (17 miles) high and an expansive 600 kilometres (372 miles) across, this megalith is three times as tall as Mount Everest, Earth’s largest mountain. It’s also the largest known volcano in the solar system.

Olympus Mons on Mars

What was once a suppurating abscess of death is now a brooding blackhead on the face of Mars’ blood-red landscape. Olympus Mons sits conspicuously in the top-right hand quadrant of this colorised topographical map of The Red Planet, from the MOLA instrument of Mars Global Surveyor.

Holy Hit!

Asteroids over planet earth

If you’ve seen the movies Deep Impact, Armageddon, Asteroid or The Land Before Time, chances are you’ve entertained the idea: what would I do if a meteor was on a collision course with Earth? What would happen? Would NASA send out a space shuttle to intercept the galactic gate-crasher? Could North Korea be coaxed into donating its caches of nuclear warheads to the task of obliterating the Earth-bound asteroid? What’s the post-apocalyptic weather like? Will you need to pack an extra jersey?

All of these are important questions. But not all meteorite strikes need to result in global catastrophe, although the dinosaurs would beg to differ. Some are actually responsible for sculpting some of the most beautiful landscapes and fascinating geological features here on our planet and on every planet.

Meteors, Meteorites, Meteoroids, Asteroids, Comets, Shooting Stars… What’s the Difference?

There are more names for space-travelling rocks than Elizabeth Taylor has had surnames. But there is a degree of difference between these names that needs to be appreciated, whereas I’m sure that each of Ms Taylor’s successive marriages was just as dull as the previous.

Comet ~ A comet is (relative to a planet) a small chunk of dirty ice-clad rock that orbits the Sun: think Halley’s Comet or Comet McNaught. When it comes close enough to the sun, blasts of solar radiation send particles of ice streaming off its surface to form a long visible train called a ‘coma’.

Beautiful comet McNaught

Image Credit: Miloslav Druckmuller (Brno University of Technology)

March 30th, 2007: Comet McNaught blazes a beautiful trail across a star-studded sky. The Milky Way, which you can see as a dense streak of stars in this picture, is actually one of the spiral arms of our galaxy. You can also see two irregular dwarf galaxies, known as the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (right hand side of the image).

Asteroid ~ An asteroid is a small chunk of rock that is also in orbit around the sun. Only, asteroids are composed of rock, metal and sometimes even organic compounds. Not ice. As a result, they don’t get to wear a bridal train.

Meteoroids ~ A meteoroid is, relative to an asteroid, a much smaller chunk of rock. Where asteroids can be kilometres in diameter, meteoroids are no more than 10 meters across, although they can also be as a small as a pebble. Anything larger officially joins the terminological ranks of asteroids.

Meteor ~ A meteor is a meteoroid that has made it into Earth’s atmosphere and is visible to us humans. Remember that one sexy night you spent with that guy in his crappy car, staring up at the stars? Suddenly, there was a brilliant streak of light across the night sky, and then he looked deep into your eyes and said that it was a sign you’d be together forever. And then he dumped you the week after for some tart with bigger knockers.

Yes! A shooting star and a meteor are one and the same thing.

Falling comet and Aurora BorealisQuick, make a wish!

Meteorite ~ This is where things start getting interesting. A meteorite is, just like a meteor, also a meteoroid (c’mon keep up!) But a meteorite survives its entry into the Earth’s atmosphere and actually makes it all the way to the ground where it causes all sorts of inconveniences for the local biology.

Now, we know that our local biology has been inconvenienced on several occasions by rocks galavanting around the galaxy. But how come our moon is more pock-marked than a pubescent teen and we seem to be relatively unscathed? Where are the big impact craters on Earth?

As it turns out, they’re everywhere.

Earth’s Impact Craters

Meteor Crater ArizonaBarringer Crater, Arizona, USA. Formed 50,000 years ago.

The largest confirmed impact crater on Earth is right here in my own back yard in a small town called Vredefort, South Africa. This appreciable dent in our planet’s facade (a 300 kilometre-wide dent to be precise) was caused by a meteor impact that happened over two billion years ago. This impact crater, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is even bigger than the crater left by the dinosaur-demolishing Chicxulub asteroid.

Take that, Mexico.

Vredefort impact crater, South Africa“Vredefort Dome STS51I-33-56AA” by Júlio Reis (User:Tintazul)

Arial view of the Vredefort impact crater, Free State, South Africa. Formed more than 2 billion years ago.  – [1]. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

According to the Earth Impact Database, there are:

  • 21 confirmed impact craters in Africa,
  • 3 in Antarctica,
  • 18 in Asia,
  • 26 in Australia,
  • 37 in Europe,
  • 8 in South America and
  • 30 in North America (31 if you count Chicxulub off the Yucatán peninsula, but last I heard the U.S. wasn’t very welcoming of Mexicans.)

These are confirmed impact craters, which have met the rigorous qualification requirements laid out by the Earth Impact Database; our official scientific pageant for meteor-strikes (world peace is most certainly not one of them). If we were to consider the list of unconfirmed impact craters, these numbers would easily double.

So you see, unscathed we are not. Our planet is just as pock-marked as the moon. We just have the benefit of plate tectonics, wind erosion, water erosion and a biosphere to cover up evidence of our acne scarring.

Somewhere off the Yucatán Peninsula in a Galaxy Surprisingly Nearby

Extinction of the dinosaurs, artwork

65 Million years ago, a large extraterrestrial hunk of rock approximately ten kilometres (6.2 miles) in diameter raged into Earth’s atmosphere and smashed into the ocean off the Mexican coast. Sunbathing dinosauritas didn’t even have a chance to reattach their bikini tops before a shockwave so f&*king inconceivable in size and rage hit, I am forced by sheer necessity to use a curse word as an adjective to describe it.

“Within microseconds, an unimaginable explosion released as much energy as billions of Hiroshima bombs detonated simultaneously, creating a titanic fireball hotter than the Sun that vaporized the ocean and excavated a crater 180 kilometres (110 miles) across in the crust beneath. Shock waves blasted upwards, tearing the atmosphere apart and expelling over a hundred trillion tonnes of molten rock into space, later to fall across the globe. Almost immediately, an area bigger than Europe would have been flattened and scoured of virtually all life, while massive earthquakes rocked the planet. The atmosphere would have howled and screamed as hypercanes five times more powerful than the strongest hurricane ripped the landscape apart, joining forces with huge tsunamis to batter coastlines many thousands of kilometres distant.”

– “A Guide to the End of the World”, Bill McGuire (2002)

The ‘Chicxulub’ impact was the catastrophic event that forced the extinction of much of Earth’s biology. The life that wasn’t instantly extinguished upon impact would die in the weeks and months of acid rain, falling debris, plummeting global temperatures, shuddering earthquakes, tempestuous weather and raging wildfires to follow.

Or in the subsequent years of icy nuclear winter.

Or in the years of solar radiation exposure caused by the Earth’s disintegrated ozone layer.

Yeah, sucked to be prehistoric.

Class Dismissed: Your Take-Home Message

potential-hazardous-asteroids-crop

Diagram showing the orbits of potentially disastrous Earth-crossing asteroids. The four white circles indicate the orbits of our solar system’s four inner planets, Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. The sun lies at the centre.

Our universe, galaxy and solar system are swarming with lost and wandering bits of space rock. Some have managed to find a gravitational focal point to orbit around and we see these visitors from our vantage point here on Earth with accurate predictability. A perfect example would be Halley’s Comet, which we see once every 75, 76 years. Others wander our solar system far more eccentrically, although the gravitational pull of our Sun and planets do affect the path they travel.

The take-home message is that we, just like every other planet or moon in our solar system, are just as vulnerable to a catastrophic meteorite impact. We are not safe on our little blue planet. We have suffered in the past and we will suffer again in the future. Life here is precious. So make sure you appreciate it the way it is now, because tomorrow you might not have time to reattach your bikini top before a shockwave so f&*king inconceivable in size and rage hits, I will be forced by sheer necessity to use a curse word as an adjective to describe it.

Asteroid Earth

Image Source: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/science/space/9332701/Massive-asteroid-to-fly-past-Earth.html