THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 243

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 243

CHAPTER TEN

Where Were We?

…the Stellar Explorer, piloted by the McKinney brothers, is losing control…

“SLAV, we are losing contact with the chrono-link. The ship is breaching the threshold, but it’s like we are watching it via remote hookup…,” Deke tries to explain what is happening.Stellar Explorer

“We have you on our screens, engage the emergency decelerator immediately…” encourages the SLAV.

But instead of slowing, it has more than doubled its maximum velocity. The SLAV crew struggles with what they are seeing and the data that defies description, considering known parameters.

“We were talking with them one minute… they were having problems… we cannot regain contact.”

At SOL Mission Control they are desperate for answers. “How can that be Fletcher Fitch? You never hinted that they could travel that fast!” Roy Crippen’s comprehension cannot possibly keep up with the pace Stellar Explorer was setting.

“No sir. We don’t know if the speed-of-light can be exceeded… and the crew blacked-out just after they lit the fuse.” After reviewing the data, the former Talibanistani-national posits, “But then after reaching SOL 1 and maintain it for a minute, it immediately jumped to SOL 2 and they are now approaching SOL 3. The heliopause {rim of the Solar System} will be breached in five minutes.”

There is only disbelief from Mission leadership.

“What do we do President Crippen?”

“Didn’t that thing have a velocity governor, Afridi — I mean Fitch, can they make the turn going that fast?”

“We are running the numbers now Mr. President. The unmanned test went nothing like this. We are only scratching the surface of exo-WARP conditions.”

“Tell me about it!” President Roy is at a loss for action. The fate of Space Colony 1 haunts him still. “Holy crap! This cannot be happening!”

There are no concrete answers let alone solutions, in this speculative world of SOL technology. How could this be… having tested three unmanned cruisers (the same one 3 times) at these exact speeds completing the mission without a hitch… and now this?


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 243


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 209

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 209

…The McKinneys are relieved when their space-taxi whooshes past the ominous molten maelstrom and subsequently an uninviting barren exo-world that looks like it would make a great prison planet

The NEWFOUNDLANDER continues to hurtle toward the planetary system which must surely be their final destination. The ship with a remote control mind uses all the right moves on its approach, like it had done this very move before. A skilled navigator himself, SamImage result for speed of light gif sincerely hopes so, because he is beginning to feel uneasy with the speed at which they going at this late stage. That scary mega planet is looking large and larger, its red-hot surface churning like the gates of hell… and they have barely dipped below SOL.

Born to go fast and built for speed, Sampson and Celeste are in white-knuckle mode, each in their own way, praying that the NEWFOUNDLANDER would slow down! Imagine being a passenger in an auto without a steering wheel whose brakes have failed and that would pretty much sum up the situation.

Little do they realize that due to the orb’s enormous mass, the illusion of proximity is just that, an illusion? At a half a million miles out, the stardrive that had relentlessly propelled them past several other stars without a pit-stop begins to back off, freezing the white dots of light behind them. An example: Earth’s sunlight will catch up to the Epsilon Eridani solar system in another year or so.

They are relieved when their space-taxi whooshes past the ominous molten maelstrom and subsequently an uninviting barren exo-world that looks like it would make a great prison planet. Once the sub-light deceleration has taken full effect, and you can DreamySkies-blue2-(Magical)definitely notice the difference.

The only possible landing point is the third largest member of this unique triumvirate, a misty looking sphere, the size of which is hard to judge. There are no clues as to what lays beneath the cloaking shroud; no hints to its close-up appearance.

Instead of knifing through the planet’s pea soup ionosphere, to allow that anxiously awaited first glimpse from on high, the NEWFOUNDLANDER nestles into an orbit above the vaporous barrier.

What lies beneath the clouds & mist?


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 209


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 171

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 171

…“How do I politely kick the butt of the first female presidential candidate since 2016?”…

To his credit, Roy Crippen has been coached into being an eloquent speaker, once some of that Texas drawl is withdrawn and his quiet ways set aside for super-sized Roy.

His sneakily crafted campaign assault against Pete Sanchez and his policies are working. The once modest crowds are increasing steadily. He seems to be growing in popularity with people who are taking the future seriously, not just along for the ride.

His speech today at Chicago’s Lincoln Park & Zoo expects to draw 100,000; none of them Republican Party plants, as opposed to the Kool-Aid drinking poster-wavers at {Sanchez VP} Sylvia Freelove’s scripted stops. Sometimes it’s hard not to think that he is running against Pete Sanchez.

How do I politely kick the ass of the first female presidential candidate since 2016?”

“Let me see that tie,” insists Francine and far from the first female first lady hopeful. By virtue of a scheduling snafu, Francine is in the Windy City to speak to the convention of Aeronautic Manufacturing Contractors in her newest/continuing duties as Public Relations Executive for NASA. Today she will wear both gaudy hats, much like her candidate hasn’t completely left NASA behind, “Did I pick that one out?”

He proudly cinches up his favorite Orion Constellation tie. “I am, after all, “The Hunter” in this campaign…..hunting down an obstacle to social progress and an opponent to a second Mars Colony.”

“I’m not sure the voters are going to make the connection Roy. It looks like you splattered paint on it from 30 feet away. Maybe the one that matches your eyes would be a better choice.”

“Bloodshot?”

She completely ignores that comment, spoken by a man with his mind set on his, ‘This is my lucky tie.’

“Wasn’t that the tie you were wearing the day the New Mayflower landed on Mars?”

“Okay it may not be all that lucky, but there is something about it that is consoling.”


 THE RETURN TRIP

Lucky Goldfish by Pan Xiao Ling

Episode 171


page 162

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 164

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 164

…Sampson McKinney is, at most, a spaceship pilot, not some flaky, lab coat wearing, eat & sleep pure science guy that he wishes he were now…

“I think we are going to dissect the Orion Constellation, right about at “The Hunter’s” navel.”

“I was just double-checking your numbers Cel and I would guess if we are whizzing our way with a purpose, our destination is a star close to what we call Bernard’s Loop. But yeah, we are going to see if Orion’s belt buckle does indeed twinkle.”

“Do you have any guesses about the time frame we are looking at; I mean are we talking about 10 years? Celeste is well aware that they are not going around the block, but the mental commitment it takes to orientate the human brain for space travel is far from immediate gratification. The one saving grace is that SOL or even multiples of it, are not fractions thereof; at least you have the sensation of getting somewhere very f-a-s-t… zoom-zoom.

Sampson finds himself in a position he never imagined. He is at most a spaceship pilot, not some flaky, lab coat wearing, eat & sleep pure science guy that he wishes he were. That guy would come in handy now. Then again, 21st Century earthly mankind has not been programmed for the parameters they are facing.

“Vell, vell Frau McKinney, das eez a doozy uv a qveston,” he does his best to imitate the stereotypical German rocketeer, like Werner von Braun.

“Spare me the Einstein and give me your best estimates, we are raising a baby here and I need to have some idea of what’s what!”

“Of the five most likely star systems on this heading, Bernard’s Star and Struve 2398, a single and a binary red system respectively are six light-years out. Another red, Ross 154 is at eight. But you have to keep in mind that these red stars are cool by our standards, which means they well past their prime, on the downslide side of life.”

“If you knew your sun was burning out, wouldn’t you go searching for another sun and planet as a bailout?” Celeste submits possible reasons for the NEWFOUNDLANDER’s trips to Earth and eventually Mars.


THE RETURN TRIP

Dying Star by Sammy15

Episode 164


Bernard’s Loop (catalogue designation Sh 2-276) is an emission nebula in the constellation of Orion. It is part of the Orion Molecular Cloud Complex which also contains the dark Horsehead and bright Orion nebulae. The loop takes the form of a large arc centered approximately on the Orion Nebula. The stars within the Orion Nebula are believed to be responsible for ionizing the loop.(Wikipedia)


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 163

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 163

…No strangers to astronomy, like any astronauts worthy of his or her spacesuit, the combined knowledge of the McKinneys serves them well …

The Great Orion Nebula was captured with a Canon T1i using a Celestron CGEM-800 telescope by Philip A. Cruden

Image result for speeding away gifCeleste gradually recovers from time distorting space speed and the resulting blackout, examining Sammy for signs of physical harm. It seems that the 1st baby in space has slept through the 100-to-300,000 mph acceleration. She is very much like any other child when come to riding in the family car; after a couple boring minutes they are fast asleep, usually for the duration.

For the duration of their trip away from their solar system home-space is:

  1. up for grabs
  2. one guess is as good as the next
  3. let the meter run
  4. the GPS is on the fritz

Unlike distances between planets in the same sun-system, intergalactic space travel entails the equivalent time light needs to travel from point A to point B, and where the only significant “landmark” celestial bodies are an occasional asteroid, meteors of erratic size, and the granddaddy of them all, the wandering comet.

No strangers to astronomy, like any astronauts worthy of his or her spacesuit, the combined knowledge of the McKinneys serves them well. They are charting their progress through this new astronomical perspective with the aid of galactic star charts salvaged from the dear departed Tycho plus old fashioned reconnoitering.

orion“Do you remember the history syllabuses that taught us about Alpha Centauri correctly being the closest star to our star and all the speculation about where other forms of life may come from,” asks Sampson about the horse ‘n buggy days of dim understanding.

“Yes I do. They were a light-year short in calculating the distance and didn’t even know that it was part of a three star system.”

They harken back to when the Hubble Telescope altered cosmic perspectives from seeing uncountable #’s of stars to reveal a jaw-dropping millions of galaxies.

Then to have had the brief privilege of working with Space Colony’s 20” mirror, you could say that the Universe is getting smaller and bigger at the same time. “But we are not traveling on a course that remotely resembles a path to Centauri. I think we are going to dissect the Orion Constellation, right about at “The Hunter’s” navel.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Lego Hubble Telescope

Episode 163


page 154

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 102

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 102

…With each successive voyeuristic visual journey, the microcosm reveals more about its workings, in time-lapse speed…

Related image

stardust-acdemy.deviantart.com

“Mission Control, are you seeing what we’re seeing? It isn’t very big Braden but it’s matching our speed right down to a fraction,” Rick Stanley has been trying to outdistance New Mayflower from the object.

“Braden and Roy are out at the ranch, you’ll have to settle for me,” a NASA tech explains. “Can you send us a picture?”

“It is staying out of range, but it isn’t acting very natural, staying ten thousand meters back.”

“It sounds like you picked up an echo Rick. There shouldn’t be any reason for concern, but let us know if it starts acting funny.”

“The thing popped out of nowhere about 3 milldos out.”

Similar false echoes have been plaguing radar for most of its 120 year existence, proving that the human eye or camera lenses are more reliable.

The incident is logged but not prioritized; on to Mars.

meanwhile-caption-001

Sampson McKinney uses a recording of the musical (earth) tone of A to close the door to the NEWFOUNDLANDER’s power plant for the fifth time since stumbling on the wonders’ of its miniature Universe. With each successive voyeuristic visual journey, the microcosm reveals more about its workings, in time-lapse speed.

Image result for time lapse gif

The most profound discovery about this futuristic kinescope has to do with its duality. Not only is it the source of immense power, of which 1/1014  is being used, it also serves as a laboratory to further understand the mechanics of Universal development.

And though he has not mastered anything about it or conceives its technology, he is convinced that he is dealing with a four galaxy section in this quadrant of space that includes the Milky Way. He theorizes that the Newfoundlians navigate that very expanse both by ship {this} and out of body. There are markings herein, much like old-school pins on a mapRelated image and in other locations, figurinesstar-trek-50th-kirk-and-spock-vinyl-figurine-2 perhaps to indicate solar systems that have developed life.

Whether real or growing in this marvelous vessel, hey isn’t that Earth just East of Canis Major? —


THE RETURN TRIP

canis_major

Canis Major as depicted in Urania’s Mirror, a set of constellation cards published in London c.1825.

Episode 102


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 62

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 62

…There is no use in sitting around and doing nothing. Let’s go out and earn our per diem…

little-green-man-001

“I wonder which one of us would be considered the UFO,” Celeste muses

“From a pure Martian perspective, it is “their” planet right, I would think that both of us would considered
Unidentified; I can’t read their markings or they, ours.”

In a just-in-case moment of weakness, Celeste has set-to chronicling this whole drama for the sake of posterity. If it comes down to the sad scenario of NASA coming upon them too late, at least they will be able to share in their final moments, complete with the tearful goodbyes.

Marco Polo would sure have liked having visual evidence of the Far East, instead of being railroaded by the Holy Roman Catholic Church. Did you know that they accused him of heresy?”

“Which is one of the reasons that Catholicism only exists in a shrinking number of mostly 3rd world countries. You can’t fool all the people all the time.” The God-fearing commander of Earth-on-Mars is full of perspective, seeing that without a relationship with the Creator, they would truly be lost. “What do you say Mrs. McKinney? Should we see if those new pressure suits fit—–you know, nose around a bit?

Ever since ancient astronomers had deemed Mars a undisputed planetary neighbor, there has been speculation about whether there is life on the so-called Red Planet. It has become readily apparent, here in 2030, there is concrete evidence of intelligent life. That it may be from elsewhere in the Universe would be a tad humbling, if it were not for the fact that whoever sent this intergalactic machine here, were/are not infallible, if not forgetful or careless.

There is no use in sitting around and doing nothing. Let’s go out and earn our per diem.”

“…Which consists of an exclusive ground level suite at the Mothership Hilton and a lunch voucher to spend at the Little Green Man Café; can’t beat that with stick?”


THE RETURN TRIP

mothership-hilton-001

Episode 62


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 18

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 18

…As leader of this outpost, I feel it is my duty to inform you that Space Colony 1 will welcome one and all. May we all live long and prosper.”

live long and prosper by Jessaa Lee Odinson

The task of preparing Tycho for its maiden mission will occupy the both colony pioneers, right up until departure time.

Mostly.

Celeste (McKinney) has been at a disadvantage ever since she set eyes on the Colony station. Most of her waking time since is spent giving herself first-hand knowledge, by manual or blueprint, unlike the Commander (McKinney), who was hands-on in its assembly and knows every square millimeter and circuit.

In the highest reaches of her temporary home is her single significant contribution; a magnificent botanical garden. Not only does this green slice of Earth provide genuine oxygen and humidity, it also is a refuge for those lonely, miss my boys moments. The station’s orbit keeps it in the continual good graces of this solar system’s life enhancing star; its and radiant sunlight. A person cannot get a tan up here, but it sure can help with the inevitable homesickness.

As she passes through the dome, dodging trees, flowers, and yes the insects that are along for the ride, Celeste cannot resist the peeking through the only observation telescope, though its 1500x magnification is more on a scale of looking glass by comparison.

The ladder-tram takes her to the lens viewer, where she is able to take in the wonder of Mars, close up and personal. As she pans the scanning angle, she becomes the first human to inspect (in person) the minuscule moons of the Red Planet: Phobos and Deimos are trailing one another, at different Image result for the moons of marsdistances above, with Phobos held by Mother Mars more closely. It is as if the Greek god of War had himself tested his arm strength by tossing two oddly shaped boulders out away from Mount Olympus, only to have them fall into the gravitational influence of his distant namesake.

Featureless in appearance, save the pockmarks caused by the millennium passing of meteors, the two moons possess their own engaging character and granite loyalty; mini-chunks of primordial leftovers, attendants to a world that still holds many secrets, in spite of the crisscrossing tracks left behind by NASA’s last attempt at exploration.  But those “little rovers that could” paths are on the other side of the planet. This here is virgin territory.

Sampson, for his part, must be getting restless. This could explain him declaring boldly, “This is your Commander speaking.As leader of this outpost, I feel it is my duty to inform you that Space Colony 1 will welcome all members of World Space Consortium, providing they contribute to the common good; meeting the needs of the collective, each according to his or her abilities. May we all live long and prosper.”

“Ya-da, ya-da, ya-da,” responds the station’s only other sentient being.


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 18


page 17

Greater Galaxy Gateway Gala – WIF Space

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Far-out Facts

About the

Milky Way

Galaxy

Milkyway GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

When we think of where we are in the entire universe, our planet is just one a small speck. Even our solar system is one of many in the Milky Way Galaxy, and our own galaxy is one of billions in the universe. It’s hard to image how big The Great Expanse actually is. But with advanced technology, we have a better understanding of what lies in the deepest parts of space. Just in our own Milky Way Galaxy, we have numerous suns, planets, solar systems, comets, black holes, and so much more. Here are 10 interesting facts about our Milky Way Galaxy…

10. Structure And Size Of The Milky Way Galaxy

The Milky Way is a barred spiral galaxy with a center bulge that is surrounded by four arms that are wrapped around it. Around two-thirds of all the galaxies in The Great Expanse are shaped in a spiral. Our galaxy, as well as our solar system, is always rotating. While our solar system travels around 515,000 miles-per-hour on average, it would still take approximately 230 million years to travel around the Milky Way.

Our galaxy is around 100,000 light-years across and has a mass of between 400 and 780 billion times the mass of our own sun. 90% of its mass is believed to be dark matter.

There is a huge halo of hot gas surrounding our galaxy that stretches for hundreds of thousands of light-years. While it is believed to be as huge as all of the stars put together in the Milky Way, the halo itself only has around 2% of the amount of stars that are found inside of the disk.

And at the heart of the Milky Way galaxy is the galactic bulge which contains gas, stars, and dust that’s so thick you can’t even see into it, let alone to the other side.

9. The Andromeda Galaxy Will Eventually Collide With The Milky Way

The Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies will eventually collide into each other, but it won’t happen for a very long time. While it was previously thought that it would happen 3.75 billion years from now, newly conducted research from the ESA’s Gaia mission estimates the collision will take place in 4.5 billion years.

And we may not get hit as hard as previously thought. The new research also suggests that it won’t be a full force collision and rather a “tidal interaction,” which means that no planets or stars will collide with each other.

There is a group of more than 54 galaxies that are named the Local Group, of which Andromeda and the Milky Way are a part. These two galaxies, as well as the Triangulum Galaxy, are the three largest in the group. Andromeda is the most massive galaxy, while the Milky Way ranks second, and the Triangulum is third. Andromeda and Triangulum are both spiral galaxies and are situated between 2.5 and 3 million light years away from the Milky Way.

8. Our Galaxy Is Warped And Twisted Instead Of Being Flat

It’s always been said that our galaxy is flat as a pancake, but a recent study revealed that the Milky Way is in fact warped and twisted. The farther away the stars are from the center of the galaxy, the more they become warped and twisted in an S-like appearance.

Over 1,000 Cepheid variable stars (1,339 to be exact) were used in a study conducted by astronomers from Macquarie University as well as the Chinese Academy of Sciences. These stars became bright and dim in a manner that changed according to their luminosity. The data collected from these stars by using the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (or WISE) let astronomers create a 3D map of the true shape of our galaxy.

While the Milky Way is now confirmed to be warped and twisted, it’s not the only one out there that’s like that. While it’s not overly common, astronomers have confirmed that a dozen other galaxies in The Great Expanse have twisted spiral patterns in their outer-most areas.

7. There Are Hundreds Of Billions Of Stars In Our Galaxy

It’s tough to know exactly how many stars there are in our galaxy since the halo around the Milky Way also contains many stars. In addition, the center of our galaxy has a galactic bulge that’s filled with dust, stars, and gas, as well as a super-massive black hole which makes that area extremely thick with materials that telescopes are unable to see through it.

While around 90% of our galaxy’s mass is made up of dark matter, the majority of the remaining 10% is dust and gas, it is believe that only about 3% of the Milky Way’s mass is made up of stars. Some researchers believe that there are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy, while others say that there are much more – between 400 and 700 billion.

The European Space Agency’s Gaia mission is mapping out the locations of around 1 billion stars in the Milky Way, so that’s a good start.

6. There’s A Super-massive Black Hole At The Heart Of Our Galaxy

It is believed that most, if not all, galaxies have a super-massive black hole at their center and the Milky Way has one that weighs as much as 4 million suns. Sagittarius A*, which is the massive object located at the center of our galaxy, has been observed for the past several years. Although black holes can’t actually be seen, scientists study them by observing the materials that are orbiting around them.

Scientists wanted to measure the effects of gravity near the black hole so they decided to observe a small star called S2 that orbits deep within Sagittarius A*’s gravity well every 16 years. They noticed three bright flares that traveled around the black hole’s event horizon at approximately 216 million miles per hour (or 30% of the speed of light).

Scientists previously believed that there were only small and super-massive black holes, but there are in fact medium-sized (or intermediate) black holes that are rare but they do exist, and we’ll talk about that in the next entry…

5. There’s Also A Jupiter-Sized Black Hole Wandering Around Our Galaxy

New research indicates that a rare Jupiter-sized black hole is wandering around our galaxy. The data came from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (or ALMA) which includes 66 telescopes that are placed across the Atacama Desert located in the northern part of Chile.

The data consisted of the scientists observing two gas clouds, called Balloon and Stream in reference to their shapes, and what they witnessed during their two-day observation period in May 2018 was that the gas clouds were moving in an odd pattern, like they were spinning around an invisible center in a location where no light was coming from.

The team determined that the object was an uncommon medium-sized black hole that has around 30,000 times the mass of our sun and is approximately the size of Jupiter.

4. Earth Is At The Center Of The Habitable Zone In Our Galaxy

For the last two decades, astronomers have modeled the evolution of our galaxy in order to figure out the four essentials needed for complex life – the existence of a host star; a sufficient amount of heavy elements to create terrestrial planets (like Earth); enough time for biological evolution; and an environment without gamma ray bursts or life-threatening supernovae.

Almost 4,000 exoplanets and nearly 3,000 planetary systems have been confirmed to exist in our galaxy. Hundreds of those star systems have more than one planet that is within the Galactic Habitable Zone (or GHZ) and there is no doubt that many more are out there just waiting to be discovered.

And of course Earth is located at a perfect spot near the center of our galaxy’s GHZ. What’s even more interesting is that according to astrophysicists at the Australian National University, the GHZ only has about 10% of all the stars in the Milky Way.

3. There Are Almost 4,000 Exoplanets In Our Galaxy

Planets that are beyond our solar system are called exoplanets and thousands have been discovered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope over the past several years. These exoplanets can be any size, with some being rocky and others having icy surfaces.

The Kepler Space Telescope worked to find these planets from 2009 until 2018. During that time, it discovered 2,682 exoplanets with over 2,900 possible candidates that are still waiting to be confirmed. And according to information found on NASA’s website, a total of 3,916 exoplanets (including the ones found by Kepler) have been confirmed.

Kepler ran out of gas and was officially decommissioned in November 2018. However, a new spacecraft, called the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (or TESS) has taken its place to find new planets. It was launched in April of 2018 and is planning to scan around 85% of the sky in its two-year mission.

2. So Far, Almost 3,000 Planetary Systems Have Been Discovered In Our Galaxy

Another important piece of information presented on NASA’s website is that 2,917 planetary systems have already been discovered. One of those planetary systems which is very similar is our own solar system is called Kepler-90 which is located approximately 2,500 light years away from us towards the Draco Constellation.

Kepler-90 has eight planets which is the same number of planets located in our solar system. Other similarities between the two solar systems are that Kepler-90 has a G-type star which is comparable to our own sun; it has rocky planets like ours; and it has other large planets that are similar in size to Saturn and Jupiter.

One major difference between the two solar systems is that Kepler-90’s planets all orbit very close to their sun which would indicate that they may be too hot to sustain any type of life. But with further research, more planets could potentially be discovered that orbit at a further distance.

1A. Milky Way Is Only One Of Hundreds Of Billions Of Galaxies In The Universe

According to data collected from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, it was previously thought that there were around 200 billion galaxies in the universe. However, it is now believed that there are at least ten times more galaxies out there in space.

Some experts believe that around 90% of the galaxies in the observable universe are too far away and even too faint to see with our telescopes. Thankfully, the James Webb Space Telescope (or JWST) is scheduled to be launched in early 2021 which will help to see these faint galaxies and perhaps uncover even more.

Some of the tasks the JWST will conduct will be to find out what happened after the first stars were formed following the Big Bang; finding out how galaxies were formed and assembled; the birth of stars and proto-planetary systems; and understanding the atmospheres on distant planets to find out if they are habitable and can sustain life.

1B. What WIF Calls the Universe

What most folks refer to as the “Universe”, the rest of the fictional civilizations out there call it “The Great Expanse”, at least that is how  “I-Gwen” describes that wondrous-wide Creation that God set in motion. If giving God credit offends your sensibility, the “Big Bang” happened.

Whatever it is called or whoever gets the credit, it certainly boggles our little minds and this author is eternally fascinated.


Greater Galaxy Gateway Gala

WIF Space

Getting to Know Our Neighbors – WIF Solar System Perspective

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Fascinating Mysteries

of the Planet Mars

For being one of the closest objects to us celestially, we still know about as much about the planet Mars as we do the depths of the ocean. Which is to say, not a lot. The things we’ve seen in pop culture about Mars makes us conjure a red, dusty planet where Matt Damon grows poop potatoes. But there’s more to Mars than that.

Mars is the second smallest planet in the solar system (with only about 10 percent of Earth’s mass), yet Earth and Mars have about the same amount of actual land. Mars also has the tallest mountain in the entire known solar system. Mars’ largest moon, Phobos, will be torn from the planet’s orbit one day, creating a ring that will last hundreds of millions of years. Those are some really cool things that we know about the planet. But there still remain many Martian mysteries that we haven’t quite figured out yet.

10. Mars has two drastically different hemispheres

The northern and southern hemispheres of Earth may have different kinds of topography, but they’re relatively similar. Mars, on the other hand, has a much lower and flatter northern hemisphere, while the southern hemisphere has an average elevation that’s about 3 miles higher. That’s a pretty drastic difference, geologically speaking, and no other planet we know of exhibits such a trait.

Scientists once thought that a huge asteroid could have crashed into the top half of Mars early in its life, making a much flatter northern hemisphere. Later computer simulations rendered that theory less than ideal, unless the asteroid only glanced against the planet. Like a big, rocky kiss that flattened part of Mars. Newer theories suggest that the resulting magma flow from such a cosmic punch would have inundated the southern hemisphere, creating the resulting terrain elevation difference.

9. Mars has a lot of methane (usually produced by living things)

We humans normally come across a slight knowledge of methane amounts from jokes about cow farts. And that’s part of it. Methane is a greenhouse gas that contributes to the rising warmth of Earth. It’s trapped in our atmosphere and causes the temperature of our planet to rise even more than carbon dioxide does.

Mars, curiously, has a lot of methane too. But here’s the kicker: methane is usually released by living things. At least for the most part. So why is a planet that we’ve never discovered life on releasing a bio-signature? Well, we don’t know yet. It could have been trapped under ice for ages, or caused by a release from ancient microbes on the planet, or even from a freak chemical reaction. We do know that a plume of methane was detected by spacecraft in Mars’ orbit more than once, which is notable because the gas is finicky to pick up, especially in such a thin atmosphere that the planet possesses.

8. Mars has signs of water, but it can’t be from the surface

The discovery of ice near the poles of Mars sent ripples throughout the scientific community in 2008. If there’s ice, that means there’s water, and if there’s water, that means there could be life, right? Well slow down there, Andretti, because there’s a lot more going on here.

Yes, there have been more and more spottings of icy polar caps and frost-filled craters. And that’s really cool. But what if we told you there was a subterranean lake of standing water on Mars? It shouldn’t be possible. Liquids at that depth from the surface should have a temperature of -68 degrees Celsius. Orbiting satellites have yet to get a visual on this “lake,” but that could be hard since, you know, it’s underground. And of course a portion of the science community is using this to prove that life on Mars is an indisputable truth. It is pretty tempting, especially if you think back to how and where we humans began.

7. Can we live on Mars?

This one seems pretty straightforward. It would be a hard no, correct? At least with the technological capabilities we have currently? And the atmosphere is way different than Earth’s, so we couldn’t just walk around like we do in everyday life.

Yet in direct defiance of all things holy and sane, NASA is determined to get the ball rolling on human colonization of Mars. By 2030, they think they’ll get feet on the red planet. Radiation is an obvious concern if we were to ever set up shop there, so underground shelters would be a requisite. We can’t grow food in the soil. Like, at all. But, humans had to start from scratch here on Earth, so we would likely at some point find a way to use Mars’ alien resources to develop new methods of survival. There really isn’t a way to know how we could fare on Mars, long-term, until the first people reach the planet.

6. Why did Mars totally change its climate?

One billion years, in the grand scheme of the universe, isn’t much at all. Four billion years ago, judging from the vast veins of old waterbeds on Mars’ surface, water flowed all over the planet. Since we know that Mars is about four and a half billion years old, science can say with some certainty that the red, dusty planet we think of now actually used to be quite moist.

Then somewhere along the way in the next few billion years, something happened. The atmosphere of Mars starting disappearing. The sun reached the next stages in the life cycle of a star and became hotter. So how did the red planet continue to have water in a place in the universe where the sun should have evaporated it all? Scientists have a pretty cool-sounding theory that maybe Mars was in orbit much closer to the sun, closer to Venus, and then began trailing behind like a C student, eventually ending up where it presently resides. It’s also about the best answer we currently have, because we don’t even really know why Earth has water.

5. We don’t know much about Mars’ two moons

For being as close as it is to Earth, we know very little about Mars, and even less about Mars’ two weird moons, Phobos and Deimos. Some think they may have possibly been asteroids that were snagged into orbit by Mars, but the problem with that theory is that the shapes and angles of the moons don’t necessarily fit that scenario. More likely, something struck Marshard, and flung the eventual moons out into orbit.

While we’re in the realm of the weird, there are some formations on Phobos that would give conspiracy theorists night sweats. There’s what seems to be a large rectangular monolith on Phobos, standing over 90 meters tall. While it’s likely just an abnormal chunk of Martian rock, it’s still pretty notable.

4. What caused the bright white light in a 2019 photo?

When you are in charge of receiving photos of Mars from a rover light years away, you might be taken aback when you see a picture with a bright white spot where there shouldn’t be one. An image taken in June 2019 by the Curiosity rover showed a weird white glow emanating in the distance behind some hills.

Aliens were the immediate explanation by non-scientists, as you would expect. But it was most likely a lens flare or a cosmic ray, and NASA admittedly has captured tons of these things. The white anomaly doesn’t show up in pictures taken immediately before or after the event, and the team that created the Curiosity’s camera system says that they come across oodles of pictures with bright spots every week. Still, can they prove it was a lens flare? That seems exactly like something aliens would say to throw us off.

3. What lines the dry ice pits at Mars’ poles?

We mentioned before that the poles of Mars contain some known deposits of ice, which means liquid, which means potential for life. We also know that near the southern pole is a sub-glacial lake, the first known stable body of water we’ve found on the planet. What’s really interesting about those polar caps is that nearby there are some pits of dry ice that are lined with … well, we don’t really know.

There is some kind of dust that lines these gorgeous pits. They’re huge, some of them two hundred feet across. There is a possibility that the dust they’re lined with what could be gold, but we still don’t know for sure.

2. How do Mars’ giant dust storms happen?

Dust-Storm-On-Mars

The thin, brittle atmosphere on Mars is absolutely perfect for some truly epic dust storms that can shoot particles at speeds of over 60 MPH and, in some cases, cover the entire planet for weeks at a time.

Thing is, those planetary-scale dust storms still hold a lot of mystery in them. We think that they may be the largest dust storms in the solar system, and since the planet is essentially a desert, it doesn’t take much to get them rolling. And while science is pretty sure that sunshine is the catalyst, they aren’t too sure how they get to become so massive. One theory thinks that the dust particles are warmed by the sunlight, which then warm the thin atmosphere, causing more wind, and thus capturing more particles in a repeating cycle. We, of course, still say aliens.

1. Did Earth life come from Mars?

Bear with us here, because we’re about to get weird. So, perhaps you’re already passingly familiar with the basic theories of how life began: Big Bang, primordial ooze, etc. Well, early on in Earth’s history, the building blocks of life were pretty much non-existent. Remember how we mentioned that early Mars could have been a quintessential Goldilocks planet? What if the essentials for life came from outer space, survived the trip on a meteorite, for example, and arrived on Earth and evolved there? It’s something science is highly considering.

It’s called panspermia, and it suggests life arrived on our home planet in the form of spores. So basically, life may have arrived on Earth, not started on Earth. The primordial soup version of life-building holds some water, sure, but it’s that exact water that almost kills RNA (a fundamental part of genetics) in its tracks. Minerals like boron and molybdenum give life to RNA, and those were plentiful on Mars four billion years ago. So when we talk about aliens on Mars, we’re probably just referring to our last universal common ancestor.


Getting to Know Our Closest Neighbor –

WIF Solar System Perspective