A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘extraterrestrial life

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Crooked Timber links the near-criminal destruction of Grenfell Tower with Thatcherism’s deregulations and catastrophes.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes that TRAPPIST-1e is slated to be among the first observational targets of the James Webb Space Telescope.
  • Far Outliers shares Edith Durham’s account of an exciting St. John’s Day in Albania in 1908.
  • Language Hat looks at a passage from Turgenev.
  • What, the LRB wonders, will Emmanuel Macron do with his crushing victory after the parliamentary elections, too?
  • Marginal Revolution wonders to what extent is Germany’s support for Nord Stream consistent with Germany’s concerns over NATO and Russia.
  • Ed Jackson’s Spacing Toronto article about the need to preserve queer public history in Toronto is a must-read.
  • Torontoist’s Alex Yerman notes the new activity of the Jewish left against a conservative establishment.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that modern Russia is repeating the Soviet Union’s overmilitarization mistakes, only this time with fewer resources.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at the complex prebiotic chemistry in the system of young triple IRAS 16293-2422.
  • Language Hat looks at the central role played by Kyrgzystan writer Chinghiz Aitmatov in shaping Kyrgyz identity.
  • The Map Room Blog shares Baltimore’s new transit map.
  • Steve Munro examines the Ford family’s various issues with TTC streetcars.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog reports on the latest UN report on the Donbas and the conflict there.
  • Window on Eurasia notes that the number of ethnic Russians in the former Soviet Union has fallen sharply through demographic change including assimilation.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • Centauri Dreams looks at two brown dwarf pairs, nearby Luhman 16 and eclipsing binary WD1202-024.
  • D-Brief notes a study suggesting panspermia would be easy in the compact TRAPPIST-1 system.
  • Far Outliers notes the shouted and remarkably long-range vocal telegraph of early 20th century Albania.
  • Language Hat links to a fascinating blog post noting the survival of African Latin in late medieval Tunisia.
  • The LRB Blog notes the observations of an Englishman in Northern Ireland that, after the DUP’s rise, locals are glad other Britons are paying attention.
  • Marginal Revolution notes a study suggesting that refugees in the US end up paying more in taxes than they receive in benefits.
  • Spacing reviews a fascinating-sounding new book on the politics and architecture of new libraries.
  • Understanding Society examines the mechanisms through which organizations can learn.
  • Window on Eurasia talks about the progressive detachment of the east of the North Caucasus, at least, from wider Russia.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • Centauri Dreams notes new studies suggesting the flares of red dwarf stars damage potentially habitable planets.
  • The Crux notes that the wild apple is going extinct.
  • D-Brief notes that recent high winds in Europe helped push energy prices there to negative territory.
  • The Frailest Thing considers Neil Postman’s thoughts on the intersection of mass media and childhood.
  • Inkfish argues in favour of accidental wetlands in urban areas.
  • Language Log looks at the trope of the repeated character in some recent Chinese advertising.
  • The LRB Blog considers the costs, environmental and otherwise, to the United States’ leaving the Paris climate agreement.
  • Marginal Revolution wonders what assumptions about deep history the news of Homo sapiens‘ longer history overturn.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes that, in the area of energy costs, mid-20th century Uruguay was worse off than New Zealand.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at polling on Russian opinions about the Russian Far East and its future.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell is skeptical about Jeremy Paxman’s claims about privacy in modern journalism.

[NEWS] Some Tuesday links

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  • The CBC notes the consensus that the new Ontario minimum wage will not hurt the economy, overall, but provide a mild boost.
  • The Toronto Star notes that, from 2019, analog television broadcasts will start ramping down.
  • The Toronto Star notes that high prices in Ontario’s cottage country are causing the market to expand to new areas.
  • Gizmodo reports on one study suggesting that Proxima Centauri b does have the potential to support Earth-like climates.
  • Gizmodo notes one study speculating on the size of Mars’ vanished oceans.
  • Quartz reports on how one community in Alaska and one community in Louisiana are facing serious pressures from climate change and from the political reaction to said.
  • CBC notes an oil platform leaving Newfoundland for the oceans.

[BLOG] Seven links on the TRAPPIST-1 system

News of the remarkable density of planets, including potentially Earth-like planets, in the system of nearby ultra-cool dwarf TRAPPIST-1 spread across the blogosphere. This NASA JPL illustration comparing the TRAPPIST-1 worlds with the four rocky worlds of our own solar system, underlining the potential similarity of some worlds to the worlds we know like Venus and Mars and even Earth, went viral.

Supernova Condensate provided a good outline of this system in the post “A tiny red sun with a sky full of planets!”.

One interesting thing is that TRAPPIST-1 is tiny. Really tiny! It’s a class M8V ultracool red dwarf, which really is about as small as a star can get while still being a star. Much smaller and it wouldn’t be able to even fuse hydrogen. I’ve put it side by side with a few other familiar celestial objects in this image. As you can see, it’s a little bigger than Jupiter. It’s actually roughly the same size as HD189733b, a much studied hot jupiter, and noticeably smaller than Proxima, our friendly neighbourhood red dwarf. Lalande 21185 is on the larger end of the scale of red dwarfs, and is also one of the few you can actually see in the night sky (though you’ll need a dark sky to find it).

Ultracool red dwarfs really are tiny, but they’re also extremely long lived. Quietly burning stellar embers which exemplify the old saying that slow and steady wins the race. Because these little stars don’t burn their fuel too quickly, and because they’re low enough in mass to be fully convective, they can burn for trillions of years. Long after the Sun exhausts the fuel in its core, flares into a red giant and then cools silently in the darkness, TRAPPIST-1 will still be burning, providing warmth for it’s little planetary entourage.

Not much warmth, mind you. TRAPPIST-1’s handful of planets are huddling around their parent star as if it were campfire on a cold night. The entire star system would fit inside Mercury’s orbit and still have cavernous amounts of room to spare. So close are those planets, that they have years which pass by in mere Earth days. The shortest has a year which is just 1.5 Earth days long. The longest year length in the system is still less than a month.

aureliaOf course, I say Earth days, because these planets don’t have days as such. They’re so close to their parent star that they’re certain to be tidally locked. The gravitational forces are sufficiently different that they cannot rotate at all. One side constantly faces the tiny red sun in the sky, and the other side constantly faces outwards towards the cold night. It’s quite likely that the night sides of these planets may be frozen in a permanent winter night, never gaining enough warmth to thaw. Half a planet of permanent Antarctica.

Supernova Condensate was kind enough to produce an illuminating graphic, hosted at “Model Planets”, comparing the TRAPPIST-1 system to (among others) the Earth-Moon system and to Jupiter and its moons. The TRAPPIST-1 system is tiny.

The Planetary Society Blog’s Franck Marchis wrote a nice essay outlining what is and is not known, perhaps most importantly pointing out that while several of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds are in roughly the right position in their solar system to support life, we do not actually know if they do support life. Further research is called for, clearly.

Centauri Dreams’ “Seven Planets Around TRAPPIST-1” has great discussion in the comments, concentrating on the potential for life on these worlds and on the possibility of actually travelling to the TRAPPIST-1 solar system. The later post “Further Thoughts on TRAPPIST-1” notes that these worlds, which presumably migrated inwards from the outer fringes of their solar system, might well have arrived with substantial stocks of volatiles like water. If this survived the radiation of their young and active sun, they could be watery worlds.

The cultural implication of these discoveries, meanwhile, has also come up. Jonathan Edelstein has written in “We Just Got Our ’30s Sci-Fi Plots Back” about how TRAPPIST-1, by providing so many potentially habitable planets so close to each other, would be an ideal setting for an early spacefaring civilization, and for imaginings of said. If a sister world is scarcely further than the moon, why not head there? Savage Minds, meanwhile, in “The Resonance of Earth, Other Worlds, and Exoplanets”, hosts a discussion between Michael P. Oman-Reagan and Lisa Messeri talking about the cultural significance of these and other discoveries, particularly exploring how they create points of perceived similarity used as markers of cultural import.

[BLOG] Some Tuesday links

  • James Bow offers his prescriptions for a fix to thje issues of guaranteed minimum income.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that, from the perspective of long-term habitability of exoplanets, stars slightly more massive than the sun are preferable.
  • Language Hat introduces the toponym of the “triplex confinium”, here the point where Serbia meets Romania and Hungary.
  • Language Log considers Trump’s particular rhetorical style, in relation to his claim of something terrible happening in Sweden: What is he actually hinting at?
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money argues that talk of a Turkish-style deep state in the United States is a fundamental misreading of the American situation that plays into Trump’s hands.
  • The LRB Blog looks at street-level community organization in Baltimore, suggesting that it points the way to the future of anti-Trump resistance.
  • Marginal Revolution reports on Noah Webster’s preference for Americans.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw considers the nature of Chinese-Australian trade in agricultural goods.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer argues that North American integration would continue even with the end of NAFTA, given the advantageous nature of American trade with Mexico.
  • Savage Minds talks about teaching in the era of Trump.
  • Supernova Condensate identifies eight important things about uranium that people should know.
  • Torontoist shares a photo from yesterday’s drag queen reading to children at Glad Day.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at Russia’s partial recognition of the Donbas republics and the handing out of Russian passports to their citizens, notes the potential for anti-Lukashenka protests in Belarus to trigger a Russian intervention in its sphere of influence and looks at minority languages threatened by Russian.
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at Southern Hemisphere flowers in his California garden and notes horsetails.

Written by Randy McDonald

February 21, 2017 at 4:00 pm