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Posts Tagged ‘space travel

[BLOG] Seven links on the TRAPPIST-1 system

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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 Monday links

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  • blogTO notes an Instagram user from Toronto, @brxson, who takes stunning photos of the city from on high.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the limits of exoplanet J1407b’s massive ring system.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes evidence that the primordial Martian atmosphere apparently did not have carbon dioxide.
  • Imageo notes that the California rivers swollen by flooding can be seen from space.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that American intelligence agencies are withholding sensitive information from a White House seen as compromised by Russian intelligence.
  • Language Hat talks about the best ways to learn Latin.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper observing a decline in inter-state migration in the United States.
  • The NYRB Daily looks at the interesting failure of a public sculpture program in the United Kingdom in the 1970s.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw notes the remarkable heat that has hit Australia in recent days.
  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the intersection between space technology and high-tech fashion.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at how Argentina gave the Falkland Islands tariff-free access to Mercosur.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog looks at the countries likely to be vulnerable to rapid aging.
  • Transit Toronto notes the Bombardier lawsuit against Metrolinx.
  • Window on Eurasia argues that poor Russian statistical data is leading directly to bad policy.

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO notes that a waterfront LCBO is set to become another Toronto condo development.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at the difficulties involving with slowing down a light sail launched at relativistic speeds towards an extrasolar destination.
  • Dangerous Minds looks at a 1972 mail-order catalogue from a German retailer, full to the brim with retro-ness.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the discovery of a hot Jupiter orbiting T Tauri star V830 Tauri.
  • Language Log looks at Trump’s odd phrasing regarding Frederick Douglas, while Marginal Revolution notes the man’s opposition to racist immigration bars.
  • Marginal Revolution looks at how some children at Cambodian orphanages are not actual orphans, but are merely taking advantage of foreign funding.
  • The Planetary Society Blog looks at a proposal for a new probe to study Enceladus and Titan for signs of habitability.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer notes Trump’s command responsibility for a failed military raid in Yemen.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog shares a map looking at the word for “church” in different European languages.
  • Towleroad notes a court ruling in the United Kingdom barring an Orthodox Jewish transgender woman from interacting with her children in real time, and reports on a Russian website that purports to warn users how many gay people are in any given city.
  • Understanding Society describes the problems with implementing ideologies and even policies in a very complex world.
  • Window on Eurasia notes one Russian parliamentarian’s call for taking northern Kazakhstan, and reports on new border controls between Russia and Belarus.

[BLOG] Some Thursday links

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  • blogTO tries to pit the west side of Toronto against the east side.
  • Centauri Dreams describes an inventive plan to launch a probe to rendezvous with Proxima Centauri.
  • Crooked Timber looks at the idea of civil society in the age of Trump.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper that aims to explore why Neptune-class exoplanets are so common.
  • Marginal Revolution notes an interesting history of Singapore.
  • The New APPS Blog links to a report suggesting that big data may have created President Trump.
  • The Planetary Society Blog reports on the latest plans for exploring Ceres.
  • Towleroad notes a rumoured plan to legalize anti-LGBT discrimination under Trump.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy has one take on Supreme Court obstructionism.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests Russians may accept pension reforms which will place the minimum age for qualifying for a pension for men above the average male life expectancy, and reports from St. Petersburg about a dispute over the ownership of a church.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait mourns the death of Apollo astronaut Gene Cernan and calls for a return to the Moon.
  • Beyond the Beyond’s Bruce Sterling wonders what future historiography will look like when it’s automatically assumed that British imperialism in South Asia was a bad thing.
  • blogTO highlights an impressive new condo tower planned for Mississauga.
  • D-Brief looks at how a literal heartbeat can transform the perception of an individual by race.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper examining the potential for exoplanets orbiting red dwarfs to be habitable, finding that there seem to be no deal-breakers.
  • Language Hat shares the reflections of Russian-born author Boris Fishman who reads his novel, written in English, translated into the Russian.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money links to a paper looking at the potential for industrial espionage to actually pay off.
  • The LRB Blog considers what will happen to Cuban migration now that Cuban migrants to the United States have no special status.
  • The NYRB Daily looks at post-revolutionary Cairo through film.
  • Savage Minds considers the grounds for potentially treating artificial intelligences as people.
  • Torontoist looks at two rival schools of medicine in 19th century Toronto.
  • The Volokh Conspiracy notes that Washington D.C.’s Freedom Plaza can be cleared of protests.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the potential financial catastrophe of Russia’s declining villages, and looks at Belarus’ national identity.

[LINK] “China Plans To Land Probes on Far Side of Moon, Mars by 2020”

This news comes from the end of 2016, but it’s still quite important. May China continue to progress in space travel, for the benefit of us all.

China vowed Tuesday to speed up the development of its space industry as it set out its plans to become the first country to soft land a probe on the far side of the moon, around 2018, and launch its first Mars probe by 2020.

“To explore the vast cosmos, develop the space industry and build China into a space power is a dream we pursue unremittingly,” read a white paper setting out the country’s space strategy for the next five years. It says China aims to use space for peaceful purposes and to guarantee national security, and to carry out cutting edge scientific research.

The white paper released by the information office of China’s Cabinet points to the growing ambitions of China’s already rapidly advancing space program. Although the white paper doesn’t mention it, China’s eventual goal is the symbolic feat of landing an astronaut on the moon.

While Russia and the United States have more experience in manned space travel, China’s military-backed program has made steady progress in a comparatively short time.

Since China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, it has staged a spacewalk and landed a rover on the moon in 2013 — the first time humans had soft landed anything on the moon since the 1970s.

Written by Randy McDonald

January 11, 2017 at 5:15 pm

Posted in Politics, Science

Tagged with , , , ,

[BLOG] Some Saturday links

  • Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait shares a video showing how tacos are made in space.
  • blogTO shares some classic photos of the TTC in the 1960s and 1970s.
  • The Crux goes into more detail about the mesentery.
  • D-Brief notes how the binary star KIC 9832227 is projected to experience a stellar merger in 2022.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper suggesting that exoplanets and brown dwarfs are as common around A and F stars as around dimmer Sun-like stars, and links to another paper examining the potential of detecting transits of exoplanets orbiting brown dwarfs.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to an article wondering if China’s seizure of a US navy drone could set a precedent for satellite seizures.
  • Language Log links to Yiyun Lee’s article about abandoning Chinese for English.
  • The LRB Blog remembers philosopher Derek Parfit.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at the recent riots in Mexico, caused by rising gas prices.
  • Strange Maps shares informative maps exploring the Netherlands’ internal distinctions.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at how the Russian language has multiple standards despite Russian official claims, and shares complaints about Kaliningrad’s vulnerability.