Alien Lights On Ceres

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory has released new photographs from the Dawn space probe that is currently orbiting Ceres, a dwarf planet that sits in between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

Alien Lights? Probably just ice.

“Dawn scientists can now conclude that the intense brightness of these spots is due to the reflection of sunlight by highly reflective material on the surface, possibly ice,” Christopher Russell, NASA’s Dawn Mission Principal Investigator

What makes these latest photographs even more incredible is Dawn will be getting much, much closer to Ceres before it’s mission comes to an end.

These photographs were taken from thousands of miles above the surface and Dawn will be orbiting as close as 250 miles above the surface before it is done.

All of this is going down 310 million miles from Earth. Amazing.

We Are Nothing But Pixels

The Pale Blue Dot. If you’ve never seen the amazing image of earth taken by Voyager 1 as it began its journey out of our solar system, now you have. Although if this is the first time, it makes me a bit sad. 

Voyager 1 took this photo on February 14, 1990 from about 6 billion kilometers from Earth. It is the furthest vantage point a photo of our planet has been taken from. Well, by human beings at least. 

I’ll leave it to Carl Sagan to narrate for you as you let it sink in that we are all just pixels on that pixel in a pixel in a pixel…

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.

From Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space.

We do some pretty amazing things for being pixels.

SuperDraco Real Star of SpaceX Dragon Capsule Test

SpaceX has been in the news for the first successful test of the Dragon crew capsule’s launch abort system.

The media attention has focused on the concept of a crew escape system. But the real star of this test was the SuperDraco rocket engines that powered it.

The Dragon was expected to reach an altitude of nearly 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) under the power of its eight SuperDraco launch abort engines, which are built directly into the side of the capsule.

“What SpaceX is doing is certainly unique,” said Jon Cowart, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, of the company’s decision to mount its SuperDraco engines on the sides of Dragon. “It’s definitely revolutionary in that regard.”

While the SuperDraco engines can be used to eject the crew capsule in case of emergency, they are really designed to bring the capsule down in a controlled landing… on another planet.

These are the same engines that SpaceX plans to utilize to gently place humans on the surface of Mars. How do they build such a revolutionary propulsion system? It’s 2015, they 3D print them of course!

A.J. Ayer Was The Badass We All Should Be

Have you ever heard of Sir Alfred Jules “A.J.” Ayer? I’m guessing you have not. A.J. Ayer was a badass.

Yes, A.J. Ayer was a well known atheist during his time. But no matter how devoutly religious you might be, and no matter your view on atheists, you’d be hard pressed to deny that Ayer was indeed a badass.

In 1987, at the spry young age of 77, Ayer’s stood up to the man who was literally the baddest man in boxing at the time: Mike Tyson.

Ayer stepped in and stopped Mike Tyson from sexually assaulting a young Naomi Campbell at a party.

“Do you know who the fuck I am? I’m the heavyweight champion of the world!” – Mike Tyson screamed at Ayer

Most people would have turned tail and ran for cover, asking someone else to intervene or call the police. Not Ayer. He stood his ground.

“And I am the former Wykeham Professor of Logic. We are both pre-eminent in our field; I suggest that we talk about this like rational men.” – A.J. Ayer told Tyson

The two talked it out while Naomi Campbell slipped out of the room to safety.

A.J. Ayer passed away after the encounter. But not from being pummeled by Mike Tyson. He passed away of a respiratory illness in 1989.

Ayer beat Tyson without throwing a punch and more importantly stood up for another human being in a situation where most wouldn’t have had the balls to do so.

The world needs more badass people like A.J. Ayer.

170,000,000,000 Galaxies

These images teach us there are at least 170,000,000,000 galaxies in the entire observable Universe.

Good piece on one of mankind’s greatest astronomical achievements, the Hubble Space Telescope. As if 170,000,000,000 galaxies isn’t amazing enough, this only encompasses the observable universe. 

The entire universe is estimated to be a minimum of 250 times the size of the observable universe. Which means somewhere in the neighborhood of 42,500,000,000,000 galaxies. This is actually a conservative estimate.

Some scientists believe the universe is bigger. Much bigger. As in 10 billion trillion times bigger. Think about that. I’ll forgive you if your head explodes trying to comprehend this because it really is impossible for us to grasp the sheer scale of space.

The whole universe is to the observable universe, as the observable universe is to an atom. 

As amazing and successful as the Hubble mission has been, I can’t wait for the launch of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope in 2018.  It will greatly expand what we currently know of as the observable universe and literally show us things no human has ever seen before.

Are We Living In A Black Hole?

If you tumble into the black hole at the center of the Milky Way, it’s conceivable that you (or at least the shredded particles that were once you) will end up in another universe.

The more I read about the theory that our universe resides entirely within a black hole the more it makes sense. 

According to this theory the Big Bang was the collapse of a star forming the black hole that our universe resides in. This would also mean that within each black hole resides another universe. 

As if space wasn’t mind blowing enough, eh?