Archive for the ‘Space’ Category

A Whole Lot Of Real Estate

Posted: February 24, 2017 in Space
Tags: ,

NASA has this week announced the discovery of a star system, TRAPPIST-1 which has not one, not two, not three, but SEVEN earth sized planets in it.  That is the most discovered so far around a single star.

Of those, three are located in the habitable zone, where it is possible that water could exist.  That isn’t to say that it does.  Venus and Mars occupy the habitable zone in our solar system but aren’t what you would call habitable.  There is the possibility though, which is what makes this find exciting.

And at just 40 light years away, Trappist-1 is a stones throw away on a galactic scale.  That still makes them 235 trillion miles away so there is no chance of getting there any time soon.

What is really interesting about this system is that it a red dwarf, a star much smaller and cooler than our sun.  It means that all of the planets are close in to their son, giving them ‘years’ that are just days in length.  And given that they are so close, you could see all of the other ones with your naked eye if standing on the surface of them.

NASA’s Trappist-1 page is full of information, videos and of course artists impressions, about the system, as well as one of their glorious retro posters.

Google were quick off the mark with one of their animated gifs to celebrate the announcement.


As a writer this is really interesting.  A system with seven planets would make a fun place to tell a story in, especially if you could colonise or terraform more than one of them.



As I have mentioned in the past, I would love to have the chance to explore places that no one has ever seen before. Given the lack of options available in reality, I do so through writing, and through gaming, especially games which feature exploration.

A new game is coming out soon (well, hopefully soon), which will cater for that desire for exploration like no previous one has. No Man’s Sky is a space exploration game in an infinite universe, or at least as close enough to infinite that you can see it on a clear day. Featuring some 128 quintillion worlds, there are so many that a single person will only touch on a fraction of them and many, probably even most, may never be seen. The chances that you will come across a planet already discovered by another are low, so you will be the first to ever see many of these places. And that appeals to me.


The whole thing is procedurally generated, from planets to plants and animals and everything in between, and it looks stunning. It may very well be the last game I need to buy for a long time – I will be playing for years I can foresee, just puttering around the universe, visiting new planets, seeing the new creatures and landscaped there and generally just exploring.


Around 90% of the worlds you come across will be barren worlds, covered in deserts or ice, toxic or irradiated, and not bearing life. 10% will bare life, but only 10% of those, or 1% overall, will be flourishing. Finding those gems will be a big part of the game. Even so, all worlds will be interesting and unique and worth a visit – as long as you have upgraded your suit to survive them.

One thing I do plan on doing when I get the game is documenting my journeys through it.

I have mentioned before how much I’d enjoy to explore a new world, where none had set foot before, and how it was unlikely to happen in my lifetime.

There is of course Mars One and its plans to sent one way colonisers to Mars by 2023, but I doubt it will happen, and even if it did, the fiance would never agree to it. if not for those two facts, I’d probably jump at it, even if in effect it is a suicide mission. It’d give me plenty of time to write, for starters.

The closest I think I will come is a Mars colonisation simulator I found yesterday, called Mars Colony Challenger – I haven’t tried it out yet and it is still in alpha, so there are still probably bugs to iron out.

It is also a simulator, not a game.  As such, you are trying to establish your base and keep it running, to find water, grow food and the like.    It can be played multiplayer, and you can even take the rover out for a spin to explore the surface of mars – just watch out for storms and don’t forget to keep it charged.

When I have a moment I will have to grab a copy of the demo and give it a whirl – sounds like the kind of thing that might interest me.

The engines used to spend Apollo 11 to the moon have been fond – more than four kilometres below the surface of the Atlantic.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, used private funds to locate then raise the F-1 engines, and hoped they can be displayed at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.  He also maintains they remain the property of NASA

It is great to see such an amazing piece of history rediscovered, and also the philanthropic gesture made by Bezos.

Year of the Comet

Posted: March 15, 2013 in Space
Tags: , ,

When I was in grade six, one of the themes for the year was space. It was a big year for it, as the Voyager probes were off doing fun stuff, with Voyager 2 doing a flyby of Uranus, there was the Challenger disaster, and then of course there was Halley’s Comet.

This was going to be the highlight of the year, with a trip very early one morning to go and see it out away from all the bright lights. I admit to being a bit of a space nerd at the time, with sapce ships and space travel and all that fun stuff a big influence on me. And after hearing all the talk of previous appearances of Halley’s Comet, when it covered half the sky and was visible even in the daytime, I was looking forward to it.

Except it turned out to be a bit of a dud. At best it was a barely visible smudge to the naked eye and only through a telescope could you see it properly. I was rather crushed, given that chances were I wouldn’t be ariund to see its return. Still, I held out hope that one day I would see a spectacular comet blaze across the skies.

It turns out that it may be this year, in what some are dubbing the Year of the Comet. Already we have had two small comets, Lemmon and Pan-STARRS, which were actually both visible together in the southern hemisphere for a short while.

But the big treat is a comet that should make an appearance later in the year, comet ISON.  It is a sungrazer, which means that it will fly very close to the sun, but if it survives that, predeictions are that it could be the most spectacular comet to appear in anyoen’s memory, perhaps even to the level of the Great Comet of 1680.  We shall once it makes it flyby around the sun, and puts in its expected appearance in in late October or early Novemeber, all the wya through to mid January, 2014.  I am remaining cautiously optomistic.

The Great Comet of 1680

And there is talk of another major comet making an appearnace in 2014, comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Springs).  It could be another really visual one to see, like ISON, but what makes this one so interesting is that there is a possibilty, small though it is, that it may collide with Mars.