Looks like there might just be a Plan B for when we eventually gas ourselves out of our own planet or those apocalyptic zombie films finally make good on their promise to obliterate mankind. Astronomers have discovered a planet that – upon preliminary investigation – would appear to be so similar to our own that there’s a very real possibility it could be fit for human habitation. This comes as great news, because by the time we are forced to move planets (and the technology for interstellar travel has been invented), local asteroid-defeating hero, Bruce Willis, will be long dead. Hooray for Plan B!
Video Source: “Could we move to Earth 2.0?” uploaded by Science Channel to YouTube channel https://youtu.be/fdksRkeBcNU
Just when you got over the news that Pluto is no longer considered a planet, comes the compelling evidence that our solar system may indeed have a ninth planet that is considerably larger than Earth! The reason we haven’t picked up on its presence yet is because it lies a staggering distance from the sun and has an orbital period (time it takes to bumble its way around the sun) of 20,000 years! Check out the very interesting findings and discussions of the team at Caltech…
Video Source: “Evidence of a Ninth Planet” uploaded by caltech to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=6poHQ2h00ZA
In this cool video, we learn how black holes are created from the death of massive stars, leaving behind a collapsed star so dense and with such skull-crushing gravity that not even LIGHT can escape it! Here’s a cool fact… if you were floating towards a black hole, the atoms in your feet would accelerate towards it faster than the atoms in your head and so effectively, you would be instantaneously ripped apart. Fun!
Video Source: “The Birth of a Black Hole” Uploaded by Alexander Guseff to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=8grTbzAo0PA.
For more totally awesome sciencey stuff – including amazing pictures of space, planet Earth and Earth’s diverse fauna – be sure to check out the Why? Because Science Facebook page. Also, we’re on Instagram now! #awesome!
Many moons ago, Pluto – the outermost planet in our solar system – was demoted. For those of us who grew up with the nine-planet solar system model, this came as somewhat of an affront to everything we knew about anything, ever. I mean, what is the meaning of life if the planetary status of Pluto can so easily be revised and revoked? Why, Neil, why??
In this hilarious video, Neil DeGrasse Tyson answers to the angry rants and raves (and insults) of those really strange people who were truly and deeply wounded by Pluto’s demotion from planetary status to mere space-wandering rock. Why people give such a damn is beyond me. After all, Pluto is only a quarter the size of our moon and even then, most of its mass is ice.
Video Source: Uploaded by National Geographic on YouTube channel https://youtu.be/eBREBAnglr
Neil DeGrasse Tyson is a megamind and, not coincidentally, also curator of the Hayden Planetarium, as well as the presenter of Carl Sagan’s revised TV-series, “Cosmos” He is awesome and anyone who has watched any of his videos, lectures or presentations will appreciate just how erudite and smart this man is.
But by far one of Neil’s greatest talents is the perfect balance between a sophisticated understanding of science and the ability to communicate with those who don’t. This makes him one of today’s most powerful and persuasive public figures in science and technology.
Ever wonder what the view of Mars would be if it were as close to us as our moon? Would it glow a belligerent red in our night sky and confuse moths the world over? How about Neptune: would it cast a seductive blue glow over the body of your lover as she lies recovering from a delicious round of rodgering? Now imagine Jupiter, our solar system’s largest planet with moons that are twice/thrice the size of ours… what would they all look like if they had to take the place of our moon, without cataclysmically affecting life on our planet? This video answers that question…
Video Source: Uploaded by yeti dynamics to YouTube channel www.youtube.com/watch?v=usYC_Z36rHw
If your horoscope a little out of scope, it’s because you’re reading the wrong one.
This is not really your fault. How are you to know that things have changed in the heavens since the zodiac was assigned to each calendar month just over 2,500 years ago? This is the problem with astrology in the 21st Century. It is the single most ridiculous cluster of notions that have ever been conceived, second only to the idea that womankind was created from the rib of a man. How insulting! If anything, man was created from the rib of a woman. Why else would men have nipples?
On the upside, on issues of astrology and horoscopes, I’ve finally found something I can agree with Christians about.
If you’re keen on these subjects, I am really sorry to burst your bubble. I’m all for esoteric beliefs if it distracts people from judging thy neighbour and killing in the name of You-Know-Who. But the entire rational framework of astrology is completely and inexcusably flawed. This isn’t only from a logical standpoint, but for one very particular reason, which we shall discuss shortly.
First, let’s find out what on Earth our ancient counterparts were thinking…
The Gods are Grumpy
A cluster of ridiculous notions is forgivable of an ancient civilization that has no understanding of the physical world around them and of all its beautiful and intricate macroscopic and microscopic complexity. Back in the day, a sickness was not the result of a virus running rampant in your body: it was a punishment for wrong-doing or an expression of some deity’s dissatisfaction with your most recent sacrifice. Even though said sacrifice was your sister…
Lightning wasn’t an electrical discharge between a negatively charged sky and a positively charged Earth; it was Zeus throwing his toys out the cot. The stars were not balls of intense and unending nuclear reactions held together by gravity, they were the souls of dead people (or fireflies, if you’re a Lion King fan).
Every civilization has sought to explain the physical observable universe using what little bits and pieces of knowledge they had. A few thousand years ago, in the absence of powerful telescopes, super computers, mathematical equations and the cumulative work of tens of thousands of scientists, that knowledge stemmed from tradition, superstition and beliefs that had been passed down from generation to generation.
Scientific these explanations were not.
Meet the Babylonians
Humans are inherently creative and seek symbolism in just about everything around us, so naturally the patterns perceived in the arrangement of stars against the night sky became other people, animals and objects. These constellations were then bestowed with significance over and above their random scattering across the sky.
And who can blame our ancestors? Back in the day there was no TV, so our ancient counterparts looked to the sky for their daily and seasonal weather forecasts; the stars were their GPS. If a decent crop yield depended on you sowing seeds at precisely the right time of year, you too would regard the sky as something sacred and symbolic. Your life could depend on it.
Around 7th century BC, Babylonian astronomers (dudes who puzzled over the sky and made attempts to measure and record the migrations of the stars and planets) divided the constellations that coursed across the Milky Way into the zodiacal signs, which, in Latin, literally means “circle of animals.” Think “zoo.”
Although some of the constellations that make up the zodiac have origins elsewhere and in other times, the Babylonians were the ones who landed the Oscar for incredible breakthrough work in scientific observation, measurement and recording. They were the ones who divided the sky into the co-ordinate system that has largely survived to this day (with subtle modifications and a greater accuracy, of course.)
Each calendar month was assigned a ‘star sign,’ beginning with the constellation that was positioned behind the sun at the time of the spring equinox. This was around March and April in the northern hemisphere. Remember, back in these days, the seasons very much governed the life and times of these people. Spring was an auspicious time of year because your farm animals would start bonking like mad, which was a good thing if you wanted your farm animals to make baby farm animals.
At the time this was all cooked up (just over 2,500 years ago), the constellation that took position behind the sun at the spring equinox was Aries, the ram. Baaa. Every year at the same time, the same star sign would resume its rightful position in the sky.
But the Earth’s movement relative to the stars changes year after year. Every time we make our way around the sun, our aspect is very slightly different thanks to Earth’s wobbly axis of rotation. Just under three millennia later, the constellation positioned behind the sun at the time of the spring equinox is no longer Aries. It’s Taurus.
What does this mean?
The Zodiacal Identity Crisis
What’s your star sign? Libra? Nope! Actually, you’re a Scorpio. When you were born, the constellation positioned behind the sun was Scorpio, not Libra. So all that crap about being sensitive, artistic, fickle and in love with the idea of love blah, blah, is just that: crap. Whatever star sign you thought you were, you are actually one ahead:
Aries’ are Gemini’s
Gemini’s are Cancer’s
Cancer’s are Leo’s
Leo’s are Virgo’s
And so on and so forth.
Everything you’ve ever read about yourself in a horoscope – what kind of person you are, your personality traits, your likes, loves, potential health problems and more – is all fundamentally flawed because you are reading the wrong star sign. Plain and simple. What’s the point in reading the horoscope for, example, Sagittarius when you’re actually a Capricorn? And why don’t astrologers or whoever writes this garbage picked up on this very simple, yet grave error?
My birthday is on the 19th October. Every horoscope I have ever read in any magazine, newspaper or book has told me that my star sign is Libra. But every single one of them has been inaccurate. The constellation behind the sun on the date of my birth is Scorpio, which makes far more sense because I can be quite a bitch.
Class Dismissed: Your Take-Home Message
The idea that the stars and planets play a part in forecasting our future is a very romantic one. It makes us feel very important. But those giant impartial elemental worlds composed of ice, rock, fire and air have about as much to do with your love life as scientology has to do with science.
Sure, those horoscopes you read in People while sitting on the porcelain throne can make sense sometimes. But horoscopes are self-fulfilled prophesies. If Madame Zola tells you that your love life is about to get hot and heavy, you’re immediately primed to see significance where there is none. You regard the world with fresh eager eyes; watching and waiting for your Prince Charming or Pussy Galore (guys) to come and sweep you off of your feet.
The bottom line is: stars are far too busy exploding and being catastrophically nuclear to worry about your office dynamics and how that bitch down the aisle keeps stealing your stapler. The planets couldn’t be less interested in how flaccid your sex life has been recently and the moon couldn’t give two hoots about what colour you should dye your hair next.
Perhaps it’s our innate fear of being ordinary that compels us to seek evidence of our extraordinary nature outside of ourselves – in the relative orientation of the stars and planets – when in fact we already ARE extraordinary.
The “Symphony of Science” series puts together beautiful graphics and music with the autotuned voices of some of the most eminent of modern scientists for us to learn from and enjoy. This video is a visual and audio feast and a beautiful ode to the work of the 20th and 21st century astrophysicists and astronomers.
Also, Niel DeGrasse Tyson is such a rock star. I have a total nerd crush on him.
Few things fascinate us quite like our worst nightmares and while we may not actively think about devastating meteorite impacts punching an inconvenient hole into our day, such an event would certainly serve to put things into perspective for us! For example, cold coffee, traffic jams and your imbecile boss are not the end of the world. A meteorite impact could be.
Let’s take a look at some spectacular footage of space objects having fender benders with our planet.
Meteorite Soars into Tyumen, Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg, Russia, Feb 13th 2013: A Compilation of the Internet’s Best Clips
Want to hear a joke? The Russian meteorite in this video was considered “small.” Gosh, NASA scientists and their size issues! First Pluto and now this?
Eight months after this meteorite collided into the Earth, it was finally extracted from its resting place in Lake Chebarkul. It weighed a staggering 570 kg, which explains the damage it did to more than 3,000 nearby buildings and 1,000 people. The blast of this meteorite was estimated to carry the equivalent punch of 300,000 tonnes of dynamite.
Beautiful Time Lapse Video of Geminid Meteor Shower, December 30th, 2012
Every December, the heavens rain down Christmas upon avid sky-watchers and star enthusiasts in the form of the beautiful, glittering Geminid Meteor shower. In this video, photographer Kenneth Brandon filmed the entire event and then sped it up so that we can truly appreciate why this event is actually called a “meteor shower” in the first place. In the first sequence, we see the star trails in addition to the meteors, which in reality are probably no bigger than grains of sand. In the second sequence, the meteor trails have been rendered persistent by some nimble filming techniques. Gorgeous!
The End of the World Asteroid Impact: Animated Conjecture By JDC Creation
Now THIS is something to start your day with! What happened if a gigantic asteroid smacked into Earth and Bruce Willis wasn’t available to stop it? This video. This animated short video provides us with front row seats to the end of the world.
Every single morning, when my alarm drops a hydrogen bomb into the middle of my sexy dreams, I lie in bed entertaining fantasies of further sleep. What would I do to be able to sink back into the cotton wool comfiness of my sub-consciousness for another half hour? In my irrational sleep-addled state, a lot! So, sign me up for the first commercial flight to Mars because with days that are not 30 minutes, but 40 minutes longer than on Earth, my desperate desire for extra sleep would be granted!
Curiosity Weighs 899 kg
Luckily There Aren’t Any Cats on Mars
On the 5th August of 2012, the Mars rover ‘Curiosity’ made a successful landing on the powdery, rock-strewn surface of the Red Planet. A part of the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission, Curiosity’s primary objective is to explore the real estate on Mars and the possibility of humans inhabiting it at some time in the not-so-distant future.
A self-portrait of the Mars rover, Curiosity. #Selfie.
This sophisticated piece of machinery (see above image) cost NASA $2.5 billion to build and is designed to investigate features of Mars’ geology and climate during the course of its two-year long investigation. More specifically, the aptly-named ‘Curiosity’ will be looking for “ancient organic compounds,” according to NASA Ames Research Centre’s planetary scientist, Carol Stoker. This would help us understand the history of Mars, Earth’s sister planet,’ as a previous or even current supporter of life
All of the high tech gadgetry aboard the ‘Curiosity’ is essentially geared to measure the presence, nature and concentration of organic compounds that are possibly locked within the planet’s dry soils. After two years of exploration, ‘Curiosity’ will hopefully have answered our many pressing questions about the habitability of Mars. This could bring us closer, much closer, to planning an alternate future on the Red Planet… just in case we gas ourselves out of our own home in the solar system.
Or, you know, Bruce Willis chickens out of his mission to blow up an Earth-bound asteroid.
Meet The Red Planet!
Hey, hi, how are ya?
Astute academics such as Dr. Richard Zurek, Chief Scientist in the Mars Program Office at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), have strong reason to suspect that Mars was once home to living organisms and that the Curiosity mission will indeed yield fruit. The presence of frozen water at the poles, an atmosphere that consists almost entirely of carbon dioxide, geological features that appear to have been carved and shaped by running water and a climate that is not wholly intolerable, indicate that out of all other known planets and moons in our solar system, Mars is or at least was the most accommodating of life.
What we want to know is whether we too could one day inhabit this arid red landscape… and if so, what would life on Mars be like?
Planet Profile: Mars
Etymology: Thanks to its blood-red colour, Mars was named by ancient civilizations after the Roman God of War.
Diameter: 6,787 kilometres
Average distance from Sun: 227,936,640 kilometres.
Rotation period (length of day): 1.026 Earth days
Orbital period (length of year): 686.98 Earth days
Menstrual period: huh?
Tilt of axis: 25° (Earth’s is approximately 23.4°)
Maximum surface temperature (tanning weather): 37°C
Minimum surface temperature (cuddle weather): -123°C
Best view from Mars: Olympus Mons, which is 27 kilometres higher than surrounding lava plains.
Atmospheric constituents: (1) 95% carbon dioxide, (2) 3% nitrogen, (3) 1.6% argon and (4) other trace gases. Methane was recently discovered there, too.
Your Martian Calendar and Climate
Because of Mars’ distance from the sun, 227,936,640 km on average, it takes quite a bit longer for it to bumble its way around the fiery focal point of our solar system. This means that a Martian year is much longer than an Earth year; approximately twice as long, in fact. There are 687 days in a year on Mars. Thanks to the planet’s tilted axis, however, there are still two primary seasons: summer and winter. This doesn’t really matter though. With average year-round temperatures of -60°C (-80°F) you’re still going to need to take a very warm jacket and maybe a pair of mittens, too. There are a few balmy days to look forward to… in summer, the mercury in Mars’ equatorial regions can actually hit 20°C (70°F), punctuated by days of a roasty toasty 37°C (98°F).
In spite of the cold, Mars is a desert planet, much like Tatooine, the one Star Wars’ Anakin Skywalker comes from… wait, hold on… did I just say that out loud? It never rains on Mars’ rust-red landscape and the only break you get in the distant and diluted sunshine is high level, coruscating congregations of ice-crystals; similar in fact to the cirrus clouds we get here on Earth. Bitterly cold winters aside, Mars would seem to be a rather affable place to settle.
Not always! When the horizon darkens and the wind picks up, it’s time to hit to road, Jack. Mars’ raging dust storms are the most tempestuous in the entire solar system.
In 2001, the Hubble Space Telescope captured the complete transformation of Mars as an enormous dust storm swept over the entire globe’s surface. These storms are driven by winds of up to 160 km/hr and can last weeks or even months. On the up-side, with nothing else to do other than stay inside, this would hurry along the population of Mars…
Martian Tourist Attractions
Once you get bored of admiring endless vistas of red nothingness and of tripping over the legions of sharp rocks that are ubiquitous to Mar’s dusty, empty landscape, you will need to take in a few of the planet’s more redeeming features. Thankfully, there are plenty of those. Mars offers some spectacular natural attractions that make the Grand Canyon look like a butt crack and Earth’s biggest volcano, Mauna Loa, look like a bug bite. Albeit a bad one.
Olympus Mons is Mars’ largest mountain/volcano/OMG-look-at-THAT!! At a lofty 27 kilometres (17 miles) high and an expansive 600 kilometres (372 miles) across, this megalith is three times as tall as Mount Everest, Earth’s largest mountain. It’s also the largest known volcano in the solar system.
What was once a suppurating abscess of death is now a brooding blackhead on the face of Mars’ blood-red landscape. Olympus Mons sits conspicuously in the top-right hand quadrant of this colorised topographical map of The Red Planet, from the MOLA instrument of Mars Global Surveyor.
Photo Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Arizona State University – JMARS
You might also like to include the canyon network in your travel itinerary (see image below). At its deepest, this great cleft in Mars’ crust plummets a dizzying 10 kilometres (6 miles) and stretches in the vertical for 4,000 kilometres (2,500 miles).
Then there’s Mars’ pock-marked landscape to explore. Since craters – evidence of meteorite strikes – are quickly eroded away or overgrown with vegetation here on Earth, Hellas Planitia, Mars’ largest impact crater, would be an especially novel sight for us Earthlings. Oh! It’s 2,300 kilometres (1,400 miles) wide.
A colorised topographical map of Hellas Planitia. Photo Credit: NASA / JPL-Caltech / Arizona State University – JMARS
Mars boasts more than just these mega geological features to “ooh” and “aah” at. There’s the gorgeous orange sky and blue sunsets to admire! And if you ever get tired of staring a red landscapes, you can always pack up your skis and go on holiday to the polar ice caps. This is greatly recommended in winter when Mars’ frosted latitudinal extremities become covered with an additional layer of ice composed of carbon dioxide, AKA dry ice: the most fun thing to play with in the universe! Okay, second only to boobs.
Last, but certainly not least, Mars tourists will be staying up past bed time to admire the night time sky. The Red Planet has two moons called Deimos and Phobos. Their sinister names mean ‘panic’ and ‘fear’ respectively (the tourist guide would never tell you that.)
Er, Minor ‘Challenges’
Life on Mars would be rad and wholly different. The scenery might get a bit samey after a while, but with a bit of ingenious technology, we could definitely make it habitable. There are, however, some challenges one should be prepared to meet:
Sub-zero temperatures most of the year.
Sun burn: Mars doesn’t have a magnetic field to deflect incoming solar radiation. Without a special suit, you’d blend right into the landscape after a few minutes.
Dust, like, everywhere.
No 7/11’s or Wal-Marts
Difficulty looking cool in front of your girl: Mars is littered with rocks just waiting to trip you up. Worst of all, when you do trip up, the planet’s low gravity will make you fall on your guava in slow motion.
Giant raging dust storms that last for months on end.
Dust in your underpants
On the upside, no matter how fat you are, you’d still weigh less on Mars because of its weaker gravity. This also means that our primary mode of transport could be gummy-bear bouncing.
Class Dismissed: Your Take-Home Message
Life on Mars is a very real possibility. The biggest challenges we would face in a move to colonize our sister planet would be getting the incredible amounts of equipment we need there and establishing a self-sustaining station complete with a renewable source of water and oxygen. But before you start saving your pennies to book yourself a place amongst Mars’ first human inhabitants, let’s not forget just how lucky we are to have the planet we’re standing on. Earth, our Blue Planet. Two thirds of its surface is covered in water, its atmosphere is rich in oxygen and it is the most interesting and biologically diverse planet in the solar system, possibly even the galaxy and maybe even the Universe.