Dispelling Some Space Myths


(Originally posted 2/2/17 on Read With The Gringa)

If you are a dear reader of Read With The Gringa, chances are you are also a fan of science fiction. The gringa has seen every episode of her favorite series like the Star Trek franchise, Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. If it’s a cheesy, classic or epic sci-fi movie, I’ve seen that, too. What about some of the common themes and aspects of this genre? Is there any kernel of truth to these commonalities or are they just creative license?

Spacecraft Explosions: Cosmic space battles between a star ship battle cruiser and a sporty, feisty spacecraft that maneuvers with lightning speed often end up with the absolute destruction of one, maybe even both. But what about those fabulous fireballs and bits and bobs of bulkhead that create an enormous blast radius. Does that really happen?

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NO! Why? Well, think about it. There is no oxygen in space! No oxygen, no fire. The best you could hope for is an insignificant spark that, pfft, quickly goes out. And the boom factor? Nope. You wouldn’t hear anything either. Sound only travels through Earth’s atmosphere because of a complex recipe of certain gases. So, that pfft effect goes for explosive sounds as well.

Human Explosion: Sci-fi takes a reverse course on the pressure effects of deep water on the human. Go deep enough in the ocean without protective gear and  the water pressure will implode you. Not a pretty sight for a human to be crushed like an aluminum soda can. Sci-fi screenwriters like to imagine the vacuum of space would result in the atoms of humans no longer experiencing enough atmospheric pressure to remain cohesive. Thus an explosion of eyeballs and fingernails. A rather gruesome and bloody prospect. Is this accurate? Would astronauts who experience spacesuit failure explode in the vacuum of space?

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First, you would quickly begin to dehydrate as water began evaporating rapidly through your pores. You would also begin to feel the chill of MINUS 455 degrees Fahrenheit. In other words, instead of exploding into itty-bitty bits, you would quickly become a human ice cube. About 30 seconds to be exact.

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The dark side of the Moon… who could live there? Well, a colony on the “dark side of the Moon” would get just as much sunlight as the “other” side of the Moon. You see, it is only the Earth that the Moon hides its backside from. That’s because of tidal influences between these two planetary objects. The Sun, on the other hand, enjoys seeing every aspect of the Moon.

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What of golden sunsets and sunrises? Are they as beautiful when seen from space? Well, they are definitely as bright but not golden. Stars, which our Sun is, have colors that are determined by their temperature. Our Sun, at about 6,000 degrees Kelvin, is actually white. It only appears yellow to us Earthlings because of how it’s short-wavelenths of blue, green and violet are scattered as they travel through Earth’s atmosphere. And you know those wavy little rays we always draw around our Suns when we are little kids? Yeah, those are all wrong too. The Sun isn’t burning. There are no flames. It is EXPLODING with gases so it’s glowing. Like a light bulb.

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Have you ever seen those crack pilots zipping about in their little shuttles, navigating like aces through the hazards of an asteroid belt? Yeah. That’s not real either. Even in a really, super crowded asteroid belt with millions of space rocks each of these hunks of geological junk are most likely hundreds of thousands of miles apart. How do you think NASA’s probes make it to the farthest reaches of space if there were such dangerous obstacles? Remember, space is really, really, really, big. Plenty of room to navigate.

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Could a huge meteor slam into a wilderness area and create a fiery crater? Nope. A crater, yes, but not a fiery one. I know, I know. The dear reader is saying, “Hold on there, gringa! I have actually seen a fiery fireball of a meteor that raced across the sky!” Yes, I am sure that you did. However, it is the outer surface of the meteor that has heated up, liquefied and converted to flaming plasma from the friction of hurtling through Earth’s atmosphere at high-speed. Its core, however, is frozen solid from a lifetime in space where temperatures are hundreds of degrees BELOW freezing. So, you would most likely end up with scattered fires from fiery plasma scattering on impact and then a soggy mess in the crater after the cosmic ice ball melts. Basically, a meteor is like a flaming snowball.

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The gringa’s really sorry if she spoiled things for you. But I must remind you that the most important thing about science-fiction is that it is FICTION. So enjoy it the way it is meant to be enjoyed… an escape from reality into fantasy for pure pleasure. Let it titillate your imagination and inspire you to greater things. But always know the difference between fact and fiction!

Sources:

NASA

David Darling

Geoffrey Landis

Stanford

How Stuff Works

www.space.com

Image Credits: Discovery Channel

Star Trek Desktop Wallpaper

YouTube

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UK2

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gringaofthebarrio

A barrio gringa with a dream of cosmic proportions: writing to satiate my insatiable curiosity, worldwide literacy beginning with our youth, and to be the first barrio gringa to explore outer space!

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