Re-Post: Say Hello To Baby Aliens On Enceladus


(Originally posted on Read With The Gringa 7/6/17)

If scientists discover microbial life one of Saturn’s moons, is this a big deal? Well, the gringa supposes that humans could officially lay to rest the question of whether or not we are alone in the universe. But it does leave open the question of whether or not mankind shares the Universe with intelligent life. After all, I’m not so sure microbial life counts as an intellectual peer for humanity. So what, exactly, did NASA report they found on Enceladus? See for yourself:

So microbes eat hydrogen like candy. Does that mean that life might evolve on Enceladus or that life is dead and gone and this candy is all that’s left? You know, kind of like coming home and finding traces of teenagers in the crumbs left on the sofa and smears of chocolate on the gaming controls.

It means that it’s possible that microbes can exist in Enceladus’ ice covered sea. The next step would be to explore this cosmic ocean, perhaps with a probe that can take samples, to see if microbes are alive and well. But what kind of environmental conditions would microbes need in order to survive? Let’s take a look at some of the basic environmental conditions of Enceladus:

-Surface temperature of -330 degrees F (or -201 degrees C)

-Freshwater ice surface that reflects 100% of sunlight

-5 surface features: cracks, ridges, fissures and crust deformation

-Liquid fresh water sea underneath surface crust of ice

-Tidal forces created upon internal sea by Saturn’s pull, which creates internal heat, so sea temperature would be warmer than surface temperature but still unknown

-Smooth surface plains of ice crust indicate that water once flowed upon the surface, possibly forced upward from eruptions of volcanoes in the interior sea

-No detectable atmosphere

-No magnetic field

Are there any microbes known to man that could survive these conditions?

-Microbe Colwellia psychrerythraea strain 34H can survive temperatures as cold as -320 degrees F. Testing was conducted with liquid nitrogen, which is -321 degrees F.

-No detectable atmosphere and no magnetic field means no protection from radiation. But, as concluded from microbe studies on the International Space Station (ISS), there are microbes that not only survive such conditions, but actually thrive in them: Deinococcus radiodurans, also called the Conan of microbes, could live quite happily in Enceledus’ frigid ocean.

So, if there are microbial Conans alive and well in the interior sea of Enceledus, how long might it take for them to gain some intelligence and start communicating? Well, let’s start with the moon’s suspected age, 100 million years. The earth, by comparison, is thought to be about 4.5 billion years old. Enceledus is just a baby.  It was during Earth’s second phase, the Archean phase, when the first signs of microbial life appeared on Earth. This would have been when Earth was about 1 billion years ago.

So, Enceledus may just be getting started. Those microbes out there in its interior sea? Those could be the earliest seeds of a future humanoid race that evolves to build a bone-chilling, zero oxygen, radiated civilization in another couple of billion years or so. So, just stay tuned, right?

Sources: Science Mag

New Scientist

Sea Sky Org.

BBC

Image Credit: America Space

Video Credit:  NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Advertisements

Thanks For Nothing, Space Aliens


Fellow Earthlings, the gringa’s afraid we have not passed inspection by ETs. According to the opinion of learned astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, apparently we are just too dumb to be bothered with.  The gringa’s not sure how she feels about all of this. I mean, I have lots of questions. But before I get to all of my typical “what if’s” and “why’s”, let’s see what Tyson had to say in his recent interview with MSNBC.  The gringa, will, of course, paraphrase in her own barrio vernacular:

  • We may be smart by human standards but not so much according to advanced space alien standards.
  • Their opinion of us was so low they determined we weren’t worth the trouble to contact.
  • So, basically, intelligent beings from outer space have probably performed a fly-by and said to themselves, “Eh, why bother. Moving along, moving along.”
  • In addition to our ignorance is our arrogance that convinces us that we are quite intelligent so space aliens should just be dying to be our friends.
  • The reality is that we are youngsters in the Universe and have probably already received messages from older and wiser aliens that we were too stupid to understand.
  • We have also been irresponsible with our intelligence and technology, accidentally sending out signals that painted us as imbeciles with early television broadcasts like Howdy-Doody and I Love Lucy. Yep, what a great first impression that must have made!

Now, the gringa doesn’t argue with the fact that alien civilizations are probably much older and wiser than us. If they are able to perform a fly-by of Earth, they are also much more advanced. The gringa also does not doubt that we have probably been a terrible disappointment what with our wars, destruction of the environment and little regard to less powerful global co-inhabitants whether they be human or animal. The gringa also shamefacedly admits that humans are incredibly arrogant and often believe that they are the end-all of sophistication and technological advances despite the fact that we must surely be minimally advanced compared to our Universe counterparts. However, the gringa had hoped that our arrogance would not have been matched by the arrogance of an alien species who would have believed our worth was only in our intelligence. What about our potential?

Surely the discovery of any living, breathing, sentient, intelligent species is worth more than a casual observance as you fly-by. The gringa is reminded of the family vacation from hell when my father was intent on barreling his way across the country to see Mount St. Helen’s as it was erupting. He was a geologist who was madly obsessed with witnessing this event. He performed numerous drive-by’s along the way much in the manner I expect the aliens have: “There’s the Grand Canyon, girls!” he yells over his shoulder as we peer out our windows looking at, well, really nothing as we zoom past. All we could see in the distance were the rugged highlands surrounding the massive chasm. It was the same as we passed by Lake Tahoe. I slept, I think, through the entire passage through the Rockies, bored out of my mind I presume.

Surely after traveling vast cosmic distances, perhaps through multiple galaxies, maybe even originating from another Universe, we were worth more than a shrug as they passed over Earth’s atmosphere. The nerve, I mean. Couldn’t they see that, although there may be plenty of ignoramuses and jerks down here, there are also loads of people with fabulous potential for intelligent humility, goodness, kindness and a desire to grow in knowledge and put that knowledge to good use benefitting others? Can’t they see the battles being waged to save our planet? We could use a little help, ya know!

Besides that, aren’t they just the least little bit lonely? I mean, when the gringa walks out beneath a star-lit sky and considers the vastness of space and how we are so alone out here, surely for any species to discover another would inspire a sense of comfort and relief. Aren’t they even the least bit curious? Aren’t we even worth a poke and a prod?

The more the gringa thinks about it, the more incensed I become. How dare them think that we are not worth knowing, much less saving. Once I was willing to hop on board if given the invitation. Now, however, I think I will offer them a shrug of indifference if the invitation comes my way. The gringa is filled with the noble spirit of the captain of a ship. Maybe some of my passengers are nothing but a big, destructive pain in Earth’s proverbial hindquarters. But they are still MY fellow passengers. You can either help me save this ship or move along. I, however, will go down fighting and clinging to life, trying to save those who appreciate my efforts as well as those who obviously don’t deserve them. THAT’S the very best of being human.

 

Sources:  Tech Times

Huffington Post

Business Insider

Image Credit: www.ascensionearth2012.org

Could It Be Proxima B?


What might 2 years bring? The gringa’s 6th grandchild chattering my ears off? The gringa hitting the half century mark? A new waistline? Fortunately, according to Harvard researcher, much more exciting stuff than that should be happening in just 2 years.  Think Proxima b. That’s an exoplanet about the same size as our own. It is the nearest planet to our solar system that has the potential to be inhabited.  Proxima b is Earth twin candidate number one in what scientists are calling the Pale Red Dot campaign.

The organization heading up this campaign has a singular purpose: To explore a planet in the Proxima Centauri system. It’s only 4 light years away.  How long would it take to travel that far? With current technology, we can already see a 4 light year travel time in action. Space probes Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 were launched in 1977. They are just now exiting our own solar system after about 40 years of travel. Voyager 1 is expected to drift near a star in the Camelopardalis constellation that is 1.6 light years away. Expected arrival time, oh, about 40,000 years.

So if it would take about a million years to even get a probe to Proxima b, why the heck do scientists even care? Well, because we don’t need a probe in order to find out about its atmosphere and whether it could support life as we know it. Clever astrophysicists at Harvard claim that all we need to do is sample the light from the star system. The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is scheduled by NASA to launch in only 2 years and it is equipped to do the job.

The gringa is amazed at all the information that could be contained in a light sample. We could find out if the landscape is bare rock. We could learn certain details about the atmospheric gases. We might even be able to determine if there is an ocean on Proxima b.  How can they do this? Just what kind of stuff does infrared light tell us?

  • When a rocky planet is warmed by starlight, it absorbs the sunlight and re-emits it as infrared light. Rocky planets have a certain infrared signature.
  • Infrared light shows up as different colors that indicate different temperatures.
  • Certain color/temperature signatures would be a clue as to an atmosphere that is low-lying and able to redistribute heat during a night cycle.
  • The absence of specific infrared signatures means Proxima b is just a plain, old rock.

And if the Pale Red Dot campaign ends up terribly disappointed with the performance of NASA’s JWST telescope, in about 20-30 years the Breakthrough Starshot project, created by Russian billionaire Yuri Milner & physicist Stephan Hawking, may be able to provide the answers they seek about Proxima b. Breakthrough Starshot plans to launch a laser-propelled nano spacecraft toward the Proxima Centauri star system then. It will provide more than infrared signature details. This craft is equipped with cameras and filters to take an array of images. The gringa is hoping for answers in a couple of years but will be just as excited if the answers come through when I’m tottering about half-senile in 30 more years or so.

Sources:

breakthroughinitiatives.org

earthsky.org

www.businessinsider.com

palereddot.org

Image Credit: technofres.com

 

 

Space Flight & Fortune Cookies


When I was a young girl Six Flags was the big event once a year. The gringa was a country girl from a small town. I attended a tiny, rural school where the same 20 or so classmates I had were together every year from childhood through our teen years. A single building housed the classrooms for every grade, kindergarten through 12th grade. Once kids entered the 6th grade, officially “Junior High”, you felt as if you had hit the big time. That was the year you got included on the annual school trip to Six Flags, the biggest theme park in our state. It was about a 2 hour drive away to the big city.

My first year to go  was the grand opening of the big, new, rollercoaster attraction, the Shockwave. Two loop-de-loops of spine tingling action. The gringa was too young and naïve to realize that all the boys interested in going on the Spelunker ride with the girls only wanted to steal a kiss in the cool, dark passages. That was the second time in the gringa’s life that she socked a boy in the nose. But I learned quickly and didn’t fall for that trick a second time.

Now what has happened for the gringa to be reminiscing back to rollercoasters and clocking school boys? China. It’s all China’s fault. They have gone and done it this time. The gringa is counting her pennies and wondering just how fast she can afford to go to China. The gringa doesn’t plan on rollercoasters, though. No, now that I’m middle aged and epilepsy has had its toll on certain aspects, rollercoasters are out unless the gringa’s got paramedics lined up and waiting at the end of the ride. For the more sedate lifestyle I live now, the gringa still seeks adventure but with a smoother ride. Hence, China.

Remember when the gringa told you about Virgin Galactic and how you could hitch a ride to the highest heavens for a cool, couple hundred grand? Well, the gringa is certain that China can do it better and cheaper. In fact, considering that China is marketing their new ride as a feature at a theme park, surely tickets prices will be family friendly.

The plan is envisioned by KuangChi Science. The ride will be a balloon launch that will take passengers 15 miles into the atmosphere (24 kilometers).  The projected $1.5 billion project will encapsulate passengers in an airtight cabin beneath the balloon. Dubbed Shenzhou V after China’s first manned space mission in 2003,  the cabin is designed to block dangerous cosmic rays yet provide the comfort of a limousine-style ride. Once reaching top altitude, passengers will enjoy a peaceful cruise lasting a few hours before descent begins.  Although the ticket price hasn’t been announced, the gringa has got her fingers crossed that it may be in the $50 dollar range and include complimentary fortune cookies. Am I expecting too much?

Source: www.kuangchiscience.com

Image Credit: l.yimg.com

 

Stars Are Cool. No, Really, They Are


When the gringa’s dear readers think of a star, what do you think of? The Sun? Polaris? Alpha Centauri?  And what do you think would happen if you reached out to touch the Sun? You’d probably get vaporized, right? Well, depending on the star, not necessarily. In fact, if you touched the right star it might be a sensation more like when you roll over in bed and find the cool spot.

Brown dwarfs are cold stars. There are 14 that NASA believes are cool enough to touch. Cool! They are also the oldest stars in the Universe. I guess stars are kind of like people. Old folks with poor circulation are generally cold all the time. Stars get old and cold, too. Out of all the old, cold, brown dwarf stars in the Universe, it’s the Y-dwarfs that are even cooler than the average human’s body temperature. Y, you may ask. Well, the gringa will tell you why the Y is the way that it is.

Not only are they old but they are failures. Poor Y-dwarfs. They must have very low self-esteem. Perhaps that is why they don’t shine as brightly as other stars. They have grown old and are failures as stars. The gringa feels very sorry for the poor, little things.

Because their cores are not very dense they can’t fuse loads of atoms within. That means they don’t burn as hot and brightly as other stars. The gringa finds it very amusing that the denser a star is the brighter it is. It doesn’t seem to work that way in humans.

If Y-dwarfs are such failures at being stars, the gringa wonders if they should be considered stars at all. Do we have a Pluto prospect in the future? Just as Pluto got demoted from planet to dwarf planet, Y-dwarf stars may very well face the possibility of being re-classified. In the future scientists may decide they don’t meet all the guidelines of being a star. The gringa thinks this is a wonderful possibility for Y-dwarfs. Whereas poor Pluto suffered a demotion, the Y-dwarf could get better news. They could go from being failures as stars to being over-achievers for whatever it is they may become!

However, it may take astronomers quite some time to collect enough data in their studies. Their failure to shine bright like a diamond in the sky means it is difficult to view and study them. It’s practically impossible to study them at all with a telescope dependent on visible light. To take productive peeks at Y-dwarfs NASA had to construct an infrared telescope and mount it to an orbiting satellite. And that is why the Universe is wiser thanks to these cold, little star failures, because of Wide-field Infrared Survey Explore (WISE) that studies them in the heavens.

Source:  www.nasa.gov

Image Credit:  www.jpl.nasa.gov

 

Sun Worship


Earlier this month celestial lovers throughout south and central Africa got to enjoy a spectacular solar eclipse that produced a ring of fire as the Moon transversed across the pathway of the Sun. The peculiar occasions when the Earth, Moon and Sun all line up together doesn’t happen too often. Such a rare event has historically been linked with all sorts of predictions and paranormal expectations.

The funniest recording of a solar eclipse is, perhaps, also the earliest record. Occuring in October of the 2137 B.C., two royal astronomers, Ho and Hi, offended the fourth Emperor of China’s Hsia Dynasty,  Chung-K’ang. The eclipse was an unexpected event. The poor astronomers were unprepared to perform the customary rituals that should have taken place. The pair of official stargazers were drunk and failed to launch the traditional arrows and beat out the right rhythm on the gongs and drums so that the Sun could be delivered from the mythical beast that was attempting to devour it.

Convinced that chaos would soon consume the empire, the astronomers were summarily executed as an appeasement sacrifice for their drunken dereliction of duty.  A public record of their death was translated in 1839 by scholars to reveal an amusing verse indicating that, although brutal in enforcing their expectations, the ancient Chinese did have a sense of humor:

“Here lie the bodies of Ho and Hi,

Whose fate though sad was visible –

Being hanged because they could not spy

Th’ eclipse which was invisible.”

In November of the year 569 an eclipse was recorded before the birth of the Prophet Mohammad in 570. There are many religious historians who link this eclipse as the moment of Mohammad’s conception. Interestingly enough Mohammed’s son Ibrahim died at the age of two-years-old during the occurrence of a solar eclipse. Mohammed wrote of this event as a sign sent from his God, Allah, of personal condolences. Muslims today still consider eclipses significant religious events. When the recent eclipse occurred mosques throughout Africa had special calls to prayer for safety and deliverance from harm.

Perhaps the most significant solar eclipse in modern history is the one of May, 1919. Commonly called “Einstein’s Eclipse”, it is considered to be the solar eclipse that changed the universe. For more than 200 years scientists had accepted Isaac Newton’s principle that the space of the Universe was as inflexible as mathematical principles.  Einstein set out to challenge this longheld belief. Einstein believed gravity was curved and flexible, affected by the mass of planetary bodies. He proposed that warping of space allowed planets to remain in their orbital paths, gravity distorted by the mass of a celestial body, the greater the mass, the stronger the force, which would result in more bending of light. This was to become known as Einstein’s Theory of Relativity.

When the 1919 eclipse occurred, British astrophysicist Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington led the charge for an experiment to take advantage of the expected eclipse. Eddington traveled to Principe which is in the Gulf of Guinea off of Africa’s western coastline. A horrible thunderstorm threatened to ruin Eddington’s chances but, fortunately, by afternoon the skies had cleared. Eddington’s celestial photographs and measurements were compared with photos and measurements recorded by Andrew  Crommelin at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. The findings were announced by Britain’s Royal Society’s Astronomer Royal Sir Frank Watson Dyson. It was announced in London on November 6, 1919 that Newton’s theory had been disproven by Einstein’s new Theory of Relativity.

To make sure that you are ready for the next opportunity to view a solar eclipse, log on to www.timeanddate.com and keep a watch on the countdown clock for eclipses listed under their Sun & Moon tab. It seems we are only about 5 months away from the next big event.  There is a handy search window everyone can use to see if their city or country is going to be in the most fortunate position of being able to see the eclipse.

To view a solar eclipse it is important to wear protective eyewear. A homemade viewbox can also be created called a pinhole camera. All you need is a box with a small hole on one side for light to pass through and project an inverted image of the eclipse on the opposite side.  Below is a video with an example of how to make and use a homemade pinhole camera. One tip: The bigger the box the better the view.

 

 

Sources:

eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov

www.timeanddate.com

Image Credit: cherokeebillie.files.wordpress.com

 

Climate Change, Laundry & A/C


Many people interested in climate change may think this is a new phenomena brought on by global population expansion, increased use of technology, higher agricultural demands ravaging the Earth’s ecosystems and increased usage of fossil fuels. The truth is this has been going on for about two hundred years. Yep, since the beginning of the industrial era.

When factories began firing up their furnaces in the early 1800s, long before fossil fuels had really made their mark, the continents and oceans of the Earth began warming. Scientists can detect changes that far back as they study ice samples from the Arctic. And it’s not only ice cores that reveal this tragic timeline. Australian researchers have pored over 500 years’ worth of data collected from tree rings and coral in addition to the ice core studies.

The gringa thinks it’s safe to say that scientists from 200 years ago were probably laughed at by their peers for doing such silly and useless things as recording climate temperature measurements. I’m sure they never dreamed that today they would be considered pioneering heroes. Without their foresight and dedication we would not know just how long we humans have been spitting in the face of the one and only planet we can call home.

As early as 1830 increased greenhouse emissions were already causing the temperatures of tropical seas to creep upward. The Northern Hemisphere began to experience higher than average climate temperatures around the same time. At first, the scientists of that era thought this was a natural cycle. They believed that after a period of volatility upon Earth where volcanic ash and dust particles had caused global cooling effects that it was only natural for things to bounce back the other direction.

They had no idea that what had happened millennia ago was not the catalyst. They were clueless that they were witnessing the onset of a human induced global catastrophe that would culminate hundreds of years later. No one was sounding any alarm bell. The factories were being erected as fast as manufacturers had the cash to expand. As industry grew, individual wealth grew. It soon became every person’s dream to own a car and zip about willy-nilly just for the sake of being seen. Little has changed since 1830. Even though we know we are killing our planet (and, hence, ourselves), industry still expands and consumers are still obsessed with consuming and being seen with their latest procurement so that everyone knows they have “arrived”.

In such a state of smug self-satisfaction we humans do not like to be reminded that we should, rather, trade in that latest state-of-the-art washing machine for a non-electric hand-crank model. It is beneath an ambitious individual’s self-worth to be expected to toss out an electric dryer and opt for grandma’s tried and true method of wringing out the wet laundry and hanging it out on the line. As for surviving without air conditioning and heating, surely you jest. Oh, yeah, sure, previous generations got by but certainly such a primitive lifestyle should not be expected by an advanced civilization like this current generation of humans. After all, with global warming who can survive such temperatures? Oh, but you see, your air conditioning is also contributing to the problem that you want relief from. We seem to be caught in a catch 22. Whatever shall we do?

So, who wants to join the gringa in the slow, very ungraceful transition to an off the grid lifestyle? Are there enough people in the world for such sacrifices to even matter? The gringa can’t say. I only know that on Tuesday my non-electric hand-crank washing machine arrived and I have committed to not replacing my slowly dying electric dryer with an equivalent. The caveman thinks I’m mad but I kindly remind him that he is, after all, a caveman. Such lifestyle changes should suit him perfectly.

I still don’t know what to do about air conditioning. When I’m home alone I am quite happy with 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I can even manage to handle 85 with the right incentives, no clothes and plenty of ice water and a splash of beer. Despite living in the incredibly warm climate of the Texas Gulf Coast, I, personally, can get by with using the A/C only during the hottest parts of the afternoon in June, July and August. But whenever the caveman or one of our demanding, unruly, but adorable children or grandchildren are here, they scream, “Do you even have the air conditioner ON?!”

I implore them to embrace nudity as an alternative but so far the gringa has gotten no support for a shift toward nude living as another aspect of living off the grid. I mean, after all, it would also create less demand in the laundry area, thus providing further conservation of water and energy.

I mean, doesn’t the dear reader see the strong correlation between climate change, laundry, and air conditioning? Perhaps that is the solution. If people living in warm climates would simply go nude, or at least opt for bikinis or sheer Romanesque body drapes, think of all of the textile and clothing factories that would no longer be necessary, close down and no longer contribute to human induced climate change. Think of all of those dresses and jeans and pajamas no longer contributing to fossil fuel emissions when shipping and trucking of apparel is no longer needed.

I do believe the gringa is on to something. Nudity could very well save the world. Unless, of course, you live in Siberia. But winter wear is a subject for another post.

Source: europe.newsweek.com

Image Credit: tse4.mm.bing.net