I am a co-author of this paper, “Science opportunities with solar sailing smallsats,” announcing “Project Sundiver”… offering a wide suite of potential fast interplanetary missions that could accelerate far faster than today’s rockets can manage, by swooping DOWN to pass very close to the Sun, spreading lightsail wings to catch a boost off the blasting brightness there. The team did proof of concept with a grant at NASA’s Innovative & Advanced Concepts program – (NIAC).
But sure, I have another reason to root for “Project Sundiver” … my first novel, Sundiver!
As for the ongoing UFO silliness… this Forbes journalist back in January did something rare – he asked excellent questions, understood everything I said, and described (condensed) it accurately, in a wide range of topics. “Why Are UFOs Still Blurry? A Conversation With David Brin.”
“Believe” what you like. Just don’t claim to be modernist or scientific in this cult that keeps repeating – twice per decade for the last 80 years – the exact same incantations and spells, never producing an iota of actual evidence. Oh, I have studied concepts of the ‘alien’ all my life! A bazillion concepts that are vastly less tedious and bo-ring.
== Solar System News! ==
The wonderful Japanese probe that brought samples from the asteroid Ryugu has offered glimpses of interstellar dust that likely predates the Solar System. Embedded in the sample rocks are grains of stardust.
Unfortunately, Russia’s Luna-25 moon lander suffered an ’emergency situation in lunar orbit, prior to a scheduled touchdown attempt.
A new study featuring data from the NASA Mars Perseverance rover reports on an instrumental detection potentially consistent with organic molecules on the Martian surface.
An observatory made of hundreds of tanks of water observes Cherenkov Radiation when particles pass through them that were created when super-hyper energetic gamma rays hit atoms in the atmosphere. Those super-hypers (up to about 10 Tev each!) are apparently much more common from the Sun than we thought.
NASA and DARPA announced they awarded Lockheed Martin and BWX Technologies to build and develop a nuclear thermal rocket (NTR) engine. An NTR achieves high thrust similar to in-space chemical propulsion but is two to three times more efficient. We helped develop some precursor techs at NASA’s Innovative & Advanced Concepts program – (NIAC) – but at half a $billion, this looks to be getting ready for prime time. NASA and DARPA are looking at a launch target of late 2025 or early 2026.
Combining art & science: Ron Miller’s two newest oeuvres. Natural Satellites: The Book of Moons. The natural satellites of the planets―the solar system’s moons―are some of the most extraordinary places imaginable. Recently, scientists have turned to the moons for answers in their investigations of the origins of the solar system and the evolution of life on our own planet.
And The Big Backyard: The Solar System Beyond Pluto. Our solar system extends almost halfway to the nearest star. It is composed of not only planets, asteroids, and comets, but powerful forces and vast fields of energy. Beyond the orbit of Neptune are countless icy comets, and signs of undiscovered planets.
== Farther Out ==
What a privilege to live to see the twin LIGO observatories, co-founded by my friend Kip Thorne, discover and analyze gravitational waves from converging neutron stars and black holes at ‘short wavelengths of a few hundreds or thousands of kilometers. But what of the deeper growl of longer waves? MUCH longer on galactic scale? Researchers looked at data from about 70 pulsars and found is a pattern of deviations from the expected pulsar beam arrival timings that suggests gravitational waves are ‘jiggling space-time as though it’s a vast serving of Jell-O’ … ‘possibilities range from cosmic strings to dark matter to primordial black holes that formed soon after the Big Bang.’
A mirror-like planet with an albedo of 0.80 reflects so much light from its very nearby star that astronomers offer a theory that the planet started out as a gas giant but has been losing mass over time. It must have an atmosphere composed of silica material, like glass, along with titanium. Effectively, then, the atmosphere has a mirror-like composition, super-saturated with silicate and metal vapors. This means that, quite literally, it rains titanium on this weird world.
One side of this white dwarf is (apparently) composed (on the surface at least) of hydrogen, while the other seems made up of helium. Weird! Though the mind spins with notions of sloshing tidal waves of hydrogen, since “Janus” is rotating on its axis every 15 minutes. Especially since some white dwarfs transition from being hydrogen- to helium-dominated on their surface. Or else the answer, according to this science team, may lie in magnetic fields.
== Even farther out ==
A team used gravitational lensing to discover an ultra-massive black hole, an object over 30 billion times the mass of our Sun, in the foreground galaxy – a scale rarely seen by astronomers.
Farther out… WAY farther… the Webb is helping several approaches to refining the famed Hubble Constant for how rapidly the universe is expanding. A good summary here.
Interesting article in Universe Today that identifies the distant stars that were in the line-of-sight of high-power, very directional planetary-radar transmissions, estimates when the signal should arrive at each star, and when we might expect a reply if anyone on the other end detects the NASA signal and is able to answer promptly.
Fortunately 99.999% of Earth’s radio emissions – including “I Love Lucy” – fade away long before one light year. The “METI” cult, who are fetishistically and rudely and illegally trying to foist “yoohoo!” so-called messages, aim to send far more lasting, laser-like coherent beams. And my opposition is explained here.
So why don’t I mind these deep space radar blips which are also coherent? Because the odds of bad outcomes are hugely lower compared to the beneficial science. And – simply – because unlike arrogant METI, this is not a jerky rude and illegal thing to do.
And as long as we’re on rude jerks…. Kooky Dmitry Rogozin strikes again – denying that NASA landed on the moon! This is the same fella who turned down Elon Musk and this unintentionally caused Musk to create SpaceX, the greatest launch success since Sputnik. Of course this is part of the putinist doubling down on riling-up the one force on Earth that might save them… the US lobotomized right.