The Most Habitable (But Probably Not) Exoplanet Yet

Two teams of astronomers independently reported water vapor around K2-18b, an exoplanet 100 light years away. It's the first time water vapor has been detected in the atmosphere of an exoplanet that is not a gas giant: https://www.wired.com/story/scientists-find-water-vapor-on-the-most-habitable-exoplanet-yet/

“The planet, known by the catchy name K2-18b, is 110 light years away and orbits a red dwarf star about half the size of the sun. The planet is twice the size of Earth, eight times as massive, and orbits its host star once every 33 days.

“This is the only planet outside the solar system that has the correct temperature to support water and has an atmosphere that has water in it, making this planet the best candidate for habitability that we know right now,” says Angelos Tsiaras, an astronomer at University College London and the lead author of the study published today in Nature Astronomy.”

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Originally posted on Twitter.

The Shadow of Io

During a recent perijove pass, Juno caught an absolutely incredible image of Io's shadow cast upon Jupiter.😲😍

Unless it's actually millions of monoliths devouring Jupiter's atmosphere. Which is, frankly, equally as likely.

Hi-res quality: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kevinmgill/48745739051/
Source and credit: https://twitter.com/kevinmgill/status/1173741101515079680

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Originally posted on Facebook.

Space Is Hard, Once Again

For the second time this year, a lunar lander has experienced an error and crashed in the final meters of its descent to the surface.

SPACE IS HARD, guys. I know I make it look easy in my books (as well as cool, fun and exciting 😋), but it's hard. And it's going to continue being hard for a while yet.

https://www.theverge.com/2019/9/6/20853462/india-chandrayaan-2-lunar-landing-moon-vikram-crash-communication-failure

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Originally posted on Facebook.

Parker Skims the Sun

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is currently making its third of 24 dives through the sun’s corona this week: https://www.space.com/parker-solar-probe-third-sun-flyby.html. Every loop sends the spacecraft deeper into the corona, increasing the risk to the craft but also the reward in the form of bucketloads of scientific data.

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Building a Wormhole

Half tongue-in-cheek and heavy on the "theoretical," this is nonetheless an entertaining, accessible and tantalizing piece on how we maybe-just-maybe-might-one-day be able to create a traversable wormhole.

Of course, I'm still holding out for negative mass being a real thing, and definitely white holes as well. But cosmic strings would be good, too.

https://www.space.com/building-a-wormhole-with-cosmic-strings.html

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Originally posted on Facebook.

Spitzer's Sweet 16

"NASA launched its Spitzer Space Telescope into orbit around the Sun on Aug. 25, 2003. Since then, the observatory has been lifting the veil on the wonders of the cosmos, from our own solar system to faraway galaxies, using infrared light.

Managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, Spitzer enabled scientists to confirm the presence of seven rocky, Earth-size planets in the TRAPPIST-1 system. The telescope has also provided weather maps of hot, gaseous exoplanets and revealed a hidden ring around Saturn. It has illuminated hidden collections of dust in a wide variety of locations, including cosmic nebulas (clouds of gas and dust in space), where young stars form, and swirling galaxies. Spitzer has additionally investigated some of the universe's oldest galaxies and stared at the black hole at the center of the Milky Way.

Spitzer's primary mission lasted five-and-a-half years and ended when it ran out of the liquid helium coolant necessary to operate two of its three instruments. But its passive-cooling design has allowed part of its third instrument to continue operating for more than 10 additional years. The mission is scheduled to end on Jan. 30, 2020.

In honor of Spitzer's Sweet 16 in space, here are 16 amazing images from the mission.": http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu/news/2195-ssc2019-15-Sixteen-Images-for-Spitzer-s-Sweet-16

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Originally posted on Facebook and Twitter.

Mission Critical: Thoughts

I don't post about other books often, mostly because I fully appreciate that readers are a finnicky lot. You like what you like, and just because you like my books doesn't mean you'll like the books I choose to read. Go forth and make your own book choices!

But I'm going to mention the anthology I just finished, "MISSION CRITICAL," edited by Jonathan Strahan, for two reasons. One, I figure there's at least 1 or 2 stories in it that each of you will enjoy; two, a couple of the stories genuinely stoked my imagination.

The premise of the anthology is an exploration of what people will (or won't) do when everything goes wrong (in space), and their actions in the next seconds or minutes or hours will determine who lives and who dies.

I won't comment on the stories I didn't enjoy or were meh/forgettable, because, again, you may disagree. The ones I DID enjoy:

"The Empty Gun" by Yoon Ha Lee. It features an unlikable protagonist and a dark, doom-upon-the-world mood, yet it nonetheless struck a strong chord with me. While I've long been aware of Lee's acclaimed Machineries of Empire books, I've never read them - but when I finished this story I immediately went and purchased Ninefox Gambit.

"Something in the Air" by Carolyn Ives Gilman. This story takes a concept near and dear to my writer heart, our (limited) understanding of quantum indeterminacy and entanglement, and turns it right on its head. In the early pages I thought I saw clear as day where the story was going, and I was wrong. I do feel like it would work better as a novella, as the story was thin in several places, felt rushed and ultimately left so much on the table. But damn if it didn't get me thinking!

"Genesong" by Peter F. Hamilton. Everyone here knows I'm a Hamilton fan, but the interesting thing about this story is how un-Hamilton it is. He's known for his impressive worldbuilding and the epic scale of his stories - not for his stories' emotional depth or resonance. The technological premise did borrow a bit from his Edenists in The Night's Dawn trilogy, but the story was poignant and soulful, even downright heartbreaking. I know how tough it is to stray outside your writing comfort zone, so props to Mr. Hamilton.

"Lost in Splendor" by John Meaney. This one maybe wasn't as unique as the other three, but the GenGs reminded me a lot of the Prevos in Renegades, and Shep was a notably likeable protagonist. Also, silver spiders and golden monkeys....😵

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Originally posted on Facebook.

On 'Impossible' White Dwarfs

"Astronomers Have Spotted An 'Impossible' White Dwarf": https://www.iflscience.com/space/astronomers-have-spotted-an-impossible-white-dwarf/

Of course it isn't impossible - either our scientific understanding or our scientific measurement tools, or both, aren't yet sophisticated enough to understand the object. But it's extremely cool that I included an oddity almost exactly like this in Starshine 😎:

"The Siyane hovered 1.5 megameters above the white dwarf. Deep red in color (despite the name), it pulsed at a leisurely period of thirty-six seconds. Seven different ways of measurement told her it radiated a temperature of 910 K.
“That’s not possible.”
“And that’s the fourth time you’ve said so.”
She shot him a glare. “It’s the fourth time it’s been true. The coolest white dwarf ever measured is 2440 K, and it is a helluva lot closer to the center of the damn universe than this is. A temperature so low means it’s almost as old as the Big Bang—and that is impossible.”
“Excellent.” He shrugged. “So…we go back home and win the Nobel Prize in Astrophysics?”"

Thanks to Mark Buxton for pointing me to the story!

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Originally posted on Facebook.

Supernova Cannon Expels Pulsar J0002

What could shoot out a neutron star like a cannon ball? A supernova. About 10,000 years ago, the supernova that created the nebular remnant CTB 1 not only destroyed a massive star but blasted its newly formed neutron star core -- a pulsar -- out into the Milky Way Galaxy.

https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap190813.html

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Cosmic Flow of the Universe

Master “plan” of the universe revealed in new galaxy maps. In the renderings, our Milky Way galaxy is a tiny speck in the midst of other galaxies and colossal voids.

It’s a compelling reminder - however big I go in my books, the scope is still just a tiny speck of dust compared to the entire universe.

https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/master-plan-universe-revealed-new-galaxy-maps-ncna1040936

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Originally posted on Twitter and Facebook.

The Great Red Spot

This new Hubble Space Telescope view of Jupiter, taken on June 27, 2019, reveals the giant planet's trademark Great Red Spot, and a more intense color palette in the clouds swirling in Jupiter's turbulent atmosphere than seen in previous years. The colors, and their changes, provide important clues to ongoing processes in Jupiter's atmosphere. More info: https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/2019/hubble-new-portrait-of-jupiter

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Originally posted on Twitter.

Curiosity, Checking In

An update from the indomnitable Mars rover Curiosity: “Can't stop. Won't stop. I've been exploring #Mars for seven years, traveled 13 miles (21 km), climbed 1,207 feet (368 m), found conditions on ancient Mars were favorable for life as we know it, and I'm not done yet. Here's what's new (plus a 360 view): https://go.nasa.gov/2YtGgMg

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Originally posted on Twitter.