Titan’s Peaks

Mountains have always been a source of fascination for me. I climbed my first 14er, Mt. Yale (Elevation 14,199 ft.), when I was in middle school. Hopefully one day I can return to Colorado to climb more as well as many other mountains in this world. One of my favorite mountains is Mount Amiata in Tuscany and our property there overlooks the mountain as you can see in this picture I took below.

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Mount Amiata, 12.28.2015, 5:19 pm Copyright Ned Bowen, 2015

Anyways, when I found out there are mountains on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, I was intrigued. When I found out they are ice mountains, I wanted to know all about them. The highest peak is found within the mountain ridges known as the Mithrim Montes, named after the mountain range in Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings. The peak is 10,948 feet, which rivals some of the mountains on Earth. You can see them below:

 

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Source: Gizmodo

 

It’s interesting because I often never think about other planets having geological features like we do here on Earth. The only pictures we really see are from space and just show a circular planet with some markings of geological activity but you get no understanding of the scale of these mountain ranges. It just goes to show how most planets and moons have major elevation changes like Earth that allow us to study their surfaces by comparing them to ours as well as discovering the underlying geological activity of the planet/moon. The universe is awesome.

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The Martian – Hollywood exaggeration or accurate?

Yes, I’m super behind on my movie watching but I finally watched “The Martian” over the weekend and wow did it absolutely spark my interest in space travel and the feasibility of living on Mars for months including growing your own food…what? By the way, if you haven’t seen it yet stop reading this immediately and go watch it. It’s completely worth it and this post will spoil it for you.


 

First off, The Martian does a great job and gets some stuff right, but then again this is science fiction and so there has to be some fictional things but what “The Martian” does is not over exaggerate a ton of things making almost all of it very believable. One blatant thing that they screwed up was the storm at the beginning that stranded the astronaut on Mars after he was hit by the communication tower that the wind knocked over. The dust storm certainly could occur but not to the level it was dramatized because of the incredibly thin atmosphere Mars has. So the storm couldn’t have happened, however, a lot of other things they got right.

For instance, all the orbital dynamics and the time it would take to travel between Mars and Earth was completely dead on and one scientist even acclaimed the movie for doing the computations to determine how long the trips would take. On top of this, the slingshot the Hermes Spacecraft undertook around Earth to head back to Mars was entirely feasible as gravity assisted speed boosts are used to help satellites obtain more speed all the time.

The last two things I wanted to talk about was the ability to grow potatoes on Mars and taking off from mars in a deconstructed rocket. After doing research, I found out that the way Watney grew potatoes was entirely feasible as Martian soil can sustain food growth especially with using feces as fertilizer and obtaining water the way he did, so, in essence, his ability to grow food on Mars is plausible.

Last, what I thought was most ridiculous, was when Watney basically stripped the rocket of its nose cone and other portals so he was essentially flying into space in an open cockpit. I thought there was absolutely no way this could happen. Well, it sort of is and sort of is not feasible. I say this because currently we do not have the technology to take off from Mars because NASA has absolutely no idea how to launch a rocket from Mars at the current point in time so, in that case, it is not possible. However, the fact that the windows are off is potentially possible because the atmosphere is so thin, by the time friction (which would develop heat and thus require the heat shield to protect against the atmosphere) played a factor, it would be negligible. Therefore, it is plausible to launch a spacecraft like that.

All in all, “The Martian” does probably the best job yet of abiding to science when creating a science fiction movie and it was applauded by many scientists as well as checked by NASA to prove it was mostly valid despite a few snafus. If you haven’t seen it yet, I would strongly suggest you go see it immediately.

Sources: Guardian, Time MagazineIFLScience

The Solar Eclipse

 

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Almost Total Solar Eclipse vis BusinessInsider

What you see above is an almost total solar eclipse. One of the easiest astrological phenomenons to observe due to its size in the sky is a solar or lunar eclipse. Now what is an eclipse exactly? Well it when either the moon aligns perfectly between the sun and earth in the case of a solar eclipse or when the earth aligns directly between the sun and the moon. We are going to talk about the former. In a total solar eclipse, the moon completely covers the sun so when you end up seeing is a picture like above where there is a dark circle, which is the moon, and the sun behind it shining it’s rays around the moon to give it that halo effect. The picture below exhibits a good overview of how they occur.

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Solar and Lunar Eclipse Explained

Now how often do these amazing sights happen? Well, unfortunately not that often. There are four types of eclipses, Total, annular, hybrid, and partial. Partial eclipses happen quite often actually, as this is when the moon only partially obstructs the suns light so you see the sun take on a crescent shape. The reason that they do not occur all that often is the moon is on a 5% incline compared to the plane of the earth and the sun and therefore, it does not always eclipse the sun. If it was on the same plane we would have a solar eclipse every month during the new moon! The other important thing to not is that an eclipse does occur about 2-5 times per year but the key fact is that they occur somewhere on earth and often never in the same place. The next time 5 solar eclipses happen in one year will be in 2206. Shockingly, the current estimate is that they only reoccur in the same spot every 360 to 410 years making them quite rare in a location. The next total solar eclipse that will occur in the US will be on Aug 21, 2017. So we have some time to prepare to see this phenomenon but you should definitely try to see it as it will be on for the history books as they occur so infrequently. I will certainly be trying to capture it in an amazing location to get a great picture like above!

The Cosmic Calendar

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From CosmicCalendar.Net

For my first blog, I wanted to discuss the Cosmic Calendar. Often times in our life we think of our lifespans as quite long. Especially when compared to our ancestors of a few hundreds to thousands of years ago, we are long surpassing their lifespans. However, compared to the lifespan of the universe, we are just a tiny speck and I think it is extremely important to remind ourselves of that. Written history only began 12 seconds ago on the cosmic calendar, our lifespan won’t even last a second in the cosmic calendar. Other examples of how long this universe has been around can be found in the picture. The perspective of the cosmic calendar is astonishing because you notice how incredibly not important we are to the entire spectrum. The Big Bang was 13.8 billion years ago so they consider that midnight on January 1st. Every month roughly represents a little over a billion years. Humans weren’t even a thing till December rolled around, December 31st might I add.

I think if anything it’s incredibly important to realize that this universe went through a whole lot before we arrived on the scene. The universe has never and never will revolve around humans. We are just a speck of time on a speck of land in a universe that is ever expanding. I think everyone should realize this as it should be a goal on this earth to make our extremely short time relative to the universe worthwhile and mean something valuable to everyone. The cosmic calendar gives us perspective that nothing else can because there is no single thing that can show us how little of importance we actually are in the grand scheme of this universe. Let’s just leave it a better universe than when we found it, that should be our goal.