Posts tagged Space
This is an older story but I had to share this!!
A few months ago, physicist Harold White stunned the aeronautics world when he announced that he and his team at NASA had begun work on the development of a faster-than-light warp drive. His proposed design, an ingenious re-imagining of an Alcubierre Drive, may eventually result in an engine that can transport a spacecraft to the nearest star in a matter of weeks — and all without violating Einstein’s law of relativity. We contacted White at NASA and asked him to explain how this real life warp drive could actually work.
The above image of a Vulcan command ship features a warp engine similar to an Alcubierre Drive. Image courtesy CBS.
The Alcubierre Drive
The idea came to White while he was considering a rather remarkable equation formulated by physicist Miguel Alcubierre. In his 1994 paper titled, “The Warp Drive: Hyper-Fast Travel Within General Relativity,” Alcubierre suggested a mechanism by which space-time could be “warped” both in front of and behind a spacecraft.
Michio Kaku dubbed Alcubierre’s notion a “passport to the universe.” It takes advantage of a quirk in the cosmological code that allows for the expansion and contraction of space-time, and could allow for hyper-fast travel between interstellar destinations. Essentially, the empty space behind a starship would be made to expand rapidly, pushing the craft in a forward direction — passengers would perceive it as movement despite the complete lack of acceleration.
White speculates that such a drive could result in “speeds” that could take a spacecraft to Alpha Centauri in a mere two weeks — even though the system is 4.3 light-years away.
There’s a solar Coronal Mass Ejection travelling towards us at 1,400 miles per second, the largest solar storm since 2005. It will hit Earth around 9am Eastern Time, causing fluctuations on the power grid and disruptions to the Global Positioning System.
Don’t worry, you won’t die.
But there’s something else, a strong proton storm—ranking S3 on a 5-level scale—which is in full rage now and gradually increasing. While CMEs are normal—about 2,000 every 11-year solar cycle—proton storms are very rare. Only a couple of dozen happen per solar cycle. And this one can be dangerous.
The storm has already affected aircraft traffic and may affect satellites’ computers. On a telephone interview, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center physicist Doug Biesecker told me that, fortunately, there are measures to avoid most dangers.
“Many airliners have been avoiding the North Pole routes because they are more exposed to the proton storm, which disrupts High Frequency radio communications,” he said on a telephone interview. HF datalinks are crucial to modern airflight, as they keep aircraft connected to Air Traffic Control. Due to the structure of the magnetic field that surrounds Earth, the polar cusps have very little protection against outbursts of solar radiation, so any airplane crossing that area could be exposed to this mayhem.
The European Space Agency’ Mars Express spacecraft has discovered “large volumes of water ice” hiding only 65 feet underground the red planet’s surface, in the Phlegra Montes mountain range. It could be used by future human explorers.
ESA claims that the images show lobate debris aprons that have been moved down the mountain slopes over time, just like the debris covering glaciers on Earth. According to the ESA, their finding is backed up by NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter radar data, which “shows that lobate debris aprons are indeed strongly associated with the presence of water, perhaps only 20 meters underground.”
The Phlegra Montes is a smooth system of “gently curving” mountain and ridges. Planetary geologists believe that it was formed by tectonic forcers, not volcanic activity. Some of the shaping of those ridges were created by the compression of snow deposited in ancient craters. ESa believes that “over time, the snow compacted to form glaciers which then sculpted the crater floors.”
According to ESA, everything points out at the presence of large underground glaciers in this mountain range. They believe that, if confirmed, this water could be used in future human missions.
This is excellent news for the exploration and colonization of our neighbor, as water would be one of the crucial elements to keep the bases and colonies alive.
Until someone discovers the giant nuclear fusion machine left there by an ancient Martian civilization in order to turn all that ice into a new atmosphere, that is. [ESA]
Here is an interesting piece of information… Tomorrow a massive plasma flair is due to hit our atmosphere. It is said that this could affect various wireless communications including cell phone reception.
“On August 1st around 0855 UT, Earth orbiting satellites detected a C3-class solar flare. The origin of the blast was Earth-facing sunspot 1092. C-class solar flares are small (when compared to X and M-class flares) and usually have few noticeable consequences here on Earth besides aurorae. This one has spawned a coronal mass ejection heading in Earth’s direction.”