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leicsmac

The World of Tomorrow!

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Not certain it was worth a new topic but:

 

http://news.sky.com/story/1514080/alien-life-on-philae-comet-scientists-say

 

Astromers think they've found evidence of extra terrestrial life. This is all very exciting.

 

Looks like it's merely adding to a theory that's been around for years - notably, that microorganisms could be responsible for some of the features on comets and planetary bodies. 

 

Until they get actual bonafide organic compound signatures I'm not holding my breath.

 

And one day I'll actually get round to contributing in this thread more.

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Bringing this thread back again with an interesting find:

 

http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/10/the-most-interesting-star-in-our-galaxy/410023/

 

As the article says, there's a lot of different natural explanations for what's going on here, but you never know. Kepler doing the business yet again.

 

If there's enough interest I can write a more detailed analysis...?

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Bringing this thread back again with an interesting

http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2015/10/the-most-interesting-star-in-our-galaxy/410023/

As the article says, there's a lot of different natural explanations for what's going on here, but you never know. Kepler doing the business yet again.

If there's enough interest I can write a more detailed analysis...?

Thanks, Mac - I'd be up for it.

How far away is it? The article doesn't say.

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Thanks, Mac - I'd be up for it.

How far away is it? The article doesn't say.

 

Roughly 1500 light years. 

 

I'll have a stab at detailing it more in the morning then.

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Roughly 1500 light years.

I'll have a stab at detailing it more in the morning then.

Right. That makes any form of dialogue impossible, though, doesn't it?

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Right. That makes any form of dialogue impossible, though, doesn't it?

 

Not impossible - it just means it'd take 1500 years to send a message, and a further 1500 to receive a response, so impractical.

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Not impossible - it just means it'd take 1500 years to send a message, and a further 1500 to receive a response, so impractical.

Bit like EE

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Not impossible - it just means it'd take 1500 years to send a message, and a further 1500 to receive a response, so impractical.

 

 

Shame we didn't discover these potential aliens a few years back, then. They could have been finding out right now about the fall of the Roman Empire and could soon be hearing about the arrival of the Vikings.

 

 

Can we even communicate at the speed of light?

 

 

Really massive bit of cardboard, covering an entire hemisphere of the world, letters cut out to form a message (e.g. "Hi, Hun, lots of bantz. Lolz, Moose"), a truly powerful light behind it and they'd be able to read it in 1500 years time, surely?

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Can we even communicate at the speed of light?

Using some pretty massive torches and morse code, yes. Or the LRA in new Mexico can send out ideograms at about that.

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Really massive bit of cardboard, covering an entire hemisphere of the world, letters cut out to form a message (e.g. "Hi, Hun, lots of bantz. Lolz, Moose"), a truly powerful light behind it and they'd be able to read it in 1500 years time, surely?

 

 

I've been thinking into this idea a bit more, and realised that oceans and mountains could be a problem.

 

Even if we got Alpine hikers, ocean-going shipping and oil rig workers involved, there might be places where the massive bit of cardboard sagged - a real problem if it dipped into the Atlantic, got soggy and ruptured.

 

Then I thought of the obvious solution: the Red Arrows. I know they usually fly in close formation, but surely they could be trained to fly far enough apart to hold up the massive bit of cardboard?

I know what you're thinking....at altitude, their hands might get frostbite poking out of the cockpit to hold the message. But if science has invented substances suitable for paneling space rockets, surely it can come up with a supply of suitable gloves?

 

Let's take a can-do approach here, folks. If we can pass a massive flag around the Kop every fortnight, we can communicate with these aliens. How good would it be to know that in 1500 years time they'd be finding out who won last year's X-Factor?

No, sod that, how about a message just reading "LCFC 5, Man Utd 3"? Just imagine, 1.5 millennia in the future, the little green men slapping one another on their scaly backs, raising a glass of space juice and bantering about that .... 

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Alright then, here's my writeup. 
 
lead_960.jpg?1444687096

The Most Interesting Star In Our Galaxy
 
"Astronomers have spotted a strange mess of objects whirling around a distant star. Scientists who search for extraterrestrial civilizations are scrambling to get a closer look."
 
Around fifty or sixty years ago, a bunch of astronomers discovered a mysterious signal coming from a corner of our galaxy. Being somewhat overenthusiastic regarding this news, the idea that it could have no natural origin took hold and as a result it was held up as potential proof of extraterrestrial life in the form of a signal from them. Of course, a considerable amount of egg was on faces a while later when it was proven that these signals were in fact the radio waves being emitted from spinning neutron stars - or pulsars, as we know them.
 
As a result, the scientists who look at such things these days tend to be a little more circumspect, which is why this most recent discovery has been described, by one of the leading scientists, as "Aliens should always be the very last hypothesis you consider."
 
But this particular find seems to have at least piqued the imagination of those researching it and the wider public. 
 
It began when the Kepler Space Telescope (you know, the one that's caused all that brouahaha about potentially habitable planets orbiting other stars) focussed, amongst others, on a distant star between two brighter companions, Lyra and Cygnus, around 1500 light years away from Earth. The star itself isn't visible to the naked eye, but Kepler has a rather better set of eyes than we do. 
 
Now normally Kepler looks for the telltale momentary signs of dimming in a stars light that indicate it is surrounded by one or several planets, but the data for this star stood out amongst the 150,000 others Kepler was observing because its light pattern was for lack of a better word, strange. Rather than just one or a few dips in luminosity over a set period of time (as you might expect for a star with planets passing across it), this star had many many dips, all at uneven intervals. There is a normal natural explanation for this - a young star with lots of debris around it smashing into each other and forming planets - but this star isn't young. Judging by the light it emits (using cool spectroscopy shit), it appears to be at a similar age to our own Sun. And, additionally, amongst the 150,000 stars Kepler has collected data for, this is the only one putting out a light signature like this.
 
What we can also understand from all of this is that this bunch of debris must have happened recently, or either the star would have grabbed it all and turned it into fine heated dust or it would have formed a much larger, single object under its own gravity (because little bunches of rocks in space just love to smash into each other and stick together). 
 
So so far so unusual.
 
Now, there are a number of perfectly reasonable scientific explanations for why such a thing might be happening, from instrument fvckups to planetary pileups of truly massive size (like the one that made our own Moon), most of which have been covered in a paper that some of the boffins on the project have already written. So why the hell is everyone suddenly going on about aliens?
 
Because one possible explanation for the bunch of stuff surrounding the star is a megastructure built around it by an alien civilisation, in the form of what is called a Dyson Sphere. Put simply, a Dyson Sphere is pretty much the ultimate tool in renewable energy - a swarm of structures that surround a star, capture most of the energy it emits, and then send it wherever it needs to go. Of course, the technological know-how needed to build one relegates the idea of such things strictly to popular sci-fi writers with long hair and bad Hawaiian shirts, but it is a possible - though extremely unlikely explanation. But, as is the nature of such things, the idea that we might not be alone in the Universe has caused a lot of clamour, and as a result more action is intended to be taken.

 

Of course, given that the star is 1500 light years away, there's a pretty significant barrier to finding out more, viz. the object being 1500 light years away. Light from Earth takes 1500 years to get there, as well as any form of transmission using electromagnetic radiation (radio and other transmissions), so any communication we were to receive from an alien civilisation in that neighbourhood that could actually observe us to any large degree, say, tomorrow, would probably be complimenting the Vandals for sacking Rome yet again or the Wu family for finally uniting China. Any transmission we send out would, similarly, take 1500 years to get there..and as has been said rather a lot can change in that time. Still, what we can do is use our large radio telescopes to look for any increase in radio waves from that particular corner of space that might give away the presence of something producing them in the same style that we have for the last several decades. And that is to take place in January, with a follow up later on in the year. Of course, again such a search could well be futile, even if there is someone out there - they might not use radio or other electromagnetic radiation to communicate like we do, their signals might be so weak by the time they get to us we can't detect them, or it may be that they're all dead and the megastructure is just debris, and we were too late anyway. But you never know.

 

So, all that remains now is to wait and see. It's likely that one of the manifold natural explanations for all of this is the correct one. But watch this space - it might be that the galaxy is more crowded than we thought. And they're polishing their anal probes and preparing a visit.

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Continuing on from the article above, new discoveries a year later!

 

"I'm not saying it was aliens...but it was aliens."

 

The continuing mystery of Star KIC8462852

 

FEMwPqvnM.jpg

 

"The more scientists learn about "Tabby's Star," the more mysterious the bizarre object gets."

 

Stars are pretty predictable. Unless they're really, REALLY big, they take hydrogen, smash it together into helium, and you get energy as a result. Figuring how to do the same thing here on Earth may well one day solve all of our energy problems, but that's a discussion for another time.

 

So...stars release energy in the form of heat and light across all bands of the electromagnetic spectrum. The way they do so is so predictable, and the equipment we've got now so advanced, that we can not only get a good idea of the size, age and gas composition of a star from the way it shines and what kind of radiation it throws (and in what quantity), we can also, thanks to the wonderful but sadly-now defunct Kepler observation mission, even make a good guess as to whether or not such stars have a planetary system around them, and even the size of said planets.

 

And all this is possible because of predictability. Stars obey the laws of physics in the same way a middle-aged driver of a Volvo obeys the laws of the road he happens to be on at the time - with great care and next to zero deviation. They shine, and they shine with reasonably rigid luminosity, increasing steadily over the course of the billion-years lifetimes, with the occasional dimming caused by a planet or two.

 

But even in a system as rigid as this, there's always one individual ready to not play by the rules.

 

Enter the catchily named star KIC8462852, one of the many objects that the Kepler mission observed and documented before its shutdown.

As was detailed in my post above, this particular star caught the attention of a lot of the astrophysical community, as well as the wider world, around this time last year, when it was discovered that it most decidedly was not throwing out light in the way that is typical of most stars, or even most stars with planetary systems. Lots of potential theories were discussed regarding exactly why this was so, and of course the most popular one discussed around the world (because we're humans and have egos) was the idea of an alien megastructure orbiting the star.

 

Now, sadly one year later we're no closer to discovering exactly why the star is behaving the way it is doing...but there has been a rather interesting recent development. It has been found through analysis of the data given to us by Kepler, that the star is, as well as still having the irregular dips in luminosity, is actually also losing luminosity overall over the course of time.

 

This is not something a star does naturally. Not now, not ever. Luminosity goes up over time, not down. But, in this case it seems that the opposite is true. The star is dimming, not getting brighter.

 

Of course, this is just another interesting phenomenon to add to the whole list of interesting phenomena surrounding this star, and right now the questions seem to be piling up with very few answers to come out of them. But the presence of another unusual happening in this same star is a cause, if not for excitement, then at least for further investigation. And the more the star behaves in an irregular way, the bigger the likelihood of the reason for it doing so...not being natural.

 

As many said a year ago, all of these readings could well just be an instrumentation or data handling fvckup somewhere along the way from image to front newspaper page, and in fact the star is perfectly innocuous. There are also a great many perfectly natural explanations for the star acting this way, but one thing is certain: the additional strange behaviour has moved star KIC8462852 from merely one of the pack, to an anomalous but only mildly interesting observation candidate, to by far the most interesting celestial object in the sky right now.

Edited by leicsmac
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