About a month ago, English physicist Brian Cox was discussing a variety of topics in an interview on LADbible TV titled Brian Cox On The Multiverse And Life On Other Planets. You can hear Dr. Cox respond to a number of questions about the infinite universe, multiverses, finding intelligent life off planet, black holes, the end of the Earth, and even the recent DART mission. It is worth spending 23 minutes of your time listening to his answers.
For instance, he notes that it is his reasonable guess that there are no other worlds in the galaxy like ours in terms of harboring intelligent life. He points out that it took anywhere from 3.5 to 4 billion years for intelligent life to form on the Earth, which is about 1/3 the age of the universe. If we do find other life in the galaxy, he expects it to be slime and not much more. Later on, he states that not even the intelligent life on this planet would have been possible without a planet-killer asteroid taking out the dinosaurs, so it was a fluke that made way for intelligent life.
All in all, he said it is a “big ask” to expect to find other planets with intelligent life in this violent universe with a 4 billion-year chain of life uncut by events, making our civilization quite unique. Of course, earlier in the interview he also points out that there are about 2 trillion galaxies in our “small patch” of the universe, so even one intelligent planet per galaxy can amount to a lot of civilizations. Yet ever seeing or even knowing about these civilizations is something else. Add in the idea of multiverses created by endless big bangs, and the odds of intelligent life increase again within these other unknowable universes.
It’s a lot to get your heard around, though Dr. Cox has a way of making it all sound so reasonable. For that reason, I again ask you to spend 23 minutes with Dr. Cox to clear your head and make room for some new ideas.
NASA has saved the Earth, or it would have had the asteroid Dimorphos and its partner been heading towards us. That is the news from earlier today from the space agency. NASA’s Administrator Bill Nelson made the following comments regarding the results of the impact by the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft:
This mission shows that NASA is trying to be ready for whatever the universe throws at us. NASA has proven we are serious as a defender of the planet. This is a watershed moment for planetary defense and all of humanity, demonstrating commitment from NASA’s exceptional team and partners from around the world.
NASA scientists determined that the orbit of Dimorphos around its parent asteroid, Didymos, was truncated by 32 minutes as a result of the impact. Since minimum success would have been 1 minute 13 seconds, DART was a great success.
Hollywood may prefer a more dramatic method with oil rig astronauts and nuclear bombs, but sometimes a simple nudge will do the job.
The Washington Postreports that NASA and SpaceX are looking into the idea of extending the life of the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, which has already been in service more than 30 years. The space telescope’s orbit has been deteriorating since 2009, when it was last visited for repairs. The current orbit should be okay until the mid-2030s, and then it will fall to Earth.
To keep the Hubble in service for even more years, it would need to be pushed into a higher orbit. This is where SpaceX comes in. It can assist NASA by moving Hubble just 40 miles higher in order to get another 15 to 20 years out of the space telescope.
The article notes that the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was not developed to replace Hubble but rather to complement it. Hence, the extra life for Hubble means more and better astronomical observations over additional years in conjunction with the JWST. For instance, we will get more shots like the one below where the Hubble captured the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission before and after it struck the asteroid.
Update: I have also included the JWST DART image below just to show the two space telescopes can work in tandem.
The Americans and Italians are putting on a show tomorrow night. NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft is ready to strike Dimorphos, which is a moonlet to the asteroid Didymos. All of it should be captured by Italy’s Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging Asteroids (LICIACub) in addition to DART’s own camera called the Didymos Reconnaissance and Asteroid Camera for Optical navigation (DRACO). Are you overwhelmed with acronyms yet?
The mission is a practice run on diverting an asteroid. While we are not threatened by this pair of asteroids, we may be threatened by others in the future, so what we learn here is critical.
You can view the impact later tomorrow via this NASA site starting at 6pm ET (the collision is expected at 7:14pm ET).
Extra: Here is another DART site to watch from The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory.
Update: The mission was a success. The video showing the DART spacecraft approaching the dirty potato called Dimorphos was impressive. The actual moonlet shown below is considerably different than the smooth asteroid in the artist’s rendering above.
You may have already watched the star-studded movie Don’t Look Up released by Netflix over the holidays about a comet on its way to destroy our planet. It is an amusing film. Hopefully, it will also move people towards NASA and away from politicians, not that politicians really have much of a following. The more interesting story that should capture the public’s attention pertains to a little NASA spacecraft, part of the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission, that will crash into a real asteroid next fall to determine whether or not we are able to nudge one of these monsters in a new direction – that is, away from Earth. The asteroid in question is called Dimorphos, which is about 160 meters in diameter and would create an explosion equivalent to approximately 500 megatons of TNT should it strike our planet. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima was equivalent to about 16,000 tons of TNT. So this test is pretty important in terms of long term planning as well as survival. Check out the DART link above to read more about the mission.