NASA Could Construct A Cloud City Over Venus, Details Here

Cloud CityWith events like the successful test flight of the new Orion spacecraft, there’s been a great deal of talk about crewed missions to Mars lately. There’s even a rough timeline now, as NASA has eyes on setting foot on the Red Planet in the 2030s. But Mars isn’t the only planet in the neighborhood, and some are talking about travelling to Venus, and they’re borrowing ideas from Star Wars, specifically The Empire Strikes Back, to further their cause.

The surface and atmosphere of Venus are far too troublesome to realistically plan any human visitation—temperatures hover around 500 degree Celsius—despite the fact that it is a much shorter journey than the one to Mars: roughly 440 days versus somewhere between 650 and 900. That said, there is apparently one specific spot in the atmosphere where scientists believe we could place air ships and even build a permanent settlement, a kind of Cloud City. Whether or not Lando will come out of retirement to run the joint remains to be seen, but some think it could be easier than going to Mars, at least in some ways.

Tags: , , ,


NASA VeSpR Rocket Telescope Scours Venus’ Atmosphere For Signs Of Water

venusWhile the Cassini, Curiosity, and MESSENGER craft have been giving us extensive information about Saturn, Mars, and Mercury, respectively, it’s been a few years since our space program has been able to study Venus with much complexity. But earlier this week, NASA launched the Venus Spectral Rocket Experiment, or VeSpR, the data from which will be used to determine whether or not the planet was ever covered in water. Whatever happened to just politely asking a planet if it had any water?

The VeSpR combines a Terrier missile and a Black Brant Mk1 sounding rocket equipped with a telescope. The rocket was sent up to more than 65 miles above the Earth’ surface, where the atmosphere is thin enough that ultraviolet rays coming off of the upper parts of Venus’s atmosphere can be measured without our planet’s atmosphere getting in the way.

Tags: ,


Great Scott! Christopher Lloyd Turns 75: Today In Science & Science Fiction

LloydChristopher Lloyd (October 22, 1938)
This is heavy! Christopher Lloyd has had a long and esteemed career over the past 40 years: playing Reverend Jim on Taxi; giving us a perfect Uncle Fester in the Addams Family movies; and even putting in a hilarious turn as Professor Plum in one of my very favorite films, Clue. But of all those projects over the years, there’s no question that his performance as Dr. Emmett Brown in the Back to the Future movies is his most beloved role of all. Just try to picture anybody else playing the brilliant, floppy-haired eccentric — it can’t be done. In less talented hands, the character could have just been a one-note cliché, but Lloyd makes Doc Brown the true heart of the trilogy, the sort of friend and mentor you’d happily travel through time to save. GFR wishes him a spectacular birthday!

Tags: , , , , , , ,


Astrobiologist Believes Recent Venus Transit Gave Us Space Cooties

Skywatchers across the world viewed the last transit of Venus across the disk of the Sun on June, 5 and got some amazing pictures. It was an awe-inspiring event, provided you had something to safely view the sun with, that happens twice around every hundred and five years or so. Chandra Wickramasinghe at the Universityof Buckingham’s Centre for Astrobiology believes gorgeous pictures taken through solar filters and welder’s masks weren’t all we got though. He believes that the rare event also marked a cyclical transit of microbial life from the upper atmosphere of Venus to Earth.

The surface of Venus is a scorched wasteland, with temperatures exceeding even that of Mercury and an atmosphere so thick that its pressure is roughly 92 times that of Earth. Add in sulfuric acid rain and it’s easy to see why any space probe that has actually managed to land on its surface, hasn’t lasted very long. As deadly and inhospitable to life as the surface of Venus is, some scientists do entertain the idea that microbial life is possible in the upper atmosphere where the temperature is cooler and the pressure far less. It is that very habitat that Wickramasinghe believes aids the transfer of life between Venus and Earth. In a paper for the Journal of Cosmology Wickramasinghe states…

The lining up of the Sun, Venus and Earth and the relative proximity of Venus to Earth offers an easy route for microbes, provided suitable mechanisms exist for lofting cloud particles to high enough altitudes in the atmosphere for them to become entrapped in the solar wind.

Charged bacteria and viruses entering the Earth’s magnetosphere would initially follow magnetic field lines, and their quickest and most direct descent will be near the poles. At other latitudes descent to ground level will depend on the particle size as well as the prevailing meteorological factors and could take from days to months.

Venusian microbes will eventually be included as nuclei of rain drops and mist and be added to the Earth’s biosphere. If they are able to replicate in the Earth’s biosphere, they would certainly have contributed modestly to our planet’s genetic heritage.



Relive The Venus Transit In Stunning High-Definition

Earlier this week on June 5th and 6th a once in a lifetime astrological event occurred. By now you’ve probably heard about the transit of Venus, in which the planet Venus passed between Earth and the Sun allowing us to actually see our neighboring planet block out a tiny portion of sunlight. It’s something that only happens every hundred years or so. The next one won’t occur until 2117.

If like me you live in the Pacific Northwest, you probably missed it because it’s always raining. That’s alright the most high-definition views of the action were captured by NASA. Take a look at the incredible high-definition video they took of Venus in transit using their Solar Dynamics Observatory…



This June Venus Will Transit The Sun For The Last Time Until 2117

Remember when you were a kid and adults always told you not to stare into the sun? Well you still shouldn’t unless you want to burn out your retinas, but on June 5 and 6 if you do, you’ll see a black speck floating across the face of the Sun. This hovering dot is a little planet called Venus. You should take the chance to check this out, using proper sun-gawking safety measures of course, because it won’t happen again in your lifetime, until the year 2117 to be precise.

This is a rare occasion, as transits only occurs when Venus and Earth are perfectly in line. Usually Venus passes above or below the Sun, due to the respective of the planets. These transits happen two at a time, eight years apart, but the wait between pairs of transits bounces back and forth between 105.5 and 121.5 years. The last transit was in 2004, so to call this a once in a lifetime event is a bit of a misnomer. However, if you don’t catch it this June, odds are you won’t be around next time.

The history of transits of Venus dates back to Copernicus in 1543. Using his theories, “scientists were able to predict and record the transits of both Mercury and Venus in the centuries that followed.” Though the 1639 transit was the first to actually be viewed by human eyes, the 1761 and 1769 transits were the first to be widely observed for scientific purposes.