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Stormy Interplanetary Weather

January 2nd, 2014 - 10:18 am

WEATHER

Clouds discovered on super-Earth planet in another solar system:

The planet in question is known as GJ1214b (a.k.a. Gliese 1214b) – a super-Earth type planet. Super-Earths are extrasolar planets that have masses intermediate between that of Earth and smaller gas giants, such as Neptune, which is around 17 Earth masses. Generally, super-Earths are almost exclusively classified by their mass, with the term offering no insight into a particular planet’s temperature, composition or environment, relative to Earth.

Recent exploration of planets around other stars (exoplanets) has demonstrated that super-Earths, including GJ1214b, are some of the most frequent types of planets within the Milky Way galaxy. However, since no super-Earth planets exist within our Solar System, much is to be gleaned about their physical characteristics.

With this in mind, studies are beginning to turn towards investigation of the atmospheric conditions of these planets.

Read the whole thing — fascinating stuff.

It of course made me think of last month’s story about possible FTL travel being studied at NASA. I had the chance a couple weeks ago to discuss this very thing with Robert Hoyt, who knows four times as much about the physics involved than I do, despite being half my age. And he understands them eight times better.

What I took away from our conversation was this. The theory behind NASA’s new study is nothing new — it’s been around for decades. Problem was, it was believed that in order to produce enough energy to generate warp fields big enough to move a small starship to a different system, you’d need to explode a mass the size of Jupiter. And turning all that mass into energy would of course also knock our own solar system out of alignment like a good break in a game of nine ball.

But nobody had ever bothered before to optimize the original math.

Turns out, you can generate enough energy with just 1,600kg mass, blowing up real good. For perspective, the Hubble telescope masses 11,110kg. In other words, we already have more than enough lift power to get what we need where it needs to go. What we need now is the orbital construction facility to build a ship.

Because if we really want to find out what the weather is like on GJ1214b — let’s go!

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All Comments   (7)
All Comments   (7)
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Oh, and the ability to convert matter into energy; we haven't really figured that part out.

For some reason, practical nuclear fusion has been about 20 years away, for the last 30 years.

When we finally figure out how to do nuclear fusion, we'll be able to convert about 0.00000001% of the mass of the hydrogen into energy, so we may still NEED a Jupiter's mass of hydrogen to work with. (I may have missed that percentage by a few zeroes either way.) With the nuclear fission that we know how to do now, it's about 1% as efficient as the theoretical hydrogen fusion.

37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Well, there's also the question of whether or not we can actually communicate with the warp bubble itself. Travelling faster than light isn't much use if you can't steer. Or stop.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
On the contrary. I can think of a few people to send on such a trip...
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yes, but then we're all going to die from a telephone-transmitted infection.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Americans won't do this. NASA would never get past the exoplanet environmental impact statements, the xenobiology sensitivity training, or the Muslim outreach requirements.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am not so sure about that.

If evidence can be developed that any new life found is likely to vote Democrat, then we will send a mission there to provide full welfare benefits, free schooling, health care, food stamps, housing, etc., with a signed voter registration card from each extra-terrestrial (this part would be administered by ACORN, of course), we could be there in time for the 2016 elections!
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
Going will require leadership and money, and we're fresh out of both.
37 weeks ago
37 weeks ago Link To Comment
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