Barnard’s Star & Jupiter Dancing

Jupiter and Venus were both illuminating the evening skies. Dusk was creeping in. The sight of our familiar planetary companions is always a welcome one. The first ones to illumine the skies, and visible long before the stars can be seen, these wanderers are a delight. The red atmosphere of Venus, the thunderous black ones on Jupiter, and the beautiful bluish velvet earthly skies make for a magical time.

Later that night, after loads of laundry, dishwashing and cleaning were done, I sat on a park bench nearby and gazed up. Jupiter looked brighter than all the other stars, and I found my thoughts drifting. I read somewhere that the red spot on Jupiter depicting its great raging storm looks fiercer than ever. I could see none of that from my park bench millions of miles away of course. That night, the reflected light from the sun was just soothing, and in some ways alluring.  The great mighty giant with its storm raging for 3-4 centuries spinning, quietly keeping the solar system in balance, and dealing with its own destiny is strangely fascinating. Are there extremophiles on its surface? Any micro-organisms that only thrive in the storms? Maybe we would know one day.

https://www.nationalgeographic.org/activity/jupiter-s-great-red-spot/family/

As I went to say good night to the son, we fell to discussing the skies (one of our favorite topics as regular readers know). I told him that I read about Jupiter’s storms being stronger this year,

“Ha! Our global warming affecting the storms on Jupiter? “ he said and the pair of us chuckled at the joke. 

“Did you know if you put 90 Jupiters together, you still won’t have a star?”

“Yeah?! How many would you need?”

“ A hundred.”

“Let me guess – Kurzegesagt?” I said, and he nodded. 

That channel has some of the most amazing content, and the son gets excited when a new video is released.

“If 100 Jupiters came together, we could get a star like the Barnard’s star. We cannot see, but it will be a star. ” . I had not heard of Barnard’s star, but there it was capable of going on as a red dwarf star for the next 10 trillion years. He charmingly said 1-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0-0 of course, and I was wondering what the number is – fogged after a hard days’ work, this child’s 1-0-0-…-0 can be a bit much. 

So, there was another close neighbor to the Earth – a star that was not as visible as Alpha Centauri, but there nevertheless, 6 light years away. This red dwarf has made its way into science fiction with the possibility of harboring life in the planets around it. The dwarf star is too cold, and though the planets orbit at an optimal distance, it is too cold for life as we know it. But human imagination, while marvelous, is also limited in some respects.

Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.

Carl Sagan

Apparently, the Barnard’s Star is known as one of the fastest moving stars – a little dancer in the skies, moving slowly regally among Jupiter & Venus in the evening skies. This one’s movements are not as visible in one lifetime, but is visible over a century. To marvel at this kind of generational wisdom being passed down always makes me grateful for the little part we all play in this mighty universe.

Life_On_Earth

As we sat in our pajamas talking about the stars and their planets, I thought about the beautiful marvelous gift of star-gazing.

I don’t know what the future holds for mankind, but I hope gazing at the stars is one that is always possible. A source of dreams, conjectures, possibilities, and solace. That is my wish for all sentient beings,

How to close a Black Hole and other topics

I don’t know what people usually do after they book airline tickets for their parents to come a-visiting. I found the husband contemplating deep philosophical questions about the universe while staring into a black hole. 

Image taken by a friend who is an amazing photographer

Baffling behavior really! We had trained ourselves and our visitors to avert their eyes from the hole in the ceiling. I joined him in the kitchen, and we looked long and deep into that hole above the kitchen. The universe, they say, is visible in the spaces in between. It is true. We could see spider webs, a spattering of tubes and pipes that modern plumbing usually hides from us, and a great gaping space with nothing there, not even light. The roughly cut ceiling hole was like the event horizon and we slowly learnt not to perceive past the event horizon.

As I write this, I am thinking the narrative is loose. I need to back up. What black hole? What hole in the ceiling and where does philosophy come into the picture? Valid qs – bear with me, while I set context and all that.

I’d like to take the reader back to the day after we moved to the new nest a few months ago. The kitchen ceiling was dry, birds were chirping and all was well. Things became wetter when one went to take a shower upstairs.

It turns out that something had been chipped between the kitchen and the shower upstairs. So, to make a l story s, when one showered upstairs, there was a rain-like shower in the kitchen downstairs. We plopped a bucket on the kitchen counter, and within minutes, the husband was making a call to the insurance company.

The leak itself, I am glad to say, was stopped quite competently and quickly. It is after that, that the tale of the black hole expands. The repairman sent by the insurance company had torn out an ugly assymetrical hole in the ceiling to repair the leak, and said to us that he would be back in 2 days to patch it up again. The trusting toons that the husband and I are, we wished him well, and then, many a week and month has passed waiting for the mystery man to come and fill the hole. 

We would jump at the sight of an unfamiliar vehicle in the streets outside. Maybe it is them. Then you see a man come up to us mistaking the welcoming gleam in our eyes, and ask if we would like to have the trees outside the home dusted, and the pair of us say in unison ‘Yes!’ ‘No!’. (Great minds think alike)

In any case, what I am trying to say is that there are several things like the black hole that have slipped by the wayside. Furnishing the new abode for instance, fixing the showers, the garage, the switch, the shelf. You know how it is.  

Apart from the fact that we seated our friends on the floor, learnt to divert our eye when spotting the hole in the ceiling, and had a system when it came to showers and things, all seemed good and we muddled along.

But the airline tickets ignited a fire in the man of the house. The man became The Man, The Machine, Street Hawk. A super hero in short. He whirled about the house taking care of chores, calling repairmen, plumbers, and carpenters sending reminders and thank-you notes like his career depended on them. 

A fascinating exercise really. For every time I have reached the reminder and chores section of our chats together, the man gives those large yawns. (I fear his jaws are going to tear off.) Yet, here he was, the very image of his parents a-visiting, being the epitome of efficiency.

What I must do is to book these tickets periodically whether or not they are able to come.

The Kaleidoscope of Life

Mars Marvels

There is something special in being able to watch the Mars Perseverance Rover land on Mars during the day with your fellow explorer. 

Mars.Nasa.Gov

A work day was in bustling progress.  Many meetings, many projects, many interruptions, and many more deadlines were jostling about in the ether, when the son came charging into the room. It was the middle of his school day (one of the many high points of the corona lifestyle), “Amma! Amma! You will like this. I just came to tell you this! The Mars landing just happened!”

I plucked myself away from the myriad day-to-day happenings of my world, and looked up at his excited face. Luckily, it was one of those rare ½ hour slots that was meeting-free. “Do you want to see the landing? “ I asked, and he nodded. There is something special in being able to watch the Mars Perseverance Rover land on Mars during the day with your fellow explorer. 

Mars.Nasa.Gov

Screen Shot 2021-02-21 at 2.46.02 PM

The video attests to Carl Sagan’s deductions in the book, Pale Blue Dot (essay: Sacred Black). The Martian atmosphere does look pinkish red with heavily desert hues. The son & I looked outside at the beautiful blue sky with reassuringly white clouds flitting by. 

The Mars Perseverance Rover is tasked with looking for evidence for extraterrestrial life.

Excerpt from Wikipedia:

The Perseverance rover has four science objectives that support the Mars Exploration Program‘s science goals:[8]

  1. Looking for habitability: identify past environments capable of supporting microbial life.
  2. Seeking biosignatures: seek signs of possible past microbial life in those habitable environments, particularly in specific rock types known to preserve signs over time.
  3. Caching samples: collect core rock and regolith (“soil”) samples and store them on the Martian surface.
  4. Preparing for humans: test oxygen production from the Martian atmosphere.

Mars has, it seems, been a most fertile planet for the imagination through the centuries. From harboring questions about life on its surface to envisioning warfare between worlds. As rich as lifeforms on Earth are, even in our imaginings, we are somewhat limited by how life has evolved on Earth. Cephalopods, trees, giraffes, humans – but what else is possible? What sensory powers are we not even considering?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mars_in_fiction

The War of the Worlds (1898) by H. G. Wells. Features an attack on England by cephalopod-like Martians and their advanced technology to employ fighting machines to decimate the world.

Even as early as the 16th and 17th century, writers made bold attempts at imagining life on its surface. The canal like squiggles on its surface, led to intriguing theories on an advanced civilization running advanced colonies etc. 

Now, seems like a good time for me to read The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. Given what we know about the Martian atmosphere now, there are places where the writing seems awkward. For instance, Ray Bradbury writes of a blue Martian sky – an example that it is hard for us to un-imagine what is. 

martian-ray

The Martian Chronicles (1950) by Ray Bradbury. Features human-like Martians with copper-colored skin, human emotions, and telepathic abilities. They have an advanced culture, but the human explorers are greeted with incomprehension. 

Science took us to Mars with the reddish sky, but it was the blue sky with white clouds that enabled us to dream. The hunter gatherer is us out to explore the cosmic ocean, as Carl Sagan would say.