The aliens are coming and other news from outer space
A former NORAD officer claims that on October 13th aliens will make their presence on Earth unmistakably known with “a massive UFO display over the world’s principal cities.” I have my doubts, but hey, it will certainly be fodder for any number of blog posts should it happen. And San Francisco is certainly arguably one of the world’s principal cities, so I should be able to see them from my balcony. I’ll definitely take pictures and post them. How credible is this prediction? Well, my thinking is that if stable technological civilization is possible, if aliens with same are relatively common, and if interstellar flight is feasible in any classic scifi senses … then the aliens are already here living and studying among us. Unfortunately since all of these are really big ifs, combined with a complete lack of empirical evidence for aliens, their existence here seems pretty unlikely. Still, the existence of aliens doesn’t conflict in the slightest with current science, so it’s always a possibility that UFOs will land on the White House lawn tomorrow.
Still, been around as long as I have and one has to be a little skeptical about people who predict “the aliens are coming.” It’s simply a modern version of “the messiah is coming” or “the rapture is coming” or “the end is coming” as far as I can tell, and like all of those, it’s always proved false before. In fact predicting disasters and the end of the world seems to be a fundamental need in human psychology, and the fact that some people always fall for it bears this out. That such predictions have always been wrong doesn’t seem to faze people one bit.
In other alien news, an astronomer claims to have seen a suspicious pulse of light coming from the direction of Gliese 581g a few years ago. Gliese 581g is the recently found planet some 20 light years away that is in what we call the “habitable zone” around its parent star. While the maker of the claim is an actual astronomer, other astronomers are taking the claim with large doses of salt. The fact that the astronomer in question can’t seem to furnish much by way of details about his retroactive claim is, well, suspicious.
And while I don’t really expect any UFOs tomorrow, Earth got a near visit today. At 6:51 AM EDT a small asteroid zipped by Earth, coming to within 28,000 miles at its closest approach. Asteroid 2010 TD54 is only about 20 feet wide, just a big rock really, but even so some amateur stargazers may have been able to spot it. Asteroids of this size pose no danger to Earth, but it is amazing that we are able to locate and track such small objects. In other asteroid news, a second asteroid has been discovered to have water on its surface. (OK, ice, details, details.) This is an unexpected discovery, and will lead to more research no doubt. It may explain how Earth got its water, it may have come from the heavy asteroid bombardment early in the Earth’s history. It used to be thought that Earth got its water from comets, but it’s now known that the water in comets differs chemically from most of the water on Earth, so they aren’t the candidate they once were.
In final space news, aside from gutting the US space program to give ever more money to the bankers and generals that are holding the USA hostage, astronomers are switching from stargazing to data mining. Basically so much data has been gathered in recent decades that scientists are falling behind in analyzing it if anything. The astronomers of the future may never even go near a telescope, who would have thunk it?
(The above image of “nearby” galaxy NGC 2683 is an APOD Hubble image and thus public domain for all practical purposes, including its use in this post. Credit: Data: Hubble Legacy Archive, ESA, NASA; Processing: Nikolaus Sulzenaur. NGC 2683 is thought to be a barred spiral galaxy like our own Milky Way galaxy, but it’s hard to tell from an edge on view like this. It’s a mere 20 million light years away from us, that’s practically next door neighbours on a cosmic scale. Hell, that’s a house guest on a cosmic scale. Click on it to see the full size version, other more distant galaxies can be seen in the background. I used this image for the same reason I use so many space images, the vastness of the Universe amazes me to this day, and the fact that there may be “people” in NGC 2683 looking at a similar image of our galaxy at this very moment fills me with wonder.)