INFINTE OCEANWay back in 1977, NASA launched two little spacecraft. They were called Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 and it can be argued that we have.learned more about our fellow planetary travelers from these two little ships than from any other source. They took pictures of ALL the planets (including our only close-ups to date of Uranus and Neptune) and were launched before personal computers, I-pods and Brittany Spears. Now here's a question for you. How much of your electronic gear was made in 1977? How many of you even have functional toasters that are 31 years old? Here's what shows you that NASA really builds them right. Both Voyagers are still working, returning valid data and doing exception science. Because of the solar wind, it is a perfectly valid statement to say that the Earth and all the other planets are inside the Sun. The solar wind termination boundary is the real end of the solar system. It's where the Sun's influence on the surrounding space stops and true interstellar space begins. Two University of Iowa space physicists report that the Voyager 2 spacecraft has made the first direct observations of the solar wind termination shock. At the termination shock; the solar wind, which continuously expands outward from the sun at over a million miles per hour, abruptly slows to subsonic speed. The researchers report that the termination shock crossing was marked by an intense burst of plasma wave turbulence detected by the UI instrument, as well as by various effects detected by other instruments on the spacecraft. At the time of the shock crossing on 31 August 2007, Voyager 2 was 8.4 BILLION miles from the Sun. It took 11 hours and fifteen minutes for the radio signal from the spacecraft to reach Earth. And of course, the radio signal was traveling at the speed of light (180,000 miles per second).
And continuing in the 'shores of a great ocean' theme, one of the investigators noted that while some aspects of the termination shock matched scientists' expectations, a number of observations made by Voyager 2 were surprising and will cause a number of theories to be revised. Voyager 2 has left the confines of our solar system and is headed for the stars. It's traveling outward from its home at 38,000 mph. At that speed it would take roughly 100,000 years to reach Alpha Centauri, the closest star to the Sun. It's actually aimed in the direction of the stars of the constellation Taurus the Bull and it will pass a little less than a light year from one of them in roughly a million years. I suspect it won't be working by that time and we'd have to wait a REALLY long time for the pictures to be returned.
There are literally hundreds of satellites that circle Earth, but we're learning a great deal from two satellites that are in orbit around Mars. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor have provided detailed information about the elevations and gravity of the Red Planet's northern and southern hemispheres and these data have revealed what appears to be, by far, the largest impact crater ever found in the solar system. The research suggests that the Borealis Basin; a gigantic northern basin that covers about 40 percent of Mars' surface, is the remains of a colossal impact that occurred early in the solar system's formation. It's 5,300 miles across, about four times wider than the next-biggest impact basin known, the Hellas basin on southern Mars. Scientists have calculated that the planetismal that produced the Borealis basin must have been about 1,200 miles across. Other giant impact basins have been discovered that are oval rather than circular, but it took a complex analysis of the Martian surface from NASA's two Mars orbiters to reveal the clear elliptical shape of Borealis Basin, which increases the possibility that it is, in fact, an impact crater. So, we've explored the edges of the vast ocean of discovery that surrounds us and we'll end with a story that (perhaps unfortunately) relates to playing with the pebbles.
COMMUNICATING WITH THE ALIENS
There are certainly aliens out there in the great cosmic ocean. There are literally uncounted stars in our own Milky Way (even if there are fewer of them than we originally thought) and there are trillions of galaxies in that limitless ocean. As I tell the children "There are so many stars and so many planets that no matter what you personally imagine the aliens to be like, there have probably been aliens like that in the past; will be aliens like that in the future or are aliens like that right now." However, a careful rereading of the item about the Voyagers will tell you immediately why the aliens aren't here and why they've never been here. It's way, way too far to come.
But we've never given up our dreams of communication and there are many programs that routinely search the heavens for signals from other worlds. And in a uniquely human way, people from the United Kingdom are trying to communicate with them.
We missed this story in the States because we tend not to pay a lot of attention to what's going on in the world unless it involves death or starvation but back in June something interesting happened in Great Britain. Since I can't seem to find a way to improve in this glorious item, let me quote the story directly.
Somehow, I shudder to think what will happen if the particular aliens who eventually intercept this ad just happen to be yellow and triangular in shape. Sometimes the pebbles one picks up to play with on the shore of the great cosmic ocean are very strange indeed. Cruise on over to the Deep Website at www.thedeepradioshow.com to find many other explorations on the shores of the great cosmic ocean! Enjoy!