Tesla Roadster Preps For Mars Trip

It looks like Elon Musk is following through with his plans to launch his personal Tesla Roadster into a Mars orbit. At first, it was thought that the claim was merely a lot of grandstanding, but now we have pictures of Musk’s beloved red roadster being prepped for its trip into infamy as it arrived in Florida for the launch.

The vehicle payload will be used to test the new SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, which utilizes two additional Falcon 9 first stages as well as other multiple stages. As to how Elon Musk feels about launching his car into space, he states,

I love the thought of a car drifting apparently endlessly through space and perhaps being discovered by an alien race millions of years in the future.

Could First Contact be done through a bright red Tesla Roadster? Well, I can think of worse ways to make a first impression on an alien species. And you know that some future episode of Star Trek is going to find the interstellar Tesla, only by then it will be artificially enhanced by an advanced robotic race. Or maybe it will be the Borg that finds it, and soon everyone will be assimilated by bright red robotic Tesla Roadsters.  Resistance (and gas) is futile!

Either way, this sounds like a Heavy Metal cartoon that has come to life, and I can’t help but feel downright giddy at the idea of such a thing actually happening. Here’s hoping that everything works as expected and the Telsa Roadster is launched into space and beyond.

Ticks Feasted On Ancient Dinosaurs Too

Anyone that goes on hikes or enjoys the big outdoors no doubt knows what a tick is, and may have even had their own close encounter with one. Ticks are usually thought of as a more modern-day parasite, but recent evidence shows that they go back in history farther than originally thought. As it turns out, those bloodsucking ticks even dined on dinosaur blood.

Ticks feasted on dinosaurs

A 99 million-year-old sample of amber from Myanmar captured a tick tangled in a dinosaur feather, as researchers report the find December 12 in Nature Communications.  The tick in the amber belongs to the same group of ticks as today’s deer ticks that dine upon humans and other living creatures. While the amber holds a feather, it is difficult to tell if it was an actual flying dinosaur or another type.  The tick’s presence is quite certain and very distinguishable.

A different chunk of amber contained two ticks that were apparently captured at the same time. These ticks had small barbed hairs stuck to them that are indicative of beetle larvae found in dinosaur nets. This connection provides further evidence that ticks fed on dinosaurs of the time. Apparently, nothing is safe from the bloodthirsty parasites, not even the terrible lizards themselves.

I would say that I have new found respect for the lowly tick, but that just means that they have been creating problems for living creatures almost as long as the cockroach has.  But just think, what if DNA sampling from the last meal of a captured bloodthirsty tick could be used to recreate an ancient dinosaur, bringing it into modern times through a cloning process. Imagine the depth of thanks we would owe the tick for making this possible. No, on second thought, probably not – they were just looking for their next victim. Which make me wonder if I need to bring along a bubble the next time I sleep outdoors…


Titan’s Lakes and Seas Are Connected

NASA’s Cassini mission, which ended in September, released a lot of data about Saturn’s largest moon, and scientists are using the data to piece together a more detailed understanding of the planet-sized satellite. It’s been suspected that Titan has lakes, seas, and even rain, all composed of hydrocarbons such as methane and ethane instead of water.  But the new data gives clues about an interesting aspect of Titan’s lakes and seas – they may be connected.

Titan's Lakes and Seas

Paul Corlies of Cornell University and colleagues released a map based on Cassini data that shows the almost cookie cutter assortment of Titan’s lakes. The data was also able to directly record the elevation of over 9 percent of the seas and mountains there. By extrapolation, the teams were able to get the elevation of the major seas on Titan, and they show a pattern. That pattern strongly suggests that the moon has both a sea level and the hydrocarbon equivalent of groundwater. According to planetary scientist Cornell and study coauthor Alexander Hayes,

Looking for actual evidence that the lakes could be communicating was a fundamental question from Cassini. This is the final paper that gives the best evidence that it exists.

Hayes and his team found that the three largest seas, Ligeia Mare, Kraken Mare and Punga Mare, are indeed the same elevation, not unlike Earth’s own oceans. To maintain this sea level, channels must exist to equalize the height. This channels could be either below or above ground level. The current theory is that pores in subsurface rock are filled with liquid and connect the seas. These hydrological connections are needed because it doesn’t appear that there are enough connecting channels on the surface of Titan.

Titan’s lakes are actually at a higher elevation than the seas, so they must be on a different system that the seas themselves. Otherwise, the lakes would drain into the sea, leaving empty lakebeds. At an even higher elevation, Titan has dry lakebeds, suggesting that they emptied into the lakes on the surface. Hayes thinks that digging into the empty lakebeds down to the elevation of the lakes would reveal liquid.

Scientists are torn as to what created the cookie cutter lakes on Titan, given their unique shape and edges that don’t conveniently fit a sinkhole theory.  But it does appear that the seas and lakes on Titan are more like those on Earth than originally thought, showing that lessons learned on Earth can be applied to planetary bodies despite the fact that it is a substance other than water.

Titan's lakes and seas
Size comparison of Earth, our Moon, and Titan (lower left). NASA/JPL/Space

Just imagine, we have proof that there is a planet-sized moon in our solar system where methane flows like water, and the seas and lakes are connected through its own version of groundwater. How long will it be before mankind is able to set sail on these mysterious other-world bodies of water and explore what they have to offer? Granted, we are nowhere close to doing that currently, but just imagine where we could be one day.

Blood Red Skies Over China 300 Years Ago – Here’s Why

Imagine that you are living in China (or even Korea or Japan) three hundred years ago, and suddenly you see the skies turn a chilling blood red. Understandably, this could have caused a great deal of fear and trepidation from those living there at the time. And the fear from the blood red skies wasn’t to dissipate anytime soon – it remained a threatening shade of crimson for eight more nights.

Blood Red Skies

The September 10, 1770, event was recorded in palace diaries and other such historical documents, preserving the event for generations to come. Now, 300 years later, researchers have been digging through all the records in an attempt to explain what exactly happened on that dark day. The attempt was not done in vain because the researchers believe they have it solved. The cause for the historic event – a massive magnetic storm.

Magnetic Storm Caused the Blood Red Skies

Of course, to have the reach to satisfy the conditions reported, it would have to be one of the largest ever recorded in human history. That is exactly what the researchers have come up with as their solution, a magnetic storm so large that it rivals the most powerful one on record, the Carrington Event of 1859.

Similar Geomagnetic Storms

The Carrington Event, so named because it was first explained and observed by astronomer Richard C. Carrington, was epic in its scale. Induced auroras were seen as far south as the Caribbean, and miners in the Rocky Mountains experienced a glow so bright that they assumed it was morning. The telegraph systems of the day were heavily hit, with the pylons throwing off sparks, starting fires, and shocking operators. Some operators even reported being able to send and receive telegraphs even though their power had been blown out by the storms.

These magnetic storms are known as Geomagnetic Storms, and they are caused by the Earth’s magnetosphere (and its collection of electrically charged particles) being disrupted and charged by solar eruptions from our sun. There was another such solar storm recorded in 2012, but luckily it passed the Earth’s orbit without actually striking the planet. But it would seem that we were not so lucky in 1770.

Sunspot Drawings Back Up The Storm Theory

The researchers also searched for drawings of sunspots, which usually accompany such a solar event (as well as ultraviolet activity). The evidence found indicates that sunspot areas were twice as large for that period of time as it was noted for the Carrington Event. This would suggest that the 1770 storm was the more powerful of the two. The dates involved would also back up this claim since the 1770 event was recorded over nine nights while the Carrington Event only lasted four nights.

Modern Day Disaster

If a geomagnetic storm the size of the Carrington Event were to be encountered today, the estimated cost of damage in the U.S. alone could be as high 2.6 trillion dollars. If the event was the size of the 1770 storm, the damage would be even larger, potentially setting back progress and requiring years of rebuilding to fully recover.

It is amazing to think that blood red skies from 300 years ago would give us a warning that we should heed today, but that appears to be the case. The records from that time serve to help scientists build a pattern of solar activity, even though our written records are far too short in length to fully predict the next cataclysmic solar storm. We may have a warning, but too much is already in place that is susceptible to the effects. Maybe that saying, “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning”, has a lot of wisdom to it when it comes to magnetic storms as well.