Mars Landing

Bad Astronomy Blog and countless others are all over this, but it took seeing pictures to really get me excited. We just landed something on Mars that is going to try and find out if there is or was or could be life on the planet. That’s pretty friggin’ cool. The potential for life on Mars doesn’t really excite me that much – it’s not like we’re going to meet E.T. or anything. The life we’re hoping to find is either long dead or just a couple of cells. Scientifically fascinating and important if it’s there, but not that big a deal for the average person. But Mars. It’s incredible that we can actually put a little machine on the planet, and then have it do stuff and send back information. Kinda makes you wonder why there are still places you can’t get decent cell phone reception.

This makes me want to be a scientist

Hubble finds double Einstein ring via Uncertain Principles

More than just a novelty, a very rare phenomenon found with the Hubble Space Telescope can offer insight into dark matter, dark energy, the nature of distant galaxies, and even the curvature of the Universe.

I read stuff like this, and it makes me want to go back to school and research stuff.  Not that I know anything at all about dark matter and the nature of the Universe.  But this is just cool.  I don’t get nearly enough of that at work.

It makes me feel very small, though, thinking about distant galaxies.  It reminds us that the Universe is kinda big, and we’re relatively pretty friggin’ tiny.

Well, thats kind of scary

Sentient Developments: Odds of Mars getting plastered by an asteroid lifted to 1 in 25

Asteroid 2007 WD5 was only discovered 2 months ago. Had it been heading towards Earth, we would have been utterly helpless to respond.

On January 30th, there is a 3.9% chance that a 160-foot-diameter asteroid will smash into Mars, possibly creating a crater about a kilometer wide.  While this is incredibly cool for scientists, and on some level for the rest of us, it’s also a little terrifying.  If something like that were headed for, say, Washington, DC, things would be a little more interesting to the average American.

I don’t know how big an area we’d have to evacuate if one was heading for us.

The uncertainty region during the Mars encounter now extends over 400,000 km along a very narrow ellipsoid that is only 600 km wide.

Since 400,000 km is much more than the diameter of Mars, that region must extend well into space.  So I don’t really know how big a spot on Mars is actually in danger of being hit, or how far away one would have to be to avoid it (Assuming one could survive on Mars otherwise).

In any event, I hope we have something taking video of Mars when it happens.  That would be pretty sweet.