August 17, 2019

Cool Ideas For Science Fiction Writers From 2019 Issues Of Astronomy Magazine

I enjoy reading hard science fiction and I'm also a subscriber to Astronomy Magazine. (I haven't done any of my own backyard astronomy yet, but I think about building my own backyard telescope.) I wanted to put together a short post about the cool ideas or discoveries for hard science fiction writers that I found in the 2019 issues of Astronomy Magazine. Here they are:

Discovery #1: An Icy Crater On Mars

The European Space Agency's Mars Express Orbiter captured images of a crater in the North Lowlands of Mars that is filled with ice. The crater is 51 miles wide and contains an icy bed that is over 1 mile thick in places. The crater is named for Sergie Korolev, a space race engineer who is often considered the father of Soviet space technology. The floor of the crater is wrapped in a blanket of cold air that helps prevent the ice from melting or evaporating. The crater would be a cool place to get water for human explorers or colonists on Mars. You can read a short article about the crater in Astronomy Magazine. The Mars Express Orbiter also captured radar images that indicate there is a layer of water underground Mar's south pole.

Discovery #2: Farout A Distant Dwarf Planet In Our Solar System

The April 2019 Issue of Astronomy Magazine featured a short article about the most distant object ever observed in our solar system. It is a pink dwarf planet identified as 2018 VG, but nicknamed "Farout". Farout is 120 astronomical units from the Earth. It is about 3.5 times farther from Earth that its sister dwarf planet Pluto. The planet was found using the 26 foot wide Japanese telescope Subaru, located on Hawaii. Farout is a great place for a remote outpost in our solar system, like other dwarf planets we will likely discover.

Discovery #3: A Massive Star Births Its Own Small Companion Star

The April 2019 Issue of Astronomy Magazine also revealed the discovery of a giant start that had another small start born in its own protoplanetary disk. (This is the disk of dust and gas that orbits stars and gives birth to planets.) The main star, named MM 1A, is 40 times as massive as our sun. Its child star MM1B, is just half the mass of our sun. This is the first time scientists have seen a star form from the material in the protoplanetary disk of its parent star. Scientists think the small star may form planets of its own. A star with planets that orbits a more massive star with its own planetary system. This would be a cool setting or template for an interesting solar system.

The star system was discovered by the Atacama Large Millimeter Array Telescope.

You can read a short article in Astronomy Magazine about the star system.

Discovery #4: Dwarf Planet "Goblin" Has Highly Elliptical Orbit Throwing It 2300 Astronomical Units From The Sun

The February 2019 Issue of Astronomy Magazine has a short article talking about the discovery of the dwarf planet named 2015 TG 387, but nicknamed "The Goblin". The Goblin is about 220 miles in diameter. It follows a highly elliptical orbit that is over 2300 astronomical units from the sun at its farthest point. It takes 32,000 years to orbit the sun.

Would a colony or outpost on The Goblin be isolated from the rest of the solar system for the period of time when it was farthest of the sun? What type of society or group would seek that type of isolation on the cold dark edge of space? These are interesting questions that could be answered by a hard sci-fi writer.