Saturn's Titan: A GPS Nightmare

Posted by on Apr 5, 2008 in Blog, Saturn, Titan | 1 comment

(Image Credit: NASA / JPL / University of Arizona)

When camping outside in an unfamiliar wilderness, two essential tools one needs to consider packing are a map, and a compass. While the former is wise so one knows the overall layout of an area, the latter can help you determine which direction the final destination lies.

Aside from Mercury, Earth and Ganymede, most worlds lack a global magnetic field, which means future colonists will have to rely upon a mini GPS system in order to navigate off world.

While a GPS system may sound like a “no brainer” solution for most worlds orbiting our Sol star, it may present a problem for Saturn’s methane moon, Titan.

(Planetary News) Since the acquisition of the first SAR swath across Titan in October, 2005, there have been 19 regions on Titan that have been imaged more than once by the RADAR instrument. When the RADAR team assumed that Titan’s rotation was synchronous — that is, that it rotates precisely once with each orbit around Saturn — features seen during one flyby were observably offset when imaged during another flyby, by as much as 30 kilometers (19 miles). […]

The measured offset of the surface features, relative to the prediction for synchronous rotation, means that, over the time period measured in the Cassini data (October 2005 to May 2007), Titan’s surface was shifting by 0.36 degrees per year. For there to be this rapid of a shift in the position of Titan’s surface requires the surface to be able to move freely about the rest of the moon, sliding around atop a liquid interior ocean.

Believe it (or not), Titan’s surface is actually being shifted by the moon’s winds, which may affect how fast the world spins, not to mention which side faces Saturn.

If humanity ever settles upon that cloaked moon, they are going to have to figure out a way to pin point positions accurately, lest ships miss drop supplies (and colonists) all over Titan’s hazy surface.

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Radiation Safe Worlds

Posted by on Mar 5, 2008 in Blog, Callisto, Ganymede, Health, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Solar Essay, Titan | 2 comments

Of the 83 colony worlds that dance and prance around our golden star, only six worlds (excluding our home planet) hold the potential of being future homes, nine if you include Mercury, Pluto and Charon.

Despite the fact that future technology could eventually open up all of these worlds for human habitation, only a few of them may attract “the masses” after the first person sets foot upon their dusty soil due to the “evil R word”–radiation.

Contrary to the various rumors, taking heavy doses of radiation does not turn one into the Hulk, one of the members of the Fantastic Four or Spider Man via a radioactive spider bite.

Radiation, whether cosmic or solar has the potential of seriously roasting you alive, if not turning one into a vegetable.

Even though humans can tolerate “various degrees” of radiation, our bodies seem to be quite content with the level of background radiation our species receives on planet Earth, which is about 0.35 REM’s (aka Roentgen Equivalent Man) a year.

Higher doses of radiation can prove to be fatal towards future colonies, and some researchers do not recommend levels above 50 REM within a year or 25 REM during a 30 day period as it can lead towards some serious side affects (as highlighted in the chart below).

While radiation can be countered by using water, lead and aluminum, parents may be hesitant to breed upon foreign planets and moons (let alone raise kids upon them) if it will result in their children acquiring serious birth defects.

In order to determine which worlds are “family friendly,” one only has to look at how much radiation a world receives to determine whether or not it is suitable for large populations or should be left alone for industrial space companies.

Starting out with Mars, one often dreams about metropolises dotting the surface of that crimson sphere. While Mars may hold much promise for future colonies, its annual dose of 15-20 REM may give some settlers second thoughts.

While future Martians may be able to combat the threat of radiation by building cities within its lumpy magnetic field, the red planet as a whole may not spawn dense cities until a globe sized artificial magnetic field can be constructed.

Moving outward to the Jovian system future space settlers may find more fortune living on Jupiter’s moon Callisto. Orbiting just outside of its angry parents radiation belt, Callisto receives approximately 0.01 REM a day (or about 3.65 REM a year).

Coupled with its prime location in the outer solar system, Callisto may outpace its Martian rivals population wise, and may be second only to Earth as far as future inhabitants go.

Unfortunately Jupiter’s other lunar daughters do not fare as well as Callisto, with all three of these worlds (Ganymede, Europe, Io) bathed in Jupiter’s harsh radiation belt, putting them at a disadvantage compared to their much colder, “uglier” sister.

Traveling further outward towards Saturn, one may find it strange that humans may call the smog world of Titan home sweet home. While its surface may be hidden from the human eye, its atmosphere may be thick enough to protect residents from both solar rays as well as Saturn’s radiation belts.

Even though there are other worlds such as Luna (aka Earth’s moon), Ceres, and even Ganymede that may eventually be civilized by our ever growing race, these worlds may not conquered right away due to the “invisible killer” lurking in the shadows.

While it would not be surprising to see scientists and industrial corporations setting up shop on these hostile worlds, the bulk of humanity may choose to remain on these radiation safe worlds until over population forces them to conquer these overlooked spheres roaming silently among the stars.

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Which Worlds Should We Colonize First?

Posted by on Sep 5, 2007 in Blog, Callisto, Ceres, Ganymede, Jupiter, Mars, Moon, Saturn, Solar Essay, Titan | 3 comments

Our race is indeed blessed to inhabit a fertile world that orbits our favorite star, Sol. With 83 colony worlds dancing around our yellow sun, one can only imagine all the possibilities of our brave race inhabiting them all.

Of course, reality has a way of correcting our fantasies, and just as humanity refuses to dwell near or upon certain mountains, canyons and islands, so our young species may opt to skip over certain worlds in order to inhabit others.

So which worlds hold the promise of housing tomorrows children?

The first (and probably most obvious) world earth’s kids may call home is the moon (aka Luna). The moon will be humanities first stepping stone way from Earth, and will most like jump start our journey into space, as its soil may contain valuable resources that can pay for all the fancy equipment needed to survive off world.

Skipping Earth’s nearest neighbor would probably be disastrous, as our sensitive public is barely able to handle any “boo boo’s” that happen in the solar abyss, much less a fatality. If terraforming ever became a reality, the moon would be a prime candidate for another Earth, as it already inhabits the “Goldilocks zone.”

Journeying outward, our dusty neighbor Mars would come into play. Despite lacking resources of its own to attract businesses upon its crimson soil, Mars does hold an abundance of water which would make a human settlement somewhat possible upon its rusty surface.

(Video: A visual of what Mars would look like if a large portion of its ice water melted and flooded the planet. Credit: NASA)

Mars is also conveniently located near the asteroid belt, which could help turn this barren world into an industrial paradise. Although other worlds (such as Earth) could always mine the asteroid belt with their own ships, it may be easier (and cheaper) to outsource that task to the Martians, the way many American business outsource their “sneaker and jacket making” to China.

Expanding further throughout the solar system, dwarf world Ceres would come into play. Thought to hold an abundance of water beneath its surface, Ceres could easily serve as a way station, supplying crews with water and fuel in the middle of the asteroid belt.

Entering the realm of the Jovian giant Jupiter, humanity would probably end up settling on Callisto. Not only does this heavily cratered moon harbor life necessities (such as CO2 and water), but it could also serve as a gateway towards the other gas giants.

Although Callisto may play a crucial role in our quest to colonize our star system, its bigger brother Ganymede may end up becoming the Jovian favorite, and perhaps even the prime world of the gas giants.

Entering our last stop would be Saturn’s Titan, a world believed to contain multitude of methane lakes. Although Titan’s methane weather cycle may be worth billions, its unique environment may become the attraction of the solar system, as its air pressure may make life very interesting for sports enthusiasts, artists and even musicians.

Of all the worlds that orbit our star system, these six worlds will probably be illuminated by the lights of future cities upon its surface.

But what about the other 76 worlds that grace our star system? Are not they worthy of being called home by future residents?

Unfortunately many of these other worlds will probably not be settled due to various reasons (at least voluntarily), although you will have to wait until next week to find out why most of these worlds will probably be skipped by our human race in our quest to colonize the stars.

Note: Due to lack of time images (an
d video) will be added later.

Update: Added video and images, as well as broke up last paragraph.

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Would You Want To Live On Saturn's Titan?

Posted by on Aug 29, 2007 in Blog, Saturn, Solar Essay, Titan, Video | 5 comments

Of all the worlds that have danced around the Sol star, none of them have, or will ever rival our home world Earth. Unparalleled in beauty, the view from a thousand miles away is enough to take one’s heart away.

With a world requiring little, if any technology for human habitation, why would any one consider moving towards a moon shrouded in clouds that is over a billion kilometers from the Sun?

Unlike many of the lunar and planetary spheres that float around our Sun star, Saturn’s Titan is blessed with an atmosphere that allows humans to walk upon its presence without the need of a standard vacuum suit.

Although early pioneers will need to be well equipped with a “warm suit,” such technology may be easier to construct than clothing oneself with material that can withstand zero atmosphere.

Titan’s atmosphere is approximately 1.5 times that of Earth. Although the denser air pressure may make walking on Titan feel as if you were at the bottom of a swimming pool, the “heavy” air does have some advantages.

Residents upon this orange world would easily be able to transport themselves around the planet with a pair of “artificial wings,” something that would make Leonardo De Vinci proud to hear. This could lead towards Titan being crowned as the solar capital for air sports (such as sky diving, surfing, etc.) and might even lead towards a futuristic “aerial Olympics.”

Despite the fact that Titan’s clouds block out most (if not all) of the sky, those gifted in the arts may also find Titan’s “burnt orange” horizon a welcoming backdrop compared to the pinkish sky on Mars or the blue sky on Earth. Astronomers aside, living within the orange skyline may become a solar attraction, setting the world apart from rivals within the star system.

But if residents are not attracted by either the view of living on a foreign moon or the aerial sports, they will be inspired by the tunes created by the musicians living there. With Titan’s denser atmosphere, residents will be able to enjoy a richer symphony of music that will rival–if not surpass–the sounds heard on Earth (provided they can create and play them in the frigid temperatures).

(Video: What music would sound like on Earth, Titan, and Venus. Credits: Edward Willett)

Despite the fact that it will be Titan’s methane lakes and scattered ice rocks that will finance and enable future inhabitants upon Saturn’s favorite moon, respectively, its artistic beauty and unique environment may keep the masses from moving off world.

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Artificial Magnetic Fields For Artifical Worlds

Posted by on Apr 9, 2007 in Blog, Callisto, Ganymede, Jupiter, Saturn, Solar Essay, Technology, Titan | 8 comments

(Image Credit: NASA)

Aside from war and disease, the biggest threat to our (future) space faring species is radiation. Whether it comes from the Sun, a Jovian parent, or from a distant black hole, radiation can easily determine which worlds will be ruled by humans and which ones will be roamed by our robotic friends.

Although many may point to underground colonies as a means to survive on these sterile worlds, such an idea may not attract the masses (as living underground does not provide a glamorous view of the universe). Worse, underground colonies may have a counter affect on us colonizing our solar system, with the vast majority of people opting to live on the home world than off world.

But what if we could construct gigantic magnetic devices enabling a planet or moon to be shielded by a magnetic field? Such a device would enable our species to not only colonize Jupiter’s Europa and Saturn’s E-ring moons (which are too radioactive for surface habitation, respectively) but also enable various plants and animals to thrive on the red planet.

Without such a device our species would be limited to colonizing Jupiter’s moons Ganymede and Callisto, not to mention Saturn’s Titan. Although radiation on Mars may be tolerable, it would probably not be the ideal place to terraform as any ecosystems exported there may suffer from the wrath of a solar flare.

Despite the fact that this technology would be centuries away, it may be reasonable to explore current ways of developing artificial magnetic fields, as it would enable us to not only conquer our own solar system, but those that orbit other stars.

(Image Credit: Windows to the Universe)

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83 Colony Worlds Orbit Our Star?

Posted by on Apr 1, 2007 in Blog, Callisto, Exploration, Ganymede, Mars, Random, Titan | 2 comments

(Hat Tip: Cosmic Variance)

Many space geeks (I included) seem to be excited about an image by KOKOGIAK displaying the 88 largest bodies in our solar system (of which 83 are “terrestrial” or have a surface we can actually land upon).

After searching online on these various worlds, many with an abundance of ice water upon them (a good sign), it became apparent that many of these worlds would not become favorable homes (for raising kids) due to either radiation, distance or lack of appeal.

Currently there seem to be four worlds that show some promise of becoming future homes which are:

  • Mars (which has tolerable levels of radiation)
  • Ganymede (which has a magnetic field)
  • Callisto (which is not within Jupiter’s radiation belts)
  • Titan (atmosphere plus Saturn’s magnetic field may protect it)

Unless artificial magnetic fields can be created upon other worlds, they may only attract corporate industries and scientists, but not the huge populations necessary in order to establish our species as a “space faring civilization.”

Hopefully I’ll get some more time to post about these four worlds, as they hold much promise for our race four or five generations from now.

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