Sunset at Wellesly Island – New wallpaper available

A sunset Inspired by a vacation in the Thousand Islands while staying on Wellesly Island, which overlooks the Lake of the Isles.  A beautiful area to appreciate some of the wonders this planet has to offer.

Wallpaper - Sunset at Wellesly Island

Sunset at Wellesly Island

Enjoy!

(Check out the other available wallpapers.)

Till next time,

RC Davison

“Life – Not as We Know It” — New Wallpaper

What’s out there?

Probably not bipedal, humanoid life with wrinkled foreheads, spotted faces and knobby noses so frequently depicted in modern sci-fi today.  What may be out there is probably more bizarre than we can imagine.  Take a look at what swims in our seas! (And, this is just what we know about.)  Just think about the fact that we — those creatures in the sea and us humans — all evolved on the same planet.  What is life going to be like that evolved on a different planet with different environmental stresses from what our evolutionary history has been? It probably tops anything we can imagine!

Below are two versions of the same scene depicting life on a watery planet, which exists near a sparkling globular cluster and nebula giving birth new stars.  My alien lifeforms are pretty tame, but the focus of the image was the environment and not the lifeforms.  The two versions are basically the same scene but with very different atmospheres and consequentially very different lighting effects.  I put both up for your viewing pleasure because I couldn’t make up my mind which version I liked better!  Let me know which one you prefer.

Wallpaper of

“Life – Not as We Know It” in blue.

Wallpaper -

“Life – Not as We Know It” in red

Check out more wallpapers at the Orbital Maneuvers website.

Till next time,

RC Davison

ORBITAL MANEUVERS Updated!

ORBITAL MANEUVERS has been updated with a bold new cover illustration and revised information in the Author’s Notes section on the latest efforts to identify and defend against Near-Earth Asteroid threats.

New OM Book CoverPlease note that the story has not changed, just the Author’s Notes section at the end of the book.  This section includes links to the latest efforts to identify Near-Earth Objects (NEOs) and our efforts to defend against a pending impact.  If interested, you can read this updated section of the book as it exists on the website on the Asteroids page.

The website also has an updated front page reflecting the new book cover and I’m intending on revising the site to be more compatible with the current mobile technology as time permits.

Stay tuned for more to come!  Thanks for the support!

Till next time,

RC Davison

Leonard Nimoy – A Man of Many Facets

Leonard Nimoy (1931 - 2015)

Leonard Nimoy (1931 – 2015)

     A human being portraying a fictional character that touched, if not inspired, millions for almost 50 years, Leonard Nimoy and Spock will be indelibly etched into history as one entity. A human actor who secured a role in 1966 as an alien aboard a starship with over 400 humans, Nimoy would eventually meld with this alien character to create the Vulcan, Spock we all know.

     Leonard Nimoy spent years trying to distance himself from the Vulcan after the original series ended, but he eventually learned that Spock was as much a part of himself as he was of the character. And, Spock, the half-human, half-Vulcan Science Officer on board the USS Enterprise was in constant turmoil with the emotions he felt and had to repress to be a Vulcan. Nimoy crafted a wonderful character whose internal conflicts could be intimately felt and shared by many of us across our planet Earth.

     Leonard Nimoy, a man of many talents: actor, director, producer, photographer, narrator, poet, musician, creator of Spock, will be missed. For whatever the Cosmos holds for you, live long and prosper and thank you for your inspiration.

Till next time,

RC Davison

Journey Far – New Wallpaper

Extraterrestrials, as portrayed by popular media, typically either want to eat our brains or strip the natural resources from our planet.  But, what if we are the technologically advanced civilization visiting a world that is just starting to be explored by its natives.  Will we be intelligent or civilized enough not to interfere with the planet’s inhabitants natural development?

The wallpaper Journey Far depicts explorers on distant planet leaving the shelter of their harbors and homes to discover the wonders their planet holds in store for them.

Wallpaper – Journey Far

Enjoy!

Till next time,

RC Davison

 

Asteroid 2004 BL86 Flyby on January 26, 2015 -Watch Out!

We will have a celestial visitor to our neighborhood on the 26th of January as asteroid 2004 BL86 passes by the Earth at a distance of about 745,000 miles (1.2 million kilometers). This is about three times the distance from the Earth to the Moon, so we don’t have anything to worry about—this time.

Asteroid 2004 BL86 Flyby – Image courtesy of NASA/JPL

But, what if it wasn’t missing us? What if it had a direct bead on Earth? What would we be doing today? Would Putin still be fanning the flames in the Ukraine? Would ISIL still be executing innocent people in their quest of world domination? Unfortunately, I think that the answer to these questions is probably yes – unless there was no doubt about 2004 BL86 landing in their back yard.

So, what would be the consequences of this asteroid hitting Earth?

First off, it’s not moving that fast—relatively speaking—56,520 km/h (35,120 mph), so it’s energy upon impact at about 6000 Megatons of TNT or 300,000 times the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan (20 Kilotons of TNT). It could be a lot higher. (That’s a scary thought in its own right!)

The crater that would be left would be 4.7 miles (7.6 km) in diameter and have a depth of 1780 feet (544 meters) covering an area of (17.3 sq miles/45 sq km). The size of the crater alone would wipe out any major city on the planet, but the devastation would extend well beyond that from the fireball generated by the impact, high pressure atmospheric shockwave and seismic shock extending out to a distance of almost 60 miles (100 km). We are talking about tens of millions of people that will no longer exist in instant and millions more that will suffer from the after effects. (The numbers used here come from the calculator: Impact Earth.)

Remember, this is a small chunk of rock!

If it hit in the ocean, say a 100 miles (161 km) off a coastline in about 1000 feet of water, the tsunami waves generated could be between 29.2 feet (8.9 meters) and 58.4 feet (17.8 meters) high and would affect other coastlines around the world to a lesser degree. The size of the wave will change depending on where the asteroid hits the ocean relative to its depth and proximity to the coastlines.

The impact of 2004 BL86 wouldn’t end the world by any means, but it could kill many people and have global impact on international businesses and economies for years to come. The money that each country spends today on defense is money that should be spent on defending this planet from an impact that is surely to come sometime in the future—near or far. We are able to identify many of these objects as to the risks they pose to our planet, but we have not put forth a unified effort on preventing an impact should one be found coming our way. That technology is at hand but needs to be developed and refined.

Please note that the purpose of this exercise isn’t to scare people but to point out that Mother Nature has powers at her disposal that make our most formidable weapons pale in comparison, and the battles we fight on this spec of dust in the cosmos are insignificant. We’ve spent way too much time plotting against each other instead of planning a course of action that will benefit us all. Time marches on and we may be just running out of time to put up a good defense.

So, enjoy asteroid 2004 BL86 as it passes by—there will be plenty of media coverage—and be glad it’s not coming to stay permanently!

Till next time,

RC Davison

Eclipses – A New Wall Paper Available

Check out the latest wallpaper, “Eclipses”.  Click on the image to go to the gallery.

A gas giant system experiences multiple eclipses.

A gas giant system experiences multiple eclipses.

 

With one moon and one star our eclipses are relatively simple, but consider a multi-star system or a planet with many moons and you will need a score card to keep track.

We will have two solar eclipses in 2015: a total eclipse on March 20th, and a partial eclipse on September 13th.  Since solar eclipses are followed shortly thereafter by lunar eclipses, there will also be two lunar eclipses in 2015: April 4th and September 28th. Check out NASA’s Eclipse website for more information on these celestial events.

Enjoy!

Till next time,

RC Davison

Planet Rise – New Wallpaper Added to the Gallery

The current estimate of potentially habitable planets in the Milky Way galaxy is on the order of tens of billions – we aren’t even considering the moons that might be orbiting these planets and may have water and atmospheres conducive for life.  Planet Rise shows a gas giant rising over an ocean teaming with life on one of its moons. We haven’t found it yet, but I have every confidence that it is out there, somewhere in the vast cosmos.

Planet Rise - A gas giant's moon teams with life.

Planet Rise – A gas giant’s moon teams with life.

Check out the main gallery page for more images.

Till next time,

RC Davison

 

 

NOT the End of Space Tourism!

On October 25th Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket, destined to bring cargo to the International Space Station, exploded on takeoff. Three days later, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight, resulting in the death of the copilot and severely injuring the pilot. It was not a good week for commercial space endeavors.

In the weeks that have followed I’ve noticed a trend on a lot of the media and space-related websites harping that these two events spell the demise of commercial space flight and tourism.  They can’t be more wrong!

Firstly: I have to question why anyone in this day and time would think that space flight—be it by NASA, ESA or any other federally sponsored space agency or any commercial company—is routine? Hopping on a commercial airline from New York to London is routine, but launching a rocket or spaceplane into or approaching the boundary of space is anything but routine, as it has been for the last sixty years.

Secondly: Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo was on a test flight. They were not carrying passengers, nor have they in any of their previous flights of the craft. They are developing the vehicles and systems to provide that “routine” experience in the near future and that requires careful evaluation of the hardware, software and people involved in the process.

When you are testing a new system, you put forth a major effort to minimize the risks to people and equipment, but you will never be able to completely eliminate all the risks encountered. You will also not be able to anticipate everything that will happen, especially when you have a human in the loop.

The bottom line is: there will always be the chance of something going wrong, no matter how hard you try to contain the risks. This will not, and it should not stop Virgin Galactic or any other commercial company trying to develop the technology to leave the surly bond of Earth. It is a learning process, and as we all know, sometimes learning can be painful.

The most important thing that will come out of this is an understanding of what happened on SpaceShipTwo and Antares and how to prevent a similar event from occurring in the future. If they are lucky, they will find some other things they might have overlooked along the way and correct them before they create a problem. Any company involved in high risk work should take this opportunity to review their programs for any thing that they may be overlooking with regard to safety and complacency. Orbital Sciences and Virgin Galactic will go through this process. They will pick up the pieces, dissect the accident and take measures to prevent it from happening again in the future.

If one looks at the path humans have taken to get into space you will see it littered with the wreckage of equipment and in some cases, the loss of life from many failed attempts to push into space. The US and Russia/Soviet Union have both lost people and equipment in the struggle to move into space. No one is immune. We have to accept that traveling into space is inherently risky and understand that those that are the forefront of the technology don’t approach it haphazardly, but use all the tools at hand to maximize their chances of success.

The return on investment is too great for these companies to stop their pursuit of the technology to gain a foothold on space. Those that can do it reliably, safely and economically will reap the benefits of the yet untapped market of space tourism and scientific research, which will take full advantage of a cheap ride into space.

Popular media will tend to exploit the drama of these events for their ratings, but we should not succumb to the hype that this is a mature, routine technology. Someday your trip to the Moon or Mars will be as routine as taking an international flight is today. Until then, we will have to be patient with the stuttering baby steps we are taking.

Until next time,

RC Davison

Wormhole to Destinations Unknown – New Image

Wormholes – those curious portals to the other side of the galaxy or universe.  More formerly known as an Einstein-Rosen bridge, they theoretically join two regions of space allowing one to traverse great distances instead of moving along the fabric of space.

The illustrations below shows this very well. Traveling from A to B in the conventional sense will get you there in time…

Traveling from planet A to planet B via flat space.

Traveling from planet A to planet B via flat space.

But, fold space by using a wormhole and you now have a much shorter path to cross to go from A to B.

Traveling from A to B via a wormhole is quicker.

Traveling from A to B via a wormhole is quicker.

The new wallpaper shows the mouth of an active wormhole from the point of view of a gas giant and its habitable moon in a nearby solar system.

Wallpaper - WormholeMore wallpapers here!

Enjoy!

RC Davison