Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Venus, Mars, Regulus, and Jupiter Are Alright Tonight



Starship 21ZNA9
A good friend of mine
Studies the stars
Venus and Mars
Are alright tonight

"Venus and Mars" lyrics by Paul McCartney and Linda McCartney; published by MPL Communications, Inc.

This morning, as I went for my before-sunrise-run, I was greeted by three planets and a bright star, in the eastern sky. The four points of light were Venus, highest and brightest of the four, Regulus, a bright star only 79 light years away, Mars, the red planet, and Jupiter, just above the horizon. They made an inverted vee shape as if they were flying in formation. It was a beautiful sight to behold. Conjunctions of this nature always get me dreaming about space-travel. In my mind’s eye it looked possible to just hop in a plane and fly straight to whichever spot I chose.

Venus would provide a warm but cloudy holiday with lots of carbon-dioxide in the atmosphere. Regulus would be a long journey, by any mode of transportation, and what we would find there is completely unknown. Mars is becoming the most well-known planet other than earth with the many probes, rovers, and orbiters sending back reams of scientific data. Just this past week it was learned that Mars does indeed have liquid water on its surface at certain times of its solar year. We would have a cold holiday on Mars and would have to bring along our own oxygen for breathing. Jupiter would perhaps be the most exotic vacation destination. Jupiter is a gas giant made up of clouds of frozen hydrogen and helium gas high above a core of liquid metallic hydrogen. The moons around Jupiter would be even more interesting to visit. Io, the largest of the moons, is a hotbed of volcanoes and bubbling pits of molten rock. Europa is covered with a frozen water crust. Perhaps one could have the most fantastic skating party of all time on the surface of Europa.

All of this went through my mind as I ran six kilometers on this boring old terrestrial ball. I turned and ran toward a very bright moon making its way toward setting in the west and I scared a few jack-rabbits with the padding of my athletic shoes. It was a great morning on Earth; but I was dreaming of spending time on other planets. How long will it be before we have colonies on Mars, or the moon, or Venus, or Europa? It is important that we continue to cultivate a desire for exploration that will lead us to other planets, moons, and stars. It is this inquisitive, pioneering, explorative spirit that makes us truly human.

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