Space

One of the most fundamental predictions of Einstein's theory of relativity is the existence of black holes.

Although gravitational waves from binary black holes have been detected, direct evidence using electromagnetic waves hasn't happened and astronomers are searching for it with radio telescopes.  But then how can you tell them apart? Radio images have a limited resolution and image fidelity and at realistic image resolutions, even highly non-Einsteinian black holes seem like normal black holes.

Lisa Pratt, the new planetary protection officer for NASA takes up her job at a challenging time for astrobiology. We are approaching a major decision point for Mars. If Elon Musk succeeds in his ambitious plans, then some time in the next couple of decades we may introduce trillions of hardy microbial spores to the planet. Not deliberately, but just because we can't help but take them with us wherever we go. This is a major quandary for astrobiology, and for anyone who is fascinated by questions about the origins of life as well as those who would benefit from those discoveries indirectly. 

Lisa Pratt, the new planetary protection officer for NASA takes up her job at a challenging time for astrobiology. We are approaching a major decision point for Mars. If Elon Musk succeeds in his ambitious plans, then some time in the next couple of decades we may introduce trillions of hardy microbial spores to the planet. Not deliberately, but just because we can't help but take them with us wherever we go. This is a major quandary for astrobiology. But not just for astrobiologists. 

I think almost anyone would be saddened if we had this headline news story in the 2030s:

Titan might seem an unlikely place to for humans to build settlements, and maybe eventually colonize. After all, it is so far from the sun, and extraordinarily cold, and it's a long journey to get there (at present). But actually, if you set aside the difficulty of getting there, which we should overcome as our technology improves - it's got more going for it than you might think. This is an idea originally developed in some detail by Charles Wohlforth and Amanda Hendrix, authors of Beyond Earth: Our Path to a New Home in the Planets

I think we should build our first offworld backup on the Moon. We can start by storing seeds there, similar to the Svalbard seed vault in Norway. Within a few years we should have easy access to the Moon, and then it will be easy to do. The lunar caves are naturally at the right temperature. Add a vacuum sealed packet of dried seeds to a rover that explores a suitable lunar cave, and leave it there at the end of the mission, inside the rover, and that's it.That's the start of a future seed vault. From small beginnings ... 

Elon Musk says there are two futures, to stay on Earth and eventually go extinct, or to become a "multi-planetary species". He says Mars is our "plan B". But there is a third possibility. 

SpaceX have a striking video showing Mars spinning faster and faster, transforming from the current red Mars to a planet with a small ocean and with the deserts tinged with green in seven revolutions.

Of course that is poetic exaggeration - it wouldn't terraform in a week. So how long would it take? Science fiction enthusiasts who have read Kim Stanley Robinson's "Mars Trilogy" may remember that in his book, it is terraformed in a couple of centuries. But that's science fiction, not a terraforming blue print.

We have been sending missions to Mars since the Mariner 4 flyby in 1964, and our first successful landing was Viking 1 in 1976, So, why can't astrobiologists answer the question definitively, when you ask them if there is life on Mars? 

 Well, perhaps it's because we haven’t looked.

You might think, 

The Rosette Nebula is located in the Milky Way Galaxy roughly 5,000 light-years from us and is known for its rose-like shape and distinctive hole at the center. The nebula is an interstellar cloud of dust, hydrogen, helium and other ionized gases with several massive stars found in a cluster at its heart.

So Elon Musk's Tesla roadster is now in an orbit that takes it right out to the asteroid belt not far from Ceres. And what a thrilling launch it was with the two boosters landing so perfectly choreographed. It was nearly flawless. Only one minor hiccup, that the core booster missed the barge and crashed into the water, probably at around 300 mph, scattering the barge with shrapnel. They will surely fix that too with future launches.

If any of you haven't seen it yet, here is the launch video archived by SpaceX.

And here is Elon Musk talking about it in a press conference afterwards