I ran across a cool video the other day – a tribute to the Voyager (or V-ger) spacecraft from the 1970s. It reminded me of similar footage sent from Ellie’s approach to Planet X. It’s a little grainy, but it was shot with 1970s technology and traveled 8.6 light years to get here.
Here’s a much better shot of the planet in false color. Mostly cloud covered, but you can make out some surface features:
Lastly, here’s the video that inspired me to post this stuff:
Just where on Planet X is the Jungle Oasis, you ask? Well, it’s in the middle of the Tranquility Crater Valley, named for the Sea of Tranquility where men from the planet Earth first stepped foot on the Moon.
It takes me quite a while to get through a book, especially one as thick as Strang Tales, the biography of Dr. Cornelius Strang, discoverer of Planet X and creator of Ellie. At the rate I’m going, we’ll be celebrating ten years of monitoring Ellie on Planet X before I even get halfway through this book. Here’s another scan from the book’s insides (go here for the first one). Just click on the pic below and read how Dr. Strang was inspired to make his great discoveries!
I was having a little discussion about the star that Planet X revolves around with Ellie reader Neutrino. It was pointed out to me that I’ve never actually stated which star it is except in some vague clue from time to time. Of course that was an accidental oversight on my part, and it took Neutrino to not only remind me, but also point out exactly which star it happens to be.
Another thing Neutrino reminded me was that Planet X’s parent star is only 200-300 million years old – not enough time for life to evolve. So the fact that there definitelyis life there is not only an amazing discovery, it’s also a real mystery. Part of Ellie’s mission is to discover those answers. Anyway, Neutrino inspired me to go down to the archives and dig out this magazine article from the early 70s.
A new planet was discovered by NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope over the weekend. This one’s a little special. It’s been named Kepler 22b by astronomers and it sits right smack inside what’s termed the Goldilocks Zone in orbit around its parent star, 600 light years away. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right for the possibility of running water and balmy 70 degree days.
In looking for something to post today, I came across a video of philosopher (among many other things) Denis Dutton speaking at a TED conference last year. The subject was beauty and how our ability to discerne it evolved along with us.
That got me to thinking about Planet X and its inhabitants. We’ve only had Ellie scratch the surface as to what Jeff and Muffin might appreciate. Jeff seems to value food at least, and apparently so do his “people” the Quadrapodes, as they’ve seen fit to incorporate their love of the culinary into their version of the constellations (though we can assume Muffin’s culture recognizes the same star patterns). Muffin, so far as we can tell, values being a hermit, but how this manifests itself in the Marf culture is yet to be seen. The only other items pertaining to their respective cultures that we’ve glimpsed are their houses and clothing, but these singular items tell us little of their cultures as a whole.
The one thing that popular sci-fi like Star Trek and Star Wars have led us Earthlings to believe is that aliens are a lot like us (except for wrinkled rubber appliances glued to their foreheads). I’d hope that despite a somewhat familiar, even cuddly appearance, we will expect the unexpected when it comes to our Planet X friends and their way of life. Who knew that Jeff tasted with his skin, and what effect does that have on his worldview? How might that manifest itself in Planet X popular culture if there is one? As Grand Admiral Thrawn pointed out (semi-obscure Star Wars reference there) that to understand a culture’s art is to understand that culture.
Here’s that video of Denis Dutton. It’s only 15 minutes long, so give it a watch. I like the whiteboard animation that makes an already interesting talk even more accessable. I think I’ve seen him before, but this is the first I took the time to actually find out more about him. Unfortunately he died last year, but at least he left us some interesting ideas to ponder.
I went rooting through some old papers here at Mission Control and discovered two pages of an interview with Dr. Strang in a 1968 copy of Awesome Science Magazine. Click on the picture to read it!
Sorry, the rest of the interview is missing. But in the back of the magazine I found these classified ads under the cartooning heading (for reals). I’d have paid $4.95 to get an education in commercial art!