Hyperspace notes Episode 1: Star stuff The Big Bang produced an enormous amount of hydrogen gas that expanded

outwards in all directions with our universe. No other elements were produced. The kinetic energy imparted by the Big Bang coupled with its many aftershocks set the hydrogen moving, and in many areas it started to rotate and clump together. Eventually the first stars were formed from this hydrogen. As this first generation of stars aged, the hydrogen fuel burned down and heavier elements formed inside, with iron at the core and lighter elements like calcium in the mantle. Once these stars exhausted their hydrogen fuel, they collapsed in on themselves until the pressure forced them to explode as supernovas. These explosions spat the heavy elements out in all directions. The resulting clouds of heavy elements and gas formed nebulae. Over time, mutual gravitational attraction caused these particles to coalesce into planets and new stars. When both types of bodies emerged near each other, the first solar systems were created. Once a star forms, its solar winds blow away the gases in its solar system that linger from the nebula. [Thus, there was no life until the second generation of stars] The Earth and all objects on it therefore originated in the cores of stars that died millions of years ago. All matter in the universe came from the Big Bang. Episode 2: Staying alive After our Solar System was created, many asteroids lingered from the nebula. They were in much greater quantities than today. These asteroids continuously pummeled the Earth and the other planets. At one point, billions of years ago, the Earth collided with a Mars-sized object that ripped off huge chunks from our planet, one of which formed the Moon. There have been several significant asteroid impacts on Earth during the 20th century. By luck, no one was killed. It takes 250 million years for our Solar System to circle the galaxy once. The Solar System also bobs up and down like a wave as it goes around, and every 30 million years, it passes through the galaxy’s plane—which is where all celestial bodies, including asteroids, are densest, increasing the odds of a big impact. This corresponds with the dates of mass Earth extinctions. Going through the galactic plane will increase the odds of a star or large body passing near the outside of our Solar System, which would exert gravity on the comets surrounding us in deep space, sending them towards us. We last passed through the plane 1 million years ago. The Kuniper Belt and Oort Cloud can be disturbed by the gravity of stars passing nearby, and comets can be hurled into the inner solar system, though it would take a million years to reach here. Thus, we might be hit by asteroids any day now that were knocked free during our last pass through the galactic plane. Episode 3: Black holes

Black holes have the same mass as a giant star (thousands of times larger than the Sun), yet are the size of a pea. When most stars die, they explode as supernovas. This is how the heavy elements were formed, which in turn created the planets. But super massive stars collapse in on themselves right after exploding, forming black holes. Their explosions are so powerful that the expelled gamma rays can be detected around the Earth. Black holes never die—they go on forever. [Doesn’t all matter eventually decay into nothing?] The jets expelled by black holes can cross a galaxy. Sudden bursts of these gamma ray jets can fry entire planets in minutes, killing off any life. Black holes are invisible and are detected by watching for distortions in the brightness of stars as black holes pass between the observer and the stars. There are many black holes in our galaxy, and we don’t know where most of them are. Black holes move through space and there is the possibility one could come through our Solar System and kill us all. Episode 4: Are we alone? SETI monitors stars, one-by-one, for radio signals indicative of intelligent life. We have so far only been able to listen to signals from the stars in our immediate part of the galaxy—the vast majority remains ignored. It is possible to build a space telescope powerful enough to see a planet—in visual detail—from thousands of light-years away. Episode 5: New worlds As the Sun uses its fuel, it will heat up and expand. Once it is 5% hotter, Earthly plants will die. By 15%, much of the Earth’s water would evaporate. Some scientists seriously consider terraforming Mars. -Robotic vehicles could be sent to Mars to drive around and process the surface dirt into greenhouse gases, which would cause global warming and raise the temperature enough to support genetically engineered bacteria from Earth. -Genetically engineered bacteria could first be sent to the planet inside space probes. The bacteria would convert atmospheric carbon dioxide to oxygen. -Plants, animals and humans could be steadily introduced. -Mars could become an Earthlike planet. [Problem: What do we do if it turns out Mars has its own microbial life? We can’t just destroy it so humans can have another planet to trash.] But the expanding Sun will someday destroy Mars as well, so we will have to keep moving. In 7 billion years, as the Sun grows, it will engulf and totally pulverize the Earth. Episode 6: Boldly go Ion drives are weak and accelerate slowly, but their fuel supply lasts very long. Chemical rockets have opposite characteristics. Satellites powered with ion drives have proved reliable.

Solar sail powered spacecraft would have to come close to the Sun to gather a high concentration of photons for propulsion. It would then slingshot around the Sun and fly out of the Solar System. Such a craft could reach Alpha Centauri in a few decades. In theory, it is entirely possible to create wormholes across any distance, though it would require staggering amounts of energy to open and maintain the wormholes. Travel would be instantaneous.

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