Literature Review Question:
What does literatures say about what else could be out there in space?
Literature Review/Problem Statement:
Have you ever looked up at the starlit night sky and thought about the mysteries that are out there in space? It has been proven that there is other life in space or in other words “aliens”, but that life is basically bacteria. But have you ever wondered if there is life out there that could be very similar to us humans. Or even thinking about what events are happening out there right at his moment, events that may affect our planet or others around us. Have you ever thought about how big space is and if it is still growing? And if it is growing, will it every stop growing or even wondering about if your grandkids will be living in another planet. What does literatures say about what else could be out there in space?
The universe is huge, really huge, it’s crazy to think about how big it is and with that size many possibilities can come out of it. In this one universe there is thousands and thousands of galaxies and inside these galaxies there is even more thousands of planets and stars. And within these planets and stars, they can obtain possibilities beyond your wonders. But the thing is these possibilities are presently defined as “unknown”. How big is “big” when it comes to the universe. Is it the size of what we can see or the size of it right at this moment? This becomes very difficult because light takes time as it travels and as it travels the universe is still growing in size. And when this light hits our planet the universe is now larger than the time the light started to travel. Because of this astronomers do not use this as a reliable source, so they measure by z, and the more z the more redshift and the more distant the galaxy. “As an example,” says Koberlein:
“consider one of the most distant galaxies we’ve observed, which has a redshift of 7.5. Using this, we can determine distance by calculating how long the light has traveled to reach us. With a redshift of 7.5, that comes out to be about 13 billion years. You might think that means it’s 13 billion light years away, but 13 billion years ago the universe was smaller, so it was actually closer at the time the light left that galaxy. Using this, if you calculate that distance, it was only a short 3.4 billion light years away.”
Now the galaxy is much farther than that according to Koberlein. After the light left the galaxy, the galaxy continued to move away from us. It is now about 29 billion light years away. Which is definitely more than 13, and quite a bit more than its original 3.4? But still right at this moment the universe is still growing in size and shape and if you really think about this massive size, what possibilities can come out of it.
Proxima Centauir is our closest star. It is 39,900,000,000,000km away from our closest star, which is also known as our Sun. It would take about 81,000yrs (going 56,000 km/hr) to travel the 4.22 light years from Proxima to Earth. If we ever had to move away from our home planet our first choice would probably be Proxima Centauir. Proxima is, “Part of a triple star system called Alpha Centauri; Proxima is 4.22 light years from Earth. Alpha Centauri is actually the brightest star of the three in the system, and so the system is named after this star.” (Ian O’Neill) But the question is will we ever have to move off of Earth and go and live on a planet near Proxima.
“…if mankind felt the incentive to build an “interstellar ark” filled with a self-sustaining community of space-faring humans, it might be possible to travel there in a little under a century if we developed nuclear pulse technology. So your descendents [sic] may touch down on a planet closely orbiting Proxima Centauri, but unless we make a breakthrough in interstellar travel (and science fiction becomes more like science fact), we’ll be stuck with long-term, pedestrian transits for the foreseeable (and distant) future…,” quoted by O’Neill.
So the likeliness of going and living on another planet in the near future isn’t so high but if we would ever what would be the consequences of traveling in space. Ricks of going in to space is increased exposure to radiation, which could put space travelers at higher risk for contracting cancer (and possibly brain damage) than their earth-bound counterparts, weakened bones, a malady that researchers think can be counteracted by regular exercise and osteoporosis medication (Danielle Bronner). “According to the Times, a recent "unknown unknown" — what scientists call unexpected complications — has reminded scientists that we still don't know how bodies will react to extended stints in outer space. Specifically, they are talking about two astronauts on an extended mission who discovered that their vision was failing:” according to Danielle. “So far, the longest time an astronaut has spent in space has been roughly one year and two months. Next year, astronaut Scott J. Kelly will spend a year on the space station, giving NASA an opportunity to monitor his health over a long-term stay. In 2030, the agency hopes to send people to Mars for a two-and-a-half-year stay, but obviously that's a long way off.” If we are able to go to Mars and live there we will be leaving a big mess on Earth with all of the global warming. Meteorologists predict that in future decades there will be super storms from the warming ocean temps.
Besides the big mess that would be left “on” Earth, what about the big mess surrounding Earth. There is a big layer of pollution of debris that is surrounding Earth because of the Earth’s gravitational pull. This mess can cause much problems, for example, on February 10 2009 began like every other day in Iridium 33's 11-year life (one of a constellation of 66 small satellites in orbit around the Earth), it spent its time going through space, diligently shuttling signals to and from satellite phones. At 3pm a report said that it might see some excitement: two hours later it would pass less than 600 meters from a defunct communications satellite called Cosmos 2251. It did a lot less. The two space crafts collided and the result was hundreds of pieces of shrapnel more than 10cm across, and thus large enough to track by radar and plus the many more that were not. “Junk Science” also stated that,
“This accident came two years after the deliberate destruction by the Chinese of their Fengyun-1C spacecraft in the test of an anti-satellite weapon. That created over 2,000 pieces of junk bigger than 10cm, and an estimated 35,000 pieces more than 1cm across. Together, these incidents increased the number of objects in orbit at an altitude of 700-1,000km by a third.”
The picture to the right, also from “Junk Science”, shows you the amount of objects that are in space and how much it has been increasing by the years.
“Losing the ability to place satellites safely into LEOs would thus be a bad thing. And that is exactly what these two incidents threatened. At orbital velocity, some eight kilometers a second, even an object a centimetre across could knock a satellite out. The more bits of junk there are out there, the more likely this is to happen. And junk begets junk, as each collision creates more fragments—a phenomenon known as the Kessler syndrome, after Donald Kessler, an American physicist who postulated it in the 1970s.” (Junk Science)
Ideas to get rid of the debris is for ground-lasers to change the orbit of the pieces, for it to go into the atmosphere and burn up, or either do robot missions when you would dock at the dead satellite and spot rockets at it for it to either move to a graveyard orbit or crash down into the sea somewhere. But then again these are just ideas; there hasn’t been a 100% decision for what to do about this crisis.
Besides the mess on and off our planet, stars that could hold life or the consequences of being in space for too long, one of the biggest questions that are asked about space is “aliens.” Is there other life out there? Will we ever see them or it? Will we ever know? In matter of fact there is an equation to help us figure this out. Over half a century ago Frank Drake developed an equation to estimate the probability of finding intelligent life in our galaxy. (Dvorsky, George)
This equation is…
- N is the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which we might hope to be able to communicate
- R* is the average rate of star formation in our galaxy
- fp is the fraction of those stars that have planets
- ne is the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
- fl is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
- fi is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
- fc is the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
- L is the length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space
But this equation slowly got replaced by another because, ‘“The original Drake Equation just gave us the format with which to see what the different ingredients would be,’ Seager told io9. ‘No one had ever quantitatively organized our thoughts before. That’s the revolutionary nature of the equation.’ But it can never give us a quantitative answer, says, and we shouldn’t expect the equation to be a real equation in the sense that we can have precise definitions for each term.”’ So Seager went on to create an equation that would replace the Drake equation. This equation she made is…
- N is the number of planets with detectable biosignature gases
- N* is the number of stars within the sample
- FQ is the fraction of quiet stars
- FHZ is the fraction with rocky planets in the habitable zone
- FO is the fraction of observable systems
- FL is the fraction with life
- FS is the fraction with detectable spectroscopic signatures
To make sure that this is informed, this equation is not an update to the Drake Equation. “It’s more like a parallel equation that can work in tandem with the original version. Rather than come up with a formula to predict the predominance of intelligent life, Seager is interested in predicting our chances of detecting any kind of life within the next ten years.” (Dvorsky, George)
So now since we technically have an equation for the likeliness of alien life, what would happen if aliens did come to Earth? Well the National Geographic as a very unique scenario to this question. Sometime in the future – which could be very soon - the world will go about its business as usual. But at a remote observatory, a space anomaly is reported. Something unusual appears to be approaching Earth. Experts aren't sure how to react or do about it. The first sighting alerts sky-watchers around the world...
“As the craft approaches Earth, screens go blank, data streams cut out, and communications suddenly cease. Cell phone calls are dropped and TV images go out. All of Earth's satellites fail, but optical and radio telescopes are still receiving information. The aliens have knocked out satellite communication…Militaries prepare for the worst. Squadrons of F-18s - possibly our planet's most effective and versatile air-to-air weapon - scramble into action. But, for alien crafts to travel through the stars, they have propulsion technologies beyond physics that we even understand and can evade F-18 missiles fired at twice the speed of sound. Militaries try to intercept and decode alien communication. Humvees with broadcast dishes target alien crafts with microwaves to jam signals, cyber-attacking invaders. On the ground, a desperate military unleashes experimental weapons like the U.S. Air Force's highly classified X-37B spacefighter. But experimental weapons are no match.” (National Geographic)
(5 hours after contact) While nations of the world combine forces, the alien air force clears the skies then blasts military targets around the world, following our own radar signals before moving on to attack the rest of our society, leaving one last hope for us earthlings: nuclear weapons. Somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean, a submarine releases a Trident II ballistic missile, carrying nearly 3.5 megatonnes of destructive power. The missile will breaks apart into eight self-guided warheads. But, Earth's mightiest weapon has no impact on these aliens. From shielded bunkers and secret locations, surviving military leaders issue orders for a surprising new mission. Instead of attacking, they order their forces to run away.
“(24hrs after contact) “The alien invasion is complete. The invaders control the skies and ground. Earth's remaining communications hubs call for civilian evacuation. In the panic to flee, desperate crowds become rioting mobs. Roadways grind to a halt. A successful getaway demands some other form of transportation. For some, safety from aliens and rampaging humans means going underground. Subway tunnels and sewers provide safe exits from burning cities. According to the experts, the destruction of civilization is predictable. And, it is accounted for in the plans to fight an alien invasion. But, while military defeat may be predictable, it's not the end of the war. Among the survivors of Earth - in caves, and forests and deserts - there grows the seeds of rebellion. With bacteria and disease rampant among survivors deprived of antibiotics and other medicine, humans are provided with another weapon. Living germ warfare units prepare to be harvested - to spread their deadly agent among the invaders.” (National Geographic)
Nine or so months after contact astro-biologists say that humans would be more in danger from alien bacteria, and germ warfare would have no effect. But what if the aliens are not biological but simply machines? If it is a non-biological attack, there is one low-tech weapon that may be a match for the best technology of intergalactic invaders: a balloon. A balloon is so low-tech that it could be nearly invisible which makes this weapon a game changer. “Around the world, a coordinated balloon assault armed with high explosives and scavenged military bombs are underway. Throughout history, low tech assaults regularly succeed against superior technology. A human victory over alien technology may have less to do with tactics, and more to do with the human spirit - as it's evolved over 200,000 years.” (National Geographic) Even though this scenario is very detailed and descriptive but an alien invasion might or most likely not happen this way. The reason why is because no one knows how it will really happen because we have never had an actual alien contact before to reference to.
Besides the thought about the alien invasion, what would the aliens look like, if they are really out there? The first theory was that Earth was the center of the universe and that people generally accepted that Earth was the center of motion in the third century B.C. from a Greek philosopher named Aristarchus. In the sixteenth century Italian monk Giordano Bruno suggested publicly that an infinite universe was filled with planets that harbor life. His response to these ideas was that he was burned upside down and naked at the stake. (Dunbar, Brian)
“At the moment, life on Earth is the only known life in the universe, but there are compelling arguments to suggest we are not alone. Indeed, most astrophysicists accept a high probability of there being life elsewhere in the universe, if not on other planets or on moons within our own solar system. The numbers are, well, astronomical: If the count of planets in our solar system is not unusual, then there are more planets in the universe than the sum of all sounds and words ever uttered by every human who has ever lived. To declare that Earth must be the only planet in the cosmos with life would be inexcusably egocentric of us.” (Dunbar)
So the question is what does this life look like and, “…how can the appearance or the chemistry of life on Earth provides clues to what life might be like elsewhere in the universe?” If you really look at our life forms we have (snakes, jellyfish, sponges, squirrels, etc.), you can see how different and exotic they are so just imagine how weird, exotic, different life forms in space could be. And then when Hollywood makes movies with aliens they use “other life form creatures” that are practically undistinguishable from humans. “If anything is certain, it is that life elsewhere in the universe, intelligent or otherwise, will look at least as exotic as some of Earth's own life forms.” Dunbar also states that,
“Aliens need not look like us to resemble us in more fundamental ways. Consider that the four most common elements in the universe are hydrogen, helium, carbon, and oxygen. Helium is inert. So the three most abundant, chemically active ingredients in the cosmos are also the top three ingredients in life on Earth. For this reason, you can bet that if life is found on another planet, it will be made of a similar mix of elements. Conversely, if life on Earth were composed primarily of, for example, molybdenum, bismuth, and plutonium, then we would have excellent reason to suspect that we were something special in the universe.”
Even though we haven’t come into contact with “aliens” the odds show that it is likely that there is intelligent life out there in the universe. It/they could be dangerous or “come in peace” either us but for right now it is unknown.
Besides the unknown life what about the unknown objects? Asteroids and/or comets are coming close or hitting Earth and what we can do about them since they come without any warning…if we can do something. Little comets get destroyed as they come into contact with Earth’s atmosphere. There is nothing we can do when it comes to the big asteroids they can’t be stopped with Earth’s atmosphere. An example of a big asteroid that may come in contact with us is Apophis.
“Dubbed the “continent killer”, Apophis is a frightening-looking, 250m (820ft)-wide, 20million-ton chunk of rock, ice and dust, pockmarked with craters, which apparently could “land” on Earth, at about 23,000 miles per hour, in 25 years’ time — i.e. in most of our lifetimes. There are two scenarios: the first, and thankfully most likely, is that Apophis will fly by in April 2029, the year it is due to make its first “close approach”, and that’s the last we’ll see or hear of it. The second is that during that approach, it’ll pass through what scientists refer to as a “keyhole” – a small area of space that can alter the asteroid’s course due to Earth’s gravity. If this happens, it’ll be on a massive collision course with us seven years later, likely to be April 13 2036 — Easter Sunday.” (Hannaford)
But is this 100% true, not necessarily, “It is actually a problem, because each keyhole has keyholes around it, which means it could return to Earth in a different year. Mother Nature is very devious,” he says. “If asteroids come close to Earth one year, they can come back and hit you another year. It is actually fascinating, from a mathematical standpoint.” (Hannaford) This makes asteroids come without a fair warning basically. This also makes us have less time to prepare for its arrival. This makes this an “unknown” too
The Universe is basically defined as a big unknown. We are only certain about some things that are out there but at most we don’t know. We are not 100% sure about intelligent life that also lives in the universe nor are we certain about if we will ever live on another planet. We are also not sure about what events that are happening out there that might affect us. The Universe is classified as a big “unknown”.
Gap Identification/Research Question:
How do people think about us being concentrated on space? Throughout all of the research I have used in my literature review, none of them described about what people think or feel about the idea of Space. Or even their point of view about us as people funding for trying to solve the unknown of space. Also, how do people think about space, if they think it is that important for us to keep researching about it? The main question that I will be trying to answer is, “What are people’s points of view about the funding of trying to solve the unknown of space?”
The type of research I will be using is qualitative data. Qualitative data is a mixture of words and observations, unlike quantitative which uses numbers. Just like in all data, interpretation and analysis are required to bring understanding to the research. This requires discipline, creativity and a systematic approach. And keep in mind that there is no single or best way of doing this type of data. In order to do qualitative data in you must depend on the questions you want to be answered, resources that you will be using and the needs of those who will use the information (Analyzing Qualitative Data). This type of research is appropriate for my topic because most or even all of my research in my literature review are quantitative by scientists or high educated people. So I will be getting information about people of different ages about how they feel about space or what they know about it.
The instrument I used to get information from the people is a survey. In this survey it includes 5 questions that involve something to do about how they feel about space. I gave this survey to 4 people in different age groups; an elementary student, middle school student, a high school student, and an adult. I did this because I wanted to see how their different minds work and how they see things differently or similar. For example, in elementary school, students’ minds are young and filled with great imagination while as an adult’s mind is more literal and believe things that can be proven or have evidence with it. The people that took this survey are from Southeast Massachusetts in a little town called Norton. They took approximately 15 to 20 minutes, answering the questions. In this survey gender is not a problem; I am more concentrated on how their feelings on space change. As I went through their answers on the survey I did notice how their answers changed from one another. Some answers didn’t really have a specific pattern but others you can definitely see how it changed from a yes to a no. What I mean by this is that the elementary student could have a strong yes to an answer but then it slowly changes as it goes from middle school to high school than to the adult where he/she is stating a strong no or vise versa. The way I went through the answers was looking at the same answer to the same question of all the surveys to observe a difference or similarity to them but most or half of them went in the pattern I mention recently.
In question one, where they rated items, I didn’t find a certain pattern about space just that from elementary to adult community went from low to high; world problems went from low to high then back to low; space went from average to low; animal health and protection stayed high; pollution went from high to average. Besides just looking at space you can tell how their different minds change depending on their age by looking at all of the questions as a whole. Question two is where it started to show the pattern between elementary through adults. The elementary student started off saying how it’s cool; the middle school student said how if we can get better and strong equipment for space we could be able to find intelligent life somewhere out there; the high school student said that space is a very mysterious and an interesting place. Also that he/she doesn’t strongly agree nor disagree about life out there but he/she believes it could be possible, and that there has to be at least one planet that can sustain humans; the adult said he/she doesn’t believe that there is life or a planet that can sustain humans out there in space but thinks of space to be dark with sparkling lights all over. This is a perfect example of how their answers change depending on age; it went from the elementary student saying how space is cool with life then to the adult saying he/she doesn’t believe in life out there in space. In question three where I asked them if they could would they live on another planet if it was possible, the elementary student said it wouldn’t be a good idea because food shortages; the middle school student said that it depends on the person like if you aren’t living in good conditions on Earth that could change on a different planet; the high school student said we should have half the population go; the adult said she is sure of that people would go to a different planet if it was as nice as Earth. This is a good example of the pattern but vise versa. In the fourth question where I asked if you think there is anything else in space besides what we know of. The elementary student thinks there is life in space; the middle school student said there are a bunch of galaxies out there just like ours which could mean there could be another Earth; the high school student thinks there are aliens, other humans, other life-sustaining planets, and other galaxies; the adult said he/she doesn’t feel that there is anything out in space and that he/she has a hard time believing that there is life out there. So in this case it seems like the adult has the only different answer. Finally question five where I asked them about what do u think of when you see or hear the word space. The elementary student said pitch blackness; middle school said stars but sometimes monkeys; high school said the Milky Way, the planets, moons, stars and the sun; the adult said darkness. These are results were a little different from the others because the most creative ones in the question were in the middle especially the high school student. I did this question to see how much each person really thinks or knows about space when they just she or hear the word.
As I went through and analyzed the results of the surveys I have come to a conclusion that depending on your age, you can have a different feeling about space including the financing of it. The survey showed how depending on your age you can have a totally different view on things and it also shows how much you care about space. And not everyone takes space as a major topic of our world, most or all people are more concentrated or concerned about our community or animal protection. But I’m not saying that they are not important because they very much are but why can caring about space be so important? Concentrating on space can be important because you never know; space might be a big deal in the future. For example, in the future we could be facing over-population on Earth and need to find another planet to move people to. So why not start early and see how much we can know about space now so it can help us in the future. If space does become a big part of our lives we need to be prepared for it.
"Alien Invasion Countdown." National Geographic Channel. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2014. <http://natgeotv.com/>.
Bronner, Danielle W. "Humans Are Determined to Live in Space, Even If Space Does Not Want Us." The Wire. N.p., 29 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.thewire.com/national/2014/01/outer-space-bad-for-people/357493/>.
"Cosmic Distance Scales - The Nearest Star." Cosmic Distance Scales - The Nearest Star. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://heasarc.nasa.gov/docs/cosmic/nearest_star_info.html>.
Dunbar, Brian. "The Search for Life in the Universe." NASA. NASA, 30 June 2003. Web. 12 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nasa.gov/vision/universe/starsgalaxies/search_life_I.html#.VGNkJ_l4pcQ>.
Dvorsky, George. "A New Equation Reveals Our Exact Odds of Finding Alien Life I." - Democratic Underground. N.p., 21 June 2013. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
Hannaford, Alex. "Collision Course: The Space Rocks That Threaten Our Lives." The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group, 13 Aug. 0030. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.
"Junk Science." The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 21 Aug. 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.
Koberlein, Brain. "How Big Is the Universe?" How Big Is the Universe? N.p., 11 Aug. 2014. Web. 19 Nov. 2014.
O'Neill, Ian. "How Long Would It Take to Travel to the Nearest Star?" How Long Would It Take to Travel to the Nearest Star? 8 July 2008. Web. 3 Nov. 2014. <www.universetoday.com/15403/how-long-would-it-take-to-travel-to-the-nearest-star/>.
Taylor-Powell, Ellen, and Marcus Renner. "Analyzing Qualitative Data." Program Development and Evaluation, 1 Jan. 2003. Web. 7 Jan. 2015. <http://learningstore.uwex.edu/assets/pdfs/g3658-12.pdf>.