There is almost nothing but conjecture in this article. But it highlights the spiritual IO campaign theme about “alien” life which some think is a setup for the Strong Delusion.
The Nasa image by Niccolo Bonfadini shows columns of ice driven by wind into giant towers in Finnish Lapland, and indicates what Earth might have been like before the great ice epochs ended:
A huge surprise to those who see “climate change” as merely an event of the last half century will be that the extent of domination by ice vastly exceed the period of balmy climate we now enjoy.
This is a new and plausible reason why we have not discovered ET, nor vice versa. It is even more convincing than the perils of violent explosions of giant stars, which I will call the “slam-bang” theory of the extinction of life. For 90 per cent of its existence Earth was uninhabitable, not from cosmic violence, but from age-long ice epochs. A great majority of Earth-like planets must therefore have been equally so, making huge stretches of the galaxy lifeless.
These catastrophic events, occurring when Earth’s atmosphere was still unformed, were “ice epochs”, as distinct from mere ice ages. One of them, known as “Snowball Earth”, lasted a full 300 million years — 3,000 times longer than the average ice age.
And much deeper too. A skier crosses several feet of snow. The last Ice Age involved depths of a mile. But Snowball Earth would have covered the whole planet with depths of up to 60 miles. Everywhere one travelled, geologists believe, whether on land or sea, there would have been unbroken whiteness without end.
We have found hundreds of Earth-type planets with suns like ours — yet no trace of animals or plant life. Should we despair? Most certainly not, for this is the time to start assessing their suitability for colonisation.
Whatever Enrico Fermi and his colleagues felt in 1950, there is nothing surprising about the absence — or extreme rarity — of intelligent aliens. No one then knew about age-long ice epochs. And so every planet we have found so far is probably uninhabited.
Photo: Alessandro Falesiedi/Nasa
A typical collection of such planets lies in the prominent — this month — constellation of Aries the Ram that rescued the stepchildren of the wicked Queen of Thebes. Its brightest star Hamal has a giant planet the size of Jupiter and doubtless many smaller ones. (Hamal’s name was adopted as a destroyer support ship in the US Navy in World War II and in Korea.)
The pearly white star Sheraton that forms the Ram’s left horn, is just as prominent as Hamal. It is known to have planets, and since this is a stable stellar region, it is highly likely to have Earth-type planets.
A another pure-white star in the Ram’s head is Mesarthim. It is in fact far brighter than Sheraton, but does not appear so because it so much further away. It is 200 light-years distant, three times further than Sheraton.
Blood moon rising
Now for an interesting local event. For several hours in the South-East starting at about 2 am on Monday September 28 there will be a Blood Moon. A blood moon is the fourth of four total eclipses of the Moon with no partial lunar eclipses in between. It is supposed to be dark red.
Photo: Johannes Schedler/Nasa
It is said also to have some Biblical link with the plotting of revenge. But the Bible, on this subject, contains only vague curses.
The night sky in September
Photo: PETE LAWRENCE
The September chart (launch full, high-res image) shows the sky at the start of the month. The positions of the stars on other nights can be found from previous charts for they rise two hours earlier each month. Thus, the appearance of the sky at 10 pm at the start of September (except for the Moon and planets) is identical to that a month ago. The Moon, full on the 28th and new on the 13th, is shown in its various phases. The hazy area represents the billions of stars of the Milky Way. Constellations are in white, and the brighter stars are ringed and yellow. The larger the ring, the brighter the star.