BAN #267: So about tomorrow… and a cool crater collection on Mars

2 November 2020 Issue #267

[Spiral Galaxy M81 image credit: Adam Block/Mount Lemmon SkyCenter/University of Arizona]

Subscribers give me hope for tomorrow. Literally and figuratively. But also literally.

Politics

As Dave Barry said, “Poli” = many and “tics” = blood-sucking parasites

Welp, here we go. Remember, tomorrow is NOT election day. It’s actually the last day you can vote.

Also, a very gentle reminder that the election is not decided tomorrow, either, no matter what you hear. The TV news and everyone else “calling the election”? That’s a media-generated fiction, based on projections sometimes from very few votes. It takes days and sometimes weeks for electors to count all the votes, which is why sometimes you hear about the results switching. Early and/or absentee voters and day-of voters may have very different stimuli to vote, so the results can swing a lot once the early votes are tabulated.

Of course, Trump’s team is aware of this, knowing that the loathing of Trump will bring lots of early voters to the polls. It apparently has; certainly COVID-19 has caused people to vote early as well, to avoid crowds and standing in line, but I suspect the hatred of Trump himself is driving a lot of it. Those won’t be counted until after 3 November, so the day of votes might lean more toward the GOP, but that will change when the early votes are counted.

… or it might not. Perhaps Biden and the Democrats will have a landslide in their favor, but either way Trump and the GOP have done everything they can to pre-cook the atmosphere to make contesting the election easier on them. Those attempts are all through the media, so it’s not hard to find them, and yes, it’s the GOP doing this. The Democrats want a free and fair election, with everyone’s votes counted. The GOP knows — and has literally said — that the fewer people who vote the better chance they have to win, so voter suppression, discounting ballots, throwing out ballots… that’s their plan.

The only way to counter that now is to turn out in numbers too huge to suppress. Still, there have been lots of reports of right-wing intimidation attempts. If you see any intimidation or anything else untoward, call the ACLU’s Election Protection Hotline: 1-866-OUR-VOTE.

I’ve been clear that I want people to vote blue up and down the ballot. My reasons are obvious enough. The GOP is anti-science, anti-freedom, anti-pretty much everything decent, and have cleaved themselves unto Trump with such fervor that they must enmasse be shown the door. I was pretty clear on Twitter about this:

I stand by that. This is not a conservative party. They are dangerously radical, and if they stay in power then I literally fear for the future of the United States.

And if you don’t like Biden because he’s not progressive enough, I get it. But think of it this way: Who’s easier to sway once they’re in office, Trump or Biden? Biden has already made it clear he’s willing to be moved left on climate change, and has put it front and center in his campaign lately. Remember, this isn’t necessarily about the candidate you love, it’s about saving the soul of this country.

As always, I remind you to read Stonekettle’s Hunting the Unicorn to Extinction. Read it, and then vote.

Please.

[Note: Because this issue is important, I’m opening up comments for everyone. Got something to say? Please do! Just remember: DBaD.]

Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[A stunning survey image of the galactic center shows millions of stars. From Wednesday’s article. Credit: CTIO/NOIRLab/DOE/NSF/AURA Acknowledgments: Image processing: W. Clarkson (UM-Dearborn), C. Johnson (STScI), and M. Rich (UCLA), Travis Rector (University of Alaska Anchorage), Mahdi Zamani & Davide de Martin.]

Monday 26 October, 2020:

UPDATE: Life above hell? Serious doubt cast on Venus phosphine finding

Tuesday 27 October, 2020:

Astronomers find water on the Moon glowing in sunlight

Wednesday 28 October, 2020:

What do 10 *million* stars look like?

Thursday 29 October, 2020:

TESS finds its first Earth-sized planet in its star's habitable zone

Friday 30 October, 2020:

The Universe is shaking: 39 new gravitational wave events added to the list

Pic o’ the Letter

A cool or lovely or mind-bending astronomical image/video with a short description so you can grok it

Looking at craters on other worlds is an endlessly fascinating pastime. Sure, most are just whopping great holes in the ground, but there are quite a few that show unusual features, and it’s not at all clear how they happened.

Like, for example, this beauty on Mars. Or, I should say, beauties:

[A triple crater on Mars. Credit: ESA/DLR/FU Berlin]

Whoa. A triple crater!

This image was taken by the ESA’s Mars Express orbiter, and the web page has a lot of info on this crater set. But please allow me to speculate a bit…

Double craters are relatively common, but not three-fers. It’s possible that they are just random impacts that happened far apart in time, coincidentally nearly on top of each other — that area of Mars, called Noachis Terra, is lousy with them — but having three so close strongly implies it was from one incoming asteroid or comet which split into three pieces right before impact.

As we’re learning, asteroids can be pretty fragile, so having one fall apart isn’t too surprising. I don’t think the tides from Mars are strong enough to do it, but it’s certain that in the past Mars had a much thicker atmosphere. As the asteroid rams through the air it can break apart under the strain.

But… the big crater is 45 km across, and the two smaller ones around 30. That means they hit maybe 20 km apart, which is a decent distance. The split would have had to happen way up in the atmosphere to give them time to separate.

It looks to me that the big one hit first, then the middle one, then the one at the bottom right. The middle one’s rim is in tact right through the big crater, so it must have come later, and the bottom one’s overlaps the middle one, so it came last. The amount of erosion in each looks about the same, giving credence to the idea they all formed at the same time from one impactor that broke apart.

The floors are flat, which means they likely filled with sediment or water; there’s ice under the surface there so the impact might have brought that up as water. There are lots of slumpy features both around the rims and in the middle. With Mars that could be from wind erosion or from water in the ground loosening the material. I’m no expert so I can’t say.

That fan pattern in the last crater is interesting. I wonder if that’s from wind blowing material or from water? I’d guess wind by the way it spreads out. But, there’s an indentation in the crater rim right where the fan starts, like the wall there collapsed a bit, so maybe it was seepage that weakened it.

This is why I’m no Martian geologist. Too many clues, not enough expertise.

Again, the ESA page for the crater has a lot of cool info as well as more images (the 3D anaglyph is extremely cool if you have red/blue glasses).

I love that we’re mapping this planet so thoroughly. There are so many interesting features to see and wonder about on it!

Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!