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Solaris: To the Sun’s High Latitudes

I can think of more than one way to get a good look at the Sun’s polar regions. After all, we’ve done it before, through the Ulysses spacecraft, which passed over the Sun’s north and south poles in 1994-1995. A gravity assist at Jupiter was the key to the mission, allowing Ulysses to arc out of the ecliptic and inward to the Sun. But Ulysses lacked the kind of remote-sensing instruments we’d like to use to compile an extensive dataset on the polar magnetic field and, as Don Hassler (SwRI) adds, “the surface/sub-surface flows” we might find in the polar regions. It’s good to see a mission designed for that purpose.

For Hassler is principal investigator on a concept that has just been approved for further study by NASA, with the haunting name Solaris. I say ‘haunting’ because it’s hard for this Stanislaw Lem reader to forget the novel of the same name, published in 1961, that explores the implications of a vast intelligence on a planet far from Earth. I realize this has been done as a film more than once and I’ve seen the films, but I leave their analysis to Centauri Dreams film critic Larry Klaes, who would know how to do justice to them. For me, the written word is the medium of choice, and this is a novel I intend to read again.

Anyway, the proposed Solaris mission is one of five science investigations just approved by NASA as part of the agency’s Medium-Class Explorer (MIDEX) program, with $1.25 million allocated for a nine-month contract for what are known as Phase A concept design studies and analyses to develop the concept. If it flies, Solaris would launch in 2025, like Ulysses using a gravity assist at Jupiter to sling it out of the ecliptic plane, flying over the solar poles at 75 degrees latitude. You might think of the surprises Cassini found at Saturn’s poles, and that odd hexagon at the north pole is still the subject of various competing hypotheses. Will we find something just as odd at the Sun? Hassler notes that we’ll at least get a good look:

“Solaris will spend more than three months over each pole of the Sun, obtaining the first continuous, high-latitude, months-long studies of the Sun’s polar regions. With focused science and a simple, elegant mission design, Solaris will also provide enabling observations for space weather research, such as the first polar views of coronal mass ejections, energetic events that spew highly magnetized plasma from the solar corona into space, causing radio and magnetic disturbances on the Earth.”

And. he adds, “It’s sure to stimulate future research through new unanticipated discoveries.”

Unexpected findings have characterized our explorations of the Solar System from the beginning, with Io and Triton being two outstanding examples, so let’s see what those solar polar regions look like. We’ll keep an eye on the progress of Solaris as it makes its way through the process. The concept calls for a Doppler magnetograph to study the polar magnetic fields and subsurface flows, along with an extreme ultraviolet instrument for polar imaging and a white light coronagraph to examine the solar corona from this perspective.

Image; Southwest Research Institute is developing the concept for a mission to study the Sun’s poles, one of the last unseen places in the solar system. This proposed solar polar NASA mission is designed to revolutionize our understanding of the Sun by addressing fundamental questions that can only be answered from a polar vantage point. Credit: Courtesy of Southwest Research Institute.

And keep an eye on another mission funded for similar Phase A concept design study, the Auroral Reconstruction CubeSwarm (ARCS), in the hands of principal investigator Kristina Lynch (Dartmouth University), a mission that would, like Solaris, be managed by SwRI. For me, the chief interest of ARCS is in its plan for 32 CubeSats and 32 ground-based observatories to work together, in this case on a study of the mechanisms driving Earth’s auroras. CubeSat designs of growing complexity are low-cost ways to fly ever more interesting missions, and the emerging notion of ‘swarm’ missions should turn out to be productive in areas as diverse as planetary imaging and extrasolar planet detection.

Meanwhile, I’m always glad to see continuing interest in missions to the Sun, given our need to understand the issues involved in close solar approaches for potential ‘sundiver’ missions deep into the gravity well for maximum acceleration to targets in the outer system. I’ll also mention Solar Cruiser as a fascinating sail design that could enable study of the Sun’s high latitudes using non-Keplerian orbits enabled by the momentum of solar photons. Principal investigator Les Johnson (MSFC) sees this as an outstanding opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of large sails as we explore the nearest star in the cosmos.

For more on Solar Cruiser, see Heliophysics with Interstellar Implications. See also Johnson’s analysis “The Solar Cruiser Mission Concept — Enabling New Vistas for Heliophysics,” Bulletin of the American Astronomical Society, Vol. 52, No. 3 (June, 2020). Abstract.

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{ 34 comments… add one }
  • Michael Fidler September 8, 2020, 10:54

    On the correlation between solar activity and large earthquakes worldwide.

    Abstract
    Large earthquakes occurring worldwide have long been recognized to be non Poisson distributed, so involving some large scale correlation mechanism, which could be internal or external to the Earth. Till now, no statistically significant correlation of the global seismicity with one of the possible mechanisms has been demonstrated yet. In this paper, we analyze 20 years of proton density and velocity data, as recorded by the SOHO satellite, and the worldwide seismicity in the corresponding period, as reported by the ISC-GEM catalogue. We found clear correlation between proton density and the occurrence of large earthquakes (M > 5.6), with a time shift of one day. The significance of such correlation is very high, with probability to be wrong lower than 10–5. The correlation increases with the magnitude threshold of the seismic catalogue. A tentative model explaining such a correlation is also proposed, in terms of the reverse piezoelectric effect induced by the applied electric field related to the proton density. This result opens new perspectives in seismological interpretations, as well as in earthquake forecast.

    A possible qualitative model to explain observations.
    Once a strong correlation between proton density, generated by solar wind, and large earthquakes worldwide has been assessed, the next step is to verify if a physical mechanism exists which could explain such a result. Several mechanisms have been proposed, till now, for solar-terrestrial triggering of earthquakes (see26 for a review). Although former observations about solar-terrestrial triggering were not convincing26, some of the formerly proposed mechanisms could explain our results, which are on the contrary statistically significant. In particular, Sobolev and Demin25 studied the piezoelectric effects in rocks generated by large electric currents. Our observed correlation implies that a high electric potential sometimes occurs between the ionosphere, charged by the high proton density generated at higher distances, and the Earth. Such a high potential could generate, both in a direct way or determining, by electrical induction, alterations of the normal underground potential, an electrical discharge, channeled at depth by large faults, which represent preferential, highly conductive channels. Such electrical current, passing through the fault, would generate, by reverse piezoelectric effect, a strain/stress pulse, which, added to the fault loading and changing the total Coulomb stress, could destabilize the fault favoring its rupture. The reverse piezoelectric effect would be due, in rocks, by the quartz minerals abundant in them. Such effect can work, in principle, for all kinds of faults. The piezoelectric effect, in fact, acts to produce a pulse of dilatation or contraction on a particular axis of the crystal, depending on the polarity of the electrical current. For quartz crystals randomly distributed on a fault surface of any orientation, the net effect is a pulse of strain/stress normal to the fault, because the other strain/stress components compensate among them into the bulk rocks. The normal stress can stabilize or destabilize any kind of fault, depending on the sign36,37,38; however, since it is a transient pulse, it has an effect only in case it is able to instantaneously increase the total Coulomb stress on a given fault above the fracture strength, thus generating the earthquake36. It would then represent only a small destabilizing effect over an already critically loaded fault. So, the earthquake cycle would be anyway dominated by tectonic phenomena, but this small external triggering effect could generate the observed slight correlation among worldwide earthquakes. These kinds of effects, induced by high electrical potential between the ionosphere and the Earth, should likely be accompanied by electrical discharges in atmosphere, which would cause luminescence phenomena. Actually, there are numerous observations of macroscopic luminescence phenomena (named Earthquake Lights) before and accompanying large earthquakes39. Moreover, these phenomena could also cause strong electromagnetic effects, which would be recorded as radio-waves; even such phenomena have been largely reported as accompanying, and generally preceding, large earthquakes40. More in general, a lot of electro-magnetic anomalies, often well evident, are more and more frequently reported associated to moderate to large earthquakes41. The recent scientific literature is full of hypotheses about how such electromagnetic effects, associated to large earthquakes, could be generated. The most debated question is if they can be considered as precursors (or maybe triggers) for large events, or they are caused by the process of slip on the faults which also generate the earthquake42,43. Here we suggest that the increase in the proton density near the magnetosphere can qualitatively explain all these observations, and also give a physical basis to our statistical observations.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-67860-3

    The Carrington Event was a massive solar storm that impacted our planet on 1-2 September 1859. Eighteen months later a 8.5 magnitude earthquake took place in Sumatra, Dutch East Indies now Indonesia.

  • Alex Tolley September 8, 2020, 11:23

    Apart from the 2 movies, there is an old Russian tv series of the novel. AFAIK it isn’t available, but I would love someone to piece it together with good subtitles and distribute it. Speaking of subtitles, the recent release of the 2017 film, “Salyut 7” has some of the worst English subtitles I have ever read. Ruined a perfectly good space movie.

    It seems to me in my lack of knowledge that progress with solar sails is still very slow. What is the reason for this? Lack of serious development funding? Some technical issues of materials or deployment? I also note that the designs are all of the kite type. Has this been settled as a best design, or just one that has proven successful? The various designs that I have seen proposed all seem to have been abandoned in favor of this design. Clarke’s “The Wind from the Sun” had a number of different designs in the story of the crewed sail race. Why are we not able to do something similar with a standard payload and sail area, with a prize for winning the race?

  • charlie September 8, 2020, 17:13

    ” If it flies, Solaris would launch in 2025, like Ulysses using a gravity assist at Jupiter to sling it out of the ecliptic plane, flying over the solar poles at 75 degrees latitude. You might think of the surprises Cassini found at Saturn’s poles, and that odd hexagon at the north pole is still the subject of various competing hypotheses. ”

    I found your wording here to be extremely odd (to put it mildly). When you say that Ulysses will fly over the solar poles at 75° latitude, that seemed to make no sense to me whatsoever. Of course if it is in a pure north-south path over the sun you would expected to not only be over the 75° latitude line but over ultimately the 90° North and South polar points. Yet you seem to put some kind emphasis on 75. Could you please explain a little further what you’re trying to say?

    Secondly concerning the hexagons at the North Pole Saturn is extremely odd and worthy hexagons actually true hexagons are only a mild approximation of some hexagonal shapes? Remember they saw a face on Mars when it turns out it was just some type of lighting situation that illuminated some hills and people’s minds read into that that it was a face. Is that the same issue here?

    • Paul Gilster September 8, 2020, 19:47

      The Saturn hexagon is sharply defined and can be found in many Cassini images. Wikipedia is a good place to start:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn%27s_hexagon

      • charlie September 9, 2020, 17:54

        Again I wanted to address the issue of why you emphasize 75° as your starting point for the flyover of the sun. I was truly curious as to why you wrote that paragraph as you wrote it. As I said above:

        “I found your wording here to be extremely odd (to put it mildly). When you say that Solaris will fly over the solar poles at 75° latitude, that seemed to make no sense to me whatsoever. Of course if it is in a pure north-south path over the sun you would expected to not only be over the 75° latitude line but over ultimately the 90° North and South polar points. Yet you seem to put some kind emphasis on 75. Could you please explain a little further what you’re trying to say?”

        • Paul Gilster September 9, 2020, 19:47

          I used the 75 degree latitude because that’s what’s in the NASA documentation. Solaris would be looking at the Sun’s poles from that angle, assuming the mission flies. That’s the plan — Solaris would be imaging from a high latitude rather than being directly over the poles.

          • charlie September 10, 2020, 16:17

            Given what you say is true (and I have no reason to doubt that) then it appears that the purpose of the mission is to be in an inclined plane relative to the ecliptic of the Earth’s plane and at the same time not fly over the solar poles of the sun. It appears that the furthest north and south it is going to go will in some manner be at the 75° line latitude of the sun.
            A pretty good trick in celestial mechanics and navigation if you ask me (and if I understand the entire plan altogether).
            They must have their reasons for doing this; although I would imagine you could get just as much information if your intention was to fly over the solar poles. But again they must have their reasons.

  • charlie September 8, 2020, 17:20

    Perhaps I made a mistake in my last input into this comment section, that I called the current Solaris mission Ulysses? And your further comment about the fact that our explorations of the solar system from the beginning will give us a chance to get an idea of what the south Solar polar regions look like. I thought the previous mission Ulysses had already examined both poles of the sun – so now are you telling us that Ulysses only flew over the North Pole of the sun? If so how did it avoid flying over the South Pole and was only able to fly over the North Pole? Or am I mixing something up here regarding the Ulysses mission?
    So you’re telling me now that the Solaris mission will be the first to visit the south pole of the sun?
    There’s now been so many missions out in outer space that there is almost a embarrassing riches of detail that only a dedicated follower of this particular science would be in the know. And I confess I’m not a dedicated follower but more of a casual observer…

    • Paul Gilster September 8, 2020, 19:46

      Re the poles, my article states: “After all, we’ve done it before, through the Ulysses spacecraft, which passed over the Sun’s north and south poles in 1994-1995.” So yes, Ulysses made observations of the Sun’s south pole in 1994. A bit more about Ulysses:

      https://solarsystem.nasa.gov/missions/ulysses/in-depth/

    • Robin Datta September 9, 2020, 1:35

      The Saturn hexagon looks like a nut or the head of a bolt. To find out what’s inside, wouldn’t it have to be unscrewed?

      • Alex Tolley September 9, 2020, 11:49

        The original Polish, translated into French, then into English. One can see the differences between the different translations quite readily. It is a pity I cannot read or understand the original, as I am sure there are nuances that get missed, especially ones that are steeped in Polish culture.

  • Robin Datta September 8, 2020, 20:31

    The sun indeed. The first creatures on earth with light focusing organs around half a billion years ago hod some kind of awareness of it, as did and do all those of their light-focusing successors to this day. And humanity has more numerous and more extensive myths about the sun, both sacred and mundane, than about any other celestial object.

    It being a source of life and the expected cause of life’s extermination on this planet, a better understanding of the sun’s workings would help predict and adapt to its vagaries for the duration of our relationship with it.

    The Internet Archive has a legitimate copy of Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris.

    • charlie September 9, 2020, 17:51

      “Solaris chronicles the ultimate futility of attempted communications with the extraterrestrial life inhabiting a distant alien planet named Solaris. The planet is almost completely covered with an ocean of gel that is revealed to be a single, planet-encompassing entity. Terran scientists conjecture it is a living and a sentient being, and attempt to communicate with it.

      Kris Kelvin, a psychologist, arrives aboard Solaris Station, a scientific research station hovering near the oceanic surface of Solaris. The scientists there have studied the planet and its ocean for many decades, mostly in vain. A scientific discipline known as Solaristics has degenerated over the years to simply observing, recording and categorizing the complex phenomena that occur upon the surface of the ocean. Thus far, the scientists have only compiled an elaborate nomenclature of the phenomena, and do not yet understand what such activities really mean. Shortly before Kelvin’s arrival, the crew exposed the ocean to a more aggressive and unauthorized experimentation with a high-energy X-ray bombardment. Their experimentation gives unexpected results and becomes psychologically traumatic for them as individually flawed humans.

      The ocean’s response to this intrusion exposes the deeper, hidden aspects of the personalities of the human scientists, while revealing nothing of the ocean’s nature itself. It does this by materializing physical simulacra, including human ones; Kelvin confronts memories of his dead lover and guilt about her suicide. The “guests” of the other researchers are only alluded to. All human efforts to make sense of Solaris’s activities prove futile. As Lem wrote, “The peculiarity of those phenomena seems to suggest that we observe a kind of rational activity, but the meaning of this seemingly rational activity of the Solarian Ocean is beyond the reach of human beings.”[4] He also wrote that he deliberately chose to make the sentient alien an ocean to avoid any personification and the pitfalls of anthropomorphism in depicting first contact.[3]”

      I saw the movie and it made absolutely no sense when I saw it. Based on this Wikipedia summary, this makes me dislike the story even more. What kind of observers would spend decades observing nothing floating around in space? This was a boring sass story from the very beginning and it makes me wonder what was the purpose of even writing this particular story. Would any sane researchers spend all that time observing nothing? It would be far better to go into a hyper sleep and had off into another star system at least trying to get some kind of meaningful action and make it worthwhile your time-as well as give you something meaningful to do with your life. Why did this man even write the story? What was he trying to convey to the reader? Seems like really nothing.

  • Mike Serfas September 8, 2020, 20:35

    _Solaris_ suggested an ocean or perhaps the atmosphere above it could be sentient. Since we can’t prove that a person is sentient, this is hard to falsify, but these are complex systems that respond unpredictably to small inputs. Anyone ever stuck under a trough in harsh winter knows the atmosphere has a memory; by the third shovelling of the week they may consider it holds grudges.

    Have SETI researchers ever considered how you might communicate with an atmosphere, ocean, or other complex system to evaluate whether the system might in a meaningful sense be considered intelligent? What criteria and experimental methods would you use? How about a star that adds magnetic fields to the mix, and no small energy source, and the potential to send (and receive?) radio signals? Maybe it’s time for life to imitate art. :)

  • Patient Observer September 8, 2020, 22:06

    Both movie versions of Solaris were good but I would give the nod to the Russian version. I hope Larry Klaes will grace us with a review of both movies. His review of Forbidden Planet was exceptionally interesting.

    Regarding odd solar-terrestrial interactions, I recall a scientific article that linked human behavior to geomagnetic factors modified by solar activity. One connection (not mentioned in the paper) is that humans can apparently sense magnetic fields sufficient for spatial orientation. Here is one among many articles on human perception of magnetic fields:

    https://www.the-scientist.com/news-opinion/can-humans-sense-the-magnetic-field–65611

    • ljk September 9, 2020, 12:28

      Thank you, Patient Observer. I have seen both the 1972 and 2002 film versions. I agree with what Stanislaw Lem said about both versions, quoted from Wikipedia:

      The 1972 film version:

      Although Lem worked with Tarkovsky and Friedrich Gorenstein in developing the screenplay, Lem maintained he “never really liked Tarkovsky’s version” of his novel.[31] Tarkovsky wanted a film based on the novel but artistically independent of it, while Lem opposed any divergence of the screenplay from the novel. Lem went as far as to say that Tarkovsky made Crime and Punishment rather than Solaris, omitting epistemological and cognitive aspects of his book.[32] But Lem also said in an interview that he had only seen part of the finale, much later, after Tarkovsky’s death.[33] Tarkovsky claimed that Lem did not fully appreciate cinema and expected the film to merely illustrate the novel without creating an original cinematic piece. Tarkovsky’s film is about the inner lives of its scientists. Lem’s novel is about the conflicts of man’s condition in nature and the nature of man in the universe. For Tarkovsky, Lem’s exposition of that existential conflict was the starting point for depicting the characters’ inner lives.

      The 2002 film version:

      While admitting that he had not seen the film, Stanisław Lem criticized what he had heard as departing far from his original intentions by focusing almost exclusively on the psychological relationship between the two main characters, while reducing the vast and alien ocean to a mere “mirror” of humanity.

      …to my best knowledge, the book was not dedicated to erotic problems of people in outer space… As Solaris’ author I shall allow myself to repeat that I only wanted to create a vision of a human encounter with something that certainly exists, in a mighty manner perhaps, but cannot be reduced to human concepts, ideas or images. This is why the book was entitled “Solaris” and not “Love in Outer Space”.

      — Stanislaw Lem, The Solaris Station (December 8, 2002)

      I have yet to see the 1968 Soviet version, but I have heard it was much closer to the novel, which is excellent.

      Some other reading:

      https://www2.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/tarkovsky-original-version-solaris

      https://brightlightsfilm.com/intimately-alien-conflicting-ideologies-in-solyaris-1968-and-solaris-1972/#.X1kCUXlKhPY

      https://lwlies.com/articles/stanislaw-lem-solaris-1968-soviet-tv-adaptation/

      • Alex Tolley September 9, 2020, 18:18

        Ever a mine of media information. Thankyou for that link to the Russian tv version with English subtitles. I look forward to watching it.

    • AlexTru September 10, 2020, 3:22

      I very like Stanislav Lem novel, but do not like any of Solaris based movie versions.
      Tarkovsky made very depressive version, I know he feel not free in depressive USSR, but it is not cause to produce junk from the good novel.

      • Paul Gilster September 10, 2020, 5:22

        Agreed. Lem didn’t care for the film either.

      • Patient Observer September 10, 2020, 18:33

        Roger Ebert saw a great deal of depth in the Russian version. The comment about a “depressive USSR” seems more of a personal view than a contribution to understanding the movie but I digress. Ebert was quite impressed by the directors challenge not be be bored but to give oneself to the movie. Perhaps the director was asking too much of they typical audience.

        • ljk September 11, 2020, 9:47

          I read that Tarkovsky deliberately made the first ten minutes of his Solaris film boring so that the Soviet censors watching it would get bored and walk away. Then he could go ahead and make his film as he pleased without their interference.

          Is it true? I cannot confirm, but one does have to get tricky in an intolerant, controlling regime that tells one how to think and act. Boring away some ignorant, narrow-minded apparatchik is one possible subversive method.

          Both filmmakers should have stuck to Lem’s story. It’s not like every other film made is about a sentient ocean and how humans reveal their limitations in trying to understand it and the Universe.

          As I said in my recent essay on 2010, if Hollywood wrote Moby Dick, Ahab would have killed the White Whale and gotten the girl at the end. And guess what, in their earliest cinematic renditions of the Melville novel, they did just that!

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moby_Dick_(1930_film)

          • Alex Tolley September 11, 2020, 13:51

            I’m reminded tha Clarke’s editors and publishers in the old USSR had to be careful too. He has remarked that some text clearly slipped by the censors, perhaps from boredom of the material preceding the offending material.

          • Patient Observer September 11, 2020, 20:33

            Ebert stated that the first 10 minutes of the film was to condition the audience, to put them in a state of mind to better understand what was to follow. Not everyone got it but, per Ebert, it was a masterstroke (sorry, can’t locate the source, just from memory). I don’t know about Soviet censors but unfortunately a lot of moviegoers failed to get on board.

            I take exception with your characterization of the Soviet Union but that is another story. This “damaged” society still somehow managed to develop the best literature, the best symphonic music, the best in dance and sculptor. Perhaps such artistic output could be mostly attributed to the Russian culture which I would agree. But I would argue that the Soviet Union was also a product of that rich culture as well and has yet to be properly understood. This topic is far too complex to discuss; it makes rocket engineering look easy!

            Hope you can find the time to make a review of Solaris; either or both! Thanks in advance.

        • Alex Tolley September 11, 2020, 13:48

          Ebert was one of the few film critics who liked science fiction movies. He was also my goto critic for movies as his views seemed to coincide with mine. These days I laugh at how extreme movie reviewers can be of the same film, giving both good and bad reviews. This is why film reviews are subjective. While reviewers can pan Rotten Tomatoes, it does provide a “wisdom of the crowds” ratings, at least for watchability. His passing is a loss.

          • Paul Gilster September 11, 2020, 16:25

            Ebert was a long-time SF fan, knew lots of the writers, and had read extensively in the field. I share your admiration of his work.

  • Dmitry Novoseltsev September 8, 2020, 23:55

    A few years ago I wrote (https://i4is.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Principium18%20Aug2017%20opt.pdf, pp. 31-41) on the possibility of future construction in the Solar system of a modification of the Shkadov engine due to self-Assembly of its reflector from standard simple devices with solar sails made from asteroid raw materials and then flying to the region of the Sun’s pole. I also offered a trial mission of a similar device in the coming years: “An interesting option would send a similar craft to one body in the main asteroid belt, followed by going beyond the ecliptic plane and a flight to one of the poles of the Sun. Further, the device’s work programme could be to find and study in the polar region of the Sun, among other things, the influence of non-stationary processes of solar activity on the device positioning, as well as an assessment of its requirement resource. The process of building a Shkadov thruster could thus be simulated.”
    So the flight of the solar sail (https://www.centauri-dreams.org/2019/08/19/heliophysics-with-interstellar-implications/, https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2020AAS…23610608J/abstract), and even more so a swarm of such sails, to the pole of the Sun is very interesting, as the initial approach of such a large-scale mission. It will be very interesting to see if it is possible to stabilize the sail by permanently “hanging” it in the pole area due to non-gravitational forces.
    I wish success to the Solaris mission. I would like to track its development somewhere.

  • ljk September 9, 2020, 14:09

    Here, I offer you this extensive history of modern SETI:

    https://www.daviddarling.info/encyclopedia/S/SETI_critical_history_contents.html

    And you might this recent document on technosignatures informative:

    https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/1812/1812.08681.pdf

    And this recent Centauri Dreams article:

    https://www.centauri-dreams.org/2020/06/24/a-catalog-of-celestial-exotica/

  • Jens Knudsen September 15, 2020, 12:00

    The European Solar Orbiter might ultimately make it into a solar orbit taking it up to 33 degrees above the ecliptic. It is a start. https://www.esa.int/Science_Exploration/Space_Science/Solar_Orbiter/Liftoff_for_Solar_Orbiter_ESA_s_mission_to_face_the_Sun_up_close

  • ljk November 3, 2020, 13:32

    Regarding the discussion in this thread about Stanislaw Lem and his novel and the subsequent film adaptions of Solaris, I just learned about this 2018 science fiction film from Sweden titled Aniara:

    https://www.aniarafilm.com/

    Based on an epic poem written in 1956 by Swedish author Harry Martinson in 1956:

    https://gsproject.edublogs.org/gs-texts/texts-used-in-2017/aniara-by-harry-martinson-3/

    Very much like Lem’s take on humanity encountering both the Universe and our multiple limitations as organic creatures emerging from a singular planet, but with less emphasis on the science and overt philosophy.

    Must be an European thing. The American version would include standard straight love stories, familial conflict, space battles, and evil AI bent on control and destruction, good and bad aliens, and ultimately a rescue from their existential fate, with the implied promise that while this mission kinda failed, one day humanity would ultimately conquer the stars and make the Milky Way galaxy great again.

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