Tagged: planet

The Dry Earth: Reversed Terraforming

After terraforming Mars quite a few times, I’ve now done the reverse thing: martifying Earth. What would our planet look like if all the water suddenly disappeared? Like a Pale Yellow Dot, a kind of cross-over between the Moon and Mars. Warming-up No, this is not a warning about the effects of global warming. Those are worrying enough, but in the short term they mainly mean that we have to deal with more instead of less water. Speculation On the other hand: sometimes planets lose a lot of water in the course of their existence. Mars, for example, once had...

The Drowned Earth: a world map as it looks after the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica have melted, around 4000 AD

The Drowned Earth: 4000 AD, After The Thaw

What would the world map look like if all the polar ice would melt? And how long does it take to get there? These are interesting questions now that climate change is – finally – on the political agenda. And as a cartographer, I could not resist the temptation to visualize the worst case scenario. Gravity When the Greenland ice sheet melts, the sea level rises 7 meters, when the ice melts in Antarctica it causes a rise of 58 meters. So together that makes 65 meters. But that is an average. Because something else plays a role: gravity. Such...

The planets Earth and Mars represented by two beach balls in the sand, on the right scale ratio to each other.

Two planets on the beach

Among the general public, there’s remarkably little awareness of the solar system, our immediate environment, our neighbourhood. Many people simply don’t know the difference between the solar system, the galaxy and the universe. Even Dutch national quality newspaper the Volkskrant once wrote that Jupiter is the largest planet in the universe (I’ll never forgive them). Naming the eight planets in the right order is a basic skill that few people posses. Knowledge about the size and mutual distances of these celestial bodies is also very limited. Beach balls For some reason, many people think that Mars is bigger than the...

Atmospheric nocturnal picture of a terraformed Moon, low above the horizon, that shines its green-yellow light on a slightly undulating water surface with a sailboat on it

Getting Used to a Terraformed Moon

The last few weeks, I have once again been busy with an old hobby of mine: terraforming. A word that the spelling checker does not even know, but in science-fiction one can read it quite often: it’s about making other planets more friendly for lifeforms from Earth by adjusting the temperature and the atmosphere. Mars and Venus The terraforming of Mars is actually not that complicated. Simply pumping CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere will start a runaway greenhouse effect that turns up the heat and thickens the atmosphere. On our homeworld we are already practicing, unintentionally. What...

Planetary road sign in a museum-like setting showing the directions and distances to the sun, the moon and the seven planets

Building a Planetary Road Sign

There must be many of them: those funny signposts that indicate the direction and the distance to places that are usually quite far away. Tokio 9597 kilometers, Kinshasa 6379 kilometers, Mahabalipuram 8106 kilometers. Wouldn’t it be nice, I thought a few weeks ago, if there was a signpost like that showing the directions and distances for the sun, the moon and the planets? Why doesn’t such a planetary road sign actually exist? Of course I immediately knew the answer. The planets all have their orbits around the sun and the moon revolves around one of those planets: the Earth. And...

An old and rustyCitroën Deux Chevaux, launched with a Falcon Heavy rocket by SpaceX, en route to Mars

Chasing Elon Musk in an old French car

On February 6, 2018, SpaceX, one of the companies owned by Elon Musk, launched the first Falcon Heavy. A giant leap for mankind, like Neil Armstrong would have said, because with this rocket, manned missions to the Moon (once again) and to Mars become possible. And those missions also become a lot cheaper than before, because large parts of the rocket return to Earth and can therefore be used again.   Starman On such a first test flight you don’t take expensive satellites. Usually a block of concrete is used as ballast, but Elon had a better idea: he sent...

Artist impression of Terminator, the city moving accross Mercury from the science fiction novel 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson

Terminator, Urbanism on Mercury

A few days ago American writer Kim Stanley Robinson shared on his Facebook page an artist impression that I made a few years ago, featuring Terminator, the mobile city on Mercury from his novel 2312. Robinson called it a beautiful visualization; or well, actually his literary agent called it that, but of course she wouldn’t have done so if the author didn’t agree. Enthusiasm by the creator of the concept, that is of course a nice compliment for an impression artist. I made the illustration two years ago after reading 2312. For some reason Robinson’s work often inspires me to...

Space art, showing the Earth-like planet Alice with a remarkable landscape full of islands and lakes and in the background gas giant Goliath

Alice and Goliath – two worlds out of many

How many Earth-like planets are there in the universe? In other words: how many doubles does our beautiful water world have? We’ll never get anywhere near an exact answer but “very, very much” is, most likely, pretty close to the truth. There are about 200 billion stars in our own galaxy. The number of galaxies in the universe is, coincidentally, also around 200 billion. So we are talking about roughly 40,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars. Even if only one in a million stars has an Earth-like planet orbiting around it, which seems like a pessimistic estimate, we still have an unimaginable number of...

A room with world map Mars 2.0, showing the planet as it may look after terraforming, as decoration on the wall, while Mars rover Sojourner is driving around between the furniture

Mars 2.0 – Return to the Red, Green and Blue Planet

Liquid water has just been found on Mars. The movie The Martian (the perfect blend of Castaway and Apollo 13, with a touch of Saturday Night Fever) is in cinemas right now. And NASA has announced detailed plans to send people to Mars in twenty years. A good moment for me to take a look at the planet again as well. Mars Society Netherlands Mars and I have a long history together. In 1999 I founded, together with Arno Wielders (currently involved in Mars One) the Dutch chapter of the Mars Society in a café in Leiden. In the first...

Group portrait of the eight planets of our solar system, shown to scale: Earth, Venus, Mars and Mercury in their entirety and parts of Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune and Uranus

Portrait of the Planets

When you want to capture the whole Solar System in one image, you come across a problem: the distances between the eight planets and their star are huge, almost unimaginable. In all the pictures of the solar system you’ve ever seen the sizes of the planets are wrong: they are strongly exaggerated, by necessity. On a scale model of about two metres – a nice size to hang on the wall in your living room – the Earth would be only four thousandths of a millimeter. You wouldn’t even be able to see our homeworld! Heaven on Earth The only...