Dwarves, a Unicorn and some Magic Dust?

Well, we are still being showered by astronomical discoveries, and I’m not talking about meteor showers either!

In the constellation of Monoceros (the Unicorn, which is east of Orion, south if Gemini, north of Canis Major and west of Hydra) there is a dim star called Scholz’s Star. In fact it is so dim that it was only discovered in 2013!

It is currently about 20 light years away from us and speeding away from us. The star is a red dwarf with only 8 percent of the mass of our Sun. It has a companion brown dwarf that is about 65 times the mass of Jupiter.

So what’s the interest in this star? It’s the one that travelled through the Oort Cloud 70,000 years ago and was within 0.8 light years of our own Sun. As some news reports have it, it might have been the red star of the Neanderthals. (Does the red star remind you of an Anne McCaffrey novel by any chance? At this point thoughts of dragons also come to mind… ahem…).

Voyager_1_Goes_Interstellar-940x459-620x264Note the horizontal scale is logarithmic.

The other news is the dust cloud seen on Mars. It has the scientists baffled, at least for now. You can find a picture of it here. But it does bring interesting questions about the manned mission to Mars. Have they taken into account any damage such a dust cloud might cause to the mission? And are there any other interesting surprises lurking on the planet that we ought to beware of before we go there?

I did postulate one such surprise in my short story, A Fate of Dust, and it’s one that might just be feasible too, at least on a smaller scale.

 

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