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Yucca: Welcome back to the Wonder Science-Based Paganism. I'm your host Yucca. And today we are talking about astronomy, and space, science and the wow of all of it. So the reason that we chose today, Is this episode comes out on April 12th, which is Yuri's Night.
Mark: Exactly. And that is the anniversary, and as it happens, it is the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin's orbiting of the Earth, the first entry of humanity into space. And this was a remarkable achievement in many ways, not least of which was that he actually orbited.
Later missions of the United States for example, tried to get capsules into orbit, but until John Glenn, they didn't succeed. So this was really a remarkable thing. And he had the first extra terrestrial view of space.
Yucca: Yeah, and helped us gave us that view as well. And since then, there have been many, many humans who have gotten to see our planet from outside of it. Which is just amazing. And of course the space age has unfolded since then. And now we have the satellite images continuously watching our world and looking out far into the distant past.
And it just amazing, amazingly beautiful and mysterious objects and giving us a completely different understanding of the context that we exist in.
Mark: Yes. And to be fair, I think a different understanding of ourselves as exploratory creatures, we have invested, and it may not seem much relative to how much we invest in ways to kill one another. And other
Yucca: weight loss pills.
Mark: Yes. things that we invest, but we have invested a tremendous amount of money and effort, expertise, and knowledge and genius into flinging our machines into space so that we can learn extraordinary things. Extraordinary things.
Yucca: And going back to the April 12th 61. we hadn't even flown past Mars yet.
Yucca: That comes later. Now. Amazingly, we did that very, very quickly. But. We hadn't even glimpsed at are our neighbors that are sibling planets are telling us so much, or our studying of them is teaching us so much about ourselves, right?
The studying Venus, studying Mars, that comparative planetology has really given us a leg up in understanding climate change and the history and the different possibilities of where our planet goes, depending on human management and all kinds of things.
Mark: Yes. Yes. I am old enough to have lived through almost the entire space era. And I remember that when I was a kid, this misshapen smear was the highest resolution image we had of Mercury. For example, it was the very best we could do. And. That remained the best we could do until the Mariner missions. When suddenly we had these beautiful crystal clear Moon like shots of Mercury, it wasn't like we advanced in little steps. We went from essentially nothing, a completely undifferentiated smear to these beautiful high resolution images in a very short period of years. We've just learned so much.
Yucca: And we did something very similar with Hubble, the Hubble space, telescope and excitingly, lots of fingers crossed, but the James Webb telescope, which is scheduled to launch on Halloween this year is one of those that we hope is this going to be another one of those, amazing transformations of the imagery and data that we can get back just to completely new level,
Mark: An order of magnitude jump.
Mark: A literal order of magnitude. And when you consider the extraordinary imagery that has come back to us from Hubble the miraculous the deep field images, the nebulae the galaxies. The extraordinary quality of these images in the way that they've helped to inform us about the nature of the universe, which is our world.
Our world is in the universe. It's all operating according to the same rules. And it's just a really amazing time to be alive and to see the, see this information coming back.
Yucca: Yeah. It's just it's. Wow. It's odd. Inspiring. it's, it's what we named this show after. That sense of wonder.
Mark: Yes. Yes, because. We can talk a lot in our paganism about cosmology and people do talk about their cosmology a lot in the pagan world, whether it's that they believe in particular gods or an afterlife that is the happy hunting grounds or valhalla or some form of reincarnation or. Or whatever it might be.
We in the naturalistic, non theist pagan world, we're looking at what we know for a fact is here and it is so amazing. It is so multifaceted and mysterious, not meaning mysterious as in woo. You can't understand it, but just, we don't understand some stuff yet. And it's, and we're finding more out all the time.
Yucca: And as we find more out, then it just opens more and more questions and more mystery. And that's the mysterious part of it. Is it leads to more.
Mark: But we also answer big questions. And that's another part that is just so gratifying that we have a standard model of cosmology, which as of this week is now in question because there may very well be a fifth force of nature. And I don't want to go down that rabbit hole because it's a hole.
Yucca: Oh, this is another fun one though. So if you have time, if you've got the time, check it out. Yeah.
Mark: Yes, definitely check it out. It's still a maybe, but the data are awfully good. And people are very excited about it and it may very well answered. Big questions about, for example, the reason that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, which is something that we have explained with this sort of magical term dark energy. But it may very well be that it is this. tiny force between at the microscope, at the subatomic level, which is driving the universe's expansion to accelerate. And I don't claim to be able to explain all of the steps that lead to that kind of conclusion, but people that are much smarter and more educated on this than I, I am, do believe that's the case.
And. If that's the case, we have learned something fundamental and incredibly important about the nature of the universe.
Yucca: Yeah, it's one of those textbook rewriting situations. So, and if that's not the case, it's even more interesting.
Mark: Yes. That's not the answer then what is.
Yucca: so it's often, much more exciting to be wrong than to be probably right. Cause again, we never know that we're actually right. We're really good at proving ourselves wrong, but we can never quite prove.
Mark: Yeah, we can tell what's most likely to be right, but that's not the same thing as saying we're right. Declaration of my God exists, or this is the way the universe is a fundamentally unscientific way of approaching the world. It's a faith-based way of approaching the world rather than a science-based way of approaching the world.
And. within the segment of the pagan community that Yucca and I live in, we are about the scientific understanding of the world. We believe that there is enough here to Revere and to celebrate and to be awed by and humbled by that we don't need the supernatural stuff. Maybe it's out there. Maybe it is. Maybe. Data is going to arrive one day that indicates that some of that stuff is true, maybe so, but I settle. I settled for the universe.
Yucca: What a thing to settle for.
Yucca: This universe that we're talking about. We're part of.
Mark: Of course.
Yucca: And that's one of the really exciting things in the space sciences is that when we learn about that star or we launch a telescope, that's lets us look back 13 billion years. We're not just learning about something, oh, out there. Some imaginary thing.
No, we're learning about us. What made us, what process made us what's happening to us? It's, we're looking at ourselves in a way, not the literal pattern and collection of atoms which is Yucca or Mark right now, but on a kind of conceptual level of what creates us and things like studying black holes, it seems so removed from our.
From our reality and has it doesn't seem like it should have anything to do with us. And yet, as we studied black holes, we started to see, okay, so black holes can play a major role in distributing heavy elements throughout the galaxy, pushing them out into areas where you're more likely to be able to form life on planets that's away from the incredible amount of radiation and activity in the center of a galaxy where all that material is concentrated. So this is one of the many ways that we start going. Okay, well that is, we'd never have thought that argument, it might depend on the, on black holes until we start studying those things.
Mark: And let's connect the dots there. What are we made of? We're made of a bunch of heavy elements. I mean, we're made mostly of hydrogen and oxygen, but we are made of also things like, as we were talking about zinc and copper and calcium and iron and those heavy elements formed in these catastrophic supernova events and then pushed out.
By black holes, coalesced into a system which erected little pillars on two legs, things that are aware of themselves in the universe that can look out at the whole system and can have some level of comprehension of what it is and how works and that's You listener that's you and it's me. And it's all of us. It's so cool.
Yucca: Yeah. It's just, and we see those connections all over the place picked black holes. Cause that's it an exciting topic, but. any other object, do you want to take a look at, let's talk about Nebby Lee or quasar. I mean, we just talked about quasars, but neutron stars and the Brown dwarves, all of these things, and we start to put this puzzle together. It's like those little drawings that, that kids have in their activity books, where they have the dots and you follow you draw from one to two to three to four, and then all of a sudden it makes us incredible picture to connect the.pictures. And that's what we're doing. And.
Mark: and let's remember for a minute why it is that we're studying situations like black holes because the edge cases, the extreme cases are what is left in what we don't understand about the universe. We have physics that completely explains everything that a human experiences on Earth.
There, there aren't.
Yucca: In terms of the scale that we're experiencing
Mark: Yes. In terms of the scale that we're
Yucca: the ball dropping the, that kind of thing. Yeah. We've got that. We've had that since Newton, right? That's.
Mark: We've had that for a long time. So where we go is to the edge cases, the extreme cases, cases of extreme gravity, extreme radiation, extreme electromagnetism. Those are the places where we start to see the rules that apply at our scale breakdown. And that tells us much more about the nature of the universe.
Yucca: And allows us to do more with it. to start to put together understandings that okay. That extreme case, but we ex we start to understand it in the exception, in that extreme case. And then we can bring it back and we can start to apply it to. Okay. Well, what's happening with Mercury's orbit. We're seeing some time dilation there.
Okay. But then we can apply it and start using it in things like GPS, where it wouldn't work with, if we didn't have that understanding GPS wouldn't work. So yeah.
Mark: So this is not just a mental exercise. It is a really fun mental exercise and you can get lots of wow out of it. And obviously Yucca and I do and hope that you do too, because it's just an extraordinary voyage to take to undertake, trying to understand even a corner of what this whole universe is about.
it's so inspiring and it can bring tremendous joy. but more than that by reaching out to explore in those really extreme cases, we start seeing, Oh, well that actually implements it our scale a little bit, not very much, but a little bit. And we start realizing how interconnected it all is, how much it's all of the same fabric really.
something to add to this is what we're talking about is so huge that no one person could possibly know it all. So don't worry about knowing it all. There's always going to be somebody who knows more about something, so that doesn't need to get in the way of pursuing something that you're interested in.
If you're interested in learning about the Moon or supernovae or things like that. Sure. They're experts and why, and maybe you won't be the world's leading expert on it, or maybe you will. That'd be awesome if you were, but. But you can still learn about the piece here and a piece there and, or you can simply just enjoy being out and noticing, Oh, that red star there.
Oh, that's Betelgeuse . All right. I heard that's near the end of its lifetime that maybe we might get to witness it go supernova one day. You don't need to know everything. So don't let the what's that old expression. don't let perfection
Mark: Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good.
Yucca: Yes. So.
Mark: I would go even a little step further, which is that there are people who are not particularly scientifically minded at all. They're much more aesthetically oriented, more artistically oriented, just the Hubble images, just. Just admiring the magnificence of what's out there in the universe manifest simply through the laws of physics is enough.
You if you have a predisposition to want to understand what you're seeing, when you look at those images, then great. Learn about what you're seeing. If you don't have that predisposition, just. Enjoy the show, the universe, the greatest show on Earth, except it's not just on Earth. It's the greatest show in the universe.
Yucca: Exactly and all the stuff that NASA does, all the images that it puts out, those are all public domain. And today, some of the real old stuff from some of the older missions, it's hard to get ahold of, but anything that's being produced today, the Perseverance images coming back, those are being uploaded online and you have access to those.
I mean, it's just a few swipe of your thumb to get access to those.
Mark: I used NASA image from the international space station of the Sun peeking over the limb of the Earth for the cover of my book. Atheopagan ism. Because I knew that it was public domain. It's owned by all of us because we all paid to make it happen. All of us in the United States helped to pay, to make it possible to shoot that photograph.
And so that's what I used.
Yucca: And the logo actually for the podcast is a Is multiple images put together. So it's not just one image, but it's based on many images, which are images from various different space missions.
Mark: Not that we like space or anything.
Yucca: I yeah no, no interest in space. no, that's actually my masters. That's what my master's is in. Yeah. But and I'd like to teach it and talk about it with kids and adults, and pretty much anyone who will listen. talk about space with you. This is
Mark: That's the great thing about a podcast is that basically if they download it and decide to listen to it, then they've already agreed and you can just talk.
Yucca: So, so we've been talking about kind of these big things. before we jump into some of the things that, that we can do in our everyday or every night practices I just wanted to mention that 2020 was a really hard year on so many different fronts, but some of the silver lining from that was the many of the incredible explorations and advances we made in the space sciences and 2021 already.
I mean, we're just coming out of the first quarter. So there's so much that we are learning. Continuously and the accessibility of it is really amazing too. There are some amazing YouTube channels where you can just tune in to very high production quality presentations on what's what's going on. What's the newest news. What's you know, what did Parker probe come up with and this stuff that we're talking about the challenges to the standard model we talked about Spacetime is one of my favorite ones like PBS. I don't remember the, his name, but he's got a, he's an astrophysicist with a lovely Australian accent.
Great to listen to is so there's a bunch of those and we just are in this. This is just such a great year. I mean, we've talked a lot about Perseverance and Ingenuity and James Webb and there's just last year, new, more material coming from New Horizons, which is my personal favorite mission out there.
the one who went by Pluto but is doing. Now doing astronomy. So we've done some stellar parallax with it that from a distance that we had never been able to do before. So it's just one of those, one of those places that I think is helpful to have some gratitude and excitement about that, even though it was a hard year, we had some just amazing Discoveries and advances.
Mark: Yes. And there was renewed interest in instrumentation that was very old, the Voyager missions, which had been on well, we're going to keep listening to the occasional beep, but that's about it. they'd been ignored now having left the Helio sheath Their discoveries are much more interesting again.
And so there's a lot more attention being paid to the signal that is being directed by these objects that are the farthest flung human objects ever. They have left the Solar System. They are beyond way beyond Pluto's orbit at this point.
Yucca: Oh far. Yes. yeah, I don't, we could look up how many AUs out they are. Yeah. I mean, there's still within the Sun's Hill Sphere, but they're in the interstellar medium. Now. They're no longer being. Strongly affected by the solar wind and the Sun's magnetic influence. So just like the Earth has a magnetic field, the sun does, and that's what the Voyagers are leaving.
Yucca: isn't it just delightful that these things were launched in the seventies
Mark: I remember when they were.
Yucca: And I'm also the only visits to the ice giants.
Yucca: Voyager 2 past in 89 and we haven't been back since.
Mark: Yes. and the, so the pictures of Uranus and Neptune are as good as they get. For us right now. And they basically look like big fuzzy balls with with little storms and some rings. But we learned tremendous amounts. Yes.
Yucca: Yeah. A lot of mysteries today.
Mark: yeah, I mean, they were little points of light before we went out to look at them and By gum was right.
There's a planet there.
Yucca: With other planets going around them because Triton is quite a story. That's an interesting one.
Mark: It certainly is. It certainly is. well, and that gets us into the Moons of the Solar System, which is a whole tangent that we could go incredible places. All the deep ocean
Yucca: The, IWOWs Internal water ocean worlds, and cryo vulcanism and. We haven't even looked beneath these surfaces to see if somebody is there
Yucca: From an astrobiological perspective these worlds are probably far more habitable than earth is earth is quite hostile, but I wound with these nice many kilometers thick of ice that protect them from the solar radiation and impacts, and they have internal sources of heat and liquid wood water, all the things that we need for life, but in a much more steady stable environment.
Yeah. And that's, we'll have, hopefully we'll have the Europa clipper happening in the next decade and maybe we'll get a look, even though we're still not landing.
Mark: We're looking.
Yucca: We're just looking. Yeah, we're looking, but we're getting to look with a lot more detail than we ever did before.
Mark: By the way, if you haven't seen it, and I'm not going to say any more about it because there should be no spoilers. There is an unbelievably good, incredibly low budget science fiction film called Europa Report. And. You've just got to see it. I mean, one of the things that's great about Europa report is that it's one of the few space exploration movies I've ever seen, where the characters are actually scientists.
They're there for the data. They really, they care about the data. that's the most important thing to them. I don't know if you've seen that or not.
Yucca: I have not watched it in full, I have watched parts of it. but yeah I'm familiar with it. Yeah.
So we've talked about the sense of awe that the scientific perspective, which includes. The not just willingness, but the excitement in having our understanding be challenged by a new data. But there's also the personal relationship with the night sky that as we're moving into warmer weather, for those of us in the Northern hemisphere, It can be a really great experience and enriching to spend some time with the night sky.
Mark: Especially if there's some whizzbang event happening like a lunar eclipse or a meteor shower. and they're not that uncommon, cool stuff happens in the sky all the time. Some of the cool things like comments, less frequently, at least comments that are visible to the naked eye, but a, a lunar eclipse or or a meteor shower is nothing to sneeze at.
It's very cool to be out under the stars and see these amazing things.
Yucca: And even when there's not a shower, there are still, if you're in a dark area, you probably going to see multiple meteors and a single night. yeah. So there's actually a, one of the major meteor showers coming up just in the next week or so the Lyrids is so, and the, it will not it's we're moving towards the full moon.
But we won't be all the way at the full moon. So when you have the full moon, it makes it harder to see because there's more light, but that's a great one. There's I think 10, 15 per hour is estimate
Mark: I think, so that sounds about right.
Yucca: It's one that actually is easier to see in the late evenings, which is a little bit unusual. Most of the time, the best viewing for the meteor showers is right before Dawn is between midnight and Dawn.
But this one, your local time, nine to 10, just look Northeast and look for Vega actually. And that should be a good clue for where to look so.
Mark: So go ahead and do it for real. it's great. too, like I have the Hubble ultra deep field image on my focus and an Apollo 17 portrait of the Earth on my focus. the space has a real presence in my kind of altered. Personal spiritual practice, but there's nothing like the real thing. And especially if you can get to a very dark area, like a desert or out on an Island in the ocean or something like that there's just nothing like it.
Yucca: And even if you're in a city, I mean, the moon is amazing. And yeah it's not only out at night. If you can't get out to see it at night, go ahead and take a look at it during the day. You can still make out lots of the craters and studying the line between night and day on the moon. So the Terminator there where you see the dark and the light, you can see all kinds of amazing details.
And it's just stunning.
Mark: we should also mention the astronomy picture of the day, which is a wonderful web resource that is managed by NASA. It's just a pod.nasa.gov. And a pod, meaning astronomy picture of the day and beautiful images of space with explanations of what we're seeing and what is significant about them.
and as we said before, they're all public domain. it's, feel free to download them, use them for your wallpaper on your computer or whatever else you want to do with them.
Yucca: And if any of you are listening on the 12th and it's Yuri's Night there are a lot of, there's a lot of space parties tonight, and lots of them are online. As well that you can just tune into, if you want to be a part of that kind of excitement and sort of celebration.
Mark: It's probably a little early because of the pandemic, but typically there are live Yuri's Night parties at Air and Space museums or natural history museums. in many cities, they're all around the world and those, I've attended one of them. but it was such fun. It was everything from lectures and planetarium shows and that kind of thing to dancing. It was. It was great. It was just a really good time.
Yucca: With a healthy dose of star Trek fandom, and all of the kind of related adjacent sci fi stuff. Okay.
Yucca: Well, Mark, thank you. This has been a joy and if we kept at it, we could talk about space for many more hours, but I think we should let folks go.
Mark: Okay, that sounds good. All right. A pleasure. Yucca. Have a great week.