Stellar terminus, off-world imperative

“There, with long bloody Hair, a Blazing Star

Threatens the World with Famine, Plague & War:

To Princes, death; to Kingdomes many crosses:

To all Estates, Inevitable Losses:

To Heardmen, Rott: to Plow-men hapless seasons:

To Sailors, Storms: to Cities, civil Treasons.”

—Du Bartas

~Ninety-eight percent of all earth-bound species that have ever lived are extinct. Certain estimates place the background rate of extinction at 1 to 10 million years, meaning that anything which perishes quicker or survives longer is an adaptational outlier. Our species has existed for approximately 200,000 years, thus not yet an outlier. Our status as one of evolution’s favored children, yet unproven. For comparative context, the innocuous jellyfish has existed for some 600 million years. Cyanobacteria (cynophyta), an aquatic, photosynthetic prokaryotic organism, first emerged around 2.8 billion years ago. Stromatolites (striated biochemical accretions) formed by cynobacteria are the oldest known fossils in the geologic record and their predecessors still exist today, which situates them as the most successful microorganism in planetary history. Our species’ predilection for abstraction, however, affords a power foreign to jellyfish, cyanobacteria, or any other creature: The ability to leave the planet at will. Given the impending fuel exhaustion of our local star, this singular attribute is of considerable practical importance.

Approximately one billion years from now, the sun will have engorged itself to such a size, due exhaustion of its hydrogen stock, that all water on earth will boil. In ~5 billion years our local star will have expanded to ~250 times its present size, whereafter it will swallow the inner planets, including the earth.

In their paper ‘Distant future of the Sun and Earth revisited’ K.-P. Schroder and Robert Connon Smith detail model findings of the prospective red giant–earth dynamic, “… the closest encounter of planet Earth with the solar cool giant photosphere will occur during the tip-RGB [red giant branch] phase. During this critical episode, for each time-step of the evolution model, we consider the loss of orbital angular momentum suffered by planet Earth from tidal interaction with the giant Sun, as well as dynamical drag in the lower chromosphere. As a result of this, we find that planet Earth will not be able to escape engulfment, despite the positive effect of solar mass loss.”

Even if some portion of our species are able to escape their red-giant-threatened sphere, the sun will eventually fade completely, breaking all constrained orbits in the system, rendering unswallowed planets to frigid increase. Tomb worlds adrift in a stellar mausoleum.

But not all cosmic risks are so far-flung. On June 30, 1908, the residents of central Siberia’s Krasnoyarsk Krai region were startled by a great explosion which devastated 80 million trees across over 811 square miles (half the size of Rhode Island), generated hot winds and a 0.5 magnitude earthquake. The air glowed ethereally for several days after the incident. The cause of the upheaval was a meteorite no more than 10 meters across, which had exploded a few miles above the ground with 1000 times the yield of an atomic bomb. This celestial invasion was followed by the similarly potent Chelyabinsk meteor of 2013, which caused infrastructural damage over 200 square miles and the injuries of ~1600 persons, and the Bering Sea meteor of 2018. The Chelabinsk impact lead directly to the creation of NASA’s Planetary Defense Coordination Office. Despite the instantiation of the new program, the Bering Sea incident (captured via NASA’s Terra satellite) went under the radar due to the remoteness of the area of its descent and its small dimensions (~10 meters) relative to those objects tracked by NASA (140+ meters).

Eyes preoccupied by looking do not see.

Since the Bering Sea event, there have been other near misses, such as the 100 meter-wide “2019 OK” asteroid, which passed 5 times closer to earth than the moon without detection. NASA predicted that, should the asteroid have impacted with the earth, it would have glassed an area ~50 miles across. A signal sent. The arachnidic head which we have constructed at the top of our world requires new and better eyes. Better because durability must be accounted for due the buffets of the cosmic terrain. Solar flares precipitating geomagnetic storms, such as the 1859 Carrington Event, and gamma-ray bursts, from a supermassive star collapse or the collision of two neutron stars, can damage satellites, no matter the quantity, and, if sufficiently powerful, could strip earth of its atmosphere.

Intelligent intervention is clearly required. Both in the near and long term. Uncrewed and crewed. Temporary and intergenerational. But in any discussion of intercession upon “natural” processes, a cry of “hold” will be called, as future concern tends toward what might occur should we act. Complications from orbital debris. Rogue AI. Nuclear war. Climate variation. Yet, the futures detailed in the preceding paragraphs (stellar terminus and meteoric devastation) are those which will arise should we not act, rather than those which may occur if we do. The former schema should be the primary concern, for any potential calamity which stands within plausibility of occurrence due to our action(s) is already within (some portion) of our species’ ability to control, whereas the astral threats scribed above presently stand beyond our mastery, the acquisition of which is a necessary condition for the present defense and future survival of our species, upon which all life on earth necessarily depends.

Over one billion trillion stars elucidate the illimitable gulf. Each a sequin in a mantle to be woven.


Note: Publication volume and number are represented as “#(#);” hence, “10(3)” means “vol. 10, no. 3.”

  1. Admin. (2012). The Mis-quotations of Wilbur Wright (and for what it’s worth, Bill Gates too). Flyopia.
  2. Alex Knapp. (2017). Elon Musk Details His Vision For A Self-Sustaining City On Mars. Forbes.
  3. Andy Gregory. (2019). Huge asteroid that narrowly missed earth ‘slipped through the net,’ NASA emails reveal. The Independent.
  4. A.V.W. Nunn, G.W. Guy, J.D. Bell. (2014). The Intelligence Paradox; will ET get the metabolic syndrome? Lessons from and for Earth. Nutrition and Metabolism, 11(1). 34.
  5. Bentley B. Allen. 2018. Scientific Cosmology and International Orders. Cambridge University Press.
  6. Ben Landau-Taylor, Oberon Dixon-Luinenburg. (2020). How State Capacity Drives Industrialization. Palladium Magazine.
  7. Ben Landau-Taylor, Oberon Dixon-Liunenburg. (2020). Machine Tools: A Case Study In Advanced Manufacturing. Bismark Analysis.
  8. Bill Hiller. (2007). Space Is The Machine: A Configurational Theory of Architecture. Space Syntax.
  9. Brad Stone. (2018). Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Wants to Send You to Space, Too. Bloomberg Businessweek.
  10. Brian K. Hall. (1999). The Paradoxical Platypus. Oxford Academic. Bioscience.
  11. Bruce Dorminey. (2020). Low-Cost, Privately-Funded Balloon Mission Could Scope Out Venus Life By 2022. Forbes.
  12. Bruce Williamson. (2007). Evidence & Experiment Three–Bedford Level. Serendip Studio.
  13. Carolyn Collins Petersen. (2018). Gamma Rays: The Strongest Radiation in the Universe. Thought Co.
  14. Carolyn Jones Otten. ‘Heavy Metal’ snow on Venus is lead sulfide. The Source, Washington University in St. Louis.
  15. Charlie Woods. (2020). Big Bounce Simulations Challenge the Big Bang. Quanta Magazine.
  16. Chris Wild. Aug. 28, (1929). Zeppelin Over Chicago: Crowd’s gaze at the big balloon. Mashable.
  17. Damian Veal (ed.). (2009). Collapse V: The Copernican Imperative. Urbanomic. Falmouth.
  18. Dan Grossman. (2010). Graf Zeppelin’s Round-the-World flight: August, 1929. Airships.
  19. D.A. Senske et al. (1992). Regional topographic rises on Venus: Geology of Western Eistla Regio and comparisons to Beta Regio and Atla Regio. Journal of Geophysical Research, Volume 97, Issue E8, p. 13395-13420. August.
  20. David Rich, Joshua Schertz, Adam Hugo. (2020). The Space Resource Report: 2020. The Space Resource.
  21. David J. Eicher. (2019). What Will Happen To The Sun? Astronomy Magazine.
  22. David J. Eicher. (2019). Why Did Venus Turn Itself Inside-Out? Astronomy Magazine.
  23. Donald E. Simanek. (2006-2016). The Flat Earth. Lockhaven Edu.
  24. Donald E. Simanek. (2003). Turning the Universe Inside-Out. Edu (Internet Archive).
  25. Donna the Astronomer. (2020). Seeing Jupiter Galilean Moons. Donna the Astronomer.
  26. Edward Rosen. (1960). John Calvin’s Attitude Toward Copernicus. Journal of the History of Ideas, 21(3), 431 (Jul-Sep). University of Pennsylvania Press.
  27. Elizabeth Howell. (2019). Chelyabinsk Meteor: A Wake-Up Call for Earth. Space.
  28. Eric Betz. (2020). The fifth force: Is there another fundamental force of nature? Astronomy Magazine.
  29. Eric Betz. (2020). The Sun’s death could mean new life in the outer solar system. Astronomy Magazine.
  30. Eric Burgess, Lawrence Colin, Richard O Flimmel. (1995). Pioneering Venus: A Planet Unveiled. NASA, Ames Research Center.
  31. F. J. Dyson. (1979). Time without end: Physics and biology in an open universe. Reviews of Modern Physics, 51(3), 447–460.
  32. George Gamow. (1940). The Birth and Death of the Sun: Stellar Evolution and Subatomic Energy. The Viking Press.
  33. George Reisman. (1990-1998). Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics. Jameson Books.
  34. Francis Reddy. (2019). Stellar archaeology. Astronomy Magazine.
  35. Illya Pestov. (2017) The absolute worst technology predictions of the past 150 years. Free Code Camp.
  36. Infoplease Staff. (2020). Famous Firsts in Aviation. Infoplease.
  37. Jake Parks. (2018) Did the solar system form in a bubble? Astronomy.
  38. James Macdonald. (2017). A Natural History of Flat Earthers. JSTOR Daily.
  39. Jason Palmer. (2008). Hope dims that Earth will survive Sun’s death. New Scientist.
  40. Jeremy Randall Koons. (2004). Disenchanting The World. Journal of Philosophical Research, Volume 29, 2004.
  41. Jim Bell. (2018). The Space Books: From the Beginning to the End of Time, 250 Milestones in the History of Space & Astronomy. Sterling, New York.
  42. Jim Bridenstine. 2016. H.R. 4945 American Space Renaissance Act. Congress.
  43. Jonathan O’Callaghan. (2020). Water on Mars: discover of three buried lakes intrigues scientists. Nature.
  44. John P. Millis. (2020). Should You Be Worried about Gamma-ray Bursts? Thought Co.
  45. John W. Traphagan. (2019). Which Humanity Would Space Colonization Save? Futures.
  46. Jonathan O’Callaghan. (2020). We may have seen a huge explosion in the oldest galaxy in the universe. New Scientist.
  47. J.-P. Duda, et al. (2016). A Rare Glimpse of Paleoarchean Life: Geobiology of an Exceptionally Preserved Microbial Mat Facies from the 3.4 Ga Strelley Pool Formation, Western Australia. PLOS ONE, 11(1), e0147629.
  48. K.-P. Schroder and Robert Conner Smith. (2008). Distant Future of the Sun and Earth Revisited. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. 386(1), 155–163.
  49. Kelly B. Watt et al. Historical Mammal Extinction on Christmas Island (Indian Ocean) Correlates with Introduced Infectious Disease. PLoS One.
  50. Kelsey Piper. (2018). The case against colonizing space to save humanity. Vox.
  51. Ken Binmore. (2007). Game Theory: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
  52. Korey Haynes. (2019). How Voyager opened the door to the ice giants. Astronomy Magazine.
  53. Korey Haynes. (2018). How would we save the planet from a killer asteroid? Astronomy.
  54. Korey Haynes. (2019). Physicists suggest hunting ‘Dark Matter Fossils’ deep underground. Astronomy Magazine.
  55. K. N. Smith. (2016). These are the spookiest, scariest storms on any known planet. Astronomy.
  56. Linda Dawson. (2018). War In Space: The Science & Technology Behind Our Next Theatre Of Conflict. Springer-Praxis.
  57. Michael Anissimov. (2020) What Is The Oldest Known Fossil? Wisegeek.
  58. Marina Koren. (2020). No One Should ‘Colonize’ Space. The Atlantic.
  59. Michael A. Grace. (2009). Cruise & Air Ship History: The Graf Zeppelin. Cruise Line History (The Past & Now: Travel & Social History).
  60. Michael J. I. Brown. (2019). Big Asteroid Buzzed Past earth Last Week: 2019 OK. Sci News.
  61. Milan M. Cirkovic. (2018). Space colonization remains the only long-term option for humanity: A reply to Torres. Futures.
  62. Morris Jones. (2002). Determine Your Longitude With Jupiter’s Moons. SJAA Ephemeris, June, 2002.
  63. Natalie Wolchover, Live Science Staff. (2017). Are Flat Earther’s Being Serious? Live Science.
  64. Nick Bostrom. (2013). Existential Risk Prevention as Global Priority. Global Policy Volume 4, Issue 1, February 2013.
  65. Nola Taylor Redd. (2019). How Old Is Earth? Space.
  66. Ocean Navigator Staff. (2004). Longitude. by Jove! -navigating with Jupiter’s moon. Ocean Navigator.
  67. Pasquale M. Sforza. (2012). Thoery of Aerospace Propulsion. Butterworth-Heinemann.
  68. Paul B. Wignall. (2019). Extinction: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford.
  69. Paul Parsons. (2018). The Beginning and the End of Everything: From the Big Bang to the End of the Universe. Michael O’Mara Books Limited.
  70. Patrick Brantlinger. (2003). Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800–1930. Cornell University Press.
  71. Peter Christoforu. (2019). Asteroid 2019 OK Missed hitting earth By Just 40,000 Miles. Astronomy Trek.
  72. Peter Coles. (2001). Cosmology: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press.
  73. Pini Gurfil, P. Kenneth Seidelmann. (2016). Celestial Mechanics and Astrodynamics: Theory and Practice. Springer.
  74. Quentin Meillassoux. (2008). After Finitude: An Essay on the Necessity of Contingency. Continuum.
  75. Rachel Armstrong. (2017) Star Ark: A Living, Self-Sustaining Spaceship. Springer. Praxis Publishing.
  76. Robert Naeye. (2019). Constant confusion: New studies deepen mystery of universe’s expansion. Astronomy.
  77. Robert Riding. (2005) Microbial carbonate abundance compared with fluctuations in metazoan diversity over geological time. Sedimentary Geology, 185 (2006) 229–238. Elsevier.
  78. Roger R. Bate, Donald D. Mueller, Jerry E. White. (1971). Fundamentals of astrodynamics. Dover Publications, Inc. NY.
  79. Rose Eveleth. (2013). On Venus It Snows Metal. Smithsonian Magazine.
  80. Sebastian Kettley. (2019). Cosmic cataclysm: Time is running out and humans must move to space before it is too late. Express.
  81. Sebastian Kettley. (2020). Gamma-ray bursts: Why ‘death star’ explosions can strip Earth of its atmosphere. Express.
  82. Sebastian Kettley. (2019). NASA news: Hubble picture snaps glimpse of what will happen to our Sun in 4 billion years. Express.
  83. Sebastian Kettley. (2019). Space danger: These are the biggest cosmic threats facing Earth – ‘ We can’t stay forever.’ Express.
  84. Stephanie Pappas. (2019). ‘Unseen’ Meteor That Exploded Over Bering Sea Caught On Camera After All. Live Science.
  85. Steve Nadis, et al. (2015) A Century of Gravitational Waves. Astronomy Magazine. Kalmbach Publishing Company.
  86. Terry D. Oswalt (editor-in-chief), Martin A. Barstow (volume editor). Planets, Stars and Stellar Systems Volume 4: Stellar Structure and Evolution. Springer.
  87. Tim Londergan. (2020). Flat-Earth Theory: Part I. Debunking Denial.
  88. The Physics arXiv Blog. (2020). The curious question of life on Venus. Astronomy Magazine.
  89. Tricia Talbert (editor). (2018). Five Years after the Chelyabinsk Meteor: NASA leads planetary defense. NASA.
  90. Viviane Richter. (2015). The big five mass extinctions. Cosmos Magazine.
  91. Wilfrid Sellars, Kevin Scharp, Robert B. Brandom. (2007). In The Space of Reasons: Selected Essays of Wilfrid Sellars. Harvard University Press.
  92. Wilfrid Sellars. (1979/1996). Naturalism & Ontology: The John Dewey Lectures for 1974. Ridgeview Publishing Company.

2 thoughts on “Stellar terminus, off-world imperative”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s