SpaceX Claims the Title of World’s Most Powerful Rocket

This week’s launch of the Falcon Heavy Booster on Tuesday (February 6) means that Elon Musk’s SpaceX claims the title of world’s most powerful rocket. The Falcon Heavy can carry twice the payload as its nearest competitor, the United Launch Alliances Delta IV Heavy – and at a lower cost. Every time I see footage […]

Return to Elantris

I recently make a return to Elantris – the first published work by Brandon Sanderson. Elantris is also the name of the great city of immortals where all the trouble begins and ends. What a great story. Sanderson would have to be one of my favourite living writers. He manages to combine great storytelling with […]

Estimating Surface Gravity on a Fictional Planet

So you want to estimate surface gravity on a fictional planet? Easy! One of the things I had to do as part of the rework of my novel The Tau Ceti Diversion, is to try and work out the surface gravity of my fictional planets. From the Kepler data, there are two exoplanets located in the Tau Ceti system that are […]

When It Rains On Mars

It’s been raining in Brisbane this week, but does it rain on Mars? Is it raining on Mars right now? Hardly.  Things on the Red Planet are a little different. Here’s some background. Mars has around one third of Earth’s gravity, around one hundredth of Earth’s atmospheric pressure, and its atmosphere is almost entirely composed […]

Tau Ceti – One of Our Celestial Neighbours

The Tau Ceti system is indeed one of our close cosmic neighbours. At less than 12 lightyears away, it is one of the closest systems to Earth’s own solar system – along with others such as the Centauri system and Epsilon Eridani. Because of its nearness to our own solar system, it has been a […]

Laser Communication with Spacecraft

New technology promises to take laser communication with spacecraft from science fiction to science fact. This technology offers a new answer to a 60-year-old problem: you have had your launch and your shiny new space probe has made it to orbit without being ripped to shreds by tons of exploding chemical fuel, but once it’s up there, how do you talk […]

Our Closest Earth-like Planet

In an amazing stroke of cosmic luck, our closest Earth-like planet Proxima b turns out to be orbiting our closest star, Proxima Centauri, only 4.2 lightyears away! The Kepler space telescope has been expanding our knowledge of exoplanets – planets outside the solar system – for years now. The number of confirmed exoplanets from Kepler now […]

Going Faster Than Light

Going faster than light is the Holy Grail of space travel, and is often depicted in science fiction. It seems as easy as flicking the switch to jolt the ship into Hyperspace. I mean, it worked for Han Solo, right? It was Einstein who first postulated the idea that the speed of light is constant in […]

Evolution, Insects & Oxygen

One of the key elements of my novel the Tau Ceti Diversion was the unique setting I imagined for the story. Specifically, an alien planet where the top evolutionary niche was filled by an intelligent insect race.  So I needed to think about insect evolution, and how that evolution was affected by the amount of oxygen those insects […]

Mercury’s Tidally Locked Orbit

Mercury is weird Mercury’s tidally locked orbit is a good example of how the universe always throws astronomers a few surprises. The planet is tidally (or gravitationally) locked to our Sun, but this is not the typical “synchronous” tidal locking with a 1:1 ratio of rotation and orbit, such as the Moon and Earth, with the […]