Magazine

Going Where No Man Has Gone Before


Black Hole
Thanks to the Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers confirmed the discovery of the largest black hole on record, in the galaxy NGC 4889, with a mass of 22 billion suns. We know little about black holes other than that they once were massive stars, now imploded. That’s not entirely dissimilar to the world’s debt crisis. The IMF estimates that the sum of all worldly debt is more than $55 trillion.
 
Space Insurance
Germany’s Allianz will offer space travel insurance to “ordinary astronauts” who have signed up for commercial space trips. Virgin Galactic says more than 450 people have reserved seats for $200,000 trips to suborbital space.
 
Seed Money
NASA’s moon program ended with the 135th space launch on July 8 and a tab of about $1.5 billion a mission.
 
Double Sunset Inn
The existence of a world with two suns, as portrayed in the film Star Wars, is now scientific fact, and clearly an opportunity for the Four Seasons Hotels.
 
Golden Showers
New theory describes the Late Heavy Bombardment era, between 3.8 billion and 4.1 billion years ago, when meteorites rained material onto Earth, bringing tons of gold, tungsten, and other precious elements.
 
Off-World Colony
A newly discovered planet, Kepler-22b, averages a comfy 72F and probably has water and land for second-home development. Its star could almost be a twin of the earth’s sun. Florida, though, is 600 light-years closer.
 
Martian Water
NASA discovered that water flowed through Mars. Underground aquifers could revive the $100 billion bottled water industry.
 
Moonraker
In September a missing moon rock was found among papers documenting former U.S. President Bill Clinton’s time as governor of Arkansas.
 
Wanted: Alien Invasion
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman said on CNN that a good space alien scare could stimulate the economy by spurring a massive defense buildup.
 
The God Particle
Higgs boson, the most important almost-discovery in the history of man, could vindicate the theory of how elementary particles gain mass.
 
Shields Up
“Without adequate preparation, we would basically lose our civilization in a matter of seconds,” says Newt Gingrich on the possibility of a nuclear blast in space above the U.S.
 
Loss Leader
NASA announced that Voyager 1, launched in 1977, is on the verge of becoming the first man-made object to leave our solar system for “cosmic purgatory.”
 
Solar Revenue
A woman in Spain claims ownership of the sun and plans to tax users.
 
The Sky, With Diamonds
Astronomers have spotted a planet made largely of carbon. Because it is so dense, scientists calculate a large part of this planet will be diamond. Greece has issued a Request for Proposal for mining operations.
 
*International Monetary Fund (staff estimates for year-end at predicted 2011 exchange rates) Data: NASA; Discovery; Mining the sky: Untold Riches of the Asteroids; Comets and Planets; The New York Times; Bloomberg; MSNBC; International Monetary Fund

Daniel is graphics director for Bloomberg Businessweek. Follow her on Twitter @jenniferdaniel.

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