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At Plutonian Shores

"You have reached the very far edges of our solar system. No human has ever been further away from Earth! A truly remarkable moment for mankind, coming to think that more than a decade went into this endeavor. The same way we reached Earth's companion almost a century ago, we are now ready to repeat the process for the Transneptunian objects.
A pity that your two comrades did not make it. You are now the only one to see the far outskirts of the cradle of any lifeform as we know it.
It is sad that life's extent will soon shrink to Earth again. During the Jovian incident, you lost too much fuel to make it back now. We warned you but you wanted to reach Pluto at all costs. An irony that the planet named after the God of death will be your final destination.
Rest in peace. Over."

The base-render to this piece is actually fairly old: it dates back to 1 Jan, 2011. Just recently, I rediscovered it on my hard drive and decided to touch it up (read: overpaint). Hope you like it! :)

Hit download to get a wallpaper-pack of this image. It comes in three sizes:
:bulletblue: 4:3 — 1600x1200
:bulletblue: 16:9 — 1920x1080
:bulletblue: 16:10 — 1920x1200
Smaller monitor? No problem, just pick the right ratio. It should fit without any problems ;)

Enjoy :)

Facts, tasty facts:
* Original working size: 6000x3750 (Print size)
* Terrain rendered with Vue, post-work in Photoshop
© 2013 - 2021 BLPH
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rhunel's avatar
BLPH's avatar
Thank you! :D
morbiusx33's avatar
My only technical problem with the artwork is that I believe the Sun would appear much smaller and less intense as you pictured it.
BLPH's avatar
You are right, I probably went a little overboard with the size of it. However, I just did the math, the Sun on Pluto is still around 250 times brighter than a full moon on Earth. That'd mean that the other stars would probably just hardly be that visible ;)
morbiusx33's avatar
Mmm, where did you get that info?
BLPH's avatar
Well, I can't remember which values I took in the beginning, so I'm just doing it again. Might turn out with slightly different numbers :p

Sources cite the the solar power as something around P ~ 4*1026 W. The intensity at any distance is proportional to the power over the surface of a sphere: I(r) = P/(4*pi*r²). Plugging in Earth's distance to the sun, assuming it is a point light source (which we can certainly do at those distances), yields something around 1500 W/m². Doing the same for Pluto (neglecting its elliptical orbit and just taking the mean) results in an intensity of 0.85 W/m².

For the intensity of the moonlight, I couldn't find any reliable sources in terms of actual intensity. Wikipedia just gives the values in lux, which would be (0.2 - 1) lux. However, they mention the moon being "about 500,000 times fainter than the Sun" which is something we can work with. So the intensity of the moonlight is roughly 1500 W/m² / 5*105 = 0.003 W/m².

The scaling factor f between the intensity at Pluto's surface IP and the moonlight intensity IM is simply the quotient between these two:
fIP / IM ~ (0.85 W/m²) / (0.003 W/m²) ~ 280.

Turns out that you could probably read a book on Pluto's surface :D
morbiusx33's avatar

Hey, good research on your part! Many textbooks got it wrong.

But that would not be enough to make solar power devices practical?

NASA's New Horizons' July 2015 flyby will hopefully gain us many more Plutonian details. I have some thoughts about the mottled orange surface detected by the HST but it's a complete unknown until all the remote sensing data is returned to Earth.

BLPH's avatar
I'm no expert in solar powered devices but solar cells aren't that efficient. Recently, I read about the record being less than 50%. Common efficiencies are well below that (by a factor of 2).

Then again, I don't know the power-consumption of such spacecrafts, so I can't guesstimate the usability of this power source. Coming to think of how weak fully solar-powered cars perform in comparison to such with batteries or even gas, I can just imagine that probes for deep-space-explorations are probably relying on a mix of energy-gathering close to the sun, a hibernation-phase for most of the time, and a nuclear power source or an ion thruster. Sorry, I can't really provide any numbers for that. :(

In my childhood, I had a book which contained a picture of Pluto consisting of maybe 10 gray pixels. Since that time, I have wondered how it actually looks like. Hubble's photos are certainly a good step into that direction but I'm really expecting a whole lot of the New Horizons-mission!
morbiusx33's avatar
I have a sneaky suspicion that the "orange" stuff on Pluto means hydrocarbons a la Titan. We'll see next summer if all goes well...
morbiusx33's avatar
Considering the slow creep of humans out into space, let alone a return to the Moon (which is nearby and not too difficult to reach), if we ever choose to visit distant planets such as Pluto in person, it will likely occur 1,000 years or more from today. 

Space exploration will progress in fits and starts, fits and starts, without much infrastructure in place to sustain much of anything. 

Who will travel to space? Nations are too obsessed with costly social programs, while corporations are logically uninterested without a return on investment. China's lunar rover is a stunt and not like to be sustained (besides, China faces serious social and environmental upheavals in the coming decades). 

Alas, space travel will remain nothing more than a novelty for decades to come; the much anticipated 'space tourism era' will be nothing more than the wealthy class's plaything (much like their need for global travel is today--it earns them bragging rights, while feeding the feeling of personal accomplishment, fashionability, trendy globalism, as well as a need for class superiority). However, space-science research will continue using ever more sophisticated robots, and no doubt rendering the use of humans in this harsh environment superfluous (this outcome is already clearly evident).

Consider the predictions of humans moving onto the sea floors or the dreams of private aviation with personal gyrocopters, flying cars, etc. Aside from the high-skill level and training required in these pursuits, the expense of personal air transportation continues to rise (pardon the pun), and the requisite attentiveness skills of drivers is on the decline. 

I am not the least bit optimistic about man in space beyond what we're already do close to home. For without substantial funds and compelling reasons to explore, I am afraid mankind's dreams of sustained spaceflight beyond Earth orbit will remain mired in the realm of science fiction for many centuries to come. 
BLPH's avatar
I agree with you! I think that no manned flight further than Mars will happen within this century (and even that is a really optimistic thought). Considering the vast distances of space, the ratio between cost and advantage will just skyrocket (in any way this can be interpreted).

Landing on other planets is nowadays more a mission for robots anyway. I just calculated the travel-time between Earth and Pluto to be at least 14 years. Not only would it be pretty much physically impossible to carry that many resources up in space to nourish a living being for that long (not to mention the same time for getting back), but the psychological part would play another major role in there. Living with a few others for that long in a small spacecraft definitely cannot be healthy.

Also, it becomes debateable if there is really any worth in sending humans around the solar system. If there are no monetary gains, pretty much nobody would be interested in participating financially. Considering how most planets are just some clumps of (at least what we think as) dead rock floating around in space, this interest will be fairly low.

Nevertheless, the source of the unknown is what fuels our imagination. And Sci-Fi-novels make use of exactly that. The less we know, the more we can fantasize. Even though reality might never give us anything that great, there is still a place for dreaming. And as long as we can do that, there will be hope :)
Alkraas's avatar
Looks truly amazing!
Awesome work! :D
BLPH's avatar
Thank you so much! :)
experimentalDeity's avatar
So beautiful... The God of the Dead's (the true God of Death is Thanatos, while Pluto is God of the Dead) probably pissed that his planet is no longer a true planet.
BLPH's avatar
Oh, good point! Thanks for the correction! :)

Also, not only he is pissed off but I am as well :p
experimentalDeity's avatar
And the world went to Hell ever since. NICE JOB, SCIENTISTS! :sarcasticclap:
Perturabo93's avatar
One of the places I'd like to be in my life, perfectly interpretated :la: Also, the lore is great too! ;)
BLPH's avatar
Thank you! :D

Although, I wouldn't particularly spend the rest of my life there :p
Perturabo93's avatar
Hehe I doubt I would... but perhaps on other places, with a good habitat and people ^^
BLPH's avatar
Haha, good point! Guess that'd solve the problem pretty easily :D
I really like the bit of lore in the description. I feel it makes much better than it would be by itself.
BLPH's avatar
I'm glad that you think so :)
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