A plane crashes in the mountains. Or in a desert, on takeoff or landing, or in an empty field. Wherever it crashes, the first thing investigators look for is the plane’s black box, the flight data recorder. That device, actually bright orange to make it easily visible, records everything that occurred in the cockpit from takeoff to crash. Every change of altitude, bearing, speed, whether or not it was done by the pilot or the auto-pilot. The black box records every conversation in the cockpit, among the crew and the control towers. Investigators can recreate the crash to learn what, if any, mistakes were made.
This year, Earth gets its own black box. Earth’s Black Box will scrupulously record every bit of data related to civilization’s demise, whenever it occurs. Earth’s Black Box website says “Unless we dramatically transform our way of life, climate change and other man-made perils will cause our civilization to crash.”
The death of civilization may come from climate change or pollution that makes Earth uninhabitable. It may come from nuclear war, a deadly pathogen, or even a giant asteroid wiping out life on our planet.
Earth’s Black Box’s hard drives will collect temperature measurements, ocean acidification data, land use data, military spending, energy consumption, and human population growth. Data collection will primarily track climate data because the creators, a collaboration between the University of Tasmania, a communications firm called Clemenger BBDO, and an art collective called the Glue Society who will help design its appearance, believe climate to be the most immediate danger that civilization faces.
The entire object will be enclosed in 3-inch-thick steel designed to withstand any catastrophe. And just like a plane’s black box is tucked away in the safest part of a plane, the tail section, Earth’s Black Box will be placed in a secure, in the desert of Tasmania, where civilization is not likely to encroach on it.
From the Earth’s Black Box website: “The purpose of the device is to provide an unbiased account of the events that lead to the demise of the planet, hold accountability for future generations, and inspire urgent action. How the story ends is completely up to us.
“Only one thing is certain, your actions, inactions, and interactions are now being recorded.”
At 1 a.m. Jan. 4, Earth will be at perihelion, the closest approach to the sun we will be at any time this year, 91,406,233.7 miles. Contrast that to July 4, when we reach aphelion, our greatest distance from the sun 94,510,028 miles. Obviously, our distance from the sun doesn’t determine our seasons.
Shortly after sunset on the same day, a thin crescent moon passes south of Saturn. Both might be tough to see as they are quite low and in bright twilight. The next day, the moon passes south of Jupiter, and they will be farther from the sun and more easily seen.
As January begins, Venus, Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter all sit in the early evening, although only the latter will be visible in the bright twilight. Only Mars of the visible planets is in the morning sky rising two hours before the sun does.
Venus closes in on the sun and passes between us and the sun on Jan. 8, but it will be another week or so before it is easily visible in the morning dawn glow. Mercury creeps slowly away from the sun until the second week, when then quickly dives past the sun into the morning sky when it might be glimpsed at the end of January if you have a clear horizon. Saturn also moves towards the sun and is virtually impossible to see all month. Jupiter remains visible all month, setting about two hours after the sun.
There was a new moon on Jan. 2, and another one will be on Jan. 31. We call a second full moon in a month a “blue moon.” A second new moon in a month is called a “black moon.” The full moon occurs between the two new moons on Jan. 17.