Eposode 106: Terraforming

Comic Transcript

Panel 1:
Prof2: So, what kind of atmospheric data does Epo have?

Panel 2:
Epo: Since our arrival, I have conducted measurements in mass spectrometry, planetary albedo estimates, tree growth estimates, ocean salinity…
Alkina: Suffices to say, Epo has a lot of data. What are you looking for?

Panel 3:
Prof2: I am looking for data on our planet’s warming pattern from the greenhouse effect.
Epo: My data incontrovertibly shows that your planet is warming.

Panel 4:
Prof2: Of course it’s warming! That is by design, this planet is too far from our star to be warm enough, so we have been terraforming by pumping carbon into our atmosphere for hundreds of years to help warm it up and make it more comfortable.

Panel 5:
Prof2: Hopefully, it will one day reach a temperature that is comfortable enough that we can expand outside of our climate controlled cities.
Epo: That seems probable.

Panel 6:
[arriving at telescope]
Prof2: Yes, but I am concerned that the warming will continue for longer than we intend.

What does it mean?

Greenhouse Effect – The process by which a planet’s atmosphere prevents radiant energy from its surface from escaping into space, thereby increasing the surface temperature of the planet. The effect is caused by the trapping of infrared radiation by gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor in the planet’s atmosphere. On Earth, sunlight warms the planet surface, and the surface then re-emits the solar energy in the form of infrared light. Greenhouse gases prevent a portion of the infrared from escaping to space.

Terraforming – A process of altering a planet or moon to make it habitable for humans. Terra is a Greek prefix meaning Earth, so terraforming a planet means to make it more like Earth.

In human speak please!

Terraforming is a proposed process that could one day make other places in the Universe habitable to us. The word terraforming literally means “to make like Earth.” In the instance of our story, Epo and Alkina have come across a planet that is too far from its star to be warm enough to support most life. However, the people living there have been releasing greenhouse gases into the planet’s atmosphere to trap more of the energy from the star and raise the planet’s temperature. Other examples of terraforming might include introducing plants or bacteria to help release carbon dioxide into atmosphere. It might also involve melting ice into liquid water, which scientists think is necessary for most forms of life.