Category Archives: space

Surfing Pluto

It’s amazing what happens sometimes when you’re surfing the internet. I started with my daily dose of Sci Show Space, which led me to Gustav Holst’s Suite of Planets.  I realized that Holst wrote The Planets before Pluto was discovered, so he can’t be blamed that after 1930, he was missing a planet (of course now he’s OK again if you want align yourself with the Astronomer’s Union).  Over the years composers have “added” to Holst’s work with various songs about Pluto.

There are serious attempts like Pluto, the Renewer by Colin Matthews):

and very silly (yet funny) pieces, like For the Planet Pluto by the Music Tapes:

And I particularly like this one, Plutonian Nights by Sun Ra:

Then my lunch break was up and I had to get back to work!

Any unsung heroes in your life?

Riled Up by Language

Yesterday I got all worked up (again) when “pescatarian” defined as a vegetarian who eat fish. If you eat fish you are not any kind of vegetarian.

So I was happy to read this footnote in Death From the Skies by astronomer Phil Plait:

“One of the best ways to tick off an astronomer – and it can be fun sometimes just to see how he reacts – is to mix up the terms meteor, meteoroid, and meteorite.  The very best way to tick off an astronomer is to call him an astrologer.”

Guess I’m not the only one who gets riled up by language.

What are you NOT?

New Year’s Fly-by

A little over three years ago, Dale wrote a piece when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft approached and photographed Pluto. He included several nice photos and gave us an update on the PTA (Pluto Tourism Association) about groups wanted to book some serious vacation time on the planet (or whatever Pluto is categorized as this week).

Today, after 3 years, New Horizons is doing a flyby of 2014 MU69; it will be the most distant object every visited by a spacecraft. Even NASA realizes that 2014MU69 is a terrible name – they have nicknamed the object, an icy Kuiper Belt object, Ultima Thule, which means “distant places beyond the known world”.

Scientists are not sure if Ultima Thule is one object or two objects circling each other and are hoping this flyby, which will happen at a whooping 31,500 mph, will clear up that mystery. After the New Year’s flyby, it will take a full 6 hours for the radio signals to arrive back at earth.

It’s amazing to me that just 117 years after our first machine-powered flight, we will be waiting for signals from a spacecraft that has traveled a billion miles since it passed Pluto three years ago. I wonder if we’ll still be getting signals in three more years when it is a billion miles farther from Earth and if we will be vacationing on 2014 MU69 by that point?

Have you ever had a speeding ticket?

Moon Tourist

It made big news yesterday that Elon Musk has chosen tech billionaire, Yusaku Maezawa, as the first moon tourist for his company, SpaceX. Maezawa is 42 and made his fortune in e-commerce, music and online fashion. He will be taking 10 other artists with him on the journey that should take 4-5 days. The SpaceX rocket won’t actually land on the moon, it’s called a slingshot trip around the Moon and is currently on track for 2023.

Maezawa seems very excited about his adventure but I say “to each his own”. Letting tons of rocket fuel go up in flame under my keester just doesn’t seem like a good idea. And, of course, I couldn’t go that far from my library!

Shot up into space
In a really small tin can?
Leave it to others.

Would you like to visit another planet (or moon)? Extra points for haiku or rhyming!

Siblings

It’s been three years since the New Horizons spacecraft whizzed by Pluto, but the non-planet is still in the news. And the latest news is that Pluto has a lot more in common with our own planet than was previously thought.

Pluto has dunes; they’re made of methane ice grains but are sculpted by winds that reach 24 miles per hour. This may not seem like much but since Pluto has less gravity, the wind doesn’t need to be as strong as here at home.  Pluto also has a wide variety of landforms like we do on Earth: plains, trenches and mountain ranges.  Pluto has snow-capped peaks of methane and Pluto may have an icy sea beneath its frozen surface.  Who knew?

If you could choose ANYONE to be your twin, who would it be?

Space Shanties – Redux

Jupiter has been in the news this week as well as more discussion of the first manned mission to Mars.   In honor of these events, here is a repeat of a fun blog from 2015!

Today’s post comes from Captain Billy, skipper of the pirate ship Muskellunge.

Ahoy!

Me an’ me boys is crazy-excited t’ hear that NASA has discovered a underground ocean on th’ largest moon of Jupiter!

Not that we’s lookin’ fer other seas t’ sail, on account of this one here is fine, an’ plenty large enough. Plus, a Jovian Lunar ocean with a roof over it made of 95 miles of ice raises serious questions about navigation an’ winds an’ how tall can yer mast be t’ keep from scrapin’ th’ underside.

There’s no disagreement among me boys on this point – a ocean up in the stars don’t have th’ same allure as th’ one under the stars that we all enjoys so much.

But th’ possibilities is what has us thrilled.

If there’s oceans out there orbitin’ that vast gas giant, then what’s there t’ prevent there from bein’ Jupiter pirates? An’ if there’s Jupiter pirates, don’t it follow that there’d be Jupiter grog an’ Jupiter booty?

All of it incredibly massive, of course!

So naturally our imaginations ran away wit’ us, an we began t’ wonder what sort of sea shanty we might sing up there if we went, even though there’s no way we’d go (so don’t ask)!

Th’ song we made up is t’ th’ tune of one of our home world favorites – Stormalong.

O we’re sailin’ under an icy dome.
Way,hay, Ganymede.
We’re a long long way from our Earthly home.
Aye aye we’re on Ganymede.

An’ there ain’t no wind for to fill our sails
Way, hay, Ganymede.
It ain’t clear what sailin’ here entails.
Aye aye we’re on Ganymede.

But the ocean’s salty an’ dark and deep.
Way, hay, Ganymede.
If there’s monsters in it, let them sleep!
Aye aye we’re on Ganymede.

If there’s fishes swimmin’ beneath our feet
Way, hay, Ganymede
Please be slow an’ fat an’ O.K. to eat.
Aye Aye we’re on Ganymede.

Though it’s scary here an’ th’ water’s cold,
Way, hay, Ganymede
May the seas be calm an’ the booty gold!
Aye Aye we’re on Ganymede.

If you’re voyaging to a distant planet, what song do you want to take with you?

Space Cadets

Astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly are no longer identical twins. After almost a year on the International Space Station, tests have revealed that some of Scott’s chromosomes have been altered – becoming longer.  He is also about 2 inches taller.  Medical science is not sure if these changes will be permanent.

You just came back from space. What change would you like to experience in your chromosomes?