Out of Sight out of Mind
I have always loved anything to do with outer space. The Solar System, the Stars, Black Holes, it all fascinated me, maybe this is because I secretly wanted to be Luke Skywalker, but who didn’t? One thing I loved doing was going into the library in our elementary school and looking at books about the Solar System. The best book though was the one in the reference section, which was kept behind the counter, guarded by the surprisingly hot, but older librarian. This was the book to look at because in its sacred pages were things our young eyes had never seen before. Actual shots of the surface of mars, worlds millions of miles away from our own, so distant it boggled the mind. In an age where science fiction let us believe anything was possible we revelled in the thought of new discovery.
So in the attempt to pass this on, I bought my daughter a couple of ipad apps called Solar System and Solar Walk. Like me at her age, she is crazy for anything other worldly or cosmic. These two apps, though very different, ignited my love for the cosmos again (Another great reference is the History Channels series The Universe). To my surprise she starts telling me things I never knew (she is five remember) like Mercury and Venus are the only planets that don’t have moons and that her favourite moon is Io. So I start to take a closer look at our Solar System and find out that Pluto which was demoted from the Planetary ranks and is now considered a dwarf planet, is not alone. How could I not know this?!? There are 3 other dwarf planets floating around our Solar System. Check it:
Eris: A large frozen planet on the outskirts of our Solar System (much larger than Pluto), its discovery is one of the catalysts to Plutos demise as a planet. It has a Moon called Dysnomia (Mercury and Venus can’t say that). It takes 557 years to orbit the sun. Funny thing is it was called Xena for a while, after the warrior princess.
Makemake: This small world is smaller than Pluto. It’s named after an Easter Island god. It is very bright and reflective due to the methane, ethane and nitrogen ices on the planet.
Haumea: This planet is twice as long as it is wide, due to what they believe to be an extremely fast rotation. The dwarf planet named after a Hawaiian Goddess, has two moons, Namaka and Hi’iaka thought to created by a collision with another body, which would account for speed of Haumeas fast spin.
These three dwarf planets in the last week have blown my mind, and that is hard to do to a jaded, middle aged know-it-all with a google addiction. Then there is the Oort Cloud, which makes the Solar System look tiny in comparison (this is where most of the bodies in the Solar system are). The Oort Cloud is a giant swarm of cometary nuclei according to Marcus Chown (creator of Solar System) . Marcus says “We know it exists, even though we have not seen it. How?” Can we know what is past our gaze, can we see into the blackness and know what is out there? I’m not sure, but I do know we should be looking and sending spacecraft to new planets instead of destroying this one. Even a fraction of what the world spends on fighting each other could fund something new and exciting, give us a Venus Rover or a TV channel from Mars or send us all to the moon. I think we should all start looking upwards again, there is more up there than we can imagine.
Just a couple of interesting links to keep you’re interests peaked: