M Thomas Apple Author Page

Science fiction, actual science, history, and personal ranting about life, the universe, and everything

Should Pluto and Ceres be “planets”?

January 3, 2022
MThomas

Demoted by the IAU in 2006, the Once and Future “9th planet”

…a study announced in December from a team of researchers in the journal Icarus now claims the IAU’s definition was based on astrology — a type of folklore, not science — and that it’s harming both scientific research and the popular understanding of the solar system.

I’m not sure I agree that moons of Jupiter and Saturn should be classified as “planets,” but frankly I see little difference between “dwarf planets” and “planets.”

Plus it wrecks the song I learned to remember the order…

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/pluto-planet-debate-rages-rcna8848

World’s largest space telescope has liftoff

December 26, 2021
MThomas

The James Webb Space Telescope – Hubble’s successor – has successfully lifted off.

Now starts the “two weeks of terror” as it gets into position and unfolds. Fingers crossed! 🤞

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-59782057

Earth has a second moon…for another 300 years, anyway

November 14, 2021
MThomas

Kamo’oalewa is one such piece of lunar rubble that spiraled away from the moon. But rather than landing on Earth or simply tumbling off into the void, it found itself a quasi-satellite in its own right.

https://time.com/6116644/earth-second-moon/

Dunno what’s cooler: the name of the Moon fragment or the fact that the grad student at Lunar and Planetary Laboratory at the University of Arizona that discovered the ”moon” is named ”Sharkey.”

Also, the complete and utter lack of visuals is appalling…plus the repetitive politically-oriented automatic videos and random ads irritates me. Honestly, WTF is up with US-based websites these days. Unreadable.

Still, it’s telling that the ”moon” has a Hawaiian name. Much like the navigator in my story…

Light from behind a black hole

July 31, 2021
MThomas

…while light cannot escape a black hole, its extreme gravity warps space around it, which allows light to “echo,” bending around the back of the object. Thanks to this strange phenomenon, astronomers have, for the first time, observed the light from behind a black hole.

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/einstein-right-researchers-see-light-echo-black-hole-rcna1553

Einstein has been proven right. Again.

Scientists detect small pockets of carbon dioxide-rich liquid water in a meteorite dating from the early solar system

April 25, 2021
MThomas

“This assumption is consistent with recent theoretical studies of the solar system’s evolution that suggest that asteroids rich in small, volatile molecules like water and carbon dioxide formed beyond Jupiter’s orbit before being transported to areas closer to the sun.”

http://en.ritsumei.ac.jp/news/detail/?id=585

Just announced by my workplace!

And no, I don’t teach in that department.

However, it does show the need for STEM students and researchers in Japan to improve their English. For every study like this published in English there are many more only published in Japanese. Lots of interesting research going on in Japan that people *outside* Japan need to know about!

X-Rays from Uranus!

April 5, 2021
MThomas

Two-ringed and sideways gas giant

The gag practically writes itself…

…but seriously, this is neat. One source of the X-Rays is the Sun (it also bounces off of Jupiter and Saturn). But there may be yet another source…perhaps the rings of Uranus or the planet itself.

And no, it’s not really pink. That’s just a Chandra X-ray image.

Shame, really.

https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/images/first-x-rays-from-uranus-discovered.html

“Potentially hazardous asteroid” approaching Earth

March 22, 2021
MThomas

This is how I’ll get a photo of 2001 F032 for its next pass in 2052.

Hazardous asteroid!? Call out Bruce Willis!

No worries. “Close to Earth” in this is 1.25 million miles. But it’s a great chance to find out more about the early solar system.

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/potentially-hazardous-asteroid-come-closest-earth-sunday-n1261689

Sorry, there’s no “Planet X”

February 16, 2021
MThomas

This doesn’t exist, but it’s a cool drawing.

Critics of the Planet Nine claim said the apparent clustering of the discovered TNOs might only be because that’s where telescopes were looking or were most sensitive.

https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2021/02/claim-giant-planet-nine-solar-systems-edge-takes-hit

If you are looking to find evidence to prove your theory, it’s much easier to find what you’re looking for.

You should instead try to find evidence to disprove your theory, and then ask at least two more people you don’t know (or even better, generally disagree with) to try to find evidence to support your theory.

“Seek and ye shall find” is a terrible way to support a claim. Have the courage to challenge your beliefs.

Also, it’s Planet X, not 9. Pluto is a planet. So there, Neil deGrasse Tyson. :-p

Weebles wobble — and so does Mars

February 5, 2021
MThomas

Looks like Mars doesn’t spin perfectly on its axis. In fact, it wobbles.

And no one knows why.

This makes Mars only the second planet in our solar system to exhibit what’s called the “Chandler wobble.”

The other planet?

Why, Earth, of course.

(And, no, nobody knows why. Hmm. Chandler?)

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