M Thomas Apple Author Page

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

Why do all the planets orbit the sun in the same direction?

April 16, 2022
MThomas

Note: not to scale (duh). Thanks, Getty. Uh, is this really the best way to show the solar system? (There…are…NINE..planets!)

Think of pizza dough flattening into an enlarging disk as it’s tossed. Because the cloud had an initial rotation, this same direction of spin has persisted…

https://www.popularmechanics.com/space/solar-system/a39729213/why-do-all-the-planets-orbit-in-the-same-direction/

So basically the answer is simply that that’s the way they all started out.

Some moons, however, do have retrograde orbits. I.e., they orbit in the opposite direction around their respective planets. Some small asteroids and comets also have retrograde orbits due to their small mass being easily affected by larger cosmic objects.

But Ibet now you’re all thinking of pizza… 🍕

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

Trace Gas Orbiter finds traces of hydrogen underground in the Valles Marineris

December 16, 2021
MThomas

A.k.a., the “Great Canyon of Mars”

The original article title?

“Astronomers Detect Secret Water Reserves in The Largest Canyon in The Solar System”

Science isn’t quite as catchy. The hydrogen may indicate water in the form of permafrost 3 feet and more under the surface.

The high-hydrogen region is about the size of the Netherlands, and overlaps with Candor Chasma, one of the largest canyons in the Valles Marineris system.

Looks like there may be some competition for who gets to land near here first…

https://www.sciencealert.com/hidden-water-has-been-found-in-the-soil-of-mars-grand-canyon

Mars has a really thick skin

July 28, 2021
MThomas

Well, OK, technically it’s the mantle, not the crust.

But it is thick. Super thick. And no gradations like the Earth.

Extrapolating to the known surface geology of the rest of the planet, this suggests an average thickness of between 24km and 72km. By contrast, Earth’s average crustal thickness is 15-20km.

https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-57935742

So what does this mean?

For one thing, it probably explains why there’s no breathable atmosphere on Mars.

Mars never developed a global magnetic field to block solar radiation. So it’s atmosphere was basically ripped right off.

And any terraforming attempts in the future would fail on a global scale. But maybe locally it might work…

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?)

Sorry, Venus is just a lot of gas

February 4, 2021
MThomas

There’s a reason I didn’t post a while ago about the supposed “there’s life in the clouds of Venus” finding.

It was just a big load of gas.

Sorry, folks. Venus is a big rotten egg. 🥚

https://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/signs-life-venus-might-just-be-ordinary-sulfur-gas-n1256739

It’s a Nice Model you’ve got there, Mars. Be a shame if something happened to it…

January 12, 2020
MThomas

“Without this instability, Mars likely would have had a mass closer to Earth’s and would be a very different, perhaps more Earth-like, planet compared to what it is today.”

Damn you, Jupiter and Saturn! Why couldn’t you have just stayed in your orbits and left Mars alone? (Shakes fist futilely at night sky.)

— Read on www.universal-sci.com/headlines/2018/5/10/the-giant-planets-in-the-solar-system-stunted-the-growth-of-mars

The Trappist Family of Planets has a hard core!

August 2, 2019
MThomas

Trappists

In February of 2017, a team of European astronomers announced the discovery
of a seven-planet system orbiting the nearby star TRAPPIST-1. Aside from
the fact that all seven planets were rocky, there was the added bonus of
three of them orbiting within TRAPPIST-1’s habitable zone. Since that time,
multiple studies have been conducted to determine whether or not any of
these planets could be habitable.

What’s up with the boring names?

I propose we call them Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Kurt, Brigitta, Marta, and Gretl. The most habitable is Kurt, because he’s so magnetic.

But the star, of course, is Maria.

Buh-DUM-dum.

Trappist-1
— Read on www.universal-sci.com/headlines/2018/5/5/one-of-the-trappist-1-planets-has-an-iron-core

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