I was just looking at the newly released Time Top Ten Space (science) Moments of the year. This is a little unfair, actually. The year is not over. Something could easily happen between now and January 1, 2013. Anyway, there are things on this list I didn’t know, so I therefore assume that you did not know them either.

It appears that the Moon sunk the Titanic. At first this sounds silly, but it is actually quite possible and even if an exaggeration of sorts, interesting. On January 4th, before the Titanic sailed, there was a Spring Tide. This is the monthly (in lunar months, obviously) extreme high tide caused by the opposition of the Sun and the Moon. On this day, however, Earth was at it’s annual perihelion in its orbit around the Sun, and the Moon was at a 1400 year orbital low in relation to the Earth. So, the Spring Tide that month was extremely extreme.

This, then seems to have lifted large ice bergs that would have normally been grounded and put them back into action, and one of them went over to the Titanic and sank the damn thing.

One of the items I knew about but want to remind you of: An Earth-like planet was spotted at Alpha Centauri. Danger Will Robinson, Danger!

The others are all more commonly known, and they are good choices for a list of top ten space science events. Interesting, though, that the strangest and in some ways most unexpected one is about an early 20th century boat.

Comments

  1. #1 David Evans
    December 4, 2012

    “Earth was at it’s Annual Apogee in relation to the Sun”

    Strictly, apogee means “farthest from the Earth”. The word you wanted was aphelion. In fact, however, the most extreme tides occur when Earth is at its closest to the Sun (perihelion) and the Moon is closest to the Earth (perigee), as was the case on that January 4.

    I suppose, rather than searching for the appropriate Greek names of each celestial object, we will probably settle for apogee and perigee as generic terms.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    December 4, 2012

    aphelion! Thats what I meant. As I typed Apogee I thoiught “Is that right? Damn…. someone will correct me if I’m wrong” and I actually wanted to look it up but was late for an appointment that I had to go to sans morning coffee. So it was bad.

    I should have just said “close, it was really close, and so was that other thing”

  3. #3 Eric Lund
    December 10, 2012

    I suppose, rather than searching for the appropriate Greek names of each celestial object, we will probably settle for apogee and perigee as generic terms.

    Generic terms already exist: periapsis for closest point and apoapsis for farthest point. When the central body is a star (other than the Sun), the terms periastron and apastron are often used.