Solar System

Category archives for Solar System

Mostly Mute Monday: Water On Mars (Synopsis)

“If I want water, I’ll have to make it from scratch. Fortunately, I know the recipe: Take hydrogen. Add oxygen. Burn.” –Andy Weir It wasn’t merely one discovery that led to the announcement of liquid water on Mars, but a slew of pieces of evidence of a watery past, including dried-up riverbeds, sedimentary rock formations,…

“Suddenly, from behind the rim of the Moon, in long, slow-motion moments of immense majesty, there emerges a sparkling blue and white jewel, a light, delicate sky-blue sphere laced with slowly swirling veils of white, rising gradually like a small pearl in a thick sea of black mystery. It takes more than a moment to…

The Difference A Dark Sky Makes (Synopsis)

“The reports of the eclipse parties not only described the scientific observations in great detail, but also the travels and experiences, and were sometimes marked by a piquancy not common in official documents.” –Simon Newcomb By far, one of the highlights of astronomy this year took place earlier this week: a total lunar eclipse featuring…

“Bringing an asteroid back to Earth? What’s that have to do with space exploration? If we were moving outward from there, and an asteroid is a good stopping point, then fine. But now it’s turned into a whole planetary defense exercise at the cost of our outward exploration.” –Buzz Aldrin What causes those mysterious bright…

Why is Earth blue? (Synopsis)

“Whenever I gaze up at the moon, I feel like I’m on a time machine. I am back to that precious pinpoint of time, standing on the foreboding — yet beautiful — Sea of Tranquility. I could see our shining blue planet Earth poised in the darkness of space.” –Buzz Aldrin If you look at Earth from space, you’ll…

“The great oak of Astronomy has been felled, and we are lost without its shadow.” –Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, on the passing of Jan Oort In our Solar System, we have the inner, rocky worlds, an asteroid belt, the gas giants and then the Kuiper belt. Out beyond that, in theory, we have the Oort cloud, where a…

“This then, I thought, as I looked round about me, is the representation of history. It requires a falsification of perspective. We, the survivors, see everything from above, see everything at once, and still we do not know how it was.” -W.G. Sebald From their discovery in the 1600s, Saturn’s rings have been a source…

“It is marvelous indeed to watch on television the rings of Saturn close; and to speculate on what we may yet find at galaxy’s edge. But in the process, we have lost the human element; not to mention the high hope of those quaint days when flight would create ‘one world.’ Instead of one world,…

Gravity’s Oldest Puzzles (Synopsis)

Every time you follow the motion of a spacecraft, moon, planet or other object through the Solar System, you’re putting the theory of gravity to the test. On one hand, there’s a robust set of predictions for what the behavioral motion of these bodies ought to be, while on the other there’s what we actually observe.…

“Men of genius are often dull and inert in society; as the blazing meteor, when it descends to earth, is only a stone.” –Henry Wadsworth Longfellow And yet, not all meteors nor all meteor showers are created equal. Some showers are duds, with the meteors being infrequent, inconsistent, short-lived and dim. Hardly worth mentioning. On…