Wednesday, October 31, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Zombie Planet!

Day 28

Watch out - the planet rises from the dead! Sort of. Well, they like to say it has risen from the dead (maybe) but in reality, the scientists just don't know and can't agree.

Fomalhaut b (okay, okay, so I already wrote about this planet) was thought to be just a cloud of dust. Then someone said, "No! I think there's a planet in there!" So they started looking, searching, gazing into the vast expanse of night - until a third party replied, "Well, there's no heat signature. It's just a dust cloud."

Op. Now it's dead. A dead planet.

Well... then they changed their minds. At least, somebody did. They decided that they were seeing a planetary object embedded in a cloud of dust, instead of just, well, a cloud of dust.

So this planet has come back to life via the aid of red tape and limited scientific equipment. 

Humans are great. So are Zombie Planets. 

In conclusion, Happy Halloween, Fomalhaut b!

Picture made by me. More information, here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Asteroid B-612

Day 27

Asteroid B-612 is not actually a planet (as you can see by the word "asteroid") but it is a home. It is the home of the Little Prince. This little asteroid is the size of a house. It has three volcanoes, one rose, baobob trees, and a few other things. The Little Prince is always pulling the little trees from the ground. So he asks the narrator of this story for a sheep. The narrator proceeds to draw him an elephant inside a snake. The Little Prince does not want an elephant or a snake on his house-sized asteroid. Eventually he draws a box in which the sheep is hiding. 

This is his home.

In conclusion, I hope that I can be as content with my home as was the Little Prince with his little asteroid.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hello From the Hurricane!

31 Days of Planets: Caprica

Day 26

Who wouldn't want to live on an Earth-like planet that was extremely technologically advanced? Who wouldn't want to live on a planet that was run by sentient robots? Who wouldn't want to live on a planet bombarded by nuclear weapons and poisoned by radiation? Who wouldn't want to live on a planet where human women are captured for the purpose of creating Cylon-Human babies? Who wouldn't want to live in desolation, with few plants, trees, and animals? 

Who wouldn't want to live under a yellow sky?

You never know what the future holds. Watch Battlestar Galactica.

Pictures from here and here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Fiery Planet of Doom

Day 25

The Fiery Planet of Doom! as you might think, is not a place in a video game. Although it might be. And that would be awesome. It is not the place that parents tell their children they will go when they lie, and it is not the place that haunts your nightmares. Well, actually, I don't know that. It might be. It's real name is WASP 18b, such clever and intriguing name, and this planet is the superhero of planets: the Flash!

It whips around its sun in less than a day (an Earth day). In addition, it is more than 10x the size of Jupiter! That is huge, in case you didn't realize. HUGE. And the planet is so close to the sun it is extremely blazing hot, and about to crash into the sun... making it a fiery planet... of doom.

If THE FLASH had more control over its general direction, it would be a fiery, fast, fortuitous, fabled, fantastic, fabulous, formidable, furious, free, fierce, flaring, flickering, flashy, ferocious, fearless, forceful, frenzied, flaming FLASH!

In conclusion, this might actually be where you go when you lie.

Picture from here.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Fitness

Day 24

Okay, so Planet Fitness isn't really a planet. But I do live relatively close to their national headquarters, so I figured it would be okay if I wrote about them. It was founded in 1992 for occasional or inexperienced gym members and is a "Judgement Free Zone." Which means that humans can't possibly work out there. Which means it must be gym for aliens!

Here's what I think happened: 

Planet Fitness, in a galaxy far, far away, was faced with a serious disaster. All fiber and nutrient producing plants were struck with a massive plague, and only the sugar and fat producing plants remained. In addition, gravity was slowly decreasing as the planet continually lost chunks of its mass to the knawing darkness of space (that was because a really irritable group kept blowing pieces of it up). The predominant species, the Judgementafreeze, began to desperately struggle for survival and health - unable to eat properly and unable to exercise properly. Slowly, they grew rounder and fatter, cursing their inability to find health. 

Then, one far-thinking group of Jugementalfreeze from the country of Workoutzone on Planet Fitness, had a brilliant idea. Stasis pods. If they could put themselves on a spaceship and launch it towards a compatible planet, they could live in stasis until arrival. At this new planet, they could then find good food and good exercise, and live happily for many generations.

Enter, Exeter, NH, USA, North America, Earth, Milky Way Galaxy. In 1965 there was an unexplained UFO sighting. Flashing red lights, a flying vehicle, a young Navy private, and two police officers... It's called the Exeter Incident. Look it up. Well, you can guess what the real story is. It was the Judgementafreeze trying to find a place to land. They eventually did, carefully hid their spaceship, and began the process of integrating into human civilization. In 1992 they figured out that they could capitalize on capitalism and started the Planet Fitness franchise.

That's why, if some of the people working out next to you seem like aliens, they probably are.

In conclusion, watch out for aliens at Planet Fitness.

Friday, October 26, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Discworld!

Day 23
Discworld is awesome! It is one of my favourite places of all time. It goes like this...

"In a distant and second-hand set of dimensions, in an astral plane that was never meant to fly, the curling star-mists waver and part...
"Great A'Tuin the turtle comes, swimming slowly through the interstellar gulf, hydrogen frost on his ponderous limbs, his huge and ancient shell pocked with meteor craters. Through sea-sized eyes that are crusted with rheum and asteroid dust He stares fixedly at the Destination.
"In a brain bigger than a city, with geological slowness, He thinks only of the Weight.
"Most of the weight is of course accounted for by Berilia, Tubul, Great T'Phon and Jerakeen, the four giant elephants upon whose broad and star-tanned shoulders the disc of the World rests, garnlanded by the long waterfall at its vast circumference and domed by the baby-blue vault of Heaven.
"Astropsychology has been, as yet, unable to establish what they think about..."

-The Colour of Magic, by Terry Pratchett, the man

Terry Pratchett, a brilliantly eccentric gentleman of great writing prowess, created this fascinating and wonderful world - a disc which sits on top of four elephants which sits on a giant sea turtle which swims through space - it's brilliant. Just brilliant.

I hope to meet Terry Pratchett. Sooner than later, preferably. 

In conclusion, go read Terry Pratchett.

Pictures from here and here.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Imaginary

Day 22
I think that everyone would benefit from an imaginary planet. The thing about imaginary planets is that you get to rule them - you're the boss! It can look like anything, be anything - it can be filled with people or have none, and the possibilities are only limited by the capabilities of your imagination.

I have an imaginary planet. I call it Sagitta (I stole that. It's the name of a constellation inside the Milky Way). Sagitta is shaped like a donut.

That's right. A Krispy Kreme. On the inside (the Inner Rim), there's an ocean. And let me tell you, they have some pretty awesome and weird fish in that massive ocean.

I know - looking good, right?
On the Outer Rim, there is a desert. There may also be some dessert out there, if you're lucky. Like a cupcake. Or dried ice cream. 

Then there are, of course, forests, and plains, and mountains, and rivers, and everything in between (literally - in between the inner and outer rim). Their animals are vaguely similar to those of Earth's but they evolved differently.

And just a few miles off of the ocean, Pomegranate City squats uncomfortably under the crazy thunderstorms and massive rainbows, and her people live for 1000 (Earth) years. 

But how did this majestic planet come to have a hole in the middle - missing a chunk of its soul? Well, it used to look more or less like this:

And then a massive asteroid came out of no where...


Which left only a very large mess behind.

After a few million years of spinning, the stuff all clumped together to become the donut that we all know and love today. 

In conclusion, what does your imaginary planet look like?

Pictures by me, except for first donut which was from here, and the ringed planet which was from here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Venus

Day 21

Venus: our sister planet, named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. She is quite similar in size and shape to Earth, but she is surrounded by clouds of sulfuric acid, with a dense atmosphere of largely carbon dioxide. Imagine what that would do to your complexion. You trying to lose weight? Don't go to Venus. The atmospheric pressure on Venus is 92 times that of Earth. She has no carbon cycle, no organic life to absorb biomass, her oceans vaporized, free hydrogen has been swept away into interplanetary space by solar winds... but she does have rocks and volcanoes. 

There is one other thing that Venus has: she looks magnificent when she crosses paths with the sun.

I have a sticker of Venus. It looks like this:

In conclusion, Venus might be the goddess of love and beauty, but she probably won't do much for you.

Pictures from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

31 Days of Planet: Fomalhaut b

Day 20

To be or not to be, that is the question! Or rather, to b or not to b! Because it's anybody's guess: does Fomalhaut b really exist?

Approximately 25 light years away, this exoplanet (in the constellation Piscis Austrinus) remains ... unconfirmed. The real question is: if we found it, why is it unconfirmed?

Scientists inferred the existence based on its influence on the Fomalhaut dust belt which was not centered on a star - thus implying that it must be centered on something else, like a planet. Then they took a picture of it with the Hubble space telescope. 

But something was wrong. It's orbit. Because of the dust disk, the planet's orbit would need to be elliptical, but if this were the case, the dust belt would be disrupted because of the estimated size of the planet. Could there be another planet in the mix?

Ray Jayawardhana argued that the misstep in the planet's orbit suggests that it might not be a planet at all and is pushing to have the exoplanet un-categorized as an exoplanet. 

At very least, we know that something is there. The not-yet-confirmed exoplanet would likely be a similar size to Jupiter, and surrounded by a belt of dust. From Formalhaut b, its star would look about like what the sun looks like from Saturn.

In conclusion, I think it's a planet, so that probably pretty much solves the whole issue.
The end.

Pictures from NASA and this article.

Monday, October 22, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Exoplanets

Day 19
As of this month, 842 extrasolar planets (exoplanets), or planets outside of our solar system, have been identified. The nearest exoplanet is in the Alpha Centauri system. The first published discovery - which was later confirmed - was by Bruce Campbell, G. A. H. Walker, and Stephenson Wang in 1988. 1988 was a fantastic year - an amazing and stupendous year!

Exoplanets might look like Jupiter. They might look like Earth. They might look like Venus. They might look like - well any kind of planet that we already know, then possibly something completely different! The universe is so big and there is so much possibility, that I mean, think of it - a pink planet? A polka-dotted planet? A planet with dinosaurs that can fly?!?!

One day we'll get there. Yes, yes we will. Or die trying. We better die trying. We better not die by destroying ourselves. That would be very frustrating.

In conclusion, space, here we come!

Pictures from Hawaii! and discoveryblog and liberalrev.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Earth 2.0

Day 18

Three-ish days ago, scientists announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet in the Alpha-Centaui system- which is made up of 2 sun-like stars and one red dwarf. They call it Bb. This new Earth-sized planet is a bit too close to its star for our comfort, averaging a 1,200 degrees Celsius. Maybe we could dig tunnels and live underground? At any rate, the idea is that if there is one small planet in a solar system, there are likely more small planets. This is exciting, because the likelihood of finding a small planet in the Goldilocks zone is high - and it might support or already have life! 

The other awesome thing about this planet, is that it is only four light years away from Earth. Now granted it would take a while to get there, but astronomically speaking, it's really close. One news article used the phrase "an astronomical stone's throw" which I think is a really intriguing statement which shows the clear concept of our own, tiny concept of distance in contrast with a universe-sized concept of distance.  

Some scientists think that NASA should drop everything and go find it. I say, one step at a time people. I'm all about going to find it, but we haven't even been to the moon in ages! I think that all kinds of astronomers would like doing all sorts of things, and instead of arguing about which things to do, we should just find ways to do more - and cheaper is probably better, so it might be a good idea to start with the solar system first. Besides, for all I know, one the Voyagers will just happen to end up in the Alpha Centauri system before we know it!

Here's a picture. It's not a photograph - don't be deceived!

In conclusion, Earth is not alone in the universe. And neither are we, probably.

For more information, read this article.
Picture from all the news articles.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Teegeeack

Day 17
WARNING: Reading the following text without proper authorization may cause pneumonia.

75 billion years ago, Xenu, the dictator of the Galactic Confederacy (which consisted of 26 stars and 76 planets), was in danger of having his power and authority forcefully taken from him. In an effort to rid the confederacy of extra people, he rounded up several billion people and paralyzed and froze them to capture their souls. They were then loaded onto a spacecraft and transported to the planet Teegeeack, where he had them stacked around volcanoes which were then blown up with hydrogen bombs. All but a few of the aliens died. The souls of those poor unfortunate "extras" exploded into the air and were caught by Xenu's electric ribbon and then brainwashed with misleading information and false identities and released back onto the planet.

What planet is that, again? you ask.

Teegeeack is currently known as Earth.

This, my friends, is Scientology.

In conclusion, now you  may get pneumonia.

Pictures from NASA and scambuster.

Friday, October 19, 2012

31 Days of Planets: New Earth

Day 16

Rose: Where're we going?

Doctor: Further than we've ever gone before...

New Earth exists in the year 5 billion 23, in the galaxy M87. There is apple grass there. The Doctor explains that in the year 5 billion, the sun explodes and the original Earth roasts. Humans, of course don't die out, as they've moved out all over the universe (if we could just get on with that please!) and there was a sort of nostalgic movement. So they found a planet that was the same size as the earth, has the same air and the same orbit and they turned it into New Earth. 

The even built New New York. "Strictly speaking its the 15th New York as the original - that would be New New New New New New New New New New New New New New New York..."

It's brilliant, just brilliant. To think that out there in this giant never-ending universe there might just be another planet that is so like ours, that we can actually name it New Earth without looking utterly ridiculous. But then I wonder - if it's just like Earth, did we have to fight the people living on it to make it ours? Did we buy it? Did we simply invade, take over, and that was that. Or was it empty? Did we get overwhelmingly lucky and just happen to move into a completely empty planet (of intelligent life, that is)...

Well, maybe one day, I'll get to stand on apple grass and stare at a completely foreign, yet completely familiar sky.

In conclusion, go watch Doctor Who, new season 2, episode 2. If you do, you'll also get to see the cat people!

Pictures from tvbabble and the Tardis Index File.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

What is your favourite planet?

31 Days of Planets: Hoth

Day 15

If you think you know what cold is, you should go to Hoth. Antarctica has nothing on Hoth. Hoth is cold. Did I mention? Freezing! Ice, snow, more ice, more snow. It does have some pretty sweet animals, though. A tauntaun and a wampa.

The Rebel Alliance moved here, but a probe eventually discovered the base and then, naturally, Darth Vader showed up. I wonder if he could feel the cold. I know he's half robot, but there's some human skin in there somewhere. He probably has air conditioning inside his suit. 

Hoth is the sixth planet in the Hoth system. It has three uninhabited moons. Aside from the Tauntaun and Wampa, there may also be lichen living in underground caves on this planet.

Hoth looks oddly similar to Uranus to me, but with a bit more detail. Also this is not a photograph.

In conclusion, if you don't like the cold, don't move here. Also, watch Star Wars.

Pictures from Wookipedia.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Mercury

Day 14
Mercury is a special planet. It is closest to the sun in our solar system. It is named after the Messenger of the Roman Gods. Mercury has a lot of craters and in that respect is quite similar to the moon. Speaking of craters - Cookie Monster! Cookie Monster is on Mercury, in the form of craters of course. See?

(picture from I09)

Because Mercury is so close to the sun, it is difficult to observe. The spacecraft Mariner 10 was the first to visit Mercury. It took a number of pictures, provided information to NASA, and then ran out of fuel. It is thought to still be orbiting the sun - one, lonely spacecraft, asleep, circling the sun over and over and over and over
             and over and over and over
                          and over and over and over

The MESSENGER spacecraft launched in 2004, and has done several flybys. It successfully entered orbit in 2011, and is now in an extended mission expected to last until 2013. 

Mercury is visible (sometimes) to the naked eye. Just don't stare at the sun too long. Or you might go blind.

In conclusion, Cookie Monster is everywhere.

Pictures from NASA.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

31 Days of Planets: The Blue Giant

Day 13
A blue giant is actually a star. And it is gorgeous. Watch Stargate Universe.
Since today is the 13th, I felt it was only natural to take a break from planets and do a star. Of course, this star isn't necessarily real...
It looks like this:

When the Destiny (the space ship) was being attacked by bezerker drones, they needed to recharge by flying through a star. So they used a blue giant planet instead of their typical stars. Desperation calls for desperate measures, I suppose.

In conclusion, watch Stargate Universe.

But really, you can read about real blue giants here.

Pictures from Stargate Wiki.

Monday, October 15, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Uranus

Day 12

Of all the planets in the solar system, I know the least about Uranus. Turns out it is the seventh planet from the sun and is named after Zeus' Grandfather. It's chemical composition is made up primarily of helium and hydrogen, and is full of ices - like water, ammonia, methane, etc. They call it an... ICY GIANT.

For me, that phrase conjures up a massive glacier in a humanoid shape, pounding its heavy feet into the ground and randomly picking up and eating things.

Continuing on, Uranus also has rings. An icy giant with rings, eh... I wonder if, for an ICY GIANT, rings is some sort of disease - like shingles. Anyway, Uranus' rings are dark, and in addition to the first ring system that was discovered, they (astronomers) found an outer ring system as well, located twice the distance from the planet as the first-discovered ring system.

Uranus has twenty-seven  rings; all are named after Shakespearean characters, with the five primary moons called: Miranda, Ariel, Umbriel, Titania, and Oberon. 

In my opinion, Uranus is absolutely gorgeous:

In conclusion:

Then felt I, like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken

-John Keats, On First Looking Into Chapman's Homer

Pictures from Wikipedia.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

31 Days of Planets: 55 Cancri e

Day 11

55 Cancri e is an exciting planet for multiple reasons. It orbits the sun-like star 55 Cancri A (very creative naming convention, I know). A sun-like star! You know what that means? There may be the possibility of an Earth-like planet which orbits a sun-like star, and an Earth-like planet may have Earth-like life... Aliens would be the best Christmas present ever.

In October 2012, they announced that this planet is a carbon planet. If the planet is composed largely of carbon, and is regularly subjected to high temperatures (over 3000 degrees F) and high pressure, then the carbon on this planet could be largely composed of diamond. A diamond planet! Amazing.

Imagine the views - so much sparkling! Of course, rough diamonds are not nearly as sparkly as cut diamonds, but it's fun to imagine... castles cut out of the ground, glittering turrets and impenetrable glowing walls; rolling hills of graphite, and kings who are never at a loss for diamond pencils.

And here it is - an artist's conception of the diamond planet orbiting its sun:

And the diamond core - which in real life is probably not so sparkly -

In conclusion - a diamond ring might be nice, but a diamond planet would be amazing.

Pictures from Reuters.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Pluto

Day 10

Pluto is still a planet. I know everyone was so upset when Neil DeGrasse Tyson fought to "de-planetize" Pluto, but that's not what really happened. What really happened is that Pluto became special. Pluto became a dwarf planet - one of only two others (maybe). Of course, there are probably billions more dwarf planets, but Pluto gave us the deliberate ability to classify small planetary bodies as "not Earth-sized" and "not-gas giants." Instead of wandering around saying, "well, I guess we should call it a planet because it orbits the sun even though it's super small and different and doesn't really meet the criteria for a planet" we were able to definitively say: "Pluto is a dwarf planet."

It's like saying, "well, I guess we'll call you a hippie because you eat organic food and don't like war and ride bicycles, but your hair is too neat and your clothes are too carefully chosen," instead of "you are a hipster."

Pluto is in fact smaller than Eris and composed primarily of rock and ice. In fact, Pluto may host a hidden ocean. This means, if we run out of water because we humans are good at making bad decisions, we can mine Pluto. But then imagine the price of water! We'll be watching it like we watch the price of gas. 

"8.57 a gallon! Good heavens!" 
"Well that's what you get when you have to mine it from Pluto."

Pluto's atmosphere plays host to nitrogen, methane, and carbon monoxide. There may even be wind on the surface of Pluto.

In conclusion, just remember: Pluto is still a planet - just a dwarf planet.

Image from zmescience

Friday, October 12, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Nibiru

Day 9: Nibiru

Nibiru is a special planet. The reason? Because it's imaginary. It's an imaginary planet that is supposed to collide with Earth in, oh, give or take two months (December 12, 2012). This sneaky planet has decided to do a flyby of Earth, causing us to stop orbiting for five days and switch magnetic poles. The oceans would then migrate to the poles, creating two polar oceans and one giant center continent. And a day would be the length of an entire year - unless of course the planet started spinning again after five days, in which case the oceans would wander back to their original locations and Daylight savings time would be pushed back a few days.

Nibiru is a hoax. But Nibiru would make a great science fiction TV series, if anyone is interested. Maybe I'll write a book - Incoming Planet. Watch your nearest 

As for what Nibiru looks like, I did a simple image search It's quite lovely. It looks like a marble: 

And it comes from a really reliable-looking website.

This one is a "real photo" from NASA, found on

And if you're still dying for evidence, check out this one. You can't deny that this is a real picture:

For more information on this impending disaster, you can read this article, the Wikipedia page, or the news.

In conclusion, Nibiru is going to be great fun.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Mars

Day 8: Mars, the Red Planet

Mars is an intriguing planet to us here on Earth. When Giovanni Shiaparelli was first trying to make a map of Mars in the late 1800s, he saw through his telescope lines on surface of the planet which he called canali. He thought they were ditches dug for water. This caused people to believe that there were aliens on Mars. This, however, has not yet proven to be true, but culture still clings to the hope that life may exist outside of our solar system - or quite frankly inside it, but not in a necessarily recognizable form.

Mars is an intriguing planet, as I said, largely because we've got robots up there! The most recent rover, the Curiosity, is the size of an SUV, and the pictures she is sending back are incredible. A robot laboratory on wheels, Curiosity landed in August 2012, and is working to discover if life ever existed on Mars.

Mars is one of the most studied planets with several rovers such as Spirit and Opportunity roving about its surface. Hundreds of pictures have been beamed back - everything to the falling of a rover through the air, close-ups of the planet from space, and images of the mountains and desert from the ground. Mars has piqued the interest of humans for centuries.

In addition, there is recent talk of inhabiting Mars. From Elon Musk's statement to colonize it, to the Mars-One program which intends to make a TV show out of it, colonizing Mars seems to be the next giant idea. We just have to get the general population on board - and then just do it.

In conclusion, Mars is intriguing - let's get up there. It's only a 9 month trip! Our ancestors did way more than that when they colonized the US. I think it would be an amazing adventure.

Pictures from NASA.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

31 Days of Planets: Magrathea

Day 7: Magrathea

Magrathea is a great planet, although it is mostly asleep. Located in the Horsehead Nebula, in orbit around the twin suns Soulianis and Rahm, this planet is the home of an important economic industry: luxury planet-building. During the days of the Galactic Empire, this planet designed and built planets for the wealthiest people in the universe. 

Magrathea should be extremely important to humans. Why, you ask? Because Magrathea designed and built Earth. In fact, Earth is actually a computer set on determining the answer to the life, the universe, and everything. 

This is the planet that created us: 

Hi Mom. 
Isn't she lovely?

For more information on Magrathea, read Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or watch the movie. Or the TV series. It's all over the place. Douglas Adams is the man.

Picture from The Hitchhikers Wiki.