Now Cough

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Out and About

Mother Visits Every...

I guess we'll have to change the pneumonic for remembering the order of the planets from the Sun:

Mother visits every Monday just stays until noon period ... 2003 UB313. Yup, it appears there is a new planet beyond Pluto. A few things worth noting:

  • Is it just me, or has this been waaay underplayed? I mean, a NEW planet for goodness sake. That, from initial observations is larger than Pluto.

  • What is a planet anyway? This one was discovered in Kuiper Belt, a heavily populated area beyond what we normally think off as the solar system where minor planets, asteroids and such buzz around in big chunks like bees. This one seems different from the small fries: its orbit is clearly around the sun, it is a relatively large mass but it is not within the existing flat orbital plane of the other planets. This planet orbits at a reported 44-degree angle ABOVE the traditional orbital plane.

  • This is far out there. 2003 UB313 ranges from 97 AU (astronomical units) to 36 AU from the Sun. An AU is a standard measurement equal to how far Earth is from the Sun--about 93,000,000 miles. So, at its apogee it is 9017-million miles from the Sun; at perigee 3346-million miles.

  • 2003 UB313 orbits the Sun every 560 years.

    Is it Safe

    I wouldn't want to be on the space shuttle now in orbit, even in good circumstances. But now with rising concerns about the safety of the launch because something fell off the big orange rocket booster, you have to wonder if NASA really knows what it is doing.

    Last Tuesday morning, NASA's contention that it had produced the safest fuel tank in shuttle history was shattered two minutes into the flight of the Discovery. Two spacewalking astronauts tested repair techniques yesterday.

    The 0.9-pound piece of foam that fell from the PAL ramp on liftoff, which could have led to another catastrophe if it had ripped away a minute sooner, forced the immediate suspension of future shuttle flights until the problem could be resolved.
    -- Misjudgments Led to Latest Fuel Tank Woes for Space Shuttle The New York Times, Sat. July 30 (reg. required)

    But are the astronauts are less safe than the rest of us on planet Earth? Maybe I would prefer to be in orbit now, rather than England. Frankly, the whole things scares the bejesus out of me. I am impressed with the police investigations, rounding up the bombers, etc.

    George Bush and company have hit the bees nest of extremists in the Middle East and now all of us will get stung. Not smart.


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