If you love talking about Solar System science (and if you read this blog, it seems statistically likely), consider applying to become a Solar System Ambassador. In this program, sponsored by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), volunteers speak about current research in their communities.
- We haven’t found life on any other world (yet), but there are plenty of alien-to-human environments here on Earth. Caleb Scharf describes organisms found near a “white smoker”, an undersea volcanic vent that produces carbon dioxide so highly compressed that it’s a liquid.
- From the Annals of Improbable Research: the physics of ducks’ feet, based on a paper entitled “Characteristics of vortex formation and thrust performance in drag-based paddling propulsion”. Be kind to your web-footed friends.
- Did the Solar System originally have a fifth Jovian planet? (podcast) Planet formation simulations have had some difficulty in reproducing the number and location of planets we actually have, but one model found if you load the dice to make five big planets, one gets ejected from the Solar System to wander forever alone through the galaxy.
On that note, we don’t have a good name for planet-like objects that aren’t currently orbiting a star — even though these objects are now known to be very common. Ironically, “planet” is derived from the Greek word for “wanderer”, since they wander across the field of stars in the geocentric model. Now astronomers have found objects that really fit the definition of a wanderer, but calling them “planets” seems inappropriate, since orbiting a star (not just the Sun) is a common requirement in modern definitions for planets. So, what do we call these objects? “Planet-like object” is too clunky; “planetoid” is already in use. Any suggestions?