Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Post #200 - a milestone!

We can hardly believe that this is our 200th entry onto our little blog! It seems like I should say something particularly poignant or profound - instead you have me!

We read some interesting news regarding the State of Illinois and what is considered by the astronomical community to be the ugly, redheaded, stepchild - Pluto. Mind you, if you read back in our posts, you will see that I am a firm Pluto supporter - it is still a planet to me! But, there are those who will present very different opinions on that subject. However, I am very proud to say that the State of Illinios came to it's senses for at least one day!
LRB096 04130 KXB 14171 r
2 WHEREAS, Clyde Tombaugh, discoverer of the planet Pluto,
3 was born on a farm near the Illinois community of Streator; and
4 WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh served as a researcher at the
5 prestigious Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona; and
6 WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh first detected the presence of Pluto
7 in 1930; and
8 WHEREAS, Dr. Tombaugh is so far the only Illinoisan and
9 only American to ever discover a planet; and
10 WHEREAS, For more than 75 years, Pluto was considered the
11 ninth planet of the Solar System; and
12 WHEREAS, A spacecraft called New Horizons was launched in
13 January 2006 to explore Pluto in the year 2015; and
14 WHEREAS, Pluto has three moons: Charon, Nix and Hydra; and
15 WHEREAS, Pluto's average orbit is more than three billion
16 miles from the sun; and
17 WHEREAS, Pluto was unfairly downgraded to a "dwarf" planet

- 2 -
LRB096 04130 KXB 14171 r
1 in a vote in which only 4 percent of the International
2 Astronomical Union's 10,000 scientists participated; and
3 WHEREAS, Many respected astronomers believe Pluto's full
4 planetary status should be restored; therefore, be it
7 overhead through Illinois' night skies, that it be
8 reestablished with full planetary status, and that March 13,
9 2009 be declared "Pluto Day" in the State of Illinois in honor
10 of the date its discovery was announced in 1930.

Yippie-yi-ya!!!! This, of course, made my day - when Dean read the article to me from the New York Times! Since Pluto Day is two days from my birthday it will be easy for me to remember and celebrate every year!

Other things "in the news" here: The bougainvillea that I planted (a bit prematurely, perhaps) and thought had frozen to death are not only alive, but blooming! Also today I saw a little rosebud emerging from one of the rose bushes I planted at the same time as the bougainvillea! Spring is springing, even here! Of course, if you don't live in Arizona you think that we have 100F temperatures every day (not true, it's 59F right now), cactus everywhere (true), and flowers blooming all of the time (partly true). There are seasonal flowers, and the trees bloom in the Spring. Our orange tree (which seems to be some sort of growth challenged thing) is blooming like crazy -though it never seems to produce fruit or grow taller. The orange blossoms are so sweet smelling though, it's like the entire out of doors is being perfumed! We took a little walk around the neighborhood last evening and enjoyed seeing cactus starting to bloom, as well as cats claw, and assorted ground covers beginning their bloom. It's nice to have some color popping up in our own back yard! Friend Jane has made some great suggestions for other plantings in the yard, and Dean found a "Plants for Dry Climates" book that was stashed in one of our bookcases. I see more plantings in the future!

I failed to mention, previously, that Dean gave me a zoom eyepiece for my telescope, for my birthday! I LOVE it! We got to try it out the night we took Carolyn observing, and what a joy to not have to change eyepieces! I'm particularly excited about having it now as I am getting ready to participate in the All-Arizona Messier Marthon this coming weekend! I have Dean's old study guide (he's found all 110 objects on his own during a previous marathon), as well a nice map of all of the objects. We have also been getting my telescope ready (getting it wired for power from one of Dean's big batteries, also learning more about the capabilities of my telescope), and I'm 'pumped up' for this! Please take the time to follow the link to read about the marathon, it should be great fun!

Last evening we attended another of the Steward Observatory's free public astronomy lectures. The topic was images of planets around other stars, presented by Laird Close, PhD of the U of A. It was a very interesting lecture and presentation, showing pictures taken of planets that have been discovered in the past 6 months. No evidence, yet, of another tiny blue planet like ours - but the possibilities are out there! One of my favorite pictures were shown during the presentation - Saturn, with Earth visible in the far distance. I have intentionally left this picture large (when you click on it) so that you can see the earth in the full sized image. Click on the image and scroll to the left side of the rings of Saturn. I have marked/indicated our Earth there for you. In the image shown at the lecture last night there was a zoom in of the Earth, from Saturn, and we could even see our Moon! One of the points made by the speaker was (while looking at the image on the screen) that this is the only place we have been in the universe....makes you feel pretty vulnerable and fragile, doesn't it? It's a stunning image, and one used by many astronomy media...sadly, Dean did not take this picture. The rest of my favorite pictures are from Dean, of course! After the lecture we were joined by new friends, Donna and Mike (who also attended the lecture) to take some looks through the 21" telescope in the Steward Observatory dome on the U of A (go Wildcats!) campus. We had some nice views, though the seeing wasn't particularly good last night. It's always fun to look through a big telescope, we rarely pass up that opportunity! If you ever have the change to look through a big telescope, do it! Don't be afraid - astronomers rarely bite, and when they do it's usually "love bites"!


Andrew Cooper said...

Congratulations on 200 posts! You always have to wonder when you start a blog, where will it go? will you keep at it for the long run?

I have a little trouble with the Illinois resolution. It comes close to crossing the line and letting politicians determine scientific decisions. Shall we let them determine other issues through a vote... Pi=3? The speed of light is 100,000 miles per second? Life begins at conception? The Earth is 6000 years old?

Have fun at the marathon, I remember my times at AAMM fondly. Deb an I will be marathoning with the Hilo and WHAC clubs at the Mauna Kea VIS.

Melinda said...

I think the Illinois resolution is recognizing Clyde Tombaugh, a son of Illinois, for his achievements - most notably being the only American to discover a planet. While that may seem like crossing the line, I still have problems with the concept of proclaiming something one way for 50 years or more - and then suddenly 4% of the overseeing consenus decides "oh, gee, maybe not." Granted, there are objects much larger and more 'planetlike' than Pluto - then declare them planets as well and add them to the books. Don't take away the status of one though! Pluto has always been a favorite of mine, can you tell??
Have fun at the marathon too! I've been preping my scope and think I'm just about ready!

Laurel Kornfeld said...

There is only ONE currently known object in the Kuiper Belt larger than Pluto, and that is Eris. Both should be considered planets, as both are in a state of hydrostatic equilibrium, meaning they are large enough to have been pulled into a round shape by their own gravity. This is a characteristic of planets and not of shapeless asteroids and rocks. It is why hundreds of professional astronomers led by Dr. Alan Stern, Principal Investigator of NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto, immediately opposed the IAU demotion and are fighting it to this day. Illinois is right; Pluto IS a planet.

ratskrad said...

Hi Melinda,

Just wanted to say that Donna and I had fun talking with you and Dean and going up into the dome at Steward Observatory to look through the 21" telescope.

Good luck this weekend with the All-Arizona Messier Marathon, kinda wish I was doing it myself.