Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Pluto & Company

Sometimes, reading science fills my imagination.
Remember when Pluto was declared NOT a planet? Mercury is also tiny, I objected. Turns out, Pluto’s diameter is half of Mercury’s. They are both small, but that is a significant difference. Still, they have decided Pluto IS a planet, although they stuck ‘dwarf’ in front. I didn’t realize that until today.
Pluto has a moon. Charon is big enough, compared to Pluto, that it doesn’t revolve around Pluto; they both revolve around a point between them. Weird. I don’t know of any other planet & moon that does that. Today, I discovered Pluto has 4 additional moons. Way to go, Pluto!
There are other dwarf planets in our system, way out in the nether regions, so Pluto is not alone. At least 3 have names. Our system has more planets than the 9 I grew up learning about.
Pluto has an atmosphere. What? How can it? It’s so tiny, so little gravity, so cold- Some times. When Pluto gets closer to the sun (it comes within Neptune’s orbit), some of the surface thaws into a thin atmosphere, mostly nitrogen with methane and carbon monoxide for flavor. When it’s not that close, that atmosphere freezes and falls to the ground.
In 2006, NASA launched a probe for Pluto. It woke up in December 2014, and is seeing if it needs to correct its trajectory. In July 2015, it will reach a point 6,000 miles from Pluto, and it will snap pictures and take readings as fast as it can. At some point after that, it will send its observations to Earth. Just think, if you had snuck onto that spacecraft just before it launched, you’d... Well, you’d be dead, because it wasn’t built for passengers, but your body would almost be there to not see it for yourself!
The most interesting bit of today’s research was that frozen dwarf planets may be the most numerous type of planet in the universe. Really? I figure we should set up bases on/in ours. Why would we want to? Once we figure out how to colonize Pluto and its cohorts, we would know how to colonize frozen dwarf planets in other systems; to study, to serve as a base, a stepping stone.
Yeah, when I dream, I can dream big. I got that from the science fiction I read as a kid.

What do you think? If you were designing a colony for Pluto, would you build on the surface or dig inside?

No comments:

Post a Comment