March 17, 2016 Jupiter impact

This is just cool:

Jupiter is basically the solar sweeper.  We keep pondering what would happen to Earth after a major impact, Jupiter gets them all the time.  Although you’ll see some discoloring in the Jovian atmosphere, it never seems worse for the impact.  If it weren’t for Jupiter, Earth would get hit a LOT more often.  Life wouldn’t exist as we know it.  So, when you think astronomy’s not important, think again.

BTW, that video was shot by an amateur, John McKeon.  Pretty dang cool.

Comet P/2016 BA14

An insignificant, but fairly close asteroid, turned into a 3,000 foot wide comet, grazing Earth at a record close distance. Actually close enough for ground based telescopes to get some pretty neat images of it:

Which always makes me wonder, if we can’t really detect a half-mile wide comet grazing the Earth with any real idea of how big it is, which directly determines how big a threat it is to us, then MAYBE we should invest in technology that would allow us to do a better job doing that than, oh, guessing at life on planets billions of miles away.

Another Close Call

Astronomers spotted an asteroid this week after it had flown past Earth on a course that took it so close to the planet it was below the orbits of some satellites.

The space rock was relatively small, however, and would not have posed any danger had it plunged into the atmosphere.

The object, named 2004 YD5, was about 16 feet (5 meters) wide, though that’s a rough estimate based on its distance and assumed reflectivity. Had it entered the atmosphere, it would have exploded high up, experts figure.

It never ceases to amaze me how often I read this story.  We discover something after it passes.  Granted this one wasn’t very big, but some have.

We need to spend more efforts on near Earth objects and less on worrying what youthful galaxies are made of.  The problem with science in general right now is they keep asking for more money on everything while not giving up any on projects that don’t yield any real return.  Bush is promising to tighten the purse strings, the science community needs to prioritize, not just just blanket requesting everything.

#1 priority in my opinion is the safety of Earth.

What is a Moon?

We now have the most impressive picture ever taken of Phobos, which circles Mars.

It’s a rock.  Nothing but a rock.  Granted it’s a big rock.  But, it’s still just a rock.  Is that a moon?  Is anything that orbits a planet truly a moon?  Is there some more definitive definition of a moon?  By the existing definition, Earth has probably 8,000 moons by now, with 7,999 being man-made objects.

That’s an asteroid called “Annefrank”.  It looks a lot like Phobos.  If “Annefrank” suddenly started circling a planet, it would no longer be an asteroid, it would be a moon.  So, you could come to the conclusion that moons are objects that serve no other purpose than to just circle a planet.  However:

That’s Titan, which circles Saturn.  It’s got color, it’s got an atmosphere, and taking a leap of faith, it could support life.

That’s the surface of Europa, which circles Jupiter.  That’s ice you see there, evidence of the basic element needed to support life.  Speculation is life might exist under the frozen shell.

And Io, which looks a lot like a planet.  Less likely to support life, but still has a lot of features a planet would.

What I’m leading to is physically the only difference in definition between a moon and a planet is what it orbits.  That worked fine 100 years ago, but in lieu of being able to actually visit these places, and becoming very familiar with the differences moons have, I would like to see a better definition of what constitutes moons and planets.  If there’s life out there, who cares what it orbits?  To me a moon is something not likely to support life, a planet should have some physical characteristics to define it could support life, such as an atmosphere.  Io and Europa are more of a planet than they are a moon.  Annefrank is as much a moon as Phobos is.  When someone says something is a moon, I’d like to have a clear visualization and expectation of what it is.  If they say something’s a planet, I’d like to know I could get excited about it.

Just another useless rant from Moon, who has a lot of atmosphere.