Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Perfect

I have always been kind of an astronomy nut. Not astrology, astronomy. Though I do often read my horoscope just for fun.

The public school system in the town I grew up in had *gasp* leveling. I know, it’s so bizarre now. As if splitting the smart kids, the average kids, and the dumb kids into separate classes would make people feel bad. I think it makes them feel better, on both accounts, plus it doesn’t cause the smart kids to literally fall asleep with their eyes open.

Anyway…

There was a program called SWEPT that was for smart kids. In elementary school, once a week, we would get bussed across town to have study time with other smart kids from the other elementary schools. We did group study and research on fun things like the Oregon Trail. We made things and wrote things and played games on the computer. And no one slowed us down. It was awesome.

In middle school, they just has the program on-site. The SWEPT kids were scheduled into a common “study hall” period, where we worked in teams and separately on research projects of our own design. I don’t remember all three of mine from middle school. I know I did one on Broadway music, and the other was on Jupiter.

I couldn’t have picked a better year to study Jupiter. I don’t know how many of you care particularly much about our Solar System, but maybe you remember the fragmented comet that crashed into the surface of Jupiter. Shoemaker-Levy 9 was named after the astronomers who found it. It caused a reasonably large stir, even in mainstream media, because people realized that star-stuff can totally smack into other star-stuff – something could smack into Earth. But in this case, the broken bits of comet were heading for Jupiter.

Initially, my research centered on the moons of Jupiter, which still fascinate me. Europa could totally have life on it, and Io’s electromagnetic-ness is exciting. (Real scientists should please forgive my naive understanding of all things astronomy. It’s a fascination for me, not a life study.) But when the Shoemaker-Levy 9 news got my attention, I was totally on it.

I’m pretty sure this was my first exposure to that “Internet” thingy. I used the color printer at school to slowly (very slowly) print out pictures of Jupiter and the comet. Pictures from Hubble adorned my research notebook and the walls of my bedroom. I, with the help of books by actual astronomers, guessed at what was beneath the visible layers of Jupiter’s atmosphere. My final project was to design a probe that could be sent into Jupiter’s atmosphere for further study. I built it out of a box that previously held cookies, and a huge amount of tin foil. It was really neat.

That summer, when the collision actually happened, I paid attention to every news source, watched every minute of coverage on PBS, and was thoroughly distracted from any other normal summer activities by it. It was really awesome to see my (I mean, the astronomers I decided to agree with) theories proven correct when the comet blew holes in the outer layers. And even cooler when NASA announced that they were planning to send a probe to Jupiter to check out the atmosphere. (Has that happened yet? I don’t know. I should look that up!)

So, now you know the back story of why I care about star-sciencey-things.

Today, when I was doing my morning perusal of boston.com, I came across this article [Note: You may need to sign up for a free subscription to read this article]. No, it’s not about Jupiter, but it is about planets. Well, technically dwarf planets. I’m super excited to find that the astronomers responsible for naming Eris have a sense of humor and of tradition. I like it.

I was going to say something about how the number of female planets has gone up by one, but I just realized… no it hasn’t. There are now 2 female planets, 6 male planets, 1 female dwarf planet, and 2 male dwarf planets. But that’s cool. Our solar system has better odds than WPI!

September 15th, 2006 • 8:47 am • dinane • Posted in Life, Science5 Comments »
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