Tag Archives: planets

Spacetime!

Spacetime will suck up all your time...and space!

Spacetime will suck up all your time...and space!

Charae and Bryce take us on a trip into spacetime, with a song about everything they’ve learned from Astrofacts, to the tune of Rihanna’s Disturbia.

Listen here [2:50m]:

Download here [2.7 Mb]: ftp://space.mit.edu/pub/ajb/radiopio/astrofacts_090730_spacetime.mp3

What’s the Facts:

Charae & Bryce have put together a song that’s rich in astrofacts. Let’s break down the lyrics to see what they will encounter on their trip into spacetime.

Lyrics:

Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Neptune, Uranus, Plut-
Whao! Hold up. Not Pluto.
What?!? Not Pluto?
Yeah, Not Pluto.
I’m goin’ crazy now

Here’s our planets of the Solar System, up to Pluto, which has been “reclassified” as a dwarf planet.  Pluto might be feeling a bit down about it, and plenty of people are not happy either!  By the way, Neptune comes after Uranus, our mistake!

To the moon in this ship,
We’re gonna get it started,
Fuel tanks filled to the rim,
Discover the uncharted,
Breaking through atmospheres,
It’s not for the fainthearted,
We’re gonna go into space, yeah

Want to go into space?  Be prepared for an explosive ride!  You only need enough force to overcome Earth’s gravitational pull to go toward space – which you can do briefly by jumping!  But to sustain the upward trajectory requires lots of fuel and thrust.  The rockets that carry the Space Shuttle have a combined thrust of 13 million Newtons – 20,000 times the force you exert when jumping – to lift the 4.5 million pounds (2 million kg) that hold 7 lucky astronauts!

It’s real hot on the Sun,
Forgot my sunscreen,

It’s definitely hot on the Sun – 9,800 degrees Farenheit! That’s so hot that everything is essentially evaporized on the surface, and atoms are even stripped of their electrons to form a 4th state of matter called plasma.

The day’s long here on Mars,
I need some caffeine,

A day on Mars take 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds – about 3% longer than that of Earth.  So it’ a little longer, but you’ll adjust.

2.9 times 10 to the 13
Miles a minute, I’m carsick.

That’s a pretty big number, and  one would hazard to guess that it’s the speed of light.  However, the speed of light is only about 11 million miles per minute.  290,000,000,000,000 miles is about 5 light-years, a little further than the nearest star to the Sun, Alpha Centauri.  If you could do that in a minute, you would certainly be carsick!

We’re in great heights,
In one of Saturn’s rings, yeah
You ain’t go bling like mine,
Meteors made for kings,
We watch the stars shine,
From Polaris to Betelgeuse,
The universe is mine.

Some of the most beautiful things in our Universe! Saturn’s rings are definite bling, comprised of small particles of water ice and dust that are extremely reflective – that’s why Saturn it so bright despite being further from the Sun than JupiterMeteors are of course another dazzling night sky event, while Polaris (the North Star, in the constellation Ursa Minor, or Little Bear) and Betelgeuse (in Orion’s armpit!) are two of the brightest stars in the sky.

We’re all in Space-time,
Two words in one continuum,
Space-time,
1, 2, 3, 4 Dimensions,
Your mind’s in Space-time
Beyond comprehension,
Space-time, Space-time.

Space-time is that idea of three-dimensional space (length, width and height) combined with one-dimensional time as the “framework” of the Universe.  You probably already think this way, as in “I need to get to the third floor of the building on the corner of Main and 1st Avenue at 3pm”.  These dimensions appear to be completely separate in our slow, small-scale world, but when you travel close to the speed of light, or near a massive object like a black hole, Einstein’s theory of general relativity tells us that the continuum of space and time can get mixed up, resulting in some bizarre effects!

There’s a guy in the sky,
His names Orion,
Not a man, he’s made of stars,
Emitting carbon.

This refers to the massive giant star Betelgeuse in Orion, which is currently losing mass and size as it sheds its outer atmospheric layers.  It will eventually supernova, releasing many elements such as carbon into space.  It is all part of the cycle of life in the Universe, as the elements shed from stars like Betelgeuse when they die make their way to form other stars, planets and even people!

Acid rain falls,
It burns my eyeballs.
Venus lighting strobe light.

Remember our weather report from Venus?  Acid rain doesn’t quite make it the surface of the planet, but there are plenty of lightning strikes that might make the surface of Venus feel like a disco!

Lots of holes out in space,
They try to grab you,
They can creep up behind you and consume you,
Not even light can escape,
Nothing can breakthrough,
Spa-ghe-tti-fi-ca-tion.

Black holes are the massive remnants of stars that are so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape being swallowed up. If you’re not careful you’ll get pulled into it and never come out again.  And on the way in you’ll get stretched out long and slender, like spaghetti. That’s called spaghettification!

We’re in great heights,
In on of Saturn’s rings, yeah
You ain’t go bling like mine,
Meteors made for kings,
We watch the stars shine,
From Polaris to Betelgeuse,
The universe is mine.

We’re all in Space-time,
Two words in one continuum,
Space-time,
1, 2, 3, 4 Dimensions,
Your mind’s in Space-time,
Beyond comprehension,
Space-time, Space-time.

Lyrics by Charae and Bryce

Pluto’s Answering Machine

The first step to acceptance is surprise, the second denial, the third depression, and soon to come, anger.

Pluto has experienced denial, then anger, then bargaining, now depression. Hopefully soon will come acceptance.

Recently Pluto‘s been feeling a little blue due to his demotion to a dwarf planet. His buddy Eris is there to show him the brighter side.

Listen here [0:39m]:

What’s the facts:

Pluto was discovered in 1930 (accidentally) by Clyde W. Tombaugh in Arizona during a sky survey at the Lowell Observatory. It is composed primarily of rock and ice and is significantly smaller than the other 8 planets: approximately a fifth the mass of the Earth’s Moon and a third its volume. It is much smaller than any of the official planets and has been recently classified as a “dwarf planet“. This happened largely due to the resent discovery of a larger dwarf planet named Eris, by Dr. Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology. Eris opened the possibility that there may be many bodies of similar size. Scientists decided voted to consider the planets’ differences in size, orbit, and location as a criteria for a new classification, with objects like Pluto and Eris belonging to a special category of Kuiper Belt objects referred to as dwarf planets (but there is clearly debate on that decision, see comment below!). Click here to learn more about Pluto’s new classification.

Original air date 23 June 2009.

Uranus – what’s with the name?

Uranus stinks!

Uranus stinks!

Yer Anus?!? Did she just say what I think she said? Oh I see. Uranus! Well, you should have just said so in the first place! Makena and Charae’ ask Professor B about some of the characteristics of Uranus as they look at it through their binoculars. You can learn a lot from just looking at the sky from your backyard.

Listen here [3:36m]:

What’s the facts:

Uranus was discovered by William Herschel, in 1781. This planet is strange to the solar system in many ways. Though most planets rotate on an axis perpendicular to it’s elliptical orbit around the Sun, Uranus’ axis is nearly parallel to it, so it’s rolling like a barrel on its side. Uranus is composed primarily of rock and various ices, and its atmosphere is about 83% hydrogen, 15% helium and 2% methane. The methane (a chemical that’s also in cigarettes, yuck!) in Uranus’ upper atmosphere absorbs red light and reflects blue light, giving the planet a blue appearance. Uranus has 27 fascinating moons, named mostly afters Shakespeare characters and a complicated ring systemOne year on Uranus is the equivalent to about 84 years on Earth, but it’s day (rotation around it’s axis) is only a little more than 17 Earth-hours. Careful pronunciation may be necessary to avoid embarrassment; say “YOOR a nus” , not “your anus” or “urine us”.

Original air date 4 April 2009.

Saturn floats!

Life preserver not required

Life preserver not required

A floating planet?  Sure, if you can find an ocean big enough!  Charae and Professor B compare the density of Saturn to water and discover that the ringed planet could also be – a life preserving ring!

Listen here [3:00m]:

What’s the facts?

Density – which is the total mass of an object divided by its total volume – is an important measure for planets, telling us what they are made of, even if we can’t actually look inside them.  The planets of the Solar System can be roughly sorted into ones made mostly of rock (like Earth), ones made mostly of ice (like Pluto) and ones made mostly of gas (like Saturn).  And just as rock is denser than ice, which is denser than gas, the rocky planets are the most dense and gas planets the least dense.  In fact, a planet like Saturn, which is mostly made up of the two lightest elements Hydrogen and Helium, has a density that is lower than water, which is conveniently about 1 gram/cubic centimeter.  This is despite the fact that Saturn has 95 times more mass than Earth; its mass is just spread out over a very large volume.  Earth, by the way, is the densest planet, with a core of solid iron that helps to power a magnetic field that surrounds our planet, keeping us safe from energetic particles from the Sun.  So it turns out to be good to live on a dense planet – something to keep in mind when we are searching for other worlds to live on!

Original air date 4 April 2009.

Intergalactic Weather Channel: It’s Hot on Mercury

Bring sunscreen!

Bring sunscreen!

Intergalactic Weather Channel’s Trisha Takanawa and Ricardo Busamonte report on the continuing heat wave gripping Mercury this summer – and every summer. Don’t forget your water!

Listen here [1:44m]:

What’s the facts?

Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun, orbiting at an average distance of only 58 million kilometers (about 36 million miles).  That’s about 1/3 the distance between the Sun and the Earth, so Mercury gets roughly 9 times as much Solar radiation.  Mercury also spins exactly 3 times around for every 2 orbits, which means that a Mercury day (noon to noon) takes just as long as a Mercury year (for an explanation why, see this link).  So the surface of Mercury can get very hot in the daytime, with temperatures as high as 425 degrees Celsius (800 degrees Fahrenheit).  But when it finally does become night – after 88 days! – the temperatures can get as cold as -160 degrees Celsius (-260 degrees Fahrenheit).  Don’t worry Ricardo, relief is on the way!

Original air date 2 July 2009.

There’s a Rumor About Mars…

Are Mars & Earth an item?

Are Mars & Earth an item?

Whoa snap!  Rumors are swirling!  Word on the street is that red-hot Mars and cool-cat Earth have been getting closer…. but are the rumors true?  And is red the new black?  Chuck Abuck at Planet Magazine cuts through the hype with an exclusive interview with Mars himself!    [1:40m]

Listen here:

What’s the facts?

Sorry folks, the rumors are false.  Every year around August emails circulate about the impending close approach of Mars, when it will appear to be “as large as the Moon in the sky.”  It is true that in August 2003 Mars did have its closest approach to Earth in about 60,000 years, passing within 56 million kilometers (35 million miles) of our planet.  This made Mars slightly larger and brighter than usual, but nowhere near the size or brightness of the Moon, which is only 380,000 kilometers (235,000 miles) away.    For some reason, this event is reported as happening every year, but really, it was soooo 2003.

Original air date 23 June 2009.

Do you have Phobos Phobia?

Don't Panic!

Don't Panic!

Do you have an irrational and overwhelming fear of Phobos smashing into Mars? You may not be alone… [0:25m]

Listen here:

What’s the facts?

Phobos is one of two irregularly shaped moons in orbit around Mars; the other is named Deimos.  Phobos orbits once every 7 1/2 hours around Mars at a height of only 9377 kilometers (about 5800 miles) above the surface of Mars. In comparison, the Moon orbits once every 27 days at a height of 385,000 kilometers (about 239,000 miles).  So Phobos is 40 times closer to Mars than the Moon is to the Earth, which might make a Martian claustrophobic!  Incidentally, the name Phobos comes from the Greek god of fear!

Original air date 19 June 2009.