Sunday, April 29, 2007

i love this stuff

In the end, I did attend the course lecture at the Adler on Wednesday and I'm glad I did. (Thanks for the encouragement, Sarah) I learned some pretty cool things.

Titled, "At the Edge: Pluto, Plutinos, and the Kuiper Belt," the lecturer's presentation examined how planets have been defined in the past and how they are now, especially following the IAU's much publicized proclamation on the properties of planethood last year. So, following the IAU's decision the scientific community reached a consensus that there are 8 official planets. Pluto has been deemed a dwarf planet. It has 2 out of 3 of the characteristics needed to become a planet.

Plutinos, I learned, are celestial bodies similar to Pluto but smaller.

TNO or Trans-Neptunian Objects are bodies beyond Neptune.

The Kuiper Belt is the vast dense zone of bodies beyond the orbit of Neptune.

Centaurs are objects roaming between Saturn and Neptune. They may have originated in the Kuiper Belt.

Finally, the Oort Cloud is believed (much of this is theoretical) to surround the solar system. Its objects may have existed originally around Jupiter, but over time moved outward. The distances to the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud are so vast that the scale is very difficult to fathom.

I found myself taking a pause in bewilderment at the data told to us by the lecturer. I knew the solar system was gigantic, but after learning the particulars about the vastness of its outer most regions I'm at a loss for words. And that's just our solar system. Forget about the galaxy. This stuff is amazing, breathtaking and moreover, humbling. I love it.


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