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What Makes a Planet?

Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has been touted as the ninth planet in our solar system, though its always been an tenuous title. From the beginning, doubts about whether or not it should be considered a major planet have been in discussion by**astronomers. That status seemed even more in jeopardy with the discovery of Charon, Pluto’s largest moon that could almost be considered a planet in its own right, along with other icy objects *near the kuiper belt *that seemed to share similar characteristics to Pluto*. *Some of those objects are even more massive than the tiny planet. It wasn’t until 2006, however, that it’s grasp on the title of ‘major planet’ was lost.

The International Astronomical Union (or IAU) officially sat down in 2006 to discuss what characteristics defined a body so that it could be categorized as a ‘planet’. Before that, there was no specific definition for a ‘planet’. So what is a planet? According to the IAU, a planet is a heavenly object that orbits the sun and is round thanks to its personal force of gravity. That’s not all – a planet also has to ‘dominate’ its own neighborhood. One of the sticking points seems to be the size of Pluto in relation to its moon. Most planets dwarf their moons, but Pluto is only about twice the size of its largest moon. Another definition is that planets keep their neighborhood clean by ‘sweeping up’ debris that enters their orbit. Pluto’s neighborhood has some work to do when it comes to that.

This definition is still under scrutiny by many astronomers by those who don’t agree. A proposal that would have sethe bar lower and allowed Pluto to retain its status – but also would have meant reclassifying dozens of other bodies that should be called ‘planets’ under its definition. Despite protests, however, the IAU stands behind its decision to reclassify what was once our smallest planet. Mike Brown, Professor of Planetary Astronomy at the California Institute of Technology states that by keeping the definition so narrow, “Finding a new planet will really mean something.” You can learn more about the decision to officially definite a planet here:
http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/08/060824-pluto-planet.html


A Diamond Is An Astronaut’s Best Friend

Ah, jewels. They come in all colours, shapes, and sizes. My particular favourite is one that’s considered on semi precious – the ever lovely, ever purple Amethyst. It probably doesn’t hurt that it’s my birthstone. Most people are familiar with that, but also stones that tend to be more desirable. Rubies, sapphires, emeralds, they are all beautiful and considered precious. When one thinks of expensive jewels and precious stones, however, usually it’s the diamond that comes first to mind.


Andromeda In The Sky

The ‘Milky Way’, home to our own solar system in which Earth resides, is enormous. How big is it? If you’re talking about diameter, why that would be right around 100,000 light years. Yeah, that’s big – and Star Trek has focused on the fictional exploration of this massive galaxy. To get a sense of how expansive the Milky Way is, Voyager’s return from its position in the Delta quadrant was estimated as seventy years en route. In our own canon, there are various parts of the Milky Way being explored as we write our own stories in this fascinating Universe. The Milky Way is not, however, the only galaxy in the Universe.


International Space Station: 15 years old!

In November of 2013, humanity’s first international effort to place mankind in permanent orbit above our planet was accomplished. On the back of a Proton type rocket, the first segment of an ambitious endeavour was launched and placed 230 miles (370 km) above the planet’s surface. Since then, the International Space Station has accomplished hundreds of scientific mission and has made breakthroughs in the way we understand the universe.

Originally born in the murky times of the 1980s and the cold war, The I.S.S. started out as a the Freedom project to counteract the Soviet Mir station and in 1984 the European Space Agency was invited to participate. It was not until 1993, that Vice President Al Gore and Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin announced the creation of “international” space station.
Since the first module was launched in November of 1998, fifteen countries have participated in building the station and over a thousand experiments have been run by the many scientific modules that had been included. It has been considered one of the first and best examples of national cooperation as many of the different sections were funded and built by a nation. Even with it’s six man multi-national crew, the station is considered one of the most important pieces to space exploration that is presently in operation.

The International Space Station was originally only designed with a lifespan of a few years, but has broken records by being in use today. Even now, plans are in the work for the breakdown of the station and de-orbit of some pieces while others will be the building blocks for a new nation that would lead the way in to the first manned missions into the solar system. No matter the fate of this famous station, it’s contributions to the scientific community and as monument to the mutual cooperation, the importance of this station will not soon be forgotten.


The Case Of The Mysterious Stone

In the original Star Trek series, there were several alien beings that would appear or disappear at will and without the use of a teleporter. We don’t have that ability in the real world, but it seems that a certain rock on a certain red planet might.


Somewhere Over The Rainbow

For years, scientists have touted the big bang theory as the most likely candidate for the creation of the universe and this is where time began – somewhere around 13.8 billion years ago. The Universe’s origins haven’t been a recent debate, either. Aristotle even suggested that rather than have a finite past, the universe had an infinite one. This caused quite a stir among religious philosophers of the day. Yet, recently, some scientists may have offered some support to Aristotle’s own philosophy.


Say Goodbye To ISON

Have you heard of ISON? If you haven’t, perhaps you haven’t been keeping your eyes upon the stars. ISON is the name given to the comet to have most recently entered our inner solar system. It hails from our solar system’s Oort cloud, a vast mass of bodies that have come together to form…well, basically a big cloud at the edge of our solar system. It’s so far away (4.6 trillion miles, give or take), that passing stars can actually change the orbits of the objects within the cloud. ISON was one of these objects.

ISON was discovered back in September of 2012 by the International Scientific Optical Network – hence the comets nickname, ‘ISON’ – a Russian observatory. While it’s discovery was fairly recent, it’s journey toward the sun has already lasted a million years or so according to scientists. But why get so worked up about a comet that’s actually smaller than most we come across?


Stunning Spacey Saintpaulia

Scientists have done various studies since the very beginning of the Space Program. Experiments that have dealt with everything from fundamental physics to climate have been conducted. Because the normal rules just don’t apply in space, results from these numerous studies can come out radically different than if they were performed on Earth.


In Pursuit, Warp 9

Star Trek wouldn’t be the same without the ability to warp. With a galaxy as vast as the Milky Way, it’s the only thing that would grant humans (and aliens) the ability to travel such long distances without taking decades or longer to reach far off places in the galaxy. Since Star Trek is merely a fictional series, it stands to reason that warp capabilities are also fictional – except, not quite.

Einstein was a genius, and it’s likely very few will argue with that assessment. He was the one who came up with the Theory of Relativity. Within this theory is a loophole that might mean warp speed is actually possible. However, rather than the ship moving, it’s the space around it that moves!

In the Star Trek universe, the opposite is true. Ships are powered with matter-antimatter engines that allow them to traverse the galaxy at phenomenal speeds. It was in this manner that Roddenberry used a work around to allow objects in space (the ships) to travel faster than light. When the matter and antimatter butted heads, so to speak, they created kinetic energy that propelled ships forward.

Star Trek isn’t really the place to go if you want to get knee deep in real physics, but Physicist Miguel Alcubierre, who just so happens to be an avid Star Trek fan, theorizes that warp speed may be attainable after all. Rather than the physical ship moving, he questions what would happen if the space around the ship moved instead.

Space move? Space doesn’t specifically have mass, yet it’s there and it’s flexible. After all, scientists believe that space is still expanding, so it can obviously move. Alcubierre speculates that by bending space around a vessel, having it contract in front while expanding in the back, the ship would be surrounded by a bubble. Within this bubble, the ship would never move, but the bubble would! Alcubierre has even gone so far as to form theories on warp drives.

While all this scientific theorizing might sound crazy, it’s believable enough that even NASA has decided to look into it, although cautiously. Already Dr. Harold G. White has begun to put on various experiments to see if such theories can be proven. Richard Obousy, a supportor of White’s work, feels that more money should be spent on such experiments. Obousy is actually president of an organization that currently works on faster than light travel – Icarus Interstellar. It’s possible, they speculate, but NASA isn’t the only one who is cautious, so is Alcubierre. He warns that the bubble would protect the ship, but also gather particles. Once the ship stops, those particles would be released at high velocity and destroy anything in their path. Yet that hasn’t deterred determined and daring doyens to take a crack at it.

So what does this all mean? In a nutshell, warp capabilities may be less fictional and more possible than we ever imagined.


More Power To You!

Fuels have taken various forms over the centuries. Wood and coal were used to fuel fires for warmth. Eventually coal created fuel for steam engines. Water has been used to turn wheels to grind grains. Cars run on gasoline or diesel. Some actually run on bio-diesel made from vegetable or animal fats. In recent years, sunlight has been harvested to provide energy.

In the Star Trek Universe, however, other forms of fuel exist to propel the the starships through space.


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