Well, I guess we made it. Another 4 months rotating around the sun. Another semester of college in the books. I often see this point in the year as a great time to reflect on what we’ve learned and if there is anything to take away from this semester it’s that we are truly a pale blue dot floating in what we deem the universe. I’ll let Carl Sagan explain:
We really are a pale blue dot. Drifting in our galaxy alone. It’s pretty amazing to think that so much has occurred on our tiny speck in space. It’s humbling. Everything we have ever known, everything our parents, grandparents and ancestors have ever experienced has occurred on an Earth that is 8000 miles across. It’s amazing to me that this measly planet has the only source of life that we have discovered. Is there potential for life to be out there? Absolutely. When it comes down to it, the chances of us discovering life from another planet, another solar system, another galaxy, at least in our lifetime, are slim to none. Does that stop of us from looking? Of course not. We haven’t found anything so far, yet we try harder. We sent the Kepler satellite into orbit with the sole purpose of finding planets and potentially habitable ones, around other stars. I am confident that once we find evidence there is potential for life, we will not be far off actually discovering life.
Taking an astronomy course has given me a completely new perspective on life. Not just how inconsequential everything on this pale blue dot is to the greater Milky Way, but how we need to do everything we can to preserve our great planet because we alone can make it prosper or destroy it. We are a speck in space and time and in this moment, we should be focusing on doing everything we can to take care of our planet, each other and in the words of Carl Sagan “cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Mountains have always been a source of fascination for me. I climbed my first 14er, Mt. Yale (Elevation 14,199 ft.), when I was in middle school. Hopefully one day I can return to Colorado to climb more as well as many other mountains in this world. One of my favorite mountains is Mount Amiata in Tuscany and our property there overlooks the mountain as you can see in this picture I took below.
Anyways, when I found out there are mountains on Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, I was intrigued. When I found out they are ice mountains, I wanted to know all about them. The highest peak is found within the mountain ridges known as the Mithrim Montes, named after the mountain range in Middle Earth in The Lord of the Rings. The peak is 10,948 feet, which rivals some of the mountains on Earth. You can see them below:
It’s interesting because I often never think about other planets having geological features like we do here on Earth. The only pictures we really see are from space and just show a circular planet with some markings of geological activity but you get no understanding of the scale of these mountain ranges. It just goes to show how most planets and moons have major elevation changes like Earth that allow us to study their surfaces by comparing them to ours as well as discovering the underlying geological activity of the planet/moon. The universe is awesome.
Pluto has been a topic of fascination for astronomers for a long time now. With the recent flyby of the New Horizons Spacecraft, a new image of Pluto has captivated the world. Pluto has a heart. Well not actually a heart but a region that looks like a heart! I guess Pluto is really trying to send its love to us so we can let it be a planet once again. I mean come on, why do we need to be demoting Pluto to dwarf-planet status? What has it done to us to deserve this demotion especially with the love it’s trying to show us!
On a more serious note, “Pluto’s Heart” is a region called the Tombaugh Regio. Alan Stern, who is the New Horizons Principal Investigator, believes that part of this region know as Sputnik Planum was created from a massive impact with an asteroid 10 kilometers across. To put that in perspective, that’s an asteroid the size of Manhattan smashing into the earth. Moreover, they have found evidence of glacial flows around the edges of this basin, which may provide evidence that Pluto, which was thought to have no internal heat, may have geological activity and thus possibly internal heat! A lot of questions are still to be answered but this evidence is some of the first that shows there is more to Pluto than what meets the eye.