No word yet on planet Claire.

Here are some additional observations on the new definition of planet.

(1) For years many astronomers have been saying that Pluto is not really a planet, but other astronomers and the general public have been insisting that it is. Now the IAU committee has fired back with essentially “OK, you want Pluto to be a planet? Fine. If you’re going to be that way, not only Pluto but Charon is also a planet now. You happy?” I doubt anyone on the committee actually thinks in these terms, but nevertheless that is the result.

(2) The Dawn mission has been planning to explore two asteroids (Ceres and Vesta) since the mission was first planned (and canceled and reinstated, etc.). If this new definition passes, the Dawn mission is all of a sudden now a mission to explore an asteroid and a planet (Ceres)! When it starts getting good pictures of Vesta, it may become a mission to two planets.

(3) The New Horizons mission has been on its way to explore the planet Pluto and other objects in the outer solar system. Now several months after its launch, it’s suddenly on its way to two planets.

Posted in Astronomy | 1 Comment

Interplanet Janet is going to be busy.

There is a huge amount of buzz on the Internet today surrounding the IAU’s proposed definition of a “planet.” The definition they chose is exactly what I have for years been expecting them to select once all the dust settles. It is simple and, in my worthless opinion, appropriate.
“A planet is a celestial body that (a) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (b) is in orbit around a star, and is neither a star nor a satellite of a planet.”
If this definition gets accepted by the full assembly next week, then the list of planets in our solar system will extend to include the following (and possibly others as well):
 1. Mercury
 2. Venus
 3. Earth
 4. Mars
 5. Ceres
 6. Jupiter
 7. Saturn
 8. Uranus
 9. Neptune
10. Pluto
11. Charon
12. 2003 UB313 (a.k.a. “Xena”)
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And it’s free, too, except for parking

Today I went to the Little Rock National Airport/Adams Field to pick up somebody’s car. I cheerfully volunteered for this assignment, being an airplane enthusiast, and of course I hung around to watch a few takeoffs and landings. I’m not sure if all airplane enthusiasts are this weird.
Is there anything more beautiful than an airplane flying down from the sky, gliding over the runway with precision, then gently touching down? I think not!
There is a not-widely-known area of the Little Rock Airport designed for the purpose of watching the circus-like spectacle that is the modern airport. You can find it by heading toward the security check point (where a lot of people—who, it seems, can’t read—like to wait for their arriving friends) and then turn right up a flight of stairs.
I went there today and watched what I could. The view of the runways is not terrific, and after watching a few landings and some of the activity at the gates, I decided to explore the new long-term parking deck for the first time. I discovered that this is an even better place to watch the planes. There is a much wider view of the west runway (4L/22R), where you can see almost all of the action. And best of all, the parking deck has a complete view of the east runway (4R/22L)! The east runway is not used right now, because they are expanding it, but it should be fun to watch after it reopens.
The only two downsides are the deadly summer heat and the mildly uncomfortable winter cool that we experience here in Arkansas. But that’s the price you pay for being a weirdo. Not much really.
Posted in Local | 2 Comments

I’m trying out a new blog

Now that I have this new blog system up and running, I am going to try a new series of entries to test it with. Each entry can be assigned to various categories. These categories are configurable, but there are several that are built in.
I think I’ll start by adding one entry for each category.
The first category is books. The book I’m reading right now is called Your Pilot’s License. I do not recall the author’s name. I am not very far into the book yet, but it does not look to be as technical as what I was hoping for. But that is OK, because there is still plenty of time to do all my book learnin’ before I get enough money to take the flying instructions.
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There’s no place to type text for this blog entry!

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Hello, everyone.
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