It's amazing how many things have changed in recent decades, strictly from an astronomical enthusiastic point of view. In a…
It’s amazing how many things have changed in recent decades, strictly from an astronomical enthusiastic point of view.
In a previous column, I spoke of all the astronomical books I had as children and that all pictures of Pluto were not real photographs at all, besides the blurred mosaic Hubble space telescope could come from the distant planet. Yes, then Pluto was an “official” member of the solar system, and there were nine planets. No dwarf planets, only the inner planets, the asteroid belt and the outer planets, including Pluto.
Then we knew much more about our inner solar system than the outer part. I feel we still do it. The astronomy books were filled with Mars’s red, mountain-filled plains, taken by the Viking spacecraft several decades before. Who knew then that Mars, many years later, should be considered (relative) suitable for human housing? Of course, we still do not send a human to Mars, but it will come soon than you think.
There were no remarks to ice on Mercury ̵
1; just that it was a dead, cratered, lifeless rock. Of course it is still, but we know a little more now. Venus is still a mystery for the most part. When I talked about last week, the whirling yellow-brown clouds cover the surface and baked Venus at 850 degrees.
Our knowledge of the asteroids has increased, especially about Ceres. Then we only knew the sizes of the asteroids, and that Ceres was the largest. But now we know that asteroids can have moons, and that Ceres, now a dwarf plan, is an incredibly interesting world with strong salt deposits and who knows, potential water.
And it circles us back to Mars. I strongly remember the books before the turn of the century, depicting the red planet as the desolation of a wasteland. In all honesty it seems to be. But we now know that under the surface there may be an abundant amount of water … and maybe, at least the microbial life.
Then there were of course pictures of the “face” on Mars. A topic for another time, maybe.
It is so fun and fascinating to discuss the differences between the 1990s and now with regard to astronomy. So funny, actually, that I’m going to save the discussion about the outer plane for next week. There is still so much more to discuss!
Contact Joe Malan, Astronomical Author of Enid News & Eagle, at [email protected]