Sunday, January 11, 2009

My 2009 International Year of Astronomy Wish Lists

Even tough we are primarily honoring Galileo’s pioneering efforts in his use of the telescope in astronomy, we all can still wish for very interesting celestial phenomena this 2009 can’t we?

By: Vanessa Uy

Yes it was primitive, but have you ever wondered why no one before Galileo ever decided out of curiosity to use 15th Century era telescopes for stargazing and astronomical purposes before that fateful night back in 1609? We could be honoring Galileo out of his sheer luck 400 years later, but given his resolve against the genocidal bureaucratic might of the Inquisition, he really does deserve the honor.

Suppose we amateur stargazers and amateur astronomers can make a wish list about very interesting celestial / astronomical phenomena to occur that could make the night skies of 2009 the most interesting of the last 400 years. What would it be? For the sheer fun of it, how about a very bright supernova that could put the supernova of 1987 – Supernova 1987A – into shame? Though the supernova should occur not too close to our system to allow it to blow away the Earth’s ozone layer. Otherwise, a very bright supernova would be perfect.

Scores of comets would also be a good choice. Especially ones that rival the size and brightness magnitude of the comet Hyakutake’s appearance back in 1996, or what about the appearance of an oddly shaped comet? Like the Arend-Roland Comet of 1956. Or for an ultimate year-end finale, our large bright comet’s occultation with our very bright supernova during the Yuletide Season of 2009 just to make things more festive given the global economic downturn would still be around by then.

Those previously mentioned are probably the only ones that are of immediate concern to us amateur astronomers. Given the capabilities of the telescopes that we immediately possess. Those who are into astronomy as their day jobs could discover more fascinating and exotic astronomical phenomena this 2009. Like new extra-solar planets the size of our Earth for instance. Or what about new Kuiper Belt objects whose properties allow yet again the International Astronomical Union’s reevaluation of Pluto’s status as a bona fide planet.

Yep, those pesky little Kuiper Belt objects that had recently become the wildcards when it comes to Pluto’s status as a planet. Which to me is always good news, given that astronomy has always been ruminating in its complacent obscurity (in Uranus?). A controversy that allows it further mainstream-media exposure – even supermarket tabloid-style exposure – is always good for astronomy.


Laurel Kornfeld said...

We don't need to discover any new Kuiper Belt Objects to reinstate Pluto's planet status. It is well known that unlike most KBOs, Pluto is spherical, meaning it has enough self gravity to pull itself into a round shape, a condition known as hydrostatic equilibrium. This makes Pluto geologically differentiated just like the larger planets and unlike inert, shapeless asteroids and KBOs. What we need is more planetary scientists, including those who aren't IAU members, to be heard and given the opportunity to provide their much needed input so this demotion gets overturned.

Vanessa said...

I hope that you won't hate me for saying this but I do seriously think that this on-going debacle on the planetary status of Pluto instigated by the International Astronomical Union has only brought good to the existence of Pluto and of the science of astronomy in general.
An argument of Pluto's planetary status between us in the know would only be like "preaching to the choir". I mean since that unfortunate dethronement of Pluto as a bona fide planet by the IAU back in 2006 only made Pluto a somewhat regular part of daily casual conservation to "Joe Public and his constituents". Even if the hotel heiress Paris Hilton had not yet publicly confessed on where she stands on this whole Pluto versus IAU debacle.
Because of this, I inadvertently written a 1,000 or so paged book about Pluto's on-going planetary status debacle. Which over 90% of which centers on the discovery of the Kuiper Belt back in 1992 and Clyde Tombaugh's last televised appearance before he passed away defending Pluto's status as a true-blue planet to the unfortunate 2006 dethronement by the IAU -though no means final.
I too believe that Pluto is a planet, but we should do our part to spread awareness to the general public on what the hoopla is about.
Please watch this blogsite for a sampler on my Pluto book.