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Amused Muse

Inspiring dissent and debate and the love of dissonance

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Location: Surreality, Have Fun Will Travel, Past Midnight before a Workday

Master's Degree holder, telecommuting from the hot tub, proud Darwinian Dawkobot, and pirate librarian belly-dancer bohemian secret agent scribe on a mission to rescue bloggers from the wholesome clutches of the pious backstabbing girl fridays of the world.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Here's to Pluto!

UPDATED: Every amateur astronomer needs a good binocular, and here is a resource for good quality binocs at or under $100.

Also, Bill sent me a link to a very nice image of Albireo.
Dear Pluto--you "dwarf" all those gasbag planets in your quiet way. Here's to the warmest iceball in the solar system!

I went to the Wake for Pluto tonight at Joe's Garage, wrote a eulogy to Pluto (above), and hooked up with volunteers with the Minnesota Astronomical Society. No, we didn't look at Pluto through the telescope--I knew that the newly-declared dwarf would be in the wrong place in the sky, and it actually ended up being behind a brick wall--but we did see the binary star system Albireo, which is in the constellation Cygnus, and is quite pretty.

(Telescope operator to me: "Isn't that pretty?" Kristine: "Yes, but with one being blue and one yellow, wouldn't that make one a blue giant and the other a main sequence star, meaning that since the blue one looks smaller, it's actually much farther away than..." Jesus, shut up, Kristine, shut up! Look at the pretty stars and quit showing off!) ;-)

We also saw the Ring Nebula, one of my favorites and a real beauty, although through the scope it looked like a faint ball of cotton, as well as the star cluster M13 (a brighter ball of cotton). Even though they of course don't resemble the photographs in Astronomy magazine I was quite excited to see these objects "in person." (In 1986, Halley's Comet did not make a spectacular appearance, but I got to take my grandmother, who had seen the comet in 1910, to the observatory, and she was interviewed on the news! Seeing the real thing is the best experience.)

I also met Parke Kunkle and several volunteers with the Society, who promptly offered me rides to star parties and opportunities for more viewing in the city. Uh-oh, looks like I'm hooked. I'm reading Dawkins, hanging around archaeological sites, taking rocks home in my pockets once again, and now getting back into amateur observing. Yes, if I had pursued science as a career, how could I have possibly chosen between all the fields that interest me? (I probably would have ended up in some lab, brooding, and thinking, I should have become a belly dancer...)

Here's the full list of Messier Objects here. Oooh! Pretty!

Oh, yeah--there really weren't any costumes.


Anonymous Bill Bynum [aka The Telescope Operator] said...

AHEM. As someone who tends to ramble on at the eyepiece a bit, I will decline to comment on whether it sounded like showing off or babbling. Either way enthusiasm is always welcome at my scope! ;-)

Here's another link to some info on and a pretty pic on Albireo:

September 01, 2006 6:28 PM  
Blogger PiGuy said...

Potential Big News: The rumor of Pluto's demise may have been exaggerated!

Rather than a wake, I may need to have a shower for new planets Charon, Ceres, and 2003UB313 (which will really mess up the mnemonic devices that seem to hold such importance in education).

It's a planet! It's an asteroid! It's an iceball! I'm so confused...

September 01, 2006 8:02 PM  
Blogger Kristine said...

Babbling...yeah, that's probably what it was. This stuff was my first science love--my very first book was an astronomy book! But at least I wasn't the chick who called Vega "Vegan" (that was cute). Thanks for the link. I really should link to NASA's site, it's one of my favorites.

Oh, Pi Guy. What can I say? What a mess! I must admit that I'm confused, too, and it sounds like Phil has had it with the whole exercise. I say, just have a party for Pluto, and toast this poor iceball for being a good sport.

Phil says that this is about semantics, and he's right. Let this be a lesson to us. I can't help but liken this to Gould's statement about the unspoken truth about paleontology (which Ann Coulter took out of context to make it sound like a conspiracy) also being a semantic exercise. Pluto is what it is--a highly irregular celestial body by comparison to the other planets--and it's not going anywhere, after all. Categories are based on stereotypes, and we are finding that what is "normal" is probably more rare than common!

The current issue of Astronomy has an article about "planetars," which orbit no stars at all! Are they planets, are they planetary brown dwarfs, are they cluster planets? I think we'll see more confusion, not less, in the future! But that's part of the fun.

September 02, 2006 12:23 AM  
Blogger PiGuy said...

I'll drink to that!

September 02, 2006 6:51 AM  

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