Monday, January 20, 2020

Quips & Quotes V

"When I was growing up it was really cool to be a scientist or engineer. We need to make science cool again." ~ Sally Ride

"When you advance frontiers, heroes are made." ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

"It matters to me. People don't get in line to get autographs of the land rover." ~ Congressman Frank Wolf, in response to NASA Administrator Charles Bolden's statement that it "didn't matter" if America or China got a manned mission to the moon.

"All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct." ~ Carl Sagan

Moon Beer
"In the beginning the Universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move." ~ Author Douglas Adams

"Astronomy compels the soul to look upwards and leads us from this world to another." ~ Plato

"Our two greatest problems are gravity and paperwork. We can lick gravity, but sometimes the paperwork is overwhelming." ~ Werner von Braun

"It's human nature to stretch, to go, to see, to understand. Exploration is not a choice really: it's an imperative." ~ Astronaut Michael Collins

"We are just an advanced breed of monkeys on a minor planet of a very average star. But we can understand the universe. That makes us something very special." ~ Stephen Hawking

"Every so often, I like to stick my head out the window, look up, and smile for a satellite picture." ~ Comedian Steven Wright

"The Mars research has advanced my life in no capacity. How has it helped your life? Looks like Arizona, tastes like chicken. Billions of dollars. I think we should just blow it up and sniff it as it drifts past." ~ Actor Charlie Sheen

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Galileo Figaro Magnifico

On January 7, 1610, Italian astronomer Galileo di Vincenzo Bonaiuti de' Galilei discovered Jupiter's satellites Callisto, Io and Europa. He was on a roll with his new-fangled telescopio, as only a week later on January 13th, he also spied Ganymede, later confirmed to be the largest moon in our Solar System.
These four Jovian moons, initially titled "Medician stars", are now referred to as "the Galilean satellites", and Galileo's observations of their orbits would be instrumental in over-turning the belief [cough*wishful-thinking*cough*cough] that ALL objects in the universe revolved around Earth, including our Sun.

Galileo, Figaro, Magnifico, oh oh oh...

This particular Copernican concept was a hard-sell during the time of the Roman Inquisition. Various clerics – up to and including the Pope – denounced him as sacrilegious, censored his books, attempted to bar him from teaching or publishing, and ordered him to undergo a trial before the Holy Office of Rome.

At his sentencing in June of 1633, ten Cardinals of the Holy Roman Church, as commissioned by the Apostolic See as 'Inquisitors-General against heretical depravity in Christendom', read the following statement in court:

"We pronounce, sentence, and declare that you, Galileo, because of the things deduced in the trial and confessed by you, have rendered yourself according to this Holy Office vehemently suspected of heresy, namely of having held and believed a false doctrine: that the sun is the center of the world and does not move from east to west, and the earth moves and is not the center of the world, and that one may hold and defend as probable an opinion after it has been declared and defined contrary to Holy Scripture."

Galileo was placed under house arrest until his death at age 77 in 1642.

Galileo Space Craft JPL
Me with the Galileo craft model at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory

A few centuries later, the joke was on them, since Galileo got a NASA spacecraft named after him to study those very moons; and to date, we have no spacecraft named after anyone in the Inquisition. So there.

Jupiter has 63 confirmed satellites, and one floating trouble-maker being argued over by chaps who are much smarter than I, so I'll not venture an opinion. Time will tell if #64 nails the audition, but in the meantime, the Voyager, Hubble, and Galileo craft offered interesting portraits of the fantastic four:

Solar System
Ganymede is larger in diameter than Mercury, with ice and silicate crust covering underground ocean in some areas. Abundant craters and mountains surrounded by lava flow indicate ancient origin.

The next largest, Callisto, is considered a likely spot for a human base when we reach Jupiter, as study indicates the presence of water ice, ocean, carbon dioxide and possible organics.

Io is the most geologically active object in the Solar System with over 400 volcanoes, many higher than Earth’s Everest. Lava flows often invade the frosty sulfur dioxide surface, creating yellow, red, green and black compounds, creating a "pizza planet" exterior.

Europa, smallest but perhaps best-known, is about the size of Earth's moon and has an oxygen atmosphere. Its bright, smooth [well, un-cratered] crust led to the hypotheses that it is quite young, and may also have oceans beneath its surface.