The Astrophysics Spectator

Issue 1.4, October 27, 2004

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October 27, 2004

When the general public thinks astronomy, it usually thinks planets; but today's astronomer seldom studies the planets, because much of the physics is closer to that studied in geology, meteorology, and plasma physics. It's time to change that, so this week we jump into this exotic (to an astrophysicist) subject. With issue 1.4 of The Astrophysics Spectator, we begin the path on planets within our Solar System, starting with the giant gaseous planets Jupiter and Saturn.

The giant gaseous planets have recently received close attention because of the discovery over the past decade of more than 100 extrasolar giant gaseous planets and because of the recent arrival at Saturn of the Cassini spacecraft. This topic will be an active area of research for many years that should deepen our understanding of the formation and evolution of our Solar System, of extrasolar planetary systems, and of the Galaxy.

Also in this issue I reminisce about my first encounter (in print) with the futurist R. Buckminster Fuller. You never forgets your first crackpot.

Jim Brainerd


My First Crackpot. As we grow up, we gradually realize that people we though knew everything are actually limited in their knowledge. But that realization pales compared to the realization that a man famous for his foresight about the future is spinning bizarre tales of historical conspiracy. (continue)

More commentaries.

New Background

Planets. With this issue we present the path that discusses the planets of our Solar System. This path will eventually leads to pages that discuss all eight major planets (we neglect tiny Pluto, which is better thought of as a Kuiper Belt object). (continue)

Giant Gaseous Planets. We start our discussion of the planets with Jupiter and Saturn, the giant gaseous planets, because of their dominance of our Solar System, their relationship to planets observed in extrasolar systems, and their close kinship to brown dwarfs. (continue)

New Current Research

Planetary Research. Planetary research is primarily a space-based profession. Currently spacecraft are active around Mars and Saturn, and two are now headed towards Mercury. This page marks the beginning of the research section of the Planet path. (continue)

The Cassini-Huygens Mission. The first page added to the current research part of the Planet path discusses the Cassini spacecraft, which is now in orbit around Saturn. This satellite is just at the beginning of a four-year program to study the atmosphere, rings, moons, and magnetosphere of Saturn. (continue)


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