I’m a Space Man!

It isn’t very often that I get to say things like that in a public place!

No, I’m not a visitor from another planet or anything, although my Inner Alien is already disagreeing loudly with that statement. My Inner Superhero is also quite vocal, which is quite strange (I always thought that my Inner Superhero’s powers were imbued by some kind of Earth substance, like water vapour or something).

What I mean, is that I am fascinated by the Universe. The Cosmos – everything in it! I could dream for years of travelling to wonderful far away worlds, exploring Super Novae, surfing on the tail of a comet (although I’m not sure I would actually be able to do this as I have never surfed – wind or water – before in my life… and web doesn’t count!) or looking into the night sky on Saturn – or Venus.

Speaking of Venus – look into the sky and you can see the planet shining brightly, very close to Jupiter in fact. I hope the two planets are visible from anywhere on Earth, but they look pretty spectacular from my vantage point in the north of the United Kingdom. Both planets will be in this amazing conjunction for a few more weeks, apparently, and will remain visible until May.

Looking at them, they do not twinkle as stars do, and that is how you can tell they are planets. Looking at one of them through binoculars will reveal something else – the four Moons of Jupiter. Unfortunately, I don’t own any binoculars, so I will have to rely on my imagination once again. The images my mind conjures up are probably nothing like the real thing, but they are equally spectacular, I don’t mind saying.

We were treated to another astronomical phenomenon over the weekend. Well, some lucky people dotted around the UK were… I missed it. A meteorite travelled the whole length of the country, crashing, it is believed, into the sea between the UK and France. This was, apparently, a one-off, which means it wasn’t connected to any of the usual meteor showers that we are treated to at various times of the year. Although, I can’t help wondering about this. We’ve had two very close near misses with huge meteors over the past few months, and now this meteorite. Our planet seems to be moving through a rocky part of space right now – but safely, I hope.

Whether I’ll see a meteorite anytime soon remains to be seen. I’ll just have to keep looking out into the night sky during a meteor shower, and I may get to kill two birds with one stone. Hopefully not literally.

Of Light Years and Numbers

I have absolutely no idea where this post is going to go. I am writing it as is, off the cuff, so to speak.

It is actually a continuation in parts of my post from yesterday, which revealed the breaking news that a new water-world was discovered back in 2009. I failed to mention this planet’s name in that post, so I’ll add it here. You may be asked a question on this over the next few days, weeks or months, so you never know. Knowledge such as this could be crucial. The difference between winning the quiz and losing it!

So. What’s the planet called? GJ 1214b. Not exactly memorable, is it? I’m sure it will receive a proper name in due course.

The planet is 40 light years away from Earth. A light year is 9,500,000,000,000 kilometres (that’s 9,500 billion kilometres to make it easier to read). So, multiply this figure by 40 to get the distance of the planet from Earth in kilometres. Easier said than done!

In researching for this post, I have discovered the answer to the age old question of what’s next? in terms of numbers. We know the likes of millions (6 zeros), billions (9 zeros), trillions (12 zeros) but then they start to become rare…

A number that ends in fifteen zeros is a quadrillion
A number that ends in eighteen zeros is a quintillion
A number that ends in twenty-one zeros is a sextillion

Numbers then take on a kind of monthly feel:
24 zeros: septillion
27 zeros: octillion
30 zeros: nonillion
33 zeros: decillion

They then start to become ridiculously long
36 zeros: undecillion
39 zeros: duodecillion
45 zeros: quattuordecillion
48 zeros: quinquadecillion
60 zeros: novemdecillion
303 zeros is a centillion. This doesn’t seem to quite hit the mark with me, but there you have it.

I found a ten undecillion pound note in the street today, and I’m wondering whether it is real. The bank wouldn’t accept it.

Never in a nonillion years did I ever think I’d write the previous sentence!

And, I have heard a rumour that a billion may be becoming a gillion, and a trillion will change to a tetrillion. And, shock! horror! a quadrillion may become a pentillion.

Eek.

I have red squiggles galore in front of my eyes. Not only do the calculators and Excel not accept the numeric version of the ‘larger’ numbers, the spell checker doesn’t recognise the spellings of their names either.

Now. All that considered. Can you remember the name of the planet I mentioned in my post yesterday? If you can’t remember it now, you aren’t going to do very well in that quiz later in the year, are you?

Numbers is a fun word isn’t it? You start off thinking about what the word actually means, and then, as you look deeper into the meaning, a second, hidden, meaning emerges. The mind-numbing meaning. Numbers really are numbers when you look a little too closely at them…

Fire and Ice: A New World Discovered

Fire and Ice
Reports are coming in of a newly discovered giant water-world, a mere 40 light years away from Earth. The planet is said to be over two and a half times bigger than Earth, and observations from the Hubble Telescope indicate that most of the planet’s mass is water. It is also said to have a hazy atmosphere, and is only two million kilometres away from its sun, a red dwarf star. The proximity of the planet to the sun indicates that the temperatures on the planet will be a balmy 200C.

It is also believed that there are other ‘exotic’ materials on the planet, which was first discovered back in 2009.

The star the planet orbits is in the Ophiuchus constellation, which, when looking toward the southern celestial pole of the sky, it isn’t too far away from the Phoenix constellation that I happened to write about a few weeks ago. Ophiuchus, incidentally, is the thirteenth sign of the Zodiac, according to some people.

Being a Piscean, drawn to both the water and the skies, I am looking forward to finding out more information about this brand ‘new’ world.

I wonder, though, if this planet’s inhabitants know that we have discovered their world…