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Happy demotion day, Pluto - Pluto and other Trans-Neptunian Dwarf Planets in animation, games and TV

Posted by Eric Brightwell, August 24, 2011 01:00pm | Post a Comment


Pluto

Today is the fifth anniversary of the demotion of Pluto from "planet" to "dwarf planet." 

PLUTO

Pluto and Charon


Pluto was first discovered in 1930. Part of the reason it was accepted as a planet was due to the fact that despite some behavior not fitting a proper planet it was assumed to be larger than Mercury unti l1978, when its moon, Charon, was discovered, revealing that the mass of Pluto was much smaller than had been thought... roughly a twentieth the mass of Mercury. Two more orbiting objects, Nix and Hydra, were discovered in 2005. S/2011 P 1 (aka P4) was discovered in 2011. 

Pluto protests


Reaction to Pluto's re-designation was controversial, especially among young nerds who failed to see how going from the smallest planet in the solar system to largest known object in the Kuiper Belt could be viewed as a positive move. The New Mexico House of Representatives and Illinois State Senate passed ridiculous anti-scientific resolutions to continue recognizing Pluto as a planet.

PLUTONIC CARTOONS




Of the Trans-Neptunian Dwarf Objects, Pluto remains the most popular, if not the largest. In animation it's appeared in Cowboy Bebop, Futurama, Galaxy Express 999, Roughnecks -Starship Troopers Chronicles, Space Battleship Yamato, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, Super Dimensional Fortress Macross and The Magic School Bus.

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Asteroids in animation, games, movies & television

Posted by Eric Brightwell, July 30, 2009 04:26pm | Post a Comment
Asteroids have capitivated the imagination ever since rocks first looked into the heavens and asked, "Are we alone?" The entertainment industry has shown asteroid fields to be a place to hone your space navigation skills and target shooting and rogue asteroids as hell-bent on destroying humankind. As far as threats go, to me the gigantic, silent, soulless killing machines arouse a similar fear to that inspired by sharks. And now, as announced in the Hollywood Reporter earlier this month, Universal has acquired the rights to the classic Atari game and plans on adapting it into film. Matt Lopez (Race to Witch Mountain and Bedtime Stories) pitched the idea and found himself at the center of a bidding war between four studios. From Wing Commander and Double Dragon to House of the Dead and Hitman, films adapted from video games are generally quite good.

asteroid size comparison chart

Although the chart above shows the existence of many real life asteroids, the entertainment industry almost always portrays fictional or just un-named space rocks.
 
ASTEROIDS IN COMPUTER & VIDEO GAMES

Asteroids 1978 Atari  Descent computer game  The Dig computer game 
Final Fantasy IV  Homeworld  Orion Conspiracy

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Ceres - Dwarf Planet

Posted by Eric Brightwell, September 19, 2008 09:01am | Post a Comment
Dwarf planets are objects with sufficient mass to assume a roughly spherical shape but yet too small to get picked for the starting lineup in the solar tee-ball match. There are currently four planets designated as dwarf planets. Before 2006 they were also known as minor planets, planetoids and (my favorite) subplanets.

  

Although there are currently only four designated dwarf planets, there are at least 41 known objects which may qualify when we get around to it. And when the Kuiper belt is fully-explored, there may turn out to be another 200. Beyond that there may be another 2000 subplanets in our solar system.
Ceres is named after the Roman goddess of cereals (a word which is itself derived from her name) and motherly love. She was both the sister and wife of Jupiter. Her worship was adopted by the Romans in 496 BCE, during a particularly severe famine. Her followers were mostly plebes who controlled the grain game in antiquity. For some reason, their rites included tying burning sticks to fox's tails.

The original name for the planetoid was Ceres Ferdinandea but that got shot down as not everyone was so keen on brown-nosing Spanish royalty. The dwarf planet is the smallest of the currently designated subplanets. It was actually discovered way back in 1801 by Giuseppie Piazzi who wrote, "since its movement is so slow and rather uniform, it has occurred to me several times that it might be something better than a comet." Even further back, Johann Elert Bode, in 1768, had suggested that there may be a planet between Mars and Earth. And lo, Ceres is situated within the asteroid belt. It's actually the largest  object in the belt --making up a third of the belt's mass. Its surface is made up of water ice (more than the total amount of water found on Earth), carbonate and clay. The weather on Ceres isn't that bad, reaching -38 degrees Celsius, which is warmer than some Midwestern winters I've experienced.

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