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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 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. 



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.

PLUTO IN VIDEO AND COMPUTER GAMES



In games, Pluto has been depicted in Battlezone 2, Descent, Epch Star, Gyruss, Lenny Loosejocks in Space, Mass Effect, Star Control II and Starsiege.

PLUTO ON TV





According to my strenuous research, Pluto has never made it to the big screen - perhaps the result of our collective subconscious's acceptance of its diminutive stature. A better and more natural fit has been TV, where it's appeared in the Doctor Who episode “The Sun Makers”, Earth - Final Conflict, Space Odyssey - Voyage To The Planets, the Space Patrol episode “The Fires of Mercury” and X-Bomber.




The remaining known Trans-Neptunian Dwarf Planets are Eris, Haumea, Makemake, Orcus, Quaoar, Sedna and Varuna. If it's any consolation to the cognitive dissonance-suffering "Pluto is a Planet" crowd, none of them have shown up in any of these forms of entertainment. Nonetheless, each is interesting if not crying out for an appearance in science-fiction narratives. Eris is bigger than Pluto and yet no one is pushing any state resolutions to recognize it as a planet. Haumea (fka Santa) seems to be and ellipsoid. Makemake is unique among known KBOs for its lack of a satellite. Orcus seems to have a large amount of water. Quaoar is named after a Tongva god. 

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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.


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

     
Final Fantasy IV   

The aformentioned Asteroids is the best known example of a game focusing on asteroids. Descent, The Dig, Final Fantasy IV, Homeworld, Millenium 2.2 and The Orion Conspiracy all feature un-named or fictional asteroids to various degrees.

ASTEROIDS IN ANIMATION

   

Danny Phantom's "Phantom Planet,Futurama's "Love & Rocket," and the anime Metal Armor Dragonar (Kikō Senki Doragunā) have all got some asteroids in 'em too.

ASTEROIDS ON TELEVISION


           

In "The Wandering Asteroid" espisode of Space Patrol, the crew must destroy an asteroid on a collision course. On Star Trek's "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky," a group of aliens live on a spacecraft disguised as an asteroid. On Buck Rogers's “The Golden Man,” in the name of accuracy one of the crew at least points out the dense field is the densest he's seen. Red Dwarf features several references to asteroid mines, which are also mentioned on Battlestar Galactica's “Scar.” Although often described as a documentary, the BBC's depiction of a near catastrophe by the Pegasus spacecraft in Space Odyssey - Voyage To The Planets never actually happened. Stargate SG-1’s “Failsafe” features the common "Asteroid on a collision course" theme.  
 
ASTEROIDS IN MOVIES


             

In 2001 - A Space Odyssey, realistic asteroids are seen as Discovery One approaches Jupiter. The Green Slime, also from 1968, was slightly more fanciful. Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back followed Atari's depiction of asteroids as densely flying in all directions, randomly exploding and providing navigational challenges for space pilots. In Revenge of the Sith, Luke and Leia are born on an asteroid colony. In 1979, Ronald Neame had a go at the fadingly popular disaster genre with Meteor, which was about an asteroid, despite the title. Though nearly universally reviled, it was practically remade by the campily enjoyable Deep Impact and the truly inept, J.J. Abrams-penned Armageddon. A year earlier, Starship Troopers had featured aliens wiping out Buenos Aires with an asteroid weapon.


REAL ASTEROIDS IN FICTION

Although un-named, un-specified or otherwise imagined asteroids appear far more often on the screen than their real counterparts, the real-deal-asteroid-fields have nonetheless made appearances here and there.

Ceres, a dwarf planet located within the asteroid belt, is the subject of a separate blog.

 

Pallas was the second asteroid to be discovered, in 1802, by a German. It's named after Pallas Athena. One of the largest asteroids in the belt, it may contain 7% of its total mass. In “The Shrinking Spaceman” episode of Space Patrol (1962), there is a sonar beam transmitter located there.

asteroid 1997

Eros
was discovered in 1898 and was the first Near Earth Asteroid discovered. It's believed to be even more massive than the impactor that created the Chicxulub Crater in the Yucatán that wiped out the dinosaurs and led to the evolution of the Voth (as seen on Star Trek - Voyager). Eros was featured in the 1997 TV movie Asteroid.

   

Juno is named after Juno, "the one unique," the wife of Jupiter. It was originally considered a planet but is too small, although it may contain 1% of the entire mass of the asteroid belt. In Mobile Suit Gundam, it's relocated to Earth's orbit and renamed Luna².
 

Hygiea is named after the goddess of cleanliness, health and sanitation in the Greek religion. It's the fourth largest object in the asteroid belt and was discovered in 1849 by an Italian. It has thus far provided the setting of no known films, games, TV shows, &c. Hopefully it'll show up in Asteroids.

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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 (as in grasses cultivated for their edible parts and not as in the milky bowls of breakfast candy eaten by toddlers and people living in dorms), abundance, 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.

Ceres is actually the largest  object in the asteroid 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 slightly warmer than some Midwestern winters I've experienced.


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CERES IN FILM




In the American Astronaut there's a bar on Ceres called the Ceres Crossroads where a dance contest takes place.


CERES IN TELEVISON


In Exosquad, Ceres is posited as the location of the first Neo Mega breeding location.

In the Twilight Zone episode "The Lonely," Ceres is a prison colony.



CERES IN GAMES


In Buck Rogers: Countdown to Doomsday, there is an abandoned RAM research base situated on the dwarf planet.

 

In Descent and Descent3, there are missions which take place on Ceres.


In Star Control II, Ceres station is destroyed by the Ur-Quan before humans are enslaved.


In Super Metroid, the first playable area takes place on Ceres.


In Terminal Velocity, a machine must be destroyed that will otherwise cause Ceres to collide with Earth.


In Zone of the Enders, a colony exists on Ceres.

*****

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