From Jupiter escalating hostilities towards Earth, to the Moon being in Earth’s shadows, to checking on on the Arecibo Observatory as it recovers from the earthquake in Puerto Rico – we’re catching up on some of the real world events that have happened during AAS this week.
In general, we are here to bring you the all that is new in space and astronomy, but sometimes something comes up that doesn’t quite fit that bill, but still needs to be addressed. In this week, when the headlines are filled with ugly things, we want to take a moment to instead celebrate the silliness that came about on Twitter when The New York Post Tweeted that “New research finds Jupiter is flinging asteroids at Earth.” We’re not sure what it was about this specific tweet that caused collective absurdity to arise, but something in our collective unconscious decided this is the moment when we make Jupiter trend. From Daniel Aubry responding “Rooting for Jupiter tbh,” to including Sue the T.rex stating “APPARENTLY I’VE GOT A BEEF WITH JUPITER” … well the hilarity goes on and on.
We’re not entirely sure what brought this story to the attention of this newspaper at this particular moment in time, but we do know who’s research inspired it. Our friend Kevin Grazier has been working on modeling how Jupiter’s gravity influences the orbits of minor objects in our solar system, and has published a series of papers detailing how Jupiter doesn’t so much protect us from incoming comets and asteroids, but rather haphazardly fires things in many directions, including directly at us.
In a new article (https://ui.adsabs.harvard.edu/abs/2019MNRAS.490.4388G/abstract) published in December’s Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Grazier and his colleagues describe how Jupiter may in fact systematically hurt things toward the interior planets. Objects from the outer solar system often get caught up in orbits near the ice and gas giants, becoming what are called Centaurs. These objects’ orbits are often unstable because the massive pull of Jupiter can repeatedly pull them of course, orbit after orbit, according to Grazier and collaborators’ numerical simulations. Centaurs are regularly converted into Jupiter family comets with orbits spanning from out near Jupiter and diving all the way in among the inner planets… where they can hit us.
This is an ongoing process. New objects are regularly becoming Centaurs as they fall in from the outskirts of the solar system, and Jupiter regularly creates to comets. This means that if we perfectly map all the objects in the inner solar system today, we will still have to worry about the new things joining us near the sun tomorrow.
Why? Well, for that answer, we encourage you to check out Twitter, or at least the tweets we’ve linked to on our website, DailySpace.com
In other news, if you have clear skies and are in Europe, Asia, Africa, or Australia you will be able to see tonight’s full moon go from super bright, to a middling grey as the moon passes through the outer part of the earth’s shadow, the penumbra. While this is less dramatic than a full eclipse, that can turn the moon a bloody red or asphalt grey, the moon will still appear much greyer than normal. To find out what time to look up, check out the links on our website.
In our final story of the day, we’d like to let you know that we’re hearing that preliminary inspection of the Arecibo Observatory didn’t reveal any damage. However, a careful inspection hasn’t yet been possible, as of the time of this writing, due to the steady stream of aftershocks. Like California, Puerto Rico is located on a plate boundary. In this case, the Caribbean plate and the North American plate come together at Puerto Rico, and this and the surrounding islands exist between the Puerto Rico Trench and Muertos trench.
These beautiful uplifts of land are plagued with Earthquakes and often experience swarms of quakes. While this doesn’t appear to be a swarm of same magnitude quakes, both foreshocks and aftershocks have still been of sufficient strength to be felt and to make repair efforts too risky to start in some places. This is one more reminder that we live on a world that is still very much geologically active, and at any moment, the surface of our world can be reshaped through tremendous releases of energy.
We are hoping that for now, the Earth will stay quiet in the places where people live, and we can focus as we did earlier this week, on the volcanoes of Venus or something else – anything else – instead. Here is to a quiet world as we go into the weekend.
Thank you all for listening. The Daily Space is produced by Susie Murph, and is a product of the Planetary Science Institute, a 501(c)3 non profit dedicated to exploring our Solar System and beyond. We are here thanks to the generous contributions of people like you. Want to become a supporter of the show? Check us out at Patreon.com/cosmoquestx
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