Page 9 - Science Facts

Pluto was discovered, named a planet, then stripped of its planet status long before it ever made one trip around the sun


For being the smallest "planet" in our solar system, Pluto has raised quite the controversy. Despite it's tiny size, it is the tenth-most-massive body that orbits our sun and the second-largest known dwarf planet after Eris. From the time it was discovered to moment it lost it's classification as a planet, it didn't even complete one revolution around the sun.

On February 18, 1930, Clyde Tombaugh discovered a possible moving object after nearly a year of searching. He did this by taking images of the night sky taken two weeks apart and then examine them for differences. The photos taken on January 23 and 29 of 1930, combined with a low-quality photo from January 21 confirmed the movement of the distant planet.

The Lowell Observatory reserved the right to name the new object and received over 1,000 suggestions from all over the world. The name Pluto came from the god of the underworld, which was proposed by an 11-year-old schoolgirl in Oxford, England.

Pluto's orbital period is 248 Earth years, with a chaotic, highly inclined orbit that differs from the rest of the planet. A single day on Pluto, or the time it takes to complete a rotation, is 6.39 Earth days, rotating at an axial tilt of 120-degrees.

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Even if Earth was the size of dust, the nearest star would still be nearly 200 miles away!


The size of not only the universe, but our very own solar system, never ceases to boggle the mind. For instance, if the Earth were the size of a mere speck of dust (about .01 centimeters) , the sun would still be 47 inches away, and the nearest star would be a whopping 198 miles away.

Scaling back to actual sizes, the distance from the Earth to the sun is an important measurement when talking about space. That distance is called a single astronomical unit, or AU. An AU is approximately 149,597,870,700 meters, or 92,955,807 miles. The AU is used to measure distances of all other celestial bodies such as planets and asteroids.

The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is about 250,000 AU away. That's 250,000 times farther from the Earth to the sun. However, when dealing with such large distances, astronomers use light-years, the distance light travels in a year, which is equal to 63,239 AU. Proxima Centauri is 4.2 light-years away from us. Quite the journey to explore our solar system neighbor!

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A 'water world' planet has been discovered and it may contain 'hot ice' and 'super-fluid water'


The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a new class of planet. It is a water world enshrouded by a thick and steamy atmosphere. The planet is larger than Earth. "GJ1214b is like no other planet we know of," said Zachory Bertha of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "A huge fraction of it's mass is made up of water."

Zachory Berta of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and colleagues made the observations of the planet GJ1214b.The planet is about 2.7 times Earth's diameter and was discovered in 2009. It weighs almost seven times as much as Earth and it orbits a red-dwarf star every 38 hours at a distance of 1.3 million miles. Its estimated temperature is 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Berta and his co-authors used Hubble's Wide Field Camera 3 (WFC3) to study GJ1214b when it crossed in front of it's host star. Calculations suggest that GJ1214b has much more water than Earth does, and much less rock. "The high temperatures and high pressures would form exotic materials like 'hot ice' or 'super-fluid water,' substances that are completely alien to our every day experience," Berta said.

GJ1214b is located in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus, and just 40 light-years from Earth. Therefore, it's a prime candidate for study by the planned James Webb Space Telescope.

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Some awesome lists!

Water is a horrible conductor of electricity. So why is it so dangerous during a lightning storm?


Water is one of the most terrible places to be when you hear thunder and start to see those streaks of lightning. Get out and run immediately, right?

Despite popular belief, water is a terrible conductor of electricity.Pure, distilled water has nothing for electricity to "grasp on to." Distilled water is basic water you'd find in the wild, but boiled down until the liquid becomes devoid of minerals. Water molecules alone don't have a charge of their own, so they can't swap electrons to allow electricity to pass through them.

Then why is a pool the last place you want to be in a lightning storm?Those impurities that are boiled out are the prime examples of perfect conductors, giving water a bad name.

Similarily, the ocean is a great conductor thanks to the salt and ions in the water. Minerals like calcium and magnesium are the impurities that are found en mass in the water that comes out of your kitchen sink.

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Losing sleep can really add up. Find out how to get back to a restful life!


How much sleep did you get per night last week? Probably less than the 8 hours that experts recommend. If you think that just getting in one good, solid day of rest is enough the tip the scale back into balance, you may owe the sandman more time than you thought.

Sleep debt is the difference between the amount of sleep you ought to be getting per night, and the amount you actually get. The deficit doesn't just get wiped every week when you get a couple extra hours in bed on Sunday morning. It continues to grow every time we skimp even a few extra minutes a night.

The average American gets about 6.9 hours of sleep a night, on average. That means an hour of sleep a night is lost, resulting in two full weeks per year—and you'll start to feel it. Impaired vision, foggy brain, poor driving, and forgetfulness are all symptoms of sleep deprivation. Luckily, it can be reversed.

Go to bed when you're tired and wake up naturally, no alarm clock. Expect about ten hours of sleep a night, giving you a catatonic feeling, but your need for sleep will gradually decrease. Find the balance and you'll live an alarmless life from here on out.

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