It's amazing how much the last decades have changed, strictly from the point of view of astronomy enthusiast.
In a previous column, I talked about all the astronomy books I had as a child and that all the images of Pluto were not real photographs at all, except for the blurry mosaic that the Hubble Space Telescope could have reached the far planet. Yes, then, Pluto was an "official" member of the solar system and there were nine planets. There are no dwarf planets, only the internal planets, the asteroid belt and the outer planets, including Pluto.
At that time, we knew much more about our solar system than the outside. I feel like we still do. The astronomy books were filled with red plains and rocks of Mars, taken by the Viking ship several decades earlier. Who knew then that Mars, many years later, would be considered (relatively) adequate for human life? Of course, we still do not have to send a human to Mars, but it will arrive sooner than he thinks.
There was no allusion to ice in Mercury, only that it was a dead rock, cratered and lifeless. Obviously, even so, but we already know a little more now. For the most part, Venus remains a mystery. As we talked last week, the brown-yellow clouds that roll completely cover the surface, cooking Venus at temperatures of 850 degrees.
Our knowledge about asteroids has increased, particularly on Ceres. At that time, we only know the sizes of the asteroids and that Ceres was the largest. But now we know that asteroids can have moons and that Ceres, now a dwarf planet, is an incredibly interesting world with bright salt deposits and, who knows, potentially water.
And that brings us back to Mars. I remember a lot of books before the beginning of the century that depict the red planet as a cold desert desert. In all honesty, it seems to be. But now we know that under the surface, there can be enough water … and perhaps at least microbial life.
Then, of course, there were photos of the "face" on Mars. A theme for another time, maybe.
It's so fun and fascinating discussing the differences between the 1990s and now when it comes to astronomy. So funny, in fact, that I will keep the discussion on the outer planets for next week. There is much more to discuss.
Get in touch with Joe Malan, astronomy writer for Enid News & Eagle, at [email protected]