Pluto and Neil deGrasse Tyson
In 2000, the American Museum of Natural History in New York City opened its new Frederick Phineas and Sandra Priest Rose Centre for Earth and Space – simply the Rose Centre – featuring the newly renovated Hayden planetarium. When it came time to organize the display of solar bodies, the museum curators grouped like objects together according to the five major types: the terrestrial planets, the Asteroid Belt, the Jovian planets or Gas Gaints, the Kuiper Belt and the Oort Cloud. Pluto didn’t fit the bill as a terrestrial planet or a Jovian planet, but it did fit with the Kuiper objects so that’s where it ended up. (Left, Neil deGrasse Tyson shows Pluto Pluto.)
Oct. 21, 1879: Edison Gets the Bright Light Right
1879: Thomas Edison crowns 14 months of testing with an incandescent electric light bulb that lasts 13½ hours.
Planet X— X Planet
In 1894, American astronomer Percival Lowell moved to Flagstaff, Arizona to set up an observatory – the high elevation of the small city offered clear air and the climate promised nearly year-round visibility. He had two goals – finding proof of intelligent life on Mars, and finding Planet X. Although he used models to predict Planet X’s location and search the right part of the sky, he never found it before his death in 1916. (Lowell at work at the observatory that still bears his name.) The hunt resumed at the Lowell Observatory in 1929 when Illinois-born astronomer Clyde Tombaugh arrived. He used a blink comparator, a machine that alternated between two images of the night sky, to detect a moving object. Stars won’t move from night to night, but planets will. On February 18, 1930, Tombaugh found a tiny moving dot in two of his images. By May 1, his discovery of Planet X was accepted around the world and had been formally named Pluto.
Vintage Space Fun Fact: The Mercury ’7′s
Each of the Mercury missions had a name followed by the number 7. Alan Shepard flew Freedom 7, Gus Grissom in Liberty Bell 7, John Glenn aboard Friendship 7 (pictured), Scott Carpenter in Aurora 7, Wally Schirra flew Sigma 7, and Gordon Cooper aboard Faith 7. Deke Slayton never flew because of a heart condition, but had he flown his mission would have been Delta 7.
So, what’s with all the ’7′s? Read here
Dec. 7, 1941: Attack at Pearl Harbor a Bold, Desperate Gamble
This December 1941 file photo shows heavy damage to ships stationed at Pearl Harbor after the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian island on Dec. 7, 1941. Associated Press/US Navy
70 Years of Telescopes Tuned to Cosmic Radio
Published last October, This Images illustrates the progression of radio telescopes from Jansky’s primitive ’scope to the huge arrays of antennas now installed in the world’s deserts and perhaps, one day, on the moon
Radio astronomy began with static. Bell Laboratories wanted to get rid of it and went looking for its causes. With a hand-built radio telescope, Karl Jansky discovered a clear signal of something else amidst the noise from thunderstorms near and far: a steady static that appeared to emanate from the center of the Milky Way.
The field of studying radio waves arriving at Earth from outer space was born. Jansky didn’t know what could be causing the radio waves, and Bell Labs pulled him off the project soon after his big discovery. Still, he’s considered the father of radio astronomy.
The Conference with the Big Brains
In the image: At First Solvay Conference (1911), Curie (seated, 2nd from right) confers with Henri Poincaré. Standing, 4th from right, is Rutherford; 2nd from right, Einstein; far right, Paul Langevin
A replica of Newton’s second Reflecting telescope that he presented to the Royal Society in 1672
Aug. 31, 1968: One Donor + Four Patients = Medical History
1968: Dr. Michael DeBakey supervises five teams of surgeons in the first simultaneous, multi-organ transplant.
One team at Methodist Hospital in Houston removed the heart, the lobe of one lung, and both kidneys from a 20-year-old woman, the victim of a gunshot wound. The organs were transplanted into four patients: A 50-year-old man got the heart, the partial lung went to a 39-year-old man, and two men, 41 and 22, each received a kidney.
The entire production, which began within eight hours of the woman’s death, involved more than 60 surgeons, nurses and support staff.
For DeBakey, it was another milestone in a spectacular career that saw him develop a number of surgical techniques and procedures now commonly used in hospitals the world over. Among the surgeries he either pioneered or had an early hand in developing were the heart transplant, the arterial bypass and the artificial heart.
He also invented the Dacron graft, which revolutionized aneurysm repair. His work during World War II played a major role in the development of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, or MASH, which saved countless lives by providing emergency surgery for critically wounded soldiers within a stone’s throw of the front line.
Source: Today in Science History, Department of Veterans Affairs
Photo: American heart surgeon Dr. Michael E. DeBakey takes a break from surgery at Methodist Hospital in Houston. (Brett Coomer/AP)
This article first appeared on Wired on Aug. 31, 2007.
Jan. 21, 1979: Neptune Moves Outside Pluto’s Wacky Orbit
1979: Neptune begins a 20-year run as the outermost planet in the solar system as Pluto’s elliptical orbit carries it closer in to the sun.
While its eccentric orbit around the sun is not among the reasons the International Astronomical Union gave for downgrading Pluto’s status to “dwarf planet” in 2006, it probably didn’t help. Not only is Pluto’s orbit elliptical, which puts it at odds with the circular orbits of the great eight, but its orbital plane is also very different.
The effect of Pluto’s orbit takes it inside of Neptune’s at its perihelion, or closest distance to the sun, which is roughly 2.7 billion miles. It takes 20 years for the two orbits to cross again.
Neptune passed back inside Pluto’s orbit in 1999.
It’s not a phenomenon any of us will witness again unless Ray Kurzweil gets his way and we all live to be 500 years old. Pluto’s orbit carries it inside Neptune’s every 248 years, so unless you’re planning to hang around until 2247, you’ll miss it.