Thursday, February 7, 2008

Adrift

When I first started this blog, about a month ago, I was pretty psyched about the possibility of an asteroid hitting Mars, perhaps right in front of one of the Mars rovers, giving us all a front row seat for the collision. Odds were at 1-in-75, then jumped up to 1-in-25, then down to 1-in-40, then, sadly, 1-in-10,000.

Turns out that it probably didn't crash into Mars.

Where is it now? No one knows.

It's lost.



The thing (it's in the little red circle in the middle of the picture) has been slingshotted by Martian gravity straight into the unknown (I can relate), and while Mars doesn't have enough gravitational muscle to sling it clear out of the solar system, it does have enough of an effect to seriously warp its orbit. So now it's adrift, untethered from its previous influences, and will slowly accumulate new influences, settling finally into a new orbit: stable, but very different. There are way too many variables for astronomers to calculate the new path.

Again, metaphors abound with this orbital mechanics stuff, which is why I like to write about it. And I won't belabor the metaphor, other than to say that I find the whole process oddly comforting; some random rock being wrenched out of a stable and comfortable orbit, thrust into a whole new family of gravitational influences, where, given enough time, it will settle into stability again. No collisions, nothing spilled. Just another trip into the unknown. Until gradually the unknown becomes, well, known.

I like that.

5 comments:

Maggie said...

I like that too. The sense that there is order even in a somewhat chaotic event. That the universe settles itself. Perhaps a lesson for us, and how life can proceed. Sometimes studying the stars makes me feel small and insignificant. This somehow just felt like a belonging. That we all fit in this balance of known and unknown.

Nancy Dancehall said...

So, '_no_ hit' for Poetry Friday?

Clowncar said...

Exactly, Maggie. Things move toward equilibrium, whether people or big space rocks. It's more than just a metaphor, it's how things actually work.

Yay! Nancy's back from school! Have you had your tee-a-tete with the cadaver yet?

Mona Buonanotte said...

This is perfect for Poetry Friday! Order within chaos...awesome!

Wanderlust Scarlett said...

Excellent post!
As an astronomer, this idea appeals to me on several levels, not the least of which is accord with your metaphor.
Wonderful perspective.


PS - I'm almost a pilot, a few more hours to go (to answer your question).

Scarlett & Viaggiatore