Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Huge Applet, Unsearchable Terrestrials!

Astronomers are a wacky bunch. They often code their discoveries in anagrams, in part to prove they made the discovery while they go through the mind-numbing process of slogging through the data before they can publish.

And, in part, I suspect, because they're just wacky.

Galileo did it when he discovered Venus had phases. Huygens did it when he figured out Saturn had rings. And now Gregory Laughlin of the University of California has done it, by publishing the anagram "Huge Applet, Unsearchable Terrestrials!" to announce he's discovered a planet.

Readers of his website have posted all sorts of possible solutions:

"Transit SuperEarth, Pale Blue Gel."

“Grail result, alp cent bee has super earth!”

“Super Earth At Alpha Cen B. Rigel, Less True.”

“Bells greet Alpha Centauri’s Super Earth!”

“This huge pulsar celebrates rare planet.”

Most of these invoke a planet revolving around the star Alpha Centauri B. I don't have the energy to try to come up with a solution on my own, let alone see if the solutions I've printed use all the letters. I get tired just thinking about it.

Thanks to the excellent Teirneylab blog for all this info, which I've shamelessly stolen.

I freaking love comets. Little bits of rock and ice from back before the Earth was born. The truly spectacular ones only come around about once a decade, but if you've got binoculars and geeky inclinations you can see at least couple a year.

There's a new one out there now: Comet Lulin. Right now it's pretty dim, and you gotta get up just before dawn to see it - two big strikes right there. But by mid-February it'll be in the pre-midnight sky, and visible to the naked eye, albeit barely.

This will be the first one I'll be able to see through the big, dumb, cheap telescope. They look like fuzzy snowballs, and are quite pretty. Plus, this one is apparently going so fast you can detect it's motion against the backdrop of stars over a couple hours.

I'm as giddy as a schoolgirl.


Irrelephant said...

But are you GIGGLING like a schoolgirl?

Angela said...

That's so cool!

Nancy Dancehall said...

Sweet! I love the last two.

Eric Shonkwiler said...

Despite your bad behavior as a Wiinner, I've decided to award you the Prémio Dardos. Check the porch for more details.

Gordo said...

Yup, comets are the coolest. Leaving aside aliens, that is. ;-)

Now, this is an excellent incentive for me to finally take the training to use the computer-controlled 16" reflector in the observatory at work. Thanks!

Clowncar said...

Irr, I have been known to giggle, to skip, and to have teas with dollies like a schoolgirl. Part of the territory around here. Sigh....

Thanks Angela, and thanks for stopping by. Good luck in the cold, cruel, and crazy world of the acting biz.

Yeah, Nance, those last two are the best. I'd try to do one of my own, but I'm just too lazy.

Eric, I fear my trash-talking went a tad over the top. If so, I apologize. Still, I blame society.

That is so cool, Gordo. We have a 16" telescope here they let the
public use every other week - it's point and click! You use the laptop and click on a galaxy and the dome revolves and the telescope moves. It's like magic!