Hello Readers. I was unable to update Handsome Science yesterday, and will probably have to skip a science-y update today, due to some changes in my personal life. I had been unemployed for three months when I started this little blog, and had plenty of time each day to research and type up a new post. It worked well for my working style, which is very loose and not fond of specific deadlines (don’t tell my new boss!).
However, starting yesterday I’ve been working at a customer service call center here in town to pay the bills, and the new schedule has thrown my life into a bit of disarray. I’m in training right now, from 3 pm to midnight, which means my time to update HS is limited to “mornings” (about 10 am to 2 pm) or “evenings” (about midnight to 2 am), instead of all day at my leisure. This means I now have to plan my posts ahead if I want to update on time, and I’m not very good at that, but I’m trying.
Soon I will update with a “How We Know” I started work on yesterday on the periodic table of elements, and it should be a good read, when it’s ready. Thank you for your patience, and keep checking in! I’m planning on returning to a daily weekday schedule by next week, or I may decide to skip a couple weekdays in favor of adding weekend posts as well, so stay tuned!
-RSR, your Handsome Scientist
A little bit of history, first:
Ceres was the first asteroid ever discovered. It was found in 1801 by Giuseppe Piazzi, and was actually predicted by an earlier astronomer and mathematician, Johann Daniel Titius in 1766. This prediction was reinforced by Johann Elert Bode in 1772, and the mathematical formula used has become known as Bode’s Law. (This was discredited when Neptune was discovered and didn’t fit the model.)
Uranus was discovered in 1781, and it happened to fit Bode’s Law, so the idea gained credibility, and the search for the “missing planet” in between Mars and Jupiter was on. When Guiseppe discovered Ceres, he first took it as the missing planet, but conservatively announced it to be a comet. However, its observed motions differed from all known comets up to that time, and soon even more objects like it were discovered, all in similar orbits between Mars and Jupiter.
The universe is a big place. The scale of it is nearly impossible to conceive except through series of pictures, or a video showing a zoom-out from a park in Chicago, to the furthest reaches of what we can see, while increasing the zoom speed as we go. Even with the rapid acceleration*, the journey takes some time, and by the time you get to the end, it’s easy to forget the vastness of space in between landmarks.
The best visuals are probably these two:
Now, the universe is so big that it can take several billion years (the record is about 13 billion) for light from one end of it to reach us, because light has a fixed speed**. So far this is all just background information. The real question boils down to how we measure the distance and speed of these objects that are billions of light years away from us. There are a few steps to get there.