Sunday, October 30, 2011

Planetary, my dear Watson!

"Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto are the nine planets that revolve around the sun in our solar system" was what we learned in school. More than two decades have passed, and since then there have been many new discoveries and Pluto has been un-planet-ed. Demoted. As if it could not get enough votes to be a member of the Planets Legislative Assembly. Imagine the billion gazillion gases and floating things in space queuing up to cast their votes, proudly exhibiting the ink mark on the finger afterwards.

Two anti-Pluto gases in conversation:

GAS 1: "I will not vote for Pluto, he has done nothing for us in the last couple of million years. I think I will vote for this new planet BX54U8Y instead, he looks promising."

GAS 2: "Let the name Pluto be erased forever from memory."

GAS 1: "That's impossible."

GAS 2: "And why is that?"

GAS 1: "Well, there's another Pluto, the one that's very popular with human beings."

GAS 2: "Are you saying this Pluto character has cloned himself?"

GAS 1: "No, not exactly. You see, this other Pluto..."

GAS 2: "Who is it? A human being? An asteroid? A black hole?"

GAS 1: "It's Mickey Mouse's dog."

Okay enough about the planets.

Or maybe not. The reason I thought about Mars (not the chocolate bar) and Jupiter (not the Roman god) and other planets and the universe we live in, was because I went out yesterday evening.

It was almost sunset and I was riding in a very shaky auto. We climbed a flyover, and above the buildings and the  trees and the power lines I could see this big, round orange sun hanging in the sky. The sky was somewhere between blue and grey and there was not a cloud around, not even a bird. Just this big sun, beautiful and majestic and close, so close you feel you could reach out and touch it. I took out my phone to take a picture but by then we had descended from the flyover and all I could see were buildings above me. At every open space I got I craned my neck upwards to look at the sun. Five minutes later it had sunk very low, and its colour had become pinkish - orangeish.

We all know we live in this big universe, that we are nothing more than a tiny speck of dust. But did we ever actually "feel" that we are a part of it? We live our lives everyday worrying about food and clothing and shelter, but did we ever for a minute take the time to think, yes I live on a planet which revolves around the sun, and there are a million trillion other planets and gases and other space stuff floating around me? Never, is my guess.

In the news we hear about an asteroid or a meteor or something about to hit the earth or collide with the earth. We read/listen to it and think, oh that sounds scary. But we were never really scared, were we? We would be more scared, say if we hear that there is a masked robber terrorising the neighbourhood. Because we relate to it. We don't relate to space stuff. Most of us think all these planets and satellites and gaseous matter stuff is only for the scientists. And I am no exception.

So yesterday I was watching the sun, and I thought, hey the sun looks exactly like the pictures of the planets in our textbooks. To be precise, I thought it looked like Jupiter. Mostly because of its orange colour (see picture below). That's when all these thoughts started invading my head.

And just the other day I read that two scientists captured the birth of new planet on camera. Makes one feel smaller than ever.

Here's a video of the Milky Way taken from the highest mountain in Spain, El Teide.

"If you ever wondered how the Milky Way would look through a Sahara sandstorm, look at 00:32."
The Mountain from TSO Photography on Vimeo.

A beautiful picture of the Milky Way by Thomas Zimmer:


  1. You have lateral thinking, from this and your previous post. Never spared a thought about Pluto and his lost planet status myself. Figured he/it wouldn't give a damn :)

  2. Two planets are missing from your Solar System :-D

  3. I feel so small and insignificant when I think more about the universe.

    The mountain - bloody awesome clip!!! I watched it thrice.

  4. diary - I feel sad for Pluto. And wondering what they teach in the schools now. Is Pluto still included in the list? Have to ask my nephews and nieces.

    Alejendro - Which two? Pray tell.

    Mizohican - Imagine how wonderful it would be to see that with the naked eye. Ok or maybe with a super telescope.

  5. Ceres

    More than two actually :-P

  6. Alejendro - Never learned those in school. Anyway, good contribution there!

  7. Uii, pics khi a mawi top. When I look up at a star- filled sky I'm often reminded of Job 34 "Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades? Can you loosen Orion's Belt?" And then I feel awed and humbled all at once. Hmana Archie comics hnunga mail order a thil an chah thrin ang chia telescope kha ka awt thei top, i still want em

  8. ku two-i chu a rawn Pathian Thu leh nghal ruih tawh.. :-D

    aduhi, keipawh sikul ah chuan kan zir tel ngailo a, mahse ka google a tang a ka hmuhchhuah a nih kha :-P

  9. kuku - Wow. Never heard of that verse. Deep. Let me look it up (I know I know I'm a terrible Christian).

    Alejendro - Google hmangthiam thiam hi a ni tawh mai, tiraw?

    HV - :D

  10. Ni e, tu emawni ang deuhin inhnial nikhua ah pawh Google keuh keuh ila. Chuan link dah mai lo khan type chhuak/or copy-paste leh vek ila.. tee hee :-P