Monday, 28 March 2011

Jupiter - The Big Gas Giant.

Jupiter is next in line, being the 5th planet from the Sun. But before we arrive at Jupiter we have to travel through a big asteroid belt. Sigh.
Only one of these asteroids, Vesta, is ever visible to the naked eye, and it's not got the largest diameter! That would belong to Ceres, which is as much as 900 kilometers (560 miles) wide.

You're VERY unlikely to get hit by an asteroid if you were to travel through an asteroid belt though...

Well that'll do, they can get pretty boring when all the excitement of Jupiter awaits.


What a beast. He/She/It 's (Jupiter is named after the King of the Gods from Greek Mythology) 142 984 kilometers in diameter across the  equator and 43128×1015 kmin volume. (That's 1321.3 Earths!) And if that's not enough, he's
2.5 times the mass of all the other planets in our solar system!

He's got 63 moons! But only 4 of these are large enough to be commonly sighted.

Jupiter is primarily composed of hydrogen with a quarter of its mass being helium; it may also have a rocky core of heavier elements. 

NASA are planning on sending out a spacecraft to orbit Jupiter in August 2011.
For more information:


Oo 'ello, what have we here then?

Jupiter has a giant red spot, if you haven't noticed already...

It's basically a high pressure equivalent of a hurricane on Earth, it's said to have been going for at least 300 years.

Jupiter orbits the sun at 13km per second. 
It's mean surface temperature is -150 degrees Celsius.


Saturday, 26 March 2011

And the next planet is... Uuuummmm... MARS

I totally didn't have to look that one up.

Yes, the red planet. So here are some facts, boys and girls:
  • Named after the roman war god, Mars is smaller than earth, with the surface area of 28% of that of the Earth's.
  • Mars also holds several records; it's volcano Olympous Mons is 27km tall, (roughly three times the size of mount Everest,) and takes up an area similar to the American state of Arizona. This is the highest peak in the solar system.
  • It has the longest trench in the solar system too; stretching 4000km, and 7km deep, which makes it longer than the European continent and ten times longer than the grand canyon.
  • As Mars is smaller than Earth, gravity is a lot less; about 37% of what we experience on earth. If we are to ever land on Mars, we'd feel very light. (Though it would take us six months to travel by spaceship from Earth.)
  • It is the most likely of all the other planets in the solar system to have ever housed life; it is believed that water, the vital source of life, used to run on the red planet. It is now frozen, mainly in the polar ice caps.
Oh, and you wouldn't find any socialists here! (I'll just kill the joke.)

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Everybody’s favourite planet (apart from probably Mercury) - Earth!

Earth… perhaps the most unknown planet in our solar system. So what is there to know about this obscure planet?

What makes Earth special is that it is in something called the ‘Goldilocks zone’. This means that it is just the right distance from the sun to be neither too hot nor too cold, allowing it to support liquid water. This is essential for life, and is partially why Earth is the only planet we know of to date to support life.

The element most present in the Earth’s composition, by mass is in fact Iron, making up 34.6% of Earth, followed by Oxygen and then Silicon.

Earth is the only planet in our solar system not named after Greek or Roman mythology- instead Earth’s name has its roots in Old English and Germanic dialects.

Most of the mass of the earth is in the viscous liquid mantle, followed by the semi-fluid outer core and solid iron inner core. The crust only makes up a very small portion of the Earth as a whole.

Earth differs from other terrestrial planets in the solar system in the way its crust floats as plates on top of the mantle.

The Earth’s crust is mainly made up of quartz.

The Earth’s core can reach temperatures of 7500K in the centre, exceeding those on the surface of the sun.

The Earth is denser than any other major body in the solar system.

In fairly short periods of time (only about 500000000 years or so) the Earth’s surface will actually be completely destroyed and recreated, so no traces of the early earth are left on the surface today.

Without life on Earth Oxygen probably wouldn’t exist, due to its reactivity. As it is it makes up about 21% of the Earth’s atmosphere, Nitrogen being the most abundant gas at 77%

And, just for you Ieuan-
Socialists live on Earth.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Feeling Hot?

I like Venus, But i feel it gets a bad rep, it's always left out in exploration voyages and in sci-fi it's never populated by people, even when mars and Mercury are.

There is a reason for this; Venus is the hottest planet in the whole solar system (around 460 degrees Celsius), despite being further away from the sun and having a remarkably similar composition to earth.

This is because it has a load of super reflective gas clouds on its surface made form none other than our good friend H2SO4 (sulphuric acid).

You can see the cloud formations on Venus' surface.
Fun facts:
It has the densest atmosphere of any planet in the solar system, composed mainly of Carbon Dioxide.

It's also roughly the same size as earth.

It's named after the Roman Goddess of love and beauty.

Scientists think it used to have Earth-like seas before it got too hot.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Everybody's favourite planet (apart from probably Earth) - Mercury!

 Today I'm talking about Mercury. (Can you see a running theme? - crazy!)
The closest planet to the sun, Mercury basically resembles our own moon in that it is mainly cratered with regions of smooth plains has no natural satellites and no atmosphere. Being so close to The Sun Mercury only takes 87.969 earth days to orbit it fully unlike Earths 365.3, it is also the smallest planet in the solar system and has the smallest axial tilt.

We don't really know that much about Mercury as you can only see an illuminated crescent when looking through a telescope, however we do know that it has a core of iron which generates a magnetic field about 1% as strong as the earths. This large iron core makes the planet incredibly dense. The surface temperature of Mercury varies from -183 °C, at the bottom of its deepest craters near the poles and 427°C at its subsolar point, its mean temperature being 169.35 °C. So all in all a pretty inhospitable planet! Still at least its named after the roman god of trade... And he had wings on his hat! 

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Sun.

So, we're all living on one of many planets, in one of many solar systems, in one of many galaxies, in the one universe that we're aware of.

So we're pretty insignificant. But hey, luckily we, as a species, have the ability to discover and learn about the great world around us.

Let's start with something familiar...

'The Sun' is the name we have given to the only star in our solar system. It's a big ball of really hot gas. We can feel its heat from Earth and we're between 91 and 94.5 million miles away depending on our position of orbit.

The sun, like all other stars gets its energy from burning its gases by nuclear fusion. It's around 14 000 000°C at the center (where the fusion of atoms happens), but only 6000° at the surface. Most stars are made up almost entirely of two main gases: hydrogen and helium.

Our Sun was born from a cloud of gas around 5 000 million years ago. It is made up of different layers of gas; the surface is called the photosphere. Huge flames of hot gas occasionally explode from here. They're called Solar Flares and Prominences.

I'll just throw this out there:

Our Sun has a 1 393 000 kilometer diameter. It rotates once every 27 Earth days.
It has 8 planets orbiting it (Poor Pluto :/)

earth sun comparison

As with all stars our Sun will eventually die, but luckily for us, we've got about another 5 000 million years until this occurs. When it does, it will have used all its hydrogen and helium will become its main fuel. It'll expand to around 100 times larger and 1000 times brighter. It will then be a Red Giant. It will then shrink to a white dwarf star, only the size of the Earth.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

My favourite statesman... I admire him for his military achievements. Oh the IRON-Y

Before you get too dragged in to my brother's socialist brainwashing (the previous post), I'd like to talk about Aurthur Wellesley, my favourite British Prime Minister. You probably know him as the Duke of Wellington, often nicknamed Nosey or the Iron Duke. (Brilliant play on words in the title, I know.)

Anyhow, the Anglo-Irish general did play a significant role in British politics; by pushing forward catholic emancipation - giving catholics full citizen rights in Britain. On the downside he was very conservative in his ideas - not willing to extend the sufferage from the privileged classes. This lost him his premiership in 1830 to Earl Gray, the man the tea was named after.

It was on the battlefield where the Iron Duke did excel. As the first ever  general to be appointed as Field Marshal, his professional, calculated approach to war helped him to succeed time after time, often against forces with much greater numbers. By the end of his military career he'd gained much land for England after campaigning in India, defeated Napoleon Bonaparte's marshals in the Iberian Peninsular, and with the help of Blucher and his Prussians beat the French Emperor at Waterloo. Not once did he lose a battle. Beat that Mr Attlee.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Clement Attlee.

Clement Attlee is widely considered to the greatest ever prime minister in British history, a view which I share, him being a socialist after my own heart. Attlee came to power in 1945, after the surprise defeat of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill. The coalition government during the war had again brought to the forefront of politics Attlee's labour party, previously having resided in a sort of political limbo.

The greatest challenge Attlee's post-war government now faced was poverty. Evacuation during world war two had brought to the attention of many people the shocking conditions in which many of the British poor lived. Attlee introduced a policy of reform during his six-year term of office, nationalizing many industries such as gas and steel and introducing numerous measures to help the impoverished, including setting up the NHS with his health minister Aneurin Bevan. He also supported Indian independence, followed a diplomatic cold war policy and still managed to control the volatile personalities within his cabinet such as Herbert Morrison, Ernest Bevin and Aneurin Bevan.

Also, he had a pipe.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Buckminsterfullerene Buckminsterfullerene Buckminsterfullerene

Buckminterfullerenes are carbon mollecules, thats all, really.
Well... there a little more complicated than that, the mollecular formula of a Buckminterfullerene is C60 so there are sixty carbon atoms in each sphere each is joined to three other carbon atoms with one double bond per each carbon atom.

This is a picture of the skeletal formula of a Buckminsterfullerene which is difficult to depict as its three dimensional.
If you were to count all the shapes you would find 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons.

Fact Time:

Each carbon atom has a free electron so it is free to move and carry and conduct electricity.
Each molecule has a diameter of 0.71 nano meters, but despite it's large size it has wave-particle duality (has both wave and particle like qualities) 

Although Buckminsterfullerenes sound like something that can only be found in labs; C60 molecules can be found in small quantities in soot.


Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Julius Caesar and the interesting tale of piracy.

In 75BC Julius Caeser was captured by the Cilician Pirates of whom infested the Mediterranean sea. After his capture the pirates behested a ransom of twenty talents, at which point Caeser burst into laughter saying that he would give them fifty. They did not know, he said whom they had captured. At this point he sent his followers to various islands to collect the ransom and was left on his own with one friend and two servants among the bloodthirsty Cilicians, of whom he treated highhandedly it is said that he even sent his servants out to tell them to be quiet while he slept.
               For thirty-eight days Caeser took his capture with the greatest unconcern, joining in on the games and exercises. Almost behaving as if he was their leader rather than prisoner, he wrote poems and speeches that he promptly read to the crew of the ship. If they failed to admire his works he would call them to their faces illiterate savages, and would often laughingly threaten to have them all crucified. 
               At this point the ransom arrived and he was set free onto the shores of Miletus, where he quickly raised a very small fleet of ships and set sail against the pirates. He soon found them still anchored off shore and attacked, capturing nearly all of them and taking their properties as spoils of war. Placing the men as prisoners at Pergamon. Going in person to Junius the Governor of Asia asking what to do with them, Junius however ummed and ahhed about the case saying he needed to look into it more. 
               It was at this point that Caeser decided to take matters into his own hands and crucified the lot of them, just as he had often told them he would, although they always thought he was joking...
              In conclusion JULIUS CAESER WAS A BAD-ASS. 

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

FLASH....1..2..BANG! We're all going to die!

Sooo, how does the lightning get there?

The Lightning:

Dark thunderclouds form when warm, wet air surges upwards into the sky and cools dramatically.
Inside these clouds, some of the water freezes and strong air currents make this ice and water droplets bump together. This knocks electrons off the atoms in the ice and creates a builds up of static electricity. Positive charge builds up at the top of the cloud and negative charge at the bottom and attempts to escape to the ground, when the charge is released, its a bolt of lightning. When the lightning doesn't come down to earth, it creates sheet lightning.

The Thunder:

The lightning can heat the air around it up to 30 000°C - this is five times hotter then the surface of the sun!
This huge amount of heat causes the air to expand faster than the speed of sound. This creates the crash of thunder.

If the thunderstorm is not overhead, you can count the seconds between the time you see the lightning and the time you hear the thunder and divide this by 5 to find out how many miles away it is.

AND REMEMBER KIDS: Lightning always tries to find the fastest route to the ground, so don't stand under trees, sit in cars. If the car is struck, the steel frame conducts the electricity over the surface of the car to the ground.