…science the shit out of this…

Once again we braved the crowds and headed out into Cardiff, this time down to the bay area. Rookie mistake number one because it was utterly freezing. Beautiful and my Doctor Who loving heart adores it there but it was very cold. And I swear there were twice as many people in the city as there were on Tuesday.

We met up with some friends, Daniel & Claudia, who Jack and I have known for years. In fact they first introduced us to each other 21 and some years ago. The 5 of us get on like a house on fire – once upon a time, before we met Lucy, there may have been a foursome. It was a lot of fun, we were curious about it, that was that, and we’re still all friends. They live back up in Manchester though so we don’t see them very often – sometimes only a couple of times a year. This year’s been one of those years, it’s only the second time we’ve seen them

We explored some of the Christmas happenings at the Millennium Centre, had a lovely meal overlooking the Bay, ate some amazing steak, I drank a little bit too much wine but we had so much fun. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. We really need to make a more concerted effort to see people next year – not just Dan and Claud but all our friends. It’s hard, everyone’s working but it’s always worth it and today reminded me of that.

I had a little wine-induced nap and now I’m eager and excited to talk about what’s happening on Mars. You have no idea how thrilled I am right now. There is a thing on Mars that was not there before! It’s the first time a robot has picked up an instrument from its deck to place on the surface of another planet! It’s the first seismometer on the surface of another planet.

And this seismometer is an incredible piece of technology. It detects vibrations as small as a hydrogen atom. It’s so sensitive that during testing in Colorado, they had to filter out the Pacific AND Atlantic oceans (& track any time anyone at facility opened a door)

If Mars as much as hiccups, it’ll know!

But wait! Mars doesn’t have plate tectonics, you’re thinking, so why bother with a seismometer? Well, many things produce seismic waves! For Mars, we expect:
cooling contraction
interior heat
impacts
heat flow probe self-hammering

But you know what’s really, really cool? Over the coming months & years we’re going to get data to actually draw scale diagrams of the inside of Mars instead of bluffing. And we’ll know what’s the deal with it’s core. And mantle.

And we’ll know this inside my lifetime.

Right now every drawing of every planetary interior you’ve ever seen except Earth has a fair chunk of us making shit up based on ranges of plausible explanations to fit limited data. But now we’ll have seismic data. That’s a 600lb gorilla of constraining internal structure.

We make a lot of assumptions based on Earth. Yet Earth is clearly the oddball of the solar system with its plate tectonics & all that water, so maybe we shouldn’t use it as our standard for ‘normal’

I’m going to freak the fuck out if it’s gooey. How could it swish around and not generate magnetic fields?! Some cold lil nugget reflecting on a bygone era of fabulous volcanism would fit my mental model much easier.

This whole mission is just fucking astonishingly COOL!

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Saturn With No Rings?

I can’t decide whether the discovery that Saturn may lose its rings in 100 million years because they are literally raining away into the planet’s atmosphere is the saddest or most beautiful thing

We only discovered the phenomenon back in 2013. It’s incredible how much we’ve learned since then.

(This was supposed to be a post about our outing to Winter Wonderland. But I had to share that instead. I can always write tomorrow about what we did today)

Grading

I don’t think I’m going to be escaping my study much – if at all – this weekend. I finished this week with all the grading to do. A couple of hundred worksheets, 70 or so reports and 70 or so exams (mixed multiple choice and short answer).

Send coffee and donuts. And Jason Momoa. And more pens, mine just ran out.

Right now, I’m not sure I know the difference between a terrestrial planet and a gas giant anymore.

And then I realise there are finals for two courses next week.

Which is why it’s gone 11pm on a Friday night and I’m still sitting at the computer. Although, I’m now winding down, checking my emails and coming on to see how much more I’m missing on Dreamwidth. So much for getting caught up this weekend, and I wanted to post a review of the book I finished today. But it’s nearly Christmas break. Just one more week to go!