Star Power

Last night, taking the dogs out for a late walk at my parents' in the country, I was looking at the sky. One of the biggest trade-offs we make living in light-polluted cities is losing the stars. Even though it was a foggy night, there were still plenty of things visible, including a star shining so bright it had to be a planet.

When I came in and said this to one of my nephews, he flipped out and asked if we could go back out and see it. So we did (aside: barefoot in late November; it was chilly, but not bad: what have we done to our own planet?).

I love astronomy and wish I'd held onto more of it, so sad to say I had to google to find out which one it was. (My mom was using an app on her ipad, but I cling to the old ways.) I was able to figure out via the help of Astronomy Central and EarthSky that the planet in question was Jupiter.

Jupiter-and-moons2(photo from Astronomy Central)

According to this University of Oregon page: "Jupiter is the largest of the nine planets, more than 10 times the diameter of Earth and more than 300 times its mass. In fact, the mass of Jupiter is almost 2.5 times that of all the other planets combined. Being composed largely of the light elements hydrogen and helium, its mean density is only 1.314 times that of water. The mean density of Earth is 5.245 times that of water. The pull of gravity on Jupiter at the top of the clouds at the equator is 2.4 times as great as gravity's pull at the surface of Earth at the equator. The bulk of Jupiter rotates once in 9 hours, 55.5 minutes, although the period determined by watching cloud features differs by up to five minutes due to intrinsic cloud motions." There are lots of other fascinating things about Jupiter, including that if it grew much more in mass, it would actually shrink through gravitational compression. 

Science is awesome.

Afterward, Christopher and I talked about how day lengths govern the entire rhythm of our lives, and the "extra time" at the end of the day in Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars books, and whether the loss of cultural interest in space travel has any correlation to more people living in light-polluted population centers.


I dreamed a movie that never existed with Marilyn Monroe and Cary Grant opposite each other, on an enormous ship. Different kinds of stars.

4 thoughts on “Star Power”

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top