BAN #141: Plutonic names, Democratic Presidential hopefuls

August 19, 2019   Issue #141

[Saturn image credit: NASA / JPL / Space Science Institute / Gordan Ugarkovic]


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Astro Tidbit

A brief synopsis of some interesting astronomy/science news that may be too short for the blog, too long for Twitter, but just right (and cool enough to talk about) for here.

This is nifty: International Astronomical Union, which is the official keeper of names of astronomical things, has approved a new set of names for surface features on Pluto.

In 2017, after the New Horizons probe took close-up hi-res images of Pluto, the IAU approved a passel of names of features, proposed by the New Horizons team. Now a second round has been approved, and in keeping with the rules, the new ones are named after explorers (human and robotic), pioneers, and people who helped historically with the discovery and exploration of Pluto.

[Names in white were previously named, ones in yellow are new. Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Ross Beyer]

So now we have Lowell Regio, named after Percival Lowell who funded the discovery of Pluto; Wright Mons after the Wright brothers; Hunahpu Valles after a Mayan legend of twins who defeated underworld gods in a game of Xibalban, and many more.

This makes 28 official names for Pluto (plus some more for Charon, its big moon). So, given how many interesting things the probe saw in its flyby and extrapolating this rate of naming, the entire surface of Pluto will be named just in time for people to land on it in a couple of hundred years.


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Politics

As Dave Barry said, “Poli” = many and “tics” = blood-sucking parasites

I’m paying limited attention to the Democratic Presidential candidates right now, punctuated by specific googling when one of them says something interesting. I call this “stochastic interest”. I’m not hanging on every development for a number of reasons (though JessicaMae Stover makes a legit point), mostly because I don’t think there’s much I can do to influence what’s going on other than to tweet about it, which is a little dissatisfying. It helps, but at what level?

I’ve been dithering a bit on whom I like best to get the eventual nod for the party. It’s a very close race between Warren and Harris, and they are far ahead of whom I’d pick for third. I don’t like Biden for a number of reasons (the fact that he’s an old and out-of-it white guy is leading that pack), and the others have any number of larger flaws. Especially Gabbard, who is essentially a Republican, and Williamson, who is ridiculously anti-science.

I was actually mulling this over recently when my friend John Scalzi tweeted about this very thing, linking to a post on his blog ranking the candidates. I read it and laughed; it almost exactly mirrors my thinking. This happens a lot with John; he is clever and wise and so I wind up agreeing with him a lot (you may fault these compliments as him agreeing with my already-made conclusions, and you are free to do so, but not everyone who agrees with my own opinions is someone I’d praise). I probably wouldn’t swear quite as much as he does in the article. I save that for *#^$$_%wads who truly rise above the fetid GOP pool of decaying offal.

We’ll see how this goes over the next few months. As I’ve noted, I’d be happy with either a Warren/Harris ticket or a Harris/Warren ticket.

And I strongly, strongly, STRONGLY urge you to read Stonekettle’s brilliant essay “Hunting the Unicorn — to Extinction”. He makes the case very clear that yes, no matter who gets to be the Democratic candidate, we have to vote for them. We cannot let Trump win, and to do that we cannot let our own petty needs for a perfect candidate keep us home. This happened last time with Clinton, and in key states democratic voters either didn’t vote for her or threw their vote away with Jill Stein. Now we have Trump who is a rampaging infection on this country, destroying everything and anything that progressives stand for.

He must go, and the only way to do that is to vote blue. All the way down the line; I will not vote for any GOP candidate in any race, as they have shown how they tolerate racists, hatred, violence, school shootings, white nationalism, and yes, they’ve even coddled the KKK and Nazis. This is where we are. The GOP has to go, and Trump with them, so I’m voting Democratic, even if Biden or some other candidate I don’t like as much is the one on the ticket.

And yeah, I’ll have a lot more to say about this as 2020 approaches.


Blog Jam

What I’ve recently written on the blog, ICYMI

[From Tuesday’s article. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech]

Monday August 12, 2019: Solving the riddle of the edge-on galaxy NGC 5866

Tuesday August 13, 2019: The supermassive black hole in our galaxy recently erupted… and we don't know why

Wednesday August 14, 2019: Universe Unplugged: Learn about exoplanets with the cast of The Expanse

Thursday August 15, 2019: Was Jupiter's core nearly destroyed by a massive planetary impact while it was still forming?

Friday August 16, 2019: Across the Universe, a star exploded so violently that it *completely* annihilated itself


Et alia

You can email me at thebadastronomer@gmail.com (though replies can take a while), and all my social media outlets are gathered together at about.me. Also, if you don’t already, please subscribe to this newsletter! And feel free to tell a friend or nine, too. Thanks!