Q&A-notes for interview (unedited)
Mercury, we often times hear a phrase "mercury is in retrograde" where does this actually come from?
Retrograde just means that the motion of the planet is apparently changing, and it appears to have a backwards orbit. Usually planets move west to east, in prograde motion. Sometimes this seems to change and so they move east to west, but this is an optical illusion with Mercury. It only looks like that to us, depending on our position in relation to it, it also has no influence on us here on Earth.
What is Mercury actually like? Could we live on that planet?
Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system and closest one to the Sun, I think it’s a little larger than our moon. It’s known as one of the rocky planets.
It has extreme temperatures and during the day it can get as hot as 800 degrees, and because there is no atmosphere so you can’t retain heat, at night temps can go as low as minus 290 degrees. So the short answer here is no, we could not live on Mercury.
Venus, has been said to be at one point really similar to earth. How similar? In addition, what happened?
The similarities tend to get sensationalized, but we do have things in common. For example the reason why people say it’s like Earth, is because it is very similar in size, it has a core made of iron, a hot rocky mantle, and the surface is a thin layer of solid rock, and it has an atmosphere so it traps heat on the planet but that surface temperature can get as hot as 880 degrees Fahrenheit (470 degrees Celsius). Though there has been speculation about life existing at some point, but I don’t like going that far into guessing.
Mars is a hot topic planet. What is that planet like and why is it so interesting to us to potentially settle there?
I think Mars is special because we haven’t really studied any other planets as much as we’ve studied mars. It’s called the red planet as I’m sure many people know, but the reason why the planet looks red to us is because of rusting of the iron in the rocks and dust, and when the dust gets kicked into the atmosphere it makes the planet appear reddish to us.
A year on Mars lasts 669.6 sols which is about 687 Earth days. Mars tilt is a little similar to Earth because our planet is titled about 23 degrees and Mars is tilted 25 degrees.
The temperature on Mars can be as high as 70 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius) or as low as about -225 degrees Fahrenheit (-153 degrees Celsius). And because the atmosphere is so thin, heat from the Sun easily escapes this planet. If you were to stand on the surface of Mars on the equator at noon, it would feel like spring at your feet (75 degrees Fahrenheit or 24 degrees Celsius) and winter at your head (32 degrees Fahrenheit or 0 degrees Celsius).
6. It is said that at one point mars had an atmosphere, even water on it at one point. Was it similar to earth with all the water that we have here? Why did it all dry up? In addition, how do we even truly know that there was water on the planet?
The water we find today on Mars is ice-water, because the atmosphere there is too thin for liquid water to exist on the surface. Mars' sparse atmosphere doesn't offer much protection from impacts by such objects as meteorites, asteroids and comets.
Let us talk about Jupiter. Big person on campus. How did Jupiter get to be so big?
Pretty big yea, it’s also my favorite planet, if Earth was the size of a nickel then Jupiter would be about the size of a basketball. The composition of Jupiter is like that of our Sun mostly hydrogen and helium. Jupiter ended up taking most of the mass that was left from the formation of our Sun, and it has the ingredients of a star, which is why you would hear people call it “a failed star” and implying that Jupiter was supposed to be a star that never got big enough. That’s not really true. Jupiter is just a good and interesting planet.
Pressure and temperature increase, compressing the hydrogen gas into a liquid. This gives Jupiter the largest ocean in the solar system—an ocean made of hydrogen instead of water.
Is it true that Jupiter protects us from some comets that would have otherwise been bad news for earth?
I guess you can say that, because the magnetosphere is so powerful and extends so far out it does “trap” cosmic debris.
Saturn and its badass rings. Just how many rings does Saturn have? Why don’t other planets have rings like Saturn?
The rings are gorgeous and definitely show stoppers. The main rings are A, B and C. And the rest of the rings: D, E, F and G are fainter. Actually some of the other planets have rings too, they’re just not as spectacularly visible.
Could we live on Saturn or visit one of rings of Saturn one day?
Well we already visited the rings thank you to Cassini, but there’s definitely no chance of us living on Saturn. It’s a gas giant, that planet is not meant to sustain life as we know it.
Let us chat about Uranus, is it true that planet spins totally on its side? How did that happen?
Is the only planet whose equator is nearly at a right angle to its orbit, with a tilt of 97.77 degrees—possibly the result of a collision with an Earth-sized object long ago?
What gives Uranus its distinct blue color?
The methane is what gives Uranus its signature blue color.
Like Venus, Uranus rotates in the opposite direction as most other planets. And unlike any other planet, Uranus rotates on its side.
I feel like Neptune gets left behind a lot when talking about how cool the planets are. However, can you tell us a few cool facts about Neptune?
I’m no expert, but I do know it’s a pretty awesome world. Then again, I feel like that about almost anything in space. Neptune is an ice giant, one day in Neptune is 16 hours long, Neptune at least five main rings, Neptune has 14 known moons. Neptune's largest moon Triton,
Uranus is a blue-green color due to such atmospheric methane, but Neptune is a more vivid blue, so there must be an unknown component that causes the more intense color.
Could we ever live there you think?
Absolutely not, just like our gas giants, ice giants are not planets that can harbor life as we know it.
Last but not least, Pluto planet or little nugget that is just left in the ice world?
Oh my, well Pluto was long considered our solar system's ninth planet. But after the discovery of similar intriguing worlds deeper in the distant Kuiper Belt, an area full of icy bodies and other dwarf planets out past Neptune, Pluto was reclassified as a dwarf planet.
Pluto is very small, only about half the width of the United States and its biggest moon Charon is about half the size of Pluto. The surface of Pluto is extremely cold, so it seems unlikely that life could exist there.