It’s amazing how much we know, and it’s amazing how little we know. We have discovered over a thousand exoplanets, we have seen to the edge of the universe (or, at any rate, this universe), and we’ve got robots crawling all over the surface of Mars. (cool story from yesterday: one that was sent up in 2003, The Beagle, but lost contact immediately and was presumed dead, has been found, by a more recent robot, and may even be reparable).
Yet, up to a couple of years ago, we considered Pluto a planet. Now, scientists say there might be two (not one, but two!) planets in our Solar System out beyond Pluto. We haven’t seen them because they were hidden behind Pluto. So, it’s not a planet – it’s the smudge on the lens.
I don’t really understand how scientists have figured this out – just because you can’t see something, doesn’t mean that it’s actually there. But, they’re a smart bunch of folks, so their guesses are a lot better than mine. Not only do they figure that there are two more planets out there, they reckon they are approximately the same size as Earth, which means they are likely rocky planets like Earth, and not gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn.
No chance of life as we know it, of course. Well outside of the Goldilocks zone. There might be ice, though, and they might be potential refuelling stations for the ships we’re eventually going to send on interstellar voyages.
I just hope if they find them, they give them cool names. I’ve always remembered the planets by the mnemonic “My very eager mother just served us nine pizzas,” which doesn’t work without Pluto. Maybe give us a V and a T, and she can serve us nine vodka tonics. For example.