Adventures in Learning – You Are Here #2

5 Sep

More fun facts from my latest non-fiction find, You Are Here by Christopher Potter:

You know how on some nights you can see the crescent moon, but also a faded impression of the rest of the moon alongside it? I’ve always thought (without really thinking about it too much) that this had something to do with the regular sunshine getting to the moon. Actually, the reason we can see the rest of the moon, albeit dimly, is because it’s illuminated by reflected earthshine. The most important thing I learned from this is that I should stop accepting half-assed scientific theories of my own ridiculously uninformed creation, and actually look things up on a regular basis.

One of the brightest stars out there is a red supergiant named Betelgeuse (and, like Michael Keaton’s gross-out afterlife criminal, pronounced Beetlejuice). The word comes from a long ago translated version of an Arab word, with possible original meanings varying from “hand of the central one” to “armpit of the central one.”

Quasars. Always heard the word, always vaguely assumed they were something that didn’t necessarily exist (or possibly even belonged completely to the sci-fictional realm). Turns out they’re the light caused by a black hole eating up all the matter around it, until there isn’t any more in its gravitational reach. So in this active quasar stage, black holes are anything but black, and even scarier than regular black holes – after all, there seems to be one at the centre of every galaxy, including our Milky Way, but it can’t get us… in case you were worrying about that. I was.

4 Responses to “Adventures in Learning – You Are Here #2”

  1. Racquel Valencia September 8, 2010 at 3:34 pm #

    “Armpit of the central one”. That rules. Learning that could have made that astronomy course I took in Con Hall less terrifying and more entertaining.

    • Lija September 13, 2010 at 4:40 pm #

      Yeah, I briefly considered one of those courses, then balked when I started to suspect there might be math involved.

  2. BuriedInPrint September 8, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    I wasn’t worried about that. And then I was. But now I’m not, again. So thanks.

    • Lija September 13, 2010 at 4:39 pm #

      Well, you should be. So good.

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