2258: Solar System Changes
|Solar System Changes|
Title text: "Actually, Jupiter already has a very impressive ring system!" --someone who knows Jupiter is within earshot
| This explanation may be incomplete or incorrect: Created by a MYSTERIOUS PLANET. Please mention here why this explanation isn't complete. Do NOT delete this tag too soon.|
If you can address this issue, please edit the page! Thanks.
This comic proposes changing the Solar System in a way that would be impossible in practice. In doing so, it and the title text anthropomorphize several of the planets, pretending that they have feelings that could be hurt.
|This comic may alternatively be about climate change||Something about satire, metaphors, acid rain, super-Earths, current-events, the nature of rings surrounding planets & extinction level events. I don't know. Don't listen to me.|
|Add mysterious planets inside Mercury's orbit||In the 19th century, scientists found discrepancies between Mercury's predicted orbit and observations. They proposed a hypothetical planet, Vulcan, to account for this discrepancy. After general relativity was discovered by Albert Einstein in the 20th century, it was found to account for these discrepancies.|
|After what it's been through, Venus deserves rings and a moon|| Billions of years ago, Venus and Earth are believed to have been almost identical objects orbiting the Sun. However, orbiting somewhat closer to the Sun, Venus became sufficiently hot that its oceans evaporated, cloaking the surface with gases that caused the Sun's heat to become trapped. This made the planet even hotter, causing a runaway greenhouse effect, and ultimately Venus became very much hotter than the Earth. On top of that, Venus was almost certainly hit by an enormous object, hard enough that its spin was completely reversed. Randall may be saying that Venus has fared so badly throughout its life that it deserves some compensation, like rings or a moon.
Alternatively, Randall could be referring to how we see Venus now as opposed to in the past. A hundred years ago, scientists considered Venus and Mars to be equally likely candidates for life and future human exploration - one being a little warmer than Earth and the other a little colder. However, when we sent spacecraft to Venus and Mars in the 1960s, we quickly discovered that Venus is a terrible place. Its atmosphere is more than 90 times as dense as Earth's and its surface temperature is over 450° C (800° F), not to mention the sulfuric acid rain. Spacecraft that have landed on its surface have lasted a couple hours at most. As a result, missions to Venus have become far rarer since the 1960s, while missions to Mars have remained frequent. Randall might be saying that most people don't consider Venus to be nearly as fascinating place as they used to, and that it would be far more interesting with rings, or at least a moon like Earth or Mars.
|Replace our moon with Mars. Mars is more interesting and we can consolidate missions.|| Mars has a lot more geological variety than the moon, and is much larger and has active weather patterns, and would therefore look far more interesting than the moon when seen from Earth. In addition, by making Mars a moon of the Earth, sending spacecraft to the moon and Mars wouldn't require separate missions and could thus be consolidated into a single one. This would benefit NASA's space exploration efforts, which have suffered from presidents alternating targets for human exploration between "moon-to-Mars" versus "Mars direct" architectures.
Incidentally, the Moon is thought to have been formed by an impact between the young Earth and a Mars-sized body. While Randall probably means well, the situation could get out of control very quickly.
|The solar system needs a super-Earth||Super-Earths are a type of exoplanet -- a planet orbiting a star other than the Sun -- that are significantly larger than Earth but significantly smaller than the gas giant planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune). While they are relatively common among systems in which smaller exoplanets have been found, our Solar System doesn't have any super-Earths, and with Mars being moved to replace the Moon, its location would be open to a new planet. With a super-Earth nearby, astronomers would be able to get a much better idea of what they are like. A super-Earth might also be an exciting place to colonize, although it would not be possible to return to orbit from such a planet with current rocket technology.|
|More asteroids!||Asteroids belts are usually portrayed in fiction as being incredibly crowded with asteroids, so much so that they pose a significant hazard for spaceships. In reality, the asteroid belt is much more boring, as most large asteroids are millions of miles from their nearest neighbor. The number of asteroids in the asteroid belt is indeterminate, as they range in size from dwarf planets down to about a meter across, and more than 100,000 have been found. Despite this, the density of asteroids in the belt is low enough that spacecraft have no problem flying through the belt untouched. Randall wants more asteroids.|
|Merge the big planet and the ringed planet into a big ringed planet ("Jaturn")|| Jupiter is the largest planet, with a volume larger than all other planets combined, and it displays striking weather patterns such as the Great Red Spot. Saturn, with its prominent ring system, is perhaps the most spectacular, but the planet itself looks very bland. Randall would merge the two, creating one planet that would dominate by both size and appearance. The two planets' moons would also be combined: the "Jaturn" diagram shows both the Galilean moons (the four largest moons of Jupiter) and Titan (the largest moon of Saturn) orbiting outside of Jaturn's rings.
The title text refers to Jupiter's rings, which exist but which are not nearly as prominent as Saturn's. However, considering that Jupiter is known to disrupt the asteroid belt and send asteroids towards the inner solar system (cf. Kirkwood gap) and completely destroy other celestial bodies (Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9), someone who is "within earshot" of Jupiter may wish to avoid insulting the planet by implying that its ring system is not already very impressive.
|Cut Uranus. Uranus and Neptune are redundant and Neptune is better. Tough but fair.||Uranus and Neptune are often regarded as being planetary "fraternal twins." Both have approximately the same size, the same mass, and the same composition - they even have similarly bizarre magnetic fields. Uranus's most notable trait is that its axial tilt is almost 98°, meaning it lies on its side and has a seasonal cycle unlike that of any other planet. However, this causes Uranus to look completely featureless most of the time, which makes it less interesting, while Neptune has more active weather patterns, including, episodically, a Great Dark Spot similar to Jupiter's Great Red Spot. The name "Uranus" is also subject to ridicule by English speakers.|
|Settle the planet thing by making Pluto a moon of Neptune|| Pluto was considered a planet from its discovery in 1930 until 2006, when the International Astronomical Union changed its definition of "planet" and reclassified Pluto as a dwarf planet. However, many people who grew up with Pluto listed as the ninth planet of the solar system were unhappy with the change, a topic that has been the topic of several other xkcd comics (473: Still Raw, 1551: Pluto, 1555: Exoplanet Names 2, etc.). Randall proposes a Solomonic compromise to "satisfy" both the camps who prefer to think of Pluto as "not a dwarf planet" and "not a planet" by making it into a moon. The diagram shows that Charon will also be made a moon of Neptune, and presumably Pluto's other moons as well. Even if the entire Pluto system were transplanted all at once, tidal forces would cause the bodies to drift apart and orbit Neptune independently.
Interestingly, one of the original hypotheses for Pluto's origin is that it and Triton were originally both moons of Neptune, but Triton knocked Pluto out of its orbit into a new orbit around the sun, while Triton remained with Neptune.
|This transcript is incomplete. Please help editing it! Thanks.|
[A very-not-to-scale diagram of the solar system is shown, featuring all eight planets along with their major moons, Pluto (along with its major moon), and the asteroid belt. Caption at the top:] Changes I Would Make to the Solar System
[The following edit marks are shown in red:]
[Three additional planets have been drawn in between Mercury and the Sun, with a bracket highlighting them] Add mysterious planets inside Mercury's orbit
[A ring has been drawn around Venus, and a dot representing a moon has been added on its left] After what it's been through, Venus deserves rings and a moon
[The moon is crossed out, and Mars has been circled. An arrow from Mars to the moon has been drawn in] Replace our moon with Mars. Mars is more interesting and we can consolidate missions.
[An additional planet has been added between Mars and the asteroid belt, about halfway in size between Earth and Neptune. Four continents are visible., along with an atmosphere] The solar system needs a super-Earth
[Numerous red asteroids have been drawn in, adding to the few asteroids that were already there] More asteroids!
[Jupiter and Saturn have both been crossed out. An arrow points from each to a new planet drawn above the two. This new planet has the belts, zones, Red Spot, and size of Jupiter, and the hexagon and rings of Saturn, as well as the five moons from both original planets] Merge the big planet and the ringed planet into a big ringed planet ("Jaturn")
[Uranus is crossed out] Cut Uranus. Uranus and Neptune are redundant and Neptune is better. Tough but fair.
[Pluto and Charon have been circled. An arrow points from Pluto and Charon to the right side of Neptune, where Pluto and Charon have been redrawn] Settle the planet thing by making Pluto a moon of Neptune
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