For those of you who were too busy watching True Detective on Sunday, the next installment of COSMOS premiered on Fox. Thirty-four years after Carl Sagan brought the wonders of astronomy to television, astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson is picking up where Sagan left off, catching us all up on three decades of discovery. There are few things cooler than the expansive unknown of space. It is glorified in media like Star Wars, Star Trek, Apollo 13, or Gravity and given a real face by astronauts like Buzz Aldrin, Jim Lovell, or Chris Hadfield. It's right up there above us every night, an easy target for dreamers.
I consider myself something of an amateur astronomer; I can find at least two constellations in the sky, and I don't giggle when I say Uranus.
But all things considered, I'm as fascinated by the mystery of space as anybody, and this seemed as good a time as any to conduct some Oregon-based astronomical findings.
- Earth's orbital speed is 108,000 km/hr, over twice as fast as Jupiter's. Earth also has exactly one more De'Anthony Thomas than Jupiter. Coincidence?
- Saturn is the root word for "Saturday".
- In 2006, Pluto was declassified as a planet, and is now considered to be a dwarf planet, and the largest object in the Kuiper belt. Since Pluto was declassified, Washington State football has amassed a 29-69 record, and have many calling for their declassification as a member of the Pac-12.
- Neptune has 14 named moons; Marcus Mariota completed passes to 10 named receivers in 2013. No wonder he wasn't a Heisman finalist.
- The Wikipedia entry for parsec doesn't mention Star Wars, even once. This has nothing to do with Oregon football, it's just astounding. I mean, it's one of the most scientifically relevant lines from one of the most influential science-fiction movies of all time, and it doesn't even get a mention in a Wikipedia page? Unbelievable. This is really shaking my faith in the human resolve.
- Oregon won a Rose Bowl before scientists discovered Pluto. Point, Ducks.
- Sirius, the brightest star in Earth's night sky, is nicknamed the "Dog Star". A Google search for "duck star" turns up a bunch of results about backwoods-ass Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty. This can not stand. We need to discover a star, name it the Duck Star, and promote the hell out of it. I'm putting valued reader AcadianTraverse in charge of this, because he's probably the smartest of us all.
- UO astronomy professor James Schoembert has a bizarre goddamn website.
- In 2012, astronomer Mark Showalter and team discovered Pluto's fifth moon, and named it Styx. Five months later, the Philadelphia Eagles asked Chip Kelly to "Come Sail Away" and he did. Coincidence?!?
- The Sun - USC: I know, Oregon fans. We like to fancy ourselves the center of the Pac-12 solar system, given our run of current success. Nope. Not true. This is still USC's world, whether we like it or not. A lesser program would have collapsed into nothingness under the weight of those sanctions. USC hasn't missed a bowl when eligible since 2000, and though Sark will do his best to fuck it all up, that streak of perennial success won't be changing anytime soon.
- Mercury - Arizona: Super fast, relatively insignificant, and easily forgettable. Like Tucson, Mercury is barren, and hot as hell during the daytime.
- Venus - Colorado: Come on guys. Venus is completely covered in hazy clouds of noxious gasses. I don't always go for the obvious joke, but when I do, it's this obvious.
- Earth - Oregon: It's where the life of the conference resides, at least right now. When our consumer-driven society uses up all possible resources and we run out of ways to squeeze a dollar out of everything? Who knows where we'll end up. For now? All roads lead through Phil's Town.
- The Moon - Oregon State: Oh boo all you want about the crass Little Brother joke. I already told you I'm not above the obvious; shame on you for expecting otherwise.
- Mars - Washington: Our less-habitable neighbor is similar to Earth in many respects, chemical composition, length of day, orbital period, and wind speeds to name a few. Scientists believe that a time once existed when Mars could have sustained liquid water. But the glory years of Mars may be behind it.
- Jupiter - Stanford: The biggest team in the conference gets the biggest planet. Jupiter has almost as many moons as Stanford does tight ends. Jupiter has a hurricane three times the size of Earth called the Big Red Spot, and Stanford football seems like a Big Red Spot of its own, an amorphous whirlwind that picks you up and sets you down gently five miles from your house, unharmed but down 28-10.
- Saturn - UCLA: Saturn's rings, much like UCLA's Rose Bowl, make its setting the prettiest in the solar system. Saturn is also the lightest planet, making it the biggest pushover of all the planets.
- Uranus - Arizona State: Both are a lot bigger than you think (Uranus is 14.5 times as massive as Earth, ASU has 76,000 students); Uranus has a vertical axial tilt compared to the rest of the planets, and Brock Osweiler is quite vertical himself; and Uranus is just barely visible to the naked eye, while some ASU students have a reputation for being just barely naked.
- Neptune - Cal: Cal's Memorial Stadium is built directly atop the Hayward Fault, one of the most active sites for earthquakes on the west coast. Likewise, Neptune's volatility can be seen in numerous giant hurricanes that populate its surface. The notion that Neptune can't develop a quarterback worth a damn is still being researched.
- Pluto - Utah: We're still waiting for the Utes to become a legit player in the conference, but Utah has a fanbase as loyal and rabid as the Pluto supporters, who are out there petitioning for the dwarf planet's reinstatement as we speak.
- Makemake - Washington State: Makemake is the largest Kuiper Belt object, the most prominent of the millions of tiny rocks floating out in the cold expanse of space beyond Neptune. Positively Pullman-esque.