A thoroughly sporadic column from astronomer Mike Brown on space and science, planets and dwarf planets, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the joys and frustrations of search, discovery, and life. With a family in tow. Or towing. Or perhaps in mutual orbit.

Lilah Brown's Planets, Part II (or, Season II preview)

Friday night my wife and my 3 ½ year old daughter Lilah picked me up at work to go have some dinner. When I opened the car door, Lilah, who it appears was about to explode from waiting to tell me something, blurted out “Daddy, daddy, daddy LOOK!” and pointed off to the west with an excited look in her eye. I followed her finger to a spot above the horizon where a thin sliver moon was shining down with Venus just a finger width to its right. “It’s Venus and the moon,” she breathlessly exclaimed, “and the moon is little but it is pretending to be full,” her words to describe the ghostly outline of the full moon seen in the background of the bright glint of the crescent moon.
“Daddy daddy daddy do you remember when we saw Venus and the moon and Jupiter, too?”
I do indeed remember that. That moment was the December crescent moon, three full lunations ago. It was also the moment that I like to think of as the final episode of the first season of Mike Brown’s Planets. Like any self-respecting TV production, I’ve been taking a summer hiatus. It’s just that my hiatus occurred during southern summer rather than northern summer.
I’m not sure what TV production crews do during a hiatus but we’ve been pretty busy here at Mike Brown’s Planets, doing a bit of science. You’ll get to hear all about it in upcoming installments. Some of the highlights upcoming include:
  • Name a satellite of a Kuiper belt object! I’ll tell you about the Kuiper belt object and its satellite and then I’ll take suggestions of what to name the satellite (and why). The best suggestion will get forwarded to the IAU as the official recommendation.
  • Life, death, and the Kuiper belt.
  • More and more and more moon shadows. Last season readers here were the first to hear about the ongoing shadow crossing of Haumea by Namaka (and why they are both important and cool). Much much more is to come (and you can read more about it in an ongoing technical blog intended more for research astronomers, but, nonetheless, occasionally entertaining)
  • My father, rocket scientist, RIP
  • A (slightly belated) look forward at discoveries that might be made in 2009 and a look back at the 2008 predictions to see how many, if any, came true.
  • Why Pluto is still not a planet and should remain that way.
  • Things in the sky that make me smile.
Stay tuned for Season II!


  1. Michael Joseph John Pawelczyk McClellanMarch 2, 2009 at 3:05 PM

    Ooo! Are we finally going to have a name for the satellite of Orcus? It's about time. Has the name Weywot been formally submitted for Quaoar's satellite yet? And you also have my full support for Pluto remaining a planet, and I look forward to hearing your predictions for 2009!

  2. Does the season include commentary on Lellouch et al.?

    Was that data from the event you described last season in:

  3. Laurel Kornfeld notes her objections in three... two... one...

  4. Nice to see you back on your blog! This season II looks appealing!
    I hope you will speak too about 2007 OR10 (congratulations by the way). It is really a pity that it received so little coverage from science media. A sign of times that an object probably in the Top30 or Top35 of Solar System bodies by size has been ignored. Speaks volume of how banal this has become. Would have made the front pages ten years ago. It is mainly discussed by babbling nonsensical astrologers and not by rational minds. A pity.
    Only ciel&espace reported it
    (may be exagerating the diameter)Nothing on SciAm or New Scientist...

    In your very interesting paper you focus on the statistics for Sednoids but do not dwell much on 2007OR10.

    I am eager to get your prognosis for the diameter and albedo for this 1.9 absolute magnitude object.And see it receive attention as an object per se, not just an element for statistics.

  5. http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/discoblog/2009/03/02/illinois-offers-to-sell-pluto-planet-status%E2%80%A6or-just-give-it-away-for-free/

    Pluto THE PLANET is back in Illinois ... (Laurel, too)

    I think I'm going to go stand half-way out on the Eads Bridge with one leg where Pluto is a planet and one where he is not...and make some comparison notes.


  6. Kaden: As a clever someone noted over on Phil Plaitt's blog, Pluto's orientation vis a vis the plane of the Earth's orbit means that it never actually passes "over" Illinois. ;)

  7. Laurel KornfeldMarch 10, 2009 at 1:28 PM

    Sorry, Tom, this time it took me a week, but that's only because I'm busy writing many articles advocating the overturning of Pluto's demotion. It's a free country; keep writing why you believe Pluto is not a planet, and I will keep responding as to why it is one. This debate isn't over.

  8. Laurel KornfeldMarch 10, 2009 at 1:30 PM

    Oh, and one more thing. I'm not in Illinois, just supporting Illinois' proclamation, which makes more sense than that of the IAU. That and I'm working on a book about Pluto and why it is a planet--it should be out sometime in 2010 or 2011.

  9. David GrinspoonApril 12, 2009 at 8:46 PM

    I like your blog description, where you say you will write about "planets (full and dwarf)".
    This tacitly admits that a dwarf planet is a kind of a planet. It's just so silly to say that a dwarf planet is not a planet. In the way you have categorized things here, dwarf planets can be clearly distinguished from other planets with whatever properties we care to assign them.
    This solves the entire problem.
    What a relief! Now we can move on to more interesting things.

    All best,

    David Grinspoon