26 – Juno’s Arrival

NASA’s Juno spacecraft finally arrived at Jupiter earlier this week after nearly 5 years of travel! Juno’s mission will be to collect and send back loads of data about our biggest planet in the next 20 months.

Jupiter’s Galilean moons won’t be in focus for this mission, but Europa knows how popular she is. The Galileo mission of the 90s revealed a lot about Europa leading scientists to believe that life could possibly thrive in the oceans beneath its icy surface. As a result, Europa is in big focus on future missions.

23 – Planet X

The theory of a large planet lurking somewhere far past Neptune has been around for a while. But just recently scientists have found some real evidence for its existence. They say there are objects in the Kuiper Belt that wouldn’t move they way they do if that planet was not there. The alleged planet is so far away that we can’t see it from here, so who knows how long it will be until we can capture a picture of it, assuming it even exists!

Real or not, how do you think Pluto feels about everyone already calling this mysterious object a planet? 😉

22 – New Horizons

NASA’s New Horizons craft has been travelling for 9 years and will be arriving tomorrow (7/14/15) at Pluto! NH will just be doing a fly by before it heads further out into the Kuiper Belt. Int he mean time, we have been getting some WONDERFUL shots of Pluto, and finally figuring out he has a bit of a reddish color (previously I colored him purple in the comic. That’s changed now).

This is super exciting and I hope you are all watching New Horizons as closely as I am!

21 – Super Jupiter

We have a lot to thank Jupiter for. Our biggest planet is not just pretty to look at, it stands in the way of a lot of possible threats to us. Jupiter’s mass creates a gravitational pull strong enough to fling comets and other objects back out of the solar system and away from us.

One of example of this was back in 1994 when Jupiter took the brunt of the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9, which got caught in its orbit.

But don’t give Jupiter all the praise just yet. That same gravity that saves us could also, one day, turn a comet or asteroid towards us.

But for now, let’s just thank our stars that Jupiter is out there protecting us!

(Or, if you’re in a destructive mood and want to see how Jupiter could possibly destroy us all someday, you can go read this: Could Jupiter Wreck the Solar System?

20 – Saturn’s Hex

The vortex at Saturn’s north pole is oddly hexagon shaped. As it tursn out, the shape comes from smaller vortices at the edges. Scientists have been able to create these hexagon shapes in labs creating currents similar to those on Saturn. You can watch a video of that HERE.

We only recently started getting the best views of this when Saturn finally hit the portion of its orbit where the sun hits its north pole, and Cassini was there to catch it! We’re learning more about how this strange storm acts as Saturn’s northern hemisphere reaches it’s Summer solstice.

5 – Pluto’s Denial

I admit it. I am still bummed that the solar system I grew up with is not the same. Well, it IS the same, it’s just classified a bit differently. It’s still a little hard to say that we have eight planets, not nine. It’s been 6 years now, so I should just be over it, right? Well, I HAVE accepted it, I just feel a little sorry for the guy. So, of course he gets a place in Cosmical.

There are plenty of good reasons Pluto doesn’t fit in with the rest of the crew. Pluto’s orbit doesn’t lie on the same plane as all the other planets in our solar system. It’s tilted at a 17° angle. And for a portion if his orbit he’s actually closer to the Sun than Neptune is since their orbits intercept. Also, Pluto’s moon Charon is around half Pluto’s size and they, plus two tinier moons, orbit around a central point that is NOT Pluto. It’s like Pluto is running in circles chasing his tail. 😉

The big reason why Pluto isn’t a planet is because he hasn’t cleared his orbit. There’s a buch of other stuff sharing his orbit and he hasn’t dominated that orbit yet.

But I can’t obviously show any of these things in the comic. So, in Cosmical, Pluto is a cyclops. But he’s spent such a long time being accepted into the ranks of “Planet,” that he can’t really see his differences himself.

If you want to understand more about why exactly Pluto isn’t a planet then go here. There is a GREAT video to watch which should clear it all up for you.

1 – Getting Cozy

I’ve had this idea bubbling in my head ever since I started seeing Jupiter and Venus getting cozy up there. But the idea was rounded out when I was walking in the city the other night admiring the two on my right and then saw poor, lonely Mars floating around on my left. So tonight I had to make it tangible 🙂