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Posts tagged “Nature (journal)

CEH: Rare Moments of Glory: Planetary Scientists Admit Seeing “Lucky” Circumstances

CEH: Rare Moments of Glory: Planetary Scientists Admit Seeing “Lucky” Circumstances.

Why are we seeing young phenomena in the planets if they are billions of years old?  Some scientists are abandoning uniformitarian assumptions and admitting we are lucky to be witnessing them in “rare moments of glory.”

In Nature this week, Maggie McKee interviewed scientists who are struggling with short-lived phenomena in the solar system.  The subtitle of her article, “Caught in the Act,” states, “We may be seeing some of the Solar System’s most striking objects during rare moments of glory.”  Her first two paragraphs elaborate why this is unsettling for some:

Ever since Copernicus evicted Earth from its privileged spot at the centre of the Solar System, researchers have embraced the idea that there is nothing special about our time and place in the Universe.What observers see now, they presume, has been going on for billions of years — and will continue for eons to come.

But observations of the distant reaches of the Solar System made in the past few years are challenging that concept. The most active bodies out there — Jupiter’s moon Io and Saturn’s moons Enceladus and Titan — may be putting on limited-run shows that humans are lucky to witness. Saturn’s brilliant rings, too, might have appeared relatively recently, and could grow dingy over time. Some such proposals make planetary researchers uncomfortable, because it is statistically unlikely that humans would catch any one object engaged in unusualactivity — let alone several.

It seems a bitter pill for some planetary scientists to “go against the grain of one of geology’s founding principles: uniformitarianism, which states that planets are shaped by gradual, ongoing processes,” she wrote.  Then she quoted Jeff More (NASA-Ames) who explained that “Geologists like things to be the same as they ever were” because it’s “philosophically comforting because you don’t have to assume you’re living in special times.”  Why that should be “comforting” was not explained.  Read the rest: CEH: Rare Moments of Glory: Planetary Scientists Admit Seeing “Lucky” Circumstances.

English: Planetary nebulae NGC 6072

English: Planetary nebulae NGC 6072 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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