Friday, January 27, 2012
7 Quick Takes- Astronomy vs Planetary Science
Think of the bold as the most commonly asked questions and the regular text as the responses he gives.
1) So what do you do for a living?- I'm a planetary scientist.
2) I have this strange bush in my yard. It looks like X,Y,Z. What is it?- That's botany. Planetary science is Earth, Mars, Venus...
3) Oh, so about that group of stars up there. What is that?- Um, I'm not sure. That's astronomy. I really should know my constellations, but I don't.
4) Okay. So if I want to point my telescope to Venus?- Um, I think it's over there. I should know, but I study meteorites. I don't work with telescopes.
5) So if you don't work with telescopes, what the heck do you do?- I work in a lab. *Me interjecting* He used to work in the basement. It's really cold down there.
6) A lab?- Yeah, I take meteorites and I heat them up in a furnace and I date them. It's like carbon dating except I study potassium decaying to argon or argon- argon dating. I can't tell you exactly the age of the rock, but I can tell you the last impact it had. *me again* He means the last time something hit it. You see meteorites are usually parts of an asteroid. What he does fits into the overall picture of how old exactly the solar system is.
7) So let me spell it out for you. Astronomy studies things outside the solar system and planetary science is all about stuff in the solar system. Knee's godmother is an astronomer. She studies outer planets. That is planets not in our solar system and she works with telescopes. Hubby is a planetary scientist. He works with rocks from space either meteorites or lately lunar rocks. He works in a lab with tiny samples. There are amateurs out there who can run a telescope better than he can. Also all those missions to Mars and stuff. Those are run by planetary scientists not astronomers (although they have their own stuff too). Hubby's former roommate was on the Phoenix mission. So does it make sense now?