Frozen Love: Valentines from Hoth
Coreward across the galactic plane’s slightly more fashionable side, some 21,500 light years distant, beats the heart of a small unregarded red sun.
Around this lonely red dwarf, a frozen world circles. Waiting.
Its mass, five and a half times that of Earth, lumbers along a 10-year orbit barely warming above 50 Kelvin. That is, 370 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.
It’s cold. So cold that even the hardiest of explorers would skip the ice cream after supper and go straight to hot chocolate, or bourbon even, with a dash of heated spacesuit on the side. So cold that NASA not-so-much-joked-but-pretty-much-for-real called it Hoth!
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PS — Points for those who find all the Hitchhikers Guide references!
For the Hoth Postcard, Original Image/Illustration of OGLE-390Lb Credit: ESO
Bathed in the glow of the galactic core, this Hoth-slash-super-Earth would feature a solid surface of ice, plains of ice, mountains of ice, ice of ice. In a word, it’s icy. You will slide just thinking about it. You will slip and kill yourself in every parking lot is the kind of concept we’re going for here.
And, with that quantity of ice, there’s only one thing you can count on, and it’s not nicely-chilled drinks. It’s just that it’s damn reflective. It reflects a white winter sheen the likes of which sometimes brightens the stars beyond.
In fact, that’s how it was found. Let’s take a look, with the help of Mr. Einstein. Yes, that one. Albert Einstein.
See, relativity says weird things happen. Like gravity of large bodies, suns, planets and such, can bend light. It happens when a massive object gets between you and what you’re looking at, so let’s say you’re looking at a star 21,500 light years away - Google “size of universe and Douglas Adams” to understand distance here - which is Hoth’s red dwarf sun, which we’ll call OGLE-2005-BLG-390L, as its scientific name is known, inextricably, to be. Now, another star passes between you and 390L and, because of relativity, the light bends. The light of 390L is magnified, so it’s easier to see minute differences in brightness. If a planet is present, the light is brighter than it should be and, bang, we’ve discovered Hoth. It’s called gravitational micro-lensing and today there’s been about 53 exoplanets identified using that method.
You might say this information isn’t worth a pair of fetid dingo’s kidneys, and you might be right, if you hate science. Yet, it’s still important, in two respects: One, it’s cool, and two, it means we can look farther across the galaxy than we ever dreamed.
That looking is made possible by OGLE, which stands for the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment out of Poland, and it led us to the ice planet, two in fact. There’s OGLE 390Lb, which as we said NASA called Hoth, and OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb some 13,000 light years away, which NASA also called, ahem, Hoth. There’s likely a few more and, well, we’re waiting with bated breath for their names. (With the size of this galaxy, and universe, you can afford to be duplicitous.)
Anyway, what to do with a world called Hoth? Remember it’s covered with ice and snow. Anyone know what we can do there? Something we do in winter? Anybody know what’s going on right now in South Korea - and no it’s not a lot of kissing. Anyone? Bueller?
Okay, so if you listen carefully, you might here the faint gravitationally-lensed echoes of a distant broadcast from the 3AT Network. Let’s listen in ...
For the 3AT Network “Winter Games,” Original Image/Illustration of OGLE-1195Lb Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
Colonies blast off for the CDXLII Winter Games!
Associated Extrasolar Press
NEW THESSALY, Hoth -- Athletes from across the Third Arm Protectorate climbed Mount Zeus on Hoth yesterday, lighting the flames of the CDXLII (442nd) Interstellar Winter Games.
The holoshow that followed at the Hoth Polar Dome celebrated centuries of colonial athletics, with a stunning homage to Olympus Mons where a thousands years ago dozens of extrasolar nations established the Interstellar Olympic Committee.
As is tradition, leaders of the three first colonies - Proxima, Tau Ceti and Eps Eri - gave opening remarks, welcoming a record 300-plus competitors and a half million winter sports enthusiasts who took the long-haul light shuttles to be in the stands. Billions of others watched via ethercast across the Milky Way.
At the show's culmination, spectators joined athletes in virtual reality to experience snow sailing, low-g cloudboarding, and the circumpolar skeleton.
Qualifying astronaut athletes then kicked off the CDXLII Winter Games with the traditional rocket luge across the Graupel Plains where the most lionized competitors in the galaxy zipped along hydrogen ice tubes at supersonic speeds.
Coverage and results available now on our virtual etherfeed or in today's edition of the Hoth Station Courant if your planetside.
Tomorrow, join us for coverage of day two events: Traditional bobsled, the millennial favorite, and The Jump - a new addition this year that features spacesuited skiers who will attempt an escape-velocity jump to a suborbital landing slope, with points awarded for best time, style and tricks.
That's it from Hoth. Until next time, we wish everyone a pleasant day, or diurnal anomaly, depending on planet and preference.
The Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment, or OGLE, is a Polish astronomical project based at the University of Warsaw that is chiefly concerned with discovering dark matter using the microlensing technique. Since the project began in 1992, it has discovered several extrasolar planets as a bonus. The project is led by Andrzej Udalski, who is a co-author of the discovery of OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, a.k.a. Hoth, in 2005.
More info on OGLE-2005-BLG-390Lb, “Hoth” ...
More info on OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb, also “Hoth” ...