October 2010

The Tombaughs were farmers of wheat and oats; together with other farmers in Pawnee County, they were part owners of a great steam tractor and thresher, like the one here below (I couldn’t find a picture of the Tombaughs farming).  Clyde Tombaugh was responsible for some of the maintenance on the thresher, and some of the same equipment he used for grinding his lenses he also employed in the sharpening of the thresher’s many blades.  The meticulous, umcomplaining work he did around the farm would surely be of help to him later, when he was poring over the endless photographs of the night sky, looking for the one moving speck that would be Planet X.


The steam tractor provides the power for the great whirring thresher belts while you rake the cut wheat and gather it into your arms and throw it into the thesher mouth, to be separated grain from chaff.  After an hour of standing beside the roaring machines, gathering the cut wheat into your arms, bending and standing, raking and kneeling, you stop hearing the engine, you stop thinking of hearing as something you do, and then all at once the noise emerges again into your consciousness, full of its many constituent parts, a rumble and a liquid pounding and a million high whinnying sounds from the belts and other things besides.  You feel it in your sternum in a strangely personal way.


Just too good, that’s all.  See this and other awesome Zarmina’s World tourist posters (from the future) at the old reliable io9.com.


Saving up my Interworld Credits starting now.

Steven Vogt of UC Santa Cruz has been getting a lot of attention lately for his discovery of a “Cinderella” exoplanet – one right in the habitable zone of its star.  Officially called Gliese 581g, he’s unofficially named it after his wife, who happens to have an excellent moniker herself — Zarmina.  I think she’s from Earth, but her name is otherworldly, and just the sort of name you want to hang on a newly discovered world.  Lively discussions are underway as to whether Zarmina (the planet, not the lady) might be actually habitable, and if so, by what.  Vogt has, entertainingly, assured us that life does exist there.  Paul Gilster at the superb blog Centauri Dreams has some excellent coverage of the whole question — and manages to fold a lovely review of Percival’s Planet into the mix, too.

Zarmina has an orbital period of 37 days, orbiting at a distance of 0.146 AU from its star. Its mass appears to be 3.1 to 4.3 times that of Earth, with a radius of 1.3 to 2.0 times that of Earth. Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet with a solid surface.   It’s about 20 light years from us — a mere stroll in astronomical terms.