Thursday, March 31, 2011


Mar 31st 2011, 11:37 by E O Hatterpol | NEPTUNE ORBIT

AHOY from Neptune!  I'm feeling much better today, thanks for asking!

I spent most of yesterday nuzzled into a plush armchair with T H White's The Sword in the Stone, keeping my head low to avoid any pub invites from Right Hemispheres (RHs).  One thing I'm looking forward to on this lengthy voyage is the chance to catch up on all the great works of literature I've been meaning to read.

Once I finished the book, I picked up another on Neptune & learned some pretty cool factoids: this bright blue ice giant was the first planet discovered by crunching numbers rather than peering through telescopes, it has fascinating, highly visible weather patterns & the only moon that orbits the wrong way.

You read that right; the moon Triton is in retrograde orbit, which means it's being flung around in the opposite direction of its planet's rotation.  Scientists believe this irregular behaviour can be explained by a scenario involving not the natural formation of Triton in Neptune's orbit, but rather its capture from the outlying Kuiper Belt when it was but a wee dwarf planet.

To put it bluntly, Neptune said "Hey, Triton, you better hide ya wife, hide ya kids".

I also read in my book that Triton is expected to obliterate itself into myriad particles 3.6 billion years from now when its slowly deteriorating orbit brings it too close to Neptune.  Don't be sad for Triton, though!  It will take up the next phase of its life as a ring system.

Let's see, here: object going the wrong way, eventually crashes into a million pieces... yep! that sounds like my high school driver's ed course.

Stay in your lane, Triton!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Mar 30th 2011, 10:31 by E O Hatterpol | URANUS ORBIT

WHAT happened to Tuesday?  Am I losing track of time that badly out here, after only two weeks?  No; that can't be right!

I don't remember much about yesterday, but I bet I could retrace my steps.  Let's see... I started off like always, booting up my computer & hopping on the Twittersphære; got caught up on all the latest updates... oh! then I saw that sweet picture from NASA, that one of the Sahara Desert spotted via satellite.  That photograph was stunning.

I remember getting pretty thirsty looking at that parched landscape; my throat started itching something fierce.  I drank some water, but I was still thirsty.  I had my morning cup of tea, too, but I was still thirsty.  Finally, I decided that if I was gonna quit this thirst, I'd need something stron-

Hey, I remember now!  I went down to "The Whale's Liver" for a drink, that's what I did!  Sure, it wasn't but 11:00 in the morning, but what's the "morning" out here, anyways?  The Starship Flybrary is teeming with people at all hours, right 'round the clock; the Captain has actually set up a dual shift system to keep the essential posts manned at all times.

The day workers call themselves the Left Hemispheres & the night workers call themselves the Right Hemispheres, after the fact that blue whales can only shut down one half of their brain at a time; the other half must stay awake in order to make the conscious mammalian decision to breathe.

So what is an interstellar travel writer to do?  I had a terrible thirst in my throat, as if some little devil had salted it while I was snoring; I had no choice but to find something smooth.  When I showed up to the pub, there was a rowdy bunch of Right Hemispheres tying one on after their shift.  I couldn't refuse their invitation, now could I?  I am trying to make friends on this starship, aren't I?

Long story short, Uranus looks calm and smooth from my vantage point atop the BPOD - the exact opposite of my whiny, pounding forehead.  It's a gas giant, like Jupiter & Saturn, but its heavier concentration of water, ammonia & methane has lead it to be further classified as an "ice giant".

I bet its rocky ice core would feel pretty good across my ragged brow right now.  I'm so close to the planet, I could almost dip my aching noggin into its placid, blue atmosphere, where the highs on any given day only reach -371.2 degrees Fahrenheit.  I bet that'd take the edge off!

Bleh!  I'll never go back to The Whale's Liver again!  Well... maybe just not so early in the morning.  I think I'm gonna crack a BC Powder and lounge this one off at the library; I'll see you chipper Flybrarians at Neptune.

Monday, March 28, 2011


Mar 28th 2011, 15:49 by E O Hatterpol | SATURN ORBIT

WELL, we've made it to Saturn's orbit, but I doubt we'll be here for long; Saturn's winds are the most turbulent oceans this blue whale has swam in for a while.  Our scientist-librarians have recorded wind speeds in excess of 1,100 miles per hour.  Can you imagine flying a kite in that?!

I used to think of Saturn as Jupiter's fiercely independent little brother; while Jupiter was off shouldering the burdens that all firstborn sons must shoulder, Saturn was like "Forget you!  I'll do whatever I wanna do!"  Then he went off to some seedy tattoo & piercing shop and had them attach a few rings.  "They're not tacky, they're art, man."

Saturn's rings are pretty schweet, though, as are some other features of our solar system's #2 gas giant: with 62 known orbiting moons (and countless "moonlets" in its rings), Saturn is definitely the most popular kid on the block; its best friend, the moon Titan, is larger than the planet Mercury and the only moon in our solar system with a respectable atmosphere; and, my personal favourite: Saturn is the only planet lighter than water.

That's right; in theory, if you were able to submerge all the planets in a cosmic glass of water, it would be the only one to float.  Kind of makes pool noodles seem like a joke.

Check back in with you at Uranus!  Until then, check my Twitter feed for updates between updates!

Friday, March 25, 2011


Mar 25th 2011, 15:57 by E O Hatterpol | JUPITER ORBIT

HAPPY Friday! It doesn't matter if you're on Earth or in outer space, Friday is always welcome! This Friday is my second aboard the Starship Flybrary; once I've sent this post back through space & time to all my Earthbound friends, I'll treat myself to a celebratory pint or three at the pub.

It looks like we took some minor damage from that unexpected asteroid attack three days ago, but the captain says it's nothing to worry about; they've got some spacewalkers thumping about outside as we speak (which, of course, has proven a noisy racket that keeps me from getting a good night's bleeding sleep).

I know I called Jupiter a bossy know-it-all back near Ceres, but I've really changed my mind on the subject. It turns out this gas giant played an important role in the early development of our solar system, and for that it deserves credit.

I checked out an old copy of a science magazine from the library & have since learned that Jupiter once acted like a force field, preventing matter from communicating easily across its orbit.

First, Jupiter gained weight by vacuuming up the sun's matter ejections, much like a dedicated maid tidies up after her messy, absent-minded professor. Once Jupiter got big enough, its rotation generated enough oomph! to discourage matter from crossing one side to the other, thus allowing the planets between it & the sun to coalesce in peace.

If Jupiter hadn't acted like a sort of bouncer at a nightclub, incoming asteroids & planetesimals would have kept the environment too chaotic for Mercury, Venus, Earth & Mars to really shake it up on the dance floor.

Think about it like this: which scenario is more fun? Cutting a rug undisturbed with your girlfriends, laughing & having a great time, or constantly fending off the unwanted advances of every overbearing too-cocky annoyingly-persistent Axe-doused intricate-graphic-Tee acid-wash-jeans trainers-wearing d-bag?

As an informal ambassador for Earth, I'd like to take this time to say "Thanks, Jupiter" on behalf of all of us!

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Mar 24th 2011, 14:30 by E O Hatterpol | JUPITER ORBIT

I'M FEELING spacesick from all that sustained thrust, but the payoff of making it to Jupiter is more than enough to settle my stomach. Also, I brought tons of cola syrup. Greatest over-the-counter anti-nausea medicine ever, but they hardly sell the stuff anymore!

Anyways, Jupiter is *singsong voice* nuhhhhh-uts! It's nuts!! SO. BIG!!

Our blue whale looks like a minnow next to even the smallest of Jupiter's features, let alone its "Great Red Spot".

I've been learning about this spot - which is visible back on Earth using telescopes as small as 12cm, by the way, so what are you waiting for?! - and I have to say I am FASCINATED!!

First of all, the Great Red Spot is a storm. A storm that could fit two to three Earths inside it, that is! I'm really starting to come to grips with the sheer size of space, now; I mean, we just crossed 408,660,000 miles overnight to reach a bleeding storm that could eat my home planet for breakfast!!

We have hard evidence that this storm has been raging since 1831, but suspect it may go as far back as 1665; my books tell me mathematical models suggest this megastorm may even be a permanent feature of the gas giant.

Isn't that nuts?! Could you imagine if there were a permanent hurricane terrorizing the seas forever back on Earth? What would that do to our shipping lanes? Our tides, our coastal habitats?? Even a hurricane that had been around since 1831 would probably have kicked our asses thoroughly by now!!

This multi-Earth-sized megastorm is so large it takes six days to completely rotate once, as answered correctly by @MsWanderlust on my Twitter feed. (Click on my name in the tagline or fumble about with the Twitter widget near the upper right corner of my blog page to get updates on my journey between posts.)

If one megastorm wasn't enough, scientists have speculated since 2000 that another is forming as we speak. Apparently, a handful of "white storms" just under the Great Red Spot decided to join forces; they've since agglomerated into a larger storm whose colour deepens by the day. It's being called "Red Spot Junior" now.

We'll be in orbit for at least another day, checking for any asteroid belt-induced external damage. I'm ready to get going already, because there's so much ground to cover between here and the Homesphære, but at the same time I say do all the tests you want! I mean, I don't wanna die in outer space!!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Mar 23rd 2011, 12:49 by E O Hatterpol | SOMEWHERE BETWEEN ASTEROID BELT & JUPITER

HAAAAAANG ONNNN! We are BLASTING towards Jupiter right now! We are going so fast I can feel the entire ship shaking; I can barely drink my cup of tea!!


This is crazy! The captain announced he's putting on the afterburners to make up for lost time; he's probably talking about that asteroid attack yesterday. It's kind of ironic, but literally RIGHT after I posted about the relatively unclogged asteroid belt, we ran into an unexpected clump of nasty rocks floating out there.

Not only did we take a pounding I'd rather not repeat for the rest of my time aboard the Flybrary, but the captain had to slow down to extract the blue whale from that blasted cloud of death-dust.

Luckily, it's nothing but clear skies ahead of us! Only problem: there's a lot of it. The book I checked out the other day tells me there's something like 408,660,000 miles between Jupiter and the outer lip of the asteroid belt.

That's insane!! If I drove a car going 75 miles per hour (because I'm speeding on a highway & trying to keep an eye open for police), it would take me 622 years to make the trip! No wonder the captain is so antsy to make good time!

I'm starting to wonder how much space there is between Earth & the Homesphære; I've got a long journey ahead of me. Luckily, I'm travelling aboard a starship that's positively stacked to the ceilings with books!!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Mar 22nd 2011, 13:03 by E O Hatterpol | ASTEROID BELT

THE ASTEROID belt isn't as clogged as I thought it was. Don't get me wrong - there's plenty of debris floating around out here, but a Swiffer dry mop could handle most of it.

Back in Mars orbit, I thought I was in for one noisy, sleepless trek across the main belt. Fact is, I've learned that more than half the belt's mass is held by just four objects: Ceres, Vesta, Pallas & Hygiea. That means starships like the Flybrary actually have a pretty healthy bit of clear space through which to draw a line.

Hygiea, Vesta & Pallas are all asteroids; Vesta & Pallas are thought to be the remnants of protoplanets. Ceres is the biggest of them all but is still only classified as a dwarf planet. Fun fact: it holds the unique distinction of being the only dwarf planet in its 'hood (the rest are Pluto's chums).

Still, when I look at all the bits and bobs floating about out there, I can't help but see the asteroid belt as the planet-that-could-have-been. Ceres was well on its way to becoming a very nice planet but I guess it just couldn't man up to the task. It's a damned shame, is what it is.

You know what? It really isn't Ceres' fault; when the planets were forming, that bossy know-it-all Jupiter used its gravity to get all the planetesimals riled up. They were so perturbed, in fact, that instead of shaking hands with one another in a gentlemanly fashion, they smacked each other willy-nilly like a cosmic mosh pit. Instead of coming to civil merger agreements, they shattered each other to bits.

When I finally land on the Homesphære, I hope they're nice to me. I'd much rather we all get along & end up as a nice Earth-like planet than savage each other & all end up a bunch of cold planet-wannabe space junk.
Anyways!! We'll see what kind of sleep I get tonight & then it's onwards & outwards to Jupiter!

Monday, March 21, 2011


Mar 21st 2011, 12:31 by E O Hatterpol | MARS ORBIT

WE'VE put the Starship Flybrary into orbit around Mars to conduct a battery of standard post-blastoff tests. Meanwhile, us regular passengers have been afforded an a-MAY-zing view of the Red Planet from the Baleen Plates Observatory Deck (BPOD).

I must say that all the panicking I did between Earth & Mars was for naught; the ship sailed smoothly (save a few engine room rumbles & space debris pings that are still waking me up at night) & the payoff of seeing my first non-Earth planet up-close is more than worth it.

I've taken the liberty of checking out a book on Mars from the public library; hopefully I'll remember to return it before its due date this time. I've already racked up $40 in blasted late fees; these Flybrarians don't take any prisoners!!

Anyways, I'm learning all about Mars & I just can't see why we aren't colonizing this bad boy yet. Its rotational period & tilt are similar enough to those of Earth to produce "seasons". It also has a cool mixture of Moon-like & Earth-like features: its impact craters remind me of the Moon's turbulent landscape & I can't help but feel nostalgic for good ol' Earth when I see its volcanoes, valleys, deserts & polar ice caps.

It's atmosphere is admittedly thin, but haven't we proven ourselves capable of atmospheric manipulation back on Earth? I don't see why we can't figure out a way to take excess carbon dioxide out of Earth's atmosphere & use it to strengthen that of Mars. I'm only a travel writer so I don't know much about science, but it seems like we could at least figure out SOME way to trap more heat closer to Mars' surface.

Can't think about it for too long because I have the asteroid belt between Mars & Jupiter ahead of me! I don't think I'll be getting any good nights of sleep over the next few days...

Friday, March 18, 2011


Mar 18th 2011, 16:15 by E O Hatterpol | SOMEWHERE BETWEEN EARTH & MARS

HAPPY Friday! To be honest, I'm having trouble keeping track of the days... I've found there aren't any clear boundaries between night & day on the Flybrary. People keep their own schedules in space, it seems; thankfully, I've got my Earthbound friends to help keep my head on straight!

We are officially in the space between Earth & Mars now... & I have to say I'm both terrified & excited! I'm excited because, well... I'm in outer space, man! It's a dream come true & I wouldn't give it up for the world! In fact, I had to give up the world just to take on this interstellar mission!

I'm terrified, though, because everything's so new & hard to understand. I'm sleeping fitfully at night; I just can't get used to the sounds of space debris pinging at the whale's side or sinister rumblings from the power stations deep in its belly. I don't have any windows in my quarters, either, so sometimes it feels a bit claustrophobic.

I feel like a little kid learning to swim. Blastoff was like the first time your head goes fully underwater; it's deathly frightening to make yourself jump, but you come up exhilarated. Low Earth orbit, medium Earth orbit & the Moon... those were so much fun because they were familiar; it still felt like I was in my own cosmic neighborhood, like I was still swimming in the interstellar version of a kiddie pool or shallow end.

Now, the Flybrary is just swimming through (nearly) empty space & there's nothing to hold on to! Mars seems so far out & so impossible to flourish in, like my first time jumping off the deep end; my first instinct is to drop everything & get the hell back to safe waters!

I mean, what happens if a comet the size of Texas smashes into us & breaks us clean in two? If we're boarded by a gang of pirates & re-routed to a lawless chunk of rock far away from any help? If I get the flu & there's nobody here I'm friends with who can take care of me??

Don't get me wrong, I am LOVING this experience - it's like I'm learning how to swim all over again.

But this time, I think I need some floaties!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Mar 17th 2011, 11:02 by E O Hatterpol | THE MOON

HAPPY St Paddy's day to all my Earthbound friends! I've managed to find the Flybrary's bar & am saluting all of you with a pint of green beer. Have a gander at my Twitter feed for an amazing view of the Emerald Isle from space courtesy of NASA's Earth Observatory (which, awesomely, is abbreviated as "EO").

Speaking of amazing views, the Starship Flybrary just passed the Moon on its way to the edge of our solar system. The observatory deck was the perfect place to take an up-close look at the white satellite! I'll help you get an idea of where I was: where a real blue whale normally has a mouth full of baleen plates, our spaceworthy blue whale has thick glass that runs right 'round from the starboard side through the bow to port side for a stunning, nearly panoramic view of outer space.

Sometimes, when I think back to how it all started, I like to think of the Moon as Earth's chipper secretary. In reality, the Moon was a protoplanet that smacked violently into Earth's side, tearing a chunk out of our young planet's matter & taking it as its own.

It's much nicer to think of a nervous Moon showing up 15 minutes early for a job interview, anxious & probably frightened to death, only to have its dreams come true as the gruff but loveable Earth hired it on the spot. That chunk of Earth the Moon took wasn't cosmic theft, it was a bunch of files, papers & other grunt work the Earth was simply too busy to handle.

They've got a great workplace relationship going now. The Moon helped pull the Earth's tides about, allowing plants time to put down roots & contribute to plate formation; it also works continuously to regulate the Earth's rotation. If Earth were to spin too quickly, our jet streams would stabilize, leaving some swathes of Earth drenched & others bone dry; if Earth were to spin too slowly, our days would be boiling hot & our nights freezing cold.

Thanks, Moon! If you keep up the good work I'm sure you'll be headed for an outstanding employee performance review!

PS Interesting fact: European men used to believe in the Middle Ages / Renaissance that women's "humours" were linked directly to the moon. Their logic: women lost their minds once a month when their... "lady time" came around, just like the moon waxes & wanes on a near-monthly cycle. Luna meaning moon, then Latin lunaticus "moon-struck", & finally Old French lunatique, "insane".

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Mar 16th 2011, 08:41 by E O Hatterpol | EDGE OF CLARKE BELT

LET me start off by apologizing in advance for any satellite problems you experience back on Earth. The Starship Flybrary is enormous, you see, so it's very difficult to dodge all the equipment we've sent up previously to help us with GPS, communications & weather.

I hope you'll excuse my writing today if it's a bit sloppy; I'm feeling kind of tired & groggy after a bad night's sleep. I was so excited to be up in space for the first time that the first thing I did after yesterday's post was explore the Flybrary as much as I possibly could; it's so awesome!! I can't wait to tell you all about it!

But listen what happened to me first. When I had finally worn myself out enough to think about going to sleep, I was jolted out of bed by a sharp *CLANK* on the side of the starship! I was pretty scared - aliens? Aggressive army of asteroids?? Luckily, the captain came over the PA system:

"*psh* 'Ahoy Starship Flybrary, this is the captain speaking. We seem to have, ah, gently nudged a global positioning satellite out of our flight path. Nothing to worry about unless you're currently stuck in traffic back on Earth & attempting to calculate an alternate route. Please resume normal activity. That is all.' *psh*"

Another nasty clang shook me from my slumber early this morning as we passed through the Clarke Belt. Apparently, the blue whale's tail knocked a communications satellite clear out of geostationary orbit!

This is highly unfortunate because I'll need every satellite I can get to relay my writings while in transit & on the Homesphære. If any of you get this message, leave me a quick note so I know the data streams are functioning.

I really hope this captain is more experienced than I think he is... wish me luck!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Mar 15th 2011, 09:28 by E O Hatterpol | LOW EARTH ORBIT

GOODBYE Earth, hello Homesphære! I'm so excited to be on my way, although launch jerked my insides about quite a bit... I'll be figuring out starship bathroom etiquette just as soon as I've posted this note.

I've hitched a ride aboard the Starship Flybrary, a galaxy-class public library shaped like a blue whale; I'll draw you all a picture as soon as I get the chance. I think my quarters are somewhere around the roof of its mouth, so to speak, but I'm still getting my bearings.

We're taking it slow for the moment so we're still in low Earth orbit; I imagine we'll accelerate gently past the planets before really cranking it up beyond the Kuiper belt. I've never seen the planets up-close so I'm really looking forward to it!

The next time I see a green-blue planet as pretty as Earth, I'll be landing on the Homesphære, a newly discovered planet much larger than ours. I've heard tales of strange beasts the size of buildings, new species of man that climb trees or swim the ocean floor, & even giants made of rock.

Please join me on my travels & check back often for updates! Now, where was that bathroom... ?