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by Gideon Marcus

Every so often, serendipity chooses what I write about. Last month, the Traveler family Journeyed to the Seventh Planet in film. Then, the Good Doctor wrote about the giant planet in his science fact article in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. And now, in this month's Galaxy, Willy Ley tells of the origin of the the names of our celestial neighbors, Uranus included.

And there's a 7th Planet-sized gap in my series on the planets of the solar system. Who am I to fight fate?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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An alien cataloging our solar system for an Encyclopedia Galactica might summarize our home in this brief sentence:

"Solitary yellow dwarf, unremarkable, with a single planet of note; also, a few objects of orbiting debris."

That may strike you as an affront given the attachment you have to one of those pieces of debris (the Earth), but from a big-picture perspective, it's quite accurate. Of all the masses whirling around the sun, the planet Jupiter is by far the biggest. It is, quite simply, the King of Planets.

As we stand on the precipice of planetary exploration, it is a good time to summarize what we know about this giant world, especially in light of recent discoveries made by ground telescopes. Thus, here is the fourth in my series on the planets: Jupiter.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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For many of us, the motivation for reading science fiction is the opportunity to explore worlds beyond our own. Only in fantasy can we fly to faraway planets and see the unusual sights they afford us. But, as I try to convey in this column, science can also reveal places every bit as interesting as the those that are the fruits of imagination.

For instance, there are eight planets besides the Earth whirling around the sun, each of them a wildly different orb from ours and each other. Moreover, while we are still on the eve of a new era of observation, utilizing space probes like the recently failed Venera and the ambiguously targeted Pioneer 5, yet the progress of technology has revolutionized even ground-based observation. Our conception of the planets has evolved significantly in the last half-century (to say nothing of a full century ago). It boggles the mind to imagine what we might know in another fifty years.

Let me show you these worlds, as we know them today, and as we used to know them. I've written about Venus, and I've written about Pluto. Today is Mercury's turn.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Pluto is big news right now; no wonder since this year is the 30th anniversary of its discovery. But what do we really know about this enigmatic ninth "planet?" (quotes used advisedly, more on this later.)

(find out at Galactic Journey!)


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