Don#8217;t look now, solar system not circular

Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 3, 2008

“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.”

— Wernher Von Braun

OK, I have a confession.

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I have never really been much of a science guy. My biggest appreciation of science would have to be physics because I know without the proper technique, I lose golf balls into the woods.

Chalk one up for science.

I have friends who make their livings in science who explain that science is all around us and that we should all appreciate the marvels of technology that have improved the quality of life for human beings. Yes, it is true, I love my big television, especially when the Browns score a touchdown.

Chalk up another one for science.

I’m just being facetious, of course, but sometimes science just seems a little over the top for me. Such was the case when I saw a story this week dealing with the shape of our solar system.

Seems astronomers are onto a great, exciting, thrilling and ground breaking discovery.

Drumroll please …

The solar system is not circular!


What? You’re not knocked off your feet?

But didn’t you hear about the heliosheath? The story started back in 1977 when NASA sent space probes to the north and south ends of the solar system. The problem was Voyager 2, which went south, hit the edge of the solar system some 1 billion miles closer to the sun than Voyager 1.

NASA officials say it’s like a hand pushing down some of the solar system. Voyager project scientist Ed Stone told the Associated Press that the push is from the magnetic field that lies between star systems in the Milky Way. They do so at different angles “probably because of intersteller turbulence from star explosions.”

Uh-huh. Thanks Ed. Um, Ed. What the heck are you talking about?

According to the AP story, “surprised astronomers said they will have to change their models for what the solar system looks like.”

Oh, say it ain’t so Clarence.

So the practical impact that this decades-old, ultra-costly program is that people who make models of the solar system for science class have to go back to the drawing board.

I think I’ll stick with trying to fix my golf swing.

Rick Greene is the managing editor of The Ironton Tribune. He can be reached at (740) 532-1441, ext. 12, or by e-mail at