Wednesday, April 6, 2016

E is for . . .

Exoplanet. What is it? Simply a planet that orbits a star other than our sun. Over 2,000 have been discovered so far. The interesting ones in terms of finding life are those that exist in what’s called the habitable zone.

In this zone, the temperature allows water to exist as a liquid. If an exoplanet is too close to its star, water will evaporate. If it is too far away, water will freeze.

Notice that this definition assumes habitation by creatures like those found on earth. The habitable zone doesn’t account for creatures made primarily of something other than water, say liquid nitrogen for example.

Speaking of liquid nitrogen, its boiling point is frighteningly cold: -196 °C. A critter with a high degree of liquid nitrogen for blood would vaporize on Earth the second it slithered out of its spaceship. It would be much happier somewhere like Pluto with temps around -223 °C.

Of course, water-based beings would be miserable on Pluto.You want to see what happens to earthly things at such low temperatures? Check this out:

Image source: Gizmodo, photographer Martin Klimas

I’m seeing the potential for a seriously star-crossed lover’s tale here. And Bella/Edward thought they had problems!

Are you a Game of Thrones fan? Ever wonder how you might justify winters that last arbitrarily long? Snowball states might be the key. According to Wikipedia, an exoplanet in the habitable zone can periodically become frozen by orbital fluctuations (among other things).

Image source: Fanpop, Winter is coming by Invisible-Tears

Say what? Well, the build up of ice reflects sunlight away from the exoplanet causing more cooling which leads more ice which causes to more cooling which leads . . . you see where I’m going. This feedback loop can freeze a planet.

So how does winter end? Dragons? Nope, volcanoes! They emit carbon dioxide into the atmosphere creating a greenhouse effect to thaw the planet out. (Then again, if Daenerys' dragons emitted carbon dioxide with their fire breath instead of carbon monoxide, maybe they could reverse an ice age. Someone notify George R.R. Martin!)

Image source: Bitch Flicks

What do you call a planet that isn’t orbiting a star? A rogue planet. The movie Melancholia examines the life of two sisters (one about to marry) as a rogue planet prepares to collide with Earth. I started watching this on Netflix and loved the imagery (see above), but I got bored in the middle and gave up.

Anyone see Melancholia? Should I try to finish it? Anyone ever freeze things with liquid nitrogen?

Today's also an IWSG day, but my post is already too long. I'll whine about my sick kids and the pain of creating hyperlinks in Word next month. (Don't tell Alex.) But do visit his blog and those of this month's hardworking cohosts:  Megan Morgan, Chris Votey, Viola Fury, Christine Rains, Madeline Mora-Summonte, L.G. Keltner, Rachna Chhabria, and Patricia Lynne.


  1. Fascinating stuff! I'm happy with short winters. :)

  2. What? Freezing because of volcanoes? No. You've totally got my brain spinning.

    Crystal Collier

  3. Here in FL, with its crazy Summer heat, my husband and I joke that it's not "Winter is coming" but "Summer is coming." :)

  4. That's an awesome theory about Game of Thrones. I'm a huge fan. Exoplanets are fascinating.

  5. Haha! I love all this info! I can't wait to share it with my kids as they love space. The thought of a dragon help thaw winter might be interesting too ;)

  6. Fascinating information about exoplanets! I haven't heard of Melancholia. It has such a cool premise.

  7. It boils at that cold of a temperature? Meanwhile we'd freeze instantly on a planet that cold.

  8. I've never used liquid nitrogen myself - I'm terribly nervous around things like that. :) While Pluto definitely still deserves to be a planet, I wouldn't like to visit it!
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

  9. What an interesting post. I love your idea of changing what Dragons emit to unfreeze a planet you should use it in a story.

    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

  10. What an interesting post. I love your idea of changing what Dragons emit to unfreeze a planet you should use it in a story.

    Juneta @ Writer's Gambit

  11. George R.R. Martin needs to add that! Of course, you could write a story about dragons unfreezing a planet...

  12. This whole cooling stuff is really cool...

  13. That's really interesting stuff! I guess we don't have to worry about any liquid nitrogen filled aliens.

  14. Aced the E-post! Really cool information on exoplanets. Had no idea 2000 already known!

    Best of luck with the rest of the challenge

  15. Whine all you want, that's what the day's for. lol

    Love following your sci-ency blogs. Is that a word? Probably not. :)

  16. Interesting stuff, Tamara. I had no clue about Exoplanet. Thanks for the info. I must return back to read your previous posts.

    Rachna Chhabria
    Co-host IWSG
    Rachna's Scriptorium

  17. Well...the picture of what happens to Earthly things in extreme temps is certainly interesting! I skipped IWSG this month, too. I always do during A to Z. Combined blogs make me jittery!

  18. Give Melancholia another shot. It is a very slow movie and you have to be in the right frame of mind for it, but I've watched it three times because I find it beautiful and moving.

  19. A lot of interesting information here! In high school chemistry, we watched a balloon deflate in liquid nitrogen. All this talk of habitable and frozen planets makes me think of Star Wars :)

  20. Dragons thawing planets!
    Oh, that's not what you meant.


I will do everything in my power to visit commenter's blogs unless I've been abducted by aliens or my children get sick. (If my children get abducted by aliens, I will be very busy, of course, catching up on my sleep.)