Apologies, we’ve been a while hanging out near Jupiter, here in space. I’m finally ready to get a move on though and deliver us to everybody’s favourite planet, which is of course:
400 million miles after Callisto is:
Saturn is the ring-ed delight of the solar system and a big mess. Like Jupiter it is mostly gassy and like Jupiter it squashes hydrogen into a metal. Like Jupiter it probably makes diamonds from its carbon after its methane has been turned into carbon by lightning. Carbon would fall and get squashed into diamonds and then melt away in a display that would then inspire a Unilever sponsored contemporary installation for the turbine hall. The rings are over one hundred and fifty thousand miles wide and they are twenty metres thick. They are made of ice. It should really be one nice solid neat ring like what’s on the packet of che-he-heese and onion ringos or party rings but moons spoil it. There is a storm shaped like a hexagon at the top of Saturn that is as big as the Earth.
115 thousand miles after Saturn is:
Mimas has as much surface as Spain. It is the didiest thing to be big and round. It is made of ice like an old snowball. Whatever bashed the big dent in it nearly broke it in two, you can see cracks on the other side. Don’t feel sorry for it though, it is responsible for carving out the big gap in the big ring and ruining it.
33 thousand miles after Mimas is:
Enceladus is the nice fresh snowball. Similar sized to Mimas, it is like Mimas before Mimas was dropped in the gutter. It is pretty much the brightest thing in the solar system that isn’t the sun, reflecting nearly all of the light that touches it, which makes it terribly cold. -201° C. It gets mushed around by Saturn and it spits salty water into space, creating the e-ring of the big ring all by itself. The e-ring has organic compounds in it too, which suggests that Enceladus is the best place yet for aliens.
35 thousand miles after Enceladus is:
These next three are also balls of ice. It seems that that’s the way things are around Saturn. This one, Tethys, has a big dent like Mimas and also a big chasm. Other than that it’s basically featureless, probably due to it being a bit warm and doughy early on so that marks tended to wobble out. It is discoloured due to moving through ring pollution.
27 thousand miles after Tethys is:
Dione is like Tethys. However, unlike Tethys it is in cahoots with Mimas and Enceladus and they influence each others orbits. There is also a little moon, Helene, that orbits just ahead of Dione and another little moon, Polydeuces, that orbits just behind. Dione gets coated with spittle from Enceladus. Dione likes to keep friends, really. Dione has big bright scratches on it that are self-inflicted, indicative of past internal torment.
117 thousand miles after Dione is:
This one is like the other ones but its surface is more beat up. Cassini spacecraft took a picture that looks like the painting I did but I hadn’t seen that before I done it. Now it looks like I copied it. Rhea has a vague oxygen atmosphere, the only one found so far that isn’t our one. Cassini spacecraft has been flying around Saturn and its stuff for ten years doing science and taking endless amazing photos. It also does some excellent tweeting.
423 thousand miles after Rhea is:
Titan is the only moon in the solar system with a decent atmosphere and like Ganymede it is larger than Mercury. Cassini was designed to see through Titan’s impenetrable nitrogen atmosphere and it saw a strikingly Earth-like surface except for that the water is made from methane and the rock is made from water. Cassini also dropped the Huygens probe onto Titan which took a bunch of cool pictures and did science. Every thousand years there are storms that chuck down metres of methane.
1462 thousand miles after Titan is:
Iapetus is so weird looking that loads of idiots think it was made by aliens. One half of Iapetus is very dark and the other half is very bright. No one knows quite why this is but it is probably space pollution. No one knows quite why there is a ridge most of the way around the middle of it either but the coolest explanation is that it had a ring that fell down. Iapetus also has a bunch of big dents bashed in it. It is a good moon.
Yesterday at 2pm the front of my van had a disagreement with the back of a car in Leicestershire.
After shock and formalities the car drove away because you can pummel the back of a car and the car doesn’t care. If you pummel the front of a van it cries all over the floor and doesn’t want to drive anymore. You are stranded. Stranded on Bowleys Lane.
After a complicated two hours of calling various people Carl rang me. He was here to sort stuff and said that there was someone on the way to take me and my van home and they would be with me in 60 minutes. This was good news. I looked out at the view.
Satisfied, I decided to go for a walk along the A444.
At the garage I bought a bottle of Buxton Still because it is thirsty to walk along a busy road. I went into a phone box to make calls because it was noisy from the M42. I told people not to worry anymore because Carl had it all sorted out and I would be rescued in less than 60 minutes. This done I walked back down the A444 to a signposted Leicestershire county council maintained footpath that I’d seen.
I went into Job’s Field beneath Parsonage House. Parsonage House has mediocre visible views over the countryside and terrible audio views of the motorway.
In Job’s Field Carl rang me. He said everything was mostly excellent and gave me his special number to call him back on if I got scared. I thanked Carl.
Job’s Field has impressive ridge and furrow.
Ridge and furrow comes from the type of ploughing used for hundreds of years from just after the Romans. The olden plough pushes the soil to one side and so when you’re ploughing one side of a strip and then you turn and plough the other side it pushes the soil more into the middle of the strip and you get humped strips. It is most noticeable in slightly rolling hilly areas that were ploughed in the olden days but aren’t ploughed in the modern days.
The next field, Upper Parks, had old grass in it and was boring.
This is the church of Appleby Magna that I discovered:
The church is okay and near to it there is wet patch on the ground with ducks in it.
And that is okay too. I walked through Lower Parks back to the road and I discovered daffodils.
And a mattress in a ditch.
Back at the van it was growing dark.
I got scared and called Carl. The phone line told me that Carl and everybody else had gone home. Carl had given me his number and told me to call him if I had any problems about 20 minutes before his office closed and he went home. Carl had stitched me up and left me alone on Bowleys Lane. I called the breakdown hotline to find a back door into Carl’s system as breakdown hotlines aren’t allowed to close. A lady from RAC was sad that I had been stuck for three and a half hours and she put me on hold. It seems that RAC use Cisco CallManager and so I found myself listening to the famous Opus No.1 by Tim Carleton and Darrick Deel.
After this I was cheered and the RAC lady passed me on to Jade who said she was going to stay with me until I was rescued no matter what.
This is the inside of the Crown Inn in Appleby Magna:
There was a nice little crowd for a Wednesday night and they were being nice to each other and laughing and there were children playing games. One man told a story about his unrinary tract endoscopy. Jade rang and said that things seemed good and then a strange man rang and said he was at my van and wanted to winch it onto a truck so I had to finish my drink much too quickly and leg it back to the van.
The man was a double divorced part time fireman from Burton on Trent that looked like Ross Kemp. He wore a body warmer with a camouflage design and he has a cat.
I got home at 10pm.
Ahoy. And here we are back for more interplanetary exploration, although in this case it is monoplanetary. It is local monoplanetary exploration.
Anyway, you will remember from last time (part one) that currently we are floating in the asteroid belt about one hundred and fifty million miles from Earth, next to Ceres, the ice ball. But stuff this place because we’ve been here for ages so let’s go!
230 million miles after Ceres is:
Now, you’ll notice that we just traveled the same distance to get here from Ceres as we did to get to Ceres from the sun. We have left the hot rocky middle behind and are into the gassy section of the solar system, although this by no means means that we are out of hot rocks. Jupiter, the biggest planet, sits there big and fat and hydrogen and it sucks comets and asteroids into itself from the far outer solar system and throws them around, possibly at us. It also sucks itself into itself, mushing its hydrogen into a fluid and then into a metal fluid that conducts electricity at thousands and thousands of degrees temperature. It is unknown what the middle is but it is probably hot rocks.
btw, all the way out here the sun is starting to get quite small although it is still very brilliant.
262 thousand miles after Jupiter is:
Queasy Io is the most volcanic thing in the solar system. It has a dicky tummy because its guts are squashed and stretched around as it is pulled about between Jupiter and the other large moons. It spews up stinky yellow sulphur all over itself. Its inner discontent has caused a breakout of 400 volcanoes and 100 mountains, some taller than Everest, on its otherwise smooth surface. It is as big as our moon.
155 thousand miles after Io is:
Europa is a very smooth icy globe that occasionally spits water because it gets squashed about like Io. This means that there is likely to be a liquid water ocean under the ice and it is therefore an excellent spot to be looking for aliens. Sadly no missions are planned until the 2020s. The ice surface is not solid and still, it slips and slides separate from the rocky middle and it cracks and bulges and bubbles. There could also be lakes under the ice but above the ocean.
248 thousand miles after Europa is:
Bigger than Mercury, Ganymede is unlucky to be strapped to Jupiter when it would make a perfectly nice planet. It is a bit of everything, rock and ice and a metal middle. It is also thought to have a giant internal ocean, although for some reason it seems less exciting here than it does on Europa. Mostly it bullies the other moons around with Jupiter, like Jupiter’s slimy little rat weasel friend.
505 thousand miles after Ganymede is:
Happy to be away from the rumpus of the inner moons, Callisto is peacefully inert and cold. It has an ice coating and a rocky icy inside, like the negative of a malteser. Although its surface is actually very dark. It has an ancient bombed surface, the oldest in the solar system, because there is no geological activity to make nice fresh surface. There is not an inch of it that isn’t part of an impact crater. When a decent asteroid hits it, white ice is exposed.
Jupiter actually has over 60 moons in total, although the rest are not round so we don’t care. Basically that means we’re done here. Next time we’ll visit everybody’s favourite planet and its associated loads of moons. Here is a nice photograph of everywhere we’ve been this time to say bye bye with.
edit 12/03/14: I saw the things in this blog post through a telescope tonight. It was cool.
Found some images that I made to put on postcards or mugs in the first days of the website. They contain pictures from the first few stories and the original home page which was much better than the current one but contained no dynamic content and was therefore viewed by the internet as being redundant. If you ever met the physical embodiment of the internet it would be a tedious animal.
If you’d like a mug with one of these pictures on then just nick it and use awesome merch or something. The internet lets you do that. It has no respect for other people’s property.