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Planet in advance

A light year is, we were told ad nauseum at school, the distance that light can travel in one earth year. This is approximately 5.88 trillion normal miles which, let's be honest, is a really difficult concept to grasp. Well, until you remember that trip to the local shop with the back seat of the car occupied by two squabbling teenage children and your mother-in-law offering passively aggressive safe driving tips, which felt about the same distance.

Anyway, some people with over-developed foreheads have discovered an exoplanet (which simply means a planet located outside of our solar system, not, as I had thought, one with an identity crisis) nine hundred and forty light years from here.

If this isn't mind-boggling enough - you do the maths - consider this: they reckon the temperature out there is about 2400ºC. To put that little nugget in context, Venus, the hottest planet inside our solar system, is a mere four hundred and something degrees. So, in order to get a general idea of what we're talking about here, you'd need to imagine putting a jumper on in Malaga city centre at three in the afternoon in August and then slurping on a bowl of Mulligatawny soup. The fact is, it's so hot on this newly discovered planet, that they reckon it rains molten iron out there, which would almost certainly mean the local supermarkets couldn't get away with selling those little three-euro umbrellas when the weather turns bad.

It really is amazing what human beings are capable of - at both ends of the scale. Only this week - in Madrid, I think - some youths with more knuckles than neurons, attacked an innocent Chinese man, simultaneously yelling something unintelligible about coronavirus. Meanwhile, in Geneva in what might as well be a parallel - and infinitely more beautiful - universe, our chums with the forehead thing going on were discovering a whole new planet 5.88 trillion x 940 miles away. Top-of-the-range telescope, presumably.

Needless to say, scientists being scientists, they then came up with the most boring name imaginable for their wonderful discovery - WASP-76b. Good God. Why they couldn't have called it Toasty Iron Shower or something, Lord only knows.

But, anyway, there we have it - humanity in all its glory and its disgrace all in the same week.

Plus ça change.