Monday, April 30, 2012

Solar System Poems 30: Consider A Face

The gods and demi-gods of yore now circle up above,
decamping Olympus or Valhalla for inky space.
So when we hear their name and consider a face
it is crater-scarred and battered; science is what we think of
and we imagine touching them only with protective gloves.
Ceres, Oberon, Callisto now evoke a place
not a personality now gone that cannot be replaced
not a personality now gone that we have known and loved.
The gods and demi-gods of today, though numbered higher,
have given objects the honor of their name.
And thinking of them, as we often do
evokes not a rock devoid of living fire
but a loving, caring human worth their fame
like we will always remember Betty and Sue.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Solar System Poems 29: Earth's Soul Mate

I think we may have gone all the way
too quickly 
for the good of the relationship.

Years of schoolkid crushes
fantasies about "the first time"
turned to lust and competition
when someone else made eyes at you.
We checked you out
and made promises
to ourselves? To you? 
After a thrilling conquest
and few long weekends together
we got distracted. 
We told you we'd call
but month after month after month
we didn't.

We thought you'd "just" be the first
but you're still the only.
Once again others are making eyes,
talking about moving in
and giving you the 
long-term relationship
we apparently couldn't.

Our response is a shrug,
paying you attention on the cheap
and hoping the ebb and flow 
of it all covers the fact
that many folks see red
and would rather find a new conquest
or die trying
than return to your touch.
No way to treat Earth's soul mate.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Solar System Poems 28: Siren With A Lined Face

Siren with a lined face 
but gem of the system.
Her warm heart covered
by an icy shell
some would pierce for science.

Pushed by her neighbors
she flexes and shudders
to stay in shape, but some say
she still smokes
where nobody can see her.

Surveys say we should return,
flagship or armada,
but warring factions 
have the upper hand. 
We will attempt no landing there
with money caught
in a different web.

Put her image 
as your laptop background
but that's not quite the same-
it isn't, is it, my old friend?

Friday, April 27, 2012

Solar System Poems 27: Transient Joys Beyond Heaven's Gate

None who saw you will forget you,
a hairy, multi-tailed wonder 
stalking the skies 
as the century
wound down.

Your Japanese opening act
warmed us up well,
I couldn't imagine
how you'd top it,
but you did.

In the vivid sodium light
I see you still.
From the east end of
to the desert
below Gates Pass,
in the red Celestron
I got for my bar mitzvah,
you pinwheeled across the sky.

I can still call up 
your memory,
you hanging over 
the Catalinas
in difficult times,
reminding me there is
a universe out there
beyond heaven's gate,
and transient joys
are no less joyful.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Solar System Poems 26: A Topic in Forums

Subject of discussion
in the old-school forums,
your namesake inspired chastity 
in the service of study
until the flames burned down.

Now you shine by 
the light of the Sun,
brighter than your comrades,
bright enough to be seen
by naked eye
had the virgins known where to look

And you still give a bounty
to planetary scientists:
Elements and spectra,
gravity and topography,
craters and mounds and cracks 
from the littlest planet.
Olbers would be proud
if knew where to look
to find him today.

Billions of years after
your own flames burned down,
you inspire discussion
in latter-day forums
with the light of a new dawn,
though I will not speculate on 
the chastity of those taking part.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Solar System Poems 25: Bask In Light Of Jove

Spat on by neighbors,
by gossamer ring you fly.
Barnard's other star.

Red, green, and icy,
formation a mystery.
Made here or moved in?

Mother closely held,
Red spot big as twenty moons.
Bask in light of Jove.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Solar System Poems 24: How Do You Plead?

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury,
despite news to the 
and even a 
of responsibility by a 
it is not clear that a 
was even 

And if there were one, 
my client remains innocent. 

What is she accused of,
having an alias?
It was used without her permission.
You'd take one too if your name
were so closely associated with
Being ambitious?
Indeed not. The media projected
ambition onto her.

If anything, my client was being stalked.

She bears a more than
superficial resemblance 
to the alleged victim.
Similar size,
similar airs,
similar background.

It would be more productive
for you to interrogate
the Easter Bunny.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Solar System Poems 23: You Exhale Ice

Though fiery on Earth
there you exhale ice,
the taste of comets still on your breath
from your youngest days.

Gashed by tiger claws,
your wounds still throb
with heat,
belying your white stare
more pale than snow.

The groans of your wild unrest,
cannot be heard, 
But standing in the right place,
we may yet see a rainbow.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Solar System Poems 22: Remaking Itself in Slow Motion

Captured from the deep 
by the god of the seas,
the battle was short but bloodless.
Nevertheless Neptune's retinue was 
doomed by this new arrival,
who may have given its freedom
so that others may escape.

Cousin to Pluto,
cold enough to freeze air.
There are still clouds and hazes,
with geysers spewing tarry dust
onto plains of ammonia and ice.
A world remaking itself in slow motion,
under the watchful eye of the god of the seas
who relentlessly pulls it
ever closer.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Solar System Poems 21: Luna's Little Buddy

It might fit in your room
without any trouble
and we wouldn't need Hubble
to continue its study.
It was our other moon
Luna's little buddy
for some time the past decade.
First thought to be manmade
it now seems to be rocky.
No more over Miami
or even Milwaukee
this Romeo's wandered
leaving much to be pondered
until it returns
as it will, we assume.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Solar System Poems 20: Horseshoes But No Hand Grenades

They race around the rings
evenly matched
a thirty second lead after 
twenty-two thousand marathons.
But even when running forever
thirty seconds can add up.

Orbit after orbit they race,
the inner moon slowly pulling away
then pulling closer to lap.
Horseshoes but no hand grenades,
the God of Transitions is called forth.

With seemingly no afterthought
the smaller moon gives way,
Inner moves to outer
and drops back.
The dance renewed
and the race goes on.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Solar System Poems 19: No, Dr. Cheng

Yes, it is an amazing object:
the first asteroid to be 
truly explored,
orbited and landed on,
The spacecraft did go
"all the way"
in that sense.

We expected craters,
but not the amount of soil,
nor the evidence of its motion;
the fine-grained ponds where
boulders get comfortable
and take off their outer layers
before our eyes.

And yes, you could
call the results "sexy",
and I agree it's an
amazing body,
the apple of our eyes,
and it turned people on
to how interesting 
asteroids can be.

But no, Dr. Cheng,
we will not be cataloguing your work
with the erotic literature.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Solar System Poems 18: The Inuit and the astronomers

The Inuit know Sedna lives 
in the icy deep,
flung to the bottom of the Arctic,
but there are many differing stories 
about how she got there.

So it is with her namesake,
who has gathered a pod of worshipers
hoping she grants good luck in their hunts.

In the slow, deep time of space,
where the Sun has little interest 
she circles, considering,
redder than blood, colder than ice.

The astronomers know Sedna orbits
at the outer reaches of the solar system,
retreating over 900 AU from the Sun,
but there are many differing theories
about how it got there.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Solar System Poems 17: The Keyhole Is Open

Born of violence, 
bigger than the pyramids.
It would not swallow the sun
but if allowed would part the seas
for a moment
before killing the first born 
and later born
as a set.

The heavens align. 
The door is closed 
but the keyhole is open.
It lost at roulette
but it holds a lottery ticket.

If it slithers through
we must take to the 
tenth region of the night,
call upon our wizards
and mimic the sun.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Solar System Poems 16: A Return to this Sprite

Found by Lassell in the British heavens,
the marmalade sky yielding icy gems.
Far from being at sixes and sevens,
a tidy four were spotted by his lens.

When Voyager arrived twelve decades later
it found our subject cut by valles and troughs.
The general lack of very large craters
suggests resurfacing (perhaps died off).

A return to this sprite remains uncertain
though none can arrive until decades hence.
Still, some look to reraise the curtain
and look to an encore with much suspense.

And when again a probe we dispatch
the science will be her own ex'llent match

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Solar System Poems 15: Locked In Your Embrace

Even here in deepest night
we have each other.

Our path isn't like
what the others take.
They have been frustrating years,
learning that your 
expected promotion
turned into my demotion,
only learning hours after the others.

Still, that ship has sailed and 
new horizons await.
and even here in deepest night,
even as I may be losing my air,
even if I am forgotten in the future,
I am locked in your embrace, content 
with a face that sees only you.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Solar System Poems 14: Juicy Science

It is there in black and white
and also many shades of gray.
Majestically doing laps around the king
while his other lovers fly at twice, four times the pace

It is all there if you dig deep enough:
Ice and rock and metal.
Bigger than Mercury and more magnetic,
as neato-keen as its neighbors
if admittedly somewhat less groovy.

When we put our mind to it
it will surely offer us cups of
juicy science
even if there are no ships
buried in the shadows.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Solar System Poems 13: Bouncing between these worlds

Born in the deep until it was time for a change. 
One misplaced letter from being Pluto's best friend,it took 
a different path instead.

Sometimes it looks like a rock star, 
sometimes its hair is surprisingly long.
Perhaps no coincidence it prefers a co-dependent atmosphere?

Bouncing between these worlds 
it may not be long for the path it's on 
before moving somewhere closer to the sun. 
Wise, indeed.

Image copyright W. K. Hartmann, sheepishly used without permission (but I'll take it down if he wants).
Other space art of Bill's at

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Solar System Poems 12: Surely Not To Panic

There still is some confusion
regarding the solution
to exactly where this body was created
While long ago occurring 
the data's often blurring
and multiple answers may be demonstrated. 
Its spectrum reminiscent
in its strong sloped ascent
to comets it was captured perhaps
But dynamics workers 
and also conference lurkers
don't see how to make this object do laps
Some say impact made a dozen
but of all its cousins 
only a single still survives we fear. 
But even that sole linkage
has suffered some shrinkage
and whether they relate at all's not clear
And so the battle rages
in usual fits and stages
'twixt spectroscopist and celestial mechanic
If Merlin were living 
the advice he might be giving 
is not to fear and surely not to panic. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Solar System Poems 11: Proceedings of the LNPSC

It could be on a list now
with the Sidera Lodoicea,
celebrating the 350th year
since Cassini's discovery,
trying to determine how
Herschel could miss it.

How easy to imagine!
Close-up images from Mariner 4,
in-situ data from Venera 6,
radar coverage from Magellan.
Our sister planet unvexed by
a nearby target.

And in joint sessions
at the LNPSC,
we'd look for creepy similarities,
family cataclysms,
and make plans flexible enough
to put humans on this moon
and bring them back safely to Earth
in some decade or another.

It is something of a shame
it is not a list of 
Decadal Survey priority targets
instead of on a list with
yeti, perpetual motion, and Zetans.

Since this one is even more obscure than usual, here's some background info from Wikipedia and Solarviews.  

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Solar System Poems 10: Falcon and Masters

The peregrine soars 
sent by its masters to find
scientific prey.

Itokawa sits
battered but unchanged since the
birth of history.

Thirty month journey.
Confused but still determined,
the falcon alights.

The masters see all:
the seas of gravel and rock
through peregrine eyes.

Prey is elusive.
Masters call to return home
with talons empty.

Wounded but living,
with fifty more months of flight
the falcon obeys.

Air thick and fiery,
peregrine transforms itself
into a phoenix.

Masters see, grooming,
falcon's talons now covered
with priceless jewels.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Solar System Poems 9: Jupiter Has Loved Her, Too.

dark horse in a field of heavyweights
newcomer upstart, 
what can you have to offer?
no volcanoes
no oceans
can't bend a compass,
can't tip the scales.

you're like all the nymphs, aren't you?
bigger maybe, but no better.
spreading your dirt 
to the high-rent district,
onto our gleaming ramparts and palimpsests.
you're not from here,
you don't belong here--
one-night stands who overstayed.

She is not bright and flashy, no. 
And she has no PAC or senators on her side.
But she too is part of the story and 
we should come close enough to listen:
Jupiter has loved her, too.


This one is thematically very similar to yesterday's, as is obvious.  Normally I'd separate them by a bit, but I have personal reasons for posting this today so I figured I'd just go for it...  I'm still going to try to only use planetary satellites and small solar system bodies, and since there are common themes in the science of those objects it's hard to make them completely unique...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Solar System Poems 8: One Of The Friends

She is a Titan, but no Titan.  
Sister to Rhea and Tethys in lore,
but better known in current tales
as one of the Friends.

Indeed she is more friend than kin
to those we call "regular"--
dressing in black, out of sync,
favoring retro 
and flying the wrong direction.

How many stories she could tell,
and what secrets lurk,
peeking out from inside!
Joining the TNO diaspora,
riding with the Centaurs,
greeting Cassini at the city gates
and consenting to a few pictures
before going on her own way.

Not Poems: Space Geek Music

Sorry to interrupt NaPoWriMo, but since this is mostly a music blog I figured I'd point to some songs I've done in keeping with this year's poetry theme.  Most of the music I've done is homemade, recorded on my laptop, and doesn't have great singing or playing (other than that, what's not to like?). I don't tend to write science songs, but the ones below have some space/astronomy content.  Most are hosted at BandCamp, though the last two are hosted here on the blog. The latter is a free download, the ones at BandCamp are "name your price", but that price could be free if you like, and you can listen before you download!

  1. The Astronomers Song from 2003's In-Jokes With Myself
  2. OBAFGKM from 2005's Do Not Tip Or Rock
  3. Down On Vesta from 2011's Local Technique EP
  4. We Didn't Start the Science from 2008's Cheese Course maxi-single (or something) 
  5. We Didn't Start the Science (acoustic demo version) 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Solar System Poems 7: In Peace for All Mankind?

If things were different,
not a lot different but a little different,
we'd already know.
The images would have long been returned,
the chemical analyses long since finished.

No doubt, after more pleasurable grunts
kilos of soil would be examined 
from Irkutsk to Leningrad,
from Minsk to Baku,
from Gdansk to Sofia,
and Bolshoi Mir.

In Moscow the results would be heralded:
"Phobos proven captured", or
"Phobos a piece of Mars", or
surprise of surprises
"Shklovksy Correct!!!".

If things were different, 
if history were more flexible,
a bug found here, a wire soldered there,
a paradrop here, a coup attempt there,
the EVAs would be planned 
and soon Andropov Base will rise
on the edge of Stickney.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Solar System Poems 6: A String of Pearls

How long had you thought of this moment?
How many times had you swung past,
rehearsing your entrance?
You watched Jupiter for eons
wander drunkenly to and fro,
scattering your kin and imprisoning others,
waiting for your chance to dance with him
and die ecstatic in his embrace.

We could not believe our luck
to be born at the right time. 
We watched from any seat we could find:
from tiny telescopes the size of a newborn,
to the mightiest mirrors mankind had constructed.
Galileo, crippled but proud, 
turned his eyes to you in wonder.
Hubble, a punchline no longer
after redeeming himself in your light.
I watched from the cheap seats
in Mansfield, Ohio.

To us all, you were beautiful;
Jagged black rock made into
a string of pearls.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Solar System Poems 5: Am I Not A Planet?

Am I not a planet?
I am larger than Mercury, 
airier than Mars,
smoggier than Houston.
With dune seas that rival the Sahara
and gentle oily rains that fill my lakes
and drain again as seasons change.

Am I not a planet? 
You may pray for Gale crater to make you 
forget Utopia.
You may predict giant squid 
beneath slabs of ice 
thicker than the lithosphere.
But I have the stuff of life
coating my surface,
misting and sleeting.

Why shouldn't I be a planet?
Just because I fell to the siren
of a body stronger than me,
stronger than you,
who promised a ring?

Go back to your computer,
use as many decimal places as you like.
Change the words however you need
to include or exclude your favored bodies
until the words have no meaning.
Keep looking at the sky and
know what you're missing.
Here beneath my cloud I remain 
content in what I am,
content that my time will come.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Solar System Poems 4: Paris at 15 km/s

You were a late addition to the itinerary: 
A layover in Paris at 15 kilometers a second,
the last tune-up before the main event. 
But some of us enjoy Paris more than
spending time at the icy slopes.

You present the usual facade:
The pockmarked, scarred body
those in your neighborhood cannot avoid.
But what are you really about?
Where are you from? Who are your kin?
Surveilled from all angles, in light and in heat,
Your voice remains flat,
your face a gray, dusty mirror 
reflecting back the Sun.

You hide your secrets well.
Seven score years after your discovery,
we still know more about 
what you aren't
than what you are.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Solar System Poems 3: Outlandish Reds and Oranges

Dragged and squeezed by your neighbors, 
you lost the cool countenance 
still worn by your big siblings.
Instead you live! 
Donating plasma to the void,
painting in outlandish reds and oranges,
never settling on one look for long.

Four hundred years after your debut
you still impress your fans,
some plan to swing by fair Europa
when it's you they hope to see
when off to work they go.

It was said that your namesake 
was comforted by Prometheus
after Hera found you hidden in 
a cloud of Zeus' making.
Is that why you act as you do,
using Prometheus' gift
to make a cloud of your own?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Solar System Poems 2: Some Noble Creature In Her

Her central planet's rings are thin,
Not those that Saturn grace.
No storms (to Voyager's chagrin)
like those upon Jove's face.
None of her siblings have any air
Seen in data or math
And humans may never tread there:
Not flexible that path.
Yet the features that we've found,
Scarps, grooves, and coronae,
Give lie to the idea we're bound
To treat interest as phony.
For if this brave vessel was dashed all to pieces
Has been the subject of several theses.