Monday, October 3, 2011

TNO Watch: Quaoar

What's up guys? How we doing on this world-shifting day? Really, that bad? Well, here's an Upbeat little TNO to bring your day up. May I introduce 50000 Quaoar, the dancing fiend of the TNO family.

The Science: Quaoar was discovered in 2004, and was at the time, the largest object found in the Solar System since Pluto, despite being 1/3 of the size of our Lord of the Damp Underworld (1/15 the size of the Earth), hence the special designation of 50000. He was also the first TNO to be observed and studied directly using the Hubble Space Telescope images, using a new process called Point-Spread Function. This process was also used to confirm the size and diameter of Eris. It has a higer albedo than that of Earth's Moon, and is one of the brighter TNOs. Quaoar is classified as a Cubewano, part of the same family of objects as Makemake and Varuna. It has a nearly spherical orbit, and does not cross the orbit of Neptune. It does have a tiny satellite, named Weywot.

The Myth: Quaoar was named after the Creator of the Tongva people, an Native American race primarily located in the Los Angeles region, where the Palomar Observatory is located. In the myth, there was Quaoar and the void (chaos, darkness, what have you). He became sad that there was nothing else, and began to sing the song of creation. He sang, danced, and whirled around, creating the Sky and the Earth, who joined in the dance, and together they brought the Sun and Moon into existence. The quintet then created the plants, animals and humans. After doing so, Quaoar took a step back, presumably pleased with his work, and retired to the Heavens.

Why He Matters: Well, aside from the obvious connection to dancers, there isnt really a lot to glean from the myth, so lets take it a part and see what we can come up with. What is his motivation? Quaoar was motivated by sorrow, and lonesomeness, very human feelings. He was faced with a choice: Do Nothing or Do Something about it. First he started singing, to drown out his sadness, and started to work on making something for himself, and others to share his life, making it a bit less lonely.

Jonathan Dunn suggests that “Quaoar seems to signify creation, procreation, demanding, trying experiences, being placed under a microscope, viewing less attractive aspects, flaws or complexities, scientific activities; also, questioning, constructing, clarifying, revealing, creating abstract mental models, a spirit of discovery, the big picture.

Bearing all this in mind, we could really use some Quaoar right now, as we are struck by the sadness that arises out of everything we knew changing and shifting around us. As we are struck by this change, the only thing we find security in is change. So while you feel like you have nothing, or that you are losing everything, get up and dance, and while you're at it, create something new for yourself.

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