Tag Archives: solar system

Randolph Carter Traveling Back to Earth and Passing by Kynarth

We have been reviewing “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” written by H.P. Lovecraft and E. Hoffmann Price for over three months – since late January 2017. While there are other topics in this tale that could continue to be discussed from both a scientific and metaphysical perspective, this subject will be the last, at least for now. In these last two articles, we briefly review some of the planets that Randolph Carter viewed as he traveled through time and space to eventually make it our Solar System, to Earth, in the year 1930.

Chandraputra                                                                                                          Randolph Carter in the body of a Yaddithian but disguised as Swami Chandraputra

As Carter left the dying world of Yaddith he sensed “…a hideous gnawing of cold, a cessation of menacing dreams, and a glance through the eye-plates of the envelope. Stars, clusters, nebulae, on every hand – and at last their outlines bore some kinship to the constellations of earth that he knew.” The recognition of familiar constellations was a strong indicator for Carter that he was in the proper Space-Time. Even if Carter was approaching our Solar System, if the constellations did not look familiar then that would have informed him that he arrived at the right place but the wrong time; Carter may have arrived at Earth millions of years ago when the Elder Things were building their aquatic cities or in the distant future when the Coleopteran (beetles) civilization is the dominant form of sentient life on Earth. However, he did make it to our Solar System in the first half of the 20th century.

The rest of this article discusses what Carter saw as he passed through the Solar System, heading toward Earth.  During this last leg of his journey he stated:

“He saw Kynarth and Yuggoth on the rim, passed close to Neptune and glimpsed the hellish white fungi that spot it, learned an untellable secrete from the close-glimpsed mists of Jupiter and saw the horror on one of the satellites, and gazed at the Cyclopean ruins that sprawl over Mars’ ruddy disc.”

a_silver_sparkling_moon_by_johndoop-d5qjtv0 A Silver Sparkling Moon by John Doop (www.deviantart.com)

According to Joshi (Lovecraft and a World in Transition: Collected Essays on H.P. Lovecraft, 2014) Kynarth may be the “tenth” planet in our Solar System, with Yuggoth (also known as Pluto) being the ninth. Joshi’s support for this hypothesis is due to the fact that as Carter described his observations while traveling through the Solar System, they seem to be recorded in a sequence from furthest to closest; Kynarth and Yuggoth, then Neptune, then Jupiter and its satellites, then Mars. Thus, since Kynarth is named first it must be the tenth, or as we would call it now the ninth, planet.

It is generally accepted that Yuggoth is not a planet but a dwarf-planet, being one of many trans-Neptunian objects (TNOs), in the Kuiper belt, which is a circumstellar disc of the Solar System beyond Neptune. The Kuiper belt spans a distance from the orbit of Neptune (about 30 AUs away) to approximately 150 AUs from the Sun. The Earth is 1 AU from the Sun. AU stands for Astronomical Unit.

Kuiper-belt-nasa The Kuiper Belt in relation to the gas planets of our Solar System (www.nasa.org)

If Yuggoth is a TNO, then Kynarth may be one as well.  In addition, considering how Kynarth and Yuggoth are stated together in the same clause, Kynarth may the largest moon of Yuggoth (Pluto) called Charon. It is interesting to note that the center of mass between Pluto and Charon is not Pluto itself but instead somewhere between the two bodies. In addition, Charon is over half the diameter of Pluto. Thus, instead of being a planet / moon system like the Earth and its moon, the Pluto / Charon system may be better described as being a double, dwarf-planet system.  Thus, “Kynarth and Yuggoth on the rim” may actually be in reference to a double, dwarf-planet system of TNOs within the Kuiper belt.

Pluto-Charon-650        Is Pluto and its largest moon Charon really a double dwarf-planet system of Yuggoth and Kynarth?

The alternative to the Kynarth TNO hypothesis is Joshi’s, where Kynarth may be the true ninth planet in the Solar System, accepting the definition that Yuggoth is a dwarf-planet. Evidence for the presence of a large, planet beyond Neptune and on the outer rim of the Solar System can be found in the movements of some TNOs within the Kuiper Belt.

Essentially, some unusual observations have been made of some of the TNOs in the Kuiper Belt. Many of the TNOs all have perihelia (the points of their orbits closest to the Sun) that cluster near the ecliptic plane. A more detailed analysis of six of these objects show them to have clustered perihelia as well as elliptical orbits oriented the same way, about 30 degrees below the ecliptic plan. If there was no Ninth Planet then the gravitation influence of the other giant planets would have resulted in these smaller bodies drifting away from each other. It has been calculated that there is only a 0.007% chance that the existing arrangement of these TNOs is the result of chance (Kelly Beatty, Making the Case for “Planet Nine” in http://www.skyandtelescope.com). Something must be keeping these bodies corralled and in-line with the observed orbits and this is the case for a Ninth Planet. This Ninth Planet may be Kynarth, as mentioned by Carter in his travels back to Earth.

p9_kbo_orbits_labeled_1_ The clustering of TNO perihelia provide supporting evidence for the existence of a large 9th planet in our Solar System, beyond Neptune.

Based on the most recent calculations if the proposed Ninth Planet is indeed keeping these TNOs in line, it must be at least 10 times the mass of Earth and have an orbit around the Sun of between 10,000 to 20,000 years. So now the search is on to find this unknown world.

9thplanet                                                        Artist’s conception of Planet Nine in our Solar System

At this point in time, there is evidence for both the dwarf-planet hypothesis as well as the Ninth Planet hypothesis. Is Kynarth a small TNO caught in a gravitational dance with Yuggoth? Or is Kynarth a large “ice giant” orbiting the Sun over tens of thousands of years? Obviously, other studies of the outer rim are required.

Next time we conclude our discussions of “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” by reviewing what Carter said about the other worlds in our Solar System. Thank you – Fred.

Journal of Lovecraftian Science, Volume 2 – the Lovecraftian Solar System

Hello everyone – just wanted to let you know that Steve Maschuck and I launched another Kickstarter – this one is for the Journal of Lovecraftian Science, Volume 2 and focuses exclusively on the Lovecraftian Solar System. If you are interested please check it out at https://www.kickstarter.com/…/journal-of-lovecraftian-scien…

Thank you. Fred

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Evidence for Water on Mars and What Lovecraft Thought of the Red Planet

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Martian Landscape photographed by Pathfinder (NASA)

On 28 September 2015 NASA announced some strong evidence that liquid water exists on Mars. Essentially, imaging spectrometer data have detected the presence of hydrated minerals, which appear on the slopes. These minerals appear as dark streaks that are darker during the warm seasons but fade during the cooler seasons. These down flow streaks or flows, called recurring slope lineae, are indicative of briny water. The high concentration of salts, primarily magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate, essentially act as deicing road salts,  keeping the water from freezing in the icy cold atmosphere of Mars.

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High Resolution Imaging of Martian Terrain; the dark streaks are slope lineae and indicate the presence of water (NASA)

Of course the presence of liquid water on Mars and/or immediately under its surface may be an indication that it may harbor life unique to that planet. The potential for life on Mars was initially seriously considered in 1877 when the Italian astronomer Schiaparelli identified dark, lines or markings around the planet, calling them “canali” or canals. By 1896 the American astronomer Percival Lowell put forth incredible hypotheses about Mars, including one that the canals transport water from the polar caps to the Martian cities.

According to Lovecraft’s article “Is Mars an Inhabited World?” (Collected Essays of H.P. Lovecraft, Volume 3: Science, edited by S.T. Joshi) Lowell proposed that the dark colored canals increase in width during the summer due to increased vegetative growth along the canal banks. Overall, Lovecraft called the idea of life on Mars as “…mere speculation, so it is left to the fancy of the reader to form mental pictures of the population of Mars, or any more distant planet.”

It is interesting to note that Lovecraft also states in his writings on Mars that polariscopic (a means of identifying minerals through the use of optics) observations of the planet by Prof. Wm. Pickering and others clearly identified the general absence of liquid water on Mars. These same observers noted that the fringes of the Martian polar ice caps appear to melt during the warmer season.  These observations led to the hypothesis that Mars may be inhibited and that the canals transport water to populated areas across the planet. Unfortunately, the majority of these canals were optical illusions – the result of the human eye to link or connect markings or patterns together. This is explicitly shown below when Lowell’s observational sketches of Mars are compared with high resolution photographs of the planet taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (see below).

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Comparing Lowell’s sketches of Mars with photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (www.faculty.virginia.edu)

In his literature, Lovecraft mentions Mars only once – in the tale “Through the Gates of the Silver Key” co-written by E. Hoffmann Price. In the story Randolph Carter travels through and out of our space-time and upon returning to our solar system he “…gazed at the Cyclopean ruins that sprawl over Mars’ ruddy disc.” Obviously, Lovecraft was influenced by Lowell’s ideas of Mars harboring an ancient and dying civilization and these ruins were the remains of a once great and prosperous society.

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The next article will continue our discussion of Venus and that planet’s native beings in “In the Walls of Eryx.” Thank you – Fred.

Lovecraftian Solar System, Part II: Comets

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Lovecraft in Space by Belthazubel (www.deviantart.com)

Last year we discussed the eight planets in the Lovecraftian solar system over a series of articles.  Over the next few weeks we will continue this review of the Lovecraftian solar system, starting with comets.  Lovecraft’s fascination with astronomy began when he was very young and with a book from his grandmother’s collection called Geography of the Heavens (from an article on www.io9.com by Robbie Gonzalez).

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This is a plate from the book Geography of the Heavens (www.io9.com)

Comets are essentially an icy body that travels through space releasing gas or dust.  They are best described as snowy dirtballs and contain dust, ice, carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane and other material (www.space.com).  In Lovecraft’s day, very little was known about the composition of comets.  In an article he wrote about comets in November 1906 called “The Wanderers of Our System” Lovecraft stated, “Comets are extremely light in density, but otherwise from that, little concerning their physical conditions is known, the most prevalent theory being that they are composed of minute particles, enclosed in atmospheres.” (from Collected Essays, Volume 3: Science by H.P. Lovecraft, edited by S.T. Joshi, 2005).

The first comet Lovecraft observed in his life was Borelli’s Comet in August 1903.  In a notebook Lovecraft kept, called “Astronomical Observations Made,” he included lengthy discussions of Halley’s Comet observed on May 26, 1910 and Delavan’s Comet on September 16-17, 1914 (I Am Providence: The Life and Times of H.P. Lovecraft, by S.T. Joshi, 2013).

Comet_Parts

Some of the part of a comet (www.wikipedia.com)

It is interesting to note that Lovecraft wrote articles on astronomy for the Evening News.  In the same paper, J.F. Hartmann had an article published called “Astrology and the European War.”  The article was published in September 4, 1914, three days after Lovecraft’s monthly astronomy article and in the same location where Lovecraft’s articles typically appeared.  Lovecraft had no patience for the subject of astrology and thus a series of debate letters and articles were published in the paper between Lovecraft and Hartmann.  In a letter to his friend Maurice W. Moe Lovecraft noted “Recently a quack named Hartmann, a devotee of the pseudo-science of Astrology, commenced to disseminate the usual pernicious fallacies of the occult art thought he columns of The News, so that in the interests of true Astronomy I was forced into a campaign of invective and satire.” (Joshi, 2013).

In one of the more amusing articles Lovecraft wrote a satirical piece under the name Isaac Bickerstaffe, Jr. in October 24, 1914 titled “Delavan’s Comet and Astrology.” In it Lovecraft, or should I say Bickerstaffe, predicted that Delavan’s Comet would hit the earth in the distance future, the year 4898, and take a large portion of humanity to Venus to live, which is a good thing since he predicted that the world would explode 56 years later in the year 4954 due to increased volcanic activity.  Lovecraft, being a great “astrologer”, actually predicted the exact day the earth would explode – February 26, 4954 (Joshi, 2005).  Unfortunately, while humanity will survive on Venus, in typical Lovecraftian fashion, the explosion of the Earth will create a lot of damage to Venus and its new inhabitants.  Needless to say, this strange parody on the value of astrology somewhat stunned Lovecraft’s intellectual adversary Hartmann (Joshi, 2014).

Lspn_comet_halley_wikipedia

Halley’s Comet (www.wikipedia.com)

In an article for the Ashville [N.C.] Gazette-News in March 1915, Lovecraft reviewed what was known about the comet as of the early 20th century.  In it he briefly reviewed and compared periodic comets (those that revolve around the sun in some type of orbit) to solitary comets (those that appear from deep space and return back into the void never to be seen again).  He also had a brief discussion on some famous comets and once again reviewed what comets were thought to be composed of at the time.  Lovecraft states that comets were thought to be composed of extremely small solid meteoric masses but spread very far apart and possessing individual gaseous materials.  Lovecraft mentioned that some say comets are mainly self-luminous through sparks of electricity but also cited that the reflection of light from the sun contributes to this as well.  We now know that comets are not self-luminescent.

Lovecraft also notes in the article that the tails of a comet can be millions of miles long and that the Earth has passed through portions of these tails in both 1861 and 1910.  In spite of the popular media hype of the time, nothing unusual occurred. There was concern during these past occurrences that cyanogen gas in the tail of the comets would kill all of life on Earth.  Some people took advantage of people’s fears of this situation (see below).

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From http://www.astroguyz.com

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From http://www.godlessmom.com

It was not until the early 1950’s when Fred Lawrence Whipple proposed that comets were essentially dirty snowballs and that their tails were the result of the volatilization of gases and the evaporation of water.  Support for this hypothesis was obtained when some European spacecraft flew through the coma (the nebulous envelope around the nucleus of a comet) of Halley’s Comet in 1986 and photographed evaporating material (www.wikipedia.com).  Additional data to support this have been obtained through various spacecraft missions from 2001 to 2014; in addition to water vapor, simple organic molecules such as HCN, HNC and H2CO have been detected on and in comets.  This has led some to hypothesize that comets may be the remnants of material that was used in the development of the solar system approximately 4.6 billion years ago.  Also, some hypothesize that comets may have delivered water and organic molecules to early Earth.  Thus, the raw material that the Elder Things used to create complex, eukaryotic life on Earth may have originated from comets.  It makes one wonder what Lovecraft would have thought about with the existing information we have on comets today.

Next time we will talk about how Lovecraft used comets in his tales.  Thank you – Fred.

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Lovecraft by Anderpeich (www.deivantart.com)

The Lovecraftian Solar System: Mercury

Mercury as seen by the MESSENGER robotic spacecraft (photo from http://www.solarsystem.nasa.gov)

Mercury is the smallest planet in our solar system (a little larger than our moon) and the closest to the sun, being only 36 million miles away.  In contrast, Earth is 93 million miles away from the Sun.  Mercury “flies” around the sun at an average velocity of approximately 30 miles per second.  Thus, a “year” for Mercury is only 88 days (The Planets by Dava Sobel; 2006).  In contrast, a “day” on Mercury – the time it take the planet to rotate once – is 59 Earth days long (that’s 1,416 hours!).  Thus, as Dava Sobel put it, “…the years hurry by, while the days drag on forever.”  In HPL’s day the rotation of Mercury was unknown but it was hypothesized that it was very slow or did not rotate at all.

HPL noted that the existence of an atmosphere on Mercury was generally disputed.  However, the MESSENGER mission revealed that Mercury has a thin atmosphere (called an exosphere) that is composed mostly of oxygen, sodium, hydrogen, helium and potassium.  HPL did correctly note that Mercury has no satellites.

MESSENGER probe (www.nasa.gov)

While Venus has the highest temperatures in the solar system due to its thick atmosphere trapping all heat and Pluto has the lowest due to its distance from the sun, Mercury has the largest variation in temperature on any single planet or dwarf planet due to its slow rotation (Dava Sobel, 2006).  Daytime temperatures can reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius) and nighttime temperatures drop to -290 degrees Fahrenheit (-180 degrees Celsius)(NASA).  While the rotation of Mercury was not known during HPL’s time he did, based on the astronomical data of the time, hypothesize that Mercury must have one side eternally day and the other internally night (Collected Essays, Volume 3: Science).  In turn, HPL thought that the range in temperature on Mercury at the time must be extremely large and the potential for life on that world was very unlikely.

As identified numerous times in his articles on astronomy, the best times to see Mercury is in the early evening hours in the spring or the early morning hours in the fall.  Originally, the ancients thought this planet was two distinct celestial bodies; the “morning star” was named Apollo while the “evening star” was named Mercury.  HPL also identified the difficulty in finding this planet in the heavens and noted that Copernicus was never able in his life to observe it (Collected Essays, Volume 3: Science).

A view of Mercury, Venus and the moon immediately after sunset on 10 June 2013 (www.astrobob.areavoices.com)

While HPL believed that it was very unlikely that life existed on Mercury, this did not stop him from incorporating Mercury as a “habitable” world in his stories.  Specifically, in The Shadow Out of Time it was mentioned that in our distant future, after human civilization, the Yithians would transfer their minds from the Cone-Shaped Beings and into an advanced race of beetles.  Later, after the eventual destruction of Earth the minds would then again migrate through time and space into the bodies of the bulbous vegetable entities of Mercury.  Since the Yithians would travel both time and space, it is not known if the vegetable entities lives in our distant past or distant future.  Besides their existence, nothing is known about the bulbous vegetable entities of Mercury, at least within the writing of HPL.

The Bulbous Vegetable Entities of Mercury (by Michael Bukowski on http://www.yog-blogspot.com)

Beyond the existence of the bulbous vegetable entities  and his astronomical observations, HPL did not have a lot to say about Mercury.  However, he did occasionally mention another planet that may exist between Mercury and the sun – the planet “Vulcan.”  We will talk about this planet in the next article.  Thank you – Fred.