Floofy Objects and Other Tales of Astronomical Impossibility – Sky & Telescope Otesanya David April 2, 2022

Floofy Objects and Other Tales of Astronomical Impossibility – Sky & Telescope

Floofy Objects and Other Tales of Astronomical Impossibility – Sky & Telescope


The skills astronomers learn in critical thinking, computation, and statistical analysis have many applications outside academia, such as creating articles to submit to the prestigious (and fictitious) journal Acta Prima Aprilia, posted on the arXiv. The arXiv preprint platform is a place to share scholarly studies in all stages of development. Thus, a tradition has emerged whereby academics with a quirky sense of humor and a few free hours take to the arXiv every April 1st to post some long-form inside jokes. Here is a brief selection from this year’s offerings:

Cat's light curve
The researchers first simulated the light curves that would be measured if an exop(lan)et transited a Zoom screen.
S. Sagynbayeva et al. / Acta Prima Aprilia

Everyone loves space. But do you know what people love more? Pets. Put these subjects together and you get the best PR campaign for astronomy since the space race. Exopets is a direct descendent of last year’s viral April Fool’s piece, “Detection of Rotational Variability in Floofy Objects at Optical Wavelengths.” And because it’s against astronomical law to write a paper without mentioning how the JWST might advance the author’s aims, Exopets’ conclusion references it, saying: “We eagerly look towards the day that new exopets are identified with this flagship mission.”

Pluto, the dog
In-situ observations of the exop(lan)et dubbed “Pluto” show the floofy object’s density (left) and snuggliness (right), as deduced by the team’s analysis. We highly suggest reading the article for more in situ exopet data.
S. Sagynbayeva
Taurine in HL Tau
A zoom-in on the star-forming region in Taurus,
which harbours the young star HL Tau, with its characteristic
rings. Using the co ee-groundsbreaking LATTEinstrument,
taurine has become detectable.
C. Eistrup et al. / Acta Prima Aprilia 2022

This paper discusses something else beloved of people around the world, but especially night-owl astronomers: coffee. The authors found themselves inspired one day after an overindulgence in the aforementioned brew and constructed a curious new instrument: the Large Astrocomical Taurine Tester Experiment (LATTE). When they pointed it at the young star HL Tau, they found “an abundance of taurine gas beautifully outlining a cup of cosmic flat white.” Independent investigations are needed to verify these results, but there are many takers. LATTE may turn out to be more oversubscribed than JWST!

Hubble constant, as measured by the Moon
The Hubble constant, as measured by the Moon’s recession from Earth, is just a tad lower than other estimates using cosmological objects.
Acta Prima Aprilia

This surprising paper purports to have made “the first ever model-independent, single-step measurement of the Universe’s current expansion rate.” Unlike traditional distance-ladder methods, which use consecutive measurements of supernovae, lensed quasars, and other objects, the authors looked closer to home, at the recession of the Moon as it orbits Earth. They grant that their measurement of the Hubble constant (H0 = 63.01 ± 1.79 km/s/Mpc) is somewhat lower than the value measured by the Planck satellite. Nonetheless the authors are reportedly “enthralled to report this very significant result, which is definitely not a joke.”

Who hasn’t wondered how many cows it would take to form a planetoid entirely composed of cows? Obviously, this topic has broad interdisciplinary and cross-cultural appeal. But here, the authors get a bit more detailed than your typical bovine thought experiment, asking the big questions, such as whether “cows are sufficiently intelligent to organize themselves and obtain a perfect bovine packing fraction of unity.”

Peer review is the method by which academics vet other academics’ work before publication. The goal is to make sure the community has access to a high-quality body of literature. The current system has its faults, but it works all right and moreover, it’s highly entrenched. There are those who advocate for improved methods, and more anarchic types who think the whole system should be chucked altogether. Most academics simply try to work within the system. This paper tells a metaphorical tale that will be painfully familiar to any academic who has found themselves and their life’s work “in the jaws of the wolf.”

We’ll close with this offering from amateur astronomer Stuart Atkinson (@mars_stu), who posted this incredible, rarely seen “Transit of Saturn” on Twitter early this morning. What a find!

If you haven’t had enough yet, here are some other April Fools articles we found:



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