Yesterday, April 12, I submitted my first, first-author paper to a scientific journal, describing my work studying the Flora asteroid family.  Today I rewrote that paper for my son, Matthew, describing its major findings in the voice of his favorite first author: Dr. Seuss (Ph.D?).

Because every great scientific work should be written in anapestic tetrameter.

A long time ago, just a few worlds away,
A couple of asteroids had a bad day.

The Belt that they lived in had always been roomy
But that bad, bad day it got sort of BOOM-y.

Rock 1 said “Look out!”, Rock 2 said “Oh no!”
And then those two rocks made a fireworks show.

(Except, as we learn from our friend Mr. Nye,
There isn’t much noise when two big space rocks die.)

And what was left over? Well, as you can guess,
Rock 1 and Rock 2 made a bit of a mess.

They didn’t clean up (per asteroid etiquette),
And the biggest Piece was the size of Connecticut.

8 Flora was that Piece’s number and name,
Its asteroid family is called by the same.

The Floras spread out without pushing or shoving,
Gently nudged by the Sun, so warm and loving.

Sunlight’s made of photons, and like little balls,
These photons can push things, both Big Things and Smalls.

We don’t feel their push, because it’s so tiny,
But Floras sit out a lot where the Sun’s shiny.

The Sun’s push was found by a guy named Yarkovsky,
And… there’s just about nothing that rhymes with Yarkovsky.

Alas, because details can get kind of bore-y,
I’ll take you back to our collision story.

A billion years came, and a billion years went,
Some Floras hit Earth, and each made a dent.

They could be a problem, and I’ll tell you why:
There’s a whole lot of Things here that don’t want to die.

The Floras, you see, are so close and so big,
We want to make sure that we “zag” when they “zig.”

So Earth hires people to be smart like your Mommy,
To watch for their zigging and keep our skies balmy.

The screenshot image is from one of my fast-draw videos about asteroids, created for NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission. You can watch these awesome videos here.

Melissa Dykhuis

Melissa (Haegert) Dykhuis (’10) lives in Lafayette, Colorado, with her husband Nathan, cat Sophie, and sons Matthew and Jonathan. She graduated from Calvin with a physics degree and then got a PhD in planetary science from the University of Arizona in 2015. After years of science, she’s ready for science fiction again and is currently writing and editing young adult sci-fi novels.

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