Astrophysicists working at the University of Tennessee’s Space Institute in Tullahoma, TN, have discovered a small solar system orbiting the Sunsphere in downtown Knoxville.
|This photo, taken at night, shows four
planets orbiting the Sunsphere.
At first, the phenomenon was dismissed as being swamp gas or fireflies, but persistant janitor Herbie Bunker kept reporting the planetary system to authorities, insisting that it was not like any swamp gas he had ever seen. “Ever’ night I’d be cleaning down there ’round where Hardees used to be durin’ the fair and I looked up and saw the little lights that appeared to be following some kind of ‘liptical orbit,” said Bunker. “But nobody would believe me,” he added.
Planetary scientist Messier Clarke was the first member of the team to arrive downtown for the investigation. “Usually we don’t look for heavenly bodies here on earth, except at Venus Swimwear Contests, but we got tired of the phone calls from the [Knoxville] mayor’s office and decided to come up and investigate,” he told us, “and what I found surprised me.”
According to the most recent reports, a total of four planetary bodies are orbiting the Sunsphere at this time. At least one of those has moons orbiting it, according to scientists.
“We never expected to find anything quite like this,” fellow scientist Lawrence Hubbell said, “especially not in Knoxville.” Hubbell is responsible for detecting organic compounds, including the existance of life, on the newly discovered planets. So far he has yet to uncover anything, but he is being optimistic. “This system beat the odds by finding an orbit around the Sunsphere,” he explained, “so it wouldn’t be surprising if it beat more odds and had life. If I were that Sunsphere, I’d buy myself a lottery ticket.”
The four planets have been named Bunker, Messier, Knoxworld, and Haslam. Planet Knoxworld has two moons orbiting it, Horner and Kessel.
Evolutionary theory may apply here. Since the Sunsphere has been useless since the 1982 World’s Fair, scientists speculate that perhaps the monument has evolved to a higher state, providing light and warmth to a small solar system.
Further, it is thought that passing dust or bird droppings might have been trapped in orbit around the Sunsphere by its magnetic field or gravitational pull. As they spun around, they collided with one another forming larger and larger bodies until the planets were formed. The fourth planet has rings, which may eventually form moons.
Upon the discovery, the World’s Fair Park was immediately renamed “Preservation Park and Solar System Sanctuary” and the area is undergoing major rennovation to allow for observation platforms. Mayor Victor Ashe, in a statment, said that the Sunsphere has been submitted to the National Historic Registry so it cannot be torn down to make way for a parking lot or future Fort Kid expansion.
Scientists from around the world are congregating in Knoxville, and next year, the International Planetary Scientist and Quake Players Society will have their annual conference at the new convention center. NASA is in the early stages of developing a small probe that will be launched to explore the planets in more detail.
Hopeful scientists are looking for more planets and moons. “You never can be sure what all is out there,” explained Messier Clarke, “maybe we will find some intelligent life. SETI has already set up a small dish where the Court of Flags used to be. Time will tell.”
According to downtown property developer Mitch Arthur, “Looks like we got ‘Universe Knoxville’ whether we like it or not.”