Archive for the ‘Telescopes’ Tag

Kelper Mission Discovers Twin Earth! (Updated 28th April 2012)   31 comments

 

Gliese 667C – Kelper Mission Discovers Twin Earth!

Billions of potentially habitable alien planets in the Milky Way Smile

Double sunset from Gliese 667C

(Alien Landscape: Artists impression of sunset scene from the Super Earth orbiting the star Gliese 667C (GJ 667C) which is part of the triple star system. The two more distant stars Gliese 667A and Gliese 667B appear in the sky to the right of the image. Astronomers estimate there of tens of billions of small, rocky habitable worlds, in the Milky Way orbiting faint red dwarf stars within their ‘habitable zones,’ where surface water could support life, and dozens within 30 Light Years of Earth. Image Credit: L.Calgada/ESO)

“This was expected to be a rather unlikely star to host planets. Yet there they are very nearby, metal-poor examples of the most common type of star in our galaxy. The detection of this planet and so nearby, and this soon implies that our galaxy must be teeming with billions of potentially habitable rocky planets.” ~ Steven Vogt

Super-Earth Gliese 667C (GJ 667C)

GJ 667C is an M class red dwarf star in a triple star system. The alien ‘super-Earth’ is situated about 22 Light Years away where it is orbiting it’s red dwarf host star in a period of 28 days, and is about 4.5 times larger than Earth. It is temperate enough to allow liquid water to exist on its surface. It is accompanied by orange K class dwarf stars GJ 667A and B.

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GJ 667C receives 90% of light received by Earth, most of which is infra-red, so a higher percentage of incoming energy is absorbed by the planet.

Well worth checking out! Though given the distance it is not likely to be in our lifetime, unless warp speed becomes a reality anytime soon!

“This planet is the best candidate to support liquid water and perhaps life as we know it…”

~ Guillem Anglada-Escude

Artists impression of Super-Earth

About 80% of the Milky Way (160 billion) stars are red dwarfs so it is likely that there are around 65 billion stars with habitable Super Earth’s in our galaxy. About 100 lie within 10 parsecs (32.6 Light Years) of Earth.

“Because red dwarfs are so common – there are about 160 million of them in the Milky Way – this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone.”~ Dr Xavier Bonfils from Grenoble University in France, who led the international team.

Star spectral classes comparison

THE STUDY – Between February 2008 and April 2009 researchers at the European Southern Observatory, La Sill Observatory in Chile, studied 102 Class M (Red Dwarf) stars situated at a distance of less than 32.6 Light Years away. New planets, new life?New planets are discovered by detecting the subtle wobbles that occur when the planets are orbiting their star. 41% of them are orbiting their stars inside the habitable zone, where they could potentially support life.

GJ 667C was discovered by Astronomers from UC Santa Cruz, Steven Vogt and Eugenio Rivera, led by Guillem Anglada-Escude and Paul Butler of Carniegie Institution for Science.

The HARPS high-precision ‘Planet Hunter’ device works with the 3.6m telescope at the Silla Observatory in Chile to bring us these results.

When the information obtained via a telescope was input into the instruments nine super-Earth planets were detected by astronomers. These included Gliese (GJ) 581 and Gliese(GJ) 667C both of which are within the habitable zones of their stars.

clip_image012However, it should also be remembered that Red dwarf stars are not as super-hot as our star – The Sun. Consequently the super-Earth planets that orbit them must Flares from alien sundo so at a considerably closer range in order to obtain the necessary heat. With their habitable zones in such close proximity to their stars compared to the distance of Earth to the Sun there is a danger that the potential for life could be inhibited by the dangerous X-ray and ultraviolet flares emitted by their stars, which could successfully frazzle any life!

NEWS UPDATE: REPORTS CONFIRM EXISTENCE OF HABITABLE EXO-PLANET! (28TH APRIL 2012)

After re-evaluating information collected back in February, scientists reportedly confirmed on Friday that they had indeed discovered a planet outside of our solar system that is capable of supporting life.

On Friday, the Telegraph published a report confirming the findings.

“Re-analyzing data from the European Southern Observatory, the astronomers found Gliese 667Cc is a solid planet with roughly four and a half times the mass of Earth,” they said, adding that astronomers from the University of Göttingen and the University of California “have calculated the planet receives ten per cent less light from its red dwarf star than the Earth gets from the Sun.”

“It’s the Holy Grail of exo-planet research to find a planet orbiting around a star at the right distance so it’s not too close where it would lose all its water and not too far where it would freeze,” University of California astronomer Steven Vogt said, according to the UK publication. “It’s right there in the habitable zone — there’s no question or discussion about it. It is not on the edge. It is right in there.”

(Source: redOrbit)

 

Snow White And The Frozen Dwarf   27 comments

 

Snow White – World of Ice and Methane

Snow White (Photo Credit: NASA)US Astronomers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have discovered that the dwarf planet 2007 OR10 known as Snow White –once a small volcanically active world firing slushy water ice from ancient volcanoes, and boasting an atmosphere, is today an icy, frozen, dead world, tinged red and enveloped in a thin layer of methane that is slowly slipping away to be lost into space.

Snow White — orbits the sun at the edge of the solar system and is about half the size of Pluto, making it the fifth largest dwarf planet. Part of a larger group of icy bodies called Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs).Ironically Snow White has actually proved to be one of the reddest objects in the solar system.

However last autumn using a newly designed instrument called the Folded-port Infrared Echellette (FIRE), with the 6.5-meter Magellan Baade Telescope in Chile, Adam Burgasser, a former graduate student and now a professor at UC San Diego, and Wesley Fraser, postdoctoral scholar were shocked to find out although Snow White was indeed red, it’s surface was also covered in water ice.

“Water ice is not red! Although ice is common in the outer solar system, it’s almost always white~ Mike Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor and professor of planetary astronomy.

One other dwarf planet that shares these characteristics is Quaoar, discovered in 2002. Slightly smaller than Snow White, Quaoar is still big enough to have had an atmosphere and a surface covered with volcanoes that sent-up and slush and ice, which as with Snow White flowed over the surface before freezing solid.

But smaller than dwarf planets like Pluto or Eris, it was unable to hold onto volatile methane, carbon monoxide, or nitrogen compounds as long. And two billion years after its formation Quaoar inevitably began to lose its atmosphere to space; now, and today all that remains is the space-irradiated methane which rests on the icy surface Quaoar’s, giving it a glowing reddish hue.

It is clear from indications on the spectrum of Snow White 2007 OR10 which clearly shows the presence of water ice that it too for the last ½ billion years it has followed in the footsteps of Quaoar, still and silent amongst the stars, slowly losing its atmosphere into space until now only a small part remains."

The existence of methane is still open to debate. But the use of a large telescope such as the Keck Observatory will show clearly whether methane exists on Snow White or not. If this proves to be so it will join Quaoar as one of only two dwarf planets that bridge the gap between the tiny selection of entities large enough to hold onto hazardous composites, and the smaller entities that constitute the vast majority of KBOs.

The Kepler Mission, NASA Discovery mission #10–Kelper-16B   23 comments

Planet Hunting Spacecraft – Search for habitable planets

WHERE THE SUN SETS TWICE-PLANET KELPER-16B

-In the Light to Two Suns

 

double sunset

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered a world where two suns set over the horizon instead of just one.

The existence of a world with a double sunset has, until now, been “the stuff of science fiction” confined to sci-fi movies such as Star Wars.

Over three decades later a world with double suns is now a scientific fact.

 

 

The new planet “Kepler-16b” is located 200 light-years from Earth, and like Tatooine, the home world of Star Wars Luke Skywalker, is a circumbinary planet – a planet which orbits two stars.

StarWars-Planet TatooineLuke SkywalkerTatooines Two Suns

A cold and inhospitable world similar in size to Saturn, KELPER-16B is thought to consist of about 50 percent rock and 50 percent gas. A gas giant like Jupiter in the Earth’s system rather than another terrestrial type world. Much too cold for life. The parent stars are smaller than our sun. One is 69 percent the mass of the sun and the other only 20 percent. KELPER-16B orbits around both stars every 229 days, similar to Venus’ 225-day orbit, but lies outside the system’s habitable zone, where liquid water could exist on the surface, because the stars are cooler than our sun.

                   In the Light of Two Suns_Kelper-16BKelper-16B orbiting two starsWhere the Sun Sets Twice_Kelper-16B

Researchers in Austin, Texas have been busy calculating the likelihood of Earth-like planets existing around twin stars. Worlds with two suns.

The existence of Earth-like worlds in the habitable zones around binary systems is now thought possible by astrophysicists from the University of Texas at Arlington. These regions are the right temperature to support liquid water on its surface, as in oceans and seas, and therefore life, in a form familiar to us.

Extrasolar-Moon: CREDIT: David A. Aguilar

 

Using the Kepler-16 double sun system as a basis and beginning point it has been established that as with our own the habitable zone of this system is centered mostly on the system’s primary star and extends in a region around it equal to 0.36 to 0.71 the distance of the Earth to the sun. A roughly similar distance as that between Earth and neighboring planet Venus, out to about the distance of red planetary neighbor Mars.

One possibility the researchers have also explored the possiblility that a planet the size of Earth could be orbiting beyond the twin star system which would put it ouside the area considered the habitable zone. An area known as the extended region.

There have not been any "exomoons" found so far but the planned Space Telescope – the James Webb, will have the necessary facilities to study the atmosphere of an alien exomoon, detecting and analysing vital gases for example carbon dioxide and oxygen.

The Kelper Space Telescope has so far discovered:

  • 21 confirmed planets
  • 1235 Planetary Candidates
  • 2165 Eclipsing Binary Stars

        And this is only the beginning!!!!!

The SKA Telescope   34 comments

The Square Kilometre Array

Out of the Darkness, Into the Light

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Astronomy allows us to see back in time because the light waves from distant stars and galaxies that reach our current telescopes take a long time to do so and what we see is from a very distant past. SKA (the Square Kilometre Array) will be the most powerful radio telescope we have built, and will see back to when the first galaxies and stars formed, and will make pictures from radio waves rather than seeing light waves. This will allow objects to be discovered that would otherwise remain invisible and impossible to know of.

Expected to collect more data in one week clip_image003than previous attempts have done in the whole of history it will have the means to survey the sky 100,000 times+ faster than ever before. By the time construction of the array is completed it will include 4,400 dish antennae and flat arrays, 2,200 of which will be situated in the central 5km-wide core area. Thousands of remaining arrays will be grouped together in “stations” spanning 3,000 km (size of a continent) from the core.

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The SKA Array will likely be based in South Africa or Australia; a decision will be made in 2012. If Australia was to be chosen SKA would spread right across the mainland, into Tasmania and New Zealand.

International project, also including several European countries, which will revolutionise our understanding in several areas of physics, including general relativity, (how gravity bends spacetime) planet formation, understanding magnetic fields, and cosmology. One of the most important projects will involve measuring the nature of dark energy which it is thought makes up 73% of the universe, because of the vast expanses SKA will be able to survey.clip_image009

May provide answers to fundamental questions about nature, origin and evolution of universe.

The SKA will be able to detect extremely weak extra-terrestrial signals and may even spot other planets capable of supporting life. Astrobiologists will use SKA to search for amino acids, the building blocks of life by identifying spectral lines at specific frequencies. The SKA array is sensitive enough to be able to detect similar types of radiation to that emitted from our TV broadcasts, radar, and mobile phones. If there proved to be an advanced alien race existing somewhere out in the universe contact could occur by such means. By 2024 the construction will be complete and the fun will begin!