Last night I realized that I had officially become a science nerd. I watched a NOVA special about astronomy, instead of baseball. 🙂
In the past our view of the stars was a hazy one, through the cloud of our atmosphere. We could analyze the light we collected from these stars, but we could not get a clear picture of them.
Then in 1970 a telescope was put in space, the Hubble Space Telescope, named after American astronomer Edwin Hubble. For the first time we had a clear view of the Universe, and it is a spectacular view:
Infrared image of the Rosette molecular cloud.
From the Hubble site, which has a fantastic gallery with more pictures of the stars and planets of the Universe:
“Every 97 minutes, Hubble completes a spin around Earth, moving at the speed of about five miles per second (8 km per second) — fast enough to travel across the United States in about 10 minutes. As it travels, Hubble’s mirror captures light and directs it into its several science instruments.
Hubble is a type of telescope known as a Cassegrain reflector. Light hits the telescope’s main mirror, or primary mirror. It bounces off the primary mirror and encounters a secondary mirror. The secondary mirror focuses the light through a hole in the center of the primary mirror that leads to the telescope’s science instruments.”
Infrared image of the Rosette molecular cloud. Herschel collects the infrared light given out by dust and this image is a three-colour composite made of wavelengths at 70 microns (blue), 160 microns (green) and 250 microns (red). It was made with observations from Herschel’s Photoconductor Array Camera and Spectrometer (PACS) and the Spectral and Photometric Imaging Receiver (SPIRE). The bright smudges are dusty cocoons containing massive protostars. The small spots near the centre of the image are lower mass protostars.
There are some pretty crazy ideas about what our Universe is made of. As one scientist said, forget who, “It isn’t a question of how crazy your theory is, but if it’s crazy enough.”
We now know what we know we don’t know. 🙂
Do you believe there are life forms outside our planet?
If we find life on other plants how do you think this will affect religious doctrine, if at all?
I recently read a press releases, from the European Space Agency that has some pretty crazy news. They found nine new exoplanets, and some of them are orbiting in the opposite direction to the rotation of their host planet.
From the press release:
“The discovery of nine new transiting exoplanets is announced today at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting (NAM2010). When these new results were combined with earlier observations of transiting exoplanets astronomers were surprised to find that six out of a larger sample of 27 were found to be orbiting in the opposite direction to the rotation of their host star — the exact reverse of what is seen in our own Solar System. The new discoveries provide an unexpected and serious challenge to current theories of planet formation. They also suggest that systems with exoplanets of the type known as hot Jupiters are unlikely to contain Earth-like planets.
“This is a real bomb we are dropping into the field of exoplanets,” says Amaury Triaud, a PhD student at the Geneva Observatory who, with Andrew Cameron and Didier Queloz, leads a major part of the observational campaign.
Planets are thought to form in the disc of gas and dust encircling a young star. This proto-planetary disc rotates in the same direction as the star itself, and up to now it was expected that planets that form from the disc would all orbit in more or less the same plane, and that they would move along their orbits in the same direction as the star’s rotation. This is the case for the planets in the Solar System.
After the initial detection of the nine new exoplanets with the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP), the team of astronomers used the HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-metre ESO telescope at the La Silla observatory in Chile, along with data from the Swiss Euler telescope, also at La Silla, and data from other telescopes to confirm the discoveries and characterise the transiting exoplanets found in both the new and older surveys.
Surprisingly, when the team combined the new data with older observations they found that more than half of all the hot Jupiters studied have orbits that are misaligned with the rotation axis of their parent stars. They even found that six exoplanets in this extended study (of which two are new discoveries) have retrograde motion: they orbit their star in the “wrong” direction.”
I also found this video I enjoyed of a new song by Goldfrapp, “Dreaming”, which has the Milky Way as background: