Space Bites
Oct 2010 26

Space Bites

Posted In Blog,Geek,Science

by Damon Martin

Alone in the Universe? Still Not Sure

A few weeks ago, scientists discovered what was thought to be a habitable planet called Gliese 581-g, which had all the characteristics of a world that could create and contain life as we know it on Earth anyways. The “Goldilocks” planet was found to be in a zone not too close to its sun (ie. not too hot) and not too far away (ie. too cold), in the sweet spot in between where an atmosphere could form and life could grow.

Not so fast.

Shortly after a team of scientists led by Stephen Vogt of the University of California, Santa-Cruz made the announcement about the discovery of Gliese 581-g, a Swiss team, lead by Francisco Pepe of the Geneva Observatory, who were independently doing their own study, claimed that the evidence was inconclusive and that they could find no trace of the new planet.

Pepe’s team had researched the same area for several years and discovered only four planets orbiting the Red Dwarf star known as Gliese 581, and say there’s no evidence of a fifth such habitable planet.

Vogt stands by his results however, which combined data collected by his team with the findings of the Swiss scientists. In a recent interview, Vogt went on the record as saying: “As the Swiss group has our data, I am also wondering why they have not already combined all the data together into a more complete analysis themselves.”

The scientific community can apparently jab and get catty with one another like Angelina and Sammi from Jersey Shore. Needless to say, it may be years or even decades before there’s definitive proof of either team’s findings. With the system sitting at 20 light years away, current technology means it would take anything sent from earth over a thousand years to reach Gliese 581, so let the debate continue…


[Danielle in SG11]

Furthest Reported Galaxy Discovered

Images received from the Hubble Telescope recently have led scientists to believe that they may have discovered a galaxy far, far away, but it’s not something from a Star Wars movie. No, this galaxy sits a whopping 13.071 billion light years away, and the light emitted from the system just reached Earth. The galaxy is believed to be from a part of the universe created only 700 million years after the Big Bang. In astronomy terms, it’s like a football season.

Scientists agree that many of the original parts of the universe are probably long gone, or have been absorbed into other areas, but this newest discovery gives a brief glimpse into the beginnings of where this whole thing started. The catchy name given to the new galaxy is UDFy-38135539. It was discovered when the Hubble Telescope recently underwent an upgrade. Scientists are excited about this find because it gives a view into the time period in our universe’s history when stars were first created.

During this time, the universe underwent what scientists call “reionization.” This is a process by which hydrogen atoms were broken apart into electrons and protons, which it’s theorized was caused by ultra violet light emitted from the first stars. More investigation is underway which will be helped along when a more powerful Hubble telescope is launched in 2014.


[Danielle in SG11]

Two Star Systems Could Change Theories Forever

The birth, life and death of planets is a scientific wonder that’s been theorized and studied pretty much since man first looked up. A new discovery by astronomers at Tennessee State University, which came while they were studying a planet currently residing in what is known as a binary system (two stars in close proximity to each other), may have turned the universe on its head (metaphorically of course).

Previous theories about planets created in a single star system say, essentially, that they were brought together by a snowball effect (or what scientists call “accretion”). Basically, a new star in the universe is surrounded by dust and particles, and after a cooling period these pieces start forming together into what will eventually become a planet’s core. With the gravitational pull from the star in tow, the planet will continue to grow, collect and form.

According to this generally accepted hypothesis, planets can’t be created in binary systems because the tug and pull from two stars wouldn’t allow them to form. If a planet has been able to survive birth in a binary system, generally the new planet is expelled outward from that system due to the gravitational pull from the two separate stars. However, the discovery of a planet called Inrakluk is changing opinions, since it is thought to be a planet created and thriving in a binary star system.

Why is this so important? Well, according to Dr. Matthew Muterspaugh, one of the scientists working on the project, the discovery gives a new insight into the origin of planets and how they are created, putting a fresh spin on pretty much the entire universe.

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