Because they screw it up and spew misinformed drivel like Salon does. If they would have done a modicum of research, they would have found out the discovery is the sign of a gravitational wave embedded in the cosmic microwave background. This is more about the evidence for Alan Gurth, Andrei Linde, etc’s inflationary model, which covers up some of the unsolved gaping hole left by the big bang theory. Yes, the article does talk about the fact that it confirms inflation, but they always mix the facts up with some misinformation. As of yet, there hasn’t been any direct observation of gravitational waves. Not that it matters much because gravitational waves have been confirmed by indirect observations before even this one. For example, by observing two neutron stars orbiting close to each other, they have found behavior that matches those predicted by the existence of gravitational wave. Seriously, research! Or am I asking too much for a reporter these days?
First of all, yes, 3 planets doesn’t count as a “planet”, singular, I know, but it sounds better this way… Whatever, on to the topic.
While this is not the first time, it is pretty cool that three planets have been found in an open cluster. This one is called the Messier 67. Open clusters are group of stars numbering in the thousands that are born from the same gas cloud. So for example, Orion Nebula may one day be an open cluster! Anyways, these open clusters eventually dissipate and the stars go on on their own. As for why this is important is the fact that crowded open clusters are believed to be planet unfriendly. That doesn’t mean it is impossible, but it does mean that finding some make them quiet special and fascinating to study at.
All three planets are gas giants. They were found by measuring the wobble of the parent star with the Doppler Shift. While we may not exactly know their size, we know their mass. They are 0.34, 0.40, and 1.54 times the mass of Jupiter. Let me remind you, of course, that all scientific measurements have uncertainties, and the one for the third one is particularly large, plus/minus 0.24. Interestingly, two of them orbit around sun like stars, although slightly less luminous than the sun (sun has luminosity 2, these two stars have luminosity 5). The planets themselves, though, orbit too close. They are the hot Jupiter varieties, and there is nothing like them in the Solar System. That similarity and contrast is what makes those planets very interesting. The planet more massive than Jupiter, on the other hand, orbit a giant star, but farther away. This one has what one might say a more reasonable orbit.
Other than that, there is not much more to say. They happen to be pretty cool because they were found in tight open clusters. You can look at the study, if you want all the nitty gritty details. You can also get a good summary from Universe Today here.
Notice how it would look so much larger than the moon? Now think about this. The Andromeda galaxy is around 2.5 million light years away. Imagine how large it has to be in order to look like that even from that unimaginable distance! In a way, this image gives you a sense of how large 100,000 light years (the visible part, there are invisible parts that stretches Andromeda to 220,000 light years) is, well not completely since such sizes are unfathomable, but this will do.
In the last three posts, I talked about paths that minimize time. In all those cases, it involves objects going through a path and minimizing certain quantities. But is there a single equation that covers all physical situations that involve finding the path that minimizes quantity? The answer is yes, and it is called the Euler Lagrange equation. Read the rest of this entry »
This Earth sized planet is really close to its star, completing an orbit in 8.5 hours. It is so hot that its surface is probably melted. Its density shows it is similar in composition to planet Earth, so it probably has an iron core wrapped with rock. How it got so close, scientists are trying to figure out, since the various scenarios they have in mind doesn’t seem to be adequate. More details here. If only I could get behind the paywall for the studies. *sigh*
Aw, the first run of the new dark matter detector LUX was a disappointment. Alas, that is how science goes. Sometimes, you find nothing. It still has over two years to go, though, so my fingers are crossed for something to be found. And no, even if no WIMP (the dark matter candidate) is found, MOND is not it. The Bullet Cluster shot that theory dead and it is now a corpse in the graveyard of scientific ideas.
On Earth, one can indirectly find what the structure of inside the planet is by measuring the waves created by an earthquake. The Earth’s interior, having layers with different compositions, will refract and reflect those waves, and by measuring the wave all over the Earth, what can make a reasonable assumption as to what the Earth is like inside it. Unfortunately, we can’t exactly place seismographs in other planets. In the case of Saturn, though, there is a structure you can measure which will indirectly tell us what is going on inside the planet. It is the rings, which it turns out that while its shape is predominantly affected by Saturn’s moons, they alone don’t account for all the waves on it. The planet itself affects the rings, and one of the findings is that the inside of the planet is sloshing around. More details is in the link above.
There is exciting news for extrasolar planet enthusiasts. A planet smaller than Mercury has been discovered around a regular star, one similar to the sun. This is another excellent discovery done with the already very productive space telescope Kepler. The discovery was helped by the fact that the planet rotated very close to the star. After all, an astronomer needs to detect at least three signals in order to confirm a planet, and finding a planet that comes in front of the star from Earth’s view is more probable the closer it is. The latter is important because Kepler finds planets by looking at a dip in the star’s brightness caused by the plane moving in front of it.
Now, is it the smallest planet discovered ever? Possibly not, it is probably one of the planets of a pulsar system. But it kind of isn’t fair, since pulsars have a very regular rotation period, which one can measure because it sends out jets of lights that crosses the Earth everytime it rotates. One can use discrepancies in the rotational period to detect planets that are very small in mass. For the transit method, though, this is very good. It means we are well on our way to discovering rocky planets in habitable zones. We just need to observe a lot longer. Three years for an Earth sized object that goes around in one year. And we get even more variety in our discoveries, instead of just gas giants and superearths, which have been dominating discoveries because finding bigger things is easier.
This webcomic says it all.
After all, there is a f–ing hexagon on Saturn! You don’t believe me? Well, here it is: