Tuesday, 18 March, 2014
For a long time astronomers believed, or hoped, there was a Jupiter, or Saturn, size planet lurking in the distant reaches of the solar system. The presence of such an object, that was commonly referred to as “Planet X”, might account for the apparently odd orbital paths of some of the other outer planets, they thought.
But no, a NASA backed mission, that has spent just over a year scanning the sky, hasn’t found any evidence of a such planet:
This news comes from a paper analyzing observations by WISE, the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, a scrappy little mission that spent 13 months mapping the entire sky in infrared wavelengths. This is where warm objects are bright, things like dinky stars, asteroids, galactic dust, and more. WISE was very sensitive and was able to see objects that were pretty faint. For example, it found tens of thousands of previously undiscovered asteroids, some of which get pretty near the Earth. These glow in the infrared, heated by the Sun. What it didn’t discover, though, was another giant planet in our solar system. And it’s pretty definitive: It would’ve seen a planet the size of Saturn out to a distance of 1.5 trillion kilometers, more than a tenth of a light year! A planet the size of Jupiter would’ve been seen out to twice that far.
I imagine it’s possible that there are other, much smaller planets, or dwarf planets, yet to be detected, out in the solar system’s far reaches though.
Thursday, 22 August, 2013
There are now a couple of ways of taking a look at the cores of the solar system’s planets, without having leaving comfort of Earth… planet cakes would be one, while Planetary Anatomy, by German design agency FOREAL, is another.
Friday, 9 August, 2013
When it comes to the planets, you simply cannot make your cake and eat it. After all, it’s not just baking a cake that is spherical, but one that also has a multi-coloured interior that resembles a planetary core, to say nothing of the icing that is virtually identical to said planet’s surface.
Rhiannon, the Melbourne based creator of planet cakes, and many, many, others, has posted a tutorial, outlining her process, should you wish to try making your own such cakes.
Practice, much practice, will make perfect I’d say.
Monday, 25 March, 2013
Fire hydrants that resemble planets? Totally. I wouldn’t mind betting that you’d probably find life of some sort on at least a couple of these planets as well.
Wednesday, 18 January, 2012
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, may be home to some 100 billion planets, 1500 of which could be within just 50 light years of Earth, according to some recent statistical calculations.
Better extend the USS Enterprise’s “five year mission” me thinks.
Wednesday, 7 December, 2011
The number of apparently life sustaining exoplanets, or planets beyond the solar system, that are coming to our attention is growing, so it makes sense that there be a database, or catalogue, of such bodies.
Wednesday, 7 September, 2011
Conditions on a cube shaped planet, which one could safely say are fairly rare, would differ vastly from what we are used to, but are fascinating none the less.
On the plus side, the view is like none on earth, or on any planet anywhere. You can sight down one edge of the cube to a far corner, a distance of some 6,400 miles. Even more strikingly, you see all the atmosphere and water has been concentrated by gravity into a blob in the middle of each face, with the corners and edges poking out into space. You realize your cubical planet isn’t one world but six, each face’s segment of the biosphere isolated from the others by the hopeless climb.
Six isolated biospheres on a cube shaped planet… that would surely make for a great premise for some sort of science fiction story.
Monday, 18 July, 2011
This month, July, marks the passing of the first full Neptunian year since the gas giant was discovered by astronomers on Earth.
According to those tables of numbers you get in books about the Solar System, the planet Neptune takes 164.79 years to travel once around the Sun. And Neptune was discovered 164.77 years ago as I write this post (1st July 2011). This means our blue ice giant has still not made even one full journey around the Sun since being spotted and recognised for the first time by humans. At some point this month, that “first” orbit will be completed. The inhabitants of Neptune will be wryly noting the first anniversary of the inhabitants of Earth first realising we were looking at their planet.
Tuesday, 7 June, 2011
The best way to go about finding extraterrestrial life is to narrow down the search range as best as possible. Certain types of stars, such as the Sun, are considered more likely to host life bearing planets, with older, rather than younger, planets orbiting such stars seen as the best bet for harbouring life forms.
In the biology game, planetary age can be everything. If alien astronomers had discovered Earth when it was just a billion years old, the only life they’d be able to find would be the most primitive of microbes. If they waited another billion years, they’d see the effects of cyanobacteria pumping oxygen into the atmosphere. At about 4 billion, multicellular organisms would arise. And if the aliens wanted someone to talk to, they’d have to wait until Earth had been around for 4.6 billion years, when humans began communicating with radio signals.
Monday, 23 May, 2011
There could be a sizeable number of planets drifting alone through the cosmos – that are not in orbit around a star – according to Japanese astronomers, who have identified ten such bodies that appear to be no where near a host star.
Ten objects does not sound like a lot, but microlensing events are very rare, because they require the precise alignment of a background star, the planet “lens” and Earth. So the researchers say the new observations imply that lonely planets are 50 per cent more common than planets that have host stars and nearly twice as common as stars in the galaxy.
Such planets were likely evicted from the planetary system they formed in as a result of gravitational tussles with other bodies orbiting their host star.