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This Week in Space – August 27, 2010

August 27th, 2010 2 comments

I was a bit busy last week and wasn’t able to do one of the things I really wanted to: write about space and a few extraordinary developments that have been announced or released lately.  Namely, there’s been more fun with exo-planetary systems, Europa and asteroids.

F-Yeah Exo-Planetary Systems

A few months ago I wrote about the discovery of a hot “near-Earth” named GJ 1214b.  The rocky planet measuring about six times the mass of the Earth was discovered at about 40 light years distance using the Radial Velocity method of exo-planetary detection (measuring red-shift of a star to determine slight wobbles caused by a star — in this case, GJ 1214 — orbiting along with exo-planet(s) around their common center of gravity).

Scientists at a conference in France announced this week the discovery of two new exciting sets of exo-planetary systems, each distinguishing in its own way.  The first, which has been observed primarily using Radial Velocity is the discovery of the stellar system with the most known planets outside of our own solar system.  HD 10180, a Sun-like M-Class star sitting about 128 light years away hosts a whopping seven planets.

NASA released the above animation of the planetary system around HD 10180.

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Scientists discover “near”-Earth 40 light years away

December 18th, 2009 Comments off
GJ1214_exoplanet_intro-thumb-640xauto-10571

This artist's rendering of what GJ 1214 might look like with its rocky explanet transiting in front of the M-Class Dwarf star. Courtesy of the New York Times article.

Last month I wrote about the recent discoveries that the H2Oceans on Europa, one of the Jovian moons.  Europa is intriguing largely because the gravitational and magnetic forces of Jupiter create enough of a tidal effect that Europa is kept warm and the oceans do not freeze over.  Factor in much higher oxygenation of said oceans and scientists have determined that it’s theoretically possible for complex organisms that consume as much oxygen as an Earth trout to exist.

That’s wicked awesome.  But what could be more awesome than the real hypothesis for habitable zones in the solar system?  What about finding habitable zones in the search for exoplanets?  Scientists announced that they came very close with a rocky exoplanet recently.

For those unfamiliar, exoplanets are planets that exist outside of our solar system, AKA orbiting another another star.  Although they had long been theorized, the actual discovery can most easily be done by one of three methods that have been mastered in the last 15 years: Astrometry, which looks at the wobbles and changes in the celestial path of a star reflecting gravitational influence by a large orbiting body; Radial Velocity, which measures the changes in the redshift of a star’s light by looking at the speeding up or slowing down of the star caused by orbiting bodies as it moves further away from the Earth; or Transit Method, which looks for changes in the light visible from a star as exoplanets move in front of a star as viewed from Earth.

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