Thursday, November 13, 2008

Some Real, Awesome News

For those of you who may not know, the photo at left is far more important an historical moment that the election last week. It is, in fact, the first visible-light photograph of a planet in orbit around another star.

While I didn't grow up reading science fiction (that was my older brother's thing; as such I tended to seek out my own thing), but was certainly a big fan os Star Trek. Until I was in college and took an astronomy lab course (Alfred University actuall has a small observatory with four telescopes; taking that class in the spring semester of 1984 was cold; out of a sixteen week semester, we had ten clear nights, eight of them in January through early March) that I realized astronomy actually had no evidence there were such things as planets around other stars. There were certainly plans, even then, for the kind of thorough search no going on; we just didn't have the kind of technology then we do now.

As such, the confirmation of the existence of extra-solar planetary systems was pretty important. Now, we have confirmation that our surmises were correct. Actual photographic evidence of a planet in orbit around another star.

I think this is so cool.

To understand the photo, the little dot at the center is the star; the box in the lower right hand corner are photos taken at discrete time periods of the planet, showing the planet itself as well as the elliptical nature of its orbit, just as it should be.

Virtual Tin Cup

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