Posts Tagged ‘telescope’

Extrasolar Planet Finding

Monday, September 15th, 2008 by Bellatrix

As of September 2008 a total of 309 extrasolar planets have been discovered. So far only massive gas giants, like Jupiter, have been detected, although some as small as Neptune. No terrestrial, or earth like planets, have been discovered yet. This is because of the current limitations on the technology, or the method, used to detect planets. However, this will hopefully be changing soon.

Currently it is difficult to locate earth-sized planets because they are very small, and do not give off much reflected light from their stars. So far no planet has been bright enough on its own to be detected by our telescopes. We can only detect planets by the small gravitational effects these planets have on their host stars. Planets do not have much mass compared to stars but the little mass they have exerts a pull on their stars; it makes them wobble slightly. We can use the Doppler effect to measure this wobble. The Doppler effect makes it so that the light from the star is bluer when moving toward us, and redder when moving away from us. So when watching a star with a planet around it, the pull from the planet as it orbits the star causes this shift in the observed light from the star, thus we know the planet is there. However, the mass of earth-sized planets is too small to create any noticeable wobble.

However, progress is definitely being made. The Subaru Telescope, located atop mount Mauna Kea in Hawaii, has an 8.2-meter mirror and has recently started scanning nearby stars looking for planets. There are eight innovative cameras and spectrographs at Subaru optimized for various astronomical investigations in optical and near-infrared wavelengths. One of these cameras is called HiCIAO, or High Contrast Instrument for the Subaru Next Generation Adaptive Optics. It is designed to block out the harsh direct light from a star, so that nearby faint objects such as planets can be viewed. The new adaptive optics system uses 188 actuators behind a deformable mirror to remove the atmospheric distortion from its view, allowing Subaru Telescope to observe close to its theoretical performance limits. The Subaru Telescope hopes to be the first to directly observe a planet outside our solar system.

Now even though Subaru hopes to be the first to direct image a planet, it still cannot detect an earth-sized planet. NASA was planning on launching a space telescope for this purpose called the terrestrial planet finder. This would consist of two observatories planned to not only detect these types of planets but also even study their characteristics such as size, distance from star, and even atmospheric components. However, due to budget cuts at NASA the project has been postponed indefinitely. I think until this project, or a similar one is funded and launched, we will continue to be limited by our current earth-based telescopes, and earth-like planets will remain outside our view.

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ASTRONOMY DAY PROMPTS “OUR UNDISCOVEREDUNIVERSE.COM” WEBSITE TO ANNOUNCE ASTRO-PHOTO CONTEST

Monday, May 12th, 2008 by Aridian PR

New website to offer monthly prizes for winning astronomy photos

Minneapolis, MN (May 12, 2008) – Today, thousands of astronomers are looking to the skies. May 12, 2008 is National Astronomy Day and OurUndiscoveredUniverse.com is marking the celebration by announcing an astro-photo contest for photographers. The contest is tentatively set to begin in July shortly after the launch of the new website.

Participants can submit astronomy photographs of stars, galaxies, meteors, or any other subject associated with the universe. Each month the website will pick the best entry and the winner will receive a $500 cash prize. At the end of the first 12-month contest, one winning photo will be selected as the grand prize winner and published as part of an advertisement in the 2009 September issue of “Astronomy” magazine. All winning photographs will also be included in a 2010 calendar.

“We feel this contest speaks to photographers passionate about the universe,” said author Terence Witt. “We are excited to receive the submissions and are sure the contest will yield the best in amateur astronomy photography.”

The objective of the National Astronomy Day is to bring astronomy to the people. Science museums, planetariums, observatories, and universities hosted weekend events such as discussions with astronauts, displays of moon rocks, and even a space ballet.

The event brings the public closer to astronomy. OurUndiscoveredUniverse.com believes in this philosophy. “Everyone can understand the universe,” said Witt. “It is a fascinating experience to look through a telescope and get a tiny glimpse of all the universe holds.

About Terence Witt
Terence Witt is the founder and former CEO of Witt Biomedical Corporation. He holds a BSEE from Oregon State University and lives in Florida. “Our Undiscovered Universe-Introducing Null Physics” is Witt’s first book.

Victoria Lansdon
Public Relations Director
Aridian Publishing
(321) 773-3426
vlansdon@aridian.org

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