exoplanets


Just too good, that’s all.  See this and other awesome Zarmina’s World tourist posters (from the future) at the old reliable io9.com.

 

Saving up my Interworld Credits starting now.

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Steven Vogt of UC Santa Cruz has been getting a lot of attention lately for his discovery of a “Cinderella” exoplanet – one right in the habitable zone of its star.  Officially called Gliese 581g, he’s unofficially named it after his wife, who happens to have an excellent moniker herself — Zarmina.  I think she’s from Earth, but her name is otherworldly, and just the sort of name you want to hang on a newly discovered world.  Lively discussions are underway as to whether Zarmina (the planet, not the lady) might be actually habitable, and if so, by what.  Vogt has, entertainingly, assured us that life does exist there.  Paul Gilster at the superb blog Centauri Dreams has some excellent coverage of the whole question — and manages to fold a lovely review of Percival’s Planet into the mix, too.

Zarmina has an orbital period of 37 days, orbiting at a distance of 0.146 AU from its star. Its mass appears to be 3.1 to 4.3 times that of Earth, with a radius of 1.3 to 2.0 times that of Earth. Its mass indicates that it is probably a rocky planet with a solid surface.   It’s about 20 light years from us — a mere stroll in astronomical terms.

The New York Times has a thoughtful story about the continuing search for new exoplanets – especially earthlike bodies.   We’ve come a long way from Clyde Tombaugh and the blink comparator, haven’t we?

from the Times:

“On Tuesday, astronomers operating NASA’s Kepler spacecraft will release a list of about 350 stars newly suspected of harboring planets, including five systems with multiple candidate planets. That data could dramatically swell the inventory of alien worlds, which now stands at 461.”

Interestingly, Kepler’s search method isn’t that far from what Clyde and the comparator were up to – only Kepler takes one image every six seconds and analyzes it digitally, looking for stars that dim – even minutely – as their planets pass in front of them.

Check out the NASA Kepler mission here.

I’ll admit it, I grew up wanting to visit other worlds. I still do. But what with the severe motion sickness, and the fact that now that I’m officially older than Jack Benny, the odds would seem to be diminishing.  On the other hand, we have artists who can put us there — nearly — without the forty months of travel time or the awkwardness of being unfrozen from the cryo-cap (gel, gel, icky gel). This is the work of one Tobias Roetsch, also known as taenaron.  He’s 22.  He lives in Dresden.  He’s awesome.  This is via io9.com, Gawker’s excellent sci-fi-culture blog, of which I have no doubt you’re entirely aware.

Pluto is about 9 light hours from Earth.  The newest planet to be discovered is about 480 light years away.  CoRoT-7b (cool name!) is relatively small as exo-planets go, with a radius only about twice that of Earth.   But there’s no life there — almost certainly — because CoRoT-7b is only 1.6 million miles from its sun, meaning the planet’s sunward surface could be around 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.  (We’re parked at a comfy 93 million miles from our sun.)

Because its orbit is so small, a “year” on CoRoT-7b lasts only 20 hours.

Here’s what it might look like.  And you can read more about it here.