Friday, November 14, 2008

I'll find me a world called home

Behold the first ever actual optical pictures of planets outside the Terran (our) Solar System.

Two research teams yesterday released highly processed images of a collection of four planets around two stars. The above image shows the expansive ring of gas, dust, and debris 21.5 billion miles across circling the 25 light year distant star Fomalhaut (Arabic for "mouth of the fish") in the constellation Piscis Australis (or Piscis Austrinus)(Latin for the "Southern Fish").

Fomalhaut is a young, hot star about twice the mass and 15 times as luminous as our Sun, is only 200 million years old. It has been darkened out in the above image with a white dot placed to reveal where it is located in order to reveal the planetary disk around it.

In that disk is a small orange-hued dot inside the small box (visible in the inset of the top image) that is a suspected Jupiter-like planet orbiting its parent star (Fomalhaut) approximately 10.7 billion miles out (three times Neptune's distance from the Sun) on an 872 Earth year orbit.

The images from 2004 and 2006 reveal the planet's motion.

Known as Fomalhaut b, it is probably a brown dwarf planet -- a gas giant analogous Jupiter but a bit less massive and probably with a giant set of rings.

Here is another series of labeled images of Fomalhaut's debris ring.

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Here is an artist's conception of how the planet might look in Fomalhaut's debris ring.

The Fomalhaut findings were published by a team lead by Dr Paul Kalas of the University of California, Berkeley.

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Another team lead by Christian Marois of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Canada produced images of the star HR 8799 located 128 light years away in the constellation Pegasus with its three gas-giant companies that are believed to be 7 to 10 times the size of Jupiter. Above is the image the team released showing the location of the three planets. The image was been processed with adaptive optic techniques to reveal the three planets, which would otherwise be lost in the glare of their sun.

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These four planets are the first of the 300 or so extra-solar worlds discovered since 1995 to be seen visibly, as opposed to inferred from their gravitational tugging or -- in the case of those planets optimally lined with respect to Earth -- dimming of their parent star's light when they transit in front of the star.

We are still some years away from seeing any Earth-like worlds within 100 light years or so of us.

Here Earth and its Moon companion as seen from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter's HiRISE camera looking from its Mars orbit back across tens of millions of miles of empty space toward its home world, Oct. 3, 2007. The Earth-Moon system is really a (likely unusual) double planet system. The Moon is not a true satellite.

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Returning to Earth and my life ...

Here are some images from a rainy morning in Washington, D.C., and environs yesterday, Nov. 13, 2008 on a drive from downtown D.C. to Bethesda, Md. I was with my boss heading to Bethesda after an 830AM downtown meeting (I was actually on time -- and I had to meet her ahead of time at 810AM). Fortunately, living in D.C. not too far from there, it wasn't too hard for me to get there.

Farragut Square as seen yesterday morning, Nov. 13, 2008 at 1024AM.

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Driving up Connecticut Ave., NW, in the Woodley Park / Cleveland Park section of Washington, D.C., Nov. 13, 2008, 1039AM.

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A big house just off Connecticut Ave. just beyond the DC - Maryland line in Chevy Chase, Md., Nov. 13, 2008, 1044AM.

I love rainy days.

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Turning to the more mundane, pedestrian and repetitive ...

Last night, I went to Cobalt with Kristof and Gary. I was not feeling well at first but then I ended up having too good a time.

I met Kristof earlier at Larry's Lounge, and once again the promise of a nice, quiet, loungy place on a drizzly, soft city Thursday night was ruined by the truly obnoxious music that the gay bartenders and regular patrons insist on listening to. I actually went to the manager Ken in the next door restaurant (he and his partner own both Larry's and the Malaysian restaurant next door) to explain that while I like his establishment, the music is just awful -- it was ear - assaulting loud 1990s rap and "R&B" crap I hate, such as that damn "Bootylicious" song by Destiny's Child, a group that embodies all the talentlessness and ego monomania of American pop cultural standards. I didn't phrase it like that -- I was polite about it.

Why, oh, why can't they EVER JUST ONCE play some nice jazz music? Is that so much to ask for? And why does the collective musical taste of gay men invariably plummet to a worst common denominator?

Oh, yes, Ken agreed with me and said he would make some changes.

Thank God for the bar / restaurant smoking ban, though, in D.C. and other "blue" cities and areas. (I guess Mississippi will be getting around to that by 2056.)

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Just a few political images ...

Here is a map showing the percentage change toward Democrats (in shades of blue) and toward Republicans (in shades of red) in the 2008 election versus the 2004 election.

Rather than pondering why Ark., Tenn., Okla., and La., turned even redder, I'll just quote my favorite political blogger (and Oklahoma resident) Bartcop's comment about it:

Looks right to me...

I expect Okies to be Fascist dogs, but what happened to the Arkies?
And why would Louisiana vote GOP after the Republicans tried to drown them?

Why do the poorest people vote to give more to the super-rich?

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Ha ha

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Score.

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Some more pictures from yesterday ...

The wet grounds of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church along East-West Highway and Pearl Street in Bethesda, Md., Nov. 13, 2008.

Speaking of Our Lady of Lourdes ...

... here is another interior image of it. I go there sometimes during my lunch hour as it is very peaceful inside, except when a group decides to say a public Rosary. A Catholic Church interior is no place for a public Rosary.

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So tonight is Kristof's going away dinner at Buca di Beppo. We've got a group of about a dozen or so people. He is going to Poland for 6 weeks while he settles some visa and immigration issues.

I have a lot of stuff to do for work and school. My planned return to 4 days a week / hourly looks to be on track for an early December start. I also have classes tentatively set for next semester.

Speaking of work ...

The "Pearls Before Swine" cartoon from Nov. 12, 2008

Well, I think that's about all for now. My next entry will probably be early next week around Monday.

--Regulus

9 comments:

fifi said...

So, I have a constellation.
How very very satisfying...

They are great heaven pictures. How vast is the world! On and On and on and On it goes.
the image of the earth together with the moon made me rather sad for some reason.


ah, public rosary. where else would one do that if not there?

Regulus said...

That comment I made about the public rosary in the Catholic Church was supposed to be funny-ironic.

The Southern Hemisphere night sky has a lot more interesting things in it star and constellation wise than the Northern Hemisphere. The Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, the Southern Cross, the constellation Vela, and the star Canopus are among them -- unseen in most of the Northern Hemisphere.

Regulus said...

Oh, yes, this star Fomalhaut is also a Southern Hemisphere celestial object.

fifi said...

actually I did think you were joking about te rosary, it's so hard to get the "tone "thing online.


they are really amazing pictures. Its astonishing how clear when they are so distant.

One day I will get a decent telescope and look at some of these things you say are above me that only we can see.
I had an old one which went completely corroded in the salty air. It made me crosseyed.

Anonymous said...

Well, we are getting some much needed sunshine to dry us out after our deluge. I hope to grab the grandson & go explore a large construction site that i can see from my window. I bought him a Tonka dump truck (they are made of plastic now, instead of metal but take batteries & make all kinds of heavy equipment noise)

IDEA! I think I'll post about it on my blog!

"I'll Find Me a World Called Home" You know that's a very poignant title. Of course you know you are always invited to my part of the Pacific Northwest but you would find it is a home quite unlike the one you are currently in.
Curious, have you ever been to Eugene, Ore?

Regulus said...

I remember having one of those Amerada Hess toy oil trucks when I was a little boy.

Your comment about going to the construction site with your grandson reminded me -- not for any direct reason! -- of the "Golden Girls" episode when Blanche said she wanted to walk past a construction site because "it's always so good for my ego."

Thank you for your compliment on my title.

Eugene does look interesting. I've never actually been there. Weather-wise, I really like that variation in rainfall between July (less than an inch) to Nov - Dec. when 8+ inches falls.

fingers said...

Hey, why are you heaping shit on the moon ??
It's a good moon, a regular moon...and it does a splendid job of moving water around the place down here.
Stop bagging the moon, you moon-bagger...

Regulus said...

How you got me "heaping shit on the moon" out of what I wrote I have no idea. All I said was the factually true statement that the Moon is not a true satellite because in fact the Earth-Moon system is a double planet whose center of gravity is not at the center of the Earth.

I'm quite aware of the importance of the Moon for so many processes on Earth, and indeed, for facilitating the conditions that were needed for life on Earth.

fifi said...

hey, reg,
he's just joking with you. Don't be cross.
:-)