Astronomy news

05-18-2004, 06:22 PM

:bounce: :bounce:

05-18-2004, 06:25 PM
I'm talking about Venus the planet, of course .. :rolleyes: :smash: :tape:

05-18-2004, 06:33 PM
Hey you're an astronomy fan too!!!! :yippee:

05-18-2004, 06:41 PM
hey that's pretty exciting, thanks alfonsojose. :)

05-18-2004, 06:43 PM
I'm talking about Venus the planet, of course .. :rolleyes: :smash: :tape:
lol :haha: :haha:

when I first saw the title of this thread I already thought it might be an allusion to Venus, the tennis player :) ;)

05-18-2004, 06:48 PM
:lol: Neely :cool:

05-18-2004, 06:52 PM
Mister Q --> you welcome, as always :aplot:
Esquimaux --> you? :eek: :bounce: :bounce: :cool: Now, I can post a planet's pic next to Youzhny's or Rainer's one ;) Double pleasure.

05-18-2004, 06:59 PM
alfonso, any pics of URANUS?!

sorry, I couldn't resist... ;)

06-07-2004, 05:21 PM
Bump !! Get ready, astronomy fans :bounce: :bounce:

06-07-2004, 07:28 PM
I'm talking about Venus the planet, of course .. :rolleyes: :smash: :tape:

:lol: :yeah:

06-08-2004, 05:50 AM
It passed by about a half hour ago... but the astrologists scared me into not seeing it, with all their talk about "permanent damage to the eye". And I don't know how to do the cardboard trick :(

06-08-2004, 06:18 AM
Sure, MisterQ. :)

The first one is an artist's rendering of the cloudtops of Uranus, with the Voyager 2 probe overhead. :angel:

The second one is my pour friend Ur, and his hemorrhoids :sad: :devil: :tape:

that's disgusting! :tape::o

06-08-2004, 06:16 PM
From yahoo ..

A bird flies during a transit of Venus, lower left, observed in Wakkanai, a town at the northernmost tip of Japan on Tuesday, June 8, 2004. A transit takes place when Venus passes between the Earth and the Sun. (AP Photo/ Kyodo)

11-06-2005, 03:31 PM

Copernicus' Grave found in polish church

11-06-2005, 10:18 PM
Thanks Alfonso. :)

here's another article from last week that might be of interest:

12-22-2005, 07:54 PM
more news from my favorite ... Uranus :angel:

12-24-2005, 12:03 AM
Cool, thanks for the news alfonsojose!

03-03-2006, 10:33 PM
This is horrifying!! :scared:

Rotation Of Earth Plunges Entire North American Continent Into Darkness

February 27, 2006 | Issue 42•09

NEW YORK—Millions of eyewitnesses watched in stunned horror Tuesday as light emptied from the sky, plunging the U.S. and neighboring countries into darkness. As the hours progressed, conditions only worsened.
Satellite view at 4:50 p.m. EST shows the sun disappearing from the sky.

At approximately 4:20 p.m. EST, the sun began to lower from its position in the sky in a westward trajectory, eventually disappearing below the horizon. Reports of this global emergency continued to file in from across the continent until 5:46 p.m. PST, when the entire North American mainland was officially declared dark.

As the phenomenon hit New York, millions of motorists were forced to use their headlights to navigate through the blackness. Highways flooded with commuters who had left work to hurry home to their families. Traffic was bottlenecked for more than two hours in many major metropolitan areas.

Across the country, buses and trains are operating on limited schedules and will cease operation shortly after 12 a.m. EST, leaving hundreds of thousands of commuters in outlying areas effectively stranded in their homes.

Despite the high potential for danger and decreased visibility, scientists say they are unable to do anything to restore light to the continent at this time.

"Vast gravitational forces have rotated the planet Earth on an axis drawn through its north and south poles," said Dr. Elena Bilkins of the National Weather Service. "The Earth is in actuality spinning uncontrollably through space."

Bilkins urged citizens to remain calm, explaining that the Earth's rotation is "utterly beyond human control."

"The only thing a sensible person can do is wait it out," she said.

Commerce has been brought to a virtual standstill, with citizens electing either to remain home with loved ones or gather in dimly lit restaurants and bars.

"I looked out the window and saw it getting dark when I was still at the office working," said Albert Serpa, 27, a lawyer from Tulsa, OK, who had taken shelter with others at Red's Bar and Grill. "That's when I knew I had to leave right away."

Ronald Jarrett, a professor of economics at George Washington University who left his office after darkness blanketed the D.C. metro area, summed up the fears of an entire nation, saying, "Look, it's dark outside. I want to go home," and ended the phone interview abruptly.

Businesses have shut their doors, banks are closed across the nation, all major stock exchanges have suspended trading, and manufacturing in many sectors has ceased.

Some television stations have halted broadcasting altogether, for reasons not immediately understood.

Law-enforcement agencies nationwide were quick to address the crisis.
Houston-area victims flee their workplaces ahead of the growing wave of darkness.

Said NYPD spokesman Jake Moretti: "Low-light conditions create an environment that's almost tailor-made for crime. It's probably safe to say we'll make more arrests in the next few hours than we have all day."

Darkness victims describe hunger pangs, lassitude, and a slow but steady loss of energy, forcing many to lie down. As many as two-thirds of those believed afflicted have fallen into a state of total unconsciousness.

Many parents report that their younger children have been troubled, even terrified, by the deep darkness. To help allay such fears, some parents are using an artificial light source in the hallway or bedroom.

As of 2 a.m. EST, the continent was still dark, the streets empty and silent. However, some Americans remained hopeful, vowing to soldier on despite the crisis.

"I don't plan on doing anything any different," said Chicago-area hospice worker Janet Cosgrove, 51. "I'm going to get up in the morning and go to work." ;)

03-04-2006, 01:56 AM
I wonder how many people that read that thought that this was true

03-04-2006, 02:08 AM
I wonder how many people that read that thought that this was true

It WAS true! well, sort of... :lol:

03-04-2006, 02:28 AM
It WAS true! well, sort of... :lol:

Well, I was thinking more about people who will be concerned with the "The Earth is in actually spinning uncontrollably through space." part :)

03-10-2006, 02:34 PM

Signs of water found on one of Saturn's moons
Planet has 31 known moons

Friday, March 10, 2006; Posted: 9:34 a.m. EST (14:34 GMT)

Scientists think liquid water is spewing out of these fractures on the southern pole of Enceladus.

(CNN) -- The Cassini space probe has found evidence of geysers erupting from underground pools of liquid water on Saturn's moon Enceladus, scientists announced on Thursday.

High-definition pictures beamed back from the probe showed huge plumes of ice coming from the moon's south pole.

"We're inferring that there is a liquid water reservoir under the surface and it's erupting in a geyser-like fashion, maybe like the Yellowstone geysers you would see," said Linda Spilker, Cassini Deputy Project Scientist.

Spilker said it was very surprising to see this much activity on such a small, cold moon. The average temperature at Enceladus' south pole is minus 307 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 188 Celsius) -- that's a little warmer than the moon's equator, which was minus 316 Fahrenheit (minus 193 Celsius).

She said that the water was likely kept at the relatively warm temperature of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (zero Celsius) by tidal or radioactive forces. It freezes instantly as it escapes vents in the surface.

"At first we thought it might be like an ice volcano, with little ice particles coming out. And then, as the analysis continued, we looked at the amount of material coming out ... there had to be more of a pressure source underneath," she said.

Water might be an indication that life could exist on Enceladus. But Spilker was not ready to suggest life existed there.

"That's a very tough question to answer, but certainly something that we'll be thinking about now that there appears to be a liquid water source on Enceladus," she said.

"Because on the Earth, in ocean beds that are deep on the ocean floor, where there is no sunlight or anything, you get life forms that can exist in those conditions where you get the ingredients for life out of those volcanic vents."

Scientists are searching for signs of water on Mars and believe that Jupiter's moon Europa has a liquid ocean deep under it's frozen crust. (Watch finding puts Enceladus in an elite group -- 1:22)

"Now Enceladus joins the ranks of those bodies, Mars and Europa, that have evidence of liquid water in them and also energy sources coming from radioactive heating and tidal heating that make the very interesting places to look for the origins of life," said Torrence Johnson, a member of the Cassini team. "These are habitats that are similar to types of places we think life may have originated and could possibly survive in today."

The finding's were published in this week's issue of "Science."

Cassini is scheduled to fly within 217 miles (350 kilometers) of Enceladus in 2008, and Spilker said scientists may try to have it fly through the plumes and collect samples.

In the meantime, Spilker said Cassini probably would take measurements from a distance.

"Thinking ahead, maybe this might mean that some day we might want to land a probe near a crack on Enceladus or something and maybe be able to probe more precisely what's happening," she said.

Spilker said the findings already have answered some questions about Saturn's rings.

"One of the questions that Cassini came in with was that the E-ring around Saturn was thickest around Enceladus, and we knew somehow Enceladus was involved in being the source of the E-ring," she said. "And now we know how that's happening. Through these geyser-like plumes, that's the material that goes on to create the bulk of the E-ring."

Cassini, which was funded by NASA and the European and Italian space agencies, launched in 1997 and took seven years to make the 934 million-mile (1.5 billion-kilometer) trip to Saturn.

Last January, the European Huygens spacecraft detached from Cassini and landed on Titan, Saturn's largest moon.

03-10-2006, 03:55 PM

06-25-2006, 05:36 PM

Scientists measure the 'dark matter' of the universe

John Johnson Jr., Los Angeles Times

Sunday, June 25, 2006

(06-25) 04:00 PDT Hanford , Wash. -- Across the tapestry of the night sky, hundreds or perhaps thousands of stars are doing frantic dances of death, spinning wildly around each other and shooting off waves of invisible gravitational energy like interstellar beacons.

In one of the most exotic observatories in the world, Fred Raab is waiting for those waves to wash up on the shoreline of Earth. When they do, they could change our understanding of the universe.

"We've spent 400 years since the invention of the telescope looking at a small portion of what exists," said Raab, head of the LIGO laboratory in the high desert of southeastern Washington.

LIGO -- the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory -- could reveal the rest.

"This gives us an observational tool to probe the dark, strong-gravity part of the universe, which we've never really done," said Kip S. Thorne, a California Institute of Technology physicist who is one of the world's foremost experts on relativity.

Like the first bathysphere diving into deep-sea trenches, the $300 million LIGO project, conceived more than 25 years ago, is expected to uncover exotic creatures, such as dancing neutron stars and binary black holes, circling each other like heavyweight fighters. Physicists also may uncover the mysterious "dark matter" that is believed to be all around us but has never been measured. Some think they might find gateways into extra dimensions.

What makes LIGO different from other observatories is that it doesn't "see" the cosmos by detecting electromagnetic energy in the form of light, radio waves or X-rays. It feels it, measuring waves of gravity that wrinkle space-time like ripples on a lake.

One advantage to gravity-wave science over light-wave science is that whereas light bounces off solid objects, gravity waves go through everything -- planets, stars, people's bodies.

Raab, Thorne and about 500 other scientists around the world caught up in the race to measure the first gravity waves are essentially giving birth to a new science.

It has been gestating 90 years, since Einstein theorized that large bodies moving through space would give off waves of gravity, traveling at light speed, that would shrink and expand space-time itself.

The problem with gravity waves is that they are so difficult to detect that many physicists long doubted they would ever be found. In November, however, LIGO reached a level of sensitivity at which Thorne and other experts believe they might detect waves.

Now excitement has gripped the scientific community as it awaits word.

It can be felt inside the LIGO control room, where Raab studies a series of constantly changing graphs flashed up on the wall. Like a man translating a foreign language, Raab points to one squiggly line that he says is traffic passing on the main road a dozen miles away. Another is construction in the nearby cities of Richland and Kennewick.

If you know what to look for, Raab said, you can pick out the seismic signature of ocean waves hitting the shoreline of western Washington -- 200 miles away.

In the dun-colored desert-scape of southeastern Washington sits the Hanford nuclear site. Plutonium for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki was made here. Now, the signs of decay and rust are everywhere. The site has become a relic of the Cold War.

Down a twisting side road, LIGO appears out of the Russian cheatgrass and mustard plants, a bulky apparition with two tubes extending at right angles into the desert.

The 2.4-mile-long tentacles are the heart of LIGO. They are at right angles so that incoming gravity waves will shrink one arm while lengthening the other. An identical facility sits in a forest in southern Louisiana, so that the readings made at one observatory can be cross-checked almost 2,000 miles away.

The National Science Foundation has provided the funding.

Inside the arms is a laser interferometer, which works by splitting a laser beam and sending one of the two resulting beams down each arm. The beams then bounce around 100 times on a set of mirrors before being sent back to a photodetector.

The two beams should recombine at exactly the same time because they travel an identical distance.

But if a gravity wave passes by, the beams will be thrown off as the arms are alternately stretched and squeezed.

Detecting such a minute signal has required extraordinary steps.

Because the site had to be as flat as possible, satellites were used to survey the land, which was eventually graded to within three-eighths of an inch over five miles.

To get around the problem of air molecules shaking the mirrors, workers sucked the air out of the tubes down to a billionth of an atmosphere. But that still wasn't good enough to make sure the speed of light would be constant throughout the tubes. So the team had to get the tubes down to a trillionth of an atmosphere.

The surface of the four 10-inch mirrors in the arms is so smooth it doesn't vary by more than 30-billionths of an inch. Thirty control systems keep the lasers and mirrors in alignment. The vibration isolation system is so sophisticated, the only thing approaching it is the mechanics used by semiconductor chip makers to etch circuits on the chips.

Even though ground was broken for the LIGO project more than a decade ago, it was only in November that the facility was ready to hunt seriously for gravity waves.

"We're operating right now where we can see changes a thousandth the size of a proton," Raab said.

Some vibrations still manage to get through.

"A bulldozer 10 miles away knocks us offline," he said.

One recent problem was caused by a stunt pilot practicing loops.

Since the November data run began, LIGO has managed to get 10 weeks of clean data.

The hunt is on.

On the wall outside Thorne's cluttered office at Caltech are framed letters containing the bets he has made with other prominent scientists, including two with physicist Stephen Hawking. Thorne won both.

In fact, Thorne has lost only two bets, and both were over gravity waves. In 1978, he bet a dinner that gravity waves would be found within a decade. It didn't happen.

The second time, he bet a case of good California wine that the first gravity wave would be detected by Jan. 1, 2000. Once again, he had to pay up.

Thorne is no longer taking bets on when gravity waves will be found. But found they will be, he said.

It just might not be with this version of LIGO. Even though LIGO is operating within the range where gravity waves are thought to exist, it's just barely there.

"We're at a level now where we could see one every 30 years to every three years," said Jay Marx, executive director of the LIGO program.

Those aren't great odds. The solution is Advanced LIGO, a $200 million upgrade that will increase the sensitivity by a factor of 10. Among the improvements are a more powerful laser and more sophisticated vibration isolation hardware. Work is expected to begin sometime after 2008.

After the improvements, a gravity wave could be detected every three weeks, Marx said.

Thorne said: "We are at a level where we could see waves now. After the upgrade we will be operating in a domain where we are likely to see waves."

And if they don't find waves?

"That would show something is wrong with our understanding of the universe," he said.


08-17-2006, 01:13 AM

David Perlman, Chronicle Science Editor

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The solar system we've all known since childhood is growing ever larger, from nine planets to an even dozen -- and many more could be added to the list -- under a resolution the world's astronomers are poised to vote on next week.

For the first time, a high-level committee of the International Astronomical Union is recommending that the word "planet" be officially defined according to standards -- both scientific and historical -- that already are creating controversy, confusion and even tumult among planet hunters.

The committee acknowledged that most familiar planets are entitled to be called planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto.

But then the committee added three more objects it decided to define as planets: Charon, which has been called a small moon that orbits distant Pluto; Ceres, long known as the largest body in the asteroid belt of rocky fragments that orbit the sun between Mars and Jupiter; and a far-away object discovered by a Caltech team only three years ago and nicknamed Xena but known scientifically as 2003UB313. Xena was hailed last year as the solar system's long-sought "10th planet."

The committee also said it is considering giving planet status to "a dozen or two" more objects discovered in recent years, including such far-out, planet-like bodies informally named Sedna, Quaoar, Orcus, Varuna and Ixion.

The Astronomical Union's General Assembly meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, has the final say about the committee's recommendations, and later it must approve names proposed for the newly discovered planets.

A planet, says the committee headed by Harvard astronomer Owen Gingerich, is an object that orbits a star like the sun; is massive enough so its own gravity keeps it roughly round; and isn't a satellite of another planet, like Earth's moon.

That definition already confounds many astronomers: Charon, proposed for promotion to a planet, orbits the sun and is round, but most astronomers have long held that it also orbits Pluto, which makes it a satellite. And Ceres has been considered an asteroid for so long that few astronomers who study asteroids will accept changing its status to planet.

Then there's Xena, the so-called 10th planet: Michael Brown of Caltech, Chadwick Trujillo of the Gemini Observatory atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii and David Rabinowitz of Yale discovered that faraway body three years ago and since have found many more, which some astronomers argued are not entitled to be called planets. They all lie millions of miles beyond Neptune and Pluto in what is known as the Kuiper Belt, where countless comets are born and still more planet-like objects await discovery. Pluto also is within the Kuiper Belt but has been accepted as a planet by virtually all astronomers since its discovery in 1930.

"I'm totally confused," Brown said in a telephone interview Tuesday from his vacation cabin in Washington state. "They say Xena's a planet, but Sedna and Quaoar also fit the definition, so why aren't they being called planets, too?

"And Charon's a satellite of Pluto, so why is it a planet? It's not; it's a moon. That committee's definition is an effort to combine science and culture, and it doesn't do either."

Brown said that with all the new round orbiting objects that his team and other astronomers have detected in the Kuiper Belt, the census of planets by now should total at least 53 -- not the paltry dozen the committee is recommending.

"And we have 30 more that we're preparing a report on right now," he said. "Are they planets? I'm baffled."

Trujillo was hardly less confused. "The committee is trying to be historical and scientific," he said, "but they can't have their cake and eat it, too. Their definition is certainly complicated, and calling the asteroid Ceres a planet certainly concerns me."

But then Trujillo added: "Still, I guess I'll be known as a co-discoverer of at least 15 new planets, and that's a lot more than the Greeks ever found!"

Still more confusion exists in the proposed new definition of planets: While the committee recommends that Pluto and Xena and Charon be called true planets, it also wants to place them in a new class of planets to be called "plutons," which -- whether the astronomers know it or not -- is the name given to igneous rocks formed from magma that solidify underground before they reach Earth's surface.

In the astronomer's definition, plutons are planets whose orbits -- like Pluto's -- take more than 200 years to complete. That apparently would include all the planet-like objects discovered now and in the future orbiting far, far away in the Kuiper Belt -- or even farther.

As for Charon, the committee of astronomers decided that it isn't really a moon because Charon and Pluto circle each other around a common center of gravity -- making the pair, in effect, a "double planet."

So Pluto and Charon and Xena, under this definition, are simultaneously planets and plutons, while Ceres the asteroid is now to be a planet, but only a dwarf planet and not a pluton.

Dava Sobel, the noted writer on astronomy whose most recent best-selling book is called simply "Planets," said in a telephone interview:

"I'm very happy with the definition. It makes good sense to me in terms of new science, and it honors our popular ideas about the planets we've all known all our lives."

To Harvard's Gingerich, the two years his committee struggled with defining planets have been tough indeed.

"In July, we had vigorous discussions of both the scientific and the cultural/historical issues," he said in an e-mail statement from Prague, "and on the second morning several members admitted that they had not slept well, worrying that we would not be able to reach a consensus.

"But by the end of a long day, the miracle had happened: we had reached a unanimous agreement."
New planets?

If a new definition of planets is approved by the International Astronomical Union, our solar system will retain Pluto as a planet and add at least three others: Ceres, an asteroid; Charon, a moon of Pluto; and 2003UB313 (Xena), an object discovered three years ago.


The largest and most massive object in the asteroid belt of rocky fragments orbiting between Mars and Jupiter is about 625 miles in diameter. It was discovered in 1801 by the Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi.


Flying around the planet Pluto, Charon is about 728 miles in diameter -- about half the size of Pluto. It was discovered in 1978 by the American astronomer James Christy.


Scientifically named 2003UB313, the object is 3 billion miles away and is slightly larger than Pluto. It has a moon of its own. Xena was named by its discoverers as a joke for TV's "Warrior Princess."

Sources: California Institute of Technology; American Astronomical Society

E-mail David Perlman at

08-24-2006, 02:59 PM
Astronomers Say Pluto Is Not a Planet
(08-24) 07:19 PDT PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) --
Leading astronomers declared Thursday that Pluto is no longer a planet under historic new guidelines that downsize the solar system from nine planets to eight.

After a tumultuous week of clashing over the essence of the cosmos, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of the planetary status it has held since its discovery in 1930. The new definition of what is — and isn't — a planet fills a centuries-old black hole for scientists who have labored since Copernicus without one.

Although astronomers applauded after the vote, Jocelyn Bell Burnell — a specialist in neutron stars from Northern Ireland who oversaw the proceedings — urged those who might be "quite disappointed" to look on the bright side.

"It could be argued that we are creating an umbrella called 'planet' under which the dwarf planets exist," she said, drawing laughter by waving a stuffed Pluto of Walt Disney fame beneath a real umbrella.

The decision by the prestigious international group spells out the basic tests that celestial objects will have to meet before they can be considered for admission to the elite cosmic club.

For now, membership will be restricted to the eight "classical" planets in the solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.

Much-maligned Pluto doesn't make the grade under the new rules for a planet: "a celestial body that is in orbit around the sun, has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a ... nearly round shape, and has cleared the neighborhood around its orbit."

Pluto is automatically disqualified because its oblong orbit overlaps with Neptune's.

Instead, it will be reclassified in a new category of "dwarf planets," similar to what long have been termed "minor planets." The definition also lays out a third class of lesser objects that orbit the sun — "small solar system bodies," a term that will apply to numerous asteroids, comets and other natural satellites.

It was unclear how Pluto's demotion might affect the mission of NASA's New Horizons spacecraft, which earlier this year began a 9 1/2-year journey to the oddball object to unearth more of its secrets.

The decision at a conference of 2,500 astronomers from 75 countries was a dramatic shift from just a week ago, when the group's leaders floated a proposal that would have reaffirmed Pluto's planetary status and made planets of its largest moon and two other objects.

That plan proved highly unpopular, splitting astronomers into factions and triggering days of sometimes combative debate that led to Pluto's undoing.

Now, two of the objects that at one point were cruising toward possible full-fledged planethood will join Pluto as dwarfs: the asteroid Ceres, which was a planet in the 1800s before it got demoted, and 2003 UB313, an icy object slightly larger than Pluto whose discoverer, Michael Brown of the California Institute of Technology, has nicknamed "Xena."

Charon, the largest of Pluto's three moons, is no longer under consideration for any special designation.

Brown was pleased by the decision. He had argued that Pluto and similar bodies didn't deserve planet status, saying that would "take the magic out of the solar system."

"UB313 is the largest dwarf planet. That's kind of cool," he said.

10-05-2006, 02:52 PM
Milky Way teeming with Earth-like orbs
Hubble telescope's recent finds suggest billions of planets

The Hubble Space Telescope has discovered a trove of fast-moving "candidate" planets in a narrow region near the very center of the Milky Way, and astronomers say there must be billions more of them -- including many like Earth that orbit their suns in so-called "habitable" zones.

The flying observatory's powerful eyes have peered through thousands of light-years of cosmic dust and distant constellations to pinpoint 16 objects about the size of Jupiter circling stars, scientists announced Wednesday. They have gathered enough information to determine that at least seven are probably true planets, and the orbits and masses of two already have been confirmed by ground-based telescopes, they said.

But Kailash Sahu, a lead astronomer at the Space Telescope Institute in Baltimore, said the Hubble has surveyed only a small, tight fraction of the Milky Way in the galaxy's central bulge some 26,000 light-years away. "Our discovery gives very strong evidence that planets are as abundant in other parts of the galaxy as they are in our own solar neighborhood," he said.

In fact, said astrophysicist Mario Livio of the institute, at least 6 billion Jupiter-size planets are probably circling stars throughout the entire galaxy. "You can infer, but not yet prove, that among them are many rocky Earth-like planets," he said. "Eventually, we hope to find life -- and possibly intelligence there."

The Hubble mission was not designed to detect any such planets. That search will call for far different instruments aboard future spacecraft. The planets would have to be roughly the size of Earth and lie in habitable zones. Although not necessarily inhabited, they would be just the right distance from their suns where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface.

The two scientists, who head a large international team, reported the new findings from the Hubble today in the journal Nature. They described the results Wednesday at a NASA press conference in Washington that was carried on the Web.

Funded by NASA, the Hubble has been flying in low Earth orbit since 1990, and scientists hope it can continue exploring the galaxy until 2010, a goal that will be reached only if the space agency sends a shuttle crew to update the telescope's instruments. The Hubble's missions are managed by the telescope institute, which is part of Johns Hopkins University.

The planet-hunting mission surveyed 180,000 stars and detected each planet as it passed in orbit across the face of its star and dimmed the star's light by a tiny increment, just enough to be spotted and measured by the Hubble's sensitive instruments.

Each passage is called a transit, and it took many days of measuring each transit for the scientists to decide on the seven candidates that are almost surely true planets. Only two of the candidates, so far, have been identified with certainty by ground-based telescopes that measured the slight wobble their transits caused in their suns. The rest remain on the probable list, Sahu and Livio said.

All the planets are gas giants and are truly bizarre because their orbits carry them extremely close to their suns -- so close, in fact, that five of them zip around their suns in less than a day -- and one, only 740,000 miles from its star, orbits in only 10 hours, the astronomers said. That planet's temperature appears to be about 3,000 degrees Fahrenheit, Livio said, so, it must be extremely massive or its sun's gravity would tear it apart because it's so near, he said.

The suns are less bizarre, although some are less than half the size of the sun in our own solar system, while others are slightly larger. All are rich in heavy elements like iron and carbon, Livio said, which means they are likely to contain the ingredients needed to form planets.

"There's now a high probability that Earths will be relatively common in the galaxy," said Alan Boss, an astrophysicist at the Carnegie Institution in Washington who was not on the Hubble team. "We're really getting the feeling that there will be habitable planets among them -- but not necessarily inhabited."

Boss is on the science team now readying a NASA spacecraft named Kepler that is scheduled for launch in 2008 and is designed to detect hundreds of Earth-size planets in our own region of the Milky Way. Some of those planets, Boss and his colleagues reason, might well lie in or near the habitable zones of their solar systems.

10-06-2006, 01:51 PM

10-31-2006, 03:54 PM
They will save the Hubble :woohoo: :woohoo: :tears:

03-03-2007, 07:56 PM
Astronomy fans and everybody in wide parts of Europe and Africa,

tonight you can see a total moon eclipse in full length. The phase of totality is around 23:40 pm CET and will last about until 1 am CET :D

Many other parts of the world can see a partial moon eclipse at slightly differnent times.

I just went out and I have a great view so far on the moon, I hope the clouds don't cover this event for me.

03-03-2007, 11:52 PM
My husband took this picture at about 11.20pm - English time...

just in case you get a red cross - here is the link

03-04-2007, 12:18 AM
Just an hour ago, I saw the lunar eclipse with no problems at all from my car as I was driving along the countryside. I did not have my camera, unfortunately, or I would have recorded it for posterity.

03-04-2007, 01:02 AM
This picture I got with a friend around 0:20am CET, at the time of the darkest phase of the eclipse.
I could have even achieved a better picture, but the stand for the camera was not good enough
to ensure an unrattled and long exposure time, so it got too blurry and too dark.

03-04-2007, 02:22 AM
Nice picture Neely

*Viva Chile*
03-04-2007, 03:40 AM
it was only parcial eclipse here :sobbing: