Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey - Season 1 Episode 13
Sun of a Million Earths
The sun is big. Really big. Big enough to hold about a million Earths, by volume.
But our brains aren’t good with visualizing big numbers. So what does a million Earths look like?
Thanks to Chris Jones and his visualization at Space Facts, you can find out. Check it out. Prepare to scroll!
to believe in a universe as young as six or seven thousand years old is to extinguish the light from most of the galaxy, not to mention from all the hundred billion other galaxies in the observable universe
Right now, 500 light years away from Earth, there’s a planet that looks a lot like our own. It is bathed in dim orangeish light, which at high noon is only as bright as the golden hour before sunset back home.
NASA scientists are calling the planet Kepler-186f, and it’s unlike anything they’ve found. The big news: Kepler-186f is the closest relative to the Earth that researchers have discovered.
It’s the first Earth-sized planet in the habitable zone of another star—the sweet spot between too-hot Mercury-like planets and too-cold Neptunes— and it is likely to give scientists their first real opportunity to seek life elsewhere in the universe. “It’s no longer in the realm of science fiction,” said Elisa Quintana, a researcher at the SETI Institute.
But if there is indeed life on Kepler-186f, it may not look like what we have here. Given the redder wavelengths of light on the planet, vegetation there would sprout in hues of yellow and orange instead of green.
Read more. [Image: NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech]
"Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.”
First Asteroid With Rings Discovered (like how cool is that?!)
Until now it seemed that only giant planets had the gravity to hold on to the billions of bits of orbiting ice and dust that make up a ring, but in a paper published today in Nature, astronomers report the discovery of two icy rings around a small object named Chariklo that orbits between Saturn and Uranus.
The discovery was made possible by observations at many sites in South America, including ESO's La Silla Observatory. The origin of these rings remains a mystery, but they may be the result of a collision that created a disc of debris.
"This probably will be the biggest discovery of my career," says Felipe Braga-Ribas of the National Observatory in Brazil, who led the team that found the rings, and who received his Ph.D. just last year.
The strangest moon in the Solar System is bright yellow. This picture, an attempt to show how Io would appear in the “true colors” perceptible to the average human eye, was taken in 1999 July by the Galileo spacecraft that orbited Jupiter from 1995 to 2003. Io’s colors derive from sulfur and molten silicate rock. The unusual surface of Io is kept very young by its system of active volcanoes. The intense tidal gravity of Jupiter stretches Io and damps wobbles caused by Jupiter’s other Galilean moons. The resulting friction greatly heats Io’s interior, causing molten rock to explode through the surface. Io’s volcanoes are so active that they are effectively turning the whole moon inside out. Some of Io’s volcanic lava is so hot it glows in the dark.
Yesterday there was some big news in the world of physics - scientists detected evidence of “cosmic inflation” - the first exciting moments of the Big Bang.
Cosmic inflation was first described by Andrei Linde and his colleagues in 1983. The new evidence — called the “Holy Grail” and “missing link” of cosmology” —vindicates Linde’s work. Stanford University shared this video of Linde hearing the news:
Chao-Lin Kuo, one of the physicists behind the new discovery, surprised Linde at his home.
"Renata [Linde’s wife] tells me, ‘It’s probably a delivery - did you order anything?’" Linde said. "Yeah — I ordered it 30 years ago and it finally arrived."
Massive terrestrial planets, called “super-Earths,” are known to be common in the Milky Way. Now a Northwestern University astrophysicist and a University of Chicago geophysicist report the odds of these planets to be more Earth-like than previously thought as they’re likely to have both oceans and continent.
Nicolas B. Cowan and Dorian Abbot’s new model concludes that most tectonically active super-Earths, regardless of mass, store most of their water in the mantle and will have both oceans and exposed continents, enabling a stable climate such as Earth’s. Read the full article here.
Image: Artist’s conception of Kepler-69c, a super-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone of a star like our sun, located about 2,700 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Credit: NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech.
One of the nicknames given to Mars by the ancient Egyptians was sekded-ef em khetkhet, which means “who travels backwards,” a clear reference to its apparent retrograde motion. It was mysterious to the early observers, but with our current understanding we know that this retrograde motion is entirely an illusion caused by the Earth passing the slower moving Mars, which has a larger orbit.
Image credit: Cenk E. Tezel & Tunc Tezel
Animation credit: Eugene Alvin Villar
Huh. People noticed this kind of thing so long ago. We have come along way in modern society, but it’s always worth remembering that we aren’t the first curious scientists to walk the Earth. I’m kind of jealous, actually. Back in them “olden days” the sky was the only nightly entertainment to tune into, and unlike today’s programming, there is always something interesting to see up there.
Forty years ago today, Pioneer 10 made its closest approach to Jupiter and sent back these images. It was the first spacecraft to venture beyond the asteroid belt and get close-ups of Jupiter.
Can we just talk about how awesome this image is? Pioneer 10 had an artsy streak. I would totes hang on my wall.
(image via NASA)
How fast are you moving when you’re sitting still?
About 800km a sec.
Written & Animated by:
Woosh. Feel it?
A strange lonely planet found without a star
An international team of astronomers has discovered an exotic young planet that is not orbiting a star. This free-floating planet, dubbed PSO J318.5-22, is just 80 light-years away from Earth and has a mass only six times that of Jupiter. The planet formed a mere 12 million years ago, a newborn in planet lifetimes.
"We have never before seen an object free-floating in space that that looks like this. It has all the characteristics of young planets found around other stars, but it is drifting out there all alone," explained team leader Dr. Michael Liu of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. “I had often wondered if such solitary objects exist, and now we know they do.”
The discovery paper of PSO J318.5-22 is being published by Astrophysical Journal Letters and is available at http://arxiv.org/abs/1310.0457.
Image: Artist’s conception of PSO J318.5-22. Credit: MPIA/V. Ch. Quetz
The Curiosity Rover will land on Mars at 10:31 PDT.
Can we all just take a moment to appreciate that we just successfully landed a car-sized nuclear-powered robot on Mars with a crazy retro-rocket sky crane?
I am taking many moments throughout my day to appreciate this. :D
Out of all of it, I think the sky crane is the most ridiculously awesome thing. It’s a crane, that’s not sitting on anything! IT IS BASICALLY ROALD DAHL’S SKY HOOKS. How awesome is that?!