Are we alone in the universe? Its the question that has sparked hundreds of science fiction films and millions of hours of research. Lately, however, many scientists have chosen to zero in on exoplanets in search of an answer. (‘Exoplanet’ is simply a term used to denote any planet outside our solar system.) The thought is that if we can find another planet similar to our own, perhaps it too evolved a form of life. Whether that be some tiny single-celled organism or an entire civilization comparable to ours is open to debate.
Detecting an exoplanet is extremely difficult as most get lost in the glare from their own stars. There are a couple of ways to get around this though. One is to measure the small wobbles the gravity of a planet induces on a star. The other is to use the Doppler effect to calculate how the star moves as it orbits a certain point in the solar system called a barycenter. However, no matter what technique is used, a lot of crazy equipment is needed.
The Allen Array is a ground based telescope system used to detect such things as exoplanets. However, due to the Earth’s atmosphere the effectiveness of it is severely limited.
That is why many of the exoplanets we know about today have been discovered by this satellite called Kepler. Because it doesn’t have to try and peer through the atmosphere of our planet, it has been able to find 1,235 exoplanets to date.
Of course other countries are getting into the hunt for an extra-solar earth. This satellite has also been instrumental in discovering many exoplanets.
The first exoplanet was discovered without the aid of fancy satellite technology. Aleksander Wolszczan used difference in the radio frequencies emitted by a pulsar to find the first three exoplanets known to humans. More were soon to follow.
Of course it is impossible to actually take a picture of an exoplanet since the only way we can even detect them has to do with how they affect their star. But it still is fun to look at the artist interpretations of what they might look like if we could, in fact, see them. Luckily we have decided to include some awesome pictures of exoplanets for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
And who knows, maybe an awesome alien civilization is just waiting out there for us to discover them. How cool would that be?
To see more pictures related to this post, click here to go back to Newscom.
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This entry was posted on Saturday, October 8th, 2011 at 7:32 am and is filed under In the News. You can follow any comments to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a comment, or trackback from your own site.