Thursday, April 26, 2007

Life Possible on Gliese 581 C

Gliese 581 C is the first Earth-like planet found outside our solar system that appears to have liquid water and therefore a climate that could support life as we know it!

New Planet Could Be Earthlike, Scientists Say

Published: April 25, 2007

The most enticing property yet found outside our solar system is about 20 light-years away in the constellation Libra, a team of European astronomers said yesterday.

The astronomers have discovered a planet five times as massive as the Earth orbiting a dim red star known as Gliese 581.

It is the smallest of the 200 or so planets that are known to exist outside of our solar system, the extrasolar or exo-planets. It orbits its home star within the so-called habitable zone where surface water, the staff of life, could exist if other conditions are right, said Stephane Udry of the Geneva Observatory.

“We are at the right place for that,” said Dr. Udry, the lead author of a paper describing the discovery that has been submitted to the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

But he and other astronomers cautioned that it was far too soon to conclude that liquid water was there without more observations. Sara Seager, a planet expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said, “For example, if the planet had an atmosphere more massive than Venus’s, then the surface would likely be too hot for liquid water.”

Nevertheless, the discovery in the Gliese 581 system, where a Neptune-size planet was discovered two years ago and another planet of eight Earth masses is now suspected, catapults that system to the top of the list for future generations of space missions.

“On the treasure map of the universe, one would be tempted to mark this planet with an X,” said Xavier Delfosse, a member of the team from Grenoble University in France, according to a news release from the European Southern Observatory, a multinational collaboration based in Garching, Germany.

Dimitar Sasselov of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, who studies the structure and formation of planets, said: “It’s 20 light-years. We can go there.”

The new planet was discovered by the wobble it causes in its home star’s motion as it orbits, using the method by which most of the known exo-planets have been discovered. Dr. Udry’s team used an advanced spectrograph on a 141-inch-diameter telescope at the European observatory in La Silla, Chile.

The planet, Gliese 581c, circles the star every 13 days at a distance of about seven million miles. According to models of planet formation developed by Dr. Sasselov and his colleagues, such a planet should be about half again as large as the Earth and composed of rock and water, what the astronomers now call a “super Earth.”

The most exciting part of the find, Dr. Sasselov said, is that it “basically tells you these kinds of planets are very common.” Because they could stay geologically active for billions of years, he said he suspected that such planets could be even more congenial for life than Earth. Although the new planet is much closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, the red dwarf Gliese 581 is only about a hundredth as luminous as the Sun. So seven million miles is a comfortable huddling distance.

How hot the planet gets, Dr. Udry said, depends on how much light the planet reflects, its albedo. Using the Earth and Venus as two extreme examples, he estimated that temperatures on the surface of the planet should be in the range of 0 degrees to 40 degrees centigrade.

“It’s just right in the good range,” Dr. Udry said. “Of course, we don’t know anything about its albedo.”

One problem is that the wobble technique only gives masses of planets. To measure their actual size and thus find their densities, astronomers have to catch the planets in the act of passing in front of or behind their stars. Such transits can also reveal if the planets have atmospheres and what they are made of.

Dr. Udry said he and Dr. Sasselov would be observing the Gliese system with a Canadian space telescope named MOST to see if there are any dips in starlight caused by the new planet. Failing that, they said, the best chance for more information about the system lies with the Terrestrial Planet Finder, a NASA mission, and the Darwin missions of the European Space Agency, which are designed to study Earthlike planets, but have been delayed by political, technical and financial difficulties.

“We are starting to count the first targets,” Dr. Udry said.

Gliese 581 C is the smallest extrasolar planet yet discovered; it is about 50 percent bigger than Earth and about five times more massive. It's sun is Gliese 581, a small red dwarf located a mere 20.5 light-years away.

Study leader Stephane Udry, of the Geneva Observatory in Switzerland, stated “We have estimated that the mean temperature of this super-Earth lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius [32 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit], and water would thus be liquid.”

Scientists discovered the new world using the HARP instrument on the European Southern Observatory 3.6 meter telescope in La Sille, Chile. They employed the so-called radial velocity, or “wobble,” technique, in which the size and mass of a planet are determined based on small perturbations it induces in its parent star’s orbit via gravity.

Science fiction writers have posited the existence of extrasolar Earth-like planets for at least seventy-five years. Thanks to a lot of hard work by generations of scientists, it's possible that this collective wish by writers has been proven true.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

USS BOSTON (SSN-703) Launched 19 April 1980

I was topside for the thrill-ride of a lifetime!

Twenty-Seven Years Ago...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bitter-Sweet Chocolate for Easter about "Bad Taste!"
AP Image of "Sweet Jesus" done in Chocolate!
Curiously, this is an "anatomically correct" naked Jesus complete with all those body-parts that are unmentionable on this blog!

...Talk about the "Melty Man Cometh" (I did find this information on another blog.)

Article Text is contained below:

New York (Reuters) -- A life-size sculpture of a naked Jesus made out of chocolate has angered a Roman Catholic organization and forced a Manhattan art gallery to reconsider exhibiting it during Easter week.

The sculpture "My Sweet Lord" by Cosimo Cavallaro was to be exhibited for two hours each day next week in a street-level window of the Roger Smith Lab Gallery in Midtown Manhattan.

It was set to open Monday, days before Good Friday when Christians mark the crucifixion of Jesus.

"We're considering our options," Matthew Semler, the gallery's artistic director, said on Friday. "We're still assessing the situation."

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights called for a boycott of the accompanying Roger Smith Hotel, writing to 500 religious and secular organizations.

"This is an assault on Christians during Holy Week," said Kiera McCaffrey, director of communications for the league, which describes itself the largest U.S. Catholic civil rights group.

"They would never dare do something similar with a chocolate statue of the prophet Mohammad naked with his genitals exposed during Ramadan," she said.

Semler said the hotel had no knowledge of what the gallery planned to show and was being unfairly targeted. Moreover, he said the work was not irreverent.

"It's intended as a meditation on the Holy Week," Semler said of the sculpture, which depicts Jesus as if on the cross.

A photo of the piece on the artist's Web site (Linkexternal link) shows the work suspended in air.

The Catholic League has no intention of bringing legal action but seeks to punish the hotel with a boycott because "they're the ones bringing this into the mainstream, in the heart of Manhattan, for any child holding his mother's hand to see," McCaffrey said.

She was further irked by an unconfirmed report that Cavallaro invited the public to come take a bite out of the sculpture.

Semler said that was only a joke by the artist.

New York is familiar with peculiar clashes between art and religion. In 1999, then-Mayor Rudolph Giuliani threatened to withdraw a grant from the Brooklyn Museum of Art for showing a painting depicting the Virgin Mary as a black woman splattered with elephant dung.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Couch-Potato Blogging

Have you noticed the amount of time we seem to spend in front of our computers?

Yeah, doing work, email, blogging.....yeah, yeah.

I think a lot of us would just as easily grab a beer and toast:
"This SPUD's for YOU!" in a heartbeat (or is that a potato-beat). That of course raises another question, if Potatoes have "Eyes" do they have "Hearts" too?

...I don't know, "Pass the mouse and and easy on the French-fries!" In any case, after a few brews you'll begin to feel a bit mashed as well!

Well, we DO have the potato to thank for Vodka and Moonshine!

Enough is enough with this potato abuse!!! Will somebody please contact

Society for the Prevention of Unethical treatment and cruelty towarDS Potatoes!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A few Reflective thoughts...

...A few of my favorite Pictures I have taken...

Yosemite Valley, Sept. 2000

Yosemite Valley

Sunday morning Hike in Yosemite

Ragged Peak Mountain in Yosemite Park

Reflective Moment in Yosemite

A Reflective Moment in Yosemite

Yosemite Park Vista

A Springtime vista!

Ah yes! the beauty of the outdoors!!