Outside of the classroom, my primary interests lie in Martial Arts-Weight Training-Workout Suppliments, (which I pair into one category of ‘General Well-being’), Videogames, and Astonomy. My course blog for this semester revolved around general well being, my second presentation post was on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and my most visited student blog was “The Science of Space,” by Richard Mahon. Some of my favorite posts were:
“Everyday scientists are finding new planets, called exoplanets, which may have the ability to harbor life. While most of these exoplanets are gas giants, like Jupiter, earth-like rock planets and moons of gas giants are being discovered more frequently. So, with all of these discoveries, how can we narrow down which planets are most likely to have signatures of life? Leave that to astrobiologist Dirk Schulze-Makuch. In a recent interview, he outlined a two dimensional plan to map the likelihood of finding life on possible planets.
The first dimension is called the Earth Similarity Index… which, just as it sounds, compares newly found planets to earth in terms of size, whether or not there is water, proximity to a star, and atmosphere. The second dimension is called the Planetary Habitability Index. This index takes into account the idea that life may not need earth-like conditions to exist. For example, Jupiter’s larges moon Titan has oceans of methane. Titan has a high score on the PHI because life may be able to utilize methane the way life on our planet utilizes water.
As technology becomes more advanced and we start exploring these exoplanets, I think it’s only a matter of time until we find signatures of life on other planets.”
I found this post entertaining because I had read an article in Time Magazine that focused on the hundreds of exo-planets that are being discovered in our galaxy, most of which in the last decade. It is also interesting to see how these planets are discovered. When planets revolve around a star, the gravity that the planet exerts on the star actually causes it to shake or vibrate, sometimes only as much as a few feet. Somehow, scientists are able to measure this shaking to uncover where ‘hidden’ exo-planets are located. Additionally, exo-planets have a tendency to pass infront of the star the orbit, in which case they can be seen with a telescope as their shadow passes along the forefront of the star. This is probably the easiest and most frequently used way to locate an exo-planet.
Another post is about a recent discovery that I found quite awesome. An exo-planet, named Keppler 22-b, was discovered only 600 light years away from Earth (way to far to ever reach in a lifetime, but no distance at all compared to even our Milky Way). The neat thing about this planet was that is was found within the habitable zone of the star it revolves around, meaning that it theoretically could harbor life.
“If you’ve been on any science-related website in the last 24 hours, you’ve inevitably heard about Kepler-22b, the most earth-like planet we’ve found so far. The planet is 2.4 times the size of earth, so it is considerably bigger, and it also sits closer to its star than we sit to the sun. However, Kepler-22b’s star is much smaller, dimmer, and cooler than the sun, so the temperature on the surface of Kepler-22b is estimated at 72 degrees Fahrenheit. From here, researchers will inevitably try to determine the makeup of the planet, and possibly try to determine the make-up of the atmosphere, which is no small feat since Kepler-22b is 600 light years, or more than 3.5 quadrillion miles, away.”