Archive for October, 2008

A Mirror of Our Creation

Friday, October 31st, 2008 by Evan Finnes

In a planetary system only 10 light years away, Spitzer has discovered that there is much more to Epsilon Eridani besides a great setting for an Asimov novel. Epsilon Eridani is the star at the center of the planetary system closest to home. This Star is relatively young, perhaps less than a billion years old, and has a mass which is about .85 times the mass of the sun. As far as atomic creation goes, this sun is relatively inactive, producing not much more than Helium.

This system has been a source of great discovery; in the past it has been found to host two planets, an asteroid belt which orbits the star at a similar distance to which our asteroid belt orbits the Sun, and distant ring of dust and ice which is very similar to our Kuiper Belt. Recently, Spitzer observed that there is not just one, but two asteroid belts orbiting the not so distant star. What makes this discovery so exciting is the idea that by observing this system, we are basically looking back in history to observe our own creation.

According to the Nebular Hypothesis, solar systems are formed because massive clouds of dust and helium condense to form stars. This condensing occurs because these clouds are gravitationally unstable, so they collapse inwards into smaller clumps which accumulate to form a star, such as our Sun or Epsilon Eridani. As this star forms it sheds a disk of matter which over time begins to accumulate and form protoplanets. Although planetary formation is not well understood, it is thought by some that because of the gravitational pull of the forming star, the dense accumulating rock stays closer to and orbits the star, while the less dense gasses are able to stay further from the star in their orbit. This could be why the terrestrial planets such as Earth are closer to the Sun, while the gas giants such as Jupiter form much further out (of course there have been recent discoveries of gas giants closer to the sun than even Mercury).

Some theorize that the asteroid belts in our solar system are the result of the tidal forces produced by the gravitational pulls of the Sun and the gas giants. These tidal forces keep the rocks in the asteroid belt from coalescing to form protoplanets. The gas giants might also have another roll in solar system formation. It is possible that that the gas giants sweep out asteroids as they rotate the star, protecting the terrestrial planets from catastrophic impacts. However, some scientists also believe that the gas giants could act has a gravitational sling shot which could attract and hurl asteroids into the inner solar system.

One of the planets discovered to orbit Epsilon Eridani is located about 3.5 Au’s from the star, just outside of the range of the newly discovered asteroid belt. This is the first time a planetary system has been discovered to have an arrangement which is comparable to Jupiter and our asteroid belt.

Does this discovery prove that our solar system was formed with agreement to the Nebular Hypotheses? No, but it is defiantly worth observing this relatively young star system to see if its evolution correlates at all with any of our ideas. Who knows, maybe we could even watch as the formation of an Earthlike planet unfolds before our very eyes.

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WFIT-American Variety Court Lewis Interviews Terence Witt: Author of Our Undiscovered Universe

Thursday, October 30th, 2008 by Aridian PR


WFIT’s Court Lewis Interviews Terence Witt: Author of Our Undiscovered Universe

Court Lewis describes his radio show theme as “an anti-theme: Anything but politics!” Listen to Terence Witt interviewed by Court Lewis on WFIT-89.5FM describing his new universe theory. Witt’s new book, Our Undiscovered Universe: Introducing Null Physics, enables the reader to understand the universe with unprecedented scientific depth and clarity.

Lewis invites guests to his program who are “Big Dreamers.” They have an unusual dream or goal and are pursuing it against great odds. Some of his past guests have included explorers such as underwater archaeologists, Shuttle Launch Directors and the Chief Scientist on the Mars Rover project. Lewis has broadcast for four years in the Melbourne, Florida area. WQCS Ft. Pierce airs his program as well. Lewis is from Miami and holds degrees in chemistry and literature.

The program with Terence Witt aired Sunday, October 26 at 7:30 a.m. eastern standard time on WQCS-88.9 FM in Ft. Pierce. It will air on WFIT-89.5 FM in Melbourne on Sunday, November 2 at 7:30 eastern standard time. The program will streamlined online on

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Galaxy Having a Major Baby Boom

Monday, October 27th, 2008 by Bellatrix

Astronomers have discovered a distant galaxy making stars at an amazing rate. It is creating stars at a rate more than a thousand times that of the Milky Way, but the remarkable thing about it is its extreme distance. This galaxy may call into question the current theory of how galaxies form.

The galaxy, nicknamed the baby boom galaxy, is making stars at a rate of about 4000 per year, compared to the Milky Way, which makes only 10 stars per year. This galaxy is also located very far from us, 12.3 billion light years. We have observed other starburst galaxies before, but none this far away, or similarly this old. This galaxy is a very young galaxy, since it is so far, we are looking at it as it was almost 12 billions years ago. That gives this galaxy the record for furthest (or youngest) starburst galaxy ever observed. The furthest before this one was 11.7 billion light years from us.

Now this galaxy calls into question the current most popular model for how galaxies are believed to form, called the hierarchal model. This model states that galaxies form slowly by consuming other smaller galaxies and star clusters, thus the stars in the galaxies should all have different birthdays. However, with this new galaxy all the stars will have very similar birthdays, meaning formation of around the same time. So the question now is whether this case is the norm or the exception. With this kind of star formation we may be witnessing the birth of one of the most massive elliptical galaxies in the universe.

The discovery of this was only possible through combined use of several different telescopes. Measurements in the radio wavelengths were made with the National Science Foundation’s Very Large Array in New Mexico. Infrared data was used from both the Spitzer space telescope and the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope on Mauna Kea Hawaii. Visible light images were used from both the Hubble Space Telescope and Japan’s Subaru Telescope also atop Mauna Kea. The identification of this galaxy and its properties would not have been possible without observations in the full range of the light spectrum. So its discovery is a fine example of the combination of different available technologies, from different sponsoring organizations. Now that we know how to find them, i.e. using data from across the electromagnetic spectrum, hopefully we can find out if galaxy baby booms were common in the distant universe, and if not, what is special about this case.

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Very Large Binoculars; Not for Bird Watching

Monday, October 20th, 2008 by Bellatrix

Recently an exciting new type of ground-based telescope came online. It is a collaboration between the University of Arizona, the National Institute of Astrophysics in Italy, and several institutions in Germany. It is an innovative idea to use two large mirrors for the telescope, like a pair of binoculars. This will give the telescope a large collecting area while avoiding complications of making one very large mirror.

The idea first started back in 1992 between Arizona and Italy. They only had the funding to make one mirror, but in 1997 with the addition of Germany and Ohio State University, the project was under way. The telescope mount was constructed in Italy and shipped to Arizona, where it joined the mirrors being constructed. The observatory will be part of the Mt. Graham International Observatory near Safford, Arizona.

The telescope will consist of two 8.54-meter mirrors on a shared mount, which has the light gathering power equivalent to one 11.8-meter mirror and a resolving power of a 22.8-meter mirror. The building of the two mirrors is a delicate and complicated process. The mirrors must go through an extensive annealing and cooling process. Then two tons of glass are added and then a slow heating process started, then another round of annealing and cooling. During this process glass leaks are possible which can really complicate things. Once finished the mirror mold must be cleaned and polished very carefully and exactly. The mirrors must stay in a temperature-controlled environment to prevent temperature changes affecting the surface of the mirrors.

The first primary mirror saw first light in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2008 that both mirrors came online together. The optical instruments include a UV spectrograph, thermal infrared imager, near infrared camera, high-resolution optical spectrograph, optical direct imager, and more. The telescope is designed for observing in the UV, optical, and infrared wavelengths.

The Large Binocular Telescope observatory (LBT) is the world’s highest resolution and most technologically advanced optical telescope, creating images in the near infrared with 10 times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. There should be some exciting new developments coming from the LBT once it really gets going. It is a great example of innovation and ingenuity to overcome the technological obstacles of making very large mirrors and by using an array of smaller (yet still large) mirrors.

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