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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > Apr > Apr 29

Re: New Planet Could Harbour Water And Life? -

From: Nick Balaskas <Nikolaos.nul>
Date: Sat, 28 Apr 2007 16:26:35 -0400 (Eastern Daylight Time)
Fwd Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2007 08:17:53 -0400
Subject: Re: New Planet Could Harbour Water And Life? -

>From: Greg Boone <Evolbaby.nul>
>To: ufoupdates.nul
>Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2007 12:37:41 EDT
>Subject: Re: New Planet Could Harbour Water And Life?

>>From: John Scheldroup <jschel.nul>
>>To: <ufoupdates.nul>
>>Date: Thu, 26 Apr 2007 17:18:15 -0500
>>Subject: Re: New Planet Could Harbour Water And Life?

>>>From: Greg Boone <Evolbaby.nul>
>>>To: ufoupdates.nul
>>>Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2007 09:44:31 EDT
>>>Subject: Re: New Planet Could Harbour Water And Life?


>>>Why is it astronomers can find planets around stars 20 or 100
>>>light years away but still for some unexplained reason can't
>>>tell us what's going on around our nearest neighbor the Alpha
>>>Centauri star system. It's only 4 light years away and has 3
>>>stars in it.


>>I'm sure someone can explain this a little clearer but the
>>answer is Luminosity. Set aside those all important wobbles, but
>>how easy would it be for you and your telescope to see a planet
>>in front of bright star Alpha Centauri A then would it be let
>>say Gliese 581?

>Luminosity, Shmoominosity.... <g> There are things called
>filters. We just used one to get great 3D photos of our own sun
>and that's closer and brighter than 3 stars, one of which is a
>brown dwarf from four light years away.

>We can put a man on the moon, invent pop-up stopper software for
>websites and hats that hold two cans of beer but we can't
>analyze a nearby star system?

>I ain't buyin' it.


Hi Greg!

John is right.

Thanks to a new technique by two JPL scientists using masks, not
filters, that was made public just 10 days ago (see the article
below) to search for those faint Earth-like planets, you are
right too!

This technique is good only for large planets that orbit very
close to their "sun". Since planets are visible by reflected
starlight and this reflected light we see rapidly decreases by
one over the square of the distance from the star, if there are
indeed any small Earth-like planets very far (at least one
astronomical unit) from Alpha Centauri or Zeta Reticuli, this
new technique would not be able to detect them, especially if
these rocky worlds have very low albedos.

Unless our SETI friends detect a technologically advanced ET
presence on Gliese 581 C (if they do, I would suspect these ETs
are settlers from nearby Zeta Reticuli rather than indigenous
intelligent life-forms), our best bet to detect - but still not
image - these very elusive Earth-like planets will be with the
Kepler mission scheduled for launch next year.

Nick Balaskas



New Technique Will Photograph Earth-Like Planets

By Charles Q. Choi
Special to LiveScience
posted: 18 April 2007
05:59 am ET

New technology developed to photograph faraway Earth-like
planets actually works, NASA researchers now find.

Although scientists have detected more than 200 alien worlds so
far, no one has detected an exoplanet that looks like Earth.
Most exoplanets seen until now are five to 4,000 times Earth's
mass, and are either too hot, too cold or too much of a gas
giant to be considered probable habitats for life.

Imaging Earth-like exoplanets is a daunting challenge because
the dim starlight that such relatively small worlds reflect is
easily overpowered by the glare of their far larger, brighter
parent stars. Now two astrophysicists at NASA's Jet Propulsion
Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., have devised new techniques that
can overcome this glare, enabling future space telescopes to
snap pictures of Earth-like exoplanets up to 10 billion times
fainter than the stars they orbit.

The challenge

Two key obstacles all telescopes face when trying to image
exoplanets are diffracted and scattered light. The system that
senior research scientists John Trauger and Wesley Traub
devised, dubbed the High Contrast Imaging Testbed, handles these
hurdles with the aid of a blurry barcode and a flexible mirror.

When starlight hits the edge of the primary mirror a telescope
uses to gather light, it diffracts to generate a pattern of
rings or spikes "that can hide some poor little planet," Traub
told SPACE.com. The researchers addressed this problem with a
stellar coronagraph, a simple device akin to the solar
coronagraphs that block all the harsh, direct light from the Sun
in order to better view its corona.

The stellar coronagraph is made of two "masks" developed over
the last five years. The first mask resembles a blurry barcode,
and is centered on the image of the star the telescope is
focused on. This specific collection of stripes diffracts the
star's light, steering it off to the side toward the second
mask, a hole leading to an opaque sheet that suppresses this
glare. The light that passes through these masks comes from
around the center of the telescope's point of view, "hopefully
from any orbiting planets," Traub said.

"This is at least a thousand times better than anything
demonstrated previously," Trauger added.

The barcode mask, which consists of stripes of darkened glass on
transparent glass, is best at blocking out red light, but is not
as good at suppressing other colors. The researchers are
developing a mask with metal stripes that can hopefully block
out the other visible wavelengths in starlight. This would
permit telescopes to view exoplanets in full color, allowing
astronomers to learn key details about their atmosphere, "such
as whether they have oxygen," Trauger said.

In addition to the problem of diffracted light, minor ripples on
a telescope mirror can scatter light, producing "speckles" or
faint copies of a star shifted to the side that can also obscure
planets. To solve this problem, the researchers developed a
deformable mirror over the last nine years that is the size of a
large coin=97a 32 millimeter by 32 millimeter square of flexible,
150-micron-thick glass with a reflective coating.

Behind this mirror is a set of 32 by 32 computer-controlled
pistons that can each move the patch of mirror they are under
just a few dozen picometers or trillionths of a meter up or
down. These slight alterations can compensate for the
telescope's minor imperfections. The researchers note a larger
mirror with more pistons would prove even better at suppressing

Simulated solution

The researchers successfully demonstrated these techniques in
the laboratory, using a laser as a simulated star, with three
fainter copies of the star serving as fake planets=97one as bright
as Jupiter, one half as bright as Jupiter and one as faint as
Earth. The simulated planets stood out plainly, findings
detailed in the April 12 issue of the journal Nature.

The system "could literally be put on a space telescope today,"
Traub said. The researchers aim for it to go aboard the
Terrestrial Planet Finder, which unfortunately has no launch
date right now because of insufficient funding.

"We are interested in smaller space missions that would not be
as large and productive as a full-scaleTerrestrial Planet Finder
but could still have our system onboard and tell you about
nearby planets," Traub said.

The Kepler mission, currently scheduled to launch in October
2008, could detect Earth-sized exoplanets but won't photograph
them. Kepler will watch for the regular dimming of stars, which
could indicate that exoplanets are transiting in front of them.
However, such transits are believed to be rare. Of the roughly
100,000 Sun-like stars the mission hopes to look at, they expect
to find just 500 to 1,000 Earth-sized worlds, explained Kepler
Mission principal investigator William Borucki.

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