Last year, I heard on the news that the US is planning to return to the moon by sending another space mission to it. Also China is planning to send its first space explorers to the moon. It may not be this year, but I reckon it will be in the 20 years. For those who are used to instant messaging, fast internet speed and latest tweets, that is an insanely long time to wait.
So you’ve been to the moon, or you’re going to the moon. In today’s times, that is like web 1.0. Man has already been on the moon, or so the common belief says. Today, when mention space exploration, people are no longer interested in the moon. We are now interested in other planets.
Don’t show any pictures or satellite images of planets’ surfaces, we want the real deal. Mars has always been the focus of space exploration ever since fossils of microbes have been discovered on pieces of meteorites from Mars that have fallen in Antarctica.
Movies and TV series have been created further feeding the curiosity and excitement of landing a human on the Red Planet. It is obvious that the world now wants a human walking on one of the planets other than the Earth. Mars, of course is the most obvious target but here’s another destination.
Gliese 581 C
Gliese 581 C is the latest extrasolar planet to be discovered by scientists. The new planet is about 50 percent bigger than Earth and about five times more massive. The new â€œsuper-Earthâ€ is called Gliese 581 C, after its star, Gliese 581, a diminutive red dwarf star located 20.5 light-years away that is about one-third as massive as the Sun.
Smallest to date
Gliese 581 C is the smallest extrasolar planet, or â€œexoplanet,â€ discovered to date. It is located about 15 times closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun; one year on the planet is equal to 13 Earth days. Because red dwarfs, also known as M dwarfs, are about 50 times dimmer than the Sun and much cooler, their planets can orbit much closer to them while still remaining within their habitable zones, the spherical region around a star within which a planetâ€™s temperature can sustain liquid water on its surface.
This new discovery is a cause for great excitement because whenever there is liquid water, the possibility of life to exist in that place is very very great. We may be closer to discovering the first living extra-terrestrial life in our recorded history. Mars may be the next most obvious destination for human space explorers, but now that Gliese 581 C has been found, I imagine Mars would now be a training ground for more planetary explorations and that Earth-like watery planet is destination.
Happy Birthday Hubble! (the telescope)
Back in 1946, astronomer Lyman Spitzer first suggested the idea of a space-based telescope. 17 years and a day ago, on April 24, 1990 this became a reality when the Hubble Space Telescope was placed in orbit. Named after the pioneering astronomer Edwin P. Hubble, it promised to overcome distortions caused by the earth’s atmosphere. The forty-three-foot-long telescope could look seven times farther into space than the most powerful terrestrial observatories.
Hubble’s impact on astronomy and science has been priceless. With over 4,000 papers based on Hubble data published the space telescope has earned its place in history and science. On its 17th birthday, it has given us a wonderful photo of the a big presentâ€”a 29,566 x 14,321 pixel image (500 MB TIFF image) of the Carina Nebula.
Note: Think twice before clicking on the link above as the image of Carina Nebula is a whopping 500MB image. Unless you’re an uber geek, give it a download, but for those who not but still interested in astronomy, you can get a smaller-scale version of the image here. It’s a 250MB jpeg image but for an even more lighter version, click on the image below.
The Carina Nebula is located a mere 7,500 light years away in the southern constellation Carina, the keel of the old southern constellation Argo Navis. The Carina Nebula is a stunning view of a birthplace of new stars, there are more than a dozen stars present in the nebula that are estimated to have a mass of greater than 50 to 100 times the mass of the Sun. The unreal landscape began its formation around 3 million years ago when the first stars in the nebula ignited amid a cloud of molecular hydrogen. The radiation that these stars gave off etched away the matter that started out in the nebula. The remaining globs of matter are those that have resisted being destroyed by the intense photoionization. New stars are being formed thanks to the violent stellar wind and intense radiation compressing the surrounding wall of cold molecular hydrogen.
Space is truly beautiful. I just wish I could go up there before my time’s over.
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