Tag Archives: Solar System

Distant Worlds: What We Know About Extra-Solar Planets And Their Potential For Habitability

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

I’m pleased to announce that CNYO is co-sponsoring a lecture with the Cazenovia College Science Cafe Committee on one of the great achievements in observational astronomy in the last decade – the discovery and characterization of extra-solar planets (exoplanets). If so inclined, feel free to RSVP on our meetup.com event page. Details below:

Distant Worlds: What We Know About Extra-Solar Planets
And Their Potential For Habitability

Speaker: Dr. Leslie Hebb, Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Date: March 1, 2017

Time: 6:30 to 8:00 pm

Parking: Free on campus after 6:00 p.m., available on Lincklaen, Seminary, Sullivan, and Nickerson Streets

Location: Morgan Room, basement of Hubbard Hall, Cazenovia College

Since the first extra-solar planet was discovered around the star 51 Pegasi, there has been an explosion of research aimed at discovering and characterizing planets around other stars. With the launch of NASA’s Kepler mission, the number of known exoplanets has grown to nearly 5000 including almost 500 multi-planet “solar systems”. Through these and other discoveries, we have learned that exoplanets are ubiquitous throughout the Galaxy, and many planetary systems look very different than our own Solar System. This research has radically transformed our thinking about how our own Solar System in particular and solar systems in general form and evolve. I will discuss how exoplanets are detected and characterized, the current exoplanet census, and our current understanding of how planetary systems form and evolve. I will also discuss how we identify potentially habitable worlds and what future missions are designed to identify and characterize habitability.

CNYO Brochure – An Observational Astronomy Facts And Figures Cheat Sheet

To cut to the downloading chase: Astronomy Facts And Figures Cheat Sheet V6.pdf

Greetings, fellow astrophiles!

Those who’ve ever run an observing session have inevitably faced the most daunting of amateur astronomy outreach questions:

“Woah. How far away is that?!”

In the interest of having a rapid response to that and similar questions, the posted cheat sheet combines as much of the usual information that observers and attendees might want to know as can be fit in not-too-small font into groupings that fit on single pages (10, total).

An important word on the facts: To the very best of ability, all of the information has been checked and double-checked against available data online. To that end, all of the data as presented can be directly attributed to the following websites as of their content on 1 January 2017:

* astropixels.com/messier/messiercat.html – extra thanks to Fred Espenak for use permissions

* astropixels.com/stars/brightstars.html – extra thanks to Fred Espenak for use permissions

* www.amsmeteors.org/meteor-showers/2016-meteor-shower-list/

* www.dl1dbc.net/Meteorscatter/meteortopics.html

* nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/

* star.arm.ac.uk/~dja/shower/codes.html

And, of course:

* en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_exceptional_asteroids

* en.wikipedia.org/wiki/88_modern_constellations

* en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_meteor_showers

* en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_brightest_stars

* en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apparent_magnitude

* en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stellar_classification

The Observational Astronomy Cheat Sheet contains the following:

Page 1: The only two figures in the document, including the famous “finger how-to” for measuring distances in the night sky and a figure describing right ascension and declination (with values for many objects given in the tables).

Page 2: Moons And Planets – All of the standard information (and descriptions below) about the relative places of planets in the Solar System (distances, masses, temperatures, distances from Sun), then an extra column for our Moon.

Page 3: Best Meteor Showers – All of the categorized Class I, II, and III Meteor Showers throughout the year, including approximate peak dates, times, and directions.

Page 4: Marginal Meteor Showers – All of the categorized Class IV Meteor Showers (these are surely poor meteor showers for observing, but that fact that we’ve catalogued them there tells you how exhaustive astronomers have been in keeping track of periodicities in our day/nighttime sky).

Page 5: Winter And Spring Messier Objects – including abbreviations, NGC labels, types, distances (as best we know them), and Common Names.

Page 6: Summer And Autumn Messier Objects – including abbreviations, NGC labels, types, distances (as best we know them), and Common Names.

Page 7: Northern and Zodiacal Constellations – including family, origin, brightest star, and positional information.

Page 8: Southern Constellations – including family, origin, brightest star, and positional information.

Page 9: Top Asteroids – the best and brightest (and best identified), including distances, discovery information, and magnitudes (as available).

Page 10: Stars – the Top 50 brightest (with our Sun at its rightful position as #1), including constellation, magnitudes, distances, and mass and positional information.

And, without further ado…

Download Astronomy Facts And Figures Cheat Sheet V6.pdf

NASA Space Place – Is There A Super-Earth In The Solar System Out Beyond Neptune?

Poster’s Note: One of the many under-appreciated aspects of NASA is the extent to which it publishes quality science content for children and Ph.D.’s alike. NASA Space Place has been providing general audience articles for quite some time that are freely available for download and republishing. Your tax dollars help promote science! The following article was provided for reprinting in August, 2016.

By Dr. Ethan Siegel

2013february2_spaceplaceWhen the advent of large telescopes brought us the discoveries of Uranus and then Neptune, they also brought the great hope of a Solar System even richer in terms of large, massive worlds. While the asteroid belt and the Kuiper belt were each found to possess a large number of substantial icy-and-rocky worlds, none of them approached even Earth in size or mass, much less the true giant worlds. Meanwhile, all-sky infrared surveys, sensitive to red dwarfs, brown dwarfs and Jupiter-mass gas giants, were unable to detect anything new that was closer than Proxima Centauri. At the same time, Kepler taught us that super-Earths, planets between Earth and Neptune in size, were the galaxy’s most common, despite our Solar System having none.

The discovery of Sedna in 2003 turned out to be even more groundbreaking than astronomers realized. Although many Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs) were discovered beginning in the 1990s, Sedna had properties all the others didn’t. With an extremely eccentric orbit and an aphelion taking it farther from the Sun than any other world known at the time, it represented our first glimpse of the hypothetical Oort cloud: a spherical distribution of bodies ranging from hundreds to tens of thousands of A.U. from the Sun. Since the discovery of Sedna, five other long-period, very eccentric TNOs were found prior to 2016 as well. While you’d expect their orbital parameters to be randomly distributed if they occurred by chance, their orbital orientations with respect to the Sun are clustered extremely narrowly: with less than a 1-in-10,000 chance of such an effect appearing randomly.

Whenever we see a new phenomenon with a surprisingly non-random appearance, our scientific intuition calls out for a physical explanation. Astronomers Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown provided a compelling possibility earlier this year: perhaps a massive perturbing body very distant from the Sun provided the gravitational “kick” to hurl these objects towards the Sun. A single addition to the Solar System would explain the orbits of all of these long-period TNOs, a planet about 10 times the mass of Earth approximately 200 A.U. from the Sun, referred to as Planet Nine. More Sedna-like TNOs with similarly aligned orbits are predicted, and since January of 2016, another was found, with its orbit aligning perfectly with these predictions.

Ten meter class telescopes like Keck and Subaru, plus NASA’s NEOWISE mission, are currently searching for this hypothetical, massive world. If it exists, it invites the question of its origin: did it form along with our Solar System, or was it captured from another star’s vicinity much more recently? Regardless, if Batygin and Brown are right and this object is real, our Solar System may contain a super-Earth after all.

This article was provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under a contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

August2016.en

Caption: A possible super-Earth/mini-Neptune world hundreds of times more distant than Earth is from the Sun. Image credit: R. Hurt / Caltech (IPAC)

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