Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Nickels on the Moon

I was eating my lunch in the Eyring Science Center yesterday.  About 10 feet away from my table was this new TV they installed that flipped through slides talking about astronomy and NASA and it also showed some pictures from the Hubble Telescope.  It was pretty interesting. There was this one segment of slides that I thought was interesting.  It was about NASA's search for life on other planets.  One of the things NASA looks for when searching for planets like our is a wobble in the stars. This is because if a planet is orbiting the star, the star moves around, too.  (Think of two people spinning in circles with a rope between them.)  This wobble is extremely tiny and you need very, very precise equipment to see it.  The camera that can measure this wobble is on the Hubble telescope, but just to let you know how precise this thing is, if this camera were on Earth, it could see an astronaut standing on a moon and measure the thickness of a nickel is in his hand, if he happened to have a nickle in his pocket. That is amazing.

However, keep in mind that we can only measure the wobble of the closest 250 stars to us. That may seem like a pretty big number, but think about how many stars are in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Ready? 100 billion.  Yes, there are 100 billion stars just in the Milky Way.  And scientists estimate there to be over 500 billion other galaxies in the universe.  These numbers are so mind-bogglingly huge that its impossible to wrap your head around them.

When I was talking to Katie about this, she said, "It's funny to think that we are concerned with finding life on other planets millions of light years away, and yet we still have to decide what to eat for dinner."  I guess it all just depends on your point of view.

Oh yeah, and happy Groundhog's Day.  Six more weeks of winter...
I was thinking about that.  There are six more weeks of winter if the groundhog sees his shadow.  That means the sun must be shining.  If the groundhog doesn't see his shadow, that means it's overcast, and I guess it means that it's also suddenly Spring?  That doesn't make much sense to me.


Katie said...

I have never understood Groundhog Day. Also, your daughter is poopy. Want to come home real quick and change her diaper?

Kathy Haynie said...

I showed some photos from the Hubble telescope two Sundays ago in Gospel Doctrine class for the lesson on the Creation. They are very WOW, I think.

Anna said...

yo. this is chris.
1. i have been following the project you are talking about. The Kepler mission, right?
2. i joined the byu astronomy club to get a free trip to the planetarium. And then i went to one of the night meetings and we looked at mars and jupiter and a binary star (but i don't remember which one(s)).
3. Nebraska has its own groundhog test. Our groundhog did not see his shadow. It will be like we are in our biosphere, severed from the union. I just finished Under the Dome, Stephen King's new book, and I think about it a lot. I think you would really like it. It is a monster-it weighs about 8 pounds- but it reads quickly. I recommend it to you.
4. some people groan whenever the movie groundhog day is mentioned. I really liked it and I wish I could watch it today. I think reliving the same day over and over again could be fun. Especially if you knew you would be reliving it. you could try out new tattoos, eat potentially disastrous foods, see how far you could run in 24 hours, buy a yacht for the day and crash it into a lighthouse...
anyways, nice posting. i enjoy reading them. keep it up ocho.

Spencer said...

I agree with the whole Groundhog's Day thing, too. I've long thought that a shadow would mean the beginning of Spring, not the continuation of winter.