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.