Welcome to my astronomy blog. A short introduction to start this off.
My name is Bruno Ferreira, also known as Dr. Plim, and among many other things I’m an Astrophysicist. I obtained my PhD from the University of Florida in Gainesville in April of 2010.
I’m currently teaching online at the Rasmussen University and will be using this blog to post some of the astronomy/astrophysics-related news and insights that I find interesting for my students and for anyone else who stumbles upon it.
Some useful information: It is March 2012 and I am still updating this website. You may notice that the blogs entries are from 2010 or so, this is simply so that I can keep the blog entries in some kind of order. Blog entry number 1 is at the very bottom of the page and it is for Week 1 of the astronomy course.
If you find some really awesome information that you would like added here then please email me or send me a comment.
If you find some error/correction then please email me or send me a comment.
Live long and prosper.
Planets In Our Solar System
We scientists have theories for the formation of the Universe, the formation of galaxies, the formation of stars, the formation of solar systems and the formation of planets. And yet, there is still so much that we really don’t know or understand. Let’s look at some interesting results when studying our own planets.
Two decades ago we measured Venus’ rotation period to be approximately 243.015 Earth-days; recently, with the Venus Express Orbiter, the European Space Agency made accurate measurements of Venus’ rotation and realized that it is rotating 16 minutes slower!
Here is the LINK to the news release.
Hello Students of the Universe,
Photo by Dick Hutchinson (http://www.ptialaska.net/~hutch/aurora.html)
Some of you have chosen to do your research projects on the Aurora Borealis. Great, that is definitely one of my favorite topics.
(Video by Terje Sorgjerd)
Just recently there was a very good interview on NPR about this magnificent phenomenon. Tom Ashbrook interviewed I strongly recommend that you listen to this podcast. LINK
Guests on the show were:
“Justin Kasper, astrophysicist in the Solar and Stellar X-Ray Group in the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. His latest project is leading the Solar Wind Electrons Alphas And Protons (SWEAP) investigation on the Solar Probe Plus spacecraft.
Howard Singer, chief scientist at NOAA’s Space Weather and Prediction Center.
Frank Koza, executive director of operations support at PJM Interconnection, which is a regional transmission organization that coordinates the movement of electricity in 13 states.
Chad Blakley, aurora borealis photographer, who runs the website Lights Over Lapland.”
You are reaching the end of this course in astronomy. For many of you it has been the first course in astronomy you have ever taken, the first time you have looked into understanding how the stars live, how planets were born, how the universe came about.
Here is a little inspirational video which should appeal to you both as humans and as scientists of the cosmos.
Hello Students of the Universe,
One of the most important concepts to critically think about during this course is that of life. What is considered “life”? What is alive and what isn’t? and where is life possible?
(The Kepler Space Telescope used to make transit-detections of possible planets.)
Recently we have had a slew of detections of nearby planets that may be Earth-like (LINK). Not that it is necessary to have an Earth-like conditions in order to have life, but it may even host life that is similar to ours. (LINK).
February 21st 2012 Update: A new detection of an exoplanet just 42 light years away from us! AND, we have made measurements of its atmosphere! Here is the LINK and here is an excerpt from the paper:
“Our solar system contains three types of planets: rocky, terrestrial worlds (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars), gas giants (Jupiter and Saturn), and ice giants (Uranus and Neptune). Planets orbiting distant stars come in an even wider variety, including lava worlds and “hot Jupiters.”
Observations by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have added a new type of planet to the mix. By analyzing the previously discovered world GJ1214b, astronomer Zachory Berta (Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics) and colleagues proved that it is a waterworld enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere.“.
The Kepler team has put together an excellent video showing all the exoplanets (actually: exoplanet candidates) detected thus far:
Recent ESO Discoveries
These new detections of Earth-like planets are extremely important to help us more accurately evaluate how often Earth-like planets arise. You see, until very recently we really only knew about our solar system and our Earth… ours was the only Earth-like planet out there. And, it is completely impossible to make predictions or statistical evaluations based upon 1 single data point. With one single data point we had to accept the full range of opinions from “There are no other planets like ours, ours is completely unique, the factors that went into the formation of our Earth were so improbable they cannot come together again. And thus, extraterrestrial life is not possible.” to “There are millions of planets just like ours in our galaxy alone, so that life is so probable!”.
Which opinion was right? Well, we still don’t know about the extrerrestrial life part but we can say that the search for Earth-like planets is off to a good start: Here is what the European Southern Observatory recently announced: “Many Billions of Rocky Planets in the Habitable Zones around Red Dwarfs in the Milky Way“! (That exclamation mark is my addition). For my students I STRONGLY RECOMMEND YOU READ THE WHOLE NEWS ARTICLE. This is a pretty breakthrough moment in science and you are living in it.
And What Is Life?
And on the topic of Life, here is a link to finding it in some unexpected places; reminding us to keep an open mind on what and where we consider life to be. (LINK)
The following link is to the Astrobiology Web, a great resource for studying life in extreme habitats. (LINK)
(artists’ concept of a planet orbiting two stars)
The search for life on other planets goes hand in hand with the search for other planets.
Here is a recent article with the discovery that planets may be able to “ping-pong” from one star to another: (LINK) (fun fact, I shared an office with one of the co-authors)!
Courtesy of NASA, the moon seen from the International Space Station
The New Scientist’s online magazine has an interesting post entitled “Hints of life found on Saturn moon” which opens with the ambitious sentence:”Two potential signatures of life on Saturn’s moon Titan have been found by the Cassini spacecraft”.
The University of California at San Diego’s “Life in the Universe” course syllabus has a nice page specifically directed at this topic and focusing on the two moons: Europa (one of Jupiter’s 4 moons) and Titan.
Finally, I recommend you watch the video by Carolyn Porco entitled “Could a Saturn moon harbor life?”
Hello Students of the Universe