By Kate Lunau - Tuesday, January 22, 2013 - 0 Comments
New research suggests our galaxy alone may be filled with billions of planets—literally
Use your cursor to scroll over the planets above.
Just 20 years ago, astronomers didn’t know if there were any planets at all outside our own solar system—whether other places like Earth, which is brimming with life, are common, exceedingly rare or even non-existent. Two years ago, NASA scientists announced that, using the powerful Kepler space telescope, they’d found well over 1,000 new planets, more than doubling the number they’d previously known about. It was a stunning revelation, but few people realized, even then, that this was just the beginning.
Astronomers now believe our galaxy alone is filled with literally billions of planets—maybe even more planets than stars. There are at least 100 billion planets in the Milky Way, and some think that estimate is conservative. Some are more bizarre than anything dreamed up in science fiction: diamond worlds and double-sunned worlds, and worlds where another planet hangs in the sky like our moon. Others are eerily similar to Earth. A few of them, like a newly found planet orbiting Alpha Centauri, just 4.3 light years away, are tantalizingly close. That planet is nearer to its host star than Mercury is to our sun, and would be blisteringly hot—far too hot for life as we know it. But where there’s one planet, there are often several, and astronomers are scouring the skies around Alpha Centauri for more worlds in our own cosmic backyard. Continue…
By Paul Wells - Friday, June 25, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 10 Comments
PAUL WELLS: Stephen Hawking at the Perimeter Institute
Last Sunday an array of VIPs—Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, Kevin O’Leary, the angry guy on the CBC reality show Dragons’ Den—convened in a theatre at the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo to pay tribute to Stephen Hawking. The British astrophysicist sat in his wheelchair while the politicians buttered him up. Then he delivered a lecture through his speech synthesizer about his early years in physics.
The next day a bunch of physicists took a lunch break from a conference where they were discussing what happens when black holes of various sizes orbit each other. A caregiver pushed Hawking to a place at one of the cafeteria tables, where he ate some lunch and listened to the chatter and gossip among his colleagues.