July 30, 2008

Ephemeral Worlds: Visualizing Exoplanets with Bubbles

Alien WorldIndeed Exoplanetology is the Art and Science of Exoplanets. These photographs of bubbles provide stunning insights into visualizing and imagining how unseen exoplanets might look like. Consider the fact that planets especially Jovian planets like Jupiter, are "bubbles" themselves, albeit gargantuan in scale. The biosphere of the Earth is in fact, a bubble. And by the fractal laws of nature, the surface of bubbles provide a striking resemblance to the appearance of planets with a suitable atmosphere.Alien World
Thus soap bubbles, ephemeral as they may seem - can help in visualizing exoplanets since their surfaces follow the same laws of physics. And as how these photographs by Jason Tozer attests to, exoplanets - like soap bubbles - are also works of art.
One photograph bears a striking resemblance to Jupiter's patterns. I am speculating that if it were photographed in zero-gravity it would look a lot more like Jupiter.
The rest of these otherworldly photographs sets my mind careening into outer space, imagining how exoplanets would look like. To imagine and visualize them is what I can do for now, for to even see a glimpse of them is beyond our lifetime.

July 26, 2008

Interactive: Four Planet-Hunting Methods

Here's a neat interactive from MSNBC providing an overview of 4 Methods of Exoplanet Detection: Astrometry, Radial Velocity, Transit, and Microlensing. Plus a chart of your local backyard sky showing the locations of some major exoplanet discoveries.
(Hover your mouse on the lower left and click on "Planet Finder").

Source: Other Worlds

July 20, 2008

Exosolar Interface

Visualization of Star Sytems and ExoplanetsJust came across this neat "exosolar" interface done in flash. Exosolar.net is an astronomy site where you can find about 2000 stars and their components (mostly within 75 lightyears). This flash-based interface was created to help visualize star-systems and exoplanets across galaxies, so you can imagine them in space, instead of reading columns of numbers like in a scientific journal.
The interface is sleek and smooth. Its a quick fun to get familiarized with Stars and their planets. The data is taken from The Internet Stellar Database, which is a welcome new addition to our references for Exoplanetologists.
Kudos and thanks to its maker, a Flash-guru named George Margaris.

July 18, 2008

SETI's Way of Celebrating Science & Imagination

SETIThis coming Saturday, July 19, 2008 there will be an interactive Family Science Fair at the SETI Institute, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. At SETI's Celebrating Science 2008 Family Science Faire, you will have the opportunity to meet SETI Institute scientists and discover what the future holds for SETI and astrobiology and learn about the SETI Institute's pioneering exploration of life, our solar system, and beyond, including the search for signals from other civilizations. You will also get to meet the father of SETI and author of the Drake Equation, Dr. Frank Drake.
The SETI Institute is located at 515 N. Whisman Road, Mountain View CA 94043.
Did I happen to mention that some people from Spore will be there? Oh and by the way, volunteers are needed for the event. I am volunteering as an alien specimen mascot. All I need is a teleporter or a spaceship with a warp drive to get me there from here (East Coast) for tomorrow's big day. Can someone give me a lift, please?

July 17, 2008

Seeing the Earth from Alien Perspective

EarthHere's how the Earth looks like from 31 million miles away. This clip was intended to shed light on how other Earth-like worlds would appear.
“Making a video of Earth from so far away helps the search for other life-bearing planets in the universe by giving insights into how a distant, Earthlike alien world would appear to us.”
The features that are most notable are the "sun-glint" caused by light reflected from Earth’s oceans. Similar glints to be observed from extrasolar planets could indicate the existence of alien oceans.
In infrared, land masses with vegetation are more apparent, because plants reflect more infrared light. Hence, infrared-imaging techniques could be used to observe extrasolar planets for signs of vegetation.
The video was captured by the Deep Impact Probe, whose extended mission now is called EPOXI (Extrasolar Planet Observation eXtended Investigation).

Alien’s-eye view of Earth

July 12, 2008

A Glimpse of Science Behind Spore

SimulationI was surprised to come across a program from the creators of Spore: ParticleMan simulates gravitational attraction between particles in a cloud. It's system was used to study such gravitational dynamics as orbits, nebula formation, star formation and particle streams from sources like pulsars and black holes.
My experience with the ParticleMan was clean. I saw the formation of stars and planets through the process of accretion - dusts and gas "coagulating" to form larger bodies. I also saw clues of binary star formations and interactions. Often, stars dance around tugging each other in circular orbits until some disturbances from planetesimals (or larger bodies) cause one of them to be hurled out of the Solar System at high speed (as is the fate of some unfortunate planetesimals that get in their way). Sometimes, though they merge together forming a bigger blob of mass.
What I can gleam from observing the simulation provided by ParticleMan is that proto-planets seem to battle it out for survival in the early stages of a Solar System's formation. In the chaotic melee, smaller clumps of rocks either get hurled out or get swallowed by bigger, more massive objects. The survivor planets are the ones that now occupy the stable orbits of a Solar System in equilibrium.
After a few minutes of observing, I was impressed with the light-weight program, considering the fact that it was just one of their many prototypes in the early stages of exploring the game's directions.
Stating the lack of science behind the game in my previous post about the Spore Creature Creator might have been premature, as there could be so much more to see in the actual Spore game to be launched in the next few months. I could be blown away when it finally goes out.
If game-makers deal with these kinds of Science, Gaming could be a great ally in teaching a great deal about the actual universe we live in.

July 3, 2008

Fetish: Magic Planet for my Bedroom

During my recent trip to the newly-renovated Liberty Science Center, a luminous sphere called The Global Microscope became my newest fetish. I later learned that it's called the "Magic Planet", a product from Global Imagination. The "Magic Planet" is indeed magical as it turned, tilted and rotated according to the presenter's whims. Using his wand-like remote control, the presenter provided a grand visual tour of various geologic features of Earth such as tectonic plates, earthquake zones, deep trenches and high areas on the surface of the planet.
Numerous data sets on various aspects of the earth's climate were also presented - such as a rundown of all the earthquakes and typhoons around the world - using animated graphics superimposed upon varying graphical-representations of the Earth's surface. Europa
The other interesting part of the presentation involved a grand tour of the Solar System, showing all the planets, notably Mars, Venus, Jupiter in crisp detail. Our moon was also shown, as well as Enceladus, and the whole enchilada - Io, Ganymede, and upon my request - Europa.
All this show was done while controlling the tilt and rotation of the globe, and pausing at certain axes to examine points of interest in greater detail. After seeing it all, my curiosity prompted me to investigate it's inner workings.
After examining it up close, I discovered that it's actually a semi-transparent "plastic" sphere with the projector housed inside the base. It's probably similar to how IMAX works (in terms of the projector-lens and dome), except that the computer-generated images being projected from inside the sphere shows through outside the dome's surface. In essence, it's actually a spherized 'computer monitor', obviously tailored to simulate spherical surfaces.
Clearly, this is a wonderful display tool. Perfect for visualizing yet-unseen exoplanets and super-earths, too. I'd love to have one of these in my bedroom, except that I was told it costs around $30,000. Oh well, perhaps I'll just build one someday, DIY-style. So much for my fetish.

links: http://www.lsc.org/educators/jac/globalmicroscope/

July 1, 2008

Earth-like Worlds and the Rare Earth Hypothesis

Rare EarthI sincerely believe that the Earth is rare. I even dare say it is unique, just like how every human being is unique. Earth is truly one of a kind, and that is why I love it so much.
Now by saying that Earth is unique does not mean that there won't be other worlds like it. Thus there could be countless 'earth-like' worlds out there, but only some would have Life. And among those that are life-bearing, possibly only a fraction would be intelligent and sentient.
There is no debate in the argument of the Rare Earth hypothesis that the emergence of complex multicellular life on Earth required an improbable combination of astrophysical and geological events and circumstances. Other than that, it cannot have bearing on how common life is on other parts of the universe.
I appreciate the fact that the "Rare Earth Hypothesis" was aptly named - which simply means that the Earth is rare, which I rather consider the same as saying that diamonds are rare.
The Earth is precious and unique. There is no place like home.