May 14, 2010

Gasp! Exoplanellites!

Several times upon looking at the moon, I've always been inclined say that it is a planet in its own right. In fact I did say it on twitter. And by a slip of the twit-thumb, I've also mistakenly referred to exomoons as planets.
The allure of considering moons as planets is inescapable. Many scientists even describe Titan as "similar" to Earth! Another moon called Io was even singled out to describe an exoplanet by introducing a new type of planet called "Super-Io"!
Perhaps the inherent planet-like qualities of moons is the reason why the principal investigator on the New Horizons mission to Pluto couldn't hold the idea any longer.
Thus, Alan Stern proposes that we call large moons as "Satellite Planets". Yes, you heard that right: Satellite Planets!
And here's what I have to say to this idea: I like it!
A "planet" that is orbiting another planet may seem counter-intuitive at first but somehow it simplifies things once it sinks in. A "satellite" after all, is defined as a celestial body that revolves around a larger celestial body.
Now because we have this debate about what a planet is, we must forget for a moment the whole confusion about Pluto, and look at these round moons as Worlds in their own right, then perhaps one might see them as planets as well.
When the time is right, try looking at the moon in the blue morning sky. That gray crescent looks like a planet, right? Umm...well maybe its just me. Perhaps because I love planets. But now because Alan Stern is a big defender of Pluto, this idea will definitely elicit violent reactions from plutagonists. On the other hand, if he didn't love Pluto that much, he might not have been bold enough to put forward this idea. So let's see what comes of it.

In the meantime, I wouldn't mind introducing the term "Planellites" for twitter brevity.
Gasp! What have I done?! That means that we will have "exoplanellites" as another word for exomoons!

Should Large Moons be called...
Super-Earth may be a Super-Io

Grouping the Planets
Image taken from this page 

May 10, 2010

SETI and Kepler-4b

For some curious post to warm up a chilly monday, I just came across a surprising analysis of Kepler-4b signals not from planet-hunters, but from someone tinkering with SETI! There seems to be a "non-random" pattern that shows up in the graph. Could it be a clue to some alien message encoded within the signal?
Not too fast.
Apparently, someone who "likes analyzing signals" posted his baudline analysis of the Kepler-4 exoplanet data file from SETIquest. I'm just starting to dip my foot into Digital Signal Processing (DSP) here, but because I am interested in Data Visualization, I was drawn into it, which led me to write this quick post with lots of linktrails.
For the big question: Is there an alien message in the signal? No. There are still too many parameters to settle in order to say that it is an extraterrestrial code. But I wish to get back more into this as I am interested in finding patterns. The "spinal" pattern in the photo above seems like a good start for learning about Fast Fourier Transforms!
I downloaded the 2 Gig .dat file from SETIquest and tried to open it just to peek, but my computer almost crashed due to the humongous filesize. I wish they'd break it down into smaller bits. I'm sure SETIquest will improve in the coming days.
Many questions pop up as a result of this baudline analysis post, such as the directional source of the signal. According to the forum at SETIquest, its really from the Kepler-4 star system (but I still need a valid RA/Dec info, which was not provided in the .dat file description). Other issues need a little more work to confirm, such as whether it might have been our own artificial signals, which may include transmissions from our satellites and perhaps even signals from the Kepler telescope itself(!) Also, I think it would be great if the Allen Telescope Array will listen in on the list of star systems with known exoplanets.
There's some interesting bits of information regarding signal analysis, and bits about Kepler telescope, and some exoplanet related data files posted in the forum so check it out.
Kepler-4b is among the first batch of exoplanet discoveries announced by Kepler early this year. The host star Kepler-4 is also one of my adopted stars (ahem!) from the Pale Blue Dot project, so i took some time to look into this.
And as I mentioned in my past post about SETIquest with a quick review of His Master's Voice by Stanislaw Lem (that book was lent to me by @leebillings, by the way) the data is open for public consumption. So we can consider this post as a preview of things to come between the intersections of Planetary Science, Astronomy, SETI, Exoarchaeology(?), Citizen Science, and just plain ol' geekiness.