Doc Philly P’s got the skinny on a couple of supremely cool images re: extrasolar planets, including the very first actual optical image of one (shot by the almighty HST, natch). The always enthusiastic BA is downright ecstatic about these files, and rightly so–this is huge. That Eye of Sauron-esque Hubble shot shows an actual planet around another star. And we took a picture of it. That’s astoundingly fantastic.
Last year at the Blank Blank Planetarium, we ran a program called Light Years from Andromeda, a fantastic canned show about intergalactic distances and light speed benchmarking, made by producing powerhouse team Mark and Carolyn Petersen of Loch Ness Productions–see it if you can, it’s narrated by Lieutenant Michael Worf.
I mean, Michael Dorn.
Son of Mogh.
Anyhoo, I ran a short demo with the show about astronomical mysteries and the science that solved them (in a lame attempt to cash in on the CSI craze), and one of the points I referred to was solar wobble, which indicates the presence of a large, nearby planet.
This prompted a handful of questions about extrasolar planets, and I thought to myself, “Self, you better study up on XSPs so you can answer these questions better in the future.” So I did. And waaaay back then in early 2007, the number of confirmed extrasolar planets was in the 60s.
Today, it’s 326.
Imagine what it will be in a year, in five years, in 20 years… As our telescopes get better, our computers get faster, and scientists get cleverer, that number is going to grow, astronomically. (Yeah, I went there.)
Pretty soon the public will start demanding that we name these new planets.
I suggest Star Wars characters. Or Harry Potter. Either is good, really.