Lightyear Progress in Planets and Space Science
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Tremendous Progress in Space Science
Tremendous Progress in Space Science
Earth-sized planets discovered
Lot of progress has been made in astronomy in recent times. New planets have been discovered in far off spaces in our galaxy. Our galaxy Milky Way has around 150 billion stars. The galaxy is spiral in shape and from end to end the distance is around 30000 light years (one light year is the distance travelled by light in one year at a speed of 300000 km per second). Two new earth-sized planets at a distance of around 950 light years from us have been discovered by using Kepler’s Telescope recently. Even the temperature on these planets has been measured approximately and astronomers have ruled out the possibility of life in these two planets because of the high temperature existing there.
Possibility of ET had fascinated mankind
Man had been fascinated from times immemorial about the possibility of extra terrestrial life (ET) existing. So many science fictions have been written and so many movies have been produced on this theme. Man’s curiosity to find his counterpart elsewhere knows no bounds. Imagination runs wild. Scientists are trying to find out any such possibility within our solar system and outside in our own galaxy. It will not be long before some positive report comes in. Even our own solar system has not been explored thoroughly because of financial and technological limitations. When Europe is immersed in the debt crisis and USA is faced with the prospect of economic recession, who will bother to spend on space exploration? But time will change and space exploration will receive a fillip in the not too distant future.
In our solar system, the rocky planets are revolving around the sun very close and gaseous planets which are quite large in size revolve around at a far away distance. But this is not so in many stellar systems. In one of the systems where the star has five planets revolving around it, the giant and small planets, rocky and gaseous planets all are inter mixed and revolve around the star without any order. This has caused surprise among the scientists.
Mars has artificial satellites?
The ringed planet Saturn rose over the skies on December 21. Saturn has nine rings and 31 moons. A Russian spacecraft supposed to land on a moon of Mars is stuck in the earth’s orbit and will crash next month. About 200 kg of debris will fall on earth. Mars has two moons namely Phobos and Deimos. While the density of other natural satellites of planets is sizeable, the densities of Phobos and Deimos are very light. This has prompted a speculation as to whether these satellites could be artificial satellites. If these two are indeed artificial satellites, the question arises as to who had put them in the orbit around Mars? No country in the earth had done this including NASA. There is a possibility that once upon a time, an advanced civilization could have flourished on the planet Mars and this civilization could have put these two satellites in the orbit around Mars.
Black holes discovered
Astronomers have discovered two biggest black holes ever seen. Each one is around 300 million light years from earth. The combined mass of these two black holes is much more than the mass of thirty billion sons. Black holes are objects with density equal to infinity (very very large). Nothing can escape from a black hole – not even light. Laws of physics break down inside a black hole. Giant stars collapse to become black holes. The size of a black hole is much smaller than the tip of a pin. Black holes exert tremendous gravitational pull to attract all the objects at a close distance.
Star Trek and Captain Kirk
Those who had seen the famous TV series Star Trek wherein Captain Kirk and his crew of the star ship explore far away places in space in search of ET will be curious to get a report from the scientists about ET somewhere in the universe. If only our scientists possess a star ship like the one Captain Kirk possessed, it could ease their jobs very much. But unfortunately the present spacecrafts do not meet the requirements of exploring vast space even within our solar system, let alone exploring outside our system. It will take a spacecraft four years to visit Mars and come back to earth. It will take around one lakh years for our fastest spacecraft to visit our nearest star Alpha Centauri which is around four light years away. Therefore people can see exploration of space only in TV series like Star Trek. In reality it is not possible in our lifetime.
Europa and Titan may sustain life
But we need not get despair. Our present technology is enough to explore planets and their satellites in our solar system. There are some possible places like Mars and the satellite Titan of Saturn where possibilities of life exist. Titan is the only satellite in our solar system which possesses an atmosphere. Mars, with its dried canals and rivers, gives out signals of life having existed on it once upon a time. Even today, some form of basic life could exist under its soil. Scientists can explore these possibilities. Jupiter’s moon Europa has icy water where life could exist. NASA put in Kepler telescope in space in 2009 to explore the existence of earth-sized planets in our galaxy. Out of the nearly 150 billion stars, Kepler telescope explored around one lakh stars and came up with findings that around 2300 planets could possibly fit in this category. Further studies are going on. In 2018, NASA will put in space a much advanced James Webb Telescope which will explore with more efficiency. Kepler telescope pointed out to possibilities of life existing on Kepler-22b planet around 600 light years away from earth.
USA was accused for pulling down Russia’s spacecraft
It is speculated that Kepler-22b could have water, atmosphere and life. Russia’s Phobos-Grunt spacecraft is reported to have spotted signs of life. It is not clear whether it spotted signs of life on Mars itself or on Phobos. The spacecraft was supposed to land on Phobos and bring back its soil to earth. But its engines failed and it is struck in orbit around earth. Russia is accusing USA for pulling down the probe spacecraft with its radars stationed in Alaska. Scientists say that our solar system had a fifth giant planet apart from Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, which was knocked away from the solar system into space by some mysterious force.
First of its kind weather satellite
Hubble telescope has found out a disc around a black hole. Scientists and students are going to perform a micro gravity experiment in space in 2012 aboard the International Space Station. Students will be asked to find a two minute video of the test, while experienced scientists and astronomers will conduct the test. China has also made great strides in space science. China launched an unmanned spacecraft for a docking exercise with the Tiangong-1 space laboratory module. USA has launched a first of its kind weather satellite. The satellite will have five instruments to learn water and temperature in the atmosphere, how aerosols and clouds affect temperature and how plants in sea and land respond to environmental changes. This year also witnessed the first Soyuz launch from Europe spaceport.
Indo-French weather research satellite Megha-Tropiques is safely orbiting the earth now. The satellite will study the formation of clouds and powerful cyclones. For all the future space missions, space debris is proving to be a threat. A littered space is because of many space expeditions sent in the past and also because of natural phenomena like meteors. China launched its space module 2FT1 carrier rocket on its National Day loaded with Tiangong-1. A planet with two sunsets and sunrises has been discovered. This is because the planet was found revolving around two stars. Now nobody will say that Star Wars was a fiction. The planet Kepler-16b is around 200 light years away from us and moves in a circular orbit around 65 million miles from its two suns.
China cannot do a surprise attack on India anymore
Fifty years since the Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin’s space flight in 1961, space science has made tremendous progress. China has announced that it will be launching 25 satellites into space before 2011 closes. India has also made great strides in space science by putting its satellite Chandryan to orbit around the moon. The Indian satellite made great discoveries like for example presence of water on the lunar surface which astonished even NASA scientists. Space technology also has ensured India’s security. In 1962, China amassed ten lakh soldiers across its border with India secretly and launched a surprise attack. India was caught napping as it did not expect this attack. China captured 32000 sq km of Indian Territory. Today such a surprise attack is ruled out because if China assembles even hundred soldiers on the McMahon line, its border with India, satellites will detect the movement and flash the information to India. A big attack like the 1962 type may not come as China will fear India’s nuclear might also and also secret assembling of the Red Army across the Indian border is no longer possible due to development of space technology.
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