So it hasn’t escaped my notice that my hit count has been treading absurdly high in the past couple of days. And it equally hasn’t been missed that most of the views are devoted to my Hubble contest post. Well, it turns out I’m a bit late, but the reason is that NASA has released new images since Hubble’s last repair.
“Hubble is back in action. Together, NASA and Hubble are opening new vistas on the universe,” astronomer and frequent Hubble user Heidi Hammel said.
With the obligatory quote out of the way, let’s get to what everyone wants: the photos.
I need to get back to some science. Fortunately, CO2 was recently detected on an exo-planet.
NASA said its Hubble Space Telescope has discovered carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of “hot Jupiter” planet HD 189733b, which orbits a nearby star 63 light-years from Earth.
The planet is itself too hot to support life — its surface is about 1,800 degrees F (1,000 degrees C).
But the astronomers said the observations are a proof-of-concept demonstration that the basic chemistry for life can be measured on planets orbiting other stars.
So the CO2 itself doesn’t mean anything particularly important, but it does lend credence to the idea that it is only a matter of time before astrobiology becomes an enormous field. How exciting would it be to finally confirm that we aren’t all alone, afterall? Granted, we may never make contact with any life we find, most obviously if it isn’t intelligent, but also simply because it may be so far away. This CO2, for example, was produced at 63 years ago. Assuming there was life that close (which would be almost as tremendous as the discovery of the life itself) – and it was intelligent – it would be 126 years before we could make two way contact; that’s 63 years for our (presumably) radiowaves to travel at the speed of light, reach the life-bearing planet, and then 63 years for a return message, provided the exo-life even gave a damn.