Planet at Alpha Centauri

I have been meaning to write about the planet astronomers have discovered orbiting Alpha Centauri. I think this is quite exciting since Alpha Centauri is the nearest star, except the the Sun of course, only about four light years away. Here is some information from the International Business Times.

A planet with a mass similar to Earth has been discovered in Alpha Centauri System, just right outside our Solar System. What makes this planet stand out among hundreds of exoplanets previously discovered?

Here are 10 Things You Need to Know about Alpha Centauri and this Neighboring Planet:

10. Alpha Centauri is composed of three stars: Alpha Centauri A, Alpha Centauri B and Proxima Centauri, which is shining close to the Sun, the star at the center of the Solar System.

9. Alpha Centauri is a complicated system because its stars orbit one another. Further studies were made to confirm whether the orbiting body is indeed a planet.

8. Alpha Centauri is only 4.3 light years away from Earth.

7. The recently discovered unnamed planet in the Alpha Centauri System has the same mass as Earth. It is the nearest planet to Earth compared to other planets – 840 so far – discovered in the past.

6. In contrast to Mercury’s distance to the sun during orbit, the newly-discovered planet is closer to the star it orbits, suggesting extreme temperature on the surface — about 1,500C, according to scientists.

5. The neighbor planet was found near Alpha Centauri B, six million kilometers away.

4. The Harps instrument spotted the planet from the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla facility in Chile.

3. Four years of observation revealed the planet orbits Alpha Centauri B in just 3.2 to 3.6 days, a far contrast to earth’s 365 days.

2. Normally, more planets are discovered once a planet and its star have been properly identified. “The prospects are excellent for finding further planets in this system. Everything we know indicates that when you find one planet like this you’re very likely to find additional planets further out, so it’s very exciting in terms of looking forward to further detection,” Greg Laughlin of the University of California at Santa Cruz told The Guardian.

1. The Alpha Centauri planet discovery is ordinary-but-promising in space exploration. “Even if the discovery just stands perfectly normal in the discoveries we have had up to now, it’s a landmark discovery, because it’s very low-mass and it’s our closest neighbor,” St├ęphane Udry of Switzerland’s Geneva Observatory told BBC.

With a surface temperature of 1500 degrees Celsius, we won’t be colonizing that planet any time soon, and of course, with our present technology, it would still take thousands of years to get there. Well, if they ever invent warp drive, that that will be our first stop.

 

Third Time Pays for All

I watched the third debate last night, but I was tired and didn’t really pay much attention. I got the impression that Romney was a little less steady than he was in the other two debates. I noticed that Obama really gave the impression that he did not want to be there at all. He was more aggressive in attacking Romney but his face settled into a frown while Romney was talking.

I don’t think that Obama enjoys the political process all that much. He likes giving soaring speeches to cheering crowds but he doesn’t enjoy being questioned or challenged. Or maybe he feels he is somehow above working at campaigning for re-election, or that sharing a platform with Governor Romney is demeaning somehow. Whatever the case, he is not enjoying himself and it shows.

I am not sure how much these debates actually tell us about the candidates. The skills needed to do well in the debates are not much like the skills needed to be a successful president. It is really not necessary for a president to know all the policy details, that is what his staff is for. It is also not necessarily good for a president to make quick decisions. No president ever says anything in public that is not carefully considered. Obama has been ridiculed for his excessive use of the teleprompter, but considering that any stray comment the president makes might have profound implications all over the world, it is probably better if he doesn’t speak extemporaneously.

On the other hand, perhaps the debates do tell us something about each man’s character. We see the candidate unfiltered by the media and his protective staff. His debating style might tell us what kind of president he is likely to be. In a way, the debates are like a trial by single combat, only with words instead of weapons. We might just as well have the two candidates arm wrestle. That might be more entertaining. It would be a whole lot easier to determine who won.