Sunday, June 1, 2014


No one knows the secret to travel across the Universe or the Galaxy for that matter and yet NASA has the ability to figure out atmospheres of exoplanets; how is that possible?

Light is the key.

Consider the distant world Titan, NASA has. Titan is the largest moon of Saturn. Of Saturn’s natural satellites it is the only one known to have a dense atmosphere and the only known object with stable bodies of liquid present. From liquid hydrocarbon lakes to water-ice and cryovolcanos, much has been discovered about Titan thanks to the Cassini-Huygens mission in 2004 but much also remained a mystery. But mysteries are merely things not understood yet.

Fast forward a few years. The data had already been collected but there was much that was yet to be interpreted. Scientists were able by studying the light of sunsets on Saturn’s satellite Titan to show how spectra is altered when passing through a hazy atmosphere, in this way they were able to give refreshed meaning to the spectral readings of the atmosphere of Titan and other distant worlds. Taking data from the four observations Cassini made of Titan between 2006 & 2011, researchers from NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field California were able to give analysis details. Even more incredible is that this analysis can be repeated with information from other exoplanets to reveal the secrets that they hold.

Scientists capture spectral readings all the time (The study of light broken up into its component thus indicating the gases etc. it has traveled through.) A telescope permits them to travel through the Universe, however even better is that in spite of the fact that these other planetary systems exist at mind-numbing distances from Earth, scientists still do manage to capture spectral readings through probes such as Cassini.

This allows scientists to decipher such things as the planet’s gaseous composition, its temperature, and the way the atmosphere is structured. Spectroscopy utilizes light from stars and other bodies that travels through an atmosphere, a galaxy, an unknown (fill in the blank) and determines things such as composition, temperature, density, mass, distance, luminosity, and relative motion using Doppler Shift measurements. Add to that, thanks to Keck’s Observatory and other advanced instrumentation, spectroscopy lets scientists identify silicon dust in the clouds of gas giant planets like HD 209458b located 150 light-years away. (NASA/JPL-Caltech)

It really is a big galaxy and yet it gets smaller every day.

No comments:

Post a Comment