Published on March 20, 2008
Slide2: 2 There are 200 billion stars in our galaxy… …one of them is our Sun. Slide3: The sun has nine planets… …we know of one that has life. Slide4: 2 Is there another Earth out there? Are there other planets in the universe? Slide5: 2 Some planets were known to the ancients who watched them move against the night sky. Slide6: Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn were the “Wandering Stars.” “Planet” comes from the Greek word for “wanderer.” Slide7: Over the centuries, telescopes got better and better… Galileo and his Refractive Telescope, 1609 Herschel’s Reflecting Telescope, 1789 The Hooker Telescope - Mount Wilson, ca 1920 Slide8: And other planets were “discovered.” Uranus Pluto Neptune 5 The year 1781 The first planet “discovered.” William and Caroline Herschel The year 1846 First observed by Galle and d'Arrest (based on calculations by Adams and Le Verrier). The year 1930 Discovered by Clyde Tombaugh Slide9: “There are infinite worlds both like and unlike this world of ours...We must believe that in all worlds there are living creatures and planets and other things we see in this world.” Epicurius c. 300 B.C But what about more distant worlds? Thousands of years ago, Greek philosophers speculated. And so did medieval scholars.: And so did medieval scholars. The year 1584 "There are countless suns and countless earths all rotating around their suns in exactly the same way as the seven planets of our system . . . The countless worlds in the universe are no worse and no less inhabited than our Earth” Giordano Bruno in De L'infinito Universo E Mondi 4 Slide11: And in the last hundred years, Hollywood came knocking. Slide12: While Hollywood worked on the public imagination, scientists started to turn science fiction into science fact. Slide13: In 1995, a breakthrough: the first planet around another star. A Swiss team discovers a planet – 51 Pegasi – 48 light years from Earth. Artist's concept of an extrasolar planet (Greg Bacon, STScI) 7 Didier Queloz and Michel Mayor Slide14: And then the discoveries started rolling in: “First new solar system discovered” USA TODAY April 16, 1999 “10 More Planets Discovered” Washington Post August 6, 2000 “New Planet Seen Outside Solar System” New York Times April 19, 1996 Slide15: You can even see some of the stars that have planets in the night sky… Slide16: …if you know where to look Slide17: Just how far are these new planets? Slide18: But not far on a cosmic scale. Slide19: Planet-hunters are detectives using powerful telescopes and computers 9 How have we found all these planets? Slide20: Scientists use the Doppler shift to measure the tug of planets on stars. Here is how it works: If an unseen planet tugs the star back and forth… …the light from the star shifts slightly to the red as the star moves away from you. …and slightly to the blue as it moves toward you. Astronomers can detect these shifts by very carefully observing the spectra (or colors) of the stars. Slide21: But if the goal is to find planets with evidence of life, the ones discovered so far are not good candidates. Slide22: 17 Most of new discoveries are gas giants like Jupiter or Saturn and in the wrong location. The right location in our solar system. Slide23: Most of them have highly elliptical orbits, or are too close to their parent stars. Many of the new planets get too hot or too cold to support life. Too hot! Too cold! Just right! Slide24: Finding another Earth won’t be easy because: 1) Earth-like planets are small, Slide25: The planets discovered so far are closer in mass to Jupiter. Jupiter’s diameter is eleven times greater than the Earth’s, and it has over 300 times the mass. This is what we are looking for This is what we’ve found Slide26: Stars are a billion times brighter… Slide27: …than the planet …hidden in the glare. Slide28: Like this firefly. And how will we know a planet supports life?: And how will we know a planet supports life? Look for evidence of oxygen Look for liquid water Analyze the reflected light from the planet to see if the planet has an atmosphere Look for signs of biological activity (methane) and rule out other explanations. 17 Slide30: And putting telescopes in space will help in the search. Slide31: 19 So now the hunt for Earth-like planets really blasts off… …on the ground and in space. Keck Interferometer Spitzer Space Telescope Terrestrial Planet Finder Space Interferometry Mission Kepler Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer Slide32: As NASA gets ready to launch the most sensitive instruments ever built. And with these missions, we will use different methods to find planets. Slide33: For example, we will look for the star’s light to dim slightly when a planet passes in front. This is called the transit method Slide34: We will measure the tiny wobble of stars against other stars in the background. This is called astrometry Slide35: Telescopes that block the light from the central star can take images of planets that might be in orbit around them. We will block out the bright light from the star. Slide36: And we will explore regions where planets formed to get clues about the universe In an early stage, before planets are formed, some stars are shrouded in dense disks of gas and dust. Slide37: Over the next several years, we will continue to try to answer the big question: Slide38: We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time. T.S. Eliot Four Quartets For more information go to http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov 26 And one day, we might turn again to the poets and philosophers… Slide39: Most of the missions* depicted in this presentation are a part of NASA’s Navigator Program. NASA’s Navigator program is an integral part of NASA’s Astronomical Search for Origins Theme, within NASA’s Office of Space Science. *Kepler and the Spitzer Space Telescope are not a part of the Navigator Program. Additional Information This presentation was created by the Navigator Program Public Engagement team. For more information go to: http://planetquest.jpl.nasa.gov 27 NASA’s Vision: To improve life here, To extend life to there, To find life beyond.