Smallest exoplanet thus far!
February 4, 2009
Today the science is the top story! You can only imagine how giddy I was to hear about the French COROT satellite’s latest find- an exoplanet only twice the size of earth! That’s UNPRECEDENTED, people. Unfortunately, we don’t know much about it besides its size. COROT looks at other stars and watches for the slight dimming by a planet transiting in front of it. It’s sensitive enough to detect the miniscule dimming caused by this comparatively tiny planet, but that’s all it can do. In order to know what it’s made of, we have to know its mass, and the only way to know that is to watch how much the planet tugs on its parent star as it orbits, and since the planet is so small, the tug is also VERY small. We just don’t have anything capable of detecting such a tiny doppler shift…. yet. This planet is also orbiting so close that it’s practically touching the surface of its parent star, so it is VERY HOT, and thus completely uninhabitable. In fact, it’s very possible that if it has a rocky or metal surface (which is almost certain given its size), then its surface is molten. All this and more info can be found on the Bad Astronomy post from which this information was taken. Dr. Plait even goes so far as to say that we might find an earth twin (a planet roughly the same size as earth, in roughly the same orbit around a sun-like star) in the next few years. But again, we won’t be able to know much about it for several more years, until we get more sensitive telescopes operational.
Space Shuttle Discovery’s launch got delayed until at least Feb. 19th due to issues with a control valve that regulates the flow of hydrogen from the external tank into the orbiter’s engines during liftoff.
The economic slump has claimed its first music festival victim of 2009, the Langerado Festival, which is normally held in southern Florida. (This year it was slated to take place in Miami.) According to this Billboard.com article, artists confirmed to play included Death Cab for Cutie, Broken Social Scene, Ryan Adams & the Cardinals, The Faint, The Pogues, Girl Talk, Black Kids, and many others. The promoters cited poor ticket sales as the sole cause of the cancelation. I have a sick feeling this may happen to some of the other smaller festivals that have popped up in recent years. People are much more hestiant to spend money on entertainment right now. The sticker shock of $100 or more for a ticket to your favorite yearly music festival is hard to overcome in times like these. More details can be found in this Miami Herald article.
In my last post I listed the Bonnaroo lineup for 2009. Bonnaroo is arguably the nation’s biggest outdoor music festival, and I definitely don’t think it will suffer the same fate as Langerado. It’s in a different class altogether. I also think that the inclusion of Phish in the lineup pretty much makes it recession-proof. If there’s any band out there that can bring in thousands of obsessively dedicated fans who will literally scrape the bottoms of their wallets to see them, it’s Phish. If you know me, you know that I hate jam bands and can’t stand most of their fans, but I think getting Phish to headline (along with Springsteen of course) was probably the smartest thing they could’ve done to counteract the dismal economy’s influence on ticket sales. I can hear the hippies now…. “duuuude… the economy like, totally blows… but duuuude, PHISH is rockin’ two nights at the ‘roo this year! We GOTTA find the money! Even if it means buying less weed!”