Wednesday, November 7, 2007

From Deep Space Fifth Planet Discovered

Seeing what no one has seen before, a surprise fifth planet revealed itself to scientists in California. The shock of a massive planet orbiting a sun star, mirroring our solar system patterns, creates more plausibility that life could exist elsewhere in Deep Space. More mature and a mite duller, 55 Cancri is the only other known galactic phenom other than our Milky Way to have 5 acolyte planets in a recognizable orbit. Best guess right now is the planet would be most akin to Saturn with mostly rocks at the center and gas as its main attribute.

"In fact, it's a little hard to imagine that there's just nothing there in this big gap. So the suggestion is there might be small rocky planets, like Venus, Mars or Earth."

Of course, none of these planets can actually be seen - the astronomers use tiny wobbles in the movement of the star to detect the presence of planets tugging on the star as they encircle it.

But you can see the star itself - 55 Cancri - easily, with only a pair of binoculars, at the right time of year and with a clear night sky.

Lick Observatory's astronomers operating the Shane Telescope spotted the mass 41 light years away from the Cancer constellation. The planet's orbit is pegged at about 260 days for one trip around around its star and is about 4 times the size of Earth. NASA announced the findings.

The power of telescopes are invaluable to astronomers and those who searched the heavens for the extraordinary throughout history. The Telescope: It's History, Technology and Future by Geoff Andersen gives a robust look at telescopes of all strengths.

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