The hunt for orbiting exoplanets is in full swing -- NASA recently reported finding five distant orbiting bodies, as well as some other oddities, with its Kepler telescope -- but with so much space between us and these faraway bodies, it's often difficult for researchers to know exactly what they're looking at. But by keeping close watch on a triple planetary system about 130 light-years from Earth, ESO scientists have captured the first direct spectrum -- a kind of "chemical fingerprint" -- from a planet orbiting a distant star.
Using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT), the team captured the spectrum from a giant exoplanet orbiting a sun-like star about 1.5 times the mass of our sun. The planets were discovered in 2008 by another group of researchers, but the ESO team was interested in the system because of its likeness to our own solar system.
Researchers were not expecting to find life there, as the specific planet under observation is roughly ten times the size of Jupiter and maintains a temperature of about 800 degrees Celsius. But through an extremely long exposure -- more than five hours -- VLT's NACO infrared instrument was able to see through the brightness of the nearby star and capture the spectrum of the planet directly for the first time ever.
So what did the researchers find? Unsurprisingly, they're not really sure. Planetary spectra offer information on the chemical makeup of a planet's atmosphere, which in theory should lend insight on how the planet formed, what its surface is like and whether or not life might exist there. But the chemical signature of this particular planet defied even the theoretical models put forth by scientists who thought they knew what we were looking at. It's a prescient reminder of exactly how much we don't know about the cosmos -- and how much is left to discover.
The researchers have now turned their efforts to the other two planets in the system, with hopes of comparing the spectra of three planets in the same system for the first time in coming months.
I know this is going to enrage the light is the same everywhere people but here I go.
Do we really know the frequency of light somewhere else, is it the same throughout our universe? We live on a rock that we never get off of except for photo opps orbiting the planet just above the atmosphere. Spaceships sent out into space phone home with instruments calibrated to earth's known frequencies when they phone home they do it with these instruments, the wavelength of the sent instrument would be same as home when it leaves the spacecraft but on its journey home it may get stretched or shrunk a bit and gain or lose energy along the way by the path it takes through the fabric of space. When that light wave gets back to earth it is received as the same wavelength because that is what we calibrated that spacecraft too. So in other words we get the same frequency of wavelength as is sent therefore we think the whole universe is uniform in our confined space within our suns influence. We know that the fabric of space/time is stretched or shrunk by gravity's influences as a result the length of that wavelength changes.
Let's say one of the light waves in the hydrogen atom a billion light years away has less energy but longer wavelength of light there but here on earth it is received with higher energy and smaller wavelength which fits our model of what a part of the hydrogen atoms spectra should look like. What I am saying is -- Is light so uniform throughout the universe that we can say the frequency of light gathered billions of light years away is the same as the our standard frequency of light. Meaning the spectra of light that makes up the hydrogen atom is the same here as it is there???
Is space time so good at converting different wavelength of light from one place to another just as the conservation of energy is uniform for predicting energy lost to energy gained, so no matter where you are it converts its calibrated wave length to ours when we receive it???
Or the massive planet under investigation gravity well and its light waves transient to earth may be effecting the lights wavelength and energy that it is emitting, we receive that light as something different than the same particle spectra that we associate it to be on earth.
lastcoment reminded me of the fantastic journey
i agree, but think its a differnt arrangement of molecules than what we`re used to considreing the planet is the biggest (only) ever measured outside our solar system, that, combined with the differences in the sun could affect the arrangements of the molicules on the planet, it could be anything from gravitational waves to optical illusions, or even a form of `life` we`ve never even imagined on the planet itself, since evolution occurs is things as small as protiens without the help of even RNA
First its hard to address your thoughts as there are several misconceptions about light.
Lets use the spacecraft example you pointed out. Say that we send a laser and detector on the spacecraft. This detector is calibrated on Earth (both in the same section of space-time) like you said, and it says that the laser is X. Now we do the same detection when the laser and detector are orbiting Jupiter (slightly larger gravity well). But since the detector was calibrated to read the laser as X when they experience the same section of space-time, the detector still thinks the laser is X. At this point the spacecraft tells us digitally (1s and 0s) that it is X. Transmission through the solar system wouldnt matter since we will be looking at the digital signal.
So now we know that we would perceive the same X whether on Earth or not as long as we are in the same frame as the measurement. Beyond this your intrigue is philisophical and is simplified to whether or not you see blue the same way I see blue.
Well according to you there are 3 possibilities:
1. Everywhere light behaves the same way.
2. In distant parts of the galaxy light behaves differently and space time is so "good" that it always appears to us to apply to our Earth models.
3. In distant parts of the galaxy light behaves differently and it is not corrected for.
Let's start with number 3:
How do you define a "significant distance away" for light to behave differently? Is our sun not a significant distance away? How about the next nearest star?
This can be entirely thrown out by Occam's razor. If it always appears to us to be congruent with Earth models, then there is no need to invent a scheme where it's different everywhere and somehow magically ends up like here on Earth.
Easily the most verifiable and simple explanation.
Light is a form of energy. As einstein predicted, energy is a property of mass and the speed of light. Since matter has mass, it also has a verifiable light spectra.
If in some distant part of the galaxy, the SAME molecule of hydrogen started off with "less energy," then either its mass or the speed of light is different. Now we can throw out the speed of light is different, so we are left with its mass is different.
The only things that affect mass are invariant mass and velocity. Things like velocities of distant stars are easily calculable and correctable in our equation for mass (and therefore Energy).
So that leaves us with invariant mass. This is the "rest" mass of a single piece of matter.
What you are then postulating is that the "rest mass" of hydrogen is different in different places of the Universe.
That would mean that the same piece of matter behaves differently in different parts of the Universe.
There has never been any evidence to this fact and therefore it is not considered correct.
What good is the study of the universe 130 light years away when we cannot even send life 5 light minutes away?
HiggsPrime19 wrote - At this point the spacecraft tells us digitally (1s and 0s) that it is X. Transmission through the solar system wouldnt matter since we will be looking at the digital signal.
rlb2 reply - Mariner and Voyager spacecraft are farther away from earth than any other man-made objects there signals uses the old analog not digital signals, radio waves that is a part of the light spectrum.
Note there is unknown factor that appears by the radio waves, speed of light, we are receiving back from them that show that they are slowing down more than they should be. One of the many proposed ideas that account for this is that the speed of light isn't the same everywhere we look in the vacuum of space...
the point would be to use a digital signal so that the result would be independent of the transmission.
It is already known that the speed of light varies in different media. So you could still reduce that to the case that the 'vacuum of space' is not a perfect vacuum.
Everywhere light behaves the same way. (do we have any reason to think otherwise?)