Friday, November 09, 2007

Planets, Planets Everywhere

The vast majority of valid scientific work is brick laying. Following the trail of reproducible demonstrable observations and adding to the body of work. The theorists sketch out outlines but it is up to individuals, doing the piece by piece grunt work of observation and calculation, that either confirm or refute hypothesized ideas. Recently, the piece work in astronomy is confirming planets outside our solar system. This week researchers announce the first star with five confirmed planets.

NASA: Researchers discovered the fifth planet using the Doppler technique, in which a planet's gravitational tug is detected by the wobble it produces in the parent star. … The newly discovered planet weighs about 45 times the mass of Earth and may be similar to Saturn in its composition and appearance. The planet is the fourth from 55 Cancri and completes one orbit every 260 days. Its location places the planet in the "habitable zone," a band around the star where the temperature would permit liquid water to pool on solid surfaces.

This discovery is planet number 264 listed in The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia. The star 55 Cancri is similar to the sun in terms of mass and radius, but very different in other ways such as heavy metal composition. It is also important to realize that the vast majority of planets being discovered around stars are giant gas balls like those from Saturn through Neptune. Part of the tingle of excitement with this discovery its presence in the “habitable zone” of the star.

As outlined in The Search For Life Outside the Solar System, there are specific physical requirements for life and liquid water is the most important factor. Liquids are a transition state between gasses and solids and thus exist only when it is not too hot or not too cold. Everything in space is either extremely cold or extremely hot, except in the region near the fire where the extreme heat cools just enough for life enabling fluid solvency as the energy disperses out into the frigid void.

In the above paper, there is a formula for calculating the distance a solid object needs to be from a star for the object to be in the temperature range of liquid water. That distance is between 0.1AU and 2.0 AU depending on the heat of the star. (One AU being the distance between Earth and the Sun). Astronomers know different stars produce different amounts of heat and there is variation in all uncontrolled combustion.

Advocates for “The Global Warming Hoax”, claiming human activity adversely effects planetary temperature, ignore the role of heat in the CO2 - heat interaction. Their fixation on the carbon dioxide side of the reaction distorts perspective to the point of absurdity. Their obsession fails acknowledge the primacy of thermodynamics. Earth will never exceed habitable temperatures as long as our planet exists in the habitable zone.