There is so much that man has yet to discover and space exploration provides an exciting avenue for our curiosity. Astrophysicists have made groundbreaking discoveries that changed our initial perceptions and paradigms of space. For example, for years we believed that Earth is the only planet with running water but thanks to space exploration, we now know Mars has intermittent running water as well. What others beliefs have been upended by scientists and explorers?
Discovery of exo-planets in 1992 using telescopes changed our perception of Earth being the only planet in the solar system. These entities are orbiting planets around stars in the universe and have helped to change human beings’ understanding of the heliocentric model of the Earth, first proposed by Nicolaus Copernicus. The discovery made it clear that there are other planets and bodies that exist
in the solar system, opening up other routes for further exploration. HARPS since 2004 has made use of the Kepler space telescope to discover more than 2000 exoplanets.
The concept of the galaxy was first introduced by Edwin Powell Hubble in 1923 when he located dozens of variable stars in the Andromeda and calculated their distance. People were hardly acquainted with the knowledge of galaxies in the Milky Way at that time. As stars and exoplanets were discovered, scientists probed further to understand the solar system and its components,
leading to the revelation that the universe is made up of different galaxies. Our solar system is located in the Milky Way galaxy and it is only one of the millions of other galaxies that make up the vast universe.
The concept of the galaxy was first introduced by Edwin Powell Hubble in 1923 when he located dozens of variable stars in the Andromeda and calculated their distance. People were hardly acquainted with the knowledge of galaxies in the Milky Way at that time. As stars and exoplanets were discovered, scientists probed further to understand the solar system and its components, leading to the revelation that the universe is made up of different galaxies. Our solar system is located in the Milky Way galaxy and it is only one of the millions of other galaxies that make up the vast universe.
THE DISTANT MONSTER
A more recent space discovery was the Planet HD 106906b, termed as a ‘super-monster’ being 11 times more monolithic than Jupiter. The distance of HD from its origin-star is an astonishing 650 astronomical units (AU) where an AU is the average distance between the sun and our planet. Compared to Mars’ 1.5 AUs, the HD has a mind-bending range lying far away from the rest of the planets in the solar system.
The discovery can lead to further investigation into planet formation and a better understanding of exoplanets orbiting at a larger distance.
THE TRIPLE-STAR SYSTEM
The triple-star system was discovered by the Kepler Space Observatory in 2016 after a research mission of 4 years that led to the revelation of the three stars bound by gravity. The system consists of two small stars in which the tiny one revolves around the larger one every 6 hours. Collectively known as KIC, it’s a mystery astronomers and scientists have still not been able to solve. Researchers termed the behavior as binary, revealing that the pair was orbited by a third body, a stellar star, every 204 days. Although the observatory provided ample details to UK astronomers, the analysis stated that the KIC required further probe. It is still referred to as the ‘impossible triple star’ that remains a mystery.
Could we be ice-skating in space some day? Scientists have found out that the temperature of space is -270 degrees, resulting in the formation of ice on certain planets like Uranus and Neptune. The presence of ice suggests a possibility of water on these planets and perhaps, rocky formations and other species.
TO INFINITY AND BEYOND
From satellites orbiting the earth for wind measurements to the completion of Copernicus Earth observation fleet, new endeavors by the Galileo navigation system and Tesla Roadster’s space launch, space exploration appears to be in full swing.
As Christa McAuliffe said, “Space is for everybody. It’s not just for a few people in science or math, or for a select group of astronauts. That’s our new frontier out there, and it’s everybody’s business to know about space”. It won’t be long before you’re planning a trip to Mars or the Moon.