Since the 1990s, astronomers have catalogued more than 3,000 exoplanets using a fairly basic detection technique known as the transit method. But what if aliens are using the same technique to spy on us? A team of astronomers is now exploring this very exciting—if not totally terrifying—possibility.
The title of the new paper, published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, sums up the purpose of the study rather nicely: “Which stars can see Earth as a transiting exoplanet?” Indeed, astronomers on Earth use the transit method to spot exoplanets, so it stands to reason that alien astronomers might be using the same technique to spot us.
The transit method doesn’t allow astronomers to see an exoplanet directly. Rather, they’re seeing the temporary dimming of a distant star, in a possible sign that an exoplanet is passing in front from our perspective. These sudden drops in luminosity are very slight, but detectable nonetheless. These dimming events can yield other important data as well, allowing astronomers to determine the length of an exoplanet’s year, its temperature, and its chemical properties, the latter of which can be used to discern rocky planets from gas giants. Other detection techniques exist, such as the Doppler method, but the transit method continues to be the most reliable and straightforward.
The number of stars that we can observe through our telescopes seems almost endless, but the transit method means we’re caught in a rather glaring observational selection effect. With the transit technique, we can only spot exoplanets that pass in front of their host stars from our line of sight. Should a world be located a bit higher or lower along the ecliptic plane, well, that would mean we’re out of luck. Still, transits from our perspective happen more often than you might think, as astronomers have found thousands of exoplanets in this way.
Okay, enough exposition about exoplanets and the transit method—let’s return to the new study. Cornell astronomer Lisa Kaltenegger, along with Lehigh astronomer Joshua Pepper, “reverse the viewpoint and ask from which systems other observers could see Earth as a transiting planet,” as they write in their new paper. Using data collected by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), the scientists found 1,004 relatively nearby stars that fit into this category.
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By “this category,” the authors are referring to stars in the Earth Transit Zone (ETZ), the “region from which the Earth could be seen transiting the Sun, which is a thin strip around the ecliptic as projected on to the sky with a width of 0.528°,” write the study authors.
For the researchers, it was important to exclude stars farther than around 320 light-years away. At this (relatively) close distance, alien astronomers could still detect the paltry dimming of our Sun as caused by our tiny planet passing in front.
These alien astronomers could also detect a thing or
Stop watching college football. Right now. Yes, this is one of THOSE columns, where a self-styled sportswriter implores you to NOT watch a sport. I’ve read so many variations of those columns over the years — the majority of them written by Mike Lupica — that I already hate myself for writing one of my own.
Every smarmy liberal dickhead who ever said WELL THAT’S IT FOR ME AND THE NFL was either lying or a hilarious drop in a very large bucket. I’m still watching the NFL. I can make up all the excuses I like, but really it comes down to the fact that I just … want to. I’m like a gun rights activist that way.
STILLWATER — All is quiet with Oklahoma State football on this Saturday. The Cowboys and the Big 12 Conference found out last Sunday, in fact the Big 12 made the official announcement that a spike in COVID-19 positive tests and extensive contact tracing would make it necessary to postpone the Cowboys game at Baylor set for ABC television and a 6:30 p.m. kickoff. Now the ACC and No. 5 North Carolina at Florida State will get that coveted national television exposure.
As the week went on starting with the Big 12 Coaches Teleconference and then with his own Zoom conference on Thursday, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy revealed that he and OSU athletic director Mike Holder had at least inquired with the Big 12 about scheduling another opponent. Non conference was out of the question, but with eight Big 12 teams now off for Oct. 17 there were options. No advantage really, as Oklahoma State spent the past week getting ready for an opponent they would not play.
“Coach Holder and I discussed trying to find an opponent for this week and I guess that he spoke with the Big 12,” Gundy explained. “We were unsuccessful. I’m not sure exactly how many people or coaches I should say, or organizations that we were able actually to pursue, but we had those discussions based on we’re trying to play as many games as possible while we’re healthy and we want to take advantage of those Saturdays.”
No, the Big 12 was short sighted. In this crazy and highly unusual pandemic season of 2020 where games can be cancelled as quickly as 24 hours in advance of kickoff, we also know that games can constructed in a week or less. The Big 12 has one game to offer on Saturday with Kansas (minus head coach Les Miles) at West Virginia. Because FOX has no other college football inventory it is the FOX Big Noon Game of the Week. That changes next week and ESPN trumpeted the return of the other conferences with a promo announcement during GameDay, which had virtually no mention of the Big 12. Next week the Big Ten is back and right behind are the Pac-12, Mountain West, and MAC. The week before their return the SEC and ACC were staging big games and drawing attention. The Big 12 was virtually in hibernation!
This is really unforgiveable. The Big 12 with bluebloods Oklahoma and Texas struggling needs to build team brands more than any
The ISS posted an episode of “Down to Earth” Thursday, Oct. 15
NASA astronaut Drew Morgan described the Earth as a “perfect planet”
Morgan claims that, despite the pandemic, the Earth is still an Earth worth returning to
NASA astronaut Drew Morgan shared his experience on leaving Earth and living in the International Space Station (ISS) in an episode of “Down to Earth,” as the 20th anniversary of the ISS inhabiting people approaches.
“There’s an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the experience that so few humans have had,” began Morgan in a video posted Thursday, Oct. 15, at 1:04 p.m. EDT by the ISS’ official Twitter account (@Space_Station). The NASA astronaut expressed his moment of awe towards the home planet upon reaching outer space and peering down at it.
“We’re so fortunate to live on such a perfect planet positioned where it is in the solar system. We know of nothing quite like it,” continued Morgan.
The brief four-minute video posted by the ISS featured several astounding moments the crew members shared while in the space station, including spacewalks. On one occasion, Morgan had to sit on a robotic arm for twenty minutes, where he marvelled on the view.
“Without the obstruction of the atmosphere, without life being refracted, stars are much more distinct. They don’t have that twinkle anymore, everything is very crisp.” he described, adding that one could see infinitely more stars from where he was seated during his spacewalk on January.
The NASA astronaut who returned home in April also recalled some moments in the weeks that preceded their journey back home to Earth. During this time, the pandemic was already affecting the course of everyone’s lives, and even the astronauts felt its oppressive effects on the ISS.
Asked to make a video on their impressions of going back to Earth in the middle of a global pandemic, Morgan recorded himself panning the camera toward the Earth. In the video, Morgan said a line that struck the hearts of many back here on the planet:
“An Earth in crisis is still an Earth worth returning to.”
During a moment of reflection, Morgan explained how he and his crew members appreciated their time in space, but they still longed to return to the planet in all its greatness, problems and everything in between.