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Author Topic: Alpha Centauri B moves to and fro at about 20 inches a second.  (Read 791 times)
FirstAscent
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October 17, 2012, 04:37:35 AM
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Alpha Centauri B, one of three stars that are the closest to our solar system moves to and fro at about 20 inches a second. This is perhaps one of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the decade. Now, Alpha Centauri B is about 25 trillion miles away. So it's nice that we can now detect such small velocities in the star's wobble. Half a meter a second, it wobbles this way and that.

What causes that wobble? An earth sized planet which orbits the star. While extrasolar planet detections have become commonplace, we've never been able to determine if there were planets around the nearest star, until now. An added bonus: the earth sized planet is one of the smallest ever detected. It's a rocky world. Unfortunately, it's too close to the star to support life.

However, in general, where there's one rocky planet, there's another. Now we need to find one which orbits not 4 million miles from it's host star, but about 65 million miles away. That would put it in the habitable zone, where there could exist liquid water. If such a detection was made, the next step would be to apply technology in such a way that we could get one pixel in an image representing light from the planet. Difficult task. For every photon coming from such a planet, about 2 billion photons or so would come from the star.

But if we could get that pixel, we could do spectrographic analysis on it, and determine what kind of molecule it bounced off of. You know, molecules like water vapor, carbon dioxide, and so on. Observations over the course of a year, yielding just one pixel in each image, could tell us if there were specular reflections, which would indicate oceans of water. Such a pixel, and all its information, might be able to tell us if there was life on that planet, if it existed.

And it would only be 25 trillion miles or so away. Practically spitting distance. Why, a spacecraft like Voyager could get there in less than 70 thousand years.
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foggyb
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October 17, 2012, 05:01:07 AM
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How can that wobble possibly be detected?

Its like detecting a 1mm wobble from 49 billion miles away. Or, a four thousands of an inch wobble at 4.9 billion miles.

Those are ridiculous numbers. Surely the margin of error would be an order of magnitude greater than those measurements.
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October 17, 2012, 05:01:52 AM
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How can that wobble possibly be detected?

Its like detecting a 1mm wobble from 49 billion miles away.

Those are ridiculous numbers.

This stuff fascinates me, but I'm nowhere near smart enough to be able to grasp some of it. 

Charlie Kelly: I'm pleading the 5th.  The Attorney: I would advise you do that.  Charlie Kelly: I'll take that advice under cooperation, alright? Now, let's say you and I go toe-to-toe on bird law and see who comes out the victor?  The Attorney: You know, I don't think I'm going to do anything close to that and I can clearly see you know nothing about the law.
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October 17, 2012, 05:05:42 AM
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How can that wobble possibly be detected?

Its like detecting a 1mm wobble from 49 billion miles away.

Those are ridiculous numbers.
They use a spectrometer. They don't measure the wobble side to side, they measure the change in color of a spectral line as the star moves towards and away from us. You can make ridiculously accurate spectrometers, but even then they've achieved great results.
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October 17, 2012, 05:07:57 AM
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Oh, that makes more sense. Still, are they sure their devices check out? After all, there's no one at Alpha Centauri B to confirm.  Grin
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October 17, 2012, 05:10:20 AM
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But if we could get that pixel, we could do spectrographic analysis on it, and determine what kind of molecule it bounced off of. You know, molecules like water vapor, carbon dioxide, and so on. Observations over the course of a year, yielding just one pixel in each image, could tell us if there were specular reflections, which would indicate oceans of water. Such a pixel, and all its information, might be able to tell us if there was life on that planet, if it existed.

How many bitcoins does it cost to buy an ad on that pixel?

Can you manufacture a planet with a chemical composition that will generate my URL during spectrographic analysis, or do I need to provide this planet along with my ad copy?

Do the citizens of Alpha Centauri B have ears and mouths, and if so, do they have any experience working in a call center? How long is a day on the planet, and how does that affect the legality of mandatory overtime?

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October 17, 2012, 05:16:54 AM
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But if we could get that pixel, we could do spectrographic analysis on it, and determine what kind of molecule it bounced off of. You know, molecules like water vapor, carbon dioxide, and so on. Observations over the course of a year, yielding just one pixel in each image, could tell us if there were specular reflections, which would indicate oceans of water. Such a pixel, and all its information, might be able to tell us if there was life on that planet, if it existed.

After that photon has taken 4 light years to get to earth, how much time has passed at Alpha Centauri B?
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October 17, 2012, 05:41:15 AM
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But if we could get that pixel, we could do spectrographic analysis on it, and determine what kind of molecule it bounced off of. You know, molecules like water vapor, carbon dioxide, and so on. Observations over the course of a year, yielding just one pixel in each image, could tell us if there were specular reflections, which would indicate oceans of water. Such a pixel, and all its information, might be able to tell us if there was life on that planet, if it existed.

After that photon has taken 4 light years to get to earth, how much time has passed at Alpha Centauri B?

I believe the answer to that is 4 years. More interesting is the fact that from the perspective of the photon, it's here at the same time as it was there. In fact, everywhere that photon has ever been and will ever be is all at the same time because time stands still for a photon.

Imagine every particle in your body moving in some direction at the speed of light. If that was the case, then they're all moving in the same direction at the same speed. Therefore, each particle in your body, relative to every other particle in your body is stationary. Thus no chemical processes are occurring, and thus no passage of time.
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October 17, 2012, 06:42:30 PM
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We could simply claim a habitable planet in Alpha Centauri as our own homeworld prior to it being discovered, and refer to it as Bytlamnia Prime. I've seen crazier things pre-ordered.

In fact, that wouldn't be a bad idea now, for a week ago it would have been, should I dare say, too far out there. Now that it's in the news, plots for Bytlamnia Prime can be offered up for sale just like some company did selling plots on the moon. Well, now, we can say fuck the moon--we have air and water. The only catch to owning an ocean front property on Bytlamnia Prime is that it must be purchased with Bitcoin, otherwise you're shit out of luck. (makes a great Chrismas present, too)

~Bruno K~
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October 17, 2012, 06:44:22 PM
 #10

How do you we're not part of the wobble?

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked. -Warren Buffett
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October 17, 2012, 06:56:01 PM
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How do you we're not part of the wobble?

I'm sure these techniques are refined to the point that the motions of the Earth are factored in precisely relative to everything they observe. Imagine it's night (star observing time) and the Earth is not only orbiting the sun in a direction away from Alpha Centauri B, but also spinning on its axis such that the location of the observatory is moving away from Alpha Centauri B. Those are actually some pretty large velocities relative to 20 inches a second, which is barely 1 mile per hour.
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October 17, 2012, 06:59:44 PM
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How do you we're not part of the wobble?

I'm sure these techniques are refined to the point that the motions of the Earth are factored in precisely relative to everything they observe.

Relative to what?  Our solar system?  Galaxy?  The universe (which may well be undulating like an amoeba).   Grin

Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked. -Warren Buffett
FirstAscent
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October 17, 2012, 07:04:10 PM
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How do you we're not part of the wobble?

I'm sure these techniques are refined to the point that the motions of the Earth are factored in precisely relative to everything they observe.

Relative to what?  Our solar system?  Galaxy?  The universe (which may well be undulating like an amoeba).   Grin

I don't think you'll find the answer you're looking here, but it offers a basic explanation of the process: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doppler_spectroscopy
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October 18, 2012, 06:51:14 AM
 #14

Yesterday's entry at Centauri-dreams.org: http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=25109

Yesterday's entry at Systemic: http://oklo.org/2012/10/16/alpha-centauri-b-b/

Both are interesting articles. The Systemic entry provides some very interesting technical information on the processes involved.
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