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How Europe’s Exoplanet Hunter Will Unravel the Mystery of Extraterrestrial Life

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Article by Samhati Bhattacharjya                        December 19, 2019                          (ibtimes.sg)

• On December 18, 2019, the 11 member states of the European Space Agency launched the European Cheops space telescope – an acronym for ‘Characterizing Exoplanet Satellite’ – on a Russian-built Soyuz rocket. Didier Queloz, the 2019 Nobel Physics Prize winner, told AFP in French Guiana, “Cheops is (440 miles) away, exactly where we wanted it to be. It’s absolutely perfect. This is really an exceptional moment in European space history and in the history of the exoplanets.”

• Scientists say that there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy, and at least 100 billion galaxies in the universe. CHEOPS will help them to have a better understanding of what those planets are made of, says mission chief David Ehrenreich. This will be an important step to unraveling the mystery of extraterrestrial life. “[T]he first results can be expected within months,” said Queloz.

• The CHEOPS telescope will measure the density, composition and size of the 4,000 identified exoplanets. The telescope will measure the reflected light from the planets to discover new insights about the planet’s surface and atmosphere. The European Space Agency’s director of science, Guenther Hasinger, says the aim of the satellite is to compose “a family photo of exoplanets”.

• “In order to understand the origin of life,” says Queloz, “we need to understand the geophysics of these planets. It’s as if we’re taking the first step on a big staircase.”

 

             David Ehrenreich

The European Cheops planet-hunting space telescope was launched on Wednesday (December 18, 2019) to study the exoplanets outside our solar system. Cheops, an acronym for Characterizing Exoplanet Satellite, a joint endeavor of 11 member states of the European Space Agency (ESA), will observe the bright stars that are already known to be orbited by planets.

                      Didier Queloz

The telescope will measure the density, composition and size of the exoplanets. Didier Queloz, 2019 Nobel Physics Prize winner, told AFP in French Guiana, “Cheops is 710 kilometers (440 miles) away, exactly where we wanted it to be, it’s absolutely perfect. This is really an exceptional moment in European space history and in the history of the exoplanets.”

The first exoplanet, dubbed 51 Pegasi b, was identified by Queloz and his colleague Michel Mayor about 24 years ago. Since then roughly a total of 4,000 such exoplanets have been discovered.

           Guenther Hasinger

Existence of extraterrestrial life

The launch of the satellite took place a day after its lift-off was delayed due to a technical rocket glitch during the final countdown. However, on Wednesday it successfully took off at around 0854 GMT French Guiana. This year, it was the third launch for the Russian-built Soyuz rocket.

According to the scientists, there are at least as many galaxies as there are stars —approximately 100 billion and CHEOPS will help them to have a better understanding of what those planets are made of. “We want to go beyond statistics and study them in detail,” mission chief David Ehrenreich had told AFP ahead of Wednesday’s launch.

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Humans Will Not ‘Migrate’ to Other Planets, Nobel Winner Says

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October 9, 2019                   (phys.org)

• Swiss scientists Michel Mayor (pictured above) and Didier Queloz were recently awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their research refining techniques to detect exoplanets. When asked about the possibility of humans moving to other planets, Mayor told Agence France-Presse Madrid, “If we are talking about exoplanets, things should be clear: we will not migrate there.”

• Mayor reasons that humans will never migrate to a planet outside of Earth’s solar system because it would take far too long to get there. Says Mayor, “These planets are much, much too far away. Even in the very optimistic case of …few dozen light years, which is not a lot …the time to go there is considerable… using the means we have available today.”

• “It’s completely crazy,” the 77-year-old Nobel laureate said. We will not be going to another “liveable planet if one day life is not possible on earth.” “We must take care of our planet. It is very beautiful and still absolutely liveable.”

• Using custom-made instruments at their observatory in southern France, in October 1995 Mayor and Queloz discovered the first exoplanet outside Earth’s solar system. It started a revolution in astronomy. Since then over 4,000 exoplanets have been found in our home galaxy. Mayor said it is now to the “next generation” to answer the question of whether there is life on other planets.

[Editor’s Note]   They key phrase here is “using the means we have available today”. The Navy videos of UFOs performing “impossible” maneuvers that were released to the public and recently confirmed as authentic prove that there exists technology that defies our earthly “Newtonian” physics. And the US Navy has revealed its knowledge of these advanced technologies by the recent publication of US government patents. See these articles by Dr Michael Salla: US Navy Patent for Nuclear Fusion Reactor Supports claims of Mile-Long Space Carriers; US Navy Regards Electromagnetic Propulsion & Tesla Shield Patents as Operable; US Navy Disclosing Secret Space Program Technologies through Patents System.

 

Humans will never migrate to a planet outside of Earth’s solar system because it would take far too long to get there, Swiss Nobel laureate Michel Mayor said Wednesday.

Mayor and his colleague Didier Queloz were on Tuesday awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics for their research refining techniques to detect so-called exoplanets.

“If we are talking about exoplanets, things should be clear: we will not migrate there,” Mayor told AFP near Madrid on the sidelines of a conference when asked about the possibility of humans moving to other planets.

“These planets are much, much too far away. Even in the very optimistic case of a livable planet that is not too far, say a few dozen light years, which is not a lot, it’s in the neighbourhood, the time to go there is considerable,” he added.

“We are talking about hundreds of millions of days using the means we have available today. We must take care of our planet, it is very beautiful and still absolutely liveable.”

The 77-year-old said he felt the need to “kill all the statements that say ‘OK, we will go to a liveable planet if one day life is not possible on earth’.”

“It’s completely crazy,” he added.

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Nobel Prize in Physics Awarded for Research on Exoplanets and the Structure of the Universe

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Article by Sarah Kaplan                 October 8, 2019                 (washingtonpost.com)

• On October 8th, the Nobel Prize in physics was awarded jointly to James Peebles of Princeton University who theorized the existence of ‘dark matter’ and ‘dark energy’ to explain what makes up the 95 percent of the universe that we do not yet understand, and Michel Mayor along with Didier Queloz of the University of Geneva who in 1995 discovered the first extra-solar ‘exoplanet’ orbiting around a sun-like star.

• When astronomers stumbled upon a cosmic radiation that suffuses throughout space, fifty years ago, it provided a road map of the history of the universe since the “Big Bang”. In short, in one-millionth of a second, “lumps” of matter were created which would evolve into galaxies.

• Crediting the research of his contemporary Soviet astronomers in the 1960s, Peebles theorized that something must exist – an invisible force – that drives the expansion of the universe while holding the galaxies together. Yet everything ever detected by a scientific instrument and everything that has yet to be found makes up only 5 percent of the universe. Thus dark matter/dark energy was born to fill the void. However some argue that it was Carnegie Institution astronomer Vera Rubin who proved the existence of dark matter but was never credited with an award.

• Mayor and Queloz are credited with finding the first exoplanet outside of our solar system in 1995. They did this by measuring the wobble in a distant star by the shifts in light it emitted. From this they could determine the size and distance of a companion planet, both orbiting a common center of mass. The planet they found, dubbed 51 Pegasi b, is large, gaseous and hot like Jupiter, but is so close to its star that it takes just four days to complete an orbit. Queloz was a graduate student working with Mayor, a Professor Emeritus.

• “New science is very rarely done by just one person … and there were a lot people who made important contributions before and since then,” said Johanna Teske, an exoplanet astronomer at Carnegie Observatories. But Mayor and Queloz’s discovery “was really a turning point for the field.” Once the method was devised, astronomers across the globe were looking for the telltale wobble of a planet-hosting sun. Over 4,000 exoplanets have been found to date.

• Nobel Committee member Ulf Danielsson noted that ‘somewhere in the vast and inscrutable universe, on one of those strange and distant worlds, it’s possible that some other form of life exists’. “Our view of our place in the universe will never be the same again.” It might take years, or centuries, or even millennia, Danielsson said. But he holds out hope that one day humanity will find evidence that we are not alone.

 

A cosmologist who revealed that the universe was made mostly of invisible matter and energy, and two scientists who detected the first planet orbiting an alien star, were jointly awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday.

                  Michel Mayor

By studying the earliest moments after the birth of the universe, James Peebles of Princeton University developed a theoretical framework for the evolution of the cosmos that led to the understanding of dark energy and dark matter — substances that can’t be observed by any scientific instruments but nonetheless make up 95 percent of the universe.

              Didier Queloz

Fellow laureates Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz of the University of Geneva revolutionized astronomy, the Nobel Committee said, when in 1995 they announced the discovery of a large, gaseous world circling a star 50 light-years from our sun — the first extrasolar planet found around a sun-like star. In the decades since, scientists have detected thousands more of these exoplanets, and astronomers now think our universe contains more planets than stars.

“This year’s Nobel laureates in physics have painted a picture of a universe far stranger and more wonderful than we ever could have imagined,” Ulf Danielsson, a Nobel Committee member, said at a news conference Tuesday. “Our view of our place in the universe will never be the same again.”

               James Peebles

For almost a century, scientists have theorized that the universe began with a big bang, growing from a hot, dense particle soup into the current collection of dust, stars and galaxies flung across a vast and still-expanding space. Fifty years ago, a pair of radio astronomers stumbled upon the signature of those earliest days of expansion: the cosmic microwave background, a faint form of radiation that suffuses the entire sky.

This radiation is a “gold mine” for physicists, the Nobel Committee said. By analyzing tiny variations in this ancient afterglow, scientists can peer back in time to understand how the universe evolved. Peebles studied the temperature of the cosmic microwave background to understand the matter that was created in the big bang.

“It was, conceptually, a door-opening event,” said observational cosmologist Sandra Faber, a staff member at University of California Observatories. “It showed that known laws of physics could explain the universe when it was only 100 seconds old. Isn’t that amazing?”

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