Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Undiscovered Worlds": planetarium show by Whoopi Goldberg doesn't give much details about possibly nearby "earths"

The National Air and Space Museum runs a Planetarium Show “Undiscovered Worlds”, narrated by Whoopi Goldberg ("Sister Act"). The experience examines the history of discovery planets in other solar systems. 

It fist shows a “hot Jupiter” revolving at close distance around a star similar to the Sun, discovered in 1995.

It then looks at “super earths” or rocky planets.  It shows a super-Venus with surface temperature of 4000 degrees, and then presents the star Gliese 581, just 20 light years away, with several planets.  It says that the farthest of these planets may be in the Goldilox zone.

There is some controversy as to whether that last planet really exists.  Since Gliese is a small red dwarf or M class star (they don’t mention that), all of the planets are probably tidally locked, facing the same side all the time to the star.  On a nearby planet, the dark side might be warm enough for life; on a distant planet, the sunlit side might be suitable, and in between there would be a twilight zone annulus with the mildest climate.
An extraterrestrial civilization could colonize all of these planets, with different environments, setting up bizarre political problems.  

The link for the 30-minute show is here

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