exoplanets - Aaron Paul Houska Highlights of Astronomy Fall...

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Aaron Paul Houska Highlights of Astronomy Fall 2007 Term Paper Save us, 55 Cancri f. ..You’re Our Only Hope Exoplanatary discovery in the 21st Century from The Guardian Unlimited The question of weather we are the only life forms in the universe is certainly one of the most important questions today. And in the past few weeks, NASA announced that they may have come significantly closer (albeit still far away) to finding that out. A team of theirs discovered a planet (the fifth to be found there) orbiting the star 55 Can- cri, so named for its position in the constellation Cancer. But what differentiates this planet from the more than 260 extra-solar planets (exoplanets) found so far is that this one lies at a distance from the star that might make it suitable for life. Astronomers are hypothesizing that if the planet, 55 Cancri f, has a rocky moon with water, that water would be in liquid form, and therefore provide a means for life to develop. As Geoff Marcy of the University of California, Berkeley is quoted in the Guardian , “We now know that our sun and its family of planets is not unusual. This discovery shows that our Milky Way contains billions of planetary systems, many as rich as our own solar system. We strongly suspect many of those planetary system harbour Earth-like planets." But as with any periodical presenting science news, the Guardian only scratches the surface of the scientific processes going on here. No one knows for certain how the solar system formed, but this discovery may yield clues to it because our systems are so similar. The basic theory is that the newly forming star, the Sun or in this case, 55 Cancri, rotates as it condenses, and in the pro- cess, throws off material perpendicular to the axis of rotation. This forms a sort of disk
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of material, both solid and gaseous, from which the planets are formed. The formation
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exoplanets - Aaron Paul Houska Highlights of Astronomy Fall...

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