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Double Stars in Step with a Cold Planet

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The universe with its suns, moons, galaxies, big bangs, and black-as-night holes from which light can’t escape defies explanation. The fact that it does defy our attempts to fathom it is at the soul of much of the world’s philosophy and religion. Our great thinkers, Einstein, Hawking… are like little children, unable to comprehend the incomprehensible.

The Kepler telescope, in searching out planets which could be considered Earth like and livable, has made a discovery foreshadowed by Earth’s finest science fiction. From Heinlein’s Double Star first seen in Astounding Science Fiction, 1956, to LucasArts’ popular Star Wars motion picture series, has been mention of solar systems wherein two suns (two stars) warm the planets and light the days. Double stars like young lovers dancing cheek to cheek are more common it may surprise the reader, than single star systems, such as our own. Imagine within, joining our dancing couple and protected by their warmth, a vulnerable small planet, moving in step with the astral music.

Our vulnerable small planet is the just discovered Kepler-16b, in fact a cold orb with a gaseous surface, circling a red dwarf one fifth the size of our Sun, and a K dwarf, two-thirds the scope of the Sun. The uninhabitable (?), Kepler-16b, is similar in size to Saturn, and is cold indeed at 100 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. The double stars are well synchronized, each orbiting the other every 41 days.

This cold planet was discovered by the Kepler mission as astronomers searched for Earth-like planets in the Milky Way near Lyre and Cygnus (the Swan); some 150,000 stars were included in the area being studied. Scientists watch for “dimming” which occurs when an object, a planet in this case, passes between the stars under scrutiny and the Kepler telescope. Scientist utilizing Copernican values can determine precisely the size and mass of all objects involved.

The Kepler space telescope has in truth discovered 2000 eclipsing binary stars. SETI Institute astronomer Laurance Doyle located the 16b binaries and noted the irregularly spaced dips, or diminishings, occurring roughly but not precisely 229 days apart. The Doyle team concluded that the dips were caused by a small passing object, and the discovery was made.

How sad it would be if the universe with its stars, planets, suns and moons, days and nights had unfolded and spanned eternity with no one to witness the unfolding; with none to see such glorious existence. In order to remain beautiful, there had to be man, and birds, and the animals, worms, snails…there had to be man to see the stars.


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About John Lake

John Lake had a long and successful career in legitimate and musical theater. He moved up into work behind the camera at top motion pictures. He has done a smattering of radio, and television John joined the Blogcritics field of writers owing to a passion for the liberal press, himself speaking out about the political front, and liberal issues. Now the retired Mr. Lake has entered the field of motion picture, television, and video game (now a daily gamer!) critique. His writing is always innovative and immensely readable!
  • John, this is fascinating stuff. I’ll never forget seeing the first Star Wars and that scene with Luke staring at the setting suns is still fresh in my mind. Now, let’s get those starships going faster than the speed of light so we can get out there and see the real deal.

  • As a lifelong science fiction fan, all the new discoveries emerging lately are fascinating and it is great to the some coverage of them on BC.

    That said, I have a lot of trouble accepting your opening remarks: “The universe with its suns, moons, galaxies, big bangs, and black-as-night holes from which light can’t escape defies explanation. The fact that it does defy our attempts to fathom it is at the soul of much of the world’s philosophy and religion. Our great thinkers, Einstein, Hawking… are like little children, unable to comprehend the incomprehensible.”

    The universe doesn’t remotely defy explanation, philosophy and religion have nothing at all to do with it and people such as Einstein and Hawking are simply pioneers, not little children.

    Keep it real, John…

  • John Lake

    Hawking continues to insist that the “big bang” occurred for no reason. There was no cause. It was less than arbitrary. It would be preferable to say we don’t know or understand the causes, pressures, logistics behind these theoretical events. He, as does the big bang, defies explanation. That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it!

  • Sorry for being picky but you didn’t say the big bang defies explanation, you said the universe does. I would agree that the big bang of course hasn’t been explained yet, but that doesn’t mean it never will be!

  • duane

    “The fact that it does defy our attempts to fathom it is at the soul of much of the world’s philosophy and religion.” The oft-quoted Einstein said, “The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.” That, I believe, is a better take on our grapplings with the physical Universe.

    Religion was indeed “invented” as a way to explain our existence and our relationship with Nature, but thousands of years have since passed. Modern science didn’t come into being until the 1600s, not so long ago in the scheme of things. And look at all we’ve learned since then. Quite amazing, actually. Religion persists for reasons having not so much to do with trying to understand the physical Universe, but rather attempting to deal with death, and a search for meaning and purpose to our short lives.

    The main thing is that understanding the Universe is hard work. It takes time. It takes dedication from the very fine minds who you dismissively refer to as “little children,” a sentiment straight out of the Bible. The fact that we don’t have all the answers RIGHT NOW in no way demonstrates that we won’t have them eventually, unless we all choose to ignore history, and unless we all choose to give up the effort.

  • Thank heavens for Planet Earth and its earthlings who can monitor whats happening out there. Good post there, John.

    Take a little visit to: THE GREEN PLANET Some interesting green posts.

  • There are important questions to be pondered; such as, the following:
    o What lies beyond the universe? Nothingness?

    o What is the boundary of the universe?

    If the universe is expanding or contracting, there must be a boundary of sorts. Otherwise, the universe would be a static flat plane. There must be some overall containment which governs both the expansion and contraction.

  • John Lake

    Dr. Maresca:
    I thought you’d never ask!
    See my new article,
    Nobel Prize for Physicists/Astronomers’ Discovery of Accelerated Expansion in the Universe

  • The question “what lies beyond the universe?” is nonsense, as the universe is by definition everything that exists. There is no “beyond” for anything to be at.

    Current thinking holds that spacetime is curved, and consequently if you got into a spaceship and kept on going, eventually you’d end up back where you started.

  • duane

    Dr. D. is right, of course. There is no boundary, just as if you were confined to two dimensions, wandering over the Earth, wondering where the boundary is. Clever 2-D beings would eventually figure out that they’re living on a curved 2-D surface embedded in (at least) a 3-D space. Now, just bump it up by one dimension. It’s hard to imagine. That’s why the 2-D analogy helps, I hope.

    The wrench in the works is that space is expanding, so that, confined to speeds less than light speed, we wouldn’t actually end up where we started if you set off on a “straight” course. You can think about being on the surface of a sphere again, where the sphere is expanding faster that you can run. If space eventually halted and reversed its expansion, that would be different. But it looks like it might not do that.

  • John Lake

    As you know, the third dimension is time, and in my latest entry, linked in an earlier comment on this thread, I suggest that space and time are neither curved, nor limited, rather absolute.

  • Pretty awesome, John. Now that the concept of the speed of light is challenged,by recent events, other concepts could also be challenged and fall like a lack of cards?

  • That should be a PACK of cards!

  • John Lake

    Recent revelations regarding the speed of light do produce some skepticism as to many of the elaborate and difficult to fathom speculations of the physicists past and present.

  • Igor

    ¨…the third dimension is time, …¨

    No. Generally, time is taken as the 4th dimension.

    Lake and Maresca are simply poorly educated. I remember reading perfectly good popularized explanations of multi-dimensional space, the place ´beyond´, the problems of ´boundaries´, etc., back in 1950. There were many good popularizations of the underlying concepts by, among others, George Gamow, IIRC.

  • John Lake

    The 4th, of course.