Fun on the frontiers of astronomy

June 4, 2009 | By | Reply More

Want to watch/read an entertaining and inspiring three-part discussion covering the frontier of astronomy?   All you need to do is follow this link to the article and videos at Discover Magazine.   The participants include Saul Perlmutter, Debra Fischer, Mike Brown and Andrea Ghez, in a panel moderated by Discover’s Phil Plait.  It’s lively, accessible and mind-blowing.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

Image of Messier 101 Spiral Galaxy by Hubble (public domain)

Image of Messier 101 Spiral Galaxy by Hubble (public domain)

[Debra Fischer]

We started out with a solar system where many planetesimals were forming, and that evolved into a system where all the stable niches are filled. To me that’s one of the most exciting discoveries in this field.

[Mike Brown]

[I]t’s the small objects that really matter. The small ones are little particles that sit in the outer solar system, and they’re gravitationally swept around by planets. The analogy I like is that these objects in the outer solar system are the blood splattered on the wall after some horrendous murder. I love this analogy—it’s disturbing, but I love it. As Debra just suggested, there might have been additional planets that used to be here in our solar system [but were ejected due to gravitational instability]. The bodies have all been removed.

[Andrea Ghez]

The question that I started off with was, I thought, very simple. It was just “Is there a massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way?” But one of the things I love about science is that you always end up with new questions. What happened with my research is that the stars we studied to prove that there was a black hole turned out to be very young. Young stars have absolutely no right to be next to a black hole because a black hole should shear them apart. We have no idea how these stars formed. So that’s one of the major questions we’re trying to address today: “How do baby stars form next to this completely inhospitable object?”

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Category: Astronomy, photography, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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