Friday, June 22, 2012


ENGAGED IN ODD SPACE DANCE - NASA's orbiting Kepler telescope has discovered an unlikely pair of planets orbiting a distant star. One is small and rocky, the other is large and gaseous. What makes them unusual is that both are orbiting close to their parent star and they routinely come very close to each other, within only 1.2 million miles. "Here we have a pair of planets in nearby orbits but with very different densities," said astronomer Steve Kawaler of Iowa State University, one of the co-authors of the report appearing in the journal Science. "How they both got there and survived is a mystery." 
Kepler is designed to detect planets circling other stars by observing variations in the stars' brightness as their planets pass between the star and Earth. Astronomers using it have so far identified 72 confirmed planets and have several hundred more possibilities. The new planetary pair was identified circling a star called Kepler-36, which is about 1,200 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. The star was already known to have one planet circling it. A team headed by Joshua Carter of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics was examining such systems looking for examples with multiple planets.

Astronomer Eric Agol of the University of Wisconsin suggested that the team use a different algorithm to analyze the subtle changes in brightness that are detected by Kepler, and the Kepler-36 pair popped up immediately. The smaller of the new planets is called Kepler-36b and is rocky like Earth, but with a diameter about 1.5 times greater and a mass 4.5 times that of Earth. Kepler-36c, which is either gaseous like Jupiter or watery, is 8.1 times as massive as Earth and has a radius 3.7 times larger. 
But what makes them unusual is their orbits. Kepler-36b orbits its star every 14 days at an average distance of less than 11 million miles. Kepler-36c orbits the star every 16 days at a distance of 12 million miles. Every 97 days, on average, the planets come within 1.2 million miles of each other, about five times the distance from Earth to the moon. 
Normally, gaseous planets like Kepler-36c can form only farther away from their stars, where temperatures are cool enough for the gases to condense. They sometimes migrate closer to the mother star but, in doing so, they tend to sweep away smaller planets. Why that has not happened at Kepler-36 is a mystery.

NASA’s Kepler space telescope has spotted two planets engaged in an odd dance with each other. Kepler-36, which is located approximately 1200 light-years from Earth, has two planets with vastly different densities orbiting so close to each other that each rises in the night sky of its sister world like an exotic full moon. Despite the fact that the two planets are so close to each other, the timing of their orbits means they'll never collide. To many scientists this is amazing and a mystery, but all this is under the supervision of the powerful energies of the Supreme Lord.

By the limited instruments of knowledge (either the senses or the material instruments like microscopes and telescopes) one cannot even fully know the Lord’s material potencies, which are manifested before our eyes. For example there are many millions and billions of planets far, far beyond the scientist’s calculation. But these are only the manifestations of the Lord’s material energy. What can the scientist hope to know of the spiritual potency of the Lord by such material efforts? Mental speculations, by adding some dozens of “if’s” and “maybe’s,” cannot aid the advancement of knowledge - on the contrary, such mental speculations will only end in despair by dismissing the case abruptly and declaring the nonexistence of God. The sane person, therefore, ceases to speculate on subjects beyond the jurisdiction of his tiny brain, and as a matter of course he tries to learn to surrender unto the Supreme Lord, who alone can lead one to the platform of real knowledge.

Śrīla A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda :
Śrīmad Bhāgavatam - Canto 2: "The Cosmic Manifestation"   
Chapter 7: "Scheduled Incarnations with Specific Functions"
Verses 43-45 - Bhaktivedanta VedaBase

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