Extra-Galactic Planets and Peanut Butter

Microlensing!

Well, you knew it was gonna happen but I’ll bet you didn’t think it would happen so soon. No, I’m NOT talking about a general anesthesia that also has the great taste of peanut butter, although that IS on the horizon. I’m not talking about the cure for cancer which might’ve been announced last week; I’m sure whatever vaccine they’ve come up with will eventually be determined to be carcinogenic. I’m talking about detecting planets OUTSIDE of the Milky Way. I’m talking about the research by the University of Oklahoma’s Xinyu Dai and Eduardo Guerras, or, as they are otherwise known in Oklahoma, the Chinese guy and the Mexican…

Am I saying that it is a difficult ordeal to be educated and of foreign descent in Oklahoma? Well, once I yelled out, “Hey, backward, science-hating illiterate!” in Tulsa and the entire state turned around to see if I was talking to them. And, to be working there, in a field that some people think conflicts with scripture, takes balls the size of testicles… but there’s a tremendous pressure on astronomers due to the fact that there are only two grades of astronomer: Those who discover something important; and, those who have wasted their entire miserable lives.

To detect these particular exo-planets, the two took advantage of microlensing. If you don’t understand what microlensing is, I can help you out: It’s like regular lensing… only SMALLER… I guess. Just kidding, of course; it actually involves using the gravitational pull of stars and planets on light waves to magnify light, so it should be called “macrolensing”. But, I’d imagine that, in astronomy, once someone gives a name to a phenomena, you are pretty much stuck with it. Like Trojan asteroids… in WHAT way do they resemble Trojans? Did these asteroids kidnap the most beautiful woman in Greece? Did they appeal to Apollo to strike the Greeks with plague because they wouldn’t ransom a daughter of the high priest? I’ll answer for you: Perhaps!

Anyway…

Chandra!  Monster From Space!

Dai and Guerras used NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to look beyond our galaxy. The advantage to using an x-ray telescope is not only can you see emissions that you might not ever see in visible light or infrared, but you can also check astral bodies for signs of lung cancer and tuberculosis. But, it wasn’t x-rays the two were looking at… it was the spectra. And, the two saw a band that indicated millions of planets. Now we have proof that we aren’t the only galaxy with planets. I suggest we take a long weekend and come back Monday with three new ideas each…

But, you may ask, “How is this discovery useful?”. Well, consider THIS scenario: Interstellar flight has been perfected and you are cruising around the galaxy, looking for that planet with the dinosaurs and the green women; suddenly, you realize you should’ve turned LEFT at that nebula back there and you are not only lost, but the Milky Way is in your rear view mirror getting smaller and smaller. Now we know that other galaxies have planets so you can land somewhere and spend the night before heading back. I’m sure there are other benefits. I guess the best benefit is just knowing what is out there. It piques the imagination. Gives us something to think about when we’re, say, waiting on a gurney for surgery. Drowsy… nearly unconscious…

…mouth tasting vaguely of peanut butter…

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