Daily Orbit – Investigating Planetary Disks

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 11,015
    1-31-13: On this episode of the Daily Orbit, a planet-forming disk has more potential than we thought, the debate continues on what ended the Clovis Culture, and there’s a new model for habitable planets.

    Emerald Robinson: Planetary babies making astronomer papas proud. The debate continues over what ended the Clovis culture. Vindication for vegetarians and it's a dance party on today's Daily Orbit!

    Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit, I'm Emerald Robinson. Our favorite planetary nursery has a few astronomers feeling like proud papas today. The system TW Hydrae is the closest system to Earth that contains a disk of gas and dust that will eventually turn into planets. But the true mass of the system has been hard to quantify.

    Using the Herschel telescope, a team of astronomers were able to in a sense, weigh the planet-forming disk to determine if there was enough material to create a solar system like our own.

    They found enough mass to create 50 Jupiter-sized planets. Whether or not the TW Hydrae system will form an exotic planetary system remains to be seen, but these new observations help us to see what's possible in the distant future.

    And here's another scientist stepping out and taking a risk. Mark Boslough known for his work on the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 is contesting the Clovis Comet Hypothesis. This hypothesis suggested that the Clovis culture, prehistoric Paleo-Indian peoples near Clovis, New Mexico known for their distinct stone tools became extinct due to comet fragments that set areas of the North American continent on fire.

    Boslough called for carbon dating of the major evidence which revealed irregularities including some contaminated material. Boslough said there is no plausible mechanism for this theory, and that for this and other reasons, we conclude that the impact hypothesis is unfortunately bogus. These scientists taking risk is kind of hot. Kind of like the Tony Stark of astronomy.

    And these hot astronomers aren't necessarily asking what is the meaning of life, but how will we know if a planet can truly support life. Well a new model soon to be published is trying to set the standard to answer that question.

    Currently scientists look for liquid water and a stable atmosphere along with size, composition and surface temperature. New models are changing the way we think about habitable zones, the regions around stars where liquid water is possible.

    Taking into account more advanced absorption models, researchers are finding these zones are farther away from the host stars than previously thought. Scientists say that when they find a fit their search will be on to find signatures of life on the surface. Exciting!

    And a new study says that you don't need to hit the gym to pump it up, just get moving. Well that's good since I seem to think signing on the dotted line at the gym is enough for me to get in shape.

    The new study suggests that health benefits of small amounts of activity can be just as good for a person as longer bouts of exercise. Researchers say that breaking down a thirty minute workout into one to two minute increments throughout the day can help prevent metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. You know what I am going to start doing; I am going to start implementing sporadic dance parties here at the Daily Orbit.

    And if you're a vegetarian and you're tired of all those carnivores saying I would just die without meat, you can now say well actually you're more likely to die with meat. A new study says that vegetarians are 32% less likely to be hospitalized or die from heart disease.

    Researchers say that vegetarians probably get less saturated fat resulting in lower cholesterol and blood pressure and overall BMI. But they are not recommending everybody go veggie, they say this study just shows how important diet is in heart health. And that's all for today Orbiters! Let's dance!