Four Things You Did Not Know The Universe
The true color of the Milky Way, exoplanets, flying observatories or dark matter are not the stuff of science fiction, but the latest discoveries in astronomy presented to the public.
The most recent meeting of the American Astronomical Society, held in the US city of Austin from 8 to 12 January, brought together experts from around the world exchanged and presented the latest developments in the study of the cosmos.
Although not yet know whether there is life outside our planet, or that have failed to reach Mars, experts say are at the beginning of a new era with regard to our knowledge of other planets.
"The Kepler telescope and gravitational microlensing are leading us to a kind of new era in planet discovery," said James Palmer BBC correspondent in Congress and science expert BBC.
many more planets are known, new forms of observation are used and new tools shed increasingly illuminating on data largely unknown mysteries.
BBC World has compiled some of the most important findings presented at the conference.
The true color of the Milky Way
Scientists claimed that the Milky Way has a white color like snow "early in the afternoon." Although it looks white as seen from Earth, the appearance of our galaxy is actually due to a trick of the light.The question is, how does it look from the outside?
A study based on the comparison of ours with other galaxies took a not very surprising result: white.
But not just any white: specifically, the white snow in spring just after sunrise or before sunset.
"For astronomers, one of the most important parameters is actually the color of galaxies," he told the BBC Jeffrey Newman of the University of Pittsburgh. "This indicates the age of the stars in a galaxy, since when have built up, and whether they are new or millions of years ago," he added.
The discovery came through a comparison study with other galaxies, since it has not yet been possible for us to travel outside our own to see the Milky Way from another angle. "Not only are looking from within, but our view is blocked by space dust," Newman said.
To solve the problem Professor Newman decided to seek other galaxies similar to our observable from Earth, and from there to model.
With the information of millions of galaxies similar to the Milky Way half of what would be the color it became more like having our own, and the result was very specific.
"The best description I can give is that if new spring snow is observed, which is a good size flake, about an hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset, the same spectrum of light will be the that would be an alien from another galaxy astronomer looking at the Milky Way, "said Newman.
This discovery is important in determining the age of our galaxy, which as Newman already has many stars in its phase of decline.
Each star with a planet
Using gravitational microlensing, an international team of scientists found a number of exoplanets linked to stars would imply the existence of millions more, including about 10 billion Earth-like, just in our galaxy.
The method that allowed this finding is to use the gravity of a big star to amplify light from even more distant stars and planets around it.
Astronomers use a number of relatively small microscopes networked, and through them observe the rare event of a star passing in front of another as seen from Earth.
The team recently used this system to observe planets, and although the number found was relatively small, able to estimate how many there may be.
Although Kepler telescope has been the main tool for discovering new exoplanets in recent years, microlensing is best to locate planets of all sizes and at different distances.
"Only in the last 15 years we have gone to meet about 70 planets outside the solar system to 700 today," he told the BBC Martin Dominik of the University of Saint Andrews in the UK.
A flying observatory
Important details of a powerful telescope were revealed during the conference. So far so normal, if not because the telescope was not located at the top of a hill, but in the back of a 747.
SOFIA or the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, located above a plane, made 35 flights last year, shedding light on the Orion Nebula and our neighbor Pluto.
The observatory can "see" any wavelength-based telescope on Earth or space can be observed.
But SOFIA can also capture visible light to gather interesting data: a team of scientists used the observatory to collect data from a star when Pluto passed in front, seen from the ground.
The scientists were able to locate the exact spot on earth where it would look better, and using mobile telescope to collect them.
The mysteries of dark matter
At the congress some curious images are also viewed. A French-Canadian team found the largest known images of maps of dark matter, the mysterious substance that makes up 85% of the universe.
Dark matter is a type of matter that does not emit any electromagnetic radiation (including light), and therefore can not be observed by telescopes, but can be detected by studying how it affects the light reflected by other elements in your area.
4 images were taken in different seasons, each capturing a band as large as the palm of a hand at arm's view sky.
These printers are a big leap forward in the understanding of dark matter, and how it affects how we see the normal matter in different galaxies at night.
"The light coming from a distant galaxy is bent by the gravity of the pieces of material to be found in the way," said Catherine Heymans of the University of Edinburgh.
"The theory of relativity Einstein tells us that mass distorts space and time, so when the light comes to us through the universe, if it crosses part of dark matter, the light is bent and the image we see gets distorted, "Heymans said.
The study is 100 times larger than the previous maps of dark matter processed from the Hubble telescope.
Progress presented at the conference are important discoveries that will have everyone talking in the future. Although we have not yet revealed not even a fraction of its secrets, the progress seen in Texas bring us closer to the knowledge of the intricacies of our own cosmos
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