Over the weekend I was able to attend the Exploring Your Universe event at UCLA where I got to hear some great lectures about astronomy. This was so great because I am taking an astronomy class this semester. #EYU2014
The lectures I attended were “A Journey from Here to the Edge of the Universe” by: Smadar Naoz and “The Search for Other Earths & Intelligent Life in the Universe” by: Geoff Marcy.
Here are some of the things I learned:
- For some perspective — The lectures we saw today were at UCLA – UCLA is on the Earth – The Earth is in the Solar System – The Solar System is in the Milky Way Galaxy – The Milky Way Galaxy is part of a group of galaxies called the Local Group.
- The light that we see from the sun is 8 minutes younger than it actually is because we are 8 light minutes away from the sun. It takes 8 minutes for the light from the sun to get to the earth.
- The Milky Way has approximately a billion stars and is 100,000 light years across. Which means that a beam of light would take 100,000 years to get from one side of the galaxy to the other side.
- There are billions of other galaxies besides the Milky Way. The nearest neighboring galaxy is Andromeda, which is 2.5 million light years away. This galaxy is drawing closer to the Milky Way and will eventually collide — don’t worry though; this will take a really long time.
- The nearest star to us is called Alpha Centauri and it’s about 4 million light years away from earth. Using our most advanced technology it would take us 40,000 years to get there.
- All of the galaxies are moving away from us because the universe is still expanding at an accelerating rate. However, as I mentioned above Andromeda is heading towards us. This is the exception because it is close enough to the Milky Way to feel a gravitational pull.
- The Kepler Telescope was launched into space in 2009 and it is currently orbiting the earth. It measures the dimness and brightness of a star and finds planetary systems. When it dims that means that a planet is passing between the telescope and the star and based on how dim it gets, astronomers can tell how big the planet is. The dimmer the star gets, the larger the planet is and the mass of the planet can be determined by how much the star wobbles.
- The Kepler telescope discovered a star named Kepler 11 that has earth like planets orbiting around it. It has also discovered 500 other solar systems.
- I think that there is other life in the universe. There are 30 billion planetary systems in the Milky Way and the most pessimistic estimate of this is 1 in a million, but there are 30 billion systems so that is still thousands.
- Simple life, not necessarily intelligent life, is probably everywhere in the universe. Whereas intelligent life is rare elsewhere in the universe because evolution does not favor intelligence, evidenced by dinosaurs ruling the earth for over 200 million years. There are many planets that may have life that just has not evolved. Water is necessary for life, but just because a planet is earth-like does not mean the amount of water on that planet is correct enough to sustain life.
In case anyone is wondering about Tigger, he was not able to attend this event today. I left him at the barn because I felt like he would not have paid much attention in the lectures and because food was not served, he probably would not have liked it anyway. Also, I am not sure how he would have fit inside the classrooms, or sat in the seats. 😉
Oh, and ps — I am posting this on the 16th but wordpress is saying that it is the 17th. Maybe I learned time travel at the event today!!!