Wednesday, July 20, 2005
Mid-Week Catch-Up. Bush's Supreme Nominee Profile (Short Version). Exoplanet Discovered Orbiting Triple-Star System.
Bush's Supreme Nominee Profile (Short Version)
Due to the quirks inherent with AOL's software upgrade downloads, I was unable to report to this forum yesterday. My humble apologies to all six of my dedicated readers, especially the one who wanted my take on Bush's nominee to take retiring justice Sandra Day O'Connor's seat on the Supreme Court. Here goes nothing:
In a non-surprising move, President Bush nominated an anti-Roe vs. Wade judge for the Supreme Court vacancy. Judge John Roberts is a well-known enemy of the 1973 ruling that legalized abortion in the U.S. As an attorney, he once filed a friend of the court brief for his friends in Operation Rescue.
What is surprising is that Roberts has little actual experience as a federal judge, having only been appointed to the D.C Circuit Court of Appeals in 2003. My guess is that he is being brought in to carry water for Antonin Scalia.
I wonder if we'll get the same shuck-and-jive routine we got during his 2003 confirmation when he claimed that his opposition to Roe v. Wade was only part of representing his client, the aforementioned Operation Rescue. Will he, as Clarence Thomas did in his confirmation hearing, claim that he has no opinion about the right to privacy only to reverse himself later when he ackshully has to make a ruling? Time will tell.
In the meantime, here is a link to a Fox news story in which the claim is being made that a whole host of liberal groups are getting ready to pounce: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,163160,00.html
By now, everyone with a blog who writes about such matters has weighed in on this move, so I have little original to add. But what is interesting about this is that, during a discussion with Ken Kanniff, Connecticut's Most Wanted Gangsta, and a staunch conservative, while Roberts is indeed an enemy of abortion, it makes little sense for Bush to push this type of agenda, unless he wants to get his party whacked in the 2006 mid-term elections.
Another interesting thing is that Roberts is a relatively young 50, and could sit on the Court for a long time. Now the speculation rests on when Chief Justice Rehnquist will finally retire and give President Dumbass another appointment.
Exoplanet Discovered Orbiting Triple-Star SystemIn a lead story on the Sky and Telescope web site, astronomers have detected a planet in orbit around a triple-star system. Excerpt:
Can multiple-star systems support life-bearing planets? This is an important question for astrobiologists because more than half of all stars in our galaxy belong to binary, triple, or higher-order systems. Astronomers have found several giant planets orbiting one member of widely separated binary systems. But a recent discovery, if confirmed, shows that tighter multiple-star systems can also have planets.
In the July 14th Nature, Maciej Konacki (Caltech) reports a planet orbiting the triple-star system HD 188753 in Cygnus. Konacki employed a novel technique that he developed to find planets around binary stars. He used the 10-meter Keck I Telescope to tease out the gravitational wobble caused by a planet with at least 1.14 Jupiter masses in a tight, 3.35-day orbit around the primary star, a G dwarf nearly identical to the Sun. The primary, in turn, has two stellar companions (a G-dwarf and a K-dwarf) a little less massive than the Sun that orbit each other as a binary pair.
The primary star and the two secondary stars, in turn, go around each other in an elongated orbit that ranges from about 6 to 18 times the average Earth-Sun distance, or about from Jupiter's to Uranus's distance from the Sun.
"The environment in which this system planet exists is quite spectacular," says Konacki, who likens it to Luke Skywalker's home planet Tatooine in the Star Wars saga. "With three suns, the sky view must be out of this world, literally and figuratively."
Full story: http://skyandtelescope.com/news/article_1548_1.asp
This discovery, if accurate, shows just how unusual our own solar system is when compared to the systems that contain the many exoplanets found in the last few years. Noone envisioned scenarios in which planets with many times Jupiter's mass could orbit their primary stars at distances of only a few million miles, let alone be able to form stable orbits in double or triple systems.
The problem is one of mass distribution and gravitational effects. A few years ago I recall reading an article in Astronomy magazine that speculated what a planetary system in the Alpha Centauri system might look like. Alpha Centauri, the nearest system to ours, is ackshully a triple system composed of a G2 star that is nearly a dead ringer for the Sun, a K1 dwarf that is slightly smaller and cooler than the Sun, and an M dwarf that is a tiny red flare star barely bound to the two main members.
The dynamics of the two main stars show an average distance between the two to be close to the distance of the Sun to Saturn, and, as the article pointed out, by conventional system formation, we could possibly see two to three planets orbiting each star at comfortable distance spacing intervals without tidal effects throwing the systems into chaos. However, this discovery shows that thinking in such terms may not be the way to go. Once again, the Arthur C. Clarke stipulation that "not only is the universe stranger than we imagine, but it is stranger than we can imagine", asserts itself.