America has become paranoid after Obama’s re-election

Marijuana, states leaving the USA, and Star wars phobia!

Marijuana, states leaving the USA, and Star wars phobia!

Marijuana, secession and now ‘Star Wars’: Thousands of Americans have signed yet another bizarre online White House petition, this one to “secure funding and resources” to build the ‘Death Star’ space station from the popular sci-fi film.

­“By focusing our defense resources into a space-superiority platform and weapon system such as a Death Star, the government can spur job creation in the fields of construction, engineering, space exploration, and more, and strengthen our national defense,” the petition on the White House website reads.

The document, created on November 14 by a resident of Colorado, has already collected over 5,000 signatures. The petition needs around 20,000 more by December 14 for it to be formally reviewed by the White House staff.

The Death Star is the planet-destroying space station built by the Galactic Empire in the wildly popular sci-fi movie saga ‘Star Wars,’ directed by George Lucas. The franchise is adored by millions of fans around the world.

Earlier this year, students at Lehigh University in the US calculated the hypothetical cost of building a Death Star at $8.52 quadrillion – roughly 13,000 times the world’s GDP.

The White House’s petition platform, which allows anyone to offer suggestions to the government, is relatively new and was created to provide citizens with “new way to create or join the petition encouraging government to take action on the range of issues.”

The move has resulted in a cornucopia of bizarre petitions: Adopting the Gray Wolf to join the Bald Eagle as the national mascot; legalizing the use of magic mushrooms and mescaline; even to “shut down White House petitions, since they never get a sincere response… and are ultimately worthless.

The most popular petition on the website so far calls for the peaceful secession of Texas, which has collected over 110,000 signatures.

ONE IN 100 BILLION? for the star gazers!

NASA photograph of our Milky Way galaxy

NASA photograph of our Milky Way galaxy

ONE IN 100 BILLION?

by Sue Nelson

The Earth is the only planet or place in the Universe that we know contains life. Now astronomers say the chances of discovering we are not alone, and that life exists elsewhere, have just increased.

The Earth and its Solar System are in the Milky Way galaxy. Astronomers think in this one galaxy alone there could be hundreds of billions of planets.

Planets that orbit a star outside our Solar System are called exoplanets or extra-solar planets. The first exoplanet was discovered in 1995. Since then about 700 others have been confirmed. Most of these are gas giants, so they are similar to Jupiter.

But the huge number of potential exoplanets in our galaxy suggests our own life-filled planet may not be so rare after all. Recently, the Kepler spacecraft, or space observatory, detected the first Earth-sized rocky planets orbiting a star. NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) launched Kepler in 2009. It is named after the famous German mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571 – 1630) and has been specially designed to search for exoplanets.

The rocky worlds Kepler has discovered so far are too close to their star or sun. This means they are too hot for water to exist or for there to be any life on them.

For life to exist, astronomers say a rocky planet needs to be in the habitable or ‘Goldilocks’ zone: not too far from its sun and not too close. In this zone conditions for life could be just right – not too hot and not too cold – or the same as Baby Bear’s porridge in the well-known fairy tale.

Exoplanet discoveries are also changing the way astronomers think solar systems were formed. Last year science fiction became science fact when Kepler found a planet orbiting two stars – so if you were on the planet you would see two suns in the sky. This is just like on Tatooine, a planet in the Star Wars films.

There are different methods of detecting exoplanets. As stars outshine planets, some methods are based on examining the light from a star to find out if it has any orbiting planets.

When a planet speeds around a star in orbit, for example, the star wobbles slightly. This movement can be observed as a change in colour, a phenomenon known as the Doppler shift.

In some cases if a planet transits or passes in front of a star, the planet will block a small amount of the light. So if it’s viewed at the right angle, the light from the star will appear to dim. This indicates it has an orbiting planet.

Finding exoplanets in this way is called the transit method. The Kepler telescope uses the transit method to hunt for planets. It can monitor 150,000 stars in its field of view. These stars are between 3,000 and 25,000 light years away. A light year is the distance light travels in one year, roughly 300,000 kilometres (186,400 miles) per second. Another way of finding exoplanets is called gravitational microlensing. This makes use of the fact that gravity can bend the direction of light. A star will appear brighter if another star passes in front of it. But if the passing star has a planet orbiting around it, the light from the background starmay ‘blip’.

English: Image from http://planetquest.jpl.nas...

Image via Wikipedia

By counting the number of stars and planets, astronomers have recently produced a statistical sample to represent the Milky Way. It suggests many stars in the Milky Way have planets in the Goldilocks zone.

If the Earth is the only planet to contain life in our galaxy, it is one in around 100 billion planets. Yet there are an estimated 100 billion galaxies in the Universe. So even if each has only one life-supporting planet, there are at least 100 billion similar worlds to our own throughout the Universe. We may not be alone after all.