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NASA Creates an Alien's Eye View of Solar System

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the buncha-showoffs dept.

NASA 53

Flash Modin writes "Using the Discover supercomputer — which is capable of 67 trillion calculations per second — astronomers at NASA Goddard have created a series of images of what our solar system would look like to an alien astronomer at various points in time. Their simulations track the interactions of 75,000 dust grains in the Kuiper Belt, and show that while the planets would be too dim to detect directly, aliens could deduce the presence of Neptune from its effects on the icy region. Strikingly, the images resemble one taken by Hubble of the star Fomalhaut. NASA has put out a cute video to go with the announcement as well."

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One thing that can't be seen from NASA Goddard (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33701992)

How unconstitutional NASA is.

Re:One thing that can't be seen from NASA Goddard (2, Funny)

khallow (566160) | about 4 years ago | (#33702068)

Doesn't the Commerce clause cover this? Seems like the Commerce clause covers everything.

Good example (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33702298)

Of why we need to win the supercomputer race! Crucial applications like this...

Re:One thing that can't be seen from NASA Goddard (-1, Troll)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 4 years ago | (#33704190)

Since some people think the Constitution is only composed of the last half of the 2nd amendment, you would be correct in their eyes.

Re:One thing that can't be seen from NASA Goddard (0, Offtopic)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 years ago | (#33704536)

we also believe the first half, a "well regulated militia" (well regulated meaning properly functioning in 18th century) of course being every able-bodied citizen.

Re:One thing that can't be seen from NASA Goddard (0, Offtopic)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | about 4 years ago | (#33704684)

Fine. Have your city council issue everyone a musket.

Re:One thing that can't be seen from NASA Goddard (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33704816)

Fine. Have your city council issue everyone a musket.

a musket and a bran muffin - we want them "well regulated"

Re:One thing that can't be seen from NASA Goddard (0, Offtopic)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 years ago | (#33704976)

then as now, the people had to procure their own weapons.

At the time the second amendment was written, arms were handguns, rifles, cross-bows, muskets, swords, spears, cannons, etc.

Re:One thing that can't be seen from NASA Goddard (0, Offtopic)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | about 4 years ago | (#33710338)

I thought that it was an intolerable act of tyranny to make citizens purchase something that they might not want or need. I guess they'd better stop whining about health insurance then.

The narrator's voice (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33702120)

Sounds like Eric Foreman from That 70's Show.

Press release (4, Informative)

symes (835608) | about 4 years ago | (#33702128)

You can find NASA's press release and video here [nasa.gov]

Re:Press release (1, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33703118)

The North Pole view of our system seems extremely unlikely.

Virtually all the solar systems we've found were viewed from the side, and the only thing we saw was a star with a slight "bulge" on the side to indicate the presence of a giant planet.

Re:Press release (2, Informative)

Flash Modin (1828190) | about 4 years ago | (#33703524)

Commodore, We only find "side view," or what astronomers refer to as edge on, systems because of our limited detection techniques. The two methods to regularly find planets so far are photometry and radial velocity. One relies on a faint dip in light when a planet passes in front of its star and the other relies on a planet pulling its star slightly towards it. There's no reason to think that a universal preference would exist for solar systems facing us edge on. So, by simply taking an infrared photo of the star - similar to what Hubble did with Fomalhaut and NASA did here- we might determine the presence of a planet based on a dust cloud around it.

Re:Press release (2, Interesting)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33705688)

>>>There's no reason to think that a universal preference would exist for solar systems facing us edge on

How about the tendency for all solar systems to orient themselves in the same "up/down" direction as the galaxy, so then they'd all have an edge-on view of one another. Or maybe I'm making a false assumption?

Re:Press release (2, Informative)

Flash Modin (1828190) | about 4 years ago | (#33707776)

Solar system orbits form based on the dynamics of how the cloud of supernovae dust they form from "collapses." The cloud can be set in motion from coming into contact with another cloud or another supernova interacting with it. The rotation (and hence what we might consider up and down) is based on how that interaction occurs. Once it starts rotating it's governed by Newton's second law, aka the figure skater effect (a skater spins faster as they pull their arms in). So, no. There's no reason to assume that they would orient themselves in a so called up/down direction.

Re:Press release (1)

aquila.solo (1231830) | about 4 years ago | (#33754384)

To add to what Flash Modin said: next time you have a chance*, note the orientation of the Milky Way in the sky. That's essentially the galactic "equator," and it doesn't line up with the ecliptic (the solar system's "equator"). So we have at least one example of a solar system that doesn't share its angular momentum vector with the galaxy.

*Assuming you live in an area where you get such chances, of course.

Re:Press release (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | about 4 years ago | (#33709654)

The precise North Pole view of our system (by an alien astronomer) seems extremely unlikely.

Carl Sagan on interpreting images (3, Funny)

nroets (1463881) | about 4 years ago | (#33702132)

"Strikingly, the images resemble one taken by Hubble of the star Fomalhaut." Be careful in drawing conclusions from the above statement. In 'Cosmos', Carl Sagan summarizes one of the flawed arguments he came across : "Looking at Venus, what do you see? Just clouds. Not a single thing. Conclusion? Dinosaurs"

Re:Carl Sagan on interpreting images (4, Funny)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | about 4 years ago | (#33702154)

Yes, but everyone knows there's a giant mirror exactly halfway between us and "Fomalhaut".

Re:Carl Sagan on interpreting images (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33703834)

Does this Kuiper belt make my ass look fat?

Re:Carl Sagan on interpreting images (1)

7-Vodka (195504) | about 4 years ago | (#33719570)

There's a Kuiper belt next to that gigantic astronomic formation?

Re:Carl Sagan on interpreting images (4, Interesting)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | about 4 years ago | (#33702156)

I see your point, but I don't think such a ridiculously unsupportable conclusion is being drawn from the image comparison. As it is though, I see it as interesting, but probably needs more investigation. Weren't some moons initially discovered because of disruptions in Saturn's rings? At the very least, it sounds like interesting parallels.

Re:Carl Sagan on interpreting images (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33702216)

Wait, there are dinosaurs on Venus?
Cool!

Re:Carl Sagan on interpreting images (1)

Graymalkin (13732) | about 4 years ago | (#33702358)

The Fomalhaut comparison is one being made by a journalist in the article and then the submitter. To scientists studying or looking for exoplanets it's an interesting thing to note but comparing press images is not the same as comparing scientific images. This article doesnt specify the simulated parallax measurements of the images, the spectrographic data, or anything else of scientific importance. I suspect the actual data includes these things but a cool looking amalgam of that data was chosen for a press release. Just as the Fomalhaut images is a press-ready amalgam of different bits of scientific data. No one is going to cite this YouTube video in an article about solar system dynamics in a scientific journal article.

Re:Carl Sagan on interpreting images (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about 4 years ago | (#33702390)

You obviously didn't actually watch the video in the article, which was produced by NASA as a press release. It doesn't make any conclusions about Fomalhaut specifically, but it does make the comparison between Fomalhaut and the simulation, and it draws attention to a known exoplanet in the Fomalhaut system, which was found using exactly the perturbations described in TFA.

Of course, anybody who's played Star Control II knows full well that Fomalhaut is the home of the Utwig. Now where did I leave my Ultron?

Re:Carl Sagan on interpreting images (2, Informative)

Flash Modin (1828190) | about 4 years ago | (#33707788)

It's astronomy, taking pictures and analyzing them is most of what we do.

As if (4, Funny)

spoonist (32012) | about 4 years ago | (#33702198)

Yeah, right. As if computers could possibly do this kind of calculation.

This is obviously real data from aliens that have been in contact with the US Gov't for decades.

Silly US Gov't... didn't they realize that with this data we, the general public, can now extrapolate where the aliens came from?

Re:As if (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 4 years ago | (#33704184)

sorry, but the aliens made a klemperer rosette of their inhabitable planets and left their home star millenia ago. their industrial waste heat is sufficient to keep them warm.

Re:As if (1)

The Fell (1804782) | about 4 years ago | (#33708998)

Aliens would not be able to get to Earth in the time that life exists on it. Even if they could, with the technology they would have from being able to develop FTL travel, why would they need pictures? It was a computer that did that, and if you are being sarcastic, you are doing it way too well.

Alarming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33702220)

> What's even more striking is that the images look alarmingly like this Hubble image taken a few years ago of the star Fomalhaut

I think they meant awesomely!

wfquck a DICK (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33702312)

ASSOCIAT9ION OF some 1ntelligent

capable of 67 trillion calculations per second (2, Funny)

Idiomatick (976696) | about 4 years ago | (#33702334)

Wow, that must make it a super accurate picture!

Re: capable of 67 trillion calculations per second (1)

CxDoo (918501) | about 4 years ago | (#33702504)

Trillion calculations? WTF? How many megapixels is that?

Re: capable of 67 trillion calculations per second (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33703624)

Three Libraries of Congress per furlong.

Re: capable of 67 trillion calculations per second (1)

7-Vodka (195504) | about 4 years ago | (#33719578)

Wait, was that a metric or and Edward Furlong? Because I'll have to re-watch the terminator series...

A waste of money (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33702364)

What a waste of money. NASA should be shut down and the money given to Goldman Sacks to help recover the economy.

And the point is...? (2, Insightful)

haydensdaddy (1719524) | about 4 years ago | (#33702514)

Seriously, I would be interested in seeing the taxpayer cost of this little photoshop session. And they wonder why they're being regarded as irrelevant and having their funding cut...

Re:And the point is...? (1)

ebetz (1875642) | about 4 years ago | (#33702758)

The cost would be time on an already existing supercomputer and the point is to contribute to the search for evidence that we're not alone in the cosmos. What could be more worthy of a few taxpayer dollars than that? People need inspiration nearly as much as they need food.

Re:And the point is...? (4, Insightful)

hcdejong (561314) | about 4 years ago | (#33703006)

Right; what good could astronomy possibly do? We don't need to know about outer space! [/sarcasm]

This 'little Photoshop session' helps astronomers better understand what they observe. It's part of the process that started with Copernicus.

Re:And the point is...? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33703102)

You surly jest.

NASA has such a small portion of the funds it's outsourcing stuff. Projects like this are stepping stones to larger ones. Also this is time used on a machine they already own.

Their funding is being cut and they're being seen as irrelevant because no one has the balls to take risk anymore. Politicians are too worried about reelection to have Astronaut XXX's name smeared on their name.

Re:And the point is...? (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 4 years ago | (#33703286)

example: the 2007 national budget was about $2.784 trillion. At $16.143 billion, spending on NASA accounts for 0.58% of this.

http://www.thespacereview.com/article/898/1 [thespacereview.com]

And we all know that NASA has suffered budget cuts since '07, so yeah, less than a half a percent of the budget goes to them.

Re:And the point is...? (1)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 4 years ago | (#33703300)

let me quantify that, budget cuts considering inflation. where other departments of the governments have seen large increases to compensate for inflation, NASA's budget has not been increased enough to offset inflation.

You got my vote. (1)

G3ckoG33k (647276) | about 4 years ago | (#33703172)

You got my vote, as you beat me to that remark.

Re:And the point is...? (3, Insightful)

Jarik C-Bol (894741) | about 4 years ago | (#33703256)

The Citizens of the United States Spend more on Cell Phones each year than the total budget for NASA. Its no wonder we've not been anywhere cool.

Re:And the point is...? (1)

boxwood (1742976) | about 4 years ago | (#33704194)

but technology advances that result from cell phone research benefits the space program!

Re:And the point is...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33704948)

and technology advances that result from the space program benefit cell phones. Isn't it mysterious?

Re:And the point is...? (1)

log0n (18224) | about 4 years ago | (#33705752)

Remind us, why exactly are you here on /. ?

Go turn in your nerd badge. You aren't worthy of it.

Aliens Eyes (1)

rossdee (243626) | about 4 years ago | (#33702552)

How does NASA know what frequencies alien's eyes work best in?. They may see more infrared if they were originally night hunters for example.

Re:Aliens Eyes (2, Insightful)

Baron_Yam (643147) | about 4 years ago | (#33702828)

The point isn't how an alien's eyes might work, but what frequencies are useful for examining a star system.

Humans don't see infrared to any useful degree, nor x-ray, nor radio, and yet we image the heavens in each for different reasons.

While we couldn't guess that an alien might see the same colours on a false-colour representation of our solar system... we can reasonably say they would be looking at some kind of representation of an infrared image of us because that's the best way to get information about us.

Re:Aliens Eyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33702844)

We can't see infrared with our naked eyes. This is where a little something I like to call "technology" becomes handy.

Re:Aliens Eyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33703164)

Trust me, it all depends on the amount of infrared falling on your naked eyes. But most likely skin works better in this case. You CAN "see" infrared ;-) Albeit very briefly.

Re:Aliens Eyes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33704518)

The presumption is that an alien looking for exoplanets has already discovered things like radio telescopes and large infrared sensing telescopes.

You do know that what we see in most telescope images are just REPRESENTATIONS of that data, which is shifted to a spectrum that we can easily see (visible light).

Presumably an infrared alien, who developed his "artificial color" shift for his massive telescope would translate those colors into whatever spectrum was most useful for his species.

Unless you imagine that NASA writes all the specifications for all aliens everywhere.... :-)

Alien conversation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#33720396)

Alien 1: What will we call that last planet

Alien 2: That one isn't a planet, it's a dwarf planet.

Alien 1: But it's still a planet!

Alien 2: No, it's too small!

Alien 1: That's discrimination!

Alien 2: You want to go back in the box?

Alien 1: Dwarf planet it is ... :(

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