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NASA Space Supercomputing Science

NASA Creates an Alien's Eye View of Solar System 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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NASA Creates an Alien's Eye View of Solar System

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  • Press release (Score:5, Informative)

    by symes ( 835608 ) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @05:53AM (#33702128) Journal
    You can find NASA's press release and video here []
  • Re:Press release (Score:2, Informative)

    by Flash Modin ( 1828190 ) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:40AM (#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 (Score:2, Informative)

    by Flash Modin ( 1828190 ) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:32PM (#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.
  • by Flash Modin ( 1828190 ) on Sunday September 26, 2010 @11:36PM (#33707788)
    It's astronomy, taking pictures and analyzing them is most of what we do.

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