I just LOVE new technology. For example Europe is getting ready to launch an exciting new SPACE TELESCOPE, called Herschel (named after the German born, British Astronomer who discovered Uranus), to work alongside the existing Hubble Telescope (named after the American astronomer who discovered galaxies beyond our own, and indeed that the Universe is EXPANDING).
Working in the INFRARED (unlike Hubble which sees the same light that WE do) it is hoped that Herschel will be able to see out to the EDGE of the KNOWN UNIVERSE. Which actually means looking BACKWARDS IN TIME to the Big Bang.
(Though I am sure that you KNEW that already!)
Things to see in SPACE include PLANETS, and there is more exciting news, because it seems that we have spotted a new solar system. I know that this is getting to be a bit OLD HAT, but the reason that this one is ESPECIALLY exciting is that it looks a lot more like OURS.
So far, a lot of the EXOPLANETS that we have spotted have been Gas Giants, like Jupiter or Saturn, but ones that orbit very CLOSE to their stars. A large object moving close to, and therefore very fast around, a star causes a more NOTICEABLE disturbance in the Force light that reaches our telescopes, so these are more OBVIOUS.
But it had made scientists wonder if MOST solar systems formed that way – with big gas giants close in. This would make OUR system seem rather UNUSUAL. In cosmic terms this is bad news because it would mean that all the things that we have learned about how OUR star system came to be like it is would not GENERALISE.
But now that we HAVE found another system that looks like it looks like ours – one that has two large gas giants further out, with the possibility of rocky iron-cored planets forming in the temperate zones, then we can all breathe a sigh of relief… and start concentrating our investigations there.
In the LONG RUN – and at six billion years away that is a VERY long run, at the moment – we will want to send explorers out there, and maybe even colonists!
In the meantime, though, we have not even started properly to explore our own back yard! The Americans, I know, are preparing to return to the Moon, with their next generation Orion space craft, but Great Britain has not even got a proper space programme. At least, not yet… but we are apparently THINKING about it.
I say it is time to call in Professor Quatermass and the British Rocket Group. Britain needs YOU, Professor Q!
Anyway, the BEST gadget of ALL is a genuine JAMES BOND car. And LOOK – here is one!