The gringa cannot believe she got sucked in by a headline about a “Super-Earth” lurking in the outer regions of space. Within the first paragraph certain language was used that caused the gringa to go, “Mm hmm.” Very soon another word was used and the gringa exclaimed, “Aha!” A very telling word was used that earned the article a prompt, “Pfffft!” And, finally, when the truth was admitted, the gringa was jumping up and down screaming, “I KNEW IT!” And then I was kind of mad I had wasted all of that time and energy.
So, did astronomers find something interesting in the outer regions of space in the general direction of the Alpha Centauri system? Yes, they did. And THAT is ALL they know for now!
This object was first observed in 2014 by the Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array (ALMA). ALMA is a multi-national organization that manages an array of radio telescopes in the Atacama Desert in the northern part of Chile. The multi-national partnership includes: Europe, the United States, Canada, East Asia and the Republic of Chile. A second, and much clearer, sighting occurred in May of 2015.
Now, these are all the key words and phrases used that clearly indicates that any other information offered on this object, at this time, is JUST A GUESS! Sheesh! Create a leading headline and get the gringa all excited, now I am calling you OUT because of the major let down the TRUTH turned out to be:
- “Astronomers Find Object Deemed ‘Super-Earth’ in Outer Region” (key word “deemed”)
- “it is a dwarf planet or star” (key word “or” – they DON’T KNOW)
- “depending on its distance” (key word “depending” – they don’t know how far away it is)
- “a hypothesized “super-Earth.”” (key word “hypothesized” – um, they’re just guessing)
- “reasonable to presume” (key word “presume” – STILL GUESSING!)
- “it could be” (key word “could” – in other words, maybe/maybe not, we DON’T KNOW)
- “isn’t possible to determine” – (key words “isn’t possible” – we DON’T KNOW)
- “one possibility” (key word “possibility” – in other words, “hey, wanna know my opinion?”)
- “speculation” (does the gringa really have to explain that?)
- “a third possibility” (OMG! STILL GUESSING!)
One of the main reasons the gringa loves to write about space related science is that it is factual, therefore non-controversial, and still exciting! I love all that excitement without all the drama of arguing opinions and speculation, but, rather discussing something that is fascinating and forward thinking and factually defined.
And this article just really made me mad. It was an injustice to science. It exploited science in a dramatic fashion that made it just look ridiculous. It provoked images of crazy scientists running amok, scratching their heads and saying things like, “Well, I think…,” or, “I SAY THERE! It could be that…” It portrayed them as educated men and women who have hi-tech toys and they just poke a button at random and say, “Hm! Hey! Look at what the lens landed on? Whaddya think that is?”
The gringa felt the article really played up guesswork and insulted the many hours of painstaking effort astronomers and scientists devote themselves to. So this is for them, those brilliant men and women who are stargazers, dreamers and lovers of solving a puzzle and exploring the unknown.
What should have been said is that after this second, clearer sighting, scientists are extremely interested and intrigued by this object. In order to determine what it actually is many more observations are necessary because at this time scientists don’t have enough data to know if it’s even a planet or a star.
One of the difficulties in gathering accurate data is the distance this object is from Earth. It is on the outer edges of our solar system in the direction of the Alpha Centauri system.
Another difficulty in studying the object is the type of instrument needed for observing it. Most objects as far out as this object is are often too cool and distant to be observed by telescopes. With scientists considering the possibility that this object is either on the outer edge of our solar system or gravity bound to the Alpha Centauri system, it is simply out of our range to effectively study. The Alpha Centauri D system is four light years away.
Another puzzle scientists face is that some of the data is conflicting. When ALMA observed the submillimeter wavelengths of the object, the data suggested that it should be a red dwarf star. However, if it were a red dwarf star, it should have been clearly visible on an infrared telescope and discovered long ago.
So, astronomers and scientists will eagerly continue to gather more observations. Tracking the object’s motion and observing other wavelengths related to the object will eventually result in researchers being able to satisfy their curiosity as well as the public’s curiosity. So, until they complete their analysis, the only thing we do know is that a very interesting object is way, way, out there.
Photo credit: www.eso.org