Astronomy and Astrophysics Update


Debra Fischer
*Post-Doctoral Fellow
Department of Astronomy
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California

Mario Livio
*Co-author, Accelerating Universe (John Wiley and Sons, 2000)
*Head, Science Division
Space Telescope Science Institute
Baltimore, Maryland

Christopher Churchill
*Graduate Faculty and Research Associate
Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics
Penn State University
State College, Pennsylvania

There's a basic number in nature so basic that physicists just call it 'alpha'. It's also known as the fine structure constant. But now some scientists are saying that number might not be a constant after all. It may have changed slightly as the universe has evolved. In this hour of Science Friday, we'll talk about what that finding, if true, might mean for other laws of the universe. We'll also find out about the discovery of a solar system 51 light-years from Earth that reminds some astronomers a little bit of our own home. The system has at least two planets, orbiting the system's star in nearly circular orbits. We'll talk about how those planets were spotted, and what their presence might mean.



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