Stars wobble in our telescopes,
And from such tiny signals
Their planets do emerge.
Thousands of stars host planets,
Giants of swirling gas,
And some that seem more earthly
In their orbits and their mass.
But each of these is distant,
Lifetimes away for certain.
How ever will we know if
There’s life upon the surface?
Light filters through their atmospheres,
When atmospheres they own.
Molecules split spectra
Into patterns that are known.
Life creates imbalances,
However strange to see,
Points to biology.
And so we have a protocol
As we gather specks of light,
Photons that passed through planets’ air
On their interstellar flight…
Will tell us if there’s oxygen,
Or methane, CO2,
Water vapor, nitrogen,
Or ozone in the brew.
And tease us with the knowledge
That, beyond our current grasp,
Creation may have left its mark,
A hand we’ll never clasp.
Inspired by an article from the latimes
The twin Keck Telescopes atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii
Everything we know
About the universe
Comes from feeble twinkles that
Speak grandly when observed.
When does the light arrive,
And comes from what direction?
How intense or diffuse
Are colors from refraction?
Light presents a barcode
Of dark lines to be read
Across the vibrant spectrum
From UV to infrared.
As starlight travels to the Earth
Each atom in the way
Leaves its mark within the beam
As photons fly away.
And so we know how far’s the star
How fast it moves by us,
If planets orbit ’round its disk
And what its core is made of.
by Kate Rauner
Thanks for a wonderful explanation of how astronomers use starlight at fivethirtyeight.com
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