Sunday, 26 August 2012

a mass of incandescent gas

Via the ever excellent Boing Boing, National Geographic reports on the singular roundness of the Sun. It is in fact on average the most perfectly spherical object known to man. The globes of the planets and satellites of course strive to this same figure but due to the tugging of other objects and their own rotation and compositions have settled mostly for a slightly oolong shape.

The article does not directly rate other, distant stars but seems to suggest that an astral body of a different class and age would not maintain a circular form. Scientists believe being able to better measure the tiny, hair’s breadth imperfections could better anticipate solar-induced weather conditions on Earth, like eruptions that disrupt communication or even the cycle of ice-ages. I wonder if astronomers have the ability to see if a far away star’s silhouette is round or distorted. Could that be a better indicator of a brood of planets—or specifically those that could harbour familiar biology, than watching for other types of perturbations? Does the reciprocal tug of a constellation of planets produce this perfect shape? Were the outline of a star proved to be a positive indicator of earth-like worlds, it would be a bit like the progression of the ancient astronomers from Ptolemy to Copernicus to Kepler, which saw the centre of the universe move from the Earth, to the Sun, to a point somewhere in between, the heavens not orbiting around the centre of the Sun but rather some fulcrum that was the sum negotiation of everything pulling against everything else.