‘Twinkle Twinkle’ Bronwyn Pearse (Guest Writer)

‘Twinkle, Twinkle, little star how I wonder what you are. ‘

Yes, I have often wondered about stars. Our star the sun, is the closest to us. We would fit 1,300,000 earths in the sun. It plays such an amazing role in our lives. Indeed our world revolves around the sun. As we hear small children sing this all so familiar song we can get lulled into a false sense of security.

A star is actually a massive hydrogen bomb. Comprised of a range of elements all of which are essential for life on our planet. When they have exploded in the past, the earth has been sprayed with all kinds of heavy metals. Many we are using today for our technology and survival.

So not only do stars like our sun provide light, they provide building materials for planets. But before I go on, here’s one for the road.

Two men, Bill and Sam are sitting an exam as a part of a job application. At the end, the boss brings both men in and announces. “Both of you answered the questions exactly the same, but in consideration I’m going to give Sam the job.

Bill responds by asking. “Why give him the job if we both answered the questions the same? The boss responds….“ Well there was one question you did respond differently to. To question eleven Sam wrote.

“I don’t know the answer to this question. And you wrote, “Neither do I.” 

Its April fool’s day and you’re a twin. Your twin sister is in another class, at the same school. So what do you do? You swap classes don’t you? This is exactly the scheme twin girls hatched at my daughter’s school years ago.

They got away with it because they were identical. It fooled the teachers hook line and sinker, because being young, they still appeared very similar in looks.

While identical twins are the same genetically, non-identical twins are not. Born on the same day to the same mother, they do not share all the same genetics.

In recent years there has been cries of we have found a twin to our sun however in closer investigation it is a non-identical twin they have found. However within the astronomical community astronomers are desperate to find an identical twin of our sun.

As only our Sun appears to possess all the fine-tuned features that advanced life requires in its host star.

Their thinking, has been that given the Milky Way Galaxies two hundred billion stars and the great variety of differing properties for all those stars, it should not be too difficult to find many with the exact same qualities to the Sun. Fair enough!

The search has shown that there are indeed, many stars who are twins of each other but despite the observational effort carried out in the last six decades, no perfect solar twin to our sun has been found.”

Interestingly enough it has been this pursuit of a solar twin that has lead the researchers to discover unique aspects about our sun. Here are some of them.

In order for a planet like earth to have life on it, the star must be the 

  • Just right age. The flaring activity of a star which strips away the atmosphere of planets surrounding it, is more active when it is young and more active when it is old.

Stars are actually like people unpredictable when they are young and unpredictable when they are old. Being middle age means the sun, unlike many other stars is very stable.

  • Just right Mass. Stars more massive than the sun burn too quickly and too erratically for life to survive. But Suns less massive throw off significantly more violent flares. Overall even a small mass gain or loss produces a dramatic effect.
  • Just right abundance of elements (giving off particular gas and heavy elements at precise amounts are needed for life on earth.) The sun gives off more than just sunlight. However it has only been in recent years that we have had the technology to measure the composition of stars.

From this it has been determined that the sun has an above average composition of elements. But not too much as to poison the earth with heavy metals.

  • Just right position in the galaxy. Our sun is far enough away from neighbouring stars, a factor protecting the earth from being blasted with deadly radiation.

Our solar system also has only one star. Over half of the solar systems discovered have more than one star. However a two star system is not conducive to life. 

  • Just right orbit. Not only is the just right part of the galaxy a requirement but so is the orbital path the sun follows. Our sun orbits the galaxy in a manner that keeps the earth away from black holes and other catastrophic areas of the galaxy.
  • Just right distance from earth. In 1966, astronomers Iosif Shklovsky and Carl Sagan determined “that it takes a certain kind of star with a planet located at the just-right distance from that star to provide the minimal conditions for life.”

Earth has a very unique atmosphere. If it’s distance from the sun was changed by as little as 2 percent, this would destroy all life on our planet. It’s not just the atmosphere that is affected by the distance between the earth and sun, but also the temperature.

This factor could not be more understated. A hotter sun would mean that we would have to change the words of the Beatles song “I’m walking on sunshine.” to ‘walking on hot coals.’ A colder sun would mean a permanent ice age amongst other things.

  • Just right luminosity for life. Because we now know the history of our sun, astronomers recognise that we live at the perfect time in its changing luminosity (brightness) where advanced life can exist.

About 50,000 years ago the sun entered a very stable luminosity stage. Scientists recognise that if the Sun were to get brighter by just 0.1 percent, life on earth would cease.

Astronomers Meléndez and Ramírezin, who spent most of their careers searching for a true solar twin, have identified a star which has a number of features the same as the sun. More than any other star yet found.

It has a lithium (an essential element) abundance nearly the same as the sun. It’s mass and temperature measured to be the same as the sun.

However it is 15 percent more luminous (brighter) and it is also much older than our sun. Making it unpredictable. It also resides in a heavy cluster of stars making its residence unfit for advanced life.

Yet the search for a twin star continues with the ultimate prize being life on other planets.

As the distinguished Nobel Laureate, Enrico Fermi said in 1950, “Given the Milky Way Galaxy has over a hundred billion stars and could have as many as several billion planets and is already billions of years old. If civilisations similar to ours had developed and if a fraction of these chose to explore or colonise other planets. Earth should have been visited long ago. Where is everybody? “This challenge led to decades of searching the universe for signs of life. Millions is being spent on listening and probing for intelligence on other planets. 

Many astrophysicists have come to the conclusion like Harvard astronomers Manasvi Lingam and Abraham Loeb (who) stated, “One may thus be tempted to conclude that complex life is rare in the universe.”

Now that is a valid point to make. What I’m proposing here in Blog land is not that we will never find life on other planets. That would be presumptuous, considering how many planets there are out there in the universe.

What I am saying though, is that we must consider everything that has to happen to make advanced life feasible. There are over 100 different features of the universe that must be fine-tuned to make possible the existence of life.

This research shows us that we couldn’t expect life here on earth unless a very personal designer, a super intellect and divine mind intervened to make it happen.

This would also have to be the case on other planets. In the modified words of the rock group ‘Dire Straights’ you (don’t) get your “money for nothing and your (chickens) for free.”

As we put down the telescope yet again let’s go to that professor’s desk and scrounge around for another view on all this.

In his book The Intelligent Universe’, Sir Fred Hoyle said, (when arguing that living organisms could not have arisen by chance alone.)

“A junkyard contains all the bits and pieces of a Boeing 747, dismembered and in disarray. A whirlwind happens to blow through the yard. What is the chance that after its passage a fully assembled 747, ready to fly, will be found standing there? So small as to be negligible, even if a tornado were to blow through enough junkyards to fill the whole Universe.”

Those who are sitting on the fence in the physics department like Robert Griffiths, who won the Dannie Heineman Prize for mathematical physics, observed, “If we need an atheist for a debate , I go to the philosophy department. The physics department isn’t much use.”

And on that note. “Houston over and out.”

Check out my earlier blog ’The Eagle has Landed’ and others if you’ve missed them.

See http://www.reasons. org/explore /

Also : Dr Hugh Ross ‘Improbable Planet, & The Creator and the Cosmos ,& Why the universe is the way it is’ Dr Paul Davies ‘The Cosmic Blueprint’, Dr Steven Hawking ’ A Brief History Of Time’. Freeman Dyson ’Disturbing the Universe’. Is there life out there? By Dr Jeff Zweerink. ’The Intelligent Universe ‘Sir Fred Hoyle., ‘The Symbiotic Universe.’ George Greenstein. ‘Why our Planet is Unique’.by Dr John Gribbin.’

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