Why God Created This World?
Why God created this world? The question has not only baffled the philosophers, religious leaders, mystics, artists but also the scientists. Scientist too fails to explain why and how this universe was created. Why did the big bang happen? How was the universe before big bang? Whom to ask this question? An old Hindi song expresses this quest of man in the following words
Oh! Creator of the World,
What came in your mind?
Why you created this world?
Why you created living beings,
Beautiful faces and lovely faces,
Why you only made joy of love,
Then why you gave pain of separation?
While we know that this world is created by God or evolved from energy but we find no explanation of the reasons of its creation. Reason of creation is must as the knowledge of cause is necessary to predict the effect. Unless we know the purpose of creation, it is difficult to lead a life consistent with the desire of God or the laws of nature. Einstein too desired to know the thoughts of God as he said, “I want to know God’s thoughts; the rest are details.”
What Scriptures say about creation?
Scriptures do not help much in understanding this eternal mystery. Bible merely says in the first chapter dealing with Genesis that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. The earth was formless, empty and dark and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. Thereafter God created light, water, vegetation, day-night, stars, birds and animals. Finally God created man in his own image and subsequently created women from a rib of man. The theory of creation in Islam is quite similar to that of Bible.
The Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism believes that the physical world is nothing but the manifestation of God. Thus it believes that God is not an external entity separate from the world, but it is part of Him. “All in God and God in all” is the simplest explanation of the concept of universe and God.
If God can be compared with the body of a person then the individuals can be compared with a cell of the body. Just like there are trillions of cells of millions of type, so are the different types of creations in the universe. Yet all the different types of cells like that of skin, bone, nail, blood, hair surely originate from a single fertilized cell. It has been now proven by the success of cloning that every single cell of the body can develop itself to the full body that is identical to the parent body. Thus God is present in all living beings and every being has the goal and capability to become God by the power of Karma and achieve salvation or union with God.
In Gita when Arjuna wanted to see the vision of God, Lord Krishna says
O Arjun, behold My hundreds and thousands of multifarious divine forms of different colors and shapes. Behold all the celestial beings and many wonders never seen before. Also behold the entire creation-animate, inanimate, and whatever else you would like to see – all at one place in My body. But you are not able to see Me with your physical eye; therefore, I give you the divine eye to see My majestic power and glory. (Gita, 11:5-11.08)
Thus there are broadly two types of theories in scriptures. One that sees God as an external being who created the world i.e. dualism and the other which treats the creation and God as one and same thing or non-dualism. The non-differentiation of God and the creature is often termed as Advaita (Non-dualism) or Vedanta philosophy of Upanishads in Hinduism. Yet the non-dualistic philosophy is most difficult to comprehend by the ordinary people like the theory of relativity of Einstein. Therefore, in reality, most Hindus believe in the concept of a God who is different from the individual and who guides and directs the world. In fact Hindus believe not in one God but in millions of God who all have specialized functions to perform. Though, it also agrees that all gods as nothing but the manifestation of one Supreme Reality. Further all Gods of Hinduism are in human form and hence it agrees with Christianity that God created man in His own image.
All scriptures broadly agree that this world is not the only world created by God. They all give the concept of heaven or paradises where the inhabitants are free from problems of this world which is considered to be the place of pain and misery where people are send to be punished. Bible says that the man is punished due to the “original sin” committed by Adam. Hinduism says that this world is the karmabumi or the place of karma (action) where a person can work and perform so that he can get salvation or freedom from this world. Buddhism too acknowledges that pain is inevitable in this world and the goal of the man is to be relieved from the pain by the true knowledge or enlightenment.
Yet if we have any faith in the wisdom of God, then there has to be a purpose in the design of the world and each person must be born in this world for a purpose and a goal. What could be that purpose of God and goal of man?
All scriptures give the hint that the goal of all human beings is to realize God or to be become like God. The concept of God in every religion is to help the man in finding an ideal life to achieve divinity. Christians are expected to follow the life of Jesus Christ, Muslims must follow the life of Prophet Mohammad and Hindus must become like Rama and Krishna. Buddhists too want to become like Buddha. Thus all the prophets and Gods in their human incarnation provided an ideal that man must follow in his life so that he become like God.
Once a person becomes divine, he then deserves the place in heaven and get free from the bondage of earth. This is the real goal of all religions. All religions agree that man must get himself free from the worldly pursuits and become spiritual so that he can enter into the kingdom of God viz. heaven.
Though, the world is portrayed as evil and place of pain yet very few people find the world so painful. In fact most people love this world and its various creations and want to live forever in this world. Rarely a person wish to die despite of the pain he faces in this world. The reason is that if there is pain, there is also pleasure in this world. How many people in this world are really interested in becoming spiritual? Most people prefer worldly things to God as this famous Hindi song says,
If one side is you, my lover,
And the other side is God,
I will say sorry to God,
And hold your hand
The Purpose of the World
God has created this world very intelligently. While he created the first man and woman, he gave some of His power to his creation so that they can create other beings. Thus all the creations of man are quite similar to the creation of God. All institutions and system created by man has inspiration from God. The concept of justice, equality, love, affection is nothing but divine qualities present in man.
Since man is nothing but the image of God, all their creation must have some resemblance with the institutions created by God. Thus the world has been perceived differently by different people. Shakespeare perceived the world as stage in “As You Like It”
All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
In the eyes of an artist, the world is nothing but drama where every person is playing a character. However, this hypothesis is only partly true as the people in this world are given free will by God to think and act. Hence people are not acting but facing the real world with real forces of pain and pleasure. This world seems more like a school where the problems of the test, though created artificially to test the knowledge, are very real for the student.
The World as a School
The concept of the modern world is impossible to imagine without the concept of school. Every human being gets admitted to a school at a tender age and learned the knowledge of the world from his teachers. He has to pass examination conducted by the schools which test the worldly knowledge of the person. Once a person acquires the worldly knowledge, he becomes fit to enter into a profession and contribute in the material advancement of the world.
While in school, every person has to undergo many tests or artificially designed questions or situations and he must find an answer to these problems. Once he is able to solve the easy and artificial problem, he gradually develops the ability to understand and solve the complex problems of life.
All scriptures agree that ultimately the goal of the man is to achieve salvation which can be achieved only by becoming divine. The path of divinity is the path of prophets and avatars who had acquired the divine knowledge and became spiritual. The goal of every person is to become spiritual and discard the worldly pleasure. The world is designed in a way that it always tempts the person to the worldly pursuits. In Indian philosophy, it is also called maya or illusion. The forces of the world are so strong that it is almost impossible for most man to resists its attraction. Thus a man is continuously tested in his life in the school called the world. Only when he becomes spiritual, he knows the real happiness and the knowledge of God.
Thus the world is not created without a purpose; It tests whether you listen to the message of the body or that of the soul. We all start from the body and move to the soul. One who ignores the message from the soul and listen only to the body, is made to feel pain and miserly by the soul to bring the person to the right path. Soul is the cause of all happiness and no happiness is possible without the joy of the soul. God like a good examiner does not provide the right answers to you but only drops hints to you which enable you to learn the lessons yourself.
Thus the nature which is the physical manifestation of the world is like a book which must be used to educate the soul so that man can become spiritual. In the words of Swami Vivekananda,
The very reason for the nature’s existence is for the education of soul; it has no other meaning; it is there because the soul must have knowledge, and through knowledge free itself. If we remember this always, we shall never be attached to nature; we shall know that nature is a book which we are to read; and that when we have gained the required knowledge, the book is of no value to us.
The people who can understand this message gradually understand their soul and distance themselves from the world and worldly pursuits. By understanding the voice of soul, one also develops the capability to understand the language of God and become the massager of God in this world. These people are called by the world as spiritual, Avatars or Prophets. One, who has become truly spiritual, achieves divinity and passes the examination of the world to enter into the kingdom of God.
The world is not created by God without a purpose. This world is like a school and the nature is like the book written by God that helps a person in his spiritual evolution by learning to listen to message of the God from his soul. Once he acquires the required qualification and attains merit, he passes the test of this world, so as to achieve divinity and enter into the kingdom of God.
World Economic Power
In today’s society world power is also known as world economic power and we are not really sure who holds the key. There are a lot of factors involved and we have to decide what is the most important resource for the worlds economy is it oil, energy, food or even water? What about economic growth and technology?
Americans are more likely to name China than the United States as the “leading economic power in the world today” Actually the United States and China are about tied as world economic leaders in spite of the United States current economic troubles, Americans now believe the United States will be the worlds economic power in 20 years from now. With Japan and the European Union following closely behind.
Unfortunately we are totally dependent on natural resources: the essential needs for people everywhere are food, clean drinking water and housing. Sunlight and wind are the only natural resources that are essentially unlimited. The more industrial countries across the globe hold 25% of the world’s inhabitants, but consume 75% of all energy, 85% of all wood products, and 72% of all steel produced. Americans consume the most of all, even more than people in other developed countries.
Most Americans perceive the United States as the greatest producer of food but China and India actually produce more and we’ll also find that Saudi Arabia is the world’s largest exporter of oil and petroleum products. Even though the United States in not the largest producer of food or oil and we are actually the largest consumer of these as well as natural resources we are still considered to be the world’s economic power.
World Power (The rise and fall)
The position of world power has changed hands many times throughout history and there has always been a struggle for dominance since the beginning of the Roman Empire. Which was said to have extended through 16 centuries? One country or Person has always tried to rise up and become a significant world power.
In the early 1800’s a military and political leader named Napoleon rose up and became an increasingly dominant influence. During his campaign, his actions helped shape European politics in the first part of the 19th century. The countries that he conquered and controlled were called the French empire. His strategies and tactics are still being studied
In 1930 during the great depression in Germany a man named Adolf Hitler began his rise to power. By 1938 he became absolute dictator of Germany. During this time Germany made the greatest expansions of industrial production and civil improvement also in 1938 as a result of a summit which was referred to as the Munich agreement Adolf Hitler was named time magazines man of the year.
In 1941 Hitler made a grave mistake, he declared war on the United States which set him against a coalition of the worlds largest empire, which was the British Empire and the worlds largest industrial nation and financial power Which was the United states and the worlds largest army which at that time was the soviet union. The Germans didn’t think that there was much to worry about from the Americans — as a matter of fact they had plans for an ultimate invasion of the US.
By the year 1945 Germany was crushed by the combined forces of these superpowers and finally surrendered and Aldolf Hitler committed suicide. Germany no longer dreams of being a world power it cannot compare to industrialized countries like the United States and China today
World power (The United Nations)
There was a great idea in 1945 to unite the whole world in decision making and it was called the united nations The United Nations was established, in the aftermath of a devastating war, to help stabilize international relations and give peace a more secure foundation, Learning from past mistakes it was thought best not to have one nation as a world power.
The success of United Nations international relations depends on a strong joint venture between the world body and Member States. With a large per cent of the world’s people lacking sufficient social protection and global inequalities growing, the top United Nations officials called for a new era of social justice that offers essential services, decently paid jobs, and safeguards for the poor and defenseless.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United Nations have become increasingly involved in providing humanitarian assistance and promoting improvements in the health of the world’s peoples. The United Nations operates under the principle that promoting economic and social development will bring about lasting peace.
Although this was a great idea it is very difficult to get the world to agree on most issues. By the end of the 1970’s the United Nations had lost some of its prestige, it was clear that the two superpowers, The United States and Russia, would follow the foreign policy that they wanted to regardless of what the United Nations Wanted.
Within years of its birth the United Nations stands at a crossroads. The idea of having the whole world involved in global decision making now seems divided between the rich and poor nations. Which leaves the concept of all the nations working together for one common goal very difficult to achieve?
World power (The Most Powerful person)
World power is a very controversial subject and there have been a lot of debates over this issue.A nation or other political entity having the power to influence the course of world events. Is considered to be a world power. Who do we think is the most powerful person in the world? Is it the President of the United States? Or could it be the Pope.
The President is often considered the most powerful man in the world because he is the leader of the most powerful nation in the world; however there are many other political leaders who have a lot more power in terms of their ability to say something. The president has congress and the Supreme Court to answer to which limits his power.
Actually this year’s Forbes list of the world’s most powerful people is out with a twist that may be a surprise to some and a confirmation of reality to others: Ranking Chinese President Hu Jintao at number one, above U.S. President Barack Obama.
Although the Pope has over a billion catholic followers he is no longer the most powerful influence in the world. He is actually not even on the top 50 list as one of the most influential people in the world any more. Not since Pope Innocent III was a Pope all powerful, He held this position for 18 years at a time of weak European monarchies.
There has also been a conspiracy theory about New World order which has been passed down for centuries. It is said that some believe that there are those that have made a deal with the devil to gain wealth and power and to move humanity into accepting an Utopian world government.
World power (The appearance of America)
Since the turn of the 20th century the United States has emerged as a world power, the United States has made a major strategic commitments in the far east, it has also acquired territory never intended for statehood, and committed itself to police actions and interventions in the Caribbean and Central America. We have always been the go to guy when countries are in trouble.
The United States is thought to be a very young country, with its own share of growing pains. From the first time the pilgrims landed in the early 1620’s and they had to deal with all the hardships, which were Indians, lack of resources and they were in a land that they were unfamiliar with.Then we had to fight for our independence from England in the Early 1770’s, which at that time was considered a world power and a force to be reckoned with.
In the early 1860’s America was divided in a civil war, between the Union and the confederates,the southern states were trying to secede from the Union. If in fact the Union was not able to stay together, The United States probably wouldn’t be considered one of the great superpowers today.
The United States has been in several wars on the other side of the Globe and since World War II, Where we used our industrial might to influence the war and after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Japanese then said that they had woken a sleeping giant, since then The United States has been regarded as a superpower. The world powers at that time were England, Germany and France. But after World War II the United States has been considered the world’s policemen
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The World Soccer
I studied drawing at scool for many years, but I did not like it very much. My favourite subject at school were the olympic sports. I remember when I was a child and I played soccer with my friends. My best memory was when El Salvador,a small Central American country, qualified at the World Cup in 1982.I did not think “ES” defeat Mexico, sixth place in the FIFA World Championship in 1970.
Between 1978 and 1989, El Salvador had one of the worst civil war in the modern history of Latin America.Unfortunately, more than 70,000 people were killed by anti-communist dictatorships and marxist rebels.
Certainly, I was a big fan of Salvadoran soccer. I once said: “ES ganarà el Mundial ( El Salvador will be win the FIFA Soccer World 1982..!).However, the only thing that I clearly remember is that Hungary beat El Salvador 10-1 in the World Cup in Spain…Good Bye ES…!
Like many people, I think that soccer is “passion” in the world since 1910. When Cameroon, ex French colony in Africa, won its first gold medal at the XXVII Summer Olympics Games in Australia (2000)…Yaoundè, the capital city of Cameroon, was carnival for days.Cameroon was the second African country to win the gold olympic…
Unfortunately, Liberia was the nightmare of the Third World…From 1980 to 2005, more than 180,000 people were killed by dictatorships and AIDS…Currently, the poverty is a plague…Its percapita income of $ 80 a year is one of the worst in the World History. Hundreds of thousands of Liberian people fled the country. Like neighboring Sierra Leone, the African country has one of the highest number of orphans in the Africa in relation to its population.
Fortunately, Liberia is home to George Manneh Oppong Ousman Weah, one of the World`s most famous and charismatic players. In 1995 the FIFA selected George Weah as the best footballer of the Year.Certainly, he became a “World Star” in the 1990s.Like Iman (former super-model from Somalia) and Dikembe Mutombo (basketball player from the Democratic Republic of Congo), George Weah is an icon in the African continent. Since then, he made a great contribution to Liberian human development. Currently, George Weah is UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.
He was national team captain for many years, but his country did not qualifity for the FIFA Football World. Ironically, Liberia was not one of the best teams of Africa in the 20th Century.
In 1994 Bolivia`s qualification for the finals was one of the surprises in the Third World sport. Under the leadership of Marco Etcheverry, Bolivia beat Brazil 2-0 in the Pre-World Cup in La Paz, Bolivia`s capital. I remember that Etcheverry, best known for his nickname “El Diablo”, was the idol of millions of Bolivians.It was one of the greatest sporting moments in Bolivian history since 1978. At that time, Bolivia, under the leaderships of Guadalupe Yañez, qualified for the FIBA Women`s World Championship in Seoul, South Korea´s capital.
In my opinion, the FIFA World Championship is a world without frontiers. Ferenc Puskas, was born on April, 1926, in Budapest, Hungary, made his debut in the friendly against Austria at the age of only fifteen…In the past Century, Puskas represented both Hungary, a former communist State, and Spain.At the time, Santamaria played for Uruguay and Spain. Traditionally American players have Latin American and African roots: Hugo Perez (El Salvador), Tab Ramos (Uruguay), Claudio Reyna (Argentina), Josmer Altidore (Haiti) and Freddy Addu (Ghana).
Today Gerald Asamoah, was born in Accra (Ghana), is one of the best footballers in Germany at the moment. While Alex (Alessandro) Santos, was born in Brazil, is a Japanese player.Santos played many times for Japan, including appearances at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Personally, I think that this Century will be an era of “Sports Miracles” in the Third World. Cote D`Ivoire, best known as Ivory Coast, qualified for the FIFA Soccer World 2006…Angola made its debut in Germany…Trinidad-Tobago made its debut in the World Cup…Paraguay won the silver medal in football in the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens.
1930: FIFA World Cup in Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay, one of the most development countries in the 1930s.The final ranking:1-Uruguay,2-Argentina, 3-Yugoslavia,4-USA,5-Chile, 6-Brazil,7-France,8-Paraguay,9-Romania, 10-Peru, 11-Belgium, 12-Bolivia, 13-Mexico.
1934: World Cup in Rome. Uruguay did not participate. The final ranking:1-Italy, Czechoslovakia,Germany, Austria, Spain, Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland, Romania, Argentina, France, Holland, Brazil, Egypt, Belgium and the United States.
1938:World Cup in France.The final ranking:1-Italy, Hungary,Brazil,Sweden,Czechoslovakia,Switzerland,Cuba,France,Romania,Germany,Norway,Poland,Belgium,Holland,Netherlands Indies.
1950:FIFA World Cup in Brazil. In Rio, the host lost the final 2-1 to Uruguay. Brazil was the big favourite… Uruguay had its second World Cup!
1954:World Cup in Switzerland.The final ranking:1-West Germany,Hungary,Austria,Uruguay,Switzerland,Brazil,England,Yugoslavia,France,Italy,Turkey,Belgium,Mexico,Czechoslovakia,Scotland,Korea.
1958: World Cup in Sweden…The final ranking:1-Brazil, Sweden, France, West Germany, Wales, USSR, Northern Ireland, Yugoslavia,Czechoslovakia,Hungary,England,Paraguay,
Argentina, Scotland,Austria and Mexico.
1962:World Cup in Santiago de Chile…Certainly, the people of Brazil produce the World`s best coffee, but also the best soccer…The final ranking:1-Brazil,Czechoslovakia, Chile, Yugoslavia, Hungary, West Germany,USSR, England, Italy, Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay, Colombia, Bulgaria and Switzerland.
1966: World Cup in London,UK…The final ranking: 1-England,
West Germany, Portugal, USSR, Argentina, Hungary, Uruguay, North Korea, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Brazil…
1970:Brazil won the FIFA World Cup on June 27th in Mexico City. The final ranking: Brazil, Italy, West Germany, Uruguay,USSR, Mexico, Peru, England, Sweden, Belgium, Romania, Israel, Bulgaria, Morocco, Czechoslovakia and ES.
1974:World Cup in West Germany…After Zaire, today`s Democratic Republic of Congo, qualified for the FIFA World Championship, a legal holiday was declared by Mobutu Sésé Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa zan Banga, tyrannical president of the African country……Haitian footballers sometimes use the language “creole” during games to confuse rivals… Brazil and WGermany were the obvious favorites.The final ranking:1-West Germany, Holland, Poland, Brazil, Sweden, Argentina, East Germany, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Italy, Scotland, Australia, Chile,Uruguay, Haiti and Zaire.
1978: World Cup in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The final ranking:1-Argentina, Holland,Brazil, Italy, West Germany, Poland,Austria, Peru, Tunisia, Spain, Scotland, France, Sweden, Iran, Hungary and Mexico.
1982: For first time, there were 24 teams. FIFA World Cup in Spain. Italy won the trophy. The ranking final:1-Italy, West Germany, Poland, France, Brazil, England, USSR, Austria, Northern Ireland, Belgium, Argentina, Spain, Algeria,Hungary. Scotland, Yugoslavia,Cameroon,Honduras,Czechoslovakia,Peru, Kuwait, Chile, New Zealand, ES.
1986: World Cup in Mexico. The final ranking:1-Argentina, West Germany, France, Belgium, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, England, Denmark, USSR, Morocco, Italy, Paraguay, Poland, Bulgaria, Uruguay, Portugal, Hungary, Scotland, South Korea, Northern Ireland, Algeria, Irak and Canada.
1990:World Cup In Italy.The final ranking:1-West Germany, Argentina, Italy, England, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Ireland, Cameroon,Netherlands, Brazil, Belgium, Spain, Romania, Colombia, Uruguay,CR,Egypt,Austria,Scotland, USSR,Sweden, South Korea,USA and the United Arab Emirates.
1994: World Cup in the United States. The final ranking:1-Brazil, Italy, Sweden, Bulgaria, Germany, Romania, Netherlands, Spain,Nigeria, Argentina, Belgium, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, USA, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, Russia, Colombia, South Korea, Bolivia, Cameroon, Morocco and Greece.
1998:World Cup in Paris. The final ranking:1-France,Brazil,Croatia, Netherlands, Argentina,Italy, Germany, Denmark, England, Yugoslavia,Romania,Nigeria, Mexico, Paraguay, Norway, Chile, Spain, Morocco, Belgium, Iran, Colombia, Jamaica, Austria, South Africa, Cameroon, Tunisia, Scotland, Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria, South Korea, Japan and the United States.
2002:World Cup in Japan and South Korea…1-Brazil, 2-Germany, 3-Turkey,4-South Korea…SKorea has one of the best sporting infrastructure in the world…
2006: World Cup in Germany…1-Italy, 2-France,3-Germany,4-Portugal.
Weighing The World!
To date, astronomers have confirmed the existence of over 900 exoplanets–alien worlds in orbit around distant stars beyond our own Solar System–as well as over 2,300 potential faraway worlds! In order to determine if any of these remote planets are habitable, astronomers must determine the mass of the planet, because this can reveal to them whether the planet is composed of gas or rock, or some other materials that may be life-friendly. In December 2013, two planet-hunting astronomers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced that they have developed a new technique for determining the mass of distant alien worlds. Julien de Wit is lead author of the paper published on December 19, 2013 in the journal Science, along with co-author Dr. Sara Seager, the Class of 1941 Professor of Physics and Planetary Science at MIT.
The two scientists used only the exoplanets’ transit signal–the dips in starlight that occur as the wandering alien world passes in front of the face of its fiery, glaring parent-star. This information has traditionally been used to calculate the exoplanet’s size and atmospheric composition–but the MIT team has discovered a way to interpret it so that it also shows the exoplanet’s mass.
“With this method, we realized the planetary mass–a key parameter that, if missing, could have prevented us from assessing the habitability of the first potentially habitable Earth-sized planet in the next decade,”explained de Wit in a December 19, 2013 MIT Press Release. De Wit is a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Science.
Astronomers have been spotting alien worlds in orbit around Sun-like stars since 1995. Some of these alien worlds bear an eerie resemblance to the familiar planets dwelling in our Sun’s own family, while others are so weird that they do not resemble anything astronomers had ever previously dreamed of seeing. Nevertheless–despite the obvious siren’s song sung by those worlds which are enchantingly exotic–a familiar planet just like our Earth always remains the Holy Grail in planet-hunting astronomers’ search for distant worlds elsewhere in our Milky Way Galaxy.
Indeed, scientists have been observing smaller and smaller and smaller alien worlds ever since the historic discovery in 1995 of a gigantic planet in orbit around a Sun-like star. That first-of-its-weird-kind exoplanet, 51 Pegasi b (51 Peg b), was classified as a hot Jupiter. Hot Jupiters are a newly recognized class of alien worlds that orbit their parent-stars fast and close in extremely tight, roasting orbits. Until 51 Peg b was spotted, astronomers did not even suspect that such bizarre planets could exist in the Cosmos. Before 1995, astronomers believed that gigantic planets could only circle their parent-stars at much greater, colder distances–such as the more remote, chilly outer regions of our own Solar System, where Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune twirl majestically around our Sun.
Now, instead of merely spotting alien worlds beyond our Sun’s family, scientists want to study them in more detail. This will help them to find out if the exoplanet they are analyzing is potentially habitable.
Knowing the mass of a distant exoworld can not only enable scientists to decipher its atmospheric makeup, and whether it is a gassy or rocky planet, but can also lend some insight into its plate tectonics, how it generates magnetic fields, how it cools, and whether gas flies off from its atmosphere into space, de Wit and Seager noted.
“The mass affects everything on a planetary level. If you don’t get it, there is a large part of the planet’s properties that remains undetermined,” de Wit noted in the December 19, 2013 MIT Press Release.
In order to measure the mass of an alien world many light-years away, astronomers normally look for their parent-star’s wobble. The wobble results from the fact that planets do not actually circle their parent-stars. The planet and its star circle a mutual center of mass in their orbits–that is, the star orbits too, but in a much smaller circle. In fact, the mutual center can exist within the parent-star itself.
The stellar wobble is easiest to observe when massive planets, such as 51 Peg b, circle fast and close to their stars. Alas, the tinier the planet, the tinier the wobble induced on the star. Furthermore, scientists cannot yet measure a star’s slowest sway. This means that current methods used for weighing distant worlds are limited. The wobble method–more technically termed the radial velocity method–doesn’t work on a significant number of exoplanets that do not visibly tug on their stellar parents. This includes exoworlds with low masses, those circling their stars in more distant orbits, those dwelling in the families of dim stars, and those orbiting extremely active stars where a planet’s tugging can be masked by stellar disturbances–such as starspots.
Now, de Wit and Seager have discovered a way to weigh a distant exoplanet by observing its atmosphere.
Weighing The World!
An alien planet’s atmosphere grows thinner and thinner with altitude–just as Earth’s does. This happens because the strength of a planet’s gravitational attraction diminishes with greater distance from the planet.
Because the strength of a planet’s gravitational lure depends on its mass–the greater the mass, the stronger the pull–scientists can calculate an alien world’s mass by observing how the planet’s atmosphere thins with altitude. This involves observing exoplanets as they transit past the glaring face of their fiery stellar parent, and then gazing at the starlight gleaming through the atmospheres of those distant worlds in order to determine how the atmospheric pressure drops with altitude. Of course, this method can only work on exoplanets that have an atmosphere!
Using large space telescopes such as NASA’s venerable Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and the infrared Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have been able to determine the transmission spectra of newly discovered alien worlds. A transmission spectrum is generated as an exoplanet transits in front of the face of its stellar parent, allowing some starlight to shine through the atmosphere. By studying the wavelengths of the starlight that passes through, astronomers can determine an exoplanet’s atmospheric attributes–such as its temperature and the density of atmospheric molecules. From the total amount of light blocked, they can calculate an exoplanet’s size.
In order to determine the mass of an alien world using transmission spectroscopy, de Wit relied on the effect that an exoplanet’s mass has on its atmosphere. In order to accomplish this, he worked from a standard equation describing the effect of an exoplanet’s gravitational force, temperature, and atmospheric density on its atmospheric pressure profile–that is, the extent to which pressure is altered throughout the atmosphere.
According to this equation, knowing any three of these parameters would uncover the fourth parameter. Since an alien world’s mass can be derived from its gravitational force, de Wit determined that this planet’s mass could be derived from its atmosphere temperature, pressure profile, and density–which are parameters that, in principle, may be derived from a transmission spectrum.
However, in order to get a precise measurement of an alien world’s mass, de Wit needed to demonstrate that these three parameters could be derived independently of each other, only from a transmission spectrum.
In order to do this, de Wit had to show that each parameter has a distinctive effect on a transmission spectrum. De Wit then performed new analytical derivations from the first principles of radiative transfer, and discovered that an 18th-century mathematical constant–the Euler-Mascheroni constant–aids in discovering the individual effects of each parameter. This basically means that this constant acted as an “encryption key” to decode the process by which the attributes of an alien world’s atmosphere are embedded in its transmission spectrum.
In order to test this new method, de Wit used the technique on a newly spotted alien world, dubbed 189733b, that dwells 63 light-years away from Earth. From his calculations, de Wit derived the same mass measurement as that obtained by others using the radial velocity (wobble) method.
By using future high-resolution space telescopes, such as the upcoming James Webb Space Telescope–with an instrument created to observe the atmospheres of alien worlds–de Wit and Seager demonstrated that their new method will be able to characterize the mass and atmospheric properties of smaller, Earth-sized exoplanets.
“It really helps you unlock eveything and reveal, out of these crazy equations, which atmospheric properties do what, and how. You find this constant in a lot of physical problems, and it’s fun to see it reappearing in planetary science,” de Wit said in the December 19, 2013 MIT Press Release.