Monday, May 30, 2011

Free-floating planets found in the Milky Way

Alok Jha, Science correspondent (
Artist's impression of free floating planet (Illustration: NASA/JPL-Caltech/R. Hurt)

Astronomers discover 10 more free-floating planets in Milky Way
The planets, found by an international group of researchers, do not orbit any star.

Astronomers have found a clutch of planets that wander alone through interstellar space. The discovery of the objects, which do not orbit any star, will help scientists better understand how planetary systems form and evolve.

See lyrics below

The 10 free-floating planets are thousands of light years in the direction of the central bulge of the Milky Way, towards the constellation of Sagittarius. Their masses and compositions are thought to be equivalent to Jupiter and Saturn -- mainly hydrogen and helium with trace amounts of heavier elements.

"We expect that they were formed around stars and then, during the later stages of planet formation, they get ejected, primarily due to interactions with other planets," said Daniel Bennett, an astronomer at the University of Notre Dame. His team's results were published on Wednesday in Nature. More than 500 exoplanets have been detected in just over a decade of hunting by scientists... More

Literal Buddhist "Heavens" (celestial worlds)

Buddhist "heavens" include life on advanced planets and star systems. The various planes of existence in Buddhist cosmology are celestial spheres -- delineated in measurements. Our tendency is to imagine dimensions and immaterial worlds. But the vast majority of worlds are in fine-material planes where the beings enjoy long life, beauty, radiance (streaming glory), vitality, and few of the limits that hinder human beings. None of those worlds is permanent; all of them fall away, but they last a long time.

The Buddha recommended that monastics become wandering recluses. It was crucial to break the bonds of familial and clan affiliations, provincialism, short-sightedness, and a person's "story" to understand the bigger world with its many ways of being. When the Sangha became more settled, monastics lost this advantage to breaking through the illusion of stability, ease, and personal identity.

Brahmin priests were settled, attached to name and fame, clinging to status and honors. Shramans (wandering ascetics) were originally as free as deer roaming about with robe and bowl and karma as their only support. Today, outsiders have a great advantage. If one feels isolated or misunderstood, one has the opportunity to break through the illusion often besetting more settled and attached members of society.

Beth Gibbons of the band Portishead seems perfectly aware of this two-edged sword that can either build character or deeply wound the spirit:

Please could you stay awhile to share my grief
For its such a lovely day
To have to always feel this way
And the time that I will suffer less
Is when I never have to wake

Wandering stars for whom it is reserved
The blackness of darkness forever
Wandering stars for whom it is reserved
The blackness of darkness forever

Those who have seen the needle's eye now tread
Like a husk from which all that was now has fled
And the masks that the monsters wear
To feed upon their prey

Wandering stars for whom it is reserved
The blackness of darkness forever
Wandering stars for whom it is reserved
The blackness of darkness forever

(Always) doubled up inside
Take awhile to shed my grief
(Always) doubled up inside
Taunted, cruel...