How Alien Astronomers Would See Our Solar System

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NASA astronomers have simulated how alien astronomers might see our solar system. Beyond the eight planets (sorry, Pluto) of the solar system, there's a cloud of dust and odd little objects called the Kuiper Belt. The hazy cloud would be visible in the infrared part of the spectrum, and if you looked closely, you might notice a mysterious dark spot. That dark spot would give you the location of Neptune, the outermost planet. As the huge planet circles the sun, it clears out the dust from the region of the belt closest to it, creating a dark patch that could be a telltale sign that our sun has a planetary system. Check out the video for an excellent explanation of the phenomenon. [A couple of years ago, extraterrestrial hunter Richard Conn Henry called for astronomers to think more about how alien civilizations presumed to exist on somewhere else in the universe might detect the habitability of our solar system. I called this "empathetic astronomy" back then and really wish the name had stuck.] Via Physics Buzz

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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