How are we able to determine the composition of our orbiting planets?
Asked by: J.J. Yrue
Essentially we look at the light being reflected
from the planet. This is called spectroscopy
and it involves looking at the wavelengths of all
the photons that are coming from the planet. Each
element emits light at a characteristic wavelength
that can be determined in a lab here on earth.
so we just match up the wavelengths of incoming
light with the wavelengths we know, and then
determine the composition of the planet, and its
relative quantity of each element.
Answered by: Mike Perkins, Physics/Astronomy Major, Penn State
'The mathematician's patterns, like the painter's or the poets, must be beautiful; the ideas, like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.'