Sunday, February 17, 2008


First Successful Prediction (Possibly) of an Extrasolar Planet

Astronomer Rory Barnes at the University of Arizona is currently considered the first to successfully predict the orbital location of an extrasolar planet.

The last planet found by prediction of its orbit was our solar system’s planet Neptune, found in 1846. Barnes has noted that the successful prediction of planet orbital distances from their stars implies an understanding, at least the beginning of an understanding, of how planets form and where we should look. He looked at a system called HD 74156, which seemed to have a large gap between two known planets. Barnes predicted a planet there. Other astronomers later found it. Barnes said he believes many stars have their own planets. Based on the latest information, here is the rundown on this planetary system.

The star is HD 74156, a yellow dwarf star (spectral type G0V) in the constellation of Hydra, 210.6 light years from our solar system. At this writing, it is known to be orbited by three large planets.

The first planet discovered, planet “HD 74156 b,” is at least 88% more massive than Jupiter and orbits very close to the star, with an orbital period of 51.65 Earth days. Its surface temperatures must be high and its radius about 1.1 to 1.3 that of Jupiter. It is most likely a gas giant. Planet “b” was discovered in 2003.

The second planet discovered, planet “HD 74156 c,” has at least eight times the mass of Jupiter but is likely smaller than planet “b.” Planet “c” has an eccentric orbit with a period of 2467 Earth days. Because of its eccentricity, the planet “c” occasionally passes through the star's habitable zone (where water would be liquid rather than frozen or a vapor). This eccentric orbit would be subject to extreme shifts of temperature. Current information suggests that “c” is most likely a gas giant. Planet “c” was discovered in 2003.

The third planet discovered, our predicted planet, “HD 74156 d,” is a gas giant having 40% the mass of Jupiter. Its orbit is between those of “b” and “c,” about the same distance as Earth to the Sun, this puts it in the star's habitable zone. Planet “d” has an orbital period of 336.6 Earth days. It was first observed in 2007 by Jacob Bean and his team at the University of Texas.

Planet “d” is the one predicted by computer models of Roy Barnes, Thomas Quinn and Sean Raymond. The models operate under the theory that planetary systems would have planets occupying every stable orbital zone. The two previously discovered planets of this system, “b” and “c,” left a stable gap between them where “d” was ultimately detected. It should be noted that doubts have recently been raised as to whether the detection of planet “d” was correct. In December of 2007, astronomer Roman V. Baluev suggested that the observed effects may be explained by errors in the observation data. Time and further observations will determine whether planet “d” is really there.

As of this writing, 273 extrasolar planets have been discovered, or at least are under official consideration, orbiting around 234 stars. To learn more, visit the home page of The Extrasolar Planets Encyclopaedia:



Feb 18 - the planet Mercury is stationary. The body appears motionless in the sky due to the turning point between its direct and retrograde motion.

Feb 19 - Asteroid 4450 Pan Near-Earth Flyby (0.041 AU)

Feb 19 - Asteroid 99942 Apophis Closest Approach To Earth (1.402 AU)

Feb 20, 10:30 P.M. (Feb 21, 03:30 UTC) - Full Moon; total lunar eclipse

Feb 20 - Cassini, Distant Flyby of Pan, Prometheus, Pandora & Janus

Feb 20 - Uranus Ring Plane Crossing

Feb 20 - Comet 193P/LINEAR-NEAT Perihelion (2.156 AU)

Feb 20 - Asteroid 153591 (2001 SN263) Near-Earth Flyby (0.066 AU)

Feb 21 - Total Lunar Eclipse

Feb 22 - Cassini, Titan Flyby



Feb 17, 1965 – Launch of Ranger 8 (U.S. moon impact mission)

Feb 17, 1996 – Launch of NEAR (U.S. asteroid orbiter/lander)

Feb 18, 1930 – Discovery of Pluto by U.S. astronomer Clyde William Tombaugh (1906-1997)

Feb 19, 1473 – Birthday of Polish astronomer Nicolas Copernicus (1473-1543)

Feb 20, 1962 – Launch of Friendship 7, first U.S. manned orbital mission, with astronaut John Glenn (b. 1921)

Feb 20, 1986 – Launch of Soviet space station Mir

Feb 20, 1994 - Clementine, Moon Orbit Insertion

Feb 21, 1906 – Discovery of asteroid 586 Thekla by astronomer Max Wolf

Feb 21, 1906 – Discovery of asteroid 596 Scheila by astronomer August Kopff

Feb 22, 1906 – Discovery of asteroid 587 Hypsipyle and 588 Achilles by astronomer Max Wolf

Feb 22, 1966 – Launch of Soviet spacecraft Kosmos 110, which carried into orbit two dogs: Veterok and Ugolyok

Feb 23, 1987 - Supernova 1987A Explosion



O Captain! My Captain!
(by Walt Whitman, 1819–1892, a poem on the death of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln following the Civil War. The poem was published in "Leaves of Grass" in 1900)

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
But O heart! heart! heart!
O the bleeding drops of red,
Where on the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills;
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding;
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head;
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still;
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will;
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done;
From fearful trip, the victor ship, comes in with object won;
Exult, O shores, and ring, O bells!
But I, with mournful tread,
Walk the deck my Captain lies,
Fallen cold and dead.



The folk song "O Waly, Waly" is thought to have originated in the 1600s, but was not published until 1724. Scholars are not certain whether the song is of English or Scottish origin, but the text, shown below, would suggest that it is Scottish. The text of the song laments the challenges of maintaining a love over a lifetime. It is presented from the point of view of a woman whose lover was unfaithful.

O Waly, Waly

O Waly, waly, up the bank,
And waly, waly, doun the brae,
And waly, waly, yon burn-side,
Where I and my Love wont to gae!

I lean'd my back unto an aik,
I thocht it was a trustie tree;
But first it bow'd and syne it brak—
Sae my true love did lichtlie me.

O waly, waly, gin love be bonnie,
A little time while it is new!
But when 'tis auld it waxeth cauld,
And fades awa' like morning dew.

O wherefore should I busk my heid,
Or wherefore should I kame my hair?
For my true Love has me forsook,
And says he'll never lo'e me mair.

Now Arthur's Seat sall be my bed,
The sheets sall ne'er be 'filed by me;
Saint Anton's well sall be my drink;
Since my true Love has forsaken me.

Marti'mas wind, when wilt thou blaw,
And shake the green leaves aff the tree?
O gentle Death, when wilt thou come?
For of my life I am wearìe.

'Tis not the frost, that freezes fell,
Nor blawing snaw's inclemencie,
'Tis not sic cauld that makes me cry;
But my Love's heart grown cauld to me.

When we cam in by Glasgow toun,
We were a comely sicht to see;
My Love was clad in the black velvèt,
And I mysel in cramasie.

But had I wist, before I kist,
That love had been sae ill to win,
I had lock'd my heart in a case o' gowd,
And pinn'd it wi' a siller pin.

And O! if my young babe were born,:
And set upon the nurse's knee;
And I mysel were dead and gane,
And the green grass growing over me!


If the above Scots text has you scratching your head, please refer to the following glossary of translations.

"aik" - oak
"Arthur's Seat" - the name of a high peak in the hills of Edinburgh, Scotland
"auld" - old
"bed" - in this case, inferring a burial plot
"blaw" - blow
"bonnie" - beautiful
"brae" - hill
"brak" - broke
"burn-side" - riverside
"busk my heid" - adorn my head
"cauld" - cold
"cramasie" - crimson
"gae" - go
"gin" - if
"gowd" - gold
"kame" - comb
"kist" - kissed a coffin; died
"lichtlie" - lightly (not serious; was unfaithful)
"mair" - more
"Marti'mas" - Martinmas, the feast of St. Martin, observed November 11, a time traditionally marking the end of all preparations for winter.
"O Waly, waly" - woe is me
"sae" - so
"Saint Anton's well" - a well at the foot of Arthur's Seat
"sall" - shall
"sic cauld" - such cold
"sicht" - sight
"siller" - silver
"snaw" - snow
"syne" - soon
"wist" - known

In 1776, Scottish poet and wig-maker Allan Ramsay (1686-1758) published "Tea-Table Miscellany", a collection of verses by himself and others. One of the verses was a lengthy ballad often referenced as "Child Ballad 204" or "Lord Jamie Douglas." The text describes the unhappy first marriage of James Douglas, Second Marquess of Douglas, to Lady Barbara Erskine. A portion of the ballad is the text of "O Waly, Waly," leading some to mistakenly think that the song originated as part of the Douglas ballad, but in the same publication it states that the text is to be sung to the tune of "Waly, Waly," confirming that the song was well known prior to the ballad, and suggesting that Douglas' lament was to be considered kindred to that of the wronged woman in "O Waly, Waly."

Sometime during the 19th century a variation of "O Waly, Waly" was created, called "The Water is Wide." The song was first "collected" during World War I by British musician and song catcher Cecil James Sharp (1859-1924) while on his voyage from England to the United States.

The Water is Wide

The water is wide, I cannot get o'er
And neither have I wings to fly.
O go and get me some little boat,
To carry o'er my true love and I.

A-down in the meadows the other day
A-gath'ring flow'rs both fine and gay
A-gath'ring flowers, both red and blue,
I little thought what love could do.

I put my hand into one soft bush,
Thinking the sweetest flow'r to find.
I prick'd my finger to the bone
And left the sweetest flow'r alone.

I lean'd my back up against some oak,
Thinking it was a trusty tree.
But first he bended then he broke,
So did my love prove false to me.

Where love is planted, O there it grows,
It buds and blossoms like some rose;
It has a sweet and pleasant smell,
No flow'r on earth can it excel.

Must I be bound, O and she go free!
Must I love one thing that does not love me!
Why should I act such a childish part,
And love a girl that will break my heart.

There is a ship sailing on the sea,
She's loaded deep as deep can be,
But not so deep as in love I am;
I care not if I sink or swim.

O love is handsome and love is fine,
And love is charming when it is true;
As it grows older it groweth colder
And fades away like the morning dew.

(alternate ending)

The water is wide, I cannot get over,
There's no true love, at least not for me,
My love was untrue but I can't complain,
Some day I hope to love again.


In 1972, Hope Publishing Company released a beautiful new hymn arranged by Hal Harold Hopson (b. 1933). The hymn is set to the melody of "O Waly, Waly" and the text is based on the words of the apostle Paul found in I Corinthians chapter 13, which is often described as the love chapter. Since that text is under copyright, I will not present it here. Instead, I will provide a link to the apropriate page of The Cyber Hymnal that displays the text and that has the necessary permissions from Hope Publishing Company.

"The Gift of Love"



The Water Is Wide (song). (2008, February 11). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:41, February 16, 2008, from

The Water is Wide (O Waly, Waly)
Part of the section "Folk Music of England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales & America" of Contemplations from the Marianis Trench. Retrieved February 1, 2008, from

The Gift of Love
Copyright © 1972, Hope Publishing Company. The Cyber Hymnal. Retrieved February 1, 2008, from

Child Ballad 204, Lord Jamie Douglas. Internet Sacred Text Archive. Last updated January 30, 2006. Retrieved February 15, 2008, from

388. Waly, Waly
Anonymous. 17th Cent. Arthur Quiller-Couch, ed. 1919. The Oxford Book of English Verse: 1250–1900. Retrieved February 16, 2008, from

Allan Ramsay (poet). (2008, January 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18:50, February 16, 2008, from


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