Monday, July 19, 2010

Planet or a Comet? New Rock is a Bit of Both

(TIME) When he first spotted the planet Uranus through his homemade telescope back in 1781, the professional musician and amateur astronomer William Herschel at first believed he'd discovered a comet. But right from the start, he knew it was no ordinary comet: it had no tail, not even a rudimentary one, and everyone knew comets had tails.

Herschel was both wrong and right. He was wrong to believe that no planets existed beyond the five that had been known since the time of the ancient Greeks and that what he'd spotted must therefore be something else. But he was right to believe that only comets have tails (at least when they're within shouting distance of the Sun) and that planets never do.

That's the way it works in our Solar System, anyway. But since astronomers started spotting worlds orbiting other stars back in the 1990s, it's become clear that our family of planets isn't the only possible kind. Indeed, the very first exoplanets ever found shattered that parochial belief: the new worlds were huge, like Jupiter, but hugged their stars so tightly that they completed a full orbit in just a few days. More>>

Buddhist cosmology takes it as a personally verifiable truth that there are 31 planes of existence. Most of these are deva worlds that are either in space or other-dimensional. Indeed, the space worlds (akasha deva loka) begin just above Earth's atmosphere in the skies ("heavens").

They were described as analogous to those in Vedic mythology and Jain cosmology -- centered around the axis mundi Mt. Sumeru. Visitors from these worlds were common, from a time that seems to have taken their existence for granted. It is as if those overlords (or powerful extraterrestrial visitors) not only promoted civilization, they also seemed to be profiting from doing so. They gave various cultures expertise in math and management and seem to have left behind an obsession with astronomy and religious lore that was not "religious" at that time but instead day-to-day reality.

This has been the case across many cultures from at least as far back as the Sumerian civilization, Egypt, and those not generally accepted as being historical. For us, ruled by science, only scientific data counts as "fact." Therefore, presented here are what scientists themselves are revealing. Few individuals have the whole picture. What secrets are institutions holding back?

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