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Although right now I'm more excited about ESPRESSO's radial velocity measurements, so I'm listening to This Kiss, her song about measuring "centrifugal motion" on "a rooftop under the sky".
Title text: Although right now I'm more excited about ESPRESSO's radial velocity measurements, so I'm listening to This Kiss, her song about measuring "centrifugal motion" on "a rooftop under the sky".


This comic mixes the method of using spectroscopy to detect oxygen on exoplanets (planets outside our Solar system) with the lyrics for the Faith Hill song "Breathe" (listen to "Breathe" on YouTube).

From the lyrics:

I watch the sunlight
dance across your face
I can feel you breathe

In the comic the word feel has been changed to see. The two first lines are one line in the song. The last line is from the chorus and is repeated five times during the song, although not right after the first two lines.

In the first and second panel the singer examines the spectra of a remote planet by watching the sunlight during the transit of the planet as this sunlight dances across the planet's face. Finally we determine that breathable oxygen exists. Since we cannot (as Faith can) feel the planet we have to see it. And by doing this I can see you breathe.

Measuring the light output of stars (spectra) we are able to determine a number of details of the star, including rotation, relative radial velocity, chemical composition, temperature, and to some degree, distance and size. When a planet, as pictured, moves between the star and the observer, then by looking at the spectrum received, the viewer is able to determine the contents of the planet's atmosphere from the specific wavelengths of light that are absorbed in this. If it turns out that the atmosphere absorbs the lines corresponding to molecular oxygen (O2) this is a clear indication that the planet has large quantities of breathable oxygen (but not necessarily life). But for life to exist (and breathe) as we know it, the there must be oxygen in large amounts in the atmosphere. So it is clear why Randall would be interested in exoplanets with oxygen

This comic came out four days after this article about NASA's New NExSS Initiative. NASA will search for signs of life on other planets, for instance by using "the light passing through the atmospheres of these exoplanets". And they "will study chemicals that have been detected on other worlds, such as oxygen and methane, to see if they were produced by biology".

The title text refers to determining radial velocity in the ESPRESSO program (Echelle SPectrograph for Rocky Exoplanet- and Stable Spectroscopic Observations). By noting that the radial velocity of the star changes slightly as the planet that orbits it moves around the star (centrifugal acceleration), the ESPRESSO program should be able to detect the masses of planets as they are moving towards the Earth in their orbit around their distant stars. It is so precise that is should be able to detect planets as small as Earth and the other of the Solar systems inner planets.

Randall is now even more excited about ESPRESSO, than he is about the oxygen levels, because it is now possible to detect these "very" small planets. So he is no longer listening to "Breathe", but to another Faith Hill song: "This Kiss" (listen to "This Kiss" on YouTube).

From the lyrics:

It's centrifugal motion
On the rooftop under the sky

The first line is part of the chorus and it is repeated four times. But not in connection with the second line, which is changed a bit, so the is changed to an a. Also the "on" is not part of the quoted line in the title text.

The song is not about measuring but, of course, about the (a) kiss. Since the ESPRESSO is part of the Very Large Telescope. It is located on the Cerro Paranal mountain in the Atacama desert in Chile at an elevation of 2,635 meters (8,645 ft.) above sea level. So it could be said that it is measuring on a rooftop under the sky. Although it is radial velocity it measures not centrifugal motion, the object it does measure will all be experiencing this Fictitious force, as the planets are in orbit around a star.

Randall has previously made several references to exoplanets in his comics, most notable are the two comics with the same name: 786: Exoplanet and 1071: Exoplanets. The latter comic came out when there were exactly 786 exoplanets found. Today more than 1900 has been discovered (1915 as of Wikipedia on the release day of this comic), much more than twice that amount. And now they can find even smaller planets, and detect the atmosphere since the first exoplanet comic came out in 2010.


[A dark panel with a bright star in the center. To the left a planet (drawn as a new moon) approaches the star. Text is written above in white with two musical notes, one on each side of the text.]
I watch the sunlight
[Same image but now the planet eclipses the star. Small lines around the planet indicate the atmosphere, as seen from the light from the star passing through it. Text is again written above in white with two different musical notes, one on each side of the text.]
Dance across your face
[A white frame with a black line. It Is the spectrum of the planets atmosphere. Two distinct absorbtion peaks are visible. The first one is labeled with an arrow. Text is again written above, now in black, with two, again, different musical notes, one on each side of the text.]
I can see you breathe
Label: O2
[Below the panels is the following caption:]
Faith Hill on exoplanet spectroscopy



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