Hubble Image of Elliptical Galaxy With 200 Billion Stars

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SCITECH DAILY)

 

Hubble Image of Elliptical Galaxy With 200 Billion Stars

Elliptical Galaxy With 200 Billion Stars

This fuzzy orb of light is a giant elliptical galaxy filled with an incredible 200 billion stars. Unlike spiral galaxies, which have a well-defined structure and boast picturesque spiral arms, elliptical galaxies appear fairly smooth and featureless. This is likely why this galaxy, named Messier 49, was discovered by French astronomer Charles Messier in 1771. At a distance of 56 million light-years, and measuring 157,000 light-years across, M49 was the first member of the Virgo Cluster of galaxies to be discovered, and it is more luminous than any other galaxy at its distance or nearer.

Elliptical galaxies tend to contain a larger portion of older stars than spiral galaxies and also lack young blue stars. Messier 49 itself is very yellow, which indicates that the stars within it are mostly older and redder than the Sun. In fact, the last major episode of star formation was about six billion years ago — before the Sun was even born!

Messier 49 is also rich in globular clusters; it hosts about 6000, a number that dwarfs the 150 found in and around the Milky Way. On average, these clusters are 10 billion years old. Messier 49 is also known to host a supermassive black hole at its centre with the mass of more than 500 million Suns, identifiable by the X-rays pouring out from the heart of the galaxy (as this Hubble image comprises infrared observations, these X-rays are not visible here).

Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Blakenslee, P Cote et al.

Why China’s Moon Shot Matters

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘FORTUNE’)

 

By CLAY CHANDLER and EAMON BARRETT

January 5, 2019

As 2019 dawns the separate preoccupations of the United States and China sound a bit like tracks from a Pink Floyd album: while Americans obsess over building “The Wall,” the Chinese have landed a robot on “The Dark Side of the Moon.”

It’s easy to be cynical about China’s moon shot. After years of effort and billions dollars in expense, Beijing has managed to boldly go, well, where America already went—50 years ago. China sent a probe, not an actual person. And, yes, it was both creepy and shameless that in hailing the moon landing, Wu Weiren, the chief designer of the Lunar Exploration Project, riffed off (or ripped off, depending on your point of view) the famous Neil Armstrong quote, declaring: “It’s a small step for the rover, but one giant leap for the Chinese nation.”

Still, China’s successful landing of the Change-e 4 on lunar terrain last Thursday was a significant scientific and technological achievement—one that can’t be dismissed as just another example of Chinese copy-catting. For one thing, China’s effort was the world’s first mission to the surface of the moon’s far side (which, as it turns out, isn’t actually all that dark) and therefore posed unique technical challenges. The far side can’t be seen from earth, and its surface has never been observed up close. Because the moon blocks direct communication from the far side, to transmit images from the probe back to earth, China had to build a separate relay satellite. Moreover, the far side’s surface is soft and powdery, a bit like snow, and so China’s lunar rover, called the Jade Rabbit 2, had to be specially constructed.

As the New York Times points out, the crater where Chinese probe landed is the oldest and deepest on the moon. It may hold clues to the moon’s origins, prove rich in minerals, and possibly serve as a “future refueling base for missions deeper into space.”

China is only the third country, alongside the U.S. and Russia, to send its own astronauts into space aboard its own rockets, and only the U.S. and China have the fiscal and technical wherewithal to mount significant long-term programs for exploring space. China last year launched more rockets into space than any other nation and plans another moon landing, the Chang-e 5, later this year. The country hopes to begin operating its third space station by 2022, and put astronauts on a lunar base sometime in the next decade. Beijing also has plans to to send probes to Mars and return samples of the Martian surface back to earth.

Notably space is yet another sphere where earth’s two technological powerhouses compete but don’t collaborate—and seem almost to inhabit different universes. As the BBC notes, U.S. counter-espionage legislation restricts NASA from working bilaterally with Chinese nationals without express permission from Congress.

More China news below.

Clay Chandler
@claychandler
[email protected]

Magnetic fields may be the key to black hole activity

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF PHYS.ORG AND NASA)

 

Magnetic fields may be the key to black hole activity

October 17, 2018, NASA
Magnetic fields may be the key to black hole activity
Artist’s conception of the core of Cygnus A, including the dusty donut-shaped surroundings, called a torus, and jets launching from its center. Magnetic fields are illustrated trapping the dust in the torus. These magnetic fields could be …more

Collimated jets provide astronomers with some of the most powerful evidence that a supermassive black hole lurks in the heart of most galaxies. Some of these black holes appear to be active, gobbling up material from their surroundings and launching jets at ultra-high speeds, while others are quiescent, even dormant. Why are some black holes feasting and others starving? Recent observations from the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, or SOFIA, are shedding light on this question.

SOFIA data indicate that magnetic fields are trapping and confining dust near the center of the active galaxy, Cygnus A, and feeding material onto the supermassive black hole at its center.

The , which attempts to explain the different properties of active galaxies, states that the core is surrounded by a donut-shaped dust cloud, called a torus. How this obscuring structure is created and sustained has never been clear, but these new results from SOFIA indicate that magnetic fields may be responsible for keeping the dust close enough to be devoured by the hungry black hole. In fact, one of the fundamental differences between active galaxies like Cygnus A and their less active cousins, like our own Milky Way, may be the presence or absence of a  around the black hole.

Although celestial magnetic fields are notoriously difficult to observe, astronomers have used polarized light—optical light from scattering and radio light from accelerating electrons—to study magnetic fields in galaxies. But optical wavelengths are too short and the radio wavelengths are too long to observe the torus directly. The infrared wavelengths observed by SOFIA are just right, allowing scientists, for the first time, to target and isolate the dusty torus.

Magnetic fields may be the key to black hole activity
Two images of Cygnus A layered over each other to show the galaxy’s jets glowing with radio radiation (shown in red). Quiescent galaxies, like our own Milky Way, do not have jets like this, which may be related to magnetic fields. The …more

SOFIA’s new instrument, the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-plus (HAWC+), is especially sensitive to the infrared emission from aligned dust grains. This has proven to be a powerful technique to study magnetic fields and test a fundamental prediction of the unified model: the role of the dusty torus in the active-galaxy phenomena.

“It’s always exciting to discover something completely new,” noted Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez, a scientist at the SOFIA Science Center, and the lead author on the report of this new discovery. “These observations from HAWC+ are unique. They show us how infrared polarization can contribute to the study of galaxies.”

Recent observations of the heart of Cygnus A made with HAWC+ show infrared radiation dominated by a well-aligned dusty structure. Combining these results with archival data from the Herschel Space Observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Gran Telescopio Canarias, the research team found that this powerful active galaxy, with its iconic large-scale jets, is able to confine the obscuring torus that feeds the supermassive black hole using a strong .

The results of this study were published in the July 10th issue of The Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Cygnus A is in the perfect location to learn about the role magnetic fields play in confining the dusty torus and channeling material onto the supermassive black hole because it is the closest and most powerful active galaxy. More observations of different types of galaxies are necessary to get the full picture of how magnetic fields affect the evolution of the environment surrounding . If, for example, HAWC+ reveals highly polarized  from the centers of active galaxies but not from quiescent , it would support the idea that magnetic fields regulate black hole feeding and reinforce astronomers’ confidence in the unified model of .

 Explore further: Black holes play hide-and-seek in low-luminosity radio galaxies

More information: Enrique Lopez-Rodriguez et al. The Highly Polarized Dusty Emission Core of Cygnus A, The Astrophysical Journal (2018). DOI: 10.3847/2041-8213/aacff5

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-10-magnetic-fields-key-black-hole.html#jCp

Stunning Pinwheel Nebula Is a Cosmic Cataclysm in the Making

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GIZOMODO SCIENCE SITE)

 

Stunning Pinwheel Nebula Is a Cosmic Cataclysm in the Making

Apep, the first Wolf-Rayet star system to be discovered in the Milky Way.
Image: ESO/Callingham et al.

This image of a dusty, gas-rich nebula looks pretty, but appearances can be deceiving. Known as a Wolf-Rayet star system, it’s poised to unleash a catastrophic gamma-ray burst when it finally goes supernova. What’s remarkable about this particular Wolf-Rayet system, however, is that it’s the first to be discovered in our own galaxy. Cue the ominous music…

This Wolf-Rayet star system is formally known as 2XMM J160050.7-514245, but to the researchers who recently investigated this enigmatic object, it’s simply “Apep”—an exotic object named for the serpentine ancient Egyptian god of chaos. In a press release, Joseph Callingham, the lead author of the new study and an astronomer at the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy (ASTRON), said “it’s the first such system to be discovered in our own galaxy”—a system he never expected to find “in our own backyard.” The details of this research were published today in Nature Astronomy.

Indeed, astronomers have observed Wolf-Rayet stars before, but only in other galaxies. These massive star systems are on the verge of entering into their death throes, at which time they’ll generate a type of supernova that emits an extremely powerful and narrow jet of plasma—the dreaded gamma-ray burst.

Apep is one such gamma-ray progenitor system, featuring a massive triple star system at its core—a binary pair and a lone star—and vast spiral arms composed of gas and dust. The system is located around 8,000 light-years from Earth, which is uncomfortably close given its explosive potential.

“This was a very fun project to do in some ways, in the sense that Joe found this object and first showed it to me in 2012 when we were officemates as undergrads in Sydney—and it took us six years to gather all the data to reveal this surprising story,” Benjamin Pope, a NASA Sagan fellow at New York University’s Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics and a co-author of the new study, told Gizmodo. “Sometimes science is slow! But I remember when last year, the day before my PhD defense in Oxford, he was visiting and showed me the picture of the Apep spiral—I literally gasped, it was so shocking. There’s really nothing quite like this.”

Using the VISIR mid-infrared camera on the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, Pope, Callingham, and their colleagues measured the velocity of the dust within the spiral arms. At this end-stage of their brief life cycle (these systems only last a few hundred thousand years—a blink of the eye in cosmological terms), stars within Wolf-Rayet systems spin rapidly, producing stellar winds that move at horrendous speeds. These winds carry significant portions of stellar material into space, and they’re responsible for forming the majestic plumes of dust particles. In the case of Apep, its spiral arms measure several light-years across.

By measuring the rotational speeds within this nebula, the researchers concluded that at least one of the three stars within the system is spinning fast enough such that it’ll trigger a long-duration gamma-ray burst when it finally explodes as supernova (the exact timing is still impossible to predict). The speed of gas within the nebula was clocked at 12 million kilometers per hour, but the dust is moving at “just” 570 million kilometers per hour. The researchers say this discrepancy is indicative of a star approaching near-critical rotation.

“Apep’s dust pinwheel moves much slower than the wind in the system,” said Callingham. “One way this can occur is if one of the massive stars is rotating so quickly that it is nearly tearing itself apart. Such a rotation means that when it runs out of fuel and begins to explode as a supernova, it will collapse at the poles before the equator, producing a gamma-ray burst.”

The significance of this finding, said Pope, is that nobody had observed rapidly rotating Wolf-Rayet systems in our galaxy before. Moreover, many astronomers assumed these objects couldn’t even exist in a galaxy like ours; the Milky Way is old and metal-rich, containing an abundance of heavy stars that should spin down quickly. The new result suggests our understanding of how massive stars die is still incomplete.

“Wolf-Rayet star systems are thought to be the progenitors of long gamma-ray bursts, so if there’s one in our galaxy that’s an exciting find,” Pope told Gizmodo. “Even if not—something deeply weird is happening to this star system and this is the best explanation we have.”

Artist’s impression of a gamma-ray burst.
Image: NASA/Dana Berry/Skyworks Digital

As noted, gamma-ray bursts are among the most powerful explosions known to astronomers. Lasting from between two seconds and a few hours, long-duration gamma-ray bursts release as much energy as the Sun does over the course of its entire lifetime. Disturbingly, some scientists theorize that the Ordovician-Silurian extinction—a mass extinction event that happened on Earth some 440 million years ago—was caused by a gamma-ray burst within our own galaxy. Physicist Adrian Melott from the University of Kansas speculates that a “dangerously near GRB should occur on average two or more times per billion years.”

Pope said it would be “pretty bad” if one were to go off nearby, but he’s not particularly concerned.

“In terms of why we have nothing to worry about, the best I can offer is that it’s highly uncertain whether Apep will go off as a gamma-ray burst at all, and if it does, it is unlikely to be in the very near future.”

As another point of encouragement, gamma-ray bursters are highly directional, spewing their concentrated, high-energy rays in a specific direction. So for Apep to pose a threat, it would not only have to go supernova, it would also have to be pointed in our general direction.

Regardless, there’s nothing we can really do about it except to learn more about Wolf-Rayet systems. It might also be useful to speak the ancient Egyptian incantation to rid the world of Apep’s destructive powers:

Spitting upon Apep, Defiling Apep with the left foot, Taking a lance to smite Apep,Fettering Apep, Taking a knife to smite Apep, Putting fire upon Apep…

[Nature Astronomy]

‘Super Earth’ ‘most likely’ candidate to host life – but there’s a HUGE problem

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF ‘THE SUN’ NEWS)

 

GREAT SPACE 

Mysterious ‘Super Earth’ planet ‘most likely’ candidate to host life – but there’s a HUGE problem

Kepler 452b is described as Earth’s bigger, older cousin and lies in the sweet spot outside our solar system that hosts the right conditions to spawn life

A “SUPER-EARTH” planet that’s one-and-half-times the size of our own has emerged as the most likely candidate to support alien life.

There’s just one problem: Kepler 452b, as it’s known, lies beyond the confines of our solar system – a whopping 1,400 light years away from us.

 This artistic concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun

NASA
3
This artistic concept depicts one possible appearance of the planet Kepler-452b, the first near-Earth-size world to be found in the habitable zone of star that is similar to our sun

Discovered in 2015, the planet is located slap bang in the middle of a newly spotted “abiogenesis zone” that holds the right conditions for life to be created, according to researchers from the University of Cambridge and the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology.

This region of the solar system contains the ideal mix of ultraviolet light and chemical reactions to usher in early life.

It’s also in a habitable ring of space dubbed the “Goldilocks zone” due to its distance from its host star so that it’s neither too hot nor too cold.

All this astro-magic combined equals temperatures that are just right to permit liquid surface water.

 On May 12, 2009, NASA's Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside the solar system. This Nasa graphic tells its story by the numbers

NASA
3
On May 12, 2009, NASA’s Kepler spacecraft began hunting for planets outside the solar system. This Nasa graphic tells its story by the numbers

In fact, the Kepler 452b’s positions within the zones are so similar to our own planet’s that it’s earned the title of “Earth’s cousin”.

It’s also been described as a “super-Earth” because its mass is 1.5-times larger than Earth’s, but much less than the solar systems other titans, including Jupiter and Saturn, known as gas giants.

The planet was spotted by the powerful telescope aboard Nasa‘s Kepler spacecraft, hence its name, which has pinpointed thousands of so-called exoplanets (planets beyond our solar systems that orbit around other stars) since its 2009 launch.

However, out of all these candidates only Kepler 452b sits in the sweet spot between its stars habitable zone and the abiogenisis zone.

The star which it orbits in the constellation of Cygnus is about 20 percent brighter than the sun and some two billion years older.

 Earth, left, and its bigger cousin Kepler 452b, right, which is 1.5 times larger than our home planet

NASA
3
Earth, left, and its bigger cousin Kepler 452b, right, which is 1.5 times larger than our home planet

Lead scientist Dr Paul Rimmer, from Cambridge University’s Cavendish Laboratory, said: “This work allows us to narrow down the best places to search for life.

“It brings us just a little bit closer to addressing the question of whether we are alone in the universe.”

Rimmer’s team say that though Kepler 452b is too far away to probe with current tech, the next-generation of telescopes (like Nasa’s Tess and the long-gestating James Webb Telescopes) should be able to identify more Earth-style planets within an abiogenesis zone.

But they add that if there is life on these exoplanets, it may look radically different to that on Earth.

The new study is published in the journal Science Advances.

Mysterious ‘Oumuamua’ space object has finally been identified

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NBC NEWS AND ‘MARCH’)

 

Mysterious ‘Oumuamua’ space object has finally been identified

Astronomers say the cigar-shaped interstellar visitor isn’t an asteroid, but a comet.
by David Freeman / 
Image: Oumuamua

Observations show that the interstellar visitor “Oumuamua” was traveling through space for millions of years before its chance encounter with our star system.M. Kornmesser/European Southern Observatory / NASA

When astronomers first spied a weird cigar-shaped object speeding past the sun last October, they could tell from its path that it had come from another star system — but they didn’t know exactly what it was.

Now they know. A study published Wednesday in the journal Nature indicates that the interstellar visitor, dubbed Oumuamua, is neither an asteroid nor an alien spacecraft (as some wags had suggested) but a small interstellar comet.

“It’s the only such object discovered so far,” Marco Micheli, an astronomer with the European Space Agency and the lead author of the new study, told NBC News MACH in an email.

Image: Oumuamua
This artist’s illustration shows ‘Oumuamua racing toward the outskirts of our solar system, and is annotated with the locations of the planetary orbits. As the complex rotation of the object makes it difficult to determine the exact shape, there are many models of what it could look like.JPL / NASA

Comets — icy, dusty objects that have been likened to “dirty snowballs” — typically form long tails when they come close to the sun. No such tail was visible in earlier observations of Oumuamua (which means “scout” in Hawaiian), a fact that helped lead other astronomers to conclude that it was an asteroid.

But an analysis of new observations made by ground-based telescopes and the Hubble Space Telescope yielded a surprise: Oumuamua’s trajectory couldn’t be explained solely by the gravitational forces exerted on it by the sun and the planets — as would be the case if it were an asteroid, or space rock.

“Unexpectedly, we found that Oumuamua was not slowing down as fast as it should have under gravitational forces alone,” Micheli said in a statement.

His team concluded that the unexpected motion of Oumuamua had to be caused by the spewing out of small quantities of gaseous materials from its surface. This “outgassing” — commonly seen in comets — was too small to be visible but significant enough to affect Oumuamua’s trajectory.

But not everyone is buying that explanation — at least not completely.

Alan Jackson, an astronomer at the University of Toronto Scarborough, told MACH in an email that if Oumuamua is a comet, it must be one that lost much of its ice before leaving its home star system.

“A comet that has lost enough of its ice is essentially the same as an asteroid,” he said. “Oumuamua thus seems to be in that ambiguous region between the two.”

Recommended

Jackson conducted previous research on Oumuamua but was not involved in the new study.

Whatever its precise identity, Oumuamua might be just the first of many such interstellar visitors we’ll encounter. Jackson said new telescopes should help astronomers find “a lot more objects like Oumuamua and we will then be able to put together a more complete picture of what the building blocks of planets look like in other planetary systems, which will also help us to understand how planets form.”

Oumaumau is now headed to the outer solar system at a speed of about 70,000 miles per hour. Astronomers expect it to pass Neptune’s orbit in four years.

“The object is now too faint to observe, so no new data will be acquired,” Micheli said in the email. “But I expect scientists will keep working on their data for quite some time.”

WANT MORE STORIES ABOUT COMETS AND ASTEROIDS?

FOLLOW NBC NEWS MACH ON TWITTERFACEBOOK, AND INSTAGRAM.

Asteroid on Course to Earth Was Spotted Just Hours Before It Hit The Atmosphere

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST)

 

Asteroid on Course to Earth Was Spotted Just Hours Before It Hit The Atmosphere

Surprise!

ALEX HORTON, THE WASHINGTON POST
5 JUN 2018

Witnesses reported a fireball streaking across the sky above Botswana on Saturday night.

The asteroid hurtling toward Earth at 10 miles (16 km) a second looked like it could be the harbinger of catastrophe. A webcam in a rural area west of Johannesburg captured it, showing a luminous orb igniting the sky in a bright flash.

NASA had only discovered the asteroid on Saturday and determined it was on a collision course for the planet, charted for entry in a vast expanse from Southern Africa and across the Indian Ocean to New Guinea and given the name 2018 LA.

The reality of the asteroid’s fiery end was less dramatic than the video shows. The asteroid was estimated at just six feet (1.8 metres) across, otherwise known as boulder-sized, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said in a statement.

It burned up “several miles” above the Earth’s surface.

NASA and space enthusiasts do not get many opportunities like this. Asteroid 2018 LA was only the third asteroid discovered on an impact trajectory, the agency said, and just the second time a high probability of impact was determined ahead of time.

The last predicted impact was asteroid 2014 AA, and it too was discovered only hours before it entered the atmosphere over the Atlantic Ocean on New Year’s Day in 2014, NASA said.

“[T]his real-world event allows us to exercise our capabilities and gives some confidence our impact prediction models are adequate to respond to the potential impact of a larger object,” said Lindley Johnson, an official at NASA’s Planetary Defense team, which tracks and warns of asteroids that may pose a threat to the planet.

KFDLE7J3A4ZMJHHOSXVO67EJUAThe discovery observations of Asteroid 2018 LA. (NASA/JPL-Caltech/CSS-Univ. of Arizona)

Asteroids are small remnants of violent collisions in the solar system’s history and formed around 4.5 billion years ago.

They are typically composed of rock-forming minerals like olivine and pyroxene but often contain iron and nickel, NASA said.

The Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter contains hundreds of thousands of asteroids more than half a mile in size or more, with millions of smaller objects tumbling in space.

Asteroid 2018 LA was first discovered by the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey operated by the University of Arizona, the agency said. NASA linked to the video in its statement, and the publisher said on YouTube the video is from his father’s South African farm.

NASA relies on a patchwork of observers to track what it calls near-Earth asteroids, the agency explained in a video.

Constantly scanning telescopes capture images of the sky and movement through photos over time triggers a comparison of known objects in a database.

If the object is unknown, the agency will review the object and expedite the analysis if experts determine it will streak close to the Earth. Astronomers from NASA, other space agencies and even amateur enthusiasts then join in to refine the trajectory.

2018 © The Washington Post

This article was originally published by The Washington Post.

New Earth Found?

New Earth Found?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

Habitable planet found outside solar system

SCIENTISTS on Wednesday announced the discovery of an Earth-sized planet orbiting the star nearest our Sun, opening up the glittering prospect of a habitable world that may one day be explored by robots.

Named Proxima b, the planet is in a “temperate” zone compatible with the presence of liquid water — a key ingredient for life.

The findings, based on data collected over 16 years, were reported in the peer-reviewed journal Nature.

“We have finally succeeded in showing that a small-mass planet, most likely rocky, is orbiting the star closest to our solar system,” said co-author Julien Morin, an astrophysicist at the University of Montpellier in southern France.

“Proxima b would probably be the first exoplanet visited by a probe made by humans,” he said.

An exoplanet is any planet outside our Solar System.

Lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, an astronomer at Queen Mary University London, described the find as the “experience of a lifetime.”

Working with European Southern Observatory telescopes in the north Chilean desert, his team used the so-called Doppler method to detect Proxima b and describe its properties.

The professional star-gazers spent 60 consecutive days earlier this year looking for signs of gravitational pull on its host star, Proxima Centauri.

Regular shifts in the star’s light spectrum — repeating every 11.2 days — gave a tantalising clue.

They revealed that the star alternately moved towards and away from our Solar System at the pace of a leisurely stroll, about five kilometers per hour.

Goldilocks zone

After cross-checking an inconclusive 2000-2014 dataset and eliminating other possible causes, the researchers determined that the tug of an orbiting planet was responsible for this tiny to-and-fro.

“Statistically, there is no doubt,” Anglada-Escude told journalists in a briefing.

“We have found a planet around Proxima Centauri.”

Proxima b is a mere four light years from the Solar System, meaning that it is essentially in our back yard on the scale of our galaxy, the Milky Way.

It has a mass around 1.3 times that of Earth, and orbits about seven million kilometers from its star.

A planet so near to our Sun — 21 times closer than Earth — would be an unlivable white-hot ball of fire.

But Proxima Centauri is a so-called red dwarf, meaning a star that burns at a lower temperature.

As a result, the newly discovered planet is in a “Goldilocks” sweet spot: neither so hot that water evaporates, nor so cold that it freezes solid.

But liquid water is not the only essential ingredient for the emergence of life.

An atmosphere is also required, and on that score the researchers are still in the dark. It all depends, they say, on how Proxima b evolved as a planet.

“You can come up with formation scenarios that end up with and Earth-like atmosphere, a Venus-like atmosphere” — 96 percent carbon dioxide — “or no atmosphere at all,” said co-author Ansgar Reiners, an expert on “cold” stars at the University of Goettingen’s Institute of Astrophysics in Germany.

Computer models suggest the planet’s temperature, with an atmosphere, could be “in the range of minus 30 Celsius on the dark side, and 30C on the light side,” Reiners said.

Like the Moon in relation to Earth, Proxima b is “tidally locked,” with one face always exposed to its star and the other perpetually in shadow.

Emerging life forms would also have to cope with ultraviolet and X-rays bombarding Proxima b 100 times more intensely than on Earth.

Search for life

An atmosphere would help deflect these rays, as would a strong magnetic field.

But even high doses of radiation do not preclude life, especially if we think outside the box, scientists say.

“We have to be very open-minded as to what we call ‘life’,” Jean Schneider, an expert on exoplanets at the Observatoire de Paris, said.

Last year, NASA unveiled Kepler 452b, a planet about 60 percent larger than Earth that could have active volcanoes, oceans, sunshine like ours, and a year lasting 385 days.

But at a distance of 1,400 light-years, humankind would have little hope of reaching this Earth-twin any time soon.

By comparison, Proxima b is a stone’s throw away, though still too far away for humans to visit with present-generation chemical rockets.

“This is a dream for astronomers if we think about follow up observations,” said Reiners.

Uranus: Smells Like Rotten Eggs And Has Temperature Of Negative 328F

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

 

 SPACE

If the Rotten Egg Smell Doesn’t Kill You, the Negative 200°C Temperature of Uranus Will

New research suggests the atmosphere of Uranus is largely comprised of hydrogen sulfide, which gives rotten eggs their repulsive smell.

 

PUBLISHED ON 04/25/2018
7:04 AM EDT

Uranus: Smells Like Rotten Eggs And Has Temperature Of Negative 328F

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SPACE.COM)

 

 SPACE

If the Rotten Egg Smell Doesn’t Kill You, the Negative 200°C Temperature of Uranus Will

New research suggests the atmosphere of Uranus is largely comprised of hydrogen sulfide, which gives rotten eggs their repulsive smell.

 

PUBLISHED ON 04/25/2018
7:04 AM EDT
ARJung

writing fairy tales with a steampunk and folkpunk twist

poetry etc.

from my kaleidoscope-daya bhat

Culture Shocks

Musings on a variety of subjects while embracing new towns

His Eye Is On The Sparrow

The Amazing Grace of Almighty God in Christ

Humoring the Goddess

Croning My Way Through Life

HOPE

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Highway Pi

Sometimes the road of life is irrational.

Stories I've Never Told...

(...and some I have)

%d bloggers like this: