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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sun Aug 11, 2019 7:28 pm 
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A new 3d map created by researchers at the University of Krakow shows the location of hundreds of Cepheid variables in our galaxy. The map reveals a warp in the disc shape of the Milky Way:
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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sun Aug 18, 2019 3:48 am 
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Mr_Green_Genes wrote:
Total Solar Eclipse: 360 VR Video Seen From Space | Earth From Space | BBC Earth
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=53PvDEkgbno


Get closer than ever to a total solar eclipse and observe it from all possible angles in this stunning virtual reality video. A collaboration with sentintospace.com


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Still image of total solar eclipse in july 2019. It was shot from chinese sattelite Longjiang 2 with a little help from german hobby radio operator Reinhard Kühn (he regulary assists the chinese whenever they have no connection to their space vehicles). The shadow of the eclipse is visible on the upper left side of the planet of our dream. Source: german magazine Der Spiegel online

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 4:18 pm 
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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 10:55 pm 
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hee hee hee

Astronomers baffled as black hole at the centre of our galaxy glows with 'unprecedented brightness'
N'Dea Yancey-Bragg·21:45, August 14th, 2019

Image
SUPPLIED
This visualisation uses data from simulations of orbital motions of gas swirling around at about 30 per cent of the speed of light on a circular orbit around the black hole.

Astronomers said that they observed the supermassive black hole closest to Earth glowing with "unprecedented brightness" - and they aren't quite sure why.

The black hole, known as Sagittarius A* or Sgr A*, is four million times as massive as the Sun and about 26,000 light years from Earth. Although no visible light can escape the gravitational pull of a black hole, astronomers are able to observe the hot gas that's about to fall into it in near-infrared, the portion of the infrared spectrum closest to light detectable by the human eye.

"So we observed basically four nights of observation this year. On one of the nights its brightness was about twice as bright as the brightest measurement in the past 20 years," said Tuan Do, an associate research scientist and deputy director of the galactic center group at UCLA, who led the study. "That indicates that perhaps something interesting is happening physically in the region of the black hole."

But Do said what exactly caused the sudden change in brightness is still a mystery.

"That's the big question, that's what we're all super excited to try to figure out," Do said. "We really don't know at this point and only really with more data can we have a firm physical explanation."

Do suggested two potential explanations for what may have caused the black hole to light up. A star called SO-2 and another object called G2 got very close to Sgr A* in recent years which could've ejected gas into the region that the black hole absorbed potentially causing the recent fireworks.

The study has been peer reviewed and Do expects it will be published in the journal Astrophysical Letters very soon. But more research needs to be done to determine exactly what caused the light show, and Do said the window for observation is starting to close.

"We don't often get to watch things change over such short time scales," Do said. "A lot of other telescopes have also observed the black hole this summer I'm really excited to see what the results might be."

- USA Today

https://www.stuff.co.nz/science/1150112 ... brightness

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Mon Aug 19, 2019 11:03 pm 
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in local near space news

Rocket Lab's Look Ma, No Hands rocket launches
03:03, August 20th, 2019

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YOUTUBE/ROCKET LAB
Rocket Lab's Look Ma, No Hands mission takes off from New Zealand.

Rocket Lab's eighth mission successfully lifted off from New Zealand shortly after midnight.

The Electron rocket carrying four satellites took off from Rocket Lab's launch site on the Māhia Peninsula at 12.12am on Tuesday, in a mission nicknamed "Look Ma, No Hands".

Within an hour after lift off, the satellites were deployed to a 540 x 540 km orbit at a 45 degree inclination.

"All payloads deployed! That's now eight Electron launches to date and a total of 39 satellites delivered to orbit," Rocket Lab tweeted shortly after the launch.

The satellites are for the US Air Force Space Command and companies in Seattle, US, and France, the company said.

The launch was carrying equipment to help with Rocket Lab's recently announced plans to recover and re-use rockets.

"Thank you to our dedicated team for another flawless launch, and to our mission partners for entrusting Rocket Lab with the continued expansion of their constellations," Rocket Lab founder and CEO Peter Beck said.

"This mission was also another exciting step towards our plans to recover and reuse Electron's first stage in future missions. The team is eagerly analysing the data as we work towards reusability."

Image
ROCKET LAB
The Look Ma, No Hands rocket before its launch.

Rocket Lab is headquartered in the US but employs most of its 500 staff in New Zealand and has a launch pad on the Māhia Peninsula near Gisborne.

The mission was Rocket Lab's eighth launch overall and the company's fourth launch for 2019, taking the total number of satellites deployed by the company to 39.

Rocket Lab's next mission is yet to be announced but is scheduled for lift off within weeks.


Stuff

https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/indust ... t-launches

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:58 am 
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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 10:41 am 
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Location: in deepest, darkest Germany
Beautiful.

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2019 12:06 pm 
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Supernova dust in Antarctica snow could be 20 million years old:

" Dust from a supernova, or an exploded star, has been found in snow in Antarctica, according to a new study.
The discovery, published in Physical Review Letters last week, could shed “invaluable” light on the history of our solar system and its place in the cosmos."

https://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/supernova-dust-in-antarctica-snow-could-be-20-million-years-old-researchers-1.4556956

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2019 2:19 am 
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Russians launch a humanoid robot into space! Fedor.

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2019 3:51 pm 
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Humans head to the stars!

The World's First Space Crime May Have Occurred on the International Space Station Last Year

"The first crime committed in space may have recently occurred aboard the International Space Station (ISS), The New York Times reported on Friday (Aug. 23).
While "space crime" sounds like a charge someone might bring against Thanos or Dr. Evil, the reality here is far more pedestrian. According to the Times, NASA astronaut Anne McClain was accused by her estranged spouse, Summer Worden, of signing into Worden's personal bank account from a NASA-affiliated computer aboard the ISS. This alleged space invasion of privacy is being investigated by NASA's Office of the Inspector General."

https://www.livescience.com/anne-mcclain-space-crime.html

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:45 pm 
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just plain doug wrote:
Humans head to the stars!

The World's First Space Crime May Have Occurred on the International Space Station Last Year

"The first crime committed in space may have recently occurred aboard the International Space Station (ISS), The New York Times reported on Friday (Aug. 23).
While "space crime" sounds like a charge someone might bring against Thanos or Dr. Evil, the reality here is far more pedestrian. According to the Times, NASA astronaut Anne McClain was accused by her estranged spouse, Summer Worden, of signing into Worden's personal bank account from a NASA-affiliated computer aboard the ISS. This alleged space invasion of privacy is being investigated by NASA's Office of the Inspector General."

https://www.livescience.com/anne-mcclain-space-crime.html



Out the airlock you go... :shock:


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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 6:21 pm 
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Plook wrote:
Out the airlock you go... :shock:

Hahahahahaha!

Spacewalk :)

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Fri Aug 30, 2019 10:01 pm 
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Scientists detect a black hole swallowing a neutron star 'like Pac-man'
Doyle Rice·04:57, Aug 21 2019

For the first time, scientists have detected a black hole devouring a neutron star, according to a report released Monday.

"About 900 million years ago, this black hole ate a very dense star, known as a neutron star, like Pac-man - possibly snuffing out the star instantly," said Susan Scott, a scientist with the Australian National University, in a statement.

Neutron stars are small yet incredibly dense stellar objects and are the collapsed remains of imploded stars. Black holes are also collapsed stars with gravity so strong that even light cannot escape their grasp.

Image
CARL KNOX/OZGRAV ARC CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE
An artist's impression of a black hole about to swallow a neutron star.

Scientists earlier this year captured the first-ever photo of a black hole.

The current discovery was made using gravitational-wave discovery machines in the United States and Italy, which detected ripples in space and time from the "cataclysmic event" that happened about 8550 million trillion kilometres away from the Earth.

Gravitational waves occur when neutron stars collide and are detected using both the USA's mammoth Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory and Italy's Virgo observatory.

Image
AP
The Event Horizon Telescope black hole image released earlier this year.

"We've never detected a neutron star and a black hole together," Ryan Foley, an astronomer at the University of California-Santa Cruz, told Vice. "If it turns out to be right, then we've confirmed a new type of star system. It's that fundamental."

Scott said that while "we're very confident that we've just detected a black hole gobbling up a neutron star," she also acknowledged the small chance that the devoured object was "a very light black hole."

In any event, the final results are expected to be published in coming scientific journals.

MCT

https://www.stuff.co.nz/science/1151572 ... ike-pacman

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2019 4:05 am 
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A Glowing Clue in the Search for Alien Life
Marina Koren
2 days ago

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© ESO / M. Kornmesser Artist’s impression of the planet orbiting the star Proxima Centauri

It takes more than four years for its light to reach us, but Proxima Centauri is one of our closest neighbors. The star orbits in the constellation of Centaurus, visible in the Southern Hemisphere, but itself is too faint to see with the naked eye. Proxima isn’t like our sun; it is smaller, dimmer, and cooler. These suns are prone to frequent flares of ultraviolet radiation, which can be bad news for planets orbiting too closely.

Some scientists think the bursts could strip away entire atmospheres and boil off oceans. But others think these conditions, as ferocious as they might be, could actually give rise to life.

That’s the hope of Lisa Kaltenegger and Jack O’Malley-James, who chat often about alien life over coffee at work—a typical office discussion for a pair of astronomers at the Carl Sagan Institute at Cornell University. Because Proxima has a planet, maybe even two. The known planet, Proxima Centauri b, is about the same size as Earth, and might be rocky like it, too. It resides in that magical slice of solar systems, the habitable zone, where conditions are not too cold or too hot for liquid water to burble on the surface.

Potential life on Proxima b—on any planets around other stars—probably won’t resemble the kind on our planet, Kaltenegger says, but earthly beings are the only blueprints we have. So the astronomers wondered, what happens here, when ultraviolet radiation from the sun smacks into lifeforms on Earth?

http://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/techandsc ... ocid=ientp

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2019 3:50 pm 
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China's far-side moon rover finds 'unusual' gel
Simon Wong, Dan Satherley
3 hrs ago

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China's Chang'e-4 craft lands on the moon, delivering the Yutu-2 rover

China's exploration of the far side of the moon has come to a halt after the discovery of a mysterious gel-like substance.

The Yutu-2 rover made the find, prompting scientists to divert their attention to figuring out just what the material is.

Scientists describe it as having an "unusual colour", and suggest it may be melted glass from a meteor strike. It was found in a small crater.

The find came on day eight of Yutu-2's exploration of the moon's far side, which never faces the Earth. Each moon day is nearly a month long.

Once analysis of the substance is complete, Yutu-2 is expected to keep rolling on west.

Yutu-2 landed on the moon in January, the first from any country to touch down on the far side.

"The idea of setting up mining operations on the moon in the future, that's really part of this project in the long-term," Auckland Astronomical Society president Grant Christie told Newshub in January.

"Where they've landed was once the site where a big asteroid crashed into the moon, buried itself deep inside and melted all that part of the moon, and presumably brought interior material up near the surface."

http://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/world/chi ... tp#image=1

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2019 5:54 pm 
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Gray_Ghost wrote:
China's far-side moon rover finds 'unusual' gel
Simon Wong, Dan Satherley

China's exploration of the far side of the moon has come to a halt after the discovery of a mysterious gel-like substance.

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2019 6:09 am 
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Send your name to Mars :)

https://mars.nasa.gov/participate/send- ... e/mars2020

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Sep 07, 2019 12:42 pm 
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just plain doug wrote:
Gray_Ghost wrote:
China's far-side moon rover finds 'unusual' gel
Simon Wong, Dan Satherley

China's exploration of the far side of the moon has come to a halt after the discovery of a mysterious gel-like substance.

Image


Anyone we know?


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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2019 12:14 am 
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NASA snapped a new image of Saturn, and it’s a real stunner
Mike Wehner
1 day ago

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© Provided by Penske Media Corporation

Of all the planets in our solar system, most people would agree that Saturn is the most instantly recognisable. Its massive rings make it an unmistakable sight, but despite its celebrity status among us Earthlings, there’s still plenty we don’t know about it. Now, a new series of images captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope is helping to shed light on the iconic planet.

As NASA explains in a new blog post, this new portrait reveals some interesting things about Saturn’s ring structure and even offers some clues about the planet’s intense weather.

First and foremost, the new portrait is absolutely gorgeous. It’s one of the sharpest, most perfect captures of the ringed planet NASA has ever produced, and it’s easy to lose yourself for a moment just staring at it.

However, as NASA is quick to point out in a new blog post, pointing Hubble’s lens at Saturn wasn’t just about capturing some new cosmic eye candy:

These images, however, are more than just beauty shots. They reveal a planet with a turbulent, dynamic atmosphere. This year’s Hubble offering, for example, shows that a large storm visible in the 2018 Hubble image in the north polar region has vanished. Smaller storms pop into view like popcorn kernels popping in a microwave oven before disappearing just as quickly. Even the planet’s banded structure reveals subtle changes in colour.

On the flip side, there are a few features that will remain immediately recognizable to astronomy fans, including the hexagonal shape persisting on Saturn’s north pole. The unique mechanics that drive its odd shape remain a mystery to scientists, but it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere so perhaps there’s still time to figure it out.

NASA routinely snaps new images of the gaseous planets in our solar system, so you can expect another updated image sometime next year. In the meantime, this one will do just fine.

http://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/techandsc ... tp#image=1

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2019 6:37 am 
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Gray_Ghost wrote:
NASA snapped a new image of Saturn, and it’s a real stunner
Image
© Provided by Penske Media Corporation


Why do these pictures always look like they were created in the graphic design department at a community college? :?


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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Sep 14, 2019 8:04 am 
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I see the Saturn picture as extremely beautiful...



The Sound Of Space
London Contemporary Orchestra
Prom 27
Royal Albert Hall
London
U.K.
2019-08-07


https://www.bbc.co.uk/events/eqhj6q
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0007d2b
https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m0007f52

The Sound Of Space 2019-08-07 BBC Proms DVB-S HD

1. Introduction
2. Gravity
3. Under the Skin
4. Sunshine - Kanada's Death, Part 1 (Adagio in D Major)
5. Tron - Scherzo
6. The Innocents
7. Moon
8. Forbidden Planet : Main Titles - Overture
9. Alien Covenant
10. Arrival - Suite No 1
11. Interstellar
12. Cerys Matthews link
13. End Credits
Total Time : [73:50]

+ "Proms Encore" broadcast 2019-08-17:

BBC Two HD (prerecorded) broadcast 2019-08-17 > DVB-S > TBS 6984 > DVBviewer > .ts >
VideoRedo TV Suite (version 5.3.83.763 (2018-02-21)) > mkv > mkvmergeGUI v7.7.0 > .mkv file
mkvmerge used to add chapters.

Video : 1920 x 1080i / 25fps @ 6104kbps
Video Codec : H.264/MPEG-4 AVC
Aspect Ratio : 16:9
No logo
Audio track #1: AC3 2.0 48.0 kHz @ 192kbps
Audio track #2: MPEG1 layer 2 48.0 kHz @ 256kbps

1. Introduction
2. Cantina Band
Total Time : [2:34]

http://www.dimeadozen.org/torrents-details.php?id=657945

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2019 11:36 am 
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Nasa captures black hole destroying a star the size of the Sun
Beth Burger·10:43, September, 27th 2019

The star passed too close to the black hole. It resulted in what is known as a tidal disruption event.

Extreme gravity caused the star to splinter apart and unfurl like a rope. The tail of the gas emissions spun out into space.

The event, which happens about once every 10,000 to 100,000 years in galaxies the size of the Milky Way, was captured early on by a series of 20 robotic telescopes across the globe. The system of satellites known as the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN) is headquartered at Ohio State University in the US.

"The galaxy is about 375 million light years away. So this happened about 375 million years ago, in reality. And the light has just reached us now," said Tom Holoien, a Carnegie Fellow and post-doctoral researcher at Carnegie Observatories in California. Holoien earned his PhD at Ohio State.

The findings were published this week in the Astrophysical Journal. The event, named ASASSN-19bt, took place in the Volans constellation. The destroyed star may have been about the same size as the sun.

Image
SCREENSHOT
Nasa captured an enormous black hole tearing apart a star 375 million light years from Earth.

Thanks to the university's series of telescopes, Holoien was alerted by the system on January 29 while he as at a Las Campanas Observatory in Chile. He focused telescopes there and coordinated other satellites to capture the event.

Nasa's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which launched in 2018, was built to find new planets. It was already focused on the area and was taking images for a portion of the sky every 30 minutes for a year. Detailed data from TESS in space showed signs of the event up to 10 days before it happened.

"We've seen TDs before, we've never seen one this early with this - nearly as good as this data set is" said Patrick Vallely, a co-author of the study and National Science Foundation graduate research fellow at Ohio State. "There's 40-ish known ones."

A few are found each year, but many lack the details of this event. The events can vary depending on factors including the size of the star and how close it orbits next to a black hole. For example, in some cases, the black hole will completely absorb the star.

"We really did kind of hit the lottery with this one - to be able to catch it early, and to document everything as it's happening," Holoien said.

The additional details can help researchers learn more about how the events form and play out.

Image
NASA
Nasa's Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, shown here in a conceptual illustration, identifies exoplanets orbiting the brightest stars just outside our solar system.

Nasa's Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory satellite with its UV/optical telescopes measured ultraviolet light. The events burn about 10 times as hot as the sun's surface.

"They emit most strongly in ultraviolet wavelengths. And if we want to constrain the temperature with how bright it is, and how big it is, we need to have the UV data in order to have that constraint on the temperature," Holoien said. "We actually saw this early drop in the temperature that we've never seen before ... That was something totally new that we didn't really expect to see. So it gave us sort of a new set of observations to help us refine our theoretical models going forward."

There was a 1% to 3% per cent chance of catching this event. Some of it came down to luck with satellites like TESS already trained on locations at the right time.

"They're fairly rare. Imagine standing on top of the LeVeque tower and dropping a marble off of it into a manhole. It's that's kind of the problem," said Chris Kochanek, professor of astronomy at Ohio State.

- The Columbus Dispatch

Go here for th' movie :arrow: https://www.stuff.co.nz/world/116144049 ... of-the-sun

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Fri Sep 27, 2019 6:12 pm 
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https://spaceweather.com/

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
PostPosted: Sat Sep 28, 2019 1:37 am 
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Astronomers discover giant planet around tiny star.
How it formed is unexpected

12:10, September the 28th, 2019

Image
NASA
An artist's impression of what giant gas exoplanets look like. (File photo).

A giant world discovered around a tiny star is putting a new spin on how planets form.

Astronomers reported last week they've found a Jupiter-like planet orbiting a star that's a mere 12 per cent the mass of our sun. There may even be another big gas planet lurking in this system 31 light-years away.

The Spanish-led team wrote in the journal Science that the newly confirmed planet did not form the usual, gradual way, where a solid core of merging particles takes shape before a gas buildup. Instead, in a surprise to scientists, the planet seems to have arisen straight from gas.

Lead author Juan Carlos Morales of the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia said the planet may be almost as big as its star. A year there is about 200 days.

"It was very exciting finding this planet because it was completely unexpected," Morales wrote in an email. The results indicate "a new population of massive planets may also exist around low-mass stars".

Morales and his team maintain that gravitational instability in a young star's disk of gas and dust could, in some cases, result in the quick formation of huge gas planets - even when the star is minuscule. This new world is "an extraordinary candidate" for this process, said Hubert Klahr of Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Germany, part of the research team. "This find prompts us to review our models."

In a companion article, Yale University astronomer Greg Laughlin, who was not involved in the study, pointed out that more than 4000 so-called exoplanets have been confirmed in solar systems outside our own. While another new one, by itself, is no longer particularly noteworthy, he said, "one that challenges current theories of planet formation can animate astronomers".

The planet orbiting this particularly small and cool red dwarf star, officially known as GJ 3512, is at least half the mass of Jupiter. Scientists are unable to measure its dimensions, but models indicate it may be comparable to Jupiter in size, according to Morales.

Using observatories in Spain, the researchers repeatedly studied the star's wobbling motion to disclose the planet in its lopsided orbit, rather than rely on the transit method in which a brief, periodic dimming of starlight indicates a planet passing in front of its star.

The star is so faint it almost didn't make it into the group's survey. Scientists needed more small stars for sampling and so added a few at the last minute.

"We were lucky to do so because otherwise we would have never made this discovery," Ignasi Ribas, director of the Catalonia space studies institute, said in a statement.

Morales and his colleagues continue to search for a second planet orbiting this dwarf star. There may have been a third planet that was ejected from the system long ago, they noted.

AP

https://www.stuff.co.nz/science/1161718 ... unexpected

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 Post subject: Re: Space Is Deep
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A Dazzling Quarter Century of Exoplanet Discovery
Marina Koren
10 hours ago

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© ESO / M. Kornmesser / Nick Risinger An artist's illustration of exoplanet 51 Pegasi b

A pair of astrophysicists have won a Nobel Prize for discovering something that—as is often the case in science—at first they couldn’t believe was real.

Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz were awarded the prize in physics today for finding 51 Pegasi b, the first known planet orbiting another sun-like star. (They share the prize with the physicist James Peebles, for his theoretical work on the origins and nature of the universe.)

Mayor and Queloz discovered the gaseous planet in 1995, and in the years since, the field of exoplanets research has ballooned spectacularly. To date, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been found in the Milky Way galaxy. New discoveries are presented in batches, like an impressive haul after a good day of fishing in the universe. In barely a quarter of a century, finding an exoplanet has gone from a riveting achievement to a routine occurrence. There is no doubt today that our solar system is just one of countless others in the cosmos.

Nobel prizes in science are imperfect honors, long criticized for inadequately recognizing the work of some while entirely overlooking the contributions of others. But they do their job of honoring well-accepted science, and that’s what makes the award for Mayor and Queloz so exciting. The detection of exoplanets now seems ordinary to us; what might happen in the next quarter century? Perhaps the next Nobel Prize in this particular field will honor the discoverers of something even more momentous—not only an alien world, but the life that resides there.

Before 51 Pegasi b made itself known, astronomers had long suspected that other stars had planets of their own, guided by the Copernican principle that warns against thinking we’re anything special. The first-ever known exoplanet had been found a few years earlier orbiting a pulsar, a fast-rotating, very energetic stellar object. But researchers were also looking in particular for an object orbiting a sun-like star. Some astronomers had picked up intriguing signals in their telescope data that could have been exoplanets, but, erring on the side of caution, they hedged their findings or dismissed them. Astronomers had made triumphant declarations about exoplanets that were found to be wrong, felled by technical flaws masquerading as alien worlds.

The strange nature of 51 Pegasi b didn’t help. The planet most closely resembled Jupiter in mass, but orbited closer to its star than Mercury does to the sun. Astronomers had thought that gas planets like Jupiter form farther from the sun’s glare, but there was 51 Peg, as its discoverers call it, completing one scorching orbit in just four days. “It was absolutely not expected from theory,” Mayor, a professor emeritus at the University of Geneva, told me in an interview last year.

Image
Extrasolar planet, star cluster and nebula in outer space

A different team confirmed the discovery, and the exoplanet bonanza proceeded from there, first with telescopes on the ground and then with spacecraft in orbit above Earth, like the Kepler Space Telescope, which ran out of fuel last year after spotting thousands of exoplanets.

The exoplanets vary in size, composition, and the time it takes them to loop around their home star. Some are gaseous like Neptune, others rocky with iron cores, like Earth. One class of planets checks off the most exciting boxes on astronomers’ wish list: They are rocky, about the size of Earth, and reside in the habitable zone of their stars, where the temperatures are just right for liquid water.

Image
artistic impression of an other world surface scene

As the catalog swelled, scientists started to look closely at individual exoplanets, particularly at their atmospheres. The study of exoplanet atmospheres, too, might someday become routine. When two groups of astronomers last month announced the discovery of water vapor in the atmosphere of a distant planet, the juiciest news in the science community wasn’t the detection, but the jostling between the teams to publish their results first. In the past decade, astronomers have gotten quite good at finding a mix of familiar organic molecules around other planets. Some have gotten creative with the possibilities, proposing searches for the distinct signature of vegetation or the glow from ultraviolet-loving organisms.

Astronomers have yet to find the distinct atmospheric cocktail that matches our own, but the prospect no longer seems impossible, especially as more powerful observatories become available. This is how signs of life, if any exist, could be detected by sensitive instruments from Earth. If scientists do detect alien life on another world, the discoveries will likely begin the same way the first detections of exoplanets did—with doubt and hesitation, before someone can finally say, with reasonable certainty, that they have found the signature of another life form, far off in the cosmos.

http://www.msn.com/en-nz/news/techandsc ... tp#image=1

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