Friday, 8 July 2016

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Strange but true! A newly found exoplanet has three suns

 This is a curious case of 16-million-year-old planet. An exoplanet which is twirling between a three-star system.

Recently a team of astronomers at the University of Arizona in Tucson have spotted that a giant planet, situated some 340 light years away from Earth, is orbiting one of the three suns of the tripe-star system.

The newly discovered planet, called HD 131399Ab, that sits in the constellation Centaurus is about four times the size of Jupiter. According to astronomers, the largest of the three suns is about 80% larger than our sun and the exoplanet orbits very slowly around it.
The other two suns also revolve around the largest, and each other. Usually, the orbit of a planet within a multi-star system becomes unstable due to complex and changing gravitational attraction from other star. But surprisingly the orbit of HD 131399Ab is quite stable.
The findings published in the journal Science highlights that the planet makes an enormously wide orbit and takes around 600 years to orbit around its main sun.
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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

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We could've lived on Venus, not Earth!

Turns out, if conditions had been just a little different an eon ago, Venus, not Earth, would have been our home.

The idea isn't so far-fetched, according to a hypothesis by Rice University scientists and their colleagues

The researchers maintain that minor evolutionary changes could have altered the fates of both Earth and Venus in ways that scientists may soon be able to model through observation of other solar systems, particularly ones in the process of forming, according to scientist Adrian Lenardic.

The paper, he said, includes "a little bit about the philosophy of science as well as the science itself, and about how we might search in the future. It's a bit of a different spin because we haven't actually done the work, in terms of searching for signs of life outside our solar system, yet. It's about how we go about doing the work."
Lenardic and his colleagues suggested that habitable planets may lie outside the "Goldilocks zone" in extra-solar systems, and that planets farther from or closer to their suns than Earth may harbor the conditions necessary for life.
The Goldilocks zone has long been defined as the band of space around a star that is not too warm, not too cold, rocky and with the right conditions for maintaining surface water and a breathable atmosphere. But that description, which to date scientists have only been able to calibrate using observations from our own solar system, may be too limiting, Lenardic said.

"For a long time we've been living, effectively, in one experiment, our solar system," he said, channeling his mentor, the late William Kaula, who is the father of space geodetics, a system by which all the properties in a planetary system can be quantified. "Although the paper is about planets, in one way it's about old issues that scientists have: the balance between chance and necessity, laws and contingencies, strict determinism and probability."
Lenardic noted, "But in another way, it asks whether, if you could run the experiment again, would it turn out like this solar system or not? For a long time, it was a purely philosophical question. Now that we're observing solar systems and other planets around other stars, we can ask that as a scientific question."
"If we find a planet (in another solar system) sitting where Venus is that actually has signs of life, we'll know that what we see in our solar system is not universal," he added.
The paper also questions the idea that plate tectonics are a critical reason Earth harbors life. "There's debate about this, but the Earth in its earliest lifetimes, let's say 2-3 billion years ago, would have looked for all intents and purposes like an alien planet," Lenardic said. "We know the atmosphere was completely different, with no oxygen. There's a debate that plate tectonics might not have been operative."
The study appears in journal Astrobiology.
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Saturday, 2 July 2016

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Hubble spots fascinating auroras on Jupiter - See pic!

Astronomers, using Hubble Space Telescope's ultraviolet sensing equipment, have released images of stunning auroras swirling at the Jupiter's poles.
Jupiter, the largest planet in the solar system, is best known for its colorful storms, the most famous being the Great Red Spot. The giant planet also hosts some stunning light shows.
Astronomers are using Hubble telescope to study auroras - stunning light shows in a planet’s atmosphere - on Jupiter's poles in a bid to unravel what causes these massive light shows.
Auroras are created when high-energy particles enter a planet’s atmosphere near its magnetic poles and collide with atoms of gas, explains NASA.
This observation program is supported by measurements made by NASA’s Juno spacecraft, schedule to arrive at Jupiter at the start of next week on July 4.
As well as producing beautiful images, this program aims to determine how various components of Jupiter’s auroras respond to different conditions in the solar wind, a stream of charged particles ejected from the sun.
“These auroras are very dramatic and among the most active I have ever seen”, said Jonathan Nichols from the University of Leicester, UK, and principal investigator of the study. “It almost seems as if Jupiter is throwing a firework party for the imminent arrival of Juno.”
While Hubble is observing and measuring the auroras on Jupiter, Juno is measuring the properties of the solar wind itself; a perfect collaboration between a telescope and a space probe.

To highlight changes in the auroras Hubble is observing Jupiter almost daily for several months.
The new observations and measurements made with Hubble and Juno will help to better understand how the sun and other sources influence auroras, adds NASA.
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Thursday, 30 June 2016

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Opal-studded meteorite points towards evolution of water on Earth!

The Earth's liquid wealth and its evolutionary existence has been a subject of heated debate among scientists and researchers.

discovery has strengthened that belief.

A meteorite found in Antarctica has been found studded with pieces of opal, a crystal that is associated with water, which further fuels the idea that meteorites brought water to asteroids and may also be responsible for seeding the Earth with its liquid goodness, which helped life evolve.
The results of this discovery were announced on Monday at the National Astronomy Meeting in Nottingham, England, where researchers stated that this was more evidence pointing at the potential of asteroids and meteorites to carry large amounts of water ice.

According to a report in Fox News, Hilary Downes, lead author and geochemist at the Birkbeck Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of London, said that, “Although we rightly worry about the consequences of the impact of large asteroids, billions of years ago they may have brought the water to the Earth and helped it become the world teeming with life that we live in today.”
Fox News further reported that, Downes and her colleagues found that the meteorite EET 83309 is made up of thousands of broken-up rocks and minerals, suggesting that it came from the surface of an asteroid. Research on the meteorite by other scientists reveals that the rock was exposed to radiation from the sun, solar wind and other cosmic sources. Since an asteroid lacks an atmosphere to shield it from deadly radiation, its surface is constantly dosed with the deadly rays.
Bits and pieces of other asteroids were also embedded in the meteorite, suggesting that the parent asteroid was struck by numerous impacts. As a result of one of the many impacts, water could have been delivered to the surface of the asteroid, forming opal.
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