New Statesman story (behind paywall), thus linked via Outline.
If you could fly two billion miles in the direction of the Pegasus constellation, and knew where to look, you would find a thin, flat object, about the size of a football field and up to ten times more reflective than the average comet. If you watched it for a while, you would notice that it is tumbling as it moves away from the sun, turning end over end roughly every seven hours.
This object passed the Earth in October 2017. As it began its return to interstellar space, the Canadian astronomer Robert Weryk identified it among the images from what was then the world’s most powerful camera, a telescope in Hawaii called Pan-STARRS1. The astronomers in Hawaii called it ‘Oumuamua, a Hawaiian word meaning “first scout from a distant place”. Read the rest of this entry »
Yahoo admires the high school student who discovered a new planet just three days into his NASA internship.
A New York high school student can put â€œplanet discoveryâ€ on his resume after finding a new world during his NASA internship.
Wolf Cukier was working at NASAâ€™s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland last summer when he uncovered TOI 1338 b â€” a planet orbiting two stars instead of one â€” while examining information captured by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), according to a release from the space agency.
â€œI was looking through the data for everything the volunteers had flagged as an eclipsing binary, a system where two stars circle around each other and from our view eclipse each other every orbit,â€ Cukier, 17, said in a statement. â€œAbout three days into my internship, I saw a signal from a system called TOI 1338.â€
He continued, â€œAt first I thought it was a stellar eclipse, but the timing was wrong. It turned out to be a planet.â€
The far reaches of the outer solar system may be home to an icy giant â€” a hypothetical planet scientists have dubbed â€œPlanet Nine.â€
Meanwhile, archives back on Earth are home to dozens of medieval records documenting the passage of comets through the heavens. Now, two researchers from Queenâ€™s University Belfast in Northern Ireland are hoping to use these old scrolls and tapestries to solve the modern astronomical mystery of Planet Nine.
â€œWe have a wealth of historical records of comets in Old English, Old Irish, Latin and Russian which have been overlooked for a long time,â€ said university medievalist Marilina Cesario, one of the leaders of the project. â€œEarly medieval people were fascinated by the heavens, as much as we are today.â€
The records include dates and times, Cesario said, which makes them useful to modern-day astronomers.
Planet Nine, if it exists, would have about 10 times the mass of Earth and orbit 20 times farther from the sun than Neptune does. (Planet Nine is not Pluto, which was once considered the ninth planet but was demoted to mere â€œdwarf planetâ€ in 2006. Nor is it Nibiru, the completely fictional â€œrogue planetâ€ that conspiracy theorists sometimes claim is about to destroy the Earth.)
Scientists suspect the existence of Planet Nine because it would explain some of the gravitational forces at play in the Kuiper Belt, a stretch of icy bodies beyond Neptune. But no one has been able to detect the planet yet, though astronomers are scanning the skies for it with tools such as the Subaru Telescope on Hawaiiâ€™s Mauna Kea volcano.
Medieval records could provide another tool, said Pedro Lacerda, a Queenâ€™s University astronomer and the other leader of the project.
â€œWe can take the orbits of comets currently known and use a computer to calculate the times when those comets would be visible in the skies during the Middle Ages,â€ Lacerda told Live Science. â€œThe precise times depend on whether our computer simulations include Planet Nine. So, in simple terms, we can use the medieval comet sightings to check which computer simulations work best: the ones that include Planet Nine or the ones that do not.â€
Gizmodo reports that a 15-year-old Canadian high school kid has located a lost Mayan city using star maps and Google Earth.
Using an unprecedented technique of matching stars to the locations of temples on Earth, a 15-year-old Canadian student says heâ€™s discovered a forgotten Maya city in Central America. Images from space suggest he may actually be onto something.
William Gadoury, a teen from Saint-Jean-de-Matha in LanaudiÃ¨re, developed an interest in archaeology after the publication of the Maya calendar announcing the end of the world in 2012. After spending hours pouring over diagrams of constellations and maps of known Maya cities, he noticed that the two appeared to be linked; the brightest stars of the constellations overlaid perfectly with the locations of the largest Maya cities. As reported in The Telegraph, no other scientist had ever discovered such a correlation. …
After studying 22 different constellations, Gadoury noticed that they neatly corresponded to the locations of 117 Mayan cities located in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. When looking at a 23rd constellation, he was able to match two stars to known citiesâ€”but a third star remained unmatched. Using transparent overlays, Gadoury pinpointed a location deep in the thick jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.
â€œI did not understand why the Maya built their cities away from rivers, on marginal lands, and in the mountains,â€ explained Gadoury in Le Journal de Montreal. â€œThey must have had another reason, and as they worshiped the stars, the idea came to me to verify my hypothesis. I was really surprised and excited when I realized that the most brilliant stars of the constellations matched the largest Maya cities.â€
Evidence of alien life is “unequivocal” on the comet carrying the Philae probe through space, two leading astronomers have said.
The experts say the most likely explanation for certain features of the 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko comet, such as its organic-rich black crust, is the presence of living organisms beneath an icy surface.
Rosetta, the European spacecraft orbiting the comet, is also said to have picked up strange “clusters” of organic material that resemble viral particles. …
“[D]ata coming from the comet seems to unequivocally, in my opinion, point to micro-organisms being involved in the formation of the icy structures, the preponderance of aromatic hydrocarbons, and the very dark surface.
“These are not easily explained in terms of pre-biotic chemistry.
“The dark material is being constantly replenished as it is boiled off by heat from the Sun. Something must be doing that at a fairly prolific rate.”
J002E3 is the designation given to a supposed asteroid discovered by amateur astronomer Bill Yeung on September 3, 2002. Further examination revealed that the surface appeared to contain the paint used on the Apollo moon rockets. The object is probably the S-IVB third stage of the Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket (serial S-IVB-507).
The discovery was announced today by a team of European astronomers, using a telescope in La Silla in the Chilean Andes.
The Earth-like planet that could be covered in oceans and may support life is 20.5 light years away, and has the right temperature to allow liquid water on its surface.
This remarkable discovery appears to confirm the suspicions of most astronomers that the universe is swarming with Earth-like worlds.
We don’t yet know much about this planet, but scientists believe that it may be the best candidate so far for supporting extraterrestrial life.
The new planet, which orbits a small, red star called Gliese 581, is about one-and-a-half times the diameter of the Earth.
It probably has a substantial atmosphere and may be covered with large amounts of water – necessary for life to evolve – and, most importantly, temperatures are very similar to those on our world. …
This new planet – known for the time being as Gliese 581c – is a midget in comparison, being about 12,000 miles across (Earth is a little under 8,000 pole-to-pole).
It has a mass five times that of Earth, probably made of the same sort of rock as makes up our world and with enough gravity to hold a substantial atmosphere.
Astrobiologists – scientists who study the possibility of alien life – refer to a climate known as the Goldilocks Zone, where it is not so cold that water freezes and not so hot that it boils, but where it can lie on the planet’s surface as a liquid.
In our solar system, only one planet – Earth – lies in the Goldilocks Zone. Venus is far too hot and Mars is just too cold. This new planet lies bang in the middle of the zone, with average surface temperatures estimated to be between zero and 40c (32-102f). Lakes, rivers and even oceans are possible.
It is not clear what this planet is made of. If it is rock, like the Earth, then its surface may be land, or a combination of land and ocean.
Another possibility is that Gliese 581c was formed mostly from ice far from the star (ice is a very common substance in the Universe), and moved to the close orbit it inhabits today.
In which case its entire surface will have melted to form a giant, planet-wide ocean with no land, save perhaps a few rocky islands or icebergs.
The surface gravity is probably around twice that of the Earth and the atmosphere could be similar to ours.