Space telescope offers rare glimpse of Earth-sized rocky exoplanet - Calgary Herald - Canadanewsmedia
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Space telescope offers rare glimpse of Earth-sized rocky exoplanet – Calgary Herald

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The planet lies about 48.6 light years from Earth and is one of more than 4,000 so-called exoplanets identified over the past two decades


An artist’s conception of an exoplanet beyond our own solar system known to astronomers as LHS 3844b, which lies about 48.6 light years from Earth is shown in this handout photo obtained August 19, 2019.


NASA-JPL/Handout via REUTERS

Direct observations from a NASA space telescope have for the first time revealed the atmospheric void of a rocky, Earth-sized world beyond our own solar system orbiting the most common type of star in the galaxy, according to a study released on Monday.

The research, published in the scientific journal Nature, also shows the distant planet’s surface is likely to resemble the barren exterior of the Earth’s moon or Mercury, possibly covered in dark volcanic rock.

The planet lies about 48.6 light years from Earth and is one of more than 4,000 so-called exoplanets identified over the past two decades circling distant stars in our home galaxy, the Milky Way.

Known to astronomers as LHS 3844b, this exoplanet about 1.3 times the size of Earth is locked in a tight orbit – one revolution every 11 hours – around a small, relatively cool star called a red dwarf, the most prevalent and long-lived type of star in the galaxy.

The temperature contrast on this planet is about as big as it can possibly be

The planet’s lack of atmosphere is probably due to intense radiation from its parent red dwarf, which, though dim by stellar standards, also emits high levels of ultraviolet light, the study says.

The study will likely add to a debate among astronomers about whether the search for life-sustaining conditions beyond our solar system should focus on exoplanets around red dwarfs – accounting for 75 per cent of all stars in the Milky Way – or less common, larger, hotter stars more like our own sun.

The principal finding is that it probably possesses little if any atmosphere – a conclusion reached by measuring the temperature difference between the side of the planet perpetually facing its star, and the cooler, dark side facing away from it.

A negligible amount of heat carried between the two sides indicates a lack of winds that would otherwise be present to transfer warmth around the planet.

“The temperature contrast on this planet is about as big as it can possibly be,” said researcher Laura Kreidberg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is lead author of the study. Similar analysis previously was used to determine that another exoplanet, 55 Cancri e, about twice as big as Earth and believed to be half-covered in molten lava, likely possesses an atmosphere thicker than Earth’s. This exoplanet, unlike LHS 3844b, orbits a sun-like star.

The planet in the latest study was detected last year by NASA’s newly launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, an orbiting telescope that pinpoints distant worlds by spotting periodic, dips in the light observed from their parent stars when an object passes in front of them.

But it was follow-up observations from another orbiting instrument, the Spitzer Space Telescope, which can detect infrared light directly from an exoplanet, that provided new insights about its features.

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Mercury passes across sun’s face in rare 5-hour transit – Global News

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Mini Mercury skipped across the vast, glaring face of the sun Monday in a rare celestial transit.

Stargazers used solar-filtered binoculars and telescopes to spot Mercury — a tiny black dot — as it passed directly between Earth and the sun on Monday.

Planet Mercury is seen as a small silhouette, center left, as it travels across the face of the sun, near capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.

Planet Mercury is seen as a small silhouette, center left, as it travels across the face of the sun, near capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, Nov. 11, 2019.


(AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

The eastern U.S. and Canada got the whole 5 1/2-hour show, weather permitting, along with Central and South America. The rest of the world, except for Asia and Australia, got just a sampling.

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How to watch Mercury’s transit across the sun on Monday

Mercury is the solar system’s smallest, innermost planet. The next transit isn’t until 2032, and North America won’t get another shot until 2049.

This still image from video issued by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows Mercury as it passes between Earth and the sun on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. The solar system’s smallest, innermost planet resembles a tiny black dot during the transit, which began at 7:35 a.m. EST (1205 UTC).

This still image from video issued by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory shows Mercury as it passes between Earth and the sun on Monday, Nov. 11, 2019. The solar system’s smallest, innermost planet resembles a tiny black dot during the transit, which began at 7:35 a.m. EST (1205 UTC).


(NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory via AP)

In Maryland, clouds prevented NASA solar astrophysicist Alex Young from getting a clear peek. Live coverage was provided by observatories including NASA’s orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory.






4:34
Searching for Mercury


Searching for Mercury

“It’s a bummer, but the whole event was still great,” Young wrote in an email. “Both getting to see it from space and sharing it with people all over the country and world.”

At Cape Canaveral, space buffs got a two-for-one. As Mercury’s silhouette graced the morning sun, SpaceX launched 60 small satellites for global internet service, part of the company’s growing Starlink constellation in orbit.

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© 2019 The Canadian Press

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Video: SpaceX successfully launched 60 Starlink satellites into orbit as part of Elon Musk's high-speed internet plan – Business Insider

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Sixty Starlink satellites were launched into space on Monday.SpaceX

  • SpaceX launched 60 of its Starlink satellites into space on Monday.
  • The satellites were carried into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
  • Starlink is SpaceX’s ambitious project to station a network of almost 12,000 satellites above the Earth to provide remote parts of the world with fast internet.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Elon Musk is one step closer to his goal of stationing a network of 12,000 satellites in orbit above Earth.

On Monday SpaceX successfully launched 60 of its Starlink satellites into orbit. This is what the satellites looked like before they were loaded onto the rocket.

They were carried into space by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, which took off at 14:56 UTC from a launchpad in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Once it was at an altitude of 280 km (174 miles) the rocket deployed the satellites.

The stated aim of SpaceX’s Starlink project is to create a network of nearly 12,000 satellites to bring high-speed internet to remote and rural parts of the world.

After sending the satellites adrift the Falcon 9 rocket successfully landed on a landing pad out in the Atlantic ocean.

Although the original plans for Starlink listed just under 12,000 satellites, Space News reported last month that the company applied to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for permission to launch an additional 30,000.

Do you work at SpaceX? Contact this reporter via email at ihamilton@businessinsider.com or iahamilton@protonmail.com. You can alsocontact Business Insider securely via SecureDrop.

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The Nile Could Be a Window Into the Underworld – Gizmodo

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The Blue Nile falls in the Ethiopian highlands.
Photo: Flickr

Some scientists think the Nile river might be revealing the mysteries of the mantle beneath it.

There’s been debate over the age of the Nile—whether it formed from a river redirecting around 5 million years ago or whether a proto-Nile has flowed through the area for 30 million years. If the Nile is older, as one team of scientists’ evidence suggests, then it could be mirroring the course of a plume of mantle material circulating beneath it. The mantle is the largest layer of Earth, consisting of high-pressure rock beneath the crust and above the core.

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“Maybe we can use rivers to understand how the mantle flows” more generally, Claudio Faccenna, the study’s first author and a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told Gizmodo.

Two competing models try to explain the Nile. In one, the Nile formed when a drainage basin changed its course from westward to northward around 6 million years ago, due to the same processes that formed a crack in the African tectonic plate called the East African rift. The other theory says that the river formed 30 million years ago as a result of long-running geological processes in the mantle that have been pushing ground upward in Ethiopia and downward closer to the Mediterranean.

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The team of researchers from the United States, Canada, Italy, and Israel presented new evidence in favor of the latter theory, including data and modeling. The modeling of how the local topography changed over time suggests that the Ethiopian plateau may have begun upwelling 30 million years ago, while the land began sinking downward in the eastern Mediterranean, by the Nile’s mouth. The researchers linked this model to one of the mantle moving as large slabs of rock shift around, according to the paper published today in Nature Geoscience.

Past research from this team also supports an older Nile. Analysis of 20- to 30-million-year-old rocks called zircons found at the Nile’s mouth showed that they seem to match the rocks found in the Ethiopian plateau at the source of the Nile, suggesting the river is at least that old. The thickness of the sediment, as well as the amount of erosion in the Blue Nile (one of the main tributaries of the Nile) also seem to support the older age.

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Age aside, the researchers say they’ve demonstrated that some rivers can serve as a tool for understanding the behavior of the mantle below. Some rivers typically originate from mountains or high plateaus, but others, like the Nile or the Yenisei river in Siberia, simply start out at places of higher land where the Earth’s mantle has pushed upward. These kinds of rivers differ in the sort of sediment they deposit at their mouth (usually it’s of volcanic origin, from the upwelling of the mantle).

This work is exciting for scientists like Faccenna who hope to better understand the mantle, which is difficult to study because of its depth beneath the crust. “If we can find another signal of the deep mantle on the surface, it would be amazing,” he told Gizmodo.

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Obviously this work is based on a model, so there are built-in human assumptions that can alter its outcome. But I quite like the idea that there are rivers here on Earth that we can use as windows into the underworld.

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