Water vapour is spotted on a distant rocky planet - physicsworld.com - Canadanewsmedia
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Water vapour is spotted on a distant rocky planet – physicsworld.com

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Water world: artist’s impression of K2-18b (right) and its red-dwarf star. (Courtesy: ESA/Hubble/M Kornmesser)

Water vapour has been detected in the atmosphere of a rocky planet 110 light-years from Earth. Called K2-18b, the planet orbits within the habitable zone of a red-dwarf star, which means that the planet could harbour life. The observations were made by astronomers at University College London, who used the Hubble Space Telescope. While the evidence for water vapour is compelling, the scientists say that the next generation of telescopes will be needed to gain a better understanding of the planet’s atmosphere.

Astronomers know of thousands of extrasolar planets – planets that orbit stars other than the Sun. As observation methods improve, scientists are beginning to study the atmospheres of some of these planets. Evidence for water in the atmospheres of distant gas giants – planets that resemble Saturn or Jupiter – has already been found, but this is the first time that water has been spotted in the atmosphere of distant Earth-like planet in the habitable zone of its star. This zone is a band of orbits in which liquid water – and possibly life – could exist on a planet.

K2-18b is not, however, identical to  Earth. It is a “super Earth” that is eight times the mass of our world and completes one orbit of its star in just 33 Earth days.

Spectroscopic signature

Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 was used to observe eight transits of K2-18b. A transit occurs when a planet passes between the Earth and the planet’s companion star and results in a small drop in the amount of starlight that reaches an observing telescope. Some of the light that does reach the telescope during a transit has passed through the planet’s atmosphere and this light can be analysed for the spectroscopic signature of water.

The team analysed the spectroscopic data using three atmospheric models of K2-18b. The first model described the atmosphere as cloud-free and comprising only water, molecular hydrogen and helium. The second model was like the first but with the addition of molecular nitrogen. The third model included clouds, water, molecular hydrogen and helium.

Their analysis reveals a slight preference for the first model, but the likelihood of all three models have about the same statistical significance.

Is the Earth unique?

Angelos Tsiaras, who led the research, says “Finding water in a potentially habitable world other than Earth is incredibly exciting. K2-18b is not ‘Earth 2.0’ as it is significantly heavier and has a different atmospheric composition. However, it brings us closer to answering the fundamental question: Is the Earth unique?”

Team member Ingo Waldmann adds “With so many new super-Earths expected to be found over the next couple of decades, it is likely that this is the first discovery of many potentially habitable planets”.

Astronomers seeking further insight into the atmosphere of K2-18b may have to wait until the next generation of telescopes come online. Team member Giovanna Tinetti says, “Our discovery makes K2-18 b one of the most interesting targets for future study”. She adds, “Over 4000 exoplanets have been detected but we don’t know much about their composition and nature. By observing a large sample of planets, we hope to reveal secrets about their chemistry, formation and evolution.”

The observations are described in Nature Astronomy.

An independent measurement of water vapour on K2-18b has also been made by Björn Benneke of the University of Montreal and colleagues. This team also used the Wide Field Camera 3 and they describe their observations in a preprint on arXiv.

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Human bodies keep moving for more than a year after death, researcher finds – Edmonton Sun

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The finding could ‘significantly’ change how post-mortem investigations are carried out, especially in cases of unexplained deaths

The zombies from ‘Walking Dead’ may be frighteningly closer to reality than you’d like to imagine. 

Australian researchers have observed human bodies moving for more than a year after death, a finding that can greatly change how post-mortem investigations are conducted, they say. 

Researchers at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), informally known as a body farm, used a time-lapse camera to take overhead pictures of a corpse every 30 minutes during daylight hours for 17 months. 

“What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body,” medical scientist Alyson Wilson told ABC Australia.   

While the team expected some post-mortem movement in the early stages of decomposition, the length at which they observed the body moving was a surprising find. 

These findings could “significantly” impact unexplained death investigations she added. Previously, forensic scientists assumed that the position of a discovered body was the position at time of death — if there was no evidence proving that the body was moved. 

“We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out,” she explained. 

Wilson could not immediately be reached for comment.

However, Shari Forbes, director of Canada’s first body farm — and former director of AFTER — said the finding isn’t all that uncommon. “It’s well-known to researchers but not conveyed to police investigators,” she said, namely due to the lack of facilities around the world, outside of the U.S.

The reasons for prolonged movement aren’t all that mystifying either, she added. It could be a number of things — insect larvae, shrinkage of body tissue, scavenging.

Wilson also found, over the course of three years, that corpses left outdoors would mummify — the process by which the skin and flesh of a corpse is preserved — under the right circumstances.

“We used to think it could only happen in a hot-and-dry environment or cold-and-dry — the key word being dry,” explained Forbes. However, the research reveals that natural mummification isn’t necessarily dependent on environmental factors and could be due to anything drawing moisture out from the body such as insects, dry soil, solar radiation.

It would differ around the world, added Forbes. For example, the process of mummification in Canada could result in two extreme scenarios — the body would freeze during winter leading to some degree of mummification or rapidly decompose during the warm summers.

Wilson’s research also confirmed the value of a time-lapse camera to study the decomposition rate of a human body in any environment. In a study published last month, she used the camera to test whether a scientific equation used to estimate a body’s decomposition in the northern hemisphere could apply to an Australian environment.

“Until we had AFTER, most of the science on how bodies decomposed was based on the northern hemisphere, where the climate is different, the weather is different and even the insects can be different,” she said.

This is the “first time” such photos have been recorded, according to Dr. Xanthe Mallett, a forensic anthropologist and criminologist at the University of Newcastle. 

“Previously, if the police had asked me if a set of human remains were found and they were mummified, I would have said it’s likely that that person was left outside in autumn and winter,” added Mallett. The new data “opens up the entire year for mummification in the correct circumstances, and it stops us from going down the wrong path.”

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CINDY'S SNAPSHOT: A full Harvest Moon over Dominion, Cape Breton | The News – The News

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At 1:33 ADT (2:03 NDT) Saturday a.m., the September moon became the Full Harvest Moon. Corinne Reid took this stunning photo just hours before that, as Earth’s only natural satellite came up over Dominion Cape Breton, N.S. The Harvest Moon is the full moon closest to the fall equinox; some years, the full moon in October gets the honours of being called the Harvest Moon.



Cindy Day is the chief meteorologist for SaltWire Network

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Human bodies keep moving for more than a year after death, researcher finds – Montreal Gazette

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The finding could ‘significantly’ change how post-mortem investigations are carried out, especially in cases of unexplained deaths


A cadaver lies in an open locker. Researchers have found that that human bodies can move for more than a year after death.


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The zombies from ‘Walking Dead’ may be frighteningly closer to reality than you’d like to imagine. 

Australian researchers have observed human bodies moving for more than a year after death, a finding that can greatly change how post-mortem investigations are conducted, they say. 

Researchers at the Australian Facility for Taphonomic Experimental Research (AFTER), informally known as a body farm, used a time-lapse camera to take overhead pictures of a corpse every 30 minutes during daylight hours for 17 months. 

“What we found was that the arms were significantly moving, so that arms that started off down beside the body ended up out to the side of the body,” medical scientist Alyson Wilson told ABC Australia.   

While the team expected some post-mortem movement in the early stages of decomposition, the length at which they observed the body moving was a surprising find. 

These findings could “significantly” impact unexplained death investigations she added. Previously, forensic scientists assumed that the position of a discovered body was the position at time of death — if there was no evidence proving that the body was moved. 

“We think the movements relate to the process of decomposition, as the body mummifies and the ligaments dry out,” she explained. 

Wilson could not immediately be reached for comment.

However, Shari Forbes, director of Canada’s first body farm — and former director of AFTER — said the finding isn’t all that uncommon. “It’s well-known to researchers but not conveyed to police investigators,” she said, namely due to the lack of facilities around the world, outside of the U.S.

The reasons for prolonged movement aren’t all that mystifying either, she added. It could be a number of things — insect larvae, shrinkage of body tissue, scavenging.

Wilson also found, over the course of three years, that corpses left outdoors would mummify — the process by which the skin and flesh of a corpse is preserved — under the right circumstances.

“We used to think it could only happen in a hot-and-dry environment or cold-and-dry — the key word being dry,” explained Forbes. However, the research reveals that natural mummification isn’t necessarily dependent on environmental factors and could be due to anything drawing moisture out from the body such as insects, dry soil, solar radiation.

It would differ around the world, added Forbes. For example, the process of mummification in Canada could result in two extreme scenarios — the body would freeze during winter leading to some degree of mummification or rapidly decompose during the warm summers.

Wilson’s research also confirmed the value of a time-lapse camera to study the decomposition rate of a human body in any environment. In a study published last month, she used the camera to test whether a scientific equation used to estimate a body’s decomposition in the northern hemisphere could apply to an Australian environment.

“Until we had AFTER, most of the science on how bodies decomposed was based on the northern hemisphere, where the climate is different, the weather is different and even the insects can be different,” she said.

This is the “first time” such photos have been recorded, according to Dr. Xanthe Mallett, a forensic anthropologist and criminologist at the University of Newcastle. 

“Previously, if the police had asked me if a set of human remains were found and they were mummified, I would have said it’s likely that that person was left outside in autumn and winter,” added Mallett. The new data “opens up the entire year for mummification in the correct circumstances, and it stops us from going down the wrong path.”

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