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Scientists discover planet with water, temperature right for life – The Globe and Mail

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This artist’s rendering provided by University College London Centre for Space Exochemistry Data researchers shows Exoplanet K2-18b, foreground, its host star and an accompanying planet in this system.

The Canadian Press

In a tantalizing first, scientists have discovered water at a planet outside our solar system that has temperatures suitable for life.

Two research groups announced this week that they’ve found water vapour in the atmosphere of a planet 110 light-years away in the constellation Leo. This so-called Super Earth is just the right distance from its star to conceivably harbour life.

It’s the only exoplanet known so far to have both water and temperatures needed for life, the University College London team reported in the journal Nature Astronomy on Wednesday. But lead author Angelos Tsiaras stressed, “This is definitely not a second Earth.”

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Its star and atmosphere are so different than ours, “Earth-like conditions are not possible,” Dr. Tsiaras told reporters. “The only question that we’re trying to ask here, and we’re pushing forward, is the question of habitability.”

A Canadian-led team announced similar findings Tuesday. In a paper just submitted to the Astronomical Journal for publication, these scientists suggest it might even be raining there.

“This represents the biggest step yet taken toward our ultimate goal of finding life on other planets, of proving that we are not alone,” the study’s lead astronomer, Bjorn Benneke of the University of Montreal, said in a statement.

Discovered in 2015, the planet known as K2-18b is twice the size of Earth with eight times the mass. While it’s thought to be rocky, no one knows if water’s flowing on the surface. Its star, a red dwarf, is considerably smaller and cooler than our sun, a yellow dwarf, and its atmosphere is also different than ours.

Nonetheless, Dr. Tsiaras said K2-18b could help determine, “Is the Earth unique?”

The results are doubly exciting, Dr. Tsiaras noted, given this is not only the first Super Earth with water detected in its atmosphere but the planet also resides within the habitable zone of its star.

The research teams used archived data from the Hubble Space Telescope and other spacecraft to analyze the planet’s atmosphere. Further observations are needed to determine whether the planet is indeed a true water world, using next-generation observatories such as NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope and the European Space Agency’s Ariel, both set to launch in the 2020s.

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Future telescopes on Earth and in space should help uncover more Super Earths orbiting red dwarf stars – believed to be the most common planets and stars in our Milky Way galaxy. Super Earths are defined as having a mass greater than Earth but less than gas giants such as Uranus and Neptune; more than 1,260 have been confirmed to date.

While water already has been identified in the atmospheres of hot gas giants circling other stars, the latest findings represent the first detection of water vapour in the atmosphere of another type of exoplanet, Dr. Tsiaras said.

A NASA tally currently lists more than 4,000 confirmed exoplanets and another 4,000 potential candidates. Most have been detected using the transit method, where telescopes watch for a slight, fleeting dimming of a star’s light as a planet passes in the field of view.

For now, scientists know K2-18b takes 33 days to orbit its star, so one year there is one month here. At this distance, temperatures range from minus 73 C to 47 C.

The star, glowing red in the day sky, is believed to bombard the planet with radiation harsh enough to quickly inflict any human visitors with cancer, although “life there may have evolved differently” in order to survive, noted the London team’s Ingo Waldmann. A sister planet, meanwhile, orbits closer to the star and is likely too hot to be in the habitable zone.

The cloud cover isn’t too thick on K2-18b, otherwise it would have obscured the water vapour in the atmosphere, according to the scientists.

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The surface, meanwhile, could be wet or dry. The London data suggest water vapour makes up anywhere between 0.01 per cent and 50 per cent of the atmosphere – “quite a big range,” Dr. Waldmann acknowledged. Either way, given the planet’s mass, it would be difficult to walk on the surface.

“Maybe not quite your vacation destination just yet,” Dr. Waldmann joked.

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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.


Getty Images

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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