Vapor found at potentially habitable planet: 'Possible this is a water world' - CNET - Canadanewsmedia
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Vapor found at potentially habitable planet: 'Possible this is a water world' – CNET

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An artist’s impression shows K2-18b and its host star. The planet has life-friendly temperatures, and it may have water too. 


ESA/Hubble, M. Kornmesser

For the first time, astronomers looking beyond our solar system have spotted water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet where temperatures might also be just right for life.

Exoplanet K2-18b is a super-Earth that’s twice the size of our planet, with eight times the mass. It’s also wet, or at least the skies around it are. Researchers found evidence of water vapor when they took data captured by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope in 2016 and 2017 and ran it through an open-source algorithm they developed to analyze distant planets. They published their findings Wednesday in the journal Nature.

Water vapor has been found in the atmospheres of other planets, but this is the first time such moisture has been spotted at a planet in the habitable zone of its star, where temperatures could be tolerable, if not downright pleasant.

More data is needed to determine what kind of cloud coverage the planet has, how much water is present in the atmosphere and if the stuff is actually forming big bodies of water on the planet’s surface like here on Earth.

“It’s entirely possible this is a water world,” said co-author Giovanna Tinetti, a professor of astrophysics at University College London. But she cautioned that it’s too early to confirm the presence of some sort of surface ocean. 

It’s estimated that temperatures on the planet could be between about minus 100 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 73 Celsius) and 150 Fahrenheit (66 Celsius). That’s a big range, of course, but it’s not too far off from the conditions we see here on Earth.

“However, this planet is not a second Earth,” Angelos Tsiaras, a research associate at UCL, told reporters Tuesday. “It is orbiting what we call a red dwarf star … in this environment the space weather is more hostile than here on Earth.”

Red dwarf stars, also called M-dwarf stars,  are smaller, cooler and dimmer than our sun. They’re also known for frequently releasing powerful solar flares that could threaten to irradiate orbiting planets. Fortunately, K2-18, which is 110 light years from Earth, isn’t as prone to spouting off as other M-dwarf stars.

“This one in particular is not very active at all,” Ingo Waldmann, a lecturer in extrasolar planets at UCL and the paper’s co-author, told me. “We’ve not seen any flaring.”


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The analysis of the starlight passing through the planet’s atmosphere also showed hydrogen and helium. Future studies could determine if other molecules closely connected with life as we know it, like nitrogen and methane, are also present. 

The researchers are hopeful that the upcoming James Webb Telescope, which’ll be significantly more powerful than Hubble, may provide an even clearer view of what’s happening on distant exoplanets. If conditions are right, you may even want to add K2-18b to an interstellar travel itinerary in the far-off future.

 “Our discovery makes K2-18b one of the most interesting targets for future study,” Tinetti said. 

Originally published Sept. 11, 10 a.m. PT. 

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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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