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A second super-Earth may be orbiting the nearest star to our Sun – Inverse

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Earth may have a new planetary neighbor, orbiting around the next-nearest star system to our own. This new neighbor, residing just 4.2 light years away, is strangely reminiscent of Earth, with some key differences — it is a little larger and much colder — but otherwise, the resemblance is uncanny given their proximity.

The discovery comes after scientists observed what looks like a second planet orbiting around Proxima Centauri, the closest-known star to our own Solar System.

The findings are detailed in a study published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances. The research draws on 17 years of radial velocity measurements to suggest that a super-Earth — basically a larger, Earth-like planet — may be orbiting around Proxima Centauri. The findings provide astronomers with a potential new exoplanet that can be observed at close proximity. They also challenge established theories of how low-mass planets form.

Exploring our galactic neighborhood

Proxima Centauri is located 4.2 light years away from the Solar System. It is one of the sun of the Alpha Centauri star system, the closest known star system to our own. It consists of two stars interlocked in an orbit around each other, or binary stars, and one other star.

Although Proxima Centauri is the closest star to us, it is too small to see with the naked eye. Proxima Centauri is a low-mass red dwarf star, thought to be about an eighth of the mass of the Sun and 500 times less bright.

Proxima Centauri through the Hubble telescope

In 2016, scientists discovered a planet orbiting around the small star. Proxima Centauri b orbits the star at a distance of roughly 4.7 million miles, with an orbital period of approximately 11.2 days. The planet is about the same size as Earth, and orbits within its star’s habitable zone — the distance at which a planet may hold liquid water. Some believe that it may potentially host life.

A brother for Proxima Centuari b

Proxima Centuari b may not be its host star’s only child.

When a planet orbits its star, it causes the star to slightly shift in a small circular motion as it’s tugged on by the planet’s gravitational pull. In the new study, scientists detected changes in the wavelength of the light coming from the star as it shifted between red and blue. The shift indicates that the star is moving towards and away from the Earth at regular intervals — likely due to the presence of a planetary body.

If confirmed, Proxima Centauri c is likely a super-Earth, a planet with a mass larger than that of Earth’s, but smaller than Uranus and Neptune. The potential planet orbits around its star once every 5.2 years, with a mass six times larger than Earth.

proxima centauri b
Artist’s impression of the exoplanet Proxima Centauri b. More work is needed to confirm and characterize Proxima Centauri c.

Due to its star’s dimness and long orbital period, it is unlikely that Proxima Centauri c is habitable.

But the planet may provide new insights on how planetary bodies form.

Proxima Centauri c challenges theories of how low-mass planets form around low-mass stars. That’s because it is located beyond the ‘snow line’ of the star system.

The snow line is the point at which it is cold enough for any water on planets to freeze. They are an ideal spot for accretion disks, or a rotating disk of matter from which planets form. Super-Earths like Proxima Centauri c generally form near the snow line, and not beyond it — suggesting astronomers are missing something.

That matters for theories about how our own planet formed. Earth is a low-mass planet, too. So if Proxima Centauri c does indeed exist, it may help rewrite our own origin tale.

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The Moon is rusting, and researchers want to know why – Pattaya Mail

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The Moon as viewed by NASA’s Mariner 10 in 1973, well before research would find signs of rust on the airless surface. Credits: NASA/JPL/Northwestern University

While our Moon is airless, research indicates the presence of hematite, a form of rust that normally requires oxygen and water. That has scientists puzzled.

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Mars has long been known for its rust. Iron on its surface, combined with water and oxygen from the ancient past, give the Red Planet its hue. But scientists were recently surprised to find evidence that our airless Moon has rust on it as well.

A new paper in Science Advances reviews data from the Indian Space Research Organization’s Chandrayaan-1 orbiter, which discovered water ice and mapped out a variety of minerals while surveying the Moon’s surface in 2008. Lead author Shuai Li of the University of Hawaii has studied that water extensively in data from Chandrayaan-1’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper instrument, or M3, which was built by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. Water interacts with rock to produce a diversity of minerals, and M3 detected spectra – or light reflected off surfaces – that revealed the Moon’s poles had a very different composition than the rest of it.

Intrigued, Li homed in on these polar spectra. While the Moon’s surface is littered with iron-rich rocks, he nevertheless was surprised to find a close match with the spectral signature of hematite. The mineral is a form of iron oxide, or rust, produced when iron is exposed to oxygen and water. But the Moon isn’t supposed to have oxygen or liquid water, so how can it be rusting?

Metal Mystery

The mystery starts with the solar wind, a stream of charged particles that flows out from the Sun, bombarding Earth and the Moon with hydrogen. Hydrogen makes it harder for hematite to form. It’s what is known as a reducer, meaning it adds electrons to the materials it interacts with. That’s the opposite of what is needed to make hematite: For iron to rust, it requires an oxidizer, which removes electrons. And while the Earth has a magnetic field shielding it from this hydrogen, the Moon does not.

“It’s very puzzling,” Li said. “The Moon is a terrible environment for hematite to form in.” So he turned to JPL scientists Abigail Fraeman and Vivian Sun to help poke at M3’s data and confirm his discovery of hematite.

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“At first, I totally didn’t believe it. It shouldn’t exist based on the conditions present on the Moon,” Fraeman said. “But since we discovered water on the Moon, people have been speculating that there could be a greater variety of minerals than we realize if that water had reacted with rocks.”

After taking a close look, Fraeman and Sun became convinced M3’s data does indeed indicate the presence of hematite at the lunar poles. “In the end, the spectra were convincingly hematite-bearing, and there needed to be an explanation for why it’s on the Moon,” Sun said.

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Three Key Ingredients

Their paper offers a three-pronged model to explain how rust might form in such an environment. For starters, while the Moon lacks an atmosphere, it is in fact home to trace amounts of oxygen. The source of that oxygen: our planet. Earth’s magnetic field trails behind the planet like a windsock. In 2007, Japan’s Kaguya orbiter discovered that oxygen from Earth’s upper atmosphere can hitch a ride on this trailing magnetotail, as it’s officially known, traveling the 239,000 miles (385,00 kilometers) to the Moon.

That discovery fits with data from M3, which found more hematite on the Moon’s Earth-facing near side than on its far side. “This suggested that Earth’s oxygen could be driving the formation of hematite,” Li said. The Moon has been inching away from Earth for billions of years, so it’s also possible that more oxygen hopped across this rift when the two were closer in the ancient past.

Then there’s the matter of all that hydrogen being delivered by the solar wind. As a reducer, hydrogen should prevent oxidation from occurring. But Earth’s magnetotail has a mediating effect. Besides ferrying oxygen to the Moon from our home planet, it also blocks over 99% of the solar wind during certain periods of the Moon’s orbit (specifically, whenever it’s in the full Moon phase). That opens occasional windows during the lunar cycle when rust can form.

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The third piece of the puzzle is water. While most of the Moon is bone dry, water ice can be found in shadowed lunar craters on the Moon’s far side. But the hematite was detected far from that ice. The paper instead focuses on water molecules found in the lunar surface. Li proposes that fast-moving dust particles that regularly pelt the Moon could release these surface-borne water molecules, mixing them with iron in the lunar soil. Heat from these impacts could increase the oxidation rate; the dust particles themselves may also be carrying water molecules, implanting them into the surface so that they mix with iron. During just the right moments – namely, when the Moon is shielded from the solar wind and oxygen is present – a rust-inducing chemical reaction could occur.

More data is needed to determine exactly how the water is interacting with rock. That data could also help explain another mystery: why smaller quantities of hematite are also forming on the far side of the Moon, where the Earth’s oxygen shouldn’t be able to reach it.

More Science to Come

Fraeman said this model may also explain hematite found on other airless bodies like asteroids. “It could be that little bits of water and the impact of dust particles are allowing iron in these bodies to rust,” she said.

Li noted that it’s an exciting time for lunar science. Almost 50 years since the last Apollo landing, the Moon is a major destination again. NASA plans to send dozens of new instruments and technology experiments to study the Moon beginning next year, followed by human missions beginning in 2024 all as part of the Artemis program.

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JPL is also building a new version of M3 for an orbiter called Lunar Trailblazer. One of its instruments, the High-resolution Volatiles and Minerals Moon Mapper (HVM3), will be mapping water ice in permanently shadowed craters on the Moon, and may be able to reveal new details about hematite as well.

“I think these results indicate that there are more complex chemical processes happening in our solar system than have been previously recognized,” Sun said. “We can understand them better by sending future missions to the Moon to test these hypotheses.”

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This modular home workout setup fits in your closet, no more excuses to not exercise! – Yanko Design

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Few industries have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic like the fitness industry has changed. Acclimating to the increasingly strange times, home gym designers have taken to the drawing boards by storm. Working out at home is possible, yes. Fun? Depends. Comfortable? Hard to say. What’s definite is that the team at G-Wall turned the everchanging state of 2020 into the well-knit, conceptual core of their sleek, modular home gym design. Recently, the designers behind the G-Wall Home Fitness System were presented with 2020’s K-Design Award.

Instead of answering the unanswerable (really, who can say what’s up next for 2020), the team behind G-Wall designed their home gym specifically so that it could be stored behind a closet or armoire cabinet’s door. That way the time that you would have spent making room for your home fitness system, instead is spent actually putting it to use. G-Wall’s Home Fitness System has several standout features: variable modules, user-adjustability, and compatibility, to name a few. Each user decides on which modules they want to comprise the larger system. This means that despite the amount of space in your home, G-Wall’s design makes it possible to incorporate a home gym anywhere. The different modules that users can decide on range from cardiovascular equipment, to free weights and even heavy training. The gear that comes with each module is stored in cabinets or racks that easily hang behind doors or however the user deems appropriate for their personal space.

Once quarantine started, many of us twiddled our thumbs while figuring out how to stay healthy and active within the confines of our respective homes. Fitness and health remained a top priority for many global citizens. It was never a question of compromise or adjustment when it came to working out during quarantine. Rather, designers and gym-goers took to the drawing boards to concoct their own solutions. That’s all to say that while the fitness industry has indeed changed with 2020’s unpredictable timeline, some of the most innovative new designs have been devised. Such deliberate and convenient designs like G-Wall prove that as unanswerable as some questions may be, as uncertain as the time may feel, design’s practical and adaptive nature is one thing on which we can always depend.

Designers: Tan Xuwen, Zhang Hu, Huang Shumei, Tong Bomin, Gao Lin x Guangdong Piano Customized Furniture Co., Ltd.









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A Physicist Has Come Up With Math That Makes 'Paradox-Free' Time Travel Plausible – ScienceAlert

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No one has yet managed to travel through time – at least to our knowledge – but the question of whether or not such a feat would be theoretically possible continues to fascinate scientists.

As movies such as The Terminator, Donnie Darko, Back to the Future and many others show, moving around in time creates a lot of problems for the fundamental rules of the Universe: if you go back in time and stop your parents from meeting, for instance, how can you possibly exist in order to go back in time in the first place?

It’s a monumental head-scratcher known as the ‘grandfather paradox’, but now a physics student Germain Tobar, from the University of Queensland in Australia, says he has worked out how to “square the numbers” to make time travel viable without the paradoxes.

“Classical dynamics says if you know the state of a system at a particular time, this can tell us the entire history of the system,” says Tobar.

“However, Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicts the existence of time loops or time travel – where an event can be both in the past and future of itself – theoretically turning the study of dynamics on its head.”

What the calculations show is that space-time can potentially adapt itself to avoid paradoxes.

To use a topical example, imagine a time traveller journeying into the past to stop a disease from spreading – if the mission was successful, the time traveller would have no disease to go back in time to defeat.

Tobar’s work suggests that the disease would still escape some other way, through a different route or by a different method, removing the paradox. Whatever the time traveller did, the disease wouldn’t be stopped.

Tobar’s work isn’t easy for non-mathematicians to dig into, but it looks at the influence of deterministic processes (without any randomness) on an arbitrary number of regions in the space-time continuum, and demonstrates how both closed timelike curves (as predicted by Einstein) can fit in with the rules of free will and classical physics.

“The maths checks out – and the results are the stuff of science fiction,” says physicist Fabio Costa from the University of Queensland, who supervised the research.

Fabio Costa (left) and Germain Tobar (right). (Ho Vu)

The new research smooths out the problem with another hypothesis, that time travel is possible but that time travellers would be restricted in what they did, to stop them creating a paradox. In this model, time travellers have the freedom to do whatever they want, but paradoxes are not possible.

While the numbers might work out, actually bending space and time to get into the past remains elusive – the time machines that scientists have devised so far are so high-concept that for they currently only exist as calculations on a page.

We might get there one day – Stephen Hawking certainly thought it was possible – and if we do then this new research suggests we would be free to do whatever we wanted to the world in the past: it would readjust itself accordingly.

“Try as you might to create a paradox, the events will always adjust themselves, to avoid any inconsistency,” says Costa. “The range of mathematical processes we discovered show that time travel with free will is logically possible in our universe without any paradox.”

The research has been published in Classical and Quantum Gravity.

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