Astronomers from the University of Warwick have recently discovered the surviving core of a gas giant named TOI 849 b, orbiting a distant star. It is the first time the exposed core of a planet has been observed.
The core is believed to be a gas giant that was either stripped of its gaseous atmosphere or that failed to form one in its early life.
The core, as the same size as Neptune in our solar system, has mass 2-3 times higher than Neptune, but it is also incredibly dense, with all the material that makes up that mass squashed into an object the same size.
TOI 849 b lies around a star, much like our own approximately 730 light-years away. It orbits so close to its host star that a year is a mere 18 hours, and its surface temperature is around 1800K.
Astronomers discovered TOI 849 b- located in Neptunian Dessert- in a survey of stars by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) using a transit method. Neptunian Dessert is a region close to stars where we rarely see planets of Neptune’s mass or larger.
The transit signal was confirmed and refined using observations with ten telescopes of the Warwick-led Next-Generation Transit Survey (NGTS), based at the European Southern Observatory’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.
The object was then analyzed using the HARPS instrument, on a program led by the University of Warwick, at the European Southern Observatory’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. This utilizes the Doppler effect to measure the mass of exoplanets by measuring their ‘wobble’ – small movements towards and away from us that register as tiny shifts in the star’s spectrum of light.
Lead author Dr. David Armstrong from the University of Warwick Department of Physics said: “While this is an unusually massive planet, it’s a long way from the most massive we know. But it is the most massive we know for its size, and extremely dense for something the size of Neptune, which tells us this planet has a unique history. The fact that it’s in a strange location for its mass also helps – we don’t see planets with this mass at these short orbital periods.”
“TOI 849 b is the most massive terrestrial planet – that has an earth-like density – discovered. We would expect a planet this massive to have accreted large quantities of hydrogen and helium when it formed, growing into something similar to Jupiter. The fact that we don’t see those gases lets us know this is an exposed planetary core.
“This is the first time that we’ve discovered an intact exposed core of a gas giant around a star.”
Dr. Armstrong adds: “One way or another, TOI 849 b either used to be a gas giant or is a ‘failed’ gas giant.
“It’s a first, telling us that planets like this exist and can be found. We have the opportunity to look at the core of a planet in a way that we can’t do in our solar system. There are still big open questions about the nature of Jupiter’s core, for example, such strange and unusual exoplanets like this give us a window into planet formation that we have no other way to explore.”
“Although we don’t have any information on its chemical composition yet, we can follow it up with other telescopes. Because TOI 849 b is so close to the star, any remaining atmosphere around the planet has to be constantly replenished from the core. So if we can measure that atmosphere, then we can get an insight into the composition of the core itself.”
- A remnant planetary core in the hot-Neptune desert’ will be published in Nature, DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2421-7
Science News Roundup: NASA astronauts cap historic aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon; 'Gnarly' tumor shows dinosaurs got cancer and more – Devdiscourse
Following is a summary of current science news briefs.
NASA astronauts cap historic ‘odyssey’ aboard SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule
U.S. astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, who flew to the International Space Station in SpaceX’s new Crew Dragon, splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday after a two-month voyage that was NASA’s first crewed mission from home soil in nine years. Behnken and Hurley, tallying 64 days in space, undocked from the station on Saturday and returned home to land their capsule in calm waters off Florida’s Pensacola coast on schedule at 2:48 p.m. ET following a 21-hour overnight journey aboard Crew Dragon “Endeavor.”
‘Gnarly’ tumor shows dinosaurs got cancer, too
When scientists first unearthed fossils of a horned dinosaur called Centrosaurus in the badlands of Dinosaur Provincial Park in Canada’s Alberta province in 1989, they spotted a badly malformed leg bone they figured was a healed fracture. A fresh examination, researchers said on Monday, shows something different. The malformation was a manifestation of osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone cancer, making this Centrosaurus, which lived 76 million years ago, the first known example of a dinosaur afflicted by malignant cancer.
Virgin Galactic’s Branson to fly into space in early 2021
Billionaire Richard Branson will fly into space on a Virgin Galactic rocket ship early next year, the space tourism company he founded said on Monday, adding that it would raise new funds with a share offering. Branson’s trip to space hinges on the success of two upcoming test flight programs, Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc said, with the first powered spaceflight scheduled for this fall from Spaceport America.
Scientists inspired by ‘Star Wars’ create artificial skin able to feel
Singapore researchers have developed “electronic skin” capable of recreating a sense of touch, an innovation they hope will allow people with prosthetic limbs to detect objects, as well as feel texture, or even temperature and pain. The device, dubbed ACES, or Asynchronous Coded Electronic Skin, is made up of 100 small sensors and is about 1 sq cm (0.16 square inch) in size.
Dinosaurs got cancer too, say scientists – Bangkok Post
OTTAWA – Dinosaurs loom in the imagination as forces of nature, but a new study that identifies the first known case of cancer in the creatures shows they suffered from the debilitating disease too.
A badly malformed Centrosaurus leg bone unearthed in the Alberta, Canada badlands in 1989 had originally been thought by paleontologists to be a healed fracture.
But a fresh examination of the growth under a microscope and using a technique also employed in human cancer care determined it was actually a malignant tumor.
“The cancer discovery makes dinosaurs more real,” study co-author Mark Crowther told AFP.
“We often think of them as mythical creatures, robust and stomping around, but (the diagnosis shows) they suffered from diseases just like people.”
The findings were published in the August issue of The Lancet Oncology.
Most cancers occur in soft tissues, which are not well-preserved in fossil records, noted Crowther, a dinosaur enthusiast and chair of McMaster University’s medical faculty in Canada.
“Oddly enough, under a microscope it looked a lot like human Osteosarcoma,” he said.
“It’s fascinating that this cancer existed tens of millions of years ago and still exists today.”
Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer that still afflicts about three out of one million people each year.
– ‘Just part of life’ –
In this horned herbivore that lived 76 million to 77 million years ago it had metastasised and likely hobbled the giant lizard, the researchers said in the study.
But neither the late-stage cancer nor a predator looking to make a meal out of slow and weak prey is believed to have killed it.
Because its bones were discovered with more than 100 others from the same herd, the researchers said, it’s more likely they all died in a sudden disaster such as a flood, and that prior to this catastrophe the herd protected the lame dinosaur, extending its life.
Lead researchers Crowther and David Evans, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, and their team sifted through hundreds of samples of abnormal bones at the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alberta, to find the bone with a tumour, which is about the size of an apple.
The team also used high-resolution computed tomography (CT) scans, a multidisciplinary diagnostic technique used in human cancer care.
Crowther said dinosaurs would probably have been at higher risk of Osteosarcoma, which affects youths with fast-growing bones, because they grew very quickly and big.
“In terms of the biology of cancer,” he said, “you often hear about environmental, dietary and other causes of cancer. Finding a case from more than 75 million years ago you realize it’s just a part of life.”
“You have an animal that surely wasn’t smoking (a leading cause of cancer in humans) and so it shows that cancer is not a recent invention, and that it’s not exclusively linked to our environment.”
‘Mars is looking real’ after SpaceX test rocket sticks 1st upright landing: Elon Musk – Global News
The flight lasted barely 45 seconds and reached just 500 feet (150 metres) Tuesday night at the southeastern tip of Texas near Brownsville, but was an important first for SpaceX’s Starship. Some earlier tests ended in explosions on the pad.
“Mars is looking real,” SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk tweeted after the short hop. “Progress is accelerating.”
Musk said several more short hops are planned before a test version of Starship aims for a high altitude. The latest test model is relatively plain: It stands a full-scale 100 feet (30 metres) tall and resembles a steel silo — or stretched-out can — with a cap on top.
The private company plans to launch reusable Starships atop still-in-the-works rockets, carrying cargo or crew not only to low-Earth orbit but also the moon and Musk’s most desirable destination, Mars. The entire stack will stretch nearly 400 feet (120 metres).
On Sunday, SpaceX safely returned two NASA astronauts from the International Space Station following a two-month test flight. Their Dragon capsule splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico off the Pensacola, Florida, coast.
‘Quite an odyssey’: NASA astronauts speak after historic splashdown in SpaceX capsule
SpaceX is now the only private company to fly people to and from orbit.
“We’re going to go to the moon. We’re going to have a base on the moon. We’re going to send people to Mars and make life multi-planetary,” Musk said following splashdown. “This day heralds a new age of space exploration. That’s what it’s all about.”
—The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
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