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Cosmic milestone: NASA confirms 5,000 exoplanets – Phys.org

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What do planets outside our solar system, or exoplanets, look like? A variety of possibilities are shown in this illustration. Scientists discovered the first exoplanets in the 1990s. As of 2022, the tally stands at just over 5,000 confirmed exoplanets. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The count of confirmed exoplanets has just ticked past the 5,000 mark, representing a 30-year journey of discovery led by NASA space telescopes.

Not so long ago, we lived in a universe with only a small number of known planets, all of them orbiting our sun. But a new raft of discoveries marks a scientific high point: More than 5,000 planets are now confirmed to exist beyond our solar system.

The planetary odometer turned on March 21, with the latest batch of 65 exoplanets—planets outside our immediate solar family—added to the NASA Exoplanet Archive. The archive records exoplanet discoveries that appear in peer-reviewed, scientific papers, and that have been confirmed using multiple detection methods or by analytical techniques.

The 5,000-plus planets found so far include small, rocky worlds like Earth, gas giants many times larger than Jupiter, and “hot Jupiters” in scorchingly close orbits around their stars. There are “super-Earths,” which are possible rocky worlds bigger than our own, and “mini-Neptunes,” smaller versions of our system’s Neptune. Add to the mix planets orbiting two stars at once and planets stubbornly orbiting the collapsed remnants of dead stars.

“It’s not just a number,” said Jessie Christiansen, science lead for the archive and a research scientist with the NASA Exoplanet Science Institute at Caltech in Pasadena. “Each one of them is a new world, a brand-new planet. I get excited about every one because we don’t know anything about them.”

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Astronomers have now confirmed more than 5,000 exoplanets, or planets beyond our solar system. That’s just a fraction of the likely hundreds of billions in our galaxy. The cones of exoplanet discovery radiate out from planet Earth, like spokes on a wheel. Many more discoveries await. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

We do know this: Our galaxy likely holds hundreds of billions of such planets. The steady drumbeat of discovery began in 1992 with strange new worlds orbiting an even stranger star. It was a type of neutron star known as a pulsar, a rapidly spinning stellar corpse that pulses with millisecond bursts of searing radiation. Measuring slight changes in the timing of the pulses allowed scientists to reveal planets in orbit around the pulsar.

Finding just three planets around this spinning star essentially opened the floodgates, said Alexander Wolszczan, the lead author on the paper that—30 years ago—unveiled the first planets to be confirmed outside our solar system.

“If you can find planets around a neutron star, planets have to be basically everywhere,” Wolszczan said. “The planet production process has to be very robust.”

Wolszczan, who still searches for exoplanets as a professor at Penn State, says we’re opening an era of discovery that will go beyond simply adding new planets to the list. The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), launched in 2018, continues to make new exoplanet discoveries. But soon powerful next-generation telescopes and their highly sensitive instruments, starting with the recently launched James Webb Space Telescope, will capture light from the atmospheres of , reading which gases are present to potentially identify telltale signs of habitable conditions.

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, expected to launch in 2027, will make new exoplanet discoveries using a variety of methods. The ESA (European Space Agency) mission ARIEL, launching in 2029, will observe exoplanet atmospheres; a piece of NASA technology aboard, called CASE, will help zero in on exoplanet clouds and hazes.

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In this animation, exoplanets are represented by musical notes played across decades of discovery. Circles show location and size of orbit, while their color indicates the detection method. Lower notes mean longer orbits, higher notes shorter orbits. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SYSTEM Sounds (M. Russo and A. Santaguida)

“To my thinking, it is inevitable that we’ll find some kind of life somewhere—most likely of some primitive kind,” Wolszczan said. The close connection between the chemistry of life on Earth and chemistry found throughout the universe, as well as the detection of widespread organic molecules, suggests detection of life itself is only a matter of time, he added.

How to find other worlds

The picture didn’t always look so bright. The first planet detected around a sun-like star, in 1995, turned out to be a hot Jupiter: a gas giant about half the mass of our own Jupiter in an extremely close, four-day orbit around its star. A year on this planet, in other words, lasts only four days.

More such planets appeared in the data from ground-based telescopes once astronomers learned to recognize them—first dozens, then hundreds. They were found using the “wobble” method: tracking slight back-and-forth motions of a star, caused by from orbiting planets. But still, nothing looked likely to be habitable.

Finding small, rocky worlds more like our own required the next big leap in exoplanet-hunting technology: the “transit” method. Astronomer William Borucki came up with the idea of attaching extremely sensitive light detectors to a , then launching it into space. The telescope would stare for years at a field of more than 170,000 stars, searching for tiny dips in starlight when a planet crossed a star’s face.

Cosmic milestone: NASA confirms 5,000 exoplanets
The more than 5,000 exoplanets confirmed in our galaxy so far include a variety of types—some that are similar to planets in our solar system, others vastly different. Among these are a mysterious variety known as “super-Earths” because they are larger than our world and possibly rocky. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

That idea was realized in the Kepler Space Telescope.

Borucki, principal investigator of the now-retired Kepler mission, says its launch in 2009 opened a new window on the universe.

“I get a real feeling of satisfaction, and really of awe at what’s out there,” he said. “None of us expected this enormous variety of planetary systems and . It’s just amazing.”


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Cosmic milestone: NASA confirms 5,000 exoplanets (2022, March 21)
retrieved 22 March 2022
from https://phys.org/news/2022-03-cosmic-milestone-nasa-exoplanets.html

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Scientists Unearth the Mystery of Mirror World to Solve the Hubble Constant Problem – AZoQuantum

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According to a new study, an unseen ‘mirror world’ of particles that interacts with the universe solely through gravity might be the key to solving a crucial cosmological issue—the Hubble constant problem.

An artist’s rendition of the COBE Satellite. Image Credit: Matthew Verdolivo, UC, Davis.

The Hubble constant is the current rate of cosmic expansion, but the rate predicted by cosmology’s standard model is far slower than the rate discovered by the most accurate local observations. Many cosmologists have attempted to resolve this difference by altering the present cosmological paradigm.

The objective is to do so without jeopardizing the consistency of standard model predictions with many other cosmological phenomena, such as cosmic microwave background.

The issue that scholars like Francis-Yan Cyr-Racine, assistant professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of New Mexico, Fei Ge, and Lloyd Knox at the University of California, Davis, have been seeking to answer is if such a cosmic scenario exists.

Cosmology, according to NASA, is the scientific study of the universe’s large-scale characteristics. Cosmologists investigate topics such as dark matter and dark energy, as well as whether there is only one universe or a multiverse. Cosmology encompasses the entire cosmos, from conception to death, and is full of mysteries and intrigue.

Cyr-Racine, Ge, and Knox have now identified a previously overlooked mathematical characteristic of cosmological models that, in theory, might allow for a quicker expansion rate without affecting the mainstream cosmology model’s most accurately proven other predictions.

Most dimensionless cosmic observables are substantially invariant when gravitational free-fall rates and photon-electron scattering rates are scaled uniformly.

Basically, we point out that a lot of the observations we do in cosmology have an inherent symmetry under rescaling the universe as a whole. This might provide a way to understand why there appears to be a discrepancy between different measurements of the Universe’s expansion rate.

Francis-Yan Cyr-Racine, Assistant Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of New Mexico

The study was published in Physical Review Letters.

This finding suggests a new way to reconcile measurements of the cosmic microwave background and large-scale structure with high Hubble constant H0 values by discovering a cosmological model in which the scaling transformation can be demonstrated without violating any measurements of values not protected by symmetry.

This effort has paved the way for a novel approach to tackling a difficult challenge. Additional model development might provide uniformity to the two remaining constraints: the inferred primordial deuterium and helium abundances.

Researchers are driven to an incredibly fascinating conclusion if the universe is somehow leveraging this symmetry: there is a mirror universe that is remarkably identical to ours but unseen, except through the gravitational influence on this world.

The “mirror world” dark sector would lead to efficient scaling of gravitational free-fall speeds while maintaining the accurately calculated mean photon density now reported.

In practice, this scaling symmetry could only be realized by including a mirror world in the model—a parallel universe with new particles that are all copies of known particles. The mirror world idea first arose in the 1990s but has not previously been recognized as a potential solution to the Hubble constant problem”, stated Cyr-Racine.

He further explained, “This might seem crazy at face value, but such mirror worlds have a large physics literature in a completely different context since they can help solve important problem in particle physics. Our work allows us to link, for the first time, this large literature to an important problem in cosmology.

Researchers are also asking if the Hubble constant gap could be caused in part by measurement mistakes, in addition to looking for missing elements in the present cosmological model.

While this is still a possibility, it is worth noting that the disparity has grown in importance as higher-quality data has been included in the analysis, suggesting that the data is not to be blamed.

According to Cyr-Racine, “It went from two and a half Sigma, to three, and three and a half to four Sigma. By now, we are pretty much at the five-Sigma level. That is the key number which makes this a real problem because you have two measurements of the same thing, which if you have a consistent picture of the universe should just be completely consistent with each other, but they differ by a very statistically significant amount.

He concluded, “That is the premise here and we have been thinking about what could be causing that and why are these measurements discrepant? So that is a big problem for cosmology. We just don’t seem to understand what the universe is doing today.

Journal Reference:

Cyr-Racine, F., et al. (2022) Symmetry of Cosmological Observables, a Mirror World Dark Sector, and the Hubble Constant. Physical Review Letters. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.128.201301.

Source: http://www.unm.edu/

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NASA Voyager 1 Space Probe From the '70s Afflicted by Mysterious Glitch – CNET

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NASA’s 45-year-old Voyager 1 spacecraft is a marvel.  It’s cruising along outside our solar system and still staying in touch with Earth. But it’s presented its team with what NASA is calling a “mystery.” It’s operating normally but sending back some odd telemetry data.

The issue likely traces to Voyager 1’s attitude articulation and control system (AACS), which handles its orientation in space, including the task of keeping its antenna pointed at Earth

“All signs suggest the AACS is still working, but the telemetry data it’s returning is invalid. For instance, the data may appear to be randomly generated, or does not reflect any possible state the AACS could be in,” NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab said in a statement Wednesday.

The data isn’t making sense, but Voyager 1 is maintaining a clear line of communication with home and the problem hasn’t triggered a protective “safe mode.” 

The twin spacecraft Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 launched in the 1970s and have long outlasted their expected lifespans. They’re both in interstellar space, which Voyager 1 and 2 project manager Suzanne Dodd describes as a “high-radiation environment that no spacecraft have flown in before.”

Voyager 1 is roughly 14.5 billion miles (23.3 billion kilometers) away from home. It takes a couple days to send a signal and then hear back, which adds to the challenge of understanding what’s going on. This leaves NASA with a whole lot of unknowns. Is the AACS the culprit or is another system experiencing a glitch? Will Voyager 1 be able to continue its science mission?   

There are ways forward from this glitch. Voyager 1 may just live with it. Or a software fix or a switch to backup hardware could be the solution. NASA hopes both Voyagers will continue to send back science data beyond 2025. 

Said Dodd, “A mystery like this is sort of par for the course at this stage of the Voyager mission.”

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Boeing docks crew capsule to space station in test do-over – Phys.org

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This image from NASA TV shows the Boeing Starliner preparing to dock at the International Space Station, Friday, May 20, 2022. Boeing’s astronaut capsule has arrived at the International Space Station in a critical repeat test flight. Only a test dummy was aboard the capsule for Friday’s docking, a huge achievement for Boeing after years of false starts. Credit: NASA via AP

With only a test dummy aboard, Boeing’s astronaut capsule pulled up and parked at the International Space Station for the first time Friday, a huge achievement for the company after years of false starts.

With Starliner’s arrival, NASA finally realizes its longtime effort to have crew capsules from competing U.S. companies flying to the space .

SpaceX already has a running start. Elon Musk’s company pulled off the same test three years ago and has since launched 18 astronauts to the space station, as well as tourists.

“Today marks a great milestone,” NASA astronaut Bob Hines radioed from the orbiting complex. “Starliner is looking beautiful on the front of the station,” he added.

The only other time Boeing’s Starliner flew in space, it never got anywhere near the station, ending up in the wrong orbit.

This time, the overhauled spacecraft made it to the right spot following Thursday’s launch and docked at the station 25 hours later. The automated rendezvous went off without a major hitch, despite the failure of a handful of thrusters.

If the rest of Starliner’s mission goes well, Boeing could be ready to launch its first crew by the end of this year. The astronauts likely to serve on the first Starliner crew joined Boeing and NASA flight controllers in Houston as the action unfolded nearly 270 miles (435 kilometers) up.

Boeing docks crew capsule to space station in test do-over
This image from NASA TV shows the Boeing Starliner docking at the International Space Station, Friday, May 20, 2022. Boeing’s astronaut capsule has arrived at the International Space Station in a critical repeat test flight. Only a test dummy was aboard the capsule for Friday’s docking, a huge achievement for Boeing after years of false starts. Credit: NASA via AP

NASA wants redundancy when it comes to the Florida-based astronaut taxi service. Administrator Bill Nelson said Boeing’s long road with Starliner underscores the importance of having two types of crew capsules. U.S. astronauts were stuck riding Russian rockets once the ended, until SpaceX’s first crew flight in 2020.

Boeing’s first Starliner test flight in 2019 was plagued by software errors that cut the mission short and could have doomed the spacecraft. Those were corrected, but when the new awaited liftoff last summer, corroded valves halted the countdown. More repairs followed, as Boeing chalked up nearly $600 million in do-over costs.

Before letting Starliner get close to the space station Friday, Boeing ground controllers practiced maneuvering the capsule and tested its robotic vision system. Everything checked out well, Boeing said, except for a cooling loop and four failed thrusters. The capsule held a steady temperature, however, and had plenty of other thrusters for steering.

Boeing docks crew capsule to space station in test do-over
This image from NASA TV shows the Boeing Starliner approaching the International Space Station, Friday, May 20, 2022. Boeing’s astronaut capsule has arrived at the International Space Station in a critical repeat test flight. Only a test dummy was aboard the capsule for Friday’s docking, a huge achievement for Boeing after years of false starts. Credit: NASA via AP

Once Starliner was within 10 miles (15 kilometers) of the space station, Boeing flight controllers in Houston could see the space station through the capsule’s cameras. “We’re waving. Can you see us?” joked Hines.

There was only silence from Starliner. The commander’s seat was occupied once again by the mannequin dubbed Rosie the Rocketeer, a space-age version of World War II’s Rosie the Riveter.

The gleaming white-with-blue-trim capsule hovered 33 feet (10 meters) from the station for close to two hours—considerably longer than planned—as flight controllers adjusted its docking ring and ensured everything else was in order. When the finally came, Starliner closed the gap in four minutes, eliciting cheers in Boeing’s control center. Applause erupted once the latches were tightly secured.

  • Boeing docks crew capsule to space station in test do-over
    A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41, Thursday, May 19, 2022, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Credit: Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP
  • Boeing docks crew capsule to space station in test do-over
    A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing Starliner crew capsule lifts off on a second test flight to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, May 19, 2022. Credit: AP Photo/John Raoux
  • Boeing docks crew capsule to space station in test do-over
    A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station stands ready on launch complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, May 18, 2022. The launch is scheduled for Thursday evening. Credit: AP Photo/John Raoux
  • Boeing docks crew capsule to space station in test do-over
    A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 ahead of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, Wednesday, May 18, 2022 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. The launch is scheduled for Thursday evening. Credit: Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP
  • Boeing docks crew capsule to space station in test do-over
    NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore, left, and Mike Fincke answer questions during a news conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Wednesday, May 18, 2022. Credit: AP Photo/John Raoux

“These last 48 hours have just been a barnstorm, so it’s going to be very good to sleep tonight,” said Mark Nappi, and director of Boeing’s commercial crew program.

It was a double celebration for NASA’s commercial crew program director Steve Stich, who turned 57 Friday. “What an incredible birthday it was,” he told reporters.

The ‘s seven astronauts will unload groceries and gear from Starliner and pack it up with experiments. Unlike SpaceX’s Dragon capsule that splashes down off the Florida coast, Starliner will aim for a landing in New Mexico next Wednesday.


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Boeing docks crew capsule to space station in test do-over (2022, May 21)
retrieved 21 May 2022
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This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
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