TESS, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, was launched in 2018 with the goal of discovering small planets around the Sun’s nearest neighbors, stars bright enough to allow for follow-up characterizations of their planets’ masses and atmospheres. TESS has so far discovered seventeen small planets around eleven nearby stars that are M dwarfs — stars that are smaller than the Sun (less than about 60% of the Sun’s mass) and cooler (surface temperatures less than about 3900 kelvin). In a series of three papers that appeared together this month, astronomers report that one of these planets, TOI-700d, is Earth-sized and also located in its star’s habitable zone; they also discuss its possible climate.
CfA astronomers Joseph Rodriguez, Laura Kreidberg, Karen Collins, Samuel Quinn, Dave Latham, Ryan Cloutier, Jennifer Winters, Jason Eastman, and David Charbonneau were on the teams that studied TOI-700d, one of three small planets orbiting one M dwarf star (its mass is 0.415 solar masses) located one hundred and two light-years from Earth. The TESS data analysis found the tentative sizes of the planets as being approximately Earth-sized, 1.04, 2.65 and 1.14 Earth-radii, respectively, and their orbital periods as 9.98, 16.05, and 37.42 days, respectively.
In our solar system, Mercury orbits the Sun in about 88 days; it is so close to the Sun that its temperature can reach over 400 Celsius. But because this M-dwarf star is comparatively cool the orbit of its third planet, even though much closer to the star than Mercury is to the Sun, places it in the habitable zone – the region within which the temperatures allow surface water (if any) to remain liquid when there is also an atmosphere. That makes this Earth-sized planet TOI-700d particularly interesting as a potential host for life.
The TESS detections were exciting but uncertain: the signals were faint and a small possibility remained that the TOI-700d detection was spurious. Because of the potential importance of finding a nearby Earth-sized planet in a habitable zone, the TESS scientists turned to the IRAC camera on the Spitzer Space Observatory for confirmation. Before being turned off by NASA in February 2020, the IRAC camera was by far the most sensitive near infrared camera in space.
The TESS team observed TOI-700 with IRAC in October of 2019 and January of 2020, acquiring clear detections of the planets with about twice the signal-to-noise of TESS, enough to give a 61% improvement in the planet’s orbit and to significantly refine our knowledge of its other characteristics, refining the radius as above and finding the mass to be 2.1 Earth-masses. The results, especially when compared with other planets’ properties, suggest that this planet may be rocky and likely to be “tidally locked” with one side of the planet always facing the star.
If there were liquid water on the surface of TOI-700d, the astronomers argue, there would also be water-bearing clouds in the atmosphere, and the team uses climate system models to estimate its possible properties and what more sensitive measurements might find. They conclude, however, that pending space missions, including JWST, will probably lack the sensitivity to detect atmospheric features by a factor of ten or more. Their detailed climate studies will nevertheless help astronomers constrain the kinds of telescopes and instruments that will be needed to investigate this exciting new neighbor.
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered its first Earth-size planet in its star’s habitable zone, the range of distances where conditions may be just right to allow the presence of liquid water on the surface. Scientists confirmed the find, called TOI 700 d, using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and have modeled the planet’s potential environments to help inform future observations. Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
“The First Habitable-zone Earth-sized Planet from TESS. I. Validation of the TOI-700 System” by Emily A. Gilbert, Thomas Barclay, Joshua E. Schlieder, Elisa V. Quintana, Benjamin J. Hord, Veselin B. Kostov, Eric D. Lopez, Jason F. Rowe, Kelsey Hoffman, Lucianne M. Walkowicz, Michele L. Silverstein, Joseph E. Rodriguez, Andrew Vanderburg, Gabrielle Suissa, Vladimir S. Airapetian, Matthew S. Clement, Sean N. Raymond, Andrew W. Mann, Ethan Kruse … Benjamin J. Shappee, Mackennae Le Wood and Jennifer G. Winters, 14 August 2020, The Astronomical Journal.
“The First Habitable-zone Earth-sized Planet from TESS. II. Spitzer Confirms TOI-700 d” by Joseph E. Rodriguez, Andrew Vanderburg, Sebastian Zieba, Laura Kreidberg, Caroline V. Morley, Jason D. Eastman, Stephen R. Kane, Alton Spencer, Samuel N. Quinn, Ryan Cloutier, Chelsea X. Huang, Karen A. Collins, Andrew W. Mann, Emily Gilbert, Joshua E. Schlieder, Elisa V. Quintana, Thomas Barclay, Gabrielle Suissa, Ravi kumar Kopparapu … Philip S. Muirhead, Elisabeth Newton, Mark E. Rose, Joseph D. Twicken and Jesus Noel Villaseñor, 14 August 2020, The Astronomical Journal.
“The First Habitable-zone Earth-sized Planet from TESS. III. Climate States and Characterization Prospects for TOI-700 d” by Gabrielle Suissa, Eric T. Wolf, Ravi kumar Kopparapu, Geronimo L. Villanueva, Thomas Fauchez, Avi M. Mandell, Giada Arney, Emily A. Gilbert, Joshua E. Schlieder, Thomas Barclay, Elisa V. Quintana, Eric Lopez, Joseph E. Rodriguez and Andrew Vanderburg, 14 August 2020, The Astronomical Journal.
Full Moon: Is it a Full Moon tonight? Why is the Moon so bright? – Daily Express
The Moon rose in the east yesterday (November 28) and stayed with us until Sunday morning. Viewed from London, the lunar orb crept up at 3.15pm GMT and headed in a westerly direction. The Moon set on Sunday morning at about 6.28am, and will rise again about 20 minutes later than yesterday.
Although the Moon always rises in the east and sets in the west, it does so at a different time every day.
On average, the Moon rises about 50 minutes later each day due to a number of astronomical factors.
As the lunar orb sails across the night sky, it moves by 12 to 13 degrees towards the east each day.
Astronomer Deborah Byrd of EarthSky said: “Earth has to rotate a little longer to bring you around to where the Moon is in space.
“Thus the Moon rises, on average, about 50 minutes later each day.
“The later and later rising times of the Moon cause our companion world to appear in a different part of the sky at each nightfall for the two weeks between New and Full Moon.”
Why is November’s Full Moon called the Beaver Moon?
There are typically 12 Full Moons each year, although a 13th Blue Moon sometimes creeps in.
Each of these full phases has a unique name, some of which are derived from Native American time-keeping traditions.
November’s Full Moon is popularly known as the Beaver Moon, the Frost Moon or the Geese-Going Moon.
The name is said to originate with Native Americans who named the phases of the Moon after the changing seasons.
For example, April’s Full Moon is known as the Pink Moon after a type of pink flower that blossoms in the spring.
Amy Nieskens of the Old Farmer’s Almanac said: “Centuries ago Native Americans kept track of the changing seasons by giving a distinct name to each Full Moon – names we still use today.
“November’s Full Moon was known as the Geese-Going Moon, the Frost Moon and perhaps the most well known, the Full Beaver Moon.
“Traditionally this is the time of year that beavers are preparing for winter and also the time to set traps before the swamps froze, to ensure supplies of warm winter furs.”
Connecting Earth With the Moon: Lunar Satellites – SciTechDaily
Since time immemorial, people have gazed in wonder at the Moon. Its gentle light suggests romance, its strong embrace powers the tides and it is even sometimes blamed for madness.
The Moon was once the domain of the gods; many mythologies feature lunar deities. But humans are explorers, setting sail to discover new worlds and, five decades ago, Earth’s natural satellite received its first visitors.
Now as international teams across the world forge plans to revisit the Moon, ESA is elaborating how best to facilitate this exploration.
Lunar exploration relies on the extensive expertise that is on hand across ESA. As a new lunar economy emerges, it will create new opportunities involving robots, habitats and transportation. Missions to the Moon share similar communication and navigation needs that could be satisfied using a constellation of lunar satellites. Under the agency’s “Moonlight” initiative, ESA is exploring with industry the necessary technical solutions along with delivery models for the provision of lunar telecommunication and navigation services. Credit: ESA
The Moon is our nearest neighbour in space. Its enticing proximity makes it the natural place to test how people can take the next steps to Mars and beyond.
Bold ambitions foresee exploring the lunar polar regions through international cooperation, with dozens of very different commercial and institutional missions to the Moon already planned for this decade.
NASA’s Artemis programme plans to return humans to the Moon by 2024 and, in cooperation with ESA and other partners, intends to put a Gateway with living quarters for astronauts in lunar orbit. The Gateway will be home to European astronauts as well as those from around the world, and it will have a communications module developed by ESA.
ESA is working on plans for a European Large Logistic Lander to provide different types of uncrewed missions, from supply runs for Artemis astronauts, to stand-alone robotic science and technology demonstration missions and even a lunar return mission to bring samples to laboratories on Earth. It envisages regular launches starting in the later part of this decade and continuing into the 2030s.
Before then, a Lunar Pathfinder spacecraft designed to provide affordable communications services to lunar missions is due to be launched, perhaps by the end of 2022. Developed in collaboration with ESA, the spacecraft will be a mission enabler for polar and far-side missions which, without direct line-of-sight of the Earth, would otherwise have to procure their own communications relay spacecraft.
Many other initiatives come from the main space institutions in China, India, Japan and Russia, as well as private entities across the globe.
To succeed, each of these ambitious plans requires reliable navigation and telecommunication capabilities. Building these independently would be costly, complex and inefficient.
If this work were outsourced to a consortium of space companies that could put a constellation of satellites around the Moon, each individual mission would become more cost-efficient.
Having one system dedicated to lunar telecommunications and navigation could reduce design complexity, liberating missions to concentrate on their core activities.
Because missions could rely on this dedicated telecommunications and navigation services, they would be lighter. This would make space for more scientific instruments or other cargo.
An accurate and reliable telecommunications and navigation service would enable missions to land wherever they wanted. Radio astronomers could set up observatories on the far side of the Moon. Rovers could trundle over the lunar surface more speedily. It could even enable the teleoperation of rovers and other equipment from Earth.
For the past three years, ESA has been working along with industrial partners to explore the lunar market. As part of an initiative called Moonlight, ESA is now conducting deep analyses of the planned lunar missions and further developing possible solutions, both technical and business-related, to provide telecommunications and navigation services for the Moon.
Illuminating the possibilities
The Moon’s orbit is tidally locked to the Earth, which means that it rotates once as it circles the planet. As a result, it always shows the same face to Earth.
A constellation of lunar satellites would enable missions to keep in constant contact with Earth, even when on the far side of the Moon. This constellation could also allow lunar navigation in areas without direct to Earth visibility, supporting for example the landing of scientific equipment exactly where they intended, no matter how remote the location.
It would allow missions to the polar regions of the Moon to keep in touch with Earth and with any lunar base.
Finally, lowering the ticket price to lunar exploration could empower a wider group of ESA member states to launch their own national lunar missions. Even on a relatively low budget, an emerging space nation would be able to send a scientific cubesat mission to the Moon, inspiring the next generation of scientists and engineers.
The lunar satellites would provide communication and navigation signals for all these missions, ensuring adequate positioning services and constant connectivity for ground control and for scientists on Earth.
Over the past few years, ESA has conducted several feasibility studies, internally and in collaboration with industry, to understand the lunar market, its user and business parameters, and to explore the possible technical implementations of such an infrastructure.
Preliminary concepts include several satellites in different orbits around the Moon providing lunar missions with reliable, real-time communications and navigation services.
The navigation services could support mission-critical operations such as lunar orbit, lunar landing, real-time rover driving and lunar ascent.
The data capacity between Earth and the Moon would gradually exceed several hundreds of megabits per second for aggregated relay services, allowing lunar missions data capacities that compare well to home television and film streaming.
Demand for data is predicted to increase steeply after 2028.
ESA invited companies that are prepared to study and design a lunar constellation to express their interest in the Moonlight initiative. The agency has entered into talks with interested parties, which have now prepared outline proposals that highlight their background and experience, and explain their proposed business and service model, partnership proposition and draft system concept. This is the first part of a two-stage tendering process. In the second stage, the agency will invite selected companies to submit a final tender for a detailed definition of the end-to-end service.
Up to two parallel fully funded contracts are envisaged with ESA. These contracts are expected to be awarded in early 2021.
Watch Out for the Penumbral Eclipse This Monday: Here's How – Science Times
According to NASA, on early Monday morning, November 30, skywatchers will get to see another November full moon treat as the penumbral eclipse happens. It is an event when the Moon passes through the outer shadow of the Earth.
It will take four hours and 21 minutes for the Moon to glide across the pale outer fringe (penumbra) of the Earth’s shadow but never meeting the dark umbra of the shadow. A penumbral eclipse is rather a minor astronomical event that is usually difficult for many people to detect unless at least 70% of the Moon’s diameter is immersed in it, Space.com reported.
For a moment, the Moon will be at its fullest on November 30, at 4:30 am EST. But it will appear full starting on Saturday, November 29, until Tuesday, December 1.
Watch Out For the Penumbral Eclipse This Monday: Here’s How
A Penumbral Eclipse
Penumbral eclipses differ in many aspects from total or partial lunar eclipses, according to ScienceAlert. Earth passes directly between the sun and the Moon during a total lunar, which blocks the sun’s light from entering the Earth’s natural satellite.
Moreover, the Moon passes through a part of the Earth’s dark shadow, known as the umbra, during partial eclipses, unlike the penumbral eclipse that glides through the pale outer part of the planet’s shadow.
According to NASA, “the dimming of the moon during this eclipse will probably not be noticeable without instrumentation, but for spacecraft at the moon such as the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), the reduction in solar power will be noticeable.”
November’s full moon is also called the beaver moon that comes late this year because October this year had two full moons: the harvest moon and the blue moon; the first time in over 76 years, a full moon was visible across the US during Halloween.
This month’s full moon comes in many names, like the cold moon, frost moon, oak moon, child moon, the winter moon, and the moon before Yuletide.
According to NASA, the full moon is also celebrated by different cultures worldwide, such as during the Kartik Purnima celebrated by the Hindu, Sikh, and Jain. Likewise, the Hindus celebrate Karthika Deepam, Buddhists in Myanmar and Burma celebrate the Tazaungdaing Festival Moon, and Ill Poya is celebrated in Sri Lanka.
Seeing the penumbral eclipse from the moon
Space.com reports that an astronaut on the Moon during the penumbral eclipse will be able to witness an eclipse of the sun, depending on what specific part of the Moon is the astronaut standing. But as seen from the Tycho crater, the Earth’s silhouette will hardly cause any noticeable diminishing of the light on the Moon’s surface.
But when looking from the upper limb of the moon in the Mare Frigoris, a region also known as the “Sea of Cold,” the Earth will appear to cover more than eight-tenths of the sun’s diameter. As a consequence, solar illumination on the Moon will be considerably somber.
This diminished sunlight on the Moon is what people on the Earth’s Northern Hemisphere will try to detect during the penumbral eclipse on Monday.
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