Connect with us

Science

New planet outside of Milky Way may have been spotted, researchers say – NBC News

Published

 on


Astronomers have spotted tantalizing signs of a planet in a star system outside the Milky Way, which, if it’s confirmed, would be the first ever found in another galaxy.

The discovery, reported in a study published Monday in the journal Nature Astronomy, demonstrates a new technique for finding far-off worlds, and it could significantly expand the search for so-called extragalactic exoplanets.

“It’s always fun when you find something that is the first of its kind,” said the study’s lead researcher, Rosanne Di Stefano, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “Once we began to find planets locally, it made sense that there were planets in other galaxies, but this is humbling and really exciting.”

The possible planet was discovered in a spiral galaxy called Messier 51, also known as the Whirlpool Galaxy, which is more than 23 million light-years from Earth.

The first exoplanets, or planets outside the solar system, were discovered in the 1990s, and they required combining a number of complicated detection techniques. Since then, however, NASA missions like the Kepler Space Telescope and the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite have uncovered a bonanza of worlds throughout the galaxy.

More than 4,000 exoplanets have been discovered and confirmed, but until now, they have all been in the Milky Way. Most have also been less than 3,000 light-years from Earth. If it is confirmed, the planet in the Whirlpool Galaxy would be thousands of times farther away than any other alien planet that has been identified.

A box indicates the location of a possible exoplanet detected outside the Milky Way in a composite image from the Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory.NASA / CXC / SAO / R. Di Stefano

The possible alien world was found in an X-ray binary system, a type of star system that produces and emits X-rays and is usually made up of a normal star and a collapsed star, such as a neutron star or a black hole.

Typically, astronomers use what’s known as the “transit method” to look for planets. Transits occur when a planet orbits in front of its parent star, temporarily blocking part of it and causing an observable dip in the star’s light. Di Stefano and her colleagues applied the same basic idea, but instead of optical light, they monitored for changes in the brightness of X-rays from the binary system in the Whirlpool Galaxy.

Di Stefano said the region that produces bright X-rays is relatively small, making it possible to detect transits that block most or all of the X-ray emissions.

“It’s a very obvious signal,” she said.

Using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, Di Stefano and her colleagues observed that the transit lasted about three hours, and they were able to roughly gauge the object’s size because it completely blocked the X-ray source. They estimate that the possible planet is the size of Saturn and that it is much farther from its star than Earth is from the sun.

Bruce Macintosh, a professor of physics at Stanford University who wasn’t involved with the research, said the discovery is exciting because, if it is verified, it shows not only that planets are common throughout the cosmos, but that they can also exist in unlikely places.

“The awesome thing is that they found a planet orbiting around a neutron star that is part of a system that has been through a supernova explosion and had an interesting and complicated evolutionary history,” he said. “It’s exciting that a planet can survive having its star blow up.”

Confirming that there really is a planet in the X-ray binary system is likely to take time. The planet’s far-out orbit means it is likely to be around 70 years before astronomers could witness another transit.

“And because of the uncertainties about how long it takes to orbit, we wouldn’t know exactly when to look,” a co-author of the study, Nia Imara, an assistant professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said in a statement.

Macintosh said that the method of studying X-ray transits is “clever” but that it’s unlikely that it could be used to find hundreds of thousands of planetary candidates because it also relies on luck.

“You can only see transits when objects line up just right between you and the thing you’re looking at,” he said. “And you only see it when it passes in front of the target object for a few minutes or hours.”

Still, Di Stefano said, it’s gratifying that the new method of searching for extragalactic exoplanets, which she and her colleagues first theorized in 2018, has produced such an enticing result.

“We did not know whether we would find anything, and we were extremely lucky to have found something,” she said. “Now we hope other groups around the world study more data and make even more discoveries.”

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

NASA aims to replace ISS with a commercial space station by 2030 – The Tribune

Published

 on


Washington, Dec 1

The US space agency is planning to replace the International Space Station (ISS) with one or more commercial space stations by 2030.

NASA’s auditing body, the Office of Audits, has produced a report detailing the agency’s commitment to replace the orbiting lab with commercial space stations.

Astronauts have lived and worked onboard the ISS orbiting roughly 250 miles above the Earth’s surface for more than 20 years.

“The ISS costs about $3 billion a year, roughly a third of NASA’s annual human space flight budget, and while current plans call for the Station’s retirement in 2024, an extension to 2030 is likely,” the US space agency said in the audit report.

Anticipating its retirement, NASA has committed to replacing the ISS with one or more commercially owned and operated space destinations.

“In the fiscal year (FY) that ended September 30, 2021, Congress authorised $17 million to that end — a fraction of the $150 million the Agency said it needed. NASA’s plans for long-term, deep space human exploration missions depend on continuous access to a research laboratory in low-Earth orbit,” it added.

The Artemis mission, aimed at returning humans to the Moon and ultimately landing astronauts on Mars, is not feasible without continued human health research and technology demonstrations being conducted on the ISS and its eventual replacement.

“As long as humans intend to travel in space, NASA expects research and testing will be needed in the microgravity environment of low-Earth orbit,” the audio report mentioned.

While overall ISS operations and maintenance costs remained steady at about $1.1 billion a year from FY2016 through FY2020, systems maintenance and upgrade costs trended upward 35 per cent in the same 5-year period, rising to approximately $169 million in FY2020 due primarily to upgrades.

Meanwhile, NASA and Roscosmos are investigating the cause and long-term impacts of cracks and leaks that were recently discovered in the Station’s Service Module Transfer Tunnel, which connects the Service Module to one of eight docking ports on the Station.

“Causes being explored include structural fatigue, internal damage, external damage, and material defects. Notably, based on the models NASA used to assess the structure, the cracks should not have occurred, suggesting the possibility of an earlier-than-projected obsolescence for at least one element of the Station,” the US space agency noted. IANS

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

Arctic rainfall could dominate snowfall earlier than expected: study – Global Times

Published

 on



A view of Arctic Photo: VCG

Rainfall could start replacing snowfall in the Arctic decades sooner than previously thought, a study found Tuesday, warning the change caused by global warming could have effects beyond the region.

The Arctic is warming much faster than the rest of the planet, melting sea ice and adding moisture to the air that is likely to increase precipitation.

Comparing the latest projections to previous climate models, the study published in the scientific journal Nature Communications estimates the switch from snowfall-dominated annual precipitation to one dominated by rain will come about “one or two decades earlier.”

“Changes are going to be more severe and occur much earlier than projected and so will have huge implications for life in and beyond the Arctic,” the study’s main author Michelle McCrystall told AFP.

“In autumn, for example, when the greatest changes occur, the central Arctic may transition around 2070 in the latest set of models compared to 2090 in the previous set,” added McCrystall, a researcher at Canada’s University of Manitoba.

But everything depends on the degree of global warming.

At the current rate of warming rain could dominate snow in the Arctic before the end of the century, the study says. But it says limiting warming to 1.5 C could mean the Arctic stays dominated by snow.

Gavin Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said the results “imply that the worst impacts can be avoided if countries match their stated intentions to cut emissions in line with the Paris agreement.”

But Schmidt added that he felt the study did not prove the change would come sooner than expected.

Whenever it comes, the switch from snow to rain is likely to have major effects on the Arctic ecosystem. 

More rainfall on top of current snow cover could lead to increased surface ice that would make it impossible for caribou and reindeer to forage for food.

Less snow cover also means the Arctic will lose some of its capacity to deflect solar heat and light away from the Earth’s surface and thus contribute to warming.

AFP

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Science

NASA resets spacewalk after ruling out immediate threat from orbital debris – Financial Post

Published

 on


Article content

A spacewalk planned for Tuesday to replace a faulty antenna on the International Space Station has been postponed for 48 hours, after mission control concluded that the position of orbital debris cited for the delay posed no risk to the repair operation, NASA said.

Two U.S. astronauts were originally due to venture outside the space station on Tuesday morning to begin their work, despite what NASA officials acknowledged was a slightly elevated risk level from debris scattered in low-Earth orbit by a Russian anti-satellite missile test this month.

Advertisement

Article content

But about five hours before the outing was to have begun, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration announced the spacewalk had been temporarily called off after mission control was alerted that the U.S. military’s Space Surveillance Network had detected debris that could collide with the space station. The origin of the debris was not made clear in the NASA announcement.

On Tuesday afternoon, NASA said its evaluation of the situation “determined the orbit of the debris does not pose a risk to a scheduled spacewalk” or space station operations.

The antenna repair was rescheduled for Thursday, with astronauts Tom Marshburn, 61, and Kayla Barron, 34, set to begin their planned 6-1/2-hour spacewalk starting at 7:10 a.m. EST (1210 GMT).

Advertisement

Article content

A NASA spokesman, Gary Jordan, said there was no information available about the size of the debris, its proximity to the space station, which is orbiting about 250 miles (402 km) above the Earth, or whether one or more objects were involved.

“We have no indications that this is related” to the Russian missile test weeks earlier, Jordan added in an email to Reuters.

The planned “extravehicular activity,” or EVA, will mark the fifth spacewalk for Marshburn, a medical doctor and former flight surgeon with two previous trips to orbit, and a first for Barron, a U.S. Navy submarine officer and nuclear engineer on her debut spaceflight for NASA.

Their objective is to remove a faulty S-band radio communications antenna assembly, now more than 20 years old, and replace it with a new spare stowed outside the space station.

Advertisement

Article content

According to plans, Marshburn will work with Barron while positioned at the end of a robotic arm operated from inside the station by German astronaut Matthias Maurer of the European Space Agency, with help from NASA crewmate Raja Chari.

The four arrived at the station on Nov. 11 in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, joining two Russian cosmonauts and a NASA astronaut already aboard the space laboratory.

Four days later, Russia fired a missile into one of its own defunct satellites in an unannounced space weapons test, generating a large orbital debris field that prompted an emergency aboard the space station. All seven crew members scrambled to take shelter in their docked spaceships to allow for a quick getaway until the immediate danger passed, according to NASA.

Advertisement

Article content

The residual debris cloud from the blasted satellite has since dispersed, according to Dana Weigel, NASA deputy manager of the space station program.

But NASA calculates that remaining fragments continue to pose a “slightly elevated” background risk to the orbiting platform as a whole, and a 7% higher risk of spacewalkers’ suits being punctured, as compared to before Russia’s missile test, Weigel told reporters on Monday.

Although NASA has yet to fully quantify hazards posed by more than 1,700 larger fragments it is tracking around the station’s orbit, the 7% higher risk to spacewalkers falls “well within” fluctuations previously seen in “the natural environment,” Weigel said. (Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Peter Cooney)

Advertisement

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Adblock test (Why?)



Source link

Continue Reading

Trending