A recent study suggests that Earth-sized planets may be missed if they are orbiting one of two binary stars:
Earth-sized planets may be much more common than previously realized. Astronomers working at NASA Ames Research Center have used the twin telescopes of the international Gemini Observatory, a Program of NSF’s NOIRLab, to determine that many planet-hosting stars identified by NASA’s TESS exoplanet-hunting mission are actually pairs of stars—known as binary stars—where the planets orbit one of the stars in the pair. After examining these binary stars, the team has concluded that Earth-sized planets in many two-star systems might be going unnoticed by transit searches like TESS’s, which look for changes in the light from a star when a planet passes in front of it. The light from the second star makes it more difficult to detect the changes in the host star’s light when the planet transits.
Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), “Astronomers uncover evidence that there could be many more Earth-sized planets than previously thought” at Phys.org (June 28, 2021)
Why does Earth size matter?
Liquid water, for one thing:
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.
Jeanette Kazmierczak, “NASA Planet Hunter Finds its 1st Earth-size Habitable-zone World” at NASA (January 6, 2020)
The concept is called the “Goldilocks Zone” (neither too hot nor too cold:)
The inner edge of the habitable zone is defined by how close a planet can be to a star before a runaway greenhouse effect leads to the evaporation of all surface water. But, as Arnscheidt and his colleagues demonstrated, this definition doesn’t hold for small, low-gravity planets.
The runaway greenhouse effect occurs when the atmosphere absorbs more heat that it can radiate back out into space, preventing the planet from cooling and eventually leading to unstoppable warming that finally turns its oceans turn to steam.
However, something important happens when planets decrease in size: As they warm, their atmospheres expand outward, becoming larger and larger relative to the size of the planet. These large atmospheres increase both the absorption and radiation of heat, allowing the planet to better maintain a stable temperature. The researchers found that atmospheric expansion prevents low-gravity planets from experiencing a runaway greenhouse effect, allowing them to maintain surface liquid water while orbiting in closer proximity to their stars.
So, it’s good news in general if more planets are Earth-like. We might need them.
Similar stories in recent years:
2010: Earthlike planets more common than thought (PhysicsWorld, October 28, 2010)
2013: Earth-sized planets in habitable zones are more common than previously thought (ScienceDaily, March 12, 2013)
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Aliens who landed here would just starve, a science writer predicts. We tend to assume that any life form could live with our complicated chemistry but what if — fundamentally — not? What if an intelligent life form landed on Earth with the opposite chirality to the one on which life forms on Earth depend = sugars right, amino acids left?
One of the brightest meteor showers of the year is set to dazzle Vancouver skies – Vancouver Is Awesome
If you live for awe-inspiring celestial spectacles, you won’t want to miss this month’s meteor shower extraordinaire.
The Perseid meteor shower never fails to offer numerous, bright shooting stars for a breathtaking summer display. Best of all, the Perseid shower is one of the easiest to view from the Northern Hemisphere.
The shower will peak on Aug.12 and Aug. 13. When the sky is darkest — in the darkest hours after midnight — up to “50 to 80 meteors per hour can streak across the sky,” according to the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). And in the nights leading up to the peak, an increasing number of shooting stars will become visible, too.
Where the shower got its name
The Perseid meteors “appear to fall” from the constellation Perseus, notes the CSA. Additionally, the constellation is at its highest point in the sky right before dawn when the most shooting stars are visible.
Greek mythological hero Perseus defeated Medusa by using a reflective shield to “turn her powers against her.”
Meteor hunting tips in Metro Vancouver
To fully enjoy the spectacle, here are a few tips for meteor hunting:
- If possible, head away from city lights, which make it hard to see fainter meteors. To increase your chances of seeing shooting stars, set out in search of dark skies in the countryside.
- If you need to use a flashlight, place a red filter over the bulb (a red balloon will do in a bind). White light is very blinding and may affect your night vision.
- Dress warmly. Even though the Perseids occur in the summertime, it is still a good idea to bring warm (even winter) clothes. August nights can be very chilly.
- Sit back and relax on a reclining chair or lie down on a blanket. Not only is it much more comfortable to observe the stars lying down, but you’ll also see more that way.
- Pack a thermos of hot chocolate or coffee—it will come in handy if you start to drift off or get a little chilly!
- Be patient. It might take a while before you see your first shooting star. Don’t be quick to give up… It’s worth the wait!
A Grand Meteor Shower – Wawa-news.com – Wawa-news.com
Over the past few weeks, you have probably noticed a few meteors or “shoot stars” at night. You are witnessing one of the best meteor showers of the year. The Perseid Meteor Shower is now underway from July 14 to August 14. The best time to see the most meteors will be on the night of August 12 and into the morning hours of the 13. This year the crescent moon sets around 10:30 p.m. local time leaving us with a dark sky. By contrast, next year’s Perseids takes place under a full moon, drastically reducing the hourly rate.
If you have the chance to observe from dark skies absent of any stray lights, enjoy the band of our Milky Way Galaxy as this collective glow of billions of distant stars stretches from Sagittarius in the south to Cassiopeia in the northeast. Also, brilliant planets Jupiter and Saturn to Jupiter’s right will be out all night long to keep you company. There are unmistakable and located to the left of Sagittarius.
The peak of the Perseids produces about 90 meteors per hour but occurs late afternoon in daylight on the 12th. Towards the end of the night when the constellation Perseus is high in the sky around 3 a.m. we should still see from 50 to 60 meteors striking the atmosphere at 59 km/sec or 36 mi/sec. A higher number of bright fireballs may be seen on nights before the peak rather than nights after. The friction of comet debris causes the “flash” or “streak” which safely vaporize about 80 km high in the atmosphere with no chance of meteorites hitting the ground.
The parent comet is named Swift-Tuttle, a 26 km or 16 mi wide mountain of ice, dust and gravel that last appeared in 1992 in its 133-year orbit around the sun. It will return in the year 2125, replenishing a fresh path of comet debris ejected from the comet’s surface as it gets close to the sun. Here is where the solar radiation interacts with the comet, causing volatile material to vaporize and create the comet’s coma or cometary fog measuring close to 100,000 kilometres wide around the smaller nucleus. A dust tail forms as debris is blown off the comet’s surface much like confetti blowing off the back of a truck on the highway. As Swift-Tuttle retreated from the sun’s warming effects and back to the outer solar system, it faded away becoming a dark mountain once again only to be awakened by the sun upon its return.
The new comet dust lingers in space until Earth plows through the debris field in its yearly orbit around the sun, much like crossing the finish line of a race. This is why the Perseids and other known meteor showers occur at the same time each year. So gather a few friends and/or family members, set up chairs, bring snacks and take advantage of warm moonless conditions to view this epic display. Look up at the stars, listen to the crickets and frogs and let nature bring a sense of calm over you.
NASA, Boeing launch Starliner to the ISS: How to watch test flight live – CNET
Boeing is set to relaunch its Starliner crew capsule for a second attempt at docking with the International Space Station this Tuesday, Aug. 3 (there won’t be any humans aboard). Boeing’s to reach the ISS but landed safely back on Earth.
The mission was originally scheduled to take off Friday, but it’s now aiming for Tuesday after anfiring its thrusters shortly after docking with the station.
“The International Space Station team will use the time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos Nauka multipurpose laboratory module (MLM) and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival,” said NASA in a statement.
Software defects and a communications link problem led to a premature end to the original Boeing test flight in 2019, though the CST-100 Starliner capsule landed safely back on Earth. The upcoming Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission is a chance for Boeing to thoroughly vet its hardware and software before a crew of three American astronauts flies on Starliner.
Both Boeing and SpaceX are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which is all about sending astronauts to the ISS from American soil. SpaceX has now delivered 10 astronauts to the ISS, and Boeing would like to catch up. First, it’ll need to show that its Starliner can safely reach the ISS and return to Earth.
NASA will livestream the launch, which is scheduled to occur at 10:20 a.m. PT (1:20 p.m. ET) on Tuesday Aug. 3. Coverage is expected to begin at 9:30 a.m. PT.
Starliner will lift off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The capsule will be packed with around 400 pounds of crew supplies and cargo. If all goes well, it’ll dock with the space station about 24 hours later, on Wednesday Aug. 4. Docking will also be covered live by NASA’s NASA TV.
ULA shared some scenic photos from the launch site on Monday as it prepares for liftoff.
Starliner will spend between five and 10 days at the ISS before bringing research samples back to Earth. Boeing will aim to bring the spacecraft back for a gentle parachute landing in the desert of New Mexico.
“OFT-2 will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station,” NASA said in a statement July 22 after successfully concluding a flight readiness review.
The mission is a key step for NASA’s plans to run regular crewed launches from the US, ending its reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. If all goes well, the first crewed mission, Boe-CFT, could launch in the next six months.
Follow CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to stay up to date with all the latest space news this year. You can even add it to your own Google Calendar.
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