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Supersonic winds and raining molten rock

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On a distant alien planet, the weather forecast calls for supersonic winds and rain made of molten rock.

Forecasting weather for Earth is not an easy job. This planet is capable of producing some very severe and dangerous weather conditions. Imagine, instead, forecasting for an alien world that’s not only hundreds of light years away from us but has conditions that completely redefine the term ‘extreme weather’.

That was the goal of a new study from a team of Canadian and Indian scientists, who modelled the conditions on exoplanet K2-141b.

“The study is the first to make predictions about weather conditions on K2-141b that can be detected from hundreds of light years away with next-generation telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope,” Tue Giang Nguyen, the lead author of the study from York University, said in a McGill University press release.

This scorching hot planet, located over 200 light years away, is only around 138,000 kilometres from its star’s surface. That’s just over one-third of the distance between Earth and the Moon, and one ‘year’ on this world – the time it takes to complete one orbit – is only 6 Earth-hours!

K2-141b is one of the most extreme planets discovered by NASA’s Kepler mission. Credits: NASA/ESA/SOHO/Scott Sutherland

This extreme proximity means that K2-141b is tidally-locked, with one side of the planet always faces the star. Having the immense face of a star that close, though, puts roughly two-thirds of the planet’s surface under perpetual daylight. These conditions result in K2-141b being a planet of severe extremes. Temperatures in the daylight can exceed 3,000°C — hot enough to vapourize rock. In the darkness of true night, it would get down to a frigid -200°C.

SUPERSONIC WINDS, ROCKY RAIN

According to the study, there is likely no permanent, planet-wide atmosphere on K2-141b. Still, the temperature contrasts on the planet would drive bizarre weather patterns in the thin, patchy atmosphere that does form. Rock vapour rising from magma pools on the day side would be transported around to the night side by supersonic winds, blasting at up to 5,000 km/h.

K2-141b-with-edits-NASAThis artist impression of K2-141b reveals the weather forecast summary from this new study. Credit: NASA/Scott Sutherland

Once this vapour plunged into the darkness of the night side, it would immediately cool and condense, forming rain. Not rain made of water, though. Instead, it would rain molten rock into oceans of magma.

According to study co-author Nicolas Cowan, a professor at McGill University who studies exoplanet atmospheres, there is a benefit to the limited extent of K2-141b’s atmosphere.

“Our finding likely means that the atmosphere extends a little beyond the shore of the magma ocean, making it easier to spot with space telescopes,” Cowan explained.

FORECAST VERIFICATION?

Every good weather forecaster verifies their forecasts. This applies to exoplanet weather forecasters, too.

Unfortunately, confirming this extreme weather is going to take some time. The simple reason for this is because the space telescope that can see K2-141b’s atmosphere hasn’t been launched yet.

NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope found the planet, and its existence was confirmed by the La Silla Observatory in Chile. However, Giang Nguyen, Cowan, and their co-authors — Agnibha Banerjee of the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, and John Moores from York University — will need something ‘next-generation’ for this. Only the James Webb Space Telescope, scheduled to launch in October of 2021, will be powerful enough to spot the atmospheric conditions on this lava planet, and allow the researchers to verify their forecast.

Source: – The Weather Network

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China's Chang'e-5 probe enters lunar orbit – ecns

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China’s Chang’e-5 probe decelerated and entered the lunar orbit on Saturday, completing a vital step on its way to collect and return moon samples, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced.

After flying about 112 hours from Earth, an engine on the probe ignited when it was 400 km away from the surface of the moon at 8:58 p.m. and shut down after about 17 minutes, the CNSA said.

The probe performed the braking without incident and entered the lunar orbit successfully, according to the real-time monitoring data.

Chang’e-5, comprising an orbiter, a lander, an ascender, and a returner, has carried out two orbital corrections during the Earth-Moon transfer, achieving its expected goals.

Afterward, it will adjust the altitude and inclination of its orbit around the moon. When the time is appropriate, the lander-ascender combination will separate from the orbiter-returner combination, implement a soft landing on the near side of the moon, and carry out automatic sampling as planned.


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China's lunar probe Chang'e-5 enters lunar orbit after perilune braking – CGTN

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00:53

China’s Chang’e-5 probe decelerated and entered lunar orbit on Saturday, completing a vital step on its way to collect and return moon samples, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) announced.

The probe performed the braking at perilune without incident and entered the lunar orbit successfully, according to real-time monitoring data. Braking at perilune is a critical maneuver, as the probe, traveling at a high speed, needs to carry out braking to lower its relative velocity, to enable it to be captured by lunar gravity.

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This is how you can really help reduce greenhouse gas emissions – CTV News

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TORONTO —
When many Canadians think of how they can help lower greenhouse gas emissions, they often look for ways to reduce their own carbon footprint by flying less frequently or driving an electric vehicle, for example.

However, as laudable as those actions may be, climate activists say there are more effective ways for people to become involved and make a difference.

Alex Speers-Roesch, a climate campaigner with Greenpeace Canada, explained that the phrase “carbon footprint,” which is the measure of the total greenhouse gas emissions directly or indirectly caused by an individual, organization, event, or product, was actually popularized by the multinational oil and gas company BP in the early 2000s in an attempt to put the burden of change on to the individual.  

“It’s good for people to think about the emissions associated with the things that they consume, but there’s a tendency sometimes in the way that carbon footprints are talked about and promoted that tries to put the onus on individuals and consumers for those emissions in a way that can be unfair,” he told CTVNews.ca during a telephone interview in late November.

Lauren Latour, a climate ambition co-ordinator for Climate Action Network Canada, cited a study from a few years ago that showed that just 100 companies were responsible for 70 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.

She also referenced another recent study that claimed frequent-flying “super emitters,” consisting of just 1 per cent of the population, were responsible for half of the world’s aviation carbon emissions in 2018.

“The average Canadian is very much not responsible for the lion’s share of harmful climate change effects,” Latour said during an interview with CTVNews.ca in late November.

So while both Latour and Speers-Roesch said Canadians should be mindful of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the goods and services they consume and how their individual choices affect the environment, they said there are other, more impactful, ways for them to address the climate emergency.

“It’s not going to be the individual actions of consumers that are going to address the climate crisis, what we really need is collective action from all of us working together to produce systemic change,” Speers-Roesch said.

SEEK INFORMATION

Canadians interested in doing their part to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions can start by seeking out more information about the topic from environmental organizations dedicated to the cause, Speers-Roesch suggested.

He said there are many climate change groups operating in Canada, such as Greenpeace Canada, 350 Canada, Environmental Defence, and Climate Action Network Canada.

“Find a group like that, sign up for the email list, see if you can get involved,” he said. “Once you start looking, though, you start to see, ‘Oh there are opportunities everywhere.’”

Speers-Roesch said Canadians can also seek out climate change events happening in their area. For example, if there is a protest nearby, he suggested going to see what it’s about and to meet other attendees.

“As you connect with others and get more involved and get more engaged, you’ll probably have more ideas,” he said. “Before you know it, you’ll have lots of stuff to keep you busy on climate change.”

BECOME POLITICALLY ENGAGED

Latour acknowledged that getting involved in politics can be a “scary” thing for a lot of people, but that it doesn’t have to be and there are many opportunities to become engaged by joining community-led initiatives.

She said Canadians can join local organizations that work to influence government policy on the municipal level.

“For instance, a city is able to switch its bus fleet over from fuel combustion buses to low emissions, or hybrid or electric buses, or an electric light rail system,” she said.

Latour said Canadians can also volunteer for a mutual aid effort that is dedicated to building resiliency in their town or region. For example, she cited the groups that stepped up to help mitigate the effects of flooding in the Ottawa area over the past few years.

“In a lot of places, we see municipalities and we see smaller communities really leading the way on climate change and on climate policy,” she said.

“Individual change does matter and that individual change is getting involved in community organizing and getting involved in influencing your politics and local legislation.”

Speers-Roesch, too, said political activism is one of the most important things Canadians can do to become involved in the fight against climate change.

“The majority of the emissions are due to industry and are a result of government policy decisions so that’s really the most important and impactful place that people can focus their energies,” he said.

The Greenpeace campaigner said that Canadians should learn about their local politicians’ environmental platforms and encourage them to act.

“Call your MP, call your MPP, or city councillor,” he said. “Let them know you want them to do more on climate change.”

PUSH THE CONVERSATION FORWARD

Finally, Speers-Roesch said Canadians can still do their part by incorporating climate change issues and pushing the conversation forward in their daily lives.

“Think about how you can bring climate activism into your existing life,” he said. “It doesn’t always necessarily have to be finding another group and joining them.”

As an example, Speers-Roesch said someone who is already part of a book club that meets on a weekly basis could suggest a book for them to read on climate change.

He said they could also organize an event within an organization they’re already involved in, such as their workplace, school, sports team, church, or temple, to raise more awareness.

“Look for a little thing that you can do each week to sort of make your voice heard and get activated and engaged on climate change,” Speers-Roesch advised. “Climate change is something that we really need to sort of infuse into every aspect of our lives and our work and everything that we do.” 

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