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This Mustafar-like lava exoplanet boasts brutal supersonic winds and vaporized rock – SYFY WIRE

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Exoplanets, those mysterious worlds in the Milky Way that orbit stars outside our solar system, come in all sizes and flavors, from those potentially made of diamonds to planets that feature downpours of toxic iron rain. So far, NASA has identified more than 4,000 of these distant exotic destinations through various methods, some of which are extremely Earth-like and could possibly be capable of supporting life.

On the opposite end of the scale from temperate, habitable planets at the “Goldilocks” just-right zone, we present to you the hostile lava world of K2-141b and its insane atmosphere of vaporized rock, savage, supersonic winds, and massive rocky glaciers.

Now scientists have created detailed weather simulations for this radical planet in a new research paper from McGill University, York University, and the Indian Institute of Science Education published in the online journal the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Originally discovered in 2017, K2-141b is approximately 50% larger than our Big Blue Marble but orbits its star KT-141 much closer, and revolves around it several times each Earth-day with one side constantly facing the blazing solar host.  

According to the investigation, the research team believes that this fixed positioning results in two-thirds of K2-141b being drenched in glaring perpetual sunlight, causing boiling lava oceans and evaporated rock to escape into the atmosphere. 

“All rocky planets­, including Earth, started off as molten worlds but then rapidly cooled and solidified,” said Professor Nicolas Cowan, a planetary scientist at Canada’s McGill University and a co-author on the new study. “Lava planets give us a rare glimpse at this stage of planetary evolution.”

In an attempt to discern what specific style of atmosphere this roasting exoplanet might exhibit, scientists targeted K2-141b since it was previously scrutinized by the K2 mission of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope and the Spitzer Space Telescope. Subjected to this level of penetrating sunlight, the world’s Mustafar-like magma oceans could theoretically be tens of miles deep.

By carefully modeling the nature of K2-141b’s atmosphere by utilizing characteristics of similar rocky planets in their formula, scientists estimated that its kite-ripping wind blasts could exceed speeds of 3,900 miles per hour!  

Just like Earth’s water cycle where evaporated H2O rises, condenses, and returns back down as rain, the sodium, silicon monoxide, and silicon dioxide of K2-141b would fall to the surface lava oceans as measurable precipitation.

“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,” says lead author Giang Nguyen, a PhD student at York University working under Professor Cowan’s supervision.

While waiting for next year’s launch of the new James Webb Space Telescope, whose instruments could provide even more details on K2-141b, scientists involved in the project have recently obtained a wealth of Spitzer Space Telescope observations that contain more precise data to help calculate temperatures for the toasty exoplanet’s day and night sides.

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China's Chang'e-5 probe completes second orbital correction – ecns

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China’s lunar probe Chang’e-5 successfully carried out its second orbital correction Wednesday night, according to the China National Space Administration (CNSA).

The probe conducted the orbital correction at 10:06 p.m. (Beijing Time), when its two 150N engines were operational for about six seconds.

Prior to the orbital correction, the lunar probe had traveled for roughly 41 hours in orbit, and was about 270,000 km away from Earth. All of the probe’s systems were in good condition.

The CNSA said that the tracking of the probe by ground monitoring and communication centers and stations is going smoothly.

China launched the lunar probe Tuesday to collect and return samples from the moon. It is the country’s first attempt to retrieve samples from an extraterrestrial body.


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This rocks! Western University student spots never-before-seen asteroid – Belleville Intelligencer

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A Western University astronomy student from Chatham, who’s been stargazing since he was a kid, has discovered an asteroid through remote access to a telescope in Spain.

Graduate student Cole Gregg, 22, was using a telescope based at an observatory known as Astrocamp to troll the night sky when he spotted the small, fast-moving, flashing object.

His find — an asteroid estimated to be about 50 to 100 metres long — came after months of seeing nothing notable during his studies. It was, to put it mildly, “unexpected,” Gregg said Wednesday.

“It was quite shocking. You are not really ready for it,” he said. “It takes you by surprise and it was very exciting.”

Using the telescope located on a Spanish mountaintop, Gregg said he observed the asteroid as it sped close to Earth, moving through near-space across Europe.

Gregg’s astronomy professor, Paul Wiegert, called it “a rare treat to be the first person to spot one of these visitors to our planet’s neighbourhood.”

Added Wiegert: “Astronomers around the globe are continuously monitoring near-Earth space for asteroids so this is certainly a feather in Cole’s cap.”


Western astronomy student Cole Gregg monitors the night skies. Gregg discovered the asteroid ALA2xH a week ago.

Gregg spotted the asteroid, given the temporary designation ALA2xH, on Nov. 18. Data collected about the asteroid was sent to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., to determine whether the observation was unique or not.

From there, it goes on their near-Earth object confirmation page.

Gregg used a website called Itelescope, which allows the public to access telescopes via the internet.

“A lot of people use them for the pretty astrophotography pictures, but they are quite capable of science as well,” Gregg said. “My project is proving that these small telescopes are quite capable of science.”

Despite their efforts, Gregg said they have not spotted the asteroid again “due to weather and unavailability of the telescopes.”

Gregg said he has been fascinated with space since he was camping as a boy and relished looking up at stars in the dark skies. “It sparked my interest.”

After completing his PhD in astronomy, he hopes to continue his research and teach.

“I’m interested in asteroids and comets and how they move, how they exist in the solar system and where they come from,” he said. “And how we can learn from our own solar system to understand . . . other solar systems in the galaxy.”

HRivers@postmedia.com


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This rocks! Western University student spots never-before-seen asteroid – Kingston This Week

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A Western University astronomy student from Chatham, who’s been stargazing since he was a kid, has discovered an asteroid through remote access to a telescope in Spain.

Graduate student Cole Gregg, 22, was using a telescope based at an observatory known as Astrocamp to troll the night sky when he spotted the small, fast-moving, flashing object.

His find — an asteroid estimated to be about 50 to 100 metres long — came after months of seeing nothing notable during his studies. It was, to put it mildly, “unexpected,” Gregg said Wednesday.

“It was quite shocking. You are not really ready for it,” he said. “It takes you by surprise and it was very exciting.”

Using the telescope located on a Spanish mountaintop, Gregg said he observed the asteroid as it sped close to Earth, moving through near-space across Europe.

Gregg’s astronomy professor, Paul Wiegert, called it “a rare treat to be the first person to spot one of these visitors to our planet’s neighbourhood.”

Added Wiegert: “Astronomers around the globe are continuously monitoring near-Earth space for asteroids so this is certainly a feather in Cole’s cap.”


Western astronomy student Cole Gregg monitors the night skies. Gregg discovered the asteroid ALA2xH a week ago.

Gregg spotted the asteroid, given the temporary designation ALA2xH, on Nov. 18. Data collected about the asteroid was sent to the Minor Planet Center in Cambridge, Mass., to determine whether the observation was unique or not.

From there, it goes on their near-Earth object confirmation page.

Gregg used a website called Itelescope, which allows the public to access telescopes via the internet.

“A lot of people use them for the pretty astrophotography pictures, but they are quite capable of science as well,” Gregg said. “My project is proving that these small telescopes are quite capable of science.”

Despite their efforts, Gregg said they have not spotted the asteroid again “due to weather and unavailability of the telescopes.”

Gregg said he has been fascinated with space since he was camping as a boy and relished looking up at stars in the dark skies. “It sparked my interest.”

After completing his PhD in astronomy, he hopes to continue his research and teach.

“I’m interested in asteroids and comets and how they move, how they exist in the solar system and where they come from,” he said. “And how we can learn from our own solar system to understand . . . other solar systems in the galaxy.”

HRivers@postmedia.com


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