Friday, November 16, 2018

🚀 Super Earth Planet Found at Barnard's Star, Rocket Lab Launch, Seeing Inside the Sun, Digging into Europa with Lasers and More...

Super Earth

Astronomers Find a Super Earth Orbiting One of the Closest Planets to Earth. But it's a Terrible Place to Live

We've been hearing about planets found around various distant stars, but it's still pretty exciting to hear them found right in our cosmic neighborhood. On Thursday astronomers announced the discovery of a "super earth" planet orbiting around the red dwarf Barnard's Star, located just 6 light-years from Earth.

Because the star is dim, and the planet is relatively far away, it only gets about 2% the illumination we get here on Earth. Which means that you don't want to live there. It's going to be very cold, probably with an average temperature of -170C.

The discovery was made with the radial velocity method, where the planet is detected by the gravitational tugs it makes on its parent star. 

There you go, more planets close to home. I can't wait to hear what we find next.

Fraser Cain
Universe Today

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QA 71: Could We React to an Incoming Asteroid?

In this week's questions show, I wonder if we'll have enough time to respond to an asteroid or comet, if we're going to fill the asteroid belt with space junk and if antimatter engines are the best way to explore space.

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Earth from space

Not all the Earth's Water Came From Comets

One of the big outstanding mysteries in planetary science is where the Earth's water came from. The leading theory is that it came from comets crashing into our planet, but new research shows that the water on Earth could have come directly from the solar nebula that formed the Sun and planets. 

Jupiter rotation

How to Create a Jupiter Rotation Video

Astroimaging wizard Judy Schmidt recently wrote an article for the Planetary Society showing how she was able to create an animation that shows the full rotation of Jupiter based on NASA data. If you've ever wanted to try your hand at processing images from the Hubble Space Telescope, check out her work.


Direct Observations of a Planet Orbiting a Star 63 Light-Years Away

I think I can be pretty confident when I say, this photograph is going to blow your mind. It's an actual photograph of a planet orbiting a star 63 light-years away. Not an artist's illustration or a scientific visualization, it's a real planet. The 13 Jupiter-mass planet was found orbiting the star Beta Pictoris b, and imaged by the European Southern Observatory's SPHERE Instrument.


Artificial Intelligence Helps Design the Perfect Lander for Icy Worlds

What would be the best kind of lander to help explore the complex environments of icy worlds like Europa and Enceladus? That's a question that NASA and Autodesk have been trying to answer, using "generative design" to come up with the lander that could crawl around the surface. This technique allowed them to design and simulate different layouts, coming up with an optimized, organic looking design rapidly.


An Extremely Rare Gamma Ray Emitting Neutron Star Binary Has Been Found

The Milky Way is a huge place, but among the hundreds of billions of stars, one of the rarest objects has been found only for the second time: a high-energy gamma-ray neutron star orbiting a massive star. The binary objects were aligned in such a way that astronomers were able to make a series of high-energy gamma-ray observations, and won't be able to see them again until 2067.


Advice on Becoming an Astrophysicist

Are you interested in becoming an astrophysicist for your career? Dr. Katie Mack gets this question all the time, and has written up a series of recommendations that can help you decide if a career in astronomy, or the sciences in general, is right for you. Great advice from someone who's done it.


Gaia Spots an Enormous Ghost Galaxy Right Next Door that's Being Dismantled by the Milky Way

ESA's Gaia spacecraft has been giving us many new discoveries about the Milky Way, but it's also watching our galactic neighborhood, and helped astronomers discover a pretty large galaxy that's being dismantled as we speak. The ultra low-density "ghost galaxy" is called Antilia 2, and it's located in the "Zone of Avoidance", which made it tough to notice before now. 

Rocket Lab

Rocket Lab Does Its First Commercial Launch, Raises $140 Million 

The New Zealand-based small launch company Rocket Lab just launched their first successful commercial payload, helping to clear the way for a booming launch business. And this week they announced a fundraising round of $140 million led by Australia's Future Fund. The company has doubled its workforce and announced that launches will happen from the US too.


Scientists are Using Artificial Intelligence to see Inside Stars Using Sound Waves

How could you look inside a star? It turns out sound waves are pulsing through stars, giving astronomers clues to what's going on beneath the surface - the technique is called astroseismology. And now astronomers are turning machine learning on the task, letting AI try to map out the interior structure of a star, just by the vibrations visible on the surface.


The Frustrating History of Spaceplanes

In the years since World War II, over 80 projects have been undertaken to build a spaceplane: a vehicle capable of launching from a regular runway or airport, getting to orbit, and then returning to Earth again. None have been successful. Why not? What's the fundamental problem that makes this goal so challenging?



ARCHIMEDES: Digging into the ice on Europa with Lasers

Astronomers are pretty sure there's a subsurface ocean on Europa, warmed through tidal interactions with Jupiter. The question is, how can we dig down through kilometers of ice to find out what's going on down there? NASA is proposing a laser-based drill called ARCHIMEDES that would zap its way down through the ice.

Camp Fire

View from Space of the Terrible Camp Fire. So much Destruction and Loss of Life Already

At the time I'm writing this, the California Camp Fire has become the state's deadliest wildfire, with over 50 deaths and more than 140,000 acres burned. NASA satellites took this photograph from space, showing just how enormous the blaze is, and the mountainous terrain that's made it tough to contain.



More Details Emerge for SpaceX Starlink Internet Service

This week the FCC approved an expansion to SpaceX's plans for building a worldwide high speed internet service, adding more than 7,000 satellites to its existing plans. It was already going to loft almost 5,000 satellites, so this brings the total to 12,000. To minimize the amount of space junk, they'll orbit at a very low altitude, burning up within just a few years. 

Other Interesting Space Stuff


Amazing Astrophotography on @universetoday

Rho Ophiucus

This stunning image is the Rho Ophiuchi Cloud Complex, captured by @archioptic. There are so many different colors in this nebula, including the bright yellow star Antares, which forms the head of the Scorpio constellation.

We have featured nearly 1,000 astrophotographers on our Instagram page, which has more than 142,000 followers. Want to do a takeover? Use the hashtag #universetoday and I'll check out your photos.


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