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Preliminary results suggest that Jupiter may have winds at all levels creating movement.

Jupiter's atmosphere features colossal cyclones and rivers of ammonia welling up from deep inside the solar system's largest planet, researchers said on Thursday, publishing the first insights from a NASA spacecraft flying around the gas giant.

The cyclones were discovered as the Juno spacecraft made the first of at least 12 planned close encounters with Jupiter, which scientists believe set the stage for the development of Earth and other planets in the solar system.

Juno found cyclones as big as 870 miles (1,400 km) in diameter swirling over Jupiter's north and south poles, the research published in this week's issue of the journal Science shows.

The spacecraft also detected an ammonia belt extending from the top of the atmosphere to hundreds of miles into Juno's interior, as far down as Juno's instruments can see. Outside the band, Juno found other features in the atmosphere, rather than the expected homogeneous mix of gas.

"Jupiter is surprising us in almost every way," lead researcher Scott Bolton, with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, said in a phone interview. "We're seeing hints that it is pretty exotic."

Preliminary results suggest that Jupiter may have winds at all levels creating movement, an unanticipated finding, he added.

Scientists expected Jupiter, which is more than 11 times the diameter of Earth, to be fairly uniform beneath its clouds. But "it doesn't look like its rotating like a solid body," Bolton said.

The findings released on Thursday were based on data collected when Juno passed about 2,600 miles (4,200 km) around Jupiter's poles on Aug. 27.

During Juno's next flyby on July 11, the spacecraft will pass directly over the planet's Great Red Spot, a massive storm south of the equator that has existed for centuries.

Scientists hope to learn how the storm maintains itself and if a mass of material underlies the churning clouds.

Juno is expected to continue its highly elliptical orbit around Jupiter for months, swooping close every 53 days to map the planet's interior so scientists can learn more about how and where Jupiter formed.

Like the sun, the gas giant is mostly hydrogen and helium, but it also has carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and other elements, as well as organics and gases. Scientists hope that learning more about Jupiter's evolution will illuminate how Earth – and possibly other planets – were supplied with the ingredients for life.

Source: This article was published deccanchronicle.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

The atmosphere of a Neptune-sized exoplanet outside our solar system contains water, scientists have discovered.

The discovery could shed light on its formation – and may improve our knowledge of our own solar system formed.

Neptune-sized worlds are among the most common exoplanets in our galaxy. Known as HAT-P-26b, this particular planet was discovered in 2011 and is located about 450 light years away from Earth.

These worlds remain very intriguing to scientists, and they are working hard to learn more about their atmospheric composition.

In a study published in the journal Science, a team has now analysed the atmosphere of HAT-P-26b.

"Out of the thousands exoplanets that have been discovered, Neptune-mass planets are one of the most common type. But HAT-P-26b is one of a handful to have been looked at in such details and to have had its atmosphere studied," lead author Hannah Wakeford told IBTimes UK.

Strong water signature

To conduct this detailed study of the exoplanet's atmosphere, the scientists used data from the Hubble and Spitzer Space Telescopes. They showed that is relatively clear of clouds and they identified very clear signs of water in its atmosphere.

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exoplanet life alien world

Measuring the abundance of atmospheric water allowed them to determine the planet's metallicity – that is the proportion of elements in the atmosphere heavier than hydrogen and helium.

They found that the amount of these heavy elements was lower than expected. it was more similar that of Jupiter than to that of Neptune – despite having the same size as this ice giant.

These findings about atmospheric composition and metallicity are helpful to understand the formation and evolution of these exoplanets. Here, they suggest that HAT-P-26b got its gaseous envelope late in its formation process, with no significant pollution by impacting debris later on.

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August 11, 2011 - Neptune

"This the first evidence that neptune-mass worlds can form in a different way compared to Neptune (and Uranus) in our own solar system, providing the first insights into how systems can form and evolve in a different manner than our own," Wakeford said.

"This is not a habitable world. However, the more we learn about the formation of planetary systems like this one, the more we can improve our understanding of how our solar system formed and of the habitability of our planets."

Source: This article was published International Business Times By Léa Surugue 

Categorized in Science & Tech

The vulnerability exists within Microsoft's own antimalware protection engine, but thankfully there's already a fix.

Apple may now be the richest company, but it's Microsoft's operating system that still loads on most of our desktops and laptops around the world. So when a major security bug is discovered it's important it gets fixed quickly. And Google researchers recently discovered a really serious one in Windows Defender of all places.

The bug was discovered by Google Project Zero vulnerability researchers Tavis Ormandy and Natalie Silvanovich. As the tweet by Ormandy below notes, this is the "worst Windows remote code exec" bug discovered as far as he can remember.

 

 Tavis Ormandy

 @tavisoI think @natashenka and I just discovered the worst Windows remote code exec in recent memory. This is crazy bad. Report on the way. 

 

The vulnerability allows remote code execution if the Microsoft Malware Protection Engine "scans a specially crafted file." If successful, the attacker is then able to run whatever code they like on the breached system as well as using it to start infecting other Windows machines.

According to Engadget, the vulnerability is present on Windows 7, 8.1, RT and Windows 10, meaning just about everyone running Windows is vulnerable.

So you won't be surprised to hear that Microsoft marked the bug as Critical and already has a fix available to close the security hole. It should be applied to your system automatically over the next few days, or you can manually trigger a Windows Update to install the patch now.

Source : This article was published pcmag.com By MATTHEW HUMPHRIES

Categorized in Search Engine
Much is known about flu viruses, but little is understood about how they reproduce inside human host cells, spreading infection. Now, a research team headed by investigators from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai is the first to identify a mechanism by which influenza A, a family of pathogens that includes the most deadly strains of flu worldwide, hijacks cellular machinery to replicate.

The study findings, published online today in Cell, also identifies a link between congenital defects in that machinery—the RNA exosome—and the neurodegeneration that results in people who have that rare mutation.

It was by studying the cells of patients with an RNA exosome mutation, which were contributed by six collaborating medical centers, that the investigators were able to understand how  A hijacks the RNA exosome inside a cell's nucleus for its own purposes.

"This study shows how we can discover genes linked to disease—in this case, neurodegeneration—by looking at the natural symbiosis between a host and a pathogen," says the study's senior investigator, Ivan Marazzi, PhD, an assistant professor in the Department of Microbiology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Influenza A is responsible in part not only for seasonal flus but also pandemics such as H1N1 and other flus that cross from mammals (such as swine) or birds into humans.

"We are all a result of co-evolution with viruses, bacteria, and other microbes, but when this process is interrupted, which we call the broken symmetry hypothesis, disease can result," Dr. Marazzi says.

The genes affected in these rare cases of neurodegeneration caused by a congenital RNA exosome mutation may offer future insight into more common brain disorders, such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, he added. In the case of Influenza A, the loss of RNA exosome activity severely compromises viral infectivity, but also manifests in human neurodegeneration suggesting that viruses target essential proteins implicated in rare disease in order to ensure continual adaptation.

Influenza A is an RNA , meaning that it reproduces itself inside the nucleus. Most viruses replicate in a cell's cytoplasm, outside the nucleus.

The researchers found that once inside the nucleus, influenza A hijacks the RNA exosome, an essential protein complex that degrades RNA as a way to regulate gene expression. The flu pathogen needs extra RNA to start the replication process so it steals these molecules from the hijacked exosome, Dr. Marazzi says.

"Viruses have a very intelligent way of not messing too much with our own biology," he says. "It makes use of our by-products, so rather than allowing the exosome to chew up and degrade excess RNA, it tags the exosome and steals the RNA it needs before it is destroyed.

"Without an RNA exosome, a virus cannot grow, so the agreement between the virus and host is that it is ok for the virus to use some of the host RNA because the host has other ways to suppress the virus that is replicated," says the study's lead author, Alex Rialdi, MPH, a graduate assistant in Dr. Marazzi's laboratory.

Source : This article was published in phys.org

Categorized in Online Research

In this Feb. 15, 2013 photo provided by Chelyabinsk.ru, a meteorite contrail over the Ural Mountains' city of Chelyabinsk, about 930 miles east of Moscow, Russia. After a surprise meteor hit Earth at 42,000 mph and exploded over a Russian city in February, smashing windows and causing minor injuries, scientists studying the aftermath say the threat of space rocks hurtling toward our planet is bigger than they had thought. Meteors like the one that exploded over Chelyabinsk _ and those that are even bigger and more dangerous _ are probably four to five times more likely to hit Earth than scientists thought before the February mid-air explosion, according to three studies released Wednesday in the journals Nature and Science.

In 1990, a NASA scientist named David Morrison wanted to know his chances of being killed by an asteroid.

It seemed a bit paranoid. After all, no one had ever been killed that way, and there was only one documented meteorite injury. In 1954, an Alabama woman was sitting in her living room when an asteroid crashed through the ceiling, bounced off the radio and bruised her leg.

But just because it hadn't happened didn't mean it was impossible, and when Morrison and a colleague ran the numbers, considering both the chances of an asteroid collision and the potential damage, the results were disturbing. Though it seems counterintuitive, over a 50-year period, space rocks are about three times more likely to cause someone's death than an airplane crash and eight times more likely than a tornado.

Why? Because even though tornadoes occur fairly regularly, they kill fewer than 100 people every year. But if an asteroid the size of a 40-story building were to hit New York City - an unlikely, but not impossible, occurrence - two things would happen. Everyone would see a blinding flash, and seconds later millions of people would be dead.

Recently the legitimacy of this threat has gone mainstream. Before, people dismissed Morrison as a crank. But now, even members of Congress are asking NASA whether we're prepared. At a hearing in March, Congress grilled NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden Jr. and two other officials about "threats from space." Representative Bill Posey, R-Fla., asked "What would we do" if a big rock was going to hit New York in three weeks? The panel looked at each other and said nothing. "Bend over and what?" Posey said.

After a pause, Bolden assured the panel that "these are very rare events" and that NASA isn't aware of any big rocks headed our way, but "if it's coming in three weeks, pray." No one laughed.

It may seem extraordinary that astronomers are so mystified, especially considering how much they do know about asteroids: that they are hunks of ice and metal drifting around the sun, that they come in all shapes and sizes, and that most of them cluster in an orbit between Mars and Jupiter called the asteroid belt. But the asteroids aren't confined to the belt - millions are spinning in orbits that overlap Earth's. Scientists call these "near-Earth asteroids," and our paths frequently cross. The small ones flare as harmless shooting stars. The biggest ones are thought to have caused mass extinctions.

This is how clueless even the world's best scientists are: Of the million or so asteroids that could wipe out a city, astronomers have discovered fewer than 1 percent, says Morrison, now 73 years old and a senior scientist at NASA. "Some of these are as dark as a lump of coal," he told Newsweek. Telescopes on the ground can't see them, and the only satellite telescope looking for them was dormant until just recently. These "city killers" tend to strike about once per century.

This last happened in 1908, when an asteroid tore through the atmosphere and burst several miles above a remote part of Siberia. Estimates suggest the asteroid was bigger than 200 feet across, but it flattened an area of forest larger than Los Angeles and Chicago combined. By comparison, the meteorite that landed near Cancún and (probably) killed the dinosaurs was six miles wide.

Even so, it wasn't until the early 1990s that NASA started searching for near-Earth asteroids. The first program began in earnest around 1994 when mile-wide comet fragments slammed into Jupiter, with one collision creating a five-mile fireball hotter than the sun. It was the first major impact humans had ever observed, and it got Congress's attention. Alarmed legislators responded by funding Spaceguard, a slow, ongoing effort to predict similar disasters on Earth. As of early this month, scientists had logged 10,599 near-Earth objects. (That includes comets, which are icier than asteroids, exist a light-year away and only swing by occasionally.)

On February 15, 2013, the largest asteroid to hit Earth since 1908 occurred over Chelyabinsk, an industrial city in Russia about 150 kilometers from the Afghanistan border. A 60-foot rock flew through the atmosphere at nearly 42,000 mph, and the heat of the friction created in the process blew it up like a nuclear bomb. A massive fireball and subsequent shockwave wobbled buildings and injured more than 1,000 people. No one saw it coming; NASA scientists on the asteroid project told 60 Minutes they learned about it on Twitter.

Posey says he was a proponent of planetary defense back when that was considered "kooky." At the age of 9, his father took him to see the Barringer Crater outside Flagstaff, Ariz., which was formed 50,000 years ago by a 150-foot asteroid. "What's to stop this from happening again?" he wondered.

Now 66, Posey says he still thinks the answer is "nothing." Speaking to Newsweek from his home in Melbourne, Fla., he said that having a plan is "important for national security and the survival of our species. I mean, it's going to happen again."

As for the survival of our species, we don't have to worry about that any time soon. Of the 1,000 near-Earth asteroids big enough to destroy civilization, 90 percent have been discovered. Impacts with these massive rocks are exceedingly rare, and none pose a threat in the foreseeable future.

Several international efforts to deflect an asteroid are under way, and the United Nations in October established plans for an International Asteroid Warning Network, a sort of planetary defense plan. Scientists are confident that if an asteroid (or, less likely, a comet) were headed our way, they could divert it by ramming it with a bomb or using a gravity tractor, a spacecraft of sufficient mass to tug an asteroid slightly toward it. With several years of warning, a minuscule diversion would swing it thousands of miles off course.

But without that warning time, evacuation would be the only option. In 2003, Clark Chapman, of the Southwest Research Institute, published a paper called "How a Near-Earth Object Impact Might Affect Society." In it, Chapman showed the probability of different size rocks hitting Earth this century (one-in-a-million for a 10-kilometer asteroid; 40 percent for a 30-meter asteroid). Then he outlined the kind of wreckage each might cause.

For a 50-meter rock, "fires might well be ignited beneath the brilliant explosion, unless it were cloudy," he wrote. "Weak structures might be damaged or even destroyed within a 20-kilometer radius by the shock wave and subsequent hurricane-force wind gusts. Exposed people and animals could be struck by flying objects."

NASA's best solution to find these rocks, an infrared-telescope satellite called NEOCam, is on a backburner, basically unfunded. And even if NASA had more money, the White House is much more interested in going to Mars. As for the U.N.'s International Asteroid Warning Network, it acts more like a curator of existing telescopes and wouldn't actually build new tools.

"Wouldn't it be ironic if we get wiped out even though we have the technology to do something about it?" says Ed Lu, chief executive officer of the B612 Foundation, an organization led by retired astronauts devoted to saving the planet. Lu says the issue first struck him as he drifted through space for six months on the International Space Station, "sitting in there and looking at the craters on the moon."

"We just felt we had to do it ourselves because very clearly no one else is doing it," Lu told Newsweek. The plan is to launch a privately funded telescope satellite called Sentinel that will find asteroids more rapidly than NASA can. Like the proposed NEOCam, its infrared telescope would reveal dark objects, and its view wouldn't be blurred by the atmosphere. The project will cost about $400 million - not much considering NASA received about $16.9 billion in funding in 2013.

After its scheduled launch in 2018, Lu says his team will chart at least 100,000 asteroids per year, including the few hundred yet undiscovered civilization destroyers. "Sentinel is going to find something that's going to hit the Earth," Lu says. Morrison, the NASA scientist, calls Sentinel "the answer."

Until then, as Bolden, says, "Things have happened. You gotta pray."

Source : This article was published in newsweek.com By BEN WOLFORD

Categorized in Science & Tech

Scientists have discovered what they believe is one of the biggest impact craters in the world near the Falklands Islands. They say the crater appears to date to between 270 and 250 million years ago, which, if confirmed, would link it to the world’s biggest mass extinction event, where 96 percent of life on Earth was wiped out.

The presence of a massive crater in the Falklands was first proposed by Michael Rampino, a professor in New York University, in 1992 after he noticed similarities with the Chicxulub crater in Mexico—the asteroid that created this crater is thought to have played a major role in the extinction of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago.

But after a brief report at the Falklands site, very little research was carried out. Now, a team of scientists—including Rampino—have returned to the area to perform an “exhaustive search for additional new geophysical information” that would indicate the presence of an impact crater.

Their findings, published in the journal Terra Nova, suggest the huge circular depression just northwest of the islands is indeed the result of the massive impact of an asteroid or meteorite. The basin, which is now buried under sediments, measures over 150 miles in diameter.

To analyze the site, the team, from the U.S., Argentina and Paraguay, looked at various aspects of the crater, including gravity anomalies and seismic reflection, which allows them to estimate sub-surface properties, along with differences in the chemistry of the rocks.

Their findings were consistent with other impact craters, with certain features being “very similar to that of the Chicxulub multi-ring impact structure.” They found there was a large magnetic anomaly, suggesting significant variation in rocks at the site, as well as gravitational variations “typical of very large impact structures.”

asteroid impactArtist impression of an asteroid impacting Earth.

NASA/DON DAVISFalklands impact craterThe proposed impact crater in the Falkland Islands. The islands are shown in yellow, while the regions of red show a notable increase in Earth's magnetism, characteristic of an impact.

NATIONAL CENTERS FOR ENVIRONMENTAL INFORMATION.

Researchers say the crater appears to date to the Late Paleozoic Era—around the same time as the Permian mass extinction event also known as the Great Dying. They believe the crater dates to between 270 and 250 million years ago, but say further investigations are needed to confirm this.

    “Future drilling in this basin is a must” they wrote. “If confirmed as a site of impact, then this structure would be one of the largest known impact structures on Earth.” In a statement, Rampino added: "If the proposed crater turns out to be 250 million years old, it could correlate with the largest mass extinction ever _ the Permian extinctions, which wiped out more than 90 percent of all species.”

    But not everyone is convinced of the link. Michael Benton, a paleontologist from the University of Bristol, told Newsweek in an email interview that while the discovery of an impact basin is interesting, it is not necessarily related to the Great Dying.

    ‘There have been several suggestions that the end-Permian mass extinction was linked to impact, including possible craters off Australia, and this one in the South Atlantic,” he says. “The link of the current crater to the extinction is hugely tenuous—it could be the cause, but evidence is not presented for that idea.

    “It is only tentatively identified as a crater, and its age is estimated as Late Paleozoic—so it could be millions of years older than the critical boundary. Further, there is no evidence elsewhere in the world of the fallout for impact—as we know from the later impact at the end of the Cretaceous [period], you expect to find a shopping list of ten or more indicators of impact scattered worldwide, such as shocked quartz and iridium enrichment, but these have not been found. The study of a new crater is massively important, but it’s unlikely it had anything to do with the end-Permian mass extinction.”

    Source : This article was published in newsweek.com By HANNAH OSBORNE

    Categorized in Science & Tech

    Some of the coolest discoveries made by NASA — like the personality of Martian soil, for instance — are often so small in scale that it’s easy to forget just how big many things in space really are. A new discovery made by researchers working with data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory helps put things in perspective. The group just reported its findings of an absolutely colossal “tsunami” of hot gas cruising through the nearby Perseus Galaxy Cluster, and it’s so big that the wave alone absolutely dwarfs our entire galaxy. 

    space news

    The researchers findings, which is slated to be published in the June 2017 issue of Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, suggests that a flyby of a smaller galaxy cluster billions of years ago essentially stirred up the gas of the Perseus cluster, creating a swirling formation in which the colossal wave formed.

    The wave is thought to measure some 200,000 light-years across, which is about double the size of our own Milky Way. It’s categorized as a Kelvin-Helmholtz wave, which essentially means that its creation was a byproduct of an instability between mismatched fluids, and that its size is a direct result of the strength of the magnetic field of the cluster itself. The wave will eventually dissipate, but not for many millions of years.

    But before you start wringing your hands over the admittedly creepy images NASA has provided to illustrate the discovery, you should know that Perseus is a whopping 250 million light years from Earth, and the gas tsunami, while intimidating in a simulation, is essentially just a a far-off galaxy cluster blowing off a bit of steam, and nothing that could affect Earth.

    This article was published in bgr.com By Mike Wehner

    Categorized in Science & Tech

    A new technique for studying exoplanet atmospheres could make it possible for scientists to get a close look at the atmosphers of planets like Proxima b in the 2020s.

    A newly proposed technique could make it possible to search for life on alien planets much sooner than scientists had expected.  

    Earlier this year, scientists discovered a planet orbiting the nearest star to Earth's own sun. Although relatively little is known about this newly discovered planet, which was dubbed Proxima b, evidence suggests it's possible that it has the right conditions to support life.

    Of course, scientists are eager to look for signs of life on Proxima b (and members of the general public are eager to hear the results). But a deep look at the planet's atmosphere, where signs of life might hide, might require massive, next-generation, space-based telescopes that aren't expected to get off the ground until at least the 2030s. [Giant Space Telescopes of the Future (Infographic)]

    But now, at least two different groups of astronomers are investigating a method for doing atmospheric studies of Proxima b — and other, possibly habitable planets like it — using ground-based telescopes that are scheduled to come online in the 2020s, significantly cutting down on the wait time.

    Vermin of the sky

    Thousands of planets have been identified around stars other than our own, a majority of them in the past six years, thanks to the dedicated Kepler space telescope (although many other observatories have contributed to this exoplanet treasure trove).

    But finding planets is much different from characterizing their properties — things such as a planet's mass and diameter; whether it is made of rock or primarily of gas; its surface temperature; whether it has an atmosphere; and what that atmosphere is composed of.  

    Earlier this month, at a workshop hosted by the National Academy of Sciences that explored the search for life beyond Earth, Matteo Brogi, a Hubble fellow at the University of Colorado, described a method for studying the atmosphere of Proxima b using next-generation ground-based telescopes.

    The approach could be applied to other planets that, like Proxima b, are rocky, and orbit in the habitable zone of relatively cool stars, known as red dwarfs. The astronomical community is already emphasizing the search for "Earth-like" planets around these small stars because the latter are incredibly common in the galaxy; astronomers have even jokingly referred to red dwarfs as the "vermin of the sky."

    "The frequency of small planets around small stars is extremely high; on average, there are about 2.5 planets per star," Brogi said. "Regarding habitable planets around small stars, there should be more or less a frequency of close to 30 percent. So every three stars should have a habitable planet."

    An accordion of light

    The approach Brogi and his colleagues are investigating would combine two different techniques for studying stars and exoplanets. The first is an extremely common technique in astronomy called high-resolution spectroscopy, which essentially looks at light from an object in extremely fine detail.

    To understand high-resolution spectroscopy, consider the way sunlight passes through a prism and produces a rainbow; the glass takes the light and fans it out like an accordion, revealing that the whitish colored light is actually composed of various colors.

    Spectroscopy spreads the light out even more — stretching that accordion out to unrealistic lengths for a musical instrument — revealing finer and finer detail about the colors (wavelengths) that are contained in the light from stars, planets and other cosmic objects. The resulting band of colors is called an object's spectrum.

    The first scientists to use spectroscopy discovered something so amazing that, without it, the field of modern astronomy might be entirely unrecognizable: Chemical elements leave a unique fingerprint in the light spectrum. In other words, if a star is made of hydrogen and helium, those elements will leave a distinct signature on the light the star emits — when astronomers fan out the light from the star, they can see that signature in the wavelengths that are present or not present. This tool has allowed astronomers to learn about the composition of objects billions of light-years away, and helped to uncover the incredible fact that we are all made of stardust.

    So if spectroscopy can be applied to the light coming from exoplanets, scientists might get a look at the composition of the planetary atmospheres. It's still unclear to scientists which atmospheric chemical mixtures would strongly indicate the presence of life — most plants on Earth consume carbon dioxide and produce oxygen, and other forms of life produce methane, so a combination with high levels of oxygen and methane might indicate the presence of biology. However, there are potential false positives and false negatives, not to mention potential life-forms that consume and produce different chemicals than living organisms on Earth.

    But there are a couple of hurdles standing in the way of performing spectroscopy on a planet, and one of the biggest is that trying to see the light from a planet (which is fairly dim) when it is orbiting right next to a star (which is incredibly bright) is like trying to see the glow of a firefly against a backdrop of 1,000 stage spotlights (which would be difficult).

    So Brogi and his colleagues have proposed a way to help separate those two sources of light. Because the planet is moving around the star, it is also moving toward, and then away from, the Earth throughout its orbit. When a source of light moves toward an observer, the light waves become compressed; when the source moves away from the observer, the light waves become stretched out. This is called the Doppler effect, or redshift. It also happens with sound waves, which is why when a police siren is moving toward you, it sounds like it is increasing in pitch; the waves get pushed together so that they literally have a higher frequency. When the car passes you and starts moving away, it sounds like the siren is getting lower in pitch, because the waves get stretched out and the frequency goes down.

    The idea is that, out of the sea of light coming from a distant star, scientists could pick out the island of light coming from the planet by looking for the redshifted/Doppler shifted light. (This also could be used to separate any interference from Earth's own atmosphere.) Looking for those shifts in the light also falls under the header of spectroscopy.

    Nonetheless, the Doppler shift approach wouldn't be powerful enough to work on its own, and this is where the second technique comes in: Astronomers would need to directly image the star or planet system first.

    The planet-finding technique known as "direct imaging" is pretty much what it sounds like: an attempt to get a direct snapshot of both a planet and the star it orbits. To do this, scientists try to reduce the star's blinding glare enough so that they can see the light from the planet. It's a challenging method and one that can't be done for just any system — the planet has to be sufficiently bright compared to its parent star, which means most of the planets seen with direct imaging thus far are gas giants like Jupiter, and oriented in such a way that it can be viewed clearly from Earth. 

    So Brogi and his colleagues proposed the method of first directly imaging the planetary system, using that image to locate the planet, and then further separating the planet's light from the star's light using the Doppler method. From there, they can use high-resolution spectroscopy to learn about the planet's atmosphere.

    Telescopes currently in operation don't have the sensitivity to make this plan a reality, but some very large telescopes currently under development could. These scopes should be able to directly image smaller planets, as long as those planets are orbiting dimmer stars. Those include the Giant Magellan Telescope, scheduled to turn on around 2021, and the European Extremely Large Telescope, set to begin taking data as early as 2024. Direct imaging capabilities are likely to improve by leaps and bounds with these telescopes, but with direct imaging alone, it will likely not be possible to characterize many Earth-size, potentially habitable worlds.

    During his talk, Brogi said there should be "on the order of 10" potentially habitable planets that this method could identify and study.

    Challenges and progress

    Brogi noted that there are caveats to the plan. For example, many of the predictions that he and his team made about how sensitive the method would be were "based on best-case scenarios," so dealing with real data will undoubtedly pose challenges. Moreover, the method compares the observed planetary spectra with laboratory experiments that recreate the expected spectra for various chemical elements, which means any errors in that laboratory work will carry over into the planet studies. But overall, Brogi said he and his colleagues think the approach could provide a better glimpse of the atmospheres of small, rocky, potentially habitable planets than scientists are likely to see for a few decades.

    They aren't the only group that thinks so. Researchers based at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) are investigating this approach as well, according to Dimitri Mawet, an associate professor of astronomy at Caltech. Mawet and his colleagues call the approach high dispersion coronagraphy (HDC) — a combination of high-resolution spectroscopy and high-contrast imaging techniques (direct imaging). (Similar lines of thought have been proposed by other groups.)

    Mawet told Space.com in an email that he and his colleagues recently submitted two research papers that explore the "practical limits of HDC" and demonstrate "a promising instrument concept in the lab at Caltech." He said he and his colleagues plan to test the technique using the Keck telescope, located in Hawaii, "about two years from now," to study young, giant planets (so not very Earth-like). He confirmed that to use the technique to study small, rocky planets like Proxima b, scientists will have to wait for those next-generation, ground-based telescopes, like the Giant Magellan Telescope and the European Extremely Large Telescope. He also confirmed Brogi's estimation of "on the order of 10" rocky exoplanets in the habitable zone of their stars that could be studied using this technique.

    "As [Brogi] mentioned, there are several caveats associated with the HDC technique," Mawet told Space.com. "However, we are working on addressing them and, in the process, studying the fundamental limits of the technique. Our initial results are very promising, and exciting."

    Follow Calla Cofield@callacofield.Follow us@Spacedotcom,Facebook andGoogle+. Original article onSpace.com.

    Categorized in Science & Tech

    It seemed as though there was a piece missing from the solar system when Pluto got declassified as a planet and reclassified as a dwarf planet instead. Since then, several other Pluto-like bodies have been discovered beyond the orbit of Neptune, but none that qualify as being a planet, unfortunately. However, all is not lost as more recently indirect evidence points to a Uranus-sized planet lurking near the outer edge of the solar system.

    Categorized in Science & Tech

    Around 100 million years ago, an alien-looking insect with a bizarre head and long thin legs likely crawled around on trees in what is now Burma.

    The insect is so strange that researchers say that it is not only a new species, but also belongs in its own new scientific order. Living in the time of the dinosaurs, the insect was tiny and wingless. Just two specimens of this new species exist, both of them preserved in Burmese amber.

    "The strangest thing about this insect is that the head looked so much like the way aliens are often portrayed," George Poinar, an emeritus professor of entomology at Oregon State University, said in a statement. "With its long neck, big eyes and strange oblong head, I thought it resembled E.T.”

    The critter from the past— it’s now extinct— represents one of about a million known species of insects. But since it is so distinctive, it has defined a new order of insects, boosting the number of insect orders up by one, according to Oregon State University. It likely ate things like mites and fungi, the university said, as it probably was omnivorous.

    “This insect has a number of features that just don’t match those of any other insect species that I know,” Poinar said in the statement. “I had never really seen anything like it. It appears to be unique in the insect world, and after considerable discussion we decided it had to take its place in a new order."

    Ultimately what makes it so strange are the insect’s triangular-shaped head (with the vertex as the neck) and alien-looking bowl-shaped eyes on the sides. It had neck glands that secreted what could have been a predator-repelling chemical.

    “When I first saw this fossil, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Poinar said, in a video describing the discovery. “I thought it had to be an alien.”

    Source : https://www.yahoo.com/news/m/2f8b5ffe-e661-3e3b-b6f3-19edb70e4d48/scientist-discover.html

    Categorized in Science & Tech
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