The idea that we might be living in just one of an infinite number of universes has been fodder for scientific debate and sci-fi movie plots for a long time, but coming up with evidence to support the theory has been hard to come by. Now, researchers have discovered something in space that they can’t quite account for, and one of the possible explanations is that — are you sitting down? — our universe actually bumped into a neighboring, parallel one.

When gazing into the heavens, scientists spotted what they refer to as a “cold” area of space. It was observed some time ago, and explaining it proved difficult, but a 2015 study suggested it was merely an area of the universe in which the number of galaxies is dramatically lower than the rest. Unfortunately, subsequent investigations couldn’t support that finding, and a new study by Durham University suggests the slim possibility that it’s actually evidence of parallel universes is still on the table.

The multiverse theory hinges on the idea that all possible outcomes of any given scenario are all playing out at the same time in a layered reality of which we are only experiencing one layer. It’s a wild idea that has a foundation in quantum mechanics, but it’s also entirely unproven.

As the study states, the researchers believe the mysterious cold spot, while still totally unexplained, could actually be “the remnant of a collision between our universe and another ‘bubble’ universe during an early inflationary phase.” In short, if the idea is correct, our early universe collided with another young universe early on, causing something of a “bruise” which we are able to observe today.

Source: This article was published BGR News By Mike Wehner

Categorized in Science & Tech

SCIENTISTS have managed to prove that event horizons of a black hole are real and that matter disappears when it crosses such a point.

Black holes DO have event horizons which devour EVERYTHING around them

Once matter crosses the event horizon of a black hole it is unable to escape, according to boffins at the University of Texas at Austin.

Due to the intense gravitational pull of a black hole, not even light can become freed once it passes the point of no return.

The revelation goes one step further to proving Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity.

Astrophysicist Pawan Kumar, from the university, said: "Our whole point here is to turn this idea of an event horizon into an experimental science, and find out if event horizons really do exist or not.

star impactMark A. Garlick/CfA
An artist's impression os a star impacting against a solid object

"Our motive is not so much to establish that there is a hard surface, but to push the boundary of knowledge and find concrete evidence that really, there is an event horizon around black holes.”

Scientists largely believe that at the heart of most galaxies lies a supermassive black hole, but one theory that is also recognised is that there might not be a black hole, but rather a ‘central massive object’ which has somehow managed to avoid collapsing in on itself to create a singularity – a point of infinite density – like how black holes are created.

black hole 2
"General relativity has passed another critical test."
To test this theory, Mr Kumar and his team discovered that if a star was to crash into this central object, it would create intense heat that could be detected, rather than being sucked into a black hole.
 
They then scanned through data from the Pan-STARRS telescope in Hawaii to look for instances in which this could have happened, but ultimately found none, essentially disproving the central massive object theory, and proving thew event horizon one.
 
Team member Ramesh Narayan from Harvard University said: "Our work implies that some, and perhaps all, black holes have event horizons and that material really does disappear from the observable Universe when pulled into these exotic objects, as we've expected for decades.
 
"General relativity has passed another critical test."
Source: This article was published express.co.uk By SEAN MARTIN
Categorized in Science & Tech
Scientists at Disney Research converted an entire room into a wireless charger.

Credit: Disney Research

When you need to charge your electronic devices on the go, it can be a hassle trying to find somewhere to plug in. And though some devices can already be charged without wires, researchers at The Walt Disney Company have recently supersized the technology by building a wireless "charging room."

Scientists at a branch of The Walt Disney Company called Disney Research have converted an entire room into a wireless charger that can boost the batteries of 10 objects at one time, according to the study. The researchers said they were inspired by inventor Nikola Tesla, who created the first system to wirelessly transmit electricity — the Tesla coil.

Tesla believed there could be a global network of wireless electricity that would use an electromagnetic wave that reverberated between the ionosphere (a layer of the Earth's atmosphere filled with ions and free electrons) and the ground, study co-author Alanson Sample, an associate lab director and principal research scientist at Disney Research, explained in a video. While Tesla's vision didn't come to fruition, Sample and his colleagues were inspired to investigate how wireless charging could be set up in large spaces. [Top 10 Inventions that Changed the World]

"What we really want is a three-dimensional charging experience, where you walk into your living room or office and your cellphone is charged simply by walking in," Sample said in the video. "We have a metalized room, and we're going to use standing electromagnetic waves that reverberate all around this room, providing wireless power to any devices inside."

Known as quasistatic cavity resonance (QSCR), the wireless charging technology uses electromagnetic fields generated by electrical currents. Disney Research's room is outfitted with aluminum-paneled walls and a centrally located copper pole that houses 15 capacitors (which store electrical energy, as batteries do). As the capacitors generate electrical currents, they travel through the ceiling, walls and floor, and then back through the pole. These electrical currents create the electromagnetic fields that circulate around the pole and wirelessly charge devices in the room, the researchers said.

Furniture and other objects can still decorate the room without interfering with the currents, according to the researchers, because magnetic fields don't react strongly with these commonplace objects. It's also safe for humans to occupy the space for any amount of time, because the researchers' simulations met federal safety regulations while still transmitting 1.9 kilowatts of power — enough to charge cellphones, laptops, lamps and other small electronic devices, according to the study.

"In this work, we're demonstrating room-scale wireless power, but there's no reason we couldn't shrink this down to the size of a toy box or charging chest, or scale up to a warehouse or a large building," Sample said.

The new research is detailed in a study published online Feb. 15 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Source: This article was published livescience.com By Kacey Deamer

Categorized in Science & Tech

Researchers from around the world are scratching their heads over a newly discovered radio burst detected on Earth, but with a completely unknown origin. A new report describing the event and the subsequent investigation is now available online, but the key takeaway is that despite our best efforts and wealth of technology employed to discover the source, humanity has simply come up short. What’s even more bizarre is that this isn’t the first time it’s happened.

Scientists call them “fast radio bursts,” or FRBs for short, and they’ve been confounding researchers for some time now. This newest burst, labeled FRB 150215 is the latest of 22 detected FRBs thus far, but it’s also the most frustrating for those hunting for the source.

FRB 150215 was first detected in Australia by scientists running the Parkes Telescope, but once the radio burst arrived, many other research groups with their own powerful telescopes sprung into action in search of the source. Despite their best efforts, nobody has been able to figure out where the radio burst originated, which is odd for a number of reasons, but the strangest thing about FRB 150215 — and FRBs in general — is that anything powerful enough to produce a radio burst that could be detected on Earth, yet remain completely out of sight, must be absolutely massive in scale.

Some scientists have theorized that the burst are created by supernovas, and that because the light of the event reaches Earth long before the radio waves, the source appears to have vanished. Of course, there are plenty of theories that hinge on the possibility of intelligent alien life attempting to make contact with other civilizations, but if that is indeed the case, we’re going to have one heck of a time trying to find them.

Source: This article was published BGR News 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

Word on the Internet is that a team of German scientists — made up of psychologists and clinical doctors — has proven that life after death does, in fact (and in science), exist. An article on World News Daily Report noted that the team, which is said to be based at the Technische Universität of Berlin and led by a Dr. Berthold Ackermann, was purportedly able to prove such a thing after the following was performed:

This controversial process that was repeated on 944 volunteers over that last four years, necessitates a complex mixture of drugs including epinephrine and dimethyltryptamine, destined to allow the body to survive the state of clinical death and the reanimation process without damage. The body of the subject was then put into a temporary comatic state induced by a mixture of other drugs which had to be filtered by ozone from his blood during the reanimation process 18 minutes later.-World News Daily Report

This is not the first time this rumor has circulated (a quick search on Twitter shows people sharing the same article two years ago), but it was then and continues to be a fake story.

Debunking this one is as easy as going right to the source. WNDR’s Disclaimer page goes through a lot of “legalese” before ending with the following statement:

WNDR assumes however all responsibility for the satirical nature of its articles and for the fictional nature of their content. All characters appearing in the articles in this website – even those based on real people – are entirely fictional and any resemblance between them and any persons, living, dead, or undead is purely a miracle.

Even if you didn’t see that, there are some other clues that give it away. Among them is the low-res stock photography that accompanies the article. A second clue is that a Google search results in mentions of Dr. Berthold Ackermann only as it relates to this article on WNDR. Had this been true, all of the top results for his name would have been related to such a study. Additionally, it says that this is only possible using a CPR machine called AutoPulse, which allows patients who have been dead for anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour to be resuscitated; however, earlier in the article, “the study” is reported to claim that the patients were only clinically dead for 20 minutes, so the information is contradictory.

All said, this is a hoax story on a site devoted to fake news. Don’t buy it!

Source:

http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/german-scientists-prove-there-is-life-after-death/

Categorized in Science & Tech

10,000 years from now (assuming humans haven’t been wiped out by a plague, space rock, or our own destructive tendencies), it’ll probably be fairly easy for the average person to research what life was like in 2017. For us here today, finding out what life was like in 11,000BC is much more challenging, but by studying ancient stone carvings and pairing the somewhat confusing messages with archeological data, researchers believe they’ve discovered concrete evidence of an apocalyptic event that may have altered the future of mankind: a comet strike.

The study, performed by a team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh (PDF), suggests that a potentially cataclysmic comet strike rapidly and dramatically altered the Earth’s climate for hundreds of years, sending humanity into a mini ice age with nearly glacial conditions. The time period when this occurred is known as the Younger Dryas, and has been well documented thanks to ample evidence of the cooling found in core samples, but its cause has been theorized and debated for a long while. Now, thanks to stone carvings left by ancient people in modern day Turkey, researchers believe that a comet was the culprit.

The carvings are remarkably preserved and appear to have been created to document an apocalyptic event which devastated the land. Figures depicted in the carvings, including apparently deceased, headless human bodies and other wildlife, were made at around the time the Younger Dryas began, suggesting that the event archived in stone could have been the same one that caused the thousand-year cold snap. The carvings were found at what is considered to be one of the oldest and most important temple sites on the planet, and for the images to appear there suggests that they have enormous historical significance.

The Younger Dryas is often credited with pushing ancient humans to band together out of pure necessity, forming the foundation of modern agriculture and other huge advancements in civilization. The idea that a comet may have been responsible for pushing humanity forward is an extremely interesting, and potentially frightening possibility.

The findings are far from an iron clad confirmation, but the timing matches up shockingly well, and would have to be a fantastic coincidence if the two events are actually unrelated.

Source : yahoo.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

The wax worm, a caterpillar typically used for fishing bait and known for damaging beehives by eating their wax comb, has now been observed munching on a different material: plastic bags.

Scientist Federica Bertocchini of the Institute of Biomedicine and Biotechnology of Cantabria in Spain first noticed the wax worms’ plastic-eating skills when she was cleaning up a wax worm infestation in one of the beehives she keeps at home. She put the worms in a plastic bag, tied it closed, and put the bag in a room of her house while she finished cleaning the hive. When she returned to the room, “they were everywhere,” Bertocchini said in a statement. They’d escaped by chewing their way out of the bag, and fast.

“This project began there and then,” she said. In a paper published in Current Biology on Monday (April 24), Bertocchini and her colleagues described 100 wax worms chewing through a polyethylene shopping bag—the kind that people discard at a rate of 1 trillion per year globally—in around 40 minutes. After 12 hours, the bag was significantly shredded.

To make sure the worms weren’t just chewing through the plastic but actually eating it, the researchers pureed some worms and left the paste in contact with the plastic; after 14 hours, about 13% of the plastic was gone, suggesting that some compound in the worm’s digestive system was truly digesting the bag. The researchers also scanned the chewed-up bags for residue, and found ethylene glycol—the main compound in antifreeze—was left behind, “confirming [polyethylene] degradation.”

A wax worm chewing a hole through plastic, covered in polyethylene debris
 

Once in a landfill, polyethylene plastic shopping bags don’t break down for a really, really long time—some researchers estimate bags and other polyethylene packaging could take between 100 and 400 years to degrade naturally. That has prompted a search for a biological “digestor” to speed up plastic degradation; In 2011, researchers found a fungus that could erode polyurethane, another common plastic piling up in trash heaps and oceans globally.

Another research team in 2014 found that bacteria within wax worms’ digestive systems could begin to degrade polyethylene after about two months. But Bertocchini’s worms did a lot more damage, a lot faster.

While the discovery is far from an actionable solution to plastic waste (worms would not be able to survive in the zero-oxygen environment of a landfill, for example) Bertocchini told Ed Yong at the Atlantic she hopes to find the enzyme the worms use to break down the plastic: “Maybe we can find the molecule and produce it at high-scale rather than using a million worms in a plastic bag.”

Wax worm eats through plastic
© Provided by Quartz Wax worm eats through plastic

This article was published on msn.com 

Categorized in Science & Tech

Scientists have just made a huge finding in space that could permanently change our search for alien life.

Scientists have discovered something big about 40 light years away, something that could completely change the search for alien life. An exoplanet that is orbiting a red dwarf star may be the best place to look for signs of life outside our solar system, according to a statement from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysis.

Scientists used ESO’s HARPS instrument at LaSilla and linked it with telescopes around the world to discover this so-called “super-Earth” orbiting in the star’s habitable zone. The planet is much more massive than Earth, and it likely still has an atmosphere, a key ingredient for any planet to host life.

It’s certainly one of the most exciting finds in modern astronomy, and it will make a big target for future studies that will likely focus on its atmosphere: how thick it is, what it’s composed of, and the like. The findings were published in the April 20 issue of hte journal Nature.

The statement is below.

The study of alien worlds is entering its next phase as astronomers amass the best planets outside our Solar System to look for signs of life. A newly discovered “super-Earth” orbiting in the habitable zone of a nearby small star, has catapulted itself to the top of that list.

“This is the most exciting exoplanet I’ve seen in the past decade,” said lead author Jason Dittmann of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). “We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science − searching for evidence of life beyond Earth.”

The newfound planet is described in a paper appearing in the April 20th issue of the journal Nature.

Located just 40 light-years away, the planet was found using the transit method, in which a star dims as a planet crosses in front of it as seen from Earth. By measuring how much light this planet blocks, the team determined that it is about 11,000 miles in diameter, or about 40 percent larger than Earth.

The researchers have also weighed the planet to be 6.6 times the mass of Earth, showing that it is dense and likely has a rocky composition. Small, potentially habitable planets have been found in the TRAPPIST-1 system, located a similar distance from Earth, but only one of those worlds has had its density measured accurately, showing that it isn’t rocky. Therefore, some or all of the others also might not be rocky.

Since this planet transits its star, unlike the closest world to the solar system Proxima Centauri b, it can be examined for the presence of air. As the planet moves in front of the star, the star’s light will be filtered through any atmosphere and leave an imprint. Large, next-generation telescopes will be needed to tease out these subtle signals.

“This planet will be an excellent target for the James Webb Space Telescope when it launches in 2018, and I’m especially excited about studying it with the ground-based Giant Magellan Telescope, which is under construction,” said co-author David Charbonneau of the CfA.

The planet orbits a tiny, faint star known as LHS 1140, which is only one-fifth the size of the Sun. Since the star is so dim and cool, its habitable zone (the distance at which a planet might be warm enough to hold liquid water) is very close. This planet, designated LHS 1140 b, orbits its star every 25 days. At that distance, it receives about half as much sunlight from its star as Earth.

Although the planet is potentially habitable now, it might have faced a hellish past. When the star was young, it would have bathed the planet in a harsh ultraviolet glare that could have stripped any water from the atmosphere, leading to a runaway greenhouse effect like we see on Venus.

However, since the planet is larger than Earth, it might have possessed a magma ocean on its surface for millions of years. Powered by heat from naturally radioactive elements, that churning ocean of lava may have fed steam into the atmosphere long after the star calmed to its current, steady glow. This process could have replenished the planet with water, making it suitable for life as we know it.

“Right now we’re just making educated guesses about the content of this planet’s atmosphere,” said Dittmann. “Future observations might enable us to detect the atmosphere of a potentially habitable planet for the first time. We plan to search for water, and ultimately molecular oxygen.”

In contrast with the TRAPPIST-1 star, LHS 1140 spins slowly and does not emit much high-energy radiation, which also may help the likelihood of life on its planet.

LHS 1140 b was discovered using the MEarth-South telescope array at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. This collection of eight telescopes, with its companion facility MEarth-North, studies faint, red stars known as M dwarfs to locate orbiting planets using the transit method.

In follow-up work the team was able to detect LHS 1140 wobbling as the planet orbits it, using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) installed on the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6m telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile. This information was combined with data from the transit method, allowing the team to make good measurements of the planet’s size, mass and density.

The MEarth Project is supported by the National Science Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.

Source : babwnews.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

Scientists have just made a huge finding in space that could permanently change our search for alien life.

Scientists have discovered something big about 40 light years away, something that could completely change the search for alien life. An exoplanet that is orbiting a red dwarf star may be the best place to look for signs of life outside our solar system, according to a statement from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysis.

Scientists used ESO’s HARPS instrument at LaSilla and linked it with telescopes around the world to discover this so-called “super-Earth” orbiting in the star’s habitable zone. The planet is much more massive than Earth, and it likely still has an atmosphere, a key ingredient for any planet to host life.

It’s certainly one of the most exciting finds in modern astronomy, and it will make a big target for future studies that will likely focus on its atmosphere: how thick it is, what it’s composed of, and the like. The findings were published in the April 20 issue of hte journal Nature.

The statement is below.

The study of alien worlds is entering its next phase as astronomers amass the best planets outside our Solar System to look for signs of life. A newly discovered “super-Earth” orbiting in the habitable zone of a nearby small star, has catapulted itself to the top of that list.

“This is the most exciting exoplanet I’ve seen in the past decade,” said lead author Jason Dittmann of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). “We could hardly hope for a better target to perform one of the biggest quests in science − searching for evidence of life beyond Earth.”

The newfound planet is described in a paper appearing in the April 20th issue of the journal Nature.

Located just 40 light-years away, the planet was found using the transit method, in which a star dims as a planet crosses in front of it as seen from Earth. By measuring how much light this planet blocks, the team determined that it is about 11,000 miles in diameter, or about 40 percent larger than Earth.

The researchers have also weighed the planet to be 6.6 times the mass of Earth, showing that it is dense and likely has a rocky composition. Small, potentially habitable planets have been found in the TRAPPIST-1 system, located a similar distance from Earth, but only one of those worlds has had its density measured accurately, showing that it isn’t rocky. Therefore, some or all of the others also might not be rocky.

Since this planet transits its star, unlike the closest world to the solar system Proxima Centauri b, it can be examined for the presence of air. As the planet moves in front of the star, the star’s light will be filtered through any atmosphere and leave an imprint. Large, next-generation telescopes will be needed to tease out these subtle signals.

“This planet will be an excellent target for the James Webb Space Telescope when it launches in 2018, and I’m especially excited about studying it with the ground-based Giant Magellan Telescope, which is under construction,” said co-author David Charbonneau of the CfA.

The planet orbits a tiny, faint star known as LHS 1140, which is only one-fifth the size of the Sun. Since the star is so dim and cool, its habitable zone (the distance at which a planet might be warm enough to hold liquid water) is very close. This planet, designated LHS 1140 b, orbits its star every 25 days. At that distance, it receives about half as much sunlight from its star as Earth.

Although the planet is potentially habitable now, it might have faced a hellish past. When the star was young, it would have bathed the planet in a harsh ultraviolet glare that could have stripped any water from the atmosphere, leading to a runaway greenhouse effect like we see on Venus.

However, since the planet is larger than Earth, it might have possessed a magma ocean on its surface for millions of years. Powered by heat from naturally radioactive elements, that churning ocean of lava may have fed steam into the atmosphere long after the star calmed to its current, steady glow. This process could have replenished the planet with water, making it suitable for life as we know it.

“Right now we’re just making educated guesses about the content of this planet’s atmosphere,” said Dittmann. “Future observations might enable us to detect the atmosphere of a potentially habitable planet for the first time. We plan to search for water, and ultimately molecular oxygen.”

In contrast with the TRAPPIST-1 star, LHS 1140 spins slowly and does not emit much high-energy radiation, which also may help the likelihood of life on its planet.

LHS 1140 b was discovered using the MEarth-South telescope array at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory. This collection of eight telescopes, with its companion facility MEarth-North, studies faint, red stars known as M dwarfs to locate orbiting planets using the transit method.

In follow-up work the team was able to detect LHS 1140 wobbling as the planet orbits it, using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) installed on the European Southern Observatory’s 3.6m telescope at La Silla Observatory in Chile. This information was combined with data from the transit method, allowing the team to make good measurements of the planet’s size, mass and density.

The MEarth Project is supported by the National Science Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation.

Headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA scientists, organized into six research divisions, study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.

Source : babwnews.com

Categorized in Science & Tech
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