Astronomers using a potent NASA space telescope to search for life say they have found planets which are the most Earth-like candidates yet. Two of the five planets orbiting a Sun-like star called Kepler-62 are squarely in the habitable zone – not too hot, not too cold, possibly bearing water – NASA scientists report in the journal Science :: Read the full article »»»»
Our most favourite behemoth – China – and the worlds second largest economy, are planning on expanding rural production much farther than their earthly borders. The worlds most populous nation is preparing to grow fresh vegetables on Mars and the Moon after researchers completed a preliminary test in Beijing.
Chinese state media has reported that researchers are currently testing their wild theory here on earth, four kinds of vegetables were grown in an Ecological Life Support System, a 300 cubic metre cabin which will allow astronauts to develop their own stocks of air, water and food while on space missions.
The system, which relies on plants and algae, is “expected to be used in extra-terrestrial bases on the Moon or Mars”, Xinhua news agency. Participants in the experiment could “harvest fresh vegetables for meals”, Xinhua quoted Deng Yibing, a researcher at Beijing’s Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Centre, as saying :: Read the full article »»»»
WOW, isn’t really a word, it’s more like a thoughtfilled sound, in this case it’s the one I made looking back over this past month of astronomical discoveries. From a diamond encrusted jewel to a new earth sized planet a stones throw from our own blue planet.
News from skywatchers has boomed out through September and October this year, with clever astronomers and planetary scientists pushing the boundaries of computer climate modelling, forecasting weather, climatic change and glacial movements on Mars that just might have valid predictors for climate change on Earth.
A new planet, the closest yet outside our solar system and just an astronomical stone’s throw away at four light years,and according to scientists, seriously raising the chances of finding a habitable planet in Earth’s neighbourhood. Researchers say the new planet is too close to its sun to support any known forms of life, with a surface temperature estimated at 1,200 degrees Celsius.
Previous studies suggest that when one planet is discovered orbiting a sun, there are usually others in the same system. The new Earth-sized planet, announced in science journal Nature by Stephane Udry and Xavier Dumusque at the Geneva Observatory, orbits one of the suns in Alpha Centauri, only 40 trillion kilometres away, visible to the naked eye – though we’d suggest you wear clothes while backyard stargazing – The planet was discovered using the HARPS instrument on a telescope at the ESO’s – European Southern Observatory - La Silla site in Chile. :: Read the full article »»»»
For the first time astronomers have detected the last gasps of a star being torn apart by – a previously dormant – giant black hole. The signals, which came from a galaxy 3.9 billion light years away, were x-rays generated by matter heated to millions of degrees and torn apart as material from the star crosses the black hole’s event horizon.
Known as quasi-periodic oscillations, they are a characteristic feature of stellar black holes, which have about 10 times the mass of the Sun. Dr Rubens Reis from the University of Michigan is the lead author of the paper published today in the journal Science.
Dr Reis says the findings confirm the constancy of black hole physics. ”This is telling us that the same physical phenomenon we observe in stellar mass black holes is also happening in black holes a million times the mass of the Sun, and in black holes that were previously asleep,” he said.
Dr Reis and colleagues first detected the event with NASA’s Swift Gamma Ray Burst Telescope last year, but did not pick up the oscillations at that time. The blips in the signals were detected in follow-up observations using the joint Japanese-NASA Suzaku and the European Space Agency ZMM-Newton orbiting X-ray observatories.
“You can think of it as hearing the star scream as it gets devoured,” said University of Michigan astronomy professor Jon Miller, who co-authored the paper.
The oscillating signal repeats at a characteristic frequency, which would sound like an ultra-low D sharp. The oscillations were occurring once every 200 seconds, meaning the stellar material was orbiting less than 9.3 million kilometres from the centre of the black hole. Professor Miller said that the discovery opens the possibility of studying orbits close to black holes, but that are extremely distant from earth.
Scientists have developed a new method to study reflected light from the Earth that can correctly measure the amount of cloud cover, ocean and vegetation on our planet. The research, reported in the journal Nature, will allow astronomers to eventually study the atmospheric and surface features of planets in other solar systems. Scientists including Dr Michael Sterzik from the European Southern Observatory in Chile used spectroscopy and light polarisation to look for chemical bio-signatures in Earthshine – sunlight reflected by the Earth onto the surface of the Moon and back again.
Light passing through the Earth’s atmosphere contains a tell-tale spectrum revealing the elements within the gas. It is also strongly polarised by scattering from air molecules, aerosols and cloud particles, and by reflection off the oceans and land. By combining these characteristics in a technique called spectropolarimetry, Sterzik and colleagues successfully obtained information about the Earth from reflected light that wouldn’t be achieved by normal spectroscopic readings alone. Read the full article »»»»
ESO – European Southern Observatory – astronomers in Chile have created the world’s largest virtual optical telescope by using a special technique to combine images from the four most powerful devices as if they were one. ”This weekend we managed to finish the process (of merging the images) after almost a year,” says Jean-Philippe Berger, a scientist at the European Southern Observatory which operates the Very Large Telescope array – VLT – in Chile’s high northern desert. For the first time, we made scientific observations through this new instrument, and we can say that it can be used.”
The ESO’s VLT complex in Paranal includes four large optical telescopes, each of which are about 30 metres high and have mirrors eight metres in diameter. The astronomers brought together the signals received by the four telescopes thanks to a technique known as interferometry, which combines the images from the four to achieve a higher resolution image. This creates a virtual mirror which is the equivalent of 130 metres in diameter and, according to Berger, improves the resolution and the ability to “zoom” in on the cosmos. Read the full article »»»»