Friday, October 22News That Matters

Tag: Planets

Why NASA Is Launching a Robotic Archaeologist Named Lucy

Why NASA Is Launching a Robotic Archaeologist Named Lucy

Technology
NASA is scheduled on Saturday to launch a probe toward clusters of asteroids along Jupiter’s orbital path. They’re known as the Trojan swarms, and they represent the final unexplored regions of asteroids in the solar system. The spacecraft, a deep-space robotic archaeologist named Lucy, will seek to answer pressing questions about the origins of the solar system, how the planets migrated to their current orbits and how life might have emerged on Earth.“We have never gone this far to study asteroids,” said Bill Nelson, the administrator of NASA. “In so doing, we’re going to be able to better understand the formation of the solar system, and better understand ourselves and our development.”After a six-year cruise, Lucy will fly close to seven Trojan asteroids through 2033, completing wild ci...

Astronomers Found a Planet That Survived Its Star’s Death

Technology
When our sun enters its death throes in about five billion years, it will incinerate our planet and then dramatically collapse into a dead ember known as a white dwarf. But the fate of more distant planets, such as Jupiter or Saturn, is less clear.On Wednesday in the journal Nature, astronomers reported observing a tantalizing preview of our solar system’s afterlife: a Jupiter-size planet orbiting a white dwarf some 6,500 light years from here.Known as MOA-2010-BLG-477Lb, the planet occupies a comparable orbit to Jupiter. The discovery not only offers a glimpse into our cosmic future, it raises the possibility that any life on “survivor” worlds may endure the deaths of their stars.“While there is quite a lot of evidence of rocky planetary debris orbiting around white dwarfs, we have very f...
Sometimes Life Imitates Art. William Shatner Is Headed To Space With Blue Origin.

Sometimes Life Imitates Art. William Shatner Is Headed To Space With Blue Origin.

Technology
Mr. Branson and Mr. Bezos have made the billionaire space race more literal and personal, and often speak in dreamier language. Mr. Branson launched first, in July, and Mr. Bezos followed days later. Speaking “to all the kids down there” from the edge of space, Mr. Branson said, “if we can do this, just imagine what you can do.”Mr. Bezos, after landing, said simply, “Best day ever!”In front of assembled press, he made an attempt to convey a sense of collectivity, or at least humility. “I want to thank every Amazon employee and every Amazon customer because you guys paid for all this,” he said. He was clearly moved, and his performance was earnest, but it also resulted in a backlash that, from perhaps any other perspective in the world, would have been easy to anticipate. “Amazon workers do...
This May Be the First Planet Found Orbiting 3 Stars at Once

This May Be the First Planet Found Orbiting 3 Stars at Once

Technology
“‘Star Wars’ missed a trick,” said Rebecca Nealon from the University of Warwick in England, a co-author on the paper.Scientists have been on the lookout for a planet orbiting three stars, and found potential evidence in another system, GG Tau A, located about 450 light years from Earth. But the researchers say the gap in GW Ori’s gas and dust ring makes it a more convincing example.“It may be the first evidence of a circumtriple planet carving a gap in real time,” said Jeremy Smallwood from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, lead author of the new paper.William Welsh, an astronomer at San Diego State University, said the researchers “make a good case. If this turns out to be a planet, it would be fascinating.”Alison Young from the University of Leicester in England who has argued that G...
Astronomers See Moons Forming in Disk Around Distant Exoplanet

Astronomers See Moons Forming in Disk Around Distant Exoplanet

Technology
Our solar system is home to a magnificent menagerie of moons, from icy ones filled with turbulent oceans to volcanic ones decorated with pits of raging hellfire. To date, astronomers have discovered 4,438 worlds orbiting other stars, and there is no doubt that diverse moons dance around most of these exoplanets. But stargazers have yet to conclusively find any — these exomoons have proven too small and too far-flung to be spotted.Now, after years of observations of a pair of Jupiter-like exoplanets nearly 400 light-years from Earth, astronomers have found the next best thing: a disk of debris orbiting one of these worlds, a ring of rock and gas gradually coalescing under its own gravity. In other words, astronomers have caught a circumplanetary foundry in the act of making moons.This is th...
Will the Next Space-Weather Season Be Stormy or Fair?

Will the Next Space-Weather Season Be Stormy or Fair?

Technology
The big news about the sun is that there is no big news. We are blessed, astronomers like to say, to be living next to a “boring star.”But the inhabitants (if there are any) of the planets orbiting the neighboring star Proxima Centauri, only 4.2 light-years away, are less fortunate. In April astronomers announced that a massive flare had erupted from its surface in 2019. For seven seconds, as a battery of telescopes on Earth and in space watched, the little star had increased its output of ultraviolet radiation 14,000-fold, in one of the most violent such flares ever seen in our galaxy.This was more than serious sunburn territory. “A human being on this planet would have a bad time,” said Meredith MacGregor, an astronomy professor at the University of Colorado who led the worldwide observi...