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First Potentially Habitable Earth-Sized World Found By NASA Planet Hunter

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite mission, or TESS, launched in 2018, marks the next step in the search for planets outside of our solar system, including those that could support life, as it surveys the entire sky over the course of two years.

NASA’s planet-hunting mission TESS, launched in 2018, has found its first potentially habitable exoplanet orbiting a star about 100 light-years from Earth, according to findings announced by the agency at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu on 6 January.

The planet, known as TOI 700 d, is one of three orbiting TOI 700, a small, cool M-dwarf star in the Dorado constellation, and happens to be at just the right distance to support liquid water on the surface in the star’s habitable zone.

Astronomers confirmed their discovery using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope infrared capabilities with follow-up observations.

The scientists have also modelled the planet’s potential environment to further investigate its habitability.

Exciting Find

What makes this discovery so fascinating is that the planet is one of a select few potentially habitable planets discovered outside of our solar system. It also happens to be the size of Earth.

Observations show that TOI 700 d completes a single orbit around the star every 37 Earth days, as it receives about 86 per cent of the energy that our sun supplies to Earth.

Interestingly, the planet is believed to be tidally locked, with one side always in daylight.

The other two planets in the system are different: one is the size of Earth and rocky like our planet, and the second is considered to be gaseous and between the size of Earth and Neptune.

In a curious fact, previously scientists had mis-categorised the star – TOI 700 – as being more similar to our Sun, with astronomers ruling out nearby orbiting planets as too hot to support life.

But researchers, including high school student Alton Spencer working with the TESS team, noticed the error.

“When we corrected the star’s parameters, the sizes of its planets dropped, and we realised the outermost one was about the size of Earth and in the habitable zone,” said Emily Gilbert, a graduate student at the University of Chicago.

“Additionally, in 11 months of data we saw no flares from the star, which improves the chances TOI 700 d is habitable and makes it easier to model its atmospheric and surface conditions.”

In the future, missions like NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, launching in 2021, could determine if the planets have atmospheres and their compositions.

Environment simulations created by researchers using TESS’ data revealed the newfound planet may be strikingly different from earth.

Multiple astronomers will observe the planet with other instruments, in order to obtain new data that may match one of NASA’s models.

source: Sputnik news

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Space

Betelgeuse star continues to fade, preparing for an explosion

Betelgeuse continues to fade, but is the light preparing to break out a supernova, or are some other processes leading to this?

Betelgeuse
© universetoday.com

Astronomers from Villanova University Edward Ginan and Richard Wasatonic were the first scientists to report Betelgeuse tarnishing. Now they are reporting that the brightness of the star continues to decline.

Recall that Betelgeuse is a red-orange super-giant pulsating star in the constellation Orion, which is 700 light-years distant from Earth. At the end of it’s life, Betelgeuse will explode a supernova, and probably this has already happened.

It is important to note that Betelgeuse is a variable star, which means its brightness is a variable.

Astronomers are well aware of this and have long observed the brightness change cycles. Most fluctuations are predictable, but what happens to Betelgeuse today is an anomaly.

The star became fainter than ever in the history of observations.

According to information provided by Ginan and Vasatonic, the temperature of Betelgeuse over 3 months fell by almost 173 degrees Celsius, and its brightness fell by 25%. At the same time, the radius of the object grew by about 9%.

Betelgeuse star continues to fade, preparing for an explosion
Each circle is a separate observer (telescope, spacecraft) for Betelgeuse, recording changes in luminosity. The fall in brightness at the beginning of 2020 can be seen very well on the right in the image (© universetoday.com)

We are very lucky that, by the standards of the Universe, Betelgeuse is so close to us. We can observe the evolutionary process of another star and collect such detailed data.

Betelgeuse flashed a supernova?

Probably. However, scientists are considering any other options and do not want to focus only on this conclusion.

They assume that a decrease in brightness could cause a gas-dust cloud flying between us and Betelgeuse. By the way, it could also explain the temperature drop. What to do with the growth of the radius? It is possible that this is simply “age-related edema” caused by a natural evolutionary process.

There is a possibility that Betelgeuse has already flashed a supernova or that we are observing its unstable behavior before this event, which will be the most spectacular natural disaster available to humans.

Supernova explosion
© wikipedia.org

Yes, astronomers observed supernovae such as SN 185 and SN 1604, but they were extremely far from Earth, so no details were even discussed.

When Betelgeuse explodes (or has already exploded), this event will become the third brightest object in the earth’s sky after the Sun and the full Moon. By some estimates, it will be even brighter than the moon!

This glow will persist for months or even years, casting a shadow on Earth at night. After about 3 years, this colossal brightness will disappear, and after 6 years there will be no trace in the night sky.

When will this happen?

Astronomers know what will happen, but they don’t know when exactly, answering something like: “yesterday, tomorrow or in a century.”

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Help NASA choose from 9 finalist names for the Mars mission

NASA selected nine finalists in the student contest to name the next Mars rover-probe, currently called ‘Mars 2020′‘.

Help NASA choose from the 9 finalists for the Mars 2020 mission

Note that students across the US, from kindergarten through high school, have submitted more than 28,000 potential names to the probe jeep Mars 2020 from NASA. However, a panel of 4,700 volunteer judges chose only 9 names that went to the survey online.

The search online will remain open until January 27, 2020. The maximum number of votes will decide the name of the probe jeep that will travel through Mars. You can vote for your favorite name at go.nasa.gov/name2020. According to NASA, the space agency selected three submissions in each of the three age categories – Kindergarten grades-4, 5-8 and 9-12.

The online poll will be opened until January 27, 2020. The maximum votes will decide the name of a rover that will roam across Mars. You can vote for your favorite name for Mars rover 2020 at go.nasa.gov/name2020.

What best describes a space vehicle from Mars? Tenacity? (Tenacity). Fortitude? (Fortitude). Courage? (Courage). We selected nine potential names for the probe jeep # Mars2020. You can vote for your favorite. The results will be considered when selecting the space vehicle name.

Below are the nine finalists:

  1. endurance, (Kindergarten 4th grade, by Oliver Jacobs, from Virginia)
  2. Tenacity, (Kindergarten through 4th grade, by Eamon Reilly, from Pennsylvania)
  3. Promise, (Kindergarten through 4th grade, by Amira Shanshiry, from Massachusetts)
  4. Perseverance, (5th to 8th grade, by Alexander Mather, Virginia)
  5. Vision, (5th to 8th grade, by Alexander Mather, Virginia)
  6. Clarity, (5th to 8th grade, by Nora Benitez, from California)
  7. Ingenuity, (9th to 12th grade, by Vaneeza Rupani, from Alabama)
  8. Fortitude, (9th to 12th grade, by Anthony Yoon, Oklahoma)
  9. Courage, (9th to 12th grade, by Tori Gray, from Louisiana)

In a statement, NASA said:

After the survey is over, the nine finalist students will discuss their names for the probe jeep with a panel that includes NASA Planetary Science Division director Lori Glaze, NASA astronaut Jessica Watkins, NASA-JPL pilot Nick Wiltsie and Clara Ma, who won the honor of naming the probe jeep Curiosity, as a sixth grade student in 2009.

The contest will be concluded in early March, when the new name of the probe jeep – and the student behind it – are announced. The grand prize winner will also receive an invitation to view the July 2020 launch of the probe from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida

The Mars launch of the mission Mars 2020 is scheduled for July this year. The probe jeep is expected to land in an impact crater called Jezero, where liquid water has already flowed, about seven months (February 2021) after Earth’s departure. Mars 2020 will use a set of high-tech tools to look for signs of alien old microbes. The robot will have a laser device to analyze interesting rocks from afar.

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The best planets for aliens have been identified by astronomers

In their tireless search for signs of extraterrestrial life, astronomers have coined the intriguing term “Goldilocks Zone” when referring to the habitable zone of a star body: the distance from a star where liquid water can be present on the surface of a planet is not too hot, not too cold, but fair.

New research by astronomers based on decades of data has identified new criteria that can help assess the potential habitability of a planet.

The study, called the “Goldilocks Project”, presented by a team of astronomers from the University of Villanova at the 235th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Hawaii, has identified what has been coined as “Goldilocks stars,” star systems where they hope to find the best planets for possible extraterrestrial life.

Many are already familiar with the concept of the habitable zone, the distance from a star in which liquid water can be present on the surface of a planet, not hot enough to vaporize it, not so cold that everything would be frozen.

That explains the reference to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, where a blond girl enters an empty cabin in the forest, tries three bowls of porridge and discovers that one is “fair, neither too hot nor too cold! ”

The Goldilocks area around a star is like that. However, although we definitely consider liquid water as a vital ingredient for life, it is not the only criterion in our search for potentially habitable planets.

According to astronomers at the University of Villanova, the best stars for life are one step along the Hertzsprung-Russell star type table, that is, K-type stars. These are orange stars that are a bit colder than the sun, and a little warmer than a red dwarf.

“The K dwarf stars are in the” sweet spot “, with intermediate properties between the rarer, brighter but shorter-lived solar stars (G stars) and the more numerous red dwarf stars (M stars),” Villanova astronomer and astrophysicist Edward Guinan explained, who presented the new study with a colleague, astronomer Scott Engle.

“K stars, especially the warmest ones, have the best of all worlds. If you are looking for planets with habitability, the abundance of K stars increases your chances of finding life. ”

Guinan, Engle and their students have been monitoring a series of F and G stars in ultraviolet and X-rays for the past 30 years as part of their Sun in Time program, and red M-type dwarfs for 10 years as part of the program Live with a red dwarf.

Both programs have been helping to assess the impact of X-rays and ultraviolet radiation from the stars in question on the possible habitability of their planets.

The study has also been measuring age, rotation rate and X-rays and far ultraviolet radiation in a sample of mostly cold G and K stars.

In their investigation, they used the NASA Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the XMM-Newton satellite of the European Space Agency for their observations. Hubble’s sensitive ultraviolet light observations of hydrogen radiation were used to evaluate the radiation of a sample of approximately 20 orange dwarfs.

“Hubble is the only telescope that can do this kind of observation,” Guinan said.

Guinan and Engle discovered that the radiation levels around the K stars were much more benign for the accompanying planets than those found around the red dwarfs.

K stars also have a longer lifespan and, therefore, the migration of the habitable zone occurs more slowly, pointing to the suggestion that K dwarfs could present the ideal place to look for signs of extraterrestrial life.

Guinan and Engle also observed some of the most interesting K stars that host planets, including Kepler-442, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani.

“Kepler-442 is notable because this star houses what is considered one of the best Goldilocks planets, Kepler-442b, a rocky planet that is a little more than double the Earth’s mass. Therefore, the Kepler-442 system is a Goldilocks planet housed by a Goldilocks star! “Guinan said.

In another fact that inspires optimism, there are three times more K dwarfs in our galaxy than stars like our Sun.

Approximately 1,000 K stars are within 100 light years of our Sun, which makes them the best candidates for exploration.

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