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Mysterious signals from space may be coming from a planet 22 light years away

Mysterious signals from space may be coming from a planet 22 light years away 88

Astronomers believe mysterious signals – previously dismissed as ‘stellar bursts’ – are coming from an Earth-like planet just 22 light years away.

Are these signals of extraterrestial nature?

The Gliese 581d planet has conditions that support life, and is likely to be a rocky world, twice the size of Earth.

Signals from the planet were initially discovered in 2010, but last year dismissed as noise from distant stars.

Now, a further study claims that the 2014 research was based on ‘inadequate analyses of the data’ and that Gliese 581d does exist.

Last year, Pennsylvania State University researchers said Gliese 581d – and its companion Gliese 581g – were simply a trick of the light caused by magnetic bursts from a local star 22 light-years away.

The new British research, however, argues the method used by the Pennsylvania team was only suitable for large planets, and that it could miss small ones like GJ 581d.

The study, by Queen Mary University, London and the University of Hertfordshire, claims to use a more accurate model on the existing data.

‘The existence (or not) of GJ 581d is significant because it was the first Earth-like planet discovered in the ‘Goldilocks’-zone around another star and it is a benchmark case for the Doppler technique,’ said lead author, Dr Guillem Anglada-Escudé.

‘There are always discussions among scientists about the ways we interpret data but I’m confident that GJ 581d has been in orbit around Gliese 581 all along.

‘In any case, the strength of their statement was way too strong.

‘If their way to treat the data had been right, then some planet search projects at several ground-based observatories would need to be significantly revised as they are all aiming to detect even smaller planets.

GJ 581d is believed to be the first planet outside our solar system in the Goldilocks zone around its star – an area not too hot and not too cold for life.

To find Gliese 581d, University of California, Santa Cruz astronomers originally looked for subtle changes in light caused by the gravity of an orbiting planet tugging back and forth on the star.

The strength of the tugging, they believed, showed them a planet was about three times as massive as Earth.

At the time, the discovery of Earth-like planets around Gliese 581 caught the public imagination.

Documentary-maker RDF and social-networking site Bebo used a radio telescope in Ukraine to send a powerful focused beam of information – 500 messages from the public in the form of radio waves – to Gliese 581.

And the Australian science minister at the time organised 20,000 users of Twitter to send messages towards the distant solar system in the wake of the discoveries.

Other exoplanets have previously been doubted, most notably Alpha Centauri Bb, the closest Earth-sized world to us, which some scientists claim could just be noise in the data.

Mysterious signals from space may be coming from a planet 22 light years away 89

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Space

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 102
Photo: (Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC))

To us, the Sun alone seems perfectly normal, but our solar system is actually a strange exception.

Most stars in the Milky Way galaxy have at least one companion star. In a system 1,800 light-years away, astronomers have finally confirmed the existence of a gas giant planet orbiting stars in a triple star system.

Called KOI-5, the system is located in the constellation Cygnus, and the exoplanet was confirmed ten years after it was first detected by the Kepler space telescope.

In fact, the planet – now known as KOI-5Ab – was discovered by Kepler when it began operations back in 2009.

“KOI-5Ab was dropped because it was difficult and we had thousands of other candidates,” astronomer David Siardi of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute said.

“There were lighter dives than the KOI-5Ab, and every day we learned something new from Kepler, so the KOI-5 was almost forgotten.”

Exoplanet hunters tend to avoid the complexities of multi-star systems; of the more than 4,300 exoplanets confirmed to date, less than 10 percent are multi-star systems, although such systems dominate the galaxy. As a result, little is known about the properties of exoplanets in multi-star systems compared to those orbiting a lone star.

After Kepler’s discovery, Chardy and other astronomers used ground-based telescopes such as the Palomar Observatory, Keck Observatory, and the Gemini North Telescope to study the system. By 2014, they had identified two companion stars, KOI-5B and KOI-5C.

Scientists were able to establish that the planet KOI-5Ab, is a gas giant that is about half the mass of Saturn and 7 times the size of Earth, and is in a very close five-day orbit around KOI-5A. KOI-5A and KOI-5B, both of roughly the same mass as the Sun, form a relatively close binary system with an orbital period of about 30 years.

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 103

A third star, KOI-5C, orbits the binary system at a much greater distance, with a period of about 400 years – slightly longer than Pluto’s 248-year orbit.

“By studying this system in more detail, perhaps we can understand how planets are created in the universe.”

The discovery was announced at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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Space

Why the universe does not fit into science

Why the universe does not fit into science 104
Photo: YouTube

Science can be compared to an artist painting what he has never seen, or to a writer describing other people’s travels: objects that he has never seen, places where he has never been. Sometimes such scientific “arts” turn out to be beautiful and interesting, but most of them will forever remain only theories, because they are beyond human capabilities.

In fact, science has the right only to speculate: how our universe appeared, how old it is, how many stars and other objects it contains.

Universe model

Why the universe does not fit into science 105

How many stars are there in the sky?

With an unarmed eye, a person can see about nine thousand stars in the sky in one cloudless and moonless night. And armed with binoculars or a telescope, much more – up to several million. However, this is much less than their true number in the universe. Indeed, only in our one galaxy (the Milky Way) there are about 400 billion stars. The exact amount, of course, is not known to science. And the visible universe contains about 170 billion galaxies.

It is worth clarifying that scientists can see the universe 46 billion light years deep in all directions. And the visible (observable) universe includes the space accessible to our eyes from the moment of the Big Explosion. In other words, only this (accessible to human perception) space science refers to our universe. Science does not consider everything that follows.

It is believed that there are supposedly a ceptillion (10 to 24 degrees) stars in our universe. These are theoretical calculations based on the approximate size and age of the universe. The origin of the universe is explained by the Big Bang theory. This is why the universe is constantly expanding and the more time passes, the more complex the universe and its components become.

Why the universe does not fit into science 106

It is not entirely correct to consider and perceive this scientific theory “head-on”. Scientists always claim that that explosion was not exactly an explosion, and the point that exploded was not the only one. After all, it was everywhere, because space did not exist then. And in general – everything happened quite differently from what is described in the Big Bang theory, but all other descriptions of the origin of the universe are even more incredible and inaccurate.

Separate but interconnected

That which is beyond the reach of human perception is usually discarded by science, or recognized as non-existent. Recognizing one thing, science does not want to recognize the existence of the other, although everything in our world is interconnected and is not able to exist separately – by itself.

Each object of the universe is a part of it much more than an independent, separate object.

Any person, like any material object of our world, consists of components: organs, cells, molecules, atoms. And each of its constituent parts can represent the whole world. Separate, and at the same time connected with all the others.

However, science, as a rule, perceives all the components of the universe – people, animals, plants, objects, the Earth, the Sun, other planets and stars – as separate subjects, thereby limiting itself.

Why the universe does not fit into science 107

Even what is considered the visible universe, one of the atoms of which could be called our solar system, is not subject to the boundaries of human perception. But perhaps the atom is an exaggeration, and our solar system is not even an atom, but one of its elements!

How, being so far from the truth, can one reason about something with the degree of probability with which science tries to reason about the origin of the universe?

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Space

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars 108

The red planet sways from side to side like a whirligig when it loses speed. The new study allowed scientists to notice that the poles of Mars deviate slightly from the axis of rotation of the planet. On average, they move 10 cm from the center with a period of 200 days.

Such changes are called the Chandler Oscillations  – after the American astronomer Seth Chandler, who discovered them in 1891. Previously, they were only seen on Earth. It is known that the displacement of the poles of rotation of our planet occurs with a period of 433 days, while the amplitude reaches 15 meters. There is no exact answer why this is happening. It is believed that the fluctuations are influenced by processes in the ocean and the Earth’s atmosphere.

Chandler’s wobbles on Mars are equally perplexing. The authors of the study discovered them by comparing data from 18 years of studying the planet. The information was obtained thanks to three spacecraft that orbit the Red Planet: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor. 

Since Mars has no oceans, it is likely that the Red Planet’s wobbly rotation is due to changes in atmospheric pressure. This is the first explanation that researchers have shared. In the future, there should be new details about the fluctuations that have so interested the scientific community.

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