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Philae discovers organic molecules on comet

Philae discovers organic molecules on comet 86

by Stephen Clark

Europe’s Philae lander found a surface as hard as ice and organic molecules after it bounced to a stop on a comet last week.

Scientists looking over the spoils from the plucky little Philae probe released some of the first results from the mission Monday after a hectic week of descent preparations, a dramatic landing that included three touchdowns, and more than 60 hours of data gathering.

“We have collected a great deal of valuable data, which could only have been acquired through direct contact with the comet,” said Ekkehard Kuhrt, scientific director for the Philae mission at DLR — the German space agency. “Together with the measurements performed by the Rosetta orbiter, we are well on our way to achieving a greater understanding of comets. Their surface properties appear to be quite different than was previously thought.”

After coming to rest on its side, Philae continued transmitting data intermittently when in range of Rosetta, the European-built orbiter that deployed the refrigerator-sized lander for its descent Wednesday.

Rosetta continues flying around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, with at least another year of observations planned as the icy world moves toward the sun. It will heat up and give off more gas and dust through perihelion — its closest approach to the sun — in August 2015.

Before its battery died, Philae unfurled an instrument boom to study the comet’s surface properties. The MUPUS instrument was designed to hammer into the nucleus about 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) from the lander, and data show the system worked as planned despite Philae’s precarious position lodged against a rocky face at an angle with one leg pointing into space.

“Although the power of the hammer was gradually increased, we were not able to go deep into the surface,” said Tilman Spohn, head of the MUPUS instrument on Philae. “We have acquired a wealth of data, which we must now analyze.”

According to a DLR press release, the MUPUS team estimates the outer skin of the comet’s nucleus — at least where Philae settled after its bouncy landing — is as hard as ice.

“With MUPUS it has been possible to directly study the strength of a comet’s surface for the first time — and 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko proved to be a ‘tough nut to crack,’” DLR said in a statement Monday.

The MUPUS sensors were supposed to measure the comet’s temperature, the mechanical properties of its surface, and its thermal conductivity.

Only thermal and acceleration sensors in Philae’s two harpoons were not used, DLR said, because the anchoring system was not deployed during landing.

Data collected by Philae’s SESAME experiment suite support MUPUS results indicating the comet’s unexpected toughness. Early findings also show a low level of cometary activity at the probe’s landing site and a large amount of water ice under the lander, according to DLR.

“The strength of the ice founds under a layer of dust on the first landing site is surprisingly high,” said Klaus Seidensticker from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research, lead scientist on the SESAME instrument package, which was expected to study the comet’s composition and electrical, structural and mechanical characteristics.

On Friday — the lander’s last day of operations — ground controllers sent commands to activate Philae’s drill. The system was designed to collect core samples a few inches deep and deliver the material into two of the lander’s instruments — ovens that would have heated up the bits of rock or ice to measure their make-up.

While officials said Monday it was clear the drill worked, they could not say whether it gathered samples and deposited them in the lander’s instruments.

One of Philae’s sample analysis sensors — named COSAC — did collect data in “sniff” mode and detected organic molecules, presumably outgassing just above the comet’s surface.

Philae’s descent imaging camera was also switched back on and took up-close images of the comet’s nucleus at the lander’s final resting site. The down-facing camera also recorded imagery of Philae’s descent to the craft’s initial landing site before it rebounded to two more touchdowns.

Scientists were also able to use Philae in conjunction with Rosetta to study the comet’s internal structure, DLR said.

“To achieve this, the lander and orbiter were on different sides of the comet and worked together to analyse the comet nucleus by passing radio signals through it and creating a three-dimensional profile of the core,” the DLR statement said.

Scientists are hopeful Philae will recharge its batteries in the coming weeks and months, allowing for the mission to resume as the comet nears the sun.

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Space

In 200 light years from us, six planets emit an amazing “melody”

In 200 light years from us, six planets emit an amazing "melody" 99

Astronomers have discovered a system of six exoplanets orbiting a star with a specific orbital resonance.

The star system known as TOI-178 is located about 200 light years from us and includes six planets, five of which form a resonant chain, that is, they revolve around the central star in a strictly specified rhythm, and their densities, on the contrary, do not follow the regularity we are used to, according to Forbes.

In the video, the melody plays when the planet passes either full orbit or half of it, and when they line up at these points, they begin to play in resonance. TOI-178 is a really strange star system. Its innermost planet orbits in two days, while the slowest in 20. 

A similar orbital resonance is observed, for example, in the satellites of Jupiter: Io, Europa and Ganymede. While the farthest, Ganymede makes one complete revolution, Europa makes two, and the closest to Jupiter Io – four. This means that they play the same melody in different octaves. 

However, the planets orbiting the TOI-178 star are in a much more complex resonance circuit, obeying the 18: 9: 6: 4: 3 rule. This is the longest resonant pattern known among planetary systems.

Only after the discovery of a kind of “melody” of the TOI-178 star system, astronomers discovered the sixth planet. They used resonance rhythm to calculate where the additional planet would be in its orbit. 

An amazing “rhythm dance” was discovered with the Very Large Telescope (VLT) of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Chile. However, this is not just an orbital curiosity. 

“The orbits in this system are very strictly ordered. This tells us that since its formation, it has developed extremely smoothly and calmly,” – Yann Alibert explained, co-author of the study at the University of Bern. 

But even if the arrangement of the orbits in the system is so delicately ordered, everything is much worse with the densities of the planets.

“Here we see that a planet as dense as the Earth is located in the neighborhood of a“ bloated ”one, which has a density half that of Neptune. And after it comes a planet with a density like Neptune. not what we’re used to,” Nathan Hara notes, another study author at the University of Geneva.

However, in addition to the fact that astronomers talk a lot about how TOI-178 was formed, they hope that further study of it will provide important clues about how planets form and evolve in planetary systems.

“This contrast between the rhythmic harmony of orbital motions and the disordered densities of planets completely contradicts our understanding of the formation and development of planetary systems,” Adrien Leleu added, an astrophysicist at the University of Bern in Switzerland who led the study. 

map, constellation Sculptor
This map shows the location of the planetary system TOI-178 in the constellation Sculptor. The map includes most of the stars visible to the naked eye under good conditions, and the location of the system is indicated by a red circle.[ – ]+Photo: ESO, IAU AND SKY & TELESCOPE

The article even argues that resonances and density variations found in the TOI-178 star system could make it the “Rosetta Stone” in understanding the formation and evolution of planets. 

If researchers manage to find planets in the “habitable zone” of a star, where liquid water can exist on their surface, this will be an important and turning point for science. 

Scientists hope that by continuing the resonance chain and using ESO’s upcoming Extremely Large Telescope, they will be able to find more planets and capture them. 

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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 100
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 101

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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Why the universe does not fit into science

Why the universe does not fit into science 102
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 103

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 104

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 105

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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