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Scientists discovered a copy of our Earth and the Sun three thousand light years away

Scientists discovered a copy of our Earth and the Sun three thousand light years away 86

The Kepler-160 star and its satellite KOI-456.04 are more reminiscent of the Sun-Earth system than any previously known exoplanet star pair.

The Kepler-160 star probably has an orbit on a planet that is almost twice the size of Earth. The distance from the star to the planet allows you to allow the temperature of the surface of the planet, contributing to the development of life. Recently discovered by a group of scientists led by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of the Solar System (MPS) in Göttingen (Germany), the exoplanet is more than just a potentially inhabited world.

One of the key properties that makes this world look more like the Sun-Earth system than any other previously known world is its star, similar to the Sun. Most of the exoplanets known so far similar to the Earth are found in orbit around faint stars – red dwarfs that emit their energy mainly in the form of infrared radiation, and not visible light. However, the light emitted by a star like the Sun is very similar to daylight on our home planet. Moreover, the KOI-456.04 orbital period around the star is almost identical to the Earth year.

Space telescopes such as CoRoT, Kepler, and TESS have allowed scientists to discover about 4,000 extra-solar planets (planets around distant stars) over the past 14 years. Most of these planets are the size of the gas giant Neptune, about four times the size of the Earth, which are in relatively close orbits around their host stars.

Scientists have also discovered several small exoplanets, like Earth, which could potentially be rocky. A handful of these small planets are also at the right distance from their stars to potentially have moderate surface temperatures for the presence of liquid surface water – the main ingredient of life on Earth.

“The full picture of planet habitability also includes a glimpse of the quality of a star,” explains Dr. Rene Heller, MPS scientist and lead author of the new study. 

Until now, almost all exoplanets are twice as large as the Earth, which can potentially have a mild surface temperature, are in orbit around red dwarfs.

Red dwarfs are known for their extremely long life. Life on an exoplanet in orbit around an old red dwarf can potentially last twice as long as life on Earth – for formation and development. But the radiation from the red dwarf star is mostly infrared, and not visible light, as we know it.

Many red dwarfs are also known for emitting high-energy flares and frying their planets, which subsequently become unsuitable for habitation.

Scientists discovered a copy of our Earth and the Sun three thousand light years away 87

Moreover, their weakness requires that any inhabited planet be so close to the star that stellar gravity begins to significantly deform the planet. As a result of tidal heating on the planet, deadly global volcanism can occur. The habitability of the planets around red dwarfs is widely discussed in the scientific community.

In a new research article, a group of scientists from MPS, the Sonneberg Observatory, the University of Gottingen, the University of California at Santa Cruz, and NASA announced the discovery of a candidate for a planet that is twice the size of the Earth and with moderate light from a solar star.

The star Kepler-160 is located at a distance of just over 3000 light years from the solar system. She was constantly in sight of the main mission of the Kepler telescope and was constantly observed from 2009 to 2013. Its radius is 1.1 of the radius of the Sun, and the surface temperature is 5200 degrees Celsius (300 degrees less than that of the Sun). It has a star-like luminosity very similar to the Sun, making it an astrophysical photograph of our own star.

The Kepler-160 star is known to be the host star of two exoplanets called Kepler-160b and Kepler-160c. Both of these planets are much larger than the Earth and are in relatively close orbits around their star.

Their surface temperature certainly makes them hotter than a baking oven. But the tiny changes in the orbital period of the planet Kepler-160c gave scientists hope for the discovery of a third planet.

A team of German and American scientists returned to archival data from the Kepler telescope to find additional planets around this star and check the planetary origin of the Kepler-160c orbit. Heller and his colleagues previously successfully discovered 18 forgotten exoplanets according to old Kepler data.

When searching for exoplanets, scientists usually look for repeated changes in the brightness of stars. These temporary blackouts, usually only one percent or less of the apparent brightness of the stars, can be caused by the fact that the planets pass through the disks of their stars – when viewed from Earth.

Their new search algorithm was critical to discovering a new candidate for the transit planet KOI-456.04. “Our analysis shows that Kepler-160 has not two, but four planets,” Heller summarizes the new study.

One of the two planets found by Heller and his colleagues is Kepler-160d, the previously suspected planet responsible for the distorted orbit of Kepler-160s. Kepler-160d does not show any transitions on the star’s light curve, and this was confirmed indirectly.

Another planet, formally a candidate for the planet, is KOI-456.04, probably a transit planet with a radius of 1.9 Earth radius and a period of 378 days. Considering its sun-like star, the orbital period very similar to the Earth, the distance from the star very similar to the Earth – both in terms of the amount of light received and in terms of the color of light.

The light from Kepler-160 is visible light, very similar to sunlight. Given all this, the planet KOI-456.04 is located in the habitable zone of the star – a range of distances around the star that allows the presence of liquid water on the surface.

“KOI-456.01 is relatively large compared to many other planets that are considered potentially habitable. But it is the combination of this planetary size and a solar-type host star that makes it so special and familiar, ”Heller explains.

As a result, the surface conditions on KOI-456.04 can be similar to those known on Earth, provided that its atmosphere is not too massive and similar to the Earth. The amount of light received from the host star is about 93 percent of the sunlight received by the Earth. If KOI-456.04 has a mostly inert atmosphere with a soft, Earth-like greenhouse effect, then its surface temperature will be on average +5 degrees Celsius, which is about ten degrees below the average global temperature of the Earth.

At present, it cannot be completely ruled out that KOI-456.04 is actually a statistical randomness or systematic measurement error instead of a real planet. The team estimates the chances of having the planet KOI-456.04 at 85%, and 99% is required to obtain the official status of the planet.

While some of the Earth’s most powerful ground-based telescopes could confirm this candidate with observations during one of his upcoming transits, there is also hope that the future PLATO (ESA) space mission will be able to do this. It is planned that PLATO will be launched in 2026, and one of its main scientific goals is the discovery of planets the size of the Earth around stars similar to the Sun.

MPS is currently building a PLATO data center and is actively participating in the PLATO mission. If PLATO is oriented in such a way as to revise the data of the main Kepler mission, then KOI-456.04 will be able to become a confirmed planet and be studied by PLATO in more detail.



Why the universe does not fit into science

Why the universe does not fit into science 88
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 89

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 90

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.

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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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An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars 92

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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Possible “portals” to distant regions of the Universe found in space

Possible "portals" to distant regions of the Universe found in space 93

Scientists have found in space possible “portals” to distant regions of the universe. They could be some supermassive black holes in the center of galaxies. This is reported by the Monthly Notices of the Royal Society magazine. In theory, a spaceship can pass through such portals.

Russian scientists have found that black holes in very bright galaxies may be the entrances to these “portals” or “wormholes”. In theory, a spaceship can pass through such portals. However, they are surrounded by intense radiation, which negates the crew’s chances of survival.

The similarity between a wormhole and a black hole is that they have extremely strong gravity. However, as scientists believe, the body cannot get out of the black hole, falling beyond the event horizon, while the “wormhole” must have an exit somewhere else in space.

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So, experts say, the collision of two bodies inside a wormhole in images from space would look like an explosion. That is, the active galactic nucleus (AGN), which seemed to be such earlier, may in fact be the entrance to the “portal”.

Russian physicist Mikhail Piotrovich emphasizes that scientists still know little about the internal structure of the “wormhole.” Moreover, they are not even sure that such a phenomenon exists at all. In addition, the closest object similar to it is 13 million light-years away, so humans are unlikely to be able to reach it in the foreseeable future.

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