On March 24, 2017, astronomers led by Carnegie’s Meredith MacGregor and Alycia Weinberger discovered that a giant stellar flare erupted from Proxima Centauri, the closest star to the Sun (Proxima Centauri means ‘nearest [star] of Centaurus’), using data from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA). The huge flare was 10 times larger than a major solar flare. And it blasted Proxima Centauri b (also called Proxima b), the exoplanet orbiting within the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, with 4,000 times more radiation than Earth gets from solar flares. The event probably wiped out the exoplanet’s atmosphere (if exists any), and dimmed the last hopes of extraterrestrial life on it. This finding is published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters on February 22, 2018.
Continue reading Huge Proxima Centauri flare blasts nearest exoplanet Proxima b
Good news for the search for extraterrestrial life: the TRAPPIST-1 System might be rich (very rich!) in water and all of the planets are mostly made of rock. Using data from NASA’s Spitzer and Kepler space telescopes, researchers calculated the densities of TRAPPIST-1 planets more precisely than ever, and they determined that all of the planets are mostly made of rock. Additionally, some have up to 5 percent of their mass in water, which is around 250 times more than the oceans on Earth. Researchers published their findings in a recent study in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics titled “The nature of the TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets” .
Continue reading Hubble Observes Atmospheres of TRAPPIST-1 Exoplanets in the Habitable Zone
Are we alone in the Universe? Or any other life forms exist out there? A new study, published on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)Notes 1 suggests that the life emerged so early on Earth – it should be widespread. In other words, the Universe should be filled with life.
The story goes back to 1982. 35 years ago, UCLA Scholar and Pioneer in Study of the Evolution of Life, J. William Schopf collected 3.465-billion-year-old fossils from the Apex Chert in western Australia, and interpreted them as early life. When he described the fossils in the journal Science in 1993, critics had argued that they were not early lifeforms – they were just odd minerals that only looked like biological specimens.
Continue reading The oldest fossils suggest that life should be common in the Universe
Using data from exoplanet-hunting Kepler Space Telescope and machine learning algorithm from Google, researchers discovered an 8th planet orbiting a distant star. The newly discovered planet is circling Kepler-90, a G-type main sequence star (Sun-like star), 2,545 light years from Earth. It is named Kepler-90i.
According to the press release from NASA, Kepler-90i is “a sizzling hot, rocky planet that orbits its star once every 14.4 day“. In this case, computers using Google’s machine learning algorithm, “learned” to identify planets by finding in Kepler data instances where the telescope recorded signals from planets beyond our solar system, known as exoplanets.
Continue reading Watch: An 8th Planet Orbiting a Distant Star was Discovered using Artificial Intelligence and Kepler data
On June 19, 2017, NASA’s Kepler space telescope team has released a mission catalog of planet candidates. The final catalog introduces 219 new exoplanet candidates, and 10 of them are near-Earth-size and orbiting their stars in the circumstellar habitable zone. Notes 1
This the eighth release of the Kepler candidate catalog. With this release, there are now 4,034 planet candidates (as of June 21, 2017) identified by Kepler space telescope, which launched by NASA on March 7, 2009, to discover Earth-size planets orbiting other stars. Of those, 2,335 have been verified as exoplanets. Of roughly 50 near-Earth size habitable zone candidates detected by Kepler, more than 30 have been verified. All the Kepler’s catalog is publicly available on NASA Exoplanet Archive.
Continue reading NASA Announces 10 New Earth Sized Planets Orbiting in Habitable Zone
Scientists spotted water in the atmosphere of 51 Pegasi b, one of the first exoplanets ever been discovered. It is around 50 light years away – so we can call it a “nearby” exoplanet – and it is in the constellation of Pegasus.
51 Pegasi b has not marked a breakthrough in astronomical research for the first time: back in 1995, it was the first exoplanet to be discovered orbiting a main-sequence star. The first confirmed exoplanet discovery came in 1992 when several terrestrial-mass planets orbiting the pulsar PSR B1257+12.
Continue reading Water found on the exoplanet 51 Pegasi b
Proxima Centauri b, the Earth-like planet orbiting the red dwarf Proxima Centauri may have oceans, scientists say. The planet was discovered in August 2016 and caused excitement because it’s in the habitable zone of its star, and it’s rocky. And it’s in the Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to us!
Continue reading Proxima Centauri b May Have Oceans
Researches of France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) have calculated the size and surface properties of the planet and concluded it may be an “ocean planet” similar to Earth. There are possibilities, though, it may have continents and oceans like Earth, or its entire surface may be covered by a massive ocean.
On August 24, 2016, a group of scientists led by Dr. Guillem Anglada-Escude at the Queen Mary University of London, announced the discovery of a terrestrial exoplanet orbiting the red dwarf Proxima Centauri, the nearest known star to the Sun. Proxima Centauri is a Latin idiom, meaning “nearest (star) of Centaurus” (1). The new planet is named Proxima Centauri b and it is predicted to be orbiting within the habitable zone!
Continue reading Proxima Centauri b: Did We Find Earth’s Cousin?
On March 17, 1941, John W. Campbell, editor of Astounding Science Fiction, asked Isaac Asimov that: “What, if people see the stars once in a thousand of years?” Campbell has had read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 1836 essay “Nature” and Emerson was saying in the first chapter that “If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore, and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God!”
Continue reading Planet with Three Suns
Campbell wanted Asimov to read that quote, and asked him the question above, “What if people see the stars once in a thousand of years?” Asimov said, “I don’t know…” Campbell said: “I think men would go mad.” And he added: “Now, go and write a story about that.”
NASA’s space observatory Kepler may have discovered a possibly Earth-like planet, a rocky world orbiting a Sun-like star at almost the exact same distance Earth orbits our own Sun: Kepler-452b!
Continue reading Earth 2.0: Kepler-452b
“The new Earth” is located 1,400 light-years from us. It orbits a Sun-like star that is 4% more massive and 10% brighter than our Sun. Kepler-452b is 1.6 times the size of Earth and the scientists are fairly sure that it is a rocky world.