It looks like we may have to update our theories on how stars and planets form in new solar systems. A team of astronomers has discovered young planets forming in a solar system that’s only about 500,000 years old. Prior to this discovery, astronomers thought that stars are well into their adult life of fusion before planets formed from left over material in the circumstellar disk.
Now, according to a new study, it looks like planets and stars can form and grow up together.
Continue reading “Planets Don’t Wait for Their Star to Form First”
NASA’s TESS planet-finding spacecraft completed its primary mission about 3 months ago. TESS’s (Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite) job was to search the brightest stars nearest to Earth for transiting exoplanets. It found 74 confirmed exoplanets, with another ~1200 candidates awaiting confirmation.
It surveyed 75% of the sky during its two-year primary mission, and now NASA has released a composite image of the northern sky, made up of more than 200 individual images.
Continue reading “Time Flies. NASA Releases a Mosaic of TESS’ View of the Northern Sky After Two Years of Operation”
That’s the kind of headline that can leave us scratching our heads. How can you see tree shadows on other worlds, when those planets are tens or hundreds of light years—or even further—away. As it turns out, there might be a way to do it.
One team of researchers thinks that the idea could potentially be used to answer one of humanity’s long-standing questions: Are we alone?
Continue reading “Here’s a Clever Idea, Looking for the Shadows of Trees On Exoplanets to Detect Multicellular Life”
Located 63.4 light-years from Earth in the constellation Pictor is the young and bright blue star, Beta Pictoris. In 2008, observations conducted from the ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile confirmed the presence of an extrasolar planet. This planet was Beta Pictoris b, a Super-Jupiter with an orbital period of up between 6890 and 8890 days (~19 to 24 years) that was confirmed by directly imaging it as it passed behind the star.
In August of 2019, a second planet was detected (another Super-Jupiter) orbiting closer to Beta Pictoris. However, due to its proximity to its parent star, it could only be studied through indirect means (radial velocity measurements). After conducting a reanalysis of data obtained by the VLT, astronomers with the GRAVITY collaboration were able to confirm the existence of Beta Pictoris c through direct imaging.
Continue reading “Those are Exoplanets. You’re Looking at Actual Exoplanets 63 Light-Years Away!”
Using a variety of techniques astronomers have successfully identified thousands of exoplanets, which are planets orbiting stars outside of our own solar system. But a new research paper introduces a breakthrough: the first detection of an exoplanet not just in another solar system, but in an entirely different galaxy sitting millions of light years away.
Continue reading “Astronomers think they’ve found an exoplanet in a galaxy 23 million light-years away”
The ESA’s CHEOPS (Characterizing Exoplanets Satellite) mission has announced its first discovery. It’s called WASP-189 b, and it’s a blistering hot temperature of 3,200 °C (5,790 °F), hotter than some stars. They’re calling the planet an “ultra-hot Jupiter.”
Continue reading “Cheops Finds a World That’s Utterly Alien From Anything We Have in the Solar System”
Scientists are getting better at understanding exoplanets. We now know that they’re plentiful, and that they can even orbit dead white dwarf stars. Researchers are also getting better at understanding how they form, and what they’re made of.
A new study says that some carbon-rich exoplanets could be made of silica, and even diamonds, under the right circumstances.
Continue reading “There Could Be Carbon-Rich Exoplanets Made Of Diamonds”
The Search for Life can be a lot messier than it sounds. The three words make a nice, tidy title, but what it entails is extraordinarily difficult. How, in this vast galaxy, can we find life and the planets or moons that might host it? We’re barely at the point of either discovering or ruling out other life in our own Solar System.
Finding it somewhere else in the galaxy, even in our own interstellar neighbourhood, is a task so daunting it can be hard to comprehend.
So any time scientists think they’ve found something that can give them an edge in their near-impossible task, it deserves to be talked about.
Continue reading “Searching for Phosphorus in Other Stars”
Advances in technology are having a profound impact on astronomy and astrophysics. At one end, we have advanced hardware like adaptive optics, coronographs, and spectrometers that allow for more light to be gathered from the cosmos. At the other end, we have improved software and machine learning algorithms that are allowing for the data to be analyzed and mined for valuable nuggets of information.
One area of research where this is proving to be invaluable is in the hunt for exoplanets and the search for life. At the University of Warwick, technicians recently developed an algorithm that was able to confirm the existence of 50 new exoplanets. When used to sort through archival data, this algorithm was able to sort through a sample of candidates and determine which were actual planets and which were false positives.
Continue reading “Machine Learning Algorithm Scoops up 50 New Exoplanets”
In the past decade, the study of exoplanets has grown by leaps and bounds. At present, a total of 4,201 planets have been confirmed beyond the Solar System and another 5,481 candidates await confirmation. In the midst of all this, M-type red dwarf stars have become a focus of exoplanet research because they appear to be the most likely place where rocky (aka. Earth-like) planets can be found orbiting within the star’s habitable zone (HZ).
However, that does not mean that red dwarf stars are good candidates for hosting habitable planets. Take GJ 887, for example, one of the brightest M stars in the sky that has a system of two (possibly three) planets. In the past, this star was believed to be calm and stable, but new research by astronomers from Arizona State University has shown that GJ 887 might not be so calm as previously thought.
Continue reading “Astronomers Thought They’d Found a Red Dwarf That Wasn’t Hostile to its Habitable Zone Planets. They Were Wrong”