Another nearby planet found that may be just right for life
Astronomers have found yet another planet that seems to have just the right Goldilocks combination for life: Not so hot and not so cold. It's not so far away, either.
This new, big, dense planet is rocky, like Earth, and has the right temperatures for water, putting it in the habitable zone for life, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature .
It's the fifth such life-possible planet outside our solar system revealed in less than a year, but still relatively nearby Earth. Rocky planets within that habitable zone of a star are considered the best place to find evidence of some form of life.
"It is astonishing to live in a time when discovery of potentially habitable worlds is not only commonplace but proliferating," said MIT astronomer Sara Seager, who wasn't part of the study.
The first planet outside our solar system was discovered in 1995, but thanks to new techniques and especially NASA's planet-hunting Kepler telescope, the number of them has exploded in recent years. Astronomers have now identified 52 potentially habitable planets and more than 3,600 planets outside our solar system.
The latest discovery, called LHS 1140b, regularly passes in front of its star, allowing astronomers to measure its size and mass. That makes astronomers more confident that this one is rocky, compared to other recent discoveries.
In the next several years, new telescopes should be able to use the planet's path to spy its atmosphere in what could be the best-aimed search for signs of life, said Harvard astronomer David Charbonneau, a co-author of the study. If scientists see both oxygen and some carbon in an atmosphere, that's a promising sign that something could be living.
Outside astronomers have already put this new planet near the top of their must-see lists for new ground and space-based telescopes.
"This is the first one where we actually know it's rocky," Charbonneau said. "We found a planet that we can actually study that might be actually Earth-like."
Make that super-sized, because it belongs to a class of planets called super-Earths that are more massive than Earth but not quite the size of giants Neptune or Jupiter.
Compared to Earth, the new planet is big, pushing near the size limit for rocky planets. It's 40 percent wider than Earth but it has 6.6 times Earth's mass, giving it a gravitational pull three times stronger, Charbonneau said. A person weighing 167 pounds would feel like 500 pounds on this planet.
While many super-Earths are too big to have the right environment for life, 1140b is just small enough to make it a good candidate. Thirty-two of the potentially habitable planets found so far are considered super-Earth sized.
The new planet was found using eight small telescopes in Chile and help from an amateur planet-hunter, Charbonneau said.
In the constellation Cetus, it is 39 light years or 230 trillion miles away. So are a group of seven mostly Earth-sized planets in or near the habitable zone found circling a star called Trappist-1 earlier this year, but it in a different direction. And in August, astronomers found that the nearest planet to Earth outside our solar system, only 25 trillion miles away, also could have the right temperature for life, but astronomers can't get a peek at its atmosphere.
"If you picture the Milky Way as the size of the United States, then these systems are all within the size of Central Park," Charbonneau said. "These are your neighbors."
The latest discoveries have their founders at odds over which of the planets are the most promising. Charbonneau said recent studies show that the Trappist planets may not be rocky like Earth, while Trappist discoverer Michael Gillon said the newest planet has such intense gravity that its atmosphere may be smooshed down so telescopes can't get a good look at it.
Seven outside astronomers said the Milky Way is big enough for all the discoveries to be exciting, requiring more exploring.
Yale astronomer Greg Laughlin, who wasn't part of any of the teams, praised all the new findings but said the Trappist planets seem too light and the new one too dense for his taste: "I wouldn't book a trip to any of these planets."
Jaywalkers to face fine from May 30
The Metropolitan Traffic Police Division (MTPD) is to fine jaywalkers Rs 200 per person effective from May 30. Chief of the MTPD, Deputy Inspector General Mingmar Lama said the Division is also to conduct a road safety campaign to reduce the number of road fatalities in view of 40 percent of the total deaths in a year resulting from road accidents involving pedestrians.
Lady Justice statue removed from Bangladesh court complex
A statue of Lady Justice was removed from Bangladesh’s Supreme Court premises under tight security after Islamist hard-liners pressed for its removal, the sculptor said Friday. The statue of a woman holding a scale and sword in her hands was installed in December outside the court building. The woman is wrapped in a sari, a Bangladeshi revision of the usual representation, the Greek goddess Themis blindfolded and clad in a gown.
Two boys missing in Narayani River found dead
Two boys, who went missing in the Narayani River on Thursday, were found dead Friday. Ashish Shrestha, 18, of Gaindakot-1 and Bhupendra KC, 17, of Gaindakot-8 went missing on Thursday in course of swimming.
- Sole gharial in Chitwan National Park found dead
Pilgrim drowns in Gosaikunda
A pilgrim drowned in a lake in Gosaikunda Friday morning while taking a holy dip. The deceased has been identified as Rojina Karki, 40, of Naikap of Chandragiri Municipality-14, Kathmandu, police said. She arrived here along with her kin three days ago on a religious trip to observe the Ganga Dasahara Festival kicked off from today.
Oops! Deuba does it again
Deuba and Dahal have made a mockery of the constitutional provision of impeachment as a weapon of last resort with its preemptive registration as a tactical move to stop CJ Karki from delivering justice. This will set a bad precedent and there will be more such tactical use of impeachment in the future considering how justices at the SC are being appointed in political quotas in recent times.
Challenges for reconstruction
One of the major challenges faced in the reconstruction process of Nepal is the absence of elected local government. Lack of government in local level was reflected in the major pre-disaster and post-disaster events, where it took months to reach the affected region and still no widely-accepted data is available. In the absence of an elected local government, top-down approach of governance has its own accountability deficit.
Apil KC/Keshab Sharma
Jhamsikhel as I knew
Hari-ko-pasal, right at the said junction used to be the place to buy any household item ranging from food grains and other household items. There was nothing that he did not have. Most often he loved keeping his customers waiting, more so if they were younger. He kept his client engaged with jokes and tole gossip.
Empowering local bodies
It is common to rent a room or two based on nothing more than a verbal contract. There are two types of owners. There are many who rent legal properties informally and those who rent out illegally built ones. The rental space demand is so much that owners openly flout bylaws by building more number of floors than approved. It is difficult, as it is, to bring both type of owners within the system.
Traffic Police in Kathmandu
As busy and hassling as the traffic system in Kathmandu is, the Traffic Police here have to handle an equally strenuous job. Over 1,400 traffic officers in and around the Kathmandu Valley battle against the pestering traffic and air pollution each day.
Menstrual taboo outdated
I have seen my sisters and friends isolated and treated in discriminatory manner during their first menstruation cycle. They were not allowed to look at the sun, to touch water source, flower, fruits, any male family member, nor even hear their voice. The activist may claim the situation has changed and I do agree but still during every month my loved ones turns into untouchables beings.