Yesterday, however, news emerged that the ground based telescopes of the MEarth Project in Arizona had located a transiting water world orbiting a star very much like ours. Though the second so-called super-Earth, this one is interesting because subsequent observations in South America have demonstrated that this planet has an atmosphere - though perhaps not for long, given the proximity to its host. Paul Gilster at Centauri Dreams provided this other bit of interesting news.
At a distance of 1.3 million miles, the planet orbits its star every 38 hours, with an estimated temperature a little over 200 degrees Celsius. Because GJ 1214b transits the star, astronomers are able to measure its radius, which turns out to be 2.7 times that of Earth. The density derived from this suggests a composition of about three-fourths water and other ices and one-fourth rock.
The atmospheric pressures and resulting lack of light reaching the planet's surface make life improbable, or at least unlike anything we might know, but it's another step along the path toward what could be truly extraordinary find in our lifetimes.
The credit for the artist's impression of GJ 1214b goes to ESO/L. Calçada.
"James Cameron’s new movie Avatar depicts a gas giant with a habitable moon around it, and the MarketSaw editors are interested in whether such a planet could exist around one of the Centauri stars."
Posting parts of an interview with Yale astronomer Debra Fischer, Paul Gilster connects popular entertainment and the search for planets around our closest stellar neighbor. MarketSaw is a blog that reviews 3D motion pictures and recently interviewed Fischer. The stellar companions are of course the triple Centauri system, a mere four light years away from our star.
The discovery is exciting because it suggests that low-mass planets could be numerous in our galaxy.
'From [our] results, we know now that at least 40% of solar-type stars have low-mass planets. This is really important because it means that low-mass planets are everywhere, basically,' explained Stephane Udry from Geneva University, Switzerland.
'What's very interesting is that models are predicting them, and we are finding them; and furthermore the models are predicting even more lower-mass planets like the Earth.'
The report pushes the number of known exoplanets to over 400.
Discovered: Antarctic microbe hibernating for a million and a half years with no food, sunlight. Such "extremophiles" might hold implications for life elsewhere.
The fact that organisms can survive in extreme — seemingly lethal — conditions is nothing new. Researchers have found creatures living at boiling vents on the floor of the ocean, in desert sands that virtually never see water; fossilized remains of microorganisms have even been found inside of rocks. Antarctic life, however, has always been a more complex matter. Antarctica was once a warmer, wetter land than it is now, but continental migration pushed it from place to place, leaving it — for the current epoch at least — at the bottom of the planet, where it became little more than a frozen desert. Its valleys are some of the driest places on the Earth, receiving less than 4 inches of precipitation per year. Species that thrived when Antarctica was green would have been entirely wiped out, unless they could adapt — and fast.
Robert Z, Space Flight Laboratory, University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies, is up.
Programs include MOST, an astronomy satellite, the CanX series, and NTS - nanosat tracking of ships. NTS is passively magnetically stabilized.
MOST fixes on starts to gauge characteristics of the stars. It's pointing capability is impressive. Now imaging about 30 stars at a time.
CanX2 is a 3U with propulsion system experiment - it's not designed to change orbit.
He describesthe launch campaign, which uses Indian PLLV-C9. Space Flight Laboratory can act a flight facilitator and he invites other flyers. As for ITAR, if Canada sends technology to the states, restrictions are much less onerous.
He points out that XPOD and PPOD will accept any standard CubeSat.
Their sats employ S-band and UHF ground stations. The S-band is networked to other locations.
CanX-2 and CanX-6 are one month away from one year anniversary on orbit.
Nanosat space astronomy mission, BRight Target Explorer (CanX-3) uses nanosatellite star tracker developed in Canada to contribute to BRITE is only 6Kg. MOST is 53Kg.
CanX 4 and 5 will employ formation flying, which could enable stereo imaging, among other technical achievements. They will employ intersatellite communications and three axis attitude control. The bus developed for multi-missions is very versatile.
Have looked at generic nanosatellite missions to the moon and Mars.
Commercial future for these sats? Work left in miniaturization and power reduction technology. De-orbiting requirement, efficient propulsion systems needed.
Flight Laboratory, Funding comes from sixty percent foreign. No funding from university itself. That's it.