Universe

Stars die and reborn…They get so hot that the nuclei of the atoms fuse together deep within them to make the oxygen we breathe, the carbon in our muscles, the calcium in our bones, the iron in our blood. All was cooked in the fiery hearts of long vanished stars…The cosmos is also within us. We’re made of star stuff. We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.
— 

Carl Sagan

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Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star

So this is kind of a big deal. Astronomers have just discovered a new planet orbiting the closest star to our Sun, Proxima Centauri. The planet is called Proxima b and orbits the star every 11.2 days. It has a mass that is estimated to be 1.3 times the Earth’s. Unlike the Earth, though, it’s only 7.3 million kilometers from the star—much closer than Earth to the Sun—but Proxima is so faint and cool it receives about two-thirds the amount of light and heat the Earth does. Essentially that means that it’s in Proxima’s habitable zone which opens the possibility of liquid water on its surface.

Researchers estimate that if the planet has an atmosphere (which isn’t confirmed), it may be between 86 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit on the surface. Without an atmosphere, it could be -22 to -40 degrees Fahrenheit. To put that in perspective, Earth would be -4 degrees if it didn’t have an atmosphere.

Before we go all Interstellar and have Matthew McConaughey check it out, though, it is 40 trillion km away, which means even the fastest ship would still take tens of thousands of years to get there! 

LEARN MORE (via Slate)

Psychedelic Saturn 

Saturn’s rings were bright and its northern hemisphere defined by bright features as NASA’s Voyager 2 approached Saturn, which it encountered on Aug. 25, 1981. Three images, taken through ultraviolet, violet and green filters on July 12, 1981, were combined to make this photograph. Voyager 2 was 43 million kilometers (27 million miles) from Saturn when it took this photograph. 

Credit: NASA/JPL

eso.org
Planet Found in Habitable Zone Around Nearest Star - Pale Red Dot Campaign reveals Earth-Mass World in Orbit around Proxima Centauri
Astronomers using ESO telescopes and other facilities have found clear evidence of a planet orbiting the closest star to Earth, Proxima Centauri. The long-sought world, designated Proxima b, orbits its cool red parent star every 11 days and has a temperature suitable for liquid water to exist on its surface. This rocky world is a little more massive than the Earth and is the closest exoplanet to us — and it may also be the closest possible abode for life outside the Solar System.
By information@eso.org

[…]

This discovery will be the beginning of extensive further observations, both with current instruments and with the next generation of giant telescopes such as the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT). Proxima b will be a prime target for the hunt for evidence of life elsewhere in the Universe. Indeed, the Alpha Centauri system is also the target of humankind’s first attempt to travel to another star system, the StarShot project.

Guillem Anglada-Escudé concludes: “Many exoplanets have been found and many more will be found, but searching for the closest potential Earth-analogue and succeeding has been the experience of a lifetime for all of us. Many people’s stories and efforts have converged on this discovery. The result is also a tribute to all of them. The search for life on Proxima b comes next…”

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