Showing posts from January, 2020

A teenager discovered a new planet on the third day of his NASA internship Source:   By Lateshia Beachum, The Washington Post. Excerpt: Most people sit through countless orientations on the first few days of their job, but one teen discovered a planet — on his third day. Wolf Cukier, 17, of Scarsdale, N.Y., had wrapped up his junior year of high school when he headed off to intern in the summer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., where he discovered a planet orbiting two stars. The planet, now known as TOI 1338 b, is nearly seven times as large as Earth and has two stars — one that’s about 10 percent more massive than our sun and another only a third of the sun’s mass and less bright, according to NASA [ ]. ...Cukier had a framework of what to look for based on his exploration of the Planet Hunters TESS citizen science proj

Just a Fainting Spell? Or Is Betelgeuse About to Blow? Source:  By Dennis Overbye, The New York Times. Excerpt: Is Betelgeuse about to blow? Probably not, but astronomers are having fun thinking about it. Over the last three months, the star, which marks the armpit of Orion the hunter, has mysteriously dimmed to less than half its normal brightness, markedly altering one of the great sights of the winter sky. At the beginning of January the star was fainter than ever before observed, according to Edward Guinan of Villanova University, who has been compiling data on Betelgeuse. In its “fainting” spell, Dr. Guinan said, the star has dropped from seventh to twenty-first on the list of brightest stars in the sky. ...All this has raised the issue of Betelgeuse’s mortality, and its cosmic endgame. ...That will be quite a show. Betelgeuse is only 700 light years from Earth, far enough to not kill us when it goes, but close enough to impress; the supernova would be

How many of our comets come from alien solar systems? Source:   By Eva Frederick, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Comets are generally thought to originate in our Solar System, made up of the leftover gas and rocks thrown out as the planets formed. The recent arrival of two interstellar objects—a rock named ‘Oumuamua and a flashy comet called Borisov—have challenged that assumption. Tom Hands, an astrophysicist at the University of Zurich’s Institute for Computational Science and his co-author Walter Dehnen at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich used mathematical models to estimate just how many long-period comets—those that take 200 years or longer to circle the Sun—could be interstellar visitors. ...We estimated from the study that there should be 100,000 ‘Oumuamua-style small rocks and 100 Borisov-style comets in the Solar System. Making far more conservative estimates for how long these objects would survive in the Solar System [shorter than 10 mill