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January 30, 2015

Scientists find ancient solar system in Milky Way galaxy

Scientists find ancient solar system in Milky Way galaxy

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Friday, January 30, 2015

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Astronomers reported on Tuesday in The Astrophysical Journal they have found an ancient solar system with several Earth-like planets.

Artist’s concept of a rocky exoplanet (Kepler-37b). From file.

Image: NASA

They said the system dates roughly to the formation of the Milky Way galaxy. They found the planets orbiting around Kepler-444, about 117 light years from Earth. Researchers investigated Kepler-444 with NASA’s Kepler telescope using a method called astroseismology.

Scientists explain they studied the star and noticed planets passing in front of it because it created a dimming effect in which the star seems less bright for a short period of time, when there are actually planets passing between the observer and the star.

Because these planets are older than Earth, this suggests life might have existed in the early universe, the researchers say.

According to Daniel Huber, part of the research team at the University of Sydney, it takes under ten days for these five planets to orbit the star and all of them are too close to it to sustain life. These planets are smaller than Earth, with the largest compared to Venus.

This month, the number of exoplanets found using the Kepler telescope passed 1,000.


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December 13, 2008

Wikinews Shorts: December 13, 2008

Wikinews Shorts: December 13, 2008 – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikinews Shorts: December 13, 2008

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A compilation of brief news reports for Saturday, December 13, 2008.

President-Elect Obama’s inaugural donations to be listed online

President-Elect Obama in Austin, TX during the campaign. (Courtesy of Roxanne Mitchel)

The Presidential Inaugural Committee says it is “taking unprecedented steps to insure transparency in the public reporting of donors” by listing the names of individuals or organizations who donate over $200 towards President-Elect Barack Obama’s upcoming inaugural.

Logging onto http://www.pic2009.org/page/content/donors/ will show you a current list of over 169 current donors who have given at least that amount, and for most of the donors, much more. Donors include movie stars, real estate moguls, and sports stars, many of whom also contributed to Obama’s presidential campaign.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee states that it has raised almost $10 million dollars to cover the inaugural; and while that may seem like a large amount, the spending record for an inaugural is held by the current president, George W. Bush, with $42.8 million spent on his 2004 inaugural.


Scientists detect black hole at center of Milky Way Galaxy

A simulation of the black hole.

American and German astronomers have detected and confirmed that there is a ‘super-massive’ black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. It is approximately 27,000 light years from Earth, and four million times bigger than the Sun. Scientists say it plays a significant role in forming all galaxies.

The 16-year study was performed using two telescopes located in Chile. They discovered it by tracking the movement of over two dozen separate stars. The study will be published next month in The Astrophysical Journal.

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Zimbabwe accuses United Kingdom of causing cholera epidemic

An ally of Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe, Information Minister Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, has said that a cholera epidemic in the country, which killed hundreds of people, was caused by the United Kingdom.

Ndlovu said of the outbreak that it was a “genocidal onslaught on the people of Zimbabwe by the British.” It was compared to a “serious biological chemical weapon”.

This comes just a day after President Mugabe announced that the cholera epidemic had been stopped, contradicting aid workers saying that the crisis was only getting worse.

Mugabe has already accused Western powers of planning to use the epidemic as a reason to oust him.

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Colombia extradites drug lord to the United States

Montoya’s mugshot

Diego Montoya, who is alleged to be one of the Colombia’s most powerful drug lords, has been handed over to the United States authorities by Colombia to face trial. Montoya will face 12 charges, including those of murder, money laundering, and the trafficking of drugs. If convicted, he will serve no less than twenty years in prison.

Montoya was the leader of the Norte del Valle cartel, which is reported to have exported 70% of all the cocaine sold in both the European Union and the United States at its height. He was on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s “Top Ten” most wanted fugitives.

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Rare snowfall strikes southern United States

Snow has started falling in some southern states of the US, including Louisiana and Mississippi. As much as eight inches of snow were recorded, and thousands of people were left without power – one of Louisiana’s largest power suppliers, Cleco Corporation, reported ten thousand outages. Forecasters warned of dangerous driving conditions, and some flights at Louis Armstrong International Airport, located near New Orleans, were affected.

In New Orleans, snow fell today for the first time in four years. The largest snowfall amount for the city ever recorded is about 5 inches, on December 30, 1963.

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Pin-up queen Bettie Page dies at age 85

Bettie Page, a model who became famous for her pin-up photos, has died at the age of 85. Page died of complications from a heart attack on Thursday, December 11.

She was born Bettie Mae Page on April 22, 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee. She was also one of the earliest Playmates of the Month for Playboy magazine.

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Estonian law to allow voting by cell phone

The Parliament of Estonia has passed a law that will allow citizens to vote by mobile phone in the 2011 parliamentary elections. Voters will need free, authorized chips for their phones.

In last year’s elections, Estonians voted online. The country’s Reform Party proposed mobile voting in September 2007.

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February 23, 2007

NASA detects dry, dusty atmospheres on extrasolar planets

NASA detects dry, dusty atmospheres on extrasolar planets

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Friday, February 23, 2007

This artist’s illustration shows a dramatic close-up of the scorched extrasolar planet HD 209458b, informally known as Osiris, in its orbit only 4 million miles from its yellow, Sun-like star. The planet is a type of extrasolar planet known as a “hot Jupiter.”
Photo credit: European Space Agency, Alfred Vidal-Madjar (Institut d’Astrophysique de Paris, CNRS, France) and NASA.

NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope made news this week when it was announced that the space observatory had, for the first time, captured enough light to detect molecules in the atmospheres of planets outside the solar system.

The planets are too far away to be observed directly with current technology, but by measuring the spectra of each planet when visible with its star, and again when the planet was hidden behind its star, the teams were able to determine the measurements of the planets spectra.

In a paper published in the February 22 issue of Nature, Dr. Jeremy Richardson of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center presented measurements of HD 209458 b, a hot, Jupiter-like planet located 153 light-years from Earth, in the constellation Pegasus. Richardson’s team found a peak in the infrared spectra and was able to determine that the atmosphere of HD 209458 b likely consisted of clouds of silicate dust. Dr. Mark Swain of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory led another study of HD 209458 b, and found similar results.

Another team, led by Dr. Carl Grillmair of Spitzer Science Center at Caltech, performed a similar study of HD 189733b, 63 light-years away, in the constellation Vulpecula. Dr. Grillmair discusses the results: “It was believed to be fairly straightforward that these planets would have a lot of water in them, for one thing, very hot water. These planets, these hot Jupiters very, very close in to their parent stars are 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit or so, so it’s not a pleasant place to live. And what we found instead and what the other group found for this completely different planet around another star, is that the spectrum is essentially flat. It really doesn’t show any of the features we would have expected from water.”

“The theorists’ heads were spinning when they saw the data,” adds Dr. Richardson. “It is virtually impossible for water, in the form of vapor, to be absent from the planet, so it must be hidden, probably by the dusty cloud layer we detected in our spectrum.”

Dr. Grillmair: “The observations are showing us that things are not the way we expected them. And so there’ll be a big push to get a lot more data while Spitzer is still alive. I think this will ultimately be one of the most important legacies of the Spitzer Space Telescope, unanticipated as it was before launch. I think it will become extremely important in the future.” The telescope was launched in August of 2003 with a maximum expected life cycle of 5 years.

“With these new observations, we are refining the tools that we will one day need to find life elsewhere if it exists,” said Swain. “It’s sort of like a dress rehearsal.”

Dr. Swain’s and Dr. Grillmair’s studies are pending publication in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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August 21, 2006

NASA discovers new evidence of dark matter

NASA discovers new evidence of dark matter

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Monday, August 21, 2006

New observations of the distribution of mass show clear evidence of the separation of dark matter and normal matter, according to NASA scientists.

The Bullet Cluster, 4 billion light years away from Earth, is formed by two galactic clusters colliding.

“This is the most energetic cosmic event, besides the Big Bang, which we know about,” said Maxim Markevitch of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and member of the NASA team that studied images collected with the Chandra X-ray observatory, the Hubble Space Telescope, the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope and the Magellan optical telescopes.

The observation supports the theory that the bulk of the universe is made up of invisible dark matter, which was detected by observing the gravitational force it exerted on visible matter.

“A universe that’s dominated by dark stuff seems preposterous, so we wanted to test whether there were any basic flaws in our thinking,” said team leader Doug Clowe of the University of Arizona at Tucson. “These results are direct proof that dark matter exists.”

Because the force of gravity can bend light, the team was able to detect the presence of dark matter through gravitational lensing. Light emitted by objects that lie on the far side of the galaxy was distorted by a gravitational force in excess of the distortion expected by the visible matter present in the galactic collision. To make their discovery, the scientists trained their telescopes on a cluster of galaxies officially designated 1E0657-56, informally known as the bullet cluster because of its shape.

The bullet shape is the result of the violent collision of a small galaxy cluster with another, larger cluster as normal matter in the galaxies interacts during the collision. Dark matter, however, does not experience any of the forces that affect normal matter, other than gravity, and ended up separating from the normal matter during the event.

These results will be published in an upcoming issue of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

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January 14, 2006

Huge star cluster discovered in neighbourhood of Milky Way

Huge star cluster discovered in neighbourhood of Milky Way

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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Map of the Virgo super star cluster

M. Juric/SDSS-II Collaboration

This is a map, by Mario Juric of Princeton University based upon the forthcoming SDSS-II Data Release 5, of the Virgo super star cluster, viewed from far away and from above the galactic plane. It shows the counts of faint blue stars, from a narrow magnitude and color range, that are 10 kiloparsec away from Earth.

The map is shown in the Lambert projection of galactic coordinates: radial rays are lines of constant longitude, circles are lines of constant latitude, the North Galactic Pole is in the center, and the Galactic Centre is towards the left. The counts are shown on a logarithmic stretch, with a dynamic range of 10 increasing from blue to red.

The dotted line through the middle of the map shows the plane of the debris from the Saggitarius dwarf galaxy that is being cannibalized by the Milky Way. This debris is approximately four times further away from Earth than the Virgo super star cluster is. Astronomers have hypothesised that the two may be related.

Astronomers at Sloan Digital Sky Survey have announced the discovery of a huge star cluster, the Virgo super star cluster 10 kiloparsecs (32,600 light years) away from the solar system (roughly the same distance as the galactic centre), in the constellation of Virgo. Many of the stars have been known to astronomers for centuries, but only now have they realized the existence of the cluster.

In a presentation to the American Astronomical Society, Princeton University graduate student Mario Juric, the principal author of the findings, explained: “Some of the stars in this Milky Way companion have been seen with telescopes for centuries, but because the galaxy is so close, its stars are spread over a huge swath of the sky, and they always used to be lost in the sea of more numerous Milky Way stars. This galaxy is so big, we couldn’t see it before.”

The large overpopulation of stars was discovered by researchers analyzing SDSS-I and SDSS-II data. SDSS has, to date, imaged roughly one-quarter of the northern sky. The method used was the photometric parallax method. “We used the SDSS data to measure distances to 48 million stars and build a 3-d map of the Milky Way.” explained Zeljko Ivezic of the University of Washington, a co-author of the study.

This discovery is one in a series of such discoveries made within the last decade by a new generation of sky surveys. The Saggitarius dwarf galaxy was discovered in 1994 using photographic sky images. Since then, analysis of photographs by large digital cameras has identified several streams and clumps of stars, some of which (astronomers believe) are Milky Way companions and others of which are shreds of the Saggitarius dwarf or other dwarf galaxies that are also dissolving into the Milky Way. An earlier SDSS discovery was the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy. “With so much irregular structure in the outer Galaxy, it looks as though the Milky Way is still growing, by cannibalizing smaller galaxies that fall into it,” said Juric.

The first indication that the Virgo super star cluster existed was in 2001, when the Quasar Equatorial Survey Team (QUEST) survey, using a 1-metre telescope in Llano del Hato National Astronomical Observatory in Venezuela, found a clump of five RR Lyrae variable stars, which astronomers speculated might belong to a small galaxy being canibalized by the Milky Way. Kathy Vivas of the Centro de Investigaciones de Astronomia in Venezuela, the author of the QUEST paper on the discovery, commented that “In light of the new SDSS results, it appears that the stellar stream we detected is itself part of the larger structure identified by Juric and collaborators.”

In a letter to the Astrophysical Journal the QUEST has presented further evidence for Vivas’ interpretation, by measuring the motions and chemical compositions of stars in the region.

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March 23, 2005

NASA\’s Spitzer space telescope views alien worlds

NASA’s Spitzer space telescope views alien worlds

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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

NASA’ Spitzer Space Telescope

For the first time since the discovery of planets outside the solar system, light from two of the 145 confirmed extrasolar planets has been directly captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope.

Astronomers Dr. David Charbonneau of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and Dr. Drake Deming of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), working separately on one each of the two planets used a simple technique to gather the infrared glow that the planetary bodies emit.

The planets, designated HD 209458b and TrES-1, are classified as “hot Jupiter” planets. These types of extrasolar planets orbit closely around their suns, absorbing the starlight and brightly radiating in the infrared wavelengths.

Using the Spitzer telescope, the astronomers first collected and measured the total infrared output from both the stars and planets. The stars alone were again measured when the planets disappeared behind them during their natural orbits. By comparing the differences between the two measurements, the scientist were able to determine how much infrared light each planet emits.

“In visible light, the glare of the star completely overwhelms the glimmer of light reflected by the planet,” Charbonneau said. “In infrared, the star-planet contrast is more favorable because the planet emits its own light.”

The data obtained indicates the planets are at least 1,340 degrees Fahrenheit, justifying the classification of “hot Jupiter”. More observations from Spitzer could provide information about the planets winds and atmospheric compositions.

“Spitzer has provided us with a powerful new tool for learning about the temperatures, atmospheres and orbits of planets hundreds of light-years from Earth,” said Dr. Deming.

“It’s fantastic,” Dr. Charbonneau said. “We’ve been hunting for this light for almost 10 years, ever since extrasolar planets were first discovered.”

Dr. Deming’s paper on his findings appears today in Nature’s online publication; Dr. Charbonneau’s paper will be published in an upcoming issue of the Astrophysical Journal.

The Spitzer telescope was launched August 25, 2003 and is scheduled to be de-orbited sometime in 2008. Spitzer was named for Dr. Lyman Spitzer who, in the mid-1940s, first proposed placing telescopes in space.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Goddard Space Flight Center is located in Greenbelt, Maryland.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center, Pasadena, California.

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February 9, 2005

Star ousted from galaxy by black hole

Star ousted from galaxy by black hole – Wikinews, the free news source

Star ousted from galaxy by black hole

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Wednesday, February 9, 2005

A close encounter with the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way has set a star on a one way trip into intergalactic space. The star, detected at the MMT Observatory in Tucson, Arizona, is zipping outward at a speed of 1.5 million miles per hour. Rocketing along at twice the galactic escape velocity, the Milky Way’s gravitational attraction doesn’t have the holding power to keep the star from disappearing into the emptiness between galaxies.

“We have never before seen a star moving fast enough to completely escape the confines of our galaxy,” Warren Brown of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) said. “We’re tempted to call it the outcast star because it was forcefully tossed from its home. Only the powerful gravity of a very massive black hole could propel a star with enough force to exit our galaxy.”

Using measurements of the star’s line-of-sight velocity, the scientists have concluded the star, cataloged as SDSS J090745.0+24507, is moving almost directly away from galactic center. Composition and age of the star also provide evidence of the star’s origin and ultimate fate. “Because this is a metal-rich star, we believe that it recently came from a star-forming region like that in the galactic center,” said Brown. Less than 80 million years were needed for the star to reach its current location, which is consistent with its estimated age.

Margaret J. Geller, Michael J. Kurtz and Scott J. Kenyon, along with Brown, will publish their find in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where scientists study the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the universe.

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