The Earth-like planets orbiting this star could hold 250 times more water than Earth

April 27, 2018 by  
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Recent research suggests that some of the Earth-size planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1 could carry more water than our own planet. TRAPPIST-1 is an ultra-cool red dwarf discovered in 1999, and its planets were first documented within the past few years. Scientists have measured the density of TRAPPIST-1’s planets and concluded that the mass of some of these planets may be composed of five percent water – roughly 250 times the amount of water found in our planet’s oceans. Stars such as TRAPPIST-1 are of particular interest to astronomers because their size and faintness allows for more in-depth study of orbiting planets. Through the European Union-funded SPECULOOS project, scientists have been able to focus on these planets as they search for life beyond Earth . Researchers have also observed differences based on the planets’ distance from their sun. For example, planets closest to TRAPPIST-1 may contain thick, steamy atmospheres while outer planets may be covered in ice. Perhaps most importantly, astronomers have concluded that the lack of a hydrogen -rich atmosphere on three planets indicates that they are not gaseous and therefore much more likely candidates for harboring extraterrestrial life. Related: Two Trappist-1 planets are highly likely to be habitable The intensive study of the TRAPPIST-1 system is only in its early stages. In 2020, NASA and the European Space Agency will launch the James Webb Space Telescope, which will be capable of detecting possible molecules of biological origin. “In the temperate – and potentially habitable – Earth-size regime, SPECULOOS’s detection potential should be significantly better,” Dr. Michaël Gillon from the University of Liège, Belgium told Science Magazine . “The next years are going to be very exciting!” Gillon plans on expanding the observation of Earth-like planets by searching through 1,000 stars similar to TRAPPIST-1. Via Phys.org Images via NASA (1)

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The Earth-like planets orbiting this star could hold 250 times more water than Earth

These diamonds from outer space hint at a long-lost planet

April 17, 2018 by  
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Diamonds in a meteorite  that crashed into Earth years ago have now given scientists a glimpse into the universe’s past. Recently, a team of scientists led by the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland used transmission electron microscopy to examine the diamonds contained in a slice of the Almahata Sitta meteorite. Based on their research, the scientists think the meteorite came from a planetary embryo, between the size of Mercury and Mars , that was destroyed in a collision around 4.5 billion years ago. Nearly a decade ago, an asteroid exploded over the Nubian Desert in Sudan. Scientists collected fragments from what’s now called the Almahata Sitta meteorite, and these fragments have yielded intriguing new information. EPFL materials scientist Farhang Nabiei told The Washington Post , “These samples are coming from an era that we don’t have any access to…This is part of the story of how we came to be.” The meteorite fragments are largely ureilites, which EPFL said are “a rare type of stony meteorite” in which nano-sized diamonds can be found. Related: New theory suggests the Moon may have formed “from a giant donut of vaporized rock” Embedded in the diamonds were chromite, phosphate, and iron-nickel sulfides; the scientists call these inclusions, and they hold signatures of the mysterious long-lost planet . According to EPFL, the “particular composition and morphology of these materials can only be explained if the pressure under which the diamonds were formed was higher than 20 GPa (giga-Pascals, the unit of pressure). This level of internal pressure can only be explained if the planetary parent body was a Mercury- to Mars-sized planetary embryo, depending on the layer in which the diamonds were formed.” What exactly happened to the long-lost planet? Nabiei couldn’t say for sure. Researchers think that, in the early solar system , large protoplanets pulled on others’ orbits until they coalesced, crashed, or broke up into pieces. The ureilites could have come from the same protoplanet that existed for a few million years before its demise in a collision. Nature Communications published the research online this week; scientists from institutions in France and Germany contributed. + Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne + Nature Communications Via The Washington Post Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech and copyright EPFL/Hillary Sanctuary

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Alien life may not exist due to a lack of this chemical element

April 5, 2018 by  
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Holding out hope for alien life somewhere out there? According to a recent study from Cardiff University , you may have to wait a long, long time – if phosphorus isn’t present, it could be difficult for that life to exist. Phosphorus is one of the six elements Earth’s organisms depend on, and researchers Jane Greaves and Phil Cigan found it in short supply near the Crab Nebula supernova remnant, around 6,500 light years away. In light of these new findings, we may be alone in the universe after all. Greaves said phosphorus “is crucial to the compound adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which cells use to store and transfer energy.” Astronomers have begun paying attention to phosphorus’ cosmic origins, and have discovered it’s created in supernovae. Related: Atacama ‘alien’ skeleton’s identity revealed by genetic testing Cigan and Greaves observed infrared light from phosphorus in the Crab Nebula using the William Herschel Telescope. They compared two “stellar explosions based on how they each ejected phosphorus into the atmosphere,” thanks to other scientists’ research on phosphorus in Cassiopeia A. Preliminary results hint “material blown out into space could vary dramatically in chemical composition.” Greaves said, “The route to carrying phosphorus into new-born planets looks rather precarious…If phosphorus is sourced from supernovae, and then travels across space in meteoritic rocks, it’s possible that a young planet could find itself lacking in reactive phosphorus because of where it was born. That is, it started off near the wrong kind of supernova. In that case, life might really struggle to get started out of phosphorous-poor chemistry , on another world otherwise similar to our own.” At the European Week of Astronomy and Space, Cigan and Greaves presented the preliminary results. They hope to continue to work and discover whether other supernova remnants lack phosphorus too, to discover if the element is rarer than scientists once thought. + Cardiff University Via The Telegraph Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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Alien life may not exist due to a lack of this chemical element

Planet parade to dazzle stargazers this week here’s what you need to know

March 7, 2018 by  
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Mercury , Venus , Mars , Jupiter , and Saturn : those are the planets stargazers in the Northern Hemisphere will be able to glimpse this week during what The Weather Channel called a planet parade. While you won’t be able to spot them all at the same time, you could snag views of Mercury and Venus after sunset and Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn before dawn — read on to find out how. March is an excellent month for “catching all five bright planets,” according to EarthSky . They define bright planet as one in our solar system that can be viewed without an optical aid “and that’s been watched since time immemorial.” Whoa! Cool. In March 2018, you can see all 5 bright planets. https://t.co/kwFqw9Gzhk Look west after sunset for Mercury and Venus. Mars, Jupiter and Saturn are up before dawn. #Mercury #Venus #Jupiter #Mars #Saturn #visibleplanets pic.twitter.com/oyss7rrvb2 — EarthSky (@earthskyscience) March 2, 2018 Related: Google maps the solar system for armchair space travelers Catch Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn before dawn; according to EarthSky, Jupiter should rise around one hour after midnight, and Mars and Saturn appear closer to dawn. The planets have slightly varying rising times depending on where you are on Earth ; EarthSky recommends a few sky almanacs accessible here . The Weather Channel said people in the Rocky Mountains and areas in the South will have the best opportunity for viewing on Wednesday morning. On Thursday morning, the South and areas in the West will be the best locations. If you’re in the Northeast, you might be out of luck; Winter Storm Quinn could obstruct the view, according to meteorologist Chris Dolce. See all 5 bright planets in March https://t.co/Tol9xs2C3L You can't see them simultaneously. But, especially from the Northern Hemisphere, March 2018 is a great month for catching all 5 bright planets either after sunset, or before dawn. pic.twitter.com/tE7rkvHOYs — EarthSky (@earthskyscience) March 2, 2018 Mercury and Venus will appear close together in the first few weeks of March, and you can catch them in the west after sunset. Venus is around “12 times brighter than Mercury,” so EarthSky recommends searching for Venus if you’re having trouble finding our solar system’s smallest planet. If you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, don’t worry! You’ll get your shot at spotting the five planets in April. Via EarthSky and The Weather Channel Images via Greg Rakozy on Unsplash and Paul VanDerWerf on Flickr

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Planet parade to dazzle stargazers this week here’s what you need to know

David Adjaye unveils designs for National Cathedral in Ghana

March 7, 2018 by  
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In celebration of Ghana’s 61st year of independence, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo revealed designs for a National Cathedral of Ghana to be built in Accra. The government appointed David Adjaye to design the project, a Ghanian British architect of Adjaye Associates who rose to international prominence for his work on the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. The multi-faith landmark will be a multifunctional space home to Africa’s first Bible Museum and Documentation Center as well as venue for presidential inaugurations and state funerals. The new National Cathedral will be built on a 15-acre landscaped site next to Osu Cemetery. Envisioned by Adjaye as a “physical embodiment of unity, harmony and spirituality,” the multi-faith building will house a series of grand chapels , baptistery, two-story 5000-seat auditorium, music school, central hall, choir facilities, art gallery, retail, and other multipurpose space. The building’s adornments and furnishings will be designed in collaboration with Ghanaian and African artists. Related: National Museum of African American History and Culture opens in Washington, DC A new ceremonial route and landscape will link the Cathedral to prominent Accra landmarks including Independence Square, the State House, and Africa Unity Circle. “It is an immense honour to be granted the opportunity to contribute something of this scale and import to my home country,” said Adjaye. “I have sought to craft a building that not only understands its landscape but one that will be unique to Accra and the Ghanaian Nation.” + Adjaye Associates Via ArchDaily Images via Adjaye Associates

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New periodic table sorts 3,700 known exoplanets into 18 categories

November 17, 2017 by  
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A new Periodic Table of Exoplanets guides scientists and science fans alike through over 3,700 known exoplanets, including those that may host life . To organize the thousands of worlds identified since the first exoplanet was discovered in 1992, astronomer Abel Méndez? of the Planetary Habitability Laboratory at the University of Puerto Rico created a chart that sorts the exoplanets into 18 distinct categories. “We know of over 3,700 planets around other stars. They are very diverse,” Méndez? said in an interview with Gizmodo . “We can roughly classify them by their size and temperature. Only warm planets with the right size, similar to Earth, might provide some of the conditions for extraterrestrial life.” At the most general level, exoplanets , or planets beyond our solar system, are categorized based on distance from the star around which they orbit and their temperature. This places them in one of three zones: Hot Zone, Warm Zone, or Cold Zone. The exoplanets are also distinguished by size and composition (rocky “terran” planets vs. gas giants like Neptune and Jupiter ). As in the actual periodic table, each exoplanet category has a number assigned to it, which indicates how many of a particular kind of planet have been discovered. Related: Scientists discover new Earth-like planet only 11 light years away According to the Periodic Table of Exoplanets, there are 53 known exoplanets with the appropriate size, temperature and features such as liquid water and a stable atmosphere to potentially host life as we know it. “Unfortunately, we don’t know yet if they also have the right amount of water (e.g. oceans ) or the right atmosphere for life too,” said Méndez?. As for the disproportionate number of hot planets on the Table, Méndez? explained that this is due to the relative ease of discovery for hot planets and not necessarily because there are more of them. At the top right corner of the Table, a chart indicates the number of stellar systems and the number of known exoplanets for each system. To Méndez, the possibilities are endless. “I’m overwhelmed by the number and diversity of planets in the stars around us. So many places to explore in our own Solar System , but much more is waiting for us beyond,” Méndez? told Gizmodo . “I won’t be very surprised by another planet with life, Earth is the example that this is possible. I will be more surprised by something we haven’t seen before.” Via Gizmodo Images via  Planetary Habitability Laboratory/University of Puerto Rico at Aricebo and NASA

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New periodic table sorts 3,700 known exoplanets into 18 categories

This solar-powered floating farm combines agriculture and dining under one roof

November 17, 2017 by  
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As urban farming becomes increasingly popular, people are finding new, unexpected ways of incorporating agriculture into cities. From rooftops and community gardens, urban farming has descended to waterways and lakes – as in this solar-powered floating farm that doubles as a restaurant. Lotus is designed to grow fresh produce with a vertical hydroponic garden and then serve it in indoor and outdoor dining areas where visitors can enjoy waterside views and learn more about the production of the food. Lotus is a future-oriented farming system that aims to solve problems relating to the production, sale and distribution of crops and produce in urban areas. Its design also addresses the issue of global warming exacerbated by increased emissions of methane and carbon dioxide. Related: Could solar-powered floating farms provide enough food for the entire world? Designers Taeung Kim, Sunae Shin, Sungho An, Seungjun Lee & Mirae Park conceived the structure for client HYDROKOREA, and they were recognized by this year’s K-Design Award – an international design contest held by DESIGNSORI . Via Yanko Design

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Scientists discover new Earth-like planet only 11 light years away

November 15, 2017 by  
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Scientists have discovered an Earth-like planet only 11 light years away that may support life. Named after the star around which it orbits, Ross 128b was identified by a team of researchers at the European Southern Observatory as having a projected mass of 1.35 times that of Earth and may have surface temperatures suitable for sustaining life as we know it . Although scientists are withholding their judgement as to whether the planet is habitable, they are nonetheless encouraged by positive signs they have observed thus far. Although Ross 128b is currently 11 light years away, it is moving in Earth’s direction. Within 79,000 years, a blip on the cosmic timeline, Ross 128b will become Earth’s closest Earth-like neighbor, dethroning the current titleholder, Proxima Centauri b. Ross 128b was discovered after European scientists made 157 observations of Ross 128 while working at the HARPS spectrograph in Chile . Through these observations of the star , HARPS was able to confirm Ross 128b’s orbit of 9.9 days, meaning that it is 20 times closer to its star than Earth is to the sun. Related: Scientists say ice may fizz and bubble like champagne when floating in outer space Ross 128b could boast surface temperatures as low as -76 degrees F or as high as 69 degrees F. “It is probably preferable to refer to Ross 128 b as a temperate planet,” wrote the study’s authors . Its proximity to a small star is encouraging for scientists who seek more Earth-like planets, as it is easier to detect these planets near M dwarf stars like Ross 128. “They’re literally all over the place,” said Emily Rice, research associate in astrophysics at the American Museum of Natural History, in an interview with Gizmodo . “It’s so much parameter space that we haven’t explored, like the size of these stars and the size of these planets . You don’t just want one. You want a bunch of them to figure out the general properties of these things.” Via Gizmodo Images via  ESO/M. Kornmesser (1)

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Kepler data reveals 20 potential habitable worlds

November 2, 2017 by  
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Many people once thought Earth was unique in outer space in its ability to support life. Recent discoveries could shatter that notion, like one new analysis of information from the Kepler Space Telescope . An international team led by Susan Thompson of the SETI Institute has discovered there might be 20 worlds where life could dwell. There could be as many as 20 habitable planets in space , according to this new discovery. One of the most promising worlds is KOI-7923.01. It’s 97 percent Earth’s size, and has a year comprised of 395 days. It is a bit colder than Earth – think more tundra and less tropical island – but it is warm enough, and it’s big enough to hold liquid water so crucial for life. Jeff Coughlin of the NASA Ames Research Center told New Scientist, “If you had to choose one to send a spacecraft to, it’s not a bad option.” Related: First hints of water detected on Earth-sized TRAPPIST-1 planets Many of the habitable worlds orbit stars similar to the sun. The star KOI-7923.01 orbits is a little colder than the sun, and that fact together with the exoplanet’s distance away makes KOI-7923.01 cooler than Earth. The time to complete an orbit varies among the potentially habitable worlds – at 395 days, KOI-7923.01 takes the longest. Some of the worlds finish an orbit in mere Earth weeks, or months. The quickest orbit is just 18 Earth days. Coughlin told New Scientist his team is around 70 to 80 percent sure these habitable worlds are solid candidates – they’ll need to confirm their hunch with further observations, such as from the Hubble Space Telescope or ground-based observatories. The original Kepler mission unearthed the planets, but it gazed at the same part of the sky for just four years until its reaction wheels broke, hindering its aiming ability. That means we’ve only glimpsed the planets just once or twice, and, according to New Scientist , the signals could be wobbly. The scientists recently submitted their research to a journal in the middle of October. Via New Scientist Images via NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle and NASA/W. Stenzel

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Kepler data reveals 20 potential habitable worlds

Dead rabbits found at Iowa wind farm likely used to lure and kill eagles

November 2, 2017 by  
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In a story that may have come  two days late , a local landowner-farmer in Delaware County, Iowa was shocked to discover over a dozen deceased rabbits, each with their necks broken, scattered beneath wind turbines on their land. The land is leased by RPM Access, a company that owns several wind farms throughout the state. “I don’t understand who would do something like this? I really don’t,” said Linda Slobodnik, an environmental consultant for RPM Access, according to KWWL News . Slobodnik, who has stated that this act of violence is the most disturbing incident she has seen in her 10 years in the wind industry, believes the rabbits were used to lure in eagles or other birds to the turbines, likely to kill them as well. Why would someone seek to lure and kill eagles, using dead rabbits as bait? “There are a lot of anti-wind people. At this time, we are looking at new places for projects, and I am thinking that possibly someone would like us to not build another wind farm in the area,” said Slobodnik. “I think there is a lot of people who will speak against the wind turbines. I think a lot of what they do is out of ignorance,” said RPM Access Project Manager, Kevin Lehs, according to KWWL News . Despite some local resistance, Iowa has made enormous progress towards a clean energy economy, primarily through wind power , which provided more than 36 percent of all electricity used in 2016. As it stands, Iowa is the most wind-powered state in the United States . Related: The world’s first floating wind farm just switched online Although the dead rabbits were deliberately placed, it is true that wind turbines can kill local wildlife. It is estimated that 300,000 birds are killed by wind turbines each year. That may sound like a lot, but it’s important to see these numbers in context. Wind power kills 1/15th the number of birds that fossil-fuel generated power does each year. Glass buildings in cities are also frequent bird killers. And, of course, outdoor and feral cats kill hundreds of millions of birds annually. Via Elektrek and KWWL News Images via Depositphotos (1)

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Dead rabbits found at Iowa wind farm likely used to lure and kill eagles

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