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The Most Intriguing Alien Planet Discoveries of 2017

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The Most Intriguing Alien Planet Discoveries of 2017

Scientists spotted seven Earth-size alien planets orbiting one dim red star this year, and a lot of other strange exoplanets — ranging from an Earth-size ice ball to the hottest planet ever found and many more, plus a star that seems to have gobbled up something like 15 rocky worlds. Read on for 2017’s most unusual, fascinating and potentially livable exoplanet finds.

1. The TRAPPIST-1 family

Seven newly discovered, Earth-size planets surround the cool red star TRAPPIST-1, which is slightly larger than the planet Jupiter. Researchers first spotted a few members of its planetary entourage in May 2016 with the TRAnsiting Planets and Planeteslmals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile. Additional data from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope revealed that rather than three planets, there were seven, all roughly the size of Earth, but orbiting together in a space smaller than Mercury’s orbit around the sun. The fastest and innermost planet, TRAPPIST-1b, whips around the star in just 1.5 days, and the outermost, TRAPPIST-1h, likely takes about 20 days. 
Three of the planets orbit close enough to the star — in what is called the habitable zone — for liquid water to perhaps linger on its surface (but not so close it would have boiled off), but any atmospheres may have been stripped away by the star’s intense radiation.

2. A real scorcher

Astronomers also discovered the hottest planet found to date in 2017 — the Jupiter-like KELT-9b. The planet orbits so close to its star, KELT-9, that it completely circles the star in 1.5 days, and it is tidally locked to the star — meaning the same side is always facing inward. Researchers spotted the planet passing in front of its star with the Kilodegree Extremely Little Telescope (KELT) at Winer Observatory in Arizona.

On that “day side” of the planet, temperatures can reach 7,800 degrees Fahrenheit (4,300 Celsius) — hotter than the surface of a dwarf star, and just 2,200 degrees F (1,200 degrees C) cooler than the surface of the sun. (However, the sun’s outer atmosphere is even hotter.)
KELT-9 is larger and hotter than the sun, and its constant radiation makes KELT-9b’s atmosphere balloon up until it’s half the density of Jupiter. Someday, it may evaporate the planet entirely, researchers said — or, if the planet has a rocky center, boil it down to just the core. Observation with the Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, as well as the future James Webb Space Telescope, could reveal the planet’s ultimate fate.

3. Home close to home

The alien world Ross 128b, first spotted this year with the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS) instrument at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, is just 11 light-years from Earth. And although it orbits much closer to its star than Earth does to the sun, the star is cool enough that it could still lie in the habitable zone, if it has a thick enough cover of clouds to reflect away some of the light. Ross 128b is the closest Earth-mass planet potentially in the habitable zone of a quiet star, scientists say — our nearest neighbor, Proxima Centauri, blasts out powerful flares to roast its potentially Earth-size planet, Proxima b.

4. New solar-system rival

Using Google’s machine-learning techniques, scientists found an eighth planet orbiting the star Kepler-90, marking the second eight-planet star system ever found (after Earth’s system, which has eight official planets. Kepler-90i is located 2,545 light-years from Earth, it’s likely rocky, and it’s the third world from its star — but unlike Earth’s 365.26-day orbit, it circles its star in 14.5 Earth days, and is much too close and hot for liquid water to remain on its surface. The planet’s average surface temperatures could reach 800 degrees Fahrenheit (430 degrees Celsius).

The machine-learning program, which also found a planet around another star, made the call by analyzing star-dimming data from the Kepler Space Telescope.

5. Pen pals

Researchers beamed a radio message to the nearby GJ 273 system, which boasts two planets (one potentially in the habitable zone).

Scientists and artists dashed off a messageto the nearby dwarf star GJ 273, which hosts two recently discovered planets. One of them, GJ 273b, could be capable of supporting life — and the system is just 12.36 light-years from Earth.

Team members at METI (Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence) International sent a message toward the star using a telescope in Norway, including a scientific and mathematical “tutorial” along with 33 short musical compositions by artists involved with the Sónar Festival in Barcelona. If the message were received, humans could expect a response in under 25 years.

6. Giant snowball

The roughly Earth-size planet 06-OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb is a giant iceball under the weak shine of its star.

A newfound alien world 13,000 light-years away with a mouthful of a designation — OGLE-2016-BLG-1195Lb — ha

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Lucas and the TenniBot: Daily Planet

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Lucas is at CES 2018 this week and it looks like he met a new friend! Meet the Tennibot- the world’s first autonomous tennis ball collector!

Daily Planet airs weeknights at 7e 4p only on Discovery Canada!

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Debris Disk Simulations Generate Spirals, Rings and Arcs

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When exoplanet scientists first spotted patterns in disks of dust and gas around young stars, they thought newly formed planets might be the cause. But a recent NASA study cautions that there may be another explanation: one that doesn’t involve planets at all.
An alternative explanation suggests the dust and gas in the disk can form the patterns themselves when they interact with starlight.
When high-energy UV starlight hits dust grains, it strips away electrons. Those electrons collide with and heat nearby gas. As the gas warms, its pressure increases and it traps more dust, which in turn heats more gas. The resulting cycle, called the photoelectric instability (PeI), can work in tandem with other forces to create some of the features astronomers have previously associated with planets in debris disks.

A 2013 study suggested PeI could explain the narrow rings seen in some disks. The model also predicted that some disks would have arcs, or incomplete rings, which weren’t directly observed in a disk until 2016.

The new simulation includes an additional new factor: radiation pressure, a force caused by starlight striking dust grains.

Light exerts a minute physical force on everything it encounters. This radiation pressure propels solar sails and helps direct comet tails so they always point away from the Sun. The same force can push dust into highly eccentric orbits, and even blow some of the smaller grains out of the disk entirely.

The new research modeled how radiation pressure and PeI work together to affect the movement of dust and gas, and also found that the two forces manifest different patterns depending on the physical properties of the dust and gas.

Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Scott Wiessenger

Music: “Hyperborea” from Killer Tracks.

This video is public domain and along with other supporting visualizations can be downloaded from the Scientific Visualization Studio at:

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NASA new Discovery 2018 of World

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This video is about NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope has revealed the first known system of 2018 seven Earth size planets around a single star. Three of these planets
are firmly located in the habitable zone, the area around the parent star where a rocky planet is most likely to have liquid water.

The discovery sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system. All of these seven
planets could have liquid water key to life as we know it under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with the three in the habitable
zone.
This discovery could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life,” said
Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Answering the question ‘are we alone’ is a top science
priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable
step forward toward that goal Thanks for watching

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