Wednesday April 24, 2019
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A Close Planet Orbiting A Star Dubbed As ‘Super-Earth’

The researchers studied the planet by combining measurements from several high-precision instruments mounted on telescopes around the world.

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Newly discovered Super-Earth Exoplanet May Sustain Primitive Life

A frozen and dimly lit planet, dubbed a “Super-Earth,” may be orbiting the closest single star to our solar system, astronomers said Wednesday, based on two decades of scientific observations.

The planet, estimated to be at least 3.2 times more massive than Earth, was spotted circling Barnard’s Star, a type of relatively cool and low-mass star called a red dwarf. Barnard’s Star is about 6 light-years away from our solar system, comparatively close in cosmic terms, and it’s believed that the planet obits this star every 233 days.

Planets orbiting stars beyond our solar system are called exoplanets. Nearly 4,000 have been discovered. The newly discovered one is the second closest to our solar system ever found. It is thought to be a “Super-Earth,” a category of planets more massive than Earth but smaller than the large gas planets.

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This opens up the prospect that life could be possible throughout a wider range of other universes, if they exist, the researchers said. Pixabay

“After a very careful analysis, we are 99 percent confident that the planet is there,” researcher Ignasi Ribas of the Institute of Space Studies of Catalonia and the Institute of Space Sciences said in a statement. “However, we’ll continue to observe this fast-moving star to exclude possible, but improbable, natural variations of the stellar brightness which could masquerade as a planet.”

Alpha Centauri

The only closer stars than Barnard’s Star are part of the triple-star system Alpha Centauri, located a bit more than 4 light-years from our solar system.

Two years ago, astronomers announced the discovery of a roughly Earth-sized planet circling Proxima Centauri, part of the Alpha Centauri system, in an orbit that might enable liquid water to exist on its surface, raising the possibility that it could harbor alien life.

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Astronomers discover ancient star formed by Big Bang, pixabay

The newly detected planet orbiting Barnard’s Star may not be so hospitable, with surface temperatures of perhaps minus 274 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 170 degrees Celsius). Barnard’s Star provides the frigid planet only 2 percent of the energy that the sun provides Earth.

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The researchers studied the planet by combining measurements from several high-precision instruments mounted on telescopes around the world.

The research was published in the journal Nature. (VOA)

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New Study Indicates, Life on Earth May Have Begun in Ponds But Not Oceans

"Our overall message is, if you think the origin of life required fixed nitrogen, as many people do, then it's tough to have the origin of life happen in the ocean," s

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Nitrogenous oxides were likely deposited in water bodies, including oceans and ponds, as remnants of the breakdown of nitrogen in Earth's atmosphere. Pixabay

Challenging a common perception, a new study suggests primitive ponds may have provided a suitable environment for creating Earth’s first life forms, more so than oceans.

The findings published in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems showed shallow water bodies could have held high concentrations of what many scientists believe to be a key ingredient for jump-starting life on Earth: nitrogen.

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Scientists believe there could have been enough lightning crackling through the early atmosphere to produce an abundance of nitrogenous oxides to fuel the origin of life in the ocean. Pixabay

“Our overall message is, if you think the origin of life required fixed nitrogen, as many people do, then it’s tough to have the origin of life happen in the ocean,” said lead author Sukrit Ranjan from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “It’s much easier to have that happen in a pond,” Ranjan said.

Nitrogenous oxides were likely deposited in water bodies, including oceans and ponds, as remnants of the breakdown of nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere.

Atmospheric nitrogen comprises two nitrogen molecules, linked via a strong triple bond, that can only be broken by an extremely energetic event — namely, lightning.

Scientists believe there could have been enough lightning crackling through the early atmosphere to produce an abundance of nitrogenous oxides to fuel the origin of life in the ocean.

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In the ocean, ultraviolet light and dissolved iron would have made nitrogenous oxides far less available for synthesising living organisms. Pixabay

But the new study found that ultraviolet light from the Sun and dissolved iron sloughed off from primitive oceanic rocks could have destroyed a significant portion of nitrogenous oxides in the ocean, sending the compounds back into the atmosphere as nitrogen.

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In the ocean, ultraviolet light and dissolved iron would have made nitrogenous oxides far less available for synthesising living organisms.

In shallow ponds, however, life would have had a better chance to grow, mainly because ponds have much less volume over which compounds can be diluted. As a result, nitrogenous oxides would have built up to much higher concentrations, the study said. (IANS)