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Are we alone in the Universe or there is Alien life? Astronomers spot nearby Star with seven Earth-size Planets

astronomers have spotted a nearby star with seven Earth-size planets which could harbour liquid water, key to life as we know it, NASA said.

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What will happen to exploration missions if NASA runs out of fuel? Wikimedia

Washington, Feb 23, 2017: In a remarkable step towards answering the question “Are we alone in the universe”, astronomers have spotted a nearby star with seven Earth-size planets which could harbour liquid water, key to life as we know it, NASA said.

At about 40 light-years (235 trillion miles) from Earth, the system of planets is relatively close to us, in the constellation Aquarius.

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All of these seven planets could have liquid water under the right atmospheric conditions, but the chances are highest with three of the plants which are located in the habitable zone, according to the researchers.

“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 NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

Because they are located outside of our solar system, these planets are scientifically known as exoplanets.

This exoplanet system is called TRAPPIST-1, named for The Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile.

“The seven wonders of TRAPPIST-1 are the first Earth-size planets that have been found orbiting this kind of star,” said Michael Gillon, lead author of the paper and the principal investigator of the TRAPPIST exoplanet survey at the University of Liege, Belgium.

“It is also the best target yet for studying the atmospheres of potentially habitable, Earth-size worlds,” Gillon said.

In May 2016, researchers using TRAPPIST announced they had discovered three planets in the system.

Assisted by several ground-based telescopes, including the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope, NASA’s Spitzer space telescope confirmed the existence of two of these planets and discovered five additional ones, increasing the number of known planets in the system to seven.

Using Spitzer data, the team precisely measured the sizes of the seven planets and developed first estimates of the masses of six of them, allowing their density to be estimated.

Based on their densities, all of the TRAPPIST-1 planets are likely to be rocky, according to the new results published on Wednesday in the journal Nature

Further observations will not only help determine whether they are rich in water, but also possibly reveal whether any could have liquid water on their surface.

The mass of the seventh and farthest exoplanet has not yet been estimated. But scientists believe it could be an icy, “snowball-like” world, but further observations are needed.

The discovery of the seven exoplanets sets a new record for greatest number of habitable-zone planets found around a single star outside our solar system.

In contrast to our sun, the TRAPPIST-1 star — classified as an ultra-cool dwarf — is so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system.

All seven of the TRAPPIST-1 planetary orbits are closer to their host star than Mercury is to our sun.

The planets also are very close to each other. If a person was standing on one of the planet’s surface, they could gaze up and potentially see geological features or clouds of neighbouring worlds, which would sometimes appear larger than the moon in the Earth’s sky, NASA said. (IANS)

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Partial Shutdown of US Delays Space Missions, But NASA Not Grounded

Other active space missions includes NASA probes OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons spacecraft that continue to gather data in Earth orbit and the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and beyond, the report said

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People rally to call for an end to the partial government shutdown in Detroit, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019. VOA

The partial shutdown of the US federal government has had a serious impact on the country’s space agency NASA and development work on most future space missions has been slowed or suspended.

However, NASA has not been totally grounded by the partial government shutdown that began on December 22, after last-minute negotiations in Congress failed to end a budget standoff.

Over 95 per cent of the space agency’s employees have been furloughed. As a result, various research projects, including the Hubble Space Telescope has been put on hold, the Space.com reported on Wednesday.

Hubble suffered a mechanical problem that only furloughed NASA employees could repair.

Many workers also gathered outside the Johnson Space Center in Houston to protest the shutdown and its deleterious effects on their lives and the nation’s space programmes.

The Telescope facilities that have so far remained open during the shutdown will soon run out of money and cease operations.

This includes the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), a federally funded organization that operates the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), the Green Bank Telescope and the Very Large Array (VLA), the report noted.

The partial shutdown become the longest on record after January 12, overtaking the previous record of the 21-day impasse in 1995-96 under then President Bill Clinton.

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US shutdown delays space missions but NASA not grounded: Report,

President Donald Trump and the Congress have been at loggerheads over his demand to include in the budget $5.7 billion funding for building a border wall along the Mexico border. Democratic leaders have rejected his call.

NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA), also called the “flying telescope” has also ceased operations since the shutdown.

The telescope, which is mounted to the fuselage of a Boeing 747 aircraft, has not flown since the shutdown began, the report said.

However, despite the shutdown some “excepted” employees remained at work, assisting astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and other space missions, the report said.

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Last week, astronauts aboard the ISS conducted a range of scientific experiments and public-outreach work. They engaged in an orbital Q&A with school kids and answered a variety of questions, from the nature of the research performed aboard the ISS to the type of training astronauts receive to whether your ears pop in space.

On January 13, a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule departed the orbiting lab for Earth, eventually splashing down in the Pacific Ocean. The robotic Dragon brought down important scientific research and hardware for examination here on terra firma.

Other active space missions includes NASA probes OSIRIS-REx and New Horizons spacecraft that continue to gather data in Earth orbit and the Moon, Mars, Jupiter and beyond, the report said.  (IANS)