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A search for the truth, shocking, poignant, and life affirming. IANS

Two estranged sisters; a family secret that has lain buried for decades: a search for the truth, shocking, poignant, and life-affirming, Radhika Swarups “Civil Lines” (Simon & Schuster) is a family saga that explores belonging and an ode to every girl who dreams not of being rescued by a prince but that of a brighter future that lies within her grasp. This is what the book Civil Lines states.

In the early 1990s, Rupa Sharma found a magazine and pens her first — and last — editorial: “The future has never looked brighter. The fires of communal tension appear to have been vanquished. More women are entering the workforce than ever before, and everywhere I look, I see new possibilities. I see the dialogue, I see tolerance, and I see openness. I see hope for myself and my colleagues, and for the two daughters I am bringing up to be fearless inheritors of this earth.”


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Decades later, her daughter Siya travels to Delhi in the wake of her reclusive mother’s death, leaving behind a failing relationship and an unraveling life. Waiting at home is her estranged sister Maya and a crumbling Lutyens behemoth that is proving too cumbersome to maintain.


A search for the truth, shocking, poignant, and life-affirming. IANS

The two sisters rattle around the house until a cryptic note falls out from their mother’s papers: “I saw last night as a meeting between old friends. That you considered my conduct over-familiar fills me with endless regret.”

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As Siya and Maya try to decipher the words and piece together what happened, they find themselves uncovering both dreams and long-buried secrets, finding new resolve as they look to breathe fresh life into their mother’s shattered vision.

Radhika Swarup is the author of “Where the River Parts” (2016), which was picked as one of Amazon India’s most memorable books of the year and longlisted for the Best First Novel Award of the Author’s Club. She studied at Cambridge University and worked in finance before turning to write. Swarup lives in London with her husband and two children and divides her time between England and India. (IANS)


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Milky Way galaxy as seen from Chitkul Valley

NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has for the first time spotted signs of a planet transiting a star outside of the Milky Way galaxy, opening up a new avenue to search for exoplanets at greater distances than ever before.

The possible exoplanet -- or planets outside of our Solar System -- candidate is located in the spiral galaxy Messier 51 (M51), also called the Whirlpool Galaxy because of its distinctive profile, NASA said in a statement.

Astronomers have, so far, found all other known exoplanets and exoplanet candidates in the Milky Way galaxy, almost all of them less than about 3,000 light-years from Earth.

An exoplanet in M51 would be about 28 million light-years away, meaning it would be thousands of times farther away than those in the Milky Way, NASA said.

"We are trying to open up a whole new arena for finding other worlds by searching for planet candidates at X-ray wavelengths, a strategy that makes it possible to discover them in other galaxies," said Rosanne Di Stefano of the Center for Astrophysics at Harvard and Smithsonian (CfA) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who led the study.

The findings are published in the journal Nature Astronomy.

The exoplanet candidate was spotted in a binary system called M51-ULS-1, located in M51. This binary system contains a black hole or neutron star orbiting a companion star with a mass about 20 times that of the Sun. The X-ray transit they found using Chandra data lasted about three hours, during which the X-ray emission decreased to zero.

Based on this and other information, the team estimates the exoplanet candidate in M51-ULS-1 would be roughly the size of Saturn and orbit the neutron star or black hole at about twice the distance of Saturn from the Sun.

The team looked for X-ray transits in three galaxies beyond the Milky Way galaxy, using both Chandra and the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton. Their search covered 55 systems in M51, 64 systems in Messier 101 (the "Pinwheel" galaxy), and 119 systems in Messier 104 (the "Sombrero" galaxy).

However, more data would be needed to verify the interpretation as an extragalactic exoplanet. One challenge is that the planet candidate's large orbit means it would not cross in front of its binary partner again for about 70 years, thwarting any attempts for a confirming observation for decades, NASA said.

Named in honor of the late Indian-American Nobel laureate, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the Chandra X-ray Observatory is the world's most powerful X-ray telescope. It has eight times greater resolution and is able to detect sources more than 20-times fainter than any previous X-ray telescope.

Known to the world as Chandra (which means "moon" or "luminous" in Sanskrit), Chandrasekhar was widely regarded as one of the foremost astrophysicists of the twentieth century. (IANS/JB)


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