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Newly Discovered Super-Earth Exoplanet May Sustain Primitive Life

Geothermal heating could support 'life zones' under its surface, akin to subsurface lakes found in Antarctica," said Edward Guinan, Astrophysicist at the varsity. 

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NASA
NASA recently announced the discovery of the first known system of seven Earth-sized exoplanets around a single star. VOA

The recently discovered cold super-Earth exoplanet orbiting around the red dwarf Barnard — the second closest star system to Earth — has the potential to harbour primitive life, says a study.

Barnard b (or GJ 699 b) is a super-Earth with a minimum of 3.2 Earth masses. It orbits its red star every 233 days near the snow-line, a distance where water freezes.

Although likely cold (-170 degrees centigrade), it could still have the potential to harbour primitive life if it has a large, hot iron or nickel core and enhanced geothermal activity, said researchers from the Villanova University in the US.

“Geothermal heating could support ‘life zones’ under its surface, akin to subsurface lakes found in Antarctica,” said Edward Guinan, Astrophysicist at the varsity.

Earth
Newly discovered Super-Earth Exoplanet May Sustain Primitive Life

“We note that the surface temperature on Jupiter’s icy moon Europa is similar to Barnard b but because of tidal heating, Europa probably has liquid oceans under its icy surface,” Guinan added.

The results were announced at the 233rd meeting of the American Astronomy Society (AAS) in Seattle.

Although very faint, it may be possible for Barnard b to be imaged by future very large telescopes, according to Guinan.

“Such observations will shed light on the nature of the planet’s atmosphere, surface, and potential habitability,” he said.

The most significant aspect of the discovery of Barnard’s star b is that the two nearest star systems to the Sun are now known to host planets.

Also Read- NASA Discovers Third New Planet

“This supports previous studies based on Kepler Mission data, inferring that planets can be very common throughout the galaxy, even numbering in the tens of billions,” said co-author Scott Engle from the varsity.

“Also, Barnard’s Star is about twice as old as the Sun — about nine billion years old compared to 4.6 billion years for the Sun. The universe has been producing Earth-size planets far longer than we, or even the Sun itself, have existed.” (IANS)

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Significance Of Magellan’s Voyage After 500 Years

500 Years on, How Magellan's Voyage Changed the World

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Magellan's voyage
Replica of Magellan's ship. Pixabay

Ferdinand Magellan set off from Spain 500 years ago on an epoch-making voyage to sail all the way around the globe for the first time.

The Portuguese explorer was killed by islanders in the Philippines two years into the adventure, leaving Spaniard Juan Sebastian Elcano to complete the three-year trip. But it is Magellan’s name that is forever associated with the voyage.

“Magellan is still an inspiration 500 years on,” said Fabien Cousteau, a French filmmaker and underwater explorer like his grandfather Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

“He was a pioneer at a time when explorers who went off into the unknown had a strong habit of not coming back.”

Magellan's voyage
Magellan is still an inspiration, 500 years on. The history remembers him through statues and monuments till date. Pixabay

Here are five ways in which Magellan’s voyage marked human history and continues to inspire scientists and explorers today.

Some of them spoke to AFP at a conference in Lisbon to mark the August 10 fifth centenary.

Historical

Magellan’s voyage was a turning point in history, as unique as the first manned journey into outer space and the later moon landings, said NASA scientist Alan Stern, leader of its New Horizons interplanetary space probe.

“When the first one circled the plant, (that) sort of meant that we now had our arms around the planet for the first time,” he said.

“That just transformed humanity in my view. I would call it the first planetary event, in the same way, that Yuri Gagarin was the first off-planetary event” when the Soviet cosmonaut went into outer space.

Geographical

Magellan’s voyage rewrote the maps and geography books. He was the first to discover the strait, which now bears his name, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans at the tip of South America.

“Perhaps his greatest feat, and still considered today one of the greatest feats of the history of navigation, was negotiating this strait, of which there were no maps and whose existence was vaguely rumoured,” said US historian Laurence Bergreen, author of a biography of Magellan.

Also Read: Brazil Rainforest Deforestation Jumps 67% in First Seven Months as Government Attacks Data

Philosophical

The voyage transformed humans’ own conception of their place in the world.

“It wasn’t just geography and anthropology, it showed something philosophical: that it’s all one world,” said Bergreen.

“Before Magellan people didn’t really know that. They didn’t know how the world was connected or how big it was.”

Magellan's voyage
Magellan’s carrack replica from the 16th century. VOA

Astronomical

The voyage contributed to Europeans’ knowledge of the universe and has marked the worlds of space exploration and astronomy to this day.

While crossing the Magellan Strait, the explorer and his crew observed two galaxies visible to the naked eye from the southern hemisphere, now known as the Magellanic Clouds.

Some recently-designated areas of the surface of Mars have been given the same names that Magellan gave to parts of South America, with Bergreen’s help. A giant telescope being developed in Chile will also bear the explorer’s name.

Inspirational

Magellan’s achievement was a landmark in the history of exploration still hailed by his modern-day successors.

“In the space program, to prepare for these long-duration missions, we say ‘the lessons for the future are written in the past’,” said Dafydd Williams, a former NASA astronaut, now 65, who went on two space missions. (VOA)