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Astronomers discover 7 new Earth-sized exoplanets that may sustain life

Astronomers from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) for the first time have discovered seven new Earth-sized exoplanets that may be able to sustain life.

The planets were detected using NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and several ground-based observatories including Trappist robotic telescope at La Silla, Chile. 

Key Facts
  • These exoplanets are orbiting dwarf star named Trappist-1, which at 39 light years away. They could have some liquid water and maybe supporting life.
  • Of the seven planets, three are classified as TRAPPIST-1 e, f and g. These three planets orbit in the habitable (so-called Goldilocks zone) where temperatures are suited to surface oceans of liquid water.
  • The star Trappist-1 is at least 500 million years old and has a temperature of 2550K. It is marginally larger than Jupiter and shines with a feeble light about 2,000 times fainter than Earth’s sun.
  • The 6 inner planets lie in a temperate zone where surface temperatures range from zero to 100C. Their masses range from around 0.4 to 1.4 times the mass of the Earth.
  • They are so close to each other that their gravitational fields interact with each other. However, their atmospheres needs more study before determining whether they could support some type of life. 
Astronomical terms
  • Exoplanet: It is a planet that does not orbit the Sun and instead orbits a different star, stellar remnant, or brown dwarf. It is also termed as extrasolar planet.
  • Goldilocks Zone: It refers to a habitable zone in space where the temperature is neither too high nor too low. Such conditions could allow for the presence on the planet’s surface of liquid water – a key ingredient for life.

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Vampire star caught in the act by ASTROSAT

India’s first dedicated space observatory, ASTROSAT has captured the rare phenomenon of a small six-billion-year-old vampire star preying on a bigger celestial body.

The vampire star phenomenon is observed when smaller star sucks material (mass and energy) out of the bigger companion star, causing its eventual death.

It is also called a blue straggler as small star becomes bigger, hotter and bluer, giving it the appearance of being young, while the ageing companion burns out and collapses to a stellar remnant.

About ASTROSAT

  • Astrosat is India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory launched in September 2015. It is one of the major scientific missions of ISRO after the highly acclaimed Chandrayaan-I and Mangalyaan.
  • It is placed at low earth equatorial orbit at altitude of 650 km. It has ability to observe celestial bodies like cosmic X-Ray sources and distant stars in different wavelengths simultaneously.
  • It can observe the universe through ultraviolet, optical, low and high energy X-ray components of the electromagnetic spectrum. It has mission life of 5 years.
  • Its successful launch made India member of select elite group of nations comprising US, Japan, Russia and Europe having its own space observatory.

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Astronomers discover powerful cosmic double whammy

Astronomers have discovered two of the most powerful phenomena in the universe, a supermassive black hole and the collision of giant galaxy clusters about 2 billion light years from Earth.

It was discovered combining data from India’s Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and other telescopes.

Key Facts
  • These two phenomenon combined to create a stupendous cosmic particle accelerator. This was the first time, scientists found cosmic combination in a pair of colliding galaxy clusters.
  • It was found from the two colliding galaxy clusters called Abell 3411 and Abell 3412 located about two billion light years from Earth.
  • These two clusters are very massive and each weighs about a quadrillion or a million billion times the mass of the Sun of our solar system.

About Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT)

GMRT is an indigenous project set up by Pune based National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA). It has been designed for investigating a variety of radio astrophysical problems, ranging from nearby Solar system to the edge of observable Universe. Astronomers from all over the world use this telescope regularly to observe many different astronomical objects such as galaxies, pulsars, supernovae, HII regions and Sun and solar winds.

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