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LHS 1140b: Another planet in habitable zone discovered

Astronomers have discovered yet another planet, called LHS1140b, which is expected to be present in the Goldilocks Zone. It’s not so far away, either. It is found orbiting around the star LHS 1140 some 39 light-years away.

Goldilocks Zone refers to a habitable zone where the temperature is neither too high nor too low.

The planet is found to be rocky, like the Earth but is over six-times as massive as Earth and about 1.5-times larger and falls under the category of ‘Super Earth’. Its gravitational pull will be three times stronger than that of the Earth. Rocky planets within the habitable zone are the best candidates to find evidence of some form of life.

Super Earth: These are planets that are bigger and more massive than Earth and yet smaller and less massive than the next biggest planet, Neptune.

The very close location of the planet will make it easier for the astronomers to study its atmosphere and look for signs of life in the near-future. The study of a planet’s atmosphere is vital to look for signs of life. If the atmosphere is found to be thick and filled with carbon dioxide, like Venus, then it can be concluded that it would be too hot to hold life or water. On the other hand, if the atmosphere is too thin and wispy like Mars, then all the water will get locked up as ice.

The first planet outside our solar system was found out in 1995. With the help of NASA’s Kepler telescope, the discovery of planets has become easier. So far, astronomers have identified 52 potentially habitable planets and around 3,600 planets outside our solar system. With the launch of James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) by NASA in 2018, chances of studying planets and detecting a familiar atmosphere will increase manifold. JWST will succeed the Hubble space telescope.

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Hubble Space Telescope detects Great Balls of Fire

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has detected Great Balls of Fire (GBF), a mysterious super-hot blobs of gas seen near a dying star.

The plasma gas balls were observed near a red giant called V Hydrae, about 1,200 light years away from Earth. Red giants are dying stars that are nearing the end of their fuel supplies and have begun to expand and puff up.

Key Facts

  • HST had found that these GBFs from V Hydrae are double the mass of Mars and twice as hot as surface of sun. GBF have continued once every 8.5 years for at least past 400 years.
  • They are moving so fast in space that they would take only half an hour cover distance between moon and Earth.
  • If scientists are able to discover origin of these balls, it could explain other weird shapes seen in the cloud of gas around dying stars, which is difficult for scientists to explain at present.

About Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

  • HST is a space telescope that was launched in 1990 by NASA in collaboration with European Space Agency. It is named after the astronomer Edwin Hubble and is still in operation.
  • It is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Its operations are conducted by Baltimore based Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).
  • It is located in low Earth orbit outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere that allows it to take extremely high-resolution images.
  • Its successor, James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), is scheduled for launch in 2018.

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Hubble Telescope spots solitary dwarf galaxy UGC 4879

NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered a mysterious solitary dwarf galaxy known as UGC 4879.

The galaxy is smaller and messier than its cosmic cousins and lacks the majestic swirl of a spiral or the coherence of an elliptical.

Key findings

  • The galaxy UGC 4879 is very isolated and consists of a scattered drizzle of stars.
  • It about 2.3 million light years away from its closest neighbour, Leo A which is about the same distance as that between our Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy.
  • The galaxy has not interacted with any of surrounding galaxies that makes it an ideal laboratory for astronomers to study star formation by interactions with other galaxies.
  • The scientific studies of this solitary galaxy UGC 4879 will provide ample scientific study material for astronomers looking to understand the complex mysteries of star birth throughout the universe.
  • It will especially help astronomers to study amount of star formation in the first 4 billion years after the Big Bang and followed by a strange 9 billion-year lull in star formation.

About Hubble Space Telescope (HST)

  • HST was launched in 1990 as an international cooperation space project between NASA and European Space Agency.
  • It is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Its science operations are conducted by Baltimore based Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI).
  • It is located in low Earth orbit outside the distortion of Earth’s atmosphere that allows it to take extremely high-resolution images.

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