We are seeing so many remarkable pre-announcement pieces showing up, this is a place to post and discuss them. This one for example, is making discoveries sound 'ho hum' which a few months/years ago were heralded as amazing breakthroughs. Today for example: 

"Nearly Every Star Hosts at Least One Alien Planet"


When a month or so ago they were making a BIG deal about finding one planet in the sweet zone which could possibly support life, son they they say 25% of them could support life! Including mention of red dwarfs, etc. The Zeta predicted evidence continues to build up!

Here is another blog that relates, describing a wobble:

NASA Scientists "Discover" a Wobbly Planet!?


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Comment by casey a on October 27, 2016 at 7:40pm

Scientists say data from NASA's 1976 Mars landing need to be reconsidered for signs of life 


(Not the first time these dots have been connected.. But a good read for anyone who doesnt know about the Viking findings)

Comment by Matt B on October 21, 2016 at 7:50am

'Planet Nine' Can't Hide Much Longer, Scientists Say


Planet Nine's days of lurking unseen in the dark depths of the outer solar system may be numbered.

The hypothetical giant planet, which is thought to be about 10 times more massive than Earth, will be discovered within 16 months or so, astronomer Mike Brown predicted.

"I'm pretty sure, I think, that by the end of next winter — not this winter, next winter — I think that there'll be enough people looking for it that … somebody's actually going to track this down," Brown said during a news conference Wednesday (Oct. 19) at a joint meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division for Planetary Sciences (DPS) and the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Pasadena, California. Brown said that eight to 10 groups are currently looking for the planet.


The researchers suggested that this putative planet is perhaps two to 15 times more massive than Earth and lies hundreds of astronomical units (AU) from the sun. (One AU is the Earth-sun distance, about 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers.)

This interpretation was bolstered in January of this year by Brown and fellow Caltech astronomer Konstantin Batygin, who found evidence of a perturber's influence in the orbits of a handful of additional distant objects. This "Planet Nine," as Batygin and Brown dubbed the putative world, likely contains about 10 Earth masses and orbits on a highly elliptical path whose aphelion (farthest distance from the sun) is about 1,000 AU, the researchers said. (For perspective, Pluto gets just 49.3 AU from the sun at aphelion.)


The ongoing Planet Nine research also includes efforts to pin down where the world might be in the sky these days. This is a key part of the discovery effort, since a blind search for an object so far away, and with such a huge and elliptical orbit, has little chance of success in the near term, Brown has said.


Astronomers have said Planet Nine is perhaps four times wider than Earth, and such an object would be easily visible with professional-grade equipment if it were relatively close to Earth, Brown explained. In addition, planets on highly elliptical orbits spend most of their time near aphelion, since they're traveling most slowly on this part of their path, he said.

An object four times bigger than Earth that's located at 1,000 AU would have a magnitude of about +25 on astronomers' brightness scale, Brown added.

"This is well within reach of the giant telescopes," he said. "The Subaru telescope, I think, on Mauna Kea, [in Hawaii] — the Japanese national telescope — is the prime instrument for doing the search. But there are a lot of other people who have clever ideas on how to find it, too, that are trying with their own telescopes."


Comment by Derrick Johnson on October 21, 2016 at 7:19am

Is everything we know about the solar system WRONG? Bizarre new star formation leaves scientists baffled

  • Astronomers have found a new kind of star system called a binary-binary 
  • This has two stars orbiting each other, which is orbiting another star itself 
  • The new system is also orbited unusually closely by two giant planets
  • Finding could change our understanding of how the solar system formed

Source: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3856324/Is-know-sola... 

Comment by Ryan X on October 21, 2016 at 4:44am
Comment by casey a on October 17, 2016 at 7:46am

Astronomers have discovered two moons located behind Uranus after re-examining old data collected by NASA’s space probe Voyager 2. 


Comment by Kris H on October 14, 2016 at 11:35pm
Obama issues executive order on space weather:

Comment by casey a on October 3, 2016 at 6:57pm

A New Generation of Astronomers Is on the Hunt for the Next Earth 


About a month ago, astronomers announced they had found a new exoplanet—this one, orbiting in the habitable zone of the nearest star to Earth. Proxima b is exciting because it’s nearby, and someday someone might send a spaceprobe to it. Plus, it has a mass close to Earth’s—making it more likely to be livable.

Proxima b popped out of a different technique, one that, for the most part, hasn’t been sensitive enough to see planets like Earth. And advances in that technique—including a new instrument called EXPRES—could improve detection enough for scientists to find and weigh lots of other Earth-mass planets.

Comment by casey a on September 18, 2016 at 9:41pm
What are the odds there is life in outer space - Richard Dawkins asks Neil Degrasse tyson

Comment by casey a on September 9, 2016 at 8:37pm
Evidence of Planet 9 --"May Already Exist"

“Actually, it’s quite possible that the planet has already been in some way imaged,” says Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institute. “That happened with Uranus, Neptune and Pluto — they were observed but not understood before they were actually detected. Who knows, proof of Planet X {or Planet 9} may already exist in some observatory archive.”

Scott Shepard’s team has been se arching for proof of Planet 9 using the Dark Energy Camera on the 4-meter Blanco telescope at the Cerro Tollolo Inter-American Observatory in the southern Atacama region of Chile (below) . They have also collected data on distant solar system objects with the Japanese Hyper Surpime Camera on the 8-meter Subaru telescope in Hawaii. (National Optical Astronomical Observatory)

Shepard is considering an alternative theory that involves a Planet 9 exoplanet that had been been kicked out of another nearby solar system that formed in the general vicinity of ours. Such things are known to happen.

The other team most deeply involved with the Planet 9 hunt is led by Mike Brown and Konstantin Batygin of the California Institute of Technology. They are the ones who made a big splash earlier this year with their predictions of a Planet 9, again based on the orbits of smaller objects.

Sheppard’s team is conducting the deepest survey so far for objects beyond Neptune and the Kuiper Belt, a circumstellar disk that lies some 30 to 50 times as far as the Earth is from the sun.
Comment by SongStar101 on September 8, 2016 at 9:30pm

Pluto Probe Spots Distant Dwarf Planet Quaoar (Photos)


NASA's New Horizons spacecraft captured this image of the dwarf planet Quaoar in July 2016, from a distance of 1.3 billion miles (2.1 billion kilometers).

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft has photographed a distant dwarf planet cruising through the dark depths of the outer solar system.

New Horizons captured images of the mysterious, 690-mile-wide (1,110 kilometers) Quaoar at four different times on July 13 and July 14 — exactly one year after the probe's historic July 14, 2015, flyby of Pluto.

New Horizons was 1.3 billion miles (2.1 billion km) from Quaoar when it took the photos with its Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera, so the dwarf planet is not sharply resolved. But even such fuzzy views have scientific value, NASA officials said. [Destination Pluto: NASA's New Horizons Mission in Pictures]

"With the oblique view available from New Horizons, LORRI sees only a portion of Quaoar's illuminated surface, which is very different from the nearly fully illuminated view of the dwarf planet from Earth," NASA officials wrote in an image description today (Aug. 31). "Comparing Quaoar from the two very different perspectives gives mission scientists a valuable opportunity to study the light-scattering properties of Quaoar's surface."

Quaoar (pronounced kwa-whar) was discovered in 2002 and has not officially been designated a dwarf planet, but it almost certainly qualifies, researchers have said. Dwarf planets need to be massive enough to be shaped into a sphere by their own gravity; with a diameter of 690 miles, Quaoar is larger than the officially recognized dwarf planet Ceres.

Quaoar lies an average of 43 astronomical units (AU) from the sun and completes one lap around the star every 286 Earth years. (One AU is the average distance from Earth to the sun — about 93 million miles, or 150 million km.) The object has one known moon.

NASA's New Horizons probe captured these images of the dwarf planet Quaoar on July 13-14, 2016, from a distance of 1.3 billion miles (2.1 billion kilometers).

The newly released images also show a number of background stars and two galaxies, known as IC 1048 and UGC 09485, both of which are about 370 billion times farther from New Horizons than Quaoar is, agency officials added.

As the Quaoar observations show, New Horizons' work did not end with the Pluto encounter. On Jan. 1, 2019, the probe will fly by an object called 2014 MU69, which lies about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) beyond Pluto.

The 2014 MU69 flyby, which is the centerpiece of a mission extension approved by NASA last month, should help researchers better understand the diversity of objects in the Kuiper Belt, the large, frigid realm beyond Neptune's orbit. (At an estimated 13 to 25 miles, or 21 to 40 km, wide, 2014 MU69 is very different from Pluto, which measures 1,473 miles, or 2,370 km, across.)


Our Interstellar Neighbors: 5 Potentially Earth-Like Planets Nearby


A possibly Earth-like planet has been found within the habitable zone of humanity's closest stellar neighbor, Proxima Centauri, and astronomers think the world could potentially support life. 

While there is still a lot to learn about this newfound world, called Proxima Centauri b or just Proxima b, astronomers are sure of a few things: The Earth-like rocky exoplanet is 4.2 light-years away; its minimum mass is 1.3 times that of the Earth, and it orbits Proxima Centauri every 11.2 days.

Astronomers also said that Proxima b lies within the habitable zone of Proxima Centauri, which means the planet orbits a safe distance from the star, making it neither too hot or too cold. Because of this, astronomers said that Proxima b may have suitable surface temperature that would allow for the presence of liquid water, meaning the exoplanet could support some sort of life. [Proxima b: Closest Earth-Like Planet Discovery in Pictures]

"We know very little about these [types of] planets," Thomas Barclay, senior research scientist and director of the Kepler and K2 missions, told Space.com. NASA's orbiting Kepler Space Telescope has identified more than 2,000 confirmed planets around other stars based on changes in the stars' brightness. "For some of them, we know an approximate mass or an approximate radius, and we know roughly how far they are from their star — but that's really all we know." 

With the discovery of Proxima b, here are five other potentially Earth-like planets that astronomers have previously found in Earth's interstellar neighborhood:

This exoplanet is located about 13.8 light-years from Earth in the constellation Ophiuchus, making it the second-closest known potentially habitable planet to Earth, after Proxima b.

Wolf 1061c lies within the habitable zone of the red dwarf star called Wolf 1061, according to a 2015 study published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. The exoplanet takes about 17.9 days to complete one orbit around its parent star. Its estimated mass is about 4.3 times that of Earth. Wolf 1061c is thought to be a rocky planet, which means it may be able to support life as we know it. 

This alien world is slightly farther from Earth, but it exhibits many similar traits that suggest it may be able to support life, too. 

Gliese 832c is located just 16 light-years from Earth and lies within the habitable zone of a red dwarf star called Gliese 832. This exoplanet completes one orbit around its star in 36 days. 

This is an artistic representation of the potentially habitable exoplanet Gliese 832 c compared to Earth. Gliese 832 c is represented here as a larger, temperate world covered in clouds.
Credit: PHL @UPR Arecibo

Gliese 832c is what astronomers call a "super-Earth," because it is at least five times as massive as Earth. It was actually the second planet found around the star Gliese 832. However, the other one, Gliese 832b, is a gas giant that is likely unable to support life. 

This exoplanet is also considered a "super-Earth," because it is at least 3.9 times more massive than Earth. It orbits the red dwarf Gliese 667C, which is part of a three-star system that lies 22 light-years away, in the constellation Scorpius.

Gliese 667Cc also lies within the habitable zone of its parent star and takes about 28 days to complete one orbit. Astronomers announced the discovery of this alien world in 2011. It was found using the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) 3.6-meter telescope in Chile. 

This exoplanet orbits around an ultracool dwarf star known as TRAPPIST-1, which lies approximately 40 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Aquarius. TRAPPIST-1d also resides within the habitable zone around its star.

Astronomers announced the discovery of the TRAPPIST-1 system on May 2, 2016. This alien solar system has three potentially Earth-like planets that orbit the dwarf star. 

A star system known as TRAPPIST-1 has three potentially Earth-like planets in its orbit. This is an artist's impression of the TRAPPIST-1 star system as seen from one of the three alien planets.
Credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

Scientists found the TRAPPIST-1 star system and planets using the TRAPPIST (TRAnsiting Planets and PlanetesImals Small Telescope) instrument at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, which is operated by the ESO. 

This exoplanet also appears potentially habitable and is located 49 light-years from Earth, in the Dorado constellation. Gliese 163c isapproximately seven times the mass of Earth, earning it the title of a "super-Earth." 

It lies within the habitable zone around a red dwarf star known as Gliese 163 and takes 26 days to complete one orbit. Gliese 163c is one of two alien planets found orbiting the star Gliese 163. Astronomers found this planet using the High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Searcher (HARPS), which is mounted on the ESO telescope located at the La Silla Observatory. 

Since Proxima b is so close to Proxima Centauri, the exoplanet likely has one side that constantly faces the star, similar to how the moon always shows the same face to Earth. Astronomers suggest that Proxima Centauri's gravitational pull likely forced Proxima b to become "tidally locked" to the star in this way, so the world has one illuminated side and one dark side

If that is the case, any life on the Proxima b would be very restricted due to extreme temperature variations between the dark and light side, Barclay explained. 

"There would likely be enormous winds on these planets," Barclay said. "When you have hot areas [on the sunlit side] and cold areas [on the dark side] on a planet, the hot part of the atmosphere moves the cold part, which would produce very strong and fast winds."

As a result, life on an exoplanet like Proxima b would be very different from what humans experience on Earth. 

"The light also isn't the bright white-yellow light we get from the sun. It would be much more red. So, you would expect biology to evolve differently," Barclay said, adding that solar flares from red dwarfs could also have a large impact on exoplanets orbiting them. 

"We see solar flares [from the sun] occasionally, but they don't really impact life on Earth all that much," Barclay said. On the other hand, "Proxima Centauri is thought to have a flare every 20 minutes." 

However, astronomers are still unsure what damage solar flares could cause.  

"What we have learned when we look at biology on Earth is that life seems to find a way. Life adapts," Barclay said. "We might find life to be extremely different on these planets, just because it has had to adapt to a very different environment."

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