- Astronomers Find Massive Exoplanet With Four Parent Stars
- Bird Thought To Be Extinct Resurfaces In Myanmar
- Hubble's 'Einstein Cross' Marks the Space-Warping Spot
- 25 Famous People Who Used To Be Homeless
- Nima Arkani-Hamed Public Lecture: Quantum Mechanics and Spacetime in the 21st Century
- 25 Accidental Inventions That Changed The World
- Archaeologists find two lost cities deep in Honduras jungle
- Some of the Oldest Artifacts Ever Discovered
Posted: 06 Mar 2015 01:51 PM PST
Excerpt from techtimes.com
By Dianne Depra
Researchers seeking to study the complexities of exoplanets with multiple stars have found a new system with four. Called 30 Ari, the system has been discovered earlier actually but at the time it was thought to only have three parent stars.
The truth about 30 Ari was realized with help from instruments installed on telescopes at San Diego's Palomar Observatory, detailed in a study published in the Astronomical Journal. These instruments include the PALM-3000 and the Robo-AO adaptive optics systems by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Caltech and the California Institute of Technology and the Inter-University Center for Astronomy and Astrophysics, respectively. The only other four-star exoplanet on record is the KIC 4862625 discovered in 2013.
The discovery of 30 Ari hints at the possibility that four-star planets might not be as rare as previously believed. In fact, research has shown that the four-star systems these planets are in are also more common than thought of before. According to Andrei Tokovinin from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory and one of the co-authors for the study, around 4 percent of solar stars are found in quadruple systems.
The four-star system 30 Ari is situated 136 light-years away in the Aries constellation. It features a massive gaseous planet 10 times Jupiter's mass orbiting its primary star every 335 days. This primary star has a partner star close by but the exoplanet does not orbit the partner. The primary star and its pair are in turn locked in long-distance orbit with another star pair some 1,670 astronomical units away. One astronomical unit is equivalent to the distance between the sun and the Earth.
If one were to stand on 30 Ari's exoplanet and look up at the sky, the parent stars will look like a small sun flanked by two bright stars visible during daylight.
In recent years, exoplanets with two or three stars as parents have been discovered, including some with Tatooine-like sunsets. The fact that a lot of binary stars exist in the galaxy makes it unsurprising that so many exoplanets are being discovered with multiple parent stars.
The researchers want to further understand how having several parent stars can affect a developing exoplanet. Evidence from previous research suggests that accompanying stars can have an effect on exoplanets by changing planetary orbits or triggering further growth for the planet.
Posted: 06 Mar 2015 01:46 PM PST
Excerpt from techtimes.com
Jerdon's Babbler is a species of bird that was believed to be extinct until this species unexpectedly resurfaced in Myanmar. This brown and white bird is roughly the size of a house sparrow.
The bird was last witnessed in Myanmar during July 1941, close to the Sittaung River just outside Myitkyo. The species was re-discovered on a former agricultural station, on May 30, 2014.
Ornithologists heard the unusual call of the bird, which was recorded on audio equipment. When the sound was played back, one of the long-lost birds came into view. A two-day-long search revealed several of the birds living in the region. Researchers were able to obtain several detailed photographs of the animals and gathered blood samples from a few of the creatures.
Jerdon's babblers were once found throughout the region and were plentiful 100 years ago. However, human development, including agriculture and settlements, destroyed much of the grassy plains on which the species depended to live, destroying populations.
"The degradation of these vast grasslands had led many to consider this subspecies of Jerdon's Babbler extinct. This discovery not only proves that the species still exists in Myanmar but that the habitat can still be found as well," Colin Poole, director of the Singapore chapter of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said.
The species was first discovered in January 1862 by T. C. Jerdon, a naturalist in Britain.
"Our sound recordings indicate that there may be pronounced bioacoustic differences between the Myanmar subspecies and those further west, and genetic data may well confirm the distinctness of the Myanmar population," Frank Rheindt, a member of the field team who found the birds, stated in a press release.
Currently, without genetic information, the bird is classified as a sub-species, one of three found in South Asia's Indus, Ayeyarwady and Bhramaputra River basins.
"Future work is needed to identify remaining pockets of natural grassland and develop systems for local communities to conserve and benefit from them," Poole said.
Re-discovery of the Jerdon's babbler was profiled in BirdingAsia, a publication of the Oriental Bird Club.
Posted: 06 Mar 2015 01:31 PM PST
Excerpt from nbcnews.com
By Alan Boyle
One hundred years after Albert Einstein published his theory of general relativity, the Hubble Space Telescope has provided a demonstration of the theory at work: a picture of a distant galaxy so massive that its gravitational field is bending the light from an even more distant supernova.
The image, released Thursday, shows how the flash from the supernova's blast has been warped into four points of light surrounding an elliptical galaxy in a cluster called MACS J1149.2+2223, which is 5 billion light-years away in the constellation Leo.
"It really threw me for a loop when I spotted the four images surrounding the galaxy," Patrick Kelly, an astronomer from the University of California at Berkeley, said in a news release. "It was a complete surprise."
Maybe it shouldn't have been. The configuration is known as an Einstein Cross. It's a well-known but rarely seen effect of gravitational lensing, which is in line with Einstein's assertion that a massive object warps the fabric of space-time — and thus warps the path taken by light rays around the object.
In this case, the light rays are coming from a stellar explosion that's directly behind the galaxy, but 4.3 million light-years more distant. Computer models suggest that the four-pointed cross will eventually fade away, to be followed within the next five years by the reappearance of the supernova's flash as a single image.
Kelly is part of a research collaboration known as the Grism Lens Amplified Survey from Space, or GLASS. The collaboration is working with the Frontier Field Supernova team, or FrontierSN, to analyze the exploding star. He's also the lead author of a paper on the phenomenon that's being published this week by the journal Science as part of a package marking the 100th anniversary of Einstein's general relativity theory.
The researchers suggest that a high-resolution analysis of the gravitational lensing effect can lead to better measurements of cosmic distances and galactic masses, including the contribution from dark matter. The Hubble team says the faraway supernova has been named "Refsdal" in honor of Norwegian astronomer Sjur Refsdal, who proposed using time-delayed images from a lensed supernova to study the expansion of the universe.
"Astronomers have been looking to find one ever since," UCLA astronomer Tommaso Treu, the GLASS project's principal investigator, said in Thursday's news release. "The long wait is over!"
The Einstein Cross is the subject of a Google+ Hangout at 3 p.m. ET Thursday, presented by the Hubble science team. You can watch the event now or later via YouTube. Check out a preprint version of the Science report.
Posted: 06 Mar 2015 01:14 PM PST
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Posted: 06 Mar 2015 01:09 PM PST
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Posted: 06 Mar 2015 01:09 PM PST
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Posted: 06 Mar 2015 01:01 PM PST
Archaeological team say they have set foot in a place untouched by humans for at least 600 years in a site that may be the ‘lost city of the monkey god’
Archaeologists have discovered two lost cities in the deep jungle of Honduras, emerging from the forest with evidence of a pyramid, plazas and artifacts that include the effigy of a half-human, half-jaguar spirit.
The team of specialists in archaeology and other fields, escorted by three British bushwhacking guides and a detail of Honduran special forces, explored on foot a remote valley of La Mosquitia where an aerial survey had found signs of ruins in 2012.
Chris Fisher, the lead US archaeologist on the team, told the Guardian that the expedition – co-coordinated by the film-makers Bill Benenson and Steve Elkins, Honduras and National Geographic (which first reported the story on its site) – had by all appearances set foot in a place that had gone untouched by humans for at least 600 years.
“Even the animals acted as if they’ve never seen people,” Fisher said. “Spider monkeys are all over place, and they’d follow us around and throw food at us and hoot and holler and do their thing.”
“To be treated not as a predator but as another primate in their space was for me the most amazing thing about this whole trip,” he said.
Fisher and the team arrived by helicopter to “groundtruth” the data revealed by surveying technology called Lidar, which projects a grid of infrared beams powerful enough to break through the dense forest canopy.
The dense jungle of Honduras.Photograph: Dave Yoder/National GeographicThat data showed a human-created landscape, Fisher said of sister cities not only with houses, plazas and structures, but also features “much like an English garden, with orchards and house gardens, fields of crops, and roads and paths.”
In the rainforest valley, they said they found stone structural foundations of two cities that mirrored people’s thinking of the Maya region, though these were not Mayan people. The area dates between 1000AD and 1400AD, and while very little is known without excavation of the site and surrounding region, Fisher said it was likely that European diseases had at least in part contributed to the culture’s disappearance.
The expedition also found and documented 52 artifacts that Virgilio Paredes, head of Honduras’s national anthropology and history institute, said indicated a civilisation distinct from the Mayans. Those artifacts included a bowl with an intricate carvings and semi-buried stone sculptures, including several that merged human and animal characteristics.
The cache of artifacts – “very beautiful, very fantastic,” in Fisher’s words – may have been a burial offering, he said, noting the effigies of spirit animals such as vultures and serpents.
Fisher said that while an archaeologist would likely not call these cities evidence of a lost civilisation, he would call it evidence of a culture or society. “Is it lost? Well, we don’t know anything about it,” he said.
The exploratory team did not have a permit to excavate and hopes to do so on a future expedition. “That’s the problem with archaeology is it takes a long time to get things done, another decade if we work intensively there, but then we’ll know a little more,” Fisher said.
Advertisement“This wasn’t like some crazy colonial expedition of the last century,” he added.
Despite the abundance of monkeys, far too little is known of the site still to tie it to the “lost city of the monkey god” that one such expedition claimed to have discovered. In about 1940, the eccentric journalist Theodore Morde set off into the Honduran jungle in search of the legendary “white city” that Spanish conquistadors had heard tales of in the centuries before.
He broke out of the brush months later with hundreds of artifacts and extravagant stories of how ancient people worshipped their simian deity. According to Douglas Preston, the writer National Geographic sent along with its own expedition: “He refused to divulge the location out of fear, he said, that the site would be looted. He later committed suicide and his site – if it existed at all – was never identified.”
Fisher emphasised that archaeologists know extraordinarily little about the region’s ancient societies relative to the Maya civilisation, and that it would take more research and excavation. He said that although some academics might find it distasteful, expeditions financed through private means – in this case the film-makers Benenson and Elkins – would become increasingly commonplace as funding from universities and grants lessened.
Fisher also suggested that the Lidar infrared technology used to find the site would soon be as commonplace as radiocarbon dating: “People just have to get through this ‘gee-whiz’ phase and start thinking about what we can do with it.”
Paredes and Fisher also said that the pristine, densely-wooded site was dangerously close to land being deforested for beef farms that sell to fast-food chains. Global demand has driven Honduras’s beef industry, Fisher said, something that he found worrying.
“I keep thinking of those monkeys looking at me not having seen people before. To lose all this over a burger, it’s a really hard pill to swallow.”
Posted: 06 Mar 2015 12:52 PM PST