When astronomers in February announced the discovery of seven planets orbiting a supercool star, details about the outermost planet were sketchy. No more. The seventh planet is chilly and definitely no place for life, the international team reports May 22 in Nature Astronomy.
The seven-planet system, TRAPPIST-1, is 39 light-years from Earth in the constellation Aquarius. Follow-up...
50 Years Ago
Saturn: Four Rings
Walter A. Feibelman of the University of Pittsburgh … has found evidence indicating a fourth ring [of Saturn].… Every 14.78 years, the rings of Saturn can be seen edge-on from Earth, and the past winter marked one of these opportunities.… The thin ring “extends to more than twice the known ring diameter” (or a total of 340,000 miles), and is so faint it cannot be...
Letters to the Editor
At random05/17/2017 - 10:49 Cancer, Planetary Science
As cells divide and grow, mutations may crop up in cancer-associated genes. A recent study found that more cancer mutations are caused by these random mistakes than other factors, such as environment or inheritance, Tina Hesman Saey reported in “DNA errors play big role in cancer” (SN: 4/15/17, p. 6).
John Day wondered if replication errors are truly random, not just...
As the Cassini spacecraft plunges toward its death on Saturn, the world’s knowledge of the famous ringed planet continues to accumulate. Thanks to years of observations by the versatile probe, astronomers now know Saturn as intimately as macaroni knows cheese. But still hardly anyone outside the world of astronomy knows anything about Cassini — and I don’t mean the spacecraft, but the guy it...
News in Brief
Whiffs of dark matter may be blowing in on a cosmic ray breeze. Antiprotons streaming down on Earth from space could be hinting at the existence of the invisible substance, two teams of researchers suggest.
Particles known as cosmic rays are constantly whizzing through space. These particles include protons and their antimatter partners, antiprotons. While antiprotons are produced in run...
A watery world about 430 light-years from Earth may have had a relatively calm origin.
The Neptune-mass exoplanet, HAT-P-26b, has surprisingly low levels of heavy elements in its atmosphere, suggesting that it formed close to its star, researchers report in the May 12 Science. That’s different from how the ice giants in Earth’s solar system, Neptune and Uranus, formed, suggesting...
Oxygen on comets might not date all the way back to the birth of the solar system.
Instead, interactions between water, particles streaming from the sun and grains of sand or rust on the comet’s surface could generate the gas. Those interactions could explain the surprising abundance of O2 detected in the fuzzy envelope of gas around comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2015 (SN: 11/28/15...
Mars may have had a far-out birthplace.
Simulating the assembly of the solar system around 4.56 billion years ago, researchers propose that the Red Planet didn’t form in the inner solar system alongside the other terrestrial planets as previously thought. Mars instead may have formed around where the asteroid belt is now and migrated inward to its present-day orbit, the scientists report...
It won’t be a tsunami. Nor an earthquake. Not even the crushing impact of the space rock. No, if an asteroid kills you, gusting winds and shock waves from falling and exploding space rocks will most likely be to blame. That’s one of the conclusions of a recent computer simulation effort that investigated the fatality risks of more than a million possible asteroid impacts.
In one extreme...
Reviews & Previews
In August, the United States will experience its first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in nearly a century. Over the course of an hour and a half, the moon’s narrow shadow will slice across 12 states, from Oregon to South Carolina (SN: 8/20/16, p. 14). As many as 200 million people are expected to travel to spots where they can view the spectacle, in what could become one of the most...