CNES CoRoT Satellite Suffers Computer Failure

corot-cnes-satellite

The French space agency CNES has announced that the Convection, Rotation and Planetary Transits (CoRoT) satellite is on its last legs.

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Presence of Asteroid Belts & Gas Giants In Systems Key to Finding Extra-Solar Life

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Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech

According to the theory of punctuated equilibrium, evolution will go faster when life has to make rapid changes to survive in challenging environments. Life with an asteroid belt in system can be quite varied and dramatic. Multi-cellular life might need an asteroid belt to provide the right number of hits to spur on evolution.

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Earth-Sized Exoplanet Discovered in Alpha Centauri System

planet orbiting Alpha Centauri B
This artist’s impression shows the planet orbiting the star Alpha Centauri B, a member of the triple star system that is the closest to Earth. Alpha Centauri B is the most brilliant object in the sky and the other dazzling object is Alpha Centauri A. Our own Sun is visible to the upper right. The tiny signal of the planet was found with the HARPS spectrograph on the 3.6-metre telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada/N. Risinger (skysurvey.org)

Astronomers have uncovered a low-mass planet orbiting α Centauri B, a member of the stellar system neighboring our Solar System. Although the exoplanet is nearly identical to Earth in mass, it’s much closer to its star than Mercury to the Sun, so it’s expected to be scorched and barren. As astronomers search α Centauri for more hospitable worlds, its astronomical proximity will probably spur dreams of interstellar exploration projects.

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Distant Exoplanets form Planetary Syzygy Celestial Alignment

exoplanetary-system

Astronomers have discovered that two exoplanets are overlapping in the skies as they cross their star. The phenomenon is new enough that it doesn’t have a name, but it’s related to a syzygy, which is when a straight line configuration of three celestial bodies is formed in a gravitational system.

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Tidal Heating Suggests Less Habitable Planets

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Tidal heating, which is basically gravitational heating of a planet via tides, suggests that the number of habitable planets could be roughly half of what was previously thought. Tidal heating could shrink the habitable zone around the Milky Way’s most numerous stars, red dwarfs.

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Chemistry Might Influence Habitable Zones Around Extrasolar Systems

kepler-field-of-view

Trace elements in extrasolar systems might influence the evolution of habitable zones around their stars, where carbon-based life as we know it might dwell. Most stars are made up of hydrogen and helium gas, but there still remain traces of heavier elements, like metals, that are inherited from the remnants of older stars or forged by stellar fusion.

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NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers 11 New Extrasolar Systems with 26 Exoplanets

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NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered 11 new planetary systems, with an additional 26 confirmed planets, which actually doubles the number of verified Kepler planets and triples the number of stars known to have more than one planet. It’s hoped that such systems might elucidate how planets are formed.

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