Space

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More than half of Kepler’s exoplanets are false positive

Yesterday, results were released from an international team led by Alexandre Santerne from Instituto de Astrofísica e Ciências do Espaço, where they measured 129 objects-of-interest identified by Kepler for a period of five years. They did spectroscopic analysis, which means they studied the individual wavelengths of light coming from the star, and expected a false positive rate of about 10-to-20%, which is what most scientists estimated.

But they found, instead, that over half (52%) of the planetary candidates were, in fact, eclipsing binaries, with another three candidates turning out to be brown dwarfs.

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Mars might get rings

“We suggest that – with continued inward migration of the moon – the weakest material will disperse tidally in 20 to 40 million years to form a Martian ring,” the researchers write in Nature Geoscience. “We predict that this ring will persist for [1 million to 100 million years] and will initially have a comparable mass density to that of Saturn’s rings.”

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Measuring crop yields from space

A research team, led by Kaiyu Guan, a postdoctoral fellow in Earth system science at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy, & Environmental Sciences, has developed a method to estimate crop yields using satellites that can measure solar-induced fluorescence, a light emitted by growing plants. The team published its results in the journal Global Change Biology.

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The Space Wars heat up

A US space expert, Brian Weeden, tracked the Luch satellite and said it moved to a position in June where there were no other Russian satellites, but which put it “right in between two operational Intelsat satellites… where it remained until mid-September”.

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From 0 to 5,000 Planets in Exactly 20 Years

Twenty years ago today, an invisible object circling an obscure star in the constellation Pegasus overturned everything astronomers knew about planets around other stars. No, the fallout was even bigger than that. The indirect detection of 51 Pegasi b—the first planet ever found around a star similar to the sun—revealed that they had never really known anything to begin with.

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The oldest galaxies in the universe

More than 12 billion years ago, a sea of stars fell into orbit around a baby black hole, and became a galaxy, one of the first.

The formation of this galaxy, and others like it, was a momentous event in cosmic evolution. This galaxy and its brethren helped to clear hydrogen gas left over from the Big Bang, making our universe transparent to light.

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Why alien life will be robotic

This will be especially true in space, which is a hostile place for biological intelligence. The Earth’s biosphere, in which organic life has symbiotically evolved, is not a constraint for advanced AI. Indeed it is far from optimal—interplanetary and interstellar space will be the preferred arena where robotic fabricators will have the grandest scope for construction, and where non-biological “brains” may develop insights as far beyond our imaginings as string theory is for a mouse.

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Uh, Did Astronomers Just Discover Alien Megastructures Near a Distant Star?

Enter Jason Wright, the Penn State University astronomer suggesting the irregular reading might be a product of orbital megastructures, essentially massive alien satellites. Megastructures, Wright says, would be “very large” — and likely made of very thin materials to offset the constraints imposed by launching and controlling big objects. Wright suggestion was, in a sense, Occam’s Razor reasoning: Astronomical explanations couldn’t account for brightness dropping by a staggering 22 percent. To give a sense of just how extreme that number is, a planet the size of Jupiter would block about 1 percent of light — and planets don’t get much bigger than that.

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