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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Sun's Neighbor Is The Coldest Brown Dwarf Star Ever Found

Astronomers have discovered one of the sun's neighbors - a brown dwarf star which is as frosty as Earth's Arctic.

Penn State University astronomers believe the brown dwarf is the coldest of its kind, writes Science World Report.

The star, named WISE J085510.83-071442, was found 7.2 light years away making it the fourth closest neighbor to our Sun.

It was discovered using NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Spitzer Space Telescopes.

"It is very exciting to discover a new neighbor of our solar system that is so close," said Kevin Luhman, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State and a researcher in the Penn State Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Astronomers discover most 'habitable,' Earth-like planet yet

April 17, 2014: This artist's rendering provided by NASA on shows an Earth-sized planet dubbed Kepler-186f orbiting a star 500 light-years from Earth. Astronomers say the planet may hold water on its surface and is the best candidate yet of a habitable planet in the ongoing search for an Earth twin.AP/NASA AMES/SETI INSTITUTE/JPL-CALTECH
LOS ANGELES – Astronomers have discovered what they say is the most Earth-like planet yet detected — a distant, rocky world that's similar in size to our own and exists in the Goldilocks zone where it's not too hot and not too cold for life.

The find, announced Thursday, excited planet hunters who have been scouring the Milky Way galaxy for years for potentially habitable places outside our solar system.

"This is the best case for a habitable planet yet found. The results are absolutely rock solid," University of California, Berkeley astronomer Geoff Marcy, who had no role in the discovery, said in an email.

The planet was detected by NASA's orbiting Kepler telescope, which examines the heavens for subtle changes in brightness that indicate an orbiting planet is crossing in front of a star. From those changes, scientists can calculate a planet's size and make certain inferences about its makeup.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

NASA Discovers First Exomoon

In a paper that will be featured in the Astrophysical Journal, the first exomoon candidate has been discovered. Using telescopes based in New Zealand, in June of 2011 a brief brightening in the Sagittarius constellation occurred as a rare phenomenon called microlensing, when a celestial object passes between earth and a distant star. NASA-funded researchers, including the lead author from the University of Notre Dame David Bennett, have reported that while observing the gravitational magnification of the starlight, astronomers hypothesized that it was either a small star or brown dwarf and a Neptune-sized planet about 19 times the mass of earth, or a planet larger than Jupiter with an orbiting moon smaller than earth.

The possible exomoon was observed during a joint study by the Probing Lensing Anomalies NETwork, or PLANET, and the Japan-New Zealand-American Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics, or MOA. The ratio of the large object to its small companion is 2,000 to one, according to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at Caltech, but unfortunately the encounter was by chance and therefore cannot be viewed again to confirm their suspicions. If it is an exomoon, the chief scientist for NASA’s Exoplanet Exploration Program, Wes Traub, believes that the planet may have been ejected from another planetary system along with its companion moon.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Papyrus Referring to Jesus’s Wife Is More Likely Ancient Than Fake, Scientists Say

A faded fragment of papyrus known as the “Gospel of Jesus’s Wife,” which caused an uproar when unveiled by a Harvard Divinity School historian in 2012, has been tested by scientists who conclude in a journal published on Thursday that the ink and papyrus are very likely ancient, and not a modern forgery.

Skepticism about the tiny scrap of papyrus has been fierce because it contained a phrase never before seen in any piece of Scripture: “Jesus said to them, ‘My wife...’ ” Too convenient for some, it also contained the words “she will be able to be my disciple,” a clause that inflamed the debate in some churches over whether women should be allowed to be priests.

The papyrus fragment has now been analyzed by professors of electrical engineering, chemistry and biology at Columbia University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who reported that it resembles other ancient papyri from the fourth to the eighth centuries. (Scientists at the University of Arizona, who dated the fragment to centuries before the birth of Jesus, concluded that their results were unreliable.)

The test results do not prove that Jesus had a wife or disciples who were women, only that the fragment is more likely a snippet from an ancient manuscript than a fake, the scholars agree. Karen L. King, the historian at Harvard Divinity School who gave the papyrus its name and fame, has said all along that it should not be regarded as evidence that Jesus married, only that early Christians were actively discussing celibacy, sex, marriage and discipleship.