A Rainbow in Space? New Observations Reveal a Bizarre Phenomenon on WASP-76b

Category Astronomy

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29 seconds

New observations from the CHEOPS space telescope have revealed a mysterious "glory" in the atmosphere of WASP-76b, a highly unusual exoplanet. This "rainbow" phenomenon, caused by intense radiation from the planet's star, has been confirmed by detailed observations over a period of three years. If verified, this would be the first detection of a glory outside of our solar system and adds to the list of extreme and fascinating characteristics associated with WASP-76b.

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2 minutes, 27 seconds

The discovery of WASP-76b, an exoplanet twelve times closer to its star than Mercury is to the Sun, has presented a unique opportunity for astronomers to study strange and extreme phenomena. In particular, the CHEOPS space telescope, operated by the University of Geneva and the European Space Agency, has provided new insights into this mysterious planet. Through extensive observations, a team of researchers has uncovered a peculiar asymmetry between the eastern and western terminators of WASP-76b, indicating the presence of a phenomenon known as a "glory" in the planet's atmosphere.

WASP-76b was discovered in 2013 and has been extensively studied since then.

The unusual properties of WASP-76b have fascinated scientists since its discovery in 2013. With its extreme proximity to its star, the exoplanet is subjected to intense radiation levels, causing it to "inflate" and become almost twice as large as Jupiter, despite being 10% less massive. The day side of WASP-76b experiences scorching temperatures of 2,400 degrees Celsius, which is hot enough to melt elements that are normally solid on Earth. The resulting iron vapor condenses into clouds on the planet's night-side, forming a river of molten iron that rains down on the surface.

The exoplanet is so close to its star that it takes only 1.8 Earth days to complete one orbit.

However, the real surprise came when researchers turned their attention to the terminator, the imaginary line that separates the day and night sides of a planet. Through detailed observations with the CHEOPS telescope, they discovered that the terminator to the east of WASP-76b was consistently brighter than the one to the west. This observation could not be explained by known physical processes and led the team to propose a novel hypothesis: the existence of a "glory" in the planet's atmosphere, similar to a rainbow on Earth.

WASP-76b has an extremely distorted shape, being stretched by tidal forces from its star.

To test this theory, the team used CHEOPS to observe twenty-three secondary eclipses (when the planet passes behind its star) and several phase curves (continuous observations during a complete orbit) over a period of three years. Combining these new data with those from other telescopes, the researchers were able to confirm the excess luminous flux on the eastern side of the planet, suggesting the presence of a glory phenomenon. If confirmed, this would be the first detection of this phenomenon outside of our solar system.

The intense radiation from its star causes the day side of WASP-76b to reach temperatures of 2,400 degrees Celsius.

The discovery of a glory on WASP-76b has opened up a new realm of possibilities for exoplanet research. Not only is it a remarkable finding in its own right, but it also demonstrates the powerful capabilities of the CHEOPS telescope in revealing the mysteries of our universe.



Did Asteroids Cause 'Snowball Earth' Events?

Category Astronomy

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31 seconds

A new study by a Yale-led research team suggests that 'Snowball Earth' events, in which the entire planet was covered in ice, may have been triggered by large asteroid impacts. Using a sophisticated climate model, the team found that in certain climate scenarios, an asteroid strike could have pushed Earth into a 'Snowball' state in just 10 years. This could explain the dramatic climate shifts that occurred during the Neoproterozoic era. The study challenges existing theories about declining greenhouse gases and offers a new perspective on past climate events on Earth.

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Ancient Maya: Master Astronomers and Observers of the Skies

Category Astronomy

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23 seconds

The ancient Maya were highly skilled astronomers who recorded their knowledge in codices and utilized it for agricultural calendars and religious beliefs. They could accurately predict solar eclipses, such as the upcoming one in 2024, and aligned their monumental structures with celestial events. Their codices contain evidence of their astronomical knowledge and the importance they placed on solar eclipses.

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The Hunt for Captured Planets: Analyzing the Potential Discovery of Small Rogue Objects in Our Solar System

Category Astronomy

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35 seconds

A recent study suggests that there could be small rogue objects, ranging from the size of Mars to the size of Mercury, captured into our solar system. Current predictions estimate the existence of 1.2-2.7 Mars-sized objects and 2.4-5.2 Mercury-sized objects. Additional exploration is needed to refine these estimates. Upcoming instruments like the Nancy Grace Roman Telescope and LSST will aid in the search for these captured planets. It is possible that even smaller objects, such as dwarf planets, could be detected by these instruments.

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The Condor Array Telescope: Unlocking the Mysteries of the Very-Low-Brightness Universe

Category Astronomy

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The Condor Array Telescope, a collaboration between Stony Brook University and the American Museum of Natural History, has recently published its first scientific findings. By using computers to combine light from smaller telescopes, Condor is able to detect and study extremely faint astronomical features. Its achievements include clarifying the nature of stellar streams and discovering new gas shells, showcasing its ability to capture faint features.

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Titan's Atmosphere: A Window into the Chemistry of Methane and Beyond

Category Astronomy

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An international research team has catalogued nearly one hundred signatures of the methane molecule in Titan's atmosphere, providing new insights into its chemistry and distribution. The study also reveals possible evidence of tricarbon molecules on the moon, offering a glimpse into the formation of complex molecules that are essential for life. Titan's atmosphere serves as a unique natural laboratory for studying the chemical processes that could occur on exoplanets and other Solar System bodies.

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Unlocking the Mystery of Hydrogen-Poor Supernovae

Category Astronomy

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Astrophysicists have long been puzzled by the explanation of hydrogen-poor supernovae that seem to have materialized out of thin air. In order to better explain them, ISTA Assistant Professor Ylva Götberg and Maria Drout, an Associated Faculty Member of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, Canada, proposed an explanation which uncovers a first-of-its-kind star population which bridges the knowledge gap and may be the precursor star to the phenomenon. This population consists of stars interlocked in binary star systems, where the mass stripping of the more massive star by its companion eventually leaves a hot and compact helium core.

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The Effect of Supermassive Black Holes on Host Galaxy Chemical Composition

Category Astronomy

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Recent research has demonstrated that the supermassive black hole at the centre of a galaxy has a significant influence on its host galaxy's chemical composition, and an international team of researchers led by Toshiki Saito at the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan and Taku Nakajima at Nagoya University have mapped the distribution of 23 molecules around an active black hole using ALMA.

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Research From University of Tokyo Links Fast Radio Burst to Starquakes on Neutron Stars

Category Astronomy

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New research at the University of Tokyo has found similarities between Fast Radio Bursts and earthquakes, suggesting that at least some FRBs are caused by starquakes on the surface of neutron stars. This discovery could help us better understand earthquakes, the behavior of high-density matter, and aspects of nuclear physics.

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A Glimpse into Rare Lenticular Galaxy NGC 612

Category Astronomy

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NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has captured a stunning image of the lenticular galaxy NGC 612, characterized by its orange and blue hues. This galaxy is an active galaxy, a Seyfert galaxy, and a rare example of a non-elliptical radio galaxy. It was discovered in 1837 by British astronomer John Herschel and is located about 400 million light-years away from Earth.

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How the Core of a Star Causes it to 'Twinkle'

Category Astronomy

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In a new study conducted by Northwestern University, a team used 3D simulations to determine how stars should twinkle due to waves generated by their core convection. The team also converted these rippling waves of gas into sound waves to hear what the stars should sound like. This discovery could help astronomers better investigate the processes deep within certain stars.

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Hubble's Captured Colliding Galaxies Arp 107

Category Astronomy

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This week's Hubble Picture reveals Arp 107, a pair of galaxies undergoing a collision located at an approximate distance of 465 million light-years from our planet. Hubble's recent observation of Arp 107 was part of a special program aimed at bridging an observational 'gap' and to furnish the public with captivating images of remarkable and somewhat elusive galaxies.

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JWST Reveals Hydrogen Peroxide on Ganymede and Ongoing Volcanic Eruptions on Io

Category Astronomy

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The JWST revealed Hydrogen Peroxide on the poles of Ganymede, probably due to its magnetic field, and sulfurous fumes on the most volcanically active moon of Jupiter, Io.

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Kilonovae: The Cosmic Forge of Heavy Elements

Category Astronomy

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A new paper in The European Physical Journal D by Andrey Bondarev and James Gillanders seeks to better understand the merging of neutron stars, which only recently have been discovered to be the source of many of the heaviest elements in the Universe, including gold, platinum, and uranium. The team examines the spectra from the kilonova AT2017gfo and discovers that accurate atomic data is essential in gaining further insight into these explosive collisions.

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Non-Thermal Emissions from Classical Nova V1674 Heralcis Challenges Understanding of Celestial Objects

Category Astronomy

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A researcher discovered non-thermal emissions from the classical nova V1674 Herculis, which challenges the current views of classical novae as simple heat-induced explosions. The data from the Very Long Baseline Array (VLBA) reveals more complexity in the behavior of classical novae. Montana Williams is leading an investigation into the VLBA properties of this nova and is hoping to determine if the steep spectrum in the radio synchrotron is the signature of a neutron star or a pulsar powering the emission.

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Symmetry Broken: Scientists Uncover First Evidence of Parity Violation in Universe

Category Astronomy

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The University of Florida astronomers have found the first evidence of a violation of symmetry at the moment of the universe's creation. This discovery has two primary consequences, first, that this symmetry violation imprinted itself onto the future galaxies during a period of extreme inflation in the universe's early stages, and second, it helps to explain why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe. It was conducted with a high level of statistical confidence, and answers the big questions of 'why is there something rather than nothing?'.

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NASA James Webb Space Telescope Solves Water Mystery and Raises More Questions

Category Astronomy

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NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has enabled a long-sought scientific breakthrough in solving the mystery behind Earth’s abundant water. With its efficient detection of gas - specifically water vapor - around a comet in the main asteroid belt, it has been demonstrated that water ice from the early solar system can be preserved in the warmer asteroid belt, inside the orbit of Jupiter. However, the lack of Carbon dioxide present in Comet Read was a surprise, and leads to new possibilities concerning the Comet's origin and other possible explanations.

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A Fragmented Firmament: An In-Depth Look at the Moons of Saturn

Category Astronomy

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This article provides an in-depth look into the moons of Saturn. 24 of Saturn's moons have regular orbits around it, while the remaining 100 are irregular with high inclinations and are most likely captured minor planets. Saturn's rings are filled with an unknown number of moonlets, some that have been discovered, and some that haven't. This fragmented firmament is always changing with the possibility of more moons and objects being discovered.

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The Largest Cosmic Explosion on Record Discovered

Category Astronomy

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University of Southampton led team of astronomers discovered the largest cosmic explosion ever witnessed, with an emission of energy of more than ten times that of any supernova, resulting from a supermassive black hole violently disrupting a massive gas cloud at a distance of 8 billion light years.

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