Space

Astronomers have discovered clear skies and steamy water vapor on a planet known as HAT-P-11b - outside our solar system. HAT-P-11b is about the size of Neptune, making it the smallest exoplanet ever on which water vapor has been detected. 

HAT-P-11b is a so-called exo-Neptune, a Neptune-sized planet that orbits another star. It is located 120 light-years away in the constellation of Cygnus (The Swan). Unlike Neptune, this planet orbits closer to its star, making one lap roughly every five days. It is a warm world thought to have a rocky core, a mantle of fluid and ice, and a thick gaseous atmosphere. Not much else was known about the composition of the planet, or other exo-Neptunes like it, until now.

Planck telescope and the Cosmic microwave background. ESA and Planck, CC BY

By Robert Crittenden, University of Portsmouth

It seems that foreground galactic dust could be responsible for all of the signal observed by the BICEP2 team.  Two more shoes are waiting to drop.  Results of cross correlation and comparison of Planck data and BICEP2 data in the region BICEP2 was able to observe, and Planck's own  data  on the B modes.  For now there is reason to doubt BICEP2.  This story is so full of twist that this could change. 

Miranda is a small, icy moon of Uranus and one of the most visually striking and enigmatic bodies in the solar system.

Despite its relatively small size, Miranda appears to have experienced an episode of intense resurfacing that resulted in the formation of at least three remarkable and unique surface features -- polygonal-shaped regions called coronae. 

These coronae are visible in Miranda's southern hemisphere, and each one is at least 200 km across. Arden corona, the largest, has ridges and troughs with up to 2 km of relief. Elsinore corona has an outer belt that is approx. 80 km wide, relatively smooth, and elevated above the surrounding terrain by approx. 100 m. Inverness corona has a trapezoidal shape with a large, bright chevron at its center.


An ultracompact dwarf galaxy known as M60-UCD1 harbors a supermassive black hole – the smallest galaxy known to contain such a massive light-sucking object.

The astronomers used the Gemini North 8-meter optical-and-infrared telescope on Hawaii's Mauna Kea and photos taken by the Hubble Space Telescope to discover that M60-UCD1 has a black hole with a mass equal to 21 million suns. Their finding suggests plenty of other ultracompact dwarf galaxies likely also contain supermassive black holes – and those dwarfs may be the stripped remnants of larger galaxies that were torn apart during collisions with yet other galaxies.


“Hot Jupiters” are the term for large, gaseous exoplanets in other solar systems and a new study finds they make their suns wobble as they make their way through their orbit.

Jupiters are a nice designation for a metric because it has a mass 1/1000th of that of the Sun


Researchers planted 4,200 seeds in soils expected to mimic those in potential greenhouses on Mars and on the moon. Courtesy of Wieger Wamelink http://on.fb.me/1rYkF8p

By Patricia Waldron, Inside Science

(Inside Science) -- Any explorers visiting Mars and the moon will have to boldly grow where no man has grown before.

Tonight due to powerful X-class solar flares earlier this week we may get to see the Aurora Borealis at latitudes where it usually is not visible.    The Northern Lights are the result of charged particles from the Sun interacting with Earth's magnetic field.  They ride the lines of magnetic force towards the north and south pole and release light as their acceleration changes.   



This is one of the most beautiful sights in nature. A view of the Aurora Australis from the international space station.

Venus is uninhabitable for humans yet from a distance, using statistical wobbles, a Venus-like planet and an Earth-like planet are very similar.

While the Earth has oceans of water and relatively moderate temperatures, Venus has no liquid
water and exists in a runaway greenhouse scenario where the levels of carbon dioxide are so high that the atmosphere traps all the heat. The planet is torrid but it is 95 percent the size of Earth. Right now, size is what astronomers are looking for when searching for exoplanets but size alone is not a distinguishing characteristic when sorting for a habitable one.