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Phuket Media Watch – Earth-size planets found outside the Milky Way

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Phuket Media Watch – Earth-size planets found outside the Milky Way | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news selected by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

Scientists discover first Earth-size planets outside the Milky Way
Phuket Gazette

U.S. scientists have spotted the first Earth-size planets which are orbiting a sun-like star outside our solar system, NASA announced on Tuesday. The planets are unlikely to support life.

NASA said its Kepler mission, which was launched in March 2009 and was named after German astronomer Johannes Kepler who lived in the 17th century, has discovered the first planets, identified as Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f, which are similar in size to Earth and orbiting a sun-like star. But they are too close to their star to be in the so-called habitable zone where liquid water could exist on a planet’s surface.

The newly discovered planets, which NASA considers to be an important milestone in the ultimate search for planets like Earth, are thought to be rocky.

Kepler-20e is slightly smaller than Venus, measuring 0.87 times the radius of Earth, while Kepler-20f is slightly larger than Earth, measuring 1.03 times its radius. Both planets reside in a five-planet system called Kepler-20, approximately 1,000 light-years away in the constellation Lyra.

Kepler-20e’s and Kepler-20f’s orbital periods, which are every 6.1 days and every 19.6 days respectively, mean very hot, inhospitable worlds. Kepler-20f, at 800 degrees Fahrenheit (426 degrees Celsius), is similar to an average day on the planet Mercury. The surface temperature of Kepler-20e, at more than 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit (760 degrees Celsius), would melt glass.

“The primary goal of the Kepler mission is to find Earth-sized planets in the habitable zone,” said Francois Fressin of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “This discovery demonstrates for the first time that Earth-size planets exist around other stars, and that we are able to detect them.”

The Kepler-20 system includes three other planets that are larger than Earth but smaller than Neptune. Kepler-20b, the closest planet, Kepler-20c, the third planet, and Kepler-20d, the fifth planet, orbit their star every 3.7, 10.9 and 77.6 days. All five planets have orbits lying roughly within Mercury’s orbit in our solar system. The host star belongs to the same G-type class as our sun, although it is slightly smaller and cooler.

Scientists are not certain how the system evolved but they do not think the planets formed in their existing locations. They theorize the planets formed farther from their star and then migrated inward, likely through interactions with the disk of material from which they originated. This allowed the worlds to maintain their regular spacing despite alternating sizes.

On December 5, the Kepler science team announced the discovery of Kepler-22b in the habitable zone of its parent star. It is likely to be too large to have a rocky surface. While Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f are Earth-size, they are too close to their parent star to have liquid water on the surface.

“In the cosmic game of hide and seek, finding planets with just the right size and just the right temperature seems only a matter of time,” said Natalie Batalha, Kepler deputy science team lead and professor of astronomy and physics at San Jose State University. “We are on the edge of our seats knowing that Kepler’s most anticipated discoveries are still to come.”

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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United Kingdom approves new Covid-19 vaccine, first jabs start next week

Caitlin Ashworth

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United Kingdom approves new Covid-19 vaccine, first jabs start next week | The Thaiger

The United Kingdom approved the new Covid-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech for emergency use and will start injections next week. The UK became the first country in the world to license the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which Pfizer says marks a historic moment in the fight against the coronavirus.

The UK purchased 40 million doses of the vaccine and 800,000 doses will be available next week, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock. He says the most vulnerable people will get the first jabs. 50 hospitals are ready to receive the vaccine, he says.

“From early next week we will start the programme of vaccinating people against Covid-19 here in this country… It’s very good news.”

The new Covid-19 vaccine was authorised for emergency use by the private Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla says the company applauds the agency for conducting a careful, yet timely, assessment of the vaccine.

“As we anticipate further authorizations and approvals, we are focused on moving with the same level of urgency to safely supply a high-quality vaccine around the world.”

The vaccine has been shown to have a 95% efficacy in its final trials. A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson says the approval of the vaccine follows months of rigorous clinical trials and experts have concluded that the vaccine meets strict safety, quality and effectiveness standards.

SOURCES: Reuters | Guardian

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Chinese probe collects rock samples from surface of the Moon

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Chinese probe collects rock samples from surface of the Moon | The Thaiger

The Chinese, like the rest of us, are mostly prohibited from travelling at the moment, but it hasn’t stopped them travelling to the Moon. A Chinese space probe has landed on the surface of the Moon to bring back the first lunar samples in nearly 5 decades. Since the US dropped its Apollo missions to the Moon in 1972, the Earth’s only natural satellite has been a bit lonely.

The Chinese space program has poured billions into its space program, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022 and of eventually sending humans to the Moon to establish an ongoing lunar base. No Chinese have been participating in the International Space Station.

The Chang’e-5 spacecraft adds to a string of successes for Beijing’s increasingly ambitious space program. Chang’e is the name for the mythical Chinese moon goddess. The probe touched down on the near side of the Moon yesterday. It will spend a total of 48 hours on the surface of the moon before re-uniting with it’s mother-ship which will then bring the lunar probe back to Earth.

The unmanned Chang’e-5 probe will collect lunar rocks and soil to help scientists learn about the Moon’s origins, formation and volcanic activity, the first such collections since the 1970s when an unmanned Russian lunar probe conducted a similar mission. The probe is the latest venture by a Chinese space program that sent its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, has a spacecraft en route to Mars and aims eventually to land a human on the moon.

If Chang’e-5 returns to Earth successfully, China will be only the third country to have retrieved samples from the Moon, following the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s and 1970s.

The probe was launched from China’s southern tropical island of Hainan last week and entered lunar orbit aver the weekend after a 112 hour journey. The probe will collect 2 kilograms of material in a previously unexplored area known as “Ocean of Storms”, a vast lava plain of grey rocks and dust.

The probe will collect samples from the surface and drill a 2 metre deep hole to gather soil and rock samples from beneath the lunar surface as well.

Thomas Zurbuchen, a NASA official from the mission directorate, says the mission was no easy task.

“When the samples collected on the Moon are returned to Earth, we hope everyone will benefit from being able to study this precious cargo that could advance the international science community. Congratulations to China on the successful landing of Chang’e 5.”

The Chang’e 5 flight is China’s third successful lunar landing. Its predecessor, Chang’e 4, was the first probe to land on the Moon’s lesser-explored far side which is perpetually facing away from the Earth.

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No evidence of voter fraud that would change election outcome – US Attorney General

Caitlin Ashworth

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No evidence of voter fraud that would change election outcome – US Attorney General | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Wikimedia

After repeated claims on voter fraud from United States President Donald Trump, and refusal to concede his loss to president-elect Joe Biden, the US Justice Department says they have found no evidence of widespread voter fraud “that would change the outcome of the 2020 presidential election”, according to US Attorney General William Barr.

President Trump has repeatedly posted on Twitter with comments such as “fake election results”, “impossible result” and “rigged election.” His posts are often flagged on Twitter with a warning saying “This claim about election fraud is disputed”, linking to a page with information from various news outlets.

US attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up on complaints and information on voter fraud, but nothing they uncovered impact the outcome of the election, Barr told the Associated Press.

“To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome on the election.”

Before the election, Barr, who is considered to be one of Trump’s most loyal allies, said mail-in votes could be vulnerable to fraud this year since many Americans would rather vote from home rather than going to the polls due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With some states flipping from red to blue once all the mail-in ballots were counted, the Trump campaign has been alleging a widespread conspiracy by Democrats to count illegal ballots and rig the election. The Trump campaign has been calling out problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks. But local courts have repeatedly thrown out the lawsuits saying the claims have not been backed up with any evidence.

AG Barr says government agencies have also looked into claims that machines were programmed to skew election results and says that, so far, there is no evidence to back the claim.

In response to Barr’s statements, Trump’s attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Jenna Ellis wrote a statement saying the opinion doesn’t seem to be backed by their investigation into the matters.

“With all due respect to the Attorney General, there hasn’t been any semblance of a Department of Justice investigation … with the greatest respect to the Attorney General, his opinion appears to be without any knowledge or investigation of the substantial irregularities and evidence of systemic fraud.”

SOURCE: Aljazeera

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