Multiplanet System Has Orientation Very Similar to Our Own |
Our solar system exhibits a remarkably orderly configuration: The eight planets orbit the sun much like runners on a track, circling in their respective lanes and always keeping within the same sprawling plane. In contrast, most exoplanets discovered in recent years — particularly the giants known as “hot Jupiters” — inhabit far more eccentric orbits.
Now researchers at MIT, the University of California at Santa Cruz and other institutions have detected the first exoplanetary system, 10,000 light years away, with regularly aligned orbits similar to those in our solar system. At the center of this faraway system is Kepler-30, a star as bright and massive as the sun. After analyzing data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, the MIT scientists and their colleagues discovered that the star — much like the sun — rotates around a vertical axis and its three planets have orbits that are all in the same plane.
“In our solar system, the trajectory of the planets is parallel to the rotation of the sun, which shows they probably formed from a spinning disc,” says Roberto Sanchis-Ojeda, a physics graduate student at MIT who led the research effort. “In this system, we show that the same thing happens.”
Their findings, published July 25 in the journal Nature, may help explain the origins of certain far-flung systems while shedding light on our own planetary neighborhood.
“It’s telling me that the solar system isn’t some fluke,” says Josh Winn, an associate professor of physics at MIT and a co-author on the paper. “The fact that the sun’s rotation is lined up with the planets’ orbits, that’s probably not some freak coincidence.” continue reading
Does the Universe have a North?
Humans evolved in an environment with gravity and a magnetic field, so we’re so used to concepts such as up and down, north and south. There is actually no “right way up” in the universe, no universally common axis—because direction relies on the observer. Earth only has a north and south due to its magnetic field created by the rotation of its molten core, and these concepts only apply in a coordinate system. Compass directions or longitudinal lines don’t actually “exist”—they’re purely reference points created by humans for navigation. Australia, for example, is only known as “down under” because our navigational system decided that the southern hemisphere is downwards. Similarly, up and down are concepts that we’ve created to refer to gravity’s pull—‘up’ is away from the centre of gravity and ‘down’ is towards it. In the context of the universe, however, there’s no north or south or up or down. There is no universe-spanning magnetic field, so the universe has no up and down, no centre, no edge (you’re welcome nerdfighters), and no point of reference relative to everything else. So, there’s no intrinsic north in space—it’s difficult to imagine, but north is a purely human concept.
Major Solar Flare Erupts From Giant Sunspot
The sun unleashed a huge flare Thursday (July 12), the second major solar storm to erupt from our star in less than a week.
The solar flare peaked at 12:52 p.m. EDT (1652 GMT) as an X-class sun storm, the most powerful type of flare the sun can have.
“It erupted from Active Region 1520, which rotated into view on July 6,” NASA officials said in an alert. Active Region 1520, or AR1520, is a giant sunspot currently facing Earth.
This is Pilot Mountain in North Carolina. This is a perfect example of how different minerals weather at different rates. The section sticking out at the very top is made up of quartzite, which is much more durable - and thus weathers slowly - than the other minerals that make up the surrounding rock below.
The photo above is by DMattPhotography on Flickr.
(Source: kqedscience, via noshoesnoproblem)
Sulphur on Aragonite Matrix
Casteltermini, Agrigento Province, Sicily, Italy
Sulphur is used to make gunpowder, which creates the bang in fireworks.