A New Type of Planet

Feb 28, 2012; 4:20 PM ET

Our solar system contains three types of planets: rocky, terrestrial worlds, such as Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars; gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn; and ice giants, like Uranus and Neptune. Planets orbiting distant stars come in an even wider variety, including lava worlds and “hot Jupiters.”

Observations by NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have added a new type of planet to the mix. By analyzing the previously discovered world GJ 1214b, astronomer Zachory Berta at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and his colleagues proved that it is a “water world” enshrouded by a thick, steamy atmosphere.

GB 1214b is about 2.7 times Earth’s diameter and weighs almost seven times as much. It orbits a red-dwarf star every 38 hours at a distance of 1.3 million miles, giving it an estimated temperature of 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since the planet’s mass and size are known, astronomers can calculate the density, which works out to about 2 grams per cubic centimeter. Water has a density of 1 g/cm3, while Earth’s average density is 5.5 g/cm3. This suggests that GJ 1214b has much more water than Earth and also much less rock.

GJ 1214b is located in the direction of the constellation Ophiuchus, just 40 light-years from Earth. It is a prime candidate for study by the next-generation James Webb Space Telescope.

via AccuWeather.com – Astronomy | A New Type of Planet.

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Hubble Telescope Spots Complex Organic Molecules On Surface Of Pluto

Published December 21, 2011 | Space.com

NASA, ESA, and M. Buie (Southwest Research Institute)
Dwarf planet Pluto is seen in an image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

The Hubble Space Telescope has spotted new evidence of complex organic molecules — the carbon-containing building blocks of life as we know it — on the frigid surface of Pluto, a new study finds.

Hubble observations revealed that some substances on Pluto’s surface are absorbing more ultraviolet light than expected. The compounds in question may well be organics, possibly complex hydrocarbons or nitrogen-containing molecules, researchers said.

The dwarf planet Pluto is known to harbor ices of methane, carbon monoxide and nitrogen on its surface. The ultraviolet-absorbing chemical species may have been produced when sunlight or super-speedy subatomic particles known as cosmic rays interacted with these ices, researchers said.

“This is an exciting finding because complex Plutonian hydrocarbons and other molecules that could be responsible for the ultraviolet spectral features we found with Hubble may, among other things, be responsible for giving Pluto its ruddy color,” study leader Alan Stern, of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo., said in a statement.

Pluto circles the sun in a distant ring of icy bodies known as the Kuiper Belt. Many other Kuiper Belt objects are also quite red, and researchers have previously speculated that organics are responsible for their ruddiness as well.

Stern and his colleagues also found that Pluto’s ultraviolet spectrum has changed compared to Hubble measurements taken during the 1990s. They used Hubble’s powerful Cosmic Origins Spectrograph instrument to make the find.

These differences may be related to changes in the dwarf planet’s terrain since then, researchers said. It’s possible that a steep increase in Pluto’s atmospheric pressure has caused changes in Pluto’s surface, they added.

Overall, the new Hubble observations shed further light on Pluto a few years ahead of the first-ever spacecraft visit to the cold, distant world.

“The discovery we made with Hubble reminds us that even more exciting discoveries about Pluto’s composition and surface evolution are likely to be in store when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft arrives at Pluto in 2015,” Stern said.

New Horizons launched in January 2006 on a 4-billion-mile (6.4-billion-kilometer) journey to Pluto. The probe is due to make its closest approach to the dwarf planet on July 14, 2015. On that date, New Horizons will be just 7,767 miles (12,500 km) away from the frigid world.

Copyright 2011 Space, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved.

via Hubble Telescope Spots Complex Organic Molecules On Surface Of Pluto | Fox News.

Is this an alien skull? Mystery of the triangular-shaped head found in Peru

Is this an alien skull? Mystery of giant-headed mummy found in Peru

Skull has soft spot, found in infants, yet also two large molars, found in older humans

Spanish and Russian scientists who have examined the remains claim they are actually those of an alien

Three anthropologists agree: It is not a human being

By PAUL MILLIGAN
Last updated at 10:24 AM on 19th November 2011

A mummified elongated skull found in Peru could finally prove the existence of aliens.

The strangely shaped head – almost as big as its 50cm 20in body – has baffled anthropologists.

It was one of two sets of remains found in the city of Andahuaylillas in the southern province of Quispicanchi.

The skeletal sets were discovered by Renato Davila Riquelme, who works for the Privado Ritos Andinos museum in Cusco in south-eastern Peru.

He said that that the eye cavities are far larger than normally seen in humans.

There is a soft spot in the skull – called an open fontanelle – which is a characteristic of children in their first year of life, yet the skull also has two large molars, only found in much older humans.

The unidentified creature has a strangely shaped skull nearly as large as its 20-inch-tall body

Davila Riquelme said three anthropologists, from Spain and Russia, arrived at the museum last week to investigate the findings and agreed it was ‘not a human being’ and would conduct further studies.

He added: ‘Although the assessment was superficial, it is obvious that its features do not correspond to any ethnic group in the world.’

The remains of an eyeball in the right socket will help determine its genetic DNA – and clear up the controversy if it is human or not.

The second mummy is incomplete and is only 30cm (12in).

It lacks a face and seems to be wrapped in a layer as a placenta, fetal position.

The remains bear a striking resemblance to the triangular crystal skull in the 2008 Indiana Jones film Kingdom of the Crystal Skull – which turned out to be of alien origin and have supernatural powers.

via Is this an alien skull? Mystery of the triangular-shaped head found in Peru | Mail Online.