sep 112013
Detecting Biomarkers on Exoplanets

  On Earth, life leaves tell-tale signals in the atmosphere. Photosynthesis is ultimately responsible for the high oxygen levels and the thick ozone layer. Microbes emit methane and nitrous oxide into the atmosphere, and seaweeds emit chloromethane gas. These chemicals, when present in sufficient quantities, are indicators of life and are known as atmospheric biomarkers. [continue reading]

okt 022012
The Case of the Missing Quasar Gas Clouds

  The case of the missing quasar gas clouds has been solved by a worldwide research team led by Penn State University astronomers Nurten Filiz Ak and Niel Brandt. The the answer is: blowin’ in the wind. This discovery is being announced today in a paper published in The Astrophysical Journal, which describes 19 distant quasars [continue reading]

aug 032012
On Evaporating Super-Earths it's Raining Pebbles

  Simulations of the vaporization of Earth-like planets tell planet-hunting astronomers what to look for in the atmospheres of candidate super-Earths. Scientists at Washington University have simulated the atmospheres of hot Earth-like planets, such as CoRoT-7b, shown here in an artist’s conception. CoRoT-7b orbits so close to its star that its starward side is an [continue reading]

jun 142012
Small Planets Around Different Types of Stars Can Be Widespread

  It had previously been thought that planets were more likely to form around a star if the star had a high content of heavier elements. But new research from the University of Copenhagen, among others, shows that small planets can form around very different types of stars – also stars that are relatively poor [continue reading]

jun 032012
Two Stars with One Orbiting Planet: New Measurements

  A team of Penn State University astronomers has obtained very precise measurements of a pair of stars that are orbited by a planet. The orbits of the stars and planet in the system, named Kepler-16, are aligned so that they eclipse or transit each other when observed from Earth. These new measurements will aid [continue reading]

jun 032012
Astronomers Confirm 'Evaporating' Planet Around Nearby Star

  Astronomers from The University of Texas at Austin and Wesleyan University have used the Hobby-Eberly Telescope at UT Austin’s McDonald Observatory to confirm that a Jupiter-size planet in a nearby solar system is dissolving, albeit excruciatingly slowly, because of interactions with its parent star. Their findings could help astronomers better understand star-planet interactions in [continue reading]