Mankind is exploring the universe at an incredibly fast pace. Technology has advanced so much in recent years, it has allowed us to better understand the mysteries of our solar system, the galaxy, and the universe in general as never before.
Most discoveries, however, don’t receive the deserved amount of attention, and in a time when information is golden, the important things are often overseen. In recent months, mankind has made exceptional discoveries when it comes to exploring not only our local neighborhood, the solar system, but the galaxy and universe as well.
For me personally, as someone who is completely in love with astronomy, and as someone who has taken the very first steps towards astrophotography, I am excited when leaning of new discoveries.
These recent months have been amazing for astronomy, and I wanted to share with everyone six recent astronomical discovers that may have gone unnoticed or that you probably didn’t know about.
Venus; Alien Life
The revelation of the decade—most likely. A recent study published evidence that Venus’ upper atmosphere could be home to “alien” microorganisms that live in sorts of massive colonies, freely floating some 50 km above the surface.
The bombshell revelation was made on September 14, 2020, when the Royal Astronomical Society reported how scientists had discovered Phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus. Phosphine is actually a pretty big deal. Why? Because according to astronomers, the detection of phosphine molecules—which are made out of hydrogen and phosphorus—could point to colonies of microorganisms inhabiting the Venusian atmosphere.
Around 50 kilometers above the surface of Venus, conditions are “suitable” for life as we know it to exist. The results of the study were published in Nature Astronomy.
A new type of planet
Astronomers from the University of Chile discovered a planet unlike any other: a distant exoplanet that zooms around its sun in 19 hours and a few minutes. Dubbed LTT 9779 b, the exoplanet is located inside the so-called “Neptunian Desert. Its surface temperature has been estimated at around 1,700 degrees celsius.
Curiously, and despite the fact that the planet orbits its sun at extremely close distances, it is “somehow” able to maintain its atmosphere. This is pretty strange.
“There is talk of an unlikely discovery because the exoplanet was discovered in a region called ‘the Neptune Desert,’ where there are almost no planets. This region is characteristic because its planets have orbital periods of less than four days, and with similar masses and sizes as Neptune “, explained James Jenkins from the Department of Astronomy, School of Physical Sciences and Mathematics.
Astronomers from MIT were exploring data gathered by the Kepler Space Telescope when they found an interesting signal.
They eventually used SPECULOOS (not the Belgian cookies, no), a network of ground-based telescopes, to look deeper into the signal and discovered a planet orbiting a star. However, the most interesting part of the discovery is that the world circles its host star every 34.14 days, which led astronomers to nickname the distant exoplanet Planet Pi.
As I have revealed in this article, astronomical observations suggest that Earth Pi has a radius of around 0.95 that of Earth, which makes it an Earth-sized planet.
Jupiter and its 600 moons
The largest planet in our solar system is a true wonder of the cosmos. In fact, the gas giant is one of my favorite planets. I even had the amazing opportunity to photograph it and some of its brightest moons a few months back with my Nikon P1000, without additional help from telescopes. It was a mindboggling view.
Often dubbed as the protector of the inner solar system—because it helps reduce the number of potentially hazardous comets and asteroids impacting Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars—Jupiter is also the most colorful planet int he system.
The confirmed number of moons has grown to around 79, which means that there are many moons orbiting the gas giant, which ordinary telescopes can’t pick up. Although 79 moons circling one plant is a pretty large number, a recent study suggests that as many as 600 irregular moons could be orbiting Jupiter as you are reading this.
As revealed in this article, scientists were looking over the 2010 archival data from the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope. They looked for a small area of the sky in that data, about one-degree square, and found four dozen small, irregular moons were constantly circling the gas giant. Based on that, they extrapolated the number of small moons that should be orbiting Jupiter, which comes just at over 600.
A very unusual planet in Orion
Orion is one of my favorite constellations in the night sky. Not only because many mythologies around the world are rooted in the stars of Orion, but because it is one of the most photogenic stars in the night sky.
A recent analysis of Orion has revealed that the constellation is home to a strange planet—one of its kind—that orbits not two, but three starts. The system, known as GW Orionis—is located some 1,300 light-years from Earth. This star system is home to a rare example of a triple star system in which two suns orbit each other at the center, while a third star moves around the two inner suns at a distance of several million kilometers.
According to studies published in Science and The Astrophysical Journal Letters, there’s a world forming within the rings of the inner parts of the solar system, pulling the gravitational balance of the entire system, in a cosmic tug-o-war we’ve never seen before.
This is a pretty exciting discovery.
One of the first exoplanets was discovered back in 1992. Since then, we’ve confirmed the existence of 4,284 exoplanets, and there are 5,514 exoplanets still awaiting confirmation. All of these worlds are located inside our galaxy, the Milky Way.
When it comes to potential worlds existing in distant galaxies, it is an entirely different ball game, we are limited with our current technology to look for distant extragalactic worlds.
Despite these limitations, astronomers somehow managed to spot the very first extragalactic planet.
Located in the Whirlpool Galaxy around 23 million light-years away, near the constellation Ursa Major, astronomers believed to have found a planet dubbed M51-ULS-1b.
“It is roughly symmetrical and has a typical transit shape in which the source and the object in transit are of comparable size,” scientists explain.
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