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Largest known planet discovered


gas giant: The new planet — TrES-4 — is 70 per cent larger than Jupiter (left)

Cape Canaveral (Florida): An international team of astronomers has discovered the largest known planet orbiting another star.

The "transiting" planet — meaning one that passes in front of its parent star as seen from Earth — is about 70 per cent larger than Jupiter.

But the presumed "gas giant" has a much lower mass than Jupiter — the biggest planet in our Solar System — making it of extremely low density.

The new exoplanet, called TrES-4, is located in the constellation of Hercules and was discovered by a team working on the Transatlantic Exoplanet Survey (TrES).

TrES-4 circles the star GSC02620-00648, which lies about 1,435 light-years away from Earth. Being only about 7 million km from its parent star, the planet is also very hot, about 1,327°C.
Because of the relatively weak pull exerted by TrES-4 on its upper atmosphere, some of the atmosphere probably escapes in a curved comet-like tail.

"TrES-4 is the largest known exoplanet," said lead author Georgi Mandushev, from the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, US.

Surprising size
It is so big, in fact, that its size is difficult to explain using current theories about superheated giant planets.
"We continue to be surprised by how relatively large these giant planets can be," says Francis O'Donovan, a graduate student in astronomy at the California Institute of Technology which operates one of the TrES telescopes. — Agencies
Distant space collision meant doom for dinosaurs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A collision 160 million years ago of two asteroids orbiting between Mars and Jupiter sent many big rock chunks hurtling toward Earth, including the one that zapped the dinosaurs, scientists said on Wednesday.


Their research offered an explanation for the cause of one of the most momentous events in the history of life on Earth -- a six-mile-wide (10-km-wide) meteorite striking Mexico's Yucatan peninsula 65 million years ago.

That catastrophe eliminated the dinosaurs, which had flourished for about 165 million years, and many other life forms, and paved the way for mammals to dominate the Earth and the eventual rise of humankind, many scientists believe.

The impact is thought to have triggered a worldwide environmental cataclysm, expelling vast quantities of rock and dust into the sky, unleashing giant tsunamis, sparking global wildfires and leaving Earth shrouded in darkness for years.

U.S. and Czech researchers used computer simulations to calculate that there was a 90 percent probability that the collision of two asteroids -- one about 105 miles wide and one about 40 miles wide -- was the event that precipitated the Earthly disaster.

The collision occurred in the asteroid belt, a collection of big and small rocks orbiting the sun about 100 million miles from Earth, the researchers report in this week's issue of the journal Nature.

The asteroid Baptistina and rubble associated with it are thought to be leftovers, the scientists said.

Some of the debris from the collision escaped the asteroid belt, tumbled toward the inner solar system and whacked Earth and our moon, along with probably Mars and Venus, said William Bottke of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, one of the researchers.


The collision is believed to have doubled for a while the number of impacts occurring in this part of the solar system.

In fact, while the bombardment of this region of the solar system due to this shower of debris peaked about 100 million years ago, the scientists said the tail end of the shower continues to this day. Bottke said many existing near-Earth asteroids can be traced back to this collision.

"Imagine breaking up a big, big boulder on top of a hill and all the fragments rolling down the hill. And somewhere at the bottom is a village called Earth," Bottke said in a telephone interview.

The dinosaur-destroying meteorite, thought to have measured 6 miles across, plunged into Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula and blasted out the Chicxulub (pronounced CHIK-shu-loob) crater measuring about 110 miles wide. The researchers looked at evidence on the composition of this meteorite and found it consistent with the stony Baptistina.

The researchers estimated that there also was about a 70 percent probability that the prominent Tycho crater on the Moon, formed 108 million years ago and measuring about 55 miles

across, also was carved out by a remnant of the earlier asteroid collision.

Philippe Claeys of Vrije Universiteit Brussel in Belgium, who was not involved in the research, said by e-mail the findings were "clear evidence that the solar system is a violent environment and that collisions taking place in the asteroid belt can have major repercussions for the evolution of life on Earth."

Bottke emphasized that point. "Dinosaurs were around for a very long time. So the likelihood is they would still be around if that event had never taken place," Bottke said.

"Was humanity inevitable? Or is humanity just something that happened to arise because of this sequence of events that took place at just the right time. It's hard to say."

NASA aims to put man on Mars by 2037


new territory: NASA wants to build a civilisation on Mars

Florida: NASA aims to put a man on Mars by 2037, the administrator of the US space agency indicated here yesterday. This year, 2007, marks the half-century of the space age ushered in by the 1957 launch of the Sputnik-1 by the then Soviet Union, NASA administrator Michael Griffin noted.
In 2057, the centenary of the space era, "We should be celebrating 20 years of man on Mars," Griffin told an international astronautics congress.
The international space station being built in orbit and targeted for completion by 2010 would provide a "toehold in space" from where humanity can travel first to the moon and then to Mars, Griffin said.
"We are looking at the moon and Mars to build a civilisation for tomorrow," he added.
NASA's Phoenix spacecraft is scheduled to land on the northern plains of Mars next year to determine if the Red Planet could support life.

Dimple, your PM facility doesn't work, so I couldn't send you a mail. But I want to tell you that I truly appreciate the huge amount of info you keep uploading on various fora here.
It feels great to know that someone has such diverse interests and the patience to upload so much stuff bow.gif
Thank YOU Mandrake smile1.gif You are one of the few who have appreciated . Yes I do have very diverse interests and love to share those with other like-minded and appreciative people like you.

Yes, sadly, I am one of the unfortunate members for whom PM facility is not granted sad1.gif
Mandrake smile1.gif It is very good to read appreciation like this from another member, especially immediately after being put on moderation for a small simple mistake sad1.gif

I don't know exactly WHY some members have been denied the facility of PM ?
The PM facility has been withdrawn for all the members who have joined since the beginning of 2007. So there is no particular bias against you.It just happens that 07-06-07 is way beyond the beginning of 2007 wink2.gif
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Earth-like planet forming far away
Thursday, October 04, 2007 21:07 IST

It will take another one billion years for life to appear on this planet, which is 424 light years away

Snuggled into a huge belt of warm dust, an Earth-like planet appears to be forming some 424 light years away, scientists said on Wednesday.

At somewhere between 10 and 16 million years old, the planet’s solar system is still in its “very young adolescence,” but is at the perfect age for forming Earth-like planets, said lead researcher Carey Lisse of Johns Hopkins University’s Applied Physics Laboratory.

The massive dust ring surrounding one of the system’s two stars is smack in the middle of the system’s “habitable zone” where water could one day exist on a rocky planet. These types of dust belts rarely form around sun-like stars and the presence of an outer ice belt makes it all the more likely that water, and subsequently life, could one day reach the planet’s surface. And this belt is made up of rocky compounds similar to those which form our Earth’s crust and metal sulfides similar to the material found in the Earth’s core.

“It’s just the right stuff to be making an Earth,” Lisse said in a telephone interview. “It’s exciting to think that this is happening.” Not that Lisse will be around to see much of it. The images captured by NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope are about 424 years old, but that’s barely a blink in the eye of the young planet. It will likely be about 100 million years before the planet is fully formed and — if our planet is anything to go by — about a billion years before the first signs of life such as algae appear, Lisse said.

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