The Cosmic Companion December 7, 2019

A new way of searching for atmospheres around alien worlds, starquakes could help us understand the age of the galaxy, and a new guide to exoplanet atmospheres could assist in the search for life.

Hello everyone!

This week, we look at a new method for determining whether or not planets orbiting other stars have atmospheres, we see how starquakes could help us determine the age of the Milky Way, and a new guide to atmospheres of exoplanets could assist in the search for life on other worlds.

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Let’s take off!


The Week in Space

Seeing Atmospheres Around Distant Worlds in a New Light

A group of astronomers have developed a revolutionary new way to detect atmospheres around distant exoplanets using the James Webb Space Telescope. Here’s how it works.

A segment of the multi-faceted primary mirror of the James Webb Space Telescope. Image credit: James Webb Space Telescope

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) launches in 2021, the observatory will (more than likely) represent a keystone change in the way we observe the Universe, much as Hubble did three decades ago.

Now, astronomers have developed a new way of using this revolutionary instrument to answer one of the great questions in astronomy — the search for planets around other stars possessing substantial atmospheres.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Atmospheres-Distant-Worlds


How the Milky Way Shows its Age Through Starquakes

Examining data from the now-defunct Kepler spacecraft allowed researchers to measure the age of a large part of the galaxy, and this part of the Milky Way looks surprisingly chipper for being 10 billion years old.

An artist’s impression of the Milky Way Galaxy, showing the position of our Sun and the planets which surround it. Image credit: NASA/Adler/U. Chicago/Wesleyan/JPL-Caltech

Our planet, solar system, and every local star make their homes within the Milky Way Galaxy. But, many questions remain, including the ages of regions of our galactic home. Using data collected by the now-defunct Kepler spacecraft, researchers now believe they now have an accurate age for the outer disk of the Milky Way — around 10 billion years old.

Like the Earth, stars experience shaking of their surfaces, a phenomenon which shows some similarities to earthquakes. By studying these starquakes, researchers found clues to determine the age of this galactic region.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Milky-Way-Age-Starquakes


Signs of Alien Life may be in the Air

Peering at the atmospheres of distant exoplanets may be our best chance to find life on other worlds, so a student at Cornell University designed a travel guide to extraterrestrial life.

An artist’s concept of what the surface of Proxima b may look like, although details are uncertain. Image credit: ESO/M. Kornmesser

One of the greatest questions of all is whether or not we are alone in the Cosmos. While radio astronomy might find evidence of intelligent civilizations on alien worlds, other techniques will be needed to search for life too primitive to build telecommunication devices.

However, even primitive lifeforms have effects on their environment, seen as vast concentrations of oxygen and traces of methane in our own environment. Likewise, it may be possible to detect the presence of life on other worlds by looking for distinctive chemical fingerprints in spectra taken of the atmospheres of alien worlds.

Read more: http://bit.ly/Signs-Alien-Life-Air


Coming soon: The First Woman on the Moon: The Past and Future History of Women in Space by James Maynard


Thanks for reading!

There are a lot of interesting developments coming in the next few months for The Cosmic Companion, including new simulation software that will allow me to create original, highly-scientific images and videos. Check out my first animation, simulating Proxima b orbiting Proxima Centauri, in Signs of Alien Life may be in the Air.

You can also listen to my new podcast, Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion, available on all major podcast distributors, including iTunes, Spotify, and TuneIn! Or, tune in at: https://thecosmiccompanion.substack.com. You can also now add Astronomy News with The Cosmic Companion to your flash briefings on Amazon Alexa!

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