'Amazing Discovery': 7 Earthlike Planets Found Orbiting Dwarf Star
By Andrea Germanos
While the Trump administration continues to wage a war on science, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) on Wednesday shared "remarkable" findings: seven 'Earthlike' planets in the habitable zone of a single star "relatively close" to the planet we call home.
"This is an amazing discovery," said Yale University astronomy Prof. Deborah Fischer to MSNBC. "On a scale of one-to-ten, this is off the scale. This is jaw-droppingly exciting," she added.
Located in the constellation Aquarius and about 40 light-years away from Earth, these rocky exoplanets (so called because they're outside our solar system) could all potentially hold water. They are around the TRAPPIST-1 star, which is slightly larger than Jupiter. It's an "ultracool dwarf" star, which means, according to a NASA press statement, that it is "so cool that liquid water could survive on planets orbiting very close to it, closer than is possible on planets in our solar system."
Three of the exoplanets were discovered using the Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope (TRAPPIST) in Chile in 2016, with the additional four being discovered by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The findings were also laid out Wednesday in the journal Nature.
"This is the first time that so many planets of this kind are found around the same star," said Michaël Gillon, lead study author and astronomer at the University of Liège in Belgium.
"This discovery," added Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator of NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, DC, "could be a significant piece in the puzzle of finding habitable environments, places that are conducive to life."
"Answering the question 'are we alone?' is a top science priority and finding so many planets like these for the first time in the habitable zone is a remarkable step forward toward that goal," Zurbuchen said.
The TRAPPIST-1 website offers more details on the newly discovered system and NASA Spitzer has this new video about how it came together:
Furthering the public dissemination of the information, a group of NASA scientists and exoplanet experts took part Wednesday in a Reddit AMA, where they provided more details on the discovery and next steps.
"[T]o find, identify and announce" an oxygen-rich atmosphere is hopefully just years away, said Sara Seager, professor of planetary science and physics at MIT. Natalie Batalha, Kepler project scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center expected that "the surface gravity of most of these planets is similar to that on Earth" and said that being able to see things like potential vegetation or surface features like continents would require technology beyond that held by NASA's James Webb Telescope, which launches in 2018.
Still as NASA explained, it "will be able to detect the chemical fingerprints of water, methane, oxygen, ozone and other components of a planet's atmosphere. Webb also will analyze planets' temperatures and surface pressures–key factors in assessing their habitability."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.
Santa Barbara Becomes First California City to Pass Resolution Against Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling
The Santa Barbara City Council approved a resolution Tuesday opposing new drilling off the California coast and fracking in existing offshore oil and gas wells. The resolution is the first in a new statewide campaign to rally local governments against proposals to expand offshore fossil fuel extraction in federal waters.
The vote—which makes Santa Barbara the first California city to oppose both fracking and new offshore drilling—follows President Trump's April 28 executive order urging federal agencies to expand oil and gas leasing in federal waters. The order could expose the Pacific Ocean to new oil leasing for the first time in more than 30 years.
Starting Wednesday, the vast majority of Americans can learn about every potentially harmful chemical in their drinking water and what scientists say are the safe levels of those contaminants. The Environmental Working Group's (EWG) new national Tap Water Database is the most complete source available on the quality of U.S. drinking water, aggregating and analyzing data from almost 50,000 public water systems in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The organization has earned a reputation for ambitious data-mining research projects that shake up policy debates and consumer markets. EWG's online Farm Subsidy Database, listing millions of subsidy recipients, and its Skin Deep guide to more than 70,000 personal care products, draw tens of millions of visitors every year.
By Stacy Malkan
Ever since they classified the world's most widely used herbicide as "probably carcinogenic to humans," a team of international scientists at the World Health Organization's (WHO) cancer research group have been under withering attack by the agrichemical industry and its surrogates.
In a front-page series, The Monsanto Papers, the French newspaper Le Monde described the attacks as "the pesticide giant's war on science," and reported, "to save glyphosate, the firm [Monsanto] undertook to harm the United Nations agency against cancer by all means."
The lengthy report from the Energy and Policy Institute uses reams of archival documents to demonstrate that utility industry representatives knew as far back as 1968 that burning fossil fuels could trigger "catastrophic effects" on the climate.
By Sharon Kelly
The Pennsylvania's Environmental Hearing Board ordered Sunoco Pipeline LP Tuesday to temporarily halt some types of work on a $2.5 billion pipeline project designed to carry 275,000 barrels a day of butane, propane and other liquid fossil fuels from Ohio and West Virginia, across Pennsylvania, to the Atlantic coast.
On July 19, three environmental groups presented Judge Bernard Labuskes, Jr. with documentation showing that the project had caused dozens of drilling fluid spills and other accidents between April and mid-June.
By Andy Rowell
The UK has followed France in banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, as part of its plan to tackle chronic air pollution in cities. The government has been coming under intense pressure to act, with an estimated 40,000 people dying prematurely a year from air pollution.
By Colleen Curry
People traveling across America today can, if they're lucky, pitch a tent in the same exact spot that early American explorers and map-makers Lewis and Clark did, amid the jagged rocks and sweeping plains of the Upper Missouri River Breaks in central Montana.
Brent Rose, a journalist and filmmaker who has been traveling around the U.S. in a van for two years, was one of the lucky ones.
Kyara, a killer whale born at SeaWorld San Antonio just three months ago, died Monday at the park, as reported in this video from Newsy. Kyara is the last orca to be born in captivity under the SeaWorld breeding program, which shut down in 2016.
In a statement, SeaWorld said the cause of death was "likely pneumonia" and that "Kyara had faced some very serious and progressive health issues over the last week."