Nov 20, 18 / Sag 16, 02 15:53 UTC
General News: Nov 20 ¶
Astronomers have found evidence for what’s known as a “super-Earth” orbiting around the well known Barnard’s star, a small, faint dwarf star situated only about six light-years away. Even though experts don’t know what this possible planet looks like, but because it is so close its an ideal target for future telescopes to study as they search for extraterrestrial life.
Their finding was outlined in the journal Nature and notes another planet discovered around a relatively close star. Two years ago, astronomers also claimed to find a small, rocky world around Proxima Centauri, which is the nearest star to our Solar System sitting at a mere 4.2 light-years away. Thus, we now have two possible planetary systems situated right next door, which helps boost the idea that our galaxy might be filled with planets.
What’s more, a planet orbiting Barnard’s star is one that we could see eventually. Although experts have detected thousands of planets outside our Solar System, most of these worlds — called exoplanets — are often impossible to observe directly using current telescope technology. They’re so far away that the light from their host stars completely obscures them. However, current telescopes have an easier time seeing planets around nearby stars, such as Barnard’s star. Thus, soon, we could potentially distinguish the light reflected from this planet from the light of its host star, mainly as bigger and more sophisticated observatories are established in the 2020s.
In other news, NASA has selected Jezero Crater as the landing site for their upcoming Mars 2020 rover mission after a five-year search. This search involved scrutinizing and debating every available detail of over 60 candidate locations on Mars by the mission team and the planetary science community.
NASA’s rover mission is set to launch in July 2020 as the space agency’s next step in the exploration of Mars. The mission will look for signs of ancient habitable conditions and past microbial life, and the rover will also gather rock and soil samples and store them in a cache on the planet's surface. NASA and ESA (European Space Agency) are looking into future mission concepts to retrieve the samples and send them back to Earth, so this landing site sets the bar for the next ten years of Mars exploration.
Lastly, the Big Falcon Rocket (BFR), SpaceX’s future massive rocket, now has a new name. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX used his personal Twitter account to say that the transportation portion of the craft, presently called the Big Falcon Spaceship (BFS), will now be named Starship, while the booster portion (the part with the big f’n rockets) will be known as Super Heavy.
In September, the company officially unveiled their plans for the 387-foot Big Falcon Rocket. The company hopes that eventually, it will replace SpaceX’s existing Falcon 9, Falcon Heavy, and Dragon rockets. The spacecraft is presently being developed at the Port of Los Angeles, at an expected cost of $5 billion and will be able to take up to 100 tons of cargo or 100 passengers as far as Mars.
Are you excited about the finding of a new super-Earth? Do you think this new exoplanet could host life? Do you think the Mars rover 2020 mission will find life? Why?
Let's discuss in the comments below!