Tag Archives: discovery

The search for Planet X leads to an amazing discovery

Ever since the discovery of Pluto by Clyde W. Tombaugh in 1930, scientists have been on the search for anything beyond what seemed to be our solar system’s outermost member. Apart from a few moons, and then a 2006 decision that reclassified Pluto as a dwarf-planet, there has not been much information on finding “Planet X.” Well, not until this past week.

An artist's concept of what "the Goblin" might look like in space. Photo from earthsky.org
An artist’s concept of what “the Goblin” might look like in space. Photo from earthsky.org

In new research led by the Carnegie Institution for Science found a extremely distant object that is billions of miles away from Pluto. The object has a orbit that leaves hints of maybe more objects like “Planet X” or a planet that is Earth like.

The object, which is now has the nickname “The Goblin” is only 200 miles wide. The scientific name of the object is the very boring, 2015 TG387. Names like those are usually given to asteroids. The object is almost 8 billion miles away from the Sun. In comparsion, Pluto is two and a half times closer to the Sun.

David Tholen of the University of Hawaii and a member of the Carnegie Institution’s research team said to USA Today, “We think there could be thousands of small bodies like 2015 TG387 out on the solar system’s fringes, but their distance makes finding them very difficult.”

Telescopes from the United States and even as far as Chile were used to determine the location of “the Goblin” and 12 additional moons of Jupiter that were previous unknown.

Research like this could lead to the discovery of either another inhabitable planet or a “Super Earth” that could support life in our Solar System.

 

Hobbits were real?

An ancient, 3-foot-tall human, whose unusually small stature has earned it the moniker “hobbit”, has astounded evolutionary researchers since it’s bones were discovered on the island of Flores, in Indonesia. Some scientists have proposed that the individual was a Homo sapien with a growth disorder.

Endocasts of the skulls of a hobbit (left) and a modern human (right). Credit: Professor Peter Brown, University of New England
Endocasts of the skulls of a hobbit (left) and a modern human (right).
Credit: Professor Peter Brown, University of New England

Recently discovered teeth from the hobbit propose it is a unique species, as opposed to a present-day human with a development issue. The new research also proposes that hobbits may share a immediate ancestor with present-day humans.

The 18,000-year-old fossil remains of the hobbit were found in 2003. From that point forward, scientists have suggested that the hobbit, which had a brain about the size of a grapefruit, was a branch of the human lineage Homo, named Homo floresiensis. On the other hand, separate scientists have contended that the hobbit was truly a current human with microcephaly, a condition that leads to an abnormally little head, a little body and some mental impediment.

To learn more about the hobbit, researchers have now performed the first comprehensive investigation of the ancient human’s teeth. The analysts contrasted the 40 known hobbit teeth and those from 490 present-day people from Asia, Oceania, Africa and Europe, as well as from an assortment of extinct hominins, such as Homo habilis.

The scientists discovered that hobbit teeth were as small as those from short present-day humans. On the other hand, different features of these teeth looked totally divergent from those of present-day humans.

The hobbit teeth showed a mix of more primitive traits seen in early hominids and more advanced traits found in later hominins. Credit: livescience.com
The hobbit teeth showed a mix of primitive traits and advanced traits. Credit: livescience.com

The hobbit teeth showed an exceptional mosaic of primitive attributes seen in early hominins blended with more-propelled characteristics displayed by later hominins, the scientists said. For example, the canine and premolar teeth looked primitive, while the molar teeth looked advanced, or as though they had emerged later in the evolution of Homo sapiens.

These discoveries negate prior assertions that hobbits had teeth completely like those of modern humans. The outcomes likewise propose that hobbits were not simply modern humans with serious abnormalities, the scientists said.

While human ancestry, for the most part, developed bigger bodies and brains through time, the hobbit suggests that seclusion on islands could considerably switch this developmental pattern, Yousuke Kaifu, a paleoanthropologist at Japan’s National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, said.

The scientists detailed their discoveries November 18 in the online journal PLOS ONE.

How NASA inconvenienced the plot of The Martian with their new discovery

For a long time, Mars was thought to be a big, red, dusty wasteland floating through outer space. Our previous explorations of the planet have revealed pictures that depicted it as just that, a wasteland. Mars has only been known to have two poles, much like ours, which are covered in ice. However, there seemed to be no sign of liquid water– until now.

NASA announced  in a press conference on Monday that they have discovered what appears to be flowing, liquid water on the planet. It’s been thought that mars could have had oceans and lakes ions ago, but scientists thought that the planet may be too cold to have liquid water on it now.

An Illustrated History of Water on Mars. Graphic from Wikipedia
Proof of water on Mars throws a wrench in the plot of “The Martian”. Graphic from Wikipedia

Five years ago, NASA scientists noticed some dark streaks that appeared during the warmer months, and disappeared in colder months. Scientists have been observing these streaks since, but assumed the streaks could be dust or small landslides. Studying the different kinds of minerals and elements on the planet, scientists realized something had to have been moistening these minerals in order for them to flow the way they have been.

“The amount of water could be huge: the scientists estimated that one dark line contains, at a minimum, enough water to fill 40 of the enormous swimming pools used for international competitions,” according to USA Today.

The issue with this liquid is that the dust on mars absorbs it so quickly, it’s more of a sludgy landslide than a flowing river as many people are misunderstanding. The water is also thought to be many times more salty than our own oceans water.

Scientists remain optimistic about the discovery, however.  “Water is the elixir of life,”  Mars expert Ray Arvidson of Washington University in St. Louis told USA Today. In other words, this discovery is a huge step towards discovering some kind of life on Mars. This also means that there’s a great possibility that humans could populate Mars, in the very distant future. Although it may be decades or even centuries before we colonize Mars, the possibility is much greater than it was before this discovery.

This discovery comes at an inconvenient time, as Hollywood is preparing to premiere a Mars-based movie featuring Matt Damon.

The Martian, which is based on a book by Andy Weir, is about an astronaut, Watney, who finds himself stranded on Mars. Watney is left to his own devices to find a way to grow his own food until he can be rescued. NASA’s discovery of water on Mars sort of spoils the plot of the movie, because Mars is supposed to be a dry, arid wasteland.

Weir seemed pretty optimistic about the discovery, telling Wired Magazine that the setting of Watney’s base camp is nowhere near where water has been detected on Mars. Jim Green, NASA’s head of planetary science also told Wired that despite the new discovery, he suggests that his scientific friends, “check the science at the door. Go on in and enjoy the movie.”

Voyager spacecrafts are out of this world

We’re leaving the solar system.

How’s that sound for a vacation? It’s certainly not something you do on the spur of the moment, and it’s a trip the Voyager spacecrafts have been on for 35 years.  Launched in the late 1970s by NASA, these two ambassadors for humanity are laden with objects meant to give extraterrestrial intelligence a taste of life on Earth, and have finally reached the edge of our solar system. Continue reading Voyager spacecrafts are out of this world