Planet

‘Runaway greenhouse’ easier to trigger on Earth than thought, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: July 28, 2013   View Article

It’s plausible that conditions on Earth could get so hot and steamy that the oceans entirely evaporate and render the planet inhospitable to life, according to new calculations that suggest this so-called runaway greenhouse is easier to initiate than previously believed.

“We could go into the runaway greenhouse today if we could get the planet hot enough to get enough water vapor into the atmosphere,” Colin Goldblatt, a professor of Earth system evolution at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, and lead author of the study, told NBC News.

The reality, though, he said, is that burning all the planet’s fossil fuels such as oil and coal is “very unlikely” to trigger the uncontrollable warming.

Brown dwarf as cool as coffee found

Publication: msnbc.com   Date: March 23, 2011   View Article

Astronomers have found a star that’s only as hot as a cup of coffee, making it a candidate for the coldest star known. That is, assuming it’s a star.

While a cup of coffee may sound hot — the newly discovered object is about 200 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius) — our sun is about 10,000 degrees F (5,500 degrees C). So, by comparison, it really is quite cold.

The object is considered a brown dwarf, a cosmic misfit that’s cold enough to blur the lines between small cold stars and big hot planets. Astronomers consider brown dwarfs failed stars because they lack the mass and gravity to trigger the nuclear reactions that make stars shine brightly.

First Truly Habitable Planet Discovered, Experts Say

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 29, 2010   View Article

Astronomers studying a nearby star say they’ve found the first potentially habitable planet—likely a rocky place with an atmosphere, temperate regions, and crucially, liquid water, considered vital for life as we know it.

Other extrasolar planets have been called Earthlike, but, astronomer Paul Butler assured, “this is really the first Goldilocks planet”—not too hot, not too cold.

Seven out-of-this world destinations

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: April 13, 2010   View Article

We are headed to Mars … eventually. But first we need the rocket technology and human spaceflight savvy to get us there safely and efficiently. And the best way to do that is to visit places such as asteroids, our moon, a Martian moon and even no man’s lands in space called “Lagrange points,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden explained during the unveiling of the agency’s revised vision for space exploration.

The vision shifts focus away from a return to the moon as part of a steppingstone to Mars in favor of what experts call a “flexible path” to space exploration, pushing humans ever deeper into the cosmos.

Top 11 planet-hunting telescopes

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: December 7, 2009   View Article

What’s a “planet”? That common term sparked an uncommon controversy when scientists announced the discovery of what they believed to be a much-fabled Planet X out beyond the orbit of Neptune.

The icy world, which was initially nicknamed Xena and was later dubbed Eris, is more massive than Pluto. That finding prompted the International Astronomical Union to reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet and designate all Plutolike objects beyond Neptune as plutoids.

As the planethood debate continues, astronomers also continue to probe the skies with the latest and greatest telescope technologies, learning more and more about distant worlds.

To Find New Planets, Look for the Lithium?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: November 11, 2009   View Article

Sunlike stars that harbor planets are low on lithium, according to a recent study that may offer a new tool in the hunt for planets beyond our solar system.

Stars are made almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. A small percentage of a star’s mass comes from heavier elements, which astronomers refer to as metals.

Saturn Lightning Storm Breaks Solar System Record

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 15, 2009   View Article

A lightning storm has been raging on Saturn since mid-January, making the tempest the longest-lasting storm ever detected in our solar system, astronomers announced today.

The lightning flashes are 10,000 times stronger than lightning flashes on Earth, research team member Georg Fischer, of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, said via email.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach