Tag: proved (page 1 of 2)

What You’ll Never Read About Virus-Research Fraud

Jon Rappoport, GuestThe Rabbit HoleThere are very few investigators on the planet who are interested in this subject. I am one of them. There is a reason why.In many articles, I’ve written about the shocking lack of logic in the curriculum of advanced centers of learning. When I attended college, I was fortunate to have a professor who taught logic, and taught it in a way that appealed to the minds of his students. In other words, for those of us who cared, we could not only ab [...]

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Our Fatally Fractured Food Chain

Julian Rose, ContributorThe term ‘food chain’ refers to the steps that constitute the movement of food from its starting point in the field to its end point on the fork. This incorporates processing and ultimate consumption.The food chain operates within a dynamic life cycle. One which expresses the inseparable interconnection between soil, plant, animal and man – and ends back in the soil again. So that if any one element of this cycle is poisoned or weakened, the [...]

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Flawed Medical Research May Be Ruining Your Health & Your Life

Robert Oliva, Collective-EvolutionThere is a cancer eating at the core of medical research.You’ve most likely heard of medical reports touting the effectiveness of a diet plan, a new drug, a supplement, or medical procedure. You may have even decided on a course of action based on these findings, only to find out later that they have been refuted by new studies.Strikingly, the odds are that the studies that influenced your decision, and possibly the decision of your doctor, wer [...]

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MRSA superbug killed by 1,100-year-old home remedy, researchers say


MRSA attacks a human cell. The bacteria shown is the strain MRSA 252, a leading cause of hospital-associated infections. (Rocky Mountain Laboratories, NIAID, NIH)


Excerpt from washingtonpost.com
By Justin Wm. Moyer 

Even in the age of AIDS, avian flu and Ebola, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, better known as MRSA, is terrifying.

The superbug, which is resistant to conventional antibiotics because of their overuse, shrugs at even the deadliest weapons modern medicine offers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated MRSA contributed to the deaths of more than 5,000 people in the United States in 2013. It even attacked the NFL, and some say it could eventually kill more people than cancer. And presidential commissions have advised that technological progress is the only way to fight MRSA.

But researchers in the United Kingdom now report that the superbug proved vulnerable to an ancient remedy. The ingredients? Just a bit of garlic, some onion or leek, copper, wine and oxgall — a florid name for cow’s bile.

This medicine sounds yucky, but it’s definitely better than the bug it may be able to kill.

“We were absolutely blown away by just how effective the combination of ingredients was,” Freya Harrison of the University of Nottingham, who worked on the research, told the BBC.

The oxgall remedy, billed as an eye salve, was found in a manuscript written in Old English from the 10th century called “Bald’s Leechbook” — a sort of pre-Magna Carta physician’s desk reference. Garlic and copper are commonly thought to have antibiotic or antimicrobial properties, but seeing such ingredients in a home remedy at Whole Foods is a far cry from researchers killing a superbug with it.

According to Christina Lee, an associate professor in Viking studies at Nottingham, the MRSA research was the product of conversations among academics of many stripes interested in infectious disease and how people fought it before antibiotics.

“We were talking about the specter of antibiotic resistance,” she told The Washington Post in a phone interview. The medical researchers involved in the discussions said to the medievalists: “In your period, you guys must have had something.”

Not every recipe in Bald’s Leechbook is a gem. Other advice, via a translation from the Eastern Algo-Saxonist: “Against a woman’s chatter; taste at night fasting a root of radish, that day the chatter cannot harm thee.” And: “In case a man be a lunatic; take skin of a mereswine or porpoise, work it into a whip, swinge the man therewith, soon he will be well. Amen.”

Though the Leechbook may include misses, it may help doctors find a solution to a problem that only seems to be getting worse.

If the oxgall remedy proves effective against MRSA outside of the lab — which researchers caution it may not — it would be a godsend. Case studies of MRSA’s impact from the CDC’s charmingly named Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report seem medieval.

In July 1997, a 7-year-old black girl from urban Minnesota was admitted to a tertiary-care hospital with a temperature of 103 F.” Result: Death from pulmonary hemorrhage after five weeks of hospitalization.

In January 1998, a 16-month-old American Indian girl from rural North Dakota was taken to a local hospital in shock and with a temperature of 105.2 F.” Result: After respiratory failure and cardiac arrest, death within two hours of hospital admission.

In January 1999, a 13-year-old white girl from rural Minnesota was brought to a local hospital with fever, hemoptysis” — that’s coughing up blood — “and respiratory distress.” The result: Death from multiple organ failure after seven days in the hospital.

“We believe modern research into disease can benefit from past responses and knowledge, which is largely contained in non-scientific writings,” Lee told the Telegraph. “But the potential of these texts to contribute to addressing the challenges cannot be understood without the combined expertise of both the arts and science.”

Lee stressed that it was the combination of ingredients that proved effective against MRSA — which shows that people living in medieval times were not as barbaric as popularly thought. Even 1,000 years ago, when people got sick, other people tried to figure out how to help.

“We associate ‘medieval’ with dark, barbaric,” Lee said. “… It’s not. I’ve always believed in the pragmatic medieval ages.”
The research will be presented at the Annual Conference of the Society for General Microbiology in Birmingham. In an abstract for the conference, the team cautioned oxgall was no cure-all.

“Antibacterial activity of a substance in laboratory trials does not necessarily mean the historical remedy it was taken from actually worked in toto,” they wrote.

Lee said researchers hope to turn to other remedies in Bald’s Leechbook — including purported cures for headaches and ulcers — to see what other wisdom the ancients have to offer.

“At a time when you don’t have microscope, medicine would have included things we find rather odd,” she said. “In 200 years, people will judge us.”

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How Quantum Physics will change your life and amaze the world!

 Excerpt from educatinghumanity.com "Anyone not shocked by quantum mechanics has not yet understood it."Niels Bohr10 Ways Quantum Physics Will Change the WorldEver want to have a "life do over", teleport, time travel, have your computer wor...

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Great Fuel Economy For Less: 5 Affordable Used Cars That are Surprisingly Good on Gas

Excerpt from autotrader.com By Josh Sadlier   Seems like the only thing automakers want to talk about these days is how their cars suddenly get great fuel economy. Given this relentless chatter, it's tempting to conclude that mos...

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“Seedling” For Supermassive Black Holes Found




Excerpt from clapway.com

By William Large 

A recently discovered black hole may help astronomers to piece together the family tree of these enigmatic cosmic objects. While most black holes are classified as either stellar-mass or the supermassive black holes that can be found at the center of some galaxies, this new find fits into neither category.

The discovery, called the intermediate-mass black hole (IMBH), has proved to be a tricky proposition. With a mass somewhere between a few hundred to a few hundred thousand times that of our own Sun, the size of these intermediates can vary widely.

This particular black hole was found in an arm of the spiral galaxy NGC-2276, and has been sensibly named NGC-2276-3c. Lying about 100 million light-years from earth, astronomers were able to tease images through the use of NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory and the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry Network.

Although researchers have theorized about the existence of these IMBHs, locating one has proven elusive until now. A recent to-be-published paper by an international team of researchers delves into the specifics of NGC-2276-3c.

“Astronomers have been looking very hard for these medium-sized black holes,” study co-author Tim Roberts, of the University of Durham in the United Kingdom, said in a statement. “There have been hints that they exist, but the IMBHs have been acting like a long-lost relative that isn’t interested in being found.”

So what was found? It appears that the recently discovery has characteristics of both the smaller stellar-mass and the much larger supermassive black holes. It serves as an intermediary between the two, and some think that these intermediaries are the beginnings of what could very well become a supermassive.

The team of researchers also noted that the black holes is firing off super powerful blasts of radio jets. Think of these as material, traveling at nearly the speed of light and emitting radio waves, which are thrown out of dense objects. Our newly found black hole is shooting them out almost 2000 light-years into space. Within a radius of approximately 1000 light-years around NGC-2276-3c there are no new star formations, suggesting that the radio jets are pushing out all the gas necessary for star creation.

The full report on NGC-2276-3c should be appearing shortly in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Will new ruling finally free Lolita after 40 years in captivity at Miami Seaquarium?



Excerpt from seattletimes.com

A decision to list the captive orca Lolita for federal protection is expected to set the stage for a lawsuit from advocates seeking the whale’s release.

Seattle Times staff reporter



A Puget Sound orca held for decades at Miami’s Seaquarium will gain the protection of the federal Endangered Species Act, a move expected to set the stage for a lawsuit from advocates seeking the whale’s release.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced Wednesday the decision to list Lolita as part of the southern resident killer whales of Puget Sound, which already are considered endangered under the federal act. 

Whale activists, who petitioned for this status, have long campaigned for Lolita’s return to Puget Sound. They hope the listing will provide a stronger legal case to release Lolita than did a previous lawsuit that centered on alleged violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

“This gives leverage under a much stronger law,” said Howard Garrett of the Whidbey Island based Orca Network, which hopes a San Juan Island cove will one day serve as the site for Lolita to re-enter the wild.

NOAA Fisheries officials on Wednesday described their decision in narrow terms, which set no broader precedents. It does not address whether Lolita should be released from the Seaquarium.
“This is a listing decision,” said Will Stelle, the NOAA Fisheries regional administrator for the West Coast. “It is not a decision to free Lolita.” 

Aquarium officials have repeatedly said they have no intention of releasing the orca. 

“Lolita has been part of the Miami Seaquarium family for 44 years,” said Andrew Hertz, Seaquarium general manager, in a statement. 

“Lolita is healthy and thriving in her home where she shares habitat with Pacific white-sided dolphins. There is no scientific evidence that ... Lolita could survive in a sea pen or the open waters of the Pacific Northwest, and we are not willing to treat her life as an experiment.”

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are found in many of the world’s oceans. The southern resident population, which spends several months each year in Puget Sound, is the only group listed in the U.S. under the Endangered Species. 

The three pods in the population were reduced by captures by marine parks between 1965 and 1975, NOAA says. Among them was a roundup in Penn Cove where seven whales were captured, including Lolita. 

The southern resident pods now number fewer than 80. Possible causes for the decline are reduced prey, pollutants that could cause reproductive problems and oil spills, according to NOAA Fisheries.
Under the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal to cause a “take” of a protected orca, which includes harming or harassing them.
Wednesday, NOAA officials said holding an animal captive, in and of itself, does not constitute a take. 

Orca activists are expected to argue in their lawsuit that Lolita's cramped conditions result in a prohibited take.

There is “rising public scorn for the whole idea of performing orcas,” said Garrett, who hopes Seaquarium will decide to release Lolita without a court order. 

But NOAA officials still have concerns about releasing captive whales, and any plan to move or release Lolita would require “rigorous scientific review,” the agency said in a statement.
The concerns include the possibility of disease transmission, the ability of a newly released orca to find food and behavior patterns from captivity that could impact wild whales.

NOAA said previous attempts to release captive orcas and dolphins have often been unsuccessful and some have ended in death.

Garrett said the plan for Lolita calls for her to be taken to a netted area of the cove, which could be enlarged later. She would be accompanied by familiar trainers who could “trust and reassure her every bit of the way,” he said. 

The controversy over releasing captive whales has been heightened by the experience of Keiko, a captive orca that starred in the 1993 movie “Free Willy,” about a boy who pushed for the release of a whale.

In 1998, Keiko was brought back to his native waters off Iceland to reintroduce him to life in the wild. That effort ended in 2003 when he died in a Norwegian fjord. 

Garrett, who visited Keiko in Iceland in 1999, said he was impressed by the reintroduction effort, and that there was plenty of evidence that Keiko was able to catch fish on his own.

“The naysayers predicted that as soon as he got into the (Icelandic) waters he would die, and wild orcas would kill him,” Garrett said. “He proved that 180-degrees wrong. He loved it.”

Mark Simmons, who for two years served as director of animal husbandry for the Keiko-release effort, has a different view. He says Keiko never was able to forage for fish on his own, and that he continued to seek out human contact at every opportunity. 

Simmons wrote a book called “Killing Keiko,” that accuses the release effort of leading to a long slow death for the orca, which he says lacked food and then succumbed to an infection.

“It’s not really the fact that Keiko died, but how he died,” Garrett said Wednesday.

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Elon Musk drops space plans into Seattle’s lap




Excerpt from seattletimes.com

Elon Musk thought three major trends would drive the future: the Internet, the quest for sustainable energy and space exploration. He’s got skin in all three games.

Of all the newcomers we’ve seen here lately, one of the more interesting is Elon Musk.

The famous entrepreneur isn’t going to live here, at least not yet. But earlier this month he did announce plans to bulk up an engineering center near Seattle for his SpaceX venture. The invitation-only event was held in the shadow of the Space Needle.
If the plan happens, SpaceX would join Planetary Resources and Blue Origin in a budding Puget Sound space hub. With talent from Boeing, the aerospace cluster and University of Washington, this offers fascinating potential for the region’s future.

Elon Musk sounds like the name of a character from a novel that would invariably include the sentence, “he had not yet decided whether to use his powers for good or for evil.”

He is said to have been the inspiration for the character Tony Stark, played by Robert Downey Jr. in the “Iron Man” movies. He’s also been compared to Steve Jobs and even Thomas Edison.

The real Musk seems like a nice-enough chap, at least based on his ubiquitous appearances in TED talks and other venues.

Even the semidishy essay in Marie Claire magazine by his first wife, Justine, is mostly about the challenge to the marriage as Musk became very rich, very young, started running with a celebrity crowd and exhibited the monomaniacal behavior common to the entrepreneurial tribe.

A native of South Africa, Musk emigrated to Canada and finally to the United States, where he received degrees from the University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School. He left Stanford’s Ph.D. program in applied physics after two days to start a business.
In 1995, he co-founded Zip2, an early Internet venture for newspapers. Four years later, he co-founded what would become PayPal. With money from eBay’s acquisition of PayPal, he started SpaceX. He also invested in Tesla Motors, the electric-car company, eventually becoming chief executive. Then there’s Solar City, a major provider of solar-power systems.

Musk has said that early on he sensed three major trends would drive the future: the Internet, the quest for sustainable energy and space exploration. He’s got skin in all three games.

At age 43, Musk is seven years younger than Jeff Bezos and more than 15 years younger than Bill Gates.

His achievements haven’t come without controversy. Tesla played off several states against each other for a battery factory. Nevada, desperate to diversify its low-wage economy, won, if you can call it that.

The price tag was $1.4 billion in incentives and whether it ever pays off for the state is a big question. A Fortune magazine investigation showed Musk not merely as a visionary but also a master manipulator with a shaky deal. Musk, no shrinking violet, fired back on his blog.

SpaceX is a combination of the practical and the hyperambitious, some would say dreamy.

On the practical side, the company is one of those chosen by the U.S. government to resupply the International Space Station. Musk also hopes to put 4,000 satellites in low-Earth orbit to provide inexpensive Internet access worldwide.

The satellite venture will be based here, with no financial incentives from the state.

But he also wants to make space travel less expensive, generate “a lot of money” through SpaceX, and eventually establish a Mars colony.

“SpaceX, or some combination of companies and governments, needs to make progress in the direction of making life multiplanetary, of establishing a base on another planet, on Mars — being the only realistic option — and then building that base up until we’re a true multiplanet species,” he said during a TED presentation.

It’s heady stuff. And attractive enough to lead Google and Fidelity Investments to commit $1 billion to SpaceX.

Also, in contrast with the “rent-seeking” and financial plays of so many of the superwealthy, Musk actually wants to create jobs and solve practical problems.

If there’s a cautionary note, it is that market forces alone can’t address many of our most serious challenges. Indeed, in some cases they make them worse.

Worsening income inequality is the work of the hidden hand, unfettered by antitrust regulation, progressive taxation, unions and protections against race-to-the-bottom globalization.

If the hidden costs of spewing more carbon into the atmosphere are not priced in, we have today’s market failure exacerbating climate change. Electric cars won’t fix that as long as the distortions favoring fossil fuels remain.

So a broken, compromised government that’s cutting research dollars and failing to invest in education and forward-leaning infrastructure is a major impediment.

The United States did not reach the moon because of a clever billionaire, but through a national endeavor to serve the public good. I know, that’s “so 20th century.” 

Also, as Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon might argue, visionaries such as Thomas Edison grabbed relatively low-hanging fruit, with electrification creating huge numbers of jobs. 

Merely recovering the lost demand of the Great Recession has proved difficult. Another electrificationlike revolution that lifts all boats seems improbable.

I’m not sure that’s true. But it will take more than Iron Man to rescue the many Americans still suffering.

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Age of stars can now be pinned to their spin

Excerpt from bbc.comAstronomers have proved that they can accurately tell the age of a star from how fast it is spinning. We know that stars slow down over time, but until recently there was little data to support exact calculations. For ...

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THERE ARE NO BLACK HOLES, ONLY GREY HOLES, CLAIMS STEPHEN HAWKING




dailymail.co.uk

Earlier this year Professor Stephen Hawking shocked physicists by saying 'there are no black holes'.
In a paper published online, Professor Hawking instead argues there are 'grey holes'
'The absence of event horizons means that there are no black holes - in the sense of regimes from which light can't escape to infinity,' he says in the paper, called Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting For Black Holes.
He says that the idea of an event horizon, from which light cannot escape, is flawed.
He suggests that instead light rays attempting to rush away from the black hole’s core will be held as though stuck on a treadmill and that they can slowly shrink by spewing out radiation.  
One of the reasons black holes are so bizarre is that they pit two fundamental theories of the universe against each other.
Namely, Einstein’s theory of gravity predicts the formation of black holes. But a fundamental law of quantum theory states that no information from the universe can ever disappear.
Efforts to combine these two theories proved problematic, and has become known as the black hole information paradox - how can matter permanently disappear in a black hole as predicted?
Professor Mersini-Houghton’s new theory does manage to mathematically combine the two fundamental theories, but with unwanted effects for people expecting black holes to exist.
‘Physicists have been trying to merge these two theories - Einstein’s theory of gravity and quantum mechanics - for decades, but this scenario brings these two theories together, into harmony,’ said Professor Mersini-Houghton.
‘And that’s a big deal.’

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Black holes do NOT exist and the Big Bang Theory is wrong, claims scientist – and she has the maths to prove it




dailymail.co.uk

By Jonathan O’Callaghan

  • Scientist claims she has mathematical proof black holes cannot exist
  • She said it is impossible for stars to collapse and form a singularity
  • Professor Laura Mersini-Houghton said she is still in 'shock' from the find
  • Previously, scientists thought stars much larger than the sun collapsed under their own gravity and formed black holes when they died
  • During this process they release a type of radiation called Hawking radiation
  • But new research claims the star would lose too much mass and wouldn't be able to form a black hole
  • If true, the theory that the universe began as a singularity, followed by the Big Bang, could also be wrong

  • When a huge star many times the mass of the sun comes to the end of its life it collapses in on itself and forms a singularity – creating a black hole where gravity is so strong that not even light itself can escape.
    At least, that’s what we thought.
    A scientist has sensationally said that it is impossible for black holes to exist – and she even has mathematical proof to back up her claims.
    If true, her research could force physicists to scrap their theories of how the universe began.
    A scientist from University of North Carolina states she has mathematical proof that black holes (illustrated) can't exist. She said it is impossible for stars to collapse and form a singularity. Previously, scientists thought stars  larger than the sun collapsed under their own gravity and formed black holes as they died

    A scientist from University of North Carolina states she has mathematical proof that black holes (illustrated) can’t exist. She said it is impossible for stars to collapse and form a singularity. Previously, scientists thought stars larger than the sun collapsed under their own gravity and formed black holes as they died
    The research was conducted by Professor Laura Mersini-Houghton from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in the College of Arts and Scientists.

    She claims that as a star dies, it releases a type of radiation known as Hawking radiation – predicted by Professor Stephen Hawking.

    THE BLACK HOLE INFORMATION PARADOX

    One of the biggest unanswered questions about black holes is the so-called information paradox.
    Under current theories for black holes it is thought that nothing can escape from the event horizon around a black hole – not even light itself.
    Inside the black hole is thought to be a singularity where matter is crushed to an infinitesimally small point as predicted by Einstein’s theory of gravity.
    However, a fundamental law of quantum theory states that no information from the universe can ever disappear.
    This creates a paradox; how can a black hole make matter and information ‘disappear’?
    Professor Mersini-Houghton’s new theory manages to explain why this might be so – namely because black holes as we know them cannot exist.
    However in this process, Professor Mersini-Houghton believes the star also sheds mass, so much so that it no longer has the density to become a black hole.
    Before the black hole can form, she said, the dying star swells and explodes.
    The singularity as predicted never forms, and neither does the event horizon – the boundary of the black hole where not even light can escape.
    ‘I’m still not over the shock,’ said Professor Mersini-Houghton.
    ‘We’ve been studying this problem for a more than 50 years and this solution gives us a lot to think about.’
    Experimental evidence may one day provide physical proof as to whether or not black holes exist in the universe.
    But for now, Mersini-Houghton says the mathematics are conclusive.
    What’s more, the research could apparently even call into question the veracity of the Big Bang theory.
    Most physicists think the universe originated from a singularity that began expanding with the Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago.
    If it is impossible for singularities to exist, however, as partially predicted by Professor Mersini-Houghton, then that theory would also be brought into question.

    THIS is what a black hole looks like – simulation shows disc…
    During the collapse process stars release a type of radiation called Hawking radiation (shown). But Professor Mersini-Houghton claims this process means the star loses too much mass and can't form a black hole. And this also apparently means the Big Bang theory, that the universe began as a singularity, may not be correct
    During the collapse process stars release a type of radiation called Hawking radiation (shown). But Professor Mersini-Houghton claims this process means the star loses too much mass and can’t form a black hole. And this also apparently means the Big Bang theory, that the universe began as a singularity, may not be correct

    THERE ARE NO BLACK HOLES, ONLY GREY HOLES, CLAIMS HAWKING

    Earlier this year Professor Stephen Hawking shocked physicists by saying ‘there are no black holes’.
    In a paper published online, Professor Hawking instead argues there are ‘grey holes’
    ‘The absence of event horizons means that there are no black holes – in the sense of regimes from which light can’t escape to infinity,’ he says in the paper, called Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting For Black Holes.
    He says that the idea of an event horizon, from which light cannot escape, is flawed.
    He suggests that instead light rays attempting to rush away from the black hole’s core will be held as though stuck on a treadmill and that they can slowly shrink by spewing out radiation.
    One of the reasons black holes are so bizarre is that they pit two fundamental theories of the universe against each other.
    Namely, Einstein’s theory of gravity predicts the formation of black holes. But a fundamental law of quantum theory states that no information from the universe can ever disappear.
    Efforts to combine these two theories proved problematic, and has become known as the black hole information paradox – how can matter permanently disappear in a black hole as predicted?
    Professor Mersini-Houghton’s new theory does manage to mathematically combine the two fundamental theories, but with unwanted effects for people expecting black holes to exist.
    ‘Physicists have been trying to merge these two theories – Einstein’s theory of gravity and quantum mechanics – for decades, but this scenario brings these two theories together, into harmony,’ said Professor Mersini-Houghton.
    ‘And that’s a big deal.’

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NASA: Water Vapor Found on Neptune-size Alien Planet



space.com

By Nola Taylor Redd, Space.com Contributor 

A Neptune-size planet beyond the solar system has telltale traces of water vapor in its atmosphere, making it the smallest exoplanet known to have the wet stuff yet, scientists say.

Several massive Jupiter-size giants have had the components of their atmosphere examined, but until now, the atmospheres of smaller planets have proved more elusive. In this new study, scientists discovered traces of water on the alien planet HAT-P-11b, which orbits a star 124 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.

"Water is the most cosmically abundant molecule that we can directly observe in exoplanets, and we expect it to be prevalent in the upper atmospheres of planets at these temperatures," lead author Jonathan Fraine said in an email interview. Fraine, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, worked with a team lead by Drake Deming, also of the University of Maryland. 

"Detecting it is both a confirmation of our theories and revealing for the bulk of the spectrum that we can observe," Fraine told Space.com.

This artist’s illustration depicts the alien planet HAT-P-11b, which shows signs of water in its atmosphere, as the exoplanet crosses in front of its parent star.
This artist’s illustration depicts the alien planet HAT-P-11b, which shows signs of water in its atmosphere, as the exoplanet crosses in front of its parent star. As starlight passes through the puffed-up atmosphere surrounding the planet, shown here in orange, scientists can detect its composition.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Detecting alien planet atmospheres

This image from the Hubble Space Telescope shows the star HAT-P-11 (center), which has a Neptune-size planet that is the smallest yet known to have water in its atmosphere. The planet, HAT-P-11b, is not visible in this image. The other bright object seen here is another star.
Credit: NASA, ESA, J. Fraine

As a planet passes, or transits, between Earth and its sun, it blocks light from the star. The dip in light is how many exoplanets are first found. But these transits also allow astronomers to study the atmospheres of exoplanets. By observing the spectrum of light that passes through an exoplanet’s atmosphere, scientists can determine what it is made up of.


For HAT-P-11b, a planet roughly four times the radius of Earth, that makeup is 90 percent hydrogen, with traces of water vapor. The Neptune-size planet orbits its sun every five days, at a distance that is only one-twentieth of the Earth-sun distance (which is 93 million miles, or 150 million kilometers). As a result, the temperature climbs higher on HAT P-11b than it does on gas giants in the solar system, reaching a sizzling 1,120 degrees Fahrenheit (605 degrees Celsius).

Scientists have been studying the atmospheres of Jupiter-like planets for years, but smaller planets produce a smaller signal that is more challenging to observe. For the new study, researchers examined the atmospheres of four other smaller exoplanets — two roughly the size of Neptune and two smaller super-Earths — but the results were disappointingly featureless.

"We do indeed have the technology — the resolution — to observe Neptune-size exoplanets, and even super-Earths," Fraine said.

But the chemical compositions of the other four planets were blocked by a familiar phenomenon — clouds.

"We've just been seeing a whole lot of nothing," Eliza Kempton, of Grinnell College in Iowa. Kempton models planetary atmospheres but was not involved in the research.

This artist's illustration shows what the skies may look like on different alien planets. On the left is a cloudy planet, while on the right is a planet with clear skies that may resemble the sky of exoplanet HAT-P-11b, a Neptune-size world thought to hav
This artist's illustration shows what the skies may look like on different alien planets. On the left is a cloudy planet, while on the right is a planet with clear skies that may resemble the sky of exoplanet HAT-P-11b, a Neptune-size world thought to have water in its atmosphere.
Credit: NASA



Kempton added that the flat, featureless signals observed for the other planets were attributed to clouds or hazes in the upper atmosphere. The high clouds blocked light from the star, keeping it from penetrating through to the observers' side of the planet and leaving scientists unable to characterize the chemicals in the atmosphere.

"It's not crazy to think that there should be clouds in these exoplanet atmospheres, because we see clouds in all the planetary atmospheres in our solar system," Kempton said.

Although the hot, Neptune-size planet lives in a different environment from the icy giants in the solar system, it is similar to one of the four smaller planets whose atmosphere had already been studied. Those planets are known as GJ436b, GJ1214b, HD97658b and GJ3470b.

HAT-P-11b is only slightly larger and warmer than the alien planet GJ436b, making them good to compare to one another because one has clouds and one does not, Fraine said.

"I like to consider them the bigger version of the Earth-Venus twin pair," Fraine said of the planets HAT-P-11b and GJ436b.

"They are basically the same mass, radius and temperature, but small changes in the formation, or even these bulk properties, may be causing vast changes in the atmospheric composition."

The research is detailed in the Sept. 25 issue of the journal Nature, along with a commentary article by Kempton.

A planet's upper atmosphere results from what happens both above and below it. The balancing act involves irradiation from its star and from cosmic rays on the outside, as well as the chemical and dynamical systems lower in the atmosphere, Fraine explained.

"If we know the input from above — the host star — and the upper atmosphere from our observations, then the missing piece of the puzzle is the interior composition," he said.
Although the interior of a planet is complex, Fraine called the newly characterized atmosphere "a great step forward in solving the puzzle."

The composition of the small planet's atmosphere also supports the core accretion model of planetary formation, where smaller particles combine to create larger and larger particles, eventually reaching planet-size proportions.

"Core accretion predicts that planets are built from the inside out," Fraine said.

"Measuring that HAT P-11b likely has a relatively hydrogen-poor atmosphere implies that it was formed from rocky material that later acquired a thick atmosphere above it, which is what the core-accretion model predicts."

Had the planet formed along the lines of the competing gravitational instability model, its composition and that of its atmosphere should bear a stronger similarity to its star than what was measured by scientists.

Because of its crucial role in the balancing act, the water vapor detected in the exoplanet's atmosphere played an important part in modeling its formation and evolution.

"In the long run, if we can detect water, methane, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, etc., in dozens to hundreds of exoplanet atmospheres of various bulk properties, then we will be able to paint a much clearer picture of how planets form, and, likewise, how Earth formed," Fraine said.

"This was just one of the beginning brush strokes to painting the full picture of how planets, as well as ourselves, were formed."

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