SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Celestial Wanderer
Astronomers find a free-floating planet that is not trapped by gravity of a star
Steve Connor
A planet without a sun that wanders through space like a lost Mary Celeste has been discovered by astronomers who say it is the first confirmation of a free-floating planet that does not orbit a star. The planet, known by its code name CFBDSIR2149, is about four to seven times the mass of Jupiter and is passing through space at the relatively close distance of 100 light years from our own solar system.

World’s fastest supercomputer
Washington:
A Cray supercomputer at the US government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been named as the world’s fastest, overtaking an IBM supercomputer at another American research center. The ranking released by researchers from the United States and Germany found that Titan, a Cray XK7 system installed at Oak Ridge in Tennessee, achieved 17.59 petaflops, or quadrillions of calculations per second.

TRENDS

  • Map shows how universe looked 11 billion years ago

  • Genome sequencing to halt superbug outbreak

  • Path breaking particle change

Prof Yash Pal

Prof Yash Pal

THIS UNIVERSE
Prof Yash Pal
How do fortune-tellers predict future events with the help of stars and planets?
I do not believe the stars or planets can be of any help. Perhaps the Pandit knows you very well or is exceptionally wise.





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Celestial Wanderer
Astronomers find a free-floating planet that is not trapped by gravity of a star
Steve Connor

An artist’s impression shows the free-floating planet CFBDSIR2149, a cold, young world that has pulled free of the gravitational pull of its mother star
An artist’s impression shows the free-floating planet CFBDSIR2149, a cold, young world that has pulled free of the gravitational pull of its mother star. — AFP

A planet without a sun that wanders through space like a lost Mary Celeste has been discovered by astronomers who say it is the first confirmation of a free-floating planet that does not orbit a star.

The planet, known by its code name CFBDSIR2149, is about four to seven times the mass of Jupiter and is passing through space at the relatively close distance of 100 light years from our own solar system.

Astronomers have long theorised about the possibility of free-floating planets that are not trapped by the gravitational attraction of a nearby star but this is the first time they have been able to confirm the existence of one such planet.

Detailed calculations carried by a team of Canadian and French scientists show that the planet is comparatively young, between 50 and 120 million years old, with a surface temperature of 400C. This, combined with its size, rules out the possibility of it being a larger “brown dwarf” star, astronomers said.

“Although theorists had established the existence of this type of very cold and young planet, one had never been observed until today,” said Étienne Artigau, an astrophysicist at the University of Montreal in Canada.

A joint investigation between astronomers working on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope and the Very Large Telescope in Chile operated by the European Southern Observatory led to an accurate estimate of the planet’s age, a key fact that ruled out the possibility of it being a brown dwarf.

“Over the past few years, several objects of this type have been identified, but their existence could not be established without scientific confirmation of their age,” said Jonathan Gagné of the University of Montreal.

“Astronomers weren’t sure whether to categorise them as planets or as brown dwarfs. Brown dwarfs are what we could call failed stars, as they never manage to initiate nuclear reactions in their centres,” Gagne said.

The free-floating planet appears to be a part of larger grouping of about 30 young stars, all with a similar composition, that are moving through space together. This helped the scientists to pinpoint the planet’s age.

One theory is that the planet was flung away from nearby stars during its formation.

“These objects are important, as they can either help us understand more about how planets may be ejected from planetary systems, or how very light objects can arise from the star-formation process,” says Philippe Delorme of the Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble.

“If this little object is a planet that has been ejected from its native system, it conjures up the striking image of orphaned worlds, drifting in the emptiness of space,” Dr Delorme said.

— The Independent

FACT FILE

What is an exoplanet?

Planets beyond the Solar System are known as exoplanets. The first one was definitively discovered in 1995 and since then more than 800 have been documented in various regions of the Milky Way galaxy.

Why is this planet so different?

The planet known as CFBDSIR2149 is the first to be confirmed beyond reasonable doubt to exist as a free-floating planet, which means that it does not orbit a star. It means that this planet does not have a sun.

How are they detected?

Various techniques have been used to discover exoplanets. They have been discovered by looking at the changes in the light frequencies coming from a star. As the planet orbited its star it causes a slight change in the star’s radial velocity, the speed with which it moves towards or away from the Earth. Another way is to observe the slight decrease in light coming from a star as the planet passes in front of it when viewed from Earth.
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World’s fastest supercomputer

The Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Titan supercomputer has been named the world's fastest supercomputer in the latest TOP500 computer ranking list
The Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Titan supercomputer has been named the world's fastest supercomputer in the latest TOP500 computer ranking list. — Reuters

Washington: A Cray supercomputer at the US government’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory has been named as the world’s fastest, overtaking an IBM supercomputer at another American research center. The ranking released by researchers from the United States and Germany found that Titan, a Cray XK7 system installed at Oak Ridge in Tennessee, achieved 17.59 petaflops, or quadrillions of calculations per second.

Titan, which gets funding from the US Department of Energy, is used for research in energy, climate change, efficient engines, materials and other scientific research.

Titan knocked the IBM Sequoia at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California into second place. It could only manage 16.32 petaflops.

Rounding out the top five were Fujitsu’s K computer at the Riken Advanced Institute for Computational Science in Kobe, Japan; an IBM BlueGene/Q system named Mira at the Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, and another IBM BlueGene/Q system named Juqueen at the Forschungszentrum Juelich in Germany.

Researchers said 251 of the 500 systems were in the United States, with 105 in Europe and 123 in Asia, including 72 in China.

The announcement came from the TOP500 list compiled by the University of Mannheim, Germany; the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee. — AFP
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TRENDS

An employee of Bio Explorers Company presents their new Bio-sensor based explosives detection system, which uses mice to detect explosives through their sense of smell
An employee of Bio Explorers Company presents their new Bio-sensor based explosives detection system, which uses mice to detect explosives through their sense of smell. The Israeli company is aiming at revolutionising the way explosives, narcotics and even money are detected at airports, docks and border crossings, with the help of mice. — AFP

Map shows how universe looked 11 billion years ago

LONDON: An international team of astronomers has produced the first map of the universe as it was 11 billion years ago, filling a gap between the Big Bang and the rapid expansion that followed. The study, published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics, shows the universe went through a phase roughly three billion years after the Big Bang when expansion actually started to slow, before the force of so-called 'dark energy' kicked in and sent galaxies accelerating away from each other.

 

Genome sequencing to halt superbug outbreak

LONDON: Researchers have used DNA sequencing for the first time to identify, analyse and put a halt to an infectious disease outbreak in a hospital. The success of the technique, which used fast genome sequencing technology to control an outbreak of the MRSA superbug on a baby ward, suggests it could be used to control hospital bugs, salmonella and E.coli infections and diseases like tuberculosis, scientists said. — Reuters

Path breaking particle change

GENEVA: CERN researchers have spotted a particle reshaping into two others in their Large Hadron Collider, a breakthrough that could be crucial in exploring physics frontiers once the realm of science fiction. The mutation - in a process known as decay - was predicted under the so-called Standard Model (SM) of physics which describes how the universe works at the most fundamental level, but until now scientists had never seen it. — Reuters
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THIS UNIVERSE
Prof Yash Pal

How do fortune-tellers predict future events with the help of stars and planets?

I do not believe the stars or planets can be of any help. Perhaps the Pandit knows you very well or is exceptionally wise.

How is the testing of a missile done? Where is it targeted, and is it of any use after testing?

You test a missile like any thing else that is designed to do something. You fix a target, you decide the accuracy the missile is expected to achieve and see whether they are achieved. Most missiles end their life after they are tested. They are not used again. But the data gathered is analysed for overall performance and used for corrections that might be required.

Is it possible to judge the height of a person whom we are seeing on TV?

In a television picture you seldom see any one completely alone, without buildings, doors, trees, other people, young or old, tables and chairs, or dogs and cats. Sometimes you might also see measuring scales! Your eyes make a good comparison and get a fairly good idea about the dimensions of the person you see front on. It might be difficult to do this without using other data and collateral information like the apparent age and agility of the other persons in the image.

Since torque = R x F (radius x force), when we apply the same force on two steering wheels, one power steering and other the traditional one having the same radius, then why the turning effect is more for the power steering?

Perhaps the force F applied is greater? If not what else?

Do heavier things fall faster than lighter objects?

No, heavier objects do not fall faster. They all fall at the same rate. You can check this easily.

Readers can e-mail questions to Prof Yash Pal at [email protected]
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