NASA Discovers Star System With 8 Planets

NASA has discovered the eighth planet of a star system, similar to our solar system. The star, Kepler-90  is over 2,500 light years away and larger and hotter than our sun. It is the first star known to have as many planets as our solar system.

The Kepler-90 star system is much more compact than our solar system. The outermost planet orbits the star at about the same distance as the earth orbits the sun.  its inner planets are small and rocky while the outer ones are larger and made up of gas

The newly discovered planet, Kepler -90i, is the third celestial object in the star system. It is probably rocky and similar to our earth, but because of its closeness to its home star has an average surface temperature of about 400° C. It moves around the star once every 14.4 days.

The discovery was made based on data provided by the Kepler space telescope. Launched in March 2009, the telescope has constantly been scanning certain sections of the universe in search of new stars and planetary systems. Up to now, over 2,000 new worlds have been discovered.

To help analyse the data NASA has been relying on artificial intelligence software supplied by Google.  This software examines weak signals of light when objects pass in front of a star.  The new way of examining data is expected to reveal even more new planets in the future.

 

Kepler 90 star system compared to our solar system
Kepler 90 star system compared to our solar system

Words

  • artificial intelligence = when computers do intelligent things  that only people can do, such as think and make their own decisions
  • average = normal, usual
  • based on = use
  • celestial = about the sky
  • closeness = being close to something
  • compact = here: the planets are closer together and near to the star
  • constantly = always
  • data = information
  • discover = to find something for the first time
  • distance = the amount of space between two objects
  • examine = look at something closely
  • launch = to send  an object into space
  • light year = the distance light travels in one year = 9,460,000,000,000 km
  • orbit = to go around
  • outermost = the farthest away from something
  • planetary system = star with planets moving around it
  • provide = give
  • rely = depend on; need
  • reveal = to show something that was not known before
  • rocky = covered with or made of rocks; here: a hard surface
  • scan = when a machine looks at things carefully but quickly
  • similar = like
  • solar system = our sun and the eight planets that move around it
  • surface temperature = temperature you get when you stand on the planet
  • weak = not strong

 

 

The Earth’s Hum – A Mysterious Noise

For the first time, scientists have recorded a humming sound that the earth has probably been producing for a long time. Scientists have been aware of the hum for decades, but for the first time, a team of experts have actually been able to record it

57 seismometers were placed over millions of square kilometres of the Indian Ocean.  Ultralow radio frequencies were recorded on the ocean’s floor

For some time, geologists have pointed out that the earth is not silent but vibrates almost everywhere. However, it is a sound with a frequency thousands of times lower than what the human ear can hear.

Scientists don’t know what causes the earth’s hum but could learn more by getting a clearer audio signal. There are a few theories about where the sound may come from. Some say that it’s the echo of waves crashing onto the coast, while others think that it may be the atmosphere in motion. Geologists, however, agree that the sound does not come from earthquakes because it is continuous.

In 1998 Japanese scientists proved that the earth’s hum was real, but nobody has been able to record it until now. Geologists hope that by analysing the recording they can get more information on the interior structure of the earth.

 

Seismometers record all kinds of noises and disturbances on the surface of the earth
Seismometers record all kinds of noises and disturbances on the surface of the earth

Words

  • agree = to have the same opinion
  • analyse = look at very closely in order to get more facts
  • atmosphere = the mixture of gases that surrounds a planet
  • audio signal = sound
  • aware = to know that something exists
  • cause = the reason for something
  • continuous = when something goes on all the time
  • crash = to hit something very hard
  • decade = ten years
  • earthquake = a sudden shaking of the earth’s surface that causes a lot of damage
  • geologist = person who studies rocks and how they make up the surface of the earth
  • humming = a steady low sound
  • in motion = moving
  • interior structure = what something consists of, or what it is made up of inside
  • place =  put, install
  • point out = to say how important something is
  • radio frequency = waves that are produced when you send out a radio signal
  • record = information about something that is written down or stored on a computer
  • seismometer = machine that measures how the ground moves
  • vibrate = to shake quickly and steadily in very small movements

 

NASA Fires Voyager 1 Thrusters After 37 Years

Voyager 1 is the first man-made object to leave the solar system. 37 years after it was launched, NASA’s engineers fired the spacecraft’s backup thrusters. The primary thrusters have been getting weaker over the last few years. 

Voyager’s thrusters were fired for a few milliseconds from a distance of 13 billion miles in order to reposition the spacecraft so that the antennae would point towards earth.

Nobody at NASA knew if firing the thrusters would work after decades of inactivity. After 19 hours, the time which it took for the signal to get back to earth, it was confirmed that the thrusters had actually been fired. Voyager 1 will now be able to operate and send data back to earth for another 2 to 3 years.

As Voyager 1 software dates back to the 1970s,  scientists had to examine the software code to make sure the engines worked correctly.

Voyager 1 and its twin Voyager 2 were launched in 1977  to carry out a grand tour of the solar system. They passed Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune. After that, the spacecraft kept on flying and passed the boundaries of the solar system. In the past decades, the two spacecraft made great discoveries, including active volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io and a methane atmosphere on Saturn’s moon Titan.

Although Voyager 2’s thrusters are in a better condition than it’s sister craft NASA also plans to fire them in the near future.

 

Voyager 1
Voyager 1

Words

  • although = while
  • backup = something that you use to replace something that doesn’t work
  • billion = a thousand million
  • boundary = where something ends
  • condition = shape
  • confirm = know for sure that something has worked
  • correctly = in the right way
  • data = information
  • dates back = here: is from a certain time in the past
  • decade = ten years
  • discovery = to find something for the first time
  • distance = the amount of space between two objects
  • engine = machine that makes something travel
  • engineer = someone whose job it is to design and build machines, rockets, bridges etc..
  • examine = look at something very closely
  • fire = here: to make something work
  • grand tour = here: a journey that takes you far away to all the planets of our solar system
  • inactivity = here : not in operation
  • launch = start into space
  • man-made = made by a person, not nature
  • methane = gas that you can not see or smell, but which is burned to give heat
  • near future = sometime soon
  • operate = work the way it should
  • primary = most important, main
  • reposition = here: to move it into a new position
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • solar system = our sun and the planets that go around it
  • spacecraft = object that can travel in space
  • thruster = small engine in a spacecraft that controls how it flies by  pushing out small amounts of gas
  • twin = here: built in the same way

Did the Indus Valley Civilisation Grow Without a River?

Many great civilisations in history developed along rivers.  Up to now, historians have assumed that one of the oldest civilisations grew on the banks of the Indus River and its tributaries. Now, scientists may have found proof that people settled in the region after the Indus River had changed its course.

Archaeologists and scientists who have been working the region took probes from dried up river beds.  They found out that water hadn’t run through the Indus Valley for over 8,000 years. That means that when people started settling in the area about 5,000 years ago there was no river.   In addition, some ancient sites were found in the old river bed, which would not have been the case if a river had been flowing through it.

According to experts, the people who lived during that time may have got their water from yearly monsoon rains. There may have also been underground water supplies that they accessed.

Other great cultures used the advantages of a river to bring water to their fields and as a means of transporting goods throughout the region. That happened in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia.

Historians point out that civilisations do not necessarily need to be near a river in order to grow. In fact, not having a river nearby may have advantages as well because people would not have to deal with regular floods.

 

Archaeological ruins along the Indus River in Pakistan
Archaeological ruins along the Indus River in Pakistan – Image : Junhi Han

Words

  • access = use
  • according to = as said by …
  • advantage = good side of something
  • Ancient Egypt = old civilisation that grew along the Nile River thousands of years ago
  • ancient site = a place where something was built a long time ago
  • archaeologist = person who studies old societies by looking at what is left of buildings or the objects that people made at that time
  • assume = think that something is true although you can not prove it
  • bank  = land along the side of a river
  • course = path
  • deal with = handle a problem
  • develop = grow
  • flood = when an area of land becomes covered with water
  • goods = products
  • historian = someone who studies history
  • in addition = also
  • means of transporting = what you use to bring things from one place to another
  • Mesopotamia = area in western Asia along the River Tigris and Euphrates; in ancient times the world’s first cities were built andan advanced  civilisation developed there
  • monsoon = rainy season in India and southeast Asia; it lasts between April and October
  • not necessarily = when you don’t really need something in order for  something else to work
  • probe = rocks from an area
  • proof = facts, information or documents  that show that something is true or has happened
  • river bed = the ground at the bottom of a river
  • scientist = person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • settle = to start living in a place for the first time
  • supply = something that you need and use every day
  • tributary = a small river that flows into a larger one

 

Plague May Have Entered Europe in Prehistoric Times

According to recent scientific research conducted by Germany’s Max Planck  Institute, the plague was in Europe as far back as the Stone Age. When scanning the remains of 500 prehistoric skeletons, scientists found plague bacteria in six individuals. The samples come from Russia, Germany and the Baltic countries.

The deadly bacterium came to Europe during the mass migration of people who moved from Central Asia eastwards about 5,000 years ago. The findings suggest that the disease came to Europe in waves during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Some experts think that people may have been moving eastwards to escape the bacterium.

Most of the people at that time were nomadic farmers who travelled with their livestock. Animals may have harboured the plague bacterium and helped spread it.

By analyzing the bacterium scientists hope to find out how it evolved and became more deadly over periods of time.

The plague was responsible for many mass killings in history.  The deadliest was the Black Death which occurred in Europe during the 14th century and killed about a third of the continent’s population.   It still causes deaths in certain areas of the world. Recent outbreaks in Madagascar have killed hundreds of people.

Stone Age people may have spread the plague from Central Asia to Europe - Image: Gugatc
Stone Age people may have spread the plague from Central Asia to Europe – Image: Gugatchitchinadze

Words

  • according to = as said by …
  • bacterium, bacteria  = some living things, some of which cause illnesses or diseases
  • Baltic countries = Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania
  • Bronze Age = time between  6,000 and 4,000 years ago when bronze was used for making tools
  • century = a hundred years
  • conduct = do, carry out
  • disease = illness
  • escape = get away from
  • evolve = grow; develop; change
  • harbour = here: to have something in them that is dangerous
  • livestock = animals such as cows, sheep, goats that are kept on a farm
  • mass migration = when many people leave their homes, often  in order to escape from a dangerous situation
  • Neolithic = the last period of the Stone Age, about 10,000 years ago, when people started to live in small groups
  • nomadic = people who travel from place to place  instead of living in one place all the time
  • outbreak = when something suddenly starts to happen
  • plague = deadly disease that produces high fever and swollen places in the body; it often leads to deaths of a large number of people
  • prehistoric = time in history before anything was written down
  • recent = a short time ago
  • remains = what is left of a body
  • research = to study a subject seriously so that you can find out more about it
  • responsible = the reason for something
  • scan = look at something carefully
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • spread = take from place to place
  • suggest = imply; to say that something is probably true
  • Stone Age = early time in human history when stone was used for making tools

NASA Software Shows How Sea Level Rises Affect Cities

NASA scientists have created a new software program that can show how cities in coastal regions are endangered by flooding and sea level rise caused by global warming. The simulation shows how 300 coastal cities will be affected in the next century.

The software was developed by  NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It calculates which ice sheets and glaciers are melting and how the additional water influences coastal regions. It takes into consideration the rotation of the Earth as well as the influence of gravity. The results are surprising. Sea levels will actually decrease around cities closer to ice masses, while the biggest rises will occur through ice caps that are farther away.

New York, for example,  will be most affected by melting ice caps in northeastern  Greenland. Sydney, on the other hand,  will actually be influenced by parts of Antarctica that are far away from Australia’s city.

The software aims at helping city planners prepare for sea level changes within the next few decades and how to keep ocean water out.

A climate report published this week shows that, since 1900, global sea levels have risen by about 20 cm, with half of the rise occurring in the last 25 years. Projections show that by 2100 ocean levels will rise by an average of 1 metre, however, the rise will not affect all coastal areas in the same way.

 

Ice Sheet in Greenland -
Ice Sheet in Greenland – Image: Christine Zenino

Words

  • actually = in fact
  • additional = extra
  • affect = change
  • aim = here: what it wants to do and who it wants to help
  • average = here: evenly spread out across all oceans
  • calculate = here: find out how much something will change by using numbers
  • century = a hundred years
  • coastal = where land meets the sea
  • decade = ten  years
  • decrease = go down
  • develop = create , make
  • endangered = to be in danger
  • flooding = when land becomes covered with water
  • glacier = very large mass of ice which moves down a valley
  • global = worldwide
  • global warming =  the increase in the world’s temperatures by higher amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  • gravity = force or power that causes something to fall to the ground and stay there
  • ice cap = large mass of ice
  • influence = change
  • NASA = National Aeronautics and Space Administration = American space agency
  • occur = happen
  • prepare = get ready for something
  • projection = calculation about what something will be in the future  based on the information we have now
  • publish = to make information for everyone to see
  • rise = to go up
  • rotation = the Earth’s spin  around its own axis
  • sea level = the average height of the sea
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • simulation = here: software that shows how something could happen in the future
  • take into consideration =  here: to use  certain factors when you run the programme

Brain Scans Could Predict Suicide Thoughts

A new study shows that brain scans might be able to find out if people are thinking about killing themselves. Scientists have trained a computer program to examine the thoughts of people based on brain scans.

The study examined two groups of people – one group were known to have suicidal thoughts and the other group were without such thoughts.  During a brain scan doctors gave them words related to certain topics. Ten words were related to positive things, like “carefree” and “praise“, the other ten were connected to negative things like “desperate” and “death”.   The computer program then recorded the emotions they were feeling.

Researchers said that in 94 % of all cases they could identify people who had suicidal thoughts.They were also able to find out who had attempted suicide before.

This new experiment gives scientists a method of looking at what goes on in your brain and what you think about topics related to death.

According to the World Health Organisation, about 800,000 people die from suicide every year. In the United States, it is the second largest cause of death in the age group between 15 and 24. Although the findings are not 100% accurate,  we may be able to assess a person’s mental health by looking at brain scans in the near future.

 

Scan of a normal human brain
Scan of a normal human brain

Words

  • according to = as said or reported by …
  • accurate = exact ; correct in every detail
  • although = while
  • assess = here: to find out how good or bad something is
  • attempt = try
  • brain scan = doctors take photos of the inside of your brain and look at them closely
  • carefree = if you have no worries or problems
  • cause = reason why something happens
  • desperate = needing or wanting something very much
  • examine = look at closely to find out facts
  • identify = name, find
  • mental = about the brain and mind
  • praise = to say that you admire someone or what a person does
  • related to = about
  • researcher = a person who studies  a topic closely in order to find out more about it
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • study = a piece of work that is done to find out more about a certain topic
  • suicidal = wanting to kill yourself
  • thoughts = what you think
  • topic = subject
  • World Health Organisation = international organisation that helps countries improve their people’s health by giving them medicine  and information about diseases

Mysterious Chamber Discovered in Egyptian Pyramid

A mysterious chamber in an  Egyptian pyramid has been recently discovered by scientists. A special technique shows a  large void hidden in the Great Pyramid of Giza  near Cairo

The ScansPyramid project, led by the University of Cairo and the Egyptian government,  uses advanced technology to find out more about ancient structures. Scientists from Egypt, France and Japan installed special detectors which could detect small particles called muons. These are a type of cosmic rain which constantly falls down on the earth. Three separate teams have conducted the research and have found the same cavity in the pyramid.

The newly found chamber in the Egyptian pyramid is 30 metres long and about the size of the Grand Gallery which is a known passageway that leads to the King’s Chamber. However, nothing else is known about the new room. It is also impossible to reach the space as there is no passage that leads to it. Experts also warn against having great expectations about new discovery inside the cavity.  It is possible that the void does not have any meaning at all and was just left there for construction reasons.

The Great Pyramid, also known as the Pyramid of Khufu, was built at around 2650 BC. after the death of the pharaoh. It is the largest of the three remaining pyramids at Giza, which belong to the wonders of the ancient world.

The Great Pyramid at Giza -
The Great Pyramid at Giza – Image: Nina Aldin Thune

Words

  • advanced technology = modern and complicated machines and tools
  • ancient = old; from a long time ago
  • cavity = hole
  • chamber = room
  • conduct = carry out
  • cosmic = coming from space
  • detector = a machine that finds or measures something
  • discover = find something for the first time
  • expectation = here: what you think or hope you will find
  • government = the people who rule a country
  • however = but
  • mysterious = difficult to understand and explain
  • particle = very small piece of something
  • passageway = long narrow area in a building; corridor or hallway
  • pharaoh = king in ancient Egypt
  • recently = a short time ago
  • remaining = … which still exists
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • structure = any kind of building
  • technique = special way fo doing or finding  something
  • void = empty space in which nothing exists

 

Asteroid That Wiped Out Dinosaurs Led to Severe Winter

Scientists have now found out that the asteroid that hit the earth and led to the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago also caused a long period of winter and extremely cold temperatures.

The asteroid hit the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico and created a crater with a diameter of 15 km. As a result about three-quarters of all plant and animal species died, including the dinosaurs. The impact sent tons of dust and sulphur gas into the atmosphere.

Now we know that three times more sulphur gas was catapulted into the atmosphere than previously thought. Sunlight was blocked from getting in, which resulted in much lower temperatures. A new study shows that temperatures worldwide dropped to about -10° Celsius for at least three years after the impact. Thus, the earth was plunged into a deadly winter, which many plants and animals could not survive.

While air temperatures probably rose shortly after impact, ocean temperatures may have been affected for centuries. Scientists also found out that the amount of carbon-dioxide that was released into the atmosphere was probably over-estimated.

In new research on the Yucatan peninsula, scientists drilled into the surface of what’s left of the crater and collected rock samples. This allowed them to examine and reconstruct what happened.

 

Crater caused by a meteor crash
Crater caused by a meteor crash – Image : Steve Jurvetson

Words

  • affected = to do something that leads to a change later on
  • asteroid = one of the many small planets that move around the sun especially between Mars and Jupiter
  • block = stop from getting in
  • carbon dioxide = gas that is produced when animals or people breathe out or when you burn carbon in the air
  • catapult = when something moves through the air very quickly
  • cause =  lead to; result in
  • century= a hundred years
  • crater = a round hole made by a large object crashing into something
  • diameter = a straight line from one side of a circle to the other
  • drill = to make a hole into the surface
  • drop = go down
  • examine = look at closely
  • extinction = when animals or plants die out
  • impact = crash
  • over-estimated = less than thought at first
  • peninsula = land with water on three sides
  • plunge = here: to suddenly change
  • previously = earlier
  • reconstruct = to see how something happened by putting the facts together
  • release= set free
  • research = to look at something closely in order to find out more about it
  • sample = here: rocks that scientists can study and look at
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • species = group of animals and plants whose members are similar and who can produce babies together
  • sulphur gas = a yellow bright substance that burns and has an unpleasant smell
  • survive  = continue to live after a dangerous situation

Scientists Find Connection Between Sugar and Cancer Growth

A Belgian research team has found out that there is a connection between sugar consumption and the growth of cancer in a person’s body.

Scientists have found out that sugar not only gives us energy but may also be responsible for faster-growing tumour cells of cancer patients. Although  there is no proof that eating less sugar is good for cancer growth there are indications that if there are already cancer cells in your body sugar can make them grow faster. Low sugar diets, therefore,  could be beneficial for people who already have cancer.

The study shows that cancer cells process food differently than healthy cells in the body.  They also break down glucose, a form of sugar, more rapidly.

The research has been carried out for 9 years and now gives doctors new insights in the connection between sugar and cancer.

 

Sugar
Sugar

Words

  • although = while
  • beneficial = to have a good effect on your body
  • cancer = a very serious disease in which cells in one part of your body start to grow in a way that is not normal
  • carry out = here: to do experiments
  • connection = link, relationship
  • consumption = intake; the amount that we eat
  • diet = the food that we eat regularly
  • indications = signs that shows that something is happening
  • insight = to be able to understand  something better
  • process = here: to turn into substances that your body can use
  • rapidly = quickly
  • research = to study a subject closely in order to find out new facts about it
  • responsible = to cause or lead to something
  • scientist = a person who is trained in science and works in a lab
  • therefore = that is why
  • tumour cell = the bad cells in your body that divide and increase quickly