Gravitational Waves Could Help Find Secret Alien Worlds


By Kelly Oakes

a close up of food: Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast© Provided by The Daily Beast Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast

When physicists announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves in 2016, the discovery sent ripples through the scientific community. Gravitational waves—wrinkles in the fabric of space-time that make space itself stretch as they pass through it—were predicted by Albert Einstein over 100 years ago.
Now, in a pre-print article published on arxiv, a group of researchers have their sights set on using gravitational waves to solve that other big problem in astronomy: finding alien planets.
The exoplanets they think they could find would be un-Earth-like, with huge masses, orbiting close to their stars, and years that last about an hour or less. In other words, these planets would be unlikely to support life.
Still, the technique is promising as another tool in our exoplanet-hunting arsenal that could find planets we’ve so far been unable to detect at all.
Video: NASA: Gravitational Waves Likely Indicated Birth Of A Black Hole (GeoBeats)

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“Even weak signals could also be detected if the sources are close enough to the Earth,” José Ademir Sales de Lima, one of the authors of the paper, at the University of São Paulo, Brazil, told the Daily Beast.
Lima and his colleagues decided to look at binary systems— double star systems, or a star and a planet—in our own galaxy. They realized that “a special class of exoplanets, the ones with ultra-short periods” could cause gravitational waves strong enough for us to see, he said.
It’s not just mass that affects how strong a gravitational signal an object can make. The shorter period an exoplanet has—that is, the faster it travels around its star—the stronger the gravitational waves it creates. And Lima and his colleagues think that the next generation of detectors could sense gravitational waves coming from exoplanets that travel around their star in an hour or less—as long as they’re close enough to Earth.
Current exoplanet-finding methods have some significant blind spots. The transit method, used by NASA’s Kepler mission and responsible for the majority of planet detections to date, requires a planet to orbit in front of its star.
Slideshow: Spectacular photos from space (Microsoft ICE)
  • Slide 1 of 74: Tumultuous tempests in Jupiter's northern hemisphere are seen in this portrait taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft.
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  • Slide 2 of 74: Thin, red veins of energized gas mark the location of the supernova remnant HBH 3 in this image from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope. The puffy, white feature in the image is a portion of the star forming regions W3, W4 and W5. Infrared wavelengths of 3.6 microns have been mapped to blue, and 4.5 microns to red. The white color of the star-forming region is a combination of both wavelengths, while the HBH 3 filaments radiate only at the longer 4.5 micron wavelength.
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  • Slide 3 of 74: This view from the Mast Camera (Mastcam) on NASA's Curiosity Mars rover shows dramatic buttes and layers on the lower flank of Mount Sharp.
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  • Slide 4 of 74: The Columbia Glacier descends from an ice field 10,000 feet (3,050 meters) above sea level, down the flanks of the Chugach Mountains, and into a narrow inlet that leads into Prince William Sound in southeastern Alaska. It is one of the most rapidly changing glaciers in the world. Changes to the Columbia Glacier were tracked over more than 30 years using data from Landsat 4, 5, 7, and 8 data.
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  • Slide 5 of 74: California has been dealing with record breaking fires for the past month and they aren't even halfway through their fire season. The Mendocino Complex eclipsed last year's Thomas fire which burned 283,800 acres last December 2017 in Ventura and Santa Barbara.  Besides the huge and horrifying Mendocino Complex, there are four other extremely large fires consuming large swaths of the state as well.  The Carr fire, the Donnell fire and the Ferguson fire are all taking their toll on the state.
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  • Slide 6 of 74: The International Space Station is a maze of modules filled with racks, cables and experiments running 24/7. Upgrading and shifting units from one place to another becomes a tricky task in space – there is no up or down, and everything is weightless.
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  • Slide 7 of 74: A Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket lifts off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Complex 40 launch pad as seen through a time exposure in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Tuesday, Aug. 7, 2018. The payload, named Merah Putih, is a geostationary commercial communications satellite.
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  • Slide 8 of 74: On 6 August of 2014, after a decade of travelling through interplanetary space, ESA’s Rosetta spacecraft arrived at its final target: Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P/C-G). The mission was the first to successfully land on a comet when it sent the lander Philae down to the surface a few months later, while the orbiter studied 67P/C-G in detail before the mission’s end on 30 September 2016.
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  • Slide 9 of 74: This photo from the Ultra High Definition Expedition to ESO’s La Silla Observatory in Chile shows the Danish 1.54-metre telescope admiring the starry southern skies. The Southern Cross — one of the most distinctive asterisms — can be seen to the left of the telescope’s open dome, nestled in the plane of the Milky Way.
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  • Slide 10 of 74: Satellite images of phytoplankton blooms on the surface of the ocean often dazzle with their diverse colors, shades and shapes. But phytoplankton are more than just nature’s watercolors: They play a key role in Earth’s climate by removing heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.
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  • Slide 11 of 74: On August 8, 1978, the Pioneer Venus Multiprobe spacecraft launched to study Venus, a planet that has an atmosphere 100 times denser than Earth’s atmosphere and is hotter than the melting point of zinc and lead. Pioneer Venus Multiprobe was composed of five components: the main spacecraft, the large probe and three identical small probes named North, Day and Night. Built by the Hughes Company in El Segundo, California, and launched on an Atlas-Centaur rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the Pioneer Venus Multiprobe project was managed by NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley.
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  • Slide 12 of 74: Blue Origin is one of six companies selected for NASA’s Tipping Point solicitation. Pictured here, Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket lifted off July 18 carrying five NASA-supported technologies to flight test in space.
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  • Slide 13 of 74: This deep image of the area of sky around the elliptical galaxy NGC 5018 offers a spectacular view of its tenuous streams of stars and gas. These delicate features are hallmarks of galactic interactions, and provide vital clues to the structure and dynamics of early-type galaxies.
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  • Slide 14 of 74: This unusual view of the Moon was captured during Friday’s total lunar eclipse from ESA’s European Space Astronomy Centre near Madrid in Spain
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  • Slide 15 of 74: This ESO Picture of the Week shows a crescent-shaped cocoon of gas and dust — a nebula known as NGC 3199, which lies 12 000 light-years away from Earth. It appears to plough through the star-studded sky like a ship through stormy seas. This imagery is very appropriate due to NGC 3199’s location in Carina — a southern constellation which is named after the keel of a ship!
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  • Slide 16 of 74: Extremely Large Telescopes are considered worldwide as one of the highest priorities in ground-based astronomy. They will vastly advance astrophysical knowledge, allowing detailed studies of subjects including planets around other stars, the first objects in the Universe, super-massive black holes, and the nature and distribution of the dark matter and dark energy which dominate the Universe.
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  • Slide 17 of 74: This artist’s impression shows the path of the star S2 as it passes very close to the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. As it gets close to the black hole the very strong gravitational field causes the colour of the star to shift slightly to the red, an effect of Einstein’s general thery of relativity.
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  • Slide 18 of 74: This image acquired by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter on April 29, 2018, shows an impact crater approximately 23 kilometers across is home to fan-shaped deposits that extend from the rim and sit on the interior crater floor.
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  • Slide 19 of 74: This simulation shows the orbits of stars very close to the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way. One of these stars, named S2, orbits every 16 years and is passing very close to the black hole in May 2018. This is a perfect laboratory to test gravitational physics and specifically Einstein's general theory of relativity.
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  • Slide 20 of 74: The Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite takes us over Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Famous as a resort on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, this coastal strip along the Red Sea is peppered with bars, restaurants and hotels. The ancient Greeks and Romans are thought to have taken their holidays in Egypt as long ago as the 4th century BC.
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  • Slide 21 of 74: On July 29, 2011, Cassini captured five of Saturn's moons in a single frame with its narrow-angle camera.
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  • Slide 22 of 74: The International Space Station soars into a sunrise every 90 minutes, each and every day. This image, taken on July 20, 2018, shows one of four basketball court-sized main solar arrays that power the space station, in contrast to the bright blue glow of Earth's limb in the background as the orbital complex flew over eastern China.
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  • Slide 23 of 74: Changes on the Martian surface are detected by imaging the same area more than once. In this image acquired on May 13, 2018, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter observes several new dust avalanches on the slopes of ridges within the Olympus Mons Aureole. These changes occurred within six years.
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  • Slide 24 of 74: In mid-July the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope observed Mars, only 13 days before the planet made its closest approach to Earth in 2018. While previous images showed detailed surface features of the planet, this new image is dominated by a gigantic sandstorm enshrouding the entire planet.
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  • Slide 25 of 74: On December 29, 2017, the Geostationary Lightning Mapper, an instrument flying on board two weather satellites, detected a bright meteor in Earth’s atmosphere over the western Atlantic Ocean.
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  • Slide 26 of 74: A swirling storm somersaults through Jupiter's South Equatorial Belt in this view taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft. This feature -- not to be confused with the planet's iconic Great Red Spot -- is escorted by several smaller, reddish vortices above and to the left.
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  • Slide 27 of 74: The Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) instrument on NASA's Terra satellite took these images of the Carr Fire (left) and the Ferguson Fire (right) on July 27 and July 29, respectively.
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  • Slide 28 of 74: Screenshot of ESOcast 173:First Successful Test of Einstein’s General Relativity Near Supermassive Black Hole.
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  • Slide 29 of 74: This wide-field view shows the sky around the location of the historical exploding star Nova Vul 1670. The remains of the nova are only very faintly visible at the centre of this picture.
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  • Slide 30 of 74: Europe’s next four Galileo satellites lifted off at 11:25 GMT (13:25 CEST, 08:25 local time) on 25 July from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana atop an Ariane 5 launcher.
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  • Slide 31 of 74: Side-by-side movies shows how dust has enveloped the Red Planet, courtesy of the Mars Color Imager (MARCI) camera onboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).
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  • Slide 32 of 74: The Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellite takes us over the city of Valencia and its stunning blue coast. Situated on the east coast of the Iberian Peninsula, Valencia is the third largest city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona.
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  • Slide 33 of 74: The Laser Guide Star (LGS) is launched from the VLT's 8.2-metre Yepun Telescope and aims at the centre of our galaxy, in the heart of the brightest part of the Milky Way. The laser beam is part of the VLT's adaptive optics system. It creates an artificial star at 90 km altitude in the Earth´s mesosphere. This star is used as reference to correct images and spectra for the blurring effect of the atmosphere. The plane of the Milky Way is crossed by prominent dark lanes, huge clouds of interstellar dust that block the visible light. Thanks to the infrared instruments mounted in the Yepun Telescope, astronomers can “see through” and study the complex and turbulent core of our galaxy, where a supermassive black hole is lurking. The ESO's Very Large Telescope is composed by four 8.2-metre Unit Telescopes (UTs, where Yepun is UT4) plus four 1.8-metre movable Auxiliary Telescopes (ATs).
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  • Slide 34 of 74: Forty-nine years ago on July 20, 1969, humanity stepped foot on another celestial body and into history. Mission Commander Neil Armstrong documented the lunar mission and snapped this image of Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin, as he carried the Passive Seismic Experiments Package (in his left hand) and the Laser Ranging Retroreflector (in his right) to the deployment area. These two experiments made up the Early Apollo Scientific Experiment Package. This photograph was taken at Tranquility Base in our Moon's Mare Tranquillitatis, or Sea of Tranquility.
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  • Slide 35 of 74: NASA's Orion spacecraft that flew Exploration Flight Test-1 on Dec. 5, 2014, is seen after being uncovered in preparation for being moved onto the White House complex, Saturday, July 21, 2018, in Washington, DC. Orion was displayed on the South Lawn of the White House for the Made in America Product Showcase on Monday, July 23.
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  • Slide 36 of 74: The image of the planet Neptune on the left was obtained during the testing of the Narrow-Field adaptive optics mode of the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The image on the right is a comparable image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. Note that the two images were not taken at the same time so do not show identical surface features.
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  • Slide 37 of 74: In July 2018, an iceberg weighing 11 million tons parked just offshore of Innaarsuit, a small island village in northwestern Greenland. Ground-based photographs show its impressive height as it towered over the small village.
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  • Slide 38 of 74: This image shows an artist's impression of the M2 mirror that will be used on ESO's Extremely Large Telescope (ELT) in position. Designed and manufactured by Sener, the mirror will be 4.2 metres in diameter with a convex shape. The total weight for the M2 system will be less than 12 tonnes.
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  • Slide 39 of 74: This image shows a number of antennas from the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA), a state-of-the-art telescope array positioned high in the Chilean Andes. A full Moon can be seen above the red-tinted horizon, glowing brightly above the observatory.
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  • Slide 40 of 74: This image captures a high-altitude cloud formation surrounded by swirling patterns in the atmosphere of Jupiter's North North Temperate Belt region.
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  • Slide 41 of 74: ECOSTRESS acquired this image the night of July 9, 2018, over Egypt. Yellow and red indicate generally higher temperatures. The River Nile is visible as a thin blue line on the main image. The black-and-white inset shows the level of detail available from ECOSTRESS, with the relatively cool Nile River and surrounding vegetation appearing darker.
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  • Slide 42 of 74: This artist's impression shows the dust torus around a super-massive black hole. Black holes lurk at the centres of active galaxies in environments not unlike those found in violent tornadoes on Earth.
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  • Slide 43 of 74: The Copernicus Sentinel-3A satellite takes us over Shanghai, China. One of the most populous cities in the world and home to over 24 million people, the city is visible in the lower right of the image just above the Yangtze River mouth. As a significant global financial centre it is also the site of the world’s busiest container ports because of its strategic location on the Yangtze River delta.
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  • Slide 44 of 74: Artist's concept of what binary asteroid 2017 YE5 might look like. The two objects showed striking differences in radar reflectivity, which could indicate that they have different surface properties.
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  • Slide 45 of 74: This Artist’s Illustration Depicts the Destruction of a Young Planet or planets, which scientists may have witnessed for the first time using data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. If this discovery is confirmed, it would give insight into the processes affecting the survival of infant planets.
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  • Slide 46 of 74: The Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16, contains the young star cluster NGC 6611. It also the site of the spectacular star-forming region known as the Pillars of Creation, which is located in the southern portion of the Eagle Nebula.
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  • Slide 47 of 74: This colorful image, acquired by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows clays within the Eridania basin region. Many scientists using orbital data have proposed that a large lake may have once existed here during the Late Noachian through Early Hesperian time periods, and then much of the water drained out to the north via Ma'adim Vallis.
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  • Slide 48 of 74: These six infrared images of Saturn's moon Titan represent some of the clearest, most seamless-looking global views of the icy moon's surface produced so far. The views were created using 13 years of data acquired by the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIMS) instrument on board NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The images are the result of a focused effort to smoothly combine data from the multitude of different observations VIMS made under a wide variety of lighting and viewing conditions over the course of Cassini's mission.
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  • Slide 49 of 74: Regardless of the amount of winter ice cover, the waters off of the Alaskan coast usually come alive each spring with blooms of phytoplankton. These blooms can form striking patterns of blue and green seawater, such as those visible in this image of the Chukchi Sea acquired by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8.
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  • Slide 50 of 74: This satellite image, captured by Sentinel-2A, shows a huge iceberg perilously close to the village of Innaarsuit on the west coast of Greenland. If the berg breaks apart, waves resulting from the falling ice could wash away parts of the village.
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  • Slide 51 of 74: This was Cassini's view from orbit around Saturn on Jan. 2, 2010. In this image, the rings on the night side of the planet have been brightened significantly to more clearly reveal their features. On the day side, the rings are illuminated both by direct sunlight, and by light reflected off Saturn's cloud tops.
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  • Slide 52 of 74: A cloud-specked view of the US territory of Guam in the western Pacific Ocean, as seen by ESA’s Proba-1 microsatellite, which is still observing Earth despite being launched 16 years ago.
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  • Slide 53 of 74: The high resolution stereo camera on board ESA’s Mars Express captured this impressive upwelling front of dust clouds – visible in the right half of the frame – near the north polar ice cap of Mars this year. It was one of several local small-scale dust storms that have been observed in recent months at the Red Planet, which is currently enduring a particularly intense dust storm season. A much larger storm emerged further southwest at the end of May and developed into a global, planet-encircling dust storm within several weeks.
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  • Slide 54 of 74: This mosaic of Cerealia Facula is based on images obtained by NASA's Dawn spacecraft in its second extended mission, from an altitude as low as about 21 miles (34 kilometers). The contrast in resolution obtained by the two phases is visible here, reflected by a few gaps in the high-resolution coverage. This image is superposed to a similar scene acquired in the low-altitude mapping orbit of the mission from an altitude of about 240 miles (385 km).
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  • Slide 55 of 74: A Closer View of the Moon
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  • Slide 56 of 74: New observations with ESO’s Very Large Telescope show the star cluster RCW 38 in all its glory. This image was taken during testing of the HAWK-I camera with the GRAAL adaptive optics system. It shows the cluster and its surrounding clouds of brightly glowing gas in exquisite detail, with dark tendrils of dust threading through the bright core of this young gathering of stars.
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  • Slide 57 of 74: As the International Space Station flew overhead, NASA astronaut Ricky Arnold captured this photograph of a changing landscape in the heart of Madagascar, observing drainage into the sea in the Betsiboka Estuary due to decimation of rainforests and coastal mangroves.
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  • Slide 58 of 74: Light from the County Fire illuminated the night skies of Northern California when the Suomi NPP satellite acquired this image overnight on July 1, 2018. With plenty of light from a nearly full Moon, the smoke was even visible streaming southwest toward San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
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  • Slide 59 of 74: Acquired on April 1, 2018, this image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter shows Aram Chaos, a 280 kilometer-diameter ancient impact crater that lies within in the Southern Highlands of Mars. Uplifted blocks of light-toned layers, composed largely of the iron-oxide hematite and water-altered silicates, indicate that this crater once held a lake.
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  • Slide 60 of 74: This image shows the Moon at various stages during a total lunar eclipse in January 2018. The Moon turns red during a lunar eclipse because it is illuminated by light that has passed through the Earth's atmosphere. This reddish colour has therefore led to a lunar eclipse being known as a "Blood Moon".
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  • Slide 61 of 74: A new active region appeared on June 19th, quickly growing in size over two days (June 20-22, 2018). Active regions are areas of enhanced magnetic activity on the Sun's surface, generating the huge loops and dynamic surges observed here. Charged particles spinning along the field lines above the active region are illuminated in this wavelength of extreme ultraviolet light. The superimposed Earth icon gives a sense of just how large these loops are.
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  • Slide 62 of 74: One of the most actively changing areas on Mars are the steep edges of the North Polar layered deposits. This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) shows many new ice blocks compared to an earlier image in December 2006. An animation shows one example, where a section of ice cliff collapsed. The older image (acquired in bin-2 mode) is not as sharp as the newer one.
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  • Slide 63 of 74: The Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite takes us over the capital of Iceland, Reykjavik. As a volcanic island famous for its volcanoes, glaciers, lakes, lava and hot springs, Iceland attracts tourists all year round with its vast array of natural wonders.
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  • Slide 64 of 74: This image is a colour composite made from exposures from the Digitized Sky Survey 2 (DSS2). The field of view is approximatelly 2.4 x 2.0 degrees.
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  • Slide 65 of 74: This image from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, acquired May 13, 2018 during winter at the South Pole of Mars, shows a carbon dioxide ice cap covering the region and as the sun returns in the spring, "spiders" begin to emerge from the landscape.
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  • Slide 66 of 74: This photo montage shows a familiar cosmic object — the Moon — in a very unfamiliar way.
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  • Slide 67 of 74: This colorful image, acquired on May 21, 2018 by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, shows clays within the Eridania basin region. Many scientists using orbital data have proposed that a large lake may have once existed here during the Late Noachian through Early Hesperian time periods, and then much of the water drained out to the north via Ma'adim Vallis.
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  • Slide 68 of 74: This image of Jupiter's southern hemisphere was captured by NASA's Juno spacecraft on the outbound leg of a close flyby of the gas-giant planet.
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  • Slide 69 of 74: This artist's illustration shows 'Oumuamua racing toward the outskirts of our solar system.
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  • Slide 70 of 74: For Asteroid Day, the Copernicus Sentinel-2A satellite takes us over the Gosses Bluff crater in the Northern Territory of Australia. The crater is visible in the left centre of the image and it is about 22 km in diameter. It was most likely formed 140 million years ago by the impact of a large comet or meteorite slamming into the surface of Earth.
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  • Slide 71 of 74: At 5:42 a.m. EDT Friday, June 29, 2018, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft lifts off on a Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Dragon is carrying more than 5,900 pounds of research, equipment, cargo and supplies that will support dozens of scientific investigations aboard the International Space Station.
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  • Slide 72 of 74: A view from inside the planetarium at the ESO Supernova Planetarium & Visitor Centre, which opened its doors to the public on Saturday 28 April 2018. The building is open five days a week and features planetarium screenings, tours and a permanent exhibition in both German and English. The 25-degree tilted planetarium dome does not just give the audience the sensation of watching the Universe, but of being immersed in it.
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  • Slide 73 of 74: This compound view shows the solar eclipse of 3 November 2013 just before, during, and just after the total phase. At the start and end of the total phase light can shine through lunar valleys to create the diamond ring effect and during the total phase many red prominences and the Sun's chromosphere are apparent.
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  • Slide 74 of 74: This rich and dense smattering of stars is a massive globular cluster, a gravitationally bound collection of stars that orbits the Milky Way. Globular clusters are denser and more spherical than open star clusters like the famous Pleiades. They typically contain hundreds of thousands of stars that are thought to have formed at roughly the same time.
Slide 1 of 74: Tumultuous tempests in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere are seen in this portrait taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft.

1/74 SLIDES © NASA/JPL-Caltech/SwRI/MSSS/Brian Swift and Sean Doran

TUMULTUOUS TEMPESTS

Tumultuous tempests in Jupiter’s northern hemisphere are seen in this portrait taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft.
Like our home planet, Jupiter has cyclones and anticyclones, along with fast-moving jet streams that circle its globe. This image captures a jet stream, called Jet N6, located on the far right of the image. It is next to an anticyclonic white oval that is the brighter circular feature in the top right corner. The North North Little Red Spot is also visible in this view.
The image was taken at 10 p.m. PDT on July 15, 2018 (1 a.m. EDT on July 16), as the spacecraft performed its 14th close flyby of Jupiter. At the time, Juno was about 10,600 miles (17,000 kilometers) from the planet’s cloud tops, above a latitude of 59 degrees.
Citizen scientists Brian Swift and Seán Doran created this image using data from the spacecraft’s JunoCam imager. The image has been rotated clockwise so that north is to the right. The stars were artfully added to the background for effect.


Researchers see the traveling speck as proof of an exoplanet’s existence. If a star has a planet that doesn’t cross in front of it from our vantage point, however, we can’t see it, which means we can’t prove its existence.
“While I suspect that detectable systems would be extremely rare, interestingly these systems might have orbital inclinations that would be much less favourable to traditional exoplanet search methods,” Martin Hendry, a professor of gravitational astrophysics and cosmology at the University of Glasgow, told The Daily Beast.
So far, using our normal methods, we’ve found a handful of planets that fit this description. They tend to be gas giants many times the mass of Jupiter and orbit close in to their star, characteristics that have earned them the nickname “hot Jupiters.”
The gravitational waves we’ve seen since 2016 have been made by incredibly massive objects—typically, black holes and super dense neutron stars – as they interact. But, technically, anything with  mass can make gravitational waves; most are just far too small to detect.
Today’s state-of-the-art gravitational wave experiments, LIGO and Virgo, consist of large ground-based detectors that use lasers to measure incredibly small changes in space. LIGO is made of two 4km-long L-shaped detectors on either side of the US, with one in Hanford, Washington State, and the other in Livingston, Louisiana. Virgo is similar and sits near Pisa, Italy.
Related Video: Gravitational waves (Agence France-Presse)

Gravitational waves


Gravitational waves get weaker the further away they travel from their source, so we could only detect the merging of those faraway black holes because they were so massive and started off with such a strong signal. By the time the first gravitational waves (created during a merger of two black holes 1.3 billion light years away) reached Earth, the amount they stretched space by at our detectors was a fraction of the diameter of a proton.
We’re still a couple of decades out from actually measuring any planets’ gravitational waves. LISA, a space-based detector being developed by NASA and ESA, is not due to launch until 2034. “The possibility that some extreme exoplanetary systems could be gravitational-wave sources accessible to spaceborne detectors such as LISA is an intriguing one,” Hendry said, adding that gravitational waves could make a useful add-on to other search methods.
Gravitational waves from exoplanets would also have a unique feature we’ve not yet seen from any other source: Unlike in the collision of two black holes, the signal from exoplanets would not be a one-time event. They would continually emit gravitational waves as long as the planet kept orbiting its star.
“This class of binary systems is very suitable for continued observation,” Lima said. In other words, however long it takes us to build the detectors to measure those signals, they’ll be there waiting for us.

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