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Exoplanets

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Salon

A new study by MIT scientists finds that Earth can self-regulate its temperature thanks to a stabilizing feedback mechanism that works over hundreds of thousands of years, reports Troy Farah for Salon. “The finding has big implications for our understanding of the past, but also how global heating is shaping the future of our home world,” writes Farah. “It even helps us better understand the evolution of planetary temperatures that can make the search for alien-inhabited exoplanets more fruitful.”

Popular Mechanics

Researchers at MIT and elsewhere have discovered a new exoplanet within a star’s habitable zone, reports Popular Mechanics. The exoplanet “requires further investigation to see if [it] has a life-supporting atmosphere – and possibly water,” writes Popular Mechanics.

Newsweek

Prof. Julien de Wit speaks with Newsweek reporter Ed Browne about the wealth of information that the James Webb telescope will be providing about the universe. "In terms of information content, we're pretty much going from listening to the radio, to having television," said de Wit.

The Boston Globe

Reporting for The Boston Globe, Hanna Kreuger highlights a graph documenting the atmospheric conditions of the exoplanet WASP-96b, which NASA included in its first release of images from the James Webb Space Telescope. Describing it as “perhaps the image that showcases Webb’s greatest triumph,” Krueger notes that the graph was created using an equation developed by Prof. Sara Seager. Seager and her team will use the telescope to peer into TRAPPIST-1e, an exoplanet widely considered to be potentially Earth-like and habitable, adds Krueger.

CBS Boston

As the first images from the James Webb Space Telescope were released on Tuesday, showcasing the deepest view of the universe ever, CBS Boston spoke with Prof. Julien de Wit about the importance of the moment. “It’s groundbreaking. It’s like going from listening to the radio to suddenly being able to watch television,” says de Wit. “Further down the road, we may be able to see if planets are habitable, if some of these planets have signs of life one way or the other. There are so many things we’re going to discover thanks to it.”

Forbes

Astronomers have identified two Earth-sized exoplanets orbiting a red dwarf star 33 light years away, reports Jamie Carter for Forbes. “Both planets in this system are each considered among the best targets for atmospheric study because of the brightness of their star,” explains postdoc Michelle Kunimoto.

New York Times

To celebrate the list of known exoplanets topping 5,000, New York Times reporter Becky Ferreira spoke with astronomers, actors and astronauts about their favorite exoplanets or exoplanetary systems. “TOI-1233 is an outstanding planetary system with its high number of transiting planets, sunlike host star and its proximity to the solar system,” says postdoc Tansu Daylan of the system he detected along with two high school students he was mentoring.

Gizmodo

MIT astronomers have observed the dark side of a football-shaped exoplanet known as WASP-121b and found that it may have metal clouds made up of iron, corundum, and titanium, reports Isaac Schultz for Gizmodo. “The vastly different temperatures on either side of the planet make a dynamic environment for the various molecules floating around the atmosphere,” writes Schultz. “In the daytime, water gets ripped apart by the nearly 5,000° Fahrenheit heat and blown to the night side of the planet by 11,000-mile-per-hour winds.”

CNN

CNN reporter Ashley Strickland writes that MIT researchers have observed the dark side of an exoplanet that is 855 light years from Earth and found that the gas giant may have metal clouds and rain containing liquid gems. The researchers found that the “exoplanet has a glowing water vapor atmosphere and is being deformed into the shape of a football due to the intense gravitational pull of the star it orbits,” writes Strickland.

Newsweek

TESS, a NASA mission led and operated by MIT, has discovered over 5,000 planets candidates outside of our solar system, reports Ed Browne for Newsweek. “This time last year, TESS had found just over 2,400 TOIs (TESS Objects of Interest),” says postdoctoral associate Michelle Kunimoto. “Today, TESS has reached more than twice that number – a huge testament to the mission and all the teams scouring the data for new planets.”

New York Times

Prof. Sara Seager speaks with New York Times reporter Dennis Overybye about the James Webb Telescope. Seager is part of a team that is planning to use the telescope to observe an exoplanet named Trappist-1e to determine if the planet has an atmosphere.

CNN

CNN reporter Ashley Strickland writes that NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), an MIT-led mission, has discovered an exoplanet approximately the size of Mars where a year lasts for about eight hours. “Astronomers are eager to learn more about these small planets that quickly spin around their stars in less than 24 hours because they are not sure how they form and end up in such an extreme orbit,” writes Strickland.


 

Newsweek

A team of astronomers, including MIT researchers, has discovered an ultrahot Jupiter that orbits its star in just 16 hours, reports Robert Lea for Newsweek. “Ultrahot Jupiters such as TOI-2109b constitute the most extreme subclass of exoplanet,” explains former MIT postdoc Ian Wong. “We have only just started to understand some of the unique physical and chemical processes that occur in their atmospheres – processes that have no analogs in our own solar system.” 

Newsweek

Newsweek reporter Robert Lea writes that astronomers from MIT and elsewhere have found evidence of a large planetary collision that stripped the atmosphere from a planet. “While astronomers have long believed these kinds of collisions are common throughout the Universe, this is the first time that they have spotted evidence of one that stripped an atmosphere in such a way around a distant star,” writes Lea.

Space.com

A new study co-authored by MIT researchers presents the first evidence that a distant planet had its atmosphere partially blown away by a large impact, reports Charles Choi for Space.com. "I think a really critical implication is that the gas that is released in the aftermath of a giant impact can last for a long time, and it can affect the way the system evolves long-term," explains graduate student and lead author Tajana Schneiderman.