Space in Brief:

Scientists rethink theory after planet's discovery

An artist's concept of a gas giant in orbit around a small star.
An artist's concept of a gas giant in orbit around a small star.
Image: University of Warwick/Mark Garlick.
Scientists are rethinking a fundamental theory about the way planets form after the discovery of a gas giant orbiting a small star.

    The planet, designated NGTS-1b, is 600 light-years away in orbit around a star with a radius and mass half that of our sun, according to a news release from the University of Warwick in England. The planet’s designation is taken from the instrument used to identify it, the Next-Generation Transit Survey -- at the European Southern Observatory's Paranal Observatory in Chile.
     Stars and planets begin to form "out of a collapsing cloud of dust and gas within a larger cloud called a nebula," according to the website for the Hubble Telescope.
     Planet formation theory holds that small stars “can readily form rocky planets but do not gather enough material together to form Jupiter-sized planets,” the university explains.
    This planet is as large as Jupiter, but with around 20 percent less mass. It orbits its star every 2.6 days.
    The research, "A Hot Jupiter Transiting an M-Dwarf," by Daniel Bayliss and Peter Wheatley, professors with the University of Warwick’s astronomy and astrophysics group, et al, is available online and will be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

LIFE ELSEWHERE MAY BE…LIKE US: If we ever encounter sentient life on another planet, we may find much in common, according to a study published in the International Journal of Astrobiology.
    In the study, scientists from the University of Oxford use evolutionary theory to argue that aliens potentially are “shaped by the same processes and mechanisms that shaped humans, such as natural selection,” according to the university’s website.
    The scientists argue: “Given aliens undergo natural selection we can say something about their evolution. In particular, we can say something about how complexity will arise in space. Complexity has increased on the Earth as a result of a handful of events, known as the major transitions in individuality. Major transitions occur when groups of individuals come together to form a new higher level of the individual, such as when single-celled organisms evolved into multicellular organisms. Both theory and empirical data suggest that extreme conditions are required for major transitions to occur. We suggest that major transitions are likely to be the route to complexity on other planets."
    The article, Darwin’s Aliens, by Samuel R. Levin, researcher in Oxford's Department of Zoology, et al, has been published in The International Journal of Biology, Nov. 1.


     Scientists close to finding life on other planets      

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