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NASA Finds Evidence This Saturn-Like Exoplanet is Full of Water

According to NASA, Saturn has a seriously thicc relative about 700 light-years away, in the constellation Virgo. Somehow, the fact this is Saturn’s lookalike isn’t even close to the coolest thing about this exoplanet.

Using the space agency’s Hubble and Spitzer space telescopes, scientists analyzed the atmosphere of this strange world, called WASP-39b. Though it’s similar to Saturn in terms of mass, researchers have recently discovered evidence that WASP-39b contains roughly three times as much water as its famous cousin. The researchers’ findings have been published in The Astronomical Journal.

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Artist's rendition of WASP-39b

By observing the starlight that penetrates through the planet’s atmosphere, researchers found WASP-39b’s atmosphere traps a lot of water vapor. They posit the planet was formed farther away from its star and wallopped by icy objects along the way.

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“This spectrum is thus far the most beautiful example we have of what a clear exoplanet atmosphere looks like,” the study’s lead investigator Hannah Wakeford, an astronomer the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland, says in a statement.

WASP-39b's spectrum.

WASP-39b is considered a “hot Saturn” by astronomers. Though it’s similar in mass to the gas giant in our solar system, it’s located 20 times closer to its host star — WASP-39 — than Earth is to our sun. It’s also tidally locked, meaning one side of the planet is always facing its sun. That side of the planet can get as hot as 1,430 degrees Fahrenheit (776.7 degrees Celsius).

Even though it’s super far away, this watery world can help scientists better understand the way planets in our solar system may have formed.

“WASP-39b shows exoplanets can have much different compositions than those of our solar system,” the study’s co-author David Sing of the University of Exeter in Devon said in a statement. “Hopefully this diversity we see in exoplanets will give us clues in figuring out all the different ways a planet can form and evolve.”

Next-generation telescopes like James Webb will help demystify exoplanets like WASP-39b and allow scientists to peer into these strange worlds with unprecedented clarity. Of course, that all depends on when James Webb gets off the ground, as NASA already pushed the launch from October 2018 to spring 2019.

NASA, you know what you have to do. Don’t leave us hanging.

Media via NASA, Artist's Concept: NASA, ESA, G. Bacon and A. Feild (STScI), and H. Wakeford (STScI/Univ. of Exeter)

You Can Save Up to 30 Percent on Your Power Bill With Arcadia Power

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Filed Under Energy & Power

Given the chance, most of us would jump at the opportunity to bring down our power bills. But, there’s a prevailing assumption that doing so involves dealing with steep upfront costs before the savings actually come in. Arcadia Power presents a different solution, however, and it’s willing to give new users $20 off their first utility bill for trying out the platform.

Ancient Humans' Tiny Tool Use Is a Big Reason We Are Evolutionarily Unique 

Humans' love of miniaturization allowed for our global spread.

Tools have long been a centerpiece of humans’ ongoing quest to understand our own evolution. Man created tools, and so man has been judged as uniquely, cognitively complex. The problem with this line of thinking, however, is that it’s increasingly obvious that toolmaking and tool use do not make humans as unique as we’d like to think: Many animals, from orangutans to crows, make tools, too.

73 Years Later, the "A-Bomb" Ginkgo Trees Still Grow in Hiroshima

"There’s a huge paradox at the heart of this ginkgo story."

On August 6, 1945, an Allied plane dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, creating a fireball 1,200 feet in diameter. Disaster rained down upon the city, killing an estimated 150,000 people and leveling both the biological and man-made landscape. Little was left standing, but somehow the ginkgo trees were able to weather one of the most destructive moments in human history.

CIA Psychic Pioneer Explains How Physics Would Have to Change for ESP

"Our answer is a member of the class of things that can explain psychic abilities."

The film The Men Who Stare at Goats had a long laugh at the United States Army’s 20-year-long attempt to use psychic powers to kill animals. Those experiments grew out of the work of physicist Russell Targ, Ph.D., whose studies on psychic “remote viewing” at the Stanford Research Institute in the 1970s drew the attention of the CIA, which later turned it into the goat-felling Stargate Project. That project was abandoned in 1995, and Targ’s work has been panned as pseudoscience ever since. But he stands by what he saw: people who could perceive hidden targets using only their minds.

How a Brutal Murder Had a Profound Ripple Effect on Scientific Thought

A viral story of 38 do-nothing witnesses changed sociology, psychology, and neuroscience.

When 28-year-old Catherine Susan Genovese was killed outside her apartment in Kew Gardens, Queens, 38 people reportedly witnessed the attack but didn’t get involved.

Known to her friends as Kitty, she had only lived at 82-70 Austin Street for a year with her girlfriend, Mary Ann Zielonko, before returning on the night of March 13 from her job managing a bar.