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Submission + - Astronomers catch a star in the act of devouring a planet (

jamstar7 writes: Astronomers have witnessed the first evidence of a planet's destruction by its aging star as it expands into a red giant.

"A similar fate may await the inner planets in our solar system, when the Sun becomes a red giant and expands all the way out to Earth's orbit some five-billion years from now," said Alex Wolszczan, from Penn State, University, who led a team which found evidence of a missing planet having been devoured by its parent star. Wolszczan also is the discoverer of the first planet ever found outside our solar system.

The planet-eating culprit, a red-giant star named BD+48 740 is older than the Sun and now has a radius about eleven times bigger than our Sun.

The evidence the astronomers found was a massive planet in a surprising highly elliptical orbit around the star — indicating a missing planet — plus the star's wacky chemical composition.

5 billion years or so is a long way off, so it's likely none of us has to worry about it, but still, watching a star eating its own planets is not only cool in its own right, but gives you food for thought as to how to keep the human species going long after the Sun starts going off the main sequence into red gianthood. And of course, some more cash into astronomers' and physicists' hands now can give us a closer ballpark number of when this event is going to happen. It's all in the math...


Submission + - Earth's Corner of the Galaxy Just Got a Little Lonelier

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Only 4 stars, including Barnard's Star, are within 6 light years of the Sun, and only 11 are within 10 light years. That's why Barnard's star, popularized in Robert Forward's hard-sf novel, "Flight of the Dragonfly," is often short-listed as a target for humanity's first interstellar probe. Astronomers have long hoped to find a habitable planet around it, an alien Earth that might someday bear the boot prints of a future Neil Armstrong, or the tire tracks of a souped-up 25th-century Curiosity rover. But now Ross Anderson reports that a group of researchers led by UC Berkeley's Jieun Choi have delivered the fatal blow to Barnard's Star when they revealed the results of 248 precise Doppler measurements that were designed to examine the star for wobbles indicative of planets around it. The measurements, taken over a period of 25 years, led to a depressing conclusion: "the habitable zone around Barnard's star appears to be devoid of roughly Earth-mass planets or larger . . . [p]revious claims of planets around the star by van de Kamp are strongly refuted." NASA's Kepler space telescope, which studies a group of distant Milky Way stars, has found more than 2,000 exoplanet candidates in just the past two years, leading many to suspect that our galaxy is home to billions of planets, a sizable portion of which could be habitable. "This non-detection of nearly Earth-mass planets around Barnard’s Star is surely unfortunate, as its distance of only 1.8 parsecs would render any Earth-size planets valuable targets for imaging and spectroscopy, as well as compelling destinations for robotic probes by the end of the century.""
The Courts

Submission + - Could Selling Your Computer One Day Be a Criminal Offense? (

Dangerous_Minds writes: The Atlantic is reporting that the Supreme Court will decide later this year whether or not re-selling a product that is manufactured outside the US could be a violation of copyright law. Apparently, a lower court ruled that this would be a violation of copyright law due to the wording of first-sale doctrine. Demand Progress is not happy about this saying that sites like Craigslist and eBay will be undermined should the Supreme Court agree with the lower court ruling. ZeroPaid is wondering: if the Supreme Court agrees with the lower courts ruling and the TPP is later ratified, could that mean that selling things like your personal computer one day be a criminal offense?

You know you've landed gear-up when it takes full power to taxi.