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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
An animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project filed lawsuits in three New York courts this week in an...
Researchers have been hot on the trail of the elusive Denisovans, a type of ancient human known only by their DNA and...
Thousands of scientists in the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) are about to lose their jobs as a result of the...
Dyslexia, a learning disability that hinders reading, hasn't been associated with deficits in vision, hearing, or...
Exotic, elusive, and dangerous, snakes have fascinated humankind for millennia. They can be hard to find, yet their...
Researchers have sequenced and analyzed the first two snake genomes, which represent two evolutionary extremes. The...
Snake venoms are remarkably complex mixtures that can stun or kill prey within minutes. But more and more researchers...
At age 30, Dutch biologist Freek Vonk has built up a respectable career as a snake scientist. But in his home country,...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Water World Is New Type of Planet
21 February 2012 12:40 pm
Talk about a sauna. Data gathered by the Hubble Space Telescope suggest that a planet tightly circling a star 40 light-years from Earth is a water world swaddled in a thick, steamy atmosphere. Previous observations of GJ1214b (artist's concept shown), which was first discovered in 2009 and has an estimated surface temperature of about 230°C, couldn't eliminate the possibility that the planet's atmosphere was simply hazy rather than steamy. But the new observations, detailed online in The Astrophysical Journal, reveal that the atmosphere transmits light consistently across a broad range of wavelengths—which tips the balance strongly toward an atmosphere mostly composed of water vapor, the researchers say, because a hazy atmosphere would be more transparent to infrared light than to visible wavelengths. While our solar system contains rocky worlds such as Venus and Earth, gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn, and icy orbs such as Pluto—and other solar systems sport "lava worlds" and "hot Jupiters"—GJ1214b is the first planet discovered to be composed largely of water rather than rock. Scientists estimate that GJ1214b is about 2.7 times Earth's diameter and weighs about seven times as much, giving the planet a density of about 2 grams per cubic centimeter compared with water's density of 1 gram per cubic centimeter and Earth's average density of 5.5 grams per cubic centimeter.
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