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5 December 2013 11:26 am ,
Vol. 342 ,
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,...
Since arriving on the island of Guam in the 1940s, the brown tree snake ( Boiga irregularis ) has extirpated native...
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...
- 5 December 2013 11:26 am , Vol. 342 , #6163
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ScienceShot: Earth's Ugly Twin
17 October 2012 11:45 am
It's not quite a twin Earth: a rocky planet orbiting a sunlike star at a distance where the temperature would be mild enough for liquid water to exist. But a new exoplanet that astronomers have detected in the Alpha Centauri triple star system, a mere 4.3 light-years away, comes close to being our planetary twin. Is it going around a sunlike star? Check. It's orbiting Alpha Centauri B, one of the three stars in that stellar system, which is a little smaller and less bright than the sun. Does it have a mass similar to Earth? Check. It's a bit more massive than Earth, actually. Is it in the star's habitable zone? Alas, no. It's much closer to the star than Mercury is to the sun, making it scorching hot. Nonetheless, planet hunters are excited about the find, not least because the discovery shows just how sophisticated planet-searching techniques have become. The European team that made the discovery—reported online today in Nature—did so by measuring the wobbles caused in Alpha Centauri B's motion by the gravitational tug of the planet. Although astronomers have used that so-called radial velocity technique since the mid-1990s, what's remarkable in this instance is that the wobbles they detected are tinier than any they've ever detected before: motion at a speed no more than 1.8 kilometers per hour. The Alpha Centauri system could have other planets, perhaps even one in the habitable zone.
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