A survey of Hubble’s largest archive of data reveals why some planets are so warm

In a new study, a team of scientists from University College London (UCL) analyzed hundreds of hours of observations, looking at the atmospheres of 25 so-called hot Jupiters – exoplanets the size of Jupiter.

Using more than 600 hours of observations by the Hubble Space Telescope and 400 hours of observations by NASA’s now retired Spitzer Space Telescope, the study found that some of these planets’ atmospheres contain high concentrations of hydrogen, titanium oxide, vanadium oxide and iron. hydride. These atmospheres exhibited what is known as thermal reflection. Thermal reversal occurs when the temperature of the atmosphere rises with height – rather than decreases as we see it on Earth.

They found that almost all exoplanets with thermally inverted atmospheres were extremely hot, with temperatures in excess of 1,726 °C (2000 K). These planets were so hot that compounds such as titanium oxide, vanadium oxide and iron hydride are stable in the atmosphere.

Scientists now suggest that these compounds may trigger a thermal reversal. The atmospheres of exoplanets may be hot enough to sustain these types of tend to thermal reversal because they then absorb so much stellar light that their upper atmosphere heats up even more. Read more


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Alpine ichthyosaur fossils came from three ancient oceans

Meanwhile, scientists have determined that fossils of whale-sized marine reptiles called ichthyosaurs plucked from the Alps more than 30 years ago came from three different creatures more than 200 million years ago.

The first ichthyosaurs swam across primitive oceans in the early Triassic period, about 250 million years ago. They had an elongated body and a relatively small head. But shortly before most of them went extinct about 200 million years ago, they evolved into giant forms.

With an estimated weight of 80 tons and a length of more than 20 meters, these prehistoric giants would have rivaled the sperm whale.

Researchers from the University of Zurich discovered fossils between 1976 and 1990 while mapping geology in the Kosen Formation. More than 200 million years ago, rock strata with fossils still covered the sea floor. But with the Alps folded, they ended up at an altitude of 2,800 metres.

The team has now determined that the fossils come from three different animals that lived about 205 million years ago. From one ichthyosaur, a vertebra with ten fragments of ribs is preserved. Their sizes indicate that the reptile was most likely 20 meters long.

In contrast, only a series of vertebrae have been excavated from a second ichthyosaur. Comparison with better preserved skeletal finds indicates a length of about 15 m. Read more


Read also: Ancient rocks show that there was life on Earth 3.75 billion years ago, much earlier than we thought


A swarm of 85,000 earthquakes off the coast of Antarctica

Scientists have discovered a swarm of more than 85,000 earthquakes in 2020 in the deep sea off the coast of Antarctica – showing that such events can be studied and described in great detail even in remote and tool-poor regions.

An earthquake swarm was detected at the deep-sea Urca volcano, which has been inactive for a long time. Led by researchers from the German Research Center for Geosciences, the team combined the application of seismic, geodetic and remote sensing techniques, to determine how the rapid movement of magma from the Earth’s mantle near the crustal boundary almost to the surface led to the swarm earthquake.

Swarm earthquakes mainly occur in volcanically active areas. Therefore, it is suspected that the movement of fluids in the Earth’s crust is the cause. Orca Marine is a large undersea shield volcano that rises about 900 meters above the sea floor and has a base diameter of about 11 kilometers.

In the past, earthquakes in this region were moderate. However, in August 2020, an intense seismic swarm began there, with more than 85,000 earthquakes within half a year. It represents the largest seismic disturbance ever recorded in the region. Read more


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Zoom meetings make people less creative

While the pandemic has turned Zoom meetings into a new normal, a new study reveals that video conferencing discussions are stifling creativity and that meeting face to face has produced more ideas.

A team from Stanford University and Columbia University, who conducted lab experiments and a field study at a company with offices around the world, revealed that heavy reliance on technology comes at the expense of creative thinking.

The team had begun their study before the pandemic when company managers reported that they were having trouble innovating with remote workers. Suspecting that difficulties in coordinating large global teams online might be to blame, the researchers recruited more than 600 volunteers who were paired up to tackle a creative task either together in the same room, or virtually.

Couples had five minutes to come up with creative uses for a Frisbee or bubble wrap and a minute to choose their best idea. Overall, those who worked on Zoom had 20 percent fewer ideas than those who met face to face.

The team then conducted a field study, in which researchers analyzed ideas for new products created by 1,490 engineers for a multinational company. The engineers, who were in India, Finland, Hungary, Israel and Portugal, were randomly combined and given an hour to brainstorm product ideas either in person or via video conference.

According to the study, engineers produced more creative ideas when working face-to-face. Read more


Read also: Scientists have discovered a six-million-year-old fossil of a daily hunting owl in China


Global warming could lead to a marine mass extinction

Scientists at Princeton University predict that as greenhouse gas emissions continue to warm the world’s oceans, marine biodiversity could be on track to decline within the next few centuries to levels not seen since the extinction of the dinosaurs.

The team modeled future marine biodiversity under various projected climate scenarios. They found that if emissions are not curbed, species losses from warming and oxygen depletion alone could reflect the significant impact humans have already had on marine biodiversity by about 2100.

Tropical waters will experience the greatest loss of biodiversity, while polar species are most at risk of extinction. The study found, however, that reversing greenhouse gas emissions could reduce the risk of extinction by more than 70 percent. Read more

(Edited by: Manoj Ramachandran)


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