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Astronomers discover smallest known star

AstronomyOn Wednesday, astronomers at the University of Cambridge in England announced the discovery of a dwarf star, known as EBLM J0555-57Ab, which is slightly bigger than Saturn and smaller than Jupiter. It was found using data from an array of automated telescopes called the Wide Angle Search for Planets (WASP). The study was published in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

The star belongs to the Milky Way galaxy and is approximately 600 light years away from Earth. Its mean radius is about 80 percent the size of the largest planet in the Solar System, Jupiter, but despite its small size it is very dense. Its mass is almost 85±4 times the gas giant, the study said. The star's surface gravitational pull is about eleven times stronger than the Sun's — 300 times the strength by which the Earth attracts matter. It is part of a binary star system, meaning it moves around the galaxy with another star, both orbiting around the same central point. However, it stays so close to its companion star, that it takes about 7.8 days to orbit around the pair's shared centre. The distance between the two stars is less than between Mercury and the Sun, and about eight percent of an astronomical unit, in stark contrast to the 100–1000 astronomical units that typically separates two stars in such a system.

Volvo announces all new car models electric or hybrid from 2019

Engineering and TechnologyOn Wednesday, automobile company Volvo announced all of its cars to be released in 2019 onwards are to use some form of battery-powered engine, leaving conventional petrol-only vehicles altogether. The decision comes after Volvo announced in May their intent to cease production of diesel vehicles.

Astronomers reveal discovery of the hottest gas giant exoplanet known yet

AstronomyOn Monday, astronomers at the Ohio State University, Columbus, revealed the discovery of an exoplanet, named KELT-9b and according to the university's astronomy professor Scott Gaudi, it is "the hottest gas giant planet that has ever been discovered". The discovery was reported online in the Nature journal.

The astronomers say the planet's surface temperature is more than 4000°C (7232°F), nearly as hot as the Sun. The planet takes about 36 to 48 hours to orbit around its star, KELT-9. KELT-9 is about two and a half times larger than the Sun and nearly twice its temperature. The star is about 650 light years from the earth, but it is about 300 million years old. KELT-9 is a blue A-type star, which shines brightly but, unlike some other stars such as our own Sun, their life span is on the order of millions rather than billions of years.

About a year ago, NASA reports, at the Winer Observatory in Arizona, observers using the KELT-North telescope noticed a minute drop in KELT-9's brightness — about 0.5%. This pattern was observed once every one and a half days, implying the planet comes in between the line of sight of the star from Earth, meaning the planet completes one revolution in that time period. Observations using the Hubble telescope could reveal whether the planet possesses a comet-like tail, which could help the astronomers estimate how long the planet may live.

Professor Gaudi told the BBC the planet KELT-9b "is about three times the mass of Jupiter and twice as big as Jupiter." He said the team discovered the planet in 2014. He added, "it took us this long to finally convince ourselves that this truly bizarre and unusual world was in fact a planet orbiting another star".

Simulations show planet orbiting Proxima Centauri could have liquid water

AstronomyIn findings published Tuesday in Astronomy and Astrophysics, a team of scientists led by Ian Boutle at the University of Exeter have created successful simulations of two possible atmospheres of Proxima B, an exoplanet orbiting Proxima Centauri, one a simple atmosphere of nitrogen tinged with carbon dioxide and another an Earth-like mix of gases. They found it possible that liquid water, a prerequisite for life as we know it, might exist on parts of the planet.

President Trump tells NASA to aim for Mars

AstronomyOn Tuesday U.S. President Donald Trump signed a bill authorizing US$19.5 billion in funding for the 2018 fiscal year to go to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and specifically naming the exploration of Mars as one of the agency's goals. According to Senator Ted Cruz, NASA has not been the recipient of this kind of authorization bill for seven years.

"NASA's work has inspired millions and millions of Americans to imagine distant worlds and a better future right here on earth," President Trump said in a statement. "I'm delighted to sign this bill. [...] reaffirming our commitment to the core mission of NASA: human space exploration, space science and technology." The bill was also sponsored by former 2016 presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz who joined astronauts and other notables in the Oval Office for the signing.
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