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Exoplanets around TYC 8998-760-1. (Credit: ESO/Bohn et al.)

Astronomers have captured the first ever snapshot of multiple exoplanets orbiting a Sun-like star! From Space.com

The European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (VLT) in Chile photographed two giant planets circling TYC 8998-760-1, a very young analogue of our own sun that lies about 300 light-years from Earth, a new study reports.

While there are existing direct images of exoplanets, this is the first time that scientists have captured more than one in a single image AND around a star that is so much like our own. The planets, designated as TYC 8998-760-1 b & c, are 14 and 6 times as massive as Jupiter, which is most likely why our telescopes were able to detect them.

As a note for visual astronomers, there are a number of objects visible in the image above that are somewhat ambiguous. Specifically, the three objects on the left side of TYC 8998-760-1 are background stars. Experienced visual astronomers will see the difference between those objects and the more defined outlines of the two exoplanets, especially if they’ve spent any time looking at some of our solar system’s more remote worlds like Neptune or Uranus.

This is also exciting news because it leaves open the potential for these worlds to have rocky or icy companions orbiting the star as well. The scientists involved in the research will continue to search and who knows what we’ll find out in the coming years!

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Ancient mountains on Venus. (Credit: NASA/JPL)

Turns out that Venus is not such a lifeless world after all. Well, in terms of geologic activity that is. New research has revealed at least 37 geologically active locations across the planet’s surface. From ScienceDaily:

A new study identified 37 recently active volcanic structures on Venus. The study provides some of the best evidence yet that Venus is still a geologically active planet. A research paper on the work, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Maryland and the Institute of Geophysics at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, was published in the journal Nature Geoscience on July 20, 2020.

Much of what we’ve learned about the Venusian surface led many scientists to believe that the scars of geologic activity were from ancient activity, but this changes things significantly! We now know that one of our closest neighbors has active volcanism, which can be studied to open further windows into our understanding of how our increasingly dynamic solar system functions.

Perhaps we’ll get a chance in the near future to further explore the Venusian surface. There are scientists at NASA who desperately want to go back and they have quite a few unique ideas for exploring this beautiful alien world.

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Launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), to absolutely no one’s surprise, has been delayed once again. This time the telescope is delayed from March 2021 to October 2021 due to a combination of technical difficulties and everyone’s favorite 2020 boogeyman: the CoronaVirus™.

The JWST is a notorious project between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) that has become the poster child for government program budget inflation. Designed as a replacement for the aging Hubble Space Telescope (HST), the telescope began development when I was starting out as a freshman in high school and continues today (24 years later)!

It’s really a small delay against the backdrop of how many times the project has already been delayed, but I still wish the JWST team success whenever it manages to launch.

Further Reading

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The nightShifted Astronomy header used from 2006-2012.

Some people know that from 2006-2012 I ran an amateur astronomy blog called nightShifted Astronomy at www.nightshifted.com. I still own the domain, but the blog has been dead for years due to some personal issues that took me away from astronomy as a hobby for a bit. I am pleased today to announce that nightShifted Astronomy is reborn here on my personal site along with my other content. It’s my hope that I’ll be able to integrate my space commentary and digital production alongside my work in the amateur astronomy community, which I am slowly starting to rebuild.

Soon you’ll start to see regular updates on this page and syndicated across my social media networks covering topics ranging from telescope use and backyard observing tips to commentary on the latest scientific discoveries and briefs on upcoming astronomical events. Additionally, I plan to start making YouTube videos in the coming months covering some amateur and professional astronomy topics. You can check out my channel here.

Keep your eyes on the skies!

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