SciTech Briefs

A rendering of the system that contains a newly-discovered planet. (credit: Courtesy of European Southern Observatory) A rendering of the system that contains a newly-discovered planet. (credit: Courtesy of European Southern Observatory)

Scientists discover new planet

A planet 2,000 light years from Earth has been discovered by scientists in Chile. The planet, which has a mass at least 1.25 times the mass of Jupiter, is circling a star named HIP 13044. While almost 500 exoplanets, or planets not from our solar system, have already been discovered in the Milky Way galaxy, the newly discovered planet is different because researchers believe it is not originally from the Milky Way galaxy. Scientists think it once belonged to a dwarf galaxy that our galaxy engulfed between 6 and 9 billion years ago.

The planet was discovered indirectly through its gravitational interaction with the star around which it revolves. This discovery is exciting because scientists have always speculated the existence of planets outside of our galaxy, but have never had concrete evidence until now. In addition, the planet predicts what the future of our solar system looks like. Our sun will eventually expand and engulf the first four planets of our solar system, leaving the giant gaseous planets; HIP 13044 has already undergone this expansion, and has a gaseous planet circling it.

Source: BBC

Research underway on rising sea levels

The temperature of water measured in fjords of Greenland was 40 degrees Fahrenheit, which is warm enough to melt icebergs. This troubles scientists because it indicates that icebergs may melt faster than earlier predicted. At first, it was believed that ice sheets would take thousands of years to collapse, causing a sea level rise of only seven inches in the 21st century. However, new models predict sea levels may rise three to six feet by the year 2100.

If sea levels rise three feet — the low estimate — some coastal regions may become uninhabitable. Millions of people could be displaced, and coastlines around the world would be submerged under water. Furthermore, erosion of islands and beaches from water would accelerate, and fresh water may become contaminated. However, the causes and effects of global warming are still debated and not widely understood, and scientists are aware that the predicted rise in sea level is just an estimate.

Source: The New York Times

Sensors monitor elderly in homes

Sensor networks that monitor the activity of patients have been in use by hospitals, but they may soon make appear in private homes as well. GrandCare Systems has created a system of motion sensors that collect information about a person’s daily health and habits. For example, sensors under mattress pads monitor sleeping activity, while other sensors may indicate if a person has been taking medication properly. Activity — as well as vital statistics such as blood-sugar levels, blood pressure, and weight — can be relayed wirelessly to a doctor.

This may only be the beginning of changes in the care of elderly patients. Researchers are currently testing robots that can take care of patients. While the sensors may seem invasive at first, many report that the sensors provide a feeling a security and comfort, because friends, family, and doctors can be notified immediately if anything unusual happens.

Source: CNN