Space telescope offers rare glimpse of Earth-sized rocky exoplanet

An artist's conception of an exoplanet beyond our own solar system known to astronomers as LHS 3844b, which lies about 48.6 light years from Earth is shown in this handout photo obtained August 19, 2019. (NASA-JPL/Handout via REUTERS)
Updated 20 August 2019
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Space telescope offers rare glimpse of Earth-sized rocky exoplanet

  • LHS 3844b, an exoplanet about 1.3 times the size of Earth, is locked in a tight orbit around a small, relatively cool star called a red dwarf

Direct observations from a NASA space telescope have for the first time revealed the atmospheric void of a rocky, Earth-sized world beyond our own solar system orbiting the most common type of star in the galaxy, according to a study released on Monday.
The research, published in the scientific journal Nature, also shows the distant planet’s surface is likely to resemble the barren exterior of the Earth’s moon or Mercury, possibly covered in dark volcanic rock.
The planet lies about 48.6 light years from Earth and is one of more than 4,000 so-called exoplanets identified over the past two decades circling distant stars in our home galaxy, the Milky Way.
Known to astronomers as LHS 3844b, this exoplanet about 1.3 times the size of Earth is locked in a tight orbit — one revolution every 11 hours — around a small, relatively cool star called a red dwarf, the most prevalent and long-lived type of star in the galaxy.
The planet’s lack of atmosphere is probably due to intense radiation from its parent red dwarf, which, though dim by stellar standards, also emits high levels of ultraviolet light, the study says.
The study will likely add to a debate among astronomers about whether the search for life-sustaining conditions beyond our solar system should focus on exoplanets around red dwarfs — accounting for 75% of all stars in the Milky Way — or less common, larger, hotter stars more like our own sun.
The principal finding is that it probably possesses little if any atmosphere — a conclusion reached by measuring the temperature difference between the side of the planet perpetually facing its star, and the cooler, dark side facing away from it.
A negligible amount of heat carried between the two sides indicates a lack of winds that would otherwise be present to transfer warmth around the planet.
“The temperature contrast on this planet is about as big as it can possibly be,” said researcher Laura Kreidberg of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She is lead author of the study. Similar analysis previously was used to determine that another exoplanet, 55 Cancri e, about twice as big as Earth and believed to be half-covered in molten lava, likely possesses an atmosphere thicker than Earth’s. This exoplanet, unlike LHS 3844b, orbits a sun-like star.
The planet in the latest study was detected last year by NASA’s newly launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, an orbiting telescope that pinpoints distant worlds by spotting periodic, dips in the light observed from their parent stars when an object passes in front of them.
But it was follow-up observations from another orbiting instrument, the Spitzer Space Telescope, which can detect infrared light directly from an exoplanet, that provided new insights about its features.

 


Travel platform creates new job opportunities for Egyptian guides

Updated 21 September 2019
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Travel platform creates new job opportunities for Egyptian guides

  • Showaround is a platform that allows travelers to hire locals as personal tour guides

CAIRO: Apps have become increasingly popular in Egypt in recent years, creating new job opportunities and challenging traditional business and marketing channels.

For instance, Uber has around 90,000 monthly active drivers in the country, and Airbnb has grown massively.

Showaround, a platform that allows travelers to hire locals as personal tour guides, has attracted more than 6,300 locals.

“It’s a wave of change. It’s the fourth industrial revolution. Expect more and more apps to change how business is done,” Mohsen Aziz, 41, a software company owner in Cairo, told Arab News.

“Moreover, it opens up the space for new job opportunities and new products and services that were almost impossible to offer previously.”

Aziz said of Showaround: “Regardless of the local guides’ background, they still get recruited by global tourists. Subscribers’ profile picture, write up and service users’ reviews drive demand.”

On the app, men and women, primarily aged 21-35, post interesting pictures that include ancient sites, yoga positions and hiking.

Tour prices range from $3 to $15 per hour, but many locals offer their services for free to gain reviews.

“While I’m happy we’re driving better tourist services through such platforms, I’m concerned that these locals aren’t trained or have enough of a background to be ambassadors for our country to explain thousands of years of history,” said professional tour guide Rasha Hussein.

“Guides should get government licenses to practice. It doesn’t sound fair. We spent years studying and practicing to be eligible.”

Egypt aims to attract 12 million tourists in the fiscal year 2019-20, an 11 percent increase from 2018-19, according to government plans.

The Tourism Ministry recently announced partnerships with six international companies, including CNN and Expedia, to promote tourism through global platforms and modernize marketing mechanisms for Egyptian tourist destinations.

The government aims to increase the number of tourist nights spent in Egypt to 127 million, compared to 113 million in 2018-19.

Egypt’s tourism revenues reached $11.4 billion in 2018, an increase of around 50 percent ($7.6 billion) from 2017, according to figures from the Tourism Ministry.