Follow Friday & Weekly Stumbles For 2010-11-19

Planet from Another Galaxy Discovered: Galactic Cannibalism Brings an Exoplanet of Extragalactic Origin Within Astronomers’ Reach
Over the last 15 years, astronomers have detected nearly 500 planets orbiting stars in our cosmic neighbourhood, but none outside our Milky Way has been confirmed. Now, however, a planet with a minimum mass 1.25 times that of Jupiter has been discovered orbiting a star of extragalactic origin, even though the star now finds itself within our own galaxy. It is part of the so-called Helmi stream – a group of stars that originally belonged to a dwarf galaxy that was devoured by our galaxy, the Milky Way, in an act of galactic cannibalism about six to nine billion years ago.

It’s time to pop the space balloon meme
The “paper spaceplane” seems to be the latest twist on what appears to be an increasingly common phenomenon: flying cameras to high altitudes in balloons, taking pictures of the Earth below and dark sky above, and proclaiming to have flown in, or at least taken pictures of, space. The danger is that coverage like this builds up a perception of a spendthrift agency that spends hundreds of millions to provide something that ingenious amateurs do on “beer money budgets”.

Weird White Dwarf Systems: Future Monster Supernovas?
The Harvard-Smithonian Center for Astrophysics researchers who found the first hypervelocity stars escaping the Milky Way announced that their search also turned up a dozen double-white-dwarf star systems. A white dwarf is the hot, dead core left over when a sun-like star gently puffs off its outer layers as it dies. The object is awesomely dense, packing as much as a sun’s worth of material into a sphere the size of Earth. A teaspoon of it would weigh more than a ton. The team estimates that half of those are merging and might explode as supernovae in the astronomically near future. Nearby planetary nebula NGC 2440 shown above, houses a scorching hot white dwarf with a surface temperature of 200,000 degrees Celsius.

Space solar power’s Indian connection
If you were in the San Francisco Bay Area the last weekend of October, you could be excused for thinking that you had stumbled back in time to the 1970s. The radio and television airwaves were filled with ads for Jerry Brown, California’s governor in the mid and late 1970s, who was running for another term, 28 years after his last ended. Meanwhile, on the campus of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, another idea that first came to prominence in the mid-to-late 1970s, space-based solar power (SBSP), was getting a new examination in light of new technologies and increasing demand for energy.

Top 10 Leonid Meteor Shower Facts
Each year around Nov. 17-18 the Leonid meteor shower peaks, offering up several shooting stars an hour. In some years there are dramatic bursts in which many meteors rain down every minute. Learn what’s behind this fickle show. Most of the shooting stars in the annual Leonid meteor shower are the result of tiny bits of material, the size of sand grains or peas, blown off a comet and wafting through space for centuries. The Leonids are spawned by the comet Tempel-Tuttle.

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