Could Moons Contain Life?

According to new research, exomoons (natural satellites of planets outside our Solar System) could offer another clue about the pool of alien worlds that may be home to life.

Only a small proportion of exoplanets are likely to be able to sustain life, existing in the habitable zone of their stars. But some planets, especially large gas giants, may harbor moons which contain liquid water.

These moons can be internally heated by the gravitational pull of the planet they orbit, which can lead to them having liquid water well outside the normal habitable zones of systems that scientists are trying to find Earth-like planets in.

Researchers looked at the possibility of exomoons orbiting J1407b, a large gas giant believed to have an enormous ring system. J1407b circles a 16-million-year-old Sun-like star approximately 434 light-years away from Earth. The planet’s mass is thought to be in the range of about 10 to 40 Jupiter masses.

The rings of J1407b are shown eclipsing the young Sun-like star J1407. Image credit: Ron Miller.

J1407b

Scientists ran computer simulations to model the rings around J1407b, which are 200 times larger than those around Saturn. Gravitational forces between particles were calculated and used to update the positions, velocities, and accelerations in the computer models of J1407b and its ring system. They then added a moon that orbited at various ratios outside of the rings to test whether this caused gaps to form where they expected.

The findings revealed that while the orbiting moon did have an effect on the scattering of particles along the ring edge, the expected gaps in the ring structure were unlikely to be caused by the gravitational forces of a currently unseen moon orbiting outside J1407b’s rings.

The paper was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The Battle of El Paso Part II

The city of El Paso, TX has sent Donald Trump’s reelection campaign an arrears notice for a $470,000 rally bill, ABC News reports. Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke, on the other hand, has already paid his $28,630 tab to El Paso for a city event to officially launch his campaign six weeks later.

El Paso charged Donald J. Trump for President Inc. $470,000 for his February 11 “Make America Great Again” rally. The bill was due April 24, but the campaign hasn’t paid a dime. Some city costs incurred for Trump’s rally included $381,000 for extra police and $61,000 for fire department services.

Trump and the Trump Organization have a long history of not paying their bills and have been the target of several lawsuits in bids to collect money. Trump Organization properties have declared bankruptcy six times.

The city has threatened to tack on a late-payment penalty that could result in another $100,000 in costs. Late penalties are probably something contributors aren’t thrilled to absorb. If the debt is unpaid, Trump could also be blocked from holding another campaign rally in the city.

The Trump campaign has insinuated it’s being overcharged, a common tactic Lord Dampnut uses to try to get out of paying bills. Michael Glassner, Trump Campaign CEO, told ABC: “We are reviewing” the bill.

Workers Unite

Americans are not happy. And for good reason: We continue to suffer financial stress caused by decades of flat income. On top of that, every time we make the slightest suggestion that the system might be working in our favor, the rich and powerful tell us to shut up because it’s actually all our own fault.

The one percenters tell us to just work harder, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and stop bellyaching. Just get a second college degree, a second skill, a second job. Just send the spouse to work, downsize, and take a staycation instead of a real vacation. Or better yet, don’t take one at all, just work harder and longer and better.

The barrage of blaming has worked, workers believe they deserve censure, and that’s a big part of the reason so many are unhappy. If only, they think, they could work harder and longer and better, they would get ahead. They bear the shame. They don’t blame the system: the Supreme Court, the Congress, the president. And yet, it is the system, the American system, which has conspired to crush everyone who isn’t already rich and/or powerful.

Sure, unemployment is low and the stock market is up. But skyrocketing stocks benefit only the top 10 percent of Americans who own 84 percent of stocks. And while more people are employed now than during the Great Recession, the vast majority of Americans haven’t had a real raise since 1979. Forty years ago!

But if Americans would just work harder, everything would be dandy, right?

No. Not right. Americans already work really, really hard. A third of Americans work a side hustle, driving an Uber or selling crafts on Etsy. American workers take fewer vacation days. They get 14, but typically take only 10. The highest number of workers in five years report they don’t expect to take a vacation at all this year. And Americans work longer hours than their counterparts in other countries.

Americans labor 137 more hours (almost 3 ½ weeks) per year than Japanese workers, 260 (6 ½ weeks) more than Brits, and 499 more hours (12 ½ weeks!) than the French, according to the International Labor Organization.

The longer hours aren’t because American workers are laggards on the job either. They’re very productive. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculates that the average American worker’s productivity has increased 400 percent since 1950!

If pay had kept pace with productivity, as it did in the three decades after the end of World War II, American workers would be making 400 percent more. But they’re not. Wages have flatlined for four decades when adjusted for inflation.

That means stress. Forty percent of workers say they don’t have $400 for an unexpected expense. Twenty percent can’t pay all of their monthly bills. More than a quarter of adults skipped needed medical care last year because they couldn’t afford it. A quarter of adults have no retirement savings.

Despite the right-wing’s attempts to pound that into Americans’ heads, it’s not the solution. Americans are clearly working harder and longer and better. The solution is to change the system, which is stacked against workers.

Workers are bearing on their backs tax breaks that benefit only the rich and corporations. They’re bearing overtime pay rules and minimum wage rates that haven’t been updated in more than a decade. They’re weighted down by U.S. Supreme Court decisions that hobble unionization efforts and kneecapped workers’ rights to file class-action lawsuits. They’re struggling under U.S. Department of Labor rules defining them as independent contractors instead of staff members. They live in fear as corporations threaten to offshore their jobs.

The administration, the Supreme Court, and right-wingers in Congress grovel before corporations and the rich. Look at the tax break they gave one percenters in 2017. Corporations got the biggest cut in history, their rate sledgehammered down from 35 percent to 21 percent. That doesn’t even take into account loopholes and other dodges that corporations use. Last month, it was widely reported that dozens of the largest American companies paid zero taxes on their profits.

The White House Council of Economic Advisers predicted the corporate tax cut would put an extra $4,000 in every worker’s pocket. They claimed that corporations would use their tax cut money to hand out raises and bonuses to workers. That didn’t happen. Just as many critics of the tax bill predicted. It was an easy prediction because corporate tax cuts have never led to increased wages for employees outside of the executive officer tier. Workers on average received a big fat extra $6.21 in their paychecks, for an annual total of a whopping $233. Corporations actually spent their tax breaks on stock buybacks, a record $1 trillion worth, artificially inflating their stock prices, which put more money in the pockets of rich CEOs and shareholders.

More T-Rex Cousins

Two new species of predatory megaraptoran dinosaurs have been identified from fossils found in Thailand. The two new species, named Phuwiangvenator yaemniyomi and Vayuraptor nongbualamphuensis, roamed the Earth approximately 125 million years ago (Cretaceous period). The fossilized remains were found in the Sao Khua Formation of Thailand.

Both creatures belong to Megaraptora (megaraptors), a group of medium-to-large-sized theropod dinosaurs. The relatives of this group of predatory dinosaurs include Tyrannosaurus Rex. Like T-Rex, they ran on their hind legs, but the tyrant lizard, their arms were strong and armed with long claws. They also had more delicate heads that ended in a long snout.

Phuwiangvenator yaemniyomi was likely a fast runner. At about 20 feet (6 m) long, this dinosaur was considerably smaller than T-Rex which was approximately 40 feet (12 m) in length. Vayuraptor nongbualamphuenisis measured approximately 15 feet (4.5 m) long.

Scientists have compared the Thai fossils with other megaraptors discovered in South America and Australia. Various characteristics of Phuwiangvenator yaemniyomi indicate that it is an early representative of the group. This is an indication that the megaraptors originated in Southeast Asia and then spread to other regions.

The study was published in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica.

New Neighbors

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Astronomers using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite (TESS) have discovered a compact three-planet system around the star HR 858. The newly-discovered planets orbit HR 858, a slightly-evolved F-type star, which is also a member of a visual binary system. The star lies in the constellation of Fornax, approximately 104.4 light-years from Earth. It has a radius 30% larger than the Sun, and a temperature of about 10,700 degrees Fahrenheit (5,928 degrees Celsius).

Named HR 858b, c and d, the new planets are all about twice the size of Earth and have periods of 3.6, 6 and 11.2 days, respectively. This compact and near-resonant architecture harkens back to the systems of tightly packed inner planets discovered by Kepler, but HR 858 is hundreds to thousands of times brighter than the hosts of those Kepler systems.

According to the team, HR 858 is one of the brightest stars known to host transiting exoplanets, trailing only HD 219134, pi Mensae, and 55 Cancri.

Pre-launch estimates of the TESS planet yield predicted a handful of planet discoveries around naked-eye stars, and so far only HR 858 and pi Mensae have fit this description. HR 858 will likely retain its privileged position as one of the brightest transit hosts in the sky and most favorable systems for detailed study.

paper detailing the discovery will be published in a journal of the American Astronomical Society (AAS).