Using the powerful eye of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, two teams of scientists have found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets. The presence of atmospheric water was reported previously on a few exoplanets orbiting stars beyond our solar system, but this is the first study to conclusively measure and compare the profiles and intensities of these signatures on multiple worlds.
“We’re very confident that we see a water signature for multiple planets,” said Avi Mandell, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. “This work really opens the door for comparing how much water is present in atmospheres on different kinds of exoplanets, for example hotter versus cooler ones.”Although exoplanets are too far away to be imaged, detailed studies of their size, composition and atmospheric makeup are possible. This video explains how researchers investigate those characteristics.
The five planets – WASP-17b, HD209458b, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b – orbit nearby stars. The strengths of their water signatures varied. WASP-17b, a planet with an especially puffed-up atmosphere, and HD209458b had the strongest signals. The signatures for the other three planets, WASP-12b, WASP-19b and XO-1b, also are consistent with water.
NASA scientists found faint signatures of water in the atmospheres of five distant planets orbiting three different stars. All five planets appear to be hazy.
The studies were part of a census of exoplanet atmospheres led by L. Drake Deming of theUniversity of Maryland in College Park. Both teams used Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 to explore the details of absorption of light through the planets’ atmospheres. The observations were made in a range of infrared wavelengths where the water signature, if present, would appear. The teams compared the shapes and intensities of the absorption profiles, and the consistency of the signatures gave them confidence they saw water. The observations demonstrate Hubble’s continuing exemplary performance in exoplanet research.
“To actually detect the atmosphere of an exoplanet is extraordinarily difficult. But we were able to pull out a very clear signal, and it is water,” said Deming, whose team reported results for HD209458b and XO-1b in a Sept. 10 paper in the same journal. Deming’s team employed a new technique with longer exposure times, which increased the sensitivity of their measurements.
To determine what’s in the atmosphere of an exoplanet, astronomers watch the planet pass in front of its host star and look at which wavelengths of light are transmitted and which are partially absorbed.
The water signals were all less pronounced than expected, and the scientists suspect this is because a layer of haze or dust blankets each of the five planets. This haze can reduce the intensity of all signals from the atmosphere in the same way fog can make colors in a photograph appear muted. At the same time, haze alters the profiles of water signals and other important molecules in a distinctive way.
The five planets are hot Jupiters, massive worlds that orbit close to their host stars. The researchers were initially surprised that all five appeared to be hazy. But Deming and Mandell noted that other researchers are finding evidence of haze around exoplanets.
“These studies, combined with other Hubble observations, are showing us that there are a surprisingly large number of systems for which the signal of water is either attenuated or completely absent,” said Heather Knutson of the California Institute of Technology, a co-author on Deming’s paper. “This suggests that cloudy or hazy atmospheres may in fact be rather common for hot Jupiters.”
Hubble’s high-performance Wide Field Camera 3 is one of few capable of peering into the atmospheres of exoplanets many trillions of miles away. These exceptionally challenging studies can be done only if the planets are spotted while they are passing in front of their stars. Researchers can identify the gases in a planet’s atmosphere by determining which wavelengths of the star’s light are transmitted and which are partially absorbed.
In his book The Four Agreements Don Miguel Ruiz outlines four simple principles, or “agreements” that one can practice to radically change one’s experience and perception of the human experience.
Once a doctor, Ruiz’s life took a dramatic turn when he was in a car accident and had an out-of-body experience. It was then that he realized he needed to pursue the study of the wisdom tradition passed down through his family.
The wisdom tradition of his family was that of the Toltecs, an ancient Mesoamerican people who were the intellectual and cultural predecessors to the Aztecs. Ruiz became a shaman in the Toltec tradition and a spiritual teacher.
After 15 years of teaching and learning about methods of healing the human mind, Ruiz wrote The Four Agreements, a concise, practical guide to his most fundamental lessons.
Domestication and the Dream of the Planet
Ruiz opens the book with what can be thought of as the overarching conceptual framework of the book. He writes:
“There are thousands of agreements you have made with yourself, with other people, with your dream of life, with God, with society, with your parents, with your spouse, with your children. But the most important agreements are the ones you made with yourself. In these agreements you tell yourself who you are, what you feel, what you believe, and how to behave. The result is what you call your personality. In these agreements you say, “This is what I am. This is what I believe. I can do certain things, and some things I cannot do. This is reality, that is fantasy; this is possible, that is impossible.”
The agreements Ruiz is speaking of can be thought of as ways of thinking and acting that we have either knowingly or unknowingly agreed to follow. His whole idea is that many of these agreements are entirely self-limiting, insidious, backwards, and harmful.
Ruiz suggests that each of our individual lives can be thought of as a “waking dream.” What he means by this is that our subjective experience is essentially a personal illusion that we create through the beliefs we’ve agreed to hold.
He explains his idea of the “dream of the planet,” which is the collective illusion that the people and societies of history have created for us. This dream of the planet can be thought of as the sum of the status quo beliefs, the social norms, and the cultural paradigms into which we are all indoctrinated.
Unfortunately, the “dream of the planet” is severely misleading. Ruiz posits that the dream of our planet has become one of blind consumption, growth for the sake of growth, shallow communication, constant judgment, and widespread apathy.
Because we are raised within the dream of the planet, many of its norms and widespread “agreements” become engrained in our consciousness. Ruiz calls us “auto-domesticated animals,” noting that it’s exceedingly difficult for us to challenge the thousands of agreements that we’ve made with society and with ourselves.
However, if our waking dream is one that does not agree with us — one of fear, self-destruction, or anxiety — we can reevaluate our core beliefs about how to act. Ruiz suggests that this is the only way to transform our waking dream from a veritable “hell” into a proverbial “heaven.”
He goes on to outline four simple agreements (surprisingly easy to understand, quite difficult to practice) that, if we affirm and live by, will dramatically transform our waking dream:
1. Be Impeccable with Your Word
The first and most important agreement is to be impeccable with your word. Ruiz writes:
“Gossiping has become the main form of communication in human society. It has become the way we feel close to each other, because it makes us feel better to see someone else feel as badly as we do. There is an old expression that says, “Misery likes company,” and people who are suffering in hell don’t want to be all alone. Fear and suffering are an important part of the dream of the planet; they are how the dream of the planet keeps us down.”
In this chapter, Ruiz stresses that words are infinitely powerful. We often consider them as nothing more than a tool or a means to an end, but words, in fact, control and shape our lives more than we can fathom.
And, in the dream of the planet, many of our societies have developed a state of affairs in which words are used maliciously — to lie, slander, blame, or complain — constantly. Using words in this way fuels the fear and suffering that are present in our lives, so we should strive to “be impeccable” with our word, rather than contemptible. Ruiz writes:
“Being impeccable with your word is the correct use of your energy; it means to use your energy in the direction of truth and love for yourself. If you make an agreement with yourself to be impeccable with your word, just with that intention, the truth will manifest through you and clean all the emotional poison that exists within you. But making this agreement is difficult because we have learned to do precisely the opposite. We have learned to lie as a habit of our communication with others and more importantly with ourselves.”
Basically, we need to focus on using our words in entirely the opposite way that most people do.We need to use words as a vehicle for speaking our truth, for kindness, for compassion, for good-natured humor, for camaraderie, for sharing, for compliment, for art.
If we do this, toward others and ourselves, according to Ruiz, we will undergo a sort of cleansing that will annihilate much of our fear and suffering.
“Use the word in the correct way. Use the word to share your love. Use white magic, beginning with yourself. Tell yourself how wonderful you are, how great you are. Tell yourself how much you love yourself.”
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
The second agreement is to take nothing personally. Ruiz writes:
“You take (things) personally because you agree with whatever was said. As soon as you agree, the poison goes through you, and you are trapped in the dream of hell. What causes you to be trapped is what we call personal importance. Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me.” During the period of our education, or our domestication, we learn to take everything personally. We think we are responsible for everything. Me, me, me, always me!”
We are hardwired to place the most importance upon ourselves. Society only further conditions us to do so. However, when we elevate ourselves on a precarious tower of superiority, we are essentially waiting for the smallest stone to knock us down.
When we focus too much on ourselves, we grow insecure and take ourselves far too seriously. Then, when anyone says or does anything against us, it cuts us to the core. Conversely, if we can take the focus off of ourselves, we will become much more impervious to mistreatment. Ruiz writes:
“Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in. When we take something personally, we make the assumption that they know what is in our world, and we try to impose our world on their world.”
Ruiz emphasizes the supreme necessity of understanding that what other people do is always a result of themselves. If someone is trying to make you suffer, it is likely because they are jealous of you, or have suffered much themselves, or are afraid. Therefore, taking their actions personally is only consenting to partake in their suffering. Ruiz writes:
“Don’t take anything personally because by taking things personally you set yourself up to suffer for nothing. Humans are addicted to suffering at different levels and to different degrees, and we support each other in maintaining these addictions. Humans agree to help each other suffer. If you have the need to be abused, you will find it easy to be abused by others.”
Suffering is unnecessary, he says. We are conditioned to crave suffering because we believe that we deserve it for various reasons. In actuality, we don’t deserve it. Ruiz concludes this chapter by explaining that once we are able to make a habit of trying to take nothing personally, we will begin to experience a shift.
Our sense of worth will no longer be based upon the validation or condemnation of other people. It will be based on our own sense of responsibility to ourselves. It will be based on whether we are living in accordance with what we feel is right for us, rather than what others think about us. Only then will we escape the torment of allowing others to scar us with their words and actions.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
The third agreement is to stop making assumptions. This is very similar to the Buddhist notion that expectation is at the root of our suffering. When we expect things to be a certain way, we resist accepting what is real. Ruiz writes:
“If others tell us something, we make assumptions, and if they don’t tell us something we make assumptions to fulfill our need to know and to replace the need to communicate. Even if we hear something and we don’t understand, we make assumptions about what it means and then believe the assumptions. We make all sorts of assumptions because we don’t have the courage to ask questions. The assumptions are made so fast and unconsciously most of the time because we have agreements to communicate this way. We have agreed that it is not safe to ask questions; we have agreed that if people love us, they should know what we want or how we feel. When we believe something we assume we are right about it to the point that we will destroy relationships in order to defend our position.”
Ruiz stresses that making assumptions in our communication and our relationships has become commonplace in our modern world. We do this unthinkingly, forming a vision in our minds of what is happening between us and other people instead of asking questions and generating real dialogue. Ruiz continues:
“We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do. We assume that others think the way we think, feel the way we feel, judge the way we judge, and abuse the way we abuse. This is the biggest assumption that humans make. And this is why we have a fear of being ourselves around others. Because we think everyone else will judge us, victimize us, abuse us, and blame us as we do ourselves. So even before others have a chance to reject us, we have already rejected ourselves. That is the way the human mind works.”
The worst assumption we can make, according to Ruiz, is the assumption that everyone experiences life in the same way that we do, or that they should. Mankind is endlessly diverse, and while we have much in common, our differences make our species more rich and beautiful.
By silently expecting everyone around us to conform to our ways of seeing, thinking, and acting, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment. As Ruiz notes, we’re also creating a situation in our minds in which we believe that everyone around us judges and condemns in the same way that we do. This leads to a fear of being ourselves and creates discordance within ourselves and in our relationships. Ruiz concludes:
“The way to keep yourself from making assumptions is to ask questions. Make sure the communication is clear. If you don’t understand, ask. Have the courage to ask questions until you are clear as you can be, and even then do not assume you know all there is to know about a given situation.”
It is integral that we keep our communication open, honest, and filled with questions. In this way, our assumptions can be replaced by what is real. Furthermore, we should try to cultivate an awareness of our assumptions and the ways in which those assumptions are coloring our views and determining our actions. When we are aware, we can begin to dismantle them.
4. Always Do Your Best
The final agreement is to always do your best. Ruiz writes:
“Under any circumstance, always do your best, no more and no less. But keep in mind that your best is never going to be the same from one moment to the next. Everything is alive and changing all the time, so your best will sometimes be high quality, and other times it will not be as good. When you wake up refreshed and energized in the morning, your best will be better than when you are tired at night.”
So in any situation, we should try to put our best foot forward, to give the greatest effort that we can muster. Sometimes our best will appear significant, and sometimes it will appear pathetic. The important thing is to try. Ruiz continues:
“Doing your best is taking the action because you love it, not because you’re expecting a reward. Most people do exactly the opposite: They only take action when they expect a reward, and they don’t enjoy the action. And that’s the reason why they don’t do their best.”
Ruiz makes an interesting distinction here. Doing our best doesn’t simply relate to putting forth maximum effort as we blindly do any given thing. It also relates to our intentions – the why, the reason we do things. Ruiz emphasizes that we should do things because we love to do them whenever possible, and that this will make it easier for us to do our best and to enjoy ourselves. Ruiz concludes:
“Action is about living fully. Inaction is the way that we deny life. Inaction is sitting in front of the television every day for years because you are afraid to be alive and to take the risk of expressing what you are. Expressing what you are is taking action. You can have many great ideas in your head, but what makes the difference is the action.”
So doing our best also means taking action. That isn’t to say that we aren’t warranted in taking breaks, going slowly, relaxing, and finding time for play. It simply means that action must play an important role in our lives because it is through action that we manifest an expression of ourselves in the world. In expressing ourselves fully and purely, we are doing our best.
Breaking Old Agreements
Near the end of the book, Ruiz explains that it is an extraordinary challenge to practice living up to these four agreements. It takes great discipline and determination, and we will surely falter along the way.
He then includes a section on breaking old agreements, which is an integral aspect of forming new ones. He explains:
“The worst part is that most of us are not even aware that we are not free. There is something inside that whispers to us that we are not free, but we do not understand what it is, and why we are not free. [...] The first step toward personal freedom is awareness. We need to be aware that we are not free in order to be free. [...] Forgiveness is the only way to heal. We can choose to forgive because we feel compassion for ourselves. We can let go of the resentment and declare, “That’s enough!”
Essentially, we must first recognize that we are a slave to the limiting agreements we have made with ourselves and society. If our beliefs are inflexible, we’ve left ourselves no room to change our actions or redirect our course in life.
So, what we must do first is strive to become more aware of ourselves and our interactions with the world. We must try to understand how our attitudes and beliefs are informing everything that we do, and we must attempt to notice when the agreements we follow are leading to drama and negative circumstances in our lives.
Ruiz stresses that this is a difficult process, and that we must choose to forgive ourselves and others for transgressions. After all, we are only human.
By doing this — by developing awareness and an attitude of forgiveness — Ruiz holds that we can begin to walk the path of the four agreements in earnest and observe the profound effect they will have on our life. Then, we will have initiated the process of transforming not only our personal dream, but also the dream of the planet, from hell into heaven.
Thousands of people in vulnerable areas of the Philippines are being relocated as the strongest storm on the planet so far this year spins toward the country. With sustained winds of 305 kph (190 mph) and gusts as strong as 370 kph (230 mph), Super Typhoon Haiyan was churning across the Western Pacific toward the central Philippines as one of the most intense tropical cyclones ever recorded. Its wind strength makes it equivalent to an exceptionally strong Category 5 hurricane. The storm, known as Yolanda in the Philippines, is expected to still be a super typhoon, with winds in excess of 240 kph (149 mph), when it makes landfall Friday morning in the region of Eastern Visayas. The storm is so large in diameter that clouds from it are affecting two-thirds of the country. Authorities in the region had moved more than 3,800 people to evacuation centers by late Thursday, Maj. Reynaldo Balido of the Philippine Office of Civil Defense said. Most of those relocated live in Tacloban City, which sits on the coast of the island of Leyte and has a population of more than 200,000. In a speech Thursday, President Benigno S. Aquino III warned residents of the “calamity our countrymen will face in these coming days. Let me repeat myself: This is a very real danger, and we can mitigate and lessen its effects if we use the information available to prepare,” he said.
The government has three C-130 cargo aircraft ready to respond, as well as 32 planes and helicopters from the air force, the president said. Officials have placed relief supplies in the areas that are expected to get hit, Aquino said. “The effects of this storm can be eased through solidarity,” he said. As it moves across heavily populated areas of the central Philippines, Haiyan’s high winds and torrential rain are expected to affect millions of people. The storm system had a diameter of about 800 kilometers (500 miles) as of early Thursday afternoon. The Philippine weather agency, Pagasa, warned more than 30 provinces across the country Thursday to be prepared for possible flash floods and landslides. Schools in many areas canceled classes, emergency services were put on high alert, and airlines canceled flights. Some of the most vulnerable people are those living in makeshift shelters on the central Philippine island of Bohol. Last month, a 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit the island, which lies close to the typhoon’s predicted path. The quake killed at least 222 people, injured nearly 1,000 and displaced around 350,000, according to authorities. -CNN
Philippine president asks for prayer: Philippine President Benigno Aquino III called for prayers Thursday night as a super typhoon barreled toward the Southeast Asian country, threatening to be more powerful than a storm last December that killed 1,146 people. “As always, no storm can bring down a united Filipino people to its knees,” President Aquino said in a nationally televised speech. “The effects of this storm can be eased through solidarity. Let us exhibit calm, especially as we buy our primary necessities, and as we evacuate to safer areas,” he added. Weather forecasters predicted that Typhoon Haiyan could pack winds of 215 kilometers per hour—powerful enough to spawn storm surges, topple houses and uproot trees—and deliver heavy rains that could overwhelm rivers and cause flash floods and landslides. The Japanese Meteorological Agency classifies Haiyan’s intensity as violent and forecasts central winds hitting 232 kilometers per hour by the time it makes landfall early Friday. The typhoon was coming just weeks after a 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit the country’s central area, killing 222 people and destroying historic churches, bridges and roads. The typhoon was expected to pass near the earthquake-ravages areas, raising particular alarm for quake victims still living in shelters. They were moved on Thursday to areas expected to be safer. The storm was forecast to hammer the country’s eastern seaboard. On Thursday, it was moving westward at 33 kilometers per hour, with a diameter of 600 kilometers.
- Part of the over one million tons of debris dispersed in the Pacific, the trash island is located northeast of the Hawaiian Islands
- The first documented tsunami debris to reach California arrived in April 2013
- Boats, a dock, a soccer ball, and motorcycle have all been identified on the West Coast as confirmed tsunami debris
A floating island of debris the size of Texas has been crossing the vast Pacific Ocean to the western shores of the Americas since a devastating tsunami inundated Japan in 2011, says a new study.
Five million tons of wreckage – the remains of homes, boats, and other remnants of shattered lives in eastern Japan – were swallowed by the ocean that day in March, and more than one million tons of flotsam continues to head towards the west coast of the US.
While the first documented debris from the tragedy has already been found in California, scientists fear these new findings mean there could be a lot more to come and it might arrive all at once.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) released its updated findings last week, which show the huge island floating northeast of the Hawaiian Islands.
NOAA scientists add that a larger and less-concentrated debris field stretches from Alaska to the Philippines.
JAPANESE TSUNAMI DEBRIS ISLAND STEADILY FLOATS TO U.S.
An estimated 5 million tons of debris washed into the ocean in March of 2011 during the tsunami.
Around 70 percent of it is believed to have immediately sunk near the Japanese coast.
Some more mobile items may have reached the Pacific Northwest before 2011 even came to a close.
The first documented piece of debris to arrive in California, a barnacle covered fishing boat, came ashore in April 2013.
The particles are dispersed sparsely from Alaska to the Philippines.
The Texas-sized trash island is located northeast of the Hawaiian Islands.
Some of the more mobile items have been documented as washing up on the coast of California as early as 2011.
In April, a 20ft boat ran aground at Crescent City, California. It was formally identified as a boat that belonged to the marine sciences program at Takata High School in the city of Rikuzentakata.
In all, 27 items from among more than 1,600 reports of debris have been firmly traced back to the tsunami, NOAA spokeswoman Keeley Belva said.
The confirmed items include a small boat found in Hawaii waters, large docks that have washed ashore in Washington state and Oregon, and a motorcycle that washed ashore off the coast of British Columbia.
A soccer ball found on an Alaska island with a student’s name on it was also traced to the city of Rikuzentakata.
But distinguishing everyday trash from tsunami debris has proven difficult in most other cases.
Items that are confirmed as having come from the tsunami, like the soccer ball and boat, tend to have unique markings. It’s far more difficult to distinguish between domestic and Japanese everyday wooden debris, for instance.
Geiger counters, which detect radiation, are no help in identifying debris. It was initially thought that the instruments might be able to pick up traces of radiation from the still-leaking nuclear reactor at Fukushima, but none of the floating debris has any detectable radioactivity.
This galaxy is so large, so fully-formed, astronomers say it shouldn’t exist at all. It’s called a “grand-design” spiral galaxy, and unlike most galaxies of its kind, this one is old. Like, really,really old. According to a new study conducted by researchers using NASA’s Hubble Telescope, it dates back roughly 10.7-billion years — and that makes it the most ancient spiral galaxy we’ve ever discovered.
“The vast majority of old galaxies look like train wrecks,” said UCLA astrophysicist Alice Shapley in a press release. “Our first thought was, why is this one so different, and so beautiful?”
Shapley is co-author of the paper describing the discovery, which is published in the latest issue of Nature. She and her colleagues had been using Hubble to investigate some of our Universe’s most distant cosmic entities, but the discovery of BX442 — which is what they’ve dubbed the newfound galaxy — came as a huge surprise.
“The fact that this galaxy exists is astounding,” said University of Toronto’s David Law, lead author of the study. “Current wisdom holds that such ‘grand-design’ spiral galaxies simply didn’t exist at such an early time in the history of the universe.”
The hallmark of a grand design galaxy is its well-formed spiral arms, but getting into this conformation takes time. When astronomers look at most galaxies as they appeared billions and billions of years ago, they look clumpy and irregular. A 10.7-billion-year-old entity, BX442 came into existence a mere 3-billion years after the Big Bang. That’s not a lot of time on a cosmic time scale, and yet BX442 looks surprisingly put together. So much so, in fact, that astronomers didn’t believe it at first, chalking their unusual observation up to the accidental alignment of two separate galaxies. But further investigations, conducted at the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, revealed BX442 to be the real thing.
So how does a galaxy that shouldn’t exist come to be? The researchers think the answer may have something to do with a companion dwarf galaxy looming near BX442 (in the image up top, it’s the separate circular cluster in the upper right). Simulations conducted by University of Arizona researcher Charlotte Christenson indicate that gravitation interactions between the two, which she says appear to be in the process of colliding, may have helped BX442 take shape.
The reason Stephen Hawking bet against the Higgs Boson is the same reason BX442 is the best kind of discovery; not only does this galaxy set a new benchmark by way of its cosmic seniority, it’s also super weird — weirder than what anyone thought was possible. In science, these are the finds that help us rework our understanding of nature, the discoveries that force us to step back from what we thought we knew, re-assess our preconceived notions, and bring forth a newer, more fully formed view of our Universe.
The researchers’ findings are published in the latest issue of Nature.