On the evidence to date, our solar system could be fundamentally different from the majority of planetary systems around stars because it formed in a different way. If that is the case, Earth-like planets will be very rare. After examining the properties of the 100 or so known extrasolar planetary systems and assessing two ways in which planets could form, Dr Martin Beer and Professor Andrew King of the University of Leicester, Dr Mario Livio of the Space Telescope Science Institute and Dr Jim Pringle of the University of Cambridge flag up the distinct possibility that our solar system is special in a paper to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
In our solar system, the orbits of all the major planets are quite close to being circular (apart from Pluto’s, which is a special case), and the four giant planets are a considerable distance from the Sun. The extrasolar planets detected so far - all giants similar in nature to Jupiter – are by comparison much closer to their parent stars, and their orbits are almost all highly elliptical and so very elongated.
‘There are two main explanations for these observations,’ says Martin Beer. ‘The most intriguing is that planets can be formed by more than one mechanism and the assumption astronomers have made until now - that all planets formed in basically the same way - is a mistake.’
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A new assessment of NASA's record of global temperatures revealed that the agency's estimate of Earth's long-term temperature rise in recent decades is accurate to within less than a tenth of a degree Fahrenheit, providing confidence that past and future research is correctly capturing rising surface temperatures.
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Physicists at the University of Basel are able to show for the first time how a single electron looks in an artificial atom. A newly developed method enables them to show the probability of an electron being present in a space. This allows improved control of electron spins, which could serve as the smallest information unit in a future quantum computer. The experiments were published in Physical Review Letters and the related theory in Physical Review B.
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Engineers at the University of Tokyo continually pioneer new ways to improve battery technology. Professor Atsuo Yamada and his team recently developed a...
With a quantum coprocessor in the cloud, physicists from Innsbruck, Austria, open the door to the simulation of previously unsolvable problems in chemistry, materials research or high-energy physics. The research groups led by Rainer Blatt and Peter Zoller report in the journal Nature how they simulated particle physics phenomena on 20 quantum bits and how the quantum simulator self-verified the result for the first time.
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'Quantum technologies' utilise the unique phenomena of quantum superposition and entanglement to encode and process information, with potentially profound benefits to a wide range of information technologies from communications to sensing and computing.
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