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For the first time, astronomers have detected evidence of a planet in a galaxy beyond our own. The yet unnamed exoplanet lies in the Messier 51, often referred to as the “Whirlpool” galaxy, around 28 million light-years from Earth.

Astronomers and planetary scientists have discovered nearly 5,000 exoplanets so far, but all were found within the confines of our own Milky Way galaxy. The new discovery is the first to detect and place a planetary body in an entirely different galaxy—a feat achieved by using NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory telescope to observe “transit,” when a planet passes in front of a star and blocks its rays. The findings were published this week in Nature Astronomy. 

“We are trying to open up a whole new arena for finding other worlds by searching for planet candidates at X-ray wavelengths, a strategy that makes it possible to discover them in other galaxies,” Rosanne Di Stefano, Harvard University astrophysicist and leader of the study, said in a NASA statement.

Most exoplanets have been found in transit by observing dips in optical light as a planet passes in front of a star, but Di Stefano and her team instead looked for dips in x-rays. Regions where x-rays can be detected are small but bright, and this technique could allow astronomers to find exoplanets at much greater distances than with current optical light transit studies.

[Related: A newly discovered planet orbiting a dead star offers a glimpse of Earth’s future]

Though an exciting find, scientists still need to confirm the evidence—a process that, in this case, will take decades. The potential new planet won’t cross in front of its star for another 70 years, giving astronomers a long and undetermined wait before they can confirm the findings.

“Unfortunately to confirm that we’re seeing a planet we would likely have to wait decades to see another transit,” said co-author Nia Imara, a University of California at Santa Cruz astrophysicist, in the NASA statement. “And because of the uncertainties about how long it takes to orbit, we wouldn’t know exactly when to look.”

That uncertainty with timing has other planetary scientists wondering how useful this method of detecting x-ray transits is and how often it should be used. Bruce Macintosh, a Stanford University astrophysicist who wasn’t involved with the research, told NBC that studying X-ray transits is “clever,” but since “you can only see transits when objects line up just right between you and the thing you’re looking at” (and those alignments only ever last a couple hours at most) it’s unlikely that it could be used to find hundreds of thousands of planetary candidates.

But Di Stefano told NBC that she’s excited that this new method, which she and her colleagues first proposed in 2023, yielded such exciting results in the search for extragalactic exoplanets. “We did not know whether we would find anything, and we were extremely lucky to have found something,” she said. “Now we hope other groups around the world study more data and make even more discoveries.”

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The Worst Way To Inlay

Creating inlaid wood furniture is a painstaking process. Cutting shapes into the front of a drawer isn’t the hard part, though; it’s crafting pieces of a contrasting wood that fit precisely into those spaces. Since the beginning of furniture making, people have been looking for shortcuts. Today, machine-cut inlays are available, but in the past the preferred approach was to fill the patterns with a paste that would harden in place.

Element: sulfur

Project: furniture inlay

Time: 4 hours

One of the less inspired ideas came in the late 1700s, when someone started pouring molten sulfur into his carvings. In the Philadelphia Museum of Art, you will find a spectacularly detailed and beautiful chest made in 1779 in Pennsylvania by a pair of Swiss craftsmen, members of a short-lived tradition of sulfur-inlay furniture making.

Achtung! Theodore Gray is a scientist trained in lab safety procedures. Do not attempt this experiment at home. For more information on Gray’s scientific pursuits, visit his website.

Though sulfur may have had a good case on paper—it melts easily and hardens to a pretty yellow—there’s good reason the tradition was short-lived: Sulfur is nasty at a biblical level, it being another name for the brimstone with which evil was said to be punished. If you heat powdered sulfur gently, it melts into an amber-colored liquid that can easily be poured into complex shapes, if you can stand the suffocating fumes—and if it doesn’t catch fire spontaneously, as it will at a temperature somewhat higher than its melting point, burning with the loveliest purple flame.

The fumes are sulfur dioxide, best known as one of the components of smog. Being near a pot of molten sulfur, it rapidly becomes difficult to breathe. If you want to find out what asthma feels like, doing sulfur inlay is probably a decent approximation (and if you have asthma, you should never be around sulfur dioxide fumes, as they can trigger a severe attack). This is not something you want to do in the house, especially if you want to continue living in that particular house. Oh, and after you work with sulfur for a while, it reacts with the bacteria on your hands and forms hydrogen sulfide, giving you the smell of rotten eggs.

After filling the grooves, the sulfur cools rapidly to a crystalline solid that can be planed, chiseled and sanded smooth, resulting in a golden yellow inlay. It will turn white after a century or so as the sulfur ages. Bubbles and gaps are the primary way to identify an antique pure sulfur inlay, so when I tried this myself (in the name of historical investigation, of course), I didn’t go out of my way to fix them. This is, after all, meant to be a quick-and-dirty method.

Take my word for it, there are few materials less pleasant to work with than sulfur. Resins, paints, chalk paste, plastic—all have been used to do furniture inlay with success. No one knows why sulfur was first used, but it’s clear to me why it isn’t anymore.

Author’s note: Thanks to Mark Anderson and Jennifer Mass of Delaware’s Winterthur Museum for the historical and scientific information about sulfur inlay.

This story has been updated. It was originally featured in the January 2005 issue of Popular Science magazine.

The Milky Way’s Shiniest Known Exoplanet Has Glittering Metallic Clouds

Astronomers from the European Space Agency (ESA) have discovered the shiniest known exoplanet in our universe to date. Named LTT9779 b, this ultra hot exoplanet revolves around its host star every 19 hours and is 262 light-years away from Earth.

[Related: Gritty, swirling clouds of silica surround exoplanet VHS 1256 b.]

In our night sky, the moon and Venus are the brightest objects. Venus’ thick cloud layers reflect 75 percent of the sun’s incoming light, compared to Earth’s cloud layers that just reflect about 30 percent. LTT9779 b and it’s reflective metallic clouds can match Venus’ shininess. Detailed measurements taken by ESA’s Cheops (CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) mission shows that the glittering globe reflects 80 percent of the light that is shone on it by its host star. 

LTT9779 b was first spotted in 2023 by NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) mission and ground-based observations conducted at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. ESA then selected this planet for additional observations as part of the Cheops mission.

At around the same size as the planet Neptune, LTT9779 b is the largest known “mirror” in the universe. According to ESA, it is so reflective due to its metallic clouds that are mostly made of silicate mixed in with metals like titanium. Sand and glass that are used to make mirrors are also primarily made up of silicate. The findings are detailed in a study published July 10 in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

“Imagine a burning world, close to its star, with heavy clouds of metals floating aloft, raining down titanium droplets,” study co-author and Diego Portales University in Chile astronomer James Jenkins, said in a statement. 

The amount of light that an object reflects is called its albedo. Most planets have a low albedo, primarily because they either have an atmosphere that absorbs a lot of light or their surface is rough or dark. Frozen ice-worlds or planets like Venus that boast a reflective cloud layer tend to be the exceptions. 

For the team on this study, LTT9779 b’s high albedo came as a surprise, since the side of the planet that faces its host star is estimated to be around 3,632 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature above 212 degrees is too hot for clouds of water to form. On paper, the temperature of LTT9779 b’s atmosphere should even be too hot for clouds that are made of glass or metal.

“It was really a puzzle, until we realized we should think about this cloud formation in the same way as condensation forming in a bathroom after a hot shower,” said co-author and Observatory of Côte d’Azur researcher Vivien Parmentier in a statement. “To steam up a bathroom you can either cool the air until water vapor condenses, or you can keep the hot water running until clouds form because the air is so saturated with vapor that it simply can’t hold any more. Similarly, LTT9779 b can form metallic clouds despite being so hot because the atmosphere is oversaturated with silicate and metal vapors.”

[Related: JWST’s double take of an Earth-sized exoplanet shows it has no sky.]

In addition to being a shiny happy exoplanet, LTT9779 b also is remarkable because it is a planet that shouldn’t really exist. Its size and temperature make it an “ultra-hot Neptune,” but there are no known planets of its size in mass that have been found orbiting this close to their host star. This means that LTT9779 b lives in the “hot Neptune desert,” a planet whose atmosphere is heated to more than 1,700 degrees.

“’We believe these metal clouds help the planet to survive in the hot Neptune desert,” co-author and astronomer at Marseille Astrophysics Laboratory Sergio Hoyer said in a statement. “The clouds reflect light and stop the planet from getting too hot and evaporating. Meanwhile, being highly metallic makes the planet and its atmosphere heavy and harder to blow away.”

While its radius is about 4.7 times as big as Earth’s, one year on LTT9779 b takes only 19 hours. All of the previously discovered planets that orbit their star in less than one day are either  gas giants with a radius that is at least 10 times earth (called hot Jupiters) or rocky planets that are smaller than two Earth radii.

“It’s a planet that shouldn’t exist,” said Vivien. “We expect planets like this to have their atmosphere blown away by their star, leaving behind bare rock.”

Cheops is the first of three ESA missions dedicated to studying the exciting world of exoplanets. In 2026, it will be joined by the Plato mission which will focus on Earth-like planets that could be orbiting at a distance from their star that supports life. Ariel is scheduled to join in 2029, specializing in studying the atmospheres of exoplanets. 

The Safest Way To Travel During The Pandemic

Summer is in full swing, and nobody would blame you if a trip to the beach or your favorite city is tempting you. But even if you are itching for a vacation outside of your living room, there’s a few things to consider—namely where you’re going and how exactly you’re going to get there.

Riskiest: Any kind of shared travel

“Buses, trains, and airplanes—kinds of transportation where you’re with lots of people for a long time—are all risky,” says Prashant Kumar, the founding Director of the Global Centre for Clean Air Research at the University of Surrey. The big issue with shared travel comes down to how much space people get, cleaning protocols, how filtered the air is, and who you’re traveling with.

It’s really tough to differentiate the risk between a flight, bus ride, or train trip because they all share a mix of these highly variable factors, Kumar says. Even between two different planes, you might see different levels of cleanliness, social distancing, mask requirements, and so on. It’s kind of like going out to a restaurant, where each place is on its own to decide what protective measures are being taken. Two different planes from the same airline, or trains from the same company, might still be slightly different.

Air flow is the most crucial factor in these vehicles, says Lisa Lee, an epidemiologist and public health ethicist at Virginia Tech University. Whether you’re traveling on a train, bus, or plane, you really want to be out of range of people’s exhalations. Ideally, the vehicle you are in will have a lot of air exchange with the outside, and minimal stale air circulation. For travel modes like airplanes, it isn’t so easy to pop open a window to get a bit of fresh air if the person next to you is breathing too much in your direction. Luckily, airplanes these days actually have quite good technology that can bring outside air in to circulate inside the cabin, Lee says. When it comes to a bus or train, you might have a little more leeway in taking circulation into your own hands.

“The more outside air you can bring in and exchange with inside air the better,” Lee explains.

But the bottom line, says Lee, is that out of these options, the safest mode of transportation is the one where you spend the least amount of time with the fewest number of people. So if you had to choose between a less crowded airplane flight for two hours versus a squished bus for eight, maybe go ahead and get those air miles.

Risky: Cars

Road tripping is a tempting alternative to a flight or Greyhound ride, and for the most part it is much safer than any sort of public transportation. If you’re traveling with people from your household or quarantine “pod,” then riding in a car is much safer than other types of transportation in terms of COVID-related risks, says Lee.

“Even with things like having to stop for gas, having to stop for restroom breaks, or picking up snacks, your risk of exposure is similar to everyday life events like getting groceries,” she says.

What’s important to consider when traveling by car, however, is that the more stops you make, the riskier it gets. Every time you exit the car and interact in shared spaces with shared surfaces, you increase your risk, Lee explains. And while you can control who is in your car, you don’t have any control over how people conduct themselves in gas stations or fast-food restaurants.

So, a one shot drive on one tank of gas is much safer than a multi-day road trip, especially considering if you’re staying at hotels or other accommodations overnight, which opens a whole new can of worms in terms of risks for you and whoever else is in the hotel. Just as in planes, buses, or trains, being in hotels adds a handful of variables that you can’t necessarily control. If your road trip will entail four motel stays through multiple COVID hot-spots, maybe save that escapade for a future date where you won’t have to be so stressed about carrying along or catching a virus.

Not risky: Staying home

Unfortunately, the safest way to do any sort of exploration is still through the worldwide web on your couch at home. With new cases around the US still growing, traveling regardless of mode of transportation confers risk not only to yourselves but those you come in contact with. Try satiating your travel bug with travel documentaries, books, or even a whirl on good old Google Earth.

2023 is the year of the staycation. Try an indoor or backyard camping trip. In fact, backyards are the perfect arena for all kinds of kid-friendly shenanigans like mini-Olympic yard games or a movie screening on a projector. If you’re short on outdoor space, treat yourself to a DIY spa day. You could even spruce up and redecorate your living situation to make it feel like a whole new environment.

Of course, the pandemic does not mean we need to halt our lives completely, says Kumar, but we all need to make informed decisions and know what it takes to stay safe. And sometimes that means creating your own vacation at home, and saving up for an even more special trip next year.

Bonus round: Boats

But on the other hand, boats often have people milling about free range, which can make social distancing difficult. Giant boats where hordes of people are crammed into cabins, like cruise ships, are an infectious disease nightmare and are to be avoided at all costs. But so long as your boat of choice is not super packed, and has ample space for distancing, you may be in luck.

If you’re fortunate enough to have access to a small, private boat, that could be a great way to get to the beach for some water time. Just make sure you’re either with your quaranteam, again, or have enough square footage for safe distancing.

So is the only good option for getting to Europe a slow boat across the Atlantic? Not really. “If I were going on a trip to London, I’d rather not be on a boat for a week. I’d much rather be on a plane where I’m only on there for a few hours,” Lee says. Being stuck with a bunch of people, even with ideal ventilation, is quite literally the stuff of coronavirus nightmares.

But, for a short day trip on a boat with just your pod, the journey would kind of be like taking a car trip, but with more airflow and sunshine. So if you go this route, take the same precautions as you would for a road trip, and certainly don’t forget your sunscreen.

How To Spot Online Dating Scams

Online Dating is one of the most common uses of the internet. Besides using the internet for our work, playing games, shopping, etc., millions of people use it to find the love of their life. While the social networking websites like Facebook and Instagram also play an important role in dating online, there are specific dating websites too. The number of such websites is actually increasing day by day and so are increasing the number of dating scams.

Online Dating Scams are on the rise these days and the scammers are really smart. It is not that you are stupid and thus you got scammed, but yes one can really avoid such scams just by being a bit extra watchful.

The scammers, especially the male scammers usually target middle-aged ladies and particularly the one who has good money. With their cheesy talks, they will first try to impress you and get closer and then will gradually strip all your assets. The case is actually similar to the female scammers too. If you are thinking that only a male scams girls/ladies, it is a myth. Girls or ladies are equally involved in such online dating scams.

In this article, we will talk about a few tips which can help you identify a scammer on online dating websites.

Tips to spot Online Dating Scams Watch the profile carefully

The profile actually says everything. If you are a bit more careful, it is very easy to spot a fake profile. Check every detail properly, like their workplace, their family, etc. Scammers usually try to lure you with their wealth, thereby uploading the pictures with a huge house and lavish cars etc. For example, huge houses, big luxury cars, and more. This is all to give you an impression that such a rich guy/girl can’t/won’t cheat you. They usually mention themselves working in foreign countries or as military personnel or use the other trusted occupations.

Check out the photos

Photos actually are the best mode to check if a person is a scammer or not. Check all their photos carefully and you can find out if they are genuine pictures of morphed. Check their locations in the pictures carefully and see if it matches their proximity. Also, check if those pictures are available anywhere else on the internet. Download their profile image or any other pictures uploaded and use Google reverse image search.

They won’t send you pictures or come on video chat

Scammers won’t send you their pictures and won’t come on the video chat either. Because they are using some morphed pictures or using someone else’s picture illegitimately.

They are too quick

Such scammers are too quick. In just a few days of your friendship, they will start loving and missing you. Their every sentence will start with the words like Dear, followed by sweetheart and darlings. You suddenly will become the love of their life. They will start sending you emotional emails and messages showing their love for you and how much they miss you.

They may ask for your intimate pictures

Soon after getting a bit closer to you, they will start demanding for your intimate pictures. Online dating scam is not necessarily monetary. Do not send any of your intimate pictures to anyone you haven’t met personally.

Scammers play strong emotions

To be straight, you have to be cleverer than the scammer to identify him/her. Such people express strong emotions to you soon after you start chatting with them. They may either share some heartbreaking story of their life or may show themselves suffering from some lethal disease to gain your sympathy followed by your trust. They then may ask for your other contact details like your social networking ID, your phone number, email ID and even your address. Do not get fooled by such emotional drama and never share your contact details. Keep it limited to that particular dating platform only.

Scammers work hard to gain your Trust

Do not get fooled by the emotional messages, poetry, cheesy lines, and even by the gifts. Such scammers try hard to gain your trust and they may also send some gifts to you in the beginning. They will take extra care of you and may also get possessive about you in just a few days.

They won’t meet you easily

No matter how hard you insist if the person is a scammer he/she will keep avoiding the meetings initially. They may use the tricks like they are working in a foreign country and won’t really be able to come and meet you. Sometimes they may also show you a fake flight ticket they booked just to meet you but had to cancel because of some urgent work or health issue.

Ask for money

As soon as they feel you are on their hook, they will design some forge story to get money from you. The story will certainly have some emotional angle to force you emotionally. They might ask you to lend them some money for a few days by building some fake story here and there. They may also ask for your credit card details giving you some odd reasons. They will tell you that they are ready to start a new life with you but suddenly stuck in some financial crisis and then follows the emotional drama and you send them money for their flight tickets or some other crap. They may also ask you to open a joint account for your future life together and also may deposit some funds in it to gain your trust. But as soon as you deposit money they will withdraw all amount and vanish away.

Read: What does Catfish mean in an online dating context?

What to do if you are scammed?

If you feel you are scammed or getting harassed by anyone on the dating website, you can report it to the website. Every dating website has a clause of kicking out and blocking scammers.

If you have already shared your bank details or credit card details, contact your bank and get the card blocked immediately. Change all your online passwords. In case of further harassment, you can also contact the cyber police and file a complaint with full details about the scammer.

Online Dating Scams are increasing day by day but one can avoid such scam just by being extra careful and avoiding some common mistakes done on Dating websites.

Read next: Online Sextortion scams.

Blogging Your Way Up The Career Ladder

It’s funny how people in IT can sometimes be the last to jump onto the most obvious bandwagons.

You surely have heard of blogs, and maybe take a peek at one now and then. It is a new enough phenomenon that spell checking doesn’t even recognize the word ‘blog’. However, IT related blogs are popping up daily. If you have a teenager, they probably have one — whether you know it is another story.

But do you have one? More importantly, should you have one?

If you have built a useful, thoughtful blog history, you could be well positioned to open the door for a fruitful business relationship. If not, you may not even get in the door. You can be sure if you claim to be an expert, you had better have a blog that covers your expertise or the door will be bolted shut.

Like most new trends, the hardest part is getting motivated and figuring out where to begin. So I found Shahid Shah, CEO of Netspective, who has three IT blogs, including HealthCareGuy, where he pontificates about ancient healthcare software and how to effectively apply more modern technologies.

Shah said he got started blogging in 2003 because he found himself sending out the same email about the latest trends or simply saying, ”Hey, have you seen this article?” to his clients. Now his clients know where to go to stay current on health care IT trends, some of them using RSS to easily track his blog. Really Simple Syndication (RSS) is an XML format designed for sharing headlines and Web content. Think of it as a distributable ”What’s New” for a blog that can be easily added to your favorite Web portal, like MyYahoo.

Before you get started, decide on a topic that is near and dear to your heart. Write about what you know — what you do every day. ”Since blogs are quite informal, conversational and can be short, they are quite easy to write,” says Shah. ”I even keep a backlog of ideas that I can post anytime I don’t have something particular to write about.”

Now that you are bursting with ideas to share, you need a place to blog.

To get up and running, Shah suggests creating your own domain. You can more easily start a blog on a community site like chúng tôi but Shah cautions that it has pitfalls. ”Although you own the content copyright, a blogger site will own your links forever — you can’t move them. Whereas having your own domain name provides you with more control.”

According to Shah, it costs about $8 per month with a blog domain hosting service, such as Dreamhost. These services give you access to Web publishing software like WordPress, as well as development tools so developers can customize sites.

Ready to write and write often?

Shah steals from Nike and says ”Just do it!” but contends it’s important to do it consistently. ”I watch my traffic regularly and when I write regularly, my traffic is stable. But if I go away for a few days due to extra workload, the traffic goes down and it takes a few days to come back because the readers aren’t sure when I’ll be back.”

But should you care about your traffic? Shah thinks so.

”I think it’s terribly important to drive traffic and very important to measure it. I run my blogs for credibility and name recognition for my expertise. So, I try and measure my links to other sites and vice-versa. I keep an eye out for what others are saying about me to make sure I’m being helpful and friendly.” It is worth mentioning that Google ad-words for successful, high-traffic blogs can bring in some spending cash or even be quite lucrative.

Although Shah agrees that blogging is an excellent way to augment a resume, he stresses that bloggers must be very careful about what you write.

Stay Professional

”If you’re writing a ‘professional’ blog to help market yourself or build credibility, you need to stay very professional and not get personal with companies or products,” says Shah. This is because finding a job or engaging in business development with a company you happened to slam a year ago has obvious consequences.

Certainly, you should write thought-provoking ideas, but be careful about your tone. ”Honesty in a negative way can get you in trouble,” he adds. ”Honesty in a positive way can gain readership without getting you in trouble. Simply tell your readers the good and the bad without getting personal about a product or company.”

I asked Shah what he would do differently if he was starting a brand new blog.

”I would be even more focused,” he says. ”Try to have a point of view, espouse specific ideas, and give people a reason to come to your site for something they can’t get elsewhere. The more opinionated you are and the more focused you can be on specific industries or topics, the better and more loyal your readership will be.”

Finally, verify that your current employer or client doesn’t have restrictions about blogging publicly and be careful not to post any confidential information. Think how your manager, or worse — legal department — would react to you leaking technology flaws or security holes on a product you are developing.”

You now are ready to jump into the blogosphere, which I think is a word, but my spell checker still doesn’t know it. By showing off your smarts, using common sense, sharing links and simply writing about interesting things, your blog will open doors for you well into the future.

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