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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. 

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Astronomers Spot First Planet Outside The Milky Way

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.”

New Metallic Glass Beats Steel As The Toughest, Strongest Material Yet

Materials scientists in California have made a special metallic glass with a strength and toughness greater than any known material, using a recipe that could yield a new method for materials fabrication.

The glass, a microalloy made of palladium, has a chemical structure that counteracts the inherent brittleness of glass but maintains its strength. It’s not very dense and it is more lightweight than steel, with comparable heft to an aluminum or titanium alloy.

“It has probably the best combination of strength and toughness that has ever been achieved,” said Robert O. Ritchie, a materials scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory who is one of the authors of a paper describing the new glass. “It’s not the strongest material ever made, but it’s certainly one of the best with a combination of strength and toughness.”

In other words, some tougher materials exist, but they are less strong; there are stronger materials, but they’re not as tough. To grasp this, you have to define the the difference between strength and toughness. Strength refers to how much force a material can take before it deforms. Toughness explains the energy required to fracture or break something; it describes an object’s ability to absorb energy. Most of the time, these qualities are mutually exclusive. “The holy grail is to get both those properties at the same time,” Ritchie said.

Think of a ceramic mug — it’s pretty strong, maintaining its shape while handling hot and cold temperatures with ease. But it’s not very tough — there’s no give, no bendy quality to stop it from shattering when it falls to the floor. On the other hand, a rubber band is tough, stretching and contorting to wrap itself around your newspaper, your carton of eggs and a myriad other objects. But it’s weak, and it doesn’t take much energy for it to deform and break, snapping back on you with a painful recoil.

Souped-up glass is nothing new — Corning’s Gorilla Glass, which coats cell phones, laptops and TVs, is chemically strengthened with compressed ions, which helps prevent cracks and chips. Pyrex, used in telescope mirrors and baking dishes since 1915, is heat-strengthened to resist breakage. But neither has the toughness you’d want for making things like airplanes or bridges.

Ideal structural materials are both strong and tough; steel is a good example. The new glass has a far better combination of strength and toughness than any steel.

“When you build a structural material, you want it to be as strong as possible, but the limiting property is that it must be resistant to fracture, i.e., as tough as possible,” Ritchie said. “For instance, the Golden Gate Bridge is made of a relatively low-strength steel, because you’d like it to bend first rather than break catastrophically without warning.”

Glassy materials are usually very brittle — they break after the formation of shear bands, which are narrow zones of strain that ultimately become cracks. Once the bands form, it’s pretty much impossible to stop cracks from forming. But palladium’s properties change this dynamic, Ritchie explained. Instead of a single shear band propagating throughout the glass, a proliferation of shear bands form and curl back on themselves, taking longer to turn into cracks. The bands allow the material to bend before it breaks — not a property you’d expect from glass.

“It is very easy to form these shear bands, but it is difficult for them to become cracks. The net result is, you get a lot of shear bands forming, and this causes plasticity — you can bend it very readily,” Ritchie said.

Researchers at the California Institute of Technology, led by Marios D. Demetriou, have been working on metallic glass for several years, using various formulations to toughen it or prevent it from breaking. A previous iteration involved introducing a crystalline phase that stopped the shear bands in their tracks, for instance. The new glass has no crystals at all, just microalloys of palladium with phosphorous, silicon, germanium and silver.

“Each element wants to effectively crystallize in its own form, but if there are five, the material gets confused — it doesn’t know which way to crystallize, so the crystallization process is slowed down,” Ritchie said. “It’s 100 percent glass; there’s nothing to stop the cracks, and we think this is an important development.”

The Caltech researchers want to try it with other metal recipes next.

The glass is expensive and difficult to make because of the amount of metals involved and the process required to cool them. So you won’t start seeing palladium-glass airplanes and bridges anytime soon — but the material, and its fabrication process, holds promise for the future of those structures.

“For a bridge, a ship, a spacecraft, for engine material, you would like to combine strength and toughness. This does provide a means of doing that in quite frankly the most unlikely of all materials, a glass,” Ritchie said.

The new glass is described in this week’s issue of Nature Materials.

Building Better Clouds: Four Lessons From Thefiasco

When your website has become a running joke on late-night talk shows, you know you have a problem. Yet, as CIOs move to cloud architectures, many are worrying that they’ll have a chúng tôi experience themselves.

Of course, website launches fail spectacularly all the time. It’s not uncommon for new apps and sites to crash, hang and frustrate users in a million and one ways. Eventually, the kinks get ironed out, but those ROI projections you presented to the CEO are now a complete fiction.

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This is one of the reasons risk-averse CIOs are hesitant about moving from tried-and-true on-premise systems to cloud ones: fear of the unknown. If an on-premise system goes down, it’s not hard to figure out whose neck to choke. When a cloud application breaks, do you even have the visibility into the infrastructure to know what went wrong?

Here are four lessons you can learn from the chúng tôi fiasco to help guide you as you adopt, migrate to, and build cloud applications.

One thing overlooked as we discuss how profoundly chúng tôi failed as a site is that contractors were not able to tap in to the efficiencies of cloud providers like AWS, which until very recently was considered too insecure for federal purposes. Thus, legacy providers such as Oracle, Quality Software Solutions, Booz Allen and CGI Federal were tasked with building a patchwork chúng tôi system that hearkens back to the late 90s.

You know that old IT saying: “No one gets fired for choosing [Big Name IT Company].” True enough, but, unfortunately, chúng tôi missed its chance to create a streamlined, agile, cloud-based infrastructure, believing instead that this approach would be too risky.

Most organizations fear moving too quickly with new technologies. Sometimes the truly risky option is moving too slowly and sticking with the status quo, especially when the status quo is quickly disappearing in the rearview mirror (unless you’re stuck in the slow lane, of course).

It’s been more than a dozen years since a few top-tier software developers met at a Utah ski resort and came up with the Manifesto for Agile Software Development. Yet, the very term “agile development” seems to be one that doesn’t translate into chúng tôi development-speak.

“It’s important to engage service providers with experience in agile delivery methods that can effectively act as a catalyst for transforming delivery capabilities,” said Craig Wright, a principal at consulting firm Pace Harmon. “Ensure that outsourcing agreements include meaningful expectations around agile service delivery performance structures and relevant provisions to hold service providers responsible for quickly responding to changing needs, aggregating their services into an ecosystem-wide, seamless end-to-end service experience for users.”

A lingering question in my mind is: didn’t anyone see this coming? Good developers know about the bugs they ship. They may not have caught them all, but they know they’re in there and that they’ll have to fix them sooner or later. Typically, the product has reached “good enough” status, so shipping even with some bugs isn’t that big of a risk. Let’s just call this the Microsoft model, and that’s not a slam on Microsoft.

However, the Microsoft model dictates that the product is “good enough,” or that it actually works. It may not work perfectly, but if they’re shipping a browser, you can actually browse the web with it.

Judging from all of these chúng tôi “glitches,” you have to conclude that QA engineers must have all been furloughed during the government shutdown.

“It is clear to us, by the types of issues consumers are experiencing with chúng tôi this past month that the site was not fully tested,” said Tom Lounibos, CEO of SOASTA, a provider of test automation and monitoring tools. “One of the most common problems in website development is the focus on the speed of delivery versus the quality of the end-user experience.”

One of the rumors circulating this week is that Verizon will be tapped to fix chúng tôi But there’s a problem buried in that solution. It’s not always easy to jump ship this far into a project. The existing contractors, including GCI Federal and Booz Allen, will have to release their proprietary code to Verizon (or to whomever the fixer ends up being). That fact alone makes the repair more complicated and difficult.

As you evaluate various cloud providers, platforms and tools, it’s worth putting “open source” on your list of selection criteria. Then, if something goes wrong, it’ll be much easier to throw the fools causing the problem overboard and bring someone else in who can take the helm without a lengthy transition period.

Jeff Vance is a technology journalist based in Santa Monica, California. Connect with him on LinkedIn, follow him on Twitter @JWVance, add him to your cloud computing circle on Google Plus, or just shoot him an old-fashioned email at [email protected].

What Are The Python Features You Wish You Did Known Earlier

In this article, we’ll look at several Python secret features you might not have known about earlier.

The following are some of the hidden Python features that we must know −

Pandas_ml

Pandas is one of the most well-known Python machine-learning libraries. This library is intended to be used for data analysis and manipulation. Furthermore, it is useful since it incorporates some of Python’s greatest and most trustworthy libraries into a single package. As a result, it is simple to use and apply.

Argument Unpacking

When used on a function, list unpacking fails; Python does not natively unpack a list or tuple when passed to a function. This is due to the possibility of ambiguity: it is up to the developer to indicate when this must be done.

Slice Assignment

Suppose you have a list. But you have to replace multiple items in the list with a single assignment. What will you do? This is when slice assignment comes in handy. Python allows you to replace a part in a list with whatever you want with only one line.

List Comprehensions in Python

List comprehension is one of Python’s most powerful techniques. It aids in deriving one list from another through the use of a concise syntax. List comprehensions come in handy when you want to filter items in a list or apply a function to them. As a result, it is one of the most essential hidden Python features.

Formatting of code using Black

What if you could review your code more quickly and efficiently? That’s where Black, a Python code formatter, comes into play. One of the finest Python unknown techniques is formatted, which allows you to create code in your preferred manner. And Black formats it, which speeds up the entire code review process.

Python Debugger

We get stuck on some errors and spend a long time trying to fix them. Moreover, all of our efforts will be fruitless. The solution is unknown, but our efforts have all been in vain. That is when you must use the Python debugger to simplify your task.

The Python Debugger allows you to easily review the code line by line. As a result, it is one of Python’s greatest features.

Usage of emojis in code

Did you know Python provides a module that allows you to add emojis to your strings? Yes, you read that correctly! To include emojis, you can use either the emoji module or Unicode.

Importing Data Science Libraries

We frequently spend a significant amount of time importing common libraries such as seaborn or pandas. And manually importing them can be time-consuming.

As a result, there is a solution in the form of a pyforest library to help you sail past this challenge. This module is a benefit and one of Python’s hidden features. It is more convenient to operate directly than than importing individually.

Negative Indexing

Negative indexing is one of Python’s hidden features. We are all aware that indexes are utilized in arrays in all programming languages. These indices are then used to access the items of an array.

However, all programming languages restrict the use of negative indexes such as ‘-2.’ However, Python is an exception because it enables array negative indexing. As a result, -1 should be the last element and -2 should be the second last one.

Chaining Comparison Operators

Many computer languages make it straightforward to compare values using syntax. As an example −

Wouldn’t it be amazing if the “and” operator was removed from the syntax? Fortunately, Python allows you to use comparison operators one after the other, as illustrated below.

This is due to “Operator Preference and Associativity.” It is utilized in the expression and is useful when there are multiple operators with different precedence. Furthermore, assisting in determining which procedure should be executed first and foremost.

Hassle-free Swapping of Variables

Python aids in the simplification of tough jobs. For example, suppose you have two variables and need to exchange their values. What will you do then? While the other values are swapped, manually create a temporary variable. This method is not flawed, but some may find it tedious. Instead, Python facilitates swapping without the use of a temporary variable.

Example # intializing two variables x = 20 y = 50 # swapping the values of x, y variables x, y = y, x # printing x, y values after swapping print("x value after swapping:", x) print("y value after swapping:", y) Output x value after swapping: 50 y value after swapping: 20

In this case, Python deletes the temporary variable in the background after the operation is completed. As a result, it aids in the creation of efficient and clear code.

Short Module Names

Are you bored of repeating long library names? Then the following hack will undoubtedly be beneficial to you. Python allows developers to use the keyword “as” to create any library name they want.

List of Easter Eggs

Some people may find programming as tedious as writing argumentative essays and other academic tasks. But what if we say Python contains Easter eggs? This may seem odd because Easter eggs are commonly discovered in video games, movies, cartoons, and other media.

Launch Web Server

Python’s hidden features are just as useful as website support. Consider the following scenario: you want to set up your own web server to exchange files from your computer.

A simple command would be useful for this. It will start a web server on any available port. To ensure that everything goes smoothly, change the port number from 0 to 65353. There are further parameters you can explore.

# Running Web Server Conclusion

Whether you are just getting started with Python or are an expert, this language can still surprise you. There are numerous Python features that you were unaware of.

These features are not only useful for developers, but they are also simple to understand. So, if you believe you know everything there is to know about Python, read this article and learn something new about one of the most popular programming languages.

Has The Ipad Killed Tablet Innovation?

Has the iPad killed tablet innovation?

How foolish I’ve been. Five months ago I wrote that tablets had come of age, and even sifted my way through the line-up cherry picking what must-have features would make for the perfect device. A month later, in the afterglow – or should that be aftermath? – of the iPad announcement, I marvelled that, while Apple’s slate wouldn’t necessarily satisfy every user, there was nonetheless plenty of choice on the horizon for those given a taste for tableteering. Our analyst contributors wisely told me not to count my touchscreen chickens before they’d hatched onto the market, but I wouldn’t listen. I thought the iPad’s arrival would rejuvenate the tablet segment, but all it seems to have done is killed off any attempt at innovation.

Since those naive, hopeful editorials, Microsoft have closed the book on Courier, HP’s Slate appears to be in a no-man’s land of ambiguity – not exactly helped by the company’s extreme reluctance to put the record straight – and the Tegra 2 based slates that so impressed at CES and Mobile World Congress (Notion Ink’s Adam, the ICD range) are yet to show up in stores. Now, Lenovo has pulled the plug on their IdeaPad U1 Hybrid, a distinctive little notebook with a detachable slate-style touchscreen that promised to bridge the divide between ultraportable laptop and sofa-surfing tablet. They’re apparently insisting it was only ever a concept, seemingly forgetting it had been a “concept” with a predicted June release date, MRSP of $999 and a “coming soon” page (and all of which from out of Lenovo’s own mouth).

Lenovo’s attention, they say, is now turning to Android, just like so many other promised slates we’ve seen in the past six months. Google’s open-source OS has plenty in its favour: low software cost, brand name recognition buoyed by surging smartphone adoption, the promise that its search giant backer isn’t likely to disappear any time soon. The end result is an identikit parade of Android-based slabs; the tail-end of an economic downturn and an obvious route presented by that great arbiter of technology taste, Apple, was apparently all that was necessary to lead the rest of the market down a path that bypasses innovation and difference

Perhaps it’s unfair to level the blame at Apple. For all their legendary reputation for innovation, their actual strength lies more, maybe, in the ability to create a device, market it as sufficiently different from the rest of the pack, and then lace the whole thing with so much hyperbole – “this is the amazing future of touchscreens” – that they later get credited with inventing (or at least reinventing) the whole segment. You can’t really criticise them for wholeheartedly supporting their own product range, and we doubt their shareholders would do so either.

It doesn’t do everything very well, though, and the people it serves best are just one slice of the user-pie, not all of them. Five months ago that was fine: there were alternatives galore in the pipeline, and if you wanted to be more of a content-creator, say, than a content-consumer, the model that would best fit those needs had already been promised. Now, it seems that Apple’s rivals have conceded that the tablet template has been set, and they’ve seized on Android to deliver it. That’s notwithstanding Google’s apparent reluctance to embrace the form-factor – at least, not before their own, internal timescales say the moment has come. Android Market availability on tablets is patchy at best, when it should be something you can take for granted, while the so-called Google Experience apps are similarly rationed out in a way consumers haven’t been educated enough to understand. SlashGear has spoken to tablet manufacturers looking to bring Android-based devices to market, and several have told us that Google has been relatively unresponsive to either their input or their requests.

Is it any surprise that so many are now fixating on the idea of a webOS tablet, recognising that Palm’s platform is – while less potent in terms of market share and brand recognition – something different from the current, anodyne status-quo? When you’re attempting to differentiate your tablet by telling us it has a USB port, or a webcam, you should already know it’s game-over. It’s also no use racing to offer the cheapest slate; as we’ve seen from some of the reviews of so-called $100 tablets, the experience is at best PMP-like, and at worst enough to put any would-be tableteer off the concept for life (or maybe just send them scuttling to their nearest Apple store).

So far, Apple have successfully – as the early figures would suggest – extended their iPhone OS platform into an adjacent segment, while their craven rivals have given up on the idea of competition and instead seem more interested in mimicry. If I’m a fool, it’s because I wanted to believe manufacturers could see beyond the end of this quarter’s financial report, and through Steve Jobs’ famed Reality Distortion Field. Ironically, consumers seem willing to accept the iPad model isn’t the only way forward for touchscreen computing, where it seems manufacturers are all too willing to concede that it is.

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