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Diamond in the Sky

Astronomers are making wondrous new discoveries every day. A new study from NASA tells scientists how often the biggest black holes have been active over the last few billion years. This discovery could have implications for how the giant black hole at the center of the Milky Way will behave in the future. And is the expansion of the universe accelerating for some unknown reason? This is one of the mysteries plaguing astrophysics, and somewhere in distant galaxies are yet-unseen supernovae that may give us the answer.

Most galaxies, including our own, are thought to contain supermassive black holes at their centers, with masses ranging from millions to billions of times the mass of the Sun. For reasons not entirely understood, astronomers have found that these black holes exhibit a wide variety of activity levels: from dormant to just lethargic to practically hyper. Astronomers have also measured the first-ever planetary atmosphere that is substantially enriched in carbon: A planet they call WASP-12b, which is an exoplanet about 1.4 times the mass of Jupiter and located about 1,200 light years away. This carbon-rich atmosphere supports the possibility that rocky exoplanets could be composed of pure carbon rocks like diamonds. Diamonds have been a part of our world for a very long time.

Astronomers can figure out a planet's atmospheric composition by observing its flux, or the light emitted by the planet, at different wavelengths. Researcher Nikku Madhusudhan says, "This is new territory and will motivate researchers to study what the interiors of carbon-rich planets could be made of." Astronomer Adam Showman says, "It's exciting to even think about the possibility" of what carbon-rich planets could look like. "This paper finally moves the discussion from pure speculation to plausible reality." He notes that exoplanets with carbon-based interiors could exhibit a range of surface features, atmospheric compositions and potential for oceans or life.

Are some people here on Earth in contact with forms of NON-carbon-based life, i.e. "aliens?" Listen to Anne Strieber's interviews (just for subscribers) with contactees like Darin, and decide for yourself!



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