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NASA telescope discovers two new planets five months after launch

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A planet-hunting orbital telescope designed to detect worlds beyond our solar system discovered two distant planets this week five months after its launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, officials said on Thursday.

NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, better known as TESS, made an early discovery of “super-Earth” and “hot Earth” planets in solar systems at least 49 light-years away, marking the satellite’s first discovery since its April launch. TESS is on a two-year, $337 million mission to expand astronomers’ known catalog of so-called exoplanets, worlds circling distant stars.

While the two planets are too hot to support life, TESS Deputy Science Director Sara Seager expects many more such discoveries.

“We will have to wait and see what else TESS discovers,” Seager told Reuters. “We do know that planets are out there, littering the night sky, just waiting to be found.”

TESS is designed to build on the work of its predecessor, the Kepler space telescope, which discovered the bulk of some 3,700 exoplanets documented during the past 20 years and is running out of fuel.

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NASA expects to pinpoint thousands more previously unknown worlds, perhaps hundreds of them Earth-sized or “super-Earth” sized – no larger than twice as big as our home planet.

Those are believed the most likely to feature rocky surfaces or oceans and are thus considered the best candidates for life to evolve. Scientists have said they hope TESS will ultimately help catalog at least 100 more rocky exoplanets for further study in what has become one of astronomy’s newest fields of exploration.

MIT researchers on Wednesday announced the discovery of Pi Mensae c, a “super-earth” planet 60 light-years away orbiting its sun every 6.3 days. The discovery of LHS 3844 b, a “hot-earth” planet 49 light-years away that orbits its sun every 11 hours, was announced on Thursday.

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Pi Mensae c could have a solid surface or be a waterworld as the composition of such planets is a mixed bag, Martin Spill, NASA’s program scientist for TESS, said in a phone interview.

The two newest planets, which still need to be reviewed by other researchers, offer the chance for follow-up study, officials said.

“That, of course, is TESS’ entire purpose – to find those planets around those brightest nearby stars to do this really detailed characterization,” Spill said.

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With four special cameras, TESS uses a detection method called transit photometry, which looks for periodic dips in the visible light of stars caused by planets passing, or transiting, in front of them.

Reporting by Joey Roulette in Orlando, Fla., Editing by Ben Klayman and Diane Craft


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Trump adviser Stephen Miller avoiding press and outsiders as president ramps up racist rhetoric: report

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Stephen Miller

According to a report from the Daily Beast, senior advisor for policy to Donald Trump, Stephen Miller is becoming more reclusive at the White House at the same time that the president is ramping up his hateful rhetoric against immigrants -- a topic on which the controversial Miller has the president's ear.

With the Beast noting, "Over the years, the 33-year-old senior policy adviser to the president has become virtually synonymous with the draconian immigration measures of the administration. He was a driving force behind the president’s brutal family-separation policy, one of the architects of Trump’s 'Muslim travel ban,' constantly agitates against legal immigration levels and refugees, and serves as the top White House speechwriter," the report states that Miller is rarely seen or heard from lately.

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GOP now panicking about Trump because they’re losing ‘plausible deniability’ for their racist agenda: columnist

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After smearing Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) as anti-Semitic—-and letting the crowd at his Greenville, North Carolina rally roar "send her back!" for more than 10 seconds -- President Donald Trump was forced to distance himself from the chant.

He falsely claimed that he'd continued his speech immediately after the crowd started yelling. On Friday, the New York Times reported that Trump was under intense pressure by his daughter, Ivanka, and Vice President Mike Pence, to disavow the chants.

Writing in the Washington Post, columnist Greg Sargent lays out why "send her back" makes Republicans so nervous, when they seem perfectly fine with radical immigration policies like zero-tolerance and the separation of kids from their parents, which are applied to non-white asylum seekers.

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‘Catastrophic,’ ‘beyond shameful,’ and ‘xenophobia-fueled’ Trump administration panned over proposal to slash refugee cap to zero

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"An admissions goal of zero would be another low in a global race to the bottom"

Human rights advocates said the Trump administration would be making a "catastrophic" and "grave error" if it followed through on a newly-reported proposal to slash refugee admissions to zero next year.

"It is beyond shameful and a new low, even for this administration, to even consider accepting no refugees to the U.S.," said Ryan Mace, grassroots advocacy and refugee specialist for Amnesty International USA.

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