Hi everyone! It has been an exciting week in science, and since it is Sunday evening, I thought I’d give you a brief overview of what has been happening in the scientific world this week.
Scientists have discovered a new exoplanet that closely resembles our solar system’s Jupiter, using the Gemini Planet Imager. The Gemini Planet imager, a high-contrast imaging instrument, went live in 2013 and allows direct imaging of distant planets (as opposed to using indirect observations, like small wobbles in star orbits, to deduce their existence). The new planet, named 51 ERI B is located around a star called 51 Eridani, located a little less than 100 lightyears away from earth. This discovery is particularly interesting because 51 Eridani is a really young star, only about 20 million years old (the sun and the solar system are estimated to be around 4.5 billion years old, by comparison), and studying it can give us vital clues about the origin of Jupiter and other gas giants. The new planet is about twice the size of Jupiter, has a surface temperature of 600 – 750 Kelvin, and has large amounts of methane and water vapor.
This week also marks the completion of the 1000 genomes project. This project, started in January, 2008, mapped the genomes of 2504 participants, spread over 26 populations, and coming from a multitude of ethnicities. Five of the six inhabited continents were represented (Australia being the exception). The project aimed to identify all variations that occurred at a frequency of least 1% in the population (i.e. existed in at least 1 out of 100 individuals). The project identified over 88 million DNA sequence variants, and have published their results in the current issue of Nature. The data they collected is freely available on their website. On a similar note, the UK10K project, which plans to sequence the genomes of 10000 individuals in the UK from diseased as well as healthy backgrounds to identify potential disease-causing or biomedically relevant variants, also published their results in the same issue.