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Newly Discovered Hycean Planet?

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Scientists have made an exciting discovery in the realm of exoplanets, with the identification of another potential hycean world named TOI-270 d. Hycean planets are a fascinating category of planets that may have the capability to host life, despite being located outside of what is traditionally considered the habitable zone. These planets possess thick atmospheres that can effectively trap heat, keeping their oceans warm even when they are not in close proximity to their host stars.

The term “hycean” is derived from a combination of “hydrogen” and “ocean,” indicating planets with surface oceans and dense hydrogen-rich atmospheres. Researchers believe that hycean worlds may be prevalent around red dwarf stars and could potentially support habitable conditions, albeit for aquatic life forms. These planets are expected to be larger in size compared to non-hycean planets, making them ideal targets for atmospheric studies using advanced instruments like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

A recent study published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics, titled “Possible Hycean conditions in the sub-Neptune TOI-270 d,” presents compelling evidence suggesting that TOI-270 d could indeed be a hycean world. The research was conducted by Måns Holmberg and Nikku Madhusudhan from the Institute of Astronomy at the University of Cambridge.

The JWST, with its remarkable capabilities in characterizing exoplanet atmospheres, is poised to revolutionize our understanding of hycean planets. By employing transmission spectroscopy, the space telescope can analyze starlight passing through the atmospheres of distant worlds, revealing key chemical compositions and potential biosignatures.

TOI-270, a red dwarf star located approximately 73 light-years away, is home to three sub-Neptune planets, with TOI-270 d being identified as a prime candidate for a hycean world. This exoplanet, with a mass of around 4.2 Earth masses and a radius of about 2.1 Earth radii, completes an orbit in just over 11 Earth days, allowing for detailed atmospheric investigations.

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Preliminary observations using the Hubble Space Telescope indicated the presence of a hydrogen-rich atmosphere with hints of water vapor on TOI-270 d, prompting further scrutiny using the JWST. The subsequent JWST observations provided valuable insights into the atmospheric composition of the planet, with significant detections of methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2), typical of hycean worlds.

While the presence of water vapor on TOI-270 d remains uncertain, the detection of carbon disulfide (CS2) and ethane (C2H6) in its atmosphere raises intriguing possibilities for potential biomarkers and biogenic processes. The researchers emphasize the need for additional observations to confirm the presence and abundance of these molecules.

Overall, the findings from the study support the hypothesis that TOI-270 d could be a promising candidate for a hycean world, characterized by a hydrogen-rich atmosphere conducive to habitable oceans beneath. The quest to uncover the mysteries of hycean planets continues, with the JWST poised to reveal further insights into these enigmatic worlds.

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Black couple overcomes racism to rent to Chinese family, who show gratitude by paying rent.

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Decades ago, in the early 1900s, racism and discriminatory housing practices plagued the town of Coronado, barring many individuals from living in certain neighborhoods based on their race. In the midst of this oppressive era, an inspiring story of resilience and generosity unfolded between two families — the Thompsons, a Black couple, and the Dongs, a Chinese family.

Gus and Emma Thompson, who were among the few Black families to own property in Coronado before racial restrictions took hold, defied the norms of the time by renting their house to the Dong family. Lloyd Dong Sr., a Chinese immigrant, and his wife found solace in the Thompsons’ willingness to offer them a place to call home despite the racist barriers they faced.

Fast forward 85 years later, the sons of Lloyd Dong Sr., Ron Dong, and Lloyd Dong Jr., have decided to pay forward the kindness shown to their family by donating $5 million from the sale of the house they eventually owned to San Diego State University’s Black Resource Center. This generous gift will help expand scholarships for Black students and fund renovations at the center, creating a lasting impact on the community.

Exterior view of a single-story home

The Dongs’ family house in Coronado, originally the home of the Thompsons.

(Courtesy of Janice Dong)

This heartwarming tale of intergenerational gratitude highlights the resilience and spirit of unity that transcends racial boundaries. Brandon Gamble, the director of the Black Resource Center, expressed the profound impact of this donation on the community, emphasizing the importance of stories that challenge racism and foster a sense of camaraderie.

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Reflecting on the legacy of his father and the Thompsons, Ron Dong shared, “That was the big plus for our family, because it has made all the difference for us.” The intertwined histories of the Thompson and Dong families serve as a testament to the power of empathy and solidarity in the face of adversity.

Gus Thompson’s journey from slavery to becoming a respected community leader in Coronado, coupled with Emma Thompson’s advocacy for civil rights, exemplifies the resilience and determination of marginalized communities to thrive in the face of oppression.

Gus Thompson in 1947.

Gus Thompson in 1947.

(Norman Baynard Collection / San Diego History Center)

The legacy of allyship and support exemplified by the Thompsons extends to their willingness to assist Asian Americans facing similar discriminatory practices. This act of solidarity echoes the sentiment that in times of oppression, helping others regardless of race is not just a gesture but a necessity.

As the Dong family embraced their new home in Coronado, overcoming discrimination and forging their path to homeownership, they carried forward the spirit of resilience and unity shown to them by the Thompsons. The bond between these two families serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration in a society marred with division and prejudice.

The Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian-style beach resort outside San Diego, and tent city on the beach, 1908.

The Hotel del Coronado, a Victorian-style beach resort outside San Diego, and a tent city on the beach, 1908.

(Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images)

The resilience and determination displayed by the Dong family in the face of discrimination, coupled with their unwavering commitment to education and community upliftment, exemplify the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. The decision to give back to the community through education underscores the transformative power of generosity and empathy in creating a more inclusive and equitable society.

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As the Dongs’ generous donation paves the way for future generations to access educational opportunities and resources, their story serves as a beacon of hope and inspiration for all who strive to overcome adversity and champion unity in the face of division.

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