It was only a matter of time.
[NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech]
Today, researchers at NASA pinpointed the best candidate for life elsewhere in the universe: an Earth-sized planet — Kepler-186f, orbiting a dwarf star. The star, Kepler 18, is 6,500 lightyears from Earth in the constellation Cygnus.
The planet is closer to its star than Earth is to the Sun, but because Kepler 186 is a smaller star, the habitable zone — where water on its surface would be liquid — is closer in.
[NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-CalTech]
Scientists don't yet know its composition, and so can't answer key questions like whether its surface is rocky, or whether it possesses liquid water— and, of course, the big question of whether or not it harbors any form of life.
This is likely to be the first of many. The planet was discovered using the Kepler space telescope, launched in 2009 with the specific aim of seeking out extrasolar planets. Kepler has found dozens of exoplanets, most of them gaseous giants like Jupiter, Saturn and Uranus. Large planets — particularly ones very close to their star — are easier to identify, because of the larger gravitational and dimming effects they have on their stars' light emissions. Smaller Earth-sized planets — and particularly ones relatively further away from their star, like Earth — have smaller effects, making them harder for scientists to detect.
So this is a pretty historic day in the history of astronomy, and the history of human civilization. Whether or not the planet contains life at present, at the very least that we have detected a good candidate outside our solar system to visit, and maybe one day colonize. John Aziz
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Thursday floated a new idea for fixing New York City's beleaguered subway system: corporate sponsorship. Speaking at a breakfast for the Association for a Better New York, Cuomo announced a new "adopt-a-subway" program to allow private business to flood individual subway stations with cash, which would then be used to make improvements at those stations.
Joe Lhota, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city's subway system, clarified that it's "very possible" Cuomo's adopt-a-station plan would grant naming rights to the businesses. Businesses could sponsor general subway improvements starting with contributions in the "hundreds of thousands of dollars," Gothamist reports. To sponsor improvements on the individual station level, businesses would need to contribute up to $600,000, depending on the size and location of the station.
— Juliet Papa (@winsjuliet) July 27, 2017
Per Gothamist, Andrew Albert, a non-voting member of the MTA board, said relying on private companies to infuse money for improvements would "run the risk of having improvements only made in specific areas. ... I could name far-flung stations throughout the system that would be a hard sell." Lhota apparently told reporters that details of the adopt-a-station plan were still being finalized.
For die-hard Apple lovers, it's a time of mourning: As of Thursday, the technology company has officially discontinued the iPod Nano and the iPod Shuffle. The music players were the last devices the company offered that were not programmed with iOS, and they are no longer available for purchase on Apple's online store and will soon be phased out of retail stores.
The iPod Shuffle revolutionized the digital music industry in 2005 as the first iPod with faster flash storage and no screen. The iPod Nano debuted later that year, replacing the iPod mini and paving the way for the creation of the iPhone. These products, however, were never updated to support Bluetooth or Apple Music and thus were out of sync with the company's later innovations.
Apple customers should not be too disappointed, however: The company will be slashing the price of the iPod Touch in light of this change. Lucy Friedmann
President Trump on Thursday awarded the Medal of Valor to five officers who responded to the congressional baseball practice shooting on June 14. In a ceremony in the White House's East Room, Trump bestowed the award honoring public safety officers' bravery on Alexandria Police Department Officers Nicole Battaglia, Alexander Jensen, and Kevin Jobe and on Capitol Police Special Agents Crystal Griner and David Bailey.
Griner and Bailey were among those injured after a gunman opened fire on Republican lawmakers gathered for a baseball practice. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), congressional staffer Zach Barth, and lobbyist Matt Mika were also injured; Scalise was discharged from the hospital Tuesday, six weeks after the incident.
A statement from Scalise was read at the ceremony, in which Scalise specifically thanked Griner and Bailey for saving his life. "Everyone who was at the ballpark that morning owes their lives to the selfless and brave actions of these heroes, and I cannot thank them enough," Scalise said in the statement. Becca Stanek
Days after President Trump delivered a highly politicized speech at the Boy Scouts' National Jamboree on Monday night, Boy Scouts of America Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh on Thursday offered a formal apology:
I want to extend my sincere apologies to those in our Scouting family who were offended by the political rhetoric that was inserted into the jamboree. That was never our intent. The invitation for the sitting U.S. president to visit the National Jamboree is a long-standing tradition that has been extended to the leader of our nation that has had a Jamboree during his term since 1937. It is in no way an endorsement of any person, party, or policies. For years, people have called upon us to take a position on political issues, and we have steadfastly remained non-partisan and refused to comment on political matters. We sincerely regret that politics were inserted into the Scouting program. [Michael Surbaugh, via Scouting Wire]
In his speech, Trump criticized Hillary Clinton and former President Barack Obama; jokingly threatened a Republican senator and his Health and Human Services secretary over the ObamaCare repeal; and made a crack about the "fake media" underestimating the size of his "record-setting" crowd. Boy Scouts and their mothers were not pleased.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) plans to vote for Senate Republicans' "skinny repeal" of ObamaCare, but first he wants to be sure the bill won't pass the House. To ensure the bill "isn't a one-way trip to the House," Rounds said he has requested a guarantee that the bill would not pass the House without being brought to conference first, so senators could have another chance to make amendments alongside the House before the bill is finalized. If the bill does pass the House, Rounds asked for at least a delay in its implementation.
Rounds isn't the only GOP senator so far to suggest that a "skinny repeal," which is centered around eliminating ObamaCare's individual mandate, isn't Republicans' actual plan for health-care reform. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) expressed his agreement Thursday with House Freedom Caucus leader Rep. Mark Meadows' (R-N.C.) assessment that "skinny repeal" is just a "vehicle for conference" negotiations between the House and Senate. "Would we send [a 'skinny' bill] to the president? The answer is no," Cornyn quoted Meadows as saying.
When the markets opened Thursday, Microsoft founder Bill Gates lost his standing as the world's richest man. That honor now belongs to Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Amazon shares jumped Thursday morning, pulling up Bezos' net worth by $1.4 billion. As of 12 p.m. ET, Forbes' real-time list of the world's billionaires calculated Bezos has a net worth of $91.4 billion, while Gates' net worth now sits at a mere $90.1 billion.
Aside from Gates and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, Bezos is the third American to top the list since its inception in 1987 and the seventh person to hold the top spot. The New York Times reported that Gates has topped Forbes' list "for 18 out of the last 23 years."
Of course, Gates could always take back the top spot if Microsoft stock picks up from its slight drop, or if Amazon's takes a tumble. But with Amazon potentially on the path to becoming the first-ever trillion-dollar company, it certainly seems Bezos just might give Gates a run for his money. Becca Stanek
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Thursday warned President Trump that there will be serious consequences if he tries to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller without a very good reason. "Any effort to go after Mueller could be the beginning of the end of the Trump presidency, unless Mueller did something wrong," Graham said, noting that right now he has "no reason to believe that Mueller is compromised" and cannot ably lead the investigation into Trump and his team's potential ties to Russia.
Graham also announced that he's working on legislation that would prevent a special counsel from getting axed without "judicial review of the firing." He hopes to introduce it next week with bipartisan support.
Catch a snippet of Graham's interview below. Becca Stanek
Strong words from Graham: "Holy hell to pay" if Trump fires Sessions, and going after Mueller = beginning of the end of Trump's presidency pic.twitter.com/uFbWnFfKTm
— Nolan D. McCaskill (@NolanDMcCaskill) July 27, 2017