Inside The Swiss Discovery Of 50 New Exoplanets Beyond The Milky Way

Talking with the team of Swiss researchers at the Observatory of the University of Geneva, who made the important discovery that will lead to a better understanding of planetary systems outside our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Artist's impression of exoplanets orbiting the Sun-like star Upsilon Andromedae A
Artist's impression of exoplanets orbiting the Sun-like star Upsilon Andromedae A

GENEVA - For Michel Mayor of the University of Geneva Observatory, it was an impressive list of achievements: his team managed to discover no less than 50 new exoplanets orbiting around another star than our sun, thanks to the HARPS spectrometer located at La Silla Observatory in Chile. Sixteen of these planets outside our galaxy are "super-Earths' -- exoplanets that possess masses one to 10 times larger than Earth. The 50 exoplanets swell the ranks of the 604 "other worlds' that have already been discovered.

Why is this discovery important? Francesco Pepe, from the Swiss team, says the bulk of new information can be applied to ongoing studies. "We can now safely say that about half the stars that are similar to our sun are surrounded by at least one super-Earth," Pepe explained.

His colleague Didier Queloz adds: "What we have here is a number of planetary systems that are very compact. Whereas our solar system isn't. And we're trying to understand why."

Resonant planets

With the discovery, Queloz says the so-called Nice model hypothesis is gaining traction. "Jupiter and Saturn, because they were moving ‘in resonance" (ed : in a synchronic way), have played a crucial role -- thanks to their respective masses-- in the way the planets of our solar system are organized today," Queloz says. But as of today, scientists still haven't found a planetary system comparable to ours, nor have they yet discovered any "copy" of Earth, though that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. "There is so much background noise in the data we collect that it would take us years before obtaining anything reliable."

In order to hunt down "other Earths,", scientists will resort to more powerful telescopes, like the E-ELT (European Extremely Large Telescope) that is currently being built in Chile.

Read the original article in French

Photo - Lucianomendez

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What It Means When The Jews Of Germany No Longer Feel Safe

A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.

At a protest against antisemitism in Berlin

Eva Marie Kogel


BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.

Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.

The incident at the cemetery

They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."

There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.

It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.

The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.

Photo of the grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender

Jens Kalaene/dpa/ZUMA

Crimes against Jews are rising

Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.

Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.

Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.

And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?

Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously

This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.

That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.

Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.

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