We Now Know the Full Extent of Obama’s Disastrous Apathy Toward The Climate Crisis ❧ Current Affairs
Columbia University’s oral history of the Obama presidency consists of interviews with 470 people ranging from administration officials to activists who tried to shape Obama era public policy. It’s the “official” oral history, conducted with funding from the Obama Foundation,…
California’s Renewable-Heavy Grid At Risk Of Blackouts, Needs Diesel Backup
California appears to be presenting the green movement with yet another reality check. Democrat Gov. Gavin Newsom has set forth arguably the country’s most ambitious state-level plan to transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy. However, when California’s almost inevitable…
Comet C/2021 T4 Lemmon is sweeping through southern skies
Renowned British astronomer Guy Ottewell originally published this piece about Comet C/2021 T4 Lemmon on May 25, 2023. Reprinted with permission. Edits by EarthSky.
Comet C/2021 T4 Lemmon
Comet C/2021 T4 Lemmon was discovered on October 7, 2021, on images taken at the Mount Lemmon Observatory, northeast of Tucson in Arizona. T4 means the 4th discovery or recovery in the first half of October.
Mount Lemmon is the highest point of the Santa Catalina Mountains, one of four mountain ranges around Tucson. It’s not to be confused with Catilina, the conspirator who tried to seize power over the Roman republic in 63 BCE. I’m reminded of my speculation that the Navajos may have seen Canopus, the great star of the south, from one of the four sacred peaks surrounding their land. In fact, it’s shown as the cover picture for the Astronomical Calendar 2023.
When discovered, comet C/2021 T4, because of the geometry of its orbit, appeared quite northerly, at declination +12°.
Comet C/2021 T4 Lemmon is a long period comet
In fact, it’s a long-period comet; if it ever previously dropped from its remote home – at 44,000 AU out – to the inner solar system, it would have been millions of years ago. So during its present passage, it’ll feel gravitational perturbations from the planets that will shorten its period to merely thousands of years.
Its orbit is inclined about 20° to the ecliptic plane. However, it’s going in a retrograde direction, or opposite to the direction in which the planets revolve. The result is that it’ll make a very long rapid sweep across our southern sky.
At present the comet is 60° out in the morning sky, southerly (at declination -13°), 1.75 AU from the sun and 2 AU from Earth. However, it’s still at a dim magnitude of about 11. Then, on June 27, 2023, its distance from us will shrink to 1 AU.
On July 18, 2023, we will pass it at opposition. And around this time, it’ll be nearest to us, 0.54 AU, and brightest, perhaps about magnitude 8 or 7 but still below the unaided-eye limit. Its nearness will make it appear even farther south, at declination -56° on July 20.
Then in the following months it will climb north, becoming lower in the evening sky and more distant. At the same time it’ll be dimming by perhaps 2 or 3 magnitudes. It will reach perihelion, 1.48 AU from the sun, on July 31, 2023. Finally, it’ll ascend across the ecliptic on September 10, 2023, and be at conjunction behind and north of the sun on November 9, 2023.
Of course, we must remember that predictions of a comet’s brightness, and the size of their tails, can be unreliable. That’s because they depend on the melting of ice and release of dust in these lumpy spinning objects.
Comet-Hale Bopp still observable? Wow!
By the way, Alan Hale alerted us (Guy Ottewell) to this comet with a Facebook post on May 22. Alan was discoverer of the great comet Hale-Bopp (C/1995 O1). And, despite now being more than 47 AU away, it’s the first on the Minor Planet Center’s list of currently observable comets, not because of its present magnitude (about 20) but because it is the earliest-numbered non-periodic comet still considered observable at all.
Bottom line: Comet C/2021 T4 Lemmon was discovered from Mount Lemmon Observatory in 2021. It’s currently sweeping through the southern skies.
Biggest monster star! And the heaviest stars
The biggest monster star
There are very heavy stars. And there are gigantic stars. In terms of sheer size, the star UY Scuti is – as far as we know – the biggest star known. It’s only about 7 to 10 times the sun’s mass, but has a radius more than 1,700 greater than the sun.
While there is currently no competition for UY Scuti as the largest star, there is uncertainty about which star is the most massive star. All of the contenders are nearly twice as massive as what astronomers thought was possible.
Many sources continue to list R136a1 as the heaviest star known at 250 solar masses. However, a recent study in 2022 puts its mass between 170 and 230 times more massive than our sun. Thus, that enables two other stars to edge it out of the top spot on the massive star list. However, that list is dated 2016 and states that the masses listed on it are uncertain.
So, currently topping the massive star list at 250 solar masses is Westerhout 49-2. However, its mass may vary by as much as 120 solar masses – plus or minus – from that figure.
Another contender for the most massive star is BAT99-98. It’s estimated to be about 226 solar masses. And since its mass isn’t listed with a plus or minus range, it could easily be the most massive star.
Of course, regardless of which one tops the massive star list, all of them are very massive stars!
Read more about these monster stars below …
UY Scuti is just plain big
UY Scuti is located some 9,500 light-years away. And it’s the biggest star known, in terms of sheer physical size. The fact is that – for stars – mass and physical size don’t always go hand in hand. Consider that great mass means stronger gravity. And stronger gravity means a greater inward pull for a star. So being super massive might not correlate to being super big.
UY Scuti has a relatively modest mass. It’s only about 7 to 10 times more massive than our sun. But its radius is about 1,700 times greater than the radius of our sun. That would make this star nearly 8 astronomical units across. That’s eight times 93 million miles (150 million km), the distance between our Earth and sun. So, this single star is so large that its outer surface would extend far beyond the orbit of the planet Jupiter (which lies about five times farther from the sun than Earth).
Or look at it this way. More than a million Earths could fit inside the sun. But some 5 billion suns could fit inside a sphere the size of UY Scuti.
The other big stars
Who are the other candidates for the biggest star? They would include NML Cygni, whose estimated distance is about 5,300 light-years and whose radius is between 1,183 and 2,770 times greater than that of our sun. A recent study of this star suggested that it’s an unusual hypergiant star cocooned within a nebula and severely obscured by dust. So we don’t know its size exactly, and the upper part of the range would make it larger than UY Scuti.
Another hypergiant star is WOH G64, which is in the Large Magellanic Cloud and thus located at about 160,000 light-years from Earth. At an estimated 1,540 times the sun’s radius, this star is thought to be the largest star in the Large Magellanic Cloud in terms of sheer physical size. And, again, we’re talking size here, not mass. This star is only about 25 times the sun’s mass.
The heaviest stars
Currently topping the most massive star list at 250 solar masses is Westerhout 49-2. However, its mass may vary by as much as 120 solar masses – plus or minus – from that figure. It’s located 36,200 light-years away in the constellation of Aquila the Eagle. And it’s over 4 million times more luminous than our sun, with a surface temperature of 63,440 degrees F (35,226 C). However, it’s important to note, it could be a binary star system, so its estimated mass could be from a combination of two stars.
Second on the most massive star list is BAT99-98. It’s located 165,000 light-years distant in the Large Magellanic Cloud near the R136 star cluster. It’s estimated to be about 226 solar masses and is a Wolf-Rayet star. Also, it’s about 5 million times more luminous than our sun with a surface temperature of 80,540 degrees F (44,726 C).
Finally, the former champion, now third on the list, is R136a1. It’s located in the Large Magellanic Cloud at about 163,000 light-years away. R136a1 is what’s known as a Wolf–Rayet star. It has a mass between 170 and 230 times the mass of the sun. Its surface temperature is over 100,000 degrees F (55,538 degrees C). And it’s almost 5 million times more luminous than our sun
In addition to being on the massive star list, all three of these stars are among the most luminous stars.
How the most massive stars form
For decades, theories have suggested that no stars can be born by ordinary processes above 150 solar masses. So how did these stars grow so large? And why aren’t monster stars scattered throughout space?
One idea is that supermassive stars like R136a1 form through mergers of multiple stars. In 2012, astronomers at the University of Bonn suggested that the ultramassive stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud – such as R136a1 – were created when lighter stars in tight double-star systems merged.
Still, double-star systems are common. So why don’t we see more super-sized stars? The astronomers in Bonn say it’s because these stars formed under special conditions in a densely packed star cluster. And in a closely packed star cluster, double stars are more likely to encounter each other and merge.
But if these ultramassive stars form in this way, why don’t we see more of them? After all, multiple star systems are common throughout space, while monster stars are few and far between.
The answer may be that monster stars don’t live very long. They evolve very quickly in contrast to less massive stars like our sun. They end their lives in violent supernova explosions.
Imagine how bright they’d be nearby
As you can see, there are extremely heavy stars … and there are simply gigantic stars. What makes a star big might be its mass or its physical size. And either way, it’s fun to imagine what it would be like to have one of these stars relatively close to us in space … say, the distance to the nearest star system, Alpha Centauri, only four light-years away.
At that distance, any of these stars would blaze in our night sky!
Bottom line: Stars are considered big based on their sheer physical size or their mass. In terms of sheer size, UY Scuti is the biggest known star. As for the most massive, currently Westerhout 49-2 tops the list, but different sources vary on which star they list as most massive.
Global climate change policy still failing women after 50 years
The UN has estimated that about 383 million women and girls lived in extreme poverty at the end of last year. Despite 63 per cent of women aged 25 to 54 being in the global workforce, they still face an…
Astronomers Discover Hundreds of Mysterious Filaments Pointing Towards Our Milky Way’s Massive Black Hole
Astronomers have found hundreds of mysterious filaments pointing towards the Milky Way’s supermassive black hole, which could uncover fresh secrets about the dark abyss at the centre of our galaxy.
The strange horizontal strands are 25,000 light years from Earth and have been likened to spokes spreading out on a wheel.
“It was a surprise to suddenly find a new population of structures that seem to be pointing in the direction of the black hole,” said Professor Farhad Yusef-Zadeh, of Northwestern University.
“I was actually stunned when I saw these. We had to do a lot of work to establish that we weren’t fooling ourselves. And we found that these filaments are not random but appear to be tied to the outflow of our black hole.
“By studying them, we could learn more about the black hole’s spin and accretion disk orientation. It is satisfying when one finds order in a middle of a chaotic field of the nucleus of our galaxy.”
Known as Sagittarius A*, the black hole is a staggering four million times the mass of our Sun.
Positioned radially, the filaments measure less than 10 light years in length and look like the dots and dashes of Morse code, punctuating only one side of Sagittarius A*.
MORE DISCOVERIES: Largest Explosion Ever Seen is Captured by Astronomers: Nothing on this Scale Witnessed Before
The new discoveries are being made possible by enhanced technology, particularly from the South African Radio Astronomy Observatory’s (SARAO) MeerKAT telescope.
To uncover the filaments, estimated to be about six million years old, the researchers used a technique to remove the background and smooth the noise from images to isolate them from surrounding structures.
“The new MeerKAT observations have been a game changer,” said Prof. Yusef-Zadeh, lead author of the paper published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. “The advancement of technology and dedicated observing time have given us new information. It is really a technical achievement from radio astronomers.”
He believes the filaments, pointing radially toward the black hole, appear to be tied to activities in the galactic center.
They appear to emit thermal radiation, accelerating material in a molecular cloud. There are several hundred vertical compared to just a few hundred horizontal.
POPULAR: Mars Rover Discovers Traces of Salt Water on the Red Planet For the First Time
The new discovery is filled with unknowns and work to unravel its mysteries has just begun. For now, he can only consider a plausible explanation about the new population’s mechanisms and origins.
“We think they must have originated with some kind of outflow from an activity that happened a few million years ago.
“It seems to be the result of an interaction of that outflowing material with objects near it. Our work is never complete. We always need to make new observations and continually challenge our ideas and tighten up our analysis.”
CHECK OUT: Scientist Finds Saturn Doing Something Never Seen Before in Our Solar System: ‘Hiding in Plain View for 40 Years’
Black holes are formed when a dying star collapses inward under the pressure of its own weight. The pull of gravity is so strong that even light can’t escape. This is what makes them invisible. This leads to a supernova, a star’s extremely powerful explosion.
Supermassive black holes can be billions the size of our sun and astronomers believe they can be found at the centre of all large galaxies.
POINT YOUR FRIENDS to This Mystery By Sharing on Social Media
EarthSky | Will Betelgeuse explode in tens of years?
Betelgeuse due to explode soon?
Betelgeuse is the nearest red supergiant star to Earth. Distance estimates vary, but it’s probably within 1,000 light-years of Earth … a hop and a skip in galactic terms. Someday, Betelgeuse will explode as a supernova. When it does, it might become as bright as a full moon. It might even be visible in broad daylight! But when will Betelgeuse explode? A decade ago, this question was interesting but academic. The answer was: Maybe today. Maybe a thousand years from now. Few imagined it would be today. But now there’s been a noticeable uptick in the brightening and dimming of Betelgeuse. And a new paper – published this week (June 1, 2023) – suggests not thousands of years but “tens of years” as Betelgeuse’s explosion timescale.
The paper focuses on the concept of stellar nucleosynthesis, the process that enables stars to shine. Inside stars, simple atoms fuse to make more complex atoms, with energy as a by-product. It’s when a star’s nuclear fuel runs out, that a supernova occurs. Arxiv.org, an open-access repository, published the new study on June 1. It’s called The evolutionary stage of Betelgeuse inferred from its pulsation periods. The scientists said:
We conclude that Betelgeuse is … a good candidate for the next galactic supernova.
The first author is Hideyuki Saio from the Astronomical Institute, Graduate School of Science, at Tohoku University in Japan. The Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomy Society has accepted the paper for publication.
It’s got people talking
Let’s be clear. The history of observations of supernovae within our own Milky Way is sketchy. But we’d surely be lucky to see any galactic supernova, much more one as nearby as Betelgeuse, in our lifetimes.
And Betelgeuse exploding in just tens of years? That’s an amazing thought, and has people talking!
But is it realistic?
Tens of years?!
What follows are a couple of tweets that have set off a new round of chatter on Twitter. The first – from Friday, June 2 – points to the “tens of years” scenario.
Yikes – serious scientific evidence that Betelgeuse might explode within “tens” of years.https://t.co/bgRqK9l97u
— Dr Jan Eldridge (@astro_jje) June 2, 2023
An almost 50% brightness increase
A second notable tweet – from @Betelbot on Twitter, which provides daily status reports on the star – is from May 18, 2023. It points to a recent almost 50% brightness increase for the star! Note that Betelgeuse is behind the sun in summer. So, until it emerges before dawn in late summer, we won’t know what it’s doing.
Now at 142% of my usual brightness! #Betelgeuse pic.twitter.com/S7TuFTcjdj
— Betelgeuse Status (@betelbot) May 18, 2023
The background buzz on Betelgeuse
Stars shine because they undergo thermonuclear fusion reactions in their interiors. Simply put, they fuse simple elements (like hydrogen) to create more complex elements (like helium), with energy as the by-product. As massive stars (eight or more solar masses) age, they run out of the simplest fuels, but progressively burn more complex fuels until ultimately their cores are made of iron … and then nuclear burning ceases. At that point, with no more fusion taking place, the high temperatures in a star’s interior drop. And that means the high pressures in the star’s interior drop too. The star begins to collapse on itself. It collapses … then rebounds in a terrific explosion, a supernova.
So, massive stars like Betelgeuse explode as Type II supernovae – collapsing rapidly and exploding violently – after they exhaust their fuel supply.
And so, when a star explodes depends on what’s going on inside the star, on how much fuel it has left, and on how close it is to collapse.
But what’s going on inside Betelgeuse?
The new online study said:
We conclude that Betelgeuse is in the late stage of core carbon burning …
And the carbon burning phase for a massive star like Betelgeuse lasts around 1,000 years. If we are “near the end” of that stage, then Betelgeuse has neared the end of its lifetime and may be about to explode, perhaps even in “tens of years.”
But are there other possibilities? Of course there are.
UniverseToday published a great story on Betelgeuse on Friday, June 2, 2023, that explains some of the science involved with drawing any conclusion about whether Betelgeuse will explode soon. The author pointed out that:
… What hasn’t attracted as much attention is the following part of the paper.
‘In fact, it is not possible to determine the exact evolutionary stage, because surface conditions hardly change in the late stage close to the carbon exhaustion and beyond,’ the researchers write. Astronomers can only see the surface, but it’s what’s happening deep inside the star that tells the tale.
The authors of the paper are really saying that according to observations, data, and modelling, Betelgeuse could explode sooner than thought. But – and this is critical – they don’t know what stage of core carbon-burning the star’s in. Carbon burning could go on for a long time, according to some of the models that fit the data.
So, basically, we’re back to square one. Betelgeuse might explode tomorrow. It might explode in “tens of years.” Or it might explode in a thousand years.
But why did Betelgeuse dim in 2019?
In late 2019, Betelgeuse sparked excitement around the world when it began dimming noticeably. Astronomers now refer to this event as the Great Dimming of Betelgeuse. As it was happening, many believed (and hoped!) the big event – the explosion of this relatively nearby star – was close at hand.
Of course – although Betelgeuse since regained brightness, then dimmed again, now brightened again, and so on – it has not exploded yet.
So why did it dim?
Analyzing data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and several other observatories, astronomers concluded that the bright red supergiant star Betelgeuse quite literally blew its top in 2019. Betelgeuse lost a substantial part of its visible surface and produced a gigantic Surface Mass Ejection (SME). This is something never before seen in a normal star’s behavior.
Our sun routinely blows off parts of its tenuous outer atmosphere, the corona, in an event known as a coronal mass ejection (CME). But the Betelgeuse SME blasted off 400 billion times as much mass as a typical CME!
Read more: Betelgeuse is recovering from blowing its top
So, the Great Dimming of Betelgeuse in 2019 was apparently caused by a cloud of hot gas, expelled by the star, that temporarily blocked some of the star’s light.
Clearly, some game is afoot at Betelgeuse!
Will its supernova destroy Earth?
Whenever Betelgeuse does blow up, our planet Earth is too far away for this explosion to harm, much less destroy, life on Earth. Studies indicate we’d have to be within 160 light-years of a supernova for it to harm us. And Betelgeuse is perhaps four times this distance.
Instead, anyone alive on Earth when Betelgeuse does finally explode will see an amazingly beautiful sight in the night sky – a very, very, very bright star.
And professional astronomers will be happy to have an exploded Betelgeuse so close. They’ll be able to study the star post-supernova.
Meanwhile, amateur astronomers and casual stargazers will enjoy the explosion, too. But the many who enjoy seeing Betelgeuse as Orion’s bright red star will dearly miss it when it’s gone!
Betelgeuse in the night sky
At mid-northern latitudes, around the first of every year, Betelgeuse rises around sunset. The star is prominent on January and February evenings.
By the beginning of March, this star is due south in early evening. By mid-May, it is briefly visible in the west after sunset. Betelgeuse is traveling behind the sun in early summer, but it returns to the east before dawn by about mid- to late July. Certainly, by early August, you can see Betelgeuse in Orion in the east before sunrise, where the constellation is known as the ghost of the summer dawn.
The star Betelgeuse has a distinctive muted orange-red color. It’s ideal for convincing non-believers that stars do, in fact, come in colors.
Stars designated as Alpha are typically brightest in their constellations. But Betelgeuse is Alpha Orionis, despite the fact that it’s fainter than Orion’s other bright star, Rigel.
Betelgeuse is the 10th-brightest star in the sky overall, and it’s the 7th-brightest star visible from most of the U.S., Canada, Europe and the majority of the Northern Hemisphere.
Pop culture, history and mythology
Remember the movie Beetlejuice? This star’s name is similar to that.
The proper names of many bright stars are Arabic in origin. This fact reflects the dominance of Arabic astronomers and astrologers during Europe’s Dark Ages. The name Betelgeuse is derived from an Arabic phrase that is usually translated as The Armpit of the Giant. Of course, the Giant refers to Orion, but – rather than an armpit – some authors see Betelgeuse as representing a hand or sometimes a shoulder. While it is not entirely clear what the name means, Betelgeuse marks the right shoulder of Orion in many old star maps.
In the ancient myths, Orion is most often associated with a giant, a warrior, a hunter, a god or some other anthropomorphic or animal figure, so it is not surprising that most depictions of Betelgeuse have an anatomical connection. The Sanskrit name signified an arm, too, for example, although it likely was really the leg of a stag. In parts of Brazil, Betelgeuse was seen as the hind leg of a caiman (crocodilian) or the foreleg of a turtle. On the other hand, in ancient Japan, Betelgeuse was considered to be part of the rim of a ceremonial drum. In Peru, it was one of four vultures about to devour a criminal.
The position of Betelgeuse is RA 05h 55m 10.3053s, dec +07° 24′ 25.4″.
Bottom line: Betelgeuse is due to explode as a supernova someday, although maybe not soon on a human timescale. When it does explode, it’ll be bright enough from our earthly vantage point to shine during the day. But it’s far enough away that Earth won’t be in any danger.
Source of “tens of years” paper: The evolutionary stage of Betelgeuse inferred from its pulsation periods
Read more: Colors of Betelgeuse in a star collage
High road to Dubai COP28: Here is what to expect at Bonn on climate mitigation
The Mitigation Work Programme can be a constructive space for developing countries to lay out their financing and technologies needs for an equitable energy transition
Countries will gather in Bonn, Germany June 5-15, for the United Nations’s mid-year climate conference (SB58), a precursor to this year’s main climate summit in December — COP28, which will be held in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Mitigation — the act of reducing greenhouse gas emissions so as to prevent further global warming — is a crucial pillar of climate action, covering entire economic sectors from power, industry, and transport, to even forests and land.
Mitigation at COP27
At the 27th Conference of Parties (COP27) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2022, India proposed language on the “phasedown of all fossil fuels”, calling for attention on oil and gas, in addition to coal. And while the European Union and United States seemed onboard with this, major oil and gas producers like Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Russia were not.
The COP27 outcome document instead reiterated previous calls “towards the phasedown of unabated coal power and phase-out of inefficient fossil fuel subsidies” and also called for a just transition to renewable energy.
Outside the negotiations, the First Movers Coalition — a voluntary alliance of companies “using their purchasing power to create early markets for innovative clean technologies across eight hard to abate sectors” and governments — showed progress, growing from 25 to 65 members within a year.
They announced the joining of the cement and concrete sectors to the coalition. The group pledged to purchase at least 10 per cent of near-zero carbon cement and concrete by 2030 and also committed $12 billion to scale up green technologies and cut emissions.
The issue of a “just energy transition” gained traction at COP27 as well, since Indonesia announced at the parallel G20 summit, that it would be a recipient of about $20 billion in starter funding through a Just Energy Partnership (JET-P) deal to reduce its coal dependence.
Everyone’s talking about the (just) energy transition
Since the UK COP Presidency made “coal, cash, cars, and trees” their crude slogan for COP26 in 2021, the discourse has shifted globally.
Developed countries are still calling for higher mitigation ambition from developing countries (which one could argue requires their climate finance commitment to be met). Meanwhile, the focus has shifted to encompass “all fossil fuels” and a just energy transition, rather than phasing out just coal.
This has certainly brought the oil and gas sector into the spotlight. Decarbonising the oil and gas industry is on the agenda of the UAE COP28 Presidency, although Scope 3 emissions — accounting for 78 per cent of emissions from the oil and gas sector — are not ambitiously addressed. A May 2023 report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) put forth a pathway that could lead to 60 per cent reduction in oil and gas emissions by 2030.
On the energy transition, renewable energy is flourishing in many parts of the world, helping the European Union reduce its dependence on Russian piped gas, for example. Clean energy investment has risen faster than fossil fuel investment in recent years, says the IEA.
About $2.8 trillion is set to be invested globally in the energy sector this year, of which more than $1.7 trillion is expected to go to clean technologies — including renewables, electric vehicles, low emission fuels, grids, storage, they add.
Yet this is not distributed equally across the world, with most of the increase in clean energy investment between 2019 and 2023 taking place in China, the US and the EU — amounting to an increase of $435 billion.
Poor and vulnerable countries are not seeing a clean energy boom in line with their needs.
About 97 per cent of South Africa’s $8.5 billion JET-P package comprised of loans. So, the energy transition is underway. But its nature is not exactly “just”. It will take time for progress on this front. These are issues that the UNFCCC mitigation negotiations must spotlight.
The Mitigation Work Programme
At UNFCCC forums, the prominent space to negotiate on mitigation is the ‘work programme for urgently scaling up mitigation ambition and implementation’ (also known as the Mitigation Work Programme or MWP). Established in 2021, it was proposed to address the insufficiency of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC), and bridge the gap by increasing ambition in pledges to cut emissions.
At COP27 in 2022, developing countries emphasised that the programme should not be a replication of the Global Stocktake, and should not set new targets and obligations for developing countries.
It should also be guided by the UNFCCC’s principles of CBDR (common but differentiated responsibility) and equity. Over the past year however, the MWP has shifted from a space viewed with hesitation by developing countries, to one where they can possibly lay out constructive demands for international financing and technology support to accelerate domestic mitigation ambition.
In Bonn this month, the MWP’s co-chairs have announced that “accelerating just energy transition” will be the topic of focus in 2023. Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Down To Earth (DTE) spoke to Lola Vallejo, a co-chair of the MWP.
Deliberations will begin with a Global Dialogue, followed by an Investment-Focused Event. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is clearly setting out what needs to happen at a collective level, but the MWP ought to advance multilateral discussions on the “how” and dive in deeper into countries’ experiences — the good and the bad, Vallejo specified.
“These first events aim to provide a new setup, broadening the participation beyond traditional negotiation circles to make space for the practitioners in charge of the domestic energy transition, civil society experts and financiers,” she said. “They also innovate in terms of facilitating matchmaking to help countries get their projects off the ground or providing space for regional discussions.”
But developing countries face specific barriers which must be brought to the fore. Discussions around the falling costs of renewable energy around the world often neglect the high cost of capital, for example, that makes it unaffordable in many developing countries.
For example, one estimate suggests that unsubsidised solar power costs ~140 per cent more in Ghana than in the US solely because of differentials in cost of capital. According to the IEA, financing costs can be up to seven times higher in emerging and developing economies compared with the US and Europe.
“Financial barriers to the energy transition, including cost of capital, will be discussed in specific breakout groups on the second day of the Global Dialogue, to allow more interaction between participants,” Vallejo said.
“These discussions will be reflected in reports under the MWP, but there is nothing preventing us from connecting the dots with efforts led in other fora — for instance highlighting the IRENA-led work on cost of capital for clean energy for India’s G20 Presidency, or other ideas discussed in the run-up to Summit on a New Global Financial Pact taking place in Paris in June”.
Vallejo outlined three markers of success for the MWP discussions: A shared understanding of the energy transition challenge rooted in the best available science, bringing country practitioners on board to engage more deeply, and demonstrating to developing countries that the MWP can support tangible outcomes in terms of investment.
Road to COP28
While the focus on a just energy transition is a good start to the year’s first major climate negotiation, there is scope for agreements to deviate away from equity considerations once we start discussing pathways, financing packages, and collective goals.
First and foremost, the energy transition itself must be equitable. Many rich countries, who are also historical polluters, have transitioned from coal to natural gas — which is cleaner but is still a fossil fuel. Developed countries must rapidly reduce their use of coal, oil, and natural gas, and also reduce energy demand through efficiency measures and appropriate behaviour change.
Large developing countries like India, South Africa, Vietnam, and Indonesia derive more than 75 per cent of their primary energy from fossil fuels today. It is not easy to transition away from them, especially when energy demand is still growing.
Moreover, these countries have lower per capita energy use than the developed world and must balance their need for economic development with their commitment to reducing emissions.
The challenge is to find a way to accommodate energy needs without compromising development goals or exacerbating climate change. For this, they must domestically create sectoral pathways for decarbonisation, for not just the power sector, but also for hard-to abate industrial sectors and transport. This will enable the creation of clear ‘asks’ or projects where international financing can be demanded and directed.
CSE-DTE support the setting of a global renewable energy target. The developed world needs to take the lead and add vast amounts of RE capacity while simultaneously phasing out fossil fuels.
The developing world cannot sit back — it needs to scale up RE as well, but to make that possible adequate finance and technology support is required from developed countries.
Concessional financing — with as little dependence on debt-creating instruments as possible — is needed to accelerate the transition in developing countries. This will help developing countries reduce fossil dependence, and also cushion their economies from taxation regimes like carbon border taxes that can reduce the competitiveness of commodities made from dirty power.
Thus, rather than primarily placing demands or “sticks” on phasing out coal, JET-P deals must become the “carrot” to grow clean energy infrastructure in the developing world.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Super-Earth and mini-Neptune in synchronized dance
Among exoplanets in our galaxy, super-Earths and mini-Neptunes are two of the most common types. Even though neither exists in our own solar system, astronomers have discovered many in other solar systems. Now, researchers at the University of Liège in Belgium say they have found a pair of these worlds in another solar system 150 light-years away. What makes this system extra interesting, however, is that these two planets are in a synchronous dance around their red dwarf star. The astronomers made the discovery using NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) and ground-based telescopes.
The researchers first published their peer-reviewed findings in Astronomy and Astrophysics on April 12, 2023. The University of Liège announced the discovery on May 25, 2023.
A collaborative discovery
Researchers in Europe and the U.S. collaborated to make the discovery, using data from both TESS and ground-based telescopes. Astrophysicist Francisco J. Pozuelos, the lead author, explained:
TESS is conducting an all-sky survey using the transit method, that is, monitoring the stellar brightness of thousands of stars in the search for a slight dimming, which could be caused by a planet passing between the star and the observer. However, despite its power to detect new worlds, the TESS mission needs support from ground-based telescopes to confirm the planetary nature of the detected signals.
TESS is designed specifically to search for exoplanets, planets orbiting other stars. This includes planets like super-Earths and mini-Neptunes, as well as Earth-sized rocky worlds.
A super-Earth and mini-Neptune
The two planets – TOI-2096 b and TOI-2096 c – are both larger than Earth. TOI-2096 b isn’t much bigger though, with a radius only 1.2 times that of Earth. This makes it a super-Earth, a rocky world larger than our own planet, but smaller than Neptune.
TOI-2096 c, on the other hand, is 1.9 times Earth’s radius. The researchers say that this likely makes it a mini-Neptune. It may have a small rocky and icy core, but it would be enveloped in a deep, thick atmosphere rich in either hydrogen or water. That means it would be similar to the ice giants in our solar system, Uranus and Neptune, but smaller. But these exoplanets also offer a unique look at both super-Earths and mini-Neptunes and how they may have formed. Co-author Mathilde Timmermans said:
These planets are of crucial importance given their sizes. The formation of super-Earths and mini-Neptunes remains a mystery today. Several formation models try to explain it, but none fits the observations perfectly. TOI-2096 is the only system found to date with a super-Earth and a mini-Neptune precisely at the sizes where the models contradict each other. In other words, TOI-2096 may be the system we’ve been looking for to understand how these planetary systems have formed.
Two worlds in a synchronized dance
A super-Earth and mini-Neptune in the same system is interesting on its own. But there’s more. The orbits of the two planets are synchronized with each other.
In the same time that the outer planet completes one orbit, the inner planet completes two. You could say that the planets are in a kind of cosmic dance with each other. Timmermans explained:
Making an exhaustive analysis of the data, we found that the two planets were in resonant orbits: for each orbit of the outer planet, the inner planet orbits the star twice.
Their periods are, therefore, very close to being a multiple of each other, with about 3.12 days for planet b and about 6.38 days for planet c. This is a very particular configuration, and it causes a strong gravitational interaction between the planets. This interaction delays or accelerates the passage of the planets in front of their star and could lead to the measurement of the planetary masses using larger telescopes in the near future.
Super-Earth and mini-Neptune observations with Webb
Luckily, these two planets are well-suited for observations with NASA’s Webb Space Telescope. Pozuelos said:
Furthermore, these planets are among the best in their category to study their possible atmospheres. Thanks to the relative sizes of the planets with respect to the host star, as well as the brightness of the star, we find that this system is one of the best candidates for a detailed study of their atmosphere with the JWST space telescope. We hope to be able to do this quickly by coordinating with other universities and research centers. These studies will help confirm the presence of an atmosphere, extensive or not, around planets b and c, thus giving us clues as to their formation mechanism.
Bottom line: Astronomers say they’ve discovered a super-Earth and mini-Neptune exoplanet system where the orbits of the two worlds are synchronized in a cosmic dance.
Source: A super-Earth and a mini-Neptune near the 2:1 MMR straddling the radius valley around the nearby mid-M dwarf TOI-2096