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  • An artistic representation of the exoplanet K2-18b. (Alex Boersma/) If you could pack a hot air balloon onto an interstellar spaceship and travel 110 light years to a certain planet orbiting a dim star in the constellation Leo, you’d have an experience not entirely unlike ballooning on Earth. The temperature, pressure, and moist air could feel quite pleasant, though you’d need an oxygen mask—and possibly an umbrella. “It could happen that you get rained upon,” says Björn Benneke, an exoplanet researcher at the University of Montreal. Telescopes hunting for flickering, wobbling stars have located more than 4,000 potential exoplanets in recent decades, some of which orbit in the not-too-cold, not-too-hot zone around their host star where water would have a shot at staying liquid. Others have even been found to harbor actual molecules of H2O. The exoplanet K2-18b, however, is the first to check both boxes, according to two studies published this week. Unfortunately, a few other decidedly unearth-like characteristics make K2018b an improbable home for life as we know it. But the discovery represents an important step toward finding planets we might actually consider hospitable. “It’s the closest we have come to detecting some kind of environment similar to the Earth,” says Benneke, who leads one of the two teams studying the planet. Everything scientists know about this alien world comes from the way it interacts with its star. The Kepler mission first spotted the star’s dimming in 2015, and follow-up observations with the Spitzer space telescope confirmed presence of a planet twice as large as Earth in 2017. A different instrument then weighed the planet by measuring the star’s wobble, finding it to be about eight times heavier than Earth. Another three years of observations with the Hubble Space Telescope managed to capture eight more flickers of light,...
  • Reddit today revealed it’s testing its own livestreaming service, called RPAN or Reddit Public Access Network. It’ll be running all week, presumably to see what kind of shows redditors put on before the site rolls it out to everyone. The R/PAN subreddit includes a series of short videos comparing the service to public access TV. The videos, which appeared over the weekend before the official announcement, appeared intentionally vague to tease the coming announcement. It seemed to work, because there’s nothing Reddit likes more than a good mystery to solve. According to the RPAN sub, the feature will be available from 9am to 5pm PT every day this week. According to Alex Le, Reddit’s VP of Product speaking to Wired, no more than 100 streams will be allowed concurrently and they have a cap of 30 mins. Redditors can upvote or downvote broadcasts they like, and Reddit encourages users to explore. Reddit broadcasts can only be done with the rear-facing camera, meaning you won’t be able to broadcast your selfie vlog (or whatever it is kids are doing on Instagram these days). Le implied that the reason Reddit was pursuing this feature was because it’s become the norm for social media sites, and Reddit looks kind of old-fashioned for not having one: “We know that our users are familiar with streaming across their internet experience, because they’re seeing it on other platforms. It’s become an expectation that a platform should offer this.” If your first reaction upon hearing that Reddit is going to have live broadcasting is a cringe of despair, then I share your reservations. Reddit’s interesting variety of communities include several that might be rather perturbing to listen to on a public access broadcast. Still, I kinda want to see who shows up for the party. Redditors from...