Roxane Gay Shows Interest Again In Writing Batgirl Movie, Bashes Justice League

It seems Roxane Gay desperately wants to write DC Comics’ upcoming Batgirl movie. The Bad Feminist writer recently took to Twitter to express her wish to write the Batgirl movie. She even took a dig at DC Entertainment and Warner Bros.’ 2017 released Justice League movie.

It took real effort to make Justice League this bad. Definitely let me write Batgirl,” Gay’s tweet read.

This isn’t the first time that Gay has shown interest in writing the story for the spinoff movie. After Joss Whedon confirmed that he had stepped down as the film’s writer and director last month, the Difficult Women tweeted saying, “Hey [DC Comics] I can write your ‘Batgirl’ movie, no prob.”

The tweet was noticed by Michele Wells, a Warner Bros. vice president, who responded to Gay’s message asking her to contact on her email address.

Gay is probably not new to working on a comic book project. She wrote the Black Panther spin-off, Black Panther: World of Wakanda, for Marvel Comics in 2016. But, unfortunately, the series got canceled in 2017.

Notably, Joss Whedon exited the Batgirl project as he failed to come up with a compelling story for the film. Whedon admitted that he could not crack the code of what a Batgirl movie should be. After Whedon’s exit, it is even reported that Warner Bros. DC Entertainments’ Batgirl movie might have got postponed as other projects such as The Batman seem to be the studios’ priority.

It is likely that the studio wants to take their own ample time to move forward with The Batman universe character’s solo project. So, they have just decided to keep the film on the back burner for a while as they continue to move forward with other films.

Gay may have to wait for some time to get an official response from the film studio if in case they are interested in having her on board for the Batgirl movie.



A Hungry Black Hole Devoured a Star, and Its ‘Burp’ Reveals How It Chowed Down

Black hole art
An artist’s impression of the material falling into a black hole and the resulting jet it produced.
(Image: © L. Calçada/ESO)

A black hole that’s gobbling down a stellar meal is providing insight into how black holes devour matter and affect the evolution of galaxies. 

Researchers found that the X-ray signal burst caused when a black hole shredded a passing star was repeated in the radio wavelengths nearly two weeks later. The radio echo most likely came from an exodus of highly energetic particles streaming out of the black hole, the researchers said.

In 2014, Las Cumbres Observatory’s All-sky Automated Survey for Supernovae, a collection of robotic telescopes spread across the globe, picked up signals from 300 million light-years away. The event, known as ASASSN-14li, occurred as a star was ripped to shreds after passing too close to a black hole. Multiple telescopes immediately turned to track the tidal disruption flare, a powerful explosion of electromagnetic energy caused by the destruction. After poring through about six months’ worth of data, Dheeraj Pasham, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Sjoert van Velzen, of Johns Hopkins University, found a pattern in the radio wavelength that nearly duplicates the X-ray signal. [No Escape: Dive Into a Black Hole (Infographic)]

“This is telling us the black hole feeding rate is controlling the strength of the jet it produces,” Pasham said in a statement. “A well-fed black hole produces a strong jet, while a malnourished black hole produces a weak jet or no jet at all. This is the first time we’ve seen a jet that’s controlled by a feeding supermassive black hole.”

Not a coincidence

When a star passes too close to a black hole, the enormous mass of the black hole exerts a tidal tug on the star. The forces are so strong that they can stretch and flatten the star, eventually tearing it to pieces. The stellar debris falls toward the black hole, where it is caught in the accretion disk, the collection of material that feeds the black hole. This is what happened in the case of ASASSN-14li.

The feeding process generates enormous energy visible in multiple wavelengths. Flares have been observed around other black holes in optical, ultraviolet, X-ray and radio wavelengths. As ultrahot material in the innermost regions of the accretion disk funnels toward the black hole, it produces X-ray emissions, while material farther out produces optical and ultraviolet emission. The source of radio emissions, however, has remained unknown.

“We know that the radio waves are coming from really energetic electrons that are moving in a magnetic field — that is a well-established process,” Pasham said. “The debate has been, where are these really energetic electrons coming from?”

One possibility is that, in the moments following the stellar explosion, a shock wave moves outward, energizing the plasma particles and causing them to emit radio waves. These radio waves would look dramatically different from the pattern of X-rays created by the infalling stellar material. But the signal Pasham and Van Velzen found in the radio is a 90-percent match with the X-ray signal.

“What we found basically challenges this paradigm,” Pasham said.

The close match suggests that the sources responsible for creating the radio waves and X-rays are related.

“It’s not a coincidence that this is happening,” Pasham said. “Clearly there’s a causal connection between this small region producing X-rays and this big region producing radio waves.”

The pair proposes that the radio waves are created by high-energy particles streaming out of the black hole soon after the behemoth begins to absorb material from the shredded star. Because the radio waves formed in a region tightly packed with other electrons, most of the signal was absorbed by those particles, the researchers said. The electrons responsible for the radio signal could escape only when they traveled downstream of the jet, producing the signal the scientists detected. 

The researchers concluded that the strength of the jet must be controlled by the accretion rate, or the speed at which the black hole is consuming the stellar debris responsible for emitting X-rays.

The new observations, which were published March 19 in The Astrophysical Journal, may help scientists better characterize the physics of jet behavior. This, in turn, may help improve researchers’ understanding of how galaxies evolve.

Galaxies grow by producing new stars, but they can only do so under very cold temperatures. Jets emitted by black holes heat up the surrounding galaxies, temporarily halting stellar births. Pasham said the team’s new insight into jet production and black-hole accretion may help to simplify models of galaxy evolution.

“If the rate at which the black hole is feeding is proportional to the rate at which it’s pumping out energy, and if that really works for every black hole, it’s a simple prescription you can use in simulations of galaxy evolution,” Pasham said. “So this is hinting toward some bigger picture.”

Follow Nola Taylor Redd at @NolaTReddFacebook, or Google+. Follow us at @SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+. Originally published on

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The Alien Planets of TRAPPIST-1 May Be Too Wet for Life

TRAPPIST-1 View: Artist's Illustration
An artist’s illustration of the view from one of the seven planets orbiting the red dwarf TRAPPIST-1, with several other worlds visible closer to the small, dim star.
(Image: © N. Bartmann/

The seven rocky planets circling the nearby star TRAPPIST-1 have lots of water, a new study suggests — perhaps too much to make them good bets for life.

All of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds likely harbor hundreds of Earth oceans’ worth of water on their surfaces, and the wettest ones may have over 1,000 times more of the stuff than our planet does, according to the study.

Surprisingly, this probably isn’t great news for the TRAPPIST-1 system’s life-hosting potential, study team members said. [Meet the 7 Earth-Size Exoplanets of TRAPPIST-1]

“Too much water can be a bad thing,” lead author Cayman Unterborn, a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University, told “The TRAPPIST-1s are interesting, but maybe not for life.”

TRAPPIST-1 is a dim red dwarf star that lies about 39 light-years from Earth. Astronomers discovered three planets circling the star in 2016, and four more were announced a year later. Each of the seven worlds — which are known as TRAPPIST-1b, c, d, e, f, g and h — is about the same size as Earth. And three of the alien worlds (e, f and g) are thought to lie in TRAPPIST-1’s “habitable zone” — that just-right range of distances where liquid water could likely exist on a planet’s surface.

TRAPPIST-1 is about 2,000 times dimmer than the sun, so the red dwarf’s habitable zone is very close-in. Indeed, all seven TRAPPIST-1 planets lie closer to their star than Mercury does to the sun.

This diagram shows illustrations of the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets and compares some of their key characteristics with those of the rocky planets in our own solar system.
This diagram shows illustrations of the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets and compares some of their key characteristics with those of the rocky planets in our own solar system. (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

All of the TRAPPIST-1 planets were discovered via the “transit method“; several different instruments noticed the tiny brightness dips that resulted when the worlds crossed their host star’s face. The magnitude of these dips revealed the sizes of the worlds. And astronomers have been able to estimate the planets’ masses, though not nearly as precisely, by studying how their transits have varied over time. (These variations occur as neighboring planets tug on one another gravitationally.)

With this mass and volume information in hand, Unterborn and his team used computer models to get a better idea of the composition of six of the TRAPPIST-1 worlds. (They didn’t deal with TRAPPIST-1h, the outermost planet, because not enough is known about it.)

This modeling work suggested that there’s a wetness gradient in the TRAPPIST-1 system. The innermost planets, b and c, are probably about 10 percent water by mass, whereas the wet stuff makes up at least 50 percent of the more distant f and g. The middle planets d and e fall somewhere in between.

All of these worlds are sopping wet, even at the low end of the gradient. For comparison, Earth is just 0.2 percent water by mass. Indeed, the TRAPPIST-1 planets are probably “water worlds,” with no land to break the monotony of wind and wave, Unterborn said.

If that is indeed the case, the odds of finding life in the system may not be great.

“With no exposed land, key geochemical cycles including the drawdown of carbon and phosphorus into oceanic reservoirs from continental weathering will be muted, thus limiting the size of the biosphere,” the researchers wrote in the new study, which was published online today (March 19) in the journal Nature Astronomy. “As such, although these planets may be habitable in the classical definition of the presence of surface water, any biosignature observed from this system may not be fully distinguishable from abiotic, purely geochemical sources.”

And all that water might shut down some key geological processes that could help life get a foothold, Unterborn said. For example, rocks in Earth’s mantle often become liquid after moving upward to a zone of lower pressure, where their melting point is lower. But such “decompression melting” may occur rarely, if at all, on the TRAPPIST-1 worlds, because the huge weight of the overlying global oceans jacks up mantle pressures so much.

Without molten rock near the surface, there can be no volcanoes (at least not the kind we’re used to here on Earth). And without volcanoes, heat-trapping gases, such as carbon dioxide, may have a hard time reaching the atmosphere — which means the TRAPPIST-1 planets may have been subjected to a “runaway snowball” effect, Unterborn said. [Gallery: The Strangest Alien Planets]

Planets orbiting red dwarfs face other habitability challenges, many researchers have stressed. For example, if these worlds orbit tightly enough to be in the habitable zone, they’re almost certainly “tidally locked,” meaning they always show the same face to their parent star. So, one side of such planets may be boiling hot while the other is frigid. This problem could be mitigated by the presence of a thick atmosphere, which would circulate heat. But red dwarfs fire off lots of powerful flares, which may quickly strip away the atmospheres of habitable-zone worlds.

Such issues are heavily debated and studied, which isn’t surprising given the prevalence of red dwarfs: About 75 percent of the Milky Way’s stars are red dwarfs, so they likely harbor most of the galaxy’s real estate, habitable or otherwise.

The new study also sheds light on the formation and evolution of the TRAPPIST-1 system. For example, all seven planets currently lie inside the primordial “snow line” — the point beyond which it was cold enough for water to remain frozen when the worlds were taking shape. But the team’s results suggest that planets f, g and h actually formed beyond this boundary and migrated inward over time. Planets b and c, on the other hand, coalesced inside the primordial snow line. (It’s not clear where TRAPPIST-1d and e were born in relation to this line, which the researchers said was likely located somewhere between the newborn worlds c and f.)

Overall, the study indicates that red dwarf systems such as TRAPPIST-1 shouldn’t be thought of as just miniature versions of our own solar system, Unterborn said; their planets may form in slightly different ways, and/or on slightly different timescales.

“Understanding it from a planetary formation and evolution perspective, I think, is — for the public especially — a much more powerful way of selling TRAPPIST-1 than life,” he said. “No one likes being the wet blanket who says, ‘Well, actually, they’re not that great for life.’ But they’re really interesting, and we need to know these things in order to understand the planets that are likely to have life.”

Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook or Google+. Originally published on

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