Tag Archives | Outer Space

ET Is Out There, So Get Ready

In a TED Talk, astronomer and alien hunter Seth Shostak argues that over the next generation, we will probably pick up a signal from intelligent life outside of our solar system. What would it mean? Coming into contact with a more advanced lifeform could give us a window into where humanity is headed, and give us hope that technological advancement doesn't inevitably lead to destruction:
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Lichen Can Survive In Hostile Space Conditions

Humans are ill-equipped for traveling into outer space, but the same isn’t true for other earthly life forms. Should we send funguses to colonize our galaxy, before we go? Via Phenomenica:

In 2008 the European Space Agency sent a suitcase-sized experiment package to the International Space Station filled with organic compounds and living organisms to test their reaction to outer space.

When astronauts venture on a spacewalk, hours are spent preparing protective suits to survive the hostile conditions. However, no effort was made to protect the bacteria, seeds, lichen and algae attached to the outside of the space station.

The samples returned to Earth in 2009. Lichen have proven to be tough cookies – back on Earth, some species continue to grow normally. You can freeze it, thaw it, vacuum dry it and expose it to radiation, but lichen still survive.

Living organisms surviving in open space supports the idea of ‘panspermia’ — life spreading from one planet to another, or even between solar systems.

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Egg-Shaped Globule Inside Meteorite Is ‘Final Proof Of Life On Mars’

globuleJust your daily dose of news on mysterious soft eggs allegedly found inside Mars meteors that crashed into Africa. I’d be afraid to hold it. The Sun writes:

Scientists claim this egg-shaped object is the final proof of life on Mars after finding it inside a meteorite from the Red Planet.

Professor Chandra Wickramasinghe [of Cardiff University] said the globule from the rock named Tissint is rich in carbon and oxygen and insisted they could only have been produced by living organisms. He added that they could not have been caused by contamination when they fell to Earth. PhD student Jamie Wallis, who was working with Dr Wickramasinghe, said: “All the indications are that structures such as we have found are evidence of life on Mars. “The spheres are probably remnants of polysaccharide shells surrounding algal type cells.”

The meteorite was named after the village where it came down in the Sahara desert in Morocco last July.

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NASA Astronauts’ Brain Scans Reveal Serious Deformities

DeMonchaux30Space travel changes you, and not in a good way. If this is the effect of only a couple weeks, it definitely puts a damper on the idea of attempting a ten-year voyage to another galaxy. The Irish Times reports:

Brain scans of Nasa astronauts who have returned to Earth after more than a month in space have revealed potentially serious abnormalities that could jeopardise long-term space missions.

Doctors examined 27 astronauts who had flown long-duration missions and found a pattern of deformities in their eyeballs, optic nerves and pituitary glands that remain unexplained.

Astronauts who had flown on the Space Shuttle and International Space Station reported changes to eyesight, with some seeing worse and others better. Brain scans revealed that seven of the 27 astronauts had a flattening of the back of one or both eyes.

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Distant ‘Water-World’ Planet Confirmed

_58626151_lores-1Will the hazy exoplanet GJ 1214b be the spa-resort getaway of the year 2100? BBC reports:

Astronomers have claimed the existence of a new class of planet: a “water-world” with a thick, steamy atmosphere. The exoplanet GJ 1214b, just 40 light-years away, is a so-called “Super Earth” – bigger than our planet, but smaller than gas giants such as Jupiter.

Observations using the Hubble telescope now seem to confirm that a large fraction of its mass is water. The planet’s high temperatures suggest exotic materials might exist there.

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Presenting Earth 2.0

kepler22b-0Is this where humankind will be living in a couple millenia? In a solar system 600 light years away spins the newly-spotted Kebler 22-b, a rocky planet with oceans covering two-thirds of its surface, and balmy temperatures approximating 70 degrees. The Herald Sun reports on the greatest hope for a replacement Earth:

A newly discovered planet about 600 light years from our little rock has scientists around the world in a spin, with many heralding it as the best chance yet of containing alien life.

The find, announced early last week by NASA, was uncovered by the US space agency’s Kepler spacecraft, launched on a planet-hunting mission in 2009.

The planet, Kepler-22b, is 2.4 times bigger than Earth, orbits a star slightly smaller than our sun and has an average temperature of 22C. It is also closer to its sun-like star, giving it a “year” of 290 days.

What makes this discovery so exciting is that it is the smallest planet right in the middle of what has been dubbed the Goldilocks zone, where it’s not too hot and not too cold to either boil or freeze water, vital for life as we know it.

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DARPA’s Project To Send Humans To Another Star

1960traveltodistantworlds2aThe 100-Year Starship Study is collaboration between NASA and DARPA on the possibility and implications of someday sending a human being on a one-way space mission to distant star. The symbolic hope is that this might occur one century from now. They are not taking volunteers. Via Phenomenica:

Humans have sent probes to planets and asteroids throughout our solar system. But we’ve never come close to propelling a manmade object as far as another star.

But if NASA and DARPA – the agency responsible for some of the early innovations that led to the Internet – have their way, in the next 100 years, a spaceship would stand ready to visit another star.

The two agencies have teamed up on a 1 million-dollar project called the 100-Year Starship Study to begin contemplating technologies and organizational strategies to make the mission happen.

alled the 100-Year Starship Symposium, the public event will run Sept.

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Astronomers Find Planet Made Of Diamond

diamond_planet_pulsarWhat celebrity couple will be first to take a honeymoon on the planet made of solid diamond crystal? Via Wired Science:

An international team of astronomers, led by Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology professor Matthew Bailes, has discovered a planet made of diamond crystals, in our own Milky Way galaxy.

The planet is relatively small at around 60,000 km in diameter (still, it’s five times the size of Earth). But despite its diminutive stature, this crystal space rock has more mass than the solar system’s gas giant Jupiter.

Researchers from institutions in the UK, Australia, Germany, Italy and the USA used a variety of radio telescopes — including the Australian Parkes CSIRO, the Lovell in Cheshire and the Keck in Hawaii — and 200,000 Gigabytes of celestial data to find the nifty diamond-esque planet.

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‘Magnetic Bubbles’ Found Around Solar System Edge

Photo: NASA

A digital image of the newly theorized 'foam zone'.

Is our solar system a ‘cosmic jacuzzi filled with magnetic bubbles’? The outer shield of our solar system was thought to be smooth, like soda gone flat, but new theory believes it may foam-like filled with “bubbles.” From National Geographic:

The edge of the solar system may be a frothy sea of giant magnetic “bubbles,” a new NASA study says.

The new findings may mean that our system’s magnetic barrier—once thought to be a smooth shield—may be letting in more harmful cosmic rays and energetic particles than previously thought.

The new “foam zone” theory is based on a computer model created using data from NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft, both launched in 1977 and currently about 10 billion miles (16 billion kilometers) from Earth.

In 2007 Voyager 1 recorded dramatic dips and rises in the amount of electrons it encountered as the craft traveled through the heliosphere—the “force field” that surrounds the entire solar system and is created by the sun’s magnetic field.

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Astronomers Begin Search For Alien Signals From 86 Earth-Like Planets

398px-KSC_radio_telescopeVia Space.com:

A new survey is under way to search for signs of intelligent extraterrestrial life, but this one has a twist: Instead of listening for alien signals from anywhere in the sky, scientists are aiming radio telescopes at the alien planets most likely to be like our own Earth.

The new search, which began last week, is scanning 86 alien worlds for radio signals that could suggest the presence of an advanced civilization. The extrasolar planets are thought to be the most Earth-like of the 1,235 candidate planets discovered so far by NASA’s prolific Kepler space observatory.

“We’ve picked out the planets with nice temperatures — between zero and 100 degrees Celsius [32 and 212 degrees Fahrenheit] — because they are a lot more likely to harbor life,” said physicist Dan Werthimer of the University of California, Berkeley, in a statement.

This new SETI search is not part of the SETI Institute, which has long served as the Earth’s ears for any signals from intelligent aliens.

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