Tag Archives: Space

Could We Find Aliens By Looking For Their Pollution?

0721CD6E-1627-4C96-A674-42F994286E72_w748_r1_sAccording to some of the astrophysicists at Harvard, there could be a slightly easier way to find aliens out there in the black. We could simply look for pollution similar to our own.

Al Gore is constantly reminding us (for the better!) to watch humanity’s output of chlorofluorocarbons, aka CFCs, but it could be these CFC’s that show us a planet harboring complex alien life much like our own out in the universe.

CFC’s are ozone-depleteing pollutants that both stick around for tens of thousands of years and is almost entirely man-made. Therefore if there is life out there that is anything like us they would be likely be creating pollutants like us.

In a few years, NASA is launching the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). This amazing new telescope will be able to capture starlight filtering through atmospheres of exoplanets. Using this ability, scientists can compare the spectrum of light from the planets before and after it goes through the atmosphere therefor detecting the type of gases being admitted and whether there is pollution like we have on earth.

Typically, scientists search for signs of oxygen when they are looking for planets with life, but by searching for CFC’s and signs of pollution they could find something closer to intelligent life and not just planets with planets and bacteria like organisms.

However, this is all based on assuming that aliens would be as destructive on their planet as we have been on ours.

What Are These Strange Radio Bursts From Space?

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You probably don’t remember but way back in 2007, astronomers in Australia detected a strong burst of radio waves coming from somewhere. The burst was short and sweet but they never discovered the source. Now, 14 years later, astronomers have detected another similar spurt of waves. Unfortunately, they still have no ides where these are coming from.

It’s probably aliens, right?

Initially, the first burst, now being (FRB’s for fast radio bursts), in 2007 ended up being considered a fluke of some sort, likely interference from cosmic noise. However, with a second occurrence, astronomers think they can rule out any interference. The say these waves “”show every sign of having come from far outside our galaxy.”

Regrettably, since there have been only two FRB’s so far, not much research can happen. Astronomers really need more to figure out what is causing them. But that doesn’t mean this isn’t big for the astronomy and science community.

Laura Spitler, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Germany, says,

We really have no handle on what they are. Scientists are highly skeptical of such discoveries … [that] all of the bursts up until now had been discovered by the Parkes telescope was a cause of concern. Now, with the discovery of a burst from Arecibo, we are more confident that FRBs are astrophysical phenomena, and discovering and classifying them should be a priority of radio astronomical observatories in the future.

For now let’s hold out hope that we might get aliens.

The Moon’s Internet Connection is (likely) Faster than Yours

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I think most people wish they had faster internet speed. Hell, Comcast being the jerks they are keep throttling mine every time I get within a days of the month’s end. Anyway, our problems could be solved once those moon colonies get up and running. Researchers recently sent Wi-Fi to the moon and found out the connection is very likely faster than anything you have ever connected to before.

NASA and MIT used four 6-inch diameter telescopes to beam pulses of infrared light to a satellite circling the Moon while scientists established a solid connection with a speed of 19 Mbps down.

 

In case you were wondering, 19 Mbps is faster than the United States national average. Insert frowny face here.

The ISS-to-Moon connection is even more intense at an incredible 622 Mbps down.

I think Richard Branson needs to be a bit more proactive at using his crazy rich guy money to build moon colonies.

NASA Discovers the Darkest Shadows in the Galaxy

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NASA and the University of Zurich announced this week that they have discovered what they believe to be the darkest spots in the galaxy outside of a black hole’s event horizon.

The shadows or dark spots are formed by clumps of extremely dense gas clouds. The spots were first observed using the Spitzer Space Telescope. They are part of a much larger cloud of gas and elemental particles that will eventually condense into O-type stars, which are among the brightest and biggest in the observable universe.

A NASA press release said,

The dusty cloud, the results suggest, will likely evolve into one of the most massive young clusters of stars in our galaxy. The densest clumps will blossom into the cluster’s biggest, most powerful stars, called O-type stars, the formation of which has long puzzled scientists. These hulking stars have major impacts on their local stellar environments while also helping to create the heavy elements needed for life.

Science Made the Most In-Depth Universe Simulation Ever

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Prepare to feel tiny and very insignificant. Researchers just published finding from the first ultra-realistic simulation of our universe’s growth and not surprisingly it spans about 13 billion years. And in case you wanted to try this at home, it would take your desktop more than 2,000 years to complete the simulation.

The project was led by Mark Vogelsberger at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. To create the simulation the researchers created a system called Illustris that simulates a cube-shaped chunk of the universe 350 million light-years long on each side. As the simulation progresses, it uses 12 billion 3D pixels to show the evolution of both normal and dark matter.

Vogelsberger said,

“Until now, no single simulation was able to reproduce the universe on both large and small scales simultaneously.”

The mind blowing system that is Illustris took five years to develop and requires 8,000 CPUs running 3 months’ worth of calculation to fully finalize.

Even though we can use telescopes like the Hubble to show what far away galaxies look like millions of years ago, Illustris lets researchers see what galaxies might have looked like at various points in time.

“Illustris is like a time machine. We can go forward and backward in time. We can pause the simulation and zoom into a single galaxy or galaxy cluster to see what’s really going on,”says co-author Shy Genel.

Watch the video below and visit this website for my images and videos from Illustris.

NASA Wants to Send Plant Life to Mars in 2020

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NASA has decided that it is almost time we have life on Mars. The Ames Research Center has proposed sending plant life to the red dusty planet with the next Mars rover mission.

The proposal is aptly named the Mars Plant Experiment (MPX). It aims to see how Earth plant life would handle the planet’s lower gravity and higher radiation levels. The plan is to convert a clear CubeSat box into a greenhouse of sorts that would be filled with Earth air and about 200 seeds for the Arabidopsis plant. The modified box would sit on top of the rover which will also serve to keep it watered.

“In order to do a long-term, sustainable base on Mars, you would want to be able to establish that plants can at least grow on Mars,” said Heather Smith, the deputy principal investigator for MPX. “We would go from this simple experiment to the greenhouses on Mars for a sustainable base.” She added—although possibly incorrectly, as far as we know—that the plant “also would be the first multicellular organism to grow, live and die on another planet.”

The proposal has not yet been approved. The next Mars rover is scheduled to depart in 2020 while landing in 2021. Currently, NASA is considering at least 58 different instrument proposals while the Curiosity is only carrying 10 instruments, so it is a pretty competitive program.

Check Out the Milky Way’s Magnetic Fingerprint

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Above you can see the first ever all-sky observation of polarized light emitted by interstellar dust in the Milky Way. It represents the galaxy’s magnetic fingerprint.

The data was acquired by the ESA’s Planck satellite. The European Space Agency explains why polarization—the phenomenon whereby electromagnetic fields vibrate preferentially in certain directions—is so useful:

In space, the light emitted by stars, gas and dust can also be polarised in various ways. By measuring the amount of polarisation in this light, astronomers can study the physical processes that caused the polarisation. In particular, polarisation may reveal the existence and properties of magnetic fields in the medium light has travelled through…

Even though the tiny dust grains are very cold, they do emit light but at very long wavelengths – from the infrared to the microwave domain. If the grains are not symmetrical, more of that light comes out vibrating parallel to the longest axis of the grain, making the light polarised.

Hubble Photos Capture Formation of Planetary Systems

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Researchers have revealed two images of planetary systems forming around their home stars using a new image processing technique. According to NASA, the images are “two treasures that were hiding in the Hubble archives.”

The forming planetary systems were discovered by a team led by Rémi Soummer—from the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland.  Initially the stars were captured by the Hubble’s Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer in 1999 and 2006.

The space agency says that “when Hubble first viewed the stars no disks were detected.” Soummer and his team used “improvements in image processing, including algorithms used for face-recognition software”to analyze the images again, obtaining these pictures of the disk, which you can see reinterpreted by an artist at the bottom.

You can see more pictures below:

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Meet Kepler-186f: The Closest Earth-Like Planet Ever Discovered

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An artist’s concept of Kepler-186f. (NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech)

We may finally have hope when it comes time to leave our home planet of Earth because we have destroyed it somehow. 500 light years away sits a planet that is the closest relative to the Earth that researchers have discovered.

According to NASA scientists, the planet known as Kepler-186f, is roughly the same size as Earth and resides in the habitable zone of another zone. The habitable zone is basically a Goldilocks zone. Just right. Not too hot like our Mercury and Venus and not too cold like our Neptune.

“It’s no longer in the realm of science fiction,” said Elisa Quintana, a researcher at the SETI Institute. 

The NASA scientists also explained that even though Kepler-186f is similar to Earth, there are very distinct differences. The body has a redder wavelength of light which would cause the vegetation to be in hues or yellow and orange rather than green.

“It’s perhaps more like Earth’s cousin than Earth’s twin,” said Tom Barclay, a NASA researcher who spoke about the finding in conference call with reporters.

Kepler-186f is about 10 percent larger than Earth and it orbits a sun that is cooler, dimmer, and about half the size of our own. The effects of gravity would be “slightly” more apparent there, so “you would feel heavier,” Meadows said.

Also the planet has a shorter year than we do, orbiting its star once every 130 days. On Earth, of course, we take 365 days to make it around the sun. But who knows, the year on Kepler could change. Scientists believe that circa 380 million years ago, there were 410 days in an Earth year.

The actual makeup of the Kepler is currently unknown, but given its size and other characteristics, they think it’s a rocky combo like Earth.

While I am sure that scientists are just dying to launch an expedition to Kepler-186f, the first step will be attempting to characterize the planet’s atmosphere, beginning with determining that it even has one.