Tag: SETI (page 1 of 2)

Desperately Seeking ET: Fermi’s Paradox Turns 65 ~ Part 2

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comIntroductionWhy is it so hard to find ET? After 50 years of searching, the SETI project has so far found nothing. In the latest development, on April 14, 2015 Penn State researchers announced that after searching through...

View Article Here   Read More

Desperately Seeking Extraterrestrials ~ Fermi’s Paradox Turns 65 ~ Part 1

Excerpt from huffingtonpost.comIntroduction 65 years ago, in 1950, while having lunch with colleagues Edward Teller and Herbert York, Nobel physicist Enrico Fermi suddenly blurted out, "Where is everybody?" His question is now known as Fermi's p...

View Article Here   Read More

Aliens Might Weigh As Much As Polar Bears And Be Taller Than The Tallest Man Who Ever Lived





Excerpt from huffingtonpost.com

No one really knows whether we're alone or if the universe is brimming with brainy extraterrestrials. But that hasn't stopped scientists from trying to figure out what form intelligent aliens might take. 

And as University of Barcelona cosmologist Dr. Fergus Simpson argues in a new paper, most intelligent alien species would likely exceed 300 kilograms (661 pounds)--with the median body mass "similar to that of a polar bear."

If such a being had human proportions, Simpson told The Huffington Post in an email, it would be taller than Robert Wadlow, who at 8 feet, 11 inches is believed to have been the tallest human who ever lived.

robert wadlowRobert Wadlow (1918-1940), the tallest man who ever lived.


Simpson's paper, which is posted on the online research repository arXiv.org, is chockablock with formidable-looking mathematical equations. But as he explained in the email, his starting point was to consider the relationship between the number of individuals in a population on Earth and the body mass of those individuals:
"Ants easily outnumber us because they are small. Our larger bodies require a much greater energy supply from the local resources, so it would be impossible for us to match the ant population. Now apply this concept to intelligent life across the universe. On average, we should expect physically larger species to have fewer individuals than the smaller species. And, just like with countries, we should expect to be in one of the bigger populations. In other words, we are much more likely to find ourselves to be the ants among intelligent species."

Or, as Newsweek explained Simpson's argument, there are probably more planets with relatively small animals than planets with relatively large animals. It makes sense to assume that Earth is in the former category, so we can assume that humans are probably among the smaller intelligent beings.


What do other scientists make of Simpson's paper?

“I think the average size calculation is reasonable,” Dr. Duncan Forgan, an astrobiologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who wasn't involved in the research, told Newsweek.
But to Dr. Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, Calif., the argument is suspect.

"There is an assumption here that intelligence can come in all (reasonable) sizes, and does so with more or less equal likelihood," Shostak told The Huffington Post in an email. "That may be true, but on Earth bigger has not always been better, at least in the brains department. Dolphins have higher IQs than whales, and crows are smarter than eagles. Octopuses are cleverer than giant squids, and obviously we’re smarter than polar bears."

Ultimately, Shostak said, we can’t know whether "little green men are actually big green men" before we actually make contact.
Until then!

View Article Here   Read More

An Alien Radio Beacon? Possibly Not This Time



An Alien Radio Beacon? Possibly Not This Time.

Excerpt from postpioneer.com


For practically a decade, astronomers have puzzled over strong bursts of radio energy that appear to be hailing from billions of light years away. Recently, we received reports of a new wrinkle to this mystery: The bursts seem to comply with a mathematical...

For practically a decade, astronomers have puzzled over strong bursts of radio energy that appear to be hailing from billions of light years away. Recently, we received reports of a new wrinkle to this mystery: The bursts seem to comply with a mathematical pattern, one that does not line up with something we know about cosmic physics.

And, of course, when we hear “mathematical pattern,” “radio transmission,” and “outer space,” all strung collectively, we straight away jump to our preferred explanation—aliens! (Or, you know, a decaying pulsar star, an unmapped spy satellite, or a cell telephone tower.)

It’s also probable that the pattern doesn’t basically exist.

Because 2007, telescopes have picked up almost a dozen so-known as “fast radio bursts,” pulses that last for mere milliseconds, but erupt with as a great deal power as the sun releases in a month. Where could they be coming from? To come across out, a group of researchers took advantage of a basic principle: That higher frequency radio waves encounter less interference as they traverse space, and are detected by our telescopes earlier than reduce frequency waves. The time delay, or “dispersion measure”, in between larger and reduce frequency radio waves from the very same pulse event can be applied to figure out the distance those waves traveled.

Here’s where things got weird. When researchers calculated the dispersion distance for each and every of eleven rapid radio bursts, they identified that every distance is an integer many of a single number: 187.5. When plotted on a graph, as the researchers show us in Figure 1 of their paper, the points type a striking pattern.

A single explanation is that the bursts are coming from distinctive sources, all at on a regular basis spaced intervals from the Earth, billions of light years away. They could also be brought on by a smaller cosmic object a lot closer to residence, such as a pulsar star, behaving according to some sort of physics we don’t yet understand. And then there’s the possibility that aliens are trying to communicate, by blasting simple numeric patterns into space.

But no matter how you slice it, eleven data points is a tiny sample set to draw any meaningful conclusions from. A handful of deviant observations could bring about the complete pattern to unravel.

And that is precisely what seems to be happening. As Nadia Drake reports for National Geographic, newer observations, not integrated in the most up-to-date scientific report or other well known media articles, don’t fit:

“There are 5 quickly radio bursts to be reported,” says Michael Kramer of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Radioastronomy. “They do not fit the pattern.”
Rather of aliens, unexpected astrophysics, or even Earthly interference, the mysterious mathematical pattern is probably an artifact produced by a little sample size, Ransom says. When working with a limited quantity of data – say, a population of 11 quickly radio bursts – it’s straightforward to draw lines that connect the dots. Usually, on the other hand, these lines disappear when much more dots are added.
“My prediction is that this pattern will be washed out quite immediately after a lot more fast radio bursts are located,” says West Virginia University’s Duncan Lorimer, who reported the very first burst in 2007. “It’s a great instance of how apparently considerable final results can be identified in sparse information sets.”

That is a bit of a bummer, but nevertheless, these radio bursts are fascinating, and what could be causing them remains as a lot of a mystery as ever. It could even nonetheless be aliens, if not an alien beacon. As SETI Institute Director Seth Shostak told me in an e mail:

“If it is a signal, nicely, it is surely NOT a message — except perhaps to say ‘here we are’. There’s not actual bandwidth to it, which suggests these speedy radio bursts can not encode several bits. But there are so many other possibilities, I feel that automatically attributing one thing in the sky that we don’t (at very first) understand to the operate of aliens is … premature!”

If there’s 1 point that is clear in this whole organization, it is that we’ve nonetheless got plenty to discover about the patterns woven into the universe around us.

View Article Here   Read More

Do we really want to know if we’re not alone in the universe?



Frank Drake, the founder of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), at his home in Aptos, Calif. (Ramin Rahimian for The Washington Post)


Excerpt from washingtonpost.com

It was near Green Bank, W.Va., in 1960 that a young radio astronomer named Frank Drake conducted the first extensive search for alien civilizations in deep space. He aimed the 85-foot dish of a radio telescope at two nearby, sun-like stars, tuning to a frequency he thought an alien civilization might use for interstellar communication.

But the stars had nothing to say.

So began SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a form of astronomical inquiry that has captured the imaginations of people around the planet but has so far failed to detect a single “hello.” Pick your explanation: They’re not there; they’re too far away; they’re insular and aloof; they’re zoned out on computer games; they’re watching us in mild bemusement and wondering when we’ll grow up.

Now some SETI researchers are pushing a more aggressive agenda: Instead of just listening, we would transmit messages, targeting newly discovered planets orbiting distant stars. Through “active SETI,” we’d boldly announce our presence and try to get the conversation started.

Naturally, this is controversial, because of . . . well, the Klingons. The bad aliens.

 NASA discovers first Earth-size planet in habitable zone of another star

"NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has discovered the first validated Earth-size planet orbiting in the habitable zone of a distant star, an area where liquid water might exist on its surface. The planet, Kepler-186f, is ten percent larger in size than Earth and orbits its parent star, Kepler-186, every 130 days. The star, located about 500 light-years from Earth, is classified as an M1 dwarf and is half the size and mass of our sun." (NASA Ames Research Center)
“ETI’s reaction to a message from Earth cannot presently be known,” states a petition signed by 28 scientists, researchers and thought leaders, among them SpaceX founder Elon Musk. “We know nothing of ETI’s intentions and capabilities, and it is impossible to predict whether ETI will be benign or hostile.”

This objection is moot, however, according to the proponents of active SETI. They argue that even if there are unfriendlies out there, they already know about us. That’s because “I Love Lucy” and other TV and radio broadcasts are radiating from Earth at the speed of light. Aliens with advanced instruments could also detect our navigational radar beacons and would see that we’ve illuminated our cities.

“We have already sent signals into space that will alert the aliens to our presence with the transmissions and street lighting of the last 70 years,” Seth Shostak, an astronomer at the SETI Institute in California and a supporter of the more aggressive approach, has written. “These emissions cannot be recalled.”

That’s true only to a point, say the critics of active SETI. They argue that unintentional planetary leakage, such as “I Love Lucy,” is omnidirectional and faint, and much harder to detect than an intentional, narrowly focused signal transmitted at a known planet.

View Article Here   Read More

Should Humanity Try to Contact Alien Civilizations?



Some researchers want to use big radio dishes like the 305-meter Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to announce our presence to intelligent aliens.



Excerpt from space.com
by Mike Wall

Is it time to take the search for intelligent aliens to the next level?
For more than half a century, scientists have been scanning the heavens for signals generated by intelligent alien life. They haven't found anything conclusive yet, so some researchers are advocating adding an element called "active SETI" (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) — not just listening, but also beaming out transmissions of our own designed to catch aliens' eyes.

Active SETI "may just be the approach that lets us make contact with life beyond Earth," Douglas Vakoch, director of interstellar message composition at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California, said earlier this month during a panel discussion at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Jose.

Seeking contact


Vakoch envisions using big radio dishes such as the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico to blast powerful, information-laden transmissions at nearby stars, in a series of relatively cheap, small-scale projects.

"Whenever any of the planetary radar folks are doing their asteroid studies, and they have an extra half an hour before or after, there's always a target star readily available that they can shift to without a lot of extra slough time," he said.

The content of any potential active SETI message is a subject of considerable debate. If it were up to astronomer Seth Shostak, Vakoch's SETI Institute colleague, we'd beam the entire Internet out into space.

"It's like sending a lot of hieroglyphics to the 19th century — they [aliens] can figure it out based on the redundancy," Shostak said during the AAAS discussion. "So, I think in terms of messages, we should send everything."

While active SETI could help make humanity's presence known to extrasolar civilizations, the strategy could also aid the more traditional "passive" search for alien intelligence, Shostak added.
"If you're going to run SETI experiments, where you're trying to listen for a putative alien broadcast, it may be very instructive to have to construct a transmitting project," he said. "Because now, you walk a mile in the Klingons' shoes, assuming they have them."

Cause for concern?

But active SETI is a controversial topic. Humanity has been a truly technological civilization for only a few generations; we're less than 60 years removed from launching our first satellite to Earth orbit, for example. So the chances are that any extraterrestrials who pick up our signals would be far more advanced than we are. 

This likelihood makes some researchers nervous, including famed theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking.

"Such advanced aliens would perhaps become nomads, looking to conquer and colonize whatever planets they could reach," Hawking said in 2010 on an episode of "Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking," a TV show that aired on the Discovery Channel. "If so, it makes sense for them to exploit each new planet for material to build more spaceships so they could move on. Who knows what the limits would be?"

Astrophysicist and science fiction author David Brin voiced similar concerns during the AAAS event, saying there's no reason to assume that intelligent aliens would be altruistic.

"This is an area in which discussion is called for," Brin said. "What are the motivations of species that they might carry with them into their advanced forms, that might color their cultures?"

Brin stressed that active SETI shouldn't be done in a piecemeal, ad hoc fashion by small groups of astronomers.

"This is something that should be discussed worldwide, and it should involve our peers in many other specialties, such as history," he said. "The historians would tell us, 'Well, gee, we have some examples of first-contact scenarios between advanced technological civilizations and not-so-advanced technological civilizations.' Gee, how did all of those turn out? Even when they were handled with goodwill, there was still pain."

Out there already

Vakoch and Shostak agreed that international discussion and cooperation are desirable. But Shostak said that achieving any kind of consensus on the topic of active SETI may be difficult. For example, what if polling reveals that 60 percent of people on Earth are in favor of the strategy, while 40 percent are opposed?

"Do we then have license to go ahead and transmit?" Shostak said. "That's the problem, I think, with this whole 'let's have some international discussion' [idea], because I don't know what the decision metric is."

Vakoch and Shostak also said that active SETI isn't as big a leap as it may seem at first glance: Our civilization has been beaming signals out into the universe unintentionally for a century, since the radio was invented.

"The reality is that any civilization that has the ability to travel between the stars can already pick up our accidental radio and TV leakage," Vakoch said. "A civilization just 200 to 300 years more advanced than we are could pick up our leakage radiation at a distance of several hundred light-years. So there are no increased dangers of an alien invasion through active SETI."

But Brin disputed this assertion, saying the so-called "barn door excuse" is a myth.

"It is very difficult for advanced civilizations to have picked us up at our noisiest in the 1980s, when we had all these military radars and these big television antennas," he said.

Shostak countered that a fear of alien invasion, if taken too far, could hamper humanity's expansion throughout the solar system, an effort that will probably require the use of high-powered transmissions between farflung outposts.

"Do you want to hamstring all that activity — not for the weekend, not just shut down the radars next week, or active SETI this year, but shut down humanity forever?" Shostak said. "That's a price I'm not willing to pay."

So the discussion and debate continues — and may continue for quite some time.

"This is the only really important scientific field without any subject matter," Brin said. "It's an area in which opinion rules, and everybody has a very fierce opinion."

View Article Here   Read More

Earth To Aliens: Scientists Want To Send Messages To Extraterrestrial Intelligence Possibly Living On Exoplanets

Excerpt from techtimes.comExtraterrestrial research experts have said that now is the time to contact intelligent life on alien worlds.Leading figures behind the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (Seti), which has been using radio telescop...

View Article Here   Read More

Stephen Hawking warns that attempting to contact aliens could invite disaster

Excerpt from cambridge-news.co.ukWhat is known as Active Seti will be under serious discussion this week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in San Jose, California. Seti spokesman Dr Seth...

View Article Here   Read More

How Would the World Change If We Found Alien Life?







Excerpt from space.com
By by Elizabeth Howell

In 1938, Orson Welles narrated a radio broadcast of "War of the Worlds" as a series of simulated radio bulletins of what was happening in real time as Martians arrived on our home planet. The broadcast is widely remembered for creating public panic, although to what extent is hotly debated today.

Still, the incident serves as an illustration of what could happen when the first life beyond Earth is discovered. While scientists might be excited by the prospect, introducing the public, politicians and interest groups to the idea could take some time.

How extraterrestrial life would change our world view is a research interest of Steven Dick, who just completed a term as the Baruch S. Blumberg NASA/Library of Congress Chair of Astrobiology. The chair is jointly sponsored by the NASA Astrobiology Program and the John W. Kluge Center, at the Library of Congress. 


Dick is a former astronomer and historian at the United States Naval Observatory, a past chief historian for NASA, and has published several books concerning the discovery of life beyond Earth. To Dick, even the discovery of microbes would be a profound shift for science.

"If we found microbes, it would have an effect on science, especially biology, by universalizing biology," he said. "We only have one case of biology on Earth. It's all related. It's all DNA-based. If we found an independent example on Mars or Europa, we have a chance of forming a universal biology."

Dick points out that even the possibilities of extraterrestrial fossils could change our viewpoints, such as the ongoing discussion of ALH84001, a Martian meteorite found in Antarctica that erupted into public consciousness in 1996 after a Science article said structures inside of it could be linked to biological activity. The conclusion, which is still debated today, led to congressional hearings.

"I've done a book about discovery in astronomy, and it's an extended process," Dick pointed out. "It's not like you point your telescope and say, 'Oh, I made a discovery.' It's always an extended process: You have to detect something, you have to interpret it, and it takes a long time to understand it. As for extraterrestrial life, the Mars rock showed it could take an extended period of years to understand it."


ALH84001 Meteorite
The ALH84001 meteorite, which in a 1996 Science publication was speculated to be host to what could be ancient Martian fossils. That finding is still under dispute today.

Mayan decipherments

In his year at the Library of Congress, Dick spent time searching for historical examples (as well as historical analogies) of how humanity might deal with first contact with an extraterrestrial civilization. History shows that contact with new cultures can go in vastly different directions.

Hernan Cortes' treatment of the Aztecs is often cited as an example of how wrong first contact can go. But there were other efforts that were a little more mutually beneficial, although the outcomes were never perfect. Fur traders in Canada in the 1800s worked closely with Native Americans, for example, and the Chinese treasure fleet of the 15th Century successfully brought its home culture far beyond its borders, perhaps even to East Africa.

Even when both sides were trying hard to make communication work, there were barriers, noted Dick.

"The Jesuits had contact with Native Americans," he pointed out. "Certain concepts were difficult, like when they tried to get across the ideas of the soul and immortality."



A second look by the Mars Global Surveyor at the so-called Viking “Face on Mars” in Cydonia revealed a more ordinary-looking hill, showing that science is an extended process of discovery.


Indirect contact by way of radio communications through the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), also illustrates the challenges of transmitting information across cultures. There is historical precedence for this, such as when Greek knowledge passed west through Arab translators in the 12th Century. This shows that it is possible for ideas to be revived, even from dead cultures, he said.

It's also quite possible that the language we receive across these indirect communications would be foreign to us. Even though mathematics is often cited as a universal language, Dick said there are actually two schools of thought. One theory is that there is, indeed, one kind of mathematics that is based on a Platonic idea, and the other theory is that mathematics is a construction of the culture that you are in. 

"There will be a decipherment process. It might be more like the Mayan decipherments," Dick said.


The ethics of contact

As Dick came to a greater understanding about the potential c impact of extraterrestrial intelligence, he invited other scholars to present their findings along with him. Dick chaired a two-day NASA/Library of Congress Astrobiology Symposium called "Preparing for Discovery," which was intended to address the impact of finding any kind of life beyond Earth, whether microbial or some kind of intelligent, multicellular life form.

The symposium participants discussed how to move beyond human-centered views of defining life, how to understand the philosophical and theological problems a discovery would bring, and how to help the public understand the implications of a discovery.

"There is also the question of what I call astro-ethics," Dick said. "How do you treat alien life? How do you treat it differently, ranging from microbes to intelligence? So we had a philosopher at our symposium talking about the moral status of non-human organisms, talking in relation to animals on Earth and what their status is in relation to us."

Dick plans to collect the lectures in a book for publication next year, but he also spent his time at the library gathering materials for a second book about how discovering life beyond Earth will revolutionize our thinking.

"It's very farsighted for NASA to fund a position like this," Dick added. "They have all their programs in astrobiology, they fund the scientists, but here they fund somebody to think about what the implications might be. It's a good idea to do this, to foresee what might happen before it occurs."

View Article Here   Read More

The Higgs Boson and the Fate of the Universe ~ Joseph Lykken ~ SETI Talks

The Large Hadron ColliderClick to zoom

View Article Here   Read More

The Best Bet for Alien Life May Be in Planetary Systems Very Different From Ours




Excerpt from wired.com


In the hunt for extraterrestrial life, scientists started by searching for a world orbiting a star just like the sun. After all, the steady warmth of that glowing yellow ball in the sky makes life on Earth possible.

But as astronomers continue to discover thousands of planets, they’re realizing that if (or when) we find signs of extraterrestrial life, chances are good that those aliens will orbit a star quite different from the sun—one that’s redder, cooler, and at a fraction of the sun’s size and mass. So in the quest for otherworldly life, many astronomers have set their sights on these small stars, known as red dwarfs or M dwarfs.

At first, planet-hunting astronomers didn’t care so much about M dwarfs. After the first planet outside the solar system was discovered in 1995, scientists began hunting for a true Earth twin: a rocky planet like Earth with an orbit like ours around a sun-like star. Indeed, the search for that kind of system drove astronomers through most of the 2000s, says astronomer Phil Muirhead of Boston University.

But then astronomers realized that it might be technically easier to find planets around M dwarfs. Detecting another planet is really hard, and scientists rely on two main methods. In the first, they look for a drop in a star’s brightness when a planet passes in front of it. In the second, astronomers measure the slight wobble of a star, caused by the gentle gravitational tug of an orbiting planet. With both of these techniques, the signal is stronger and easier to detect for a planet orbiting an M dwarf. A planet around an M dwarf also orbits more frequently, increasing the chances that astronomers will spot it.

M dwarfs got a big boost from the Kepler space telescope, which launched in 2008. By staring at small patch of the sky, the telescope searches for suddenly dimming stars when a planet passes in front of them. In doing so, the spacecraft discovered a glut of planets—more than 1,000 at the latest count—it found a lot of planets around M dwarfs. “Kepler changed everything,” Muirhead said. Because M-dwarf systems are easier to find, the bounty of such planets is at least partly due to a selection effect. But, as Muirhead points out, Kepler is also designed to find Earth-sized planets around sun-like stars, and the numbers so far suggest that M-dwarfs may offer the best odds for finding life.

“By sheer luck you would be more likely to find a potentially habitable planet around an M dwarf than a star like the sun,” said astronomer Courtney Dressing of Harvard. She led an analysis to estimate how many Earth-sized planets—which she defined as those with radii ranging from one to one-and-a-half times Earth’s radius—orbit M dwarfs in the habitable zone, the region around the star where liquid water can exist on the planet’s surface. According to her latest calculations, one in four M dwarfs hosts such a planet.

That’s higher than the estimated number of Earth-sized planets around a sun-like star, she says. For example, an analysis by astronomer Erik Petigura of UC Berkeley suggests that fewer than 10 percent of sun-like stars have a planet with a radius between one and two times that of Earth’s.

This illustration shows Kepler-186f, the first rocky planet found in a star's habitable zone. Its star is an M dwarf.
This illustration shows Kepler-186f, the first rocky planet found in a star’s habitable zone. Its star is an M dwarf. NASA Ames/SETI Institute/JPL-Caltech


M dwarfs have another thing going for them. They’re the most common star in the galaxy, comprising an estimated 75 percent of the Milky Way’s hundreds of billions of stars. If Dressing’s estimates are right, then our galaxy could be teeming with 100 billion Earth-sized planets in their stars’ habitable zones.

To be sure, these estimates have lots of limitations. They depend on what you mean by the habitable zone, which isn’t well defined. Generally, the habitable zone is where it’s not too hot or too cold for liquid water to exist. But there are countless considerations, such as how well a planet’s atmosphere can retain water. With a more generous definition that widens the habitable zone, Petigura’s numbers for Earth-sized planets around a sun-like star go up to 22 percent or more. Likewise, Dressing’s numbers could also go up.
Astronomers were initially skeptical of M-dwarf systems because they thought a planet couldn’t be habitable near this kind of star. For one, M dwarfs are more active, especially during within the first billion years of its life. They may bombard a planet with life-killing ultraviolet radiation. They can spew powerful stellar flares that would strip a planet of its atmosphere.

And because a planet will tend to orbit close to an M dwarf, the star’s gravity can alter the planet’s rotation around its axis. When such a planet is tidally locked, as such a scenario is called, part of the planet may see eternal daylight while another part sees eternal night. The bright side would be fried while the dark side would freeze—hardly a hospitable situation for life.

But none of these are settled issues, and some studies suggest they may not be as big of a problem as previously thought, says astronomer Aomawa Shields of UCLA. For example, habitability may depend on specific types and frequency of flares, which aren’t well understood yet. Computer models have also shown that an atmosphere can help distribute heat, preventing the dark side of a planet from freezing over.

View Article Here   Read More

Kepler Space Telescope Finds More Earth-like Planets ~ Learn how to join the search


 


Excerpt from
waaytv.com

NASA's Kepler Space Telescope has been hunting the cosmos for exoplanets since March of 2009.  In its nearly five years of searching the stars, it has found thousands of possible candidates.  Scientists recently verified the thousandth planet Kepler had found, and even more exciting, they announced that Kepler had found three more Earth-like planets.
Those three planets bring Kepler's Earth-like planet count to a total of eight.  In order to qualify as "Earth-like," these exoplanets must be less than twice the size of the Earth and orbit their own sun within the habitable zone.  This "Goldilocks zone" is a belt in solar systems where it's neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist.

"Each result from the planet-hunting Kepler mission's treasure trove of data takes us another step closer to answering the question of whether we are alone in the Universe," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington. “The Kepler team and its science community continue to produce impressive results with the data from this venerable explorer."

The Kepler team has also found super-Earths and gas giants like Jupiter around other stars.  NASA artists compiled retro-style travel posters from three discovered planets.
Kepler finds planets by watching distant stars for fluctuation in light.  If the light hitting the telescope drops dramatically and then returns to normal levels, chances are a planet came in between the star and Kepler.  Scientists can analyze the data and light filtered by the candidate planet's atmosphere to make guesses at the size, mass and composition.

"With each new discovery of these small, possibly rocky worlds, our confidence strengthens in the determination of the true frequency of planets like Earth," said co-author Doug Caldwell, SETI Institute Kepler scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. "The day is on the horizon when we’ll know how common temperate, rocky planets like Earth are.”

The space telescope actually has two crippled stabilizing gyros.  But instead of giving up on the mission, engineers are using pressure from photons emitted by the sun to stabilize the telescope.  The first space telescope looking for alien worlds is literally balancing on a sunbeam to continue its mission, and that's not science fiction, that's science fact.

Citizen scientists can also participate in the mission.  The website PlanetHunters.org contains catalogs of data from K1, the original Kepler mission, and K2, the extended mission making use of the sun to balance the telescope.  The K2 data has been sorted through, but Planet Hunters still needs help sifting through the K1 data.
The website's instructions read:

"As the planet passes in front of (or transits) a star, it blocks out a small amount of the star’s light, making the star appear a little bit dimmer. You’re looking for points on the light curve that appear lower than the rest. When you spot a potential transit, mark each one on the light curve."

View Article Here   Read More

Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God



Excerpt from  wsj.com
By Eric Metaxas


The odds of life existing on another planet grow ever longer. Intelligent design, anyone?


In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.
Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.
With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.
What happened? As our knowledge of the universe increased, it became clear that there were far more factors necessary for life than Sagan supposed. His two parameters grew to 10 and then 20 and then 50, and so the number of potentially life-supporting planets decreased accordingly. The number dropped to a few thousand planets and kept on plummeting.
Even SETI proponents acknowledged the problem. Peter Schenkel wrote in a 2006 piece for Skeptical Inquirer magazine: “In light of new findings and insights, it seems appropriate to put excessive euphoria to rest . . . . We should quietly admit that the early estimates . . . may no longer be tenable.”
As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.
Today there are more than 200 known parameters necessary for a planet to support life—every single one of which must be perfectly met, or the whole thing falls apart. Without a massive planet like Jupiter nearby, whose gravity will draw away asteroids, a thousand times as many would hit Earth’s surface. The odds against life in the universe are simply astonishing.
Yet here we are, not only existing, but talking about existing. What can account for it? Can every one of those many parameters have been perfect by accident? At what point is it fair to admit that science suggests that we cannot be the result of random forces? Doesn’t assuming that an intelligence created these perfect conditions require far less faith than believing that a life-sustaining Earth just happened to beat the inconceivable odds to come into being?
There’s more. The fine-tuning necessary for life to exist on a planet is nothing compared with the fine-tuning required for the universe to exist at all. For example, astrophysicists now know that the values of the four fundamental forces—gravity, the electromagnetic force, and the “strong” and “weak” nuclear forces—were determined less than one millionth of a second after the big bang. Alter any one value and the universe could not exist. For instance, if the ratio between the nuclear strong force and the electromagnetic force had been off by the tiniest fraction of the tiniest fraction—by even one part in 100,000,000,000,000,000—then no stars could have ever formed at all. Feel free to gulp.
Multiply that single parameter by all the other necessary conditions, and the odds against the universe existing are so heart-stoppingly astronomical that the notion that it all “just happened” defies common sense. It would be like tossing a coin and having it come up heads 10 quintillion times in a row. Really?
Fred Hoyle, the astronomer who coined the term “big bang,” said that his atheism was “greatly shaken” at these developments. He later wrote that “a common-sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with the physics, as well as with chemistry and biology . . . . The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question.”
Theoretical physicist Paul Davies has said that “the appearance of design is overwhelming” and Oxford professor Dr. John Lennox has said “the more we get to know about our universe, the more the hypothesis that there is a Creator . . . gains in credibility as the best explanation of why we are here.”
The greatest miracle of all time, without any close seconds, is the universe. It is the miracle of all miracles, one that ineluctably points with the combined brightness of every star to something—or Someone—beyond itself.

Mr. Metaxas is the author, most recently, of “Miracles: What They Are, Why They Happen, and How They Can Change Your Life” ( Dutton Adult, 2014).

View Article Here   Read More

Older posts

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
International License
.
unless otherwise marked.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy



Up ↑