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Showing posts with the label exobiology

Oxygen, Alien Life

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We haven't found extraterrestrial life. But we're still finding planets circling other stars. Thousands of them.

Some of those planets couldn't possibly support life as we know it. But some might.

Atomic oxygen may be a good biosignature: evidence of life. That's what some scientists said in a recent paper. If they're right, we may be a step closer to finding life in this universe.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Alien Life: Notions and Research

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Scientists have been discussing alien life for some time: where it could be, what it might be like, and how we could find it.

Quite a few non-scientists have been talking about the same thing.

Some have pretty good grip on what we've been learning since Aristotle got famous and Anaxagoras didn't.

Others have contributed to supermarket tabloid covers. And made informed discussion of extraterrestrial intelligence harder.

Or more interesting, depending on your viewpoint. I see it as a bit of both.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Finding New Worlds

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We could detect oxygen in Proxima Centauri b's atmosphere. It's a biosignature, but not proof of life.

Some extrasolar planets are like Earth, almost. Many are unlike anything in the Solar System.

I'll be looking at recently-discovered worlds; some almost familiar, others wonderfully unexpected. Also an informal 'top 10 best exoplanets' list.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Cassini-Huygens Mission

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The Cassini-Huygens mission ends this week, after 13 years in orbit around Saturn. Scientists found answers to some questions they had, and uncovered new questions.

I think they'll be studying Cassini's and Huygens' data for years. Decades.

I'll take a quick look at what we've learned, and why scientists want follow-up missions to the Saturn system.

The Enceladan subsurface ocean wasn't a complete surprise.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Looking for Life: Enceladus and Gliese 1132 b

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We haven't found life on — or in — Enceladus. But we've found organic compounds in the Saturnian moon's salt-water geysers.

Scientists detected an atmosphere around Gliese 1132 b, a planet about 39 light-years away. It's Earth-like, in terms of size; but too hot for life as we know it. We'll almost certainly learn a great deal, though, by studying its atmosphere....

...Abraham, Moses, and Minnesota
I take the Bible, Sacred Scripture, very seriously. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 101-133)

I don't, however, insist on believing only what I find in the Bible. That's just as well, since I live near the center of North America.

I'm pretty sure that Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Saint Peter, and the rest, didn't know that the land I live on exists. But I'm quite sure that the State of Minnesota is real: even if it's not "Biblical."...

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Mars: Leaky Red Planet

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What we're learning about Mars, and a new type of really small spacecraft, reminded me of earth, air and kilts.

Also pharaohs, Thomas Paine, and Lord Kelvin. By then I was running out of time to write something more tightly-organized.

I figured you might be interested in some of what I have written. On on the other hand, maybe not. So I added links to my ramblings before and after what I said more-or-less about the science news, and figure you can decide what's interesting and what's not.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

TRAPPIST-1: Water? Life??

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TRAPPIST-1's planets may support life: or not. We don't know. Not yet.

We're pretty sure that all seven are rocky worlds, like the Solar System's inner planets.

Three are in the star's habitable zone. The inner two definitely do not have one sort of atmosphere that would make life as we know it impossible.

Even if we don't find life there, we'll learn a great deal while looking.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

SETI: What If?

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Contacting extraterrestrial intelligence, meeting people whose ancestors developed on another world, has been a staple of pulp fiction for generations.

Lately, it's become a matter for serious discussion. I'll be looking at an op-ed's take on how learning that we're not alone might affect folks with various religious beliefs. I'll also share what I expect: and what I don't....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Europa, Mars, and Someday the Stars

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Scientists think they've detected more plumes of water, shooting up from near Europa's south pole. It's early days, but we may have found a comparatively easy way to collect samples from the Jovian moon's subsurface ocean.

Stephen Hawking says humanity needs to keep exploring space. I agree, although not quite for the reasons he gave.

SpaceX tested an engine they plan to use on their Mars transport, and Gaia's data seems to have raised as many questions as it answers.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Philae, Jupiter, and Life

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Scientists spotted Philae, the European Space Agency's spacecraft that crash-landed on 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014: which will help them make sense of data sent back while the probe still functioned.

Other scientists think they’ve worked out where carbon near Earth's surface came from, and the Juno orbiter has been sending pictures of the giant planet.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Proxima Centauri b, Looking for Life

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Looking for extraterrestrial life is still a science in search of a subject, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to argue that there couldn’t be critters out there.

Today I’ll be talking about the search for life in the universe, a possibly-habitable planet circling the next star over, and a planet that couldn’t possibly be habitable.

Make that not habitable by life as we know it. Life using fluorine and carbon as we do hydrogen and carbon, with sulfur as a water-substitute — is a topic for another post....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Studying Thousands of New Worlds

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Scientists studied the atmospheres of two exoplanets, planets orbiting another star, earlier this year. Both planets are roughly Earth-sized, with atmospheres a bit like the Solar System's terrestrial planets.

Juno arrived at Jupiter last month, and will start its science mission in October.

Finally, scientists found more than a thousand new planets; including more than a hundred Earth-sized ones.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Seeking New Worlds, New Life - - -

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Analyzing what we've been learning about other planetary systems, some scientists say that maybe Earth is unusual, after all: maybe.

Other scientists found another maybe-habitable planet less than 14 light-years away. Maybe planets like Earth are common: again, maybe....

...I like living in a world where last year's list of known planetary systems is obsolete. Some folks don't. I'll talk about Copernicus and Sacred Scripture — right after my usual harangue about using our brains....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

SETI: Looking for Neighbors

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Some scientist think globular clusters aren't good places to look for neighbors.

Others took a fresh look at the data, crunched numbers, and pointed out that parts of globular clusters might be better spots for interstellar civilizations that the boonies where we live.

Meanwhile, someone with a lot more money that I'll ever see decided to spend some of it on a systematic search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

On Mars by 2040?

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Robots have orbited Mars, landed there, driven around, taken pictures, and studied Martian rocks.

But humanity's exploration of Mars has been by proxy: Nobody's gotten farther from Earth than Lunar orbit.

That could change before 2040. NASA has worked out a step-by-step plan for getting humans back into deep space: provided that Congress doesn't change its mind.

Even if that happens, my guess is that it wouldn't be long before someone else decides that people should act like humans....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Enceladus and Kepler’s Planets

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Scientists following up on Kepler observations learned that a bit over half of the objects tentatively identified as giant planets are brown dwarfs or stars.

We've also learned that Saturn's moon Enceladus has a vast ocean under its icy surface: with all the ingredients needed for life....

...If you've read my 'science' posts before, you know why I think Earth isn't flat; the universe is billions, not thousands, of years old; poetry isn't science; and thinking is not a sin....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Organics on a Comet, and Earth's Early Magnetism

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Scientists found evidence that Earth's magnetic field is more than a half-billion years older than we'd thought. As usual, that raises more questions.

The European Space Agency's Philae lander detected a "rich array" of organic compounds on Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko 67P, including hydrogen cyanide (HCN). This is a big deal, since much of Earth's water came from comets: and HCN may have helped life begin on our world.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Pluto, Earth 2.0, and Life in the Universe

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Pluto may have nitrogen glaciers, and the planet's air pressure is much lower than scientists expected.

Kepler 452b, "Earth 2.0," isn't the first roughly Earth-size planet found in a star's habitable zone: but the star, Kepler 452, is remarkably similar to our sun.

Another planet, HIP 11915b, is the first we've found that's around Jupiter's size: and orbiting its star at about the same distance as Jupiter. This is the first other planetary system that 'looks like' our Solar system.

Scientists still haven't found life elsewhere in the universe: but the odds seem to be getting better that we will, eventually....

...A 'science threatens faith' op-ed got my attention this week, so I wrote about beliefs, reasonable and otherwise, before getting around to the interesting stuff. Feel free to skip ahead to Pluto's Probable Glaciers, take a walk, or whatever suits your fancy....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Pluto’s ‘Whale,’ Comet 67P’s Sinkholes

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New Horizons is closer to Pluto than it was when I started writing this post, and should send back about 5,000 times as much data as Mariner did in its Mars flyby, 50 years ago. (BBC News)

The ESA's Philae lander 'woke up' last month, but the big news from the Rosetta mission are Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko's sinkholes: and the jets of gas and dust coming from at least some of them.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Alien Worlds, Martian Methane, Looking for Life

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Someone's made a 'top 10' list of "top exoplanet discoveries of 2014," including the first potentially habitable Earth-size world.

Mars had an ocean: billions of years ago. Scientists are piecing together the story of how Mars became the world it is now: and trying to figure out where Martian methane comes from.

Other scientists have discovered another reason to look for life on planets orbiting red dwarf stars: and there's the ongoing discussion of how to define "life."

We're learning more about this universe, and discovering that there's much more to learn.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.