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Life, Unbounded

Life, Unbounded


Discussion and news about planets, exoplanets, and astrobiology
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  • Profile

    Caleb A. Scharf Caleb Scharf is the director of Columbia University's multidisciplinary Astrobiology Center. He has worked in the fields of observational cosmology, X-ray astronomy, and more recently exoplanetary science. His latest book is 'Gravity's Engines: How Bubble-Blowing Black Holes Rule Galaxies, Stars, and Life in the Cosmos', and he is working on 'The Copernicus Complex' (both from Scientific American / Farrar, Straus and Giroux.) Follow on Twitter @caleb_scharf.
  • Interstellar Space Can Be Pebbly

    Are there interstellar pebbles here? The red strands of dense interstellar grains seen with the Green Bank raio telescope (Credit: S. Schnee, et al.; B. Saxton, B. Kent (NRAO/AUI/NSF); We acknowledge the use of NASA's SkyView Facility located at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.)

    We’re used to thinking of the space between the stars as void, bereft of all but the most sparsely distributed atoms and molecules, or the occasional microscopic grain of silicon or carbon dust. Even the densest cores of nebula – molecular clouds – only attain average densities of a few million atoms or molecules per [...]

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    The Great Alien Debate (Part 1)

    Sheep.001 crop

    This post is one in a series covering, and expanding on, topics in the book The Copernicus Complex (Scientific American/FSG).           The conversation usually goes like this: Do you think we’re alone in the universe? Answer A) : No, absolutely not. It’s a huge universe, we’re not at the center or [...]

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    New Horizons Mission Catches Pluto And Charon Waltzing

    Pluto and Charon in their orbits, taken July 2014 (Credit: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRI)

    After a ten year journey, NASA’s New Horizons mission is still 420 million kilometers from the Pluto system – but that’s close enough to begin to see the orbital dance of an icy world and its major moon. This far out from the Sun it’s easier for planetary objects to hold onto satellites, so even [...]

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    The Copernicus Complex: A Primer

    Nikolaus_Kopernikus

    In a month’s time, the end result of two-and-a-half years of research, thinking, writing, re-writing, re-re-writing, editing, mulling, puzzling, coffee-drinking, beer-swilling, swearing, and tweaking will hit the shelves in the form of my new book The Copernicus Complex. In the coming weeks I’ll be writing some special pieces here at Life, Unbounded, exploring some of [...]

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    Summer Shorts: A Record 25 Miles on Mars

    A recent traverse map of Opportunity's adventures so far (yellow line) (Credit: L. Crumpler, NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS/NMMNHS)

    It’s summer in the northern hemisphere of a small, damp, planet orbiting a middle-aged star in a spiral galaxy of matter enjoying a brief heyday before colliding with another galaxy in some 4 billion orbits of the same small, damp, planet. Time for some brief stories. In any other circumstances it would be hard to [...]

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    Summer Shorts: 101 Geysers Point To Enceladus’ Deep Ocean

    3D map of 98 geysers across the southern polar region of Enceladus (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute)

    It’s summer in the northern hemisphere of a small, damp, planet orbiting a middle-aged star in a spiral galaxy of matter enjoying a brief heyday before colliding with another galaxy in some 4 billion orbits of the same small, damp, planet. Time for some brief stories. The NASA/ESA Cassini mission to Saturn first spied plumes [...]

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    Summer Shorts: A Cometary Rubber Duck

    Rosetta images of comet nucleus (ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team)

    It’s summer in the northern hemisphere of a small, damp, planet orbiting a middle-aged star in a spiral galaxy of matter enjoying a brief heyday before colliding with another galaxy in some 4 billion orbits of the same small, damp, planet. Time for some brief stories.   ESA’s Rosetta mission, reported on in an earlier [...]

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    Sneaking up on a Sweaty Comet

    (ESA)

    Over the coming month the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosetta mission will fire its main engines no less than eight times to tweak its interplanetary intercept course with Comet Churyumov–Gerasimenko; eventually sidling up to the 4 kilometer wide cometary nucleus at about 7.9 meters per second in early August. At that point, with some gentler [...]

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    The Photons Of Your Life

    Starry Night Over The Rhone (V. van Gogh, public domain)

    An unusual question raises an intriguing idea. At a party a few nights ago a friend approached me with a dilemma. A relative of theirs had died, and the spouse was trying to understand if it was at all possible that there was still ‘something’ of their partner in existence; a tangible part of their [...]

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    Space: A New Hope or an Old Dream?

    (Credit: NASA)

    The release of a long-awaited National Academy of Sciences report on the state and future of the US space program has triggered wide-reaching commentary on what it means to be space-faring. For hundreds of billions of dollars spent over the next 20 years, the report suggests, NASA could get humans (reasonably safely) to Mars. Along [...]

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