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Life, Unbounded

Life, Unbounded

Discussion and news about planets, exoplanets, and astrobiology

  • Would You Bet Your Species on

    Would You Bet Your Species on "Earth-Like"?

    By Caleb A. Scharf | July 24, 2015 |

    The announcement of a newly confirmed exoplanet in Kepler data orbiting within its star's 'habitable zone' is great news, but also reinforces some misconceptions about what an Earth-like world means. The NASA press release headline is "NASA’s Kepler Mission Discovers Bigger, Older Cousin to Earth", and this description is spot on. […]

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  • Pluto's Barnacled Beauty

    Pluto's Barnacled Beauty

    By Caleb A. Scharf | July 22, 2015 |

    As data trickles back at kilobytes per second from NASA's New Horizons mission—now speeding deeper into poorly known interplanetary territory—more of Pluto's strange and fascinating surface features are revealing themselves. This latest image, taken at distance of 48,000 miles on July 14, shows a segment of Pluto from the lower left edge of the now famous 'heart' region, or Tombaugh Regio . […]

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  • Good-Bye Pluto, Thanks for Everything

    Good-Bye Pluto, Thanks for Everything

    By Caleb A. Scharf | July 15, 2015 |

    Although we've only just begun to see the scientific return from NASA's New Horizons and its close encounter with the Pluto-Charon system, this has been an unexpectedly profound moment for human exploration. The images returned just 24 hours out from closest approach are already rich with information. […]

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  • A Tale of Interstellar Progress

    A Tale of Interstellar Progress

    By Caleb A. Scharf | July 7, 2015 |

    Occasionally I allow myself a brief foray into writing something fictional. It usually happens in the summer when the northern days are longer and the brain is heated. Here's a short tale originally written several years ago. A lot can happen while you cruise through the depths of interstellar space. […]

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  • Does a Multiverse Fermi Paradox Disprove the Multiverse?

    Does a Multiverse Fermi Paradox Disprove the Multiverse?

    By Caleb A. Scharf | June 23, 2015 |

    Having just orbited our way through another summer solstice, it feels like time to let slip some more speculative ideas before the hot days of the northern hemisphere shorten too much again and rational thinking returns. So, grasping a fruity alcoholic beverage in one hand, consider the following thought experiment. […]

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  • Dissolving Surface May Form Titan's Lakes

    Dissolving Surface May Form Titan's Lakes

    By Caleb A. Scharf | June 22, 2015 |

    Titan's lakes of methane and ethane are some of the most impressive discoveries from the Cassini mission. Although it had long been suspected that Titan could operate a hydrocarbon equivalent of Earth's hydrological cycle (evaporation, condensation, rain-out and accumulation of liquids), it wasn't until Cassini's radar mapping that we knew there were indeed bodies of surface liquid on this distant moon. […]

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  • There's Methane in Them Thar Martian Rocks!

    There's Methane in Them Thar Martian Rocks!

    By Caleb A. Scharf | June 17, 2015 |

    You can be forgiven for not necessarily associating the word "Mars" with the word "methane". After all, one of these is a 700,000,000,000,000,000,000 ton rocky planet circling our parent star. The other is a simple organic molecule that sometimes helps generate the hot water for your tea, or wafts across you when a cow belches in your face...if such things are part of your daily life. […]

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  • The Pluto Punch-Through

    The Pluto Punch-Through

    By Caleb A. Scharf | June 8, 2015 |

    On July 14th 2015 NASA's New Horizons spacecraft finally reaches Pluto. But the encounter is brief. During the span of just a few hours, the mission will punch through the principle plane of the Plutonian system - containing the orbits of its currently identified set of five companion moons . […]

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  • 1,776 Portraits of a Comet

    1,776 Portraits of a Comet

    By Caleb A. Scharf | May 29, 2015 |

    How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Between the 23rd of September and the 21st of November 2014 ESA's Rosetta mission made its closest orbital passes of Comet 67-P/C-G, coming to within 8 km of the surface during and after Philae's plucky landing sequence. […]

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  • Crazy, Wonderful Spacecraft Orbits

    Crazy, Wonderful Spacecraft Orbits

    By Caleb A. Scharf | May 26, 2015 |

    Over the years humans have deployed spacecraft into some wild, wacky and extremely clever orbital configurations to better study the cosmos. From a really long way away, the gravitational field of our solar system -  due to the combined mass of a modest star and an assortment of planets and billions of small chunks - reduces to a near perfect symmetry. […]

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