An interstellar web? (Original image by B. Torrissen) A speculative but intriguing discussion that sometimes crops up when talking to people engaged in exoplanetary science goes like this; let's suppose that we find an unmistakably terrestrial style planet around a relatively nearby star (less than about 30 light years away), perhaps even around one of the Alpha Centauri members, a touch over four light-years distant...
Who's been munching my galaxy? Right now, all across the planet, millions of people are engaged in a struggle with enormous implications for the very nature of life itself.
Are you my mommy? (RNA Center, UCSC) Well, perhaps your great-to-the-hundred-millionth-grandmother was.Understanding the origins of life and the mechanics of the earliest beginnings of life is as important for the quest to unravel the Earth's biological history as it is for the quest to seek out other life in the universe...
It's full of lenses... When astronomers talk about methods for finding exoplanets the list is relatively short. There is the radial velocity, or 'wobble' technique, which senses the motion of a star around a common center-of-mass with its planets...
As it was, and as it is, an ocean on Earth (T. Fioreze) If there is one thing our universe makes a lot of, it is water. This isn't an immediately obvious property based solely on the universal inventory of stuff...
A data transmission problem? (Wikipedia/BigRiz) Although still awaiting full confirmation, a breaking news report in Science (and Nature , see below) indicates that the measurement of an apparently faster-than-light travel time for muon-neutrinos generated at CERN and detected at the Gran Sasso laboratory - which hit the world headlines back in September 2011 - may have been due to a problematic physical connection between a fiber-optic cable and an electronics card in a computer.The rumor is that when this connection was tightened and the signal timing through the cable re-evaluated it matched precisely the 60 nano-second discrepancy that had been attributed to possible superluminal neutrino speeds...
Nomadic world seeks friendly home (NASA/JPL-Caltech) The notion of what constitutes a typical planetary system has undergone some serious revision in the past twenty years.
A Falcon 9 launches the Dragon spacecraft - which orbited and then reentered the atmosphere to splashdown in the Pacific in December 2010 (SpaceX/Chris Thompson) We live in interesting times...
Satellite composite showing location of Vostok within the Antarctic continent (NASA) Two and a half miles beneath the surface of Antarctica's central Eastern ice sheet is a body of water 160 miles by 30 miles across known as Lake Vostok, after the Vostok research station above it, built by the former Soviet Union in 1957 and now operated by Russia.Even by Antarctic standards it's a brutal place, with the dubious honor of holding the record for the lowest measured temperature anywhere on the planet, a mind-if-not-body numbing -129 F or -89 C...
Bacterial aliens (NASA) A funny thing happened recently on the way to Mars.A few days after the successful launch of NASA's behemoth Curiosity rover with its Mars Science Laboratory instruments on November 26th 2011, a somewhat muted piece of news came out admitting that the strict biological planetary protection rules had not been adhered to quite as everyone expected...
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