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Are there forms of life that feast on stars ?

Are there forms of life that feast on stars ? 88

There could be all manner of alien life forms in the universe, from witless bacteria to superintelligent robots. Still, the notion of a starivore—an organism that literally devours stars—may sound a bit crazy, even to a ​seasoned sci-fi fan. And yet, if such creatures do exist, they’re probably lurking in our astronomical data right now.

That’s why philosopher Dr. Clement Vidal, who’s a researcher at the Free University of Brussels, along with Library of Congress Chair in Astrobiology Stephen Dick, futurist John Smart, and nanotech entrepreneur Robert Freitas are soliciting scientific proposals to seek out star-eating life. Vidal, who coined the term starivore in a paper he wrote in 2013, is the first to admit how bizarre it sounds. Yet he insists that some of the most profound scientific discoveries have come about by examining natural processes through a radically different lens.

“Newton did not discover new gravitational bodies: He took a different perspective on a phenomena and discovered new things exist,” Vidal told me. “It might well be that extraterrestrial intelligence is already somewhere in our data. Re-interpreting certain star systems as macroscopic living things is one example.”

Simple forms of life may be strewn all over universe, but if we ever discover intelligent aliens, they’ll probably vastly outstrip us in technology and intellect. It’s impossible to say exactly how a hyper-advanced civilization would live, but one very likely feature—according to the handful of scientists who ponder such matters—is their ability to harness tremendous quantities of energy.

“Our civilization produces minuscule amounts of energy—a trillion times less than the power produced by the sun,” Avi Loeb, chair of Harvard University’s astronomy department, told me. “You can imagine that some advanced civilization would be able to harness the entire energy of its host star. The question is, how would they do it?”

Is star-eating life one possible answer? That may depend on how we actually define life. Vidal’s starivores call for a definition free of our terrestrial biases (that life will require carbon, oxygen, water and so forth). But metabolism—the controlled conversion of matter to energy and expulsion of waste—is, by definition, common to all living organisms. And, it so happens, there are a number of stellar bodies in the universe that display similar behaviors, including certain binary stars.

“Energy flow, a maintenance of an internal organization and an exportation of entropy, all appear to be present in some binary systems,” Vidal writes in his PhD thesis, which was published as a book last year.

Which is to say, what astronomers may have taken to be two massive balls of plasma locked in a gravitational embrace could actually be a very large, very hungry civilization devouring a hapless star.

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Now, not all binary star systems behave even remotely like metabolic systems. Contact binaries vigorously exchange matter and energy, but the process is unstable, while detached binaries don’t appear to exchange matter at all. But in certain semi-detached binary systems, energy flows from one star to another in a controlled manner, while gas is expelled regularly via novae or jets. It’s this latter sort of binary system, Vidal argues, that may be hiding some form of metabolism—perhaps belonging to intelligent life.

Strictly speaking, Vidal’s idea is not entirely new. In the 1953 novel The Star Maker, Olaf Stapledon envisioned an advanced civilization that feeds off the energy of an artificial star, in a binary system constructed to fuel an endless journey through space. Vidal also takes inspiration from Dyson spheres, hypothetical megastructures that encircle stars and soak up nearly all their energy.

But intriguing as it sounds, the notion of advanced life masquerading as a star faces a major hurdle: Some way of empirically proving or disproving the presence of intelligence.

“The difficulty with this idea, like any other idea for advanced intelligence, is in finding signals,” Loeb said. “If we knew what to look for, we would have found it already.”

Vidal agrees. “Obviously, the confirmation or refutation of this idea is over my head. It needs to be a team effort, composed of high energy astrophysicists and astrobiologists.”

Whether any researchers decide to take up the starivore challenge remains to be seen. But it’d be shortsighted to write off the possibility. After all, new searches for life’s techno-signatures—waste heat, industrial pollution and even Dyson spheres—are bubbling forth from the astronomical community.

And if Vidal happens to be right, well, that would pretty much change the way we conceive of the universe. We could have thousands of starivores in our galaxy alone.

Source: Vice.com

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Space

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns

KOI-5Ab, the curious planet that orbits in a system of three suns 102
Photo: (Caltech / R. Hurt (IPAC))

To us, the Sun alone seems perfectly normal, but our solar system is actually a strange exception.

Most stars in the Milky Way galaxy have at least one companion star. In a system 1,800 light-years away, astronomers have finally confirmed the existence of a gas giant planet orbiting stars in a triple star system.

Called KOI-5, the system is located in the constellation Cygnus, and the exoplanet was confirmed ten years after it was first detected by the Kepler space telescope.

In fact, the planet – now known as KOI-5Ab – was discovered by Kepler when it began operations back in 2009.

“KOI-5Ab was dropped because it was difficult and we had thousands of other candidates,” astronomer David Siardi of NASA’s Exoplanet Science Institute said.

“There were lighter dives than the KOI-5Ab, and every day we learned something new from Kepler, so the KOI-5 was almost forgotten.”

Exoplanet hunters tend to avoid the complexities of multi-star systems; of the more than 4,300 exoplanets confirmed to date, less than 10 percent are multi-star systems, although such systems dominate the galaxy. As a result, little is known about the properties of exoplanets in multi-star systems compared to those orbiting a lone star.

After Kepler’s discovery, Chardy and other astronomers used ground-based telescopes such as the Palomar Observatory, Keck Observatory, and the Gemini North Telescope to study the system. By 2014, they had identified two companion stars, KOI-5B and KOI-5C.

Scientists were able to establish that the planet KOI-5Ab, is a gas giant that is about half the mass of Saturn and 7 times the size of Earth, and is in a very close five-day orbit around KOI-5A. KOI-5A and KOI-5B, both of roughly the same mass as the Sun, form a relatively close binary system with an orbital period of about 30 years.

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A third star, KOI-5C, orbits the binary system at a much greater distance, with a period of about 400 years – slightly longer than Pluto’s 248-year orbit.

“By studying this system in more detail, perhaps we can understand how planets are created in the universe.”

The discovery was announced at the 237th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.

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Space

Why the universe does not fit into science

Why the universe does not fit into science 104
Photo: YouTube

Science can be compared to an artist painting what he has never seen, or to a writer describing other people’s travels: objects that he has never seen, places where he has never been. Sometimes such scientific “arts” turn out to be beautiful and interesting, but most of them will forever remain only theories, because they are beyond human capabilities.

In fact, science has the right only to speculate: how our universe appeared, how old it is, how many stars and other objects it contains.

Universe model

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How many stars are there in the sky?

With an unarmed eye, a person can see about nine thousand stars in the sky in one cloudless and moonless night. And armed with binoculars or a telescope, much more – up to several million. However, this is much less than their true number in the universe. Indeed, only in our one galaxy (the Milky Way) there are about 400 billion stars. The exact amount, of course, is not known to science. And the visible universe contains about 170 billion galaxies.

It is worth clarifying that scientists can see the universe 46 billion light years deep in all directions. And the visible (observable) universe includes the space accessible to our eyes from the moment of the Big Explosion. In other words, only this (accessible to human perception) space science refers to our universe. Science does not consider everything that follows.

It is believed that there are supposedly a ceptillion (10 to 24 degrees) stars in our universe. These are theoretical calculations based on the approximate size and age of the universe. The origin of the universe is explained by the Big Bang theory. This is why the universe is constantly expanding and the more time passes, the more complex the universe and its components become.

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It is not entirely correct to consider and perceive this scientific theory “head-on”. Scientists always claim that that explosion was not exactly an explosion, and the point that exploded was not the only one. After all, it was everywhere, because space did not exist then. And in general – everything happened quite differently from what is described in the Big Bang theory, but all other descriptions of the origin of the universe are even more incredible and inaccurate.

Separate but interconnected

That which is beyond the reach of human perception is usually discarded by science, or recognized as non-existent. Recognizing one thing, science does not want to recognize the existence of the other, although everything in our world is interconnected and is not able to exist separately – by itself.

Each object of the universe is a part of it much more than an independent, separate object.

Any person, like any material object of our world, consists of components: organs, cells, molecules, atoms. And each of its constituent parts can represent the whole world. Separate, and at the same time connected with all the others.

However, science, as a rule, perceives all the components of the universe – people, animals, plants, objects, the Earth, the Sun, other planets and stars – as separate subjects, thereby limiting itself.

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Even what is considered the visible universe, one of the atoms of which could be called our solar system, is not subject to the boundaries of human perception. But perhaps the atom is an exaggeration, and our solar system is not even an atom, but one of its elements!

How, being so far from the truth, can one reason about something with the degree of probability with which science tries to reason about the origin of the universe?

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Space

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars

An unexplained wobble shifts the poles of Mars 108

The red planet sways from side to side like a whirligig when it loses speed. The new study allowed scientists to notice that the poles of Mars deviate slightly from the axis of rotation of the planet. On average, they move 10 cm from the center with a period of 200 days.

Such changes are called the Chandler Oscillations  – after the American astronomer Seth Chandler, who discovered them in 1891. Previously, they were only seen on Earth. It is known that the displacement of the poles of rotation of our planet occurs with a period of 433 days, while the amplitude reaches 15 meters. There is no exact answer why this is happening. It is believed that the fluctuations are influenced by processes in the ocean and the Earth’s atmosphere.

Chandler’s wobbles on Mars are equally perplexing. The authors of the study discovered them by comparing data from 18 years of studying the planet. The information was obtained thanks to three spacecraft that orbit the Red Planet: Mars Odyssey, Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and Mars Global Surveyor. 

Since Mars has no oceans, it is likely that the Red Planet’s wobbly rotation is due to changes in atmospheric pressure. This is the first explanation that researchers have shared. In the future, there should be new details about the fluctuations that have so interested the scientific community.

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