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The Universe Is Really Big, People

Just 30 years ago, we had not discovered a single planet outside our solar system. Now we know of more than 3,000 of them, and we know nearly every star in the night sky has at least one planet in its orbit. “Even people who are not terribly interested in science know that we’ve found that planets are as common as fire hydrants — they’re everywhere,” says Seth Shostak, the senior astronomer at the SETI Institute. “One in five or one in six might be a planet similar to the Earth.”

That doesn’t mean we’ll ever find an exact replica of Earth, but maybe we don’t have to. Our study of other planets and moons in the solar system shows us many worlds possess the ingredientsnecessary for life — an atmosphere, organic compounds, liquid water, and other necessities. (The moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn, for example, feature whole subsurface oceans.)

And even though these places are extremely harsh environments, that doesn’t mean as much as we might once have thought it did; recent discoveries on Earth itself demonstrate that life is much tougher than we thought. We’ve found organisms in blisteringly hot geysers in Yellowstone National Park, in the darkest crevices under the most ungodly pressures in the deep ocean, in dry hellscapes like the Atacama Desert in Chile (an analogue for Mars).

These “extremophiles” don’t need a warm and fuzzy paradise to call home — in fact, they have already evolved to live in environments as harsh as those on other planets. Some, like tardigrades, can even survive the bleak vacuum of space itself. If there’s life in most of those places, “it’s going to be pond scum,” says Shostak. “But it’s alien pond scum. It shows that biology is all over.”

And where there’s biology, there may well be intelligence, and our increasing understanding of evolution also tells us life can evolve faster than we ever anticipated. Millions of years is a long time for us, but it’s the blink of an eye on the cosmic scale. Blink too fast, and you’ll miss that pond scum turning into an intelligent civilization sending out messages every which way, looking for friends.

And we’re now at the point where we could one day find those messages and send a reply. New technology gives us a better chance to actually make contact with extraterrestrials. Our radio telescopes can scan more of the night sky for an intelligent message than ever before. Our optical telescopes and observatories can peer farther into space and look for new planets, moons, and perhaps even signs of something altogether artificial (see “Tabby’s Star”).

Our ability to parse volumes of data in mere seconds means we could conceivably survey much of the galaxy in just a few decades. That’s why, in the past few years, Shostak has continually bet a cup of coffee with everyone he knows that humans will find aliens by around 2029. “We’d have to be dead above the neck if we weren’t interested in this,” says Penelope Boston, the director of the NASA Astrobiology Institute. —Neel Patel

Source www.locklip.com

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Space

India Blew up a Satellite. Now A “Space Fence” Is Tracking Its Debris

Explosive Demonstration

Last month, India demonstrated its capabilities as a spacefaring nation and drew international criticism when it used a missile to blew up one of its own satellites.

The launch happened to coincide with Lockheed Martin’s test run of a new space monitoring technology called the Space Fence, which can detect and track any unregistered objects orbiting the Earth. According to Space News, that was a stroke of luck that could mitigate damage to people and equipment in space.

Picket Fence

The satellite explosion essentially turned the satellite into a cloud of space debris, which could in the future collide with other satellites, scientific instruments, or astronauts in orbit around the Earth — remember “Gravity”?

“We happened to be up during an endurance test and we were very excited to see that the system performed nominally,” Matthew Hughes, Lockheed Martin business development manager, told Space News. “Space fence is all about the ability to identify break ups, maneuvers, closely spaced objects, proximity operations, new foreign launches.”

While Space Fence isn’t an actual blockade in space, it can at least help officials prepare for and plan around collisions.

READ MORE: Indian anti-satellite test proves early test for Space Fence [Space News]

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Gateway to HEAVEN? NASA Hubble Telescope finds amazing cross structure at centre of galaxy

AN incredible image of what appears to be a cross at the centre of the galaxy has sparked theories it’s the gateway to heaven.

The image was first released by the space agency in June 1992 – according to hubblesite.org – but has just reemerged on conspiracy website Disclose.tv.

FINDING: This cross structure has sparked theories of a gateway to heaven (Pic: NASA)

According to hubblesite.org, which first published the image, the cross is due to “absorption by dust and marks the exact position of a black hole”.

It is also 1,100 light-years away from Earth, the website reveals.

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It writes: “The darkest bar may be an edge-on dust ring which is 100 light-years in diameter.

“The edge-on torus not only hides the black hole and accretion disk from being viewed directly from Earth, but also determines the axis of a jet of high-speed plasma and confines radiation from the accretion disk to a pair of oppositely directed cones of light, which ionize gas caught in their beam.

DISCOVERY: The cross structure was found by NASA’s Hubble Telescope

“The second bar of the “X” could be a second disk seen edge on, or possibly rotating gas and dust in MS1 intersecting with the jets and ionization cones.”

The incredible find has sparked claims it could prove the existence of heaven.

One commenter wrote on Disclose.tv: “Wow I guess I’ve been wrong all these years!

“This is surely a sign that God exists and he is showing us that heaven resides with the very centre of our galaxy.”

Another wrote: “Interesting. I’d say X marks the spot, but it does look like a crucifix. In fact, it looks like a figure hanging off of a crucifix…”

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Second Interstellar Meteor Discovered and This One Hit the Earth

Move over, ‘Oumuamua … there’s a new interstellar object in town. Well, there was, according to Abraham (Avi) Loeb, the astronomer who will be forever linked to ‘Oumuamua because of his theory that the cigar-shaped, not-of-this-solar-system object might actually be artificially made – in other words, an interstellar spaceship or solar sail. Despite some ridicule, Harvard didn’t fire the chair of its Astronomy Department and Loeb went back to work … and has now discovered his own interstellar object which predates ‘Oumuamua. Avi, can you give this one a name that’s easier to spell and pronounce?

“I was very surprised. I didn’t expect that. I thought we will not see anything. But in retrospect, like any discovery, you say, Oh yeah, of course. How could I be so foolish not to look for that in the first place?”

“That” is — or was – a meteor that was reported over Manus Island in Papua New Guinea on January 8, 2014. In a paper that has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Loeb and Harvard undergraduate student Amir Siraj describe how they found the report while reviewing the Center for Near-Earth Object Studies’ catalog of meteor events for objects that had two key ingredients indicating they might be from another galaxy – speed and trajectory.

“We know the motion of the Earth [and] we correct for it—for the gravity of Earth, gravity of the sun, gravity of all the planets.”

Loeb told National Geographic that he and Siraj searched through 30 years of data and found one meteor that had the right combination of both. The meteor was traveling at almost 37 miles per second (134,200 mph or 216,000 km/h) when it disintegrated over Manus Island. That’s too fast to have been slingshot at Earth by a tight loop around the Sun or Jupiter or another planet in the way NASA gives space probes a boost in velocity, which means it was probably fired at us by another star. While there are no pictures of this meteor, the data in the CNEOS catalog indicated an unusual trajectory that, when coupled with its speed, indicated this was most likely an interstellar object that arrived three years before ‘Oumuamua.

“If we identified such a thing in real time, we could take a spectrum and figure out the composition.”

Unfortunately, this one burned up in the atmosphere due to its size — three feet across and weighing about 1,100 pounds. And no, it wasn’t cigar-shaped, so Loeb doesn’t think it was a spaceship. However, it could still have been carrying life forms.

“You can imagine that if these meteors were ejected from the habitable zone of a star, they could help transfer life from one planetary system to another.”

Panspermia! Loeb thinks most of these interstellar objects are much smaller than ‘Oumuamua (1 km long) and will disintegrate before impacting, but much could be learned by beefing up the NEO detection system to catch more of them as they burn up in the atmosphere so their spectrums can be analyzed for mineral content.

That’s not as exciting as finding an alien spaceship, but Avi Loeb seems well on his way to becoming the go-to astronomer for interstellar objects.

Source: Mysterious Universe

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