First Potentially Habitable Earth-Like Planet Found Orbiting Nearby Star

After observing Gliese 581 (a red dwarf star 20 light years from Earth) for more than a decade via Hawaii's Keck Observatory, a research team comprised of members from UC Santa Cruz and the Carnegie Institution of Washington have finally hit pay dirt. By using a technique called Doppler spectroscopy, the team has discovered a planet (GJ 581g) that is "squarely in the middle of the habitable zone of the star", a minimum of 3.1 times the mass of Earth and most likely rocky.

A somewhat awkward (albeit informative) press release can be seen here.

The immediate implications of this discovery are that potentially habitable planets (i.e., Earth-sized, rocky and orbiting within a star's habitable zone) are likely to be abundant throughout the universe. With extrasolar planet detection in its infancy, and with a relatively small sample already yielding a return, such an assumption seems sound.

At any rate, the Kepler Mission will soon give us an even better idea of how many potentially habitable planets might actually exist.

Posted by The Author | at 11:59 AM | 0 comments

Sci Fi Science: First Contact

Airing tonight on The Science Channel, Sci Fi Science's host, Dr. Michio Kaku explores the possibility of communication with extraterrestrials.

For those unfamiliar with the program, Sci Fi Science is a half hour TV show that looks at the science behind science fiction.

Posted by The Author | at 9:07 AM | 0 comments

NASA Teleconference to Reveal New Information Regarding Outer Solar System

Starting Wednesday, Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. EDT, NASA will stream a live teleconference discussing recent finds of the Interstellar Boundary Explorer (IBEX) spacecraft.

The IBEX mission studies the structure of our heliosphere and how it interacts with what is known as the local interstellar medium, a detailed diagram of which can be seen here.

Posted by The Author | at 12:47 PM | 0 comments

Watch for Falling Rocks...

Distance from Impact: 3.22 km.
Projectile diameter: 9.14 meters.
Projectile Density: 3000 kg/m.
Impact Velocity: 25.80 km per second.

The projectile begins to breakup at an altitude of 60,700 meters.
The projectile bursts into a cloud of fragments at an altitude of 33,500 meters.

The air blast will arrive approximately 1.7 minutes after impact.
Sound Intensity: 21 dB (Easily Heard).

The Earth is not strongly disturbed by the impact and loses negligible mass.
The impact does not shift the Earth's orbit noticeably.

These are just a few of the calculated results of an impact that I created using the Earth Impact Effects Program. If it sounds complicated, don't worry, it's not. The website form is both easy to understand and to use, requiring very few inputs and having built-in presets to assist you in creating an impact scenario.

From the actual website:

Welcome to the Earth Impact Effects Program: an easy-to-use, interactive web site for estimating the regional environmental consequences of an impact on Earth. This program will estimate the ejecta distribution, ground shaking, atmospheric blast wave, and thermal effects of an impact as well as the size of the crater produced.

Please enter values in the boxes below to describe your impact event of choice and your distance away. Then click "Calculate Effects" to learn about the environmental consequences.

Posted by The Author | at 11:00 AM | 0 comments

Soyuz TMA-18 Lands Safely

After being delayed due to a sensor problem on the Poisk module that prevented the docking interface from working properly, Expedition 24 crew members finally managed to leave the ISS, undock and descend back to Earth.

Video of the Soyuz landing can be seen here.

Posted by The Author | at 10:12 AM | 0 comments

Sept 24: Astronaut/Cosmonaut Landing Rescheduled for Tonight

After being waived off yesterday due to the failure of a docking mechanism on the Poisk module, TMA-18 undocking is now set to proceed tonight at 10:02 p.m. EDT.

Live coverage will begin at 6:15 p.m. EDT (on NASA TV) with the closing of the Soyuz hatch. Further details can be found here.

Posted by The Author | at 9:00 AM | 0 comments

Sept 23: Space Station Astronauts/Cosmonauts Returning Home Tonight

Three members of Expedition 24 (Alexander Skvortsov, Mikhail Kornienko and Tracy Caldwell Dyson) will be leaving the ISS tonight and are scheduled to land in Kazakhstan on Sept 24 at 12:55 a.m. EDT.

Having launched on April 2, 2010, all three have been in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) for nearly six months.

As of 6:56 p.m. EDT, the hatch to the Soyuz has been reported closed and preparations for undocking are currently underway.

Undocking itself is scheduled for 9:35 p.m. and can be seen live, along with full event coverage on NASA TV.

UPDATE: As of 7:15 p.m. EDT, hatch closure problems on the ISS side are being reported. Leak checks underway to verify effective seal.

UPDATE (2): As of 9:35 p.m. EDT, undocking has been delayed due to non-operational hooks on the Poisk module of the ISS. 

Posted by The Author | at 4:03 PM | 0 comments

Jupiter Closest to Earth Since 1963

Jupiter is currently on it's closest approach to Earth in decades, and as a result appears as an extremely bright "star" in the eastern sky. And with a little luck you might get to see Uranus as well, in the same field of view as Jupiter.

An example of this (taken without a telescope) can be seen here.

Posted by The Author | at 1:25 PM | 0 comments