Showing posts from February, 2017

NASA telescope reveals largest batch of Earth-size, habitable-zone planets around single star

Source:   NASA RELEASE 17-015 Excerpt:  NASA announced the discovery of the most Earth-sized planets found in the habitable zone of a single star, called TRAPPIST-1. This system of seven rocky worlds–all of them with the potential for water on their surface–is an exciting discovery in the search for life on other worlds. There is the possibility that future study of this unique planetary system could reveal conditions suitable for life....   See also NASA full press conference on discovery of 7 Earth-like exoplanets  (37 min), TRAPPIST-1e Travel Poster , NY Times article - 7 Earth-Size Planets Orbit Dwarf Star, NASA and European Astronomers Say (includes video clip), JPL video - NASA & TRAPPIST-1: A Treasure Trove of Planets Found .

Building blocks of life found on dwarf planet Ceres

Source:   By CBC News, Thomson Reuters Excerpt: A NASA spacecraft has detected carbon-based materials, similar to what may have been the building blocks for life on Earth, on the Texas-sized dwarf planet Ceres that orbits between Mars and Jupiter in the main asteroid belt, scientists said on Thursday. The finding puts Ceres, a rock-and-ice world about 950 kilometres in diameter, on a growing list of places in the solar system of interest to scientists looking for life beyond Earth. The list includes Mars and several ocean-bearing moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The discovery, published in the journal Science, was made by a team of researchers using NASA's Dawn spacecraft, which has been orbiting Ceres for nearly two years. "I think these organic molecules are a long way from microbial life," Dawn lead scientist Christopher Russell of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) wrote in an email to Reuters. "However, this discovery tells us that we n

“Are We Alone in the Universe?” Winston Churchill’s Lost Extraterrestrial Essay Says No

Source:   By Brian Handwerk , Excerpt: Winston Churchill, British prime minister and one of history’s most influential statesmen, was undoubtedly a man with weighty questions on his mind. How best to save the British Empire? he must have mused. What will the postwar world look like? he surely wondered. But the legendary leader also focused his prodigious mind on less pragmatic questions. For instance: Is there life on other planets? In fact, in 1939, Churchill penned a lengthy essay on this very topic, which was never published. Besides displaying a strong grasp of contemporary astrophysics and a scientific mind, he came to a breathtaking conclusion: We are probably not alone in the universe. The long-lost piece of Churchilliana has just floated up to the surface again, thanks to an article written by astrophysicist Mario Livio in this week's edition of the journal Nature analyzing Churchill'

New mosquito trap smart enough to keep just the bad bugs

Source:   By Lauran Neergaard, Associated Press Excerpt: WASHINGTON (AP) — A smart trap for mosquitoes? ...robotic traps were pilot-tested around Houston last summer, they accurately captured particular mosquito species — those capable of spreading the Zika virus and certain other diseases — that health officials wanted to track, researchers reported Thursday. ...[Ethan] Jackson's trap consists of 64 "smart cells," compartments outfitted with an infrared light beam. When an insect crosses the beam, its shadow changes the light intensity in a way that forms almost a fingerprint for that species, Jackson [Microsoft lead researcher] said. [editor's note: this is similar to the transit method of finding exoplanets] Program the trap for the desired species — such as the Aedes aegypti mosquito that is the main Zika threat — and when one flies into a cell, its door snaps closed. In pilot testing in Harris County, Texas, last July and August, the trap was more than 90 pe