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15 Potentially Habitable Planets Discovered by Amateur Astronomers | Wired Science | Wired.com

15 Potentially Habitable Planets Discovered by Amateur Astronomers | Wired Science | Wired.com | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
Volunteers from the Planethunters website have identified 15 new habitable planet candidates amongst data collected by Nasa's Kepler spacecraft.
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The Final Frontier
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Panspermia - could alien life forms have landed on Earth and evolved into life as we know it?

Panspermia - could alien life forms have landed on Earth and evolved into life as we know it? | The Cosmos | Scoop.it

We know a lot about the history of life on Earth, but how it began is still one of our greatest scientific mysteries. One hypothesis is that life actually originated on another planet, and many scientists today take the idea quite seriously. Though it sounds like the plot from recent scifi movie Prometheus, it's an old idea that even the celebrated nineteenth century physicist Lord Kelvin and Nobel winning geneticist Francis Crick have advocated. That's right — the evolution of life might have its beginnings on another planet.

 

Over 120 years ago, Kelvin shocked the British scientific community in a speech about what he called "panspermia," where he suggested that life might have come from planets smashing into each other and sending bits of life hurtling through space. He and a few colleagues had hit upon this notion after observing the massive 1880 eruption of a volcano on Krakatoa. To be more precise, they observed the aftermath of the volcano, which completely sterilized the island. No life was left at all. But then, within months, seedlings began to sprout and life took hold again.

 

Cal Tech geologist Joe Kirschvink has suggested that Mars is a likely origin for life in the solar system because it would have been habitable long before Earth was. 4 billion years ago, when Earth was still a roiling cauldron of methane and magma, Mars was a stable, cool planet covered in vast oceans. It would have been the perfect place for microbial life to take hold. But how did that life make it all the way from the seas of Mars to the seas of Earth? Most likely, meteorites crashing into Mars would send fragments of the planet's surface back into space — packed with millions of microbes. In fact, around the time that Mars might have been developing life, the solar system was undergoing what astronomers call the "late heavy bombardment," a time of countless intense meteorite strikes.

 

Purdue geologist Melosh, who has spent most of his career studying meteorite impacts, has actually done experiments where he and a team recreated what might have happened when meteorites slammed into Mars billions of years ago, sending ejecta out of the atmosphere and eventually all the way to Earth. This process is sometimes called "ballistic panspermia," or "lithopanspermia," because it depends on rocks being ejected into space. To recreate one part of this process in their experiments, Melosh and his team shot a bacteria-covered rock with an aluminum projectile moving at 5.4 km per second, and the shattered chunks flew over a kilometer. The bacteria survived the trauma of what Melosh and his team called "extremes of compressional shock, heating, and acceleration. A lot of the microbe species actually die, but a lot also survive in a dormant state. In space, their journey would take possibly millions of years. But it's as if atmospheres are almost designed for this transfer of life. The meteorite comes from Mars, full of microbes protected from radiation by the rock. It enters Earth's atmosphere, and as it comes in at high speed the outside melts because of friction and gets hot, but the inside is protected just like a spacecraft capsule. The microbes inside are protected. Then the aerodynamic forces in the lower atmosphere fracture the meteorite, exposing the interior."

 

A big question is why scientists are entertaining this idea at all? NASA planetary scientist Chris McKay offered a terrific, point-by-point explanation of why panspermia is, as he put it, "a valid scientific hypothesis" worth taking seriously:

 

1. The geological evidence for the earliest life on Earth is very early, soon after the end of the late bombardment. There is good evidence for life on Earth at 3.5 billion years ago, indirect evidence at 3.8 billion. The end of the late heavy bombardment is 3.8 billion years ago.

 

2. The genetic evidence indicates that the last universal common ancestor (LUCA) of life could have been roughly 3.5 billion years ago (but with large uncertainties) and that LUCA was a fairly sophisticated life form in terms of metabolic and genetic capabilities. 1 and 2 together give the impression that life appeared on Earth soon after the formation of suitable environments and it appears to have come in being remarkably developed - like Athena born fully formed from the head of Zeus.

 

3. Rocks from Mars have traveled to Earth and the internal temperatures experienced in these rocks during this trip would not have sterilized the interiors. Thus in principle life can be carried from Mars to Earth.

 

4. Mars did not suffer the large Moon-forming impact that would have been detrimental to the early development of life on Earth. 3 and 4 have lead to the suggestion that Mars would have been a better place for life to start in the early Solar System and it could have then been carried to Earth via meteorites.

 

5. Organic molecules are widespread in comets, asteroids, and the interstellar medium.

 

6. Comets could have supported subsurface liquid water environments soon after their formation due to internal heating by decay of radioactive aluminum.

 

7. As comets move past the Earth they shed dust which settles into Earth's atmosphere. 5, 6 and 7 have lead to the suggestion that life could have started in the interstellar medium or in small bodies such as comets and then been carried to the Earth by comet dust.

 

So, yes panspermia is a valid scientific hypotheses and warrants further investigation.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Massive asteroid will buzz by Earth in early February, risk of impact in 2020 | The Space Reporter

Massive asteroid will buzz by Earth in early February, risk of impact in 2020 | The Space Reporter | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
A massive asteroid will buzz past Earth, according to NASA.
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Canada's First Dedicated Military Satellite set for Launch - SpaceRef Canada

Canada's First Dedicated Military Satellite set for Launch - SpaceRef Canada | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
RT @CanadaInSpace Canada's First Dedicated Military Satellite set for Launch http://t.co/YZACHY20 #MilSpace #CanSpace
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Spaceflight Now | Mars rover and future astronaut craft in parade

Spaceflight Now | Mars rover and future astronaut craft in parade | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
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Gigantic Comet ISON will shine brighter than the full moon, according to new analysis | The Space Reporter

Gigantic Comet ISON will shine brighter than the full moon, according to new analysis | The Space Reporter | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
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Help Wanted: Astronauts Needed for Mars Colony | Wired Science | Wired.com

Help Wanted: Astronauts Needed for Mars Colony | Wired Science | Wired.com | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
Mars One, a nonprofit organization based in the Netherlands, intends to establish a human settlement on Mars in 2023. Anyone on planet Earth can apply if they meet the basic requirements. But obviously, the job isn't for just anyone.
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15 Potentially Habitable Planets Discovered by Amateur Astronomers | Wired Science | Wired.com

15 Potentially Habitable Planets Discovered by Amateur Astronomers | Wired Science | Wired.com | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
Volunteers from the Planethunters website have identified 15 new habitable planet candidates amongst data collected by Nasa's Kepler spacecraft.
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WATCH: Comet May Give 'Once-In-A-Lifetime' Sky Show

WATCH: Comet May Give 'Once-In-A-Lifetime' Sky Show | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
It's being called the "comet of the century" -- a dazzling astronomical display that may prove to be brighter than the full moon.
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NASA's NEXT ion thruster clocks up continuous operation world record

NASA's NEXT ion thruster clocks up continuous operation world record | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
NASA's Evolutionary Xenon Thruster (NEXT) ion engine has set a new record by clocking up 43,000 hours of continuous operation.
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New milestone for China: Probe snaps close-ups of asteroid Toutatis

New milestone for China: Probe snaps close-ups of asteroid Toutatis | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
China's official news agency is reporting that the country's Chang'e 2 deep-space probe made an amazing flyby of the asteroid Toutatis this week, snapping a series of pictures as it passed by at a distance of just 2 miles.
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NASA spoils end-of-world hoopla fun with told-ya-so video

NASA spoils end-of-world hoopla fun with told-ya-so video | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
I'm actually glad that the world won't end on Dec. 21, despite the Mayans and other goofy conspiracy theories.
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NASA Releases Stunning Animation of Earth at Night : Scientific American Gallery

NASA Releases Stunning Animation of Earth at Night : Scientific American Gallery | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
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NASA finds over 100 billion tons of ice on Mercury - SlashGear

NASA finds over 100 billion tons of ice on Mercury - SlashGear | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
NASA scientists have discovered that Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, is home to a whole lot of ice.
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As asteroid heads for Earth near-miss, space mining companies prepare to boldly dig - Telegraph

As asteroid heads for Earth near-miss, space mining companies prepare to boldly dig  - Telegraph | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
Asteroid mining is the latest frontier for space entrepreneurs as scientists monitor a lump of solar system rock hurtling towards an unusually close-call for the planet.
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Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia, and those who sacrifice for the stars : Bad Astronomy

Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia, and those who sacrifice for the stars : Bad Astronomy | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
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Second Company Announces Plan to Mine Asteroids : DNews

Newly formed Deep Space Industries unveiled an ambitious plan on Tuesday to extract raw materials from nearby asteroids and turn it into fuel and spare parts for satellites. ->
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Giant Mars Crater Shows Evidence of Ancient Lake - Space.com

Giant Mars Crater Shows Evidence of Ancient Lake - Space.com | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
Space Fellowship Giant Mars Crater Shows Evidence of Ancient Lake Space.com New photos of a huge crater on Mars suggest water may lurk in crevices under the planet's surface, hinting that life might have once lived there, and raising the...
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Massive Asteroid Belts Discovered Around Vega : Discovery News

Massive Asteroid Belts Discovered Around Vega : Discovery News | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
The young, bright star may soon become famous for sporting two asteroid belts and, by extension, an entire system of exoplanets.
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Astronomers keep eye on asteroid Apophis as it passes

Astronomers keep eye on asteroid Apophis as it passes | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
Nostalgic for last year's Doomsday worries? You may enjoy pondering an asteroid passing overhead Wednesday, Apophis, which also aims for close encounters with Earth in 2029 and 2036.
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Top five astronomical targets for your new telescope

Top five astronomical targets for your new telescope | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
Gizmag looks at the top five astronomical targets for anyone who received a telescope this Christmas.
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Extraterrestrial Oceans Could Host Life

Extraterrestrial Oceans Could Host Life | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
Finding life in an extraterrestrial ocean would unequivocally prove that a Genesis II took place in the solar system.
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Potentially Habitable Planet Found By Tau Ceti Star Just 12 Lightyears Away

Potentially Habitable Planet Found By Tau Ceti Star Just 12 Lightyears Away | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
An international team of astronomers led by Mikko Toumi from the University of Hertfordshire has discovered five new planets just 12 light years away. Additionally, the discovery implies that one or two of those planets could be conducive to life.
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The Best'a Vesta: Orbital Imagery Captures Asteroid's Towering Peak: Scientific American Gallery

The Best'a Vesta: Orbital Imagery Captures Asteroid's Towering Peak: Scientific American Gallery | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
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Turning science fiction to science fact: Golden Spike makes plans for human lunar missions | The Space Review

Turning science fiction to science fact: Golden Spike makes plans for human lunar missions | The Space Review | The Cosmos | Scoop.it

The last 12 months has seen the unveiling of a number of commercial space ventures whose audacious plans can’t be immediately dismissed given the technical and financial pedigree of their founders and backers. Almost exactly a year ago, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced the formation of Stratolaunch Systems, an air-launch system that requires the development of the world’s largest airplane. Allen assembled a team that included Scaled Composites and, originally, SpaceX (since replaced by Orbital Sciences), with a board that included Burt Rutan and former NASA administrator Mike Griffin. In April, Planetary Resources announced plans for a series of robotic missions to prospect and, eventually, mine asteroids. That company has an impressive list of investors, including Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt as well as Ross Perot Jr. and former Microsoft executive and two-time space tourist Charles Simonyi.

 

Yet, the goals of these startups—a giant air-launch system and missions to prospect and mine asteroids—pale in comparison to the goal of another new space startup: sending people to the surface of the Moon. That feat has been accomplished only six times, and by one nation, the United States, with the last such mission, Apollo 17, flying 40 years ago this month. At the time, it was a potent symbol of America’s capabilities, and one of the signature achievements of the 20th century. The scale of that accomplishment, in many respects, grows as the decades stretch on without anyone else repeating it.


Via Stratocumulus, olsen jay nelson
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NASA's Voyager 1 enters new region of solar system - Technology & Science - CBC News

NASA's Voyager 1 enters new region of solar system - Technology & Science - CBC News | The Cosmos | Scoop.it
The unstoppable Voyager 1 spacecraft has sailed into a new realm of the solar system that scientists did not know existed.
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