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The Habitable Zone Was Redefined Today, Earth Is Now Barely Habitable

The difference between Mars and Earth is that one of them falls into the habitable zone, while the other doesn’t. This habitable zone – a small path along a star where a planet is not too close and not too far away that life could exist on its surface – was redefined today, and Earth just barely made the cut.

Scientist took updated atmospheric databases called HITRAN and HITEMP which basically measure how much energy the water absorbs and how much energy carbon dioxide can retain, and updated our current place within the habitable zone in our solar system.  After their calculations were plotted on the new chart, they discovered that our planet was just inside the habitable zone.

The habitable zone is used to identify if a planet has the right temperature to retain liquid water on its surface. If a planet is too far away from its parent star, the water will freeze, if its too close, the water will vaporize away. Obviously, a planet with liquid water would be a primo spot for life to flourish.

This new redefined boundary means that many planets that we thought were in the habitable zone, are no longer in the sweet spot to hold life, however, this also allows planets that had recently been excluded as candidates for life to come back into the realm of plausibility.

How much did our Earth move on this zone? Not much, only .04 AU’s closer to the sun from the previous data which was collected 20 years ago – by James Kasting from Penn State. An AU is a term used to define an Earth-Sun distance, 1 Astronomical Unit is about 150 million kilometers in size. So our records went from 0.95 AU – 1.67 AU to the new distance of .99 AU – 1.7 AU (remember the path of the Earth around the sun is not a perfect circle. Throughout the year,  the Earth shifts about .8 AU’s. This shift makes the difference between Winter and Summer.)

Abel Mendez from the University of Puerto Rico at Arecibo is a researcher in charge of a Habitable Exoplanet Catalog – a catalog with all the planets that could hold life. He stated that this new study is going to require him to update the catalog and kick off or squeeze in new planets to fit this new data.

Basically, since the Earth is now just inside the new boundary – and we seem to be pretty comfortable – this means that the habitable zone’s outer edges could be extended to areas that we once thought were too extreme 20 years ago.

HZ_distance

The main planet that Mendez is particularly excited about is Gliesse581d, a planet who’s path, using outdated data, was on the outer edge of the habitable zone. With this new redefinition of the zone, the planet’s new path is now right in the middle of the zone. What’s interesting about the new zone is that Mars is now also in the zone, on the outer cooler boundary, but it’s there.

This new data, however, does not take into consideration cloud formations, which according to the researchers have a huge impact on the habitability of a planet. What I want to know is, what happens after we fall completely outside of the habitable zone and we’re still alive, do we change it up again? Or will we be officially screwed?

Via Space.com

Aliens Could Detect Life On Earth By Looking At the Moon

It seems that every month or so we find another planet with the “possibility” to hold life. We find super earths, or giant planets in the “habitable” zone and we instantly believe that we can live in this new planet OR we believe that there is possible life. But what if we could find planets that actually had some sort of life in them? A new trick discovered by astronomers at the European Southern Observatory allows them to discovery life on planets by simply looking at the light emitted off the planet. In their experiment, they were able to detect life on earth by simply looking at the light reflected from our moon.

The problem with our current methods of discovery of life is the fact that we can’t really look at a planet and see the ant size people or animals walking in the surface. Imagine looking at an ant hill from the top of the empire state building, even with binoculars you can’t really see the bugs walking around. Likewise, if you look at the earth from something as close as orbiting satellites, it’s not possible to detect us. But if you look at the earth and study the chemical signals, you can see exactly what kind of elements you can find on it’s surface. For example, earth has far more oxygen and methane than a planet without some sort of life in the surface.

This new technique is called Spectroscopy, we can now detect gases that scientists call biosignatures. The system involves breaking up the light signals that reflect off a planet and then reconstructing the colors to determine which elements are present in the planet. Think, burning copper on the fire and creating the color green, every element creates a specific color signature, the astronomers will be looking for Oxygen and other elements required for life.

While this can be hard for planets that are extremely far and circling stars that drown the actual planet’s light, it can still be studied effectively by exploiting the light reflected from the planet. The reflected light is polarized, while the light emitted from the star is not. When the light passes through the planet’s atmosphere, it is polarized in two ways. When it is reflected by the oceans and vegetation, and when the particles in the air change the color of the light. By looking at the polarized light, we can pinpoint exactly what is going on in the planet with great detail.

Michael F. Sterzik, Stefano Bagnulo, and Eric Palle revealed in an ESO statement that they have tried out this method of light reflection by studying the light reflected of our moon. They used the Very Large Telescope in Chile to measure the linear polarization spectra of earth shine… which just means the light that bounced from the earth onto the moon, then bounced from the moon back to space. In their research they discovered that the earth has clouds, it has vegetation, and it had oceans. This new technique works so well that they can actually tell cloud coverage at different times of the day, and even detect vegetation as small as 10 percent. Image credit to NASA

NASA Cuts Off Budget for Future Mars Missions

For the past couple of decades NASA has been aiming for Mars, Curiosity being their latest effort to reach and examine the planet at it’s fullest. But thanks to a new budget cut, it looks like NASA is going to have to turn around and focus on other matters.

Curiosity, as we all know by now, is supposed to land near the Martian equator where it will begin to search for the chemical building blocks of life. NASA hopes that by finding these blocks we’ll be able to determine if we are truly alone in our universe. in 2010 President Obama stood in front of the Kennedy Space Center and said that it was imperative that astronauts made it to the red planet by mid 2030, but his budget didn’t give NASA enough money to full fill this task.

Two very important robotic missions are supposed to be launched on 2016 and 2018 but after the president’s new budget proposal NASA won’t be able to launch them. The most ambitious Mars flight yet and one the National Academy of Sciences endorsed as the No. 1 solar system priority – a plan to grab Martian rocks and soil and bring them back to Earth – is on indefinite hold. The agency is currently trying to find a way to salvage one of the missions instead of two since they have already spent $64 million on early designs.

If Obama’s budget sails through as outlined, “in essence, it is the end of the Mars program,” said Phil Christensen, a Mars researcher at Arizona State University. It’s like “we’ve just flown Apollo 10 and now we’re going to cancel the Apollo program when we’re one step from landing,” he said.

But really it’s not that people and researchers don’t feel like Mars is worth the trip and exploration anymore, but it’s the fact that the U.S. Governemnt can’t afford it. Unless NASA finds ways to work out their research in an affordable way, NASA researchers are going to kill the space program themselves.

Private companies like Virgin Galactic have proved that going to outerspace can be done cheaper than what NASA spends. Obama only pulled 0.3 percent of the funding away from the NASA program, which means they just need to allocate that from another parts of the company but they can’t find a way to move funding around… not even 1% of the funding.

NASA really needs to find ways to stay inside their budget limits. Curiosity for example was almost $1 billion dollars over budget. MOST of NASA’s projects have gone over budget for millions of dollars each, this is partly due to bad researchers who claim they can get a mission done with X amount of money when in reality they needed Y.

If they don’t find a way to make this work, it’s going to be at least a decade before NASA can go back out to Mars. And if NASA ignores Mars for a decade, it runs the risk of a brain drain, said Ed Weiler, who resigned last year as NASA’s sciences chief because of budget battles over Mars. Via: STL Today

Scientists Created A Machine For Printing Houses On The Moon

The main problems that we face when were trying to colonise another planet, or the moon, is that our Mooninites are not going to have a place to live. Then we have the whole problem with gravitational forces, if you remember the videos of the astronauts jumping around and falling all over the place then you can see that building a home is going to be more of a hassle than anything else. Then you run into yet another problem, this one is a bit more economical than anything else, it is very expensive to lift things off the ground and throw them into space. The more material you need to send up there, the more prohibitively expensive your problem is. But lets say that Gingrich get’s elected as president and we must build a moon colony – How do we do it?

For starters, we can solve the whole “carrying supplies” problem by making the concrete out of the moon itself.  Then you send out robots that resemble large 3d printing machines and quite literally print out an entire military base. When the base is complete, THEN, you send out Gingrich to colonise it.

USC Professors Behrokh Khoshnevis (Engineering), Anders Carlson (Architecture), Neil Leach (Architecture), and Madhu Thangavelu (Astronautics) completed their first robot to do exactly that. A robot arm extrudes concrete while automated trowels smooth the material into place. On earth, the promise it gives is low-cost, individually customized house construction–the same promises that 3-D printers give to object creation, but on an architectural scale.

On the moon, the basic idea is enhanced fully mobile crafting bots and by on-site quarrying and processing–as it turns out, moon rock has almost all the basic ingredients for concrete. “We will melt the lunar sand and rocks and extrude, the same way some rocks are made naturally on earth from volcanic lava,” says Dr. Khoshnevis.

Check out the video above to see how all of this works out, now we just need to find a way to get this project in motion, OR we could use this same robot to help the people in Africa make houses, either way, this technology takes our dream of colonising other planets and moons a step closer to reality. [Fast Code Design]

SpaceX Test Drove Their Latest Rocket Engine

SpaceX is supposed to be the rocket company that’s going to take us to the next space frontier, at least that’s the plan. Just recently they tested their new rocket engine, the SuperDraco, which is supposed to allow space capsules land back on earth without the use of parachutes.

The new engine is going to be used in SpaceX’s emergency Launch Abort System, which is going to launch off and away from the main rocket and help it land safely on the ground. The capsule is going to use eight SuperDraco engines to stabilise the capsule as it lands back on earth. Normally speaking, a parachute would work better. Since the capsule uses eight engines, if one of the engines fails this could cause the capsule lose control.

The reason the Draco engine is so special, is because of a new type of technology that allows it to turn on and off in less than 1/10th of a second. This ability gives it the best control when it comes to making adjustments on the fly. The Engine on the video above puts out over 15,000 pounds of thrust, enough to keep the privately funded company growing with investors after they see how well it performed. Via Wired Autopia

Surprise Asteroid Passing Really Close to Earth – Right Now!

In case you didn’t know, on Wednesday, astronomers detected an asteroid that was heading towards the Earth. After doing whatever astronomer math they do, they determined that we’re going to be okay because the asteroid is only 5 times closer to the Earth than the Moon. That’s right, this asteroid is going on the list of  “one of the closest approaches ever recorded.”

At least that’s what Gareth Williams—associate director of the Minor Planet Center, which operates at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory—said while talking to BBC News. The asteroid caught astronomers by surprise. In a recent tweet, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Near Earth Object Office (NEOO) said that “asteroids this small are hard to spot, and luckily they pose the least concern.” Their goal is “to find the bigger ones.”

NEOO made the announcement in another tweet yesterday:

Busy week. Asteroid 2012 BX34 will safely pass Earth on Jan. 27. Distance: 36,750 miles (59,044 km) or about .17 lunar distance.

Later, they followed with:

Asteroid 2012 BX34 is small, ~11 meters/37 ft diameter. It wouldn’t get through our atmosphere intact even if it dared to try.

The asteroid is traveling at about 5.53 miles per second (8.9 kilometers per second) and will pass Earth Right About now…! [NEOO Twitter, BBC News, Gizmodo]

Scientists Say We Need to Search the Moon for Alien Traces

Remember when the Moon was kind of a big deal? Since the whole “we need to be the first country on the moon” phase died out, we’ve been locked up our planet.

The video above from Carl Sagan talks about what the space missions were all about. According to him, we really lost “the passion” to go back and search for new things. We didn’t find anything that was of real monetary value, and while we did learn about space, we didn’t find much on the moon – and thus, we never went back.

Professor Paul Davis from Arizona State University and Robert Wagner from Research Technician at the School of Earth & Exploration think the moon has more secrets than we think it does. They published a scientific paper calling for the Search of Alien Artifacts on the Moon.

In their paper they state that while the search for ET has a very low probably of being successful, the mere fact of finding evidence or proof that they exist may re-spark our current search for intelligent life. They argue that while we are doing great advancements on radio technology, we need to be doing more than just looking for radio messages and signals.

Here is what they think happened in the past:

• Alien civilizations may have sent probes to our region of the galaxy.
• Any mission to the solar system would probably have occurred a very long time ago. The lunar environment could preserve artifacts for millions of years.
• Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter provides a photographic database to search for artifacts.
• Searching the LRO database would make an excellent educational project.

They want to start by using photographs from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to search for alien structures – machinery, buildings, and artifacts. The paper states that the cost is very low since the LRO has over 300,000 pictures, and even if they don’t find any signs of alien life, they would learn about the moon in the process.

The researchers believe that if there is something on the moon, it would be in perfect condition since the lunar surface has very little activity now days. They believe that if aliens were on the moon, at one time or another, they probably left signs of – we were here. Davis and Wagner believe that we need to look into the lava caves because it is a possibility that the alien explorers may have installed their bases in these caves millions or thousands of years ago.

In my opinion this would be great, and they are right, we just barely realized that there are small moons circling the Earth, I highly doubt we could detect a probe in our solar system.  While we are making great advancements in our radio signal technology, our scientist should focus on other ways to detect or at least find signs of  life in other planets, or in this case our Moon. Via: The Guardian

How Many Moons Does the Earth Have? Astronomers Say it Has Two

All this time we were lead to believe that the Earth has one moon, but in a research paper called “The population of natural Earth satellites”, astronomers say that our planet earth has a second moon. The moons are so small that we don’t really notice them, but at any given time, the Earth has two of them orbiting it’s ring.

According to Cornell University Mikael Granvik, Jeremie Vaubaillon and Robert Jedicke they stated that the “irregular natural satellites are temporarily captured” by the Earths strong gravitational pull. These small moons come into the orbit, spin a couple of times and then are released back into space without anyone even knowing they were here.

The moons are so quiet that the first time that a moon was detected was in 2006 when the Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona discovered that the Earth had an extra object spinning around with it.

Then in June of 2006 the earth captured another object, this one was a few meters wide, this one was captured for about a year. In June of 2007 the small asteroid left the Earth’s orbit and was free to roam the universe again. Researchers claim that even though we don’t see them, we often have several moons come and go throughout the year.

This means that we can technically go out and reel one of these in and mine it for minerals, or study them to learn more about the universe. The first thing researchers are trying to do is find a way to detect them when they are here. Since most come and go in as little as three spins around the Earth, these moons are a little hard to study. Regardless, this is a great find, and soon we’ll be able to learn a little bit more about where we came from.