earthlike planet

It’s a perennial question: Are there other Earth-like planets – or planets full of life – out there?

New research suggests that Earth-like planets are actually pretty common, according to an analysis of the results of Nasa’s Kepler mission. As the diameter of a planet decreases, its frequency increases. Once the diameter reaches twice the diameter of Earth, it remains about the same.

If you love astronomy like we do, then this news should be exciting. The research focused on Earth-like stars in a similar orbit as Mercury, but the article noted that “further evidence suggests that the fraction of stars having planets the size of Earth or slightly bigger orbiting within Earth-like orbits may amount to 50 percent.”

This is timely news, especially as the availability of resources on our planet becomes more worrisome. We finally have new planets for us humans to dominate and exploit of resources. We can skip any lessons in moderation — our galaxy is a treasure trove of planets waiting to be harvested!

Not to mention all of the food. Orion’s baked space-beef. Soda made from corn starch from the corn planet Gliese 876 d.

And it only gets better if there is intelligent life. Let’s get some space wars going on. Finally something to unite the human race: killing other intelligent life. Think of the economic and social benefits of a totally awesome space war.

“The Earth Empire.” We like the sound of that.

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Who's a big boy?

"Who's a big boy?"

The Endeavour space shuttle fly-over the bay last Friday was super exciting. Not man on the moon exciting, but still pretty impressive. It was a relic of ancient times piggybacking on a plane. And by ancient times, we mean 20 years ago. Seeing the colossus made us think: when will we see the Endeavour of our generation?

Endeavour was the last space shuttle built by NASA. It is from a bygone era of government dedication to space exploration and science. The space program was the epitome of blatantly inefficient spending, and yet, it was one of the greatest uses of money. It captured the imaginations of millions and inspired innovation in laboratories across the globe. It led to the creation of new polymers and telecommunications devices. It took away some of the mystery of the big blue sky. But most importantly, it led kindergartners to draw spaceships with crayons and made them dream of becoming astronauts.

Now we have the opportunity to take to the heavens again. Mars is our frontier. When the space program was closed — back in 2011 — the Investor’s Business Daily poll showed that 56% of Americans opposed the ending of the manned space exploration program. So of course, the lovely people in charge closed the program. read more »


exoplanet-browse

Ever heard of Formalhaut B? Contrary to what you might be thinking, it’s not a Berlin-based German techno band. It is in fact an extrasolar “Jupiter-sized” planet, and its picture is worth … well, you know the cliche, so let’s just say it’s worth a lot of dough.

Berkeley astronomer and adjunct associate professor of astronomy (try saying that five times fast) Paul Kalas and his team members published the Hubble Telescope image in Science magazine in 2008. And now the image has just won “the 2009 Newcomb Cleveland Prize of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for the most outstanding paper published in Science between June 1, 2008, and May 31, 2009.”

OK, OK, not too shabby. The picture along with the paper written about it will earn the team $25,000 to share. And just hear them talk about the visual: “the image of Fomalhaut, its visually striking belt of comet dust and its planet has become an iconic image of a planetary system,” Kalas gushed.

Oh yeah, baby. Can you feel the (extrasolar) heat?

Image source: NASA/ESA
Images of extrasolar planets win award for most oustanding papers in Science [UC Berkeley News]