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 »

shorts11-235x30011The second of two probes built by UC Berkeley as part of a mission to study the moon in 3-D is scheduled to drop into orbit this Sunday. In addition to being awesome, the project is relatively green, as it is “reusing existing spacecraft to save a lot of taxpayer money.” How considerate. [News Center]

Meanwhile, back on Planet Earth, researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab have resuscitated a 123-year-old singing doll … which ranks among one of the creepiest things we’ve heard of late. [Alameda Patch]

Berkeley scientists have also determined that gray whales changed their diet in order to adapt to “extreme environmental conditions” … which ranks among one of the most obvious things we’ve heard of late. [Daily Cal]

On another note entirely, Ju Hong, one of our student senators-elect, was arrested at an immigration rally in San Bernardino on Tuesday. He and six other students were released early this morning. [Daily Cal]

Earlier: Be Very Afraid

4404071397_672ea1b505Super-massive black holes aren’t just fodder for catchy electro-rock tunes. Based off recent findings out of UC Berkeley and the UK, they’re also capable of wreaking insane havoc on us all — case in point being the one that “swallowed and ripped apart a wandering star.”

The research was sparked in response to an explosion of gamma rays that NASA first noticed in March of this year. Though such a blast is not a totally uncommon occurrence, the one in question was apparently unusual in both duration and intensity, leading to the studies that pinpointed the source as a black hole 3.8 billion light-years away.

That’s right, folks — read more »

Cal will team up with NASA and The Exploratorium to provide television coverage for what may be a devastating blow to the oldest and strongest of mankind’s enemies—the sun. On Aug. 1, NASA TV will broadcast a total solar eclipse that will be viewable from most places that are pretentiously far from California, television sets excepted.

Pinhole cameras probably won’t be needed to watch the eclipse’s broadcast, but an ability to stay up late will. The coverage happens at 3 a.m. Friday. But who goes to sleep before 5 a.m. anyway?

Image Source: shoothead under Creative Commons
Partial Eclipse, Total Fun [PhysOrg]