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The Search for Extraterrestrial Life 18

We are starting to find more different kinds of exoplanets and an unexpected source of water on Mars

In our universe:

Time travel? “How a Rotating Universe Makes Time Travel Possible” At Universe Today, Stony Brook astrophysicist Paul Sutter notes that mathematical philosopher Kurt Gödel (1906–1978) wrote a model for Albert Einstein (1879–1955) of a universe that allows time travel into the past: “Gödel constructed a relatively simple and artificial model universe to prove his point. This universe is rotating and contains only one ingredient. That ingredient is a negative cosmological constant that resists the centrifugal force of the rotation to keep the universe static. / Gödel found that if you follow a particular path in this rotating universe you can end up in your own past. ” (January 11, 2023)

Our universe, as it happens, is not rotating, so far as we know…

Are the fundamental constants of nature constant? We can’t know for sure because we have only observation, not mathematical proof: At Space.com, Stony Brook astrophysicist Paul Sutter explains, “In these experiments and more, nobody has ever observed any variation in the fundamental constants. We can’t completely rule it out, but we can place incredibly stringent limits on their possible changes. For example, we know that the fine structure constant, which measures the strength of the electromagnetic interaction, is the same throughout the universe to 1 part per billion. ” (December 28, 2022)

From the Webb: “Astronomers have been surprised to discover that grand spiral galaxies were already there in the Universe just a few billion years after the Big Bang.” – Scott Alan Johnston, Universe Today (January 8, 2023) That’s 11 billion years ago. Quick work for galaxies. The paper is open access.

“JWST can unveil structures in distant galaxies better than Hubble for two reasons: First, its larger mirror gives it more light-gathering ability, allowing it to see farther and with higher resolution. Second, it can see through dust better as it observes at longer infrared wavelengths than Hubble.” – University of Texas News (January 5, 2023)

In our galaxy:

The first planet exoplanet found by the Webb is the same size as Earth: LHS 475b is roughly 41 light-years away:

From Universe Today: “Rocky exoplanets aren’t rare. They’re common around other stars. But their atmospheres aren’t well-constrained. We don’t know what to expect from them, and the rocky planets in our Solar System don’t necessarily tell us what we can expect.” – Evan Gough, January 12, 2023

Meanwhile, from Science, “NASA unveils initial plan for multibillion-dollar telescope to find life on alien worlds” “The report said an $11 billion, 6-meter telescope sensitive to ultraviolet, optical, and near-infrared wavelengths should kick off the new Great Observatories program. It specified that the telescope, in addition to doing general astrophysics, must be capable of detecting signs of life on 25 nearby Earth-like exoplanets—the minimum needed to confirm statistically whether life is common in the Galaxy.” – Daniel Clery (January 9, 2023)

In our solar system:

Pluto may have an underground ocean too, new research suggests: ““Pluto’s huge nitrogen-ice-filled basin, Sputnik Planitia, is a dominant feature on the dwarf planet,” said Dr. Anne Verbiscer, who is a research professor in the Department of Astronomy at the University of Virginia, along with being the Deputy Project Scientist and a Co-Investigator on NASA’s New Horizons. “It’s the brightest (most reflective) area, with unique composition, and holds clues to the possible existence of a sub-surface ocean. And our current ‘recipe’ for life as we know it, includes liquid water. So, the possibility of liquid water beneath the surface of Pluto makes it intriguing for astrobiology and finding life beyond Earth.”” – Laurence Tognetti, Universe Today (January 11, 2023):

Getting into the underground ocean of Saturn’s moon Enceladus: “Enceladus is especially compelling because of the active plumes of water emanating from its southern polar region. Not only are these vents thought to be connected directly to an ocean beneath the moon’s icy surface, but the Cassini mission detected traces of organic molecules and other chemicals associated with biological processes. Like Europa, Ganymede, and other ‘Ocean Worlds,’ astrobiologists think this could indicate hydrothermal activity at the core-mantle boundary.” – Matt Williams, Universe Today, (January 9, 2023) The paper proposing study methods is open access.

In our neighborhood:

A Martian meteorite, Tissint, has been found to have a diverse array of organic compounds: – Carnegie Institution for Science, Phys.org (January 12, 2023): “Of particular interest was the abundance of organic magnesium compounds, a suite of organic molecules not previously seen on Mars, which offer new insights about the high-pressure, high-temperature geochemistry that shaped the Red Planet’s deep interior and indicate a connection between its carbon cycle and its mineral evolution.” The paper is open access.

Opals — a source of water — have also been found on Mars: “Because opal is predominately composed of water and silica, the presence of this mineral could mean that there was once enough water there to possibly make the depths of these cracks habitable. Furthermore, the opal currently on Mars may one day be able to be harvested for the water stored inside, offering a source of water for any crewed missions to the Red Planet.” – Elizabeth Rayne, Space.com, (January 11, 2023) The paper is open access.

Right next door:

How flames behave in microgravity:

Handy to know if we are thinking of space tourism.

Here at home:

The Pentagon has finally released its much-awaited UFO report: “Out of these 510 total UAP reports, ODNI assessed 366 that had been newly identified since AARO’s creation. Of these, 26 were characterized as uncrewed aircraft systems (UAS), or drones, 163 were attributed to balloons or “balloon-like entities,” and six were found to be airborne “clutter” such as birds or airborne plastic shopping bags. / That leaves 171 reported UAP sightings that remain “uncharacterized and unattributed,” according to ODNI’s report. “Some of these uncharacterized UAP appear to have demonstrated unusual flight characteristics or performance capabilities, and require further analysis,” the report adds.” – Brett Tingley, Space.com, (January 12, 2023)

Another way the universe is fine-tuned for life

Steve Meyer: talks about the highly convenient entropy arrangement:

So how unlikely is it that our universe would have the low-entropy, highly ordered arrangement of matter that it has today? Stephen Hawking’s colleague Roger Penrose knew that if he could answer that question, he would have a measure of the fine tuning of the initial arrangement of matter and energy at the beginning of the universe. Penrose determined that getting a universe such as ours with highly ordered configurations of matter required an exquisite degree of initial fine tuning— an incredibly improbable low-entropy set of initial conditions… By comparing that maximum expected value of the entropy of the universe with the observed entropy, Penrose determined that the observed entropy was extremely improbable in relation to all the possible entropy values it could have had. – Stephen C. Meyer. The Return of the God Hypothesis, HarperCollins. Kindle Edition, 2021, pp. 231-32, 233).

You may also wish to read: The search for extraterrestrial life 17. Interest in moon exploration and bases is growing and it turns out there is more water there (carried by the solar wind) than thought. At Space.com, one of 2022’s top discoveries was half-rock/half-water worlds orbiting the most common star type in the universe — good places to look for life.

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The Search for Extraterrestrial Life 18