Mind Matters Natural and Artificial Intelligence News and Analysis

CategoryExtraterrestrial life

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Amazing Exoplanets

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life 19

One current focus for exoplanet research is on the way life is known to alters its environment in order to remain in existence — the Gaian Habitable Zone

In our universe: “Billions of celestial objects revealed in gargantuan survey of the Milky Way”: “The new dataset contains a staggering 3.32 billion celestial objects—arguably the largest such catalog so far”: “Most of the stars and dust in the Milky Way are located in its disk—the bright band stretching across this image—in which the spiral arms lie. While this profusion of stars and dust makes for beautiful images, it also makes the Galactic plane challenging to observe. The dark tendrils of dust seen threading through this image absorb starlight and blot out fainter stars entirely, and the light from diffuse nebulae interferes with any attempts to measure the brightness of individual objects. Another challenge arises from the sheer number of Read More ›

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Exoplanets or Extrasolar planets with stars on background nebula, 3D illustration

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 Read More ›

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Lunar base illustration

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

In our universe: We’re always learning new things now. The universe “has 2−3× more light than expected from the integrated light from galaxies” “According to new measurements by New Horizons, the light coming from stars beyond the Milky Way is two to three times brighter than the light from known populations of galaxies – meaning that there are even more out there than we thought! – Matt Williams, Universe Today, (December 24, 2022) The paper is open access. While we’re here, rogue stars may be even older than we thought: “”We don’t exactly know what made them homeless. Current theories cannot explain our results, but somehow they were produced in large quantities in the early universe,” James Jee, an astronomer Read More ›

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Deep Space

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life 16

The Webb wraps up a year of solid achievements, including the first direct image of an exoplanet

In our universe: Most distant galaxies observed in 2022: “Webb was made to observe the most distant galaxies in the universe, and in mid-December, scientists confirmed that they had done just that. The telescope has officially observed the four most distant galaxies known, which also means they are the oldest. Webb observed the galaxies as they appeared about 13.4 billion years ago, when the universe was only 350 million years old, about 2% of its current age.” – Rebecca Sohn, Space.com, December 29, 2022 Meanwhile, a much bigger telescope array, the multinational SKAO project, is under construction: Composed of respectively hundreds of dishes and thousands of antennas, the SKAO’s telescopes will be the two most advanced radio telescopes on Earth. Read More ›

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Planets and exoplanets of unexplored galaxies. Sci-Fi. New worlds to discover. Colonization and exploration of nebulae and galaxies

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life 15

Recent news features Earth-like planets and water worlds — and how comet impacts may be providing Europa’s oceans with material

In our universe: Here are the James Webb Space Telescope’s best images from a spectacular year first year (it launched December 25, 2021). Could there be such a thing as “dark light?” Science writer Tibi Puiu tells us at ZME Science that some physicists think that the mysterious dark matter of the universe is made out of dark photons: “A new study found that hypothetical particles called dark photons can explain discrepencies in the ‘cosmic web’.” (December 14, 2022) “First introduced in 1986 by physicist Bob Holdom, dark photons, also known as ‘heavy photons’ or ‘hidden photons’, are supposed to be gauge bosons for dark matter. Dark photons and regular photons are expected to mix, such that the dark photons Read More ›

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Somewhere in extreme deep space far galaxies and habitable exoplanets with rings. 3D rendered background. Elements of this image were furnished by NASA.

The Search for Extraterrestrial Life 14

According to a new study from the University of Copenhagen, 4.5 billion years ago, there was enough water on Mars to cover the planet in an ocean 300 metres deep

Our universe: A recent buzz is the magnificent new map of the universe from Johns Hopkins University, giving some sense of our universe’s nearly unfathomable size. Astronomer Hugh Ross points out at Reasons to Believe that the universe also seems to be designed for observability: Sound implausible? Well, here’s what he says: “ … there’s a relatively narrow time window in the history of the universe during which astronomers can observe 100% of the universe’s past history. Humans are inside that time window now. I also demonstrated that we are living in the one location within this vast universe where intelligent physical life is possible, and where that intelligent life can observe 100% of the past history of the universe. Read More ›

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digital painting of the planet Neptune and Triton

Search for Extraterrestrial Life 13

A surprising candidate in the search for life in our solar system is Neptune’s moon Triton

In our universe: The invisible numbers of the universe: At Scientific American, “Invisible Numbers Are the Most Beautiful Part of Every ‘Space’ Image”: “We are drawn to breathtaking images of the heavens, but there is beauty in the numbers those images hold … Scientists are trained to understand reality through the interface of models. To an astronomer, a graph with a meandering curve that constitutes proof of a gravitational wave rippling through a detector can be as exciting as seeing a movie visualizing the merger of two black holes.” (Fabio Pacucci, November 16, 2022) Asked by Laurence Tognetti at Universe Today: What if we are truly alone? “The astronomer Carl Sagan was famous for his quote in his book and Read More ›

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The Ingenuity drone-helicopter has separated from the Perseverance rover on Mars and prepares for its first flight. 3d render. Element of this image are furnished by NASA

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 12

Some stars seem to be defying the known laws of physics; others are found to produce specific rare elements when they collide

In our universe: Researchers are finding more evidence that colliding neutron stars forge not only gold but strontium, lanthanum, and cerium. They expect to discover more rare elements in the debris as well. (Universe Today, October 29, 2022) At this rate, we won’t run out. 😉 The paper is open access. When neutron stars collide: Speaking of stars, some seem to be defying the known laws of physics: “An international team of astrophysicists has made a puzzling discovery while analyzing certain star clusters. The finding challenges Newton’s laws of gravity, the researchers write in their publication. Instead, the observations are consistent with the predictions of an alternative theory of gravity. However, this is controversial among experts. The results have now Read More ›

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Nebula Milkyway and galaxies in space 3D

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 11

One paper says the planets around Trappist-1 may be more habitable than first thought but another says that planets around M-stars may be less so…

Our universe: Three challenging ideas: A challenge to Newton’s laws of gravity: “An international team of astrophysicists has made a puzzling discovery while analyzing certain star clusters. The finding challenges Newton’s laws of gravity, the researchers write in their publication. Instead, the observations are consistent with the predictions of an alternative theory of gravity. However, this is controversial among experts.” – ScienceDaily (October 22, 2022) We know we are getting somewhere when we find out things we didn’t expect. The paper requires a fee or subscription. Is a new anomaly affecting the entire Universe? “The most puzzling, unexplained anomaly in all of cosmology is the Hubble tension: the difference in the measured expansion rate depending on which method is used. Read More ›

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exoplanet viewed from the rocky surface of its moon, elements of this image furnished by NASA.

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 10

In our universe, it seems, we don’t get down to the Really Simple Stuff. We just get down to smaller but still very complex stuff

Around our universe: Here are the Pillars of Creation, a star workshop 6500 light years away in the Eagle Nebula, as seen recently by the James Webb Space Telescope: The millions of stars seen by Hubble in globular cluster Terzan 4 are also worth a look: While we are here: The humble proton, one of the building blocks of our universe, is “the most complicated thing” imaginable, according to Quanta: The proton is a quantum mechanical object that exists as a haze of probabilities until an experiment forces it to take a concrete form. And its forms differ drastically depending on how researchers set up their experiment. Connecting the particle’s many faces has been the work of generations. “We’re kind Read More ›

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Planets and exoplanets of unexplored galaxies. Sci-Fi. New worlds to discover. Colonization and exploration of nebulae and galaxies

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 9

NASA is readying a set of eight instruments for the Ocean Worlds Life Surveyor to search for life on Jupiter’s moon Europa and Saturn’s moon Enceladus

In our universe The universe (as much of we know of it) has now been mapped: With 56,000 galaxies, there wold be, in principle, many places to look for life: “Galaxies, such as the Milky Way, are the building blocks of the universe, each comprised of up to several hundred billion stars.” – Phys.org A big barrier to exploration is, of course, the speed of light; most galaxies are many light years away and nothing moves faster than light. Incidentally, a group of astronomers recently claimed to have detected matter exceeding the speed of light. We asked theoretical physicist Rob Sheldon about that and he replied, “No, it isn’t going faster than the speed of light. Most superluminal objects are Read More ›

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Saturn moon Enceladus in front of planet Saturn, rings, other moons and the Milky Way galaxy

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 8

Saturn’s moon Enceladus may have abundant phosphorus, essential for life

In our universe: Even the smallest stars could provide for habitable planets, a research group reports. They were able to get photosynthetic bacteria and red and green algae to live in light conditions that mimicked the glow from a red dwarf star. Their paper is open access. That’s important because only 8% of stars are Sun-like; 75% are red dwarfs. (Universe Today) That greatly increases the search space. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) could be a biosignature, along with oxygen and methane, University of California Riverside scientists suggest: “Microorganisms are constantly transforming other nitrogen compounds into N2O, a metabolic process that can yield useful cellular energy … The research team believes now is the time for astrobiologists to consider alternative biosignature Read More ›

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Enceladus

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 6

China has found evidence for an ancient ocean on Mars and an international research teams reports that the number of dried-up lakes is higher than thought

Noting the passing earlier this month of Frank Drake, author of the famous Drake Equation, planetary geoscientist David Rothery notes, we know a great deal more promising information about the search for life today than we did in 1961 when he first formulated the equation: “We are learning more about exoplanets every year, and are entering an era when measuring their atmospheric composition to reveal evidence of life is becoming increasingly feasible. Within the next decade or two, we can hope for a much more soundly based estimate of the fraction of Earth-like planets where life gets started.” – The Conversation, September 5, 2022. We also know about potentially habitable moons now (for example, Enceladus, whose image is featured above). Read More ›

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Exploration of Mars the Red planet of the solar system in space. This image elements furnished by NASA.

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 5

NASA staff are said to be quite excited about organic materials around the Jezero Crater; astronomers are learning more about "eyeball planets"

As the telescopes and other instruments rain data on researchers, each week brings news of interest: From our galaxy: Last week, planets orbiting M-type (common red dwarf) stars came up. Astronomers are classifying these planets in greater detail: “’We have discovered that small planets orbiting this type of star can be classified into three distinct families: rocky planets very similar to Earth, planets with half their mass consisting of water that we call water worlds, and mini-Neptunes with extended atmospheres of hydrogen and/or helium’, describes Pallé.” – Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) (September 8, 2022) One feature of these worlds may be a surprise: “Given that they are tidally locked to their suns, these planets may also have liquid Read More ›

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Amazing Exoplanets

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 4

Just as much promising data about habitable planets is streaming in from the telescopes, pioneer ET astronomer Frank Drake has died

Lots of places to look: From Universe Today: To date, 5,084 extrasolar planets have been confirmed in 3,811 planetary systems, with another 8,912 candidates awaiting confirmation. (Matt Williams, September 9, 2022) Planets with water have been in the news: According to a new study, “… it turns out that water-rich worlds are far more common in the Milky Way Galaxy than we first thought… ” – Jerusalem Post (Aaron Reich, September 9, 2022) The paper requires a fee or subscription. “A new type of exoplanet — one made half of rock and half of water — has been discovered around the most common stars in the universe, which may have great consequences in the search for life in the cosmos, Read More ›

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James Webb Space Telescope in Space

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 3

The Webb gets a good closer look at an exoplanet

Exoplanets are hard to spot but the James Webb Space Telescope got an image of one (HIP 65426b), reported September 1: The planet is more than 10,000 times fainter than its host star and about 100 times farther from it than Earth is from the Sun (~93 million miles), so it easily could be spotted when the telescope’s coronagraphs removed the starlight. The exoplanet is between six and 12 times the mass of Jupiter—a range that could be narrowed once the data in these images is analyzed. The planet is only 15 million to 20 million years old, making it very young compared to our 4.5-billion-year-old Earth. Isaac Schultz, “See Webb Telescope’s First Images of an Exoplanet” at Gizmodo (September Read More ›

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Somewhere in extreme deep space far galaxies and habitable exoplanets with rings. 3D rendered background. Elements of this image were furnished by NASA.

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life 2

A new ocean planet, a planet with carbon dioxide, and new information about life chances on Mars

What may be an ocean planet has been discovered in the region of the Constellation Draco: An international team of researchers led by Charles Cadieux, a Ph.D. student at the Université de Montréal and member of the Institute for Research on Exoplanets (iREx), has announced the discovery of TOI-1452 b, an exoplanet orbiting one of two small stars in a binary system located in the Draco constellation about 100 light-years from Earth. The exoplanet is slightly greater in size and mass than Earth and is located at a distance from its star where its temperature would be neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to exist on its surface. The astronomers believe it could be an “ocean planet,” Read More ›

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super-earth planet, realistic exoplanet, planet suitable for colonization, earth-like planet in far space, planets background 3d render

News From the Search for Extraterrestrial Life I

Super-Earths that might have life, choosing life forms to take to Mars, and self-replicating robots…

A roundup from popular science news sources: ★ Are any super-Earths habitable? The largest single class of exoplanets discovered are super-Earths — bigger than Earth but smaller than Neptune, of which there are 1,577 confirmed discoveries. Some lie within the habitable zones — at least in principle — of their stars. Stony Brook astrophysicist Paul Sutter ponders the factors that go into determining how many of them are actually habitable, concluding, Perhaps the best candidate for a habitable super-Earth is LHS 1140b, which orbits a red dwarf star about 49 light-years from Earth. It’s about 60% wider than our planet but 6.48 times as massive. It orbits extremely close to its parent star — its orbital period is just 25 Read More ›

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2 UAPS / Ufos in the night sky at a beach. UFO UAP Sighting at night

NASA on UFOs: Not Nearly So Snarky Now. Here Are 3 Reasons Why

In the three decades since the discovery of the first exoplanets, science has gradually been overtaking science fiction

As noted recently at Scientific American, thinking about UFOs is no longer presumptive evidence of membership in the lunatic fringe: On June 9, with only a few hours’ notice, NASA held a press conference to announce a study it was commissioning on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs). The acronym is a rebranding of what are more popularly known as unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, a topic usually associated with purported extraterrestrial visitations and government conspiracy theories. The question on the public’s mind was why one of the U.S.’s premier scientific agencies was getting involved in something often considered to be at the farthest fringes of respectability. Adam Mann, “With New Study, NASA Seeks the Science behind UFOs” at Scientific American (August Read More ›

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Agate surface background. Multicolor transparent crystal background. Macro

Exoplanets: Life Forms Made One Third of Earth’s Minerals

Researchers hope detection of such minerals on exoplanets can narrow the search for life

Recent work on how minerals form may help determine which planets are more likely to be habitable or inhabited. One-third of minerals — chemical solids whose atoms are highly ordered — are created directly or indirectly by life forms, says Carnegie geologist Robert Hazen: “One third of Earth’s minerals could not have formed without biology — shells and bones and teeth, or microbes, for example, or the vital indirect role of biology, such as by creating an oxygen-rich atmosphere that led to 2,000 minerals that wouldn’t have formed otherwise.” Carnegie Institution for Science, “Crushed, zapped, boiled, baked and more: Nature used 57 recipes to create Earth’s 10,500-plus ‘mineral kinds’” at ScienceDaily Both papers, here and here, require a fee or Read More ›