Thursday, September 30, 2010

Planet close to Earth-size discovered and determining shape of extremely small, distant objects

Welcome! "Alien Life" tracks the latest discoveries and thoughts in the various elements of the famous Drake Equation. Here's today's news:
g Abodes - A team of astronomers that includes the University of Hawaii’s Nader Haghighipour has announced the discovery of a planet that could have liquid water on its surface. The planet, which is probably 30 percent larger than Earth, was discovered using one of the telescopes of the W. M. Keck Observatory on Mauna Kea. It orbits a relatively small star, Gliese 581, which is 20 light-years from Earth in the constellation Libra. See article.
g Message - Since the beginning of astronomical observation, science has been viewing light on a curve. In a galaxy filled with thousands of eclipsing binary stars, we've refined our skills by measuring the brightness or intensity of so-called variable star as a function of time. The result is known as a "light curve." Through this type of study, we've discovered size, distance and orbital speed of stellar bodies and refined our ability to detect planetary bodies orbiting distant suns. Here on Earth, most of the time it's impossible for us to resolve such small objects even with the most powerful of telescopes, because their size is less than one pixel in the detector. But new research should let us determine the shape of an object ... like a ringed planet, or an orbiting alien space station. See article. This article is from 2005.
g Cosmicus - Bid adieu to wind power or conventional solar power, for scientists have suggested that the world's energy needs could be met 100 billion times over using a satellite to harness the solar wind and beam the energy to Earth - though focussing the beam could be tricky. See article.

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