Tag: aliens

Mars 2020 Rover Will Land at Ancient Lakebed to Search for Signs of Life

Scientists have identified 24 ancient lakes on Mars that once overflowed and burst through their walls, forming steep-sided canyons — and NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will explore the neighborhood of one of these paleolakes, looking for traces of ancient life.

Jezero Crater is one of two dozen sites that a team of geologists examined for signs of how canyons formed: by massive individual flooding events or by slower flows over longer periods of time.

Their findings suggest that for the chosen canyons, the former occurred, with a sudden flood rapidly carving canyons across the Martian surface.

These breached lakes are fairly common and some of them are quite large, some as large as the Caspian Sea,” lead author Tim Goudge, a geoscientist at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a statement.

So we think this style of catastrophic overflow flooding and rapid incision of outlet canyons was probably quite important on early Mars’ surface.”




The team came to that conclusion by looking at the relationship between the canyon measurements and the crater rims that once enclosed all that water.

Because the canyon size increased in proportion to the size of the nearby lake, the team believes that all 24 lakes violently burst through their walls, carving the canyons in perhaps just a few weeks.

If they hadn’t seen such a correlation, they would have instead suspected that the canyons formed gradually from more gentle water flow.

And unlike geologic features here on Earth, lake beds and canyons remain etched on the surface of Mars, since there are no modern plate tectonics to shuffle crust around and destroy them.

That long-lived Martian surface offers scientists hope that they might be able to access ancient sediments that may hold the remains of any life that once existed on Mars.

That’s part of why NASA chose to send its Mars 2020 rover, due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2021, to Jezero Crater, where it can study five different types of rock and hunt for any remains of ancient life that could be hiding in such a formerly wet environment.

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Mysterious Interstellar Object Floating In Space Might Be Alien, Say Harvard Researchers

A graphic showing `Oumuamua’s path through the Solar System.

The head of Harvard’s department of astronomy thinks that there’s a possibility that a strange object that visited our Solar System from interstellar space may be an alien probe sent from a distant civilization.

He and a colleague outlined their idea in a paper published this week analyzing what the mysterious space object might be, setting off a media frenzy.

But let’s take a breath before we jubilantly cry “aliens.” A single idea about what this object could be doesn’t make it the only explanation, and many scientists still argue that a natural explanation is more plausible.

To add a bit of context, one of the scientists making this “exotic” claim is currently working on an initiative to look for extraterrestrial life in deep space, by sending probes from Earth to other star systems.

The paper that captured everyone’s attention is written by Harvard astrophysicists Avi Loeb and Shmuel Bialy, who tried to describe some weird behavior exhibited by a space rock called `Oumuamua.

Spotted last October, `Oumuamua is a mysterious object that is passing through our Solar System, coming from some unknown deep-space origin.

Objects like this one are thought to pass through our Solar System all the time, but this is the first exo-comet — or a comet from outside our cosmic neighborhood — that we’ve ever detected.

In addition to being a rare find, `Oumuamua is a bit bizarre. Astronomers expected a visitor of this kind to be an icy comet, surrounded by a trail of gas and dust as it passed close to the Sun.




But `Oumuamua seems to lack this kind of cloud, making it look more like an asteroid, which is mostly made of rock and metal. So no one was quite sure what this thing was — a comet, an asteroid, or something totally new.

Then after analyzing `Oumuamua’s orbit, scientists from the European Space Agency noticed that the object was accelerating, more so than it should be if it was just interacting with the gravity of the planets and Sun in our Solar System.

They concluded that `Oumuamua must be a comet; the Sun is likely heating up ice within the object, creating gas that provides an extra boost of speed.

However, Loeb and Bialy are skeptical about this “outgassing” claim, mostly because no one was able to observe gas and dust coming from `Oumuamua.

They also point to recent research from another lab, which is still under review by other scientists, that indicates that if gas were coming from this object, it would change how the rock is rotating — something that hasn’t been observed.

This rules out the possibility that it’s a comet,” Loeb said.

The comet ISON and its tail of gas and dust, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope

Of course, the possibility exists. But aliens are a very bold claim to make when natural explanations are still on the table.

I can understand the excitement, and as a scientist, I can’t sit here and say I have 100 percent evidence this was a natural object,” Fitzsimmons says. “It’s just that all the observations can be matched with a natural object.”

And that could be a problem when we actually do find signs of alien life one day.

Astronomers are finding new planets outside our Solar System all the time, and we’re working on more sophisticated technology to peer into the atmospheres of these worlds.

One day, we may find solid evidence that life exists in deep space, but it may be hard for the public to swallow if they think aliens have already been discovered.

I don’t want people to think we already saw that when it actually happens,” says Mack. “I want people not to be super cynical about claims about aliens by the time we actually have something that is really solid evidence.”

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We Could Find Aliens by Spotting Their Satellites

Alien civilizations with technology on a par with humanity’s could be detectable using today’s instruments.

A new study suggests that if geostationary satellites are thick enough around an alien world, they could be spotted with telescopes already hunting for undiscovered planets.

Both governments and private corporations on our own world use geostationary satellites — which orbit such that they hover over the same spot on Earth — for science, communications, espionage and military applications.

If advanced alien civilizations loft enough satellites into their own geostationary belts, these spacecraft could create a dense, ring-like structure visible from Earth, according to the study.

Socas-Navarro simulated the presence of belts of geostationary satellites around exoplanets, to see whether they could be detected by instruments like NASA’s Kepler space telescope and the agency’s recently launched Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS).

He found that the belt would need to be about 0.01 percent full for such spacecraft to detect it, whether populated by many small satellites or a handful of large, city-size objects.

We just need to look for the right signature in the data,” he said.

Socas-Navarro calls this hypothetical structure the Clarke exobelt (CEB), after famed sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke.




Both Kepler and TESS detect planets using what’s known as the transit method. The spacecraft watch a field of stars for an extended amount of time.

If a planet has the right orbit, and the timing is right, that world will pass in front of its host star from the telescope’s perspective, causing a small, potentially detectable dip in brightness.

In addition to working as an astrophysicist, Socas-Navarro hosts a weekly radio show and podcast. That work helped him come up with the Clarke exobelt idea, he said.

One day, a listener asked about a geostationary satellite for the sun.

Sufficient material orbiting an exoplanet causes a small dip in starlight before and after the body of the world makes its transit. Scientists have used this method to discover rings around planets outside the solar system and even around distant solar system bodies.

Socas-Navarro said the putative alien-satellite signal would have a signature similar to that of rings — both an exobelt and rings are made up of a swarm of objects orbiting a planet — but there are subtle technical differences in how that signature would look.

The signal would also reveal the altitude of the orbiting objects, which could provide a significant clue as to whether the objects were natural or alien-made.

A ring system can occur at any number of distances from the surface of the planet. But if the objects orbited at a planet’s geostationary height — about 22,200 miles (35,700 kilometers) — they are “almost certainly artificial,” Socas-Navarro said.

Similarly, a massive space city or a large station close to a space elevator could look like an exomoon. Again, Socas-Navarro said, altitude is key. If the object hovers at geostationary height, it’s likely to be artificial.

It doesn’t seem to matter too much if they are many small or [a] few large [objects],” he said. “As long as they are spread out all over the orbit, they will basically produce the same signature.

He also found that the ideal conditions to spot such a satellite belt would be around dim red dwarf stars located within 100 light-years of Earth.

The new study was published last month in The Astrophysical Journal. You can read it for free at the online preprint server arXiv.org.

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Astronomers Just Found a Planet Where Star Trek’s Vulcan Was Predicted to Exist

So far, astronomers have identified thousands of exoplanets out there beyond the reaches of the Solar System, but only a rare few are the stuff of legend.

Such is the case with an Earth-like exoplanet, found orbiting a star called 40 Eridani A – Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s preferred location for Vulcan, the home planet of Mr Spock.

Located around 16 light-years from Earth in the southern constellation of Eridanus, 40 Eridani A is part of a triple-star system.

Although it was never mentioned in the original TV series of Star Trek, it had been put forward as a proposed location for the planet by related literature.

In 1991, Roddenberry and three astronomers from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics wrote a letter to Sky & Telescope magazine laying out their choice for Vulcan’s location, and why.

Based on the history of life on Earth, life on any planet around Epsilon Eridani would not have had time to evolve beyond the level of bacteria.




“On the other hand, an intelligent civilisation could have evolved over the aeons on a planet circling 40 Eridani. So the latter is the more likely Vulcan sun.

Epsilon Eridani does have one planet – an uninhabitable gas giant. Now astronomers on the University of Florida-led Dharma Planet Survey have found something that seems a bit more habitable orbiting 40 Eridani A.

More precisely, it’s an object known as a super-Earth – a rocky planet around twice the size of Earth, orbiting 40 Eridani A just inside the system’s habitable zone – not too hot and not too cold. It completes one orbit every 42 (Earth) days.

So life on the planet isn’t unfeasible.

The aim of the Dharma Planet Survey, using the 50-inch Dharma Endowment Foundation Telescope (DEFT) on Mount Lemmon in Arizona, is a dedicated survey to find low-mass planets orbiting bright, nearby stars.

It uses the radial velocity method – detecting the very slight wobble in a star’s position due to the gravitational pull of an exoplanet.

The candidate exoplanet, named HD 26965b (but we’ll probably call it Vulcan, obviously), is the first super-Earth found in the survey.

And if you’re in the southern hemisphere, you can even go outside and look for it.

“Now anyone can see 40 Eridani on a clear night and be proud to point out Spock’s home.”

The research has been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

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Aliens May Actually Be Billion-Year-Old Robots

This could ruin a lot of good science fiction movies … and create interesting plots for the next generation of them, not to mention influencing how humans deal with space aliens when they first encounter each other.

A timely article by The Daily Galaxy reviews the study “Alien Minds” by Susan Schneider where the professor and author discusses her theory that our first meeting with an extraterrestrial will be with a billion-year-old robot. Wait, what?

“I do not believe that most advanced alien civilizations will be biological. The most sophisticated civilizations will be postbiological, forms of artificial intelligence or alien superintelligence.”

Susan Schneider is an associate Professor in the Department of Philosophy Cognitive Science Program at the University of Connecticut.

Alien Minds” has been presented at NASA and the 2016 IdeaFestival in Kentucky and was published in The Impact of Discovering Life Beyond Earth.




It is her response to the question: “How would intelligent aliens think? Would they have conscious experiences? Would it feel a certain way to be an alien?

“I actually think the first discovery of life on other planets will probably involve microbial life; I am concentrating on intelligent life in my work on this topic though. I only claim that the most advanced civilizations will likely be post biological.”

Schneider’s theory is based on three components or “observations.”

In her “short window observation,” she presents the idea that a civilization or species that can conquer long-distance space travel is already very close to moving from biological to artificially-intelligent beings.

An example of this “short window” is the relatively brief 120 years it took humans to go from the first radio signals to cell phones.

Some of those species will be much older than us, which is Schneider’s “the greater age of alien civilizations” observation – one accepted by many.

And not just a few generations older but billions of years beyond us, making them far more advanced and intelligent. How much more?

Schneider’s last observation is that any species that can travel to Earth will be intelligent enough to develop robots that they can upload their brains

to. The robots would probably be silicon-based for speed of ‘thinking’ and durability, making them nearly immortal.

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Exoplanet Kepler-186f: Earth-Size World Could Support Oceans And Life (Infographic)

Astronomers have discovered a planet about the size of Earth, orbiting its star in the zone where oceans of liquid water would be possible.

A study of the newly-found planet indicates it could have an Earth-like atmosphere and water at its surface. The planet Kepler-186f is the fifth planet of the star Kepler-186, 490 light-years away.




The planet has 1.11 times the Earth’s mass. Its radius is 1.1 times that of Earth. Kepler-186f orbits at 32.5 million miles (52.4 million kilometers) from its parent star. Its year is 130 Earth days.

The planet orbits Kepler-186, an M-type dwarf star less than half as massive as the sun.

Because the star is cooler than the sun, the planet receives solar energy less intense than that received by Mars in our solar system, despite the fact that Kepler-186f orbits much closer to its star.

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How Aliens We’ve Never Met Could Help Humanity Escape Self-Destruction

Humans have had such a dramatic impact on Earth that some scientists say we’ve kickstarted a new geological era known as the Anthropocene.

A fascinating new paper theorizes that alien civilizations could do the same thing, reshaping their homeworlds in predictable and potentially detectable ways.

The authors are proposing a new classification scheme that measures the degree to which planets been modified by intelligent hosts.

Whenever a distant exoplanet is discovered, astronomers categorize it according to its most obvious physical features and orbital characteristics.

Examples include hot-Jupiters, Earth-like terrestrial planets, and brown dwarfs.

With ongoing advances in telescope technology, the day is coming when astronomers will be able to expand on these simple characterizations, classifying a planet according to other features, including atmospheric or chemical composition.

But as a new study led by University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank points out, we may eventually be able to place exoplanets within an astrobiological context, too.




In addition to taking the usual physical measures into account, Frank and his colleagues are proposing that astronomers take the influence of a hypothetical planet’s biosphere into account—including the impacts of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization.

Frank’s hypothetical planets, ranked from Class I through to Class V, range from dead, rocky worlds through to planets in which a host intelligence has solved the problems caused by its own existence, like excessive use of resources and climate change.

Moreover, as Frank explained, this paper presents more than just a planetary classification scheme—it’s a potential roadmap to an environmentally viable future.

If we discover signs of an advanced alien civilization—and that’s a big if—we may learn a thing or two about how we might be able to survive into the far future.

Indeed, we’re at a critical juncture in our history, one in which we’re crafting the planet according to our will—and so far, we’re not doing a very good job of it.

There’s ongoing debate as to whether or not our planet has crossed into the Anthropocene epoch, a new geologic chapter in which we’ve become the primary driver of planetary change.

Some scientists point to the fact that half of the planet’s land surface has been claimed for human use, or that Earth’s biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus have been radically altered on account of agriculture and fertilizer use, as evidence that we have.

While the technical debate over what constitutes evidence of a geologic shift continues, it’s clear humanity is altering Earth in some rather profound ways.

So much so, says Frank, that we need to place our planet, and the Anthropocene itself, within an astrobiological context. What’s happening here on Earth, says Frank, is likely happening elsewhere in the Galaxy.

Though we may be inclined to think that our situation is somehow special or unique, we have no good reason to believe that’s really the case.

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Why We Should Try To Contact Aliens – My Interview With Doug Vakoch

In today’s podcast, I sit down with Doug Vakoch, the founder of METI, or Messaging Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. We talk about why METI was founded, what their goals are, why we should try to contact aliens, and respond to some of the criticisms of the organization.

If you’re interested in learning more about what they do or want to get involved, you can check them out at www.meti.org.

TRAPPIST-1 Planets Probably Rich In Water

Planets around the faint red star TRAPPIST-1, just 40 light-years from Earth, were first detected by the TRAPPIST-South telescope at ESO’s La Silla Observatory in 2016.

In the following year further observations from ground-based telescopes, including ESO’s Very Large Telescope and NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope, revealed that there were no fewer than seven planets in the system, each roughly the same size as the Earth.

They are named TRAPPIST-1b,c,d,e,f,g and h, with increasing distance from the central star.

Further observations have now been made, both from telescopes on the ground, including the nearly-complete SPECULOOS facility at ESO’s Paranal Observatory, and from NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and the Kepler Space Telescope.

A team of scientists led by Simon Grimm at the University of Bern in Switzerland have now applied very complex computer modelling methods to all the available data and have determined the planets’ densities with much better precision than was possible before.




Simon Grimm explains how the masses are found: “The TRAPPIST-1 planets are so close together that they interfere with each other gravitationally, so the times when they pass in front of the star shift slightly.

“These shifts depend on the planets’ masses, their distances and other orbital parameters. With a computer model, we simulate the planets’ orbits until the calculated transits agree with the observed values, and hence derive the planetary masses.”

Team member Eric Agol comments on the significance: “A goal of exoplanet studies for some time has been to probe the composition of planets that are Earth-like in size and temperature.

“The discovery of TRAPPIST-1 and the capabilities of ESO’s facilities in Chile and the NASA Spitzer Space Telescope in orbit have made this possible — giving us our first glimpse of what Earth-sized exoplanets are made of!

The measurements of the densities, when combined with models of the planets’ compositions, strongly suggest that the seven TRAPPIST-1 planets are not barren rocky worlds.

They seem to contain significant amounts of volatile material, probably water, amounting to up to 5% the planet’s mass in some cases — a huge amount; by comparison the Earth has only about 0.02% water by mass!

TRAPPIST-1b and c, the innermost planets, are likely to have rocky cores and be surrounded by atmospheres much thicker than Earth’s.

TRAPPIST-1d, meanwhile, is the lightest of the planets at about 30 percent the mass of Earth. Scientists are uncertain whether it has a large atmosphere, an ocean or an ice layer.

Scientists were surprised that TRAPPIST-1e is the only planet in the system slightly denser than Earth, suggesting that it may have a denser iron core and that it does not necessarily have a thick atmosphere, ocean or ice layer.

It is mysterious that TRAPPIST-1e appears to be so much rockier in its composition than the rest of the planets.

In terms of size, density and the amount of radiation it receives from its star, this is the planet that is most similar to Earth.

TRAPPIST-1f, g and h are far enough from the host star that water could be frozen into ice across their surfaces.

If they have thin atmospheres, they would be unlikely to contain the heavy molecules that we find on Earth, such as carbon dioxide.

Astronomers are also working hard to search for further planets around faint red stars like TRAPPIST-1. As team member Michaël Gillon explains: “This result highlights the huge interest of exploring nearby ultracool dwarf stars — like TRAPPIST-1 — for transiting terrestrial planets.

“This is exactly the goal of SPECULOOS, our new exoplanet search that is about to start operations at ESO’s Paranal Observatory in Chile.

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The Wow Signal – Actual Proof Of Alien Life?

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The Wow Signal is a 72-second radio burst that was recorded in 1977 that has defied explanation for 40 years, leading many to believe it might be proof of intelligent life.

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TRANSCRIPT:

SETI, or the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, has access to telescopes all around the world, constantly scanning the sky for signals of alien communication.

Processing all of this information is a gargantuan task that would require a massive supercomputer that SETI can’t quite afford. So they came up with a brilliant idea.

It’s called SETI at home. It’s a program you can install on your computer that processes tiny parts of that data in the background.

Spreading that data across thousands of computers around the world, they’re able to crank through mountains of information, without the mountainous cost of a supercomputer.

But back in the 70’s none of that existed. Signals from space had to be printed out and processed by hand.

Which is exactly what astronomer Jerry Ehman was doing on August 18th, 1977. He was going over reams of printouts when he found a massive spike in a certain frequency of radio wave.

It was a spike 30 times higher than the background noise, and it was so noteworthy, he literally wrote “Wow” on the page.

It has since become known as the wow signal, and it’s still confusing scientists 40 years later.

The Big Ear went into operation in 1963 and was initially put to use on the Ohio Sky Survey, which catalogued nearly 20,000 sources of radio waves between 1965 and 1971.

Since it was on the ground, the telescope basically used the rotation of the Earth to scan across the sky.

When it measured a radio signal, they could infer by the time of day what direction the telescope was pointing and match that with visual sky surveys to figure out what star or galaxy it came from.

In 1956 on the grounds of Ohio Wesleyan University, construction crews broke ground on a massive telescope the size of three football fields to monitor the sky for radio signals from deep space.

It was officially known as the Ohio State University Radio Observatory, because it was actually run by Ohio State, but it was more well known by its nickname. The Big Ear.

The Big Ear went into operation in 1963 and was initially put to use on the Ohio Sky Survey, which catalogued nearly 20,000 sources of radio waves between 1965 and 1971.

Since it was on the ground, the telescope basically used the rotation of the Earth to scan across the sky.

When it measured a radio signal, they could infer by the time of day what direction the telescope was pointing and match that with visual sky surveys to figure out what star or galaxy it came from.

So a popular misconception with the wow signal is that 6EQUJ5 is some kind of alien code that we received but it’s actually just a measure of signal strength.

Ehrman and others immediately started pointing telescopes at the spot where the signal originated, which is in the constellation Sagittarius, but nothing has ever shown up.

So, it’s not a star or galaxy or pulsar or black hole because we’d pick up more signals from that location. As far as we know, and we’ve looked there a lot at this point, there’s nothing there.

At least, no cosmic body that would normally produce a radio stream like that.

But the mystery actually gets deeper. Because the frequency that this signal was found on was 1420 MHz. And if you were paying attention in last week’s video about the Voyager missions, 1420 mHz is the frequency that hydrogen atoms expel photons during hyperfine transitions.

(also known as 21-centimeter line or hydrogen line)

This same frequency was used by Carl Sagan and Frank Drake when creating the Pioneer and Voyager plaques as a way to communicate with an alien species should they ever come across the spacecraft.