Astronomy/Space Exploration

Articles about astronomy and space exploration.

Two alien planets

Odds improve for the existence of life beyond Earth

The likelihood of life existing somewhere other than Earth depends on several key factors, chief among them being the number of planets (and moons) in the universe where life could survive.1 Two recent studies indicate there may be many more worlds that are hospitable for life than we previously thought. …

  1. In the case of intelligent life, there is an actual formula — the Drake Equation — used to estimate how many intelligent civilizations may exist in our galaxy. In an upcoming article, I’ll provide a detailed look at the Drake equation. []

Paul Davies on The Origin of Life

Physicist and Astrobiologist Paul DaviesOn Wednesday evening, March 20, 2013,1 Paul Davies2 — theoretical physicist, cosmologist, astrobiologist and best-selling author — spoke at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.3

Davies’ presentation on The Origin of Life moved beyond the traditional discussion and explored the deep conceptual mismatch between the realms of physics and chemistry (which are cast in the language of matter, energy and forces) and the realm of biology (which is described in the informational terms of genetic instructions, signals and codes). According to Davies, research to-date has focused on “the hardware” — the physical components and processes involved in the emergence of life. As an alternate approach, Davies outlined a “software” perspective grounded in the organization and management of information. …

  1. Apologies for the delay posting this article! []
  2. Davies currently is Director of the “Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science” and co-Director of the Cosmology Initiative, both at Arizona State University. Previously he held academic appointments at the Universities of Cambridge, London and Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK, before moving to Australia in 1990, initially as Professor of Mathematical Physics at The University of Adelaide. Later he helped found the Australian Centre for Astrobiology. []
  3. Paul Davies talk was part of The Center for Complexity and Collective Computation’s (C4) “John von Neumann Public Lecture Series in Complexity and Computation.” []
Aurora over the Midwest

What’s ahead in 2014 for astronomy and space exploration?

2013 was an exciting year for both astronomy and space exploration.1 Looking ahead, what can we expect during the next 12 months? …

  1. From the Curiosity Mars rover rewriting much of what we know about the Red Planet, to a small asteroid burning up in the atmosphere over Russia, to the hundreds of new exoplanets found during 2014, it was a year of discoveries and surprises. []
NASA Kepler

Kepler’s biggest discoveries still lie ahead

Roger Hunter
Roger Hunter, NASA Kepler Project Manager

Roger Hunter, NASA Kepler Project Manager, spoke at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium on July 2, 1013 about the spacecraft’s phenomenally successful search for exoplanets. Although Kepler suffered a gyroscope1 failure on May 11 (which may end Kepler’s ability to collect data), Hunter stated that Kepler’s biggest discoveries likely are still to come. …

  1. The gyroscopic device known as “reaction wheel 4” is necessary to keep the Kepler spacecraft aimed with the extremely high degree of precision necessary to detect exoplanets. []

Black Hole to Devour Gas Cloud

2013 already is turning out to be a great year for astronomers and stargazers alike, with two comets visible to the naked eye, more exoplanets being discovered every day, asteroids hits and near misses, and more. But the wildest may be yet to come — a black hole right here in our own galaxy devouring a gas cloud more massive than the Earth. …