Tag Archives: Exoplanets

An exoplanet or extrasolar planet is a planet that orbits a star other than the Sun.

Proof of life: how would we recognise an alien if we saw one?

What would convince you that aliens existed? The question came up recently at a conference on astrobiology, held at Stanford University in California. Several ideas were tossed around – unusual gases in a planet’s atmosphere, strange heat gradients on its surface. But none felt persuasive. Finally, one scientist offered the solution: a photograph. There was some laughter and a murmur of approval from the audience of researchers: yes, a photo of an alien would be convincing evidence, the holy grail of proof that we’re not alone.

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Watch: The Milky Way as You’ve Never Seen It Before

In April 2018, the European Space Agency’s Gaia observatory released its second data catalog, which includes the distances to over 1.3 billion stars. In the video published by the American Museum of Natural History, museum’s astrophysicist Jackie Faherty breaks down why this information is so revolutionary and explains how this information is helping scientists and non-scientists alike understand the universe like never before.

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To find aliens, we must think of life as we don’t know it

From blob-like jellyfish to rock-like lichens, our planet teems with such diversity of life that it is difficult to recognise some organisms as even being alive. That complexity hints at the challenge of searching for life as we don’t know it – the alien biology that might have taken hold on other planets, where conditions could be unlike anything we’ve seen before. ‘The Universe is a really big place. Chances are, if we can imagine it, it’s probably out there on a planet somewhere,’ said Morgan Cable, an astrochemist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. ‘The question is, will we be able to find it?’

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Earth can be a model for detecting vegetation on exoplanets

Back in December 1990, during its flyby of Earth, NASA’s Galileo spacecraft, which studied the planet Jupiter and its moons, as well as several other Solar System bodies, pointed its instruments towards Earth, at the urging of Carl Sagan. And, it has found evidence of life on our planet. This can be a key to detect vegetation on exoplanets – which is a key to a possible intelligent extraterrestrial life.

In a paper published on Nature, researchers wrote “The Galileo spacecraft found evidence of abundant gaseous oxygen, a widely distributed surface pigment with a sharp absorption edge in the red part of the visible spectrum, and atmospheric methane in extreme thermodynamic disequilibrium. Together, these are strongly suggestive of life on Earth.”

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Virtual Reality Tour of 6 Real Exoplanets in 4K Ultra-HD, 360°

What would it be like to stand on the surface of another planet? “We The Curious” channel has teamed up with a group of astrophysicists to create a scientifically accurate virtual reality tour of six planets discovered outside our solar system. The fruit of this collaboration is the video below, in 4K Ultra-HD and 360-degree. Narrated and produced by Ross Exton.

Related: Exoplanet Travel Bureau by NASA

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Want to Become a Citizen Scientist for NASA?

You can help NASA on some projects: for instance, citizen scientists helped NASA identify an aurora-related celestial phenomenon, now called STEVE. Want to become a citizen scientist? You can find projects on the NASA website.

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Exoplanet Travel Bureau by NASA – Interactive 3D Images

Will we ever visit other stars? Maybe, in the distant future, if humans won’t become extinct, our grand grand … (insert a hundred or a thousand grands here) children can stand on an exoplanet’s surface someday. But, we don’t have to wait. NASA has opened a new web page, an “Exoplanet Travel Bureau”, and we can, at least, see the artists’ imaginations of what an exoplanet surface look like, based on available data. NASA warns, there are no actual images of the exoplanets, obviously. With interactive 3D images, it is still an exciting experience.

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