Monday, March 5, 2012

We're Going To Need A Bigger Telescope

This is just cool.  Scientists have proved the existence of life on Earth by analyzing Earthshine reflected from the Moon.  What, you may well ask, is the big deal -- anecdotal evidence ought to be sufficient, right?  True enough, for this one planet. But the same techniques, applied to extrasolar planets, may someday prove the existence of life Elsewhere.

We're going to need bigger telescopes than what we've got, though.  I'm rooting for an Insanely Large Array on the dark side of the Moon.  Or maybe coordinated satellites in distant solar orbit.

You can read the io9 article here.

Meanwhile, of the five hundred some extrasolar planets discovered to date, ten appear not to be linked to any identifiable stars.  Which means that nomadic planets may outnumber committed planets in our galaxy two to one.  These free agents roam the interstellar darkness, bleak and alone . . . and some of them, conceivably, may harbor life.

The published speculation is that a free agent with a large enough atmosphere could trap sufficient heat from radioactive decay or tectonic activity to provide a friendly environment for microorganisms.  Then, when one of these planets blundered into a stellar system, collisions with local bodies could spread life in the most destructive and terrifying manner imaginable.

But that's timid stuff.  I like to think there are planets wandering the Great Dark with liquid oceans beneath tremendously thick shells of ice.  And in those oceans . . . civilizations.  Submarine cities with delicate coral spires and towers, filled with philosophers and minstrels, lovers, fools, librarians, and artists.  Wise and peaceful races which not only are unaware of the existence of life elsewhere in the universe but don't even suspect the rest of the universe exists.

I wish them well.

You can read the Spaceref article here.

And because I'm blogging it old-school today . . .

Remember when blogs were just lists of links?  I was feeling nostalgic today.  Which is why there isn't a picture or a video up top of this post.  So, to make it up to you, here's a classic clip of what happens when you add an Alka Seltzer tablet to a sphere of water in zero gravity.



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