"The Search for Earth 2.0" --NASA's New Quests for Extraterrestrial Life
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July 21, 2014

"The Search for Earth 2.0" --NASA's New Quests for Extraterrestrial Life

 

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"Do we believe there is life beyond Earth?"asked former astronaut and NASA Administrator Charles Bolden at a recent panel discussion at NASA headquarters with with the nation's leading space scientists. "I would venture to say that most of my colleagues here today say it is improbable that in the limitless vastness of the Universe we humans stand alone." "Just imagine the moment, when we find potential signatures of life," added Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute. "Imagine the moment when the world wakes up and the human race realizes that its long loneliness in time and space may be over—the possibility that we're no longer alone in the Universe."

The topic of alien life is not merely for the lovers and dreamers of science fiction. Space missions, specialized telescopes, and unprecedented technological advances are underway at NASA to find signs of life, and eventually, extraterrestrials themselves. Much of the discussion centered around the groundbreaking James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)—to be launched four years from now. It will be able to look for biosignatures of, not only liquid water, but also the atmospheric gases such as oxygen that might indicate the presence of life. Larger than the famous Hubble Telescope— and larger even than the spaceship designated to carry it into space—the JWST provides the most accurate and expansive images of any telescope ever made.

 

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"We have our first chance, our first capability of finding signs of life on another planet,"said Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at MIT, in reference to this telescope. Although the JWST is a critical advancement in the search for life, the panelists explained it is not enough. Even given its unmatched immensity, the probability of finding extraterrestrial life with it is very slim. "To actually find evidence of life will take another generation of telescopes," said Matt Mountain, director of the Space Telescope Science Institute.

John Grunsfeld, NASA's associate administrator and former astronaut, explained that the efforts in the search for life are focused on our basic and limited understanding of what sustains life itself —Earth. Astronomers are seeking earth-size planets orbiting in the "goldilocks zone"- the distance from a star that is neither too hot nor too cold for liquid water to pool. The quest for this second Earth, referred to as Earth 2.0,is where the search begins. As technology allows for telescopes to become larger along with the spacecrafts to transport them, our map and understanding of the Universe will also expand.

The Daily Galaxy via NASA/Astrobio.net

Image Credit: Ring Nebula M57 irlab.astro.ucla.edu

Comments

Extraterrestrial life already exist and closer than you would expect : have a look at People of Walmart. Lots of alien life forms.

I've seen them. One of them even tried to probe me!

Any astronomers in the house to do some calculations?

I got an idea to narrow down where life is, not sure if this idea is right or wrong but maybe somebody can give it a try.

In short: Life requires that the rocky planet to have only one moon and not more, at the right distance and of right size.

In detail:

Carbon / DNA life (the only one we know of) is based on the elements most abundant in the universe, hence is possible organic chemistry to started on many other planets; however, to survive and flourish certain conditions are required: liquid water, strong magnetic field, big brother planet to fence the asteroids, etc.

Astronomers can identify planets, mass, composition, trajectories or distances if other solar systems but not the intensity of the magnetic field of the planet.

The magnetic field of earth is created by the earth's iron core rotation acting as a dynamo. What if the core rotation is created and maintained by the moon in a similar way to tides. Here are some things to consider:

- Iron is the most stable element and very abundant in the universe.

- Iron is heavy and will always sink to the core during the planetary formation. The iron is not evenly distributed in the core.

- Apparently earth iron core is moving faster than earth and towards East.The moon also rotates towards east.

- The earth orbital inclination is 23.4 deg, the moons is 5%, and the magnetic pole true north declination 18°22' http://geokov.com/education/magnetic-declination-inclination.aspx

- The melted metals friction is very height; after early bombardment, the core rotation would had stopped in 4.5 billion years unless something is continuously stir it (gravitational field).

- the intensity of the planetary magnetic field is given by the speed of rotation in the magnetic core. The fastest will the magnetic core go, the stronger the field will get.

I hope all those things would add up to something. I didn't find anything on the net linking the two(moon and earth magnetic field intensity) so I just lay it out there, maybe somebody will like to find out if there's really a connection.

Now, why only one moon. Mars and Venus didn't kept their iron core spinning because they have more than one moon (and much smaller). Only one moon would give focused unidirectional motion / rotation of the iron core creating a strong enough field to repel the solar radiation.

If this two end up to be related, then astronomers can calculate another parameter to narrow down habitable planets. The iron composition percentage can be estimated based on the universe abundance. The size / distance(field intensity) and rotation speed of the moon also is important to determine the magnetic field intensity.

However, for now we can detect only planets around stars and not moons around planets in other solar systems. This would be a thing for the future.


Cheers
Cristian Conete

Cristian, Venus has no moon :)

Slava, and that's why no magnetic field LOL ... the exception which strengthen the rule :-p

the Venusian extremely weak field is generated by the ionosphere and the solar wind, rather the internal core dynamo

please stop the search !! You`re giving cold chills to all the religions on Earth ...

aw wait, those brainwashed believers don`t care anyway

"In short: Life requires that the rocky planet to have only one moon and not more, at the right distance and of right size."

You have proof of this assertion where? Despite your phrasing, that's an opinion, not a fact.

The name had nothing to do with it Fermi.


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