Get set for July 4 buck moon, partial lunar eclipse: NASA’s top tips for July skywatchers

The July 4 full moon is known as the buck moon or thunder moon

Skywatchers are in for a treat on July 4, when the buck moon, or July full moon, rises in the sky. There will also be a partial lunar eclipse.

“July’s full moon will rise after sunset in the evening of Saturday, July 4, before reaching peak illumination at 12:44 A.M Eastern Time on Sunday, July 5,” explains The Old Farmer’s Almanac. “Look towards the southeast to watch it rise above the horizon.”

The Old Farmer’s Almanac explains that the buck moon earned its name because it occurs at a time of the year when a buck’s antlers are “in full growth mode.” Another name for the buck moon is the thunder moon.

NASA notes that there will also be a partial penumbral eclipse of the moon. In a penumbral lunar eclipse, part of the moon passes through the outer part of Earth’s shadow, the space agency says.

On the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the full buck moon rises above the skyline of lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in New York City on July 16, 2019 as seen from Kearney, New Jersey - file photo.

On the 50th anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the full buck moon rises above the skyline of lower Manhattan and One World Trade Center in New York City on July 16, 2019 as seen from Kearney, New Jersey – file photo. (Photo by Gary Hershorn/Getty Images)

“The moon will be close enough to opposite the Sun that its northern edge will pass through the partial shadow of the Earth,” explains NASA on its website. “Although visible from the Americas, this slight dimming of part of the moon should be difficult or impossible to notice without instrumentation. The moon will appear full for about three days around the eclipse, from Friday evening into Monday morning, making this a full moon weekend.”

Last month, skywatchers across the globe enjoyed the stunning June full moon or strawberry moon. The strawberry moon was also a penumbral lunar eclipse for skywatchers in Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania.

The buck moon, however, will not be as high in the sky as the strawberry moon. “For 2020, this full Moon in early July is closer to the summer solstice and will be lower in the sky than the full Moon in June,” explains NASA on its website.

The May full moon, known as the flower moon, was the last supermoon of 2020.

July is also a good time for seeing Venus and Mercury, according to NASA. “Wednesday morning, July 8, 2020, will be when the brightest of the planets, Venus, reaches its greatest brilliancy,” it explains, on its website. “Starting the morning of Thursday, July 16, 2020, the planet Mercury will be above the horizon at the time morning twilight begins (at least for the Washington, D.C. area), making all five of the naked eye planets visible (if you have a clear view of Mercury on the horizon in the east-northeast and Jupiter and Saturn on the horizon in the southwest).”

The five naked-eye planets are Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter

This New Catalog of the Universe Contains, to the Best of Our Knowledge, One of Everything

If you want to find technologically advanced life, investigate the anomalies.

Eros color.jpg
Catalog item P023: The asteroid 433 Eros, as seen by NASA’s NEAR spacecraft in 2000. (NASA/JPL/JHUAPL)

Breakthrough Listen, an initiative launched five years ago to search for evidence of technologically advanced life in the universe, has published a new catalog called “Exotica” with 865 entries consisting of 737 distinct astronomical targets. Its aim, according to Brian Lacki at the University of California at Berkeley and a team of international colleagues, is to serve as a single list containing “one of everything.”

The idea is to represent the entire breadth of astrophysical phenomena, from distant galaxies to small objects in our own Solar System. It includes planets and moons, stars at every point of their life cycle, galaxies of various sizes, star clusters and quasars. A special emphasis is put on objects with extreme properties and on anomalies like “Tabby’s Star,” with its puzzling dimming behavior, and the interstellar object ʻOumuamua, which two years ago was suggested by some in the SETI community to be possible evidence of an extraterrestrial civilization.

Since we still have only a vague idea where or how to find such evidence, I think looking for anomalies is the way to go. This new catalogue seems helpful as a first step. Take, for example, Item P023 in the catalog, the asteroid 433 Eros, which recently sparked quite a bit of discussion in the German SETI community.

A Mars-crossing asteroid with a diameter of about 35 kilometers on its long axis, Eros might even have crossed Earth’s orbit in the distant past, and may do so again in the future. The NEAR Shoemaker space probe flew past the object in 1998, then photographed it extensively during its orbiting phase two years later. Among the many images it returned was the one below, showing an anomalously shaped object on the surface.

Eros image.jpg
NEAR took this image of the surface of Eros from a distance of 53 kilometers on May 1, 2000. The rectangular object at upper right is shown in close-up. (NASA/JPL/JHUAPL)

Daniel Gerritzen from the German SETI group took a closer look at that object and tentatively suggested it might be artificial in origin. The NEAR team estimated it to be 45 meters across and described it as a “rectangular boulder.” By Gerritzen’s calculations, it’s a little bigger than that—at least 74 meters long and nearly 20 meters wide.

The NEAR spacecraft was equipped with an infrared sensor, and if the object were indeed artificial, one would expect a different heat signature for the anomaly compared to its surroundings. But when NEAR completed a close pass, its infrared sensor unfortunately stopped working.https://4d6bb3615aa185215fb7c6cd777eefc6.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

Of course, none of this means the object was created by intelligent extraterrestrials. We know that looks can deceive, the best example being the infamous “Face on Mars.” In early images, that structure had a strong resemblance to a human face, but upon closer (and higher-resolution) inspection, it turned out to be a perfectly ordinary mountain.

Most remote sensing experts and planetary geologists would take it for granted that the Eros image simply shows a rock formation. Right now, that’s a reasonable working hypothesis. But rather than stop there, we need to keep an open mind and investigate whatever seems anomalous, because that’s the way we make new discoveries. Breakthrough Listen’s new catalog at least gives us a starting point.

Stunning NASA time-lapse video shows 10 years in life of sun

The video was created from images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe blasts off from Cape Canaveral on its mission to the Sun.

NASA has released a stunning 61-minute time-lapse video that shows a decade in the life of the sun.

The video was created from images taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

“From its orbit in space around Earth, SDO has gathered 425 million high-resolution images of the Sun, amassing 20 million gigabytes of data over the past 10 years,” explained NASA in a statement on its website. “This 10-year time lapse showcases photos taken at a wavelength of 17.1 nanometers, which is an extreme ultraviolet wavelength that shows the Sun’s outermost atmospheric layer – the corona.”

The space agency released the time-lapse video to mark SDO’s 10th year in space. The orbiting observatory was launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Feb. 11, 2010. In a statement accompanying the time-lapse video posted to YouTube, NASA noted that, as of June 2020, SDO has been watching the sun non-stop for over a full decade.

“The video shows the rise and fall in activity that occurs as part of the Sun’s 11-year solar cycle and notable events, like transiting planets and eruptions,” it said.

During its 10 years in space, the SDO has also observed solar tornadoes, giant waves in plasma on the solar surface, polar coronal holes and magnetic explosions.

This composite image is made from 151 individual SDO frames. They span the full ten-year run of the time-lapse. (NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO)

This composite image is made from 151 individual SDO frames. They span the full ten-year run of the time-lapse. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO)

Earth’s star continues to reveal its secrets. NASA’s $1.5 billion Parker Solar Probe mission, which launched in 2018, has taken humanity closer to the sun than ever before and the spacecraft is helping scientists shed new light on the star.

Scientists have observed bursts of energetic particles never seen before on such a small scale, as well as switchback-like reversals in the out-flowing solar magnetic field that seem to whip up the solar wind. The unexpected phenomenon has been compared to the cracking of a whip.

The stunning NASA time-lapse video shows 10 years in the life of the Sun.

The stunning NASA time-lapse video shows 10 years in the life of the Sun. (NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/SDO)

Researchers said they also finally have evidence of a dust-free zone encircling the sun. Farther out, there’s so much dust from vaporizing comets and asteroids that one of 80 small viewfinders on one instrument was pierced by a grain earlier this year.

To withstand the heat of nearly 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, the probe is protected by a special 4.5-inch-thick carbon-composite shield.

Ocean on Jupiter’s moon ‘could be habitable,’ researchers say

Europa is one of just a handful of places in the Solar System that could be suitable for life

With NASA slated to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa sometime in the next decade, researchers are increasingly confident that the ocean on the celestial satellite “could be habitable.”

Speaking at the 2020 Goldschmidt Conference earlier this month, NASA researchers said they have developed a model that shows Europa, the sixth largest moon in the Solar System, could support life.

“We were able to model the composition and physical properties of the core, silicate layer, and ocean,” NASA JPL researcher and the study’s lead author, Mohit Melwani Daswani, said in a statement. “We find that different minerals lose water and volatiles at different depths and temperatures. We added up these volatiles that are estimated to have been lost from the interior, and found that they are consistent with the current ocean’s predicted mass, meaning that they are probably present in the ocean.”

(Credit: NASA)

(Credit: NASA)

The research can be read here, but it has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The ocean is under a dense layer of frozen crust that is largely believed to be at least six and as many as 19 miles thick. The surface temperature on Europa is exceptionally cold as well, approximately -260 degrees Fahrenheit at the equator and -370 degrees Fahrenheit at the poles, according to Space.com.

While the ocean is widely believed to be warm, researchers are only just learning that it likely formed due to the minerals being broken down by either tidal forces or radioactive decay, according to Universe Today.

“Indeed it was thought that this ocean could still be rather sulfuric,” Daswani explained, “but our simulations, coupled with data from the Hubble Space Telescope, showing chloride on Europa’s surface, suggests that the water most likely became chloride rich. In other words, its composition became more like oceans on Earth. We believe that this ocean could be quite habitable for life.”

In August 2019, NASA confirmed it would launch a mission to Europa, a trek that could answer whether the icy celestial body could be habitable for humans and support life.

Voyager 2 snapped this image of Jupiter's moon Europa during the spacecraft's 1979 flyby. (Credit: NASA)

Voyager 2 snapped this image of Jupiter’s moon Europa during the spacecraft’s 1979 flyby. (Credit: NASA)

The Europa Clipper, which could launch as soon as 2023 but has a baseline commitment of a “launch readiness date by 2025,” will have a mass spectrometer on the craft, used to determine the mass of ions in an atom.

The mission for the solar-powered Clipper is expected to cost around $4 billion, according to NASA. The space agency has previously said the purpose of the mission will be to investigate whether Europa, the sixth-largest of Jupiter’s 79 known moons, “could harbor conditions suitable for life, honing our insights into astrobiology.”

2018 study expressed concerns that Europa’s surface may be extremely porous, which could harm any probe that touches down on its surface.

In December 2019, a study suggested that if there is life on Europa, it would be indigenous to the moon and not related to humans.

Strange Flying Objects Leave Boise… July 25, 1949

Boise, Idaho   Daily Statesman – July 25, 1949

Strange Flying Objects Leave Boise…

Investigation By Air Force To Be Started
Mysterious Craft Pass
Frightened Flyer
At Very Close Range

A Boise valley pilot told Sunday of seeing seven V-shaped flying objects at at close range over the Mountain Home desert, and said the experience left him “frightened and shaken.”

The strange craft, he said, were not United States aircraft, as far as he could determine, and they had no visible means of propulsion, yet traveled at what he said was a “tremendous rate of speed.”

It has been learned that the Air Force’s intelligence division is sending an operative to investigate the incident.  The Boise valley pilot released the information only on the condition that his name not be used.  He is the manager of one of the valley’s major airports.

The pilot said the seven objects, or aircraft, came within 1000 or 2000 feet of his plane as he was flying toward Boise, about 10 miles west of Mountain Home.

No Pilot Discernible

They looked like a V, he said, with a circular body within the V and a belly-like object sitting under the nose of the V.  He said that that he could see no sign of a pilot or “anything like a human being” in the aircraft.

The color, he said, was not the metallic color one usually associates with military aircraft.  He said it was “neither white nor gray” but a shade that he had never seen before.

A circular portion of the body just behind the nose of the V appeared to change in color from time to time, he said, and the outer edges of the V seemed to [oscillate] once or twice during the two minutes he had the craft under observation.

The pilot saw the objects at 12:05 p.m. yesterday while he was at an altitude of 10,000 feet on the right hand side of the highway from Mountain Home to Boise.

No Markings on Craft

He said the objects came up from his left side at about 9000 feet and crossed in front of his plane to the right, and disappeared on an easterly heading at “tremendous speed.”

There were no visible markings on the craft, he said.  Their formation was unlike any ordinary military formation flying.  He said they were in two “tight lines of three each, with the seventh object either in the middle of the lines or slightly above.”

He said he could not see a propeller or any smoke trail indicating jet or rocket power in the objects.

The pilot said the objects departed between the mountains and the town of Mountain Home. The Mountain Home air base, informed of the occurrence, said it had “no experimental aircraft on the field.”

And, the Air Force’s flight center at McChord Field, Wash., said no formation of aircraft had been cleared through this area.  The pilot said the experience left him with a “funny, ghostly feeling.”

Boeing 747 Followed by a UFO | Confirmed by FAA and Air Force Radar | Japan Air Lines Flight 1628


ANCHORAGE, JAN. 1 — A veteran pilot whose UFO sighting was confirmed on radar screens Tuesday said the mysterious object was so enormous that it dwarfed his Japan Airlines cargo plane.

Capt. Kenju Terauchi, the pilot, also said he saw two other small unidentified objects — smaller than his cargo carrier — that did not appear on radar.

Terauchi, his copilot and flight engineer told Federal Aviation Administration investigators that they saw the lights of an unidentified object on the evening of Nov. 17.

Terauchi made a drawing of how he thought the objects looked. He drew a giant walnut-shaped object, with big bulges above and below a wide flattened brim.

“They were flying parallel and then suddenly approached very close,” said Terauchi, 47, who requested and received FAA permission to take whatever action was necessary to avoid the object that appeared for a time on FAA and Air Force radar and on the radar screen in the cockpit of JAL flight 1628.

The FAA confirmed on Tuesday that government radar picked up the object that Terauchi said followed his Boeing 747 cargo jet.

Terauchi, a pilot for 29 years, said he briefly glimpsed the large unknown object in silhouette. “It was a very big one — two times bigger than an aircraft carrier,” he said.

Terauchi made a drawing of how he thought the objects looked. He drew a giant walnut-shaped object, with big bulges above and below a wide flattened brim.

The captain, who is stationed in Anchorage with his family, was flying the jumbo jet from Iceland to Anchorage on a Europe-to-Japan flight when the crew encountered the object in clear weather over Alaska.

Terauchi said the three unidentified objects followed his jet for 400 miles.

“It was unbelievable,” he said, acknowledging that some of his colleagues have doubts about what the crew saw.

FAA investigators who questioned the crew in Anchorage concluded in a report that the crew was “normal, professional, rational, {and had} no drug or alcohol involvement.” The crew’s flying experience totals more than 46 years, the pilot said.

Terauchi said the crew was not frightened but wanted to avoid whatever was lit up in their flight path. “We want to escape from this.”

They followed FAA directives to drop 4,000 feet and make turns — including a 360-degree turn, but Terauchi said, “They were still following us.”

He said the evasive maneuvers were of no avail and the lights stayed close — once appearing in front of the cockpit.

FAA flight control reports indicate the object stayed with JAL Flight 1628 for at least 32 minutes. Terauchi said he thought it was longer. The flight controller directing the JAL plane reported the object on his radar was as close as five miles to the jet.

Terauchi said the objects moved quickly and stopped suddenly. He referred to the objects as “the two small ships and the mother ship.”

Terauchi said jokingly that he thought the UFOs might have followed his chartered cargo plane because “we were carrying Beaujolais, a very famous wine made in France. Maybe they want to drink it.”

Compact System of Super-Earths Found around Lacaille 9352

A team of astronomers from the RedDots project has discovered two super-Earths and a candidate planet orbiting the nearby 4.57-billion-year-old red dwarf star Lacaille 9352.

An artist’s impression of the multiplanetary system of super-Earths orbiting the nearby red dwarf star Lacaille 9352. Image credit: Mark Garlick.

At 10.7 light-years away, Lacaille 9352 is the 12th closest star system to the Sun.

Also known as Gliese 887, GJ 887 and HD 217987, this red dwarf lies in the southern constellation of Piscis Austrinus.

The star is much dimmer and about half the size of our Sun, which means that the habitable zone is closer to Lacaille 9352 than Earth’s distance from the Sun.

University of Göttingen astronomer Sandra Jeffers and her colleagues from the RedDots team monitored Lacaille 9352 using the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher) spectrograph on ESO’s La Silla 3.6-m telescope.

“We used a technique known as Doppler wobble, which enables us to measure the tiny back and forth wobbles of the star caused by the gravitational pull of the planets,” they explained.

Monitoring Lacaille 9352, they detected periodic signals, indicating the presence of two planets on orbits with periods of 9.3 and 21.8 days.

The planets, named Lacaille 9352b (Gliese 887b) and Lacaille 9352c (Gliese 887c), have minimum masses of 4.2 and 7.6 Earth masses, respectively.

Both planets are interior to, but close to the inner edge of, the liquid-water habitable zone.

They have surface temperature of 195 degrees Celsius (383 degrees Fahrenheit) and 79 degrees Celsius (174 degrees Fahrenheit), respectively.

Dr. Jeffers and co-authors also detected an unconfirmed signal with a period of 50 days, which could correspond to a third super-Earth, Lacaille 9352d (Gliese 887d), in a more temperate orbit.

“We also discovered two interesting facts about Lacaille 9352, which turn out to be good news not only for the newly-discovered planets but also for astronomers,” they said.

“The first is that the red dwarf has very few starspots, unlike our Sun.”

“If Lacaille 9352 was as active as our Sun, it is likely that a strong stellar wind — outflowing material which can erode a planet’s atmosphere — would simply sweep away the planets’ atmospheres. This means that the newly-discovered planets may retain their atmospheres, or have thicker atmospheres than the Earth, and potentially host life, even though Lacaille 9352 receives more light than the Earth.”

“The other interesting feature we discovered is that the brightness of Lacaille 9352 is almost constant. Therefore, it will be relatively easy to detect the atmospheres of the super-Earth system, making it a prime target for the James Webb Space Telescope, a successor to Hubble.”

The discovery is described in a paper in the journal Science.

Pentagon should release UFO report, Senate intelligence committee argues

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing to examine implementation of Title I of the CARES Act. Rubio is asking the Pentagon to compile data on UFOs and submit the findings in an unclassified report. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during a Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing to examine implementation of Title I of the CARES Act. Rubio is asking the Pentagon to compile data on UFOs and submit the findings in an unclassified report. (Al Drago/Pool via AP)

The Pentagon should release a public report on UFOs, argues the U.S. Senate intelligence committee. In addition to requiring a public report, the committee plans to impose new rules on how the Department of Defense (DOD) shares information about UFOs.

Unidentified flying objects — a term that refers to objects that are literally unidentified, not necessarily suspected alien spacecraft — have made the news several times in recent years. The New York Times has reported on the  Pentagon’s efforts to track and study UFOs. And the DOD has confirmed the authenticity of videos from U.S. military planes showing flying objects of unknown nature and origin. Now the Senate committee wants to regulate the Pentagon’s tracking effort, according to the committee’s Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. The rule will be part of the 2021 intelligence authorization bill, which Congress has yet to pass.

“The Committee supports the efforts of the Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force at the Office of Naval Intelligence [ONI] to standardize collection and reporting on unidentified aerial phenomenon, any links they have to adversarial foreign governments, and the threat they pose to U.S. military assets and installations,” the report states.

However, according to the committee’s report, “there is no unified, comprehensive process” for collecting information on unidentified aerial phenomena, “despite the potential threat.”

This announcement, Agence France-Presse pointed out, appears to represent the first confirmation that the ONI is still tracking these objects in a systematic way. Federal officials previously said that a program along these lines existed, but ended in 2012. UFO writer Roger Glassel confirmed in May, based on an email exchange with a Navy representative, the existence of an “interagency team” led by the U.S. Navy and focused on “unidentified aerial phenomena.”

The committee instructed the Director of National Intelligence and other agency heads to submit a report within 180 days with a number of details about the ONI’s investigation. The report must include details about what the federal government knows about “intrusions” into restricted U.S. airspace and other unidentified flying objects, as well as a plan to firm up intelligence collection and sharing on the subject.

“The report shall be submitted in unclassified form, but may include a classified annex,” the committee wrote.

That means at least some of this information should become public when and if the report arrives.

Breakthrough Listen Scans Kepler-160 System for Alien Technosignatures

The Breakthrough Listen Initiative, the largest ever scientific research program aimed at finding evidence of alien civilizations, has conducted a search for artificial radio emission associated with Kepler-160, a system of four planets that includes the newly-discovered habitable-zone planet Kepler-160e.

An artist’s impression of a four-planet system. Image credit: Sci-News.com.

Kepler-160 is approximately 3,141 light-years away toward the constellation of Lyra.

This Sun-like star is about 12% bigger than our Sun, just 1% more luminous, and is home to at least four massive planets: Kepler-160b, c, d and e.

The planets Kepler-160b, c and d are between 1.7 and 3.1 times the size of Earth and have orbital periods less than 50 days.

The outermost planet, Kepler-160e (also designated KOI-456.04), has a radius of 1.9 times that of the Earth and an orbital period of 378 days.

The alien world, found earlier this year in data from NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope, is in the habitable zone of the host star and has an estimated surface temperature of minus 28 degrees Celsius (minus 18 degrees Fahrenheit).

“This Earth-like planet candidate, given its ideal location in the habitable zone of its host star and edge-on orientation projected toward Earth, represents an ideal target for technosignature searches,” said Columbia University astronomer Karen Perez and colleagues.

The researchers observed the Kepler-160 system using the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope as part of the ongoing Breakthrough Listen search for alien technosignatures.

The Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia, the United States. Image credit: Jiuguang Wang / CC BY-SA 2.0.

“We searched the radio frequency bands 1.1-1.9 GHz (L-band), 1.8-2.8 GHz (S-band), and 3.95-8 GHz (C-band) for narrowband Doppler-accelerated and wideband artificially-dispersed technosignatures,” they explained.

“We observed Kepler-160 with the Green Bank Telescope for three 5-minute pointings at each frequency band, beginning on June 14, 2020 11:13 UT.”

The scientists did not find any artificial radio signal from the Kepler-160 planetary system.

“Future observations of Kepler-160e with future missions, like PLATO, might recover its transit, confirming its candidacy as a planet and aiding in any further radio observations,” they said.

“Additionally, we expect to carry similar searches towards other exoplanet systems and candidates as more targets of interest are discovered using ongoing missions such as TESS and K2.”

The team’s paper was published online this week on the research website arXiv.org.

Astronomers Say There Could Be 36 Communicating Extraterrestrial Civilizations in Milky Way

Using the assumption that intelligent life develops on exoplanets in a similar way as it does on Earth, a duo of researchers from the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Nottingham has obtained an estimate for the number of communicating extraterrestrial intelligent (CETI) civilizations within our Milky Way Galaxy. They calculate that there could be 36 active CETI civilizations in the Galaxy; the nearest is 17,000 light-years away and most likely hosted by a red dwarf star, likely far surpassing our ability to detect it for the foreseeable future, and making interstellar communication impossible.

Westby & Conselice present a cosmic perspective on the search for life and examine the likely number of CETI civilizations in our Milky Way Galaxy by utilizing the latest astrophysical information. Image credit: Angela Yuriko Smith.

“There should be at least a few dozen active CETI civilizations in our Galaxy under the assumption that it takes 5 billion years for intelligent life to form on other planets, as on Earth,” said Professor Christopher Conselice, senior author of the study.

“The idea is looking at evolution, but on a cosmic scale. We call this calculation the Astrobiological Copernican Limit.”

“The classic method for estimating the number of intelligent civilizations relies on making guesses of values relating to life, whereby opinions about such matters vary quite substantially,” added Dr. Tom Westby, first author of the study.

“Our new study simplifies these assumptions using new data, giving us a solid estimate of the number of civilizations in our Galaxy.”

The two Astrobiological Copernican limits are that intelligent life forms in less than 5 billion years, or after about 5 billion years — similar to on Earth where a communicating civilization formed after 4.5 billion years.

In the strong criteria, whereby a metal content equal to that of the Sun is needed, the authors calculate that there should be around 36 active CETI civilizations in the Milky Way.

They show that the number of civilizations depends strongly on how long they are actively sending out signals of their existence into space, such as radio transmissions from satellites, television, etc.

If other technological civilizations last as long as ours which is currently 100 years old, then there will be about 36 ongoing intelligent technical civilizations throughout our Galaxy.

However, the average distance to these civilizations would be 17,000 light-years away, making detection and communication very difficult with our present technology.

It is also possible that we are the only civilization within our Galaxy unless the survival times of civilizations like our own are long.

“Our new research suggests that searches for extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations not only reveal the existence of how life forms, but also give us clues for how long our own civilization will last,” Professor Conselice said.

“If we find that intelligent life is common then this would reveal that our civilization could exist for much longer than a few hundred years, alternatively if we find that there are no active civilizations in our Galaxy it is a bad sign for our own long-term existence.”

“By searching for extraterrestrial intelligent life — even if we find nothing — we are discovering our own future and fate.”

The team’s paper was published in the Astrophysical Journal.

NASA wants to explore Neptune’s moon Triton, which could have an ocean supporting life

NASA has proposed a mission to explore Neptune‘s mysterious and “weird” moon Triton, the coldest known object in the solar system.

In a statement posted to its website, the space agency said the mission, known as Trident, will have a “three-pronged” approach. The mission will observe the celestial satellite to understand the cause of the mysterious plumes emanating from its surface, further explore the moon, which was only 40 percent observed by Voyager 2, and “understand how that mysterious surface keeps renewing itself.”

“Triton is weird, but yet relevantly weird, because of the science we can do there,” said Karl Mitchell, Trident project scientist at JPL, in a statement. “We know the surface has all these features we’ve never seen before, which motivates us to want to know ‘How does this world work?’

Global color mosaic of Triton, taken in 1989 by Voyager 2 during its flyby of the Neptune system. (Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS)

Global color mosaic of Triton, taken in 1989 by Voyager 2 during its flyby of the Neptune system. (Credit: NASA/JPL/USGS)

“As we said to NASA in our mission proposal, Triton isn’t just a key to solar system science — it’s a whole keyring: a captured Kuiper Belt object that evolved, a potential ocean world with active plumes, an energetic ionosphere and a young, unique surface,” Mitchell added.

Four missions are being currently studied with a potential launch date in October 2025 to take advantage of the once-in-13-year window that has the Earth properly aligned with Jupiter. The craft would use Jupiter’s gravitational pull to send it to Triton for a 13-day mission in 2038.

“The mission designers and navigators are so good at this,” said JPL’s William Frazier, project systems engineer of Trident. “After 13 years of flying through the solar system, we can confidently skim the upper edge of Triton’s atmosphere — which is pretty mind-boggling.”

A new Discovery mission proposal, Trident would explore Neptune's largest moon, Triton, which is potentially an ocean world with liquid water under its icy crust. Trident aims to answer the questions outlined in the graphic illustration above. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

A new Discovery mission proposal, Trident would explore Neptune’s largest moon, Triton, which is potentially an ocean world with liquid water under its icy crust. Trident aims to answer the questions outlined in the graphic illustration above. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Triton has several oddities compared with other celestial objects, including orbiting in the opposite direction, lying at an extreme tilt and the fact it likely moved from the Kuiper Belt.https://8ed8766a7b53b08f8b3d83cfb142d05e.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html

It also has a constantly evolving climate and a bizarre atmosphere. Its ionosphere is 10 times more active than other moons in the solar system, a trait NASA describes as “especially strange” because ionospheres are charged by solar particles.

By studying and observing Triton’s “weird” behavior, it could give researchers new insight into objects in the Kuiper Belt, as well as a better understanding of the solar system.

“Triton has always been one of the most exciting and intriguing bodies in the solar system,” said Louise Prockter, director of the Lunar and Planetary Institute/Universities Space Research Association in Houston. “I’ve always loved the Voyager 2 images and their tantalizing glimpses of this bizarre, crazy moon that no one understands.”

In April 2019, NASA announced that nearly 30 years after it sent a spacecraft to Uranus and Neptune, it’s looking to go back.

One month prior, scientists at NASA JPL proposed a mission that would explore Triton, which some have theorized could have an ocean hiding underneath its surface.

Uranus and Neptune are relatively unexplored, despite the fact that Voyager 2 snapped photos of both planets in 1986 and 1989, respectively.

Trump signals he has ‘interesting’ details on Roswell, as son grills him about aliens

Wisconsin Rep. Mike Gallagher and Foster Friess, founder of Friess Associates, join Steve Hilton on ‘The Next Revolution,’ to discuss policy priorities of a potential second Trump term.

President Trump, under rigorous questioning from his son Donald Trump Jr., on Thursday about the existence of extraterrestrial life, suggested he knew “interesting” information about Roswell, N.M. — the site of a 1947 crash that has touched off conspiracy theories about an alien spacecraft ever since.

Trump made the comments in a lighthearted, Father’s Day-themed video interview produced by his presidential campaign that dealt with a variety of topics, including potential U.S. government secrets about aliens.

“Before you leave office, will you let us know if there’s aliens? Because this is the only thing I really want to know. I want to know what’s going on. Would you ever open up Roswell and let us know what’s going on there?” Trump Jr. asked.

“So many people ask me that question,” the president said. “There are millions and millions of people that want to go there, that want to see it. I won’t talk to you about what I know about it but it’s very interesting. But Roswell is a very interesting place with a lot of people that would like to know what’s going on.”

When Trump Jr. further pressed his father on whether he would declassify details about Roswell, the president said, “I’ll have to think about that one.”

It’s unclear what the pair were referring to when discussing the potential of opening up Roswell — the city itself has a booming tourism industry and the one military base in the area was closed during the Vietnam War. Area 51, an Air Force base in Nevada, is a highly classified location that many have speculated could hold secrets about aliens.

The Pentagon earlier this year released unclassified footage showing “unidentified aerial phenomena” of military encounters with other aircraft that behaved in a way that one pilot told the New York Times was “like nothing I’ve ever seen.”Video

“After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena,” a Pentagon spokeswoman said about the footage’s release.

“DOD is releasing the videos in order to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real, or whether or not there is more to the videos,” she added. “The aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified.’”

Also during the conversation with his son, the president complimented Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Ted Cruz, R-Texas, as “good-looking guys” while saying that he thinks the senators and Trump Jr. look better clean-shaven. All three men have recently grown beards.

“In some cases, I think it’s good. In your case, just get rid of it,” the president told his son.

Trump Jr. also asked the president whether he would consider pardoning “Tiger King” star Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic. Trump said he had seen some episodes of the show, noting that Joe Exotic is “quite a character” and saying “that’s a whole strange deal.”

Trump would not commit to pardoning Maldonado-Passage, who was sentenced earlier this year to 22 years in prison for a murder-for-hire plot.

Astronomers Detect Organic Molecules in Starless and Prestellar Regions of Nearby Stellar Nursery

Astronomers have detected the signatures of two complex organic molecules, methanol and acetaldehyde, in starless and prestellar cores of the Taurus Molecular Cloud, a star-forming region located about 440 light-years away from Earth in the constellation of Taurus.

An artist’s illustration of complex organic molecules in space. Image credit: Jenny Mottar / NASA.

Prestellar or starless cores are so-named because while they do not yet contain any stars, they mark regions in space where cold dust and gases coalesce into the seeds that will give rise to stars and possibly planets.

Taurus Molecular Cloud | Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter

Each core can stretch over a distance that would cover up to 1,000 solar systems lined up next to each other.

Compared to other objects in the Universe, like galaxies, they form on rather short timescales, with lifespans of less than a million years.

Driven by processes like turbulence and gravitational forces, the gas and dust in a molecular cloud collapses to form filaments, and it is within those filaments that the denser cores form.

“The Taurus Molecular Cloud is especially interesting because it provides a glimpse into different evolutionary stages between cores,” said lead author Samantha Scibelli, a doctoral student with the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona.

“Not all cores may form stars; there is a lot of uncertainty involved. We think many of the cores are in early stages, which is why we don’t see them forming stars right now.”

Using the Arizona Radio Observatory’s 12-m dish telescope on Kitt Peak, southwest of Tucson, Scibelli and Steward Observatory astronomer Yancy Shirley conducted a large sample survey of 31 starless and prestellar cores in the Taurus Molecular Cloud.

“These starless cores we looked at are several hundred thousand years away from the initial formation of a protostar or any planets,” Dr. Shirley said.

“This tells us that the basic organic chemistry needed for life is present in the raw gas prior to the formation of stars and planets.”

The researchers looked for the tell-tale signatures of methanol (CH3OH) and acetaldehyde (CH3CHO) during an observation campaign totaling almost 500 hours of observing time.

They detecting methanol in 100% of the cores targeted and acetaldehyde in 70%.

They interpret these results as evidence that complex organic molecules are much more widespread in nascent star-forming regions than previously thought.

The findings challenge traditional theories of how prebiotic molecules form, because they assume a scenario in which the heat from newborn stars provides the necessary environment for organic molecules to form.

The abundance of complex organic molecules in clouds of extremely cold gas and dust that are still a long way away from such conditions means other processes must be at work.

“Inside these cores, which we think of as birthplaces, cocoons and nurseries of low-mass stars similar to our Sun, the conditions are such that it’s hard to even create these molecules,” Scibelli said.

“By doing surveys like this, we can understand better how precursors to life come into existence, how they migrate and enter solar systems at later stages of star formation.”

The results were published in the Astrophysical Journal.

Here’s Why Mysterious FRB’s Could be Signals From Extraterrestrial Civilizations

“…sometimes the source doesn’t burst for hours and hours and then suddenly you get multiple bursts in a short amount of time.”

Astronomers Spot Repeating Signals From Deep Space, and It Could be Aliens

Fast radio bursts are bright, unresolved, broadband, millisecond flashes observed in parts of the sky outside the Milky Way Galaxy. FRB’s are the most mysterious cosmic phenomena currently boggling astronomers.

A team of astronomers working with the radio Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Cartography Experiment (CHIME) Telescope has detected 8 sources of repetitive fast radio bursts (FRB), instantly increasing the total number of phenomena of this type known up to 10.

This is pretty impressive since only 8 months ago, just one mysterious signal, FRB 121102, was found to be repeated.

However, a news study available at the preprint server arXiv, and submitted to the Astrophysical Journal Letters, reveals eight previously unknown repeating signals, spotted by the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) radio telescope.

Artists rendering of a signal in space. Shutterstock.
Shutterstock.

The more repeating FRBs we come across, the more info we will have in order to understand what these signals mean.

So far, we don’t know much. We know that Fast Radio Bursts are a very perplexing cosmic phenomenon.

FRBs are identified as spikes in radio data and lost a few milliseconds at most, but during that short period of time, the signals are packed with energy equaling more than 500 million suns.

This means that the signals are extremely powerful and pack a good deal of energy.

The curious thing is that most Fast Radio Bursts are only detected once. We have not managed to come up with a method that allows us to predict them, and tracing them to their source is a very complex thing, although not impossible since astronomers managed to trace an FRB to its original earlier this year.

But precisely because tracing FRB’s to their origin is so hard, is why repeating FRBs are important for astronomers. The new discovery of repeating FRBs means that these are not as rare as we once thought they were, and the new information can help us trace more of the repeaters to their source galaxies. This, in turn, can help us understand what type of environment they originate from, and what exactly causes them.

The more FRBs we identified the more data we have, and this allows astronomers to look for certain similarities or differences that can then help us explain the origin of the Fast Radio Bursts.

Scientists spotted the new signal using the CHIME telescope. Image Credit: CHIME Collaboration.
The CHIME telescope. Image Credit: CHIME Collaboration.

“There is definitely a difference between the sources, with some being more prolific than others,” physicist Ziggy Pleunis of McGill University revealed in an interview with ScienceAlert.

“We already knew from FRB 121102 that the bursts can be very clustered: sometimes the source doesn’t burst for hours and hours and then suddenly you get multiple bursts in a short amount of time. We have observed the same thing for FRB 180916.J0158+65, for which we report ten bursts in this paper.”

FRB 121102 has been identified with a galaxy located approximately 3 billion light-years, well outside the Milky Way, and is embedded in an extreme environment. But not all FRB’s have been found to originate from extreme environments. The polarization of the signals actually tells us a lot about them. If the FRB is really twisted up, it could mean that it came from a really magnetic environment, like a black hole or neutrons star. But one of the recently analyzed FRBs (FRB 180916) was found to be really low, meaning that it did not come from an extreme environment.

The new study has revealed that of the new eight repeating FRB’s, six of them only repeated once with the longest pause between the fast radio bursts being just a little over 20 hours.

The astronomers revealed that FRB 181119 repeated twice after initial detection, totaling three repeats.

What this means remains an enigma.

We don’t know their sources, and we don’t know why FRBs exist, we don’t know why they repeat either. We just know that throughout the universe, FRB’s are being spotted. Alien signals are popping p from all over the cosmos.

It could indicate, however, as noted by Harvard-Smithsonian astrophysicist Vikram Ravi – that all FRBs are repeater signals and some of them are just more active than others.

Most advanced estimates imply there could be as many as 100 FRBs per day in the sky, meaning that we need to step up our game in order to spot more of them.

So far the most prevailing theories trying to explain FRB’s include (magnetars), dark matterblack holessupernovae, and even the activities of alien civilizations.

Harvard Astronomers View on FRBs

Two astrophysicists, Avi Loeb from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, and Manasvi Lingam at Harvard University investigated FRBs and have put forth the possibility that the mystery signals could actually be evidence of advanced alien technology.

“Fast radio bursts are exceedingly bright given their short duration and origin at great distances, and we haven’t identified a possible natural source with any confidence. An artificial origin is worth contemplating and checking.” – Avi Loeb, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

Loeb and Lingam analyzed the amount of energy that would be required to send a signal that strong across such a massive distance. They discovered that to do so, aliens would be able to do it with the help of solar energy, which would require a solar array so big that it needs to cover twice the surface area of our planet. This would only work however if the alien civilization was close to their host star as we are to the sun.

But alien propulsion systems may also be an explanation for FRBs intercepted by experts.

The researchers have shown that the engineering they’ve mentioned could actually power a spacecraft with a payload of a million tons through space.

As explained by Lingam, “That’s big enough to carry living passengers across interstellar or even intergalactic distances.”

If FRBs are really the outcome of an alien propulsion system, it would work the following way: Earth is rotating and orbiting, and this means the alien star and galaxy are moving relative to us. This is precisely why we would only see a brief flash. The beam moves across the sky and only hits us for a moment.

Although the above explanation is speculative, the researchers conclude in their paper that

“Although the possibility that FRBs are produced by extragalactic civilizations is more speculative than an astrophysical origin, quantifying the requirements necessary for an artificial origin serves, at the very least, the important purpose of enabling astronomers to rule it out with future data.”

Although we can’t rule out the possibility that its aliens responsible for FRB’s, Seth Shostak from SETI arguest that “one can safely bet it’s not aliens” because of the very nature of FRBs.

The bursters are seen all over the sky, that’s why. The same sort of signal is coming from galaxies that are generally separated by billions of light-years. So how could aliens organize so much of the universe to engage in broadcasting the same sort of signal? There’s hardly been enough time since the Big Bang to coordinate such widespread teamwork, even if you can think of a reason for it!

Aliens or not, FRBs are a truly impressive and mind-bending phenomenon that reveals just how little about the universe we know.

Astronomers detect regular rhythm of radio waves, with origins unknown

Signal from 500 million light years away is the first periodic pattern of radio bursts detected

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Summary: A team of astronomers has picked up on a curious, repeating rhythm of fast radio bursts emanating from an unknown source outside our galaxy, 500 million light years away.


Starry sky (stock | Credit: © pixel / stock.adobe.com

A team of astronomers, including researchers at MIT, has picked up on a curious, repeating rhythm of fast radio bursts emanating from an unknown source outside our galaxy, 500 million light years away.

Fast radio bursts, or FRBs, are short, intense flashes of radio waves that are thought to be the product of small, distant, extremely dense objects, though exactly what those objects might be is a longstanding mystery in astrophysics. FRBs typically last a few milliseconds, during which time they can outshine entire galaxies.

Since the first FRB was observed in 2007, astronomers have catalogued over 100 fast radio bursts from distant sources scattered across the universe, outside our own galaxy. For the most part, these detections were one-offs, flashing briefly before disappearing entirely. In a handful of instances, astronomers observed fast radio bursts multiple times from the same source, though with no discernible pattern.

This new FRB source, which the team has catalogued as FRB 180916.J0158+65, is the first to produce a periodic, or cyclical pattern of fast radio bursts. The pattern begins with a noisy, four-day window, during which the source emits random bursts of radio waves, followed by a 12-day period of radio silence.

The astronomers observed that this 16-day pattern of fast radio bursts reoccurred consistently over 500 days of observations. “This FRB we’re reporting now is like clockwork,” says Kiyoshi Masui, assistant professor of physics in MIT’s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research. “It’s the most definitive pattern we’ve seen from one of these sources. And it’s a big clue that we can use to start hunting down the physics of what’s causing these bright flashes, which nobody really understands.”

Masui is a member of the CHIME/FRB collaboration, a group of more than 50 scientists led by the University of British Columbia, McGill University, University of Toronto, and the National Research Council of Canada, that operates and analyzes the data from the Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, a radio telescope in British Columbia that was the first to pick up signals of the new periodic FRB source.

The CHIME/FRB Collaboration has published the details of the new observation today in the journal Nature.

A radio view

In 2017, CHIME was erected at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory in British Columbia, where it quickly began detecting fast radio bursts from galaxies across the universe, billions of light years from Earth.

CHIME consists of four large antennas, each about the size and shape of a snowboarding half-pipe, and is designed with no moving parts. Rather than swiveling to focus on different parts of the sky, CHIME stares fixedly at the entire sky, using digital signal processing to pinpoint the region of space where incoming radio waves are originating.

From September 2018 to February 2020, CHIME picked out 38 fast radio bursts from a single source, FRB 180916.J0158+65, which the astronomers traced to a star-churning region on the outskirts of a massive spiral galaxy, 500 million light years from Earth. The source is the most active FRB source that CHIME has yet detected, and until recently it was the closest FRB source to Earth.

As the researchers plotted each of the 38 bursts over time, a pattern began to emerge: One or two bursts would occur over four days, followed by a 12-day period without any bursts, after which the pattern would repeat. This 16-day cycle occurred again and again over the 500 days that they observed the source.

“These periodic bursts are something that we’ve never seen before, and it’s a new phenomenon in astrophysics,” Masui says.

Circling scenarios

Exactly what phenomenon is behind this new extragalactic rhythm is a big unknown, although the team explores some ideas in their new paper. One possibility is that the periodic bursts may be coming from a single compact object, such as a neutron star, that is both spinning and wobbling — an astrophysical phenomenon known as precession. Assuming that the radio waves are emanating from a fixed location on the object, if the object is spinning along an axis and that axis is only pointed toward the direction of Earth every four out of 16 days, then we would observe the radio waves as periodic bursts.

Another possibility involves a binary system, such as a neutron star orbiting another neutron star or black hole. If the first neutron star emits radio waves, and is on an eccentric orbit that briefly brings it close to the second object, the tides between the two objects could be strong enough to cause the first neutron star to deform and burst briefly before it swings away. This pattern would repeat when the neutron star swings back along its orbit.

The researchers considered a third scenario, involving a radio-emitting source that circles a central star. If the star emits a wind, or cloud of gas, then every time the source passes through the cloud, the gas from the cloud could periodically magnify the source’s radio emissions.

“Maybe the source is always giving off these bursts, but we only see them when it’s going through these clouds, because the clouds act as a lens,” Masui says.

Perhaps the most exciting possibility is the idea that this new FRB, and even those that are not periodic or even repeating, may originate from magnetars — a type of neutron star that is thought to have an extremely powerful magnetic field. The particulars of magnetars are still a bit of a mystery, but astronomers have observed that they do occasionally release massive amounts of radiation across the electromagnetic spectrum, including energy in the radio band.

“People have been working on how to make these magnetars emit fast radio bursts, and this periodicity we’ve observed has since been worked into these models to figure out how this all fits together,” Masui says.

Very recently, the same group made a new observation that supports the idea that magnetars may in fact be a viable source for fast radio bursts. In late April, CHIME picked up a signal that looked like a fast radio burst, coming from a flaring magnetar, some 30,000 light years from Earth. If the signal is confirmed, this would be the first FRB detected within our own galaxy, as well as the most compelling evidence of magnetars as a source of these mysterious cosmic sparks.

NASA spacecraft takes images of ‘alien sky’ 4.3B miles from Earth

Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft snaps photos of an ‘alien sky’ more than 4.3 billion miles from Earth

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, which yielded the first close-up photos of Pluto, has managed to snap photos of an “alien sky” more than 4.3 billion miles from Earth.

The craft took images of nearby stars Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359, which appear to be in vastly different positions from the vantage point we see them on Earth, something known as the “parallax effect.” The space agency notes this is the same effect that people can easily replicate by placing one finger at arm’s length and watching it move when you close one eye or the other.

“It’s fair to say that New Horizons is looking at an alien sky, unlike what we see from Earth,” said New Horizons principal investigator Alan Stern in a statement.

This two-frame animation of Wolf 359 blinks back and forth between New Horizons and Earth images of each star, clearly illustrating the different view of the sky New Horizons has from its deep-space perch. (Credit: NASA)

This two-frame animation of Wolf 359 blinks back and forth between New Horizons and Earth images of each star, clearly illustrating the different view of the sky New Horizons has from its deep-space perch. (Credit: NASA)

“That has allowed us to do something that had never been accomplished before — to see the nearest stars visibly displaced on the sky from the positions we see them on Earth,” Stern added.

Proxima Centauri and Wolf 359 are 4.2 and 7.795 light-years away from Earth, respectively. A light-year, which measures distance in space, is approximately 6 trillion miles.

This two-frame animation of Proxima Centauri blinks back and forth between New Horizons and Earth images of each star, clearly illustrating the different view of the sky New Horizons has from its deep-space perch. (Credit: NASA)

This two-frame animation of Proxima Centauri blinks back and forth between New Horizons and Earth images of each star, clearly illustrating the different view of the sky New Horizons has from its deep-space perch. (Credit: NASA)

The parallax effect is used to measure the distance to stars, but since stars are always moving, it’s impossible to see the motion over time. “No human eye can detect these shifts,” Stern explained.

However, the change was spotted thanks to scientists comparing images from the ground to the images taken by the New Horizons craft, creating a 3-D view to see the stars “floating” in front of the background stars.

“The New Horizons experiment provides the largest parallax baseline ever made — over 4 billion miles — and is the first demonstration of an easily observable stellar parallax,” Tod Lauer, New Horizons science team member, added in the statement.

“The New Horizons spacecraft is truly a mission of firsts, and this demonstration of stellar parallax is no different” said Kenneth Hansen, New Horizons program scientist. “The New Horizons spacecraft continues to speed away from Earth toward interstellar space and is continuing to return exciting new data for planetary science.”

Traveling at roughly 33,000 miles per hour, the $720 million New Horizons spacecraft, which launched in January 2006, will continue sending data transmission from its Arrokoth flyby until the latter part of summer 2020. It will eventually reach interstellar space, like the Voyager probes before it.

Previous discoveries include the object Arrokoth, previously known as Ultima Thule. In May 2019, New Horizons discovered water and organic molecules on Arrokoth, which is deep within the so-called Kuiper Belt, or Twilight Zone, well beyond the orbit of Neptune.

The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., designed and built New Horizons and is managing the mission for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. The Southwest Research Institute is leading the New Horizons science team and payload operations.

There Are At Least 36 Intelligent Alien Civilizations In Our Galaxy, Say Scientists

This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, it’s host star and an accompanying planet in this system. K2-18b is now the only super-Earth exoplanet known to host both water and temperatures that could support life.
This artist’s impression shows the planet K2-18b, it’s host star and an accompanying planet in this … [+] ESA/HUBBLE, M. KORNMESSER

It’s the oldest and the greatest cosmic question of all: is there anybody out there?

For years all we’ve had is the Drake Equation to help us understand the question, but no indication of an answer. Now a group of scientists at the University of Nottingham think they’ve come up with a new “cosmic evolution”-based calculation—or, rather, an estimation—that suggests that there are likely to be at least 36 ongoing intelligent civilizations in our Milky Way galaxy.

The Milky Way, home to our Solar System, is estimated to have 100 billion to 400 billion stars, and roughly one exoplanet per star in our galaxy.

Published today in The Astrophysical Journal, the new paper examines the likely number of Communicating Extra-Terrestrial Intelligent (CETI) civilizations in the Milky Way. It assumes that intelligent life comes to occur on other planets much as it has done on our own planet.

It actually makes a lot of assumptions. Indeed, way too many assumptions for some that doubt its generous conclusions.

A key assumption is that it takes around five billion years for intelligent life to form on other planets, as it does on Earth, but that life is probable. That’s a big assumption, for sure. Another is that a technological civilization will last at least 100 years—as ours has, thus far. After all, it took 4.5 billion years of evolution before a technological civilization arose on Earth, and was capable of communicating.

The number of civilizations depends strongly on how long they are actively sending out signals of their existence into space—such as radio transmissions from satellites and TV.

The calculation—which says that there could be 36 active communicating intelligent civilizations in our home galaxy on 4.5-billion years old (or more) Earth-like planets around Sun-like stars—is called the “Astrobiological Copernican Limit” by the researchers. It takes into account:

  • star formation histories.
  • how common metal-rich stars are (like the Sun).
  • the likelihood of stars hosting Earth-like planets in their habitable zones.

“The classic method for estimating the number of intelligent civilizations relies on making guesses of values relating to life, but opinions about such matters vary quite substantially,” said Tom Westby, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham, and lead author on the paper. “Our new study simplifies these assumptions using new data, giving us a solid estimate of the number of civilizations in our galaxy.”

The estimation of at least 36 civilizations is based on a very positive outlook on how, where and why life comes into being, and there’s also a wide errorbar. It could be that many, many more alien civilizations exist. It could also be that none exist.

However, the authors note that the average distance to one of these 36 civilizations is around 17,000 light-years, so detection and communication is currently impossible.

There’s also the thorny question of how long intelligent civilizations tend to survive.

“Searches for extraterrestrial intelligent civilizations not only reveals the existence of how life itself forms, but also gives us clues about how long our own civilization will last,” said Christopher Conselice, Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Nottingham, who led the research. “If we find that intelligent life is common then this would reveal that our civilization could exist for much longer than a few hundred years.”

“Alternatively, if we find that there are no active civilizations in our galaxy it is a bad sign for our own long-term existence.”

Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.

Mysterious green glow seen shooting across Australian night sky

Night owls in Western Australia have captured a stunning green glow shoot across the evening sky.Video was captured by locals in Port Hedland, in the state’s Pilbara region, as the sky lit up with the ominous green object.The glow was also seen by people in parts of Victoria and South Australia.

Night owls in Western Australia have captured a stunning green glow shoot across the evening sky. (Supplied)
Video was captured by locals in Port Hedland, in the state’s Pilbara region, as the sky lit up with the ominous green object. (Supplied)

Astronomers believe it was Asteroid 2002 NN4, which was scheduled to pass Earth at about 11.20pm yesterday.The asteroid is estimated to be the size of six football fields, with estimated diameter of up to 570 metres, according to the Centre for Near Earth Object Studies.Despite being clearly visible, the asteroid was about 5.2 million kiolmetres away from our planet, 13 times further away than the moon, NASA says, so there was no risk of it hitting the Earth.NASA say these kinds of occurrences are pretty normal, with an asteroid estimated to be about the same size as 2002 NN4 passing us just last August, and experts at the time called it moderately sized.

The biggest known asteroid that orbits the sun is a whopping 33 kilometres long, Lindley Johnson of NASA’s Planetary Defence Coordination Office told CNN last year.

Astronomers believe it was Asteroid 2002 NN4. (Supplied)

Still, the probability of an asteroid actually hitting Earth is pretty slim — occurring once every two or three centuries, Mr Johnson said at the time.In 2013, a meteor just 17 metres in diameter broke through the Earth’s atmosphere over Russia. The meteor didn’t actually make impact with the planet, but the blast still injured more than 1000 people.Being millions of kilometres away, that wasn’t the case with 2002 NN4.The next time 2002 NN4 will be anywhere near this close to the Earth will be in June 2029.

Astronauts: Falcon 9 rocket was ‘totally different’ ride than the space shuttle

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was a “pure flying machine” compared to the space shuttle, according to the astronauts who rode it into space.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken piloted the first manned flight of the Falcon 9 on May 30. Each astronaut had previously been on on two space shuttle missions, and they spoke of their surprise at how comparatively smooth the SpaceX launch was.

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during launch May 30. (NASA/SpaceX)

SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft during launch May 30. (NASA/SpaceX)

“From the time the engines lit, the first two-and-a-half minutes to staging was about like we expected, except you can never simulate the Gs, so as the Gs built you could certainly feel those,” Hurley told Spaceflight Now. “What I thought was really neat was how sensitive we were to the throttling of the Merlin engines. That was really neat. You could definitely sense that as we broke Mach 1.”

He added: “We didn’t even need to look at the speed. You could tell just by how the rocket felt, so it’s a very pure flying machine.”

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket climbs into orbit May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket climbs into orbit May 30 from the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: SpaceX

“Remember, [the] shuttle had solid rocket boosters to start with,” Hurley said. “Those burned very rough for the first two-and-a-half minutes. The first stage with Falcon 9 were the nine Merlin engines. It was a much smoother ride, obviously, because it was a liquid engine ascent.”

This photo provided by NASA shows Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, far right, joining the crew at the International Space Station, after the SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up to the station and docked Sunday, May 31, 2020. The Dragon capsule arrived Sunday morning, hours after a historic liftoff from Florida. It's the first time that a privately built and owned spacecraft has delivered a crew to the orbiting lab. (NASA via AP)

This photo provided by NASA shows Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, far right, joining the crew at the International Space Station, after the SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up to the station and docked Sunday, May 31, 2020. The Dragon capsule arrived Sunday morning, hours after a historic liftoff from Florida. It’s the first time that a privately built and owned spacecraft has delivered a crew to the orbiting lab. (NASA via AP)

Liquid engine ascent is a reference to the mix of super-chilled kerosene and cryogenic liquid oxygen propellants consumed by the Merlin engines.

After the smooth launch, the astronauts said the second stage felt a bit rougher.

“The biggest difference is just the dynamics that are involved, the vibration, the experiences that we felt actually riding a real rocket,” Behnken said.

“It will be interesting to walk with the SpaceX folks to find out why it was a little bit rougher ride on the second stage than it was for shuttle on those three main engines,” Hurley added.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft was developed to largely function autonomously, handling all prep and docking with the International Space Station following the 19-hour flight.

NASA is also working with Boeing on its manned Starliner capsule, which is expected to launch early next year.