SETI boffin promises ET detection by 2032

Tom James @ 15-11-2008

Senior SETI astronomer Seth Shostak‘s prediction that ET intelligences will be discovered within “two dozen years” seems to have the proviso “if we get the funding:

The prediction is based on a few qualifiers. The first is the assumption made by researchers within SITI that the power, range and speed of the Allen Telescope Array [ATA] with 42 radio camera dishes currently on line and a projected total of 350 dishes will evolve into new technologies capable of distances and speed unfathomable presently. Secondly, an obvious component is necessary funding for evolving technologies.

Hopefully the necessary improvements will be made:

ATA´s current capability is about 1,000 stars that can be viewed simultaneously. The next decade will allow researchers to view up to a million stars at once.

[from Physorg][image from Alun Salt on flickr]

Hubble telescope directly observes an exoplanet

Paul Raven @ 14-11-2008

Via pretty much everywhere, here’s some space-pr0n for your Friday morning – real-light images from the Hubble telescope show a planet orbiting the relatively near-by star of Fomalhaut.

Fomalhaut star system image including planet

Astronomy types have been inferring the presence of exoplanets by gravitational lensing for a few years now, but this is apparently the first time one has been imaged directly. [image from linked NASA webpage, which has a full credit list nearly as long as this entire blog post]

Personally, I can’t read this story without being taken back to the golden years of staying up stupidly late to play Elite – if I remember correctly, Fomalhaut was an Imperial system where you could get a great price on slaves…

Beware of falling rock

Edward Willett @ 06-10-2008

Asteroid We interrupt this blog for a weather bulletin–a space weather bulletin, that is:

INCOMING ASTEROID: A small, newly-discovered asteroid named 2008 TC3 is approaching Earth and chances are good that it will hit. Steve Chesley of JPL estimates that atmospheric entry will occur on Oct 7th at 0246 UTC over northern Sudan [ref]. Measuring only a few meters across, the space rock poses NO THREAT TO THE GROUND, but it should create a spectacular fireball, releasing about a kiloton of energy as it disintegrates and explodes in the atmosphere. Stay tuned for updates.

Keep watching the skies! (Via Space Weather).

We now return you to your regular posts.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags]astronomy,asteroids,solar system,meteors[/tags]

Another speculative bubble

Tom James @ 01-10-2008

We may be in a bubble:

Earth may be trapped in an abnormal bubble of space-time that is particularly void of matter.

Scientists say this condition could account for the apparent acceleration of the universe’s expansion, for which dark energy currently is the leading explanation.

“If we lived in a very large under-density, then the space-time itself wouldn’t be accelerating,” said researcher Timothy Clifton of Oxford University in England. “It would just be that the observations, if interpreted in the usual way, would look like they were.”

One reason why this theory still isn’t widely accepted:

One problem with the void idea, though, is that it negates a principle that has reined in astronomy for more than 450 years: namely, that our place in the universe isn’t special.

When Nicholas Copernicus argued that it made much more sense for the Earth to be revolving around the sun than vice versa, it revolutionized science.

Since then, most theories have to pass the Copernican test. If they require our planet to be unique, or our position to be exalted, the ideas often seem unlikely.

This is obliquely tied to the problem of the apparent un-arbitraryness of our universe: a key scientific and philosophical problem for the 21st Century – why is it that the universe seems to be conveniently set up for life.

[via Slashdot][image from Jeff Kubina on flickr]

Dark matter, dark energy…and now, dark flow

Edward Willett @ 24-09-2008

800px-Big_bangIf this doesn’t boggle your mind, your mind is un-boggleable (Via

Patches of matter in the universe seem to be moving at very high speeds and in a uniform direction that can’t be explained by any of the known gravitational forces in the observable universe. Astronomers are calling the phenomenon “dark flow.” The stuff that’s pulling this matter must be outside the observable universe, researchers conclude.


A theory called inflation posits that the universe we see is just a small bubble of space-time that got rapidly expanded after the Big Bang. There could be other parts of the cosmos beyond this bubble that we cannot see. In these regions, space-time might be very different, and likely doesn’t contain stars and galaxies (which only formed because of the particular density pattern of mass in our bubble). It could include giant, massive structures much larger than anything in our own observable universe. These structures are what researchers suspect are tugging on the galaxy clusters, causing the dark flow.

“The structures responsible for this motion have been pushed so far away by inflation, I would guesstimate they may be hundreds of billions of light years away, that we cannot see even with the deepest telescopes because the light emitted there could not have reached us in the age of the universe,” Kashlinsky said in a telephone interview. “Most likely to create such a coherent flow they would have to be some very strange structures, maybe some warped space time. But this is just pure speculation.”

Even though I was a teenager in the 1970s, I don’t say this very often, but…far OUT!

And I mean that literally.

(Image: Wikimedia Commons.)

[tags]cosmology, Big Bang, astronomy, outer space[/tags]

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