Goldilocks And The Five Planets

Book your travel plans early, the closest one is millions of years of travel time away.

NASA finds dozens of planets that might support life

A catalog of possible planets discovered far out in space includes more than 50 candidates that could possibly support life, NASA scientists said Wednesday. If, as expected, most of the planets are confirmed as real, the Kepler mission — now finishing its second year — would nearly triple the number of planets discovered over the last decade and a half.

With 1,235 planetary candidates surrounding a collective 997 stars in an area 500 to 3,000 light-years away, the tally to date provides a wealth of data for scientists to sift through in search of Earth-like planets.

“This is the first step in understanding the possible distribution of life in our galaxy,” said William Borucki, principal investigator for the Kepler mission at NASA Ames Research Center in the Bay Area’s Moffett Field.

He noted that of the candidate planets, 54 reside in the so-called Goldilocks range — in a “just right” distance from its star to be neither too hot nor too cold to permit liquid water and therefore the presence of life as we know it. Five of those 54 are close to Earth’s size.

The space-based Kepler telescope, which circles the sun trailing Earth’s orbit, observes more than 155,000 stars and every half-hour measures the amount of light they give off. If a planet is orbiting a star, it is detectable because it temporarily blocks a bit of light each time it crosses in front of its star.

See also:
5 Earth-sized planets spied in ‘habitable zone’
NASA spots 54 potentially life-friendly planets
NASA spots 54 potentially life-friendly planets
1,235 alien planets out there?
Kepler space telescope is finding a cornucopia of possible planets
NASA reveals more than 1,200 potential planets
Hunt for planets yields surprises
Kepler space telescope spots five Earth-sized planets in our galaxy
NASA Detects Potential ‘Habitable Zone’ Planets
Kepler: Home Page
Kepler (spacecraft)

Well, this is a great scientific achievement, but I’m not sure what practical value there is in it. Okay, so there’s all these possibly habitable planets, so what?

/we’ll never get there to find out for sure.

Return Of The Dustbuster From Outer Space

******************************UPDATE******************************

Touchdown, the crowd goes wild!

Space Probe Returns After 7-Year Asteroid Voyage

A Japanese space probe landed in the Australian outback on Monday after a 7-year voyage to an asteroid, lighting up the night sky and bringing what scientists hope is a rock sample, witnesses said.

The Hayabusa probe blazed a spectacular trail as it came in to hit the ground at a blistering speed, ending a journey to the near-Earth asteroid Itokawa that began in 2003.

An Australian defense spokesman told Reuters scientists monitoring the probe’s return had confirmed it had landed and identified its location, but it would not be retrieved until daylight. Only then would it become clear if a capsule thought to contain the precious sample was intact.

See also:
Space probe returns to Earth from trip to asteroid
Japan’s ‘Falcon’ Returns After Seven-Year Asteroid Mission
Probe returns to Earth after asteroid landing
NASA Aircraft Videos Hayabusa Re-Entry
Hayabusa completes fiery return to Earth
Mission Accomplished For Japan’s Asteroid Explorer Hayabusa

/now we just need to find out exactly what, if anything, Hayabusa brought back

******************************END UPDATE******************************

A long time ago, in a country far far away, the Japanese sent a spacecraft . . .

to land on an asteroid that looks like a giant space turd . . .

and bring back some dirt.

Japanese Probe Set to Land in Australian Outback Sunday, Returning First Asteroid Sample to Earth

A Japanese meteor-investigator probe will become a meteor itself when it returns to Earth over the weekend. The Hayabusa probe is screaming toward Earth at asteroid speed,
according to scientists at NASA’s Ames Research Center. Scientists hope it is carrying samples obtained from a 2005 visit to the small asteroid Itokawa.

The probe’s sample-return capsule will separate from the main probe and reenter the atmosphere at 7.58 miles per second early Sunday. Scientists from NASA, the Japanese Space Agency and other organizations are planning to watch its fiery descent to learn more about how objects behave and break up during high-speed reentry.

When Hayabusa (“falcon” in Japanese) reaches an altitude of 190,000 feet, its heat shield will reach temperatures of more than 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit, while the gas surrounding the capsule will reach 13,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than the surface of the sun, NASA says. It is planned to fall over a large unpopulated area of Australia called the Woomera Prohibited Area.

There’s no guarantee of success — actually, scientists don’t even know if Hayabusa is carrying anything. The craft has been plagued with problems for five years.

It made two touchdowns on Itokawa in 2005 to collect rocks and soil, but apparently failed to fire a metal bullet designed to dislodge the samples. Then, a fuel leak left its chemical propellant tanks empty, so engineers had to use Hayabusa’s ion engines to guide it home. Still, Hayabusa was the first spacecraft to land on a celestial object other than the moon and take off again.

See also:
Japan’s “Falcon” Spacecraft Returns—Asteroid Dust On Board?
Japan’s Asteroid Mission Set For Fiery Re-entry Over Australia
Japan Itokawa asteroid mission set for re-entry
Asteroid spacecraft makes its way back to Earth
Japanese space probe returns home Sunday
Japan asteroid probe to make historic return to Earth
Hayabusa just hours from home
Scientists wait in Outback for Japanese spacecraft
Japan’s ‘Falcon’ Set to Land After Seven-Year Asteroid Mission
Ames Research Center
Ames Research Center
JAXA | Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Hayabusa
Hayabusa

Well, I wish JAXA luck and hope they retrieve lots of asteroid dirt to play with. Otherwise, it’ll be a lot like Geraldo opening Al Capone’s vault.

/let’s all hope Hayabusa didn’t pick up any cosmic hitchhikers like in The Andromeda Strain