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.

Close Encounters Of The Comet Kind

NASA shoots, they score! That’s pretty awesome photography, considering the speeds and distances involved.

NASA’s EPOXI Spacecraft Shoots Images of “Comet Hartley 2″

After a nearly 2.9-billion-mile (4.6-billion-kilometer) voyage, NASA’s EPOXI mission spacecraft has survived its risky rendezvous with comet 103P/Hartley 2 and has beamed back the first close-up images of the comet. This montage of five pictures, for example, shows Hartley 2’s nucleus as the craft was flying toward and under the icy body on Thursday. The images progress in time clockwise, starting at top left.

“Early observations of the comet show that, for the first time, we may be able to connect activity to individual features on the nucleus,” Michael A’Hearn, EPOXI’s principal investigator said in a statement. “We certainly have our hands full. The images are full of great cometary data, and that’s what we hoped for.”. The vessel EPOXI, previously called Deep Impact, traveled 2.9 billion miles into space and captured images 435 miles away from the Hartley 2 comet, which was traveling at a speed of 27,000 miles-per-hour. Scientists say the photos of the icy body will provide them with new and useful information about comets.

See also:
Flight of the Comet
New Super Close-Up Images From Comet Flyby
NASA Spacecraft Photographs Hartley 2 Comet
Recycled Comet-Hunting Spacecraft Is Not Dead Yet
Spacecraft beams back stunning pictures of comet
NASA probe beams in close encounter with comet
NASA Captures Detailed Images of Comet Hartley 2
First images of the Hartley 2 comet
Video shows dramatic EPOXI mission flyby of comet Hartley 2
NASA Spacecraft Reveals Comet Close-Up
First images of comet Hartley 2 captured by NASA
NASA Mission Sends Back Images of Comet Hartley 2
Recycled Comet-Hunting Spacecraft Deep Impact Is Still Alive

Unlike most government spending, which is usually wasteful, it’s nice to see NASA getting the most bang for it’s buck by thinking out of the box and retasking its spacecraft to perform missions that weren’t originally contemplated.

/not only is money for NASA money well spent, but it also creates lots of cutting edge engineering, manufacturing, science, and technology jobs, skills America needs to remain globally competitive