Monthly Archives: March, 2012

“Billions and Billions…”

The above statement is often attributed to Carl Sagan, usually when describing the amount of inhabitable planets in the Galaxy.

Now according to a paper in Astronomy & Astrophysics (abstract), that just might be true;

Red dwarfs are all over the news thanks to an announcement by the European Southern Observatory. Results from a new HARPS study show that tens of billions of planets not much larger than Earth are to be expected in the habitable zones around this class of star. The finding reinforces the growing interest in M-class stars and becomes especially interesting when you realize that faint red stars like this make up as much as 80 percent of the stars in the Milky Way. That leaves plenty of room for astrobiology, depending on factors we need to discuss below.

Do we suddenly have a close destination for a potential interstellar probe? Well, Barnard’s Star has always been in the running for an early mission because of its relative proximity to us at 5.94 light years. But we still have no word on planets there (despite a much publicized but soon discredited set of observations from a 1969 paper). Proxima Centauri is available at 4.2 light years, but we have yet to learn whether it has planets. And as far as anything closer, a source on the WISE team passes along the information that no new red dwarfs have been discovered, as of yet, within 10 light years, though of course the WISE results are still under heavy analysis.

Image: This artist’s impression shows a sunset seen from the super-Earth Gliese 667 Cc. The brightest star in the sky is the red dwarf Gliese 667 C, which is part of a triple star system. The other two more distant stars, Gliese 667 A and B appear in the sky also to the right. Astronomers have estimated that there are tens of billions of such rocky worlds orbiting faint red dwarf stars in the Milky Way alone. Credit: ESO/L. Calçada.

But back to the ESO announcement, which focuses on results obtained with the HARPS spectrograph at La Silla. Let me quote Xavier Bonfils (Institut de Planétologie et d’Astrophysique de Grenoble) directly on this:

“Our new observations with HARPS mean that about 40% of all red dwarf stars have a super-Earth orbiting in the habitable zone where liquid water can exist on the surface of the planet. Because red dwarfs are so common — there are about 160 billion of them in the Milky Way — this leads us to the astonishing result that there are tens of billions of these planets in our galaxy alone.”

What the work comes down to is a survey of 102 M-class stars studied over a period of six years, in which nine super-Earths with masses up to ten times that of Earth were found. 460 hours of observing time went into the mix, with 1965 radial velocity measurements made between 2003 and 2009. Interestingly, more massive planets like Jupiter and Saturn turn out to be rare around such stars, with fewer than 12 percent of them expected in M-dwarf systems. From all this, the team thinks that there should be about 100 super-Earth planets in the habitable zones of stars within about 30 light years of the Sun.

We can point to interesting worlds like Gliese 667Cc — discovered in the HARPS survey — as a promising preview of what is out there. This is a planet within a triple star system that is about four times the mass of the Earth and orbits close to the center of the habitable zone. But even assuming an abundance of super-Earths in conditions allowing liquid water on the surface, we still have the old M-class problems to contend with. A habitable world around such a small star needs to orbit close to it, leading to the potential for tidal lock and creating climate conditions that may not favor life. We also know that red dwarfs are frequently flare stars, creating unique evolutionary pressures on any life that does manage to emerge.

Xavier Delfosse (IPAG, Grenoble), another member of the team working the HARPS data, is lead author on one of two papers examining the results that have recently become available. The outlook on tidal locking is troubling but perhaps not a show-stopper for astrobiology, at least not if our own Solar System is any indication. Although a habitable M-dwarf planet is likely to be captured into a spin-orbit resonance, it will not necessarily be forced into synchronous rotation. From the paper (I’ve omitted internal references for brevity — the paper citations are below):

The final equilibrium rotation of a tidally influenced planet depends on both its orbital eccentricity and the density of its atmosphere… Mercury, for instance, has been captured into the 3:2, rather than 1:1, spin-orbit resonance…, and Venus has altogether escaped capture into a resonance because thermal atmospheric tides counteract its interior tides… Whatever the final spin-orbit ratio, the tidal forces will influence the night and day succession, and therefore the climate. As discussed above however, energy redistribution by an atmosphere at least as dense as that of the Earth is efficient… and will prevent glaciation and atmospheric collapse on the night side.

And what about stellar flare activity? M-dwarfs are more active than G-class stars like the Sun, with the result that a planet in the habitable zone of a young M-dwarf takes a huge hit from X-ray and ultraviolet radiation, a period of irradiation 10 times longer than the approximately 100 million years that the Solar System dealt with similar activity on our star. How planetary atmospheres evolve under such conditions, and whether they can actually be stripped away by coronal mass ejections, are issues we haven’t as yet resolved. Digging into the Delfosse paper I find several points worth noting on the matter:

  • We don’t have a good read on just how frequent coronal mass ejections from M-dwarfs are, and how intense they tend to be. Right now these questions need more investigation, though the authors believe the frequency may be less than some earlier studies have indicated.
  • A strong magnetosphere can help to shield a planet that would otherwise be imperiled.
  • The atmospheric chemistry and composition may be key, and there is one study that shows that around active M-dwarfs with an atmosphere consisting mostly of CO2, the atmosphere remains stable despite nearby flare and CME activity.

The paper summarizes the issue this way:

These differences imply that a planet in the habitable zone of an M dwarf is unlikely to be a twin of the Earth. Habitability however is not restricted to Earth twins, and Barnes et al. (2010) conclude that “no known phenomenon completely precludes the habitability of terrestrial planets orbiting cool stars.” A massive telluric planet, like Gl667Cc (M2.sin i = 4.25 M⊕), most likely has a massive planetary core, and as a consequence a stronger dynamo and a more active volcanism. Both factors help protect against atmospheric escape, and super-Earths may perhaps be better candidates for habitability around M dwarfs than true Earth-mass planets.

So there we are: Tens of billions of rocky planets in the habitable zones of red dwarfs, and perhaps 100 relatively near to the Sun, according to the estimates of these researchers. What we need to do now is increase the red dwarf planet inventory with future instruments made to order — state of the art near-infrared spectrographs that, in the authors’ estimate, should be able to identify between 50 and 100 planets in the habitable zones of M-dwarfs. That should be enough, even with a 2-3% transit probability, to find at least one transiting habitable world.

As of now, a project known as SKA (Square Kilometer Array) is being built in order to detect radio transmissions from these supposed planets.

What will we do if we happen to discover one?

Hat tip to Paul Gilster’s Centauri Dreams.

Automated Space Guard?

From Kurzweil AI:

No, it’s not a new version of the classic Asteroids video game. Engineers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow have envisioned a swarm of small agile satellites flying in formation, firing solar-powered lasers at an asteroid.

According to Dr. Massimiliano Vasile, of Strathclyde’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, the concept is more feasible than a single large spacecraft carrying a multi-mega watt laser.

“Our system is scalable; a larger asteroid would require adding one or more spacecraft to the flotilla, and intrinsically is redundant — if one spacecraft fails the others can continue,” Vasile said.

Vasile is also investigating the use of the same concept to remove space debris. The number of objects in orbit classified as debris is ever-increasing and with no widely accepted solution for their removal. Researchers at the University of Strathclyde believe the space-borne lasers could be used to lower the original orbit of the space debris (to eventually burn up in the atmosphere) and reduce the congestion.

“The amount of debris in orbit is such that we might experience a so called Kessler syndrome,” Vasile said. “This is when the density becomes so high that collisions between objects could cause an exponentially increasing cascade of other collisions. While there is significant monitoring in place to keep track of these objects, there is no specific system in place to remove them and our research could be a possible solution.

“A major advantage of using our technique is that the laser does not have to be fired from the ground. Obviously there are severe restrictions with that process as it has to travel through the atmosphere, has a constrained range of action and can hit the debris only for short arcs.”


A future Space Guard in Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s Rendezvous With Rama discovered Mankind’s first contact with alien civilization, could this do the same? .

Hat tip to The Daily Grail.

NASA Launches Sounding Rockets

From GeekDad:

ATREX Dress Rehearsal (Image: NASA)

In a stunning display this morning, NASA successfully launched all 5 of the rockets for the ATREX experiment. I provided some information about the ATREX mission last week.

ATREX stands for Anomalous Transport Rocket Experiment and consisted of 5 sounding rockets all launched within 5 minutes from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast. The rockets released an environmentally safe chemical tracer into the far edge of the upper atmosphere, at the interface to space, to study a jet-stream that exists at those altitudes. The amazing part of this experiment was the visibility of the tracer clouds: I could see them, clearly, from my house between Washington, DC and Baltimore this morning, and they may have been visible as far west as West Virginia. It isn’t often I get to report firsthand on missions, and to see an atmospheric experiment of that magnitude was thrilling. I had to remind myself that I wasn’t looking at clouds in the normal cloud layer but at a man-made cloud 80 kilometers above the normal cloud layers — a visualization of the edge of space.

As I write this, the launches have just happened so pictures from the experiment and launches are not available yet and video has become available as I write and NASA is reporting some information via Facebook and Twitter as fast as they can and I am sure some more impressive photos and videos will be available soon.

From all of us at GeekDad, Congratulations to the ATREX team!

Has sharing this with your Geeklings made them a little more interested in rockets? Take the opportunity and build a rocket with them! A simple search on the Make: Projects site for “rocket” yields numerous types of rocket you can build. You can also purchase some great model rocket kits on Amazon! If you’re in the Washington, DC area you can bring your rocket to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on the first Sunday of the month. This monthly event is run by the local National Association or Rocketry group. Get out there and get launching!

Hmm..maybe future work for Virgin Galactic or XCOR?

James Cameron and the real-life “Abyss”

James Cameron, real-life film director of “The Abyss” and “Avatar” actually plunged into the depths of the Mariana Trench yesterday on March 25, 2012:

At 5:52 p.m. ET Sunday (7:52 a.m. Monday, local time), James Cameron arrived at the Mariana Trench‘s Challenger Deep, members of the National Geographic expedition have confirmed.

His depth on arrival: 35,756 feet (10,898 meters)—a figure unattainable anywhere else in the ocean.

Reaching bottom after a 2-hour-and-36-minute descent, the National Geographic explorer and filmmaker typed  out welcome words for the cheering support crew waiting at the surface: “All  systems OK.”

Folded into a sub cockpit as cramped as any Apollo capsule, the National Geographic explorer and frilmmaker is now investigating a seascape more alien to humans than the moon. Cameron is only the third person to reach this Pacific Ocean valley southwest of Guam (map)—and the only one to do so solo.

Hovering in what he’s called a vertical torpedo, Cameron is likely collecting data, specimens, and imagery unthinkable in 1960, when the only other explorers to reach Challenger Deep returned after seeing little more than the silt stirred up by their bathyscaphe.

After as long as six hours in the trench, Cameron—best known for creating fictional worlds on film (Avatar, Titanic, The Abyss)—is to jettison steel weights attached to the sub and shoot back to the surface. (See pictures of Cameron’s sub.)

Meanwhile, the expedition’s scientific support team awaits his return aboard the research ships Mermaid Sapphire and Barakuda, 7 miles (11 kilometers) up. (Video: how sound revealed that Challenger Deep is the deepest spot in the ocean.)

“We’re now a band of brothers and sisters that have been through this for a while,” marine biologist Doug Bartlett told National Geographic News from the ship before the dive.

“People have worked for months or years in a very intensive way to get to this point,” said Bartlett, chief scientist for the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE program, a partnership with the National Geographic Society and Rolex. (The Society owns National Geographic News.)

“I think people are ready,” added Bartlett, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. “They want to get there, and they want to see this happen.”

(Video: Cameron Dive Is an Exploration First.)m

Rendezvous at Challenger Deep

Upon touchdown at Challenger Deep, Cameron’s first target is a phone booth-like unmanned “lander” dropped into the trench hours before his dive.

Using sonar, “I’m going to attempt to rendezvous with that vehicle so I can observe animals that are attracted to the chemical signature of its bait,” Cameron told National Geographic News before the dive.

He’ll later follow a route designed to take him through as many environments as possible, surveying not only the sediment-covered seafloor but also cliffs of interest to expedition geologists.

“I’ll be doing a bit of a longitudinal transect along the trench axis for a while, and then I’ll turn 90 degrees and I’ll go north and work myself up the wall,” said Cameron, also a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence. (Listen: James Cameron on becoming a National Geographic explorer.)

Though battery power and vast distances limit his contact with his science team to text messaging and sporadic voice communication, Cameron seemed confident in his mission Friday. “I’m pretty well briefed on what I’ll see,” he said.

(Video: Cameron Dive First Attempt in Over 50 Years.)

Bullet to the Deep

To get to this point, Cameron and his crew have spent seven years reimagining what a submersible can be. The result is the 24-foot-tall (7-meter-tall) DEEPSEA CHALLENGER.

Engineered to sink upright and spinning, like a bullet fired straight into the Mariana Trench, the sub can descend about 500 feet (150 meters) a minute—”amazingly fast,” in the words of Robert Stern, a marine geologist at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Pre-expedition estimates put the Challenger Deep descent at about 90 minutes. (Animation: Cameron’s Mariana Trench dive compressed into one minute.)

By contrast, some current remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, descend at about 40 meters (130 feet) a minute, added Stern, who isn’t part of the expedition.

Andy Bowen, project manager and principal developer of the Nereus, an ROV that explored Challenger Deep in 2009, called the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER “an extremely elegant solution to the challenge of diving a human-occupied submersible to such extreme depths.”

“It’s been engineered to be very effective at getting from the surface to the seafloor in as quick a time as possible,” said Bowen, of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who also isn’t part of the current expedition.

And that’s just the idea, the DEEPSEA CHALLENGE team says: The faster Cameron gets there, the more time for science. (Read more about DEEPSEA CHALLENGE science.)

Pursuing speed and science in tandem makes the DEEPSEA CHALLENGER test dives—and even the Mariana Trench mission—perhaps as unorthodox as the sub itself.

Typically “you conduct a sea trial for a vehicle, you pronounce it fit for service, and then you develop a science program around it,” Cameron said before heading to the trench. “We collapsed that together into one expedition, because [we were] fairly confident the vehicle would work—and it is.”

Techno Torpedo

Now, at the bottom of the trench, the sub’s custom-designed foam filling and the pressure-resistant shape of the “pilot sphere”—are helping protect Cameron from the equivalent of 8 tons pressing down on every square inch (1,125 kilograms per square centimeter). (Video: how sub sphere protects Cameron.)

Among the sub’s tools are a sediment sampler, a mechanical claw, a “slurp gun” for sucking up small sea creatures for study at the surface, and temperature, salinity, and pressure gauges.

While that might sound like a gearhead’s paradise, Cameron knows he’ll “have to be able to prioritize.”

“Is my manipulator working properly? Do I still have room in my sample drawer? And do I still have the ability to take a [sediment] core sample? … I only have [tools for] three sediment cores available on the vehicle, so I have to choose wisely when to use them.”

By contrast, the sub’s multiple 3-D cameras will be whirring almost continually, and not just for the benefit of future audiences of planned documentaries.

“There is scientific value in getting stereo images,” Cameron said, “because … you can determine the scale and distance of objects from stereo pairs that you can’t from 2-D images.”

But, Scripps’s Bartlett said, “it’s not just the video.” The sub’s lighting of deepwater scenes—mainly by an 8-foot (2.5-meter) tower of LEDs—is “so, so beautiful. It’s unlike anything that you’ll have seen from other subs or other remotely operated vehicles.”

(Video: Cameron Dive Is an Exploration First.)

The Search for Life

Right now it’s a mystery what Cameron is seeing, sampling, and filming at depth, in part because so little is known about the Challenger Deep environment.

The only glimpses scientists have had of the region, via two ROV missions, showed a seafloor covered in light gray, silky mud.

Cameron may be detecting subtle signs of life—burrows or tracks or fecal piles—said DEEPSEA CHALLENGE biological oceanographer Lisa Levin, also of Scripps, who’s monitoring the expedition from afar.

If the water’s clear, she added, Cameron may be seeing jellyfish or xenophyophores—giant, single-celled, honeycomb-shaped creatures already filmed in other areas of the Mariana Trench. (See “Giant ‘Amoebas’ Found in Deepest Place on Earth.”)

“If we get lucky,” Cameron said before the dive, “we should find something like a cold seep, where we might find tube worms.” Cold seeps are regions of the ocean floor somewhat like hydrothermal vents (video) that ooze fluid chemicals at the same temperature as the surrounding water.

Earlier this month, during a test dive near Papua New Guinea, Cameron brought back enormous shrimplike creatures from five miles (eight kilometers) down. At 7 inches (17 centimeters) long, the animals are “the largest amphipods ever seen at that kind of depth,” chief scientist Bartlett said. “And we saw one on camera that was perhaps twice that size.”

At Challenger Deep depths, though, the calcium animals need to form shells dissolves quickly. It’s unlikely—though not impossible—that Cameron is finding shelled creatures, but if he does, the discovery would be a scientific jaw-dropper.

Even if he uncovers “a rock with a shell limpet or some kind of bivalve in the mud”—such as a clam, perhaps—”that would be exciting,” Scripps’s Levin said.

Aliens of the Abyss

Expedition astrobiologist Kevin Hand, of NASA, imagines that the life-forms Cameron might be encountering could help fine-tune the search for extraterrestrial life.

For instance, scientists think Jupiter’s moon Europa could harbor a global ocean beneath its thick shell of ice—an ocean that, like Challenger Deep, would be lightless, near freezing, and home to areas of intense pressure. (See “Could Jupiter Moon Harbor Fish-Size Life?”)

I like the idea of this being a precursor journey for a trip to explore Europa, but I don’t foresee that mission happening in the near future due to NASA’s continuing financial woes.

Because of Cameron’s deep-dive journey however, exploration of the deep ocean might become cost-effective and common-place as the search for more natural resources becomes necessary as we humans continue to form a Kardashev Class 1 Civilization.

James Cameron Now at Ocean’s Deepest Point

Piece of UFO or Space Junk in Siberia?

Today’s mystery is this piece of “space junk” that fell out of the sky in a small Siberian village in Russia.

Russian space officials deny that it’s any part of their space program — secret or mainstream.

It doesn’t show any stress or burns from heating or scorching from re-entry at all.

I thing it’s some kind of construction equipment. What’s your guess?


Youtube video


Hat tip

Vanishing UFO Photos From British MOD Office

Diamond Ufo

It was said to be one of the best photos of a UFO, and a poster-size image of it hung on a wall of Britain’s Ministry of Defence. But then, at some point between 1991 to 1994, it vanished, gone, never to be seen again.

On the day in 1991 that Nick Pope interviewed for the position of chief of the Ministry of Defence’s UFO office, he could not help but notice the UFO image on the wall. “I went in for an informal interview, and anyone sitting in that office found their eyes drawn to that image,” Pope told The Huffington Post.

Other original pictures, negatives and the wall poster somehow vanished in the 1990s. Only a Ministry of Defence line drawing remains.

The photo was one of six taken by a pair of hikers who spotted a strange diamond-shaped object in the sky over Pitlochry, Scotland, on Aug. 4, 1990. It appeared to hover in the air near an Royal Air Force Harrier jet. Eyewitnesses reported seeing the unusual object above the ground for nearly 10 minutes before it zoomed away at high speed.

The 1990 incident was described in a batch of previously classified UFO files released by the Ministry of Defence in 2009.

Pope told The Huffington Post that it was the ministry’s official policy to obtain as much information as possible in the case of a UFO sighting, such as photo negatives. The pair with the photos contacted the staff of a newspaper that planned an article; the newspaper, in turn, reached out to the Ministry of Defence for additional information, Pope said. That’s when the ministry requested and obtained the original photographs and negatives from the newspaper, he said. “From everything I know about the defense intelligence staff, they would have done that.”

The incident took place just before Pope took over the ministry’s UFO division in 1991 to 1994.  When he started his job, Pope couldn’t help staring at the enlarged image of the UFO on his office wall.

“It looked like a diamond on its side; it was three-dimensional, meaning it had some depth to it,” Pope recalled. “It was a dull, metallic gray color. But the most disconcerting thing about this was [that] despite its large size — over 80 feet in diameter — there was an apparent lack of any real aircraft-like structure to it.

Watch this National Geographic report about the disappearance of the UFO photos in Scotland:

“Moreover, there was no apparent propulsion system and no markings,” Pope added. “This made us think that whatever it was, it clearly was a technology significantly ahead of anything we had in our infantry or even on the drawing board.”

Pope described another reason for interest in the object: “There was no apparent sound from the craft, especially with it being within a couple hundred feet of the eyewitnesses.”

“Naturally, we wanted the propulsion system,” he added. “And if we couldn’t get it, we wanted to at least try and understand the principles on which it might work because that might play into research and development.”
“This wasn’t the archetypal distant, blurred UFO photo,” Pope added. “This was up close and personal, reach-out and you-can-touch-it stuff. ‘I don’t know what it is, but it’s not one of ours’ was the stock answer to the inevitable question. Word got around and people would swing by to take a look, even when they had no obvious business in our section.”

According to Pope, his superior officer was convinced that the object in the UFO photo was a secret, prototype aircraft from America. But after assurances from U.S. authorities that they weren’t testing anything like that over the United Kingdom, Pope’s boss took the poster down and locked it away somewhere.

“The original photos were sent to the defense intelligence staff, who then sent them on to imagery analysts at the Joint Air Reconnaissance Intelligence Center,” said Pope, at right. “At the time, [the Ministry of Defence] hadn’t even publicly acknowledged that there was any intelligence interest in UFOs. Though we’d never say so publicly, the bottom line was that we wanted the technology. It was better than anything we had and we wanted it for our own military aircraft and drones.”
“I would not put myself in the [UFO] believer camp,” Pope said. “But if I was going to end up there, this case, in terms of evidence, would give me a big push in that direction.”

Why does this UFO story continue to surface every few years? Because like the legendary tales of the Roswell, N.M., UFO crash of 1947 or the infamous top-secret world of Area 51 in the Nevada desert, some mysteries are not easily put to rest.

With eyewitness accounts, high-level government interest and the sudden disappearance of the visual forms of evidence  (the photos and negatives), the 1990 incident has all the ingredients that UFO legends are made of.

Pitlochry UFO Case

Nick Pope is one of the most credibible UFO investigators in the world and has amassed quite a resume of investigations over the past twenty years. His sight is;

Hat tip to the Daily Grail.

SpaceX CEO Musk on Mainstream Media Show 60 Minutes

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has certainly taken his lumps lately in his quest to launch cargo and eventually live astronauts on his Dragon spacecraft.

Old line space companies such as Lockheed-Martin, Boeing and Alliant Tech Systems have bought right-wing polititians in NASA Red States in order to slow down commercial cargo and crew development in order to spread the meme that old fashioned cost-plus contracts to the aforementioned entities in Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Florida and Colorado (Red State NASA Centers) are the only credible companies able to construct space vehicles, totally on the taxpayer dime.

What they fail to mention is that commercial cargo and crew receive only 1/10 the money that the old contracts receive and only after they reach certain milestones. Most of the equipment that companies like SpaceX, Sierra-Nevada, Orbital Sciences and Blue Origin foot most of the cost of their space equipment.

This is mainly a political issue and has nothing really to do with putting man into space at all; it just political party propaganda.

Below is the link to the 60 Minute segment on 3/18/2012 in which Scott Pelly interviews Elon Musk and gives him a mainstream media audience exposure that could help him politically. Maybe.

Musk Interview On 60 Minutes 3/18/2012


Rendevous With Rama, Refueling Death Star or Stellar Filament?

Rendevous With Rama, a 1972 novel written by Sir Arthur C. Clarke, is about an asteroid sized alien starship that enters the Solar System in the 22nd Century. A human spaceship crew enters and explores the huge vessel and has to leave when the crew discovers the ship is heading toward the Sun, apparently toward its doom.

The ship doesn’t destroy itself however. Instead it extends a filament into the Sun’s corona and draws the Sun’s material into itself; thus rebuilding losses incurred while traveling immense distances between the stars.

Below is a supposed photo by the NASA Solar Dynamic Observatory of a phenomenon doing just that. And it’s not just a Rama-sized asteroid object, it’s a stellar sized Death Star object!


Youtube user 'Sunsflare' captures the strange orb 'anchored' above the visible surface of the sun in photos from Nasa's Solar Dynamics Observatory


Stellar Filament or Death Star Refueling?

The Fifty Light Year Radar Detector

Calling up visions of the old Mars Radio Detector of 1924, the Square Kilometer Array ( SKA ) is a proposed technological marvel that will be able to detect alien radio signals and radars up to 50 light-years away:

If there are space invaders out there, it won’t be long before they can no longer stage a sneak attack, thanks to a project to build the most sensitive radio telescope ever — one that’s the size of a continent. Known as The Square Kilometer Array (SKA), it will explore the universe, identify any potential alien threats to our planet and hopefully answer some fundamental questions from astronomers. Its thousands of receptors, spaced roughly one kilometer apart, will be linked across an entire continent. They’ll be arranged in five spiral arms like a galaxy, 3,000 50-foot-wide dishes that extend out from a central core at least 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometers) — about the distance from New York City to Albuquerque, N.M. The board of directors behind the telescope met for the first time in late January to kick off the project. Their first decision: where to house such a beast. After all, if it’s located in Australia, the antennas could span the entire continent. If it’s in South Africa, another location being considered, they would stretch to the Indian Ocean islands. Optical telescopes can reveal only so much of the universe. The SKA’s radio telescopes, on the other hand, pick up radio-frequency signals unobscured by, say, cosmic dust. They will survey the sky 10,000 times faster than any other telescope and with 50 times the sensitivity and 100 times the survey speed of current imaging instruments. Among the SKA’s missions: finding an answer to the question, “Are we alone?” From a defense perspective, that’s a coy way of asking whether there are aliens out there with the capacity and appetite to attack us. The SKA will be able to detect very weak extraterrestrial signals and search for complex molecules, the building blocks of life. Many new planets outside our solar system have been discovered in recent years, but it’s not clear whether they host life.
The search for extraterrestrial transmission has been underway for a long time, but the SKA’s sensitivity will provide a key advantage. For the first time, it will even be possible to detect the relatively weak signals of televisions and radars from nearby stars. Spying such an artificial transmission from a planet around a star would be a pretty good clue that we’re not in this by ourselves.
The SKA will also look at how galaxies evolve and investigate the nature of dark energy. By mapping out the cosmic distribution of hydrogen, it will study the expansion of the universe after the Big Bang. Such a map will also allow researchers to track young galaxies. How were stars born and black holes formed? The SKA will study the very first ones, as well as stars and galaxies that shaped the development of the universe. It will even be able to detect black holes forming during the Dark Ages. SKA will also take on Einstein. The board of directors speculate that it may challenge the theory of general relativity and probe the nature of gravity. Initial construction is due in 2016, and the SKA is expected to be fully operational by 2024. By 2019, well before the full array is completed, the team expects some exciting science results will be achievable. All that science won’t come cheap, of course. The SKA is expected to cost approximately $2.36 billion. But those bucks buy an awful lot of power: The SKA’s central computer will have the processing power of approximately 1 billion PCs, and it will produce enough raw data to fill 15 million 64GB iPods every day. The SKA dishes will produce 10 times as much data the world’s Internet traffic. In fact, one of the largest design challenges was how to relay the huge amount of data across such large distances. The solution: Enough optical fiber to wrap twice around the Earth — and take the Earth’s defense to an entirely different scale.

The chances of finding another technological civilization at our level of tech within fifty light-years is pretty remote, but the kidnappers of Betty and Barney Hill are from Zeta Reticuli supposedly and that double star system is 37 light-years away.

I’m not sure what we’re going to do if we find ” space invaders “, but I’m sure our military-congressional-industrial-complex will find a way to empty the pockets of the taxpayer to pay for the damn thing.

Project SKA able to detect Alien radar on other planets of up to 50LYs away!

Hat tip to Time4TruthDOTorg 

Human Homeless Hotspots

A recent newsline, even on the mainstream news has caught America’s attention:

Much has been written about SXSW’s “Homeless Hotspots,” and the backlash has been swift and harsh. Melvin, an Ohio native, has been working the sidewalk outside of the Austin Convention Center for the last four days, offering people access to Wi-Fi in exchange for the suggestion of a donation, and doesn’t seem perturbed: “It’s been pretty much straight up,” he told BuzzFeed FWD. That said, “I think it would be, from my aspect, more helpful to know what my income is — my compensation.”

Melvin became part of this experiment, which was masterminded by marketing agency BBH, through a local homeless shelter called Front Steps. “They gave me the information about this. I just opted to get involved.” Melvin’s profile on the HH website is here.

He says it’s been busy, but otherwise OK. “People have been polite for the most part, yeah. I mean you have that select few.” I sense that he’s getting a lot of questions about the program rather than access codes, which is getting tiring.

Asked about the public’s reaction – namely claims that the program is demeaning or, as the New York Times said, “a little dystopian,” Melvin smiled. “I don’t feel that way at the moment, heh, but of course that all depends on some other issues.” Issues like money, mostly, which he and his coworkers won’t know about for about ten more days. People donate through PayPal, out of sight of the Hotspot holders themselves.

Melvin, who declined to give his last name or his age, appears to have kept a positive outlook about the whole thing, and about his own plight, which he also declined to talk much about.

“I would say that these people are trying to help the homeless, and increase awareness. They’re trying not to put us in a situation where we’re stereotyped. That’s a good side of it, too — we get to talk to people. Maybe give them a different perception of what homeless is like,” he said.

“It’s all good.”

Many people have weighed in on this, such as the Today Show had folks commenting on it.

Some people call it exploitation, some call it ” just makin’ a buck.”

I call it just another sign of the coming ( or starting ) Technological Singularity as these folks could qualify as cybernetic organisms.

Life As A Homeless Hotspot

Hat tip to Kurzweil AI