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Aliens

8 Apr

Finding Alien Life by 2025

Watereventfeature20150407_mainNASA chief scientist Ellen Stofan thinks so. "I think  within a decade, we're going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth, and I think we're going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years," she said Tuesday during a panel event on water in the universe.

That’s a thought provoking statement! Why would she make this announcement during a panel on water? NASA has long been searching for the evidence of water in the universe and is announcing new missions to discover and understand how water is distributed in the universe. With this announcement, it is no surprise the topic turns to finding life beyond Earth. The discovery of water on other planets and exoplanets is one strong indicator that alien life could be found there, as in many cases it is a building block for known life forms.

Stofan isn’t the only one who believes the pace at which we are unlocking new understanding about the universe will reveal alien life.

"It's definitely not an if, it's a when," said Jeffery Newmark, NASA's interim director of heliophysics.

Information coming back from NASA missions has shown the atmospheres and interiors of Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are thought to contain enormous quantities of water. Even the five icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn show evidence of there may be oceans beneath their icy surfaces. As we probe further in the universe we are finding more evidence of the water and the elements of water, hydrogen and oxygen everywhere and in many forms.

Scientists are quick to point out that finding alien life doesn’t necessarily mean meeting little green men, or the kind of semi-human sentient beings we think of from Star Trek or Star Wars. The likelihood is our first encounter may be microbes, perhaps similar to those that evolve and change on our own Earth over time.

More: Will Aliens Have Bodies?

As much as the headline of yesterday’s panel focused on water as a barometer of finding alien life, the study of water and how it behaves in the universe is also helpful in understanding how our own solar system evolved and why some planets have water and why some who may have had water have dried up.

By being able to observe other planetary systems as they form helps paint the picture of how our own solar system developed, and water is a big part of that story. NASA reports the Spitzer Space Telescope has observed signs of a hail of water-rich comets raining down on a young solar system, much like the kind of bombardment planets in our solar system would have endured in their youth. This could very well be how our own Earth became populated with water.

Many of NASA’s existing missions like Kepler and its successor K2 are laying the groundwork now. NASA is also launching the TESS mission will search nearby, bright stars in the solar neighborhood for Earth sized exoplanets in conjunction with the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

More: The Quest For Life: Water

Watching another distant solar system that could be like ours is a powerful concept to wrap one’s head around. The oceans we swim and sail in, the rivers we see, and the water we drink may well have come from a cosmic event that is just in the offing for other planets in other solar systems.

With that in mind, when we look to the skies, and consider the idea of alien life forms being found it’s hard not to wonder if there are other life forms on distant planets who are going through the process of developing into life forms we might recognize.

With its targeted missions to understand deeper space better in the pipeline, NASA is in the unique position to be able to make that bold prediction that we may find some form of life within the next 20 – 30 years.

 All we can say is wow!  For more of where water has been discovered, explore NASA's infographic below.

Oceanworlds_infographic_full

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources: NASA, Huffington Post

10 Sep

Jupiter Moon Europa Could Have Plate Tectonics Like Earth

New research reveals Jupiter moon Europa may have plate tectonics similar to those on Earth, giving new hope to the search for extraterrestrial life.

Our friends at DNews report:

"During studies of photographs taken by NASA’s Galileo spacecraft that orbited the gas giant from 1995 to 2003, planetary geologists have found it hard to explain why most of the crust was relatively new ice (on average, the icy surface is 40-90 million years old) and yet there was little evidence of old ice that had been crushed up on the surface to make way for the new material.

...

Their conclusion is that, like Earth’s rocky crust, there must be subduction zones where old material is pushed against plate boundaries, making the ice sink into the subsurface ocean, where it melts and gets cycled."

"Europa may be more Earth-like than we imagined, if it has a global plate tectonic system," planetary geologists Simon Kattenhorn said in a statement. "Not only does this discovery make it one of the most geologically interesting bodies in the solar system, it also implies two-way communication between the exterior and interior -- a way to move material from the surface into the ocean -- a process which has significant implications for Europa's potential as a habitable world."

Earlier in 2014, NASA put out a call for proposals to hunt for alien life on Europa, which is believed to have a deep underground ocean that could be capable of sustaining life.

Want to learn more? Get to know Europa:

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13 Aug

Commercial Spacecraft Prepare to Mine the Moon

"We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too."

-President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962

More than 50 years after President Kennedy's famous moon speech, his words continue to inspire. Now a new generation prepares to heed the president's call and aim for the lunar surface, not for human exploration but to mine the moon for its precious minerals.

Among the rare earth elements found on the moon are titanium, magnesium and iron; there's also helium-3, which "could provide safer nuclear energy in a fusion reactor, since it is not radioactive and would not produce dangerous waste products."

Silicon Valley titans like Google are looking toward the lunar surface and offering scientists prizes "designed to inspire pioneers to do robotic space transport on a budget."

Is this the start of a new space race?

Tonight at 10/9c, Science Channel's three-part special Man vs. The Universe looks at commercial spacecraft preparing to mine the moon and the benefits these groups hope to reap. Here's a sneak peek:

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23 Jul

NASA Seeks Proposals To Hunt For Alien Life On Jupiter Moon Europa

Screen Shot 2014-07-23 at 11.58.25 AMIf there's life out there, will we find it on Jupiter's icy moon Europa?

NASA recently put out a call for proposals for science instruments to "address fundamental questions about the icy moon and the search for life beyond Earth."

"The possibility of life on Europa is a motivating force for scientists and engineers around the world," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement. "This solicitation will select instruments which may provide a big leap in our search to answer the question: are we alone in the universe?"

It's believed that Europa has a deep underground ocean that could be capable of sustaining life; a mission to Europa is planned for the 2020s and could cost $1 billion.

About 20 proposals will be selected in April 2015 and $25 million divided among their creators for development.

Tonight, How the Universe Works delves deep into Jupiter's core and in one segment, examines Galileo and the first time NASA dropped a probe into Jupiter's atmosphere:

Watch How the Universe Works TONIGHT at 9/8c on Science Channel

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27 May

'Alien Encounters' Explores What Happens When the Aliens Arrive

The aliens are here -- now what?

That's the question probed by Alien Encounters, which returns tonight on Science Channel for season three of a series that explores how arriving aliens would affect humanity.

Dramatizations of the action are interspersed with real-life science and commentary from experts, including astrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi and SETI Institute astronomer Seth Shostak.

In this sneak peek from tonight's premiere episode, learn how engineers are using science to track the effects of space trash. What would happen if a piece of flying junk connected with an object here on Earth?

Tune in to the premiere of Alien Encounters tonight at 10/9c, and keep watching Science Channel on Tuesday nights to see how the story unfolds.

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4 Apr

Hidden Ocean On Saturn Moon Enceladus Could Support Life

Pia18071_enceladus-interiorIt was just last month that waves were detected on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. Now comes news that NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected signs of a sea beneath Enceladus, another Saturn moon, "furthering scientific interest in the moon as a potential home to extraterrestrial microbes."

The findings were published in the journal Science on April 4.

"The main implication is that there are potentially habitable environments in the solar system in places which are completely unexpected," said Luciano Iess, one of the study's authors, in a video. "Enceladus has a surface temperature of about minus 180 degrees Celsius, but under that surface there exists liquid water."

Space.com says the discovery "confirms suspicions many researchers have had about Enceladus since 2005, when NASA's Cassini spacecraft first spotted ice and water vapor spewing from fractures near the moon's south pole."

The six-mile-deep ocean is hidden beneath Enceladus' ice exterior, which may be as much as 19 to 25 miles thick and, according to NASA, makes Saturn's icy moon one of the "most likely places in our solar system to host microbial life."

"Material from Enceladus’ south polar jets contains salty water and organic molecules, the basic chemical ingredients for life," said Cassini project scientist Linda Spilker in a statement. "Their discovery expanded our view of the 'habitable zone' within our solar system and in planetary systems of other stars. This new validation that an ocean of water underlies the jets furthers understanding about this intriguing environment." 

Mars remains an intriguing candidate for life as evidence emerges that the red planet was once covered in water. It could have even had life before Earth did:

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Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

3 Apr

Bill Clinton 'Wouldn't be Surprised' If Aliens Visit Earth, Former President Tells Jimmy Kimmel

During President Bill Clinton's two-term tenure in office, one of the questions he wanted answered was: "What's inside Area 51?"

Area 51 is, of course, a top-secret military installation located north of Las Vegas; it was only in December 2013 that a U.S. president publicly acknowledged Area 51's existence, a moment that occurred in a joke by President Obama.

Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live Wednesday night, Clinton said he "wouldn't be surprised" if aliens visit Earth, and that he "had people go look at the records on Area 51 to make sure there was no alien down there."

Unfortunately for believers, "there are no aliens there." Clinton also had all of the papers reviewed from the Roswell UFO incident and said if he'd learned there were extraterrestrials out there, he would have told the American people.

The truth may still be out there, the former president said:

"We know now we live in an ever-expanding universe. We know there are billions of stars and planets, literally, out there. And the universe is getting bigger. We know from our fancy telescopes that just in the last two years more than 20 planets have been identified outside our solar system that seem to be far enough away from their suns and dense enough that they might be able to support some form of life. So it makes it increasing less likely that we’re alone."

Watch President Bill Clinton talk aliens with Jimmy Kimmel:

If astronauts encounter a UFO, NASA has a set procedure in place. See what happened when astronauts on the International Space Station saw something strange outside the space station:

Are you a believer like President Clinton?

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6 Mar

10 Percent Of Americans Say They've Seen A UFO -- Too Low? Too High?

Are We Alone Week is flying by!

Up tonight: more NASA's Unexplained Files. Many of the mysteries profiled on the series are strange sightings by astronauts stationed in space and in tonight's episode, the commander of the Space Shuttle Atlantis sees a mysterious object outside the window of the shuttle, something unlike "anything I've ever seen."

WATCH:

NASA later explained away this odd occurrence by saying the sighting was merely space debris, but a full 10 percent of Americans claim to have seen a UFO. Does this number seem low? Or high?

Awa-5-500

We hope that 10 percent -- and many more! -- will join us for tonight's all-new NASA's Unexplained Files at 10/9c. If you have a UFO story, please share it in the comments.

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5 Mar

Can You Name All Six Shapes Of UFOs?

As Are We Alone Week continues, plenty of questions have been raised about UFOs, aliens and the possibilities of extraterrestrial life.

In a live Twitter chat during Tuesday night's premiere of Close Encounters, one Science Channel Twitter fan said, "By strict definition, Anything in the sky you can't identify is a UFO."

UFO expert Chris Rutkowski agreed: "Absolutely true!"

While around 95 percent of UFO sightings are easily explained, that still leaves five percent unaccounted for. When people claim to see a UFO, the object most commonly falls into one of six shapes:

  1. Saucer
  2. Sphere
  3. Egg
  4. Cigar
  5. Triangle
  6. Boomerang
Awa-4-500

Some of the most famous UFO sightings in history fall into these categories: Roswell (saucer), Rendlesham Forest (triangle) and the Lubbock Lights (boomerang).

Be sure to catch an all-new Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman tonight at 10/9c as the show asks, "Is God an Alien Concept?"

Have you seen a UFO? Did it fall into one of these categories?

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4 Mar

Here's What Most People Really See When They Claim To Spot A UFO

Awa-3-500It's Are We Alone Week at Science Channel and all week we're exploring programming that asks the big questions: Is there life out there? Has it been in contact with us? Are we alone?

Not to burst any bubbles -- after all, there seems to be growing evidence of extraterrestrial life every day -- but it turns out that the vast majority of UFO sightings have a reasonable explanation.

An overwhelming 95 percent of UFO sightings can be explained by not-so-out-of-this-world events.

These range from weather balloons and floodlights to military aircraft and solar events.

Sorry, guys.

That still leaves 5 percent of UFO sightings unexplained, however, and some of those incidents are documented on the new Science Channel series Close Encounters, which premieres tonight at 10/9c.

Here's a sneak peek at a strange sighting in Kansas that left a glowing ring in one family's yard. Watch what happens when someone reaches out to touch the hovering halo:

 Let us know what you think: Are we alone?

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Welcome to the inSCIder, where you can connect with the people who bring Science Channel to life. Find out what's in the works here at SCIENCE, share your feedback with the team and see what's getting our attention online and in the news.

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