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SETI

10 Jan

There Are TENS OF BILLIONS Of Possible Earths In The Milky Way

It's Unexplained Week on the Science Channel and all week we're asking big questions like 'Is there alien life out there?' and 'What happens when we find it?' Believeinaliens.jpg

Friday night's Alien Encounters attempts to answer these queries starting at 7 p.m. with an episode asking, "What would really happen if we got a message from space? How would we react?" Experts from the SETI Institute weigh in with their analysis of the facts and their interpretations of possible signs of extraterrestrial life.

On March 6, 2009, NASA launched its Kepler spacecraft with a mission of searching for habitable, Earth-like planets. By February 2011, NASA announced Kepler had identified 1,235 planetary candidates, including 54 planets in the habitable zone where liquid water, one of the main ingredients to sustain life life, could be present on a planet's surface.

Those numbers were soon blown out of the water when a 2013 statistical analysis of Kepler's observations by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and University of Hawaii, Manoa revealed that there are potentially "several tens of billions" of potentially habitable, Earth-size planets in the Milky Way: "one in five stars like the sun have planets about the size of Earth and a surface temperature conducive to life."

“When you look up at the thousands of stars in the night sky, the nearest sun-like star with an Earth-size planet in its habitable zone is probably only 12 light years away and can be seen with the naked eye. That is amazing,” said UC Berkeley gradu ydvhate student Erik Petigura.

The exact number of these planets is up for debate: the New York Times reported "there could be as many as 40 billion habitable Earth-size planets in the galaxy," while Bloomberg had a more conservative estimate of 4.4 billion.

As the search for more so-called "Goldilocks planets" -- named because a planet would need to be neither too hot nor too cold, but just right -- continues, Kepler's days may be numbered. Two of its four reaction wheels have failed and NASA announced in August 2013 that it was ending attempts to fully restore the spacecraft. But, NASA made clear, "[t]hough the spacecraft will no longer operate with its unparalleled precision pointing, scientists expect Kepler’s most interesting discoveries are still to come."

Tune in to the Science Channel tonight for this and many more extraterrestrial mysteries and let us know what you think. Is there life out there?

"Do Billions of Planets Mean More Earths?"

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23 Mar

From Aliens to the End of the World: Nick Sagan Answers YOUR Facebook Questions!

Nick SaganI really appreciate all the questions and sorry if you asked one I didn't have time to answer. 

--Nick Sagan


Omar ramirz
Q: Are we ready to make contact?

A: In “Alien Encounters” one of the many excellent points Neil deGrasse Tyson makes is that we can barely get along with ourselves, so how are we going to get along with aliens?  We’re not ready, he says, and looking at our history to this point, he’s probably right.  That said, one can imagine scenarios where first contact brings out the best in us.  And perhaps we’ll find a civilization that’s faced similar challenges in their own history, a people who know how to conduct themselves in a way that maximizes the chance that the experience will be positive for all involved.


John lollo
Q: What do you think an advanced civilization would have to gain by making contact with us?

A: It’s hard to predict extraterrestrial motivations but I would imagine an advanced civilization would gain as much from making contact with us as we might upon discovering an intriguing but primitive new species of life.  We’d be a subject of curiosity, perhaps expanding their understanding of how life develops on worlds other than their own.  On the other hand, we may be so far behind them in our development that we’d be utterly uninteresting to them (which may explain why we’ve yet to hear from anyone.)

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7 Mar

Science's General Manager Answers YOUR Questions (on Aliens)

Debbie-qandaA few weeks ago we put out the call to our Facebook and Twitter followers to ask ANY question of Science's General Manager, Debbie Myers. There were sooooo many responses, it's going to take some time to make our way through them -- and we didn't want to play favorites. So, we had Debbie pick the questions out of a hat (or in this case, a jar).

We'll be posting more of her answers shortly, but here's one that's particularly relevant to our celebration of "Are We Alone?" month:

 

Please keep your questions coming. Debbie has pledged to get through as many as she can! Oh, and don't forget to join our search for alien life here!

Debbie Myers
General Manager
SCIENCE

25 Jan

Are We Alone in the Universe?

Will you be the one to find signals from an alien civilization?

When Jodie Foster's "Contact" came out, I was a graduate  student studying the impact of media and technology in our society. I remember being both disappointed and relieved at the thought that moment of alien contact depicted was only a film world sci-fi fabrication. I couldn't imagine that humans, with all our ego and ignorance, could handle meeting beings whose intelligence we could never hope to surpass. We prefer more knowable beings: clear-cut enemies like the voracious predators of "Alien," or the little goofballs from "E.T." and "Men in Black."

Little did I know at the time, Jodie Foster's character was largely based on a real person: Jill Tarter, director of the SETI Institute and a world leader in the search for intelligent life beyond Earth. Over the past year, I have had the good fortune to be able to work directly with Ms. Tarter on an exciting project here at Science Channel.

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9 Jan

Zeroing in on Alien Life

Kepler field of viewIt used to be that searching for signs of alien life meant blindly searching any corner of space in hopes of stumbling across something — anything — meaningful. Not surprisingly, us humans have come up empty so far.

But thanks to data from NASA's Kepler telescope, we finally have a way to apply some method to the madness. The mission of the Kepler program is to search a section of the Milky Way galaxy for other Earth-like planets. The main objective from NASA's perspective is to find possible new homes for humans. But the SETI Institute is using the telescope's data to see if any newly-discovered planets already have intelligent life residing there.

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