Saturday, June 14, 2014

Oldest possibly habitable planet and other space and astronomy news

The lead story of last week's Overnight News Digest: Science Saturday (Oldest possibly habitable planet) on Daily Kos came from Mike Wall of, who declared Found! Oldest Known Alien Planet That Might Support Life
Astronomers have discovered what appears to be the oldest known alien world that could be capable of supporting life, and it's just a stone's throw away from Earth.

The newfound exoplanet candidate Kapteyn b, which lies a mere 13 light-years away, is about 11.5 billion years old, scientists say. That makes it 2.5 times older than Earth, and just 2 billion years or so younger than the universe itself, which burst into existence with the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.

"It does make you wonder what kind of life could have evolved on those planets over such a long time," study lead author Guillem Anglada-Escude, of Queen Mary University of London, said in a statement.
As the illustration shows, it's also a much larger planet than Earth, although not as large as 'Godzilla Earth' planet Kepler 10c, which has a mass 17 times that of Earth.

Follow over the jump for more space and astronomy news.

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory: Surprisingly Strong Magnetic Fields Challenge Black Holes’ Pull
Analysis of radio waves from black holes shows long-neglected magnetic fields have an unexpected presence.
Kate Greene
June 4, 2014
A new study of supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies has found magnetic fields play an impressive role in the systems’ dynamics. In fact, in dozens of black holes surveyed, the magnetic field strength matched the force produced by the black holes’ powerful gravitational pull, says a team of scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR) in Bonn, Germany. The findings are published in this week’s issue of Nature.

“This paper for the first time systematically measures the strength of magnetic fields near black holes,” says Alexander Tchekhovskoy, the Berkeley Lab researcher who helped interpret the observational data within the context of existing computational models. “This is important because we had no idea, and now we have evidence from not just one, not just two, but from 76 black holes.”
University of California: Curiosity finds earthly similarities on Mars mission
By Harry Mok, UC Newsroom
Monday, June 2, 2014
After traveling 354 million miles and surviving a nail-biting descent to the surface of Mars, the Curiosity rover is finding that the Red Planet was once a lot like the Blue Planet.

Curiosity’s exploration of Mars’ barren landscape is revealing signs that water once flowed freely and that life could have existed on the planet.

“Our findings are showing that Mars is a planet that was once a whole lot like Earth,” said UC Davis geology professor Dawn Sumner, co-investigator for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory team, which is exploring whether the planet ever had an environment capable of supporting microbial life.
NASA: Exploration Systems Division Quarterly Update: All Systems Go!

2014 is off to an amazing start as NASA rockets toward this year's launch of Exploration Flight Test-1.
JPL/NASA: LDSD: The Great Shakeout Test For Mars

NASA readies for the experimental flight of the Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD), a test vehicle designed for landing larger payloads on Mars. The saucer-shaped vehicle will undergo its first test flight in June 2014 from the U.S. Navy's Pacific Missile Range Facility in Kauai, Hawaii.
JPL/NASA: What's Up for June 2014

Moon and planet pairings at dawn and dusk. Spot elusive Mercury, some comets, and more.
Hubble Space Telescope: Tonight's Sky: June 2014

Backyard stargazers get a monthly guide to the northern hemisphere's skywatching events with "Tonight's Sky." June boasts an intriguing variety of planets and stars.
University of California's California Magazine: Aliens Are Almost Surely Out There—Now Can We Find the Money to Find Them?
By Glen Martin
June 4, 2014
Dan Werthimer thinks his testimony last week before the House Subcommittee on Science, Space and Technology went pretty well. As director of the SETI Research Center at Berkeley, Werthimer updated committee members on the search for extraterrestrial life, and provided a generally upbeat evaluation: ET microbial life likely is ubiquitous throughout the galaxy, and new technologies have improved the chances of detecting signals from advanced alien civilizations.

“They were quite engaged,” Werthimer says of the representatives, members of a Congress notorious for its ideological partisanship and not particularly renowned for a deep commitment to science. “They asked reasonable questions, and they seemed disinclined to go at each other.”

On the other hand, Werthimer acknowledges that it is discouraging that the current science subcommittee has convened more hearings on extraterrestrial life than on climate change.
Discovery News: This Amazing Comet Sculpture Landed In Brooklyn!

Last weekend, Trace went to New York City to attend the World Science Festival! In Brooklyn, there is now an art piece representing how NASA is attempting to land a spacecraft on a comet this summer! Watch as Trace learns about the project, and learn why we're trying to land on a comet this summer! Astronaut's cloaked Klingon space patch: Star Trek-inspired emblem revealed
June 6, 2014
In a mirror universe right now, an alternate Steve Swanson is wearing a space patch bearing the logo of the fictional Klingon Empire.

In this reality, NASA jettisoned the astronaut's "Star Trek" inspired emblem before it could reach space.
And that concludes last week's space and astronomy news.

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