Planets that may sustain life identified


NASA’s Kepler spacecraft has been able to locate 219 new planets outside our solar system.

Out of those located, 10 have the potential for hosting life, scientists announced Monday.

Kepler, which began its journey in 2009 by orbiting the sun, was tasked to find planets by looking for stars in the Cygnus constellation that dimmed.

Dimming occurs when a planet passes over the face of a star, however, some planet candidates identified by Kepler have turned out to be stars or other phenomena.

So, in order to be considered suitable for life, they await a rigorous confirmation process, which may eliminate some of the potential candidates.

However, since its beginnings, Kepler has located “2,335 confirmed planets orbiting a star other than the Sun – more than 80 percent of the total found by all the world’s observatories combined,” according to Traci Watson, reporter for USA Today.

The spacecraft won’t be there long though. Kepler suffered a mechanical failure back in 2013 that put a stop to its planet-finding mission, but it still continues to turn in and go over data.

Monday’s announcement at the NASA briefing when Kepler’s newest batch of information was divulged will probably be its last, according to scientists.

“Yeah, it feels a bit like the end of an era but, actually, I see it as a new beginning,” Susan Thompson, of the SETI Institute, said at a NASA briefing Monday. “It’s amazing the things Kepler has found … I’m really excited to see what people are going to do with this catalog.”

With space travel at its peak, the development of “candidate” planets that hold the environment for life is an exciting prospect.

Space exploration is more than just discovering new things, it’s about explaining things back home as well.

NASA plans to send probe to sun


NASA has plans to announce a mission to “touch the sun.”

The Solar Probe Plus is scheduled to launch in 2018, making it 50 years since the idea was first proposed as an initiative to study the sun more closely.

The probe will not initially be launched into the sun’s atmosphere. It is scheduled to fly past in December of 2024, after circling Venus and gathering data.

“Placed in orbit within four million miles of the sun’s surface and facing heat and radiation unlike any spacecraft in history, the spacecraft will explore the sun’s outer atmosphere and make critical observations that will answer decades-old questions about the physics of how stars work,” NASA said in a statement. “The resulting data will improve forecasts of major space weather events that impact life on Earth, as well as satellites and astronauts in space.”

The Solar Probe Plus is planned to operate for seven years, pursuing an orbit that will allow it to reach the sun’s atmosphere 24 times.

The series of elliptical orbits is designed to gradually decrease over time, which will leave the probe only four million miles from the surface of the sun.

In order to achieve this the spacecraft have to travel at a speed of 450,000 miles per hour.
The heat and radiation will be equally immense. To withstand these harsh conditions the probe was fishnets with a 4.5 inch carbon composite shield.

“At its closest point to the sun, the spacecraft will have to survive solar intensity almost 500 times what it would experience orbiting Earth,” said Hannah Osborne, tech and science writer for Newsweek.

The advancement of technology has progressed far enough that space travel like this is possible, but there are still people who do not believe that humans have ever gone into space.

However the more persistent argument is why bother going into space at all?

CNN published an article a few years back that mimics this idea called, “Mars can wait. Oceans can’t.”

The idea is that humans need to focus on their direct environment instead of going out and spending money exploring an unknown system.

I think the major flaw in this viewpoint is the disregard to all the advancements in technology that were produced thanks to space travel. A major one is the internet.

It is equally important to protect our environment as it is to explore new ones.

The Sun Probe Plus is necessary in gathering data because its research will help scientists understand space weather events caused by the sun, and how they impact life on Earth.

So the question is, should we focus on space or earth?

I think the answer is both.