With stories ranging from the quest for the origin of the universe to the strange cloud in the Outer Solar System to the 60-year extraterrestrial SETI silence of our Milky Way Galaxy, this week’s “Galaxy Report” brings you news of space and science that has the capacity to provide clues to the mystery of our existence and adds a much needed cosmic perspective in our current Anthropocene Epoch.
Quest for the Origin of the Universe — The astrophysicist Brian Keating in a podcast talk with host Steven Strogatz about chasing the universe’s greatest mysteries — and what it’s like to have a major discovery slip through his fingers.
Evolution Tells Us We Might Be the Only Intelligent Life in the Universe, reports Nicholas R. Longrich for Singularity Hub. “Our evolutionary history shows that many key adaptations—not just intelligence, but complex animals, complex cells, photosynthesis, and life itself—were unique, one-off events, and therefore highly improbable. Our evolution may have been like winning the lottery…only far less likely.”
Scientists Plan Private Mission to Hunt for Earths around Alpha Centauri –A privately funded telescope called Toliman will seek habitable worlds in our nearest neighboring star system, potentially sparking a new wave of exoplanetary exploration, reports Jonathan O’Callaghan for Scientific American
Decolonizing the cosmos –-Instead of treating Mars and the Moon as sites of conquest and settlement, we need a radical new ethics of space exploration, reports Aeon.
Odd Martian meteorites traced back to largest volcanic structure in the solar system –The rocks were most likely ejected from Tooting crater more than a million years ago and are now helping scientists piece together the red planet’s turbulent past, reports Robin George Andrews.
The mysteries of the icy cloud around our Solar System, reports BBC Future –“In the coldest, darkest reaches of our Solar System – a region still to be visited by human spacecraft – is a strange, frigid cloud that contains material from other stars.”
“The Biological Cosmos”–Complex Carbon Molecules Form Spontaneously in Space, reports The Daily Galaxy. “A new discovery shows complex carbon molecules can form and survive in the harsh environment of interstellar space. “In some ways, life can be thought of as the ultimate in chemical complexity,” said Martin Cordiner of the Catholic University of America.
We’re Gonna Need Another Space Telescope –And this one is going to search for other Earths, around other suns.” The decadal survey, organized by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, recommends that NASA establish a program to produce several more major space-based observatories in the coming decades, and that the next one should look for exoplanets—planets beyond our solar system—resembling this little chunk of rock that we call home.”
“Milky Way’s Sweet Spot” –Earth at Center of Galactic Habitable Zone –““The GHZ yields an age distribution for the complex life that may inhabit our Galaxy. We found that 75% of the stars in the GHZ are older than the Sun,” reports The Daily Galaxy.
Why haven’t we heard from aliens? There is a reason for the silence –The search for extraterrestrial intelligence has been going on for 60 years without success. Given the hurdles to interstellar communication, that’s just a blink of an eye, reports New Scientist.
Creatures of the dawn: How radioactivity unlocked deep time–“When scientists discovered the energy embedded within atoms, it transformed how we think about the long-term future of humanity, writes the historian Thomas Moynihan.”
Why does time only move forwards? Possibly just because we’re ignorant –The one-way flow of time is one of the great mysteries of physics. It might be that we see causes and effects just because our information about reality is incomplete, reports New Scientist.
Distant rocky planets may have exotic chemical makeups that don’t resemble Earth’s, reports ScienceNews –“A smattering of heavy elements sprinkled on 23 white dwarf stars suggests that most of the rocky planets that once orbited the stars had unusual chemical makeups, researchers report. The elements, presumably debris from busted-up worlds, provide a possible peek at the planets’ mantles, the region between their crust and core. ‘These planets could be just utterly alien to what we’re used to thinking of.”
Why is quantum theory so strange? The weirdness could be in our heads –Quantum theory is peerless at explaining reality, but assaults our intuitions of how reality should be. It seems likely the fault lies with our intuitions, reports New Scientist.
How Scientists Could Tell the World if They Find Alien Life –Sparked by major advances in their field, astrobiologists are grappling with how best to discuss possible breakthrough discoveries with the public, reports Jonathan O’Callaghan for Scientific American.
Laws of Logic Lead to New Restrictions on the Big Bang, reports Charlie Wood for Quanta. –Physicists are translating commonsense principles into strict mathematical constraints on how our universe must have behaved at the beginning of time.
NASA’s DART Mission Could Help Cancel an Asteroid Apocalypse –Our planet is vulnerable to thousands of “city-killer” space rocks. If—when—one is found on a collision course with Earth, will we be ready to deflect it? reports Robin George Andrews for Scientific American.
Not Science Fiction: Electric Propulsion Comes of Age With Psyche Mission to an Asteroid, reports SciTechDaily–An operating electric Hall thruster will propel NASA’s Psyche spacecraft, which is set to launch in August 2022 and travel to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
‘Wind Rider’ Could Reach Saturn in Six Weeks reports Alex Tolley for Centauri Dreams “Can you imagine the science we could do if we had the capability of sending a probe to Jupiter with travel time of less than a month? How about Neptune in 18 weeks?”
Why is the universe just right for life? Blame the multiverse –Physicists have long speculated why our universe seems “just right” for life. The most complex answer might be the simplest – that every other universe also exists, reports New Scientist.