Dwarf planet Ceres reveals pyramid-shaped mystery


Image of Pyramid taken by NASA’s Spacecraft DAWN. Do you think it is just a simple mountain or Something else.
OK, this is just too much.

First, NASA’s Dawn probe spotted curiously sparkly bright spots on the surface of Ceres, the dwarf planet that lies in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.
Beats us, the scientists said.

Now, cameras on the tractor-trailer-size spacecraft have captured a baffling structure rising 3 miles above the planet’s cratered surface.

Conveniently, the thing looks an awful lot like a pyramid.”Intriguing,” the NASA scientists said.

 Another Image of Ceres showing Strange mysterious lights. Image taken by NASA’s DAWN spacecraft.
To be fair, the agency offered no suggestion that the towering structure is an offering to some long-lost space emperor or home to our new alien overlords.
And, to be even more fair, it’s probably just a really tall mountain in a solar system filled with wondrous and strange natural phenomena.

But the Dawn mission has done nothing but stoke imaginations since the discovery of mysterious bright spots on the surface of the dwarf planet in February and the beginning of the probe’s orbit in March.

Folks have claimed to have spotted giant alien motherships hovering over the planet, bat-winged spaceships parked on its surface and even evidence of alien cities.

But the mystery only deepened with the most recent batch of images showing even more bright spots alongside the largest one, which NASA said looks to stretch some 6 miles.

Many, of course, insist that the spots look for all the world like brightly lit cities twinkling on the shadowed surface of the distant dwarf planet.

I knew it! There’s gambling going on on Ceres! #aliens pic.twitter.com/QP6PB6JFho

 
— Chris Reher (@Chris_Reher) June 13, 2015
Of course, NASA hasn’t traveled down that road. Scientists, they say, still don’t know what the spots are. Maybe ice. Maybe salt.
“But scientists are considering other options, too,” NASA said coyly.
But #itsaliens, right?
Source : FirstPost
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Signs of Alien Life Will Be Found by 2025, NASA’s Chief Scientist Predicts


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Here’s the full quote, as delivered by NASA Chief scientist Ellen Stofan at Tuesday’s panel discussion on the Agency’s search for habitable worlds and alien life:

“I think we’re going to have strong indications of life beyond Earth within a decade, and I think we’re going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years.

We know where to look. We know how to look,” Stofan added. “In most cases we have the technology, and we’re on a path to implementing it. And so I think we’re definitely on the road.”

Former astronaut John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, echoed Stofan’s assessment. “I think we’re one generation away in our solar system, whether it’s on an icy moon or on Mars, and one generation [away] on a planet around a nearby star.”

Maybe it’s time to start placing bets. Personally, my money’s on Europa – but each of the following “ocean worlds” listed in this infographic from NASA a solid candidate:

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Source :io9

Planets orbiting Kepler 444 suggest there’s ancient life in the Milky Way


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NASA’s exoplanet hunting Kepler space telescope has encountered a few problems as of late, but there’s still a mountain of data for astronomers to dig through from the last four years. Astronomers analyzing Kepler data recently uncovered something unusual — a solar system about 117 light years away in the direction of Lyra called Kepler-444 with at least five Earth-sized planets. That would be unusual enough, but this planetary system is also extraordinarily ancient at roughly 11.2 billion years.

Astronomers are intrigued by this discovery for several reasons. First, that’s a lot of small rocky planets. Kepler detects alien worlds by the transit method. It watches distant suns for slight dips in brightness that indicate a planet has passed between it and the telescope. These events can be used to calculate the characteristics of the planet, but it works best for larger worlds (super Earths and gas giants). Spotting five planets between the size of Mercury and Venus (basically a little smaller than Earth) is unusual.

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Artistic Depiction of Kepler 444 with its Star

The age of Kepler-444 is also something to note. At 11.2 billion years old, the planets orbiting this star were already older than Earth is now when our sun ignited 4.5 billion years ago. The universe itself is only 13.8 billion or so years old, making Kepler-444 one of the oldest stars in the Milky Way. It would have been from the first generation of stars that dotted the sky. Kepler-444 is still very sun-like because it’s 25% smaller and cooler. That means it burns through its nuclear fuel more slowly.

Finding small rocky planets that are billions of years older than Earth suggests that advanced life may have existed in the universe for a very long time. Life on Earth might be very new by comparison. Just think, planets similar to Earth were forming more than 7 billion years before Earth formed, and some of them could have supported life. If other first-generation stars like Kepler-444 have planets, uncountable civilizations could have come into being eons before the first single-cell life appeared on Earth.

The planets orbiting Kepler-444 themselves are not able to support life as we know it. All five planets are packed very close to the parent star with orbits closer than that of Mercury in our solar system. With solar years less than 10 Earth days, they definitely stood out in the Kepler data. The surfaces of these worlds have been baked by the intense heat, reducing any organic material to cinders.

Kepler-444 isn’t a bastion of alien life, but it improves our understanding of planetary formation and points us in a new direction. Astronomers are anxious to find other ancient stars with rocky planets in hopes they might prove more hospitable to life. What if there was still something alive on one of these ancient worlds? That might sound like science fiction right now, but maybe it won’t always be — there’s still a lot of data from Kepler, and future telescopes will improve our ability to spy distant exoplanets.

Source: Geek.com

[VIDEO] 209 Seconds That Will Make You Question Your Entire Existence


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Mars has gas, and Curiosity finds organic matter — fuzzy signs of life?


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It could be a sign, a vague one.

A NASA rover has found the building blocks of life on Mars. They might be the product of past or present life on the Red Planet — or they might not be.

Either way, the samples of organic matter in the atmosphere and in rock show that Mars may at least have once had conditions favorable to hosting life, NASA said in a statement. They also show that the planet is still chemically active.

The Curiosity rover’s tapping into organics in rock is the first find ever of life’s building blocks on Mars’ surface.

Gas blast

The rover has run into pockets of gas on Mars: methane, often used to fire up gas stoves back on Earth.

Organic matter is made up of carbon bonded with other elements, often hydrogen and oxygen. Living things are made up of it, but life is not necessary for it to exist.

Methane is the smallest organic compound, consisting of one carbon and four hydrogen atoms.

On our planet, methane is a fossil fuel, but it can also rise out of rotting sewage or fly through the air in flatulence.

In other words, it usually comes from something living, or something that was once alive.

No life found

That could be the case on Mars, too, NASA said in a statement this week.

But the space agency carefully points out that methane can also come from inanimate sources as well.

“There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock,” said Sushil Atreya, a scientist on the Curiosity team.

At this point, NASA doesn’t know if microbes are behind the gas or just minerals.

Researchers used Curiosity’s instruments a dozen times to get a breath of methane, and four of those times, it peaked at a level 10 times higher than usual.

They believe it may have been puffed up from the ground like little burps.

Organic rock

Curiosity also found organic matter while drilling into stone.

“This first confirmation of organic carbon in a rock on Mars holds much promise,” said scientist Roger Summons, who works on the rover team.

Source : CNN

Ancient Mars May Have Been More Habitable Than We Thought


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An artist’s impression of what ancient Mars may have looked like, based on geological data (Click Image to Download)

Data collected by the Curiosity Rover suggests Mars once featured a moderate climate capable of fostering lakes of liquid water and even a vast sea, and that this climate could have extended to many parts of the Red Planet.

NASA’s Curiosity Rover is currently investigating the lowest sedimentary layers of Mount Sharp, a section of rock 500 feet (150 meters) high known as the Murray formation. Observations taken by the robotic probe suggests the mountain was produced by sediments deposited in a large lake bed over tens of millions of years. The observation strongly suggests that ancient Mars maintained a long-lasting water-friendly climate.

According to NASA scientists, it’s an hypothesis that’s challenging the notion that warm and wet conditions were transient, local, or only underground. It now appears that Mars’ ancient, thicker atmosphere raised temperatures above freezing globally, but NASA scientists aren’t entirely sure how the atmosphere produced the required effects.

A Mountain in a Crater

Scientists have struggled to explain why the mountain sits inside a crater. Last year, a study suggested that the 3.5-mile-tall Mount Sharp formed as strong winds carried dust and sand into the crater in which it rests. It was actually bad news at the time because it suggested that the Gale Crater probably never contained a lake, which was one of the primary reasons why NASA sent Curiosity there in the first place.

But this new analysis has revived an older theory which suggests that Mount Sharp is the eroded remnant of sedimentary layers that once filled the crater — layers of silt that were originally deposited on a massive lakebed.

ROCKS

Cross-bedding seen in the layers of this Martian rock is evidence of movement of water recorded by waves or ripples of loose sediment the water passed over. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

Thanks to on-the-ground observations made by Curiosity, NASA scientists have now caught a glimpse of Mount Sharp’s lower flanks, which feature hundreds of rock layers. These layers, which alternate between lake, river, and wind deposits, bear witness to the repeated filling and evaporation of a Martian lake. Rivers carried sand and silt to the lake, depositing the sediments at the mouth of the river to form deltas. It was a cycle that repeated over and over again.

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Cross-bedding seen in the layers of this Martian rock is evidence of movement of water recorded by waves or ripples of loose sediment the water passed over. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/MSSS.

“The great thing about a lake that occurs repeatedly, over and over, is that each time it comes back it is another experiment to tell you how the environment works,” noted Curiosity Project Scientist John Grotzinger in a NASA report. “As Curiosity climbs higher on Mount Sharp, we will have a series of experiments to show patterns in how the atmosphere and the water and the sediments interact. We may see how the chemistry changed in the lakes over time. This is a hypothesis supported by what we have observed so far, providing a framework for testing in the coming year.”fcc2setcjpg8el3rhq77

After the sediments hardened to rock, the resulting layers of sediment were sculpted over time into a mountainous shape by wind erosion that carved away the material between the crater perimeter and what’s now the edge of the mountain.

Greater Potential for Life?

The new discovery has major implications for our understanding of the Red Planet. It suggests Mars was far warmer and wetter in its first two billion years than previous assumed. It also suggests that Mars experienced a vigorous and dynamic global hydrological cycle that involved rains or snows to maintain such moderate conditions.

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A pic depicting a lake of water partially filling Mars’ Gale Crater, receiving runoff from snow melting on the crater’s northern rim. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Source : io9.com

Stephen Hawking: Artificial Intelligence could spell end of human race


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World-famous physicist Stephen Hawking told the BBC he believes future developments in artificial intelligence (AI) have the potential to eradicate mankind.

The Cambridge professor, who relies on a form of artificial intelligence to communicate, said if technology could match human capabilities “it would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate.”

He also said that due to biological limitations, there would be no way humans could match the speed of development of technology.

“Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete and would be superseded,” he said.

“The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”

Hawking suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neuron disease, and uses AI technology as part of a system which senses how he thinks and predicts which words he will use next.

His bleak forecast came in response to questions about updates to his AI communication systems.

His latest upgrade, developed by Intel Corporation over the past three years, will allow the professor to write up to 10 times faster and communicate more effectively with friends, family and students.

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“With the improvements made, I am now able to write much faster, and it means that I can continue to give lectures, write papers and books and, of course, speak with my family and friends more easily.”

“This new system is life changing for me, and I hope it will serve me well for the next 20 years,” he said.

Other technology specialists do not share Hawking’s grim outlook. Rollo Carpenter, creator of Cleverbot, said he believes mankind will maintain control over technology.

“I believe we will remain in charge of the technology for a decently long time and the potential of it to solve many of the world problems will be realized,” he said.

Carpenter’s software responds to stimulation from conversations with actual humans, and has the capability to learn from its previous interactions.

Cleverbot has scored highly in the ‘Turing test’, which is designed to examine how closely machines can replicate human behavior.

We cannot quite know what will happen if a machine exceeds our own intelligence, so we can’t know if we’ll be infinitely helped by it, or ignored by it and sidelined, or conceivably destroyed by it,” Carpenter added.

Technology and a rise in the capabilities of AI are already affecting workplaces nationwide, as many employers opt to invest in a machine, rather than hiring people.

In November, a study from the University of Oxford suggested that a third of UK jobs could be replaced by machines over the next two decades.

Low-paid jobs featuring repetitive tasks are most likely to be superseded by technology, with clerical and support service jobs most at risk.

The study further found that jobs with a salary under £30,000 are almost five times more likely to be replaced than jobs over £100,000.

Source : RT

Philae reveals presence of large amount of water ice on the comet


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A comet seen from close up – the surface looks like rock, but is a mixture of water ice, carbonaceous particles and interesting compounds. Image credit: ESA/Rosetta/Philae/ROLIS/DLR  (Click Image to Download ) 

The European Space Agency has revealed that the comet – 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko “is not nearly as soft and fluffy as it was believed to be”.

The first results to emerge from the team of the SESAME experiment (Surface Electrical, Seismic and Acoustic Monitoring Experiment) confirm that “the strength of the ice found under a layer of dust on the first landing site is surprisingly high”.

“The mechanical properties of 67P will be derived. SESAME’s two other instruments suggest that cometary activity at this landing site is low, as well as revealing the presence of a large amount of water ice under the lander,” Klaus Seidensticker from the DLR Institute of Planetary Research said.

Source : Times of india , SEN Blog

Complex life may be possible in only 10% of all galaxies


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The universe may be a lonelier place than previously thought. Of the estimated 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, only one in 10 can support complex life like that on Earth, a pair of astrophysicists argues. Everywhere else, stellar explosions known as gamma ray bursts would regularly wipe out any life forms more elaborate than microbes. The detonations also kept the universe lifeless for billions of years after the big bang, the researchers say.

“It’s kind of surprising that we can have life only in 10% of galaxies and only after 5 billion years,” says Brian Thomas, a physicist at Washburn University in Topeka who was not involved in the work. But “my overall impression is that they are probably right” within the uncertainties in a key parameter in the analysis.

WHAT IS GAMMA RAY BURST 

Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) are flashes of gamma rays associated with extremely energetic explosions that have been observed in distant galaxies. They are the brightest electromagnetic events known to occur in the universe.Bursts can last from ten milliseconds to several minutes. A typical burst releases as much energy in a few seconds as the Sun will in its entire 10-billion-year lifetime. But all observed GRBs have originated from outside the Milky Way galaxy.

Scientists have long mused over whether a gamma ray burst could harm Earth. The bursts were discovered in 1967 by satellites designed to spot nuclear weapons tests and now turn up at a rate of about one a day. They come in two types. Short gamma ray bursts last less than a second or two; they most likely occur when two neutron stars or black holes spiral into each other. Long gamma ray bursts last for tens of seconds and occur when massive stars burn out, collapse, and explode. They are rarer than the short ones but release roughly 100 times as much energy. A long burst can outshine the rest of the universe in gamma rays, which are highly energetic photons.

Continue reading Complex life may be possible in only 10% of all galaxies

Life on Mars was ‘destroyed by nuclear attack’, says physicist – and we could be next


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Source : Huffington Post UK

Physicist Dr John Brandenburg has a new, stunning theory for why we can’t see life on Mars.

It was wiped out by a nuclear war.

Brandenburg believes that the evidence lies in the composition of Martial soil, which he suggests has the colouration and composition consistent with fallout from a series of “mixed fusion-fission explosions.”

Scientists have argued that while he’s, technically, not wrong about the soil thing, the discovery of high concentrations of Xenon-129 in the atmosphere should not be surprising as it’s a commonly found substance.

Brandenburg will not be convinced, though. He says his theory is based on hard evidence — using the photographs of the Curiosity rover as proof that we’ve already seen ancient archaeological sites, and the remnants of an ancient civilisation.

He’ll be publishing his full set of findings in next month’s Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics.