Astrobiology: August 2012 Archives

NASA's Kepler Discovers Multiple Planets Orbiting a Pair of Stars

"NASA's Kepler mission has discovered multiple transiting planets orbiting two suns for the first time. The system, known as a circumbinary planetary system, is 4,900 light-years from Earth in the constellation Cygnus. Coming less than a year after the announcement of the first circumbinary planet, Kepler-16b, this discovery proves that more than one planet can form and persist in the stressful realm of a binary star."

Building Blocks of Life Found Around Young Sun-like Star

"The astronomers found molecules of glycolaldehyde -- a simple form of sugar -- in the gas surrounding a young binary star, with similar mass to the Sun, called IRAS 16293-2422. Glycolaldehyde has been seen in interstellar space before, but this is the first time it has been found so near to a Sun-like star, at distances comparable to the distance of Uranus from the Sun in the Solar System. This discovery shows that some of the chemical compounds needed for life existed in this system at the time of planet formation."

Likely footprint of spiky dinosaur has NASA's Md. campus on cloud nine, Washington Post

"A scalloped mini-crater with four pointy toe prints pressed into ruddy rock, the putative dinosaur track juts out from a scruffy slope at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center..."

NASA's Nodosaur Track, Smithsonian

"Officials at the NASA campus are already moving to protect the fossil, and they plan to bring in paleontologists to look for other dinosaur tracks. The NASA scientists want to keep the site a secret, Vastag reports, but ultimately want the public to be able to see the track."

Keith's note: Too bad NASA couldn't take this opportunity - one so close to its facilities - to treat this excavation as if it were a scientific endeavour using robotics i.e. practice for work on Mars or elsewhere. Besides, what things do kids like the most? Dinosaurs and outer space. This is a twofer.

Keeping the location "secret" is a wise precaution to take when there is no security to protect sites like this from looters. But this site is located inside a NASA field center with what one would hope is a secure perimeter. Does NASA think people might break in to GSFC and chip the footprints out of the ground? Or do they not trust Goddard employees? Given the immense value of other things lying around at GSFC, one would think that the agency would trust its employees enough to honor a "do not disturb" sign just like they do every other notice they encounter. Photos anyone? We'll post them anonymously.

Keith's update: NASA GSFC Has posted an Update on this story. They still will not reveal the exact location inside this secure Federal facility. i.e. "Goddard Facilities Manager Alan Binstock said the agency considers the footprint and its location "sensitive but unclassified."

Ocean Optics Spectrometers Land Safely on Mars

"Three Ocean Optics instruments have completed their eight month journey to Mars to study soil composition as part of the ChemCam mission. The company's modular Jaz spectrometer scaled Mt. Everest with a team that included NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski to measure solar irradiance at extreme altitude."

Using a Tricorder on Mount Everest

"If you've ever seen a Starfleet away team beaming down to a new planet, you know that the first thing they do is whip out their tricorder and scan everything. Many of NASA's astrobiologists want one. Well, Scott and I had one at Everest."

Keith's note: I carried this cool device up to Everest Base Camp and then Scott carried it up the mountain. Its not unusual for people to trek into Everest with the latest high tech gear on display but every time I pulled this thing out people stopped to watch me go through my procedure. I took this promo photo of Scott using the Jaz unit while we were standing next to our tents at Everest Base Camp. An instant later we heard a loud noise coming from the icefall. I quickly switched my camera from still to video and shot this video since I was literally pointed at the exact right spot already. This was one of the largest avalanches in recent seasons.

Had I not been taking the PR shot of Scott and the Jaz unit I'd have missed most of this avalanche. (More details in comments below). Now I see that our good friends at Ocean Optics have hardware on Mars. How cool - especially since I had 4 little Moon rocks in my chest pocket when I shot these pics and video - and our Moon rocks are now on the ISS.



Monthly Archives

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries in the Astrobiology category from August 2012.

Astrobiology: July 2012 is the previous archive.

Astrobiology: September 2012 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.