This past week was filled with space and alien news in all kind of different subject matter. While Curiosity is still getting underway, Opportunity is making a few discoveries; while robotics and programs are largely taking over the categorizing of the universe, people from around the world are categorizing different types of galaxies. There's quite a bit of theoretical space news, too, concerning the expansion of the universe and our conceptualization of habitable planets.
High school students are also getting in on the space-based science racket, and that's some pretty awesome news to finish off a pretty busy space-filled week.
Categorizing Galaxies for Beginners: This isn’t the first time science has used the collective boredom of Internet users to make the universe a better place. First it was knot and fold games to figure out diseases, then SETI having people help distinguish potential alien noise from regular space noise. Now, on GalaxyZoo, people can categorize galaxies in their spare time. They try to draw you in with the notion that you might be the first person to see any given galaxy… and that’s a surprisingly tempting idea.
It’s Not All Curiosity on Mars: While Curiosity is still undergoing test runs,
is keeping busy with a hunt for blueberries. Tiny iron-rich spheres, blueberries
were found in 2004 and were potential evidence for a watery Mars in the past;
these Martian un-blueberries that are all around
at Endeavor Crater, however, are a bit of a mystery. They’re not quite the same
blueberries from before, scientists say, but we don’t really know what they are,
We Probably, Almost Certainly, Have Dark Energy: Something is making the Universe spread out at an accelerating rate, and two scientists are now 99.996% sure we know what that something is. Well, we have a name for it, at the very least. Dark energy, the energy assumed to take up 73% of the universe, is so mysterious that we don’t even really know what it is. All we know now is that it’s out there expanding the universe – and potentially changing up Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
What Do You Mean by Habitability?: Phrases like ‘the habitable zone’ and ‘Goldilock planets’ have been thrown around for a while now, and the majority of us, using the exactly one planet we really know anything about, have some vague image of those planets being something like Earth: watery, temperate... where carbon-based life doesn’t immediately and terribly die. However, this might not really be the case. Astronomers have found quite a few ‘eccentric planets’ with crazy oblong orbits, which would cause all kinds of strange bits of extreme temperate. Also, as we send lichen and bacteria into space and then bring them back alive, there turns out to be a much wider margin for ‘habitable’ than we might have supposed.
Science Doing What Science Should: In the coolest bit of conceptual news in the last while (including Curiosity), high school students were given the opportunity to send research experiments to the International Space Station to test out microgravity conditions. While the experiments include spiders, and I’m a bit less thrilled with that (forget microbial panspermia and think hysterically about the concept of space spiders), that high school kids can experiment in space with the whole thing on YouTube proves that space-based science is becoming mainstream and in demand.
Want to share all the good news? Please be sure to recommend this post on StumbleUpon – all it takes is a click!
Rachel is the co-founder of How To Survive Alien Invasion Novels, and spends her time writing, studying, and reading what would probably be considered far too many books. Connect with her and Rusty on Twitter and Facebook, and click here to read more of her articles about alien theories and how to survive alien invasion novels.